Cover of Hesitation Marks by Nine Inch NailsOn the basis of Hesitation Marks, the first Nine Inch Nails album since 2008, I conclude that Trent Reznor has decided melody might actually be slightly more important than noise, a decision possibly based on the prodigious success of his soundtrack work with Atticus Ross. Nothing here actually hurts my ears on the level of, say, the crescendo near the end of “Hurt.” And let’s face it, “Various Methods of Escape” is the definitive NIN song title, in which Reznor sounds just as desiccated as he did around The Downward Spiral, accompanied by this-side-of-glitch backing and some genuinely creepy guitar work by Adrian Belew. “I cannot trust myself / I gotta let go,” indeed.

The track that reminds me most of “classic” NIN, oddly, is “Copy of A,” which spills out of the 50-second opening thrash “The Eater of Dreams” with a pounding Depeche-Mode-at-78-rpm rhythm pattern and a reminder that “Everything I have said has come before.”

The least typical track here has to be “Everything,” for lack of a better description “Pop Industrial.” It’s downright upbeat: “I survived everything,” Reznor sings at the beginning. But the repetitions of “I am home/I am free” and such toward the end seem less and less convincing with every bar, until the whole thing grinds to a halt. Maybe this is Reznor’s attempt to deal with the unfamiliar concept of life not sucking.

And if that isn’t, surely this is: Hesitation Marks came out on Columbia Records. Columbia, fercrissake. This is not exactly like Anthony Bourdain showing up at Arby’s, but it’s close.

(Review copy ordered from at the standard price. Different editions may have different cover art.)

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Tanks for nothing

One of the more fuelish practices of the global auto industry:

Now who remembers those 1970s models with the filler behind the license plate?

And I recall some heroically finned Fifties sleds which hid the filler in one of the fins.

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That uncertain je ne sais quoi

Tim Blair’s sojourn in la belle France has produced a long list of cultural observations, of which this is not at all the most salient:

I haven’t translated the health warning on my packet of French cigarettes, but I think it says: “We are here for but a short time. Please, go right ahead.”

If only. I’m guessing he drew this one: Fumer peut diminuer l’afflux sanguin et provoque l’impuissance.¹

¹ “Smoking can cause low blood pressure and impotence.”

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It’s a G3 thang

Federal responses to the Freedom of Information Act range, generally, from lethargic to nonexistent. Once in a great while, there’s even a justification, sort of, for the latter:

[T]he Pentagon will not be honoring any of your requests until at least mid-October.

This is not because they have a hold on their encyclopedia of budget information until they’ve voted on their building-wide Halloween costume theme, but rather because it receives all of its FOIA requests over a single fax machine, and like most fax machines, this fax machine has officially hit the end of its life cycle. And like most governmental bodies with a bureaucratic process that needs to be undertaken in order to purchase even the simplest office supplies, it’s possible the Pentagon will not replace this fax machine for at least two months because of some sort of complex bidding and application process.

I’d be happy to offer my lightly-used fax machine to the cause, at a price that is probably far less than Pentagon procurement would obtain on its own: $2,450.

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But I repeat myself

Not as much as spammers do, though. The following paragraphs, with different garbage links, were received within a few seconds of each other yesterday:

I have been surfing online more than three hours lately, but I by no means discovered any fascinating article like yours. It is beautiful value sufficient for me. Personally, if all website owners and bloggers made excellent content as you did, the web might be much more useful than ever before.

Compare to:

I’ve been surfing online greater than 3 hours lately, but I by no means found any attention-grabbing article like yours. It’s beautiful value enough for me. In my opinion, if all web owners and bloggers made just right content material as you did, the internet might be a lot more useful than ever before.

Totally different fake URLs, but the same fake email address and the same IP (, which you can safely assume will never send you anything useful).

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Come soil away

A bit from a Lileks Captain Video recap:

Atoma is the planet on which the bad evil but disarmingly casual Tyrant lives. As with most science fiction, the entire planet has one (1) political system. As with 50s science-fiction, it has an science-type name, although “Atoma” is like “Earth,” in the sense that the planet is named after the material it’s made of. I always thought that calling this place “Earth” was like calling it “Dirt.”

He’s not the only one thinking that way. From the Hearth’s Warming Eve pageant, starring Pinkie Pie as Chancellor Puddinghead and Applejack as faithful secretary Smart Cookie:

Pinkie Pie: The air! The trees! The dirt! This dirt is the dirtiest dirt in the whole dirt world!

