A number of no great importance

Here is the 750th Vent, but that’s not the number I came to talk about.

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Rebel Alliance eludes Death Star

The AT&T/T-Mobile merger isn’t exactly dead, but it’s definitely coughing up something. Oh, wait, that’s dollars:

AT&T will continue to seek antitrust clearance for its merger with rival T-Mobile USA, it said Thursday. However, to reflect the break-up fee it will have to pay T-Mobile’s owner Deutsche Telekom if the deal does not get regulatory approval, AT&T expects to recognize a $4 billion accounting charge in the fourth quarter.

Deutsche Telekom and AT&T have withdrawn the license transfer applications they filed with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, and will instead concentrate on defending against a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Department of Justice in August to block the deal, AT&T said.

For T-Mo, which would get $3 billion in cash plus a billion worth of spectrum, this might be enough to keep going, though Deutsche Telekom would really, truly, like to unload its American cousin, mired in fourth place in the market and showing few signs of growth — though I have to figure that much of the turmoil at T-Mo of late has been pure merger-based FUD.

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Metadata yesterday

I noted in my review of the Dr. Smith album earlier this week that the CD was too new to be in the Gracenote database, and that I’d semi-laboriously keyed in all that stuff. While I think I got everything correct, I can’t swear to it, and I have to figure that even if I didn’t goof something up on this album, somebody else goofed something up on another.

In several versions of Winamp there is an Auto-Tag function tied to the Gracenote database. Vikram describes it thusly:

Auto-tagging is a feature which was added in Winamp 5.5 and later versions couple of years back. It tags your mp3 files using the Gracenotes CDDB server, doesn’t relies on any kind of meta-data present in file, neither it does uses the file name for this purpose. It can even tag a file correctly even if you rename the file… The feature renames the ID3 tag information of mp3 files automatically with details like Title, Artist, Album name, Year, Genre, etc.

I hadn’t used it before, and I wasn’t planning to use it yesterday, but I got clumsy with my mousing. I had scissored out — some of you may want to cover your eyes — the closing theme from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, all 27 seconds of it, with the idea of evaluating it for ringtone potential. While filling in the blanks in Winamp’s tag editor, I inadvertently hit the Auto-Tag button, and this is the song the database thinks I have. Makes me wonder just what criteria it’s using.

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In for a penny

Remember when penny loafers were more or less flat? Here’s a small change:

Night by Boutique 9

“The wild night is calling your name… Will you be ready? These precocious pumps were made for the deviant diva!” So says the Zappos blurb for “Night” by Boutique 9, which takes the classic look to an unexpected (by me, anyway) height. Deviant? Well, maybe not so much: a four-inch heel, even stacked, isn’t that big a deal anymore, and there’s ¾ inch of platform underneath. All colors, at this writing, are marked down from the original $180, the green — well, it isn’t that green — the most of all. In terms of poundage, figure 0.75.

(Suggested by an InStyle tweet pointing to several such shoes.)

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Although her account wasn’t in arrears

There is plastic surgery, and then there is plastic surgery:

Oneal Ron Morris, 30, was arrested by Miami Gardens police on Friday in Fort Lauderdale and charged with causing bodily injury and practicing healthcare without a license… According to the charge, Morris, acting without a required medical practitioner’s license and starting in May 2010, injected substances into the buttocks of a woman client to improve their “shape and cosmetic appearance.” Morris was allegedly paid $700 for this.

And what was Morris using for this, um, booty enhancement?

“Initial laboratory analysis conducted by medical personnel determined the foreign substances injected into the victim consisted of a host of household and automotive products including superglue, mineral oil and “Fix-a-Flat” (a tire repair material),” Jennifer Hirst, deputy press secretary of Florida’s Department of Health, said in an email.

Fix-a-Flat? No wonder he got nailed.

More victims have come forward since the original charge was made public. I think we can be reasonably certain that Sir Mix-A-Lot was not getting medieval on any of their, um, behinds.

