Squirmish expedience

Not everyone is delighted to see Sarah Palin, of all people, endorsing Donald Trump, of all people:

Palin is standing in Ames, Iowa to put her support behind someone who cannot be trusted to protect the unborn, who has twice traded in his wives for younger models (literally), who claims to be for the “little guy” but who has been all-too-willing to use government as a hired thug to line his own pocket, and who spent years making significant donations to Hillary Clinton, the likely Democratic nominee.

I miss the Sarah Palin I thought I knew. I miss the tough-talking governor who energized the 2008 ticket. I miss the tea party champion. I miss the brave woman who didn’t just talk the talk, but walked the walk on the pro-life issue, no matter how nasty the attacks on her and her family. I don’t know where this Sarah Palin went, but she wasn’t in Iowa today.

This, of course, assumes that (1) Palin blew it and (2) Trump doesn’t have a chance anyway. Not sure about (1), but I’m pretty sure (2) does not apply.

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Only so much variation

Jason Toon’s sales pitches for Meh.com are even snarkier than the ones he used to write for Woot, but they disappear after the product goes off sale at midnight Eastern. This is the last half of the piece he wrote for the Tuesday deal, two pairs of Boom Swap headphones:

[T]he Boom Swap headphones offer you a reasonable variety of customization options, so you can’t do any real damage. On-ear or over-ear cups. Alternate headband pads and ear caps, in a limited palette of mostly sympathetic shades: black/blue, white/black/green, and for the truly outré, mint/orange/black.

Even if you mix and match the parts from multiple pairs in different colors, your customized look will stay well within the bounds of societal consensus as to what headphones should be.

A narrow, tightly controlled range of choices that prevent changes of any real consequence: if it’s good enough for our political system, it’s good enough for our headphones.

Ow. That’s gonna leave multi-colored marks.

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Another one bites the taco

I knew about May and Britton (the first one listed), but not the others:

I mean, I haven’t been there in ages, but I’m sure they weren’t waiting on me to show up.

Dave at GreaterFalls.com will be devastated. Remind me not to mention this in front of him.

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Plange this

This landed in the mailbox, and provided small amusement for a short period of time. Assume [sic] throughout:

I want you, Handsome! I want to come to you and surrender to you all without the end)) I will be like a fire. It’ll light your torch of passion and we’ll delve into the world of illusions and fabulous pleasure. This pleasure will be so nice for us. We’ll be in the bed with you, and we will do some crazy things)) I’ll slide along your body. My hair and nipples will tickle your body pleasantly. My tongue will lick you. I’ll kiss your lips)) You will get a very strong pleasure and will get excited from it. That I’ll begin to stroke your cock very in a passionate rhythm. You’ll plunge into the tremendous passion. I want to plange with you. Call me.

Obviously this is no one who knows me.

Then there was this bit of weirdness at the bottom:

This Week In Webclips
Ando’s always welcome here, Mikey Wright rages, taking care of PNG, and more
Sneak Peek: In This Issue
At First Sight
Firsthand accounts of some of the greatest modern surf discoveries.
Journey to the Center
Finding the point of intersection between the old world and the new in Gabon.
The Long Way to Lagundr

Curiously, no links were provided for any of these, not that I was going to look at them or anything.

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Lots of heavy breathing

Despite their lowly place in the standings — eleventh in the West — the Nuggets have been pretty decent of late, winning four of six and knocking off the likes of Indiana (!) and Golden State (!!) during that stretch. And there were plenty of moments when it looked like they’d do the same to Oklahoma City tonight. Billy Donovan, still experimenting with the rotation, at one point in the fourth was playing one starter — Serge Ibaka — and four reserves: Enes Kanter, Dion Waiters, Cameron Payne and Kyle Singler. Kanter was making shots, Payne was stealing balls, Singler was retrieving rebounds, and Waiters, well, he has nights like this. As the big guns drifted back in, Denver whittled an 11-point OKC lead down to five; as time wore down, the Thunder got foul-happy, or something, and the Nuggets crept to within four with a minute left. And it was Kanter who saved the day, swishing two free throws just inside the 30-second mark. Kenneth Faried came up with a layup and an and-one, but failed to make the one. Kevin Durant put up two more freebies, making it a six-point game; rookie guard Emmanuel Mudiay failed to inbound the ball, and that was the end, Oklahoma City 110, Denver 104, 3-0 in the season series with one to go.

Shooting percentage was almost identical for both teams (42 and a fraction), but OKC put up 14 more shots. Denver did a better job on the long ball, though, making seven of 20. (Thunder: 6-28. Payne missed six of those by himself, along with three shorter shots. Still, Cam had four steals and six assists, so it’s not like he was gasping for breath.) Not too shockingly, Danilo Gallinari had a team-high 27 for the Nuggets on 10-21. Contrast: Russell Westbrook, 27 points on 10-22; KD, 30 on 10-23. Nobody was going to get that eleventh shot. (Kanter was 10-14 for 25, just to kill the symmetry of the example.)

