Battleaxes for peace

Severian has noticed what he calls “a curious fact”:

The “Sarah Palin must go away / Hillary Clinton is so wonderful” crowd are, themselves, almost invariably married.

These are women who, sometime in their early twenties, embraced politics as a religion. Then they hit their late twenties and, as women do, they wanted to get married and start families. But they had to obey the tenets of their faith, and so they went out and found the kind of skinny-yet-pudgy androgynous betaboy chump who does his shopping at Whole Foods and embraces, in all apparent sincerity, a nontraditional gender-neutral civil commitment ceremony with a Wiccan shaman as officiant and donations to “marriage equality” organizations in lieu of gifts.

Now they’re in their thirties, and stuck with these wusses forever.

I quoted this mostly because “skinny-yet-pudgy” sounds like random empty abuse until you actually see someone meeting that description. In this neck of the woods on any given Saturday it takes about forty-five seconds, except in Edmond, not because it has fewer such, but because you’re stuck in traffic.

Disclosures: I have donated to a “marriage equality” organization. I am not, however, skinny, and while I’m perfectly willing to shop at Sprouts, I draw the line at Whole Foods, mostly as an act of budget preservation, and besides, John Mackey has dropped out of sight.

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Jingle jangled

“Who are you, and what have you done with Tony Parker?” I mean, two points in 25 minutes, and not a trace of him in the fourth quarter. Which isn’t why the Spurs, after pulling to within three with four minutes left, wound up losing by 12 to the Thunder — that was OKC hustle, pure and simple — but apparently this was a night for short rotations: Scott Brooks played only nine guys, Gregg Popovich just eight. (Manu Ginobili was out, but Pop still issued five DNP-CDs.) And the 100-88 win puts OKC only half a game back of the wicked Texans.

Fearless forwards Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan — I swear, Duncan is getting younger despite being older than God, if not older than Derek Fisher — turned in stellar performances anyway: both bagged 24 points and double-digit rebounds. However, Tiago Splitter, previously a thorn in the Thunder’s side, was more of a vague, inchoate itch tonight, held to four points and six boards.

Speaking of Fisher, he got his usual 15 minutes; however, he got a highly unusual 17 points, including five of seven from the Crystal Bridge. (I’m waiting for Brooks to issue a single-word statement: “Nyah.”) And it’s a good thing Fisher did that, because Kevin Martin disappeared nearly as thoroughly as Tony Parker. Which means most of the rest of the offense, as usual, was Russell Westbrook (27) and Kevin Durant (25). The Thunder shot a nothing-special 46 percent, but with the Spurs failing to break 40, it was good enough. (How can the Spurs fail to break 40? Might be those thirteen OKC blocks.)

So the season series is split 2-2, but the bigger news is the in-conference record. A team plays 52 games against members of its own conference. The Thunder are 35-13; the Spurs are 32-15. If these two teams finish with an identical overall record, OKC gets the nod. But first, there’s a little obstacle called the Indiana Pacers, who have won five straight and will be happy to start off the Thunder’s weekend with a loss tomorrow night. The Pacers are, um, 29-8 at home.

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This one doesn’t count

SiteMeter still counts the visitors to this site, as it has for 14 years now, with occasional interruptions and a disparity of 40,000 or so between the two databases it maintains for me. This, however, is a whole new level of fail:

SiteMeter domain expiration

I’m guessing the guy in charge of keeping track of the domain is the same guy who doesn’t answer your tech-support questions.

Addendum: Robert Stacy McCain considers the possibility that it was suicide.

Further addendum: The reports of its death may be greatly exaggerated.

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Hacksaw alert

Amazon, to my surprise, asked for Packaging Feedback on my last order, which happened to be the little Sansa music player and the even littler microSD card, both of which were encased in plastic clamshells that would presumably resist North Korean missiles. I told them that nothing, even if it’s marked as Retail Packaging, should require a Leatherman tool to open. On the upside, the box, though too large (as distinguished from Way Too Large), arrived speedily.

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Baby got beak

Right now, parts of the Northeast are teeming with avian fiends:

In other nature news, the skies are suddenly full of carnivorous birds. You can hardly look up without spotting a red-tailed hawk. Driving along Rt 80 is like going to The Hawk Show. There was a very big fallen bird on the shoulder of the road when I was winding my way through the Delaware Water Gap last weekend and a band of about 8 red tails kept diving down to snatch off pieces of it despite the stream of cars right next to it. I even saw two turkey buzzards flapping up from the road side farther into NJ.

I have to admit, this is more entertaining than watching the adapted-to-the-burbs birds hanging around the A&W just waiting for you to drop a French fry.

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Everything’s for sale

And in the next few minutes, some schmuck will try to sell it to you:

[M]ore and more products and services are being provided to “consumers” who aren’t really consumers because we/they don’t want whatever they are. The phone calls from telemarketers, carefully positioned around our dinnertime, become more frequent. A lot of them have to do with “taking surveys,” which I dunno, is that some kind of effort to get around the do-not-call laws? Well, I suppose it is to be expected. If you’re in business to provide something people actually want, it won’t be enough for people to want it, they have to be willing to part with cash in order to get it. That would be a lot of wait between the wanting right now, so I can see how it’s more appealing to provide something people don’t want.