Applejack: And fertile, too. Perfect for growing food.

Pinkie Pie: In the name of the Earth ponies, I think I’m gonna call this new place … uh … Dirtville.

Applejack: How about “Earth”?

Pinkie Pie: Earth! Congratulations to me for thinking of it.

Don’t even think about Uranus.

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No more miles per gallon

Scotland has unveiled an ambitious plan to get rid of the internal-combustion engine entirely:

[A] newly released plan, called Switched On Scotland: A Roadmap to Widespread Adoption of Plug-in Vehicles [pdf], encourages the uptake of plug-in cars and calls for an end to petrol and diesel-burning cars in its cities by 2050.

With only 235 new electric vehicles registered in the country last year, the government has decided to take a leadership role and is putting up 14 million pounds ($22.26 million at today’s rates) over the next two years towards a number of carbon-lowering measures. For instance, its own fleet will see some plug-in additions and charging points are to be installed around main public buildings. Later, they also intend to install “rapid charge points” at 50-mile intervals along Scotland’s main roads. Other envisioned enticements include rebates on vehicles, half-price ferry rides for EVs and free charge point installation at EV buyers’ homes.

This is the schedule on which everything is supposed to happen:

Scottish plan to eliminate petrol-powered vehicles

And considering they’d have to rework an area only about the size of South Carolina, they might actually pull it off. Whether they’ll still want to, two or three decades hence, obviously remains to be seen.

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Time to Sherawat

Last time we looked in on Mallika Sherawat was two years ago, and, well, as is no secret, I have a soft spot for some of our finer Bollywood imports.

At the time, she was attempting to advance her career beyond India, and she made a couple of American indie films, most notably Politics of Love, set in 2008, in which she plays a low-level operative for the Obama campaign who falls hard for a chap working for John McCain. (This, boys and girls, is how you know it’s fiction.)

What I did not know was that she’d also done a Hong Kong martial-arts film, The Myth, opposite (yes!) Jackie Chan. Herewith, a sticky scene therefrom:

Apparently this picture was taken at a photocall before the premiere:

Mallika Sherawat in 2005

Oh, she plays off Bruno Mars pretty well, too.

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Dubious intint

I’ve mumbled before about incomprehensible color names, which means, like most people working this whole blog thing, I’ve beaten BuzzFeed to a topic.

Then again, they’ve found some truly weird colors out there, including Practical Beige — just once I’d like to see a fanciful beige — and Dragons Blood. And what color do you think “Seduction” would be?

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That sort of goes without saying

This is what happens when lexicographers look up from their work:

Perhaps this was a training class?

(She is, after all, a Dread Descriptivist. Not that this is at all relevant.)

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Diagram this

Fimfiction, home of a hundred thousand or so pony stories, including a handful hoofful by me, has a lot of “groups,” which are explained in the site FAQ thusly:

Groups combine the functionality of some of the raddest bits of Fimfiction’s infrastructure. For one, they can be used to find stories that interest you; groups exist for all types of stories. So, if you like adventure stories, enjoy tales of humans in Equestria, or just want to read about cute pony pairings (shipping), there’s a group for you — especially useful if you want to get updates any time a story is added to a group with an idea you particularly like. Groups are also the site’s de facto forum interface — in most groups, any user can create a thread, and you can get notifications sent to you when a new one is created, as well as seeing thread activity on your dashboard. Finally, groups are just an awesome place to meet members of the community — they’re a whole subsection of Fimfiction’s functionality, where users can run events, organize contests, or just hang out.

Two of the stories I’ve written have been selected for inclusion by members of the group called Good Grammar Directory, which disallows stories with three or more syntax errors. (No quality assessment of the actual story is intended or implied.) I was wondering if I should be insufferably pleased with myself, and then I got a look at the group’s logo:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Third down, 110 to go

Back in the Old Silurian period, before this Web site existed, the Canadian Football League added some teams that weren’t actually in Canada. Like in, um, Shreveport, Louisiana, which is probably closer to Guatemala than it is to, say, Vancouver.

[Quick Google Maps check: 3200 km to Flores, in Guatemala’s northernmost department (Petén), 4100 km to Vancouver. Sometimes I can trust my gut.]

Should the CFL try again? How about maybe?

