Your basic blowhard

A bad idea with, possibly, a worse justification:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Where can I find an adapter to use a can of automotive R-134a refrigerant as a computer duster?

The argument, such as it is:

I know that R-134a sold for use in auto A/C systems is more expensive ounce-for-ounce, but it would be well worth the extra cost if it means I don’t have to get denatonium bitterant all over my hands when I dust stuff off. Those damn kids who decided to huff it ruined it for the rest of us, and now they put that crap in duster cans, making innocent users suffer as a result. I don’t care where the adapter comes from, as long as it works with the cans of R-134a you see at the auto parts stores.

This is the point where we run into the actual EPA regulations on R-134a, which say that it’s illegal to vent the stuff into the atmosphere “during any service, maintenance, repair or disposal of an appliance.” Is a computer an “appliance”? I rather suspect EPA is not above declaring a computer an “appliance” should they wish to get, um, huffy.

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Yeti won’t go away

February departs here quietly this year, apart from the wind, but March reverts to its old in-like-a-lion shtick this weekend, which brings to mind the words of James Lileks:

Outside there is no relief, no surcease. Six below this morning. A high of ZERO on Thursday, with a low of minus 18, but that doesn’t include the astonishing effect of the wind, which makes it about 30 below at times. The news today said the wind was picking up snow from the previous dumps and whipping it into blizzard-like conditions on the roads, which is like the old line about a second nuclear strike just making the rubble bounce. You have to understand that the snow is frozen solid into a hard mass, like extruded foam; if you slip and fall and smack your head into a snowdrift it does not yield. It is possible to get a concussion by coming in contact with precipitation.

Wife is walking around with haunted hollow eyes; daughter goes off in the morning like someone who’s been in the trenches of the Great War for four years and is being sent, once more, over the top. We are told that the temps will approach normal next week, but after that it’s back into the clutches of the Polar Vortex, which everyone now imagines as the Abominable Snowman’s bluish rectum.

Well, if they didn’t, they do now.

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Or they can picket to death

The failure of the United Auto Workers to organize the workers at Volkswagen Chattanooga is symptomatic of a larger problem, says the Urbanophile:

If you look at it, unions may be on the last institutions in America that haven’t rethought their business model for the 21st century. They still want to play hardball to organize, then insist on things like crazy work rule systems and puristic seniority pay structures, political advocacy, etc. What has that gotten them? The private sector is down to like 6% unionized, much of it in industries that are increasingly subject to foreign competition and thus whose management cannot give much away without sabotaging their business.

Then again, America’s hilariously outmoded labor laws don’t give them a whole lot of choice in the matter: the cozy relationship that exists between VW and its German unions is not only nonexistent here, it’s actually illegal.

Still, it’s not like the whole concept is dead just yet:

The one part of the union movement that still seems to be doing fairly well is the trade unions. Many of them have long operated on this model. You get into the union where the union trains you and are staffed on a project basis (e.g., constructing a bridge). The union delivers your benefits and pensions, based on payments from the employers… Trade unions and their hiring halls are basically contract consulting providers of the type that routinely provide technical employees to major corporations. Why can’t other unions, reconstituted as a type of worker’s collective, do the same thing? And unlike contracting firms, they wouldn’t have to take nearly as big a middleman’s cut.

This might not work particularly well in automotive: to make the model properly functional, you presumably need, not large volumes of work in a few places, but smaller volumes of work all over the place. But it’s a model that’s worked in many trades, and if there’s anything Big Labor needs right now, it’s a model that works.

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What does the fax say?

Rather than keep a fax machine on line, I outsource the task of handling incoming fax to eFax, which drops an image of the fax in my email. This has worked swimmingly for many years, until yesterday, when I got two faxes that weren’t for me.

And then I looked at them, and they weren’t faxes at all. Was someone trying to spoof eFax? The message headers looked plausible enough, and the one link that worked did in fact go to eFax, which said that the item in question did not exist.

Very, very strange.

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When dictionaries won’t do

There’s more here than meets the eye, but not much more:

A British woman attempted to sue her former lawyers for professional negligence, claiming that, alongside a number of other allegations, they failed to advise that finalising divorce proceedings would inevitably cause her marriage to end.

The curious case — made against two solicitor firms — had already been rejected by the court, but was revealed in the transcript of a later appeal by the claimant against the dismissal of other aspects of her case.

Jane Mulcahy had argued that the lawyers should have made it clear that a divorce would cause her marriage to be terminated — something which she apparently wanted to avoid.

