Properly muffled

On Friday the 13th, poor Gwendolyn was producing more exhaust noise than a brace of pony cars with side pipes. Infiniti wanted $700 or so to fix it, which seemed a trifle on the high side, so once my nerves de-jangled a bit, I dragged out the service information at hand, and apparently what they wanted to do was replace everything aft of the rear cat.

Unwilling to write a check this large, I sought out a second opinion — that of Steven at Muffler King, 89th and S. Shields. He smiled. “Infiniti, Nissan, this vintage, they all do this.” His recommended solution: replace the perforated pipe, then fabricate a new bracket that doesn’t have to sit flush against the muffler inlet.

Problem solved, many dollars saved. In view of this happy result, I must urge every last one of you who needs exhaust work to drop in at this Muffler King location. It’s hard to spot, since their sign blew down in the last batch of storms.

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Blast from the past

And still pretty darned pertinent. Here’s Doc Searls’ new intro:

The Web as we know it today was two years old in June 1997, when the page below went up. It lasted, according to Archive.org, until October 2010.

It’s called “Attention, Fat Corporate Bastards!” I excerpt only half a paragraph here, hoping more than usual you’ll read the whole thing.

You almost certainly think of the Internet as an audience of some type — perhaps somewhat captive. If you actually had even the faintest glimmering of what reality on the net is like, you’d realize that the real unit of currency isn’t dollars, data, or digicash. It’s reputation and respect. Think about how that impacts your corporate strategy. Think about how you’d feel if a guy sat down at your lunch table one afternoon when you were interviewing an applicant for a vice-president’s position and tried to sell the two of you a car, and wouldn’t go away. Believe it or not, what you want to do with the Internet is very similar.

The original author, alas, has dropped out of sight.

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A sort of pulp friction

I mean, something has to keep those skates from sliding out from under her:

Naked on Roller Skates

Maxwell Bodenheim (1892-1954), now mostly forgotten, was lionized in the late 1920s and early 1930s, first as a poet, then as a somewhat licentious novelist, the latter reputation encouraged by the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, which objected strenuously to Bodenheim’s 1925 novel Replenishing Jessica, whose presumably depleted heroine found “the simple feat of keeping her legs crossed … a structural impossibility.” Naked on Roller Skates came out in 1930.

His poems? Here’s one:

Whenever a love dies within you,
Griefs, phosphorescent with unborn tears,
Cut the glowing hush of a meadow within you:
Griefs striking their pearl-voiced cymbals
And shaping the silences once held by your love.
Your new love blows a trumpet of sunlight
Into the meadow, and your griefs
Leap into the echo and return to you.

Damn those griefs, anyway.

(Book cover Found in Mom’s Basement.)

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Stop me if you’ve heard these

Didn’t we see this problem on this side of the pond already?

French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici said the government is “looking for solutions” to help prop up car sales and soften PSA Peugeot Citroën’s decision to slash jobs and close a factory near Paris.

Europe’s second-biggest carmaker last week announced plans to cut 14,000 jobs and shut an auto plant in France for the first time in two decades to stem widening operating losses.

The socialist French government is about to undertake some steps superficially reminiscent of those taken by the not-entirely-socialist US government:

The government’s goal is to save more of Peugeot’s jobs, ensure there are no forced firings, soften the blow for the workers involved and keep the Aulnay plant operating as an industrial site, Moscovici said. The government will also announce measures on July 25 to boost French car sales and prop up the entire auto sector.

Prime à les Clunkers, anyone? Maybe not:

[President François] Hollande [Saturday] said he would lean on Peugeot to rework the plan, consider incentives to spur sales of environmentally friendly cars and study the possibility of providing credit for vehicle purchases, though he won’t adopt cash incentives as his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy did to counter a recession in 2009.

This will, says Bertel Schmitt, land Hollande in trouble with the European Union for promoting locally-manufactured products:

Any attempts to favor one EU partner’s industry over other countries is sure to attract the attention of Brussels. Brussels is keeping an eye on Paris, due to past episodes of support for the French by the French.

Then again, France, even under the Socialists, might think itself big enough to tell Brussels to take le hike.

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Floating paywall

What I said, four months ago, about Opubco’s Oklahoman.com:

It’s a premium product with an actual price tag, though it costs nothing extra to us old mossbacks who pay to have the dead-tree edition tossed onto our driveways.

