Do they even lift?

Charles Darwin may not have anticipated roadkill, but it certainly seems to play a role in natural selection:

A new study by biologists at the University of Tulsa and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln presents evidence to suggest that cliff swallows (Petrochelidon pyrrhonota) in southwestern Nebraska may be suffering [lower] incidence of collision with cars, thanks to shorter wings.

According to Current Biology, researchers Charles Brown and Mary Bomberger Brown have been paying close attention to the swallow population in this particular section of Nebraska. They’ve found that the birds measured now have shorter wings than did the birds that were first studied back in 1982. What’s more, there are a smaller number of roadkill birds found in the area — despite increases in both swallow population and traffic since the study began. No increase in roadkill-eating scavengers has been found either.

And just to hammer it home, birds found to have met their fate on the highway seem to have wings of above-average length; perhaps the extra feathering reduces agility or speed.

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Gotta stay up on Friday

On a scale of 1-10, Rebecca Black rates her “inner self-confidence” at 15:

Oh, and if you were wondering why she was in Florida in the first place (see previous post, the answer is Playlist LIVE:

First and foremost, Playlist is a festival for everyone who loves online video and music! There will be live performances by many of your favorite YouTube and musical artists. Beyond that, YouTube and music have become very collaborative, so it’s about interaction. There will be interviews and interactive talks, complete with audience participation, from YouTube artists. There will be meet-ups and autograph signings with all of the artists participating, and every artist will have merchandise for sale. You can meet your favorite YouTuber and film the experience and post it to your own YouTube channel!

Hard to imagine her not being there, really.

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Gotta get up on Friday

The last Orlando-Oklahoma City game was an offensive show: the Thunder rolled up 73 points in the first half and then fought back a Magic rally. But that was a whole week ago. This time, it was only 47-34 at the half in front of a crowd of enthusiastic Floridians (plus Rebecca Black — hey, it’s Friday), but the story unwound much the same way. At the 3:55 mark, it was tied at 86; Kevin Durant outscored Orlando 6-2 over the next three and a half minutes, and the Thunder pulled away for a 97-89 win. “We didn’t play very well,” said Nick Collison afterwards, but a W is a W.

Hedo Türkoğlu is still gone, of course, and the injury situation for Orlando was somewhere beyond serious: Nikola Vučević was unwell, and Arron Afflalo pulled a hamstring in the second quarter. The younger guys did step up, though: Maurice Harkless knocked down 25 points and hauled in nine boards; Tobias Harris posted one of two Magic double-doubles (ten points, 15 rebounds), the reliable Jameer Nelson (16 points, ten assists) recording the other.

What Scott Brooks is thinking, though, is probably something like this: “You guys missed more free throws than they made.” Which is true: Orlando went 8-10 from the stripe, OKC 24-33. He would likely agree, though, that this was a good night for Serge Ibaka to be back at 100 percent: 14 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks. The Russell and Kevin Show delivered the usual quota of offense, Westbrook scoring 19 and Durant 25; for a change, two bench players (Collison and Kevin Martin) finished in double figures. And the Thunder’s three-point mojo isn’t back, technically, though 5-21 is better than they’d been doing of late, and nobody not named Kevin would hit one.

Next two games at home: the Trail Blazers on Sunday, the Wizards on Wednesday. (Friday and Saturday they’ll be in the Frozen North, against Minnesota and Milwaukee.)

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Lowest possible interest

Lileks gets yet another call from “LOWER INTEREST,” or whatever the hell it says on Caller ID, and grumbles about the futility of it all:

Hey, how about using the $100 million dollar FTC law enforcement budget to fine the bejeezus out of these people?

If the FTC, like every other governmental agency this side of Upper Lowcountry Middle School, has a crapload of tactical gear, it’s time to SWAT the bejeezus out of them. It’s not like the government is short of bullets; certainly they’re not guarding an embassy here.

It comes down to two things: my own dislike of interruptions from strangers who want my money or my signature, and my own horror of imposing on others. Since I would not do something like set up robots to bother people, it is, of course, completely unfair that they do.

Drones. We locate the boiler-room operators, and perform the appropriate public service.

But back to the FTC. Let’s imagine their initials were actually IRS, and the lawbreakers owed them money. Let’s imagine the IRS having a contest to give $50,000 in taxpayer money to someone who came up with a great idea for collecting back taxes. Let us just imagine that and conclude what we will.

Depends. Is that $50,000 taxable?

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Zippier Clip

You’ve already heard about my acquisition of a Sansa/SanDisk (choose one) music player. What you haven’t heard is that it came with a built-in issue: given any really ginormous number of files, it chokes on the database refresh, which it never quite finishes. Meanwhile, your battery plummets.

