How hissy a fit?

The answer is none. None more hissy:

An angry owner of a Maserati Quattroporte in China hired three thugs to destroy his car in the great city of Qingdao in Shandong Province. The owner has a long standing conflict with a local Maserati dealer and an insurance company over maintenance costs. A new Maserati Quattroporte costs 2.6 million yuan in China, or $423,000.

The Italians are evidently sticking it to the Chinese, since the infamous Maser four-door — yes, the brand-new sixth-generation version, which the smashed car wasn’t — can be had here in the States for under $200k no matter how many options you check off.

The conflict started in 2011, when the owner and the dealer got into a row about a repair costs and the quality of some replaced parts. The dealer apparently replaced a broken part with another used part, and not with a new part. The dealer then charged 2400 yuan ($390) for the “repair”. The insurance company backed the dealer and a long and painful process of angry letters and angry phone calls started.

Of course, what I want to know is this: what can break on a Maserati that costs only $390 to fix?

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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The easy consumer choice

Well, this was difficult. I got both an email and a proper letter from the fulfillment house for The Week, the only newsmagazine worth my time, offering me a 54-issue (about 14 months) subscription renewal. I decided I would write them a check, but before taking pen in hand, I took a quick look at the email link. And that deal was $5 pricier.

What’s more, they picked up the postage on the return envelope. So I save five bucks, minus whatever pittance it costs me for that one single check (whatever it is per box divided by 120), and I don’t have to fork over my Visa number. Win/win all around.

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My little doxxer

Jack Baruth’s had one:

[S]everal years ago, I was the subject of a thorough and costly doxxing by a fellow who was, apparently, upset that I’d criticized some ultra-crappy article he’d written for a startup web publication. He distributed a pretty wildly exaggerated report of every terrible thing I’ve ever done to some contacts he’d cultivated at a couple of auto manufacturers. The way I found out about this was by having my flight to a press event canceled while I was sitting in the airport lounge. I had the dubious pleasure of spending the next couple of days calling people to get the stories straightened out. It was frankly unpleasant, to put it mildly.

I have a pretty healthy dose of contempt for my little doxxer. There’s something uniquely duplicitous about telling a bunch of people that someone you hate is a violent, dangerous individual while simultaneously personally trusting that said individual won’t do anything violent or dangerous to you as a consequence for your actions. It’s a coward’s move, this doxxing. But most importantly, it’s a one-way kind of tool that is employed by a certain type of person against another type of person. Rarely are “doxxers” counter-doxxed. This is because the doxxers, almost without exception, haven’t ever done anything in their lives.

I’m not saying they haven’t done anything bad.

I’m saying they haven’t done anything. Good or bad. Noteworthy or otherwise. They’re people who have always run away from anything that looked like a challenge or a confrontation. And if you always run from a challenge, you’ll never put anybody in the hospital or on the LifeFlight, but you’ll also never win any races. You’ll never spend a night in jail for assault, but you’ll probably also never create anything unique or worthwhile. You’ll never do something you wish you could take back, but you’ll also never do something that you look back on with complete and utter satisfaction.

I dunno, Jack. Some of these guys seem awfully damned satisfied.

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And that revenue is lost forever

This letter to the editor of the Oklahoman — well, its heart is in the right place, but its brain seems to be on backorder from Amazon:

“U.S. Senate passes bill to let states tax online sales” (Business, May 7) quotes the Oklahoma Tax Commission in saying the state loses $185 million to $225 million in tax revenue from Internet sales each year. If the state loses that much, then some citizens gained an equal amount in savings. And where would these citizens most likely spend that savings? Right here at home! The state would get its pound of flesh when those savings were spent.

So does the state really lose on Internet sales? Time and effort would be better spent in figuring ways to cut government spending to reduce taxes, including eliminating the sales tax on food and clothing.

Which would result in savings to some citizens, which would be spent — where, exactly, and on what?

The real problem here, though, is not so much with the letter as with that gratuitous term “loses”: why, we’d have that $185-225 million if it weren’t for, um, the fact that no law currently allows us to take it. Obviously we should have more laws to allow the state to not “lose” money, right?

But hey, this spate of pooch-screwing was aggravated by having these alleged “sales tax holidays” in which tax is charged, no matter what you heard: the prices are simply adjusted downward by the amount of the tax. Sales tax, we learn from these things, is purely arbitrary, and subject to the whim of the government. And of late, fewer of us are inclined to indulge their whims.

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No Dick for you

The sheer Richardness of this incident is astonishing:

When Ruth Levy went online to create a personalised birthday card for a 90-year-old friend called Dick, it turned out his common name of yesteryear has been banned as a modern profanity.

