Climbing out of the hole

Dave Schuler comes up with his idea of Seven Things That Should Be Done to improve the state of the economy, of which this is the fifth:

Conclude some of the free trade deals we’ve already negotiated.

While we’re at it maybe nudge them in the direction of real, honest free trade rather than the pretend free trade agreements we usually end up with. You can write a free trade agreement on the back of a business card. When the agreement runs to hundreds or thousands of pages you can be pretty sure it isn’t about free trade.

Nope. It’s going to be about people trying to game the system. Now admittedly, so long as you have a system, there will be people trying to game it. But geez, guys, the whole US Constitution is less than five thousand words. You don’t need a thousand pages to regulate bananas, and if you do, you’re either incompetent and/or dishonest. Period.

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The hazards of style

Let me say up front that I do like this three-inch-tall Isaac Mizrahi sandal, given the mundane designation “520,” a number which falls short of its actual list price:

520 by Isaac Mizrahi

But what I really wanted you to see was this description by galligator at ShoeBlog:

While I am generally too terrified to actually wear this particular type of non-ankle-strapped sandal — as it would likely result in my lying on the couch with an icepack over a painfully twisted ankle — I absolutely love seeing them on folks who do not have my own personal (and less-than-graceful) tendency of walking into known-location, fixed-objects such as end tables and desks.

That, I’m sure many of you can appreciate.

More pictures and descriptions at this link.

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I assume this isn’t CNG

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A banner day indeed

You remember the Incredible Hulk. Largish guy, a bit on the green side, given to SMASH! things when provoked. Marvel sold a bazillion comics with his darker-than-chartreuse self on the cover.

Unfortunately, the incessant Michael Baying of motion pictures has led us, or at least Sonic Charmer, to a quandary:

I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking “duh. A guy transforms into a giant green monster due to ‘gamma radiation’, and you call it implausible? It’s a comic book concept. Duh!” And, other things involving me being an idiot. But hold your horses. Can you answer me something:

Why/how do the guy’s teeth get bigger?

This wasn’t something you thought about at all in the comics, or very much in the Ang Lee Hulk film. But bring it into a “reboot” that’s all about the FX, and the brain refuses to go along with the handwaving in the screenplay:

Far as I can tell from the video-game-quality CGI, the Hulk’s size is proportionally bigger than Edward Norton/Eric Bana’s size in basically all respects. It’s not just that his muscles got bigger in the sense of having taken super-steroids or something. He gets way taller — sometimes, it seems, way way taller. Let’s say the factor is 2.3x. (Who the hell can say … one major annoyance of both movies is a seeming inability to keep the scale consistent.) This means that all his bones got longer: 2.3x longer femur, 2.3x longer tibia, etc.

Which means about a factor of twelve, volumetrically speaking. And somehow this seems less plausible for dentition:

The teeth appear to be the right size for his (suddenly way oversized) head. There’s only one thing this can mean: As part of the Hulk transformation, all your teeth get bigger: they get longer and they get wider. Then when things die down, all the teeth shrink again.

Seriously? Why? Why would the teeth do that? And how?

Hey, if I knew that I could end gingivitis in our lifetime: a few well-placed gamma rays, and bingo!

At least he’s not sending pictures of his Mega-Junk to the girls. And if that concept wasn’t gross enough, try this one from several years back:

A few eons ago, Sheri S. Tepper wrote of Mavin Manyshaped, one of a clan of shapeshifters, who, once her powers develop, flees from the family compound, lest she be abused like the other women in the clan. Mavin takes her younger brother with her; to speed the process along, she assumes the shape of a horse.

So far, this is a fairly routine fantasy concept, but Tepper is never routine. If you think about it — obviously she did — the Mavin/horse is going to have to eat, and eat a lot, during a long journey like this, and once she returns to human form, well, what’s going to happen to all that bulk she was carrying as an equine?

And we were worrying about teeth.

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Paging Luornu Durgo

Once upon a time in the DC Universe, there was a young lady who had taken the name Triplicate Girl because she could be in three places at once, a capability I know I’d have found handy from time to time. The Legion of Super-Heroes was certainly happy to have her.

Then one of Brainiac 5′s nastier schemes killed her at one of those three places, after which, logically, she could be in only two places at once. She was accordingly renamed Duo Damsel, and continued her work with the Legion, until one day she showed up on a bus tour:

Sarah Palin and a lookalike, I think

(Purloined from a Wizbang Weekend Caption Contest. None of the 100 or so entries I read went down this particular path, which surprises me not at all.)

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For research purposes only

Then again, he’d pretty much have to say that, wouldn’t he?

[H]ow can one get in contact with an expert who can roll back the odometer on a 2010 or 2011 Nissan Pathfinder (digital odometer) and not get caught when the lease is up? Is there an instrument/procedure that one can use in order to change the display on the digital odometer such that the odometer reflects less than 39,000 miles when the vehicle’s lease has expired?

Please discuss this procedure or if you feel more comfortable, send me a private note describing this procedure and how to find a local expert who would be capable and willing to do this for a fee and it’s critical that this modification NOT be recognizable to the parties involved when returning the leased vehicle.

