A lead-pipe cinch

Of course, they don’t use lead pipes anymore, but it’s hard to see how this can miss:

You’ll note that the record is only 0.77 inch away. We’ve averaged about two-thirds of an inch per day this month, and as of 1 pm we had just about half of that 0.77 inch in hand, or on ground anyway.

And Monday’s only the 26th: there will be five days left in May, and no one’s predicted any sunshine for any of them yet.

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Quote of the week

Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, on where science is going wrong these days [pdf]:

The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. As one participant put it, “poor methods get results”. The Academy of Medical Sciences, Medical Research Council, and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council have now put their reputational weight behind an investigation into these questionable research practices. The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours. Our acquiescence to the impact factor fuels an unhealthy competition to win a place in a select few journals. Our love of “significance” pollutes the literature with many a statistical fairy-tale. We reject important confirmations. Journals are not the only miscreants. Universities are in a perpetual struggle for money and talent, endpoints that foster reductive metrics, such as high-impact publication. National assessment procedures, such as the Research Excellence Framework, incentivise bad practices. And individual scientists, including their most senior leaders, do little to alter a research culture that occasionally veers close to misconduct.

Horton mentions no specific areas of inquiry in this paragraph — feel free to read the whole thing — and I’m not pointing any fingers myself. Then again, perhaps I don’t have to; anyone who digs into the unofficial channels can find scores of stories in a short time.

(Via Roger Pielke, Jr.)

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Packets gone awry

The cable company has been pushing me to dump my old DOCSIS 2.0 modem, and by “pushing” I mean “opening a window in the goddamn browser.” Okay, fine. But I’m not buying theirs: I’ll find one — on their approved list, of course — and go through whatever digital equivalent of the Bataan Death March it takes to get it installed.

Now “installed,” in the hardware sense, took all of two minutes Wednesday evening. Getting the company to talk to it took twenty more, and getting it to talk to them took half an hour. Not all of this time was eaten up by the robovoice, either: I got it to hand me off to an actual person fairly early in the proceedings. But for some reason, it took several attempts to get everything changed over from old box to new. Speed difference is about 30 percent; it’s noticeable, but not eye-poppingly so.

Then Thursday it failed to respond at the initial bootup, but came around after a reset. More annoying was the “This site is blocked” screen at OpenDNS, on such anodyne sites as Bing. Something about filtering in use, or some such foolishness. This was easier to deal with: delete their IP addresses from the router and reboot. (In this household, I do the damn filtering.)

If things become sporadic over the weekend, you may presume that I’m being paid back for my wrath.

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You misspelled “schmuck”

This showed up in the mail yesterday, ostensibly from Dropbox:

– This mail is in HTML. Some elements may be ommited in plain text. –

Hello chaz@dustbury.com
A PDF file classified as important has been sent to you.

From: J.M. Smucker Co.
Subject:
Major Product Areas
website; www.smucker.com

Um, no. One of the things that’s “ommited” in plain text is a Sneaky Link, which does not, I assure you, go back to Smucker’s: it’s pointed toward a subdirectory on a hijacked WordPress site.

And regarding the post title, Nancy Friedman reminds me:

The sch- spelling … is German rather than Yiddish.

Just to make sure that’s on the record, you know.

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One does not simply slide into two-doors

Doug DeMuro argues that there should be sporty coupes, but no other coupes:

Examples of the sporty coupe include the Porsche 911, the Ford Mustang, the Subaru BRZ, and — if you ask the Germans — the BMW 6 Series Gran Coupe, though the rest of us just consider that to be an overpriced sedan.

And then you have the other type of coupe. The non-sporty coupe. This is a car that was a sedan, until some auto industry geniuses got ahold of it and decided they could create an entirely new segment by just throwing on a new, two-door body and marketing it as “sporty.” Examples include the Honda Civic, the Honda Accord, and, well, that’s about it.

So Honda’s built a sandbox that no one else wants to play in. How is this a problem? This way, says DeMuro:

[B]asically, the “non sporty coupe” is just a sedan with less practicality. Same Accord styling. Same Accord engines. Same Accord equipment, and platform, and suspension, and brakes. The only difference: in the regular Accord, you can get out of the back seat without making the front passenger get up and exit the vehicle first.

I think I’ve had back-seat passengers four times in the last decade.

