A Volt a day

Well, almost. Serra Chevrolet in Southfield, Michigan — former home of American Motors, if I remember correctly — is moving about 25 Chevy Volts every month.

And oh, they do try hard:

The dealer trains each salesperson specifically on the Volt for at least 12 hours and encourages them to cross-sell the car to customers that come in looking for anything from an SUV to a midsize to a compact. To put a green point on the deal, about 15 percent of the dealer’s electric power is provided by two windmills located behind the building.

“You don’t want that big, hulking Suburban.”

I wonder if that’s ever actually worked.

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Down in the mouth

“Some pains are physical, and some pains are mental,” said Ogden Nash, “but the one that’s both is dental.” Still, there’s nothing to be gained by avoiding it.

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Messing with the Mavs

What kind of night was this? Scott Brooks actually put Russell Westbrook on Dirk for a few moments in the fourth quarter. (And Westbrook drew a charge, to Nowitzki’s visible annoyance.) It didn’t figure to be a blowout, though the Thunder did briefly lead by 16 in the second. Inside the last minute, Dallas was up 97-96; Kevin Durant drew a foul from Jason Terry and sank two free throws, Dirk’s dagger didn’t, and James Harden chipped in two more freebies, making it 100-97 at the 25-second mark. Jason Terry took a whole five seconds to lay it up; Harden got two more free throws to make it 102-99, and while Terry had a couple of good looks on that last possession, nothing would fall, and it’s 2-0 Thunder.

Dirk, as befits Dirk, had a game-high 31; the rest of the Mavs shot a blah 38 percent, and only five of 23 treys fell. (The Thunder dropped 5 of 16 from the next block.) Shawn Marion added 15 points; the Jasons had 23 between them. Dallas was outrebounded slightly, 37-35. The OKC secret weapon, though, was obviously the foul shot: the Thunder hit 37 of 39.

Before you ask: Durant missed those two. Still, despite another meh night from the floor (5-17), he cashed in 26 points, and Westbrook (10-21) had 29 more. There was a little more bench action tonight: Harden finished with 15, but Derek Fisher rose for 11, and Nick Collison might have had more than four had he not fouled out early in the fourth quarter.

So it’s off to Dallas on Thursday and Saturday. Can the Thunder shut down the Mavs? There’s only one way to find out.

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Even the good times are bad

Anyone who buys stuff like, say, food is already aware that prices are on the rise, but the Official Government Numbers don’t say so because it’s not in the best interest of the government to tell you how badly the currency has been debased.

John J. Ray explains how the spiral might start:

Suppose Romney is elected and fires all the Obama cronies running the EPA and other business-obstructing agencies. That suddenly gives everybody more confidence in doing business. So the banks start lending again and businesses with reserves start using their reserves to expand. The money starts flowing again. The velocity of circulation rises. There is now a greater demand for resources: both labour and capital goods. People might even start building new houses again. For a little while that greater demand for resources will be met from presently idled resources: Unemployed people will get employed and shuttered mines and manufacturing facilities will reopen. So everyone will be having a party.

But parties like that tend to feed on themselves and breed yet more optimism — and so the demand for resources will soon go beyond what can be met by reactivating idled resources. With the money now flowing again, prices will be bid up as everybody wants a piece of the action. And an expanded volume of money chasing a relatively fixed resource base can only lead in one direction — to price rises.

Now how likely is it that Romney’s actually going to clean house? I wouldn’t bet my stagnating life savings on it. At least the local housing market isn’t overloaded with inventory at the moment.

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Those were the days, and so forth

1979 catalog page from Victoria's SecretOff to the right is a much-reduced photo from a 1979 Victoria’s Secret catalogue, courtesy of Australian pop-culture archive Retrospace, which reprinted all the photos therefrom. It’s here because of this commentary:

Take me back to the days when, if you wanted to touch up a picture, you had to use an actual airbrush. The 1970s airbrushing looked good on the side of a van, but like shit when applied to a photograph.

