Harder even than diamond

On one level, I find this utterly charming:

Nokia 3360 or 3390 phone

And then I remember that I had one of these phones, and it took me nine years to break it, but I did break it.

Anyone want to guess how long I was married?

(Via Ask My Little Dashie.)

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Strange search-engine queries (352)

This is the usual weekly roundup of search strings used to reach this domain. It is, I think, safe to say that it should have no influence, one way or another, on anyone’s ladyparts.

tavi gevinson compare janis joplin:  Most obviously, Tavi has a smallish voice and is still alive; Janis had a big voice and, well, isn’t.

worldbestproduct:  If you ask me, a HVAC system that uses dirt for fuel.

where is the transmission solenoid located do u have a picture for 93 marquis:  You know, if you’re not sure where the part is located, you might want to let somebody else fix it.

women stripped my invisible force:  They do that. Get used to it.

friends dont let friends get nuked billboard dixie hwy and 183rd st:  Oh. Nuked. For a moment there I thought you said “naked.”

space time vortex with battery:  I should hope so. You’d have a devil of a time trying to keep it plugged into the wall.

how does machine catch shoplifters in metro karachi:  It draws them into a space-time vortex.

cracked anvil:  How large a crack? About the length and width of a coyote’s head, maybe?

Just print the attached PDF boarding pass virus:  Now why can’t all malware have simple instructions like that?

what is brain drifting:  See, for instance, any of the previous 20,000 or so posts.

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Old-school thinking

The old school, in this case, is the Electoral College, and it deserves a couple of cheers, says Garett Jones:

The electoral college, set forth in the U.S. Constitution, is a great tool for reducing social conflict across regions of the United States. You might think that’s a crazy claim — don’t we see maps of red and blue, and aren’t the red places — the places supporting the Republican — mostly in the South and Midwest? Indeed, and that pattern across regions is key to explaining how the electoral college defuses some social tension.

And if there’s anything of which we have a surplus in this largely stagnant economy, it’s social tension. Look what we’d have with a straight popular vote:

[I]t’s safe to say that if your state is polling 65% for a particular presidential candidate, neither candidate is likely to campaign there any time soon.

And that’s great news for social peace. We rarely hear too much about regional issues in the U.S. other than farmers vs. everyone else. But if the presidency was decided by majority rule, I’m sure we’d hear a lot more about regional differences. Could a presidential candidate get 75% of the votes in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida by promising broad-based Gulf Coast subsidies and a few other goodies? Could a candidate get 85% of California’s and New York’s votes partly by offering housing subsidies for people facing high housing costs?

I don’t know: But if we got rid of the electoral college and had a popularly elected president we’d sure have a chance to find out.

And we don’t want to, either:

As it stands, presidential candidates are trying to appeal to the median voter in each state across a large number of states. That’s how you get to be president. This reduces regional tensions because candidates are never trying to get 90% of the votes in a state. When you’re pitting 90% of one region of the country against 90% of another region of the country, you’re substantially raising the probability of social conflict. Too many civil wars are based on regional differences for this to be no big deal.

It would be well to remember that those who wail and gnash their teeth about the distribution of power are always making exactly the same argument: Group A, whom we disdain, needs to be disempowered for the benefit of Group B, whom we embrace. My own stance on this is simple: Groups A through Z inclusive should be told to STFU and GBTW, because groups, other than the states themselves and We The People, have no standing under the Constitution. And I’m getting to the point where I would much rather everyone were vaguely dissatisfied with the system as it is than have some ecstatically happy at the expense of everyone else.

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In the wake of Sandyfication

With the hurricane well on its way, Megan McArdle offers the following advice:

If you live in the Northeast, and you haven’t already, now would be a very good time to make sure that homeowner’s insurance is up to date.

And while she didn’t go this far, I will: do not be surprised when your premiums skyrocket. (Mine have nearly doubled in two years, and I was already paying more than you are.)

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Suzette spotted this placard while exiting a ladies’ room in Denver:

Restroom sign in Denver: Door lever treated with an antimicrobial coating for your protection

Now is this going to make you feel better because presumably you won’t be encountering any nasty stuff on the actual door handle, or is it going to make you feel worse because none of the other surfaces inside that room, many of which you touched, apparently had been so treated?

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Declining output

Francis W. Porretto announces that he is about to engage in “writerly triage”:

As I’ve committed to producing two more novels, I’ll be giving those efforts precedence. I’ll post essays here as often as my other commitments and burdens allow, but I fear that will be substantially less often than I have in the past.

Time, regrettably, is the one utterly unreplenishable natural resource. And I’ve noticed my own volume seems to be down a bit. Mr Porretto and I work different ends of the street, as it were — he crafts the long, elegant essay, while I do the quick-and-dirty sub-300-word stuff — but we’re both pressed for time, and the demands of earning a living aren’t going away any time soon.

