Seeing the true Willard

Got a note from eBay the other day, ostensibly to commemorate my 13 years as a buyer — never sold squat — but more likely to shame me into buying more stuff, that being their raison d’être after all.

And while they had links to several items, they didn’t mention this Dan Lacey painting of Mitt Romney in apparent self-pantsing mode, for which I suppose I should be grateful.

Asked for an explanation, Lacey said:

[T]he Romney is basically a self-portrait. I’m nearly an ex-Christian but have some personal faith remaining but expect nothing — Mitt is certainly coming from a unique place on that issue as well. From a purely self-promotional standpoint he needs to reveal himself to become more likeable, but how does he do that without offending? He’s been blessed by God but others cannot be unless they accept.

Um, okay, if you say so. You might want to avoid those links if you’re at the office.

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The printers, they are against us

James Lileks has no better luck with printers than the rest of us, it appears:

The printer for people who don’t need to print. I use it for scanning, and that’s when the troubles began: it refused to scan because it was out of ink.

This is not unusual. (Just a google search for scanner won’t run without ink.)

What’s more, I wasn’t out of ink. Not really. I’ll bet if I cracked the cartridge open, my hands would be covered with Cyan, Yellow, and Magenta. The cartridges either hit their expiration date — the ink is made of milk, you know — or the sensor detected that 75% had been used, and so it was empty. (Which would be especially perverse: Why not just less ink and give the empty warning at 100%?) The only reason the scanner wouldn’t work was because the people who designed it, under orders from management, entered some code that bricked the machine unless you bought more ink.

Does my own printer/scanner (same brand) do that? I don’t know; I’ve never run out of ink, though I admittedly postpone replacements until the output looks like daguerreotypes overlaid with graffiti.

One of his commenters pointed out something perhaps pertinent:

Having worked for HP at some point in a spotty tech career, I learned that if you buy the printer and never update the software after installation, they work fine for years. I’m convinced that it’s the automatic updates that end up causing ink, scan and print problems.

And it doesn’t make a darned bit of difference as to the brand.

Which may explain why my turn-of-the-century DeskJet, still running on the nearly-orphaned Windows XP, continues to do what it’s told to do with a minimum of fuss.

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The 1 percent don’t sweat

Funny thing about taxing the rich: when all is said and done, everybody except the rich ends up paying. An example from 2009:

A new “super-tax” on bank bonuses will be introduced immediately, the chancellor [of the Exchequer] announced, in an attempt to stop banks using profits to pay large bonuses to bankers.

Alistair Darling attempted to appease critics who feared the tax on bonuses would prompt defections from the City by insisting the 50% tax rate on bonuses of more than £25,000 would be paid by the banks rather than employees.

Fat chance of that:

The ostensible targets of the UK bonus supertax were high-earning bank employees, and since they bore the statutory incidence of the supertax, they did indeed pay more taxes. But since they were able to obtain increases that left their after-tax incomes untouched, they weren’t left out of pocket by the measure: the economic incidence was passed on to shareholders, other employees and bank customers — in short, everyone except the original target. If the goal of the bonus supertax was to reduce the gap between high earners and the rest of the income distribution, it’s hard to see how it could be considered a success.

This lesson has been learned by — well, evidently no one so far:

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty is making a major concession in a bid to save his minority Liberal government by agreeing to impose a new tax on the rich.

Those who earn more than $500,000 a year would be asked to pay a 2 per cent surtax, Mr. McGuinty announced at a news conference on Monday. The new tax would generate revenues of $470 million next year, all of which, he said, would be used to help reduce the deficit.

In McGuinty’s defense, at least he’s promising to reduce the provincial deficit. You won’t hear that kind of talk on this side of the 49th.

(Suggested by Blunt Object.)

