How dare you drive that?

Everybody hates sport-utility vehicles except the people who actually drive them. It’s no different in India, where there is now a legal definition of the SUV, the better to tax them with:

The government justified the move saying that SUVs occupy more space on the road, although the truth is that large sedans occupy more space than SUVs. A criteria was set and if a vehicle fits into all three, then it is classified as an SUV. Thus an SUV is a vehicle which is more than 4-metres in length, having an engine larger than 1.5-litres and a ground clearance of more than 170 mm. Indian roads are pathetic and you really need good ground clearance to prevent scraping the underbody on large and unmarked speed-breakers.

My own large sedan, 5 meters long with a 3-liter engine, meets two of the three SUV criteria, and it wouldn’t take much to jack up the suspension to meet the third.

Mahindra’s high-selling XUV5OO was hit with the tax, up to the tune of $550. What did the automaker do?

Mahindra went ahead and added a stone guard which became the lowest point of the vehicle, resulting in a reduced ground clearance of 160 mm (from 200 mm).

Which makes it a bit less roadworthy on pathetic Indian roads, but hey, this is what the government wanted, right?

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Don’t walk across that glass ceiling

You know, guys, we’re never going to make it to a post-sexist society — assuming there can be such a thing as a post-sexist society — if we keep having silly little contretemps like this:

On Friday, a baffled hacker community got a firsthand lesson in just how bizarre sexism in the tech industry can be. LinkedIn and Toptal, a small developer networking platform, essentially played a round of credibility chicken over Toptal’s advertising on the site.

The incident involved a brief attempt by LinkedIn to pull ads for female engineers — because it claimed that its users had complained about their appearance.

Said Toptal’s CEO about the matter:

We run a mixture of male and female advertisements. We’ve taken extremely professional photos of both men and women who are part of the Toptal network and made sure they looked sharp, well dressed and happy; however, LinkedIn’s internal advertising’s staff completely disagrees that they both look sharp, well dressed and happy. Actually, they believe, with 100% certainty, that the women in our advertisements are offensive and harmful to their user base.

One fairly typical comment from the sidelines, which sums up the controversy:

I glance at the two ads they’re showing there, and my first impulse is “they slapped some stock photos of attractive women on there to give male viewers an endorphin kick.” They’re a far cry from the “look! boobs!” of Evony ads, but they also don’t look like women ready for a day at the office. I know from the article that these are actual, working female engineers, but part of me wants to say that the ad designer obviously picked them for “sexy” as opposed to “professional,” and that seems sleazy and sad. But on the other hand, who the hell am I to tell any professional how to dress or style their hair? But on the third hand, if I’m right it’s not the fault of the engineers but of the ad designers…

Augh, I kinda feel like an asshole just for thinking about this.

Which may be the whole point: it’s okay to appreciate women in the 51st appearance percentile, so long as you regret it immediately afterwards.

Toptal did not, however, help their case by falling back on a few stock photos of non-engineers to, um, sweeten the deal. (“Who cares?” they asked, not expecting an answer.)

The idea that how well a woman performs as an engineer is basically independent of her appearance — one could argue that a prettier one might get her foot in the door slightly faster, but that’s not a performance issue — isn’t even being considered. Now that’s what’s sad.

Addendum: Here’s an actual Toptal profile.

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Strange search-engine queries (392)

Once more, we descend into the little room where the logs are stored and glance at the thousands of almost-identical lines, hoping something amusing in the form of a search string will jump up and catch our eye. It works a lot better than you might think it would.

he is neither a dentist nor a certified asbestos remover, neither the next rebirth of Dalai Lama:  In fact, there’s a chance he’s not even a he, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

was conway twitty on the plane with ritchie valens:  It’s only make-believe.

how many of the b53 turbine blades have been replaced by siemens:  Evidently not enough.

why isn’t nomorobo available yet?  They ran out of turbine blades.

What is a good screw funny:  Torx. You never have a driver for them, and you wind up trying to wedge an Allen wrench in there.

the word citizen is no longer used?  You’re thinking of Seattle. Other words no longer used there: “brown bag,” “viaduct,” “Sonics.”

Crown Victoria parking brake warning light on in a minute lyrics:  See what I mean? The people have had enough of silly love songs.

are the bay city rollers insulted by tartan horde songs:  Only if they’re silly.

does a white car or silver car stay cooler:  This being August, the answer is No.

kingsmen vegetables:  Just don’t go showing everyone your louie, Louie.

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Condition Redmond

A few weeks ago, Microsoft moved to restructure itself, and I don’t think they missed a single current buzzword in the announcement.

What they should have done was this:

[S]plit into two major division: Stuff That Works and Stuff That’s Crap.

The Stuff That Works will continue to support the Xbox 360, the Microsoft Mouse, Microsoft Surface Pro, and Microsoft Security Essentials.

The Stuff That’s Crap division will encompass Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Surface RT, Xbox One, and just about everything else.

