Achievement uncrocked

Tim Holman’s “The Useless Web” promises a useless Web site at the touch of a button. Half expecting to see something of mine, I pushed, and got the stirringly unproductive OMFGDOGS.

Remarkably, that wasn’t the most useless site I found in half a dozen clicks.

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Occasionally Grimm

Fillyjonk defends the fairy tale:

One of the reasons I like fairy tales, and liked them as a kid, is that they follow certain rules. The cruel, the greedy, the evil are punished in the end. The good, kind, honest, and hardworking are rewarded. Suffering is generally not in vain. And while death happens, often the parents of the good kind protagonists are described as dying peacefully after a long, good life. In other words, it portrays a world that seems to me more just than our actual world. (Too often in this world, it seems to me, the cruel do not see the consequences of their actions, and the fact that “no good deed goes unpunished” is a saying tells me this world is less just than it could be.)

I’ll go a little farther with that: the examples of justice being meted out, of heroes triumphing over frightening foes, are absolutely essential for young folks. They have to see that it’s possible to survive something scary, and that wrongs are eventually righted. There’s plenty of time for them to become cynical once they become teenagers.

And now that I think about it, this may be my true rock-bottom objection to Equestria Girls: they took half a dozen examples of Equestria’s finest, who have stared down (literally, in Fluttershy’s case) some of the scariest scenarios known to pony, and dropped them into a remarkably ordinary suburban high school. This is about as useful to a kid’s development as sending Andersen’s Ugly Duckling to the mall for a makeover.

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Can’t beat the tweet

Add this to the list of things I wasn’t expecting:

(A couple of these folks have been here before.)

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Overheated commentary

A discussion of automotive clocks two years ago drifted into a discussion of automotive temperature gauges, capped off by this explanation by the late Ric Locke:

What the temperature gauges of my recent experience have is a remarkably elastic center section. It’s always been true that everything within the white lines was “normal”, but people got worried anyway when the needle got close to an extreme. The manufacturers therefore compress most of the normal range into a few degrees of travel near the center. When the temperature gets within ten or twenty degrees of the maximum, the needle starts moving much faster.

TTAC commenter “autojim” expands the scale, so to speak:

The evolution of the temperature gauge in the US has several stages. First, there were gauges that worked. Some even had numbers on them. But US drivers, who a) can’t be bothered learning that a 50/50 ethylene glycol/water mix boils at 224F at atmospheric pressure, and b) that the boiling point goes up 3F for each PSI, would get all sorts of panicky if the temperature gauge read over 200F and bring it back to the dealer for warranty work.

So the automakers scrapped the numbers and just put cold/hot markings. Well, then customers wanted to know what part of the gauge’s range was trouble, and brought anything “too low” or “too high” by their subjective judgement back to the dealer for warranty work.

So the “NORMAL” band was added, typically with letters. Now we get into the same problem as with numbers: customers expected it to be in the middle of the NORMAL range, right between the R and the M. And never move.

So the automakers started putting huge flat spots in the gauge’s response curve. And under most conditions, that helped. Except with some heat-challenged engines in cold climates, where the coolant temp would dither around the point where the flat spot started, and the needle would move slightly in normal operation, causing customers to bring the car back for warranty work.

So the automakers did two things: one, they removed the “NORMAL” lettering again, and two, they increased the flat spot on the response curve.

And thus was gestation of the idiot light disguised as a gauge.

My old ’66 Chevy Nova had an idiot light which looked like an idiot light; however, my ’75 Toyota Celica had a real-life gauge, with calibrations at 100, 180, 210 and 250. Only once did it ever hit the top of the scale, determined to be the result of a severely clogged radiator, which was subsequently replaced.

This was followed by an ’84 Mercury Cougar with an idiot light, of which I saw entirely too much, given the Essex V6’s tendency to munch on its own head gaskets. Subsequent vehicles had gauges with tremendous flat spots. Gwendolyn’s thermostat supposedly opens at 82°C (180°F), and the gauge, sure enough, sits just a hair below the halfway point.

One gauge I’ve never had went through similar down-dumbing:

The oil pressure gauges had similar things happen, except of course the average consumer has no idea how much oil pressure is normal.