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Throne for a loop

Yes, kids, it’s the Sacramento Kings again, and this is definitely the last time we’ll have to see them this season. Promise. And if we thought we would be spared the presence of DeMarcus Cousins, who rolled up his thirteenth technical Sunday — well, that tech was rescinded, and DeMarcus did his darnedest to make DeDifference tonight, rolling up a team-high 32 points. Scott Brooks, evidently not impressed, brought out none of the Thunder starters for the fourth quarter, and the James Harden-less bench came up big, putting together a 36-24 final frame to get the better of the Kings, 118-110.

Sacramento came out shooting hot, running up 40 points in the first quarter; they cooled a bit once the Thunder defense started to gel, but still finished with a creditable 52 percent from the floor. All five starters made double figures, though the five reserves, putting in limited time (Tyler Honeycutt, says the box score, played two seconds, and you can’t get much more limited than that), contributed only seven points among them.

Meanwhile, Derek Fisher and Daequan Cook took command of the OKC bench; DC-14 got a season-high 19 points, and Fish dropped in 11, including three consecutive free throws late after being fouled on a long ball. Kevin Durant, who vanished after the third quarter, left with 32 points, enough to pad his tiny lead over Kobe Bryant for scoring champion by some infinitesimal decimal. With Russell Westbrook in something of a slump (4-13, 13 points), Thabo Sefolosha stepped up his offensive game, hitting four of six, including two treys, for 11 points. The Thunder shot 46 percent, and outrebounded Sacramento, 43-34.

Which leaves Game 66, tomorrow against the sixth-place (for the moment) Nuggets. Denver hasn’t beaten OKC all year, and there’s no good reason they should start now.

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Best author blurb ever?

Melanie Sherman contributes a guest post, and is described thusly at its conclusion:

Melanie Sherman has been writing for years, against her better judgment. In 2009 she won second place in the mainstream category of the Pacific Northwest Writers Association’s Literary Contest for her historical fiction, The Pirates’ Reckoning, but only after her critique group badgered her into entering. She is currently working on No Mans Land, another historical fiction, and Say Cheese Before You Die, a contemporary fiction outlined on her blog, Meanderings of Melanie Sherman. Her dream is to be able to claim fabulous trips “for research purposes” as an expense on her income tax.

As that Gershwin guy once said, “Who could ask for anything more?”

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Going like sixty

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Played for Zucker’s

The idea of Facebook giving away actual cash is so ludicrous I almost didn’t read this spam:

Your profile has won the sum of ONE MILLION Pounds in the ongoing Facebook Promo.

We are pleased to inform you of the result of the just concluded quarterly Draws held by the worldwide association of internet service user and provider lottery Promotions, your email was among the 10 lucky winners who won the sum of One Million Great Britain Pounds (Ј1,000,000.00 GBP) in THE TAGGED FACEBOOK PROMOTIONS However, Your email was attached to data file number (UK/9420X2/68) and grant Number (CCC/0080648302/07) with Winner No.005.

You know, it would be nice, or at least a tiny bit less unconvincing, if the people running this thing — ostensibly from 17, Upper Grosvenor Street, London, W1K 7PJ — had bothered to send it to the actual email address I use on Facebook.

Then again, it may not matter:

The online draws was conducted by a random Selection of email addresses and phone numbers of regular users of Internet web and communication facilities like Tagged, Tweeter, Facebook, Blackberry, Myspace, Skype, Globe7, blackplanet, biip.com, bolt.com, cake financial, cafemom, caringbridge, cellufone, care2, classmate.com, italki.com, lafango, muxlim.com, paltree, Hi5, Grooveshark, Orkut, Bebo, Multiply, Flickr, Fotolog, Delicious, Digg, LinkedIn, Platalk, Friendfinder, Badoo, Technokrati, Skyrock, Last.fm. Ning, Xing and many other Social Networking websites that is affiliated with the worldwide association of internet service user and provider.

In other news, Orkut has regular users.

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Somewhat sans serif

We’ve all been through this before: we’re sick of the Same Old Fonts, and the Spiffy New Fonts just aren’t serious enough for correspondence. What we need, apparently, is something in between.

