A lot of John Smiths these days

There’s that word “cyberbullying” again, and as always, politicians, lest they find themselves on the receiving end of it, are demanding that Something Be Done:

Proposed legislation … would require New York-based websites, such as blogs and newspapers, to “remove any comments posted on his or her website by an anonymous poster unless such anonymous poster agrees to attach his or her name to the post.”

Um, yeah. Good luck with that.

Republican Assemblyman Jim Conte said the legislation would cut down on “mean-spirited and baseless political attacks” and “turns the spotlight on cyberbullies by forcing them to reveal their identity.”

Sen. Thomas O’Mara, a Republican who is also sponsoring the measure, said it would “help lend some accountability to the internet age.”

Remember when the GOP actually went to the effort of pretending to be interested in the preservation of free speech? Me either. (And we all know the Democratic Party perspective: absolute freedom so long as you toe the party line, otherwise screw you.)

There is, of course, a punchline:

The bills also demand those sites to have a contact number or e-mail address posted for “such removal requests, clearly visible in any sections where comments are posted.”

Oddly, the bill has no identification requirement for those who request the takedown of anonymous content.

Now why would anyone think that to be odd?

(Seen at The Camp of the Saints.)

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Even newer math

It was Tom Lehrer who derided New Math way back when: “It’s so very simple that only a child can do it.”

Diana Senechal notes that things haven’t improved that much:

I was recently looking at AMSCO’s Geometry — better than many in terms of presentation. Very little clutter. But even AMSCO has word problems like this: “Amy said that if the radius of a circular cylinder were doubled and the height decreased by one-half, the volume of the cylinder would remain unchanged. Do you agree with Amy? Explain why or why not.” There is no reason to bring Amy into this; Amy’s presence does nothing for the problem. Also, turning this into a matter of opinion (“do you agree or disagree”) confuses the matter. Instead, the student should be asked whether the statement is correct or incorrect.

Then again, this might hurt the student’s feelings. Or Amy’s.

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Like a player

Found this on a celebrity photo board last night:

Screen shot featuring nonce word pre-madonna

Actually, Madonna’s first album (called, with disarming simplicity, Madonna) came out two years before LeBron James was born, but hey, you can’t expect King James to do everything alone.

A kind soul — not me — showed up a couple minutes later to provide the correct word.

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Meanwhile in Greenville

A few days back, George Tierney, of Greenville, South Carolina, got the beginnings of an object lesson in the Streisand Effect, when he threatened to sue a lefty blogger who was happily making fun of him for tweeting some mean-spirited (and barely comprehensible) drivel at Sandra Fluke, the young woman who got her 15 minutes of fame a few months ago for arguing that we should subsidize her contraception. Tierney was extremely rude to her, screenshots of the rudeness were posted, and out came the threat:

You dont get to make the rules. I am the george tierney that made the comments to sandra fluke, not to you..take it off google. If it goes to a lawyer, it will be settled in court, with me getting paid.

Brian K. White of GlossyNews subsequently wangled a telephone interview with Tierney, who, you may remember, lives in Greenville, South Carolina. I suspect this will not help him get “off google.”

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Doing the walk

This week, actress Patricia Heaton got her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame:

Patricia Heaton

Said star, I am told, is at 6533 Hollywood Boulevard, in front of the Hudson Apartments.

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Lileks explains it all

“It,” of course, being Social Media:

Facebook? Still no. I have the page, but don’t go there. My entire attitude towards Facebook is like a man who knows there’s a surprise party waiting upstairs in his apartment, and spends the evening in a bar, talking to a stranger. I get so tired of being asked to Like something or follow it.

I don’t mean to say I find social media annoying or useless: on the contrary. Facebook is too static. Too slow. Twitter is a stroll down a busy street listening to different conversations; Pinterest is a museum / thrift store / attic you can visit when you please. Facebook seems like hamming pitons in a sheer cliff wall and climbing up, up, up, for no particular reason.

That last bit may backfire on us: what’s to stop Zynga from setting up a time sink game called CliffVille?

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Today’s dietary advice

That big hunk of liverwurst has been there since October first, and today is the twenty-third of May.

You have been warned.