The idea, of course, is not so much to get more money out of the people who are already paying, but to get some money out of the people who aren’t. Oklahoman reporter Steve Lackmeyer discussed the matter on a local message board:

The Oklahoman has not gone behind a pay wall — yet. We are giving subscribers first access to what’s deemed premium content posted at www.oklahoman.com. An online subscription costs $12 a month (I am a paying subscriber myself). Not really that horrible a price. Those who don’t want to subscribe can go the corner store and pick up a copy of the paper, which has maps and other info that won’t be included with the NewsOK version. The Oklahoman is the only major newspaper in Oklahoma that hasn’t gone to a full paywall. The Journal Record has long had a paywall, ditto for the Tulsa World & Lawton Constitution. Also ditto for the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and Dallas Morning News. The Oklahoman’s approach, right now, is not to have a paywall, but rather to reward subscribers by giving them first access and making others wait.

“Premium content” has not yet been defined in any, um, definitive sense, but it included Lackmeyer’s own story on the still-nascent-but-already-controversial Boulevard to Downtown, which yesterday cut off after two paragraphs in classic WSJ.com style.

As an actual subscriber, I don’t have to jump through these particular hoops. I’m wondering, though, if there’s any interest in a day pass, good for 24 hours at, say, seventy-five cents, the cost of the hard-copy version.

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The street vs. The Street

A workable commercial market has three components: price, output, and transaction rules, and you need all three to keep the customers satisfied. When pricing is divorced from other considerations, you end up with the distortions that characterize the so-called health-care and education “markets.” But it could be worse:

[I]n financial markets price and rules fuse into one. Because price is a rule: a rule that something is worth so much and has such and such obligations attached to it. There are, in other words, only two elements: rules and output (or activity) based on those rules. It is a binary, not a tertiary system.

That binary, dyadic, structure leads to all sorts of tautologies and contradictions. So, for instance, when people talk of de-regulating financial systems, they are literally talking nonsense because finance is rules. What happened instead is that rule setting shifted from government to traders, which led to an explosion of rules (derivatives, securitisation algorithmic trading etc). Not deregulation but hyper regulation, albeit made up by traders.

My personal favourite in the nonsense stakes is argument for high frequency trading, which is said to improve “liquidity”. Well, of course it does. Liquidity is the rate of transactions, high frequency trading increases the rate of transactions, therefore … high frequency trading increases liquidity. Blue is blue, red is red and the sun will almost certainly come up in the morning.

The only similar situation outside the financial market exists in casinos, where house rules, again, determine the effective price. You may already have suspected that derivatives and such were a crapshoot; you had no idea how close to the truth you really were.

(Via Bill Quick.)

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Strange search-engine queries (337)

This was actually compiled several months from now, but published retroactively. (Hey, if it works for Willard, it can work or me, n’est-ce pas?)

what does a fake gaylord texan reservation confirmation letter look like:  If it’s a good fake, exactly like a real one.

Fan Bingbing has a cool surname:  Yep. (In case you weren’t up on your Chinese names, it’s “Fan.”)

sophomore male pattern baldness high school:  Well, male pattern baldness is connected to testosterone levels, and high-school sophomores are just dripping with hormones.

what is the number to 1800 criminal:  I think we can file this under “unclear on the concept.”

fellatio contest:  I’d hate to have to keep score.

added r134a to my 1998 ford taurus and now my car keeps sputtering and dying:  Next time, don’t add it to the intake manifold. Sheesh.

mazda transmission jerk 626:  The same kind of guy who doesn’t know where to put the R134A.

why are hacked zooey deschanel pictures blacked out:  Because there is a God.

have warner bros never made a profit:  Not if they owe you a percentage of the profits, they haven’t.

is my gas gage less accurate when it’s hot:  No more so than when it’s cold, or when it’s somewhere in between.

sissy codpiece:  How so? Does it swish or something?

is a gmc terrain manly enough:  What’s the matter, honey? Sissy codpiece not working out for you?

modified scrotum:  “Modified” is the new “pierced.” (Ow.)

Ladies, if you saw a guy wearing a red bra under a white t-shirt, what would you say/do?  Assume a modified scrotum, and run like hell.

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Write about now

Wherein the phrase “Write what you know” is written about, and I discover how little I know, compared to how much I write. Or something like that.

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A disorder for our times

Actually, when you think about it, it’s not really a disorder at all, but a self-defense mechanism, and who doesn’t need a few more of those? LeeAnn discloses the existence of “Disaffective Apathy Disorder”:

Q: [D]oes it interfere much?
A: Yep, sometimes, but I don’t really care.

As the phrase goes: indifferent strokes for indifferent folks.

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I know the feeling

Sign calling out a burglar

A story from my own life in the CrappiFlats™, twelve years ago:

It was a pretty efficient kick, given the size of the deadbolt; the jamb was nicely splintered. The perp’s efficiency, however, stopped there; not only did he overlook the camera hanging right beside the door, he didn’t get much of anything other than frustration. I calculate my losses at $3.25, from a dish of quarters I was saving up for laundry, and about five minutes’ time to tidy up. The onsite staff will take care of the repairs. Still, this is a frightening sort of thing to contemplate just the same — suppose this dirtball had been interested in something other than ready cash?

