We have sunk to this

Somebody evidently thought that was clever. The horrible aspect of it, though, is that said somebody probably still has a job.

(Via @inthefade.)

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An Equestria Girl at heart

Lindsey Stirling IS Sunset Shimmer:

Comparison of Lindsey Stirling and Sunset Shimmer

Didn’t see a rainboom in the video, but what the heck.


One of your own

“How much does it cost to have a site like yours?” asked nobody, nowhere.

What they really want is to know about a really spiffy-looking site, and if they’re interested in running WordPress, this is the most pertinent information I’ve seen:

If you do it yourself (which you totally can if you know how to use the internet, can point and click, can follow instructions and have a little cash and a little patience), you are eventually going to become a WordPress Expert. Maybe not a ninja-level-can-work-on-any-site expert, but you’ll learn enough to know exactly how to maintain everything about your own site. To do it RIGHT and set yourself up for success and future growth, it’s going to cost you a few hundred dollars.

If you are going to hire someone, you either marry a unicorn OR you hire WordPress Expert AND a designer. Your WordPress expert sets up your site for you (and they should ask TONS of questions about your business so they build everything you don’t even know you need), and hire a graphic designer to create your brand for you, and your WordPress Expert will implement the brand on the site for you.

The unicorn of my dreams, of course, wouldn’t have me on a bet.

That said, I did DIY this place, and it didn’t cost a whole lot of actual cash, but headaches and sweat surely count for something on the ledger.

Still, an Expert with her shingle out might come in at any conceivable price point. There’s a local production house with a WP Expert and a graphic designer in-house, and they’re really, really good, but they ain’t exactly cheap, if you know what I mean, and they have enough experience to be able to charge you for it.


Random footwear

One of the side effects of writing about shoes is that people send me links to shoes, sometimes gorgeous, sometimes the very antithesis of gorgeous. I’ve received these this week, and I’m not quite sure what I think about them, so I’m turning them over to you guys:

Portuguese shoes supposedly characteristic of the nation's exports

Cover of Biker Babes

Not ugly, really; still, they don’t grab me. You?

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Decreasingly dear

Last year’s homeowner’s-insurance lament:

Obviously this downward trend could not be allowed to continue, so this year it’s going to nearly $3000. This, mind you, on a house insured for a mere $130,000. I can only conclude that they expect a visit from Godzilla, or that they’re wanting to get their hands on some of those sweet, sweet government bucks the way the health-insurance guys have.

Well, the escalator clause each year has two effects: it increases the total amount of coverage, and it jacks up the deductible for wind and hail, which is a percentage of the total amount of coverage. I’m thinking these two numbers don’t combine neatly, which may or may not explain the $170 decrease in the premium.


We’re surrounded

As a survivor of quadraphonics, four decades ago, I can certainly relate to this:

Seems there are two common audio standards. One is known as 2.0 and the other is known as 5.1. If you have an older system like mine, 5.1 doesn’t work, you need to use 2.0. The language selection menu on the DVD offers four selections (as noted above). English 2 is the only one that uses 2.0, the others all use 5.1, which sort of explains why English 2 is the only one that would give us any dialog last night. Well, that’s nice to know, but it doesn’t really help. So I look at the DVD player menu, which is different than the menu that comes from the DVD. I poke around and finally find the HDMI audio switch that controls whether the audio is sent out to the TV or not. The TV is connected to the DVD player with an HDMI cable, which is capable of handling both audio and video. Since the DVD player is also a home theater sound system, there is no reason to send the audio to the TV, EXCEPT THAT TURNING IT ON FIXES THE PROBLEM.

In those heady days of quad, we had three different audio standards, none of them even marginally compatible. I’m thinking things have improved over 40 years, give or take, oh, any digital-protection scheme you can name.

Me, I have a tendency to mess with things. I have, for instance, one of these contraptions:

Soundmatters’ tagline, “One box, two wires, and $300 make any TV a home theater,” sums up the Mainstage’s appeal. This set-top powered speaker is refreshingly simple to install and use. For big sound anywhere in your home or office, just add the Mainstage to a digital or analog source, such as a DVD player or a TV — you’ll have a complete virtual-surround system. We like the $299 Mainstage’s trim good looks and hearty audio, but don’t expect the unit to deliver surround effects like a true multispeaker ensemble. In cramped quarters, however, where a 5.1 setup is out of the question, the Mainstage will serve with distinction.

A 5.1 setup is definitely out of the question in my usual viewing room, which turns out to be the master bedroom.

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Laser less frickin’

Well, this is awkward. That Kickstarter for the laser-powered razor? Kicked to the curb for a rule violation:

A crowdfunding campaign for a razor blade which its US creators claimed could remove facial hair with a laser beam has been suspended by Kickstarter.

