You need not bloat alone

If you go out and buy a Windows-based computer, you will generally find a copy of Windows installed — along with vast quantities of shovelware of varying degrees of desirability. Microsoft has apparently decided to spare some of us this indignity, though not out of the goodness of their flinty little hearts:

Preinstalled trial versions of useless software have been slowing down new PCs for years, and Microsoft is finally offering a solution: bring your PC into a Microsoft Store and pay them $99 to install a clean copy of Windows.

The new program is an outgrowth of Microsoft’s “Signature” PC initiative, which sells bloatware-free versions of PCs from Microsoft’s partners in Microsoft stores. AllThingsD [warning: intro screen] reports that Microsoft is now offering to change any computer into a Signature PC if customers bring it into the store and pay the requisite fee. Signature PCs also include Microsoft’s Windows Live Essentials programs; the ad-supported, Word and Excel-only Microsoft Office Starter edition; the Microsoft Security Essentials antivirus package; and the Zune media player software. Users can choose not to have these programs installed, and can also specify if they would like other third-party browsers or programs installed. Ninety days of free phone support is also included.

Now how much would you pay to avoid ever having to see [name of fantastically bloated “security” software] again?

Meanwhile in Europe, Microsoft may be required to offer download links for rival browsers in Windows 8, as a result of an antitrust settlement with the European Union.

(Tweeted in my general direction by Adam Gurri.)

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Back to the grindhouse

So the Lakers regrouped, and rethought: if they’re not going to beat the Thunder by playing at a quick pace, maybe they can do it by slowing it down to a torturous crawl. (How slow? Los Angeles won the third quarter, 18-12.) With two minutes left, the Lakers were up seven, 75-68. The Thunder promptly went on an 8-0 run to go up 76-75; Thabo Sefolosha retrieved a Steve Blake miss, and the Lakers found time to foul twice in the last six seconds. With 0.3 left, Kevin Durant ended up at the stripe; he hit the first, missed the second, and the Lakers got one more (very brief) chance before James Harden got his hand on the ball at the horn. OKC 77, Lakers 75, and now it’s 2-0.

It was, by and large, an astonishing display of non-shooting by the Lakers. Andrew Bynum got 20 points, but he went 8-19 from the floor; Kobe Bryant got 20, but he went 9-25. And the entire L. A. bench came up with a whole 11 points. The Lakers finished at 38.5 percent, and hit only two of 15 treys. Pau Gasol did eke out a double-double, though: 14 points, 11 boards. (L. A. was +5 in rebounding.)

The Thunder weren’t exactly hitting on all cylinders either: 42 percent, six of 17 for three. And the major point-getters got comparatively minor points: Durant 22, Russell Westbrook 15 (he went 5-17), Harden 13. (To repeat: the entire L. A. bench came up with 11.) Still, the Lakers basically had this one won — and they got blindsided in those last two minutes. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of reprobates.

The fun resumes Friday at Staples Center, and continues Saturday. Yes, it’s a back-to-back. Think of it as practice before we have to face the Spurs.

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You just gotta help us

There’s been wingnutty fun all week with the #ObamaInHistory hashtag, which makes it almost irresistible for me to pass up a story which might actually have historical import. And besides, it involves Saab, and we all love a good Saab story:

Main Saab blue collar union, IF Metall, has taken the extraordinary step of writing directly to President Barack Obama in a bid to put pressure on former owner, General Motors, to make its licences available.

The licence issue is continuing to take centre stage as GM is reluctant to allow them to be transfered to a potential competitor — particularly given its relationship with Chinese automaker, SAIC.

However, with unemployment levels in Saab’s Swedish home town of Trollhättan soaring to 40%, IF Metall has taken the decision to write to the US President as the American taxpayer still owns part of General Motors.

“We asked Mr Obama to talk to GM to let the licences free [for] a new buyer of Saab,” IF Metall Trollhättan plant chairman Hakan Scott told just-auto from Sweden. “We have not had any answer yet.”

The license would presumably permit resuming production of the 9-5, which is based on GM’s Epsilon II platform. The next 9-3 would be built off the new Saab PhoeniX platform, which is all Saab except for a few generic GM bits here and there. (The 9-4X, a crossover built alongside the Cadillac SRX, is apparently dead after 748 copies.)

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Pleasantville in color

One of about half a dozen things Chelsea in Tulsa finds unappealing about her home town:

If a nuclear holocaust occurred and archaeologists one hundred years from now were looking for the most pristine example of an all-American suburb, Tulsa between 111th and 71st street would be the perfect subject. The brick and stucco houses, retention ponds, and Bradford Pear trees … the Applebee’s, Arby’s, and Outbacks … the Walmarts, Targets, and oh, the QuikTrips! It’s like a perfect replica of the kind of neighborhoods the creators of The Sims wanted you to create. South Tulsa is my home turf and I haven’t turned into a weird downtown snob or anything, but honestly, a couple Mom n’ Pop establishments in the area wouldn’t hurt a thing.

