I still think of myself as a blue-collar sort of guy, which probably explains my delight with this commentary hiding in a Murilee Martin automotive review:

When I got this car, I was all set to make a very clever comparison between Apple and Audi, based on my observations that the crossover between owners of products from both companies is so high. However, that idea crashed like a Quadra 650 showing a Sad Mac when I saw the head-spinning complexity of this car’s controls and displays… Steve Jobs figured out that ordinary users of electronics (e.g., your grandma) don’t want complexity. They don’t even want on/off controls, it turns out, because they don’t want to learn new stuff. If Jobs had consulted on the design of this car, it would have about six controls and one big primary-color gauge showing Driving Situation Quality or some such Cupertinonian metric.

Which is what you need to know, right?

However, the thing that Audi products do have in common with Apple products is compelling design. The A7 is beautiful, of course (just as the packaging around your new Macbook is beautiful), and it features intimidatingly correct ergonomics throughout. At this point, we need to think about the person the A7 buyer wants to be; in my mind, this person is a man with cruelly small rimless glasses who works as a “creative” in some discipline that requires him to be conversant in the work of impenetrable philosophers like Lacan, while demonstrating insider knowledge of obscure facets of urban popular culture (say, the acid house scene of Minsk). He lives in an edgy neighborhood in some unearthly expensive city (Helsinki, Singapore, etc.) and he experiences physical pain when exposed to a piece of bad design. In other words, the kind of guy who always made me feel like a total ignorant, mouth-breathing schlub in grad school and even today reduces me to a state of excessive italicization.

In other news, Minsk has an acid-house scene.

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In which it is turned up

Well, we got a Behind the Scenes video from that Rebecca Black concert, which looks like this:

At least we now know the set list, which includes all four of her singles, a cover of “Friend” from the soundtrack of A Cinderella Story, and a new song which seems to be called “In Your Words.”

And I have to admit, she’s having a whole lot more fun than I did at fifteen.

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Moral derpitude

Can’t tell if trolling or just completely insane:

Hello, as a concerned citizen I would like to say how shocked I am at the state of children’s television programing today. Specifically, the animated girl’s show My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Last week, my niece was over and we were both on the couch watching television when her favorite show came on. It was the exact show in question. After watching a few episodes with her, I was dumbfounded and appalled at how blatantly right wing it was. Especially how much racism was in the show. First off, we have the character named “Princess Celestia”. She of course is the “good leader” of pony land. She is a unicorn with wings, and is white all over. And the way she is portrayed, you almost get the sense that she is a reflection of George Bush or Mitt Romney. And then we have the villain, “Nightmare Moon”. She is also a flying unicorn, however since she is the villain, she black! And not just African American black mind you, she’s black black! She even sounds like she’s voiced by an African American! I wouldn’t have been surprised if the animators had put a bucket of fried chicken next to her! Then there’s the stereotypical conservative farmer pony, Applejack. On the show she owns a farm and sells apples for a living. Of course this is a pro-predatory capitalism character when compared to the other ponies in Ponyville, who are portrayed as lazy. Instead of promoting the act of sharing and equal ownership like other children’s shows, Applejack preys on the other ponies by providing the only source of food to the town, all of course for profit. No sharing and tolerance here!

Behold, the last practitioner of the Royal Canterlot Voice. And doesn’t Applejack get any credit for providing locally grown organic fruit?

(Tweeted at the fandom by M. A. Larson, who has written several episodes of the show.)

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Undear sir

Robert Stacy McCain gets a trollish email, and responds in kind:

Who the hell are you, and why are you sending me this e-mail? Do you have nothing better to do with your life than to scour the Internet, looking for people you disagree with, so that you can send them insulting messages?

What manner of foul hatefulness or psychiatric disorder inspires your antisocial habits? Are you addicted to dangerous drugs or in the thrall of some bizarre sexual perversion?

Seek professional help, before it’s too late.

I have yet to send something like this to one of the characters offering to write blog posts for me on some arcane subject, but I am sorely tempted to copy McCain’s text into a macro. (With, of course, a link back to his original.)

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In which I decline to do the math

The Presurfer celebrates 12 years on the Web with the following factoid:

User experience site FatDUX once calculated the length of an Internet year. The result was that 1 Internet year is like 4.7 years in real life. Which means the Presurfer would be 56 years and 3 months old if the site was a person. Which also means that in two years time this blog will be older than I am. You do the math.

I dare not. If I did, I might learn that I was supposed to have retired around the third week of April. (That’s the third week of April 2010.)

Anyway, congratulations to Gerard Vlemmings, for surviving 12 years in blogdom and for coming up with one of the definitive blog names.

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Scents of disaster

Some time last weekend, the garage started smelling like pancake syrup. Since I haven’t been carpooling with Mrs. Butterworth or anything like that, I concluded that there was a coolant leak, which I ultimately traced to the very top of the radiator, where the cheap plastic crimping was behaving in a manner characteristic of cheap plastic.