Sixty-nine kPa at idle, 390 at 2000 rpm. (I do pay attention to specs; somewhere in the glove box is the proper torque setting for the lug nuts.) Then again, Nissan wouldn’t even put a stick shift on this car, so you know they’re not interested in oil-pressure gauges.

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Like a verging

Lynn was happy to spear a Facebook status in which I expressed some confusion as to why I’d get an Instalanche off a pretty mundane post. And that’s fine; it’s not like I’m such a Superior Being or anything, or even on the verge of becoming one.

Then followed this:

Honestly, I don’t really care that much anymore. I started blogging with hopes of being Somebody in the blogging world — feeble hopes even then but, nevertheless, real hopes. But now I’m satisfied being in my own little universe. I can’t do politics because I don’t fit neatly into the Left-Right dichotomy so most people try to fit me into “the other side”, whichever side that happens to be for them. Some current events I would comment on but I never have anything particularly insightful to say. How many ways are there to say that a horrible disaster was a horrible disaster? And pop culture? Please. For the most part, I just really don’t want to know.

Then again, a manifestation of pop culture that actually turns into a horrible disaster — I’m looking at you, Miley — has, I believe, substantial potential as blogfodder in the right hands. Or maybe the left hands.

So, I’m not envious of Glenn Reynolds or the other A-list bloggers and I don’t crave their attention. (Okay, maybe I do, just a little bit) The bloggers I envy are those who get 15 to 25 comments on almost every post — little people like me but not as boring as me. But I do appreciate the few comments I do get and try to remind myself to be thankful for those and that quality is better than quantity.

On the off-chance that she intends to group me with the A-list, a place I’ve never actually been — back when N. Z. Bear was doing the Ecosystem, I managed to climb above “Large Mammal” status for about a week — I will now disclose my Number of Comments Per Post: two point eight. (Yes, really. Since the second week of September 2006, which is the first week in the WordPress database.) So there’s certainly no reason for me to be the object of anyone’s envy.

And besides, Lynn gets better trolls than I do.

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Second tour of duty

Melinda May, according to the current ABC/Marvel series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., has been here before. Says Ming-Na Wen, who plays the role:

“[She] needed to be saved. She returned to S.H.I.E.L.D. out of loyalty to [Phil] Coulson, but there’s a part of her that remains reluctant. She still gets her pissed-off face. If it weren’t for his intervention, she’d still be down in that dark, dingy room stapling things.”

This is not her pissed-off face:

Ming-Na Wen at TCA panel for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Ming-Na Wen’s first TV role, back in 1985, was as a Royal Trumpeter in two episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. She turns 50 tomorrow.

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Is this a clear choice?

So now we have gluten-free vodka. Seriously. Are the distillers pulling our chain?

[T]he new spirits labeling trend contradicts long-standing advisories from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that all distilled spirits are gluten-free unless it is added after distillation. So is this all a marketing gimmick?

Distillation involves heating, which vaporizes the alcohol as a way to remove it from the mixture. “Distilled spirits, because of the distillation process, should contain no detectable gluten residues or gluten peptide residues,” says Steve Taylor, co-director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Food Allergy Research and Resource Program. “Proteins and peptides are not volatile and thus would not distill over.”

Which is what I was thinking. But I’m the kind of guy who washes his hair with trans fats, so I’m relatively unconcerned about such matters. Other folks, they’ve got concerns:

A 2011 FDA report, “Health Hazard Assessment for Gluten Exposure in Individuals with Celiac Disease,” recommended the “most sensitive individuals with CD” eat foods with less than one-ppm gluten levels to protect them from “from experiencing any detrimental health effects from extended to long-term exposure to gluten.”

And the “gluten-free” label on vodka only assures 20 ppm or below, consistent with the labeling on other such products.

So this isn’t quite as risible as it could be. Maybe. I know very few celiac sufferers, and in general, they don’t drink a whole lot of distilled spirits.

(Via Consumerist.)

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The usual semiannual scrutiny

If my car could talk, she might say, along with “You know, these seats of mine can only take so much,” something along the lines of “Yeah, I got insurance. You wanna make something of it?”

Okay, she’s got an attitude. That’s part of why she’s here. And the insurance bill has arrived, so it’s time to go over that stuff again.

