Quote of the week

David Warren’s conspectus — as distinguished from “prospectus” — for Canada’s Conservative Party:

If elected, we promise to do nothing. There will be no new initiative in any area of government. Should some foreign power threaten us, we shall smoosh them promptly. Should some other unforeseen event positively demand our attention, we shall respond in like spirit to make it go away. Such contingencies aside, we shall avoid enterprise of any sort. Instead, we shall devote our entire attention, not to doing, but to undoing things. And not just little things but big things; and not just a few notoriously rotten apples in the eyes of vested interests known to be unloved, but the whole apple pie, the whole bakery. We shall make the Tea Party in the United States look like a bunch of socialist whiners. We shall make the UKIP in Britain look like Europhiles. Our ambition, as we cling to power, shall be to undo every gratuitous Act of Parliament, or other superannuated government measure, going back to Confederation, if not to Champlain. We shall repeal legislation, erase regulations, close government departments, demolish the buildings, salt the earth on which they stood, fire and retire civil servants by the refugee shipload. We shall sack them on the beaches, we shall sack them on the landing grounds, we shall sack them in the fields and in the streets, we shall start with the CBC. Our motto shall be that of the Machine Gun Corps of the British Army in the Great War. (“Saul hath slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.”) We shall do this deliberately and persistently and remorselessly with no more attention to public opinion than will be necessary to lure our opponents into traps.

Inexplicably — or maybe not so inexplicably — the Conservatives chose not to adopt this as a platform.

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On the edge of the abyss

What can you say about a sixteen-year-old kid who may be dying? And what, as a 60-year-old in tolerable health, can I possibly say?

Update, 9 June: It appears that the kid’s lease on life is a lot less tenuous than he said it was.

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The OS that wouldn’t die

Officially, with the exception of one zero-day attack deemed too important to blow off, Microsoft will not give you any more updates to Windows XP.

Unless, of course, you can persuade them that it’s something else entirely:

As reported by Wayne Williams at Betanews and confirmed by us, a simple registry hack to a Windows XP system tricks Windows Update into providing updates for it.

Williams says that the hack … makes the system look like Windows Embedded POSReady 2009 which will continue to receive updates until April 9, 2019.

Caution: this seems to work only on 32-bit versions of XP, and Microsoft, of course, disavows any responsibility for the results.

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Yet no hose was gotten

What’s the point of having a humongously long warranty if you can’t find exceptions to it now and then? Motor Trend reports on their long-term Kia Rio (July):

The cabin’s build quality and materials are $18,794-appropriate, blighted by a peeling steering wheel rim first noticed at the 30K-mile mark, not unlike what affected our old long-term 2012 Hyundai Elantra. The local dealer’s reply, after explaining that it wouldn’t be covered under warranty: The wear is likely caused by lotions or other oil-based substances, which is ludicrous because many people use lotions, and 30K is barely any mileage at all.

You gotta wonder if Kia’s going to fix it anyway before selling the car as a CPO.

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And it’s spiked

Early in the fourth quarter, Sports Illustrated jumped the gun just a hair:

With four minutes remaining, the Thunder had closed the gap to two points — 93-91 — but didn’t get any closer until the last minute, when Serge Ibaka blocked a Tim Duncan layup, Kevin Durant dropped in a pair of free throws to tie it at 97, Ibaka then blocked a Manu Ginobili layup, and Durant knocked one down from just off the rim to put OKC up 99-97. Ginobili then sank a trey to give the Spurs a 100-99 lead; the Thunder turned it over; Manu got one of two free throws; Russell Westbrook hit two of them to tie it at 101; Ginobili went for the last shot and didn’t get it. Five blowouts in this series, and finally a game went overtime.

And then, of course, it all went to pieces. Halfway through the overtime, Westbrook slammed down a layup for a one-point Thunder lead; sphinxlike Tim Duncan got the next four points to put the Spurs up three with 19 seconds left, and Boris Diaw added two more to ice the deal. San Antonio 112, Oklahoma City 107, and that’s it: Spurs in six, and the dubious privilege of facing the Miami Heat (again!) in the Finals.

