The perils of auto-update

This site had minor difficulties over the weekend, due mostly to (S)FTP failure: no connections on port 21, or on any of the usual alternates. Nothing to get hung about, as Lennon used to say: it didn’t affect external operations, only my ability to send up files. (WordPress has its own media handler, which may or may not use FTP or its brethren, and which I don’t use anyway.) Other customers of this host were not so fortunate; there was wailing and gnashing of teeth, prompting the Head Honcho to explain what had happened:

We run Debian OS and have used autoupdates to ensure security packages are installed as soon as they are available. We’ve had some breakage in the past from this approach, but nothing major. However last night’s autoupdate went badly wrong, removing essential packages from dedicated, VPS and some shared servers. Our monitoring and support team flagged the issue fast, and we scrambled our admin, dev and NOC teams to reinstall the packages that had been removed by autoupdate, reboot servers, fix package dependencies, and test that individual services were live. Given the number of services affected, this took a long time to complete. Rest assured we had all hands working on the issue, but I know it was still a frustrating experience for customers.

To mitigate the risk of anything like this happening again, we’re immediately switching off autoupdates, and moving to a manual process where we’ll only push out Debian updates after significant testing. There’s always a balance to be struck between speed, efficiency, security and issue prevention, but this event has shown us that we need to take a different approach.

Debian 6.0.4 was released Saturday; it was Sunday when Things Happened.

This has, I assume, nothing to do with the DDOS attack on Monday.

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To strain one’s drain

This is probably not as fabulous a claim as it sounds:

This royal throne will flush a two-inch tennis ball

Whether it will flush a standard tennis ball, which must be 2.575 to 2.700 inches in diameter, is not clear. And if the weatherman is talking about hail the size of tennis balls, he means about 2.5 inches. (Get to 2.75 or over and you’re talking baseball.)

Still, the spirit of the late Allan Sherman doth move over me. In The Rape of the A*P*E* (Chicago: Playboy Press, 1973), he pondered what sort of Commandments he would have were he God, and finally he decided upon just one: “Thou shalt not stuff forty-seven tennis balls into thy toilet bowl.” Explanation:

I planned it so that a sinner would have to go far out of his way to violate my Commandment — and even then there wouldn’t be any fun in doing so.

The local stonecutter refused to carve it onto a tablet, warning that “within three days there will be a worldwide shortage of tennis balls.”

So there.

(Via, which has similarly inexplicable clippings every day.)

* American Puritan Ethic

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We’ve seen this rodeo before

Dan B. at Basketbawful saw this coming:

“The home team won each of the four games in last season’s series, with the Thunder shooting 20.0 percent (8 for 40) from 3-point range and 39.5 percent overall in two defeats at Staples Center.” And that’s against last year’s sad sack Clippers! Not this year’s Super Clippers.

And the home team won this one, big time. The Thunder led 4-0 early on, but that was it: the Clips were up 11 after the first quarter, 18 after the second, and pocketed a 112-100 win.

All five L.A. starters, plus Mo Williams, scored in double figures; Chris Paul had 14 assists, almost as much as than the entire Thunder team. (And DeAndre Jordan had 11 rebounds, so score two double-doubles for the Clips.) Los Angeles kept their shooting percentage over 50 percent all night, and routinely cashed in from beyond the arc (12 of 24). The Thunder did neither of these things, despite 36 (and 13 boards) from Kevin Durant and 31 from Russell Westbrook. (James Harden, starting in place of the ailing Thabo Sefolosha, was held to 7 points.) Scott Brooks threw in the towel at the 1:36 point, and the reserves finished the job.

Next matchup with these guys is in March in OKC. Maybe we’ll have a shot at them then. In the meantime, I’m having a problem trying to figure out how these Clippers managed to lose six of their first 18 games. And the Mavs await in Dallas on Wednesday.

