Scullyer than thou

Once upon a time, readers of FHM selected Gillian Anderson as the Sexiest Woman in the World. And that time, you’ll want to know, was 1996. How does she look today? (By “today,” I mean “earlier this week on a British talk show.”)

Gillian Anderson

I’d say, certainly better than FHM, which wound up withdrawing from American newsstands in 2006. And besides, when’s the last time I showed you anything this orange?

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The name of this scam is talking heads

Bill Quick’s take on campaign debates is pretty much the same as mine:

Actually, if it were up to me, I’d ban debates entirely. Too much is at stake to hang a primary nomination on a mis-statement or an unimpressive makeup job.

Or, for that matter, an uninformed, possibly even hostile, moderator.

A lot of candidates complain about not getting their message out. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that these 90-second driblets don’t constitute much of a message. Right now, about the only value I see to the debates is the marked increase in snark I notice in my tweetstream.

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Advice from a spammer

Dropped into the Akismet queue yesterday:

You must master the artwork and technology of traffic for your website. Is the web site without site visitors is like having an ice cream store within the desert, located one hundred km from the nearest highway. It has the most efficient ice cream on this planet, but when anyone enters your retailer, you are going to be defeated.

About three hours later, from the same IP:

Personally, I will positioned the squeeze on my web site and use it to get an inventory that I will marketplace many times.

I hate it when my squeeze is unpositioned.

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Several hundred Fridays from now

Tiffani Azani writes in Business 2 Community:

I think Rebecca Black has well established that her current fame is more important than whatever else should happen in the future. But that begs the question, will her fame actually last? And in 20 years, when she looks back on her teenage fame, how will she feel? Her teenage brain has chosen fame over pride, which is understandable for someone in their youth. However, I doubt that she will feel the same, in five, ten, twenty, or even fifty years. Like many one-hit wonders before her, people will forget and she will have a minimal level of fame.

Will we still need her, will we still feed her, when she’s sixty-four? Hard to say. However, rather a lot of one-hit wonders have managed to sustain lengthy careers under the radar. Bruce Channel, who gave us the iconic “Hey! Baby,” used to quip at his live performances: “And now, I’d like to do a medley of my hit.” He’s still singing it.

There is, of course, the obligatory Future Projection:

Just imagine what archaeologists would think in three hundred years if they uncovered a video from the 21st Century, and instead of some incredibly talented artist like Yo-Yo Ma, they found a video of Rebecca Black instead?

But who the hell knows? In 2311, “music” may consist of the amplified resonance obtained by cutting bosons in two with nanochainsaws. They may not know Yo-Yo Ma from yo’ mama.

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The song is ended, but the malady lingers on

“As it turned out, Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. What are the chances of that?”

This one-liner has been kicking around in the back of my head for several decades now. I seem to remember hearing it in George Carlin’s voice. Then again, “Weird Al” Yankovic has warned against misattribution of this sort, so I’m not going to declare it a Carlinism.

And I wouldn’t bring it up here except for Lynn’s piece about Nellie Melba:

She was highly regarded in her day and now she’s only remembered as the name of a dessert, and hardly anyone knows why it’s named that. But, on the other hand, there are worse ways that one’s name can go down in history. As the name of a deadly disease, is the first thing that comes to mind.

John Montagu, fourth earl of Sandwich, was not available for comment; I suspect he may have been out to lunch.

And besides, there’s at least the possibility that Lou Gehrig might actually have died of something else, though there’s really no way to know for sure.

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The wages of speed

Oklahoma City wants a new police HQ/municipal court — no surprise there, the old one is way past its prime — and one proposed scheme to pay for it is to jack up the court costs for speeding tickets:

Speeding tickets have a lower court cost associated with them than other moving violations, and the cost hasn’t risen in eight years… The bump by $11 would bring in an extra $500,000 a year and save the city interest payments that would be associated with some of the other payment options.

Not that I have a problem with this, particularly, inasmuch as the amount they’ve made from my (lack of) moving violations in the past three decades is right at $0, but half a million dollars from an eleven-buck bump? Is it possible that the city hands out 45,000 speeding tickets a year?

