Cruelest Month update

If April had Ides, they’d be today, and the 15th of April has not been the happiest of days in world history, quite apart from the fact that if you’re in the States, your income-tax return is probably due today. For example:

1865: Death of Abraham Lincoln.

1912: Sinking of RMS Titanic.

1927: Beginning of the Great Mississippi Flood.

1936: Arabs in Palestine revolt.

1989: Tiananmen Square protests begin.

2013: Whatever it was that happened in Boston today.

Perhaps a happier moment, from 1930: the birth of Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, fourth president of Iceland, and the world’s first democratically elected (as distinguished from, say, the accession of Eva Perón) female head of state.

President Vigdis of Iceland

Vigdís was elected to her first term in 1980, and served until 1996. In this 2011 picture, there’s a lovely serenity to her, no doubt attributable to having governed a literal volcano of a country for sixteen years.

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IM through

I hadn’t thought about it lately, but it’s true: I haven’t so much as clicked on my instant-message client in months. I suspect I have seen the wisdom of this viewpoint:

One thing I hate about the electronic age is the expectation of immediacy. Some forms of electronic communication, however, have greater expectations of immediacy than others. Like instant messaging, for instance. I once had instant messaging eons ago, but I am prone to multitasking and getting distracted by more important things than random chitchat. This, of course, pissed off people I was IMing with so I ended up not doing any sort of instant messaging at all. E-mail, on the other hand, is more flexible. I respond fairly quickly if it’s from family or work, but otherwise I can put it off for a couple of days. Or respond not at all. (Or pretend that it got lost in the aether if it’s from someone I don’t really want to talk to.) Twitter is a mix between the two. While I like the IMing aspect of interacting with other people online in a semi-immediate way, I don’t think many people would get really angry with me if I get distracted and respond two hours later.

I am not particularly adept at multitasking, so I probably pissed people off even more. And I have informal Response Times for email, depending on my own priorities: six hours is a hurry, 24 hours is more likely, and 48 hours is the default for some high-volume correspondents. (It does nothing, I have discovered, to reduce their volume.)

The record for slowest response to one of my tweets? Two hundred fifty days: 29 July 2012 to 5 April 2013. “Sorry, I totally just saw this!” she explained. I understood: I’m easy to overlook, and it wasn’t like the matter was urgent.

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It happens to the best of us

Surrounded by weasels, we are. Rob O’Hara set up a new site for future use, and when he decided to work on it a bit, he discovered that the weasels had already been there:

Crap. I know WordPress has been under attack lately, so my first assumption was that the site had been compromised. Bypassing Chrome’s warning, I opened the site and searched for any sign of malware. I couldn’t find any. I then clicked “View Source Code” and quickly found the problem — links to a “posh laptop bag” website. While viewing the page itself I couldn’t see the link, but while viewing the code there it was, plain as day. A quick Google search shows that I’m not the only person running WordPress with the issue.

This sounds painfully familiar. He was, however, able to identify the source:

After a few minutes of research I tracked the problem back to the free WordPress theme I had downloaded. The theme was injecting links to sites hosting malware in the theme’s footer, and the links were encrypted (technically, obfuscated) making them difficult to find while sifting through the code.

There are something like twenty bazillion WordPress themes out there; they can’t all be trustworthy. I’ve stuck with this ancient theme for nearly five years, and it was two years old when I got it. And it’s hardly immune to weasels.

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Strange search-engine queries (376)

In this world, Ben Franklin told us, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. I’m not saying that this Monday-morning roundup of oddball search strings deserves to be added to that list, but still: three hundred seventy-six of them.

97 mazda 626 rear tires face inward:  So turn one of them around.

is there a turbo that will fit a 1993 mazda 626 v6:  Well, sure, if you want your tires facing the wrong way.

is it true that ding dong the witch is dead in the charts at the moment:  Made #10, says the Official Charts Company, in the wake of the Baroness Thatcher’s death. It is not, however, the Fifth Estate version that was a 1960s hit in the States.

neon bra panties naked girls:  If they’re wearing neon bra and/or panties, they’re hardly naked, are they?

