Full-ish disclosure

Just seen at Deep Glamour:

Deep Glamour is an Amazon affiliate. Virginia Postrel receives a percentage of the purchase price on anything you buy through one of our Amazon links, including purchases you make while on Amazon that we did not link directly to.

The Federal Trade Commission demands that we tell you this — they think you’re idiots and are violating the First Amendment with their regulation of what bloggers publish — but it’s also a friendly reminder to Support DeepGlamour by starting all your Amazon shopping here.

Now that’s the way to do it: snicker at the absurdity of it all while simultaneously packing no fewer than four Amazon affiliate links into a mere two paragraphs. Color me deeply impressed.

(There’s more, but I figured I’d stop once I got all the Amazon links in.)

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Before you rip out that webcam

Once in a while, they do some good:

Midwest City police arrested three teenagers Saturday after a woman in the Philippines saw her husband’s Midwest City apartment being burglarized through a live video feed from a home Web camera.

She called hubby, and hubby called the police:

The caller said his wife, who is currently living in the Philippines, had been using a webcam the couple uses to video-chat when she heard a noise on her computer. When she went to inspect the sound she saw three teenage boys inside her husband’s apartment. The camera went blank when the computer was unplugged.

Officers were dispatched, and the culprits were still on the scene:

Officers made three arrests, and the victim’s wife identified them via the Internet. Officers were able to recover most of the victim’s property … along with property taken in other burglaries in the area.

One notable exception:

The webcam was not found.

I bet it’s the first item they replace.

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Unexpected turns of something

Perhaps the stomach?

Melinda woke up suddenly to the sound of her trailer being pounded with wind and hail, and she couldn’t help thinking that if she had only put her prized hog up for adoption last May, none of this would be happening, no one would have gotten hurt, and she wouldn’t be left with only nine toes, or be living in a mobile home park in Nebraska with a second-rate trapeze artist named Fred.

By Ada Marie Finkel of Boston, this was the winner in the “Romance” category in the 2009 Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest, and the one entry I’m most likely to remember when I can’t sleep some dark and stormy night.

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Rush for a few yards

In case you were wondering about this out-of-the-blue scheme by Rush Limbaugh to become an owner of the St. Louis Rams, well, I told you about this sort of thing way back in July, and I mean July 2008.

Donovan McNabb, so far, is not available for comment.

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Funny, it doesn’t sound delicate

I mean, it’s got those big metal teeth, and the noise makes me think some Japanese Lovecraft fan has finally assembled Mecha-Cthulhu.

Yet somehow it’s fragile:

I laughed when my daughter told me that you couldn’t put a leaf of lettuce down the disposal. But when the plumber came to fix the thing, he showed me how the thing had met its match dealing with a piece of lemon. The plumber told me more stuff you can’t put in the disposal, among them rice.

The plumber told me that the disposal is a delicate, exquisitely calibrated mechanism and gave me a list of things you can’t put in it. Everything I mentioned was forbidden. I was starting to think that the only food congenial to the disposal was homemade chicken soup, maybe. If you strain it.

Sheesh. The thing will swallow a teaspoon if you give it the slightest opportunity, but it chokes on citrus?

(Maybe it’s a function of age. I bought a new one three years ago, mainly because the old one had deteriorated to such an extent that water was weeping through its base.)

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Thank you very mulch

I suspect that grunge fans weren’t coming for this, but I could be wrong:

Heavy rains Saturday led to mud pits Sunday in some parts of Zilker Park during the final day of the Austin City Limits Music Festival. The mud seemed to be mostly Dillo Dirt, a compost made from yard trimmings and treated sewage sludge, which was used in recent lawn improvements.

(Courtesy of DRJ.)

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Ruling awaited

We’ve all heard about those new FTC rules for bloggers, but one serious question remains:

If a publisher sends me a crappy book, is it negative compensation and therefore deductible? I anxiously await the IRS ruling on this, but if [it] is deductible, then I would fully support these new guidelines.

Based on the demonstrable truth of the axiom “What has been seen cannot be unseen,” I think they’d have no choice but to allow you the deduction.