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Resisting spotification

Liz Enthusiasm of Freezepop, on licensing the band’s tunes for new delivery services:

Feeling torn about putting our stuff on Spotify though. I realize it’s somewhat of a necessary evil, but I’m kinda thinking we shouldn’t put *everything* on there. I dunno… I feel like with Pandora, it’s about “oh, they showed me this awesome band” and you can actually get new fans that way. But with Spotify, it’s like “oh, I can listen to some stuff and not have to buy it”. We’re lucky because we have lots of amazing fans who support us, but a lot of people don’t even realize what the deal is with Spotify since they’re “legitimate”. But really, I’d rather people steal our music than have some company make money off of it, and then give us .004 cents. Am I just being cranky and old-school here?

Now I’ve never used either Pandora or Spotify, so I can’t tell what Liz is hearing that makes her feel this way. Anyone with experience with either of these services, please weigh in.

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Ain’t that a Shy’m

This is French singer Tamara Marthe, who performs under the name “Shy’m,” demonstrating that she is, despite the name, not all that inhibited:

Shy'm at the NRJ Awards, 2012

According to the Daily Mail, she’s wearing “a transparent plastic corset with white tinsel-like material interspersed to create a frosted effect.” I suspect the effect it had on the NRJ Awards audience did not involve frost.

This is normally the point where I’d show you a music video, but the one I wanted — the title track from the third Shy’m album, Prendre l’Air — is not, for the moment, embeddable.

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Justifiable expense

Those of us who accumulated 45-rpm singles in what seemed to be mass quantities were always looking for (1) bargains and (2) serendipitous finds. I wrote in 2007 of my own experiences:

[W]hile the newest stuff was always to be found at the Big Stores, there was much joy to be had browsing through the obscurities, not least because they were often cheaper. One common discount-store practice was to bundle three singles, carefully placing one I might actually have heard of on the outside of the package, and letting the lot go for a buck. I picked up lots of old Motown map-label singles that way.

Apparently this practice persisted well into the CD era:

I was a student at the University, living in the far northwest corner of Milwaukee, and about two blocks from the Mainstream Records at Fond du Lac and Silver Spring roads. Which explains where much of my non-tuition grocery store paychecks went in those days.

One of the things they offered was cheap 10-packs of used 45 rpm singles. As I understand it, the jukebox and amusement route guys would pull out-of-date singles from their record machines and they’d get packaged in cellophane and marked a couple bucks for ten. The wily packagers would put one hit record on an end so you could see it was worth it for that record alone, and you’d gamble on finding something you liked in the midst of the pack, too.

These weren’t quite the same retail channels: the three-for-a-buck stuff I bought consisted, not of used jukebox titles, but of cutouts, remainders and overruns, deemed to be at the end of their shelf life, duly marked so you couldn’t return them for full price, usually with a hole drilled through the label area. (Cutout albums had their jackets notched in some way.) Still, the dynamic was the same: out with the old. And the payoff was the same: once in a while you’d find something that might turn out to be seriously collectible.

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Cleansing action

Money laundering seems to be big business in Russia these days:

At least one trillion rubles ($32 billion) left Russia last year in apparent money laundering schemes, First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said on Sunday … in an interview with Vesti Nedeli program on Rossiya TV channel.

Where did it all go?

Capital of dubious origin goes primarily to Latvia, Cyprus, Great Britain, Switzerland, France and Hong Kong. Russia is developing interaction with these countries to cut short illegal operations, [Zubkov] said.

Possibly related:

The size of the average bribe in Russia more than tripled in 2011, the Interior Ministry’s economic security department reported.

“The size of the average bribe and commercial payoff in reported crimes increased more than 250 percent to 236,000 rubles ($7866),” it said in a statement.

It occurs to me that the US should start compiling statistics of this sort, since God knows we have plenty of schemers over here.