Actually, I didn’t think it looked all that good on the side of a van, but no matter. This was an era when “skin looked like skin, not a high performance grade polyvinyl chloride,” and Photoshop was still nearly a decade away.

(Via Tim Blair.)

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Sharpish observation

Sonic’s Razor, usable in the evaluation of legislation:

Any law, rule or regulation that is (formally or informally) named after (a) some individual* adult** human, or (b) via an acronym that makes a dictionary-word, is presumptively a bad law that can be opposed without further information.

By “individual,” he means to exclude bills that carry the names of two persons, though maybe not:

“…it’s probably the case that most of these laws (McCain-Feingold, Dodd-Frank) are terrible too.”

And by specifying “adult”:

“…allowing exceptions for laws named after children due to some atrocity/accident, e.g. “Megan’s Law”, although those may be bad as well; I don’t have the knowledge let alone the stomach to look into it.”

In practice, this Razor may be somewhat less useful than it appears, not through any fault in its reasoning, but simply because of the nature of lawmaking today, which essentially guarantees a preponderance of bad laws. Legislators — to include, not incidentally, the unelected bureaucrats they created — fancy themselves to be programmers: everything is either a program enhancement or a bug fix. (A bug which goes perennially unfixed should be presumed to have been deemed a feature.) Since they aren’t actually programmers, though, they are invariably surprised when their new code yields new bugs.

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Strange search-engine queries (326)

Mondays wouldn’t be Mondays without a romp through the server logs in search of mockable material. Then again, as John Phillips says, “can’t trust that day,” and upwards of 50 times a year, we are afforded the opportunity to prove it.

how is diet fanta sweetened:  Like most such drinks, excessively.

somebody with no knee cap:  How about New NFL Action Barbie?

romantic movies about jerks:  Because, you know, the Healing Power of Love is supposed to make them less jerkish.

anime hot invisible girl wants to help:  How did you determine that she was hot?

hot bitch bra:  How did you determine that it was hot?

mitt romney sing backwards:  Oddly, it doesn’t sound any different.

what is a pink hotel a boutique and a swinging hot spot:  Daily Double: “Joni Mitchell made enough from ‘Big Yellow Taxi’ to buy these.”

all legs of sarah michelle gellar:  Far as I know, there are only two.

fluttershy sounds like marilyn monroe:  Although it would never occur to Fluttershy to put her hooves all over you.

ann coulter dirty and slutty in pantyhose:  Although it would never occur to Ann to put her hooves all over you.

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Government non-spending

Such a concept does exist, but it’s not always easy to find a real-life example.

Chris Casteel reports for the Oklahoman from Washington:

Each of the 435 House members receive an official allowance to hire staff, pay rent for their district offices, travel, send mail and buy office equipment and supplies. Personnel budgets are the same for all, but other categories can vary by a district’s size and its distance from Washington.

The Oklahomans’ allowances average $1.45 million. That does not include the salary of the House member, which is $174,000. House rules require that members personally reimburse any expenses that exceed the office allowances.

Not that this was a problem with Oklahoma’s House members, who not only didn’t spend all the allotted funds but returned the unused balance to the Treasury. The five of them — four Republicans, one Democrat — sent back more than $750,000 they didn’t need for operations.

This practice is certainly not confined to representatives of Soonerland. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), who used up only 90 percent of his allowance, made this announcement on behalf of himself and several other GOP frosh:

“I think we need to send a message, and not to the American people — other than we’re serious about cutting spending. But I think it communicates the message to the president and all of the executive branch that it’s time to do more with less. We’re going to lead by example. Often times, members in Congress are usually saying, ‘Do as we say and not as we do’ — but in this case, we’re going to walk the walk and talk the talk.”

Not everyone, of course, can be expected to adhere to this philosophy. For instance: Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL) apparently found enough money in his allowance to dispatch a check to Crazy Rod Blagojevich’s [redacted] Golden House of Senate Seats.

