Quote of the week

I grind out a fair number of words around here, and on the side I’ve thrown together 53,032 words of fanfic. This massive body of work qualifies me to call myself — well, nothing, as Bill Quick explains:

Most people are horrible writers and have no hope of ever being anything but horrible. Even the ones who are dedicated enough to actually put out a few words are, for the most part, horrible. The people who put out lots of words, arrange them into finished products — books, stories, screenplays, even well-read blogs — are scarce as hen’s teeth. Scarcer. Because not only do you need to acquire the craft of writing (craft? who dat?), you need some sensitivity to the art of writing and then, at bottom, you have to have talent. I understand that within the American ethos there is something faintly … repulsive … about the notion that some intangible nobody can really quantify, something you may as well have been born with, makes you better than most other god-fearing Amurricans at doing something, but there it is.

I’d argue that I’m better at it now than I was sixteen years ago, but that doesn’t make me good at it.

Playing in the fanfic sandbox has been at times humbling. I don’t really think in long form — I have yet to produce a story over 20,000 words, though three of them could be reasonably combined into a single narrative in the 40k range — but I am surrounded by people who do this as easily as falling off a bandwagon, serving as a regular reminder of this particular inadequacy. (I have others.) Some of these folks might be good enough to make a living at this sort of thing. And if they do, they’ll probably run into the same issues Bill Quick does:

[P]ro writers (a pro, who gets paid for it, is almost by definition a writing success) get it from both directions: First, most folks think what they do is easy, and second, they resent that if it’s not easy, that’s because of some unfair advantage these mountebanks are born with.

And even in this sandbox, there are those who are unhappy with their lot. So what else is new?

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Thumbs newly recounted

Back in October, I produced what I didn’t actually call a Hater Index, which was calculated by dividing the number of dislikes on a given YouTube video by the number of likes. At the time, Rebecca Black’s first three singles were still over 1.0: more thumbs down than up. “Sing It,” however, had registered a definitely upbeat 0.52.

“Sing It” is holding at 0.52, a month and a half later; but “In Your Words” has settled down to a nice, comfortable 0.24: likes outnumber dislikes four to one. Said one commenter: “Rebecca Black, please make more songs. Every time you release a new song it seems like the haters gradually go away.”

Yep. The numbers so indicate.

Just for S&Gs, I looked up “It’s Thanksgiving,” the spiritual heir to “Friday”: it weighs in at a startling 7.29. And while “Friday” itself is still on the far side of 4.0, it’s garnered three million additional views in those six weeks, demonstrating both its staying power and the wisdom of RB’s business model.

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Point more than missed

Dave wants to know how long a Prius battery pack will last:

I’m really considering buying a Prius because me and my family have been scraping pennies to put gas in the tank these days. My moms Ford Taurus just ran out of gas the other day and that was the last straw for me. We are dumping around 30 bucks a week of our hard earned cash into that car, and enough is enough. I don’t know much about hybrids or electric cars so I want to know how many years can I get out of the battery in the Prius before it needs to be replaced? Especially since i’m looking at a few used 2010 Prius’ with around 37-47k miles on them. Are they low maintenance? What kind of gas savings can I expect to get? I just need reliable, low cost transportation back and forth to school.

Nothing wrong with wanting to buy a Prius, which is a good, reliable fuel miser, but if they’re having problems scraping up $120 a month to feed the Ford, where are they going to find the $300 a month to finance — never mind gas up — the Prius?

What he really wants, though, is something powered by a perpetual-motion machine fed by unicorn farts:

And I know there is an 8 year/100,000 mile warranty but will the battery last longer than that? I don’t want to be replacing a battery every 8 years.

And oh, if it could be persuaded to do the dishes, that would be great.

There are times when I want a wall to jump in front of someone. This is one of them.

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Yupwardly mobile

You’ve probably seen this once or twice before:

He who dies with the most toys wins

Robert Stacy McCain remembers it from the days of “yuppies”:

This toy-collector mentality, the tendency to define one’s self through the accumulation of material objects symbolizing one’s social status, is childish at best and dehumanizing at worst. If the purpose and meaning of your life consists of the acquisition and possession of consumer goods — getting more toys — then your life is pretty damned meaningless, isn’t it? Genuinely successful, happy people don’t live that way.

Such a lecture may seem strange coming from a Shameless Capitalist Blogger — shop our Amazon Holiday Savings now! — but my enthusiasm for economic liberty does not mean I embrace the shallow “more toys” mentality that leads to kids killing each other over $400 jackets.

Said I, about this time last year:

Now admittedly there are a few gadgets I covet now and then, and I still buy the occasional book or “record” album. But, to rework a phrase of Barack Obama’s, I’m starting to believe there’s a point where you’ve accumulated enough stuff. I have a whole room full of stuff that I haven’t been able to get organized in eight years, and I am loath to add to it if I can help it.