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Lipping off

Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne is always quotable, and this bit from the Gazette is more so than average:

“Wayne, I think we’re gonna die,'” [Darren] King told Wayne Coyne, the Lips’ ever-optimistic front man, who assured him, “Oh, no, no, no. We’ll just get paralyzed.”

Darren King is drummer for Mutemath, who obviously did not perish in that Tulsa storm, and who will be appearing Friday at the Conservatory. And by now they’re probably sick of “Typical,” but they’ll play it anyway.

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Keyboard not found, either

By now, we’re used to seeing what a computer looks like when it reboots. (Some of us are, um, more than used to it.) We are not, however, used to seeing it in the middle of the arena in Incredible Hulk-O-Vision:

System reboot, Verizon Center

(Swiped from Dan Steinberg’s D.C. Sports Bog, a WaPo joint.)

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Card swiped (follow-up)

Last month, some melonfarming Cornhusker tried to pull a fast one, using a number that properly belonged in my wallet. The bank caught it quickly enough, and killed off the compromised card, though I didn’t find it out until the weekend. (What can I say? My work schedule for the last several years has been fundamentally incompatible with bankers’ hours.) At the time, I noted that I had an automatic payment due that weekend, which would fail. A call to the merchant the following Monday took care of that.

In fact, so far everyone has handled this with dispatch, except for T-Mobile, which had just gotten paid the preceding Thursday. The next week, I signed into their Web site and made the appropriate changes, which were acknowledged by a text message.

This month’s bill is due Monday the 10th. Yesterday, which was the 5th, the Big T derped out four texts, including two within a span of 45 seconds, complaining that they could not get their money, dammit. (Normally they collect on the 8th.) I was sufficiently miffed to waltz my way into an actual T-Mobile store and cancel the autopay forthwith. (“Fifthwith, even,” as Snagglepuss might say.) I noted with grim satisfaction that their air conditioning had failed: evidently the impending arrival of the Death Star has taken its toll on the physical plant.

There are three annual payments to deal with. One of them is bound to fail: SiteMeter, because it always does. Fortunately, David’s used to my whining by now. The surfer dudes who host this Web site haven’t tried to collect any money from me of late — last month, my balance was a startling $0.01 — but I’m not worried about them. That leaves one more, and one more potential story. We shall see. Exit, stage left.

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Strange how we know each other

Deborah Harkness recommended this in a tweet, and I liked it enough to pass it on.

Vienna Teng, thirty-three, graduated from Stanford and worked as a software engineer for Cisco before deciding to move into music full-time; this is from her album Waking Hour. (Words can be had from her Web site.) I think this one’s a keeper.

Update: For some reason, this one has decided to autostart. I’ve killed the embed. You can watch it here.

Further update: I’ve gone back to the old-style embed code. Let’s see if it behaves any better.

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The revised book of Jobs

The very first thing that occurred to me upon hearing that Steve Jobs was gone was this: “If Aldous Huxley had waited eight or nine decades, he could have set Brave New World in the year 632 A.S.: After Steve.”

“Surely you’re not comparing Steve Jobs to Henry Ford,” I hear you say. [Insert Leslie Nielsen witticism here.] I am doing exactly that. If Ford put cars on America’s roads, Jobs put buds on America’s ears. And you can’t get much more Fordish than this: you can get any color of earbuds you want, as long as it’s white.

Or I could point out that the Ford Motor Company is Detroit’s #2 automaker, and that Mac OS, whatever version it’s in right this minute, outsells every other desktop/laptop operating system but one.

But I keep coming back to that phrase “insanely great.” The particular genius of Steve Jobs, I think, is that he knew if something was great enough, you could afford to go a little insane. In a world full of risk avoiders and me-too products and Epsilon-Minus Semi-Moron product planners, Apple under Steve Jobs wasn’t afraid to say “Bring ‘em on.” We can only hope that Apple after Steve Jobs will do the same.

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Taken for granite

Megan McArdle, on kitchen fads and fashion:

My understanding of the luxury cycle is that as soon as everyone can afford a decent replica of high-priced items, the replicated qualities become outré. By that metric, stainless steel and granite have to be on their way out; the only thing more ubiquitous in the American kitchen is the George Foreman grill.