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Strange search-engine queries (313)

This feature operates on the following assumptions: that visitors to this site will leave behind a record that contains exactly where they came from and what they were looking for, and that they don’t realize (or don’t care about) that. Whatever the mechanics of it, there’s usually a week’s worth every seven days.

where is gasket on a 1994 mazda 626:  What gasket? You might as well point to a bucket of crawfish and ask “Where’s the claw?”

“only nine toes” sexy:  Have your date stick her foot in a bucket of crawfish.

mpv v6 p r n d s l:  B F D.

was there someone that died in the video of last friday night in 1887:  No. Everyone in it will die, but not right away.

something different with steak:  How about a cellular-peptide cake with mint frosting?

nicole kidman’s inseam:  Have tape measure, will travel.

how many people does the average person speak to in a day?  More than he wants to, you damn betcha.

down to earth, witty and likeminded sarcasm only…no deadpans! lol. I’m not a fan of typing copious lines about myself, so anything you want to know feel free to ask! please refrain from getting in touch via the instant chat on this website:  Not a chance. Do you realize how many people the average person has to speak to in a day?

consarn it:  Please address your query “To whom it may consarn.”

why do guys buy girls bras and thongs: You want they should buy them for themselves?

is “monokini” a back formation?  Yes, though not everyone is looking at the formation of her back.

citigroup yogurt $4.1 billion:  This is what happens when they say you’re “too big to fail”: you overpay for everything.

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A matter of little interest

Americans, we are told over and over, spend too much and save too little. Nowhere in this harangue will the dearth of incentives be mentioned:

According to the government inflation is running about 3% a year. According to me it’s more like 6%. But stick with the government numbers. If inflation is running at 3% and ING is paying 0.85%, then you are losing 2.15% on your money every year. That’s like paying ING $215 to hold onto your $10,000.

The Fed, of course, wants to keep those interest rates as low as possible, so as to make it possible for the government to continue to spend too much and save absolutely nothing. And I suspect they’d much prefer that we did the same, so as to “stimulate the economy.”

Here’s my own stimulus program:

  1. Build, as Newt Gingrich suggests, a base on the moon.
  2. Move the Federal government to this base.
  3. Activate the self-destruct mechanism on the vessel, making a return trip impossible.

Prospects should improve literally within days.

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The right not to get to work

Backers of Indy Connect, a bus-centered transit system for central Indiana, were aware that they could not under state law set up a tax election in the affected communities, and so they had gone to the General Assembly to get permission to hold that election.

And then the Ways and Means Committee killed the legislation that would have permitted that election. If you look to see who kicked this bill to the curb, you’ll see two distinct sets of footprints:

Lest you think this is all evil anti-transit Republicans, the transit measure failed because Democrats voted against it. The Republican committee chair insisted that the transit bill include a “right to work” provision that prohibited mandatory unionization of transit workers. Now, I think right to work is a sideshow myself. And I don’t think that Republicans should have insisted on what is clearly an ancillary matter and one they know would tweak Democrats. I would have removed the provision, especially as I believe it conflicts with federal law anyway. But for Democrats to throw transit under the bus because of it exposes the extent to which at the state level, the Democratic party is a wholly owned subsidiary of the unions. They’d rather have no transit system at all than a non-union transit system. The dyed in the wool blue urbanist crowd in Indy has expressed some surprise that Democrats opposed it — including, incidentally, Rep. Bill Crawford, who represents an Indianapolis inner city district that would benefit enormously from improved transit — but that’s only because they are naive about how politics works at this level. They should keep that in mind going forward.