Averia fontWhich brings us to Averia, which is the average of all the fonts — or at least, of all the fonts installed by its designer. Your mileage may vary. (I have 563 fonts on the work box, with perhaps more WingDings and such than could possibly be justified, and no, I don’t think they figure into the calculated average.)

The designer — who, by the way, insists that he’s not really a designer — explains:

A Google on the subject [of “generative typography”] brought up little, and I put the idea to the back of my mind until it occurred to me that perhaps the process of averaging, or interpolating, existing fonts might bring up interesting results. Luckily at this point I didn’t do any more web searching — instead I grabbed my laptop and came up with an initial idea for finding what the average of all my fonts might look like — by overlaying each letter at low opacity.

To simplify the task:

{S]ince my aim was to average a large number of fonts, perhaps it would be best to use a very simple process, and hope the results averaged out well over a large number of fonts. So, how about splitting each letter perimeter into lots of (say, 500) equally-spaced points, and just average between the corresponding positions of each, on each letter?

I think I want to use this font of his. Fortunately, he’s willing to see it spread around a bit.

(Via Felix Salmon.)

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All you need is wub

The amazing thing is that this little bit of goofiness was made entirely outside Official Channels — and yet it’s arguably good enough to be in the show:

This tells me that even if episode 65 (they’ve shown 52) is the last, the show is a long, long way from being ancient history.

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Warped out of existence

You might think that science fiction that disallows such counterfactual stuff as faster-than-light travel is more scientifically rigorous, therefore better for us, in basically the same sense that wheat germ is better for us than a Wendy’s Double. Lynn has a problem with that — the SF convention, I mean:

One thing I have a problem with is the “no hyperspace” rule. I don’t think science fiction necessarily needs to be 100 percent plausible. Was Star Trek 100 percent plausible? Hardly. But it inspired a generation to support space exploration and invent things like cell phones. FTL ships are vehicles for the imagination and it saddens me that many writers have abandoned them and consider themselves smarter for doing so. To me that’s just another brand of pessimism.

I can appreciate Neal Stephenson’s objections to this sort of thing — rigid adherence to stock SF tropes is a really effective way to produce stiff-sounding stories that no one likes — but I’m not about to declare myself unalterably opposed to FTL.

Someone wiser than I once posited the notion that the most effective SF environments are those which closely mirror our own, except for one thing which is accepted as a given and/or handwaved away, which may or may not prove to be a crucial plot point. In Mary Gentle’s Orthe series, for instance, the “one thing” is the redefinition of puberty: children are literally genderless until puberty, which can take place overnight or take several years — or in the case of some unfortunate few, might never happen at all. A few incidents hang on this, but they’re not at the center of the story; nonetheless, the premise establishes the Ortheans as sufficiently alien to warrant our interest. Otherwise, we might as well be reading about a post-apocalyptic Topeka.

Meanwhile, I must give thumbs up — Ortheans have two of them, along with ten other fingers, which matters hardly at all — to this statement:

Is the world today really more scary and gloomy than it was in the 60’s when we watched scenes from the Vietnam war and race riots on the news every night and we all feared that a nuclear war with the Soviet Union could happen at any time? And yet, in that environment we managed to find hope that the future would be better.

And if we’ve been ambivalent about that optimism — “I have to admit, it’s getting better,” sang Paul, though “can’t get no worse” hangs on the end of the line, thanks to John — well, we’re never completely sure, are we?

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Shaking it for yourself

Melissa goes to her first YNA event, and the word “enabling” comes to mind:

Now, I don’t dance. Mom made me take tap dancing as a child and I was both no good at it and didn’t like it. I have zero music sense and just don’t know how to dance. Yet somehow, someway this group of people managed to get me on the dance floor. I won’t be quitting my day job anytime soon to become a professional dancer, but I truly did enjoy it. And as I danced, I kept thinking that I wished I could have that moment videotaped and sent to my doctor. You know, the one who said a year ago that I’d likely never walk again (somehow dancing wasn’t mentioned).