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Vintage cool

Lynn never gets gushy, really, but she seemed rather enthusiastic about this 1956 refrigerator, so I figured I ought to take a look at it:

Kelvinator Foodarama

(Original by Shelf Life Taste Test on Flickr.)

I have to smile at this color, which is something called “Lagoon Blue.” (“No dull earth tones,” notes Lynn.) As you might expect, the Foodarama (and don’t you love that name?) is just packed to the gills with every feature known to civilized man, up to and including a freezer-wrap dispenser (in the freezer door, far left).

Kelvinator isn’t the brand it used to be, and I admit to not knowing a whole lot about it, or about the mysterious process of kelvination. I did know that there was a brief period where automakers and appliance makers were desperate to hook up with one another, Ford with Philco, General Motors with Frigidaire — and Nash with Kelvinator. By 1956, Nash had already been merged with Hudson into American Motors; a decade later, AMC and Kelvinator would go their separate ways.

What I didn’t know, of course, was “Who the hell is Kelvin?” There’s only one Kelvin I’ve ever heard of. Turns out, that’s the guy:

In 1914, engineer Nathaniel Wales introduced his idea for a practical electric refrigeration unit for the home to Edmund Copeland and Arnold Goss. With their help, Wales built and distributed his refrigerating mechanism with great success. Two years later, they changed their company name to Kelvinator in honor of the brilliant British physicist, Lord Kelvin.

Take that, you Sub-Zero snobs! This is the man who gave us absolute zero.

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Social insecurity

You’ve already heard me gripe about Facebook and Twitter. I haven’t mentioned LinkedIn because I know nothing about it other than that a friend of mine can clean up your profile in a matter of — well, actually, I don’t know how long it takes.

Doc Rampage, however, despises LinkedIn:

The site is filled with little traps that make it almost impossible to use it to look for a job without letting your current employer know that you are looking. Add a head hunter as a contact? Your current employer gets an email about it within the week. Ask someone for a recommendation? When you get the recommendation, it shows up on your profile and your boss gets an email about it. You can, if you know about it, hide recommendations that you receive, but the guy who sent you the recommendation can’t hide it from his side. It shows up on his profile also, and if your boss is connected to him, your boss gets the email.

They don’t tell you this stuff. And they keep adding things about you to the list of public information without telling you that they are doing so.

So: Facebook on steroids, basically?

Disclosure: I’ve received a few invitations from Trusted Individuals to sign up, but I really haven’t felt the need to add one more social network to the quotidian mix. This didn’t help.

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Festival of light distilled spirits

Wodka billboardThe Anti-Defamation League, you may be certain, did not find this billboard for Wódka brand vodka all that amusing:

“In a crude and offensive way of trying to make a point that their vodka is high quality and inexpensive, the billboards evoke a Jewish holiday to imply something that is cheap and of lesser value when compared to the higher value of a Christian holiday,” said Ron Meier, ADL New York Regional Director. “Particularly with the long history of anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jews and money, with the age-old notion that Jews are cheap, to use the Jewish holiday in dealing with issues of money is clearly insensitive and inappropriate.”

The vodka distributor later announced that the ads were being pulled.

There has been no announcement from Blavod, which produces an unusual black vodka, regarding any Kwanzaa-themed advertising.

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Insert “controller” joke here

A Utah woman who couldn’t distract her husband from Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare put him up for sale on Craigslist:

Kyle Baddley, a 22-year-old war veteran from Logan, learned this the hard way: After “Modern Warfare” took over most of Baddley’s day, his wife, Alyse, “got tired of waiting” and posted him for sale on the free advertising website “just for fun.”

The wording:

“I am selling my 22-year-old husband. He enjoys eating and playing video games all day. Easy to maintain, just feed and water every 3-5 hours. You must have Internet and space for gaming. Got tired of waiting so free to good home. If acceptable replacement is offered, will trade.”