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Turn on Automatic Upsets

I usually leave Windows Update live, on the basis that if I ignore it the way I’d prefer to, eventually I’ll end up having to do a couple of hundred updates at once and the CPU will laugh at me, in between gasps for breath.

Last night, Microsoft sent down three updates for .NET Framework, which I duly accepted and allowed to be installed; I was delighted to see that no reboot was demanded. Then, about ten minutes later, exactly the same updates came down the chute. Okay, maybe I didn’t get the fail message; we’ll watch them this time.

Installation complete, dialog box closed, and ten minutes later, exactly the same updates came down the chute. In a fit of pique, I attempted to uninstall all my .NET Framework stuff, which was met with “Dave, I can’t allow you to do that.”

This obviously required a time machine. I jumped back to a Sunday restore point, allowed the updates to install, and the next time they arrived, instructed the updater never to darken my screen again with these farging things. So far, so good.

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When you wish upon a truck

Daphne wonders, and I don’t blame her for wondering:

When was the last time you bought a new car? Factory new, not used new. I’m wondering because I spent several hours looking at new cars online after a day stuck at home waiting for the septic system guy to arrive. The prices floored me and I was left curious as how normal people earning a median income can possibly afford a thirty, forty or fifty thousand dollar vehicle?

According to TrueCar, at the end of 2011, the average transaction price was running $30,686.

The last time, in fact the only time I bought new, was 2000: I bought a $20,000 car, that being as far as I was able to push.

Although these factors must be taken into consideration:

I also don’t want ugly cloth seats, a roof lacking a retractable window or steering better suited for Noah’s clunky ark. Which leaves me back to scrounging around for another used vehicle and wondering who, in this economy, still buys straight off the lot?

I did. I got cloth seats, which weren’t that horrible looking, no hole in the roof, and pretty sharp steering. And since there were only two of this model left on the lot — arrival of the next model year was imminent — the dealer was happy to let this $20k car go for $15,400 and change. I’d still have it were it not for a wandering ruminant of the family Cervidae.

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In which I attempt to adjust to the idea that there’s only one Bee Gee left.

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Bona fide ponified

Dusty SageAbout a month ago, I did a piece about a My Little Pony-related Linux distro in the form of a letter to Princess Celestia and signed it “Your semi-reliable news gatherer, Dusty Sage.” It occurred to me shortly thereafter that there ought to be a pony, or at least a ponysona, fitting that description. (Rule 85: “If it exists, there is a pony of it. No exceptions.”)

With that in mind, here’s your first look — it would have been your second if you’d clicked on the link in that earlier post, which you almost certainly didn’t, inasmuch as I didn’t add it right away — at Dusty Sage. Note the tumbling tumbleweed used as cutie duty mark.

And no, I can’t draw worth a lick; I spent about three quarters of an hour juggling components on this handy-dandy builder routine.

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Semi-intelligent design

On occasion, I am inclined to revile Firefox for various and sundry crimes against productivity, but one feature recently refined actually scores on the positive side of the ledger.

I hoover up maybe half a dozen graphics a day, sometimes more — sometimes a lot more — occasionally with the intention of using them here for something. Now there exists a “download” directory in My Documents, which I spurn; the default destination is the desktop, on the basis that I can’t lose something on the desktop and can move it at will later. (As a matter of fact, I have lost things on the desktop, but not often.) Firefox, however, at least as early as version 10, has undertaken to guess which of my thousand or so directories is the proper place to save any given right-clicked picture. (Pictures which are not right-clickable, of course, present a different scenario entirely.) Admittedly, there are only 40 active graphics directories, so about 960 possibilities are eliminated right off the bat. Still, Firefox guesses right more than half the time; I assume that it remembers where I’ve gotten stuff before, and if it sees the same site, proposes the same directory.

Curiously, Firefox’s best showing so far is with pictures of Zooey Deschanel, having routed 33 of the last 35 such graphics to the precise directory where I stash same. I have no idea why this should be so, since I have multiple sources for ZD pix.

