By no means testing

There may be a few young innocents — or old socialists — who believe that people will not game the system of government benefits. And I, cynic that I am, still insist that the majority of folks don’t deliberately abuse the system. But it is also true that any system that can be gamed, will be gamed to some extent, as Australian authorities were reminded recently:

Some public housing tenants have declared they have assets worth hundreds of thousands of dollars while happily enjoying cut-price rent at the expense of more needy recipients.

More than 500 tenants of public housing have admitted rorting the system. Of those, 141 declared combined assets worth more than $11 million while 456 declared extra income worth a combined $10 million a year.

One man had $450,000 cash and 20 others declared land and property ownership.

The state government put tenants on notice last month, giving them until May 31 to dob themselves in for undeclared income and assets.

The final tally:

The amnesty, revealed in The Daily Telegraph in April and which ended last week, has generated more than $2.5 million a year in extra rental income after those who used the amnesty to make declarations of assets and income had their rents lifted accordingly.

Of the worst offenders, more than 1000 tenants declared an average of $26,000 in undeclared income, and nearly 700 declared an average of $60,000 each in assets, family and community services minister Gabrielle Upton said.

“I congratulate the 2300 people who took advantage of the amnesty to declare extra income and assets,” Ms Upton said. “And I thank the 200 people who gave us information about tenants who, they suspected, had not declared income or assets to us.”

The actual qualifying criteria:

Public housing leases are two, five or 10 years. One person earning less than $395 a week is eligible to gain a lease but once that person earns $888 per week, they become ineligible. For a single parent with two kids, eligibility kicks in under $580 a week and ends at $1126 a week and for two parents and two children those figures are $665 and $1364.

The Australian dollar of late has been worth about 93 cents US.

Comments (4)

Spending above your weight

Message boards are full of people wanting to know how they can buy their Dream Car with the resources they claim to have, or expect to have. Invariably they can’t. This guy wanted a Ferrari 458 so bad:

Ok lets say I earn 80k a year Il wait a few years to actually buy the ferrari because I have to think about food clothes and stuff like that, how many years would it take to actully afford the car if I save some money to get it and would it be possible to actually get the car with 80k a year ?

Everyone told him no, it wasn’t happening, though some were more gentle than others.

This is what happens when you do overextend yourself in this realm. [Warning: some NSFW language.]

(Via Autoblog.)

Comments off

Casa del Frye sells

Cameron Frye, said Ferris Bueller once upon a time, is “so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you’d have a diamond.”

I suspect that this “tightness” was a function of the house he lived in, which, just incidentally, was sold:

After five stop-start years on the market — anyone, Bueller, anyone? — the sleek, glassy, modernist house in Highland Park where the coddled Ferrari owned by the dad of Ferris Bueller’s tightly wound buddy, Cameron, met its cliffside demise has finally found a taker. Per Crain’s Chicago Business, it sold for $1.06 million, much less than its original asking price of $2.35 million.

What happened? Did they find some Ferrari-colored diapers clogging up the water lines?

Then again, it did need some work. Though the house was an architectural stunner by Mies van der Rohe protégé A. James Speyer, a 2013 Chicago Magazine article described it as “problematic,” with “dated kitchen and bath fixtures” and walls that “were thin, some were in disrepair, and some of the rooms they enclosed were awkward.” Also, the property was comprised of two buildings that weren’t physically adjoined (the main house, which had four bedrooms, plus the car pavilion, which also had a kitchen and a bedroom), a hard sell in a city known for frigid winters.

On the upside, at least no one had to barf up a lung.

Comments (2)

Strange search-engine queries (435)

On a Monday, anyway, the best part of waking up is burying your nose in a spreadsheet full of search strings, amirite?

scotapp system initilization:  Otherwise known as “Blue Screen of Produce.”

Chinese magical potion for invisibility:  Seriously, do you want to subject your body to the sort of stress caused by assembly-line apothecaries making $2.85 an hour?

how to fix Mazda tribute drive light:  The general procedure is this: (1) remove bad light; (2) install new one.

mazda 1983 truck cant find reverse:  Did you look in the back? Or was the light bad?

fetish having sex in the backseat of an acura mdx:  Now that’s so, so suburban. Next time, imagine you’re in an ’83 Mazda truck with no reverse gear.

did motown record in mono:  They acquired multitrack recording capabilities early on, but those capabilities were devoted to the best possible sound on a 45, which back then was in mono.

free pak ps2 pogrom:  If it’s actually free, it’s probably so old it runs on an IBM PS/2.

is there a fuse for the tranny on a 86 mercury mystique:  Considering there were no Mercury Mystiques until model year 1995, I think it’s safe to say that there isn’t.

fax say:  The ones I get say things like “You can get $500,000 term insurance NOW!”

automobile magazine jamie kitman fired:  Actually, given all those ancient British contraptions in his yard, “backfired” is probably closer to the mark.

busty jailbait:  Remember: fifteen can get you twenty.