There may be, however, some cross-pollination:

Products and services like Microsoft Office, which are currently slated for the Stuff That’s Crap division, could wind up in Stuff That Works, but that’s still uncertain.

It is a measure of something, surely, that no one even mentions Internet Explorer anymore.

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Polly unsaturated

For several months now, we’ve been serving up vintage hosiery ads, and somehow I had yet to do one for this famed British Superbrand, which has been making basically the same pitch for many years:

Pretty Polly advertisement

The original Pretty Polly (1901-1931) was a racehorse; as a two-year-old filly, she won all nine races in which she was entered, and she retired with a lifetime record of 22 wins in 24 starts, finishing second twice. A fitting model, wouldn’t you think?

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An overly familiar Motown record

A former resident of Detroit explains why he left:

I could give you all the conventional reasons why you’d leave a Detroit, but, for the most part, those wouldn’t be mine. The reason I was eager to leave was that Detroit was proud to be stuck where it was. It knew it was having huge problems; but it was NOT going to change the way it was doing any thing. That’s not a good attitude to have when things are going well, and an even worse one to have when things are going badly. I knew a fighter pilot who had fought in Vietnam and I asked him what he would do if he spotted an enemy plane “in his six” (directly behind you). He said, “Anyway you go is better than the way you’re going now.” Detroit seemed to think it could stand being shot at better than it could change course. Why be proud of not changing? That isn’t it exactly, it’s rejection of how you’d perceive yourself in the course of changing. Detroiters (or is it Midwesterners generally? Discuss!) reject what they would perceive as the arrogance of EastCoasters and the flakiness of WestCoasters for a more “reasonable” view of the world. Even if that perception were even vaguely true, it forgets how virtues often degenerate into parodies of themselves. What was once steadfastness becomes calcified stubbornness, well past the point of being “reasonable.” Now they wake up, find themselves billions in the hole and thinking about selling everything that isn’t nailed down, and a lot that is. Maybe some arrogant flakiness would have been better when times were more flush.

But times are less flush today, and flaky arrogance is now the rule rather than the exception. Still, I side with the fighter pilot: the most unacceptable path is the current one.

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The undistinguished member

Sally Kern’s minivan has license plate “H 84.” This is not some sort of Wicked Disclosure I’m making; that’s the way this state identifies vehicles belonging to state legislators, “H 1″ through “H 101″ and “S 1″ through “S 48.” Whether these plates are intended to ratify some sort of legislative immunity while in transit, I couldn’t say.

Colorado legislators, on the other hand, enjoy a slightly different approach:

According to CBS Denver, the info for these particular license plates is never entered into the DMV database, so when some state senator goes zooming by a speed camera, he or she won’t get a ticket, because the camera system looks up the license plate number through the DMV. Since no info comes up, no ticket is given.

This appears to be true for parking tickets as well. See, even though a parking enforcement officer might leave a ticket on the car, cities like Denver that rely on the DMV for addresses of vehicle owners come up empty when they try to collect on those tickets.

And for all I know, Rep. Kern may have traded off that minivan by now, but the last time I saw her on the road, that’s what she was driving, and the plate would be transferable to a new vehicle. (Which is the opposite of the usual Oklahoma law, which requires that the tag stay with the car when it’s sold.)

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The true Smart Thermostat

It requires, as you see, a little bit of programming:

Thermostat with gratuitous Monty Python reference

This is, of course, from the Book of Temperaments, chapter 2, verses 9 through 21.

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Instant blame

It’s never occurred to me to yell “Hey, Lankford, this sucks!” every time I get stuck on the Broadway Distention — mostly because I have enough sense to stay off the Broadway Distention — but were I so inclined, there’s an app for that:

A new app will let you instantly alert your elected officials when your bus is late, the highway is backed up, or your plane is stuck on the tarmac.

The I’m Stuck app, from infrastructure advocacy group Building America’s Future, is designed to give commuters a platform to let public officials know when their infrastructure is failing them. It’s a new twist on an old planning strategy of counting the number of riders and drivers who use a particular route. But instead of sending that data to planners, I’m Stuck goes directly to the folks who decide whether a project is built or a service is expanded.

Who will then, of course, ignore it. Heck, when Ernest Istook was hanging around here, he was making damn sure that we weren’t soaking up Federal largesse that might otherwise go to Salt Lake City.

Still: “Hey, Lankford, this sucks!”

(Via Autoblog.)

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Shake it out

Florence Welch once described her on-stage style as “The Lady of Shalott meets Ophelia … mixed with scary gothic bat lady.” Off-stage?

Florence Welch in New York City July 2013

Someone snagged this shot of Florence taking a walk through New York City earlier this week, and she’s anything but scary — though perhaps still heavy in your arms.

