And best of all, it’s orange

World's largest orange diamondAs a carbon-based life form, I have a peripheral interest in diamonds, which are, after all, a highly stylized form of carbon; I even bought one once. (It was stolen during a late-Seventies break-in.) I admit, though, I never have seen an orange diamond, let alone an orange diamond this size: 14.82 carats. (Picture is not necessarily actual size.) And this one’s going up for auction later this month:

The largest orange diamond to come to auction will go on sale next week in Switzerland, with the rare gem expected to fetch a record $17-20 million… It was found in South Africa, but the name of its seller has not been revealed by Christie’s.

This is perhaps the showcase item in Christie’s Magnificent Jewels collection, to be offered in Geneva. But fancy-schmancy auctions would be nothing without good old-fashioned oneupsmanship:

The following day, rival auctioneers Sotheby’s are to sell a flawless 59.60-carat pink diamond, which has an estimated price of $60 million.

[sigh] Cubic zirconia, anyone?

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Oh, for a gay mechanic

Preferably one that can make your brakes bleed:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: 
What would cause my car to make a really loud grinding noise when I step on my breaks?  My co worker says it might be my brake pads but he's a homosexual so I don't think he knows what he's talking about

Gay or nay, I’d bet he could spell “brakes” correctly more than 50 percent of the time.

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Restoration and then some

We’ve talked before about the Ship of Theseus, rebuilt plank by plank by the Athenians, until it eventually contained no original parts; it was Hobbes who asked that if the old planks were gathered together and assembled, would that not be the Ship of Theseus?

I was not, you may be certain, expecting an example of this dilemma in my lifetime. As the phrase goes, imagine my surprise. Dave Kinney, who covers the major auto auctions for Automobile, tells the story of a single — maybe — Jaguar D-type in the December issue:

In the world of classic racing cars, engines, rear ends, transmissions, and other parts often got changed out. After the race cars were done with their careers, no one cared what happened when two or three major components — all claiming the same serial number — were separated. That’s what happened when this D-type’s ice-racing career in Finland ended. Two cars held a claim to the same serial number, which hurt the value of both vehicles because originality was in question.

In other news, they (used to, anyway) race Jaguars on the ice in Finland.

The solution was simple yet fiendishly complex:

“It seems difficult to rectify the situation,” wrote one D-Type collector to another in 1995, “unless some benevolent person should decide to purchase both cars, exchange the front subframes and the legal documents, resulting in only one single car claiming to be XKD 530.”

That’s essentially what happened. In 1998, a collector acquired one of the cars. In 2002, he acquired the other. Then he had both cars meticulously disassembled, and all the various parts and pieces identified and catalogued, and assigned to the correct chassis. In 2003, this amazing reconstruction was completed when the original, fully restored monocoque was lowered onto the original chassis frame; the bolt holes were a precise match.

The newly-rebuilt original brought $3.9 million.

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Somewhere out there is a ticket

Someone in Switzerland — specifically, in the canton of Valais — won 114 million francs in the Euro Millions lottery back in August, but hasn’t come forward to claim the prize:

Willy Mesmer, a spokesman from the German-language lottery organization Swisslos, told [a Swiss tabloid] that 80 percent of lottery winners claim their prize within two weeks of the jackpot being announced.

Winners have up to six months to collect their cash but after that it’s too late.

Then again, there might be a reason for the delay:

Le Matin said the winner may have good financial reasons for delaying picking up the windfall. The newspaper cited a tax expert who noted that by waiting until next year to claim the prize, the winner could escape tax on assets for the 2013 income tax year.

One should never be in a hurry to pay one’s taxes.

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There’s one in every rush hour

Why is this annoying bint always right in front of you at Bob’s Burger Barn?

“What’s wrong with you people?! I just sat in the drive thru for ten minutes and now I have to come in here because you guys can’t understand f*cking English! I ordered this burger with NO ketchup but of course I get it with gobs of ketchup. Unbelievable. This happens every f*cking time!”

Wait, it’s unbelievable yet it happens every time? Hmmm. And your ketchup specifications are this important to you, yet you continually come to the one place in town that apparently has a ketchup obsession? There are literally 6 other fast food joints within a 2 mile radius, but here you are at the one place that screws up your order “every f*cking time.” Interesting. Logical thinking isn’t exactly your forte, is it?

Of course not. She doesn’t give a ruddy rat’s rear about the burger or the ketchup; she just wants you to know how superior she is.

“No, I don’t want a new burger. Give me your name and the number to corporate. I’m sick of this sh*t. Give me my money back and the number to your corporate office! Why can’t I ever f*cking get good customer service?!”

Because you don’t deserve it. At the moment, you’re lucky you’re not staring at point-blank range into the bottom of the fry vat.

Next time, order it with no mayo. You’ll be much happier, and the counters will be much quieter.