“oh yeah” in a sentence:  Nice to hear from you again, Duff Man.

Comments (1)

The new one-drop rule

Whatever the opposite of “booster” is, that’s what I am towards gasoline adulterated with 15 percent ethanol. I tolerate E10, since it doesn’t seem to have had any negative effects on my car as yet, but E15 I just don’t trust.

I hadn’t seen any E15 around town yet, so I had no idea how to respond to this:

But being me, I am required to get the facts of the matter, and they go like this:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has mandated that all consumers in the United States must purchase at least 4 gallons of gasoline when they go to the gas station, if they are getting fuel from a pump that also offers a new E15 ethanol-gasoline blend.

The Obama administration wants consumers to use more of the E15 fuel — a blend that contains 15 percent ethanol — but the problem is that many gas stations use blender pumps, which offer several types of fuel and, after pumping, there always is a residual amount of fuel in the hose. E15 fuel can potentially damage engines made prior to 2000 and it cannot be used in motorcycles, ATVs, and many other engines, such as lawn mowers and boat engines.

So, to circumvent the potential problems, the EPA is requiring a 4-gallon minimum from blender pumps to ensure that any E15 fuel residue is diluted. (Stations that provide a completely separate, single hose for E15 only are exempt from the rule.)

The pump in the picture apparently vends both E10 and E15 — and possibly even E0.

My car, you’ll remember, was made in 2000. (Actually, it was made in September 1999, but it’s a 2000 model.)

The people most inconvenienced by this, I suspect, will be the ones who come up to you on the street and beg for gas money: they’re going to have to raise $15 or so to pay for four gallons’ worth.

Comments (7)

Quote of the week

David Warren’s conspectus — as distinguished from “prospectus” — for Canada’s Conservative Party:

If elected, we promise to do nothing. There will be no new initiative in any area of government. Should some foreign power threaten us, we shall smoosh them promptly. Should some other unforeseen event positively demand our attention, we shall respond in like spirit to make it go away. Such contingencies aside, we shall avoid enterprise of any sort. Instead, we shall devote our entire attention, not to doing, but to undoing things. And not just little things but big things; and not just a few notoriously rotten apples in the eyes of vested interests known to be unloved, but the whole apple pie, the whole bakery. We shall make the Tea Party in the United States look like a bunch of socialist whiners. We shall make the UKIP in Britain look like Europhiles. Our ambition, as we cling to power, shall be to undo every gratuitous Act of Parliament, or other superannuated government measure, going back to Confederation, if not to Champlain. We shall repeal legislation, erase regulations, close government departments, demolish the buildings, salt the earth on which they stood, fire and retire civil servants by the refugee shipload. We shall sack them on the beaches, we shall sack them on the landing grounds, we shall sack them in the fields and in the streets, we shall start with the CBC. Our motto shall be that of the Machine Gun Corps of the British Army in the Great War. (“Saul hath slain his thousands, but David his tens of thousands.”) We shall do this deliberately and persistently and remorselessly with no more attention to public opinion than will be necessary to lure our opponents into traps.

Inexplicably — or maybe not so inexplicably — the Conservatives chose not to adopt this as a platform.

Comments (3)

On the edge of the abyss

What can you say about a sixteen-year-old kid who may be dying? And what, as a 60-year-old in tolerable health, can I possibly say?

Update, 9 June: It appears that the kid’s lease on life is a lot less tenuous than he said it was.

Comments (3)

The OS that wouldn’t die

Officially, with the exception of one zero-day attack deemed too important to blow off, Microsoft will not give you any more updates to Windows XP.

Unless, of course, you can persuade them that it’s something else entirely:

As reported by Wayne Williams at Betanews and confirmed by us, a simple registry hack to a Windows XP system tricks Windows Update into providing updates for it.

Williams says that the hack … makes the system look like Windows Embedded POSReady 2009 which will continue to receive updates until April 9, 2019.

Caution: this seems to work only on 32-bit versions of XP, and Microsoft, of course, disavows any responsibility for the results.