Forget it. Mom and Pop moved out to Owasso first chance they got.

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Post-aspirational

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A few inches later

A little over a year ago, I made a brief mention of Lea T., a fashion model who’d become the face of Givenchy, snarking as follows:

I’ve grumbled for years about fashion models having the general shape of twelve-year-old boys, so it’s probably about time we had one who, legally anyway, used to be a twelve-year-old boy.

Lea T.At the time, she was still pre-op, but getting ready for sexual reassignment surgery. This past weekend, she made her first post-op trip to the runway:

Lea T. took to the runway in São Paulo Saturday night in celebration of Elle Brazil’s 24th anniversary — but her turn on the catwalk marked an important personal landmark in the model’s career as well: According to Made in Brazil blog’s Juliano Corbetta, this is Lea T.’s first modeling job after undergoing sexual reassignment surgery. The model opened up about her plans to have surgery when she went on Oprah in February of last year, telling Oprah, “Of course physically, this operation is a big operation … But at the same time, I think it’s mental too. To think like, ‘Wow, I cut part of my body’.”

Janet Mock, who devised the #girlslikeus hashtag on Twitter, reminds us that “srs doesn’t make her any more or less a woman.”

And that “twelve-year-old boy” stuff? Wikipedia says 34-25-36.

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What can Tina Brown do for you?

“When the radical priest come to get me released,
We was all on the cover of Newsweek.”

— Paul Simon, “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” (1972)

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When toy soldiers aren’t enough

You need TOY AIR POWER!

116 planes of all nations

And if your mom is like my mom, watch how you pronounce “Fokker.”

(Via If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There’d Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats. Can your blog live up to that name?)

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Dragon your heart around

Tam’s re-reading the Dragonriders of Pern series — the first three books, anyway — and her perspective has changed just slightly in the interim:

They’re still fun, but the idea of having a giant telepathically-linked dragon that would be your friend forever and could fly you around and set stuff that annoyed you on fire was a lot more attractive when I was in middle school and grappling with teen angst. Not that I’d turn one down now, but as an adult, all you can think of are the damned vet bills, which must be ginormous. And it probably horks up hairballs the size of VW Beetles.

At least it’s not a threadfall. Damned thing would dissolve your hand while you were trying to clean it up.

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Dihydrogen monoxide monitoring

As usual, the May water bill came with the annual water report, which details the quality of said water, based on certain official standards. According to the cover letter, the, um, product gets tested every two hours, although some items on the list, such as radioactive particles, are checked less frequently, and by “less frequently” I mean 2006 was the last time they ran a full-fledged examination for alpha, beta, and radium-226 emissions. The numbers recorded at that time weren’t anywhere near the maximum permitted levels, and I have no reason to think that they’re any different now, but I suspect some of us would feel better with more up-to-date numbers.

And I’m perplexed by the chloramine numbers, which remain below the Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level (4.0 ppm) on a yearly-average basis, which is what’s required for compliance, but it appears that individual samples at two of the three water plants spiked slightly above that for short periods. I’m guessing that these readings were taken right after a treatment cycle, and that they’re required to report them regardless, but this does seem to conflict with the definition of “maximum” as I learned it back in the 20th century.

But, hey, at least it isn’t radioactive.

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Low-skill pirate

Get a load of this doofus:

i want to know how to crack a simple .exe file to get past the registration key requirement

its a basic little board game and they want $35 for registration haha

This is the answer I voted up:

I would do it but I charge $60. an hour. Should take me a few days, do you still want me to do it?

Well played, sir.

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It’s getting us all

Well, isn’t this comforting:

Risk factors for throat cancer

Gee, maybe I’d better see someone quick.

(Via Picture Is Unrelated.)

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Laker evaporation

There were basically two questions going into this game. The first: “Is Perk okay?” (Answer: he played seventeen minutes, took a hit, took a detour to the locker room as a precautionary measure, and returned to the bench, though he didn’t play further.) The second: “How will Metta World Douche be greeted?” (Answer: Seven or eight of the 18,203 in attendance did not boo him.) Otherwise, there was no question: the Thunder grabbed the lead late in the first quarter and didn’t come close to giving it up the rest of the night, up 15 at the half, up 30 (!) after three, and the starters watched the reserves finish off the Lakers, 119-90, in spectacular fashion. And I do mean “spectacular”: in the waning seconds, Derek Fisher sank a trey, and then Royal Ivey stole the inbound and dribbled it out. Had they given Mike Brown the finger, the message couldn’t have been clearer.

