Roboslop

Dave Schuler, having been on the receiving end of scores of automated phone calls of late — he lives in Illinois, which just had a primary — offers several reasons why the damnable things still exist:

  • They’re advertised heavily and enthusiastically by companies marketing products and services to enable campaigns to perform robocalls.
  • They’re cheaper than television or radio spots.
  • They don’t believe that direct mail works.
  • They don’t have the money or ability to organize grassroots campaigns.
  • Robocalls enable candidates to give the appearance of grassroots support without any.
  • They probably don’t know what else to do.

“If they have any power at all,” he says, “it’s to discourage me from voting for a candidate who uses them.” It would do the same for me if I knew which candidate was using them at any given moment; I have pretty much quit answering the phone except for the rare occasion when I recognize the Caller ID tag.

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Sertanly strange

Um, Celebrities Who Look Like Mattresses.

[Insert Sleep Number joke here.]

(Via this Syaffolee tweet.)

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Noah count

Marcel stumbles into the lower end of the lexicographical spectrum:

While I was gathering stuff to donate to the thrift shop, an odd little book turned up. It’s a vest-pocked-sized dictionary, at most thirty years old. It seems like it came with something else, like maybe a toilet kit or overnight bag, but I don’t really remember. “Webster Dictionary, self pronouncing,” it calls itself. The title page says it’s not published by the original publishers of Webster’s Dictionary or their successors. Who is it published by? The Publishers, apparently. That’s who signed the preface anyway. It doesn’t say when or where they published it, though it does say “Made in U.S.A.”

Variations of this disclaimer have existed for a hundred years. G. & C. Merriam Company (now Merriam-Webster), the actual successors to Noah Webster, attempted early in the 20th century to enforce the Webster’s trademark; they were not successful, but the courts held that those wanting to use the name must clearly differentiate their products from Merriam’s. (See, for instance, J. S. Ogilvie & Co., who published a non-Merriam Webster.)

While pondering this matter, Marcel came up with this idea:

Anyone can print up copies of The Aeneid and sell them to whoever will buy for whatever he’ll pay, except in California. This ties in with a scheme the Obama administration would love: Require all pharmacists to honor any coupon for birth control pills; then Congressmen could use their franking privileges to mail coupons to all their constituents. The pharmacist could distribute the pills with a copy of The Origin of Species. That’s in the public domain, right?

Presumably since 1901. The Copyright Act of 1834 extended the term of copyright to 28 years with one 14-year renewal; Darwin’s magnum opus came out in 1859.

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Rollers to remain high

About a decade ago, I cast aspersions on the idea of automakers moving downmarket in an effort to boost volume: there should not be, I argued, a price point where you can pick either a Mercedes or a Hyundai.

Of course, that was, well, about a decade ago. Hyundai, fearless and/or foolhardy, now offers C-Class and E-Class alternatives. Maserati is about to bring out a sport-utility vehicle fercrissake. Fortunately for the Proper Order of Things, Torsten Müller-Ötvös, the man who runs Rolls-Royce for BMW Group, a man cool enough to have three umlauts, takes a dim view of this sort of gimcrackery. From an interview of TMÖ (and why not?) in the April Automobile:

We won’t do a car below the Ghost. Such a model would overstress the potential of our factory and of our dealer body, and it would also extend the brand in a direction we are not ready for. Midterm, 10,000 units is the absolute ceiling for Rolls-Royce. I would also say no to an ultra-high-end microcar. It makes no sense to downsize luxury — unless you have a very good reason. The rise of the electric vehicle may provide such a reason. If urban electromobility becomes a must-have in future megacities, it could be logical to offer a Rolls-Royce that meets these needs. After all, the BMW i division will soon have the answers such scenarios require. A crossover? Our future is on-road, not off-road. And while we are at it, the product planners in Goodwood are not working on a diesel-engine Rolls-Royce, either.

This is probably not the place to mention that last year, Rolls-Royce sold a hair over 3,000 units.