The engine hadn’t overheated or anything — no trips over twelve miles were taken, which probably helped — but I am disinclined to allow threats to a fancy-schmancy aluminum engine to get beyond NISCOM 5, and the dealership was booked solid for several days, so I sought out a local shop, preferably one not overly far from me.

And so I landed at Priebe’s Auto Clinic, tucked away on a side street near the Habana Inn, qualifying as “not overly far.” I was armed with the handy rationalization that Nissan knows this engine of theirs hardly ever breaks and therefore charges mucho dinero plus a body part to be named later for any of the ancillary equipment. Last price list I had showed $515 for the radiator plus an hour and a half labor, which comes to somewhere on the wrong side of $700 before you do anything else.

Obvious leak was obvious. I also had the hoses replaced on general principle, and, having calculated that based on prior experience Nissan’s OEM battery would go dead probably this weekend, had them bolt in a fresh Interstate Mega-Tron Plus, which costs about the same and offers about 200 more of those mysterious cold-cranking amps. Total tab for all this: just on the wrong side of $700.

I admit to having forgotten one minor detail: what with the new battery and all, I figured I’d have to redo the radio presets, but it did not occur to me that the fob for the door locks would not work until the car was presented with the proper key and started at least once.

Incidentally, if you patronize this establishment, and I suggest that you do so if you need their services, you’re likely to encounter a fellow named Steve Miller. Do not mention anything about the not-even-slightly-related band.

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Quote of the week

A history lesson courtesy of Roberta X:

Y’know who really won the Second World War? Mussolini. Yeah, the Italians strung him up from a streetlight, but he was first across the line with the Leader Principle, and by the time The Last Good War was over, Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Stalin, Mr. Churchill and Mr. Hitler had established this damfool notion that the guy runnin’ a country was the boss of everyone who lived there. (Mr. Tojo took advantage of something similar by proxy.) I guess the nitwits were starved for Kings; whatever, the friggin’ fascists colonized the zeitgeist and we have been stuck with it ever since.

As her roomie is wont to say, “Vobis non me dux.”

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In which I claim to know what I’m doing

After Nice Deb got (temporarily) bounced off WordPress.com for some unspecified Terms of Service violation — she’s back now — I decided I probably ought to reread the TOS at my own host, and found this somewhat amusing section:

2. Use of DreamHost Web Hosting’s service requires a certain level of knowledge in the use of Internet languages, protocols, and software. This level of knowledge varies depending on the anticipated use and desired content of Customer’s Webspace by the Customer.

3. The following examples are offered:

  1. Web Publishing: requires a knowledge of HTML, properly locating and linking documents, FTPing Webspace contents, Graphics, text, Sound, imagemapping, etc.
  2. CGI-Scripts: requires a knowledge of the UNIX environment, TAR & GUNZIP commands, Perl, CShell scripts, permissions, etc.

4. The Customer agrees that he or she has the necessary knowledge to create Customer’s Webspace. Customer agrees that it is not the responsibility of DreamHost Web Hosting to provide this knowledge or Customer Support outside of the defined service of DreamHost Web Hosting.

That’s me: a minimum acceptable level of competence since 2001. (I’d been doing this five years before that, but at a different host.)

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Bit by bit

It wasn’t that long ago that the Royal Equestrian Mint made one-bit coins available to us non-pony folk, and given the utter absence of an official, or even an unofficial, exchange rate, I suspect most of them are being sold as objets d’art.

Equestrian two-bit bill with Twilight SparkleStill, one bit is not an enormous sum, which may or may not have motivated this interested party into reproducing Equestrian paper currency. Denominations are as follows:

I have no idea what, if any, rate of inflation may prevail.

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Son of a glitch

There exists a blog called QA Hates You, which asserts that QA, well, hates you. We’re not given much opportunity to hate them back, so this proposal definitely has its charms:

[W]ith the amount of time I have to spend learning the new package, I think software company executives should be responsible by wearing a shock collar that’s connected to the internet. When I get frustrated, they get a jolt. When they change the entire format, menus and make it exasperating to use the software, I get up to 30 seconds on the button — just to get their attention.

They probably won’t call this the Milgramator, but they ought to. (Besides, some of us would just lean on that damn button.)

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So very Prout

Kirsten Prout will be 22 on Friday, which means that yes, she was born in 1990. (Seems like only yesterday, doesn’t it?) She’s been acting since she was ten, mostly on television, though she has some big-screen credits, including a role in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, playing Lucy, one of the original Southern vampires. She wasn’t in the previous Twilight film, New Moon, the following photo notwithstanding:

Kirsten Prout

About the time she was appearing in Elektra, which would make her 14 or thereabouts, she volunteered that she’d had a rough time in second grade:

I was actually very lucky to receive a horrible teacher… I was such a spunky little kid and anytime I would do anything creative like add hair on my teddy bear and long eyelashes or something she would make fun of it. She completely stifled anyone’s creative spirit. I completely withdrew and became a really shy kid. I do owe it to her to be acting right now because she was the one that made me depressed and my mother asked me “what can I do to make you happy again?” and I’d always, always wanted to act. I always loved movies and wanted to be in them and I asked my mom if I could get an agent and start martial arts and start Tae Kwon Do.

