To cheat the wind

Lest you think that electronic musicians are just happy hedonists, allow me to pass on the following news:

State building codes do not require that schools provide safe rooms, leaving the decision to individual school districts. FEMA distributes grant money to states after major disasters to give communities an incentive to rebuild smarter and to avoid costlier disasters in the future. But support is limited, and local school districts still must come up with around a quarter of the costs for storm improvements.

Shelter Oklahoma Schools was created with the purpose of providing storm shelters in and around Oklahoma schools and communities. World renowned producers have banded together and donated tracks for a special release on the PIN23 Net Label as a fundraiser release for the Shelter Oklahoma Schools project. ALL SALES will go to ShelterOklahomaSchools.org.

Says compiler Jack Acid: “Amazing to see so many artists outside of Oklahoma, and outside of America even, wanting to help.”

Here’s the full scoop and the track list. The album — 38 tracks, 320-kbps MP3 — is a measly ten bucks, and all proceeds go towards getting storm shelters for Oklahoma schools.

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The fuller portfolio man

Stockbrokers are now peddling their wares door to door. Or at least one of them is: Edward Jones, the St. Louis-based investment firm that maintains strip-mall offices, each with a single counselor, dropped by the palatial estate at Surlywood this morning, while normal people are at work. Upon receiving no answer at the door, the chap left a booklet whose middle pages incorporated a table containing about 180 widely held stocks and their one-word advice (BUY, HOLD, SELL) on each.

I did like the disclaimer:

The Edward Jones Research department typically recommends industry-leading companies that appear reasonably valued. A well-diversified approach is typically used without significant over- or under-weighting (in comparison to the S&P 500) in any one sector. An index is not managed and is unavailable for direct investment. Performance results do not represent actual trading and may not reflect the impact that material economic and market factors might have on our decision making if we were actually managing clients’ money.

For an investment firm, this seems unusually forthright.

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Sunset over England

It’s truly the end of an era:

David “Slightly Less Insane” Payne presumably will fill Gary’s slot, if never, ever his shoes.

Update: TLO’s full story.

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Funny threads on this screw

Two months ago, Yahoo! bought Tumblr and promised “not to screw it up.” And then last week, they screwed it up, only to attempt hurriedly to unscrew it:

Friday, it was revealed that Yahoo’s Tumblr brand had exiled its “Adult” blogs separately from its “NSFW” blogs into a non-searchable ghetto where they were de-indexed from both internal and external search — making an estimated 12.5 million blogs unfindable.

Within 24 hours Tumblr has quietly returned the blogs back to internal and external search, and folded its “Adult” blogs into the wider “NSFW” category.

See also Tumblehead David Karp’s statement, which indicates that a lot of blogs which were neither Adult nor NSFW but tagged with various LGBTQ terms were caught in the undertow, requiring Karp’s minions to develop better filters.

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More minor irritants

Aren’t there always more minor irritants?

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A tale of two budgets

William Crum in the Oklahoman, on the suddenly newsworthy matter of municipal budgets:

Q: How much does Detroit owe?

A: Long-term debt could be as much as $20 billion.

Q: How does Oklahoma City compare?

A: Oklahoma City and its related trusts owe a little more than $1.3 billion. Property taxes are used to make payments on about $600 million in general obligation bonds, meaning taxpayers are on the hook for that money. Revenue bonds issued by related trusts are secured by specific streams of cash — for instance, payments on the $344 million owed by the Oklahoma City Water Utilities Trust are made from money collected for water and sewer services. Nine related trusts borrow to finance public services including airports, the fairgrounds, parking and economic development.

Q: One battle in Michigan is over whether bankruptcy could lead to cuts in pension benefits for retired public employees. Is this an issue in Oklahoma City?

A: Actuarial figures that came out last week show Oklahoma City’s pension system is 99-percent funded. That system covers civilian employees; fire and police are in state pension systems.

State pension funding is running about 65 percent, an improvement over recent years but still a bit short of where it ought to be.

Interestingly, Detroit’s 2013-14 budget calls for $1 billion in expenditures. Oklahoma City, with 100,000 fewer people, has a 2013-14 budget that calls for — um, $1 billion in expenditures. On the other hand, OKC is caught up on its debt service, and legally can’t run a deficit.