I surmise that this is the event she attended. Never underestimate the power of simply letting it all hang out, so to speak.

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O2 go

An operation called H2 Technologies is planning a hydrogen-refueling station for Carson City, Nevada. Are there any vehicles that run on hydrogen anywhere near Carson City? It would be nice, but it’s not necessary for the business plan:

The electrolyzer technology at the station will separate water into its component elements, hydrogen and oxygen. While hydrogen-fueled vehicles are all the rage as a method of reducing tailpipe emissions, H2 Technologies is contracting with a supplier of industrial gases to sell oxygen — the waste product — at wholesale for medical and industrial uses.

“That secondary market makes the station profitable from day one,” says Gary Lord, a principal in H2 Technologies. “We create copious amounts of oxygen.”

What probably is necessary for the business plan is a $1.1 million loan from the Nevada State Office of Energy.

Expected price for hydrogen is $10/kg; if hydrogen-powered cars can do 60 to 70 miles per kilogram, they’ll be competitive with gas-powered cars, and their major emissions product will be water vapor — which is a greenhouse gas, but don’t say that too loud.

(Via Autoblog Green.)

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Strange search-engine queries (325)

It’s time once more to poke around in the system logs for the last week and see if anybody’s search strings will serve as the humorous part of your complete Monday-morning breakfast. (Hey, it could happen, right?)

credibility of biogift anatomical:  As with bio-anything, if it smells funny when you open the package, it’s credible.

sandy posey born a woman chauvinist:  I doubt Sandra Lou would have had any truck with the likes of M. Chauvin, who by most accounts was a real (or a fake) asshat.

brakdown of a 1999 cd4e transmission:  That’s why modern freeways have a breakdown lane.

rainbow dash guitar:  Whatever the song, she can play it in ten seconds flat.

stop dreamhost installer robot from upgrading wordpress:  If you did these upgrades yourself, the Installer Robot would completely ignore you.

bat cracker:  So apparently there are some, um, unexpected branches on Bruce Wayne’s family tree.

i had a dream last night with stuart ashton staples:  Was it good for you? Because I’m sure it was good for him.

nofaces n ass modules:  Already compiled for the next Kardashians reality series.

picture of scratches on girls nice legs:  Aren’t you the same guy who wanted the mustache on the Mona Lisa?

thomas kinkade prince of peace worth anything:  Surely it must be worth something. All those vendors who sell paintings by the square foot seem to be surviving.

why is mitt romney wooden:  Purely a chemical reaction: he’s allergic to nonprecious metals.

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From the Easily Impressed files

The wire services quote some Greg Packer type — hell, if they’d waited a few minutes, Greg Packer himself might have shown up — who comes up with this stirring bit of wharrgarbl:

“It’s nice, much more manageable,” said Mark Timko, who paid less than $4 per gallon Wednesday in the Chicago suburb of Burr Ridge, Ill., for the first time since March. “I wasn’t sure how high they were going to go this year.”

I tell you what, Marky Mark: if you were sure how high they were going to go this year, you either (1) had thought you’d gotten the fix in or (2) have been just now busted to the position of Steven Chu’s dog-walker.

Or, more kindly, from Brian J.:

Someone who says that $3.99 a gallon is more manageable than $4.05 a gallon is either not very smart or wants to see his name in the paper.

Ulp. He’s right. My apologies, Senator Timko.