Stuff like that matters when you’re fourteen. Sometimes, even later.

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Maintenance page of the week

The Consumerist is down for another round of technical revamping, the most extensive since Consumer Reports bought the site from Gawker in 2008. Until actual content returns, this is what they have to say:

[I]t was a tough choice to take the site down while we make changes, but our readers are the most important consideration, and everything we do is with your best interests in mind.

Thanks for your patience, your understanding, and your offers of assistance. Our readers are the best, and anyone who says otherwise probably does PR for Bank of America. We look forward to writing for you again soon.

In the last four “Worst Company of America” competitions conducted by the Consumerist, B of A has finished no worse than fourth, though they’ve never actually won the Golden Poo.

Update: Looks like they’re starting to put up content again, at an alternate location.

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And he wasn’t even under the bridge

A man decides to track down a particularly hateful troll, with unexpected results:

In July I was approached by a friend, who’s basically an IT genius, and he offered some help. He said that he could trace the hackers and trolls for me using perfectly legal technology, which would lead to their IP addresses. I said yes. Then I baited them — I was deliberately more provocative toward them than ever I’d been before…

It transpired that the abuse had emanated from three separate IP addresses in different corners of Ireland. Two of them were public wifi locations but the third …

The third location was the interesting one.

The third location was a friend’s house.

The Troll was his son. His 17yr old son.

The friend’s reaction:

He was horrified at what his son had done. Horrified, but not surprised. He wanted to call the authorities there and then and turn him in. But I said no.

More than usual, I urge you to Read The Whole Thing.

(With thanks to Joy McCann.)

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Infinite battery backup not included

I’ll bet someone’s working on a story about this even now:

Researchers have now proposed an experimental design for a “space-time crystal” that would be able to keep time forever. This four-dimensional crystal would be similar to conventional 3D crystals, which are structures, like snowflakes and diamonds, whose atoms are arranged in repeating patterns. Whereas a diamond has a periodic structure in three dimensions, the space-time crystal would be periodic in time as well as space.

Eternal clocks! How do they work?

[T]he scientists would aim to create a ring of charged particles, with the resulting electromagnetic forces causing the structure to rotate perpetually. At its lowest quantum-energy state, also known as its ground state, the system has no disorder, or entropy, and there is no way for its entropy to increase over time. Thus, the crystal’s temporal structure and timekeeping ability would continue even after the universe reached a state of “heat death,” also known as thermodynamic equilibrium, when it had devolved into entropy.

Alfred Centauri finds this concept just slightly risible:

[E]ven if we allow for the possibility that the universe, which is everything, could cease to exist, there would be nothing. If in fact, there is anything, including an alleged eternal clock, then there is something and thus a universe in which it exists.

Star Trek: The Next Generation agrees, obliquely:

Dr. Crusher: Computer, what is the nature of the universe?
Computer: The universe is a spheroid region, 705 meters in diameter.

If the clock is all there is, the universe must be the clock, n’est-ce pas?

Still, I predict that (1) there will be a story and (2) somehow Twilight Sparkle will be involved.

(While I was finishing this up, WordPress was suggesting tags. Somehow tagging something “universe” seems illogical; shouldn’t everything be tagged “universe”?)

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Being needled

Two, four, six, eight, why can’t someone calibrate?

Screenshot from Yahoo! Answers - How come my car says it can go up to 140 but I can only go up to 80

For some reason, Toyota Celicas seem to invite this question.

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Bent tracks

“Human train wrecks,” Mark Butterworth calls them, and “they’re too wrenching to enjoy anymore.” As examples, he cites Billie, Janis, Judy, Piaf and the Lizard King.

I’m not so sure. I threw in those abbreviated references because I figure all of you would immediately recognize them anyway. And the recordings they made, pretty much all of which are still in print after all these years, don’t necessarily evoke memories of their sad lives — at least not for me. But your mileage may vary, as Mark’s obviously did:

They are very compelling at the moment, but when that moment passes, they are hard to take. It’s as if in retrospect you want to yell at them “Get a therapist, for God’s sake! You don’t have to be this effed up. Your pathos is really pathetic and turning into bathos. Smell the coffee, plant some roses, do a jigsaw puzzle, but geez, get off your favorite subject — your misery ought to be everyone else’s, too. Let’s all slit our wrists together.”

If I yell at anyone, it’s likely to be the subject of a song by the late Harry Chapin, who had a knack for personalizing human train wrecks. Your attention is directed to “Sniper,” a tale of a tower gunman not unlike Charles Whitman. It’s compelling and frightening and fictional. Mostly.

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