There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact that this is the first game of a back-to-back, and all the starters except Andre Roberson played over 30 minutes. Asked about that beforehand, Donovan said: “I play for today.” Tomorrow he gets to play for tomorrow, at home against the Charlotte Hornets.

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Not giving a flying feather

I admit to thinking this when the news came out about the passing of Glenn Frey — and where the hell are all our rock stars going this month? — but I was bumfuzzled to see it on the Fark article: “No, I said DON HENLEY must die.”

To explain:

Henley, bless him, actually joined Mojo on stage one night to sing this song — though somehow it ended up about Rick Astley.

Note: Some of you may recognize this title from an entirely different context. You may or may not want to read the comments on this piece from Strong Language, which contain, um, strong language.

As for Glenn Frey, I hope he’s happy in the afterlife, and they don’t hold this song against him.

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Bandwidthout

It is de rigueur for us occasionally peripatetic types to grumble about the Wi-Fi offered in this hotel or that resort. (Me, I hunt around for a Cat5 jack, and usually I find one. Yes, I carry cables.) But there’s another side to that story:

I have way more sympathy for hotels and their wifi systems. We installed a wifi system in a 100 site campground in Alabama. That system has become a data black hole — no matter how much bandwidth I invest in, people use more. Every night it seems like there are 300 people on 100 campsites all trying to stream a movie in HD. I am not sure it will ever [be] enough, and we get no end of speed complaints despite having an absurd T1 bandwidth into the system. I can’t see myself ever investing in such a system again.

Not that a T1 is all that doggone fast: 1.544 Mbit/sec. Divide that by 300 and you have approximately AOL circa 1994. Still, the principle seems clear: the more bandwidth you have, the more gets used. Traffic planners, in the automotive sense, have known this for years, and have occasionally behaved accordingly.

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The matrix rebloated

I’m not the guy who writes the code, but I’m usually the guy who has to answer the halts, and few things on a green screen are quite as frustrating as this: An array index is out of range. There follow several, usually four, options, none of them good. I lean towards D, which is basically C (cancel program) plus spool a memory dump.

It happens to the best of us:

Applications written around arrays have caused much destruction. I once had a matrix mechanics job, a twelve-hour program that ran on a supercomputer, fail in the ninth hour because of an array problem. The great continent-wide communications crash of a decade ago was caused by a mis-defined array. Two major stock market recording debacles occurred because an array was undersized — the same array in both cases, ironically enough.

Then again, a lot of this is legacy code that we don’t have time to rewrite. I swear, there are still bits of junk from the 1990s being called here in 2016.

This is probably not the time to note that we have one office subsystem running on a Windows XP box.

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Nor can you spray it away

About 1974, Frank Zappa put out a minor masterwork called “Stink-Foot,” which is the only song I know that contains the word “bromhidrosis.” From the lyrics:

My python boot is too tight
I couldn’t get it off last night
A week went by
And now it’s July
I finally got it off
And my girlfriend cried
You got the Stink-Foot!

Cristina of Shoe-Tease has happened upon a treatment for your python boots or other shoes, from Calgary-based startup Ever Bamboo:

  • Sachets contain 100% natural bamboo charcoal & are rounded at the tip to easily place into shoes, even those hard to reach pointy pumps! They work really well in children’s shoes too :)
  • Easy to use: simply place inside of shoe. No need to wet or modify them
  • Unscented to absorb odours rather than mask them
  • Starts working just after a few hours in the shoes
  • Reactivates under sunlight every 1-2 months
  • Lasts up to 1 year
  • Renewable: when 1 year is up, empty the pouches into soil to regular moisture. How eco-friendly is that?!

If people fear being downwind from your shoe rack — but never mind, let’s not even contemplate that possibility.

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Simply Susan

“Susan Hayward? Gee, I haven’t thought about her since I Want to Live.” And my mind went into High Boggle at the thought, given the fact that Hayward’s character ends up in California’s gas chamber.

“No, dummy. HEYWARD. With an E. She’s in that TV show on PlayStation.”

Putting aside “There’s a TV show on PlayStation?” for the moment, I resolved to do due diligence on Susan Heyward, who has a bunch of film and theatrical credits, including Powers, the aforementioned TV show, in which she’s the second lead, Deena Pilgrim, who works in a police division in a world where some people — presumably, some of the wrong people — have superpowers of a sort.