Today’s Secret Word is sponsored by Fungi-Nail. What is today’s Secret Word (aired on GSN between 3-6pm ET?)  If you expect me to watch television for you, that’s $150 an hour plus expenses. Today’s Secret Word must be something like “indolent.”

don’t play that song midi file:  In fact, don’t even download it.

advantages of western civilization:  It was nice while it lasted, but it assumed each individual was capable of acting in his/her own best interest, a notion that could not be allowed to stand.

what is the ritual for an 2010 infiniti ex35 canada:  In Quebec, anyway, it’s time for the Ritual Removal of the Winter Tires.

dustbury ratios:  About one of these per week, generally.

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A man on a mission

There’s something in the Unwritten Law — I’m sure Murphy influenced it in his own inimitable way — which says that appliances are more likely to fail on weekends, when you can’t get someone to work on them. (I await a study which tries to explain this away by “Well, they’re used more often on the weekends.”)

My trusty old (9½ years) Kenmore duly filled up with water this morning, and then refused to do anything else. Now had I done my usual Thursday-evening wash, I might have simply shrugged, because I’d had enough stuff on the hanger to last me several days. But no, I blew it off, and now, I decided, was the time to panic.

Enter this guy, who listened to me whine, asked me to run a simple diagnostic, and then said he’d be out that evening. Which he was. For those keeping score: the switch that tells the timer when the lid is up or down had fragged. This is about a $40 part, so I figured, okay, $150 if I’m lucky. It could be worse, and anyway, if I take off from work for a day it will cost me about that much anyway. Twenty minutes and $115 later, good as new.

He asked if I’d seen him in the Yellow Pages, which I had; “but I also went out to see if you had a Web site.” He seemed surprised at that: hardly anyone, he said, used the site as a referral, and he was wondering if it was worth it. I assured him, that yes, it was. I did not, however, tell him that I was going to throw him a link. (And, yes, a tweet.)

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Counting coupes?

Paul Simon once droned on about counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike, but at the time he was interested in making Big Cultural Statements.

These days, when you count cars, they’re apparently inside other cars:

[T]o kick off season two of HISTORY’s popular car restoration show Counting Cars, the network is bringing the “Count the Cars Tour” to the Oklahoma City Thunder Game in Bricktown tomorrow.

The exhibit will feature a 1966 Cadillac Coupe de Ville customized by Counting Cars star Danny ‘The Count’ Koker and filled with thousands of miniature cars. Fans will have a chance to win the Cadillac by accurately guessing the number of miniature cars inside.

Here’s a picture of the Caddy in question. It was here this weekend for the NSRA Southwest Street Rod Nationals; if you missed those — and how could you? — it’ll be parked in front of the Harkins Theater, a couple blocks east of the arena, tomorrow between 4 and 8 pm.

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Sickening news

More often than not, it’s literally so.

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Non-matching Tumblrs

What do you do when two women for whom you hold high regard come to diametrically opposite positions? If you’re wise, you run like hell. Not being wise, I post their positions.

Nicole wants to know:

[W]hat the hell is Tumblr good for? Seriously, if you know, share because I don’t see the point. Is it like having a blog with no content other than things you reblog (not to say I’m not seriously guilty of that) where you don’t have to respond to any comments or interact with anyone?

Vi Hart, who just started a Tumblr, ponders:

My question, for now, is whether tumblr is a better place for me than a regular ol’ blog. It seems like it has all the functionality of a blog plus more, even if the bonus sharing/discussing functionality is severely crippled. Tumblr does seem to be designed for spreading photography (of people), photography (of animals), photography (of architecture), and photography (of sculpture), but like most successful internet tools it finds its success in the fact that people can repurpose it to serve their needs. No one cares what twitter or youtube are “for,” anymore, and as long as the creators don’t mess too much with what people do with their tool, it will keep being useful.