After typing in her message to her friend of 50 years, 77-year-old Mrs Levy was turned down and warned by the Marks & Spencer website against using bad language.

Horrified, the tech-savvy grandmother closely checked the e-card for typing slip-ups, but still could not get approval for: “Many happy returns on your significant birthday.”

But after complaining to the store, she was told her card had been banned simply because her friend’s name was Dick — the shortened version of Richard.

Marks & Sparks were total farks: they suggested Mrs Levy call poor Dick instead — on the phone, fercrissake — and insisted: “We must ensure [our] system is robust to protect our content standards.”

(Via Fark.)

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About those April showers

Raquel Pomplun at GlamourconThe lovely lady on the end of the line is April 2012 Playboy Playmate Raquel Pomplun, recently named Playmate of the Year; one of the perks of the job is to get to wheel around in a hot car, in this case a brand-spanking-new Jaguar F-Type. (This is the second type I’ve had occasion to mention the F-Type in connection with an, um, interesting-looking female; the first was a short promotional film complete with promotional music video. The operative word here, evidently, is “promotional.”) I note for record that of the 54 women so far officially designated Playmate of the Year — the first was Ellen Stratton, Miss December 1959, later PMOY 1960 — no fewer than seven came from April issues, including, for some reason, three of the last four. This doesn’t matter to you, and it probably doesn’t matter to Hef, but as a thirty-year subscriber to the magazine, I’ve made my own prediction for PMOY every spring, and every single year I’ve been wrong. (Ten PMOYs so far have come from December, but only one from June or July. I defy anyone to explain that distribution. Inevitably, Wikipedia has the complete list.) There exists a stereotype of long standing, which I may or may not have taken into account, to the effect that the PMOY winner tends to be a twenty-year-old top-heavy blonde; however, Raquel is 25, not blonde, and reported as a B-cup. Incidentally, she reports that she had a 103-degree fever during her PMOY photoshoot, but, as the phrase goes, the show must go on.

Oh, and here’s an earlier shot, still on the modest side, just because:

Raquel Pomplun seated

I am not, I hasten to add, complaining in any way about this selection, except to the extent that it continues my Streak O’ Futility.

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Color me antediluvian

Hmmm. Maybe I am really older than dirt:

This is a great headline: Carbon dioxide levels highest in recorded human history.

OMG! That’s a long ti… wait, how long is the “recorded human history” of carbon dioxide levels anyway?

But then we’d have to read the article, which says:

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has steadily risen from 317 parts per million in 1958, when measurements began, to 400.

Emphasis added. It takes a certain amount of bravado / innumeracy / cranial-rectal inversion [choose as many as necessary] to come up with a definition of “recorded human history” that lies entirely within my lifetime. Or, for that matter, Al Gore’s.

You want to know why we have low-information voters? Because we have no-information media. And they’re damn proud of it, too.

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Still up against the wall

[Previously posted here.]

Just when you thought the return of Serge Ibaka’s shooting mojo might save the day, the Thunder fell back into their “Do we have to have a third quarter?” funk, and an erstwhile 17-point lead was vaporized. It was tied at 76 at the beginning of the final frame, and when Kevin Durant missed a layup (!) at 2:55, things began to unravel. The Grizzlies were up 94-92 with ten seconds left, and everyone knew Durant would be getting the ball on the next possession. KD, undaunted, pushed to the rim for the layup to tie it. The Griz had six seconds left; Zach Randolph went up for the win, and Kendrick Perkins swatted it away. Welcome to overtime. The Thunder didn’t even score in the bonus period until 1:55, when Derek Fisher made his first trey of the night, at which time it was 98-97 Memphis. “Dripping with drama,” said radio guy Matt Pinto. Durant’s subsequent pullup jumper was rather drippy itself, and Mike Conley delivered a nifty pass to Marc Gasol to put the Griz up by three. Gasol subsequently added a free throw to make it 101-97, and Pinto and Grant Long got to complain about a call while Lionel Hollis plotted the Thunder’s demise. It was Tayshaun Prince, arguably the poorest of the Memphis free-throw shooters, who finished the job with two more, to put the Griz up six (again!), 103-97.

Which means that Wednesday could be the end of it all, especially if the Bears keep coming up with double-figure performances like Gasol’s (23 points, 11 rebounds), Z-Bo’s (23 points, 12 rebounds), and Conley’s (team-high 24). OKC registered some reasonable figures, but when Durant’s game-high 27 ends up -7, it’s a lost cause.

Besides, the Heat barbecued the Bulls, 88-65, to go 3-1 in that race. Suddenly I am very, very tired.