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Or maybe just one long extension cord

One factor hampering widespread adoption of electric vehicles is range anxiety, brought on by the combination of long charging times and short vehicle ranges: if you live someplace where everything is a couple hundred miles away, you’re not really a candidate for an EV, at least not for your only car.

But suppose you can’t drive a couple hundred miles away no matter what’s powering your car?

A rare combination of factors makes Southeast Alaska a promising locale for plug-ins. It’s not accessible to the outside world by road — all shipments and long-distance travel come by ship or through the air. The main road running through town, Route 7, spans less than 35 miles from end to end, so there’s only so far a vehicle can travel in any one direction. Thus, range anxiety isn’t much of an issue. “I think we actually have more miles of hiking trail than roads here,” said Zach Wilkinson of the Juneau Economic Development Commission, one of the entities spearheading the local push for EVs.

While Juneau has only one charging station for now, they’re planning to add a lot more. And since almost all the local power is hydroelectric, it’s not like there’s going to be a sudden spike in the Dreaded Greenhouse Gases once those stations are in operation.

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Mill demands more grist

Another reason why I still use this seven-year-old WordPress theme:

Readers sometimes “like” my posts by clicking a button that WordPress displays at the end of the post, and I appreciate that. In fact I very often like their posts too, but my security software (NoScript) goes off when I try to click “like.” Just to get to that point I must first temporarily allow a couple of urls to run javascript. Then NoScript warns me about a potential “clickjacking” attempt, and I haven’t been able to sort out exactly what that is and how to allow the link without allowing malicious links. Whatever clickjacking is, I bet it’s something I wouldn’t like.

Blogger and WordPress.com and, most blatantly, Tumblr have been trying to capture eyeballs by playing social-media games with “followers” and “likes” and whatnot, in an effort to make you think that you shouldn’t venture from their sandbox because those Other People can’t “like” you or “reblog” you. (There are actually only 19 original Tumblr posts and 487 million reblogs.)

Oh, and in case you were wondering:

A clickjacked page tricks a user into performing undesired actions by clicking on a concealed link. On a clickjacked page, the attackers load another page over it in a transparent layer. The users think that they are clicking visible buttons, while they are actually performing actions on the hidden page. The hidden page may be an authentic page; therefore, the attackers can trick users into performing actions which the users never intended. There is no way of tracing such actions to the attackers later, as the users would have been genuinely authenticated on the hidden page.

My readers may be reassured that even if I were evil enough to try crap like that, I wouldn’t have the tech smarts to implement it.

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Stairway to Hendricks

MaxMara, the Italian fashion house, launched a new Accessories line last week in New York, and Christina Hendricks was there:

Christina Hendricks at MaxMara debut 7-18-13

The new signature item, perhaps, is the unfortunately named J-Bag (see it here), which just exudes Sixties goodness, not unlike Christina herself. The ad campaign, however, will feature Jennifer Garner.

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A few kind words

Writer/reviewer Not Worthy (presumably a pseudonym) comments on one of my stories:

Overall, Dead Pony Flying is a story that’s not only about last requests, but hanging onto life, and observing how life continues on. Rainbow Dash brings an energy to it while imparting some contemplative thoughts in her final moments, while Scootaloo brings a determination to pay homage to her hero. The story is focused on where it needs to be: the characters, without a crowded setting that wouldn’t fit with this type of story. It’s a technically-sound story that plays around with mortality and death without being too dramatic. It’s a simple slice of life about death that abounds with an appreciation for life.

Which matters to me these days, since Dash is about sixty in this story. You know who else is about sixty? (Of course you do.)

Of all my pony tales, DPF has been arguably the best-received; I keep telling myself that it’s not because it was the shortest.

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Strange search-engine queries (390)

We of course apologize for the overwrought post title. This weekly feature gives you, or me anyway, a look into the logs to see who’s looking for what. It will not, alas, explain why.

groin elevator:  Pest control, of course, is an absolute must.