Comments (2)

Yet no hose was gotten

What’s the point of having a humongously long warranty if you can’t find exceptions to it now and then? Motor Trend reports on their long-term Kia Rio (July):

The cabin’s build quality and materials are $18,794-appropriate, blighted by a peeling steering wheel rim first noticed at the 30K-mile mark, not unlike what affected our old long-term 2012 Hyundai Elantra. The local dealer’s reply, after explaining that it wouldn’t be covered under warranty: The wear is likely caused by lotions or other oil-based substances, which is ludicrous because many people use lotions, and 30K is barely any mileage at all.

You gotta wonder if Kia’s going to fix it anyway before selling the car as a CPO.

Comments (2)

And it’s spiked

Early in the fourth quarter, Sports Illustrated jumped the gun just a hair:

With four minutes remaining, the Thunder had closed the gap to two points — 93-91 — but didn’t get any closer until the last minute, when Serge Ibaka blocked a Tim Duncan layup, Kevin Durant dropped in a pair of free throws to tie it at 97, Ibaka then blocked a Manu Ginobili layup, and Durant knocked one down from just off the rim to put OKC up 99-97. Ginobili then sank a trey to give the Spurs a 100-99 lead; the Thunder turned it over; Manu got one of two free throws; Russell Westbrook hit two of them to tie it at 101; Ginobili went for the last shot and didn’t get it. Five blowouts in this series, and finally a game went overtime.

And then, of course, it all went to pieces. Halfway through the overtime, Westbrook slammed down a layup for a one-point Thunder lead; sphinxlike Tim Duncan got the next four points to put the Spurs up three with 19 seconds left, and Boris Diaw added two more to ice the deal. San Antonio 112, Oklahoma City 107, and that’s it: Spurs in six, and the dubious privilege of facing the Miami Heat (again!) in the Finals.

There are several Telltale Statistics to choose from, but I’m going for the most obvious one: the Spurs bench scored 51 points, the Thunder bench five — all from Derek Fisher, no less. To some extent, this was to be expected: when the chips are down, OKC relies on the superstars to carry the load, and Fisher took only four shots in 33 minutes, hitting two. Still, we saw only 12 minutes of Steven Adams (two rebounds, no blocks) and six of Jeremy Lamb (one assist, one steal). Even the absence of Tony Parker, who left the game in the second quarter due to an ankle injury, should have provided at least some kind of opening for these guys. The heroes did what they could: Westbrook punched in 34 points (some of them literally, it looked like), Durant 31, Reggie Jackson 21, Ibaka 16.

And despite all that, the Thunder actually outshot the Spurs, 42 percent to 40, and went 29-33 from the line. (The Spurs were 25-34 on freebies.) Neither side was particularly proficient from outside: 62 treys were put up, and only 19 made. San Antonio had a small edge on the boards — 49-45 — until you look a little closer and see that the Spurs scraped 16 of them off the offensive glass. And that’s what they did best tonight: wangle second chances, while the Thunder were too often one-and-done. Diaw, expected by no one to be a major factor in this series, continued to be a major factor in this series, leading the Spurs with 26; Duncan had 19, Kawhi Leonard 17, Ginobili 15.

So it’s “Wait ’til next year” time once again. And Dr. Pants says it best:


Comments (6)

Speaking of ancient themes

Not long after I wrote the previous piece, this landed in the spam trap:

I aЬsolutely lߋve yοuг website.. Pleɑsant cοlors & theme.
Ɗid you make this amazing site yourself?
Please reply back aѕ I’m wanting to create my own personal site and
would love to find out where ƴoս got this from orr exactly what thе tɦeme
is named. Many thanks!

(Must be viewed in UTF-8; other encodings are garbled even worse.)

Weirdly, every other spam from about that hour linked to a YouTube video which purported to sell a car.

Comments off

They make it up in volume

Over at Language Log, Mark Liberman finds a piece of comment spam worth quoting:

Ginger ultimately struck North Carolina on September 30 as a chinese culture massive disappointment.

The resulting embryo is afterward transported to tissue may occur, either acutely or chronically, over hundreds of times, sometimes with a little more.

This is right up there with the best ones I’ve received, though this remark of Liberman’s disturbs me:

Among the approximately 15,000 spam comments directed at LL over the past 24 hours, this is one of the few that made it past the filters to be dealt with by human moderation.

Fifteen thousand? In one day? And this estimate may be conservative:

That might be a low estimate — there have been 4,574 comments caught by the spam filter in the past 105 minutes, which would translate to 62,729 per 24 hours.

I don’t know how many of those might have been wrongly trapped, because there are far too many for me to check them manually, as I used to do when there were only a few hundred a day.