(Sign found at WIN!)

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So Linconsiderate

The Houston Rockets have tendered an offer to New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin, a restricted free agent, which means that the Knicks have three days from receipt of the offer sheet to match the deal, or Lin packs up for Texas.

This is all pretty straightforward, except for one minor detail:

The Rockets have tried to deliver the offer sheet to the Knicks since Friday afternoon, but they had eluded their efforts, holding up the start of the three-day clock to match the offer or let Lin go to the Rockets, according to a person familiar with the process.

The Rockets had called and asked where they could deliver the offer sheet but were told that information would not be shared. By Friday evening, a courier called the hotel room of a Knicks official but did not get an answer. Roughly 30 minutes later, a front desk clerk reached him but was told the Knicks were not taking deliveries and that he would not come to the front desk to pick up a package.

Eventually, the Rockets gave up on trying to reach the Knicks in Las Vegas — it’s Summer League time, after all — and FedExed a copy to the Knicks office in New York, where presumably someone will receive it Monday morning.

This tells me that the Knicks are willing to let Lin go, inasmuch as they’ve just picked up Raymond Felton in a sign-and-trade with Portland, and Felton won’t cost anywhere near as much as the $25 million over three years the Rockets are willing to pay Lin.

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Stragglers R Us

The worst-selling car in the US for the first six months of 2012, as it was for the same period in 2011, is the Suzuki Forenza/Reno, though sales are holding steady: one in ’11, one in ’12.

I have to wonder how many of these rebadged Daewoo Lacettis are still unsold, inasmuch as GM Korea (formerly GM Daewoo) quit building them in 2008 after a six-year run, and Suzuki didn’t get a version of the new Lacetti Premiere, otherwise known as the, um, Chevrolet Cruze. (Oddly enough, the previous Chevy Cruze, not sold in the States, was built by Suzuki for the Japanese domestic market.)

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A series of short pants

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a man in possession of an entry pass to Comic-Con, must be dressed in a manner that would not seem at all appropriate on C-Span.

Women? A bit more variable, though I’m not quite sure what to make of Emmy Rossum, seen here on TV Guide’s yacht out in the harbor:

Emmy Rossum at Comic-Con 2012

This is not something Fiona Gallagher (Rossum’s character on the US version of Shameless) would wear, so I assume she’s trying to make some sort of point; if I didn’t know better — and it’s very likely that I don’t — I’d swear that this was a one-piece suit, so to speak.

Addendum: From this angle, the shorts don’t seem so short:

Emmy Rossum at Comic-Con 2012

(Previous Emmy Rossum coverage here.)

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Rice on the menu?

Condoleeza Rice in England 2008For some inexplicable reason, Drudge was pushing this notion for a few days: Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Not gonna happen, though:

I’d like to believe it, but I don’t. While Condi is a strong, powerful, intelligent woman who projects confidence and has rarely been tripped up by reporters, the wounds of the Bush administration are still too fresh. If Obama’s campaign is intent on claiming that eight years of Bush left the country in such a shambles they need eight years of Mom Jeans to repair it, why campaign on bringing the Bush years back? And while social issues are unlikely to be a major priority this election (unless the Obama campaign needs a carefully-timed distraction), social conservatives are still influential enough to throw an effective temper tantrum over Rice’s moderately pro-choice views, and that’s a fight Mitt Romney can’t afford to engage in with his history.

Although she does have one distinct quality going for her:

[S]he’s not a boring old white dude, and the GOP could certainly use less boring old white dudes. Boring old white dudes are so 2004, although, while Joe Biden and Dick Cheney are both boring old white dudes, one would definitely be an excellent drinking buddy (especially if you got him wasted in a particularly ethnic neighborhood) and the other could shoot your face off.

Dr Rice is one year younger than I am. I wonder if I qualify for “boring old white dude” yet. This particular professional panderer certainly does.

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A writer’s tool

Given my own unfortunate condition of late — a story is trying to sneak its way out of me despite my best and/or worst efforts — I can appreciate instruction on how to write a bestseller, especially when the first step is “Find a hammer.”

Then again, the models for this instruction are Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey. Make of that what you will. And I’d throw in a link to Stephenie Meyer’s Web site except for the fact that it’s ridden with malware. Surely karma isn’t that insidious.

(Via Jennifer’s daily obsessions.)

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Quote of the week

There is a small, but not small enough, group of unindividuals — if that isn’t a word, it oughta be — who make a habit of asking things like “Do you really need this [allegedly frightening object]?” The correct answer, from Tam:

If we got rid of everything I found dangerous or scary, there wouldn’t be a stepladder or a clown left from sea to shining sea, and if we can’t legislate fear and danger out of life just to make me happy, then we can’t do it for you, either.

Disclosure: I own a stepladder.

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