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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Deconstruction zone

Precisely what does this mean?

The valuation of order qua meaningful order, rather than order-in-itself, has been thoroughly objectified in the Darwinian worldview. This process of de-contextualization and reification of meaning has ultimately led to the establishment of “dis-order” rather than “this-order”. As a result, Darwinian materialism confronts us with an eradication of meaning from the phenomenological experience of reality. Negative theology however suggests a revaluation of disorder as a necessary precondition of order, as that without which order could not be thought of in an orderly fashion. In that sense, dis-order dissolves into the manifestations of order transcending the materialist realm. Indeed, order becomes only transparent qua order in so far as it is situated against a background of chaos and meaninglessness. This binary opposition between order and dis-order, or between order and that which disrupts order, embodies a central paradox of Darwinian thinking. As Whitehead suggests, reality is not composed of disordered material substances, but as serially-ordered events that are experienced in a subjectively meaningful way.

Answer: Not a damned thing.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

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Why nobody reads the owner’s manual

To check Gwendolyn’s power-steering fluid level (which is at the moment just marginally above LO), I need only raise the hood and glare at the little plastic snowglobe above the passenger-side engine mount. The only trick to it is that there are two different sets of HI/LO marks, depending on whether the fluid is Hot or Not; beyond that, all you need to do is see that the fluid line falls within the appropriate pair.

Meanwhile, this same task requires thirty-two steps in an ’04 Porsche Boxster S:

[T]he Boxster is known for eating power steering pumps. It also requires that the fluid be frequently topped-off. I confess that after just 42,000 miles on the car I hadn’t considered its power-steering needs. The power steering pump is $375. Quite a bit of money for something that can’t last 42,000 miles. If a Hyundai Accent had a power-steering pump failure at 42,000 miles I’d call it an unreliable piece of shit.

Latest price I have on a power-steering pump for a ’00 I30 is $431.21. Then again, this car went over the 139,000-mile mark last week. And that fluid level hasn’t moved in six months.

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Torqued wench

For some reason, Tom Hansen (Joseph Gordon-Leavitt) is believed by some to be the Best Fictional Boyfriend:

It’s unclear as to how much of the internet’s collective rage against Zooey Deschanel is actually based on her as a person, but we do know that a huge percentage of it stems from her character’s treatment of Our Beloved JGL in (500) Days of Summer. How many of us sat at home on our couches (or, let’s be real, in a movie theater full of strangers), yelling, “It’s okay, my sweet prince, I will love you forever! Forget her and come let me lick your precious, be-sweatered wounds!!” (possibly whilst licking the screen)? Or was that just me? I have a hard time believing that we all didn’t feel a serious pang of jealousy as we watched poor TomTom’s heart get torn to shreds by a set of bangs wearing little girl dresses, unable to do a thing about it. Whether he’s drawing on our arms, kissing us in the copy room, or simply gazing at us with eyes that resemble warm chocolate cupcakes, Tom would be a perfect fictional boyfriend.

To tell you the truth, I think it was just her. And whence cometh all this “rage” against ZD? I can think of things she’s done that are far worse than picking on little Tom-Tom, and you don’t see me with knotted BVDs.

Taylor Brogan, who tweeted that thing to my attention — okay, it wasn’t just my attention — has noted:

In the movie, we see on a number of occasions that Tom’s own perception of Summer is very different from reality. The “expectations vs. reality” scene is probably the most obvious example. Based on all of Summer’s past behavior, including her admittance that she isn’t ready for commitment and her continued disinterest during the relationship, Tom still EXPECTS her to want him. He expects her to greet him with love and affection after all that time, because he’s just the nicest guy, you know?

In reality, she’s just a smart, thoughtful twenty-something who knows herself well enough to know that this guy is not the one for her. She initially turns him down, which should have been the Big Damn Signal of Truth and Destiny (“dude, she’s just not that into you”). But Tom is persistent, and she is, presumably, lonely.

I am so stealing that bit about the Big Damn Signal of Truth and Destiny.

If there’s a lesson in this, it’s simply: be wary of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. The most immediate effect of being swept off your feet is losing your equilibrium.

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But Goliath has lawyers

Now on the front page at what used to be the Oklahoma City Coworking Collaborative:

The okcCoCo is announcing that it is being forced to cease operations and dissolving the company. A lawsuit brought by US Fleet Tracking against the okcCoCo and individually against Derrick Parkhurst, one of the founders of the okcCoCo, has brought the company’s operations to a halt by depleting all its funds. okcCoCo founders argue that while they would likely win the lawsuit, the funds to do just are just not available. okcCoCo founders believe that the actions of US Fleet Tracking have been motivated purely by the business interests of US Fleet Tracking owner Jerry Hunter to launch a new business accelerator Blueprint for Business and increase visibility in the okcCoCo community of technology entrepreneurs.

Since 2009, the okcCoCo’s mission has been centered on improving the technical, creative and entrepreneurial opportunities, resources and community in Oklahoma City. “Through our efforts we have helped to find members freelance work and employment, we have promoted and fostered well over 100 startup companies, held dozens of events for technology professionals and entrepreneurs, and have provided meeting space for tens of professional groups,” says Tommy Yi, an okcCoCo co-founder. The okcCoCo is recognized as having created a technology and entrepreneurial hub in Oklahoma City.

As always, it’s all about the dollars:

The legal dispute between okcCoCo and US Fleet Tracking is over a sponsorship agreement made on January 25th, 2012 for $23,000. Some four months later, on May 15th, US Fleet Tracking demanded the return of the funds even though the return of funds was not required by the terms of the sponsorship agreement. okcCoCo was unable to return any funds because of financial decisions and commitments already made at that late date, which were necessary to secure the new location on Film Row. In spite of multiple attempts at settlement, terms of which included both sponsorship opportunities and repayment of the original sum plus interest, no settlement has been reached.

The CoCo Twitter account is stating that USFT is attempting to obtain a gag order against them. USFT, for their part, has sent no tweets in a week, though there’s a lot to be said for the old-fashioned “We do not comment on current litigation.”

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Taming the wild iTunes beast

In my ongoing battle with iTunes 10.7 (q.v.) I have temporarily gained the upper hand, by the expedient of cutting back on hardware acceleration though the DxDiag function in Windows, which defaulted to Absolute Freaking Maximum. I cranked it back to Basic and restarted iTunes. Definite improvement. What it may have done to any other applications running — well, we’ll figure that one out later.

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The blinkers are off

That old guy plodding along in the left lane at 15 below the speed limit? Not me. At least, not for a while yet.

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