FTC wimps out

The Federal Trade Commission was offering fifty large for some new ideas on how to deal with telemarketers and their ilk, and they’ve announced two winners:

[Aaron] Foss’s proposal, which he called Nomorobo, would use “simultaneous ringing” to route incoming calls to a second line. The second line would then be responsible for identifying the bad calls and hanging up on them. The software, he said, identifies robocallers with an algorithm he compared to an e-mail spam filter that looks for specific characteristics of the callers. It will work on both mobile and traditional phones.

[Serdar] Danis’s proposal uses software that people could implement through a mobile app, an electronic device in their home or as a part of their provider’s telephone service to block unwanted calls by consulting lists of good and bad phone numbers.

What’s disappointing here is not so much that the FTC doesn’t plan to mandate either of these schemes, as the fact that neither of them contains the terms “incendiary” or “electrical shock.”

(Via this Virginia Postrel tweet.)

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Leave your bowling ball at home

To an airline, both you and your baggage present basically the same issue: how much you weigh. Samoa Air, which flies around the south Pacific, figures that it may as well charge you that way: they weigh you and your bags together, and you pay so much per kilogram, based on the length of the trip. (A short hop might be $1/kg; if you’re headed to Australia it might be more than $4/kg.)

Some people, unsurprisingly, have a problem with this, prompting the airline’s Chris Langton to defend the practice on Australian radio:

“Airlines don’t run on seats, they run on weight, and particularly the smaller the aircraft you are in the less variance you can accept in terms of the difference in weight between passengers … Anyone who travels at times has felt they have been paying for half of the passenger next to them.”

Decidedly unsvelte as I am, I think this is a swell idea, if only because it’s totally at odds with today’s nickel-and-dime-you-to-death fares and fees.

(Via Consumerist.)

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The eye tries not to blink

This little warning hangs on my corkboard at work:

You Are Being Monitored

Should you, then, work from home? Bill Quick is okay with that:

If the manager is setting workproduct goals that correctly meet his expectations, and the employee is meeting these goals, why on earth does management give a damn what the employee is doing?

The real problem here — and why managers hate the idea of telecommuting — it that it deprives them of the ability to micromanage employees on a minute by minute basis. Absent such tangible evidence of their necessity to the work process, they become nervous at the notion that higher management just might notice how little they actually contribute to the overall work product.

This doesn’t really apply to 42nd and Treadmill, since (1) I have to turn out vast quantities of printed materials, which I couldn’t do from home, and (2) unlike some places, we are not blessed/cursed (take your pick) with an overabundance of middle management.

Still, I have this elsewhere on the corkboard, much plainer and much smaller: “1 manager = 1,048,576 micromanagers.”

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Tesla turns a buck

Several of them, in fact:

Tesla Motors announced [Sunday] that sales of its Model S vehicle exceeded the target provided in the mid-February shareholder letter. As customers who note their Model S serial number this weekend will realize, vehicle deliveries (sales) exceeded 4,750 units vs. the 4,500 unit prior outlook. As a result, Tesla is amending its Q1 guidance to full profitability, both GAAP and non-GAAP.

Well, whaddaya know, people will buy those electric buggies. And they prefer the pricier models, too:

Also being announced today is that the small battery option for the Model S will not enter production, due to lack of demand. Only four percent of customers chose the 40 kWh battery pack, which is not enough to justify production of that version. Customers are voting with their wallet that they want a car that gives them the freedom to travel long distances when needed.

The customers who ordered this option will instead receive the 60 kWh pack, but range will be software limited to 40 kWh. It will still have the improved acceleration and top speed of the bigger pack, so will be a better product than originally ordered, and can be upgraded to the range of the 60 kWh upon request by the original or a future owner.

Which makes perfect sense to TTAC’s Derek Kreindler:

Given that Tesla’s customer base is made up of extremely wealthy EV enthusiasts who are looking to the Model S as either a) a status symbol b) a third car or c) an outright toy, the death of the 40 kWh model makes sense. Few would realistically want a base Model S whether because of status signalling or the reduced performance (in terms of both acceleration and range). Customers interested in the Model S are much more likely to gravitate to the 60 kWh model or the full-bore 85 kWh version, in the same way that the S63 AMG is the best way to use the Mercedes S-Class as an expression of one’s wealth.

Based on this premise, the upcoming Cadillac ELR, a somewhat Voltier Volt with a $60k price tag, might actually outsell the cheaper Chevy.

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Learning by wrote

I whine a lot about writing, but I never have whined quite so persuasively as this:

From the wellspring that is encouragement and noodging from those of you who actually like this crap, I’ve been slowly, o yea verily so very slowly, compiling stuff to try to be A Book Writer. Being A Book Writer is hard shit, Schmidt, I tell you that. You know how when you try to get a decent shopping list together and you can’t really remember exactly what there are two of in the word “broccoli,” is it Cs or Ls? Yeah, well, multiply that by about infinity and herd some cats while you’re at it, and it’s a close approximation of organizing what passes for thoughts for me.