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That last syllable is “Boo”

Regular readers will recall that I reworked my little Sansa ClipZip with a third-party operating system, for one very good reason:

[I]t 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.

Automotive systems, you’d think, would have a little more brainpower. Turns out that the Mazda6 doesn’t, and guess what happened to Jack Baruth in his ’13 Chevy Malibu rental?

My admittedly formidable 18,023-song iPod Classic proved to be almost unusable with the MyLink system, requiring up to ten minutes of indexing every time the car was started before any music would be available. A full index never occurred; during three hours of continuous operation, the MyLink climbed to 10,000 songs exactly and quit. When the Malibu was restarted, it locked-up the iPod, requiring a reset of the iPod and another indexing session.

I should note here that I have Rockbox set for a 6000-item database, of which I’m actually using a shade under five thousand; normal start time is about 15-20 seconds.

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Wielding the shield

After paying entirely too much attention to Paris Hilton over the past decade or so, I have decided that her true strength is her ability to appear thoroughly detached from whatever it is she’s supposed to be doing. Consider this Halloween garb:

Paris Hilton as a gladiator

For all I know, she has a Blackberry tucked into the edge of that shield.

The single “Good Time,” featuring Lil Wayne, is out now — warning: several F-bombs, mostly from Wayne — and it’s a bit less cerebral than, well, almost anything in existence. Still, her ability at 32 to decorate a set is still pretty formidable, and her “Honey Bunch” (!) clothing line is decidedly on the cute side.

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Fark blurb of the week

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I am still not prepared for this

About a year ago, Buzzfeed wanted to cast name-brand actor types as My Little Pony characters, and the very first one they came up with was Zooey Deschanel as Twilight Sparkle. Said I at the time: “I appreciate the effort to push two of my smaller obsessions into a larger one.”

Which I promptly forgot about, until Sarah Lovell took this picture at DragonCon and it showed up — as usual, uncredited — on Derpibooru.

It must be said here that I look at a lot of cosplay pix, and Rarity and Applejack always seem to come off well, but I’ve never been particularly keen on any of the Twilights — until, um, now.

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Code comfort

Regrets? I’ve had a few, but not this one specifically:

If there is anything I regret, it is not writing my own operating system. If I had started at the beginning and kept after it, I could have a pretty decent system right now and I would not be dependent on the crap produced by all these amateurs. I was looking at a piece of JavaScript code yesterday and I suddenly realized that trying to decipher it was a waste of time. There was no accompanying explanation of what the functions did or why they were even there. If I wanted to figure out how to do something, I should start from scratch and write my own.

I have long suspected that scripts of this variety aspire to obtuseness, if only to discourage people from “borrowing” the code: if you’re going to plagiarize, you might as well plagiarize something good, no?

It’s bad enough that JavaScript shares part of a name with Java: the two have essentially nothing in common other than a few labels.

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Easily LED

Several of this house’s light fixtures are inclined to give me grief, though the one most likely to give me grief at a moment’s notice is the two-bulb fixture over the kitchen sink: it has a neat and tidy design — the lower 15 percent of a sphere — which allows for a reasonable illumination pattern but which allows considerable heat buildup, and it fastens with three twist-screws, none of them placed favorably unless you’re two feet tall and can actually stand in the sink.

The advice given last decade was to replace the garden-variety 60-watt bulbs with 8-watt CFLs, which use so much less electricity that there’s just no excuse for not using them. An excuse promptly presented itself: CFLs in this installation lasted about five percent longer than the Standard Bulbs despite costing ten times as much. Must be the heat locked up in that hemidemisemiglobe, I reasoned, and reinstated the classic bulbs, grumbling all the way at having to climb that ladder yet again.

When one of them died on a Sunday afternoon — a dark Sunday afternoon an hour before sunset, of course — I escalated to LightCon 3, installing a pair of funky-looking but still bulb-shaped LED lights, with approximately the same brightness — 800 lumens — and 12-watt power consumption. Color temperature, at 3000°K, is slightly higher (therefore less “warm” — go figure), and assuming three hours’ usage a day, these critters are supposed to last eight years. I’m not entirely sure I’m going to last eight years. The manufacturer, in his wisdom, provides a five-year warranty. And at least if these go, I don’t have to call a farging hazmat team.

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It isn’t even algebra

There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth over Common Core curriculum, including fear that the students will never actually learn how to do math before leaving school. Then again, you could make a case that it’s already too late:

I get about 14 miles to the gallon on the highway 318 engine. How much money will it cost me to Travel 1,495 miles Average gas is $3,50 a gallon

This is, or used to be, fourth-grade stuff. (Answer: $373.75.) And what the hell is he driving? An old Dodge pickup?