And were there any offers?

“We didn’t think we would get any responses at all, but we’ve gotten so many,” Alyse said. “Someone even offered a blue bag of Skittles.”

And you know, those blue ones aren’t easy to come by in some places.

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Testicular brass

I gotta admit, this takes some sort of shiny alloy:

A company run by former American International Group Inc. Chief Executive Maurice “Hank” Greenberg has sued the United States, claiming that the government takeover of the insurer was unconstitutional.

The lawsuit filed Monday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. seeks at least $25 billion for Greenberg’s Starr International Co. and other shareholders.

This is the fun part:

Starr said that in bailing out AIG and taking a nearly 80 percent stake, the government took property from other shareholders. It said this violated the Fifth Amendment, which bars the taking of private property for public use, without just compensation.

And how much “just compensation” is due? The Feds pumped $180 billion into AIG, which was hemorrhaging dollars left and right. The idea that shareholders would have had something resembling equity, had AIG not been bailed out, is somewhere between humorous and pathetic.

Where’s the damned 99 percent when you need them? They’re certainly not occupying Hank Greenberg’s lawn.

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Suite of sixteen

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (and the similar Keirsey Temperament Sorter) assigns one of two values to each of four characteristics, resulting in 16 possible, um, types. Apparently each of them has a prayer:

MBTI Prayers

(Click to embiggen.)

This particular matrix has been kicking around for a couple of years now in various forms; I’ve forgotten where I found it last month. My apologies to whoever originated it.

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Followed presumably by sticks and bricks

The Oklahoma Republican Party is conducting a straw poll online, running through the 5th of December. It will cost you a $5 (or more) donation to the OK GOP, which is explained thusly:

It helps defray the costs of running the straw poll and the Oklahoma Republican Party believes that requiring a small contribution will help limit the straw poll to committed Republicans who are legally qualified to vote.

Second, this straw poll is being conducted as a fundraising event for the Oklahoma Republican Party to help Republican candidates in the state for the 2012 elections. However, we hope to encourage Oklahoma Republicans to participate by keeping the minimum contribution as low as possible. For example, the Iowa Straw Poll cost $30 per vote and the Ohio Straw Poll cost $25.

The poll results will be announced at a fund-raising event the evening of the 5th.

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Meanwhile on the A-list

Tanni Haas, Ph.D., author of Making It in the Political Blogosphere: The World’s Top Political Bloggers Share the Secrets to Success (Cambridge: Lutterworth Press, 2011), was kind enough to send a review copy this way, and I admit that it took me a while to get around to it, on the basis that if I wanted to know what bloggers think, I could presumably read blogs. Then again, as Dr. Haas points out in the Introduction:

Studies have found that political blog readers consider such blogs more trustworthy sources of information than they do any other mainstream news media, including online and offline newspapers, television, and radio. Political blogs are considered more trustworthy because they provide access to a broader spectrum of issues than is available in the mainstream news media; cover those issues in greater depth, with more independence and points of view; and present them in a manner that’s more understandable and relevant to readers.

And this reflects my own experience: I buy the local newspaper because it’s, well, local, but for national coverage, I’ll hit several blogs and monitor my tweetstream.

“Several,” of course, is not by any means a lot. Dr. Haas says there are 1.3 million blogs classifiable as “political.” (I don’t consider this a political blog: maybe 10 to 15 percent of the posts here have some sort of political orientation.) In the book, twenty name-brand political bloggers are interviewed — six or seven pages each — and now and then there’s something that looks suspiciously like wisdom. For instance, Haas quotes Thomas Lifson of The American Thinker:

Many people write material in order to demonstrate how much they know, or to put forth a point of view they feel strongly about. But they sometimes forget who the reader is, and what the reader needs to know… So the one piece of advice I’d give people is to look at their material through the eyes of the reader who doesn’t know you, who doesn’t care who you are, and who needs to be given a reason to read the next sentence of your posting and continue all the way through.