There are several Telltale Statistics to choose from, but I’m going for the most obvious one: the Spurs bench scored 51 points, the Thunder bench five — all from Derek Fisher, no less. To some extent, this was to be expected: when the chips are down, OKC relies on the superstars to carry the load, and Fisher took only four shots in 33 minutes, hitting two. Still, we saw only 12 minutes of Steven Adams (two rebounds, no blocks) and six of Jeremy Lamb (one assist, one steal). Even the absence of Tony Parker, who left the game in the second quarter due to an ankle injury, should have provided at least some kind of opening for these guys. The heroes did what they could: Westbrook punched in 34 points (some of them literally, it looked like), Durant 31, Reggie Jackson 21, Ibaka 16.

And despite all that, the Thunder actually outshot the Spurs, 42 percent to 40, and went 29-33 from the line. (The Spurs were 25-34 on freebies.) Neither side was particularly proficient from outside: 62 treys were put up, and only 19 made. San Antonio had a small edge on the boards — 49-45 — until you look a little closer and see that the Spurs scraped 16 of them off the offensive glass. And that’s what they did best tonight: wangle second chances, while the Thunder were too often one-and-done. Diaw, expected by no one to be a major factor in this series, continued to be a major factor in this series, leading the Spurs with 26; Duncan had 19, Kawhi Leonard 17, Ginobili 15.

So it’s “Wait ’til next year” time once again. And Dr. Pants says it best:


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Speaking of ancient themes

Not long after I wrote the previous piece, this landed in the spam trap:

I aЬsolutely lߋve yοuг website.. Pleɑsant cοlors & theme.
Ɗid you make this amazing site yourself?
Please reply back aѕ I’m wanting to create my own personal site and
would love to find out where ƴoս got this from orr exactly what thе tɦeme
is named. Many thanks!

(Must be viewed in UTF-8; other encodings are garbled even worse.)

Weirdly, every other spam from about that hour linked to a YouTube video which purported to sell a car.


They make it up in volume

Over at Language Log, Mark Liberman finds a piece of comment spam worth quoting:

Ginger ultimately struck North Carolina on September 30 as a chinese culture massive disappointment.

The resulting embryo is afterward transported to tissue may occur, either acutely or chronically, over hundreds of times, sometimes with a little more.

This is right up there with the best ones I’ve received, though this remark of Liberman’s disturbs me:

Among the approximately 15,000 spam comments directed at LL over the past 24 hours, this is one of the few that made it past the filters to be dealt with by human moderation.

Fifteen thousand? In one day? And this estimate may be conservative:

That might be a low estimate — there have been 4,574 comments caught by the spam filter in the past 105 minutes, which would translate to 62,729 per 24 hours.

I don’t know how many of those might have been wrongly trapped, because there are far too many for me to check them manually, as I used to do when there were only a few hundred a day.

Since the fall of 2008, I have had 34,817 comments caught by the spam filter. Total. Admittedly, I draw a lot less traffic than Language Log — whose ancient WordPress theme, incidentally, is also my ancient WordPress theme — but still: 4500 in less than two hours? That’s scary.

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It’s a handgun and a dessert topping

Just another week in Detroit? Well, this seems odd even for the 313:

A man was killed at 11 p.m. Monday, when two men were reportedly assaulting a victim near the intersection of St. Mary’s and Elmira on the northwest side. “One of the men was pistol-whipping the victim when his gun went off, and his partner was shot in the neck,” [Assistant Police Chief Steve] Dolunt said.

Bayou Renaissance Man delivers exactly the correct amount of incredulity:

Pistol-whipping someone with a loaded gun? Now there’s a negligent discharge looking for a place to happen … and it found one!

I mean, this is almost Homer Simpson-level dumbth. Almost:

Homer Simpson contemplates pistol whip.  Mmmm...pistol whip.



Someone else, please

Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Seriously. They like the idea of being organized, but not through this organization:

Employees who want to unionize Alabama’s Mercedes-Benz auto plant say they no longer want to work with the United Auto Workers union to accomplish that goal.

A core group of pro-union employees has asked the UAW to stop campaigning at the German automaker’s Tuscaloosa County plant, because the current effort has gone on too long without success.

