I suspect she didn’t like it

Frothing Mouse reviews Micro:

I’m a huge fan of Crichton and Preston and Preston/Child books. They all create lovely worlds of weirdness and action and thrills that rarely disappoint. This one is so poorly written — I mean, we’re talking about TAKS test narratives by fourth grade Texas students written — and so requiring of belief suspension with retarded segues and INSERTED plot devices — that it left my head spinning. It’s stunningly bad. And you know what? I still had to finish it just to find out that, yes, what I thought would happen, happened. I skimmed pages so bad that I was really just registering punctuation. And I knew what happened. It will be made into a movie for sure. It is HORRIBLE FUBAR EPIC FAIL.

“Retarded segues” is immediately going into my Arsenal of Critical Contumely.

Three other reviews at the same link, including a smallish disquisition on J. K. Rowling’s post-Potter plodder.

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A rial catastrophe

Take budget deficits, add Western sanctions, stir briskly, and watch for the currency to fall:

In a sign of the multi-layered theories swirling in Iran, some economists and experts have accused the government of trying to devalue its currency in order to meet its own budget deficit.

The government earns more than 90 percent of Iran’s overall foreign exchange revenues as a result of oil sales. Higher dollar rates bring more rials into the treasury to pay salaries and fund state programs, such as guarantee stipends to compensate for the withdrawal of fuel and food subsidies last year.

[Shamseddin] Hosseini, the economy minister, challenged the government’s critics to provide more than just claims. “We are not after devaluating rial,” the semi-official Fars news agency quoted Hosseini as saying. “Those who make such claims better offer evidence.”

Devaluing a currency to pay government debts? Whoever heard of such a thing? And does this curve look familiar?

Just incidentally, last week a US dollar bought 24,000 rials. This week it fetches 35,000. The smallest banknote is the 100-rial note, though Wikipedia notes, presumably unironically: “The 100, 200 and 500 rial banknotes are becoming increasingly uncommon; shopkeepers habitually give out small packages of gum in lieu of the last 500 rials of change.”

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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“Data wants to be free,” says Doc Searls, “but value wants to be paid for,” and there’s no better illustration of this than the flap over Apple’s inept iOS6 Maps application:

I’d rather see Google offer Google Maps for sale, at a fair price, in the Apple Apps store. And I’d like to see Apple approve that product for sale, pronto.

Trust me: plenty of customers will pay. Google will not only drive home the real value of its Maps app (and all the good work behind it), but get some long-overdue practice at doing real customer service. Google’s high dependence on a single source of revenue — advertising — is a vulnerability that can only be reduced by broadening the company’s businesses. The future of selling direct has been looming at Google for a long time. There is a great opportunity, right now, to do that in a big way with Google Maps.

Meanwhile, Apple, which does sell direct, managed to stick it to its own customers while trying to stick it to Google. And what did they get for their trouble? This:

Twilight Sparkle reads a map

When ponies turn their backs on you, you’ve got problems.

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Appreciation schedule

Three years ago, a Texas man trying to avoid a pelican dunked his million-dollar-plus Bugatti Veyron into three feet of water, the sort of situation for which the phrase “total loss” was invented.

Or, you know, not:

Philadelphia Insurers say that Andy House is attempting to commit insurance fraud by filing his $2.2 million claim for the wrecked vehicle, and they say they have some powerful evidence.

A passenger in a nearby car happened to be taking footage of the luxury sports car speeding down a service road along Interstate 45 in Houston. No pelican is visible in the video, and the car seems to make a more gradual approach into the La Marque lagoon.

For a while, said video was actually up on the Web, but seems to have vanished. (Discovery?)

And anyway, a new Veyron might be $2.2 million, exchange rates being what they are — the price, when it’s quoted at all, is generally quoted in euros — but the Bugatti getting the dunk treatment back in ’09 was an ’06 model that sold for about a third less than that.

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From the If Only files

Steve Sailer, perhaps to stir the pot a little bit, has imagined two different scenarios in which we’d already had a black President:

  • Walter Mondale picks Tom Bradley for the Veep slot in 1984, manages to beat a rattled-in-the-debates Ronald Reagan, and is killed when Air Force One crashes;
  • Colin Powell, urged on by Mrs Powell, defeats Bob Dole, then Bill Clinton, in 1996.

Given either one of these scenarios, Sailer asks:

In either alternative history, does Barack Obama become the second black President? If there had already been a first black president, would anyone have ever even considered Obama to be Presidential Timber? Would you have ever even heard of Obama?

