Fill it to the Brin

With great power, Lynn reminds us, comes great responsibility. Are you listening, Google?

You have deliberately tried to make yourself ubiquitous. You’re into everything. That’s fine. It makes it convenient for us but it also means that you have a great responsibility. You are now like water. When we turn on the faucet we expect water to come out of it without fail.

When the pipes aren’t frozen, anyway.

Note: Some sloppy verbiage in the first paragraph rewritten.

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Where the rubber meets the glass

As seen here in December ’08:

I note with some amusement that Nissan charges more for the driver’s side blade than for the passenger’s side, no doubt because it’s six inches longer; apparently Rain-X does not. Amount pocketed / not spent [choose one]: about $9. I have no idea what kind of warranty coverage I have on these, but geez, they’re just wiper blades, they’ll be gone in a year or two.

For “a year or two,” read “25 months.” I bought the same Rain-X blade — 24-inch on the driver’s side, 16-inch on the passenger’s — and curiously, the price for the pair has dropped by a third in the interim.

Perplexed, I dialed up Amazon, which didn’t have the 16-incher, but they ask $9.99 for any size through 22 inches, $11.41 for the 24s. There exist higher grades, which command higher prices, but they aren’t strictly comparable. The Infiniti store charged me $9.72 for each blade. Plus tax, of course, but no shipping, and in fact the parts guy went out and installed them for me. The invoice says clearly “$15.50 list,” so I’m wondering if maybe I’m getting some sort of break for giving them $6000 in service business in five years.

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Thus occasionally to tyrants

Ric Locke argues that taking a hard line with the world’s tyrants is ultimately counterproductive:

There are many more tyrants in the World, some of them worse than Mubarak on his worst day. Our goal should be to get rid of all of them. The task is made immeasurably more difficult if the tyrants know that, if they lose their grip on power, they will end up being nibbled to death by ducks. Tyrants have the machineries of State under their fingertips, and can (and demonstrably do) take whatever measures they think they might need for self-protection. The net effect is tighter tyrannies that are more difficult to dislodge, everywhere.

Emphasis in the original. An example for consideration:

Which would you prefer: Hosni Mubarak living a life of ease in the Gulf States and hobnobbing with Saudi Princes on a basis of near-parity, thus inspiring Muammar Qaddafi to expect the same soft landing — or a frail old man subjected to a show trial for Crimes Against Humanity while Mugabe and the Iranian Mullahs hire more “security” thugs, and the Chinese Politburo rounds up dissidents?

Normally I’d be scornful of this particular flavor of Realpolitik, and there’s nothing emotionally satisfying in seeing persons of this ilk not being Ceauşescued into oblivion; but suppose Locke’s called this one right?

It’s not at all clear how many tyrants would be willing to let go if offered a soft landing. It is totally clear that if the soft landing isn’t possible, such retirements will not occur. What will happen, guaranteed, is more firing squads, broken heads, jail cells, and Internet clampdowns, as the remaining tyrants move to reinforce their power base.

Which leads to a question I suspect must be inevitable: is there enough presumably-filthy lucre available to buy out the lot of them?

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Eventually, they went to Jared

A bit of Subway history of which I was not aware:

Subway was founded by relatives Fred De Luca and Peter Buck in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The 20 year old Fred borrowed some money from Uncle Buck and opened Pete’s Submarines. The name was changed later to Pete’s Subway since radio announcements about the sandwich shop sounded like Pizza Marines. Subsequently, it was shortened to simply Subway.

On the other hand, I’m with Gael on this one: “Pizza Marines” is an awesome name. (“The few, the proud, the six-inch?” Don’t go there.)

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Last-chance sedan

Yeah, it’s another Dodge ad. For a car company that was basically left for dead, they certainly seem to be alive and kicking.

(Previous Mopar attitude here.)

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Protocol bleg

Monday I tweeted about this Steph Mineart pictorial, calling it the “best Valentine’s Day tribute this year, if you ask me.”

I still think that. However, a Twitter follower, in the process of thanking me for the link, let it be known that she’d read it in the context of your traditional one-male-one-female couples: she didn’t pick up on the fact that this particular couple was composed of two women, who got married in Canada where it’s legal.

I agonized for a moment over whether I should set her straight, so to speak, and then decided I wouldn’t bring it up. However, the fact that you’re seeing this here tells you that I wasn’t all that happy with that particular decision. On one level, I feel I shouldn’t have to explain every last link I serve up for public consumption: on the other, well, I hate the idea of leaving someone with a misapprehension.