Now how could this possibly be?

At one point … the campaign had enough union authorization cards to legally file for an election, as more than 30 percent of the plant’s hourly production and maintenance workers had signed one.

But the UAW was pushing for a much higher percentage, 65 percent, because it wanted a sure win, they said. “It’s all about the image with the UAW, and it’s not about the workers.”

They’d like some other union to come in, though the AFL-CIO won’t permit that sort of thing.


In your face via your ears

The Loudness Wars, as described by yours truly about four years ago:

The quest for airplay usually results in something that sounds like everything else on the playlist, just so it will fit in better. And these days, everything else on the playlist is loud, louder, loudest: it is now understood that you cannot exceed 0 dB in the digital domain without horrendous distortion, so everything is cranked up as high as possible, with a hard limiter shoved in right below the distortion point. Dynamic range is conspicuous by its absence. And once we’ve compressed the life out of it, we compress it some more to save disk space.

Gagdad Bob Godwin sees something similar in the actual attitudes behind the music:

If you read the wiki article about the loudness war, you can see that something analogous has happened in mass culture vis-a-vis our tediously transgressive pop stars. Loud and crass as it was, whatever tawdry thing Madonna was doing in 1985 no longer shocks the sensibilities (which it probably never did, since it was old and decayed before it even came out of her piehole), which is why Miley Cyrus has to be that much louder and cruder.

You might say that she clipped Madonna of all *subtlety* and compressed the monotonous sexual message to soul-shattering amplitude. Just as louder CDs result in the image of the digital brickwall … the range of human reality of a Miley Cyrus is extraordinarily narrow but shrill and in your face. The only way she can continue her courageous artistic development is to embrace straight-up pornography.

What Madonna was doing in 1985 was pretty standard discofied synthpop; she didn’t start catching serious flak until the largely misunderstood “Like a Virgin,” which, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, didn’t actually suggest that first-timers ought to proceed to boink their brains out. But Madonna was anxious to crank it up, whatever “it” may have been, and Cyrus manifestly shares this anxiety.

The anti-Miley, of course, is Rebecca Black.


I don’t recall anything this big

A small number of owners of Nissan Leafs — for some reason I keep wanting to say “Leaves” — will be getting recall notices, and the official fix is about as broad as can be:

Nissan is recalling 211 Leaf EVs in the U.S. (and another 65 in Canada) built between February 28 and March 12 of this year to inspect them to see whether or not a series of six spot welds are present in the motor compartment. The welds in question are located on each side of the motor just above the sway bar ends. If the welds are there, then the vehicle is released to the customer with no further action required.

If the welds are missing, the situation becomes far more serious. According to the official recall notice from the NHTSA, if any welds are missing, the vehicle is to be replaced.

Yep. The whole car. Says Nissan:

The affected vehicles will be inspected and if the welds are missing, Nissan will replace the customer’s vehicle with a new one at no additional cost. It is anticipated that only a handful of retailed vehicles are affected by the weld issue and require vehicle replacement.

So far, no accidents have been reported.

(Via Fark.)

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XS cheapness

It’s called “alpha sizing,” and it eliminates the need to remember some dubious number. Unfortunately, that’s not why they’re doing it:

Switching to what people in the biz call “alpha sizing” saves manufacturers money and resources, making it easier to stock clothes when they arrive and to sell out of a given size once they hit the racks. The Wall Street Journal reports that some clothing companies are making this switch with some or all of their items. [paywall]

Why is that? Each size in an alpha sizing system replaces two numbered sizes. Think of a typical size run of one item that you might see on a rack at a mall clothing store: you would find sizes 0, 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16. Nine different sizes. Alpha sizing cuts that same size range down to five sizes: XS, S, M, L, and XL.

And if you happen to fall between two of those letters, you’re just out of luck.

My sentiments are right in line with Véronique Hyland’s:

Clothing manufacturers of America: just standardize things already. If men can walk into a store knowing their inseam and waist size and come out with a wardrobe, why can’t we just base things on the numbers? Our vanity can take the hit.

Well, we do need to know sleeve length, but unlike waist size, it’s fairly constant.