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The owner will never know

This, I am told, is the engine cover from a last-generation Hyundai Santa Fe:

Hyundai bogus engine cover

I suppose those shiny bits are intended to suggest the actual intake runners beneath. There’s just one minor detail: this engine is mounted transversely, so the cover, which suggests longitudinal mounting, is 90 (or maybe 270) degrees out of phase, completely and utterly bogus.

(Seen at Fourtitude.com; suggested here.)

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Some like it squat

I have long suspected our New Urbanist types of having a vertical bias: anything spread out horizontally, to them, smacks of the hated suburbs, and they’d cheer anything built on the old Stage Center site so long as it’s at least twenty stories.

Certainly short-ish and squat isn’t going to save the old Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago:

Prentice Women's Hospital building

A distinctive cloverleaf-shaped icon in Chicago, Prentice Women’s Hospital was designed by architect Bertrand Goldberg and opened to international acclaim in 1975. The hospital relocated in 2007, leaving the distinctive structure vacant. A strong coalition of preservation groups, architecture and design organizations, and internationally-recognized architects and engineers demonstrated several viable reuses for the groundbreaking Modernist treasure that made it the centerpiece of a cutting-edge Northwestern medical research facility. In spite of a unanimous vote of the Commission on Chicago Landmarks that Prentice met the criteria for a Chicago Landmark, the Commission ultimately sided with Northwestern University and cleared the way for demolition of one of Chicago’s most unique buildings.

Stage Center didn’t have “several viable reuses” proposed, and the wrecking ball is on its way. Will Prentice be saved? Not a chance. People want their tall, pointy stuff, and they’re going to get it.

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Both passive and aggressive

Rep. Mike Reynolds (R-OKC), one of the more reliably loose cannons on the State House floor, has set up a Web site to snipe at Speaker T. W. Shannon (R-Lawton), under the sneaky URL shannonforcongress.com. Reynolds, using solid mid-1990s HTML skills, does his best to raise questions about just about everything Shannon has done, and hasn’t done, since election to the House in 2006, and also complains about his claims to ethnicity. (Gee, Mike, the guy looks black to me.)

Then there’s this:

Sixth generation Oklahoman? Few people know where there [sic] grandparents lived, much less their great,great,great grandparents.

Define “few.” I knew where my grandparents lived, all the time they were alive.

This might be Reynolds’ last bid for the limelight — he was first elected in 2002, so term limits will send him home after next session — which likely means we can expect something of a shenaniganza between now and then.

(Via this tweet from Michael Cross of the KOSU Capitol Bureau.)

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Go east, young woman

Rebecca Black takes a trip to New York:

I wish I had a tenth of her sheer exuberance.

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The better half

Advice Goddess Amy Alkon, on the origin of the concept of “soulmates”:

The idea of soulmates actually traces back to Plato. He wrote about a “symposium” (ancient Greek for “kegger”) at which an apparently tanked Aristophanes claimed there were once three sexes — male, female, and this weird he/she thing, round like a soccer ball, with four hands, four feet, and two faces. According to Ari, humans got power-hungry and attacked the gods. The gods were pissed. They contemplated annihilating humanity with thunderbolts and then realized there’d be nobody left to leave them offerings. Zeus instead punished the humans by hacking the he/shes in two — male and female — and after Apollo reshaped them to look like we do now, the gods dispersed them, compelling them to forever be searching for their “other half.” Supposedly, those few who are lucky enough to find theirs spend the rest of their lives making googoo eyes at each other on a picnic blanket while all the other couples are taking turns sobbing into a pillow in marriage counseling or sex therapy.

Same old Zeus, trying his best to be a badass. Hera leads him around by the wang-dang-doodle, and everyone knows it.

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Quote of the week

Ken White at Popehat, on how the film Fruitvale Station subverts the current version of the social compact:

Society has a stake in depicting people like Oscar Grant — people who have gone to prison, people who have committed crimes — as all one thing. Society has a reason to get anxious, as [Variety critic Geoff] Berkshire seems to, when the Oscar Grants of the world are depicted as people like us with good and bad parts, people to whom we can relate. Society runs on treating many people as less than human. Society depends on the social compact not falling apart when a young man is shot to death as he lays prone and unarmed on the pavement. Society depends on us accepting the fact that we jail people at a greater rate than anyone on the planet. Society depends on us accepting, as we are more and more enthusiastic about jailing people, that we are less and less interested in paying for adequate legal representation or adequate jail conditions. Society depends on us shrugging at brutality. Society relies on us not recognizing the essential humanity of the targets of the state’s power. Depicting people who commit crimes as one-dimensional criminals supports that social compact; depicting them as people — people more like us than unlike us — threatens it.

Society can’t function as presently constituted if we recognize the Oscar Grants of the world (or for that matter the Johannes Mehserles) as human beings, and act accordingly. Fruitvale Station is not subversive because it suggests Oscar Grant’s death was a grave injustice; it’s subversive because it suggests his life had value in the first place.

Johannes Mehserle is the BART officer who shot Oscar Grant on the first day of 2009.

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