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And in the end, it was the classic Reverse Cartman: “Screw you guys, you’re going home.” The Thunder were up six after three, and there was just a bit of uneasiness in Loud City. Not to worry: OKC went on an 8-0 run to start the quarter, watching the Lakers burn two timeouts in three minutes and roll up 9 points in ten and a half minutes. At the horn, it wasn’t close to being close: Oklahoma City 106, Los Angeles 90, and the Finals beckon.

Kobe, at least, did what he could, tossing up a highly creditable 42 points on 18-33 shooting. The problem, of course, is that all the rest of the Lakers could manage only 48 points in aggregate. Pau Gasol, who played 44 minutes, spent at least ten of them doing his best impression of the stereotypical cigar-store Indian. Andrew Bynum had more fouls than rebounds, fercrissake. In fact, the Lakers had only 35 rebounds, 16 from Gasol. And while I hate to harp on L. A.’s lack of depth, the bench came up with a whole 5 points.

The Thunder, meanwhile, reeled in 51 boards, 14 off the offensive glass. (The Lakers had three.) Russell Westbrook, struggling early, made it look easy in the second half, finishing with a team-high 27. Kevin Durant tossed in 25; James Harden got 17. (The rest of the bench got 18. Nyah.) But what will be remembered about this game will be the defense: Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison making life difficult for anyone daring to trespass into the paint, and KD scooping up ten boards just because he’s Kevin Durant.

Well, that and the crowd chanting “Beat the Spurs” on the way out of the roundhouse.

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Enjoy the silence

Nicolas Cage performs John Cage’s 4’33”:

Clearly this was a piece he was born to play.

(See also this fully orchestrated version.)

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Shut up and take your Golf Channel

Allegedly, there are ways to buy your cable programming without being tethered to the actual cable. Or not, as Gabriel Rossman points out:

A famous Oatmeal cartoon showed the cartoonist making a good faith effort to buy Game of Thrones. He finds that the show is not available on iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu. He tries to buy HBO Go, but it’s only available as an add-on to a cable package. Finally, the cartoonist gives up trying to pay for the show and pirates it through Bit Torrent. This cartoon is probably the best ever expression of the “piracy is a customer service issue” thesis.

In a way, this doesn’t make any sense for HBO, which makes its money off subscriptions and would ostensibly welcome an opportunity to sell subscriptions to another market segment. HBO claims that (a) people aren’t interested in a la carte HBO Go and (b) the transaction costs are too high to do their own billing, etc. The technical term for these explanations is “bullshit.”

A closer look at said excrement:

Cable is a total cash cow and a more flexible business model means lower revenues. The reason is that the incumbent business model of cable combines the features of bundling (basic cable) and a two-part tariff (premium cable channels) for a perfect storm of price discrimination. For much the same reason as Disneyland could only lose money if it sold a la carte tickets to Splash Mountain for $20 without requiring $80 park admission (which includes access to Main Street, Jungle Cruise, etc), cable companies would lose money if you could buy HBO Go for $20 without first buying basic cable (which includes access to ESPN, MTV, etc).

And I need hardly point out that $70 a month is a hell of a lot of money if all you’re likely to watch is, to pick a couple of examples entirely at random, the NBA and My Little Pony. The alternatives, however, are not good. A whole season (26 episodes) of MLP:FiM on iTunes runs $77.74; NBA League Pass is only $189.95 for the season, but if local-team games are broadcast anywhere, be it over-the-air or on cable, they’re duly blacked out on NBALP, which somewhat defeats my purpose.

So I wait for this business model to crumble, as it must, and as others are crumbling before it.

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Keeping secrets from the Overlords

I was going to post a comment over at Jeffro’s — specifically, on this piece about the band Shinedown, a few of whose songs I have put into the regular rotation — and I duly went to the Google sign-in page. For the second time, they asked me for my mobile number; for the second time, I declined to give it up; for the second time, the session ended with an obscure error code and no comment posted.

There are, it seems, three ways to approach this matter:

  1. Give up the number and be done with it, following Scott McNealy’s dictum: “You have zero privacy. Get over it.”
  2. Give them my fax number instead. It’s not like anyone is likely to send me a fax.
  3. Avoid Blogger-based sites in the future.

I am leaning toward #2, but I’m open to suggestions. In the meantime, I need to see if my OpenID still works.

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