Portrait of Susan Heyward

Susan Heyward at HBO premiere of Vinyl

The latter picture was snapped at the premiere for HBO’s forthcoming series Vinyl, set in a grimy 1973 New York at the offices of a failing record label. From “grimy” and “New York,” you might guess that Martin Scorsese is involved, and indeed he directed the pilot. Heyward has a role therein. Bragworthy? You bet.

Producing, with Scorsese: Mick Jagger.

And on a different scale, here’s the trailer for the short Busted on Brigham Lane, in which Heyward is the lead:

I apologize for my earlier lack of diligence.

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Dial 0 for nothing

AT&T has asked for permission to dispose of what few operators remain:

AT&T Inc. has applied for an approval from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to drop its operator assisted services like collect calling, person-to-person calling, billed to third party, Busy Line Verification (BLV), Busy Line Interruption (BLI), and International Directory Assistance from its operational portfolio. The company, which is the second largest U.S. wireless carrier in terms of subscriber count, cites steady decline in usage of these services due to obsolescence as the main reason behind the move. AT&T seeks to terminate these services in the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

How steady a decline, you ask?

AT&T highlighted that its operator-assisted calls have declined annually at a rate of 18% over the last five years. Moreover, its total operator assisted service traffic plunged 93% from the 2004 levels, with the last two years witnessing around 19% fall.

This doesn’t affect me on a technical basis: I don’t think I’ve used any of these services in a decade or more. But I was once married to an operator, and while this won’t affect her either — she’s long since retired — it’s just another reminder of a world that used to be, and never will be again.

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Hiding behind the cloud

I have long suspected that some of the alleged silver linings of cloud storage were actually nothing more than zinc, and this doesn’t make me feel any better:

In late 2012, I decided that it was time for my last remaining music CDs to go. Between MacBook Airs and the just-introduced MacBook Pro with Retina Display, ours had suddenly become a CD-player-free household.

The 150-or-so CDs in question were living a second life as AAC files in my iTunes library, but a niggling thought persisted: what if something better than AAC came along? What if I wanted a higher bitrate after all? What if?

The solution seemed obvious, since commodity-level multi-terabyte drives weren’t ubiquitous then: send it up to the cloud, and specifically the Amazon Glacier segment thereof. Sixty gigs for less than a buck a month? Sounds good to me.

Then those drives materialized, and why spend even a buck for storage anymore? So he decided to retrieve the files, and this happened:

Glacier data retrievals are priced based on the peak hourly retrieval capacity used within a calendar month. You implicitly and retroactively “provision” this capacity for the entire month by submitting retrieval requests. My single 60GB restore determined my data retrieval capacity, and hence price, for the month of January, with the following logic:

  • 60.8GB retrieved over 4 hours = a peak retrieval rate of 15.2GB per hour
  • 15.2GB/hour at $0.011/GB over the 744 hours in January = $124.40
  • Add 24% VAT for the total of $154.25.

Plus bandwidth costs, bringing the bill to $158.83, which would buy several terabytes of drive.

More and more, we expect cloud infrastructure to behave like an utility. And like with utilities, even though we might not always know how the prices are determined, we expect to understand the billing model we are charged under. Armed with that understanding, we can make informed decisions about the level of due diligence appropriate in a specific situation.

The danger is when we think we understand a model, but in reality don’t.

Yep. I don’t think I’d have figured that out from the Glacier pricing FAQ.

Disclosure: I am a customer of Amazon Web Services, though I have never used the Glacier service.

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Limited memory

Something else I need to think about:

Imagine that you lost your cellphone with its built-in address book. How many phone numbers you remember and can dial by yourself, no cheat-sheet involved?

I have actual data, or at least an anecdote, on this, from the time my original phone from the days of VoiceStream (!) went south and no new model would accept its ancient SIM card. Of 24 numbers in storage, I was able to remember exactly nine.

Fortunately, I heard from enough of the missing over the next few days to (mostly) replenish the contact directory.

(Current contact list: 28, though one I deem expendable and will delete one of these days.)

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Needful markup

J. Random Dullard, whom you’ve seen all over the Interwebs complaining about huge — nay, yuge — corporate profits, is of course full of it:

When a random sample of American adults were asked the question “Just a rough guess, what percent profit on each dollar of sales do you think the average company makes after taxes?” for the Reason-Rupe poll in May 2013, the average response was 36%! That response was very close to historical results from the polling organization ORC’s polls for a slightly different, but related question: What percent profit on each dollar of sales do you think the average manufacturer makes after taxes? Responses to that question in 9 different polls between 1971 and 1987 ranged from 28% to 37% and averaged 31.6%.

How do the public’s estimates of corporate profit margins compare to reality? Not surprisingly they are off by a huge margin. According to this Yahoo! Finance database for 212 different industries, the average profit margin for the most recent quarter was 7.5% and the median profit margin was 6.5% (see chart above). Interestingly, there wasn’t a single industry out of 212 that had a profit margin as high as 36% in the most recent quarter.