On the other hand, maybe in 1948 I’d have been saying that wall-mounted cabinets were a passing fad.

I dunno. I wasn’t around in 1948, when they built this house I live in, but I suspect that even then, hanging cabinets on the wall just seemed like a sensible space-utilization practice. Of course, the one distinctly non-period feature of the kitchen — a section of wall between kitchen and living room now has a ginormous rectangular cutout, and a breakfast bar (with track lighting!) has been installed therein — probably made no sense to anyone but a previous owner. And, of course, me.

Truth be told, if I were actually looking for another house, I’d ring up Trini and ask her to evaluate kitchens for me. She’s good at that.

Oh, and granite countertops release radon.

Disclosure: I own a George Foreman grill. Also, Firefox 3.6.23 spell check doesn’t bat an eye at “ginormous,” but frowns at “countertops.”

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It’s a better car, except when it isn’t

There are times when I just can’t figure out Consumer Reports.

In November, there’s a sidebar in the Cars section that says the following:

We now recommend the [Chevrolet] Volt plug-in hybrid after new data from our 2011 Annual Auto Survey shows it earned much better than average reliability. Very few of the 116 Volt respondents had any serious problems in the first few months of ownership.

Which seems reasonable to me. All the major hybrids — Toyota, Honda, Ford — are showing better-than-decent reliability figures, perhaps because of the extra development time that goes into hybrid design: you’ve got to have pretty tight tolerances, or it won’t work at all. If the sample size seems small, well, there are only a couple of thousand Volts out there; it’s at least as statistically valid as responses on, say, 15,000 Camrys. (If you own a Porsche, your mileage may vary.)

In the CR road tests, the Volt scored an okay, if not inspiring, 67, about four points behind the baby Lexus (CT200h) hybrid.

None of this would pose a problem except that in the same issue, they test a Hyundai Sonata Hybrid, their sample of which proved to be deeply flawed: it scored, they said, “too low to recommend.” The Sonata rolled up a score of 69, two points above the Volt.

Now it was my understanding that CR’s reliability ratings and road-test scores had nothing to do with one another. The criteria for Recommended:

“… did well in our road tests, had average or better reliability in our subscriber survey, and performed at least adequately if included in government or insurance-industry safety tests.”

The safety details for the Sonata Hybrid, as given, look fine to me, and better than anything else tested in that issue. Something here doesn’t add up.

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I thought they were dead

Rhapsody has announced plans to acquire Napster, and I suppose the real question here is “Napster’s still around?”

Best Buy, which actually did own Napster, will retain a nominal equity stake, but Rhapsody will have all the subscribers and the IP. Says Rhapsody President Jon Irwin:

“This is a ‘go big or go home’ business, so our focus is on sustainably growing the company,” said Irwin. “We’re excited to welcome Napster music fans to the best on-demand music experience anywhere. Our new members will have more places to connect to the music they love and to discover new favorites, guided by Rhapsody’s rockstar editorial team and the tastes of other Rhapsody members via our innovative social features.”

Farker “Fark Me to Tears” quipped: “Rhapsody isn’t actually going to pay anything for Napster. They’re just going to download a copy of it.”

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Save it for a rainy day

And what happens when there’s no rain? Well, it’s still saved, and it’s not doing anything:

Enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t have any vintage clothing (unless you count those few things from the ’80s that I keep hanging on to) but I have a bad habit of “saving” favorite garments — not wearing them “too often” so they won’t wear out. But of course that’s silly. Whether I wear them until they wear out or they hang in the closet, or sit in a drawer, I have the same amount of time to enjoy them. The time they spend in the closet or in a drawer is time they are not being enjoyed.

Marge Simpson in ChanelThe antithesis of this, of course, is wearing the same thing so often that everyone gets totally sick of it and never ever wants to see it again. Ask Marge Simpson, who spent the better part of an episode in the same Chanel.

I have elsewhere described my wardrobe (for values of “wardrobe” equal to 1) as “cheap imitation Dockers and a pocket T.” There’s really no reason to save that stuff for special occasions. Not that I anticipate any special occasions anytime soon.

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There’s no place like Chrome

Contestant on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire

And then her lifeline unfriended her.

(Via Failbook.)

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