For “eight years,” please read “nine years.”

It would be well to remember that he who dies with the most toys is still dead.

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To understand recursion

You must first understand recursion:

Advertisement for Clio hosiery

This advertisement appeared in 1968. While many of the manufacturers mentioned in this series have long since folded their tents and stolen away into the night, Clio is still in business, in a small town in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France.

There exists an Australian brand called CLiO — usually typeset that way — which is, to my knowledge, not related to the French company. This is not the most unheard-of thing I ever heard of, either; the down-under CLiOs can be found at Target stores in Australia, which have no connection with the Target stores in the US.

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She didn’t ask for this

You think I get strange search-engine queries? Listen to Samantha:

Guess sometimes you have to get a slap in the face in order to realize what you’re doing wrong. The list of search terms bothered me (it is that time of the month and I am being over sensitive). So with the generous support by visitors and my mother telling me to quit being such a baby and just do what you do with no apologies, I feel bad (and quite embarrassed).

Now she’s been up for only a little over a week, while I have many years of weird stuff to pick from. The difference, of course, is that she’s a young woman with, um, wardrobe issues not unlike my own. Which is why you might want to consider those links NSFW, since that’s her main topic of discussion.

(And if you go over there, don’t perv on her. She’s done nothing to deserve that sort of thing.)

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We have a wiener

The Bad Sex in Fiction Award for 2012 goes to Nancy Huston for Infrared, from which we excerpt this entirely-too-visible scene, placed after the jump for reasons which should be obvious:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Purple numbers

Nick Singer, a Democrat who ran for House District 87 — my district — and lost, explains how the numbers fell:

In 2008, this was one of the closest elections in the state with the Democrat losing by a mere 170 or so votes. In 2010, it was around a 700 vote difference in favor of the Republican. In 2012, I lost by a bit over 1,000. There are several explanations for this. The first is the redistricting of the 2010 census. Several highly Democratic districts were sent to HD 88 (a highly Democratic district) and several Republican leaning districts were added. Combine this with the significantly lower turnout compared to 2008 and you have a series of numbers similar to what the Democratic candidate [Dana Orwig] had gotten in 2008 and 2010. Another challenge and something for the numbers people is there was also a lot of correlation to how the president performed and how I did. Given President Obama’s lack of popularity, it certainly did not help the cause.

In my particular precinct, it was still pretty close: Obama trailed by 23, while Singer led by 3. Then again, we’re a notorious bunch of ticket-splitters.

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(500) seconds of bliss

His request of the young lady was decidedly unusual:

(Via Vulture. Thanks to Nancy Friedman, who sent me the link.)

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Volts against the current

General Motors, apparently stung by reports of melted-down 120-volt charging cords in early Chevy Volts, decided, reasonably enough, that the best thing they could do was replace the lot of them, to “offer a more consistent charging experience.”

The charger unit was reworked for 2013, and by “more consistent,” apparently they meant “slower”:

In self-help groups on the Internet, the culprit was quickly found: GM had reduced the default circuit load of the charger from 12 Ampere to 8 Ampere.

A third less current, and a greater safety margin — at the expense of slower charging. Now it seems to me that if you’re going to tool around in one of these mediumfalutin’ electrical land-based puddlejumpers, you’d probably want to hook it up to a two-twenty line and be done with it. But that runs into money, and buyers of econoboxen resent the idea of spending money if there’s a way around it. So this is no surprise:

Volt owners found out that there is a way to make the Volt charge at 12 Ampere and therefore faster. But that is buried a few levels deep in a maze of menus — and most annoyingly, it can’t be made sticky. Must wade through menus every time.

The workaround goes like this:

[O]wners only have to push the “Leaf” button, select the charging tab, then charge level, and then push the amps they would like to charge at. You can change this level while driving.

“Leaf” button? Do buyers of Nissan’s Leaf get a “Volt” button? It sounds like it’s the same darn charger unit.

And a 120V outlet should be good for 15 amps — assuming everything in the circuit is in perfect operating condition. Heck, my lawn mower draws 12 amps. Then again, it isn’t on for 16 hours at a stretch either.

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Hooked on skirts

The title was almost irresistible: “How to Crochet a Skirt, any size, any length”. It had never occurred to me that it was even possible to crochet a skirt. Knit, yes; but that’s a wholly different practice.

To address the obvious question, a comment attached to an instructional video regarding what one wears under it:

I would say that a slip would be your best alternative… as they are made to be non-clinging, and the skirt would hang better, and not grab. And you could always spray the slip with static free laundry spray if it did. I would think that a black slip under any darkish color skirt would look fine.

And here’s somebody wearing it.