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War on the West Coast

“I just want this game to end before someone dies,” tweeted @TheLostOgle with about four minutes left, and shortly thereafter, Kobe Bryant and Serge Ibaka spilled into the first row trying to snag a loose ball. That’s the kind of day it was, starting with 1:37 left in the first half, when Metta World Peace, belying his placid surname, threw an elbow at James Harden’s head. Harden went to the locker room to be checked for concussion; Peace-y went to the locker room with an ejection and a Flagrant Two. The Thunder, irked, ran up the score over the next fifteen minutes, eventually taking an 18-point lead; but the Lakers gradually whittled it away and finally took control in the waning moments on back-to-back Kobe treys. Russell Westbrook dropped a couple of free throws to tie it at 91, and overtime ensued. Four minutes and forty-five seconds later, it was still tied, 97-all, and overtime continued; the Thunder couldn’t buy a bucket in the waning moments, and the Lakers finally won one against OKC, 114-106.

“Steve Blake,” said radio guy Matt Pinto, “has been an influential influence.” Well, yeah; he contributed three treys, all coming in the fourth quarter or in overtime, and became something of the go-to guy when Thabo Sefolosha had Bryant in a box. With Andrew Bynum phoning it in, bigness was contributed by Pau Gasol (20 points, 14 rebounds) and Jordan Hill (14 and 15). L.A. was utterly dominant on the boards (67-54, 25-14 offensive). But nobody is likely to be impressed with the offense of either club: the Lakers put up 106 shots and missed 65, the Thunder sent up 101 and missed 64. (OKC was slightly better than L.A. beyond the arc, if 8 of 24 is actually better, other than in sheer percentage points, than 5 of 16.)

Batman and Robin again seemed to be working at cross purposes: yeah, they got 49 points between them — Kevin Durant 35, Westbrook 14 — but they went a combined 14-56 from the floor. That’s 25 percent, boys and girls. You have to figure Harden would have made some of these, had he been able to play in the second half. If there’s an upside, it’s that Durant will sneak ahead of Bryant in PPG by a fraction of a point. At least OKC has regained its swag at the free-throw line, nailing 24 of 28. (The Lakers hit 27 of 40.)

So the likely #3 seed wins one against the almost-certain #2 seed. The people I feel for are the Staples Center crew; after this thing ran well past all understanding, they have to de-Lakerfy the joint to make ready for Hornets/Clippers in a few hours. Let James Harden be well — and let Ron Artest (I can’t say “World Peace” with a straight face) be thrown to the NBA’s regulatory hounds. It’s time to go home.

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A gentleman to be envied

I was wavering on the question of “Do I need to wash this damn car?” yesterday, when a Shell self-serve pump answered it for me by failing to shut off at Maximum Tankfulness, dribbling about a quarter’s worth down the quarter-panel.

My normal routine, should you be curious: let it shut off; squeeze in just enough more to bring the dollar/cents amount to a multiple of five cents; then replace the handle and stare in disbelief at the receipt. I’d claim that this maintains a standard test bed for mileage computation, though it’s actually a relic from the days when I could give the attendant a $20, fill up the tank, and retrieve my change without having to deal with pennies. (Incidentally, I had 21.4 mpg for the past week, which included trips to Norman and Edmond as part of the Architecture Tour.)

I was one mile away from the Extreme (!) Car Wash, and betook myself thence. The garrulous old operator asked me if I’d used that particular bay before. I hadn’t — I generally preferred the manual bays — and he said that they’d installed some new nozzles on the spray mechanism that pushed something like twice the previous volume of liquids. “Sounds like you’re in a thunderstorm,” he said, “but don’t worry.”

Then again, in this part of the country, thunderstorms are often accompanied by “fine sleepin’ weather,” and, said the operator, “This bay does not have the alarm system we use in the other one. We had a fellow actually fall asleep in there this morning; we had to crawl in there and wake him up to get him out.” By now things were getting creepy. Fortunately, the SUV ahead of me was pulling out, and so I crept my way into the bay. Up came the spray apparatus, and holy crap it’s like being under a goddamn Boeing 737 in here. And I marveled that some man with probably no more sound insulation than I had at that moment — it rather easily drowned out 200 watts of Bose stereo — was actually able to snooze through this. Having battled insomnia from time to time, I was downright jealous.

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