“White Sox 4, Yankees 0”:  Hey, it could happen. It’s the Chicago Way, after all.

what is french moss?  It’s that stuff that wouldn’t grow on the Rolling Stones when they first became British tax exiles.

latest sunrise ever:  Tomorrow. No, wait, the day after tomorrow. (And so on, and so on, and scooby-dooby-doo.)

where is 34th and vine located:  Sorry, you’ll have to order your illicit love potions online.

suppose you have drunk some magic potion and become invisible for one day. write instructions for making an antidote for this magic potion so that you can reverse the action and become visible within an:  Hour of taking a cab to 34th and Vine and discovering nothing there.

mary and daryl are new to the sport of rock climbing mary says she wants a stiff rope because a stiff rope is strong rope.daryl insists that a good climbin:  is what Mary really needs, and offers her a stiff drink, which is a strong drink.

sbt. japan reversing odometer readings:  Sorry, fanboy, no matter what you put on the manifest, Customs will not let you import that beat-up old Skyline you’ve been dreaming about.

www.momshavingsexwithkids:  What do you care if Mom shaves or not?

she wasn’t looking so I:  Borrowed her razor.

mackenzie powerball:  Possible name for Kanye and Kim’s next baby.

man dies from single punch in mansfield:  Mental note: Do not get punched there.

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Look on my words, ye mighty, and disdain

The first post of 2013 was titled “Worst titles of 2012”; I’ve been doing this yearly wrapup since ’07, and I’m surprised I didn’t think of doing it earlier, inasmuch as I’ve been slapping actual titles on these posts since 2002. (The Vents, of course, have had titles since 1996.) For some readers, the post titles may be the best thing here; they definitely draw attention to the place.

Which could be bad news, says Annetta Powell:

[B]log titles should be able to capture the attention of your target readers. This conclusion brings us to a rather startling fact that a good blog title also has the potential to negatively impact your blog reputation. This is because it is a mistake to create an extraordinary title to represent an average or maybe below average blog post. Simply put, a great title for a not-so-great content can seriously damage your blog reputation.

Is that a fact?

[A] good title for a blog post which is of little or no value to the reader basically defeats the purpose of having an attention-grabbing headline. You may increase your traffic generation but your target audience will find your Content Marketing to be disappointing. This is because your potential readers will get attracted to your blog title and click on it expecting to find content of similar caliber. But the opposite of this situation will leave them bitterly disappointed in your blog post.

Or, perhaps, bitterly disappointed in those other four posts I did that day. I get, I think, more than my share of what I think of as WTF traffic, people dropping in wondering, well, WTF; some of them will stick around, but more of them won’t. I’m not goofy enough to think that I’m going to hold on to every stray reader who wandered in here because of a quirky-looking tweet or a bizarre Google search. A few months back, I caught some linkage which temporarily boosted my feed subscribers from 300 or so to nearly 800. I’ve kept maybe 100 from that boomlet, which is probably more than I deserved.

And then there’s this business:

Bloggers also focus on making their blog title good enough for SEO purposes. This requires them to use primary keywords in the title as well as in the content. But today’s audience and readers are highly aware of most internet practices. If they get attracted to a good blog title for poor quality content, they will be under the impression that the writer’s focus was only on SEO and not on adding value for them. This negative reputation will then transfer to all your future blogging efforts as well.

And you already know what I think about SEO:

“Search engine optimization” is the 21st-century version of phrenology. Everybody and his brother-in-law has some scheme to game the system; every other month or so, Google, which owns half the search market, duly upsets the system and thus all the games. Blather, rinse, repeat. Were I more desperate for traffic, and had I money to lavish on this site, I would be better served by simply hiring a practitioner of vodou; at worst, I’d only have to clean the chicken blood out of the database once in a while.

I note for reference that I’ve tried several plugins, but there is, so far as I know, no WordPress code specifically intended to remove chicken blood.

So while I’m grateful for Ms Powell’s advice, I’m probably going to keep on doing what I’ve been doing for the past decade or so, and I figure that any of you who object to that sort of thing will never, ever see this because you quit reading me years ago.

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Quote of the week

Step right up, ladies and gents, and see this week’s winners in the Victimhood Sweepstakes! You know you want to:

The blame-shifting, guilt-tripping, grievance-mongering Victimhood Sweepstakes mentality, which paralyzes individual initiative and invites us to rationalize our problems as resulting from indomitable historic trends over which we have no control — that’s the problem.