Sailer’s commentariat, at the moment, seems to be evenly split among Yes, No, and Blame the Jews. I figure we have fewer axes to grind here, so I’ve imported the question. (I lean towards No, but I’m willing to be shown the error of my ways, if such it be.)

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Zooeypalooza 16!

Just to clear up a lingering matter: I am not out of pictures of Zooey Deschanel. And to prove it:

Zooeypalooza 16!

That which is shrunk will grow with a little bit of mouse attention.

Paloozas of the past: ZP 1, ZP 2, ZP 3, ZP 4, ZP 5, ZP 6, ZP 7, ZP 8, ZP 9, ZP 10, ZP 11, ZP 12, ZP 13, ZP 14, ZP 15.

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The lone sentry

Bird on a holly

Here’s a different angle. I got off three shots before umbrage was taken and the premises were vacated.

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In the mooed

I have long argued — with scarcely any dissenting voices, I might add — that I am utterly unable to read signals from allegedly “interested” females. Then again, there’s no percentage in it for them, so ultimately it’s a wash.

On the other hoof, if you need to know when your cows are in heat, there’s something resembling an app for that:

[Christian] Oesch tends a herd of dairy cattle and carries a smartphone wherever he goes. Occasionally he gets an SMS from one of his cows.

That is because Mr. Oesch, 60, who cares for a herd of 44 Red Holstein and Jersey dairy cows, is helping to test a device that implants sensors in cows to let farmers know when they are in heat. When that is the case, the device sends an SMS to the farmer’s phone.

There is, of course, the best possible reason for this:

The electronic heat detector is the brainchild of several professors at a technical college in the nearby Swiss capital of Bern. It fills a market gap, they say, because dairy cows, under growing stress to produce larger quantities of milk, are showing fewer and fewer signs of heat. That makes it harder for Swiss farmers to use traditional visual inspections to know when to bring on the bull or, in about 80 percent of the cases these days, the artificial inseminator.

Romance just ain’t what it used to be, if indeed it ever was.

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Rebound romance

T-Mobile, having jilted its last suitor, is now rushing headlong into the arms of another:

Deutsche Telekom and MetroPCS said they will merge their U.S. mobile operations to create a larger fourth-place player better able to compete with rivals.

The boards of both companies voted on Wednesday to approve the deal, which will see Deutsche Telekom hold 74 percent and MetroPCS 26 percent in the combined entity.

MetroPCS, the #5 carrier in the States, is technically buying T-Mobile:

The deal is effectively a reverse merger, in which smaller MetroPCS, which is listed in the U.S, will buy T-Mobile U.S. The companies said the deal would be “structured as a recapitalisation” in which MetroPCS will declare a 1 for 2 reverse stock split and make a cash payment of $1.5 billion to its shareholders.

The combined company, which will be called T-Mobile and led by current boss John Legere, will have 42.5 million subscribers and pro forma revenues in 2012 of $24.8 billion.

This will put T-Mo in US stock exchanges, but won’t put it within shouting distance of #3 Sprint, which has 56 million subscribers. And I wonder just how much difficulty is added by the fact that MetroPCS is CDMA-based, while present-day T-Mo is purely GSM.

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New moon on Wednesday

This shoe is called “Moon,” but it doesn’t seem, you know, all that moon-like:

Indigo by Clarks Valley Moon

On the other hand, it’s as unballetic a ballet flat as I’ve ever seen, what with that patent toe and the bronze-colored leather. (Other combinations are available.)

About Clarks Valley’s Indigo line:

Indigo is fashionable. Never trendy. Classic. Never boring. Fusing unique design with premium materials to bring distinctive style to every wardrobe, the Indigo collection is witty and surprising, artsy and stylish. For women who take sincere delight in mixing and matching clothes and accessories to achieve a look that’s unique and expressive, Indigo is a fresh new expression of comfort.

Of course, they have to say that.

“Moon” can be had from Zappos for a hundred bucks. (I found this on their Map app.)

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To my utter amazement

Some time before the weekend, I got myself a comma: I’ve had one thousand story views at FIMFiction, which is somewhere around nine hundred more than I had any reason to expect.

And the way they count story views is ultra-conservative: they count only the most-read chapter in each story, which will usually be Chapter 1. (Rationale: people who really hate the premise will not go on to Chapter 2.) They give a separate count for total chapter views, which is now a bit over 3,000. I’ve been tracking this for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve noticed one thing I might actually consider heartening: almost every new reader who’s landed on the two multi-chapter works (one has six, the other four) has, as the phrase goes, Read The Whole Thing.