Premium is up a not-quite-negligible $20.40 this time around, ten bucks of which goes straight to bodily-injury liability, with half of the rest going to property-damage liability. Uninsured motorist coverage remains unchanged; it also remains the single priciest item on the bill. We shall see if the new state law allowing troopers to confiscate the license plates of uninsured motorists — and, even more fun, providing temporary liability coverage to those motorists at a price yet undetermined to be added to their fines and fees — does anything to address that matter.

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Non-vertical integration

News Item, Monday: The Oklahoman is returning to downtown. Century Center, 100 W Main, is set to become home to The Oklahoma Publishing Company, The Oklahoman and NewsOK by September 2014, subject to remaining government approvals. About 350 employees will make the move, while the production operation will remain at Britton and Broadway.

Top Ten rejected names for the new Opubco complex downtown:

  1. Gaylordia
  2. The Dwarf Tower
  3. News’ Last Stand
  4. FAO Schmucks
  5. Steve Lackmeyer’s Lunch Room
  6. Stage Center East
  7. Soon to Be a Steakhouse
  8. TIF Central
  9. Darth Mall
  10. Oklahoma City Times Square

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Two great tastes that taste horrible together

Vi Hart gives the Google+/YouTube integration the denunciation it deserves:

Google’s products used to augment humanity with beautiful tools that helped us get the information we wanted to see. That was the superiority of Google search, Google Reader, gmail with its excellent spam filter, and YouTube, which allowed you to subscribe to any individual who might want to post videos. Empowering humanity to efficiently search for and find information, and then to choose what information they consume, is not just a noble goal, but turned out to be a wildly successful thing that people want.

So naturally, it had to go:

Now a Google search shows me a full page of promoted, local, and social results — I have to scroll down to see actual search results. Google decided to drop Reader altogether. YouTube inflates subscriber numbers during signups while choosing which videos will actually show up, with a malicious algorithm that includes both total time a user spends on the site (promoting videos that suck you into watching things you don’t really like but are easily distracted by) and revenue gained (this means that by not having ads on your videos you miss out on both the ad money and on having your stuff displayed to many of your own subscribers). You can still “subscribe,” but YouTube changed the definition of the word in the same way Facebook changed the definition of “friend.”

YouTube used to be designed to help you find what you were looking for. Now, it’s designed to keep you looking.

It’s all about the eyeballs, and tracking where those eyeballs fall.

I started typing “new gmail” into a Google box, and the sixth thing suggested was “new gmail sucks;” there’s even a “Gmail’s new look sucks” page on Facebook.

And eventually, I did find someone who argued that no, it does not suck. Not being a Gmail user, I really can’t say much here; but I tend to believe that any IMAP-based mail system sucks.

Still, when both Vi Hart and Violet Blue are using the same word — “trick” — to describe what was done to YouTube commenters, you may safely assume that the users are clearly Not Happy. I’ve been signing my Actual Name to YouTube stuff now for over a year, but you can’t judge a movement based on what I do.

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Sound and fury and such

Brian Shaw is running the game for Denver these days, and so far as I can tell, he’s pretty much memorized George Karl’s notebooks. Certainly these Nuggets have the same swarm-and-overcome tendency of previous Nuggets, and after OKC took a 2-0 lead early, Denver was utterly dominant, taking a lead as large as 14. Still, the Thunder are hard to beat at home, and with just over four minutes left they squirted ahead 103-102. The biggest play of the night might have been with 7.8 seconds left, with Serge Ibaka called for goaltending, putting Denver within two at 112-110. Russell Westbrook got one of two free throws to make it 113-110; Ty Lawson, attempting to miss the second of two, actually hit it. Derek Fisher got a pair of freebies, Westbrook fouled Lawson, and Lawson went back to exactly the same scenario. Lawson did in fact miss this time, and it went out of bounds off Nick Collison; the Nuggets got one more chance with 2.2 left, but that’s where it ended, OKC 115, Denver 113.

George Karl, however, would not have countenanced missing 18 of 43 free throws, as Denver did. (OKC went 26-32.) The Nuggets did shoot better — 46 percent versus 40 — though the 3-ball was falling for OKC, which made 13 of 27. (Denver was 8-23.) And J. J. Hickson, as always, had the Thunder’s number: this time he had 18 points and gathered 19 rebounds. Lawson finished with a team-high 29.