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If you meet the Buddha on the road, race him

Valerie Roedenbeck Maloof, who raises children and races cars, on the spiritual aspect of track work:

For those of us who have spent a lifetime attempting to espouse the teachings of Buddhism and Yoga, which encourage practitioners to stay in the present moment and not waste time on the past or the future, a race car at speed is the perfect place to live this teaching. You simply cannot be anywhere but right there, driving. The result is nothing short of absolute calm and joy, all while traveling at high speeds. Then, you exit the car and life returns — your shoulders are sore from the HANS pushing down on them, your back and legs are tired from shifting, your arms are tired from turning the wheel without the help of power steering, and your hair smells like exhaust. But the joy stays with you. I believe we drive so we can experience that joy. It is no accident motorsport is a passion. It is no wonder we forget the danger as we pursue that perfect spiritual experience in the car. It is nothing short of prayer.

Even those of us who never get near a track have gotten this sensation, or something very like it. There are, of course, those who have declared their unalterable opposition to doing interesting things with motor vehicles; but this, too, is a religious experience, a dictum from a less-than-almighty god created by the ego of a timid man, whose first Commandment ends with the phrase “… because something might happen.” The condition in which nothing happens, incidentally, is called “death.”

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Strange search-engine queries (405)

If you’re new to this feature, allow me to explain: about a third of incoming traffic comes from random Web searches, and what they sought is generally baked into a URL by the search engine. By looking at these URLs, I can see just what it was they were looking for; I have yet, however, to figure out a reason why.

bingage elephant:  Who knew that elephants used Bing?

interstitial space at synapse sleeping:  Hmmm. Now if I could just get some of my own synapses to go to sleep once in a while…

index of troggs .wma:  I don’t know which is more peculiar: the fact that someone’s looking for old Troggs recordings, or the fact that he wants them in Windows Media format.

Pantyhose Crutch Yahoo:  Some people’s fantasies are awfully specific.

Meredith vieria prom dress toplezs:  Some people’s fantasies are awfully specific. And how do you spell “Vieira” correctly and mess up “topless”?

95 merc mystic no speedo and no overdrive:  And probably no vehicle speed sensor either.

busty teen jailbait nude:  Um, teens tend to be jailbait more or less by definition.

rhinemaidens “without clothes”:  This is how you ask for “busty teen jailbait nude” if you have a degree in the humanities.

How is Oklahoma City Community College paying for it’s new Capitol Hill Center?  The community-college district is assessing a $5 fine for every misused (or misunused) apostrophe; the facility should be paid for in full by February.

imaginary haters:  Every paranoid has at least one.

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Early sunset

This is the first day of Standard Time, and the Phoenix Suns were in town, but they were not at all inclined to go away early. It wasn’t until the last half of the fourth quarter that the Thunder started to pull away, and the PHX prowess with the three-ball kept bringing the Suns back. Six free throws — four by Russell Westbrook, then two by Kevin Durant — finally put OKC out of reach. It was 103-96 at the horn, and there were the usual festivities at the ‘Peake.

Yes, that was a reference to Westbrook, who did in fact start tonight. He played 33 minutes, so presumably the brakes weren’t on; he didn’t shoot particularly well (5-16), but he made 11 of 14 at the stripe and served up seven dimes to go with his 21 points, pretty much a textbook Westbrook line. And the Russmeister’s return meant that the bench could act like a proper bench for once; they kicked in 35 points, including ten from Reggie Jackson and nine from Derek Fisher, and actually posted higher plus/minus numbers than the starters. What the Thunder could not do, once again, was make the long ball: they hit only two (both by KD, who had 33 points and 10 rebounds) of eighteen.

The Suns, meanwhile, put up thirty-seven from outside, and made 14 of them. They also had a slight edge in rebounding (43-41). Goran Dragić was back, but exited early with an injury; Eric Bledsoe posted a team-high 26 and sixth man Gerald Green knocked down 21, including five treys. If this is supposed to be the worst team in the West — but no, let’s not go there. Say I was impressed with their persistence, and leave it at that.

The Mavs will be here Wednesday, with an atypical, and presumably television-required, 8:30 tipoff. I’m thinking this could be a humdinger.

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Strike up the bandwidth

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a cable customer in possession of a good connection, must eventually be in want of technical support, and we all know how that works out:

So after spending yesterday and today dancing around the technical maypole, I finally gave in and called Comcast tech support.

I was informed there would be an hour and a half wait, and would I like to have a call-back while “reserving my place in line.”

I opted for that, given that I’d rather rub my eyeballs with pepper-soaked sandpaper than sit with a phone plugged into my ear for 90 minutes, listening to whatever godawful elevator music they’re trying to rot their customers’ brains with.

The only thing remotely amusing about these incidents is the bland assurance at the beginning of the call to the effect that many solutions to common problems may be found on their Web site, to which the proper answer is usually “If I could get to your Web site, I wouldn’t be calling you, dumbass.”

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