(Via The McCarville Report.)

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Endless summer is endless

The Beach Boys are pushing 70 now, except for David Marks, who was only 13 when he joined in 1962; he stayed through the first four albums, left, came back, left again, and is back once more. And it’s been twenty years since the last Beach Boys album that wasn’t a compilation of the old stuff.

Not that I care. It’s the Beach Boys, dammit:

And yes, it sounds a bit too “modern,” and there’s what I think is a hint of Auto-Tune here and there. I still don’t care. To Dave, Brian, Mike, Al and Bruce: thanks.

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Quote of the week

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, from his book Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier (New York: W. W. Norton, 2012), describing a meeting with the Mass Media:

On July 1, 2004, the Cassini spacecraft pulled into orbit around Saturn. There was nothing scientific about it, just pulling into orbit. Yet the Today show figured that was news enough to put the story in the first hour — not in the second hour, along with the recipes, but in the first 20 minutes. So they called me in. When I get there, everybody says, “Congratulations! What does this mean?” I tell them that it’s great, that we’re going to study Saturn and its moons. Matt Lauer wants to be hard-hitting, though, so he says, “But Dr. Tyson, this is a $3.3 billion mission. Given all the problems we have in the world today, how can you justify that expenditure?” So I say, “First of all, it’s $3.3 billion divided by 12. It’s a 12-year mission. Now we have the real number: less than $300 million a year. Hmmm … $300 million. Americans spend more than that per year on lip balm.”

At that moment, the camera shook. You could hear the stage and lighting people giggle. Matt had no rebuttal; he just stuttered and said, “Over to you, Katie.” When I exited the building, up came a round of applause from a group of bystanders who’d been watching the show. And they all held up their ChapSticks, saying, “We want to go to Saturn!”

It is not known definitively whether any of the audience wanted Lauer dispatched to Uranus.

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Platform shoo

Blogger vs. WordPress shows up all the time on Yahoo! Answers, and I try to answer based on what I think the asker’s criteria might be. If what they want, above all else, is Spending No Money, I send them to Blogger, on the basis that I don’t want to have to explain why WordPress.com might cost them a few bucks now and then, and a self-hosted WordPress will cost them quite a few more.

On the other hand, if the choice is between Blogger and a self-hosted WordPress, I need only point them to this presentation by local designers CooperHouse, which considers ten criteria, six of which favor WP, three Blogger, and one that’s a wash. (Disclosure: CooperHouse’s own site runs on WordPress, though it’s a custom design rather than a standard theme.)

On the question of search-engine optimization, they give the nod to Blogger, on the following not-unreasonable basis: “Google indexes Blogger within 24 hours; Google indexes WordPress within 4 weeks.” Inasmuch as Google owns Blogger, the stuff’s presumably right there for them to grab. On the other hand, I’ve beaten that 4-week period for WordPress by three weeks, six days, twenty-three hours and forty-six minutes, though I’m in no position to say whether this is at all typical.

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Meanwhile near Gondor

That Boromir certainly gets around:

Moore Door Store LLC

Samwise and Frodo, however, took the left turn at Albuquerque and ended up here.

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Thundering heard

And so it came to pass in Such A Leak Arena on a dark and stormy night that the defending champions came to defend their championship. No matter what the Thunder did, the Mavericks had a response for it. Still, OKC persevered, going on a 7-0 run (in 64 seconds!) to tie it at 94-all with 1:27 left. Then Dallas displayed a rare phenomenon known as “fifth-chance points,” in which OKC made four attempts to retrieve the ball, but it ended with Ian Mahinmi sinking two free throws. Kevin Durant, who’d been having a rough (for Kevin Durant) night shooting, then set up Serge Ibaka for a dunk and an and-one. With 24 seconds left, it was 97-96 OKC. James Harden fouled Dirk Nowitzki, who of course didn’t find it convenient to miss either of his free throws. And a second and a half before the buzzer, Durant front-rimmed a jumper, which bounded off the backboard — and in. Oklahoma City 99, Dallas 98, and the playoffs begin on a positive note.