Thank you, in advance, for providing me with such helpful educational material that IN NO WAY would be used for illegal purposes nor fraud of any sort.

I need to boil this down to a metalaw, or at least a metacorollary, to supplement the existing wisdom: “When the first thing they tell you is ‘We are a legitimate business,’ run like hell.”

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Snap, crackle and flop

“Gotta have my bowl, gotta have cereal,” says Rebecca Black at 7 am, but increasingly, ready-to-eat cereal is taking a back seat to other breakfast choices:

Sales of ready-to-eat cereals fell 2.55% in the 52 weeks ending April 17 to $6.41 billion, according to data from Symphony/IRI which covers retail outlets such as supermarkets. Sales of cheap, private label cereals dropped 7.2% to $637.5 million during that same time frame. Sales and units shipped have been lackluster since at least 2007, predating the global recession and the recent rise in grain prices.

The alternatives have more portability and less sugar:

Cereal is under assault from many quarters. Government officials want to further restrict the use of carton characters such as Toucan Sam to sell sugary cereals because of concerns about soaring rates of childhood obesity. Companies have been reducing the amount of sugar in their products. They are also selling them in other ways such as breakfast bars, sales of which are soaring.

Of the six cereals performing the worst on the sales charts, five are from Kellogg’s, led (or trailed) by Special K, down nearly 16 percent since 2007. Also suffering: Rice Krispies, to the extent that the product is now viewed as a component of a snack food rather than as an actual breakfast cereal.

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I mean, really:

Inauguration of Frederick Tiberius Weinstein

Database administrator Barbara Faye Dunning was presumably not impressed.

(Via FAILBlog’s WIN!)

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Strange search-engine queries (279)

In this weekly feature, we sort through seven days’ worth of logs, we find the funniest or lamest or least-explicable search strings, and then we unaccountably fail to tweet them to unsuspecting college students. It works a lot better than you’d think.

birdhackles:  If they’re presented to you, you may assume that you have annoyed the bird.

eggplant care:  I never much cared for eggplant, actually.

whose transmission is in the Ford Escape:  The broken one that needs a replacement? Yours.

will yellow color be ok for woman with 2 Kua number?  Only if she’s facing west.

why does the new camaro resemble a mustang:  Pony cars tend to look alike. So do ponies, come to think of it.

i am therefore i think you are therefore you stink:  You wouldn’t say that if I had a bitchin’ Camaro. Or a Mustang, not that you could tell them apart or anything.

can’t walk to the store bad urban planning:  Or you could just get yourself a bitchin’ Camaro. Or a Mustang, not that you could tell them apart or anything.

what is the motivation behind bestiality?  The realization that your entire species spurns you. And if they didn’t before, they will now.

sonicstage won’t import from iTunes:  Won’t work the other way around, either. Damned old proprietary formats.

“oklahoma” “republicans” “ban everything”:  Naw. Just taxes and Democrats. And it would never work, mostly because once they got rid of the taxes their salaries would stop.

washington drivers suck:  I theorize that the Beltway drives them insane.

opposite of joyride:  Whatever it is, I’m sure it involves the D.C. Beltway.

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Full disclosure in the post-Weiner era

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Bar sinister

According to legend, some Microsoft employees who’d reached the point when their stock options could be exercised supposedly wore a button reading “FYIFV,” the last three letters meaning “I’m Fully Vested.”

Brian J. Noggle’s John Donnelly’s Gold (Brookline, MO: Jeracor Group, 2011) is the story of four employees at a St. Louis Internet startup who were unceremoniously squeezed out of the company before they’d reached that presumably-happy status, and who were sufficiently irritated by this action to vow revenge upon the newly-arrived Chief Executive Officer.

Fortunately, John Donnelly had an ego bigger than his CEO salary: he’d gone so far as to buy a bar of gold bullion and train a webcam on it 24/7, the better to illustrate the corporate website. Which suggested a plan of action to this quartet of ex-employees: as a substitute for the vast sums they felt they were due, they would swipe the gold bar right out from under John Donnelly’s nose. There was, of course, one minor detail: tech types generally don’t have a lot of experience with breaking and entering, except to the extent that it involves passwords and databases. Still, this is a realm where you learn by doing, and so they developed a plan.

This really should not have worked as a novel: technical descriptions tend toward the mundane, and most of the techies I know are decidedly short on drama. What makes this worth your time is Noggle’s attention to detail: J. Random Noob will appreciate the extra exposition, and your local expert will nod, “Yeah, that’s exactly the way I’d do that. If I were going to do that, which of course I’m not.” There might be a hair too much geographical exposition — by the time you’re finished you should be able to hire on as a cab driver in St. Louis County — but no matter about that. The plot is more than sufficiently twisty; I’m pleased to report that I did not even come close to predicting the way it ended. And if the dialogue meanders a bit, hey, that’s the way these people talk. I’ve heard them, and so have you.