Or at least less work.

Even so-called “free” stuff, which of course does not actually exist, is desperately vended. CFI Care (not its real initials) called me twenty-seven times last month after I failed to respond to some tedious letter of theirs about some “free” program in which they thought I should enroll. I figure, I’m already paying a physician to shake his head at me and groan; why do they think they ought to be patched into the loop? It is exactly this sort of behavior that makes people wonder if single-payer could possibly be any worse. But they kept calling — until the first of the month, anyway, when I presume the phone bank’s upsell quotas were reset.

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Now they tell us

If you think about it, New Year’s Day is really a terrible time for resolutions:

I mean, the holiday is based on the turn of a calendar, an arbitrary cut-off of the revolution of the planet around the sun that comes in the middle of the deepest, darkest season: winter. To suddenly decide you’re going to change some element of yourself that you want to improve in the midst of the longest nights of the year seems a little, well, doomed to failure.

Winter Wrap-Up, anyone?

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A time for Sharon

Tomorrow would have been Sharon Sheeley’s 73rd birthday, and I figured I owe her some sort of tribute after expropriating her name for a piece of 1980s collaborative fiction. By trade, she was a songwriter, and she got her first Number One at the tender age of eighteen: “Poor Little Fool,” sung by Ricky Nelson.

Managed by Jerry Capehart, she eventually took up with one of Capehart’s major clients: Eddie Cochran, for whom she wrote “Love Again.” In 1960, Cochran, Sheeley and Gene Vincent had hired a cab to London following a Bristol concert: Sheeley and Vincent were badly roughed up, and Cochran died from his injuries.

Returning to the States, Sheeley partnered with singer/songwriter Jackie DeShannon; she eventually married deejay Jimmy O’Neill (a lad from Soonerland, you should know), and together they worked up a TV series for producer Chuck Barris, which was called Shindig. Eventually they split, and Sheeley retired from the music biz; she died in 2002.

My favorite Sheeley song, I think, is a collaboration with DeShannon titled “Breakaway” — or, more precisely, “Break-A-Way.” Tracey Ullman cut this as a single during her brief flirtation with pop music, and the giddy-schoolgirl video is pure Eighties. I’m sure Sharon loved it.

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Press Fsomething to continue

My Monday-night keyboard adventures took a wholly unexpected turn Tuesday. I had said that I was going to swap keyboards the next night, and I duly picked up a used but working model from the corporate parts locker. (I am one of the last people on earth using a PS/2 keyboard connector, it seems, so this won’t be missed, and yes, the sysadmin is aware of it.) But for the sheer hell of it, I decided to plug in my late, lamented IBM Model M, just to see what happened.

And the sucker worked perfectly, even on the keys that weren’t working before.

Conclusion: Despite my earlier diagnosis, something inside actually had gotten wet, and, in the manner of things gotten wet, dried out some time in the subsequent seven months.

Super Talent (!), the manufacturer of the keyboard gone bad, has since moved into products without moving parts. I’m not complaining, really: this particular keyboard was thrown in as a freebie when I had my current tower custom-built, and that was a good seven years ago.

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And upon it, a bird was put

Prompted by Nancy Friedman, as I so often am, I wound up reading this interview with a couple of the principals in Hourglass Footwear, a firm with an interesting backstory:

We’re a group of nine female artists and designers who were tired of unreliable freelance projects and joy-killing day jobs. Lisa and I took a total leap of faith and left our jobs, launched a Kickstarter campaign and pretty much did exactly what you’re not supposed to do during a down-economy, but there you go. Eight months later, we’re doing booming business and we’re both starting to breathe normally again.

As a matter of policy, I flipped through some of their offerings, and I was weirdly delighted by these:

Put A Bird On It by Hourglass

It’s called, not too surprisingly, “Put A Bird On It!” Figure 5½ inches tall with a 1¼-inch platform. And like their entire line, it’s hand-painted. What does this mean to you, the buyer?

Our shoes are hand-painted and then triple sealed. This makes them waterproof, and it protects the paint from coming off. We’ve all been wearing our painted heels regularly for close to a year now, and they still look great. Small scuffs can simply be wiped with a damp cloth or some clear shoe polish.

If you plan to shuffle through gravel on a regular basis, though, we’d probably recommend a different pair of shoes (also, maybe another hobby).

Wise advice, I’d say.

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FTC wimps out

The Federal Trade Commission was offering fifty large for some new ideas on how to deal with telemarketers and their ilk, and they’ve announced two winners:

[Aaron] Foss’s proposal, which he called Nomorobo, would use “simultaneous ringing” to route incoming calls to a second line. The second line would then be responsible for identifying the bad calls and hanging up on them. The software, he said, identifies robocallers with an algorithm he compared to an e-mail spam filter that looks for specific characteristics of the callers. It will work on both mobile and traditional phones.