I am of course amused by the idea of actual buses being thrown under the bus, but the disturbing aspect of this is that Indy Connect didn’t ask for any of it: they just wanted a simple up-down vote on their transit plan. It was legislative meddlers who turned it into farce. And apparently there’s a lot of that going on in Indiana:

Tax caps (which I support, incidentally) were one — but the rules go well beyond that to impose de facto spending caps on local government. The state has stepped up increasing control over school districts and now basically dictates per pupil funding around the state. Other busybody bills include proposals this year to limit the power of redevelopment commissions, strip state universities of their ability to set tuition, and to mandate a return to single class high school basketball. A lawmaker from Cedar Lake, 150 miles away from Indianapolis, wants to eliminate Indy’s at-large council seats. If there’s one common theme, it’s that this legislature has been more about taking away the ability of others to make their own decisions rather than doing much positive themselves.

If you see this and think “Sounds like Congress,” give yourself a gold star. And do it quickly, before it’s confiscated for the Greater Good.

(Title from this Matthew Tully tweet.)

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More bits and pieces

What sells a pop song — or perhaps a classical piece as well; ask Ludwig about those four notes starting off the Fifth — is the hook, the part that sticks in your ear, the part that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up days or months or years later. I did a list of several hooks that I particularly cherished way back in 2004; since even the newest of those songs is now forty years old, it’s way past time for Part 2.

  • Ohio Players, “Love Rollercoaster” (1975): “Say what?”
  • 10cc, “Don’t Hang Up” (1976): Any number of 10cc tracks deserve mention, but this lovelorn song on How Dare You! ends with, yes, someone hanging up. The first time I heard it, I indeed gave out with a “How dare they?” Still catches me by surprise to this day.
  • Deniece Williams, “Free” (1976): I ordinarily complain about excessive vocal ornamentation (got that, Mariah?), but for the six minutes this track is running, I don’t for a minute think Niecy is overdoing it. (Neither did the late Minnie Riperton, but “Free” is better than “Lovin’ You” or even “Memory Lane.”)
  • Al Stewart, “Year of the Cat” (1977): One of the very few songs that could legitimately be made into an actual full-length film — think a more noirish Before Sunrise — what breaks me up about it is that long instrumental break in the middle, with acoustic guitar overlaid with electric, not quite enough of a pause to allow you to catch your breath, and the guitar part continues on saxophone. Audacious and dazzling. [Link goes to a live version, but it’s the same arrangement.]
  • The B-52’s, “Planet Claire” (1979): “Well, she isn’t!” If Fred Schneider had never said anything else, he’d be remembered for that.
  • Godley and Creme, “Under Your Thumb” (1981): There may be scarier songs out there — I mean, there’s a suicide going on here — but I can’t think of any.
  • Rhoda with the Special AKA, “The Boiler” (1982): Except for this one.
  • Tears for Fears, “Head Over Heels” (1985): That opening piano bit is positively majestic. And “something happens…” — isn’t it always that way?
  • Cameo, “Word Up!” (1986): “We don’t have the time for psychological romance.” Never did figure out what that meant, exactly, but it had the Ring of Truth.
  • Crowded House, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” (1987): “We know that they won’t win.” And the organ is somehow reminiscent of Matthew Fisher’s, circa “A Whiter Shade of Pale,” which is always worth remembering.
  • LL Cool J, “Going Back to Cali” (1988): When you tell someone “I don’t think so,” this is the voice you want to be using.
  • Nine Inch Nails, “Hurt” (1994): The guitar/synth shriek under “I will find a way” goes on for eighty seconds, and you don’t start breathing normally again until it’s over.
  • Alanis Morissette, “You Oughta Know” (1995): This was notable enough for sounding nothing like anything in either of Alanis’ two Canadian-only pop albums, which veered too much into Debbie Gibson-land to suit her, but where it kicks into high gear is in the very last interation of the chorus, where the synth-strings come in and double the level of tension.
  • Faith Hill, “Cry” (2002): In the last chorus, she turns “pain” into a three-syllable word and makes it hurt that much more.
  • Emmy Rossum, “Slow Me Down” (2007): Best non-Enya Enya ever. I have no idea how many vocal tracks she cut for this, but they’re so soft and breathy and ethereal that by the abrupt ending (it’s only 2:34) I’ve got my arms out to catch her. Every freaking time. When you say “dream pop” to me, this is the song I think of.
  • Death Cab for Cutie, “I Will Possess Your Heart” (2008): That long instrumental opening is suitably menacing, but it’s the five-note (later varied) piano riff that keeps it focused, perfectly appropriate for a stalkerific number like this.
  • Tristan Prettyman, “Madly” (2008): If there’s a “power chord” for the piano, it’s played under the chorus here. I keep wanting to play it myself, despite the absence of any suitable instruments on the premises.
  • Freezepop, “Doppelganger” (2010): “Why don’t you see it?” might be Liz Enthusiasm’s sweetest vocal line ever, despite its accusatory context.
  • Rebecca Black, “Person of Interest” (2011): In the bridge, that teen-dream voice suddenly gives way (on “You should be mine”) to something more urgent, more demanding, more — adult?