I’ve talked to a few people who own these vehicles, and I’ve come to learn they actually believe these are sports cars. “Well,” they say. “I couldn’t afford a 370Z. So I decided to get an Accord Coupe.” As if the two are equals. This would be like saying that you couldn’t afford a place overlooking Central Park, so you instead decided to get a studio apartment in downtown Newark.

A Nissan Z overlooks Central Park like any living Democrat resembles Adlai Stevenson: “You wish.”

But the proper response came from Bark M.:

Here’s a gauntlet throwdown for Doug:

Pick any track east of the Mississippi. I will show up with a V6 Accord coupe. You show up with a BRZ or V6 Mustang/Camaro. I will challenge you to a time trial.

Game?

I would kill, or at least injure badly, to see that.

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Leeches want respect

“You can’t defend public libraries and oppose file-sharing,” says Rick Falkvinge.

Oh, yes I can, says Roger Green:

[H]e’s wrong, in three specific ways, one of philosophy, and two on the facts.

Falkvinge’s implication through the piece is that “efficiency” is an incontrovertible good; this is incorrect. Generally, checks and balances have an important place in processes, especially when it comes to government. The argument in favor of the renewal of aspects of the USA PATRIOT Act stems largely on the fact that it would be more “efficient” to have all that phone metadata, for which the government can select those presumed terrorist, rather than doing this process more on a case-by-case basis. I’m rooting for inefficiency, thank you.

As the young folks say, THIS. If the outcome involves something being done to me, I want it done as slowly and ineffectively as possible.

More to the point, though, Falkvinge doesn’t seem to understand how libraries work. Libraries BUY books — one of their primary expenditures — and then LOAN them to other people, exposing them to people who might not have been aware of them. Moreover, authors receive MONEY because libraries purchase works, and an individual copy is generally read, one person at a time (SO inefficient!), by many people.

Rare indeed, though not entirely nonexistent, is the file-sharer who goes primarily for things with which he’s not familiar; most of what’s pirated is the stuff that’s already selling well.

File sharing is essentially a manufacturing process, reproducing products that NO ONE is purchasing. NO money is going into the pockets of the creators. Borrowing from my friend Steve Bissette, file sharing “is thievery and impoverishes creators/authors by reproducing work sans payment. There is no ‘loan’ in file sharing: it is a transfer of property, in a material form (here, place this file on YOUR computer). It proliferates [and, I would add, encourages] copying sans payment — VERY different from public libraries.”

I am not here claiming that every last file I’ve ever had on a drive in the last thirty years was acquired with scrupulous attention to whatever EULA may obtain; but there’s a lot to be said for compensating the creators of stuff you actually use. I have stacks of stuff acquired through non-official means, and I’ve discovered that I don’t use any of it on a regular basis. Greater involvement as a result of having written a check? Maybe.

A Taylor Swift quote you’ve seen before:

Music is art, and art is important and rare. Important, rare things are valuable. Valuable things should be paid for. It’s my opinion that music should not be free, and my prediction is that individual artists and their labels will someday decide what an album’s price point is. I hope they don’t underestimate themselves or undervalue their art.

And if they want to give it away, that’s fine too. Most of them, I suspect, don’t want to, except on special occasions.

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A winning formula in many sports

Sports broadcasts these days contain all manner of statistics, as though they had any actual predictive value.

Then again, this one apparently does:

I’d say that’s downright indisputable.

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Dintier than thou

Hormel’s Dinty Moore beef stew was long ago made available in a plastic microwavable tub: cut a slit in the cover, nuke for 90 seconds, and there you have it. I pick up one of these now and then just to break up the cycle of frozen stuff (usually Stouffer’s or Boston Market, occasionally Healthy Choice if I’m not paying attention), and besides, they spend less time in the reactor: like it says, a mere 90 seconds.

Until, apparently, now. I snagged one of them and another Hormel variety last weekend, and now they’re claiming 60 seconds, even merer than before. I wondered: did Hormel do something different, or is this simply a reflection of the fact that contemporary microwaves are a bit stronger than they used to be? (I’m on my third: the first two were rated at a meager 650 watts, the latest 900, and I’m seeing 1100 on newer models.)

A look at Hormel’s Brand Wall may, or may not, have given me a clue. The package portrayed that’s closest to the one I have on hand is marked 10 oz/255 g; however, the one I have is marked 9 oz — but still 255 g. (Nine ounces is indeed about 255 grams.) All the other nutrition information is the same.