Selling it, I suspect, will be much easier: she’s guaranteed one sale just in this household.

(Besides, the book tour will almost certainly be An Event To Remember.)

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Hard bargainer

“I’ve been putting out, now it’s your turn”:

How much money do you need to spend on a woman before you gain entry? dates meals drinks etc etc

I suggested delicately that he might be shopping in the, um, wrong market.

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Alt-F4ever

It was decidedly scary. I had just logged in to post something, when the browser window closed. Then TweetDeck closed. Then the mail client dropped, and the system shut down.

“What is this? Some sort of zero-day exploit?” I’m still not sure. I swapped out the keyboard and the up-acting quit acting up; on the other hand, I’d started up Malwarebytes, and it didn’t seem happy with what it found. I’ll swap in yet another keyboard tomorrow night.

Update: Second pass, MBAM found nothing, keyboard acted silly. Q.E.D.

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Future pony

Dear Princess Celestia:

Is the possibility of unemployment tormenting you?

Don’t worry about it.

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Cutting a goddess down to size

Well, we finally have a source for that Hello Kitty vodka seen here last spring. As suspected, it’s a fabrication; as not suspected, it’s part of a collection by artist Anna Utopia Giordano, who specializes in messing with her audience’s heads digitally. There’s also a Barbie vodka and a Lego tequila, and now I understand why the top of the bottle was cropped out.

A more recent project, “Venus,” is on exhibit at Museum Het Valkhof in the Netherlands. You all know Venus: she’s your fire, what’s your desire? And she’s been portrayed, often in paintings long considered masterpieces, generally naked as the day she was born — and blessed with a certain sufficiency of flesh generally incomprehensible in these days when Beautiful and Emaciated walk arm in lath-thin arm. What to do? Giordano to the rescue, applying to the goddess the very same Photoshop techniques routinely used in fashion magazines. In Botticelli’s half-shell work, for instance, Venus has gotten an obvious tummy tuck and smoothing of her thighs and upper arms, while going up about half a cup size.

Then again, not all Renaissance painters rendered women as, um, fleshy. Jonathan Jones points out in the Guardian:

[T]here are Renaissance nudes that are just as skinny as any fashion designer could demand. The German painter Lucas Cranach the Elder portrayed strikingly thin and narrow-waisted nudes. His Venus believed you could never be too bony or wear too many hats. But he was a close friend of Martin Luther, and believed the body to be a vessel of sin. Those sensual Italians had a more abundant and generous idea of beauty.

Peter Paul Rubens was not available for comment.

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Seize the day and everything adjacent

Shut up, serfs, your betters have the floor:

Some years ago, I spoke against a proposed town ordinance that would have granted the town the power to confiscate items found in a private home’s yard and fine the owner. I pointed out that that would amount to an arbitrary seizure power, extending to anything ever found outside the home’s front door. The town’s attorney immediately rose to protest that “we would never use it like that!” They were only interested in eliminating “eyesores” that were upsetting one or two querulous residents.

“We would never use it like that,” as lies go, ranks right up there with “The check is in your mouth” and “I won’t come in the mail.” And just in case you might have thought otherwise:

[T]he town council’s decision … was to pass the ordinance in the dead of night, at a secret session.

A governmental unit operating at that level of chicanery is far worse than a mere eyesore.

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Perhaps shooting in B&W would help

The bicycle lane on a 1.5-mile stretch of Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles is painted a vivid neon green, which would seem to be a Good Thing, unless you’re making movies:

[T]he bike path still rankles location scouts and filmmakers, who see it as another hurdle to filming in Los Angeles.

Their concern: The bright color would be a distraction to viewers, doesn’t belong in period movies and makes it harder for L.A. to do what it does best: play other cities.

“As we all know, unlike other major cities, our downtown footprint is very small and limited and we’ve used this stretch for [an] ‘anywhere in the world’ big city for years and it is vital to us for many projects,” Ed Duffy, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers, wrote in a recent email to members.

According to Duffy, the office of Mayor Villaraigosa had issued a statement saying the paint on Spring between 3rd and 9th would be allowed to fade in the California sun, but apparently the city is, um, backpedaling.

(Via this Ryan Baker tweet.)