There being no easy way out of this other than to give up the extra space, I opted for something way out of the ordinary: a third-party operating system called Rockbox, versions of which are available for dozens of players, including the Clip Zip. Basically, it patches the Sansa firmware to hand over to the Rockbox OS, which has a much grottier, Unix-y interface, but which can update its database in three minutes rather than three hours. The trick was getting it to recognize both “drives”: it took a couple of hours of fumble, but I now have a proper 5000-item playlist.

And did I mention it’s now dual-boot? Yep. This experience raises my Techie Rating from “positively awful” to “merely clumsy.”

Addendum: The inevitable YouTube video.

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I, geezer

In fact, here’s one way you can tell:

I didn’t even know that AOL still existed.

Or that people still had email accounts with them.

Very, very old people, apparently.

Still got mine. Then again, I actually spent some time as a room guide in the old QuantumLink service, which eventually spawned AOL, so I’ve never really felt compelled to kill it off.

And yesterday, when I got home from work, an 8-year-old girl on a bicycle was being warned to stay off my lawn, or at least off my driveway — but not by me. I spoke with the nearest adult, and pointed out that the reason my driveway was in demand was because it’s the steepest slope on the block, and were I a kid on a bike, I’d have been launching myself from there all along.

(No, I didn’t ask the youngun who was best pony.)

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A lack of Accord

Mao would never have put up with this:

They may not have western-style unions in China, but workers sure do strike. Workers at Honda’s transmission plant in Foshan, Guangdong Province, walked off the job on Monday after their pay increases weren’t as large as they had hoped.

According to The Nikkei, Honda agreed to bigger raises, and workers were back on the job on Tuesday.

Neither would Mitt, I suspect.

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Still more than meets the eye

The other day, I was bewailing the lack of recent Markie Post pictures. (Yes, I did watch a lot of Night Court. How did you guess?)

And then this drops into my lap:

Markie Post for the Hub

Here’s Marjorie Armstrong Post, 62, at last week’s official unveiling (the air date is tomorrow, 22 March) of Transformers: Prime: Beast Hunters, the third (and last) season of the Hub’s other big draw. The plot:

The season will begin with the Autobots recovering following the Decepticons’ attack on their base. It will also feature the Autobots having to face a new beast-like Decepticon called Predaking and the return of Shockwave. A recent trailer reveals that Shockwave will create the Predacons, but will lose control over them, and the Predacons will come to Earth to hunt the Autobots one by one.

And since you’ll ask: Markie Post is in the Prime series, as the voice of June Darby, Jack’s mom.

Aside: Hasbro ordered 26 episodes of Prime for each of the first two seasons, only 13 for the third. Now where have we heard that before?

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We’ll handle that for you

I’m guessing you’ve probably already figured this out. Bill Quick certainly has:

[I]n an effort to save TBTF banks, the government crashed interest rates into negative numbers (adjusting for inflation) which destroyed the incomes of millions of retirees and others, forcing them to depend entirely on government payments of one kind or another.

At which point the government noticed how dangerous the savings and investment environment had become for older folks, thanks to the government’s own actions — and so it arrogated to itself the necessity of taking over the management of retirement savings for the saver’s own good.

My bank statements come out today, so I can stare in disbelief at the incredibly low interest rate I’m earning, although it’s only half as low as it was last year.

Eventually, I suspect, the Feds will actually try to confiscate those savings, there being no reason to think that Washington is any more competent and/or scrupulous than, say, Cyprus.

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How can this be?

How can this be? Shortly after Google announced the impending death of its Reader, as reported here last week, I somehow picked up a few extra feed subscribers. Which turned into a few more, and then a few more again; I’m now up nearly 200 from that day last week. If you’re one of them, I thank you, even as I wonder why.

Weirdly, the plugin I use to track feed readers lumps all Safari users together, but breaks down IE and Firefox and Chrome users by version number. Still, Safari comes in second only to Google in terms of actual subscriptions.

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Zipping by

Amazon’s two-day service served up a box containing a SanDisk Clip Zip (4 GB, black) and a SanDisk microSD card (32 GB, teensy) in a mere 39 hours. (If you pay attention to stuff like that, it was shipped from good old Lost Wages, Nevada.) It may take me that long to load it up.

I’ve decided that it sounds easily as good as the old Sony, though the controls are a tad more inscrutable, a function of the ridiculously small size of the device. (Surface area is barely over three square inches, and half of that is display.)

USB cables are getting shorter and shorter. The one SanDisk sends is less than 10 inches long.

Still, Desideratum #2 — “shuffle routine that will indiscriminately mingle files in base memory and files on the expansion card” — is apparently met. From the manual (for some reason not included, but downloadable): “Selecting Shuffle List will play all content saved on the device in random order.” I dropped a hundred and fifty songs on both base memory and SD card to test this.

And what the heck is the brand name here? It says “SanDisk” on the case, but “Sansa” all through the manual.