The device had attracted more than $4m (£2.6m) in funding — but reportedly did not have a working model.

Backers received an email from Kickstarter saying the Laser Razor was “in violation of our rule requiring working prototypes of physical products that are offered as rewards”.

Apparently undaunted, Skarp Technologies, the manufacturer, moved its campaign over to Indiegogo, where it took in $40,000 in four hours. Backer rewards seem to be about the same.

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You leave our revenue stream alone

Is anyone truly surprised at this?

Fixed, a mobile app that fights parking tickets and other traffic citations on users’ behalf, has had its parking ticket operations blocked in three of its top cities, San Francisco, Oakland and L.A. after the cities increased the measures they were taking to block Fixed from accessing their parking ticket websites.

Quelle surprise. How was this supposed to work, anyway?

Using its app, Fixed customers could snap a photo of their parking ticket using their phone’s camera, and then Fixed would check against a variety of common errors before writing a customized letter to the city on the user’s behalf. The app also cleverly tapped into Google Street View to check to see if the city had the proper signage in place in the area a ticket was received … Founder David Hegarty once noted that over half of tickets have an issue that would make them invalid.

And we can’t have that, can we? You might assume that cooperation from municipalities would be marginal at best, and you would be correct:

[T]he cities haven’t been welcoming to an app that was aimed at helping locals not pay their tickets by automating the process of jumping through legal loopholes. When Fixed began faxing its submissions to [San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency] last year, the agency emailed the startup to stop using their fax machine. When Fixed pointed out that it was legal to do so, the agency simply shut off their fax.

Things escalated after that, but Fixed has finally thrown in the towel — at least in those three cities. Other Fixed functions continue, for now.

(Via @fussfactory.)


Big D X’ed in T-town

This, of course, is a preseason game, and the Dallas Mavericks were not at full strength — Dirk didn’t make the trip, and Chandler Parsons was unwell, just to name a couple — but the Mavs hung tough and took a three-point lead in the fourth quarter. We’ve all seen preseason games where this was considered No Big Deal. Billy Donovan begs to differ. The Thunder, down three, went on a 19-2 run to take it away from the Mavs, prompting Rick Carlisle to bring on the new kids for the last few minutes. The Thunder got their third straight non-counting win, 100-88, in front of a very full BOk Center. Downside: Enes Kanter, after a double-double (17 points/11 rebounds), messed up his ankle and did not return. Next outing: Friday in Memphis.


Zooeypalooza 23!

Yes, it’s been too long since we did a proper Zooeypalooza. (I am actually getting queries about it.) And so, without (much) further ado:

Zooeypalooza 23!

Embiggenment comes with clickage.

Paloozas previously: ZP 1, ZP 2, ZP 3, ZP 4, ZP 5, ZP 6, ZP 7, ZP 8, ZP 9, ZP 10, ZP 11, ZP 12, ZP 13, ZP 14, ZP 15, ZP 16, ZP 17, ZP 18, ZP 19, ZP 20, ZP 21, ZP 22.

Neither Zooey nor husband Jacob Pechenik has yet divulged the name of their daughter, born in late summer.

Update, 20 October: She has a name, and it’s Elsie Otter.


Separation of text and footnote

Actually, Roberta X’s footnotes are better than some people’s articles, and I single out this one for both economy and precision:

The American Revolution can be cast as a kind of dialogue between the Enlightenment/Age of Reason ideas that pushed it and the Great Awakenings that bookended it. From that angle, the Establishment Clause of [the] First Amendment represents a brilliantly common goal: neither party was desirous of a State church. Thus the United States was explicitly made a safe place for believers and nonbelievers of every stripe. This is a delicate balance and has been maintained with varying degrees of elegance and civility though the years. We should fear any politician who feels a mandate to Do Good — especially if he or she believes it was granted by Divine authority.

Not bad for a little over 100 words, if I say so myself, and I do so say.

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Before there were celebrities

The Z Man is back from the rodeo, and it wasn’t his first rodeo, either:

For most of human history, entertainments were relatively cheap. Entertainers lived on the fringes of society and made very modest livings. Maybe the showman who owned the circus or traveling act made a good living, but the performers did not. Running away to join the circus was not a move up, it was giving up. If you could not hack it in normal life you ended up as the bearded lady in the circus.

Contrast that to today where we venerate knuckleheads with the IQ of a goldfish and shower them with millions. In order to do that the cost of entertainment has skyrocketed. I was at the Dallas Cowboys game on Sunday and the prices are staggering. Cheap seats are $500 just to get in the door. The facility, which is incredible, is simply a massive platform from which to sell you stuff.