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The McGehee Plan for returning California to the Mexicans begins this way:

1. Anyone in California who wants to retain U.S. citizenship but stay in California, has to be treated every bit as well by the Mexican government as it wants its own illegals in the other 49 states to be treated by the U.S., and

2. Mexico promises never to embark on a nuclear weapons program.

Obviously there have to be more stipulations than this, so let’s see what I can come up with:

  1. The same diversity rules that applied before the handover would be maintained afterwards: if the DMV office in Torrance, for instance, currently has the driver’s test in Hmong, it would continue to do so.
  2. There will be no penalty for referring to Baja California as simply “Baja.”
  3. The Mexicans have to keep Schwarzenegger.

Suggestions are solicited.

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World’s fastest profit-taking

Compared to this, day-trading is long-term:

Citadel Investment Group LLC earned about $1 billion last year from a unit involved in high frequency trading, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing the testimony of a former employee of the hedge fund firm … the unit also posted returns of $892 million in 2007, up from $75 million in 2005, and about $3 million in 2004.

I have to admit, I’m impressed with the sheer simplicity of the mechanism:

HFT (high-frequency trading) enables certain very large traders (investment banks, hedge funds) to take advantage of a 40 nanosecond lag between the receipt and execution of automated orders to step in front of these orders, place their own buy and sell orders, and thereby make very small profits on the artificial inefficiency they create by this “interpositioning.”

The legendary arbitrageurs, who had to hold the stuff for literally minutes before cashing in, are so 20th-century.

Is this sort of thing legal? For now, yes:

[O]f course, the regulators will put a stop to it. By the time they actually get legislation passed, however, the game will have long since already ended.

The larger point: the regulators are finding that they are now almost always in a position of closing the barn door after the cow has wandered off. The traders already know this game is over, and have several more up their sleeve or already working, and regulators, of course, know nothing about them. By the time they do, players will have moved on to another game.

If it isn’t a metalaw, it should be: “There’s never been a crapshoot that actually lacked for crap.”

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The demand clearly exists

Drama RepellentNow what we need is for some enterprising, um, enterprise to provide the supply. Admittedly, I have some qualms about the product: for one thing, I suspect that it might be easier to apply, if not necessarily any more effective, were it supplied as a spray rather than as a roll-on.

(Idea swiped from here. Production done entirely in Microsoft Paint in approximately the time it would have taken just to load Photoshop. Note to SC Johnson: It’s a parody, dammit. Don’t get your Scrubbing Bubbles in an uproar.)

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He can’t get no satisfaction

Though he try, and he try, and he try, and he try:

I don’t run a big company, and I have no inside know-how on the vagaries of handling customer complaints — Gosh, I bet you get a lot! But I would suggest, with all due respect, that the customer profile database be tweaked somehow so you can see, for your own benefit, that a customer who bought two top-of-the-line appliances has had failures with each one, and tie this information into a repair / failure database. Surely some program could tell you that the cost of satisfying the customer NOW is less than the cost of making four trips to repair the SAME. STUPID. POORLY. DESIGNED. PART, and said customer might buy another appliance, or speak favorably of the experience to others, or refrain from issuing Twitter updates to 10,000 people.

An example of such Twitter updates:

Have been on hold to repair center for 11 minutes because “the system is locked up.” They’re quite upset about. My problem, not so much.

Is it possible that in this age of instant information transmission, the Us vs Them balance is shifting a notch toward Us? We can only hope.

Update: Never underestimate the power of a peeved blogger. Tweeted by the man himself:

The Internet gets results! Electrolux just called, is keen to do the right thing.

Hey, hey, hey! That’s what I say.

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Not Balaam’s ASCII art

Emoticons from 1881

From Puck, an American humor magazine of the late 19th century, these appeared in 1881, a hundred years before Scott Fahlman came up with :-) and :-(, though there’s always someone else to blame.

(Spotted at TYWKIWDBI.)

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Yet another Saturn post-mortem

This time, from an actual former Saturn owner:

It seemed to me that around 2002 Saturn lost its focus in a race for short-term profit. Instead of improving the small cars they knew how to build, they started making larger cars, sports cars, and an SUV. Everybody wants an SUV, right? Maybe it could have been Saturn that sold the first popular hybrid. Instead they came to be, de facto, another division of GM.