(Yes, they did have an 8 GB model. It was almost twenty dollars more, a factor when you’ve allowed $75 for the budget. The difference between 36 and 40 GB total — well, if I copy the whole iTunes work-box install, it’s 42 GB, but I wasn’t planning to load up all seven thousand songs.)

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New dial tone

Nice little booklet with the landline bill this month, with some news that may or may not be disturbing:

As a result of recent changes in the law governing telecommunications services, most of your Local and Long Distance services will no longer be governed by tariffs filed with the Oklahoma Corporation Commission. Instead, beginning May 1, 2013, the enclosed Residential Service Agreement (“RSA”), as well as applicable Guidebooks or Service Guides, will govern the prices, terms and conditions of these “de-tariffed” services. This RSA, as well as the applicable Guidebooks or Service Guides, replace any other agreements that you have received from AT&T for these particular services.

“Services and prices are not changing,” they say in the next paragraph. Not now, anyway. And given Cox’s voracious pursuit of landline customers, they may not for some time.

Perhaps of greater interest is the provision that disputes go to either arbitration or small claims court, rather than courts of general jurisdiction. This is a smidgen better than the Arbitration Only language that’s springing up all over the place.

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Grindhouse 3: Eclectic Boogaloo

The Memphis Grizzlies have one tempo: a slow grind, heavy on the abrasives. How slow? They had only 44 points at halftime — and it was enough for a six-point lead. This kind of thing has won them 45 games this season so far, including one of two against the Thunder. OKC made up five points of those six in a 19-14 (!) third quarter; with 15 seconds left, it was Oklahoma City 78, Memphis 76. Exchanges of free throws followed; five seconds later, it was 83-80 OKC, and with 3.7 left, Jerryd Bayless drained a trey to tie it, and then it was Extra Fine Grind. The Griz won it, 90-89, as Marc Gasol tipped in a Zach Randolph jumper with just under a second left. (As someone at the Oklahoman once said, “Gasol, folks.”)

You might expect fairly lousy shooting numbers in a game like this, and you would be correct; Memphis shot only 36 percent, OKC 35.7. (The Griz were a little better on the long ball, making six of 15; the Thunder made only two of 18.) Memphis’ tall timbers, Z-Bo and Gasol, both knocked down double-doubles (Randolph 14 points/15 rebounds, Gasol 15/18.) Mike Conley led Memphis with 24; all but two of the 22 bench points came from Bayless.

Batman and Robin garnered 52 points between them, though it took them literally 53 shots: Kevin Durant was 11-28 for 32, Russell Westbrook 7-25 for 20. Kevin Martin was in rare good form for a road game, pulling down 17, but that’s pretty much the extent of the Thunder offense. And the Griz had a 54-46 edge in rebounding, 19-14 offensive; that 19th one won the game.

Off to drown the collective sorrows in Wally World; the Magic, you’d think, wouldn’t present much of a threat, but you never can be sure.

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Phlegm-phlagm men

I suspect they may give themselves away rather easily:

Upper Allen Township [PA] police are trying to identify two men who stole more than $1,000 in Mucinex.

Police said it happened at the CVS on Gettysburg Pike around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Consumerist notes that a grand worth of Mucinex is “less than twenty 100-packs.”

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Go like yourself

Old and busted: People or organizations pleading for Facebook likes. New hotness: The machine does it for you:

I bought a new Logitech wireless mouse the other day. The only installation it requires is to pull it out of the package and plug the receiver in. I already had a Logitech wireless mouse and love it, so when I needed a second one, it was the logical choice.

I noticed some very brief windows opening & closing when I plugged it in, but I figured it was my system processing the hardware.

But then I noticed an item in my newsfeed that had been put there by Logitech sharing an item. I clicked over to see why I was getting stuff from Logitech, and right there, the “Liked” button was clicked on their page.

There seem to be two possibilities here: either Logitech has somehow taught meece to press their own buttons, or there’s a Facebook script hiding in the woodpile. (Would Facebook countenance such a thing? Would Lindsay Lohan let someone buy her a drink?)

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He grunts and writes the check

According to the annual survey, $1510 is the national average yearly auto-insurance premium; once again, Louisiana has the priciest policies, averaging a startling $2699, and this may be why:

Compared to the rest of the country, Louisiana drivers who get in accidents file more bodily injury claims than drivers in other states. Louisiana also has a high rate of comprehensive claims, which include damage from natural disasters… Louisiana’s judicial system may also be to blame for high rates. Lawsuits involving claims under $50,000 go before judges instead of juries. Some observers say elected judges are more likely to side with local people than insurance companies.

Maine drivers pay an average of $934 for their coverage.

No reason is offered for #4 Oklahoma ($2074), though I’d suspect it’s due to the humongous number of uninsured drivers.

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