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Now is the time when we breathe

After going 1-1 on the Left Coast over the weekend, the Thunder were anxious to go into the All-Star break with a win, and they got their first break well before tipoff: Sacramento überguard Tyreke Evans turned up with plantar fasciitis, poor fellow, and the Kings, who didn’t play that badly otherwise, were blown out of Oklahoma City’s Large Indoor Downtown Roundabout to the tune of 126-96.

Your Telltale Statistics: DeMarcus Cousins, fined by the Kings yesterday for an altercation after Saturday night’s game with the Thunder, was the leading scorer for Sacramento with 21; Daequan Cook, epoxied to the OKC bench for much of the season, came up with 20 points to lead the Thunder.

Oh, and this: it was OKC 100, Sacramento 75, after the third quarter. With an abundance of garbage time, Serge Ibaka actually got more minutes than anyone else in home whites, playing 28:12, and all twelve active players put in at least some time. This won’t help Kevin Durant’s average — he finished with 17 — but I suspect he’s happier with the win. And in a mere 25 minutes, Russell Westbrook came up with a skimpy but legitimate double-double: 10 points, 11 assists. The on-again off-again Jeff Green was on again, with 16 points on 7-9 shooting. OKC shot an even 50 percent, and were 3-17 from beyond the arc, except for Cook, who hit five of seven.

The Kings, to their credit, never acted like it was over until the fourth quarter, when the benches were emptied. Cousins reeled in 13 boards to lead everyone. Beno Udrih and Pooh Jeter, splitting duty at the point, each scored in double figures. Apart from a flurry of missed treys — they hit only two of 11 — there really wasn’t much they did wrong; they just weren’t able to do enough against a Thunder defense which actually showed up in the first quarter for once.

And so OKC goes into the break at 35-19. The schedule gets hairy rather quickly afterwards: next Tuesday at home against the Clippers, Wednesday at San Antonio, Friday at Orlando, then back home Sunday against the other L.A. team.

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Aw, you can walk it

Someone on the Oklahoman’s editorial board has evidently been beaned with an industrial-strength snowball:

Any number of schools could have held classes last week, except that the roads where the buses would have had to travel to pick up students were still snowpacked and treacherous. So schools stayed closed and now superintendents and principals are trying to figure out how to make up so much lost time.

Wait, what? It’s the fault of the buses? Students could have just walked through the record cold, or their parents could have run into one another on the way out of the neighborhood?

We’ve made the argument before — the Oklahoma Constitution requires the state to provide children an education, but says nothing about providing them transportation to and from school. Even so, this practice has continued for generations.

Also continuing for generations: the calls by the Oklahoman for school consolidation, which would almost certainly require transportation for students nearest the schools to be closed.

Two possibilities present themselves:

  • Somebody’s vacation plans got messed up by snow days;
  • Someone at the Black Tower has a friend with an independent bus business.

Take your pick.

(Via Brittany Novotny.)

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The inherent vice of hotel pools

Donna reports that the pool at Atlantic City’s Borgata is “very clean,” and explains why this qualifies as news:

Having spent a large part of my working life traveling across the US and staying at Holiday Inns, I can tell you that about 95% of the pools out there have a floating top layer consisting of oil, sweat, hairspray and piss.

It ain’t exactly Churchill’s “blood, toil, tears and sweat,” but then it’s hard to imagine Churchill staying either (1) in Atlantic City or (2) at a Holiday Inn.

And come to think of it, isn’t sweat heavier than water?

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Gee, Wally

It’s all fun and games, running the onscreen caption machine, until, well, something like this happens:

Wally Szczerbiak

The Random Dude portrayed is former NBA forward — and current CBS analyst — Wally Szczerbiak. Clearly the network needs to do a better job of recognizing its own staff.

(Via Henry Abbott.)

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The redoubles gave them away

A paragraph from Phillip Alder’s contract-bridge column yesterday:

When the World Bridge Federation joined the International Olympic Committee, players had to obey the drug rules, which restricted caffeine. However, the IOC has relented, accepting that caffeine is not a performance-enhancing drug for a bridge player, as it might be for an athlete; it just helps contestants to stay awake.

Actually, if I need the queen of trumps to be on my right for the finesse to work, I’m rather hoping the player holding same dozes off.

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The Party of Huh?

Wherein I attempt to rebrand the Grand Old Party as something a trifle less useless.

Update: Now crossposted at Eternity Road, with the title I probably should have used in the first place.

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Zooeypalooza 9!

We’ve gone too long without one of these, wouldn’t you say?

Zooeypalooza 9!

Embiggenment of individual photos can be had with a click.

Previous Paloozas: ZP 1, ZP 2, ZP 3, ZP 4, ZP 5, ZP 6, ZP 7, and ZP 8.