The solicitors, I suspect, thought this was perfectly obvious. But this was her issue:

The allegation was revealed in a subsequent appeal court judgment last month, in which Lord Justice Briggs said: “The most striking of Mrs Mulcahy’s many allegations of negligence against her solicitors was that, having regard to her Roman Catholic faith, Mrs Boots had failed to give her the advice which was requisite in view of her firmly held belief in the sanctity of marriage … either in terms of the alternative of judicial separation, or about the impossibility of pursuing divorce proceedings to a clean break settlement, without thereby inevitably bringing about the final termination of her marriage, which she wished to avoid.”

Mrs Mulcahy evidently remains divorced.

(Via this Doug Mataconis tweet.)

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Small fry to be dismembered

Little fish, traditionally, are gobbled up by bigger fish, and eventually the little fish are no longer viable. Epinions, established in 1999 to collect user product reviews, was bought out in 2003 by DealTime, which in turn mutated to was acquired in 2005 by eBay. What happened to the little swimmer? He’s being flushed:

Why is eBay discontinuing operations of the Epinions community?
Several obstacles, such as declining site participation, have deeply affected our business and forced us to make this difficult decision.

Will I be able to edit or delete my reviews?
As of February 25, 2014, you will not be able to edit your content.

How long will I be able to access my Epinions account?
As of March 25, 2014, you will no longer be able to login to your account.

No great loss to me; I never quite understood how their business model actually worked, but I did make a few bucks off it.

(Via this Dan Tobias tweet.)

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Accuracy in gazing

Fished out of yesterday’s spammage:

Good day, I realize that this would be gazed upon as spam, but …

At this point, tl;dr took over.

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Hey, deprecate this, pal

I admit to not meeting the first requirement, but otherwise:

Have you ever shoved a <blink> into a <marquee> tag? Pixar gets all the accolades today, but in the 90s this was a serious feat of computer animation. By combining these two tags, you were a trailblazer. A person capable of great innovation. A human being that all other human beings could aspire to.

You were a web developer in the 1990s.

With that status, you knew you were hot shit. And you brought with you a score of the most fearsome technological innovations, the likes of which we haven’t come close to replicating ever since.

One of which I still use every single week:

Are images too advanced for you? HTML For Dummies doesn’t cover the <IMG> tag until chapter four? Well, you’re in luck: the &nbsp; tag is here!

You may be saying to yourself, “Self, I know all about HTML entity encoding. What is this dastardly handsome man going on about?”

The answer, dear reasonably attractive reader, is an innovation that youth of today don’t respect nearly enough: the stacked &nbsp;. Much like the 1×1.gif trick, you can just arbitrarily scale &nbsp; for whatever needs you may face.

Two of them, for instance, keep apart the search string and the remark appended thereto, in every Monday’s list of strange search-engine queries. And the text file that serves the “It is written” proto-widget contains several, though they’re intended to keep pairs of initials — think “P. J.” or “G. K.” — from being split at the end of the line.

I realize that this will irritate people who can’t bear the thought of a page actually not passing validation. But hey, you take your little delights where you find them.

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Knightly news

The Cleveland Cavaliers occupy one of the lower rungs of the Eastern Conference, and have been there more or less ever since King James took his muscles to South Beach, but however lowly their position in the standings, they always manage to get themselves up for the Thunder. Seriously. The last three seasons, the Cavs were generally considered terrible, but they always managed a 1-1 split with OKC. And despite the absence of both C. J. Miles and Anderson Varejao, the Cavs summoned more than enough strength to score 42 in the fourth quarter and knock off the Thunder by ten, 114-104.

Kyrie Irving did the sort of closing job one expects from the likes of Kevin Durant: he was everywhere in those last 12 minutes, scoring 14 to finish the night with a game-high 31. The four other Cleveland starters also made double figures: the generally underrated Jarrett Jack knocked down 21, recent transplants Spencer Hawes and Luol Deng added 19 and 13, and Tristan Thompson kicked up a double-double on 11 points and 11 boards. The reserves weren’t asked to do much other than hold serve, and they did that well enough: all four of them went plus for the night, while the five Thunder benchers were minus.

Not that the starters were so hot. Durant and Serge Ibaka had double-doubles (KD, 28 points/10 boards, Serge 16 points/13 boards), and Russell Westbrook, allowed 30 minutes tonight, looked pretty good with 24 points and nine assists. But that was about it: Steven Adams will be a pretty good center some day, but this wasn’t that day, and Reggie Jackson was going through one of his periodic incidences of “Now where does this round thing go?” Oh, and there’s this: without Kendrick Perkins, the Thunder are 0-4 this year.

So much for Cleveland cream-puffiness. The Thunder are going to be seriously manhandled by the likes of Memphis, who, not incidentally, will show up here Friday night.