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Ducking and covering

Ten and a half hours of being beaten upon is no way to live. Unfortunately, there’s not a whole lot that could have been done about it short of fleeing, and I don’t flee well:

Our admin team is continuing to roll out the fix and monitoring where needed. They are confident the source of the connectivity issues are due to large-scale brute force attacks to wp-login pages. These attacks are overloading affected servers and the fix being applied will limit the rate these attacks are hitting wp-login pages. In addition to the fix that’s being applied everywhere, we’re also mitigating the attack by blocking IP addresses all around our data centers.

While they didn’t get too specific, it was most likely something like this that brought us down, and there’s a practical limit to how much you can harden something like WordPress without killing its usability.

It’s still slow around here, but it’s not dead, and there’s a lot to be said for not being dead — though it was two hours before I was actually able to log in.

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Insufficiently mad

Fond as I am of the styles that we now think of defining the Mad Men era, I really didn’t have the proper retro mindset to appreciate them when the series started; I was young and dumb in the years being portrayed, and I really wasn’t attuned to what was supposed to be going on around me. (The first episode of Mad Men was set in March 1960, at which time I was passing myself off as six and a half years old, which was almost correct.)

1962 Oldsmobile dashboard badgeI suspect I still don’t have the proper retro mindset. In the June issue, Automobile Magazine asks “What would Don Draper drive?” and suggests three reasonably suitable vehicles: a ’62 Oldsmobile Starfire, a ’63 T-Bird and a ’64 Crown Imperial. Of the three, the Bird appeals the least: I never did warm to that sharp crease at the prow, and the seriously lame Sports Roadster — “Hey, let’s cover up the entire back of the car and pass it off as a two-seater!” — screwed up the car’s proportions. The Imperial is imposing enough to justify its name, maybe too imposing. Which leaves me with the Starfire, perhaps because it’s just pretentious enough — [p]erhaps it is the sense of pride you feel when you quietly tell a parking lot attendant, “Mine’s the ’62 Olds” — but mostly because I took one look at that dashboard badge and thought “Now how do I get Twilight Sparkle into one of these things?”

And suddenly I wasn’t in the Sixties anymore. Imagine that.

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Strange search-engine queries (380)

The good thing about this weekly feature: it pays tribute to the idea that People Want To Know, and that they should have access to the things they want to know. The bad thing: just look at what they want to know.

joni mitchell: nice legs:  But have you looked at them from both sides now?

find stanley gray birthday ssn [redacted] lives in trosper ky:  Once you start throwing in actual Social Security numbers, I have to assume you’re not doing this so you can bake a cake for him.

you betcha for a jolly vow is a part of what song of the 70s johnny mathis:  Chances are he’s really looking for the Stylistics’ “Betcha By Golly Wow.”

Compared with democratic and authoritarian states on both ends of the spectrum the political conditions of hybrid regimes are subpar, but not distressing enough to engender rage on the part of citizens:  You just keep right on telling yourself that, Senator, bless your heart.

The Oklahoman DMVs shorthanded:  Amazingly, citizens are distressed. Enraged, even.

“driving is not a contest” bumper sticker:  Oh, yeah? Then how come you’re ahead of someone?

how to change LA4A-EL filter for cd4e yourself:  If you can’t distinguish Mazda’s part designations from Ford’s, you probably have no business trying to disassemble a transmission.

science fiction as an act of political interpretation:  Imagine the US Congress as a ragtag collective of bug-eyed monsters. Oh, wait, you said “fiction,” didn’t you? Never mind.

Woman claims Victorias Secret stole her bra:  Reverse shoplifting? O brave new world!

da um role de opala pode vim canbar paga pal:  Yeah, that’s easy for you to say.

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Don’t put that there

In urban-development-speak, Houston has long been known as the definitive no-zoning town: you want to put a 32-story highrise across the street from a row of duplexes, City Hall has your back.

That’s the stereotype, anyway. What’s left of it is about to be shot into space:

Last month the City Council voted to update Houston’s development rules, extending to the city limits a push for single-family home density, among other changes.

To address concerns about incompatible development, the rewrite includes protections allowing neighborhoods to impose minimum lot sizes for up to 500 homes at a time, preventing the subdivision of lots for townhomes. The restriction, which can last 40 years, also would restrict any residential or vacant land to single-family homes, keeping out apartment towers and condominiums.

The city actually came up with the minimum lot-size rule in 2001; this is its first major extension. How it spreads:

Under the change to the ordinance, 10 percent of property owners in an area must apply, triggering a balloting process through which 55 percent of owners must vote yes to impose the restriction. City staff could revise an area’s boundaries to secure the necessary support.

As city Planning Department spokeswoman Suzy Hartgrove said before the rewrite passed, “In Houston, because we’re not a zoned city, deed restrictions are the one thing that’s relied upon to keep your neighborhood consistent and retain that character. (Minimum lot size) is a protection that really is akin to a deed restriction that will be established for these neighborhoods that apply and are designated.”