I blame GM management too. The original idea was that Saturn would be an independent company, owned by GM. When it was making money operating on its own, GM should have spun it off, issuing stock to GM shareholders and/or Saturn employees.

GM’s arcane financial reporting being what it is, who knows for certain whether Saturn turned any kind of profit? Most of your automotive pundits are saying that Spring Hill never made a dime for the General.

The argument made for the L-Series was that people just naturally want to trade up, and Saturn didn’t give them any “up” to trade to. Had they put the S-Series on a constant-improvement cycle, instead of just facelifts now and then, they might have held on to their buyers. (Then again, this was an endemic problem at GM: the hapless Chevy Cavalier was kept on for over two decades. It’s hard not to conclude that GM just didn’t understand, or simply couldn’t stand, small cars.)

And it was indeed 2002 when the Vue showed up. I’m not an SUV-hater by nature, but the Vue seemed antithetical to what Saturn was supposed to stand for.

I ought to try to talk Trini into doing a Saturn piece. She’s owned a S-Series, and currently drives an Ion.

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Its time is now

Hitherto-unheralded watchmaker Jorg Gray got a boost when Barack Obama was spotted wearing one of his 6500 series chronographs, and in true capitalist fashion, the Presidential Watch Company has been organized to sell the heck out of this timepiece.

Obama didn’t pick this model out himself: according to GQ, it was a gift from a member of his security detail. And the agent, I suggest, knew his man: the Jorg Gray, while hardly a Timex, is not really a status symbol either, much like the Chrysler 300C Obama used to drive before Axelrod or Emanuel or somebody told him he’d shore up his green bona fides if he were henceforth seen piloting around a hybrid rather than a Hemi.

The Presidential Watch will set you back $325, a fair sum to those of us wandering around loose with twenty-year-old Casios, but a pittance compared to the price tag of the Really Good Stuff.

(Via Bill Quick, who has long since amortized the cost of his watch.)

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Marina del Ray Kroc

The Hillbuzz guys don’t have anything against McDonald’s. However, they don’t think it’s such a great idea for them to open a store in the Louvre, either.

So they came up with this idea, which perhaps might drop the dudgeon level from High to Medium:

If McDonald’s was smart, they’d create a stealth brand of restaurants that would run with the same efficiency but not carry the golden arches. Something along the lines of what Marriott does. Most of you probably don’t realize that Marriott owns Ritz-Carlton. When you stay at a Ritz-Carlton, you don’t realize that Marriott is calling the shots, and you think you are in an independent luxury brand. You’re not. Marriott controls the purchasing, the human resources, the vendor contracts, you name it. But, Marriott is smart and knows not everyone wants to stay at a Marriott … and there are others on the opposite end of the spectrum who can’t afford that mid-level brand, and instead stay at a Courtyard, which is also owned by Marriott, or a Town Place Suites, another Marriott brand, or the FABULOUS Residence Inns.

For some reason, this works a lot better in service industries than it does in manufacturing (cf. any of the recently-shed General Motors brands).

McDonald’s could very easily create something like “La Nod’s”, for lack of a better word, and use their same supply chains and vendor agreements to provide the support to a high-volume, upscale concept that would be more appropriate in places like the Louvre, or close to other historic sites that McDonald’s wants to cash in on because of all the foot traffic, but might avoid public outcry and resentment by not using those arches.

“Might” falls fairly short of “will,” as Walmart, which for the first few months didn’t put its name on its Marketside stores in Arizona, will tell you. Not to mention the stealth Starbucks stores that are starting to appear.

Still, the proposal has merit, if only because you don’t want the Winged Victory of Samothrace assaulted by the Hamburglar.

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Strange search-engine queries (192)

This recurring feature was eliminated in the first round of balloting by the International Blog Post Committee, for reasons I am not at liberty to discuss.

how can I help itunes genius work better:  Get lots and lots of songs. Apple prefers, of course, that you get ‘em from them.

kay bailey hutchison’s sexy legs:  Only because I’m a generous soul. The chap on the left is Charles Frank Bolden, Jr., director of NASA. (Source.)