Below, a picture of what an ultra-high-end microcar in a megacity might look like:

You might not want to look up “Aston Martin Cygnet” on Wikipedia.

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Imported from L.A.

Last night, as the Thunder were fumbling against the Jazz, I said something to the effect that “It’s hard to see how Derek Fisher would have helped this situation much.” As the phrase goes, I spoke too soon. Fisher was in town today, signed a deal about forty-five seconds after he came off waivers — this would have been just short of 5:01 pm Central — and suited up tonight against the Clippers. Bumped ahead of rookie Reggie Jackson in the rotation, the crafty veteran played nineteen minutes, served up an assist, pulled down a rebound, and sent up three treys, one of which made. Give him a +12 for the night, and credit for scaring the bejesus out of the Clippers while he was out there. The season series is now even, 1-1, as the Thunder got a surprisingly easy 114-91 win.

The Clips actually stayed close early on: they shot a lousy 37 percent from the floor, but they managed to make twelve of twenty-six three-balls, which kept them within something resembling striking distance until late. Chris Paul got the only double-double of the night — 13 points, 10 dimes — but he was held to 3 of 12 from the floor. (Telltale statistic: The only consistent Clipper scorer was Randy Foye, who sank five treys and finished with 23 points yet wound up -26.) People love Blake Griffin around here, and they love him even better when he shoots 3 for 11.

But don’t be too impressed by that negative number on Foye. Lazar Hayward, the only Thunderman in the minus zone, played nine minutes and hit two treys. Kevin Durant was back in good form, scoring 32 on 10-18 shooting and all 11 of his free throws; Russell Westbrook tossed up 19; Serge Ibaka 15 and James Harden 10. OKC won most of the numbers: rebounds (49-31), assists (20-19), turnovers (unfortunately) (16-12), and technical fouls. Four T’s: Westbrook, Thabo, Harden and Perkins. (Los Angeles got one, but it was on their coach. Del Negro, please.)

The Spurs are disposing of Minnesota at this writing; whatever remains of the T-Wolves will be here Friday night.

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When not to Skip Intro

You get so used to “Loading… 1%” and so forth that you assume that every Flash site on the face of the earth uses it.

And then you find one that doesn’t. It seems almost inevitable that the lady in question would appear in something like this:

This spot, incidentally, won a Bessie Award in 2011.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Oh, please track me

When are we going to stop handing over all of our personal information to Zuckerberg and the Googleplex? How about “never”? Does “never” work for you?

Some are saying sooner or later consumers will have to revolt and demand payment for the use of that kind of data, but for now, we’re all idiots and do it for free for them. Personally, I have no hope of any of the average users having the intelligence to realize they’re being manipulated, particularly when they still think liking some post or another will automatically drop a dollar from Bill Gates or whomever into some mythical cancer sufferer or the like.

A lot of them, I suspect, think they’re getting something for free, despite the fact that “free” stuff does not actually exist. (Which explains much of our political discourse, come to think of it.)

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Presumably they are driven

Datsun is back! Well, sort of:

Nissan Motor Co’s revived Datsun brand will target increasing sales in Indonesia, India and Russia, the firm’s chief executive told reporters on Tuesday.

“It’s a green car, affordable car, small displacement, high local content,” [Carlos] Ghosn said of the Datsun. “It’s going to be a generous car.”

What it’s not going to be is an American car; there are apparently no plans to offer anything branded Datsun in the states.

Still, it gives me an opportunity to step up the Mr Humble game. In the past, people who seemed impressed for some reason that I drive an Infiniti would be told that “Oh, it’s just a Nissan.” Now I can give them “Oh, it’s just a Datsun.”

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The invaders

It rained rather a lot Monday: as the phrase goes, it was fit for neither man nor beast. It’s not too unusual for neighborhood critters to take temporary shelter on my porch, but this is exceptional:

Bird nest on porch light

(Lots of sizes on Flickr, if this one won’t do.)

I have next to no expertise on the subject of birds’ nests, but I have to assume that this little encampment belongs to the robins, inasmuch as they massed in a nearby redbud and complained loudly when I stepped up close enough to get the shot.