Two thousand eleven, in fact, was the first year since 2004 in which I’d made fewer than 2,000 posts. (The record: 2,161, in 2005.) I’m on pace this year for a mere 1,919. (The number of Vents per year has been fixed at 48 since 1997.)

Then again, if I were to subdivide the Recent Fiction Experiment into 300-word chunks, well, that’s 42,000/300 = 140. That would bring me up to 2,159 for the year if I do no more stories. (Likelihood that I will do no more stories: next to nil.) So maybe my actual volume is not down so much after all.

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Some thoughts about the Big Trade with the Rockets:

  • So much for the oft-rumored Kendrick Perkins amnesty. It’s been suggested that the only way the Thunder could possibly offer anything close to a max contract to James Harden would be to use the amnesty clause on Perk. And now they don’t have to.
  • Kevin Martin is a pretty damned good swingman in his own right, and his contract ($12.9 million) runs out after this season, so this is basically a rental.
  • Rookie Jeremy Lamb, a #12 pick out of UConn, is apparently being declared this year’s version of Daequan Cook, though he’ll probably get two-thirds the minutes. Then again, he gets paid two-thirds as much.
  • If Sam Presti were shipwrecked on a desert island, he’d still stockpile draft picks, and everyone knows it.

Still, this plays hell with everybody’s depth charts, and it indicates a touching amount of faith in Hasheem Thabeet, who now presumably climbs to the second string.

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Everybody Pylon

If you ever suspected that the chief beneficiary of ever-lengthened copyright protection would be the legal profession, go to the head of the class:

When settling previous intellectual disputes, Woody Allen has been able to produce esteemed men of letters to come to his defense (at least when Marshall McLuhan is hiding just off camera). But there is not much chance that William Faulkner will be able to speak up for him in this latest disagreement: Faulkner Literary Rights, the company that controls works by that Nobel Prize-winning author of The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying, has filed a lawsuit over Mr. Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris and what it says is that movie’s unauthorized use of a line from Faulkner’s book Requiem for a Nun.

The line, as spoken by Gil Pender (Owen Wilson): “The past is not dead. Actually, it’s not even past. You know who said that? Faulkner. And he was right. And I met him, too. I ran into him at a dinner party.”

Faulkner, of course, was right. Sony Classics, Allen’s distributor, hopes to prove the lawyers are wrong.

(Via this Lauren Gilbert tweet.)

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Meanwhile, down in the stacks

I’ve had this picture for a while, and the more I look at it, the more it perplexes me.

Corinne Calvet at the bottom of the stairs

The lady in question is actress Corinne Calvet (1925-2001), and everything about the scene screams early 1960s: the hair, the dress, the camera angle, the numbers chiseled into the photograph for identification. Unfortunately, Calvet wasn’t doing a whole lot of acting in the early 1960s, and this doesn’t look much like it would fit into either Bluebeard’s Ten Honeymoons or Apache Uprising, her two main film roles in the 1960s, so I’m guessing this is from one of several appearances on the TV series Burke’s Law. (As usual with stuff like this, corrections are welcomed.)

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Disservice pack

Tam makes the pertinent observation about Windows 8:

Windows versions are like Star Trek movies: Every other one’s a dog.

Consider: 98 (yay!), ME (meh), XP (yay!), Vista (meh), 7 (yay!)

Apple, of course, offers cats — big cats — on every release.

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What the Fax is

From the very end of 2009:

An appeals court in Ohio has overturned the settlement of a class-action lawsuit against Carfax. Several groups had said the settlement was a poor deal for consumers, who were being offered coupons for free Carfax reports, while lawyers would get as much as $566,000.

The suit contended Carfax, which sells used vehicle histories to consumers, deceived customers by concealing the limits of the information it collects about crash damage. It was filed in 2004 by Edward B. West, of Niles, Ohio, in the Court of Common Pleas for Trumbull County, on behalf of Carfax customers nationwide.

This came in over the transom yesterday:

A proposed settlement has been reached in a lawsuit known as Davis v. Carfax, Inc., No. CJ-04-1316L, pending in the Oklahoma District Court in Cleveland County. The lawsuit claims that Carfax and a related company violated consumer protection laws by not properly disclosing terms and conditions for, and limitations of, Carfax Vehicle History Reports. Carfax denies all of Plaintiffs’ claims of wrongdoing.