Kay Bailey Hutchison with Charles Bolden

pictures of male transvestite sluts in women’s underthings:  Then again, I’m not that generous.

prius smells bad:  Check for rotting arugula in the vents.

do i like jeeves:  Of course you do. He’s amazingly efficient, unfailingly polite, and he keeps the arugula from falling into the vents.

does larry king wear shoulder pads:  No. That’s a supplemental-restraint system: suspender-mounted airbags.

consarn it:  Some of us are not overly consarned at the moment.

does physics require lab coat:  And the stylish matching lab bag.

where can you not wear socks:  I have a suggestion, but the Red Hot Chili Peppers, among others, would politely disagree.

Relate the “shoot the Geek” scene as a metaphor for Moore’s main point in the context of school violence and cultural understanding:  Nothing like having Google do your homework for you, huh?

Anent the above, here’s an actual photo from the Jersey shore, circa 2001:

Shoot the Geek

“How close did you actually get with that last round?”

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Blue screen of produce

I had few enough items at the supermarket yesterday to justify going through the self-checkout, but two of the four terminals were hors de combat: one had a large OUT OF ORDER sign on it, and the other was, um, rebooting.

When you see something like that, the temptation is to look around for evidence of Microsoft, and it didn’t take long to find. I got onto that machine after it was readied, and along with my register tape, I found a bootlog, headed “NCR Self Checkout / SCOTApp System Initialization.”

SCOTApp apparently is written in C++ using Microsoft’s Foundation Class Library, and when it fails, it looks something like this.

I am not fond of this particular implementation anyway: the scanning zone seems to be wildly variable, and it may refuse your can of tomato sauce right in front of its frickin’ laser beam because it’s worried about something it thinks you tried to sneak into a bag without scanning at all. After that, finding out it’s running on some form of Windows merely elicits a “That figures.”

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Minor change

I trashed 88 comments today, all from me.

Actually, what I did was disable the WordPress gizmo that sends a ping back to a previous post on the same site, mostly because I thought it looked like clutter, and self-important clutter at that. (I want pings and trackbacks from the rest of you, not from me.) This has bothered me for some time, and now apparently it bothers Google:

Linking back is always good, however WordPress displays these links using the “nofollow” attribute. So is it good to allow a nofollow linkback to your own website? Considering Google’s new policy changes with regards to nofollow links, and how you might eventually lose ranking over it, adding an additional linkback to your own blog with a nofollow link definitely does not gauge well.

Not that I’m especially concerned about my PageRank, which has been 5 for several years, except for about an hour and a half when it was 6. But I figure I have nothing to gain by appearing to game the system even if I’m not.

So I installed this plugin, which coincidentally is three years old today, so there shouldn’t be any more of that self-referential stuff in the comment listings. I do enough of that in the actual posts.

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Chemical formula: WTF

Apparently there exists carbon-free sugar:

Carbon-Free Sugar

TYWKIWDBI points out:

Let’s see … sugar is C12H22O11. Subtract the carbon…

That leaves H22O11 = H2O.

In retrospect, I should probably be grateful I gave up the idea of becoming a chemist.

Of course, what they’re trying to say is that they bought enough indulgences from some medieval Pope carbon credits to offset the production, but someone else can mock them for that.

(Seen in TJICistan.)

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No additives

Subaru has amped up the advertising this year, and a current single-pager for the Legacy sedan — I spotted it in Motor Trend — boasts an interesting feature called “Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive.” All four wheels get equal amounts of torque.

This is, in fact, the simplest, cheapest, least-complicated true-AWD system there is; buggies with scarier price tags than the Sube’s — think “Audi quattro” — have computerized hardware to apportion the torque as needed based on speed, road conditions, and, for all I know, the pH of the Bonneville Salt Flats.

But Subaru’s genius here is selling a low-end feature as something greatly to be desired, and I can see non-automotive potential with this technique. Consider that higher-end cars now seem to have actual analog clocks instead of a digital display through the audio system, and that sales of vinyl records are increasing, at least partly because some audiophiles are convinced that they sound better than CDs. What’s to stop a local Baby Bell from boasting about its “pure analog” telephone service?

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