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Bluer notes

The Jazz have been hot, or at least reasonably warm, of late, and they were happy to burn the visiting Thunder tonight, 97-90, Utah’s fourth straight win, and their first (and only, since this is the end of the series) W against OKC this season.

It wasn’t anything special that Utah did, either; they simply out-executed the Thunder for most of the game, including a 10-4 run at the end to foil OKC’s comeback effort. All ten of the Jazzmen scored, and six of them posted double figures, led by Paul Millsap with 20. (Jamaal Tinsley, who’s been in and out of the NBA for years, had 11 off the bench, which may help him stay in a bit longer.) Perhaps the biggest problem for Oklahoma City was Devin Harris, who hit 6 of 10 for 15 points; Thabo Sefolosha was able to defend against Harris, mostly, but Thabo’s not yet back up to speed, and the 15 minutes he got left 33 minutes where Harris more or less had his way. This is normally where you’d hope Daequan Cook would step up, but DC-14 isn’t stepping anywhere for a while: he came down with a knee sprain and did not return.

Nor could Kevin Durant help much: he tossed up bricks with seemingly wild abandon, 6 of 22 for 18 points. Russell Westbrook, who had a better night on the floor, was good for 23, James Harden contributed his usual 17, and Serge Ibaka got the only double-double of the night (13 points, 10 boards). Both sides were turnover-prone — Thunder 20, Jazz 15 — though OKC was not particularly adept at converting those giveaways into actual points. It’s hard to see how Derek Fisher would have helped this situation much.

The Clippers lost tonight at Indiana, so perhaps the best we can hope for tomorrow is that they’re more demoralized than the Thunder. Hey, it could happen.

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You are young and life is long

Fark hung a “SAD” tag on this story:

Forget “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele must be rolling (and doing cartwheels and headstands and maybe even handstands if she’s strong enough) in wads of cash — her album is now seventh in the list of best-selling UK albums of all time.

Adele’s record, 21, overtook Pink Floyd’s 1973 release, The Dark Side Of The Moon, in the list, making it the seventh biggest-selling album of all-time.

On the other hand, no one has suggested synching up 21 and The Wizard of Oz.

The best-selling album in Britain? A Greatest Hits set from Queen, which has moved, says the Official Charts Company (that’s the name of it), 5,864,000 copies, a good 15 percent ahead of Sgt. Pepper’s.

A British acquaintance tweeted (no link, she’s protected) this morning: “Piracy (not) killing music or a less tech savvy demographic?” Piracy, as a threat, is overrated, unless you extend the definition to actual theft of original masters. Hardly anybody bothers with that; even the recent hack at Sony was essentially just a copyfest writ large. And I suspect that the bazillion buyers of (T)DSOTM might have been a touch techier than, say, buyers of Debby Boone.

(Disclosure: I once paid for a copy of “You Light Up My Life.” Better you should know this now.)

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Well red

Fausta on the return of Really Red Lipstick:

Tom Ford has a $48 red lipstick, and JCrew has an $18 one; my all-time favorite is Paloma Picasso’s Mon Rouge, which is no longer made, but you can get the red look for under $10 with Revlon’s Fire and Ice (buy it through the Amazon link so I can get a small commission), which was The Color when it was first introduced in the 1950s. It also has that original first-season Mad Men retro vibe.

Which, to me anyway, has always been that “Kiss me, you fool!” vibe, despite the fact that when Theda Bara — who was always in black and white anyway so she could have worn green lipstick and no one would have been the wiser — came up with that catchphrase, she actually said “Kiss me, my fool!”

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Bows to Holly

As I may have mentioned before, there’s never a bad time to put up a photo of Holly Hunter, and inasmuch as it’s her birthday, well, I do pick up my cues when I’m supposed to:

Holly Hunter on the sofa

And besides, she’s actually doing another film (yes!), with Diablo Cody directing and presumably writing (double yes!):

The wild story follows a young Christian girl (Julianne Hough), who survives a plane crash but is left with horrific burns. With her faith gone, she travels to Las Vegas in order to experience the more sinful side of life, and befriends Loray (Octavia Spencer), a craps dealer, and William (Russell Brand), a bartender. Hunter will play Hough’s conservative and overprotective mother.