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Plum delight

How did I miss this? Angie Harmon, at the Academy of Country Music Awards in April, in a delightfully tiny Roberto Cavalli:

Angie Harmon at 49th ACM Awards

The usual question — Rizzoli or red carpet? — remains tantalizingly unanswered.


The patented Cash Extraction method

Something called “Federal Benefits Authority, L.L.C.” — the obligatory “not affiliated with any government agency” disclaimer is in type too small for many people my age to read — has thrown a one-sheet letter into my box:

Our records indicate that you may be at or approaching retirement eligibility age. In order to receive an updated Federal Benefits Analysis, please complete the questionnaire below. The customized analysis will provide you with critical information you will need to make important decisions regarding your retirement benefits.

Shorter version: “We want to get our hands on your TSP, and we want you to tell us exactly how to do it.”

Not being a civil servant, or either of those words individually, I don’t have a Thrift Savings Plan, and if I did, I probably might not want it to get near any guys with an Edmond post-office box and a questionable nature and a flawed mailing list. (Not only do I not qualify, they got my middle initial wrong.)

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An occasionally forbidden fruit

As fulsome praise for fruit goes, this is right up there with the fulsomest:

Have you eaten a ruby red grapefruit lately? I bought a big bag of them last week and have been enjoying one per day ever since. Each one is massive and almost completely edible, even the white fleshy membranes. So tender. They are juicy beyond belief, like biting into the ocean. But a sweet, tangy ocean. They need neither salt nor brown sugar to temper the powerful flavor, because they are naturally perfect lately. When your teeth grip the pink, webbed meat and fruit juice splashes in your mouth, you can literally hear the vitamins collide with your blood cells (it sounds like sparklers on the Fourth of July), and within minutes your future seems brighter, stronger, more likely to improve. I ate one this morning and my bank account instantly went up by like forty three bucks.*

* No, it didn’t.

Some folks, however, dare not touch Big Citrus like this. I spent several years on a statin, during which time grapefruit was absolutely verboten. About two years ago, I quit taking them and didn’t tell anyone; my cholesterol remains at the same old 165. However, there are other drugs on my daily regimen which will mess me up if they catch me digging into a grapefruit.

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And it all goes south

Very little went right for the Thunder tonight, and the most visible sign of that might have been just inside the 2:00 mark in the third quarter, with San Antonio up 17, when Kevin Durant drew a foul from Manu Ginobili, and missed both free throws. If desperation hadn’t set in before that, it certainly did afterwards: at the end of the third the Spurs were up 20, and things would only get worse. Pop, always experimenting, had started Matt Bonner in the middle in place of Tiago Splitter, and sent Kawhi Leonard out to pester Russell Westbrook. After a 32-32 first quarter, Pop decided none of this was working, posted Boris Diaw at center, and the Spurs could seemingly do no wrong thereafter: five minutes into the fourth quarter, San Antonio was up 30, the Thunder having scored a big two points in those five minutes. The final was 117-89, and the Spurs are within one game of the Finals.

All sorts of anomalies bedeviled the Thunder. Reggie Jackson, who scored 11 in the first quarter, went scoreless thereafter. OKC couldn’t rebound worth a flip: the Spurs owned the boards, 48-35. The Thunder couldn’t hit the long ball, going 6-24. (San Antonio was 13-26.) But take out those failed treys and Oklahoma City is shooting 51 percent, half a percentage point behind the Spurs. Perhaps worst of all, OKC was 13-20 from the stripe. (San Antonio made twice as many: 26 out of 30.) Still, Durant scored 25 and Westbrook 21, though no one else but Jackson hit double figures.) If there’s a moral victory here — hint: there isn’t — it’s that Bonner, vanishing after the first quarter but returning in the fourth, missed all four of his shots.

Meanwhile, Tim Duncan proved that he’s not too old to put up a double-double, scoring 22 and gathering 12 rebounds. Ginobili led the bench with 19; Leonard and Danny Green each had 14, Diaw 13 and Tony Parker 12. And if Pop didn’t get everything he wanted, he got the most important thing.

Game 6 is Saturday night in Oklahoma City. Will the Spurs wrap it up there? How many times have they won there recently? Exactly.

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