Tumblr “notes” can be construed as comments in the canonical sense, but the platform’s structure does allow for comments identified as such, as seen on a few blogs I read now and then. Still, I tend to see Tumblr more as a meme-propagation service than a blog platform.

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Disclose make the man

Thinking about running for office, Bunkie? How’d you like a nice background check?

The notion that government officials should have greater rights to privacy than private citizens is one of the reasons we have such lousy government officials. I’ve been saying for years that if you want to run for public office, you forfeit your right to any privacy. Voters have a right to know any and everything about you that might influence their voting decisions.

The key word here is “influence,” both verb and noun: not since Mr. Smith went to Washington has there been a tabula rasa of a politician, and I don’t expect to see another in my lifetime.

There will be, of course, some resistance to the idea:

The common objection to this is that it would prevent talented people from running for office. No, actually, it would prevent politicians whom their constituents would not cross the street to piss on from gaining the power to rule us.

Talented people are already prevented from running for office by the existing party machinery. Should one somehow sneak by, the mistake will almost certainly be corrected at the next election.

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Saturday spottings (we got your sprawl right here)

One hundred thirty-seven miles.

This year’s Architecture Tour started in far-northern Edmond and ended in far-eastern Norman, leaving me with a real concern as to whether we’d make it to all seven sites in time. I needn’t have worried. Trini takes her job as navigator very seriously, and by the time we first entered the Norman Traffic Death March, we were practically assured of our completion ribbons. (Okay, we don’t get ribbons, exactly, but they mark off each site you visit with a highlighter, and this year they used four different colors.)

Given the geography involved, we followed the ticket order exactly, and this is where we ended up:

1) 1701 Woodhill Road, Edmond

Hiltgen Home

The owners of this stone-over-wood-frame Colorado contemporary, circa 1976, started planning to remodel in early 2009; then a rare late-winter tornado took out 75 percent of the house, and they were more or less forced to update everything ahead of schedule. The exterior was pushed about one notch in the direction of Rustic, though the fittings are clearly contemporary. (Here’s how it looked before the reconstruction.) Positioned on top of a hill at the end of a twisty road, it’s the sort of house you hope your eccentric aunt leaves you in her will.

2) 1000 Northwest 37th Street

7 at Crown Heights

You saw 7 at Crown Heights, to give it its formal name, on last year’s tour; the exterior is much the same as it was then, but the interiors have been filled in nicely, and the courtyard and pool are now finished. The “7” designation comes from the fact that there are seven units, spread over two buildings at a right angle to one another. It still amazes me that the city ever wanted this torn down.

3) 430 Northwest 12th Street


It wouldn’t be an Architecture Tour without something from Brian Fitzsimmons. This year’s former sow’s ear is a Midtown two-story office building, dating to the 1950s, somewhere between retired and ruined. Fitzsimmons’ silk-pursification was audacious enough to add a third story and recasting the building into 26 apartments, not all of which are flats. We saw a unit facing downtown, and the view of course was fabulous. (Covered parking, we are told, is in the works.) As always with Fitzsimmons, natural light is a given; every angle is chosen to maximize the value of incoming sun without boiling you to death in the summer, which is why there is as little glass as possible on the east and west ends.

4) 123 Northwest 8th Street

Lingo Construction

Perhaps by coincidence, Lingo Construction, whose offices you see here, is doing the heavy lifting on 430 NW 12th, supra. This was a 1930 auto-supply operation — being around the corner from Automobile Alley made that almost a given — and its redesign is an ingenious combination of both vintage and vintage-looking structural components, either exposed or, as in this shot, covered with clear polycarbonate. On the east exterior wall is some sort of faded-beyond-recognition painted advertisement, presumably for something automotive, a reminder that this is downtown, dammit, and we don’t cover things up with EIFS if we can help it.