Pointing the finger at demonized scapegoats — “Corporate America” or whatever — as the all-powerful villains in a horror story, where we are like teenagers fleeing the bloody slasher, is neither accurate nor helpful. Honest hard-working people succeed every day in America, yet the liberal gloom-and-doom vision rewards failure with the consolation of self-pity: “It’s not your fault. You’re a victim.”

Pity is a poor substitute for success.

Honest and resourceful people who encounter disadvantage or misfortune do not surrender to feelings of helplessness, nor do they let their resentment of others’ advantages fester into an excuse. Where there is life, there is hope, and with hope there should be a determination to work harder, to ignore the advantage denied and seek the opportunity offered. Excuses are for losers, and self-pity is a trap.

Been there, whined about that. About a quarter-century ago, I was about as washed up as it’s possible to get without actually getting clean. It did not occur to me at the time that if all you can see is your duodenum, it’s no wonder the whole world looks like crap. Extricating my head from that position was a task both tedious and painful, but it had to be done.

It helped that in those days, there were far fewer Professional Victims, gamers of the system, their ambition adulterated with avarice, their industriousness supplanted by indolence, their self-respect the spiritual equivalent of high-fructose corn syrup. I saw them coming:

[W]e live in an era where nothing is more important than How People Feel, where victims are routinely assigned the maximum level of moral authority, and it’s justified because, well, they feel bad.

And nothing makes a TV audience feel good quite so effectively as people on TV saying that they feel bad. TV itself, of course, doesn’t care, so long as they buy this laundry detergent or that auto insurance.

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Which probably voided his warranty

Apple says you must not attach unauthorized equipment to your iDevice, and dammit, they mean it:

A man who charged his iPhone with an unauthorised phone charger received a severe electric shock and is now in a coma in hospital.

Wu Jian, originally from Jilin province, had been charging his iPhone 4 on July 8, holding the phone in his left hand while inserting the phone charger into an electrical outlet with his right, according to the Beijing Evening News. According to his sister, Wu suddenly fell to the floor twitching. He remained there until his sister was able to unplug the charger.

This is not the first time this has happened, either:

Most recently, a Xinjiang woman was killed by an electrical jolt when charging her iPhone 4 with a fake Apple battery charger.

So far, Apple has only commented on the case of the Xinjiang woman, saying the company was “deeply saddened to learn of this tragic incident and … will fully investigate and co-operate with the authorities in this matter”.

At the very least, Apple will send out a copy of its end-user license agreement.

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Presumably a grizzly scene

The title says it all: “Man acquitted in romantic bear-spray squabble”. Who knew?

A San Francisco man was acquitted Thursday of breaking into his ex-fiancée’s house and assaulting her new lover before getting sprayed with bear mace by a shirtless neighbor.

Jurors deliberated for just three hours before finding Christoper Hall, 31, innocent of the two felonies.

They did, however, stick Hall with a misdemeanor count of vandalism. The ex, said defense counsel, was not considered a credible witness, and New Boyfriend didn’t seem to have suffered any damage. (Then again, New Boyfriend was a Marine, and they don’t damage easily.)

This, though, should have been taken as a warning sign:

The two had met in a hacky-sack circle in early February and announced plans to marry just two weeks later.

Hacky-sack? Now don’t it seem like kicks just keep getting harder to find?

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The online thrift shop

There is vintage, and there is Not Vintage Yet. For that, there is Poshmark:

Ever wish you had a style-mate and could shop her closet? Now you can. Poshmark connects you to people whose style you adore, allowing you to shop their closets, anytime you’d like.

Have items in your closet that you love, but just don’t wear anymore? List it for sale on Poshmark in less than 60 seconds. Sell what you have in your closet so you can shop for what you really love today.

Generating a sale listing on Poshmark using their iPhone app — Android is coming — automagically updates your social-media connections, which is how I heard about this in the first place: Rebecca Black is unloading some of her stuff, including this unworn Zara blazer. If you click on “Zara,” everything Zara comes up.

The only downside, I suppose, is that you have to divulge your size. Still, this has the potential to be, um, farking awesome.

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