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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Sort of verbal

Twilio is a “cloud communications” specialist; one function they offer is an API to produce transcripts of incoming voice calls.

Which is a pretty neat idea, if you ask me. But what happens if you get a call from a fax machine?

The answer is this:

I have an incoming-fax service that works via email. Now if I sent one of the resulting graphics … no, wait, better not. Probably requires dividing by zero or something.

(Via Geekosystem.)

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Instanter incentive

From two weeks ago:

I expected to find premium for $3.299, and sure enough, that’s what it said on the pump.

There were signs all over the place promoting V-Power, Shell’s version of premium, which was nothing unusual. What I didn’t expect was the pump to reset itself to $3.249 before I started.

On the bottom of the receipt tape: “You received 5cpg off today’s purchase just for buying Shell V-Power! Shell V-Power actively cleans for better performance.”

I hit that same Shell station yesterday, and V-Power was posted at $3.119, a decided improvement. I went through the usual opening ritual — slide card, press buttons — and the price reset to $3.069 before I even selected a grade. Evidently Shell remembers what I buy. (Regular, if you’re curious, was posted at $2.799.)

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Captain Justice to the rescue

The case is Tennessee v. Powell, and the prosecution has moved, in limine, that the defense should not be permitted to refer to the prosecutor, an Assistant District Attorney General, as “the Government.” It might sound, you know, prejudicial.

Counsel for the defense replied thusly:

First, the Defendant no longer wants to be called “the Defendant.” This rather archaic term of art, obviously has a fairly negative connotation. It unfairly demeans, and dehumanizes Mr. Donald Powell. The word “defendant” should be banned. At trial, Mr. Powell hereby demands be addressed only by his full name, preceded by the title “Mister.” Alternatively, he may be called simply “the Citizen Accused.” This latter title sounds more respectable than the criminal “Defendant.” The designation “That innocent man” would also be acceptable.

And oh, it gets better:

Moreover, defense counsel does not wish to be referred to as a “lawyer,” or a “defense attorney.” Those terms are substantially more prejudicial than probative. See Tenn. R. Evid. 403. Rather, counsel for the Citizen Accused should be referred to primarily as the “Defender of the Innocent.” This title seems particularly appropriate, because every Citizen Accused is presumed innocent. Alternatively, counsel would also accept the designation “Guardian of the Realm.” Further, the Citizen Accused humbly requests an appropriate military title for his own representative, to match that of the opposing counsel. Whenever addressed by name, the name “Captain Justice” will be appropriate. While less impressive than “General,” still, the more humble term seems suitable. After all, the Captain represents only a Citizen Accused, whereas the General represents an entire State.

WHEREFORE, Captain Justice, Guardian of the Realm and Leader of the Resistance, primarily asks that the Court deny the State’s motion, as lacking legal basis. Alternatively, the Citizen Accused moves for an order in limine modifying the speech code as aforementioned, and requiring any other euphemisms and feel-good terms as the Court finds appropriate.

And here’s where you’ll find the real Captain Justice.

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Oh me, oh my

There is a long-standing tradition in the Anglosphere of describing petite women in doll-like terms. As an example, I give you these paragraphs from British music writer Mike Crofts (Beat Instrumental):

Little Lulu is an impish 5’2″, and every inch, from her natural red hair to her size 3½ shoes, is packed with more energy than a Mars bar.

She’s the original wee Scots lass — who could doubt it with a name like Marie McDonald McLaughlin Lawrie — and she has the aristocratic privilege of being born in a castle!

In the States, she’d wear a 4½, but no matter: things went differently for the young singer here than they did in the UK. At 15, she was signed to Decca and hit in early 1964 with a cover of the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” followed by a vaguely creepy version of Bert Berns’ “Here Comes the Night” (on YouTube, with an extremely creepy film clip) that predated, and if you ask me far surpasses, the 1965 version by Them featuring Van Morrison.

“Shout” staggered to #94 in Billboard, “Here Comes the Night” didn’t chart Stateside at all, and in 1966 Lulu switched to UK Columbia (Epic in the US) to work with producer Mickie Most. In 1967, she’d become a film star of sorts, appearing in, and recording the theme song to, the Sidney Poitier vehicle To Sir With Love, a box-office smash. “To Sir, with Love,” the song, owned the top of the US charts: Billboard named it the top pop single for all of 1967, and inevitably, London Records, the US outpost of Decca, reissued her early stuff on something called From Lulu… With Love, complete with the Mike Crofts liner notes sampled above.

From Lulu With Love - Parrot LP 61016

“To Sir, with Love,” the song, did not chart at all in the UK; it was relegated to the B-side of the “Let’s Pretend” single.

From this point on, she was never really gone, but never really a household word again, though she would chart in the States as late as 1982 and actually sang a theme for a James Bond film (The Man with the Golden Gun, 1974).

This past October, Lulu played her first London show in ten years. A review of the sold-out performance:

Repeatedly she returned to the theme of rediscovering the music that first inspired her. She’s one of those performers who loses herself in a song, and when she gets a chance to dig into something as organic and rich as Eric Clapton’s “Bell Bottom Blues,” incredible things happen. She is still in possession of one of the great voices of British popular music. If this really was a sounding board for Lulu to work out what she wants to do next, I am looking forward to the classic soul album that her voice really deserves.