5) 1729 Northwest 3rd Street

WestTown Campus

I wrote about this neighborhood back in 2004: “Professional worriers, faced with a few blocks like this, would undoubtedly start screaming ‘Blight!’ and calling for intervention.” One of the problems is that gentrification of downtown has gradually pushed much of the city’s homeless contingent to the near west side. The Homeless Alliance operates WestTown Campus, which consists of two structures, a Resource Center (seen here) and a similarly designed Day Shelter. The idea was to make it look like less of a large impersonal institution, and I believe they succeeded.

6. 1009 Woodland Drive, Norman

Woodland Residence

Brent Swift, who owns 7 at Crown Heights, also owns this Mid-Century Modern house in near-west Norman, a lovely little L-shaped ranch (not entirely unlike my own) with a lot of improvements made and a lot of accumulated non-improvements removed. The west wall of the east wing is set off with a line of exterior windows each set at about a 25-degree angle, with concealed storage space along the entire hallway. Trini spotted a For Sale sign; I think she’d have bought it if she’d thought the check would have cleared.

7. 3200 Sexton Drive, Norman

Underground Loft

Just the idea of an Underground Loft is intriguing, and this home, built into the side of a hill off a gravel road south of Lake Thunderbird, is fascinating because of its origins — the original architect wanted the advantages of semi-buried construction, but he wanted the place to look absolutely ordinary otherwise. The current owners have redone it to look more like the concrete-and-steel “bunker” that it really is. (We looked at vintage photos on display, and the major virtue on display is innocuousness.) This old-construction look gives the interior the appearance of, yes, a loft. The owner told us that he bought the place more or less on sight, despite not at all being in the market at the time; he saw something in it that no one else had.

(Photo credits: 1, yours truly; 3, rendering by Brian Fitzsimmons; 5-6, Joseph Mills Photography; others furnished by Central Oklahoma Chapter, American Institute of Architects.)

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Reasonably discreditable

Recently arrived in the mail, allegedly from “Credit Updates 360®”:

There’s a 30-day delinquency added to your credit report recently.

We recommend you to check your credit report immediately & request for removal if you believe its an error.

If the 30-day delinquency is correct, it may remain on your report for seven years or more.

You can check your report at no cost by Visiting HERE.

I need hardly mention that HERE is no place you, or I, want to visit. Props, though, to whoever wrote the scheme to echo the email address of the recipient in the actual body text, thereby adding a (very) thin veneer of believability.

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Figures to keep in mind

File this under Things You Need To Know:

There are, it must be conceded, incidents in which calling 911 should be your first priority: a handgun can’t do much for your sudden myocardial infarction.

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Everything is the highest priority

I regret to inform you that this situation is a long way from being unique:

Several years ago, I worked a job where we had a queue of assignments and a pool of workers who would take the first item from the queue that was fed by various account managers. It was first-come-first-serve unless there was something in the “Rush” queue. Sometimes, when we were short-handed or had too much work to do, we would get backed up. It would take longer and longer for items to work there way through the queue. Except for the Rushes, which would initially be done right away. Of course, as time progressed, more and more would become listed as Rush jobs because, while they didn’t technically need it tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, they couldn’t wait the 6-8 weeks the normal pile was taking. There came a point where 80% of the items in the queue were labeled “Rush.”

Before long, we had a new stack: “Super Rush.” This, shockingly, didn’t actually solve the problem.

This may shock some middle-management types (and I thank whatever deities saw to it that I don’t have to deal with them), but everything you do can’t be the most important thing you do, not even if you’re running the Lake Wobegon branch.

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8 is enough

The traditional personal computer is being challenged by tablets and phones and various and sundry other devices. And for “traditional,” I tend to read “Windows-based,” since I don’t know anyone who’s actually retiring a Mac.

Into this maelstrom, Microsoft introduces another version of Windows. How is it being received? At my shop, it’s a lot like this:

Windows 8 was never, ever going to save the PC, because Windows 8 represents an abandonment of the traditional PC. It is essentially a touchscreen tablet OS forced onto the desktop. Like Windows Vista, it is an absolutely awful OS that our company has banned any employee from using on a company machine. Fortunately, we can still buy a few Dell computers with Windows 7, and when that is no longer possible, I will go back to building our company machines and putting Windows 7 on myself, the same thing I did to survive the Vista nightmare (hanging on to XP until Windows 7 came out).