My main problem with this measure is that bit about “City staff could revise an area’s boundaries to secure the necessary support,” which sounds rather high-handed of them, especially if you’re not one of the supporters.

Still, if you had illusions of Houston being a bunch of free-wheeling Texans for whom the sky’s the limit, you’ve just gotten a glimpse of the brakes.

(Via this Otis White tweet.)

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In case you missed Winter Wrap-Up

The sheer volume of music inspired by My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, in every conceivable genre, became overwhelming quite a while back, to the extent that “quite a while back” can apply to a fandom that has existed for less than three years.

This piano piece by a chap named Callenby comes from the classical aisle; it’s even titled, classically enough, Sonata in C# Minor “Forest and Snow.” (C-sharp minor? Not exactly going for the low-hanging fruit, is he?)

If you’re compiling a catalog, this appears to be Op. 3.

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Go thou and do likewise

I strive at all times to inspire my readership:

I had despaired of ever wearing sandals again after the plantar fascitis and resulting physical therapy diagnosis of stretch every day and never go without orthotic inserts. Then I saw a post over at Dustbury wherein CGHill opined upon a recent sandal purchase. (Sorry, I know that post is ancient in weblife but it took me awhile to work up to a purchase) So I went to Zappos and started looking around. Searching with “orthotic” and “sandal” led to these:

Orthaheel Porto III

“The ultimate in functional fashion,” says the blurb for the Porto III slide by Orthaheel. The pseudo-wood design is unconvincing, but this probably doesn’t matter unless you’re planning to seduce Hans Brinker. The verdict from our buyer:

The reviews seemed favorable enough to outweigh the assumption that has to be made with any consumer reviewed product — namely that most reviewers will be complete idiots. So I gulped hard at the price, closed my eyes and ran up the credit card debt. (I really hate wearing socks and shoes in the summer.) So far, I wore them to work yesterday and my feet were fine. I’ve stood up quite a bit today in the kitchen and outside doing some plant repotting and my feet are still pretty good.

Pictured is the Pewter color; the one she actually bought appears to be Brandy, and there are Black and Ivory variants as well. I gulped at the price, because it was about eight bucks more than the shoes I’d bought this spring. Then again, resistance to pronation ain’t exactly cheap, and besides, girl-type persons are for some inscrutable reason expected to pay more for shoes.

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Debaser, debetter

Discounts for senior citizens? Black Francis isn’t having any of that. In fact:

Fans of Black Francis who plan to see the Pixies frontman’s solo-acoustic show in New York City next week who are older than 30 — and let’s face it, that’s a lot of us — might want to consider something they haven’t done in a couple decades: investing in a fake ID.

That’s because the venue that the erstwhile Frank Black is playing this coming Friday is charging fans who are older than 30 an additional $30 for tickets. That’s three times the price.

Then again, Francis may not be the one who needs to lighten up here:

A quick glance through the ticket links for Black Francis’ remaining tour dates, as well as some already-completed shows this month, reveals no other such age-based pricing — suggesting he’s likely unaware of this rather unique pricing structure.

As for Symphony Space, which is obviously trying to draw younger fans to next week’s concert, a look at other performances listed at the performing arts center shows discounts for seniors, children or students, but we saw no other price breaks for the 30-and-under crowd.

Mr. Grieves was not available for comment.

(Via Fark.)

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User disexperience

Friday night I happened upon a nifty piece of software called Visual Similarity Duplicate Image Finder, made by MindGems, which looked like just the thing to tame my ridiculous picture archive. I downloaded their demo, ran the installer, and gave it a 10,000-file directory to read. Even on my ancient desktop (2.66 GHz P4), the program turned up 281 duplicates in nine minutes flat. The demo version doesn’t allow you to delete the extras: you’d need to look ‘em up yourself in Explorer, or pay for the full version, which was a reasonable $24.95. So I blew the dust off my American Express card and prepared to start typing purchase information.

Nope. Not with these guys. You must go out to their third-party retail site, complete the purchase there, uninstall the demo and wait for them to send you a download link for the full version, which, they warned, could take up to twelve hours. (In fact, it took six minutes.) I duly installed the full version and ran exactly the same routine, which took slightly less time; deleting the duplicates — the AutoCheck system, unless you select otherwise, marks as deletable the smaller version, either in pixel count or bytes — took about 35 seconds. Very efficient, and it didn’t melt down the CPU.

So I’m still recommending VSDIF, because it by-gosh works, and because they offer multi-license deals if your shop needs such things. But if you’re sure you’ll like it, don’t bother with the demo: show up with plastic in hand and save yourself a bit of aggravation. For the next version, they should work on making this easier to buy.

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