[Serdar] Danis’s proposal uses software that people could implement through a mobile app, an electronic device in their home or as a part of their provider’s telephone service to block unwanted calls by consulting lists of good and bad phone numbers.

What’s disappointing here is not so much that the FTC doesn’t plan to mandate either of these schemes, as the fact that neither of them contains the terms “incendiary” or “electrical shock.”

(Via this Virginia Postrel tweet.)

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Leave your bowling ball at home

To an airline, both you and your baggage present basically the same issue: how much you weigh. Samoa Air, which flies around the south Pacific, figures that it may as well charge you that way: they weigh you and your bags together, and you pay so much per kilogram, based on the length of the trip. (A short hop might be $1/kg; if you’re headed to Australia it might be more than $4/kg.)

Some people, unsurprisingly, have a problem with this, prompting the airline’s Chris Langton to defend the practice on Australian radio:

“Airlines don’t run on seats, they run on weight, and particularly the smaller the aircraft you are in the less variance you can accept in terms of the difference in weight between passengers … Anyone who travels at times has felt they have been paying for half of the passenger next to them.”

Decidedly unsvelte as I am, I think this is a swell idea, if only because it’s totally at odds with today’s nickel-and-dime-you-to-death fares and fees.

(Via Consumerist.)

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The eye tries not to blink

This little warning hangs on my corkboard at work:

You Are Being Monitored

Should you, then, work from home? Bill Quick is okay with that:

If the manager is setting workproduct goals that correctly meet his expectations, and the employee is meeting these goals, why on earth does management give a damn what the employee is doing?

The real problem here — and why managers hate the idea of telecommuting — it that it deprives them of the ability to micromanage employees on a minute by minute basis. Absent such tangible evidence of their necessity to the work process, they become nervous at the notion that higher management just might notice how little they actually contribute to the overall work product.

This doesn’t really apply to 42nd and Treadmill, since (1) I have to turn out vast quantities of printed materials, which I couldn’t do from home, and (2) unlike some places, we are not blessed/cursed (take your pick) with an overabundance of middle management.

Still, I have this elsewhere on the corkboard, much plainer and much smaller: “1 manager = 1,048,576 micromanagers.”

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Tesla turns a buck

Several of them, in fact:

Tesla Motors announced [Sunday] that sales of its Model S vehicle exceeded the target provided in the mid-February shareholder letter. As customers who note their Model S serial number this weekend will realize, vehicle deliveries (sales) exceeded 4,750 units vs. the 4,500 unit prior outlook. As a result, Tesla is amending its Q1 guidance to full profitability, both GAAP and non-GAAP.

Well, whaddaya know, people will buy those electric buggies. And they prefer the pricier models, too:

Also being announced today is that the small battery option for the Model S will not enter production, due to lack of demand. Only four percent of customers chose the 40 kWh battery pack, which is not enough to justify production of that version. Customers are voting with their wallet that they want a car that gives them the freedom to travel long distances when needed.

The customers who ordered this option will instead receive the 60 kWh pack, but range will be software limited to 40 kWh. It will still have the improved acceleration and top speed of the bigger pack, so will be a better product than originally ordered, and can be upgraded to the range of the 60 kWh upon request by the original or a future owner.

Which makes perfect sense to TTAC’s Derek Kreindler:

Given that Tesla’s customer base is made up of extremely wealthy EV enthusiasts who are looking to the Model S as either a) a status symbol b) a third car or c) an outright toy, the death of the 40 kWh model makes sense. Few would realistically want a base Model S whether because of status signalling or the reduced performance (in terms of both acceleration and range). Customers interested in the Model S are much more likely to gravitate to the 60 kWh model or the full-bore 85 kWh version, in the same way that the S63 AMG is the best way to use the Mercedes S-Class as an expression of one’s wealth.

Based on this premise, the upcoming Cadillac ELR, a somewhat Voltier Volt with a $60k price tag, might actually outsell the cheaper Chevy.

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Learning by wrote

I whine a lot about writing, but I never have whined quite so persuasively as this:

From the wellspring that is encouragement and noodging from those of you who actually like this crap, I’ve been slowly, o yea verily so very slowly, compiling stuff to try to be A Book Writer. Being A Book Writer is hard shit, Schmidt, I tell you that. You know how when you try to get a decent shopping list together and you can’t really remember exactly what there are two of in the word “broccoli,” is it Cs or Ls? Yeah, well, multiply that by about infinity and herd some cats while you’re at it, and it’s a close approximation of organizing what passes for thoughts for me.

Selling it, I suspect, will be much easier: she’s guaranteed one sale just in this household.

(Besides, the book tour will almost certainly be An Event To Remember.)

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Hard bargainer

“I’ve been putting out, now it’s your turn”:

How much money do you need to spend on a woman before you gain entry? dates meals drinks etc etc

I suggested delicately that he might be shopping in the, um, wrong market.

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