I wonder if they might reconsider with the following stipulations: Northern cities only, cities without any professional teams, and expand one at a time. It seems possible that some northern cities might feel more a “part” of something called the Canadian Football League and be more likely to embrace that team. It would also keep travel expenses down and help keep east-west alignment rather than the creation of a “south” division. The second thing would be taking a page out of the NBA, which has had success with numerous franchises in towns where there is little competition.

A couple of those NBA cities — Sacramento and San Antonio — actually had CFL teams.

I would think that there would be a city or two that’s not too far removed from Canada. The attendance requirements in the CFL are not all that great. You only need about 30,000 people to show up, and you’re doing pretty well. And with TV content at a premium, I’d think that the money would be there for more teams and more games.

Weirder things have happened.

(Title from songwriter and draft resister Jesse Winchester, who was born just across the river from, um, Shreveport.)

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Thank you very mulct

“I suppose,” Jennifer observes, “it is awful hard to love a parasitic creature that wants nothing more than to liquefy your flesh for consumption.”

Had I not noticed that she was actually talking about chiggers, I probably would have assumed that she was advising against dating agents of the federal government.

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What is it Now?

Tyler Media’s K243BJ, otherwise known as Now 96.5, is billed, on its Web site anyway, as “Hit Music For OKC.”

And apparently it is literally so:

Now 96.5 coverage map

The 70 watts reach about to my back door.

Then again, they have a construction permit to go up to a startling 120 watts and relocate their stick to the northside. Still, right now, the selling point is “40,000 songs in a row!” — which, if they stick to it, would put their first commercial around New Year’s Eve.

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Hay now

One regular feature in The Week magazine is called “Best Properties on the Market”; it consists of half a dozen or so very special real-estate offerings on a two-page spread, with a photo or two and listing information. I’ve even gotten blogfodder out of it once or twice.

This week’s collection was titled Equestrian properties.

[heart jumps]

Um, no. No. Not even. No es posible, señor.

Valentine FarmThen again…

You’re looking at Valentine Farm near Norwood, Colorado, and here’s some of the write-up from the listing agent:

Certain properties exude excellence the minute you step foot on them. Valentine Farm defines itself as such a ranch. Comprised of a meticulously renovated turn-of-the-century Barn, two remodeled turn-of-the-century cabins and separate 6-car garage, this idyllic compound overlooks 120 verdant acres including a magnificent 10 stall equestrian center with caretaker residence.

But this is the clincher (emphasis added):

Two generous sized ponds and prolific irrigation create a lush setting and provide perfect conditions for significant hay production.

Well, there you have it. The sellers are asking $4,375,000. Celestia only knows how much that is in bits.

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The boys club

Nitasha Tiku wrote a piece in Valleywag last month titled “This Is Why There Aren’t Enough Women In Tech,” and attached this simulated Craigslist ad as a comment and/or illustration:

Socially crippled SWM geek, early 20’s to 30’s, living in tech bubble, seeking SWF or SWA (fetish) willing to work in tech startup only so long as they can stroke my ego, reinforce my sense of superiority (to make up for my high school emasculation) and stay in the background, except to be sexually harassed at my discretion for the amusement of my brogrammers. Must be potentially available for sex 24/7 even if that will never, ever happen, be fired without cause when you’ve outlived your usefulness and/or rejected all my sexual advances and/or get too bitchy/put me in my place (NDA includes clause not to sue for sexual harassment). My interests include long sessions coding (you will not see me at home, ever, unless it’s for sex—Do you want to have sex?), wearing Google Glasses in public, Magic, the Gathering, video games, and actually (not ironically) commenting on Google+. Nothing else. (What else is there?) I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen a real sunset or taken a walk on the beach (that is what Google is for), so I’m a little pale. I’m deeply concerned with your looks (must be at least a 5, as someday I’ll be rich (really) and need a girlfriend but not more than a 7, as I want to at least think that you’re sexually accessible even if you’re not) and your personality (independent, smart, strong women need not apply) must be sufficiently submissive to take the backseat behind me during any work or social related functions. Love libertarians, so long as it echoes my vaguely thought out philosophy to get rich quick at any cost.

Interested? Drop me a line on IRC (you know how to use that, right?). Send me your (full body) pics.

And I thought I was “difficult.”

After thirty-five years in some form or other of IT, I am persuaded that this perhaps-composite chap lacks the one characteristic most desperately needed in the field: the ability to tell when you’re full of crap, and to adjust accordingly.

He will die alone and unhappy — but probably not quickly.

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