And you know what I thought of Vista.

Microsoft will end support for XP in the spring of ’14. I suppose I’ll either have to hunt down a license for 7, or buy a Mac.

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Even fewer thorns

I was all ready to trot out a Frail Blazers joke, what with Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum and J. J. Hickson all ailing. Well, Hickson did show up, pulling down seven rebounds in 13 minutes, and right before the first-half horn, the Blazers were up by two. As the horn sounded, Thabo Sefolosha dropped in a trey, and that was pretty much it: Oklahoma City outscored Portland 26-7 in the third, and the Blazers never quite got back into it, the Thunder handing them a 106-90 thrashing.

And anyway, OKC was off two players also: Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Martin were both out, meaning that Hasheem Thabeet got the start at center and someone else would have to do the scoring for the bench. That someone else, mostly, was Reggie Jackson, who knocked down 17 points, alongside Derek Fisher with nine. And we got to see Ronnie Brewer for more than a second or two: he missed the two shots he took, but he gathered seven rebounds and executed two steals, just what a defense-minded swingman ought to be doing. We can probably count out Kevin Durant for the scoring title this year, unless he goes off for 50 against Sacramento next week: he had a modest 16 tonight, with Russell Westbrook doing the heavy lifting (33 points, three steals).

Weird but nonetheless Telltale Statistic: last time OKC came to Portland, rookie guard Damian Lillard scored nine points on 3-14 shooting. This time, Lillard bagged ten points — on 3-14 shooting. Will Barton, starting in place of Batum, had a team-high 18; LaMarcus Aldridge was held to 12, seemingly about one-sixteenth of his average. On the upside, the Blazers coaxed 40 points out of their reserves, led by OKC expat Eric Maynor with 11. At least he’s getting some playing time in Portland: you, or at least I, hated to see him riding the pine.

And that’s the last road game of the regular season. The traveling Thunder went a highly respectable 26-15; they’re 33-6 at home with two games left. (Denver obligingly lost tonight, so OKC clinches the Northwest.) San Antonio, half a game back, has three games left, two on the road. I’m starting to like OKC’s chances for the #1 seed, especially since #8 is going to be either the Lakers or the Jazz; I just don’t see Houston dropping their last three, and truth be told, I’d rather they had to play the Spurs in the first round.

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Woofers and tweeters, living together

Becoming a fan of BT of course meant I had to pick up his Twitter feed, and yesterday he was thinking out loud, starting here:

I’ve just come up with a theory. I’ve noticed women are more sensitive to high frequency information and men to low frequency information… And in fact I bet on average, women have a higher range of hearing than men. (anyone can corroborate this awesome). Okay that’s idea one…

Next thought, I believe this is why girls are nearly always aware of lyric and meaning whereas guys focus on rhythm and harmonic structures… It’s funny to hear a couple discuss a song. Guy “Hey sweetheart you know the song that goes baah baah bash boom!” Girl “You mean Forget Me?”

Overheard this convo a million times. So, it hit me the “why”. I believe our hearing has evolved (as other traits) to sustain our species… I’m sure most would agree with this. So I believe men focus bass and sub information as they represented things like earthquakes & predators… Things that were a threat to survival and would provoke fight or flight response in men. I also believe women hear mid and high frequency… information more clearly as the tone of the human voice falls in this range (especially children) & without mom 1000 years ago, you’d die.

Someone (not I) sent him this in support of his notion.

And I’d point out, as though you didn’t already know it, that 99 percent of the time, the $500 car with the $1000 stereo that’s rattling your windows from two lanes over is not being driven by a female.

On the other hand, I’ve observed Trini’s ability to identify a record, even one that’s older than she is, just from the bass line, and I’m pretty sure she didn’t pick that up from me.

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