Still, it’s not like KD was playing slacker. He put in nearly 44 minutes on a night when no one else had 40. And he reeled in six boards, served up four dimes, and blocked four shots. It’s enough to make you forget 10-27 from the floor (1-6 for three) and 25 points. Besides, Russell Westbrook found his A game, good for 28 points (13-23), and those Ibaka freebies gave him 22 for the night. The bench didn’t score much. In fact, the bench didn’t score at all, except for Harden, who had a highly-efficient 19 on 4-7 and nine free throws. No one seemed to mind.

If Jason Terry is a feared sixth man, and he is, then Vince Carter should get props as a seventh: he tossed in 13 points to go with Terry’s 20. Dirk, being Dirk, had 25, almost half in the fourth quarter. Shawn Marion tacked on 17 more. The Mavs had a 42-36 advantage off the boards, but they turned the ball over even more than the Thunder — 15-14 — and while they nailed ten of 22 treys for 45 percent, they were no better than that on short-range shots. Still, I can’t help thinking that Dallas could have pulled this one off, were it not for the fact that Rick Carlisle’s momentum-control scheme had left them with no timeouts after Durant’s winning jumper.

So not a lot to gripe about, unless you’re a Thunder fan who also happens to be a cardiac patient. And if Game 2 (Monday night) is like this, more of them might be.

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Circulation issues

The last time we had anything to say about the library at Harvard, it was in connection with a lawsuit by a librarian charging discrimination. (And while Desiree Goodwin lost that suit, her name still appears regularly in the search logs, reason enough to mention her again.)

But this is a different matter entirely. It appears that subscriptions to academic journals are becoming entirely too pricey, even for a university with $30 billion or so in endowment:

Many large journal publishers have made the scholarly communication environment fiscally unsustainable and academically restrictive. This situation is exacerbated by efforts of certain publishers (called “providers”) to acquire, bundle, and increase the pricing on journals.

Harvard’s annual cost for journals from these providers now approaches $3.75M. In 2010, the comparable amount accounted for more than 20% of all periodical subscription costs and just under 10% of all collection costs for everything the Library acquires. Some journals cost as much as $40,000 per year, others in the tens of thousands. Prices for online content from two providers have increased by about 145% over the past six years, which far exceeds not only the consumer price index, but also the higher education and the library price indices. These journals therefore claim an ever-increasing share of our overall collection budget. Even though scholarly output continues to grow and publishing can be expensive, profit margins of 35% and more suggest that the prices we must pay do not solely result from an increasing supply of new articles.

What’s worse, some of these providers bundle journals and offer them only as a package: if Harvard wants, say, A and B, they will also have to take U, V and W. (Anyone who subscribes to cable TV knows how much fun that is.)

Of course, one could just point to that $30 billion:

At the current cost, their endowment could cover subscribing to those journals until the year 10,279. The annual tab is .0001 percent of the endowment, which means if it earns a lousy passbook-level 2% a year the interest on this year alone could pay for the subscriptions until 2177.

I wish I knew who’d pay me 2 percent on passbook savings these days. Then again, I don’t have thirty billion on deposit.

Addendum: Just received: The Week, with a full-page ad for BlackRock, containing this timely tag: “2% ISN’T A RETURN; IT’S A RETREAT.”

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Chips off the ol’ fashion plate

Every now and then, in circumstances best left undisclosed, I find myself wondering “What would Zooey Deschanel wear?” The Fug Girls remind us (via slideshow, so consider yourself warned) that some of her fashion choices over the years have been neither charmingly quirky nor quirkily charming.

(See also this video, which names no names but doesn’t really have to. Via Joan of Argghh!)

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28 MPG later

Truth be told, I would have expected something a bit burlier to be the motor vehicle of choice during the Zombie Apocalypse, but life, or unlife as the case may be, is full of surprises:

(Via Autoblog.)

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