Historical note: Dinty Moore, as a brand name, goes back to 1935; I’m guessing it had something to do with Dinty Moore, the character in the comic strip Bringing Up Father, which seems less unlikely than the Dinty Moore sandwich (corned beef layered with lettuce, tomato and Russian dressing) from Detroit. Hormel was clearly on a roll in those days, though: in the next two years, they introduced both their famous chili and the legendary Spam.

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#getdressed

One analyst swears that Twitter is about to de-smutify itself:

According to SunTrust Robinson Humphrey tech analyst Robert Peck, Twitter is preparing to purge an estimated 10 million porn-posting users. Ditching such a large chunk of users sounds drastic until you do the math: Twitter claims to have 302 million monthly users, so getting rid of the explicit posters will only account for about 3 percent of its total—although that’s just counting the users and not their followers.

Why would they do such a thing? Perhaps because of this incident:

Nielsen, the television and digital measurement company, was forced to halt one of its paid-for Promoted Tweets campaigns this week after its ads were served against profile pages dedicated to pornography, according to Adweek.

The Nielsen paid-for tweet, reading “Am I getting the most value from my media buy? Learn what other questions you should ask in our webinar recording,” appeared on the “Homemade Porn” and “Daily Dick Pictures” profile pages, Adweek reports. The trade magazine says ads from other brands including Duane Reade, NBCUniversal, and Gatorade also showed up in feeds next to pornographic images and videos. The problem appears to be tied to a new ad format “Suggested by Twitter,” which only first rolled out in March.

Which suggests that this is indeed a bug and not a feature.

And there’s always the problem of defining porn beyond “I know it when I see it,” because, well, you probably don’t, and I can’t imagine how you’d automate Miller v. California.

Just for the record, I follow three individuals with porn, or at least porn-y backgrounds: one current performer, one retired, and one who possibly aspires to stardom. The retired one posts nothing questionable at all. Then again, I am not one to look down my nose at sex workers, who in some ways could be considered, um, manual labor.

I also follow a handful of naturists, most of whom post nothing untoward, though I’ve seen some, um, odd retweets pop into my timeline. (Last night presented a fairly unique experience: how do you compliment someone on her new dress when you’ve hardly ever seen her in any kind of dress at all?)

Twitter’s media policy is simultaneously clear and murky:

If you upload media that might be considered sensitive content such as nudity, violence, or medical procedures, you should consider applying the account setting “Mark my media as containing sensitive content.” We do not mediate content. All content should be marked appropriately as per our guidelines.

After all, “should” is a long way from “must,” and there are an awful lot of people out there who, if asked, would come down on the side of “must.”

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Porcine on the dotted line

Sy Montgomery writes in The Good Good Pig: The Extraordinary Life of Christopher Hogwood:

I never met a pig I didn’t like. All pigs are intelligent, emotional, and sensitive souls. They all love company. They all crave contact and comfort. Pigs have a delightful sense of mischief; most of them seem to enjoy a good joke and appreciate music. And that is something you would certainly never suspect from your relationship with a pork chop.

And contrary to auto-journalist mythology, they do not understeer.

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Freshly scrutinized

The new auto-insurance policy has arrived, and it’s $24.20 pricier than the previous one, broken down as follows:

  • Liability (injury): up $3.10.
  • Liability (property): up $16.20.
  • Uninsured motorists: no change.
  • Comprehensive: up $3.30.
  • Collision: up $1.70.
  • Road service: up $0.90.
  • Rental reimbursement: no change.

Not quite offsetting this is an extra buck worth of discounts. As before, uninsured-motorist coverage is the single largest expense on the bill, though property liability, which took a big jump, is coming close.

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A brave little toaster user

Adam Lapetina sampled twenty-seven varieties of Kellogg’s Pop-Tarts — no small task in itself, and downright astonishing in a single 24-hour period — and then ranked them from worst to best.

My personal favorite finished a hair below mid-pack:

16. Unfrosted Blueberry
This Pop-Tart wouldn’t look out of place behind the glass case of a European pastry shop, but that also means that it’s one of the MOST out of place in terms of blending in with its fellow P-Tarts. As with before, there’s something unnerving about seeing a Pop-Tart without its clothes. It feels vaguely scandalous, yet underwhelming, like hearing yet another new rumor about Charlie Sheen. The blueberry filling actually contains blueberries, which is nice, and it’s tart like a blueberry-flavored thing should be.