Still, it took 30 from Westbrook and 38 from Kevin Durant to seal the deal: combined they went 21-52. (The rest of the team was 17-41.) The Thunder did have a slight edge on the boards, 53-45, though the number you want to hear is 19, which is the number of offensive retrievals. Lots of second-chance — and a couple of third-chance — points.

The Clippers will be here Thurday. Expect ferocity.

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However many leaves

There is a finite period between the time the leaves start to fall and the time the trees are completely bare. I have no idea how long that might be.

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Not much interest in this sort of thing

This actually showed up in Y!A Cars & Transportation:

Yahoo! Answers screenshot: Where is there a loan place that u do not have to pay back?

There is “unclear on the concept,” and then there’s downright opaque.

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For lack of a proper drinking game

We are maxed out on this whole ethanol scheme, says the EPA:

The US Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged that a “blend wall” has been reached for motor fuels with 10% ethanol as it released its proposed 2014 biofuel quotas under the federal Renewable Fuels Standard.

“Production of renewable fuels has been growing rapidly in recent years,” it said in its Nov. 15 announcement. “At the same time, advances in vehicle fuel economy and other economic factors have pushed gasoline consumption far lower than what was expected when Congress passed the [RFS] in 2007.

“As a result, we are now at the ‘E10 blend wall’, the point at which the E10 fuel pool is saturated with ethanol,” it continued. “If gasoline demand continues to decline, as currently forecast, continuing growth in the use of ethanol will require greater use of higher ethanol blends such as E15 and E85.”

Faced with these numbers, EPA decided, not actually to cut the quotas, but to suggest an increase in the lower half of the proposed range, presumably in an effort not to tick off the people who make money off ethanol. It did not work:

Brooke Coleman, the Advanced Ethanol Council’s executive director, noted: “While only a proposed rule at this point, this is the first time that the Obama administration has shown any sign of wavering when it comes to implementing the RFS. What we’re seeing is the oil industry taking one last run at trying to convince administrators of the RFS to relieve the legal obligation on them to blend more biofuel based on clever arguments meant to disguise the fact that oil companies just don’t want to blend more biofuel. The RFS is designed to bust the oil monopoly. It’s not going to be easy.”

Shorter Brooke Coleman: “It’s after Halloween, but dammit, we’re entitled to a permanent candy ration!”

Of course, I had to go hunt down a quote from Bob Dinneen, the addled head of the Renewable Fuels Association, and the one good thing about Dinneen is that he picks up his cues on time:

“We’re all just sort of scratching our heads here today and wondering why this administration is telling us to burn less of a clean-burning American fuel.”

Call me when you start pushing for natural gas, Bob. Not only is it right up there on the “clean” scale, but nobody actually eats it. Or maybe you could team up with Michael Jacobson of CSPI and build an engine that runs on Slurpees.

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And yet somehow these people get dates

According to “Raw Data” in the December Playboy, the answer is 4:

Number of times the average single man changes his sheets per year.

Clearly I miss the average, since I change mine a minimum of once a week, if not more often, and God knows it’s not because it’s a hotbed of activity back there.

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Strange search-engine queries (407)

Why is this here again? Because of a promise I made to myself: if I like this feature, I can keep it. And promises, I believe, must be kept.

zone holys nude:  How close is that to the friend zone?

ethelylene in perfume:  It’s flammable, so it sustains the flame of desire.

yosemite sam dynamite under piano key:  Believe me if all those endearing old cartoon gags don’t still pack a wallop.

is Johnny get angry sexist:  Only if you think incurring one’s boyfriend’s wrath is a Good Thing.

ford el trans overfull of oil:  Better not tell Johnny. He might get angry.

fuses and solenoids associated with instrument cluster lighting and guages on 2001 mazda millenia:  Generally do not fail until it’s one in the morning and pitch black outside.

ruby red squirt statin:  For kids with high cholesterol, no doubt.

black jailbait teens twerking in the nude booty shorts or panties:  Hey, at least he isn’t picky.

tammy monkey dust:  You might spread this over the ultimate waste product of Purina Monkey Chow.

property taken by imminent domain for windstar casino:  Hence the “Coming Soon” sign.

dustbury hombres:  Sí, señor. Right this way.

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