There was a working title — Lamb of God — but mercifully, it’s been stricken, to the bewilderment of Captain Obvious.

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Where angels fear the tread

The really neat thing about those “try before you buy” rental stores is that by keeping the payments “reasonable,” it’s possible to sell, for instance, a $500 computer for $1300.

I would not have thought, however, that this premise was extensible to automobile tires:

RIMCO, a division of Atlanta rent-to-own furniture and electronics company Aaron’s, started in 2004 as a destination for drivers who wanted to pimp their rides with trendy wheels. But as the recession reduced customers’ demand for pricey rims, the company looked for other things it could sell that would keep shoppers coming back time and again.

The answer seemed obvious: tires.

And the targeted customer seems obvious: the douchecanoe who’s just inflicted a brand new set of 22s on a poor, defenseless Chevy Impala, and only then figures out that his old half-bald Walmart Chinese-import rubber won’t stretch six inches to fit. You can find half a dozen people like that any day on Yahoo! Answers.

(Via Autoblog.)

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The assumption of privilege

Not that I’m particularly in the mood to throw increasingly expensive fuel on the fires of class warfare, but this paragraph demanded attention:

Observers of human nature have long puzzled over the possibility of an ethical class divide. On the one hand, people with fewer resources and dimmer prospects might be expected to do whatever’s necessary to get ahead. On the other, wealthy types may be more focused on themselves, because money, independence, and freedom can insulate people from the plight of others. They may also be less generous: Studies involving money games show that upper-class subjects keep more for themselves, and U.S. surveys find that the rich give a smaller percentage of their income to charity than do the poor.

This latter point, I suggest, is due to a combination of tax preferences and self-aggrandizement: all else being equal, J. Gotrocks Lucre is most likely to want to clothe his do-goodery in the raiment of the J. Gotrocks Lucre Foundation.

(I am indebted to the lovely Tamara K. for reminding me that you almost never see “lucre” unless it’s prefixed with “filthy,” and that in combination thereof it means “lots of money in the hands of people you think are icky or shallow or otherwise undeserving.” Perfect.)

Still, dishonesty, as George Carlin pointed out, is still the second-best policy, which leads to this:

To see whether dishonesty varies with social class, psychologist Paul Piff of the University of California, Berkeley, and colleagues devised a series of tests, working with groups of 100 to 200 Berkeley undergraduates or adults recruited online. Subjects completed a standard gauge of their social status, placing an X on one of 10 rungs of a ladder representing their income, education, and how much respect their jobs might command compared with other Americans.

The team’s findings suggest that privilege promotes dishonesty. For example, upper-class subjects were more likely to cheat. After five apparently random rolls of a computerized die for a chance to win an online gift certificate, three times as many upper-class players reported totals higher than 12 — even though, unbeknownst to them, the game was rigged so that 12 was the highest possible score.

This is the part that made me blink, though:

When participants were manipulated into thinking of themselves as belonging to a higher class than they did, the poorer ones, too, began to behave unethically. In one test, subjects were asked to compare themselves with people at the top or the bottom of the social scale (Donald Trump or a homeless person, for example). They were then permitted to take candies from a jar ostensibly meant for a group of children in a nearby lab. Subjects whose role-playing raised their status in their own eyes took twice as many candies as those who compared themselves to “The Donald.”

It would be interesting to see just how easily people are manipulated into Synthetic Empathy™.

Meanwhile, it was nine years ago that I said this:

I don’t automatically assume that I have X coming to me by dint of Y; it has always seemed to me that my only legitimate and unassailable birthright is death. And this, I suspect, is not a commonly-held belief; on the contrary, the world seems to be largely filled with people who think that on the basis of some Y or other, they deserve all the X they can get.

Well, X to you, Mister Lucre, and to all the wannabes out there.

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