This isn’t quite, say, the Elmore Leonard version of WarGames. It is, however, an entertaining mosaic of gigabytes and grifters, and you should read it. Unless, of course, you’re John Donnelly.

(Review copy purchased from publisher.)

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There is signal and there is noise

Often, the two are difficult to separate:

This story in The Times Higher Education outlines how a professor at Lehigh University saw that his students who brought laptops didn’t do as well on tests as students who took notes the old-fashioned way. The story also digs into some neurological research that says the same thing.

Essentially, our brains seem to work a little like our ears do in this respect. If you are supposed to listen to a sound, you can do it much more easily when fewer other sounds are made around you, especially if those other sounds are more pleasant or more interesting than the one you are supposed to listen to. I, for example, would pay attention to the air conditioner if you told me that’s what I was supposed to do. But if, say, Angie Harmon began talking in the background, I would pretty quickly abandon the air conditioner for a sound that is of far more interest to me.

Angie HarmonI can multitask, sort of, but not especially well. In fact, I have basically the same issue as does Microsoft Windows: if more than one task is running, one of them gets focus, and the others are shunted into the background until such time as I can manually intervene to bring them up. I tend not to listen to the A/C; in fact, given the nature of Oklahoma summers, I don’t notice it until it cycles off. There are times when this doesn’t happen for several hours, at which time I will be startled by the sudden reduction in background noise. I am reasonably certain, though, that if Angie Harmon were to happen onto my premises, she would have my undivided attention for the duration.

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Never thought of that

The host put out this bulletin yesterday:

We have some older mysql servers from older, already retired clusters, that are aging and must be offloaded to new mysql servers to avoid any hardware failures from aging hardware, and for customers to receive newer, faster mysql servers.

A list of the older servers follows, and then:

The new mysql servers are modern hardware, much more powerful and hold many more databases, which becomes a problem for moving customers who created databases before our more strict policy on database naming. Previously we allowed any name as long as it was not taken on that specific mysql server, but since a few years we have made it a requirement for names to be unique system-wide for new databases. Now these names may conflict on the new servers and require a rename to complete.

For the curious: my own databases (I have seven) had been on one of the affected machines, but were moved to a newer box two years ago. And my own naming conventions are probably sufficiently weird to avoid landing on someone else’s chosen name.

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The pyramid is toppled

Lindsay Beyerstein contemplates the implications — and suspects some of the origins — of MyPlate:

[T]he amino-acid intensive category is called “Protein” — not “Meat.” Historically, one of the main criticisms of the USDA guides has been their insinuation that meat and dairy products are an essential part of every healthy diet. That’s not surprising considering the lobbying might of American agribusiness. At the end of the day, the U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is a lot more powerful than whoever represents our nation’s tofu producers in Washington. So, it’s nice to see the USDA taking an ecumenical stance when it comes to recommending “protein,” as opposed to “meat.”

However, when I saw the MyPlate icon, my first thought was: “The dairy industry won big, here.” Notice that in the top right corner, there’s a separate satellite orb labelled “Dairy,” in what looks like a glass next to the plate. The visual upshot is not only that dairy is a necessary part of every healthy diet, which is simply not true, but also that Americans should drink milk with every meal. Strictly speaking, the dairy orb could represent cheese, yogurt, or milk products, but it sure looks like a glass of milk with dinner.

In the back of my mind, I see a tofu-industry lobbyist, sneaking away from K Street at lunchtime in search of a Quarter-Pounder with Cheese. (See also this sad tale by Larry Groce.)

And I endorse this bit of informed cynicism:

[O]dds are, MyPlate is itself the product of heavy lobbying, just like its predecessors. So, caveat eater.

But I’m still not going to dunk my Oreo (or Hydrox, if available) in spring water.

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Holiday in Detroit

Bertel Schmitt reports from the front line, as it were:

“I’m tired of being ashamed of where I live,” declared Mark Reuss, President of General Motors North America, at the Detroit Regional Chamber’s annual policy conference. His colleagues are likewise frustrated. “With all the national bashing of the region,” an aversion to Michigan is ingrained in the minds of potential job prospects, said Bill Ford, executive chairman of Ford Motor. Detroit is the city of long lost sex-appeal. Echoing the dejected sentiments of a clockwatching professional with a clientele of reluctant customers, Bill Ford added: “We have to do an incredible sales job to get them to come.”

If you ask me, they need to do an incredible sales job on themselves first:

1,500 business and political leaders gathered on Mackinac Island on Friday to vent their frustration with where they live.

Mackinac Island? Of course. These are Titans of Industry. You’re not going to see them hanging around a town that gets bad press, like, say, Detroit.

Suggestion for the Detroit Regional Chamber: Next year, meet in Grand Rapids.

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Slightly-unmatched pair

Actresses Kathryn and Megan Prescott turn 20 today. I think Kathryn, six minutes older, is on the left, but I’m not entirely sure:

Kathryn and Megan Prescott

Perhaps we could ask Dave Hogan of Getty Images Europe, who took this shot at the UK premiere of The Hangover, not quite a week after their 18th birthday(s).

At least they don’t dress alike.

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