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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It was decidedly scary. I had just logged in to post something, when the browser window closed. Then TweetDeck closed. Then the mail client dropped, and the system shut down.

“What is this? Some sort of zero-day exploit?” I’m still not sure. I swapped out the keyboard and the up-acting quit acting up; on the other hand, I’d started up Malwarebytes, and it didn’t seem happy with what it found. I’ll swap in yet another keyboard tomorrow night.

Update: Second pass, MBAM found nothing, keyboard acted silly. Q.E.D.

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Future pony

Dear Princess Celestia:

Is the possibility of unemployment tormenting you?

Don’t worry about it.

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Cutting a goddess down to size

Well, we finally have a source for that Hello Kitty vodka seen here last spring. As suspected, it’s a fabrication; as not suspected, it’s part of a collection by artist Anna Utopia Giordano, who specializes in messing with her audience’s heads digitally. There’s also a Barbie vodka and a Lego tequila, and now I understand why the top of the bottle was cropped out.

A more recent project, “Venus,” is on exhibit at Museum Het Valkhof in the Netherlands. You all know Venus: she’s your fire, what’s your desire? And she’s been portrayed, often in paintings long considered masterpieces, generally naked as the day she was born — and blessed with a certain sufficiency of flesh generally incomprehensible in these days when Beautiful and Emaciated walk arm in lath-thin arm. What to do? Giordano to the rescue, applying to the goddess the very same Photoshop techniques routinely used in fashion magazines. In Botticelli’s half-shell work, for instance, Venus has gotten an obvious tummy tuck and smoothing of her thighs and upper arms, while going up about half a cup size.

Then again, not all Renaissance painters rendered women as, um, fleshy. Jonathan Jones points out in the Guardian:

[T]here are Renaissance nudes that are just as skinny as any fashion designer could demand. The German painter Lucas Cranach the Elder portrayed strikingly thin and narrow-waisted nudes. His Venus believed you could never be too bony or wear too many hats. But he was a close friend of Martin Luther, and believed the body to be a vessel of sin. Those sensual Italians had a more abundant and generous idea of beauty.

Peter Paul Rubens was not available for comment.

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Seize the day and everything adjacent

Shut up, serfs, your betters have the floor:

Some years ago, I spoke against a proposed town ordinance that would have granted the town the power to confiscate items found in a private home’s yard and fine the owner. I pointed out that that would amount to an arbitrary seizure power, extending to anything ever found outside the home’s front door. The town’s attorney immediately rose to protest that “we would never use it like that!” They were only interested in eliminating “eyesores” that were upsetting one or two querulous residents.

“We would never use it like that,” as lies go, ranks right up there with “The check is in your mouth” and “I won’t come in the mail.” And just in case you might have thought otherwise:

[T]he town council’s decision … was to pass the ordinance in the dead of night, at a secret session.

A governmental unit operating at that level of chicanery is far worse than a mere eyesore.

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Perhaps shooting in B&W would help

The bicycle lane on a 1.5-mile stretch of Spring Street in downtown Los Angeles is painted a vivid neon green, which would seem to be a Good Thing, unless you’re making movies:

[T]he bike path still rankles location scouts and filmmakers, who see it as another hurdle to filming in Los Angeles.

Their concern: The bright color would be a distraction to viewers, doesn’t belong in period movies and makes it harder for L.A. to do what it does best: play other cities.

“As we all know, unlike other major cities, our downtown footprint is very small and limited and we’ve used this stretch for [an] ‘anywhere in the world’ big city for years and it is vital to us for many projects,” Ed Duffy, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers, wrote in a recent email to members.

According to Duffy, the office of Mayor Villaraigosa had issued a statement saying the paint on Spring between 3rd and 9th would be allowed to fade in the California sun, but apparently the city is, um, backpedaling.

(Via this Ryan Baker tweet.)

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