Well, yeah, those knuckleheads cost serious money:

Everything has a sponsor. “This hot dog concession stand brought to you by AT&T” is the sort of thing that makes me think the Catholics were right about cupidity being a mortal sin. Every square inch of the Cowboy facility has a sponsor attached to it and almost every square inch is for the purpose of moving product of some sort. You keep wondering, “Don’t they have enough?”

The economy has changed. We don’t make things anymore. Now we kill time and try to turn a profit on it.

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Blade aside

Weary of the same old razor? How about a frickin’ laser?

Meet 21st century shaving: no razor burn or accidental cuts — and laser-powered, if the inventors of The Skarp Razor have anything to do with it. The device looks much like a regular handheld razor but uses a laser, instead of a blade, to slice through your hair sans soap or water.

Co-founded by Paul Binun and Morgan Gustavsson MBBS, a veteran of the cosmetic and dermatological laser industry, Skarp works by targeting a chromophore — a molecule that absorbs light — in the hair that breaks when hit with a particular wavelength of light, severing the hair. (And the inventors’ expertise might make the device less likely to crash and burn than other high-tech Kickstarter projects.)

Did I mention Kickstarter? Yes. They’d hoped to raise $160,000. As of this week, the last for the fundraiser, they had nearly $4 million in the kitty.

Unlike some previous attempts, Skarp seems to be unaffected by color variations in hair or in skin.

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The old Palmetto Soak

The US Geological Survey takes some questions about the “1000-year” flood in South Carolina — well, technically, no, it wasn’t any such thing — and even deals with the one most beloved by illiterate news media:

Is this flood due to climate change?

USGS research has shown no linkage between flooding (either increases or decreases) and the increase in greenhouse gases. Essentially, from USGS long-term streamgage data for sites across the country with no regulation or other changes to the watershed that could influence the streamflow, the data shows no systematic increases in flooding through time.

A much bigger impact on flooding, though, is land use change. Without proper mitigation, urbanization of watersheds increases flooding. Moreover, encroachment into the floodplain by homes and businesses leads to greater economic losses and potential loss of life, with more encroachment leading to greater losses.

And as a species, we’re not exactly well known for proper mitigation.

(Via Fark.)

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Because you gotta have heart

This strikes me as almost certainly a Good Thing:

The National Basketball Players Association is working on a program that would fund cardiac screening and supplemental health insurance for its retired players, an initiative expedited by the recent sudden deaths of legends Darryl Dawkins and Moses Malone.

The joint effort between union executive director Michele Roberts and NBA commissioner Adam Silver — at a time when there still may be potentially acrimonious labor negotiations looming for their sides — is intended to ease the health concerns of its retired players.

And there are plenty of concerns:

The good-faith actions of current players were welcome news to retired veterans who have been rattled by the spate of cardiac-related deaths. Although there is no concrete data linking basketball players who are large in stature to early death from cardiac distress, the prevailing opinion among many former NBA stars is there has to be a correlation.

“It’s too close to home,” former star center Bob Lanier said. “It’s the topic nobody wants to address. How many people have we seen in our lifetime who are big and really tall and are 70-something years old? Not many. That’s because people [my size] don’t live that long.

“I know things are evolving. People are taking better care of themselves. They exercise, they watch their nutrition, they try to limit the stress in their lives. I do all of those things. But we’re still losing guys younger than we should.”

Lanier is 67; Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is 68. I’d hate to lose either of these guys any time soon.

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Henpecking order

From bitter experience, Sheri49 explains the operations of her local Homeowners’ Association:

There is one Exalted Ruler. His word is final. His court consists of a Vice-Exalted Ruler, a Secretary who must meet stringent illiteracy requirements, a Treasurer who is actually sort of intelligent but whose job entails deferring to the Exalted Ruler’s stupidity, and lastly, a “Member-At-Large” (MAL). Currently there is no MAL at Hideola Estates. No one wants to be the caboose on the Moron Train. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Hey, what if they meet and vote on something and there’s like, 2 of them for it, and two of them against it … two yays and two neighs?” (Yays and neighs are how we write here in Hideola Estates, as you will learn below.) Good point. In that event, the group would defer to the time-honored flipping of the coin method to resolve the tie. There is nothing wrong with leaving owners’ fates and their valuable homes to the whim of a coin toss. If no coin can be found to flip, then someone makes a motion to do whatever will cause Sheri49 the most harm and that is the final word on the matter.

You should not at all be surprised to hear that a fiefdom of this sort would have an individual dedicated to the exaltation of vice. (Yes, I stole this from the Beverly Hillbillies. Sue me.)

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