Since the fall of 2008, I have had 34,817 comments caught by the spam filter. Total. Admittedly, I draw a lot less traffic than Language Log — whose ancient WordPress theme, incidentally, is also my ancient WordPress theme — but still: 4500 in less than two hours? That’s scary.

Comments (6)

It’s a handgun and a dessert topping

Just another week in Detroit? Well, this seems odd even for the 313:

A man was killed at 11 p.m. Monday, when two men were reportedly assaulting a victim near the intersection of St. Mary’s and Elmira on the northwest side. “One of the men was pistol-whipping the victim when his gun went off, and his partner was shot in the neck,” [Assistant Police Chief Steve] Dolunt said.

Bayou Renaissance Man delivers exactly the correct amount of incredulity:

Pistol-whipping someone with a loaded gun? Now there’s a negligent discharge looking for a place to happen … and it found one!

I mean, this is almost Homer Simpson-level dumbth. Almost:

Homer Simpson contemplates pistol whip.  Mmmm...pistol whip.


Comments off

Someone else, please

Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Seriously. They like the idea of being organized, but not through this organization:

Employees who want to unionize Alabama’s Mercedes-Benz auto plant say they no longer want to work with the United Auto Workers union to accomplish that goal.

A core group of pro-union employees has asked the UAW to stop campaigning at the German automaker’s Tuscaloosa County plant, because the current effort has gone on too long without success.

Now how could this possibly be?

At one point … the campaign had enough union authorization cards to legally file for an election, as more than 30 percent of the plant’s hourly production and maintenance workers had signed one.

But the UAW was pushing for a much higher percentage, 65 percent, because it wanted a sure win, they said. “It’s all about the image with the UAW, and it’s not about the workers.”

They’d like some other union to come in, though the AFL-CIO won’t permit that sort of thing.

Comments off

In your face via your ears

The Loudness Wars, as described by yours truly about four years ago:

The quest for airplay usually results in something that sounds like everything else on the playlist, just so it will fit in better. And these days, everything else on the playlist is loud, louder, loudest: it is now understood that you cannot exceed 0 dB in the digital domain without horrendous distortion, so everything is cranked up as high as possible, with a hard limiter shoved in right below the distortion point. Dynamic range is conspicuous by its absence. And once we’ve compressed the life out of it, we compress it some more to save disk space.

Gagdad Bob Godwin sees something similar in the actual attitudes behind the music:

If you read the wiki article about the loudness war, you can see that something analogous has happened in mass culture vis-a-vis our tediously transgressive pop stars. Loud and crass as it was, whatever tawdry thing Madonna was doing in 1985 no longer shocks the sensibilities (which it probably never did, since it was old and decayed before it even came out of her piehole), which is why Miley Cyrus has to be that much louder and cruder.

You might say that she clipped Madonna of all *subtlety* and compressed the monotonous sexual message to soul-shattering amplitude. Just as louder CDs result in the image of the digital brickwall … the range of human reality of a Miley Cyrus is extraordinarily narrow but shrill and in your face. The only way she can continue her courageous artistic development is to embrace straight-up pornography.

What Madonna was doing in 1985 was pretty standard discofied synthpop; she didn’t start catching serious flak until the largely misunderstood “Like a Virgin,” which, rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, didn’t actually suggest that first-timers ought to proceed to boink their brains out. But Madonna was anxious to crank it up, whatever “it” may have been, and Cyrus manifestly shares this anxiety.

The anti-Miley, of course, is Rebecca Black.

Comments off

I don’t recall anything this big

A small number of owners of Nissan Leafs — for some reason I keep wanting to say “Leaves” — will be getting recall notices, and the official fix is about as broad as can be:

Nissan is recalling 211 Leaf EVs in the U.S. (and another 65 in Canada) built between February 28 and March 12 of this year to inspect them to see whether or not a series of six spot welds are present in the motor compartment. The welds in question are located on each side of the motor just above the sway bar ends. If the welds are there, then the vehicle is released to the customer with no further action required.

If the welds are missing, the situation becomes far more serious. According to the official recall notice from the NHTSA, if any welds are missing, the vehicle is to be replaced.

Yep. The whole car. Says Nissan:

The affected vehicles will be inspected and if the welds are missing, Nissan will replace the customer’s vehicle with a new one at no additional cost. It is anticipated that only a handful of retailed vehicles are affected by the weld issue and require vehicle replacement.

So far, no accidents have been reported.

(Via Fark.)

Comments (1)