This settlement is perhaps a marginally better deal for consumers:

Carfax has agreed to make changes in its disclosures and contracting process with all customers, including Class Members. In addition, each Class Member who remains in the settlement can claim a Settlement Voucher and either use it or transfer it to someone else. A Settlement Voucher can be redeemed for free Carfax Vehicle History reports, or the original recipient of a Settlement Voucher can convert it into $3 in cash. Conversion requests will be handled on a first-come, first-served basis and will be capped at $650,000 in total for Class Members (and, if the Court awards any Settlement Vouchers to counsel for the Class as part of an award of attorneys’ fees, costs, and expenses, for that counsel as well).

It’s a narrower Class in Davis, but by happenstance, it includes yours truly.

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Further unfolding

A page from the ongoing saga of singer/songwriter Tristan Prettyman, whose album Cedar + Gold I continue to recommend, from one of those celebrity mags:

The fact that someone can propose, with a beautiful ring and say everything you want to hear, and then just change their mind a couple months later. What does it even really mean? I think it means I dodged a bullet.

Also at that second link: two videos, the official one for “I Was Gonna Marry You,” and Capitol’s nifty “1 Mic 1 Take” B&W video of “Come Clean.”

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Thumbs counted

One of the more remarkable qualities of Rebecca Black’s original “Friday” video was the vast number of dislikes it received during its period of greatest virality (viralness? viralitude?), in the spring of 2011. The video was pulled after 160 million views or so, and then reposted on RB’s own channel. It’s still widely hated, I noticed today, and then decided to run a comparison with her later singles. The numbers:

  • “Friday”: 41436726 views; 205923 likes, 848917 dislikes (4.12 times as many dislikes as likes)
  • “My Moment”: 36157662 views; 401292 likes, 664306 dislikes (1.66)
  • “Person of Interest”: 7396022 views; 73564 likes, 134012 dislikes (1.82)
  • “Sing It”: 2084809 views: 43689 likes, 22560 dislikes (0.52)

Essentially, this restates the obvious: the fanbase remains loyal, while everyone else eventually moved on. But for the sake of completeness, I must note that during the 3:48 I devoted to one more view of “Friday,” four more opinions were expressed — and three of them were positive. Then again, so far as I know, YouTube pays on views, not on thumbs.

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There will always be keys

The connection between the automobile and the piano may not be obvious, though regular readers may remember that Steinway & Sons actually built Mercedes cars under license in the first decade of the last century.

Robert Cumberford, who writes spiffy car-design stuff for Automobile, has turned out a suitably nifty piece for Jean Knows Cars — Jean being Jean Jennings, who runs said magazine — about a new “postmodern” piano developed by two august French firms: Pleyel, founded by composer Ignaz Pleyel in 1807, and Peugeot, which was making coffee mills in 1810 long before becoming a car company.

Features of the new instrument:

[T]he new design incorporates advanced materials — carbon-fiber-reinforced plastics, principally — with a radical repositioning and reproportioning of the technical elements of the piano. The entire sound-producing set of strings has been lowered so that it is on a level with the keyboard. Thus, the pianist’s hands can be seen by the audience, and the artist himself or herself benefits from a better sound experience. Instead of three legs, the piano is supported by a single pedestal formed of an aerodynamically styled carbon fiber molding. To avoid any resonance of the hollow cantilever, it is filled with foam to make it acoustically inert. The soundboard and main body are made of wood according to traditional practice, giving a rich sound available with no other material. The lid is carbon fiber, but it does not require a prop to hold it open. Instead, gas struts and a clever mechanical linkage allow the lid to be opened and positioned by one hand.

The piano is pricey, of course, at a hair over 200, um, grand. Pictures are provided, but I’d love to see it up close. The Peugeot/Pleyel piano debuted at the Paris auto show this month.

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Working at cross-purposes

You don’t often see pharmacy spam opening up with a Chesterton quote:

I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.

And then there’s advice on the very next line: Buy high-quality pills and save your money!

They’re claiming, of course, to be a Canadian pharmacy. Fat chance of that.

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And lo, there were readers

I have to figure, there are some pretty happy librarians around town right about now:

During the past thirteen months, while the Southern Oaks Library was undergoing renovations, library services were re-located to the Almonte Shopping Center at 2914 S.W. 59th Street. The temporary Almonte Library closed its doors in September when the newly remodeled Southern Oaks Library opened to the public at 6900 S. Walker, but it will soon re-open.

Why? Popular demand, pure and simple:

Within a ten month period, the Almonte location had 5,606 new customers that had not used any of the Metropolitan Libraries previously.

I used to live about half a mile from that old shopping center. It’s not what you’d think of as a growth area, but the demographics have changed a bit in the past thirty years: like much of the inner southside, it’s younger and increasingly Latino. To me, this seems like a sure-fire recipe for greater demand for library services.

Fortunately, the library system, despite spending big bucks to renovate Southern Oaks and having opened up a brand-spanking-new location at the other end of town within the last year, still has a few bucks to spare.

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