And she can still work that “wee Scots lass” look, kinda sorta, at sixty-five:

Lulu in 2012

Our title, of course, comes from this 1969 hit:

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Quote of the week

Gabrielle Francesca East — her friends call her Dolly — on the bill we had to pass to know what was in it:

The regime has tried to persuade Americans that Obamacare is a market-based solution. It’s not. What it is, actually, is a cargo cult attempt at making from scratch an institution which is not instituted, but grows organically. So all the hagiographic wanking in the commentariat is all better to spill your seed on the ground than in the belly of a whore kinda stuff.

But that doesn’t matter. The key, dispositive point of principle is that the government has no business in the medicine business and needs to be told to butt out — which command may need to be reinforced with a smack on the nose with a rolled-up newspaper.

Which are easier to roll these days, owing to extreme thinness caused by reduced advertising volume.

And on that “we have to pass it” business:

Yep. In every sense of the word.

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The Garden State of mind

A Buzzfeed piece with the title The 28 Most New Jersey Things To Ever Happen yielded up this picture, captioned “Realistic benefactor”:

Two appliances by the side of the road

This probably wasn’t in Hunterdon County. Maybe.

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An awful lot of interpolation

Apparently Facebook can now tell, or at least guesstimate, the object of your affections:

Though 27% of Facebook users don’t list their relationship status at all, only about half of those people are single, according to a Men’s Health article. If you’re one of these users committing the crime of omission, Facebook’s team of “in-house sociologists” has been researching ways to find you out…

If you’re “friends” with several of your other half’s co-workers, family members and friends, for example, Facebook may deduce that your only mutual link to these profiles is your assumed wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend. Researchers said they had a high success rate in correctly guessing someone’s romantic partner by this method.

Will Truman contemplates what this may actually mean:

This opens up a potentially crucial role for Facebook in the human social domain. You know what I always hated about relationships? I hated trying to nail down where exactly things stood. I’ll bet there is a lot of potential here for Facebook to tell you. Or they can at least give you a heads up. “In case you were unaware, statistically speaking, you are in a relationship with Suzie.” It would be a very helpful pointer for the unaware.

Of course, you could decide that you don’t want to be in a relationship with Suzie at all. And you can say “Facebook! You’re wrong!” But you ought to make sure that Suzie thinks that Facebook is wrong, too. It could have a real positive social impact of making us have the very important conversation that some are too good at avoiding.

There are several potential Suzies on my “friends” list, and I can tell you exactly where I stand with all of them: nowhere.

And while this situation may be disheartening, it bothers me less than the possibility that Facebook may select a Suzie for me and put her name on my wall — or worse, her wall — for the whole world to see.

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Meanwhile on the dihydrogen monoxide front

For years we’ve known, or thought we’d known, that hot water tends to freeze a bit faster than cold water, the so-called Mpemba Effect. However, no explanation, one way or another, seemed to make any sense — until now:

Each molecule of water is made up of two hydrogen atoms bonded covalently to a single atom of oxygen. Those bonds, which involve atoms sharing electrons, are well understood. But the separate water molecules are bound together, too, by weaker forces generated by hydrogen bonds. They occur when a hydrogen atom from one molecule of water sits close to an oxygen atom from another—and they give rise to many of water’s interesting properties, like its strangely high boiling point.

Now, Xi Zhang [Nanyang Technological University, Singapore] is suggesting that those same bonds cause the Mpemba effect. The idea is pretty simple: bring water molecules into close contact, and a natural repulsion between the molecules causes the covalent bonds to stretch and store energy. As the the liquid warms up, the hydrogen bonds stretch as the water gets less dense and the molecules move further apart.

That extra stretch in hydrogen bonds allows the covalent bonds to relax and shrink a little, giving up their energy. The process of covalent bonds giving up energy is equivalent to cooling, so warm water should in theory cool faster than cold.

Seems plausible enough to me, with my, um, smattering of chemistry.

Cite: arXiv:1310.6514 [physics.chem-ph]

(Via Daily Pundit.)

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Chewed up and spit out

It is a measure of how things were going tonight at the Target Center that Rick Adelman apparently decided that the Timberwolves didn’t have to guard against the Thunder’s perimeter shots. And Adelman, as he so often is, was correct: you could leave OKC wide open, and they’d still miss. It was pretty much all over after the third quarter, with the Wolves leading 88-60; the ceremonial emptying of the benches midway through the fourth, as you might expect, made no substantive difference. Minnesota 100, Oklahoma City 81, and if this is a preview of the battle for the Northwest, we got trouble.

It’s usually not a good sign when your most accurate shooter is Kendrick Perkins: Perk put up only three shots, but he got them all. For comparison: Kevin Durant was 4-11; Serge Ibaka was 3-13; Thabo Sefolosha was 1-8. Jeremy Lamb, who ran the offense in the last half of the fourth, had a team-high 16 points on 7-15 shooting; Lamb made two treys out of five tries, which doesn’t sound bad, but the rest of the team was 5-26 from outside. Telltale statistic: two fast-break points.

On the other side of the court, three Wolves contributed double-doubles: Kevin Love (24 points, 12 rebounds), Nikola Peković (15 points, 10 rebounds), and Ricky Rubio (14 points, 10 assists). Except for a few seconds early in the first quarter, Minnesota led throughout, and generally played as though they expected to.

First home game for the Thunder will be Sunday against the Suns. Right now, I’m not inclined to predict anything other than darkness for a 6 pm tipoff. (It’s the end of DST, doncha know.)

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