Nor can you assume that Dullard is a left-leaning, gun-fearing Pajama Boy, either:

The seller had a wildly optimistic $485 on the tag but allowed as how he’d let it go for $425 out the door. Considering a brand new one retails at our shop for $499.95, Glock’s minimum advertised price, that was a less than attractive deal.

I did look around for a new one at the show, because retail profit margins on new base model Gen 3 Glocks are so razor thin that even my employee discount only saves me ten bucks or so, which would have been outweighed by instant gratification.

Most people have no idea how thin the margin on new guns is. I’m not aware of any similarly-priced consumer good that sells at retail for so little markup.

Truth be told, I wasn’t aware of the margin on new guns, though if you’d asked me cold a couple of days ago I’d probably have said “Maybe 10 to 15 percent.” Certainly nowhere in the 30s.

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Strange search-engine queries (520)

According to the Weather Guys, who start their figuring from the first of December, we’re now in the middle of winter. From here on out, it can only get better, right? Never, ever assume that. In the meantime, let’s look at the latest search strings.

“enter this code to prove you are not a robot” mazda 6 lease price:  This practice discriminates against driving robots, and will not be tolerated in the Xeljanz administration.

pop tarts 2004:  Long since expired. Throw them away.

tinder verified:  Not as meaningful as being the Mayor on Foursquare.

readme.html wordpress vodka flavored vodka  Delete “readme.html”; it is of no use to anyone except malware distributors. Now pass me some of that vodka-flavored vodka.

invisible bikini prank:  Never knew the Emperor was trying on swimsuits.

warren has been struggling to eat healthier, but he forgot to pack a lunch and he is starving. he pulls into the fast food drive-through lane, and as he ponders the options he decides to go for a hamburger instead of a cheeseburger. he gets a small order of french fries instead of a large order:  All he had to do was order a Diet Coke, which eliminates all calories, amiright?

wordpress.com shrill:  You obviously haven’t been on Tumblr lately.

jason hangs sheetrock for a local contractor. his job requires him to hang the sheetrock overhead on ceilings. what type of ergonomic-related hazard is jason likely to encounter?:  Severe headache, gravity-assisted.

geometry works:  It does! Ask the guy standing under the Sheetrock.

trying to be less of an asshole than i was yesterday:  Call back in three weeks.

amos moses was a cajun:  And a one-armed Cajun at that.

not superman:  This describes every one of us, except maybe that Clark Kent guy.

mary’s parents bought her a used bicycle for her birthday. she was thrilled until she learned that her best friend received a brand new bicycle to celebrate ground hog day. mary’s declining satisfaction illustrates:  That you should never buy gifts in February.

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Playing them cool

One expects, in these post-LeBron days, games with the Heat to be titanic defensive struggles, and the first half of this game was exactly that: a low-scoring (44-42), high-friction contest. Miami pulled to within one early in the third quarter, but someone somewhere turned on a switch, and the Thunder pounded down 31 points in those 12 minutes to go up 18. Radio guy Matt Pinto pointed out that the Heat were playing the last game of a six-game road trip, and maybe Miami was tired; but I’m thinking the Thunder finally figured out how to break the turgid pace and play its own game — and, purely incidentally I’m sure, ruin Dwyane Wade’s birthday. (Wade had 18 points by halftime, but was held to four thereafter.) The final was Oklahoma City 99, Miami 74, the 30th win for OKC out of 42.

There was a brief incident of specsmanship in the fourth quarter. Kevin Durant (24 points) had already retired for the night; Russell Westbrook stayed in long enough to finish up his second consecutive triple-double (13-10-15). Dion Waiters is still on a hot streak: 6-11 for 18 points. But the man with the Big Plus was +20 Andre Roberson, who bothered Wade as much as Wade could possibly be bothered.

Miami was missing a couple of warm bodies: neither Goran Dragić nor Beno Udrih was available. Still, Tyler Johnson competently filled in for Dragić and Hassan Whiteside was good for a double-double (14 points/11 boards). If there’s a Telltale Statistic, it’s this one: Miami got their 42 percent from the floor on 30 made shots out of 72. The Thunder, at 46 percent, hit 40-88. Sixteen more made shots. This is the benefit of playing at Thunder speed, and tonight Miami wasn’t dialed into it — at least, not in the second half.

Weird schedule next week: at Denver Tuesday, at home against Charlotte on Wednesday, then out to Dallas (Friday), Brooklyn (Sunday afternoon), New York (Tuesday), and Minnesota (again!) on Wednesday. Doable, but lots of potential for trappage.

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