This is by no means an indication that I should quit my day job or anything, but it suggests that I might be slightly less untalented than I thought.

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The voice of experience

Cover art for Cedar + Gold by Tristan PrettymanMy introduction to Tristan Prettyman was the wonderful 2008 single “Madly,” which tucked a near-Alanis-level diatribe into bouncy California pop with actual power chords on the piano, fercrissake. In the wake of the moderate-to-marginal success of that tune and the Hello…x album whence it came, she got engaged to, then was disengaged from, Jason Mraz; had a dollop of polyps scythed off her vocal cords; and wondered if maybe she was in the wrong damn business altogether. (She did, after all, start off as a model, and she does have the looks.)

I am here to tell you that her career choice was indeed wise: Cedar + Gold, released yesterday, is a stunner. The single, “My Oh My,” is the closest thing to an earworm on the premises, but what’s going to bring you back for more is raw, naked emotion: just the title of “I Was Gonna Marry You” gives away the game. “Glass Jar” points the finger: “You gave up on us / You got the whole world watching and everyone’s attention / You turned your head and you never even mentioned us.” And lest you become gloomy, there’s something called “The Rebound,” a hilarious account of a pickup at Trader Joe’s. (“I lost my number / Can I have yours?”) Taylor Swift wishes she wrote songs this strong.

(Reviewed from the iTunes version, which includes one bonus track.)

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Blight ideas

One of the least pleasant sections of overwrought May Avenue is roughly 30th to 40th, which has tedious (at best) architecture, pavement below the local standard (which is pretty damned poor), and several of these:

An often-overlooked opportunity for infill development is a ubiquitous land use across disinvested inner cities: the mom-and-pop, unlicensed used car dealership. We’ve all seen them before: names like “R&W Auto Sales” (pick your favorite two letters and separate with an ampersand), prices never into the five digits (and sometimes not even four), no website, and signage along the lines of “buy now and take home”. It isn’t a particularly bold statement to suggest that small used dealerships flourish in low-income neighborhoods. They are a cue that land values in the area are low: aside from the fact that they are more likely to locate close to their demographic base, these dealerships need cheap land to operate. Obviously they require more space than a convenience store or a tax filing service in order to run the business; their inventory occupies a parking lot. And since the inventory is already significantly devalued, the best way to guarantee a secure profit margin is to operate on land where the per square foot costs are rock bottom.

The May Avenue model offers exactly one improvement: mom and pop are staying home, and the Big Boys are pretending to be small-timers. Bob Moore wouldn’t have put his own name on Eldorado Motors, though its establishment during the days when Moore had a single-line dealership — yep, Cadillac — should have been a clue. And that secure profit margin is made more so by scary-looking interest rates.

One could argue that, as with payday-loan joints, these operations are providing a service for the poor, though the inspiration seems to be less Mother Teresa than Canada Bill Jones, who insisted on the immorality of allowing suckers to keep their money.

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And room to carry a cello

This is the new-for-2013 Škoda Octavia, with a background pony in the foreground:

Octavias in stereo

Škoda, a Czech automaker acquired by the Volkswagen Group in 2000, built a small car called Octavia through the 1960s, and revived the name in 1996. The new Octavia shares the VW MQB platform with the Audi A3 and the newest VW Golf. Of course, it won’t be coming here.

See also the fanfic Octavia Takes the Bus.

(As you may have suspected, via My Little Brony.)

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Cram it, Rudolph

In some perhaps-fortunate places, political ads may be drowning out holiday-themed ads for the next month or so:

According to Ad Age, the lead-up to this Election Day will be dominated by campaign spots — especially those of the Presidential variety — so some big retailers like Best Buy and Kmart likely won’t be making their holiday push until after the polls are closed.

Except, of course, in the 51 or 52 states where the results are already a foregone conclusion, where you may safely assume Presidential ad buys will be minimal. In this day and age, this just might be one of the most persuasive arguments for the Electoral College.

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No visuals, please

Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, once put out a video called Faces Made for Radio, a celebration of all things Car Talk, with the possible exception of “Stump the Chumps.”

The implication, of course, is that some people are on the radio because nobody could stand to look at them. Then there’s BBC Radio 5’s Victoria Derbyshire:

Victoria Derbyshire of BBC Radio 5

It’s her forty-fourth birthday today. And apparently as of yesterday she’s quit smoking.

Me? I have a voice made for magazines.

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