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Fingers faster than brain

Either that, or he meant to snub lesbians:

Tweet by Dan Patrick

Patrick, a Houston-area Republican who represents Texas Senate District 7 and who would like to be the next Lieutenant Governor, hurriedly pulled this tweet back and replaced it with one more to his liking.


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Mid-year crisis

The dreaded Malfunction Indicator Light emerged from its deserved darkness a couple weeks ago. After a few seconds short of one week, it vanished, only to reappear a few minutes after the biweekly dose of Shell V-Power.

Yep, I said. Gotta be the gas cap. (Well, it doesn’t gotta be, but the diagnosis fits the behavior.) Before driving all the way up the Broadway Distention to the dealership, though, I had the presence of mind to call the parts guy first.

He wanted the VIN.

Turns out that Nissan made a running change during that model year, and there were two different gas caps. (This wasn’t the only thing they changed, either. The early dash had two dimmer switches, one for use when the lights are off; I don’t have that, but I do have side air bags, a late addition to the equipment list.) The one I take, of course, is (1) the more expensive one (2) that has to be trucked in from Nashville.

If nothing else, this explains why AlldataDIY, normally thorough in its coverage, has nothing for this gas cap other than a diagram and a test routine.

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Remember your email address? Well, forget it:

Facebook’s foray into email ended Monday, when the social media giant quietly retired the email service that many users didn’t even know existed. Users received a notice saying the email addresses they deployed are going away.

“We’re making this change because most people haven’t been using their Facebook email addresses, and we wanted to make it easier to view all your emails in one place,” the message read.

Yeah, sure. I’ll believe that when they delete the “Other” message folder.

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For those who need a patron

A saint for our times, perhaps?

Since February 2004 San Precario, patron saint of precarious, casualised, sessional, intermittent, temporary, flexible, project, freelance and fractional workers, has appeared in various Italian cities. The saint appears in public spaces on occasions of rallies, marches, interventions, demonstrations, film festivals, fashion parades, and, being a saint, processions. Often he performs miracles. Although the first appearances are recorded on 29 February 2004, San Precario has multiplied and materialised in different disguises. Equitable in his choices, San Precario does not privilege one category of precarious worker over another, and he can appear in supermarkets in urban peripheries, in bookstores or, glammed up, at the Venice Film Festival. San Precario is also transgender, and it has appeared also as a female saint. A “cult” has spread rapidly and has led to the development of a distinct and colorful iconography, hagiography and rituals. Appropriating the Italian Catholic tradition of carrying saint statues in processions in urban spaces, the cult of San Precario functions at the same time as étournement, as a Temporary Autonomous Zone (TAZ), as carnival. It is also a tactic to make visible issues arising from the increasing casualisation of the work force. At a different level it can be considered a site of mythopoetic production.

I do like that word “mythopoetic”: with twice the latitude of either myth or poem, it conceivably could pack four times the punch — a useful attribute for a saint whose feast day occurs only once every four years.

(Via this Nancy Friedman tweet.)

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Worth getting up for

The new, improved Breakfast of Champions:

We went to the breakfast buffet at Golden Corral and decimated the bacon tray.


Just so you know we had a balanced breakfast, we also had cheesy hashbrowns, very oily homefries, gravy that was last used as salty spackle on the International Space Station, and an apple slice drowned in the caramel fountain.

Sorry, no calorie count: it’s too much trouble to do scientific notation in HTML.

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Move over, darling

No, seriously. Move it on over. Now.

Doris Day rolls on

This has been just one of 28 Cringe-Worthy Vintage Product Endorsements you’ll find at Collectors Weekly.

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Young blood, and then some

There is something seriously wrong with this:

Three British liberals are feeling the heat these days, as well they should: Harriet Harman (Deputy Leader of the Labour Party), her MP husband Jack Dromey, and former minister Patricia Hewitt have been found by a Daily Mail investigation to have supported and promoted the agenda of a group called the PIE (Paedophile Information Exchange) through the NCCL (National Council for Civil Liberties). All three were ‘leading officials’ of the NCCL in the 70s/80s, which worked for four years with the PIE, a group of shameless, predatory child-molesters who lobbied to lower the age of consent to just four years old.

PIE, as it happens, was officially disbanded in 1984. And hairs were split: what PIE had said about four-year-olds was that they can “communicate verbally their consent to sex.” One must presume that they are also capable of communicating verbally well enough to deny consent.

And anyway, four-year-olds were of comparatively minor interest to PIE:

In 1978–9, the Paedophile Information Exchange surveyed its members and found that they were most attracted to girls aged 8–11 and boys aged 11–15.

Well, that’s different.

Maybe I’m old-fashioned in some regards. But I persist in thinking that fiddling about with jailbait should result in jail — or gaol, if they’d rather.

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