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The next big thing, Part XCIV

Jeffrey Zeldman is kicking in a few bucks to an application called Readability. No big deal? Don’t be too sure:

Readability focuses the user’s attention on the content, creating an enhanced — and often much more accessible — reading experience. It also subverts the typical web browsing design paradigm, where each website offers a different visual experience. Instead, to the Readability user, all web content looks the same, once she has clicked a button to engage the Readability view.

Web designers are even now falling on their swords. But that’s barely the half of it:

What Readability 2.0 adds to the mix is automatic payment for content creators. How it works is simple: I pay a small fee each month to use Readability. Most of that money gets divided between the creators of the web pages I’ve viewed in Readability.

For “most,” you can read “70 percent.” And there goes another paradigm:

For the first time, content monetization is no longer the problem of content creators. Writers can stop being salespeople, and focus on what they do best: creating compelling content. The better the content, the more people who engage with it via Readability, the more money writers will make — with no bookkeeping, no ad sales, and no hassle.

I have to admit, I am intrigued by the possibilities of this scheme.

The bucks — okay, more likely the cents — aren’t going to roll in unless I include a snippet of Readability code in the template, as Zeldman explains:

[T]he program is opt-in.

If you want to participate, you go to Readability.com and *register* your site with the program, inserting a unique identifier in your template that the site creates for you.

Easy enough, though of course I have about 8000 static pages that would have to be updated.

I remember when CSS first appeared, back in the Jurassic period of Web development, and we were told that it was important to keep content and style wholly separate. Now we know why — maybe.

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Occupational hazards

Earlier this month, I said something to the effect that Her Majesty’s Government was putting entirely too much effort into “making life easier for the criminal element.”

Just in case you assumed I was engaging in the fine art of hyperbole, here’s a fresh example of what I mean:

A spate of thefts in several towns and villages in Kent and Surrey over the past few months led to many householders taking action to protect their property.

Some have been warned by police that using wire mesh to reinforce shed windows was “dangerous” and could lead to criminals claiming compensation if they “hurt themselves”.

Now in a civilized area, this situation doesn’t come up, as Peter explains:

Anyone trying to break into my shed is likely to encounter a rather more effective deterrent than window mesh. In fact, he might find it so effective that he’ll never burgle a shed again!

And that’s the bonus benefit: a very low recidivism rate.

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Thoroughly crushed

Those of us who have loved neither too wisely nor too well have perhaps an enhanced sensitivity to the Classic American Crush, the heart demanding an object of fixation to fill an otherwise-empty space, and the eyes alighting on just such an object at exactly the wrong time. Recounting the full list of those who have unwittingly filled this role for me would be painful for me and probably embarrassing for them, so for the moment I’ll confine myself to fictional characters.

When I was eleven, Freddy Cannon put out a bizarre little stomper called “Abigail Beecher,” a name positively redolent of Victorian gentility: you half-expected her to be teaching history in some classroom with dark-paneled walls and a blackboard so old it was actually green. Well, that much she did; but according to Freddy, she drove a Jaguar E-type, was conversant with contemporary teenage dance steps, and occasionally even surfed. Not a Van Halenesque object of lust, exactly, but someone you couldn’t possibly ignore, especially if you were an Impressionable Youth.

Officially in those days I didn’t know much about history, mostly because I was getting my romantic advice from Sam Cooke. So I spent some time in contemplation of what Art Fleming on Jeopardy! called “unreal estate,” which inevitably led me to Mrs Darrin Stephens, of whom I would write at the tender age of fifty-one:

For a squirrelly little kid like me who never imagined himself with so much as a temporary girlfriend, a “card-carrying, broom-riding, house-haunting, cauldron-stirring witch” was exactly the ticket to suburban happiness, and that doofus Durwood, or whatever his name was, simply wasn’t worthy of someone like that.

For the moment, I overlooked the likelihood of clashes with the in-laws, but who doesn’t?

Still, both Miss Beecher and Mrs Stephens were older and wiser than I, and eventually my teenage self turned to someone my own age and my own level of bewilderment: Cassandra Mortmain, narrator of Dodie Smith’s novel I Capture the Castle, who explains her situation in the opening pages of the Sixpenny Book:

[U]p to now my stories have been very stiff and self-conscious. The only time father obliged me by reading one of them, he said I combined stateliness with a desperate attempt to be funny. He told me to relax and let the words flow out of me.

Apparently Mr Mortmain had anticipated my own style by several years. And ultimately poor Cassandra is waylaid by a crush of her own, which unwinds in the most torturous of ways — except for the fact that, well, it doesn’t. Of these three women, she’s the one I’ve had the least success getting over.

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