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Strange search-engine queries (374)

No fooling: these are actual search strings that landed unwary Web surfers on this very site during the past seven days or so. We may never know their motivations, and in some cases we may never want to know.

business loans make your text blogger.bold.italic and more with HTML tags:  If you need to take out a loan to edit your template, you’re in worse shape than I thought.

i’m convinced comma:  No. I’m convinced period. A comma signals that you might not be so sure.

opposite of joyride:  “Commute.”

her boss an attorney demanded she wear 5 inch heel pumps and figure altering girdle:  And she, the new kid in the steno pool with an MA in art history, thought this was utterly unreasonable.

are you comfortable or uncomfortable in a disorderly environment?  That depends. Who made it disorderly in the first place?

any lawsuits against nissan leaf:  What kind of lame-o sues a car?

returned rolled back odometer to nissan:  What, you didn’t even sue?

nissan sylphy gearbox problem symtoms:  Never mind all that careful diagnostic stuff. Sue ‘em.

ants crawling up sink:  If you wait long enough, eventually they’ll crawl down.

zooey deschanel pussy pics:  Sure. You try getting her to move that damn cat.

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Decades of standing in the corner

Pyongyang presents a puzzle, for which we have yet to find a solution — which does not at all imply that there’s a solution to be found:

North Korea engages in so little conventional interaction with other nations that you have to wonder if they really understand the idea of what is considered acceptable behavior at the grownup table. Kim Il Sung’s philosophy of “Juche” has created a nation where the national mindset makes the most ardent isolationist of a Bircher look like a frothing transnationalist one-worlder; armed with nukes, the DPRK becomes the geopolitical equivalent of the profoundly autistic young man with the body of a linebacker and the emotional continence of a three-year-old.

The effect is certainly the same: we will underestimate, perhaps by several standard deviations, the effort it will require to subdue the inevitable rampage, and we will mistakenly assume that we will be able to do so without suffering damage ourselves.

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Me gotta go

Now this seems like the sort of story they used to call “glurge” over at Snopes, with the minor difference that it’s actually true:

Forty-five years ago, Yank Barry was belting out “Louie, Louie” with iconic band The Kingsmen. Cut to 2013, and he’s a third-time Nobel Peace Prize nominee with very real prospects of joining the ranks of past winners including The Dalai Lama and Mother Teresa.

“I was very surprised. It was gratifying,” Barry, 65, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column of his nomination, which was presented to him by boxer and Filipino political figure, Manny Pacquiáo following his recent visit to the Philippines working with victims from a typhoon that hit the nation late last year and killed over one thousand people. “It is not often that I am left speechless, but this was one of them. It’s overwhelming to think about.”

Given the Nobel committee’s somewhat questionable track record — Yasser Arafat, fercrissake? — giving the award to Barry would be a small step on the path to righteousness.

But do the math. Forty-five years ago, it was 1968, five years after “Louie Louie.” The Kingsmen’s last chart record — “Bo Diddley Bach,” the most non-garage song they’d done up to that point, which bubbled way under at #128 — came out in late 1967, before Yank Barry officially joined the group. Most assuredly he sang “Louie Louie” live with the band at some point, and I’m pretty sure he sang on the band’s last couple of recordings for Wand, but he had nothing to do with that big hit record, which was sung by Jack Ely.

(Via Fark.)

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The further adventures of Rockbox

After living with Rockbox as the alternative operating system for my Sansa Clip Zip for a week, I’m prepared to give it unqualified praise in the wrong sense: I am not at all qualified to pass judgment one way or another on the merits of the system.

The last copy of the manual I downloaded runs 221 pages, approximately eleven times the size of SanDisk’s Quick Start Guide, half of which is safety precautions and EULA. The Rockbox guys, to their credit, assume from the getgo that I am not actually an idiot; then again, they’ve never met me and wouldn’t know me from Yahoo Serious.

My needs are absurdly simple: I want the machine to play my 5000-item playlist in no particular order, with approximately the same volume level on every track. The latter is no problem, since I have affixed ReplayGain tags to every single file; it’s not perfect, but it works reasonably well, and it avoids the alternative: horrid compression.

Still, the options are downright daunting, and while there’s a text editor of sorts on the premises, I am klutzy enough using 12 phone keys to produce text; you don’t want to see me with a machine that has only seven keys, one of which is OFF. In the end, it was easier to connect the little box to the PC with Sansa’s oh-so-generous 9½-inch USB cable, pull over the appropriate files, and tweak as needed.

I crashed it once. It recovered nicely after being allowed to sit with its power off for two minutes. I figure, if that’s the most damage I can do, I’m in like Flynn used to be.

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Gone too soon

As epitaphs go, this would have been one of the best ever: “Richard Griffiths. Actor. Born 1947. Died 2947.”

Actually, he died on the 29th of March 2013, but you can’t blame the guy for trying. And I love this quote:

“Everybody my age should be issued with a 2lb fresh salmon,” he told an interviewer before the play opened. “If you see someone young, beautiful and happy, you should slap them as hard as you can with it. When they ask, ‘Why did you do that?’, you say, ‘Because, you lucky young bastard, you don’t know how fortunate you are.’ And they don’t…”

The play in question was Equus, which opened in 2007, the year Griffiths turned, um, sixty.

Excuse me while I fetch a fish.

(Via Tim Blair.)

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