And here’s a brace of telltale statistics: at 39:26, the beginning of garbage time, OKC had committed three turnovers — and the Lakers had zero fast-break points. Add to that this lovely bit of frustration: Devin Ebanks, who had subbed admirably for Metta World Elbow during the dark days of suspension, lasted a whole 4:15 before being thumbed from the premises.

Los Angeles still has no one who can handle Russell Westbrook, who rolled up 27 points on 10-15 shooting, not to mention seven rebounds and nine assists. Kevin Durant tacked on 25 more; James Harden led the bench with 17. And oh, the final turnover count was four.

The Lakers, meanwhile, coughed up the rock 15 times, and while they did enjoy a 43-41 advantage on the boards, they shot less than 44 percent, and Pau Gasol, minus 29 for the night, evidently phoned it in. Andrew Bynum did post a double-double, with 20 points and 14 rebounds, which still left him at minus 24. Kobe Bryant had an uneventful 20, and Metta World Smurf, hot in the first quarter, ended up with 12.

The hostilities resume Wednesday at the funky C Arena. I have no idea how Perk is, and there’s really no reason for anyone to tell me.

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L’oiseaux du merde

In response to a bit from this foul-mouthed TV clip that LeeAnn gleefully posted, Jeffro opined that “‘The Perfectly Tanned Shitbirds’ would make an excellent name for a rock group.”

I left a response thereto, and I figure I may as well expand on it here.

April March

April March was a layout artist for several episodes of The Ren & Stimpy Show in the early 1990s; she had been in a band called the Pussywillows, who cut this nifty version of Neil Diamond’s “The Boat That I Row”, and after they broke up, she founded a band called, yes, the Shitbirds. This may be the only video of them that exists, and it’s impossible to judge their melanin levels; they cut a perfectly wonderful album called Famous Recording Artists, which as of this past weekend was still available on iTunes. If you ask me, the highlight therefrom was “I Want You.”

As a solo singer, April March’s biggest hit was “Chick Habit,” an English translation of Serge Gainsbourg’s “Laisse Tomber les Filles,” which Quentin Tarantino saw fit to work into the soundtrack of Death Proof. Being something of a Francophile, March also recorded it in French.

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We got your Dash right here

The World’s Youngest Blogger reports that in terms of sheer dash, he’s way ahead of Kim Kardashian.

Being rather dashless myself — so to speak — I’ve had to import some from beyond the Everfree Forest:

Rainbow Dash salutes

This is of course obviously Photoshopped, because who in Equestria has ever seen a flag like this? (The real flag of Equestria, I am told, looks something like this.)

Wait, what? “Too involved,” you say? Not a chance. Besides, I’ve already been warned by Twilight Sparkle:

Tweet by Tara Strong

(Rainbow Dash image courtesy of Timothy Newton, who is now blogging at Singular Spectrum.)

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Cheapskinned

College, shmollege. It’s all trade schools these days:

Starting with the G.I. Bill, the notion that all high school graduates should attend college, specifically as preparation for their “future careers,” has taken a ferocious grip on Americans’ minds. Our colleges and universities have come to resemble trade schools in many ways, though the “trades” for which they purport to prepare us bear little resemblance to the ones BOCES alumni practice.

American grammar and high schools exhibit that orientation in their obsessive insistence upon preparing for college. Breathes there a “guidance counselor” anywhere in this land whose first question upon meeting a new student isn’t some variation on “What would you like to do for a career?” Testing for “aptitudes” has completely displaced intelligence tests in our high schools. (This might be for the best, considering how many American teenagers possess the intelligence of an earthworm.) The whole edifice appears designed to get young Americans aimed toward an office occupation of some sort, such that non-office alternatives — e.g., entrepreneurship; the clergy, the blue-collar trades; a military career — are effaced from consideration.

As a person of a Certain Age, I have taken scads of aptitude tests, most of which suggested that I would be a paper-pusher par excellence. The Army duly slotted me for a personnel-management billet, and in my subsequent civilian years, I found myself doing largely administrative-type work, without actually obtaining any administrative-type titles. It happens that I am good at what I do, though nothing in my “educational” background would so indicate; there is literally no curriculum in any institution of learning which teaches my current skill set.

Nor is my collar entirely white: I spend a fair amount of time producing actual printed materials, which suggest a blue collar, and I have the ink stains (which are not blue) to prove it. Come to think of it, I usually wear a pocket T to work, and it doesn’t have any collar at all.

And it’s difficult for me to imagine how I’d be any better qualified for this position, which pays me on the high side of the administrative range, but on the low side of the technical, had I spent five figures (now probably six figures) chasing down degrees. You certainly won’t see any guidance counselors pushing anyone toward this slot. Besides, my presence in that slot is largely accidental: the previous occupant departed without much notice, and I was one of only two or three people in the entire operation who had ever even seen an IBM midrange before. (I’d worked on some of the big iron, even.) Since they had better things to do, the position became mine by default. Fortunately, I learn quickly.

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