Add frosting, and it goes up only two notches, so it’s the blueberry-ness that makes this one fly. And my local store is carrying it again, so I don’t have to order from Amazon.

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Bimmer bummer

One practically guaranteed source of Schadenfreude is the nimrod who decides to pony up for an aged Teutonic sled without giving the slightest consideration to what it’s going to cost him to maintain it.

Which, in this particular case, is several times the purchase price:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: I have a 2001 BMW 740I timing chain broke where can i get her fixed cheap real cheap?

Oh, it gets better:

At the end of April I paid $1500 for her 3 days later her timing chain snapped what am I to do

Fifteen hundred for a 7-series? The guy dumping it knew the engine was about to grenade, and, well, as George Hull once noted, buyers for old BMWs are born at the rate of sixty per hour.

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No place for a face

Lindsay Ellingson, thirty and tall, meets the general definition, as once specified by David Letterman, of “leggy supermodel.” But this sentence from her Wikipedia page, describing her work for Victoria’s Secret, somewhat messes with my head:

In 2011, she became one of the brand’s signature Angels, as well as the face of its perfume line VS Attractions and its new bra, Gorgeous.

I really, really don’t want to imagine someone being the face of a bra. Really.

The actual introduction, however, seems kind of prosaic:

Lindsay Ellingson introduces the Gorgeous bra for Victoria's Secret

Um, okay. (By the way, her eyes are up there.)

Last week at Cannes, by comparison, she was downright futuristic in Ulyana Sergeenko:

Lindsay Ellingson at Cannes 2015

Says Heather of the Fug Girls:

I like the liquid-look fabric. This whole outfit looks to me like a special-effect — like when Robert Patrick in Terminator 2 would be in the middle of morphing from metal into human. In that vein, I like the middle of the dress and am waiting for the rest of it to catch up.

And then it doesn’t happen:

Lindsay Ellingson at Cannes

Heather again:

Naturally, I hate the back. She looks like a very expensive circus performer.

Normal guys will be delighted to hear that Lindsay married a normal guy last year, quite uncharacteristic of leggy supermodels.

(Photos: Gorgeous bra, Adam Bielawski; Cannes, Getty Images.)

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Meanwhile in Area 41

Jeb Bush is running for President, and I have had no trouble curbing my enthusiasm up to this point: “Read my lips,” I once said. “No more Bushes.” And indeed, a year and a half before the actual election, Jeb hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. What could change the electorate’s indifference? Will Truman makes the dark calculation:

I think he has a better chance than any other individual candidate, but if I were betting for or against him, I’d bet (lightly) against him.

Unless, that is, his father dies sometime between now and then. Which gets me to the point of this post. His father is somebody that it’s become kind of hard to say much negative about, generally speaking. Republicans see him as one of their own and from the Reagan era at that. Democrats see him as fundamentally different from the current lot of Republicans. It’s considered poor taste to speak ill of the just dead, but I think there will be less tongue-biting.

Which makes his father’s death, if it occurs between now and next November, a potentially important thing.

George H. W. Bush turns 91 next month. I say with all sincerity that I hope he makes it at least to 93.

(Side note: Typing “Bush 41” into the Wikipedia search box does indeed bring up the article for Papa George; “Bush 43” will do the same for W.)

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Over several barrels

Only the nittiest of nitwits will claim to be able to forecast the price of oil more than a few hours in advance. That said, this is supposedly OPEC’s thinking on the matter:

Those hoping for a return to $100 per barrel of oil are in for a long wait, as OPEC says oil will remain below the price point through the 2020s.

A report by the group forecasts oil will trade for around $76/barrel in 2025 under optimistic conditions, The Wall Street Journal reports, with $40/barrel under more dire straits. The forecasts take into account the group’s competitors in the United States coping through low prices amid increased production.

To combat this, the report recommends OPEC return to the production-quota system it ditched in 2011 amid conflict over how much each member state would be allowed to produce.

A system, you may remember, which was honored mostly in the breach, hence the ditching.

Myself, I prefer to stick with the mildly alarmist viewpoint: there’s only about 10 years’ worth of oil left on the planet, and there always will be.

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