I am reasonably certain that no one will accuse me of trying to show off how much I know.

The principles of Making It in the Political Blogosphere can occasionally be extended to blogs on other topics; the “tribalism” of poliblogging referred to by Kevin Drum, for instance, likely exists in every other subject with more than a handful of bloggers. I’m thinking, therefore, that the book may also be of interest to people who can’t stand the thought of writing about politics, and there are, I suspect, many more of them.

(Here’s the obligatory Amazon link. The book can be had in trade paperback for $15 or Kindle-ized for $9.99. Being as how I’m in a generous mood, I’ll send a PDF to the first five people who ask nicely.)

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Cabinet refinishing

The precedent was set by Ronald Reagan, who in eight years managed not to dismantle the Department of Education. Subsequent Presidents in both parties have followed Reagan’s lead, and while it’s not too difficult to see why the Democrats have done so, it might be unclear why the Republicans have done the same. It is not, however, unclear to Robert Stacy McCain:

[A]bolishing whole departments of the federal government would deprive the next Republican president of the opportunity to appoint their cronies to top jobs in those departments. Maybe you have no desire to be an assistant deputy undersecretary in the Department of Education, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t well-connected Republicans who covet such posts. So you’re messing with the “jobs for the boys” factor of partisan loyalty, which doesn’t matter to you — the rank-and-file voter — but matters a great deal to young GOP operatives who see an administration position as a stepping stone to a lucrative career as a K Street lobbyist.

Which suggests an idea: Close K Street. You can’t actually get rid of lobbyists — there’s that whole First Amendment business about the right to “petition the Government for a redress of grievances,” not that these people are likely to have any grievances worthy of the name, but you can’t slap ‘em down for the sake of slapping — but if various institutions can get away with so-called Free Speech Zones, at a linear distance from anyone controversial who happens to show up, there’s no reason why you can’t set up a Universal Lobby somewhere in, say, the Flint Hills of Kansas.

Of course, the more elegant solution would be to get the government out of areas where lobbyists have persistent interests, but this isn’t happening either: see Reagan, supra.

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Which is a combination of “Detroit” and “detritus,” of course. Doug Ross has a list of the 10 worst cars ever produced by Detroit, and while I have no particular qualms about selecting the Chevrolet Vega as The Worst — it was indeed a shitty little car — I have several items for demurral.

Number Six was the Jaguar X-type, which qualifies as a Detroit car only because Ford owned Jaguar at the time, and it is not, as suggested, a Jagified Taurus: it was based on the European Ford Mondeo. Now we did get Ford and Mercury versions of the Mondeo — the Contour/Mystique twins — though arguably the Jag, with its higher price tag, sucked worse.

Admittedly, Number Five, the Pontiac Aztek, has been on the receiving end of opprobrium for quite a long time, but apart from its ungainly stance, the only real problem with it was searing, wretched fugliness. And the driver didn’t have to look at that so long as he kept driving.

And how could they leave off the AMC/Renault Alliance? This Kenosha, Wisconsin product of “Franco-American Motors” started out as one of the best-built cars in the land, and ended up four years later as one of the worst: more than half of them were recalled for a questionable connection between heater core and cooling system which, if you were lucky, would merely dump hot, steaming Prestone into your lap.

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We need a title for this

Sometimes the simplest shtick is the best. Steve Melcher has been vending something called That Is Priceless, billed as “Art’s Greatest Masterpieces Made Slightly Funnier,” for many months (and one book) now. The structure is always the same: artwork, artist, and then completely bogus but often hilarious title. An example from not too long ago:

Girl in the Fields by Charles Sprague Pearce

Charles Sprague Pearce, American

Taylor Lautner in “Anne of Green Gables,” 1881

Oil on canvas

This was #702. I have no idea how long he can keep doing this, but I have to figure there are many hundreds of paintings just waiting to be given a 21st-century context.

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