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An edgy sort of name

A plaintive cry from neo-neocon on the so-called “fiscal cliff”: “[C]an somebody please suggest a good alternative way to refer to that topic?”

On the other hand, I’ve found it useful in at least one instance:

Usually he didn’t venture into the bar on the ground floor, but that night he felt the need for something in convenient liquid form to unjangle his nerves. To his delight, the place was relatively empty when he arrived; to his dismay, it filled up rather quickly.

“Hey, buddy,” said a voice behind him. A grey pegasus with a shiny, somewhat oily black mane, whom he didn’t recognize. Out of force of habit, the old pony introduced himself: “Broken Spoke, Baltimare Carriages.”

“Fiscal Cliff, certified public accountant. What brings you to this part of the world?”

“A little unfinished business to take care of down in Ponyville.”

“Ponyville? Really? I’ve heard some really strange stories about that town.”

“Only been there once, so I can’t confirm them for you.”

Cliff took a swig of whatever brackish stuff he was drinking. “Probably a load of horsefeathers anyway. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that anypony will pull your leg if you give ‘em half a chance.”

“You’re probably right about that,” said the old pony, wishing he’d stayed in his room.

Perhaps I should have resisted, but I didn’t.

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Consequences nonetheless

We talk about the Law of Unintended Consequences, and we make it sound like the proponents of whatever less-than-optimal scheme has just blown up, as such schemes will, had no idea that this sort of thing could possibly happen.

This stance, Mark Alger says, is probably too generous:

I’ve never seen one adduced that wasn’t actually — in truth — anticipated. It’s just that, at the time folks were — you know — anticipating, they were being called naysayers or sticks-in-the-mud or that sort of thing by proponents of the move which engendered the consequences. So, rather than accept the excuse and forgiveness implied in the “unanticipated” part, I’d call them “unacknowledged” consequences. Or “glossed over” consequences. Or “blithely whistled-past-the-graveyard” consequences.

Add to this modification the virtual certainty that the proponents have made sure that their proposal will have no negative impact on themselves, and you have … well, pretty much an entire session of Congress.

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A W grows in Brooklyn

I noticed only a couple of times when radio guy Matt Pinto uttered the dreaded words “New Jersey,” until the fourth quarter, when he did it about five times in a row. And it’s just as well, because the Nets in Brooklyn have been way better than the Nets in Joisey the last few years. What they have is resilience: down thirteen at the half and sixteen early in the third, Dem Nets turned on the long-ball machine and sank six treys to pull within four at the beginning of the fourth, despite being without both Reggie Evans and Brook Lopez. Several times the Nets closed to within two, but that’s as close at they’d get, Oklahoma City escaping with a 117-111 win.

Object lesson tonight in reading the whole box score: the Thunder had only two offensive rebounds, and only one of them produced second-chance points — but they hit 40 of 66 for 61 percent. The Nets went 39-91 for 43 percent; 34 of those 91 shots were from beyond the arc, fourteen of which went.

The absence of Lopez and Evans surely hurt, but Brooklyn demonstrated some serious depth, with Andray Blatche doing a persuasive job in the middle (19 points, 11 rebounds) and the other four starters doing double-figure work, led by Deron Williams with 33. Jerry Stackhouse contributed a couple of timely treys from the bench.

Kevin Martin had only seven points, but he finished +11 for the night, one behind The Other Kevin. (Durant dropped in 32.) Russell Westbrook, despite playing most of the fourth with five fouls, was good for 25, including four free throws in the waning moments to ice it away. But the Thunder were handily outrebounded by the Nets, 40-33, and Brooklyn landed 18 second-chance points. (As noted earlier, OKC had two.)

Back home Friday night, against the Lakers, who are playing incredibly average ball so far this season. Still, it’s the Lakers, so things will get louder than usual in Loud City.

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Pirational

Not inspirational, or aspirational, but something a little less:

Lincoln would have you believe they make “the most individual motorcars on the planet.” Maybe on a planet where there are no Fords. Even my medium-size Japanese luxobarge is more Lincolnesque than current Lincolns.

And unfortunately for the marque, I saw that spot the same day I read this. John Phillips of Car and Driver was talking with Jim Farley, VP of Global Marketing for Ford, and he reports (January ’13):

Farley had me laughing — well, right up until I asked, “What’re you gonna do with Lincoln?” at which point he clenched up like a Clydesdale who’d just noticed the sign hanging on his stall had been changed from “Budweiser” to “Glue.”

Then again, Farley can take some solace in the fact that some people really prefer glue to Bud.

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The leaves are falling

Got one of these in the mail yesterday:

Bumper sticker from American Association for Nude Recreation

I must admit that until I remembered that AANR has some Canadian clubs on their membership rolls, I was wondering why a maple leaf and not a fig leaf. (And Canada has its own naturist group, anyway.)

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