I’m hoping the links don’t rot away too quickly — and that you’ll kick in some of your own favorite bits.

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Who gets to be the bow?

The Feline Empress of Evil [© McGehee] passes Go:

Monopoly Hello Kitty version

The board locations, of course, are in Kitty’s hometown of, um, London. Also available: Yahtzee and Connect Four.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market. Picture from Sanrio.)

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Crucking phasey

A new addition to the extensive variety of Australian bar snacks:

A nutty snack company in Australia has won the right to call itself Nuckin Futs, despite an official ruling that it was offensive.

The Trade Marks Examiner had ruled a year ago that Nuckin Futs had to be rejected because it was scandalous and offensive.

The company appealed the ruling:

A solicitor representing the Gold Coast company argued that the name was not offensive because the words it suggested were commonplace in everyday Australian language.

Whereupon the Examiner, I imagine, went out and got totally fit-shaced.

(Via Language Log.)

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For all you SOPA fans

The GOP is never going to outgrow that “Stupid Party” tag so long as its members keep coming up with things that are manifestly, well, stupid:

A Hawaii politician who proposed requiring Internet providers to record every Web site their customers visit is now backing away from the controversial legislation.

Rep. Kymberly Pine, an Oahu Republican and the House minority floor leader, told CNET [Thursday] evening that her intention was to protect “victims of crime,” not compile virtual dossiers on every resident of — or visitor to — the Aloha State who uses the Internet.

Pine wants you to know (1) that she’s amenable to minor modifications and (2) that this has absolutely, positively nothing to do with the inexplicable existence of

Lamar Smith (R-Disney) was not available for comment.

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Orange zest

It’s an extremely simple dress — normally it covers both shoulders — but Milla Jovovich makes it look amazing:

Milla Jovovich for Marella

This dress (“Califfo”) is from the Marella collection for Spring ’12. The brand description, according to owner MaxMara:

Marella offers a complete and diversified collection with a fresh and contemporary feel in line with today’s moods and lifestyle.

Coats, jackets and suits are a must, to be combined with easy chic separates: seducing and easy to wear proposals for refined, dynamic and positive women who want to like themselves and be liked.

Um, okay. I’m pretty sure Milla’s having no problem with her self-image.

(Via Fashion Gone Rogue. Photography by Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin.)

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Nothing to do? It’s up to you

It started with an admission that nothing much was happening:

I ran into a colleague while in the break room to grab eyeglass cleaner and cold medicine. She asked what I had planned for the weekend and I shrugged. Nothing. She looked at me dismayed and said that she figured I’d be going to some amazing party somewhere that no one knew about. No. I was going to do some amazing cleaning and sleeping and I was going to rock my Netflix queue. She shook her head because here I was this 28 year old woman. Childless. Single. Completely free. And I was going to spend my weekend scrubbing my kitchen floor. This could not stand, man. She told me that I really needed to … you know … get out more.

You’ll need to read the whole thing to see what happened when she got out.

(Which reminds me: my kitchen floor needs cleaning.)

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