The Alfa male

Joe Sherlock — who, incidentally, owns a ’39 Plymouth — is not at all sanguine about Fiat’s absorption of most of Chrysler:

AutoExtremist Peter De Lorenzo has written that the Fiat-Chrysler “merger” — more like a twisted-up Gordian knot of perverted capitalism — was “never about saving Chrysler or rescuing its poor, downtrodden minions. And it was never about doing good for the perennially mocked City of Detroit or the domestic automobile industry for that matter, either. For Marchionne it was about taking over Chrysler, sucking every last dime out of it and using those profits to bolster Fiat, the Italian automaker whose reign as a perennial joke in this business goes back multiple decades.”

Well, yeah. Marchionne talks PR with the best of them. Then again, anyone who saw Daimler’s “merger of equals” with Chrysler in 1998 got to see exactly the same scenario: there was cash in Auburn Hills, and the Europeans planned to get it any way they could. And once they got it, they tossed the forlorn husk to a band of vulture capitalists. Would Marchionne do the same? I’m not quite sure. I suspect that for right now, wearing those two CEO hats suits his style — sort of Carlos Ghosn with pesto — but things can change at the drop of either hat.

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They like Mike

You had to wonder what might happen if Mike Conley really managed to get loose. Now we know. Conley’s clutch trey inside the two-minute mark put the Grizzlies up for good, and he wasn’t through yet; he finished just short of a triple-double, with 26 points, ten rebounds and nine assists. The Griz don’t often dominate the raw numbers, but they did tonight: 16 additional shots from the field, a 43-35 rebounding advantage (16-8 off the offensive glass), 22 assists versus 17. This would have been a nine-point win had not Derek Fisher tossed up a trey — his fourth! — at the horn, but 99-93 is quite sufficient, thank you very much.

But it wasn’t just Mike. We didn’t see much of Tony Allen in Game 1, and we thought maybe we wouldn’t in Game 2. How wrong we were. Allen was practically epoxied to Kevin Durant. (Durant still got 36 points, 11 boards and nine dimes, but imagine what he might have done without Allen in the way.) Other than miss a lot of treys, there’s not much Memphis did wrong tonight.

What the Thunder haven’t figured out, apparently, is how to make a rip-roaring start to a game. Once again, they fell behind early, though they stayed close most of the night and held a five-point lead after three. As hoped for, Serge Ibaka stepped up his offensive production; unfortunately, it happened on the same night that Kevin Martin (six points) rediscovered meekness. And here’s your Telltale Statistic: OKC had three steals tonight. Tony Allen, all by his lonesome, had five, mostly at Durant’s expense; the Griz had 13 thefts in all.

Game 3 is Saturday afternoon in Memphis. Bring Band-Aids.

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Where have all the tech jobs gone?

To the guy (or the girl) with an H1-B, says Jack Baruth:

[T]he fact that you helped design the Cisco PIX or build the first generation of AT&T’s prepaid-phone infrastructure counts for precisely nothing. All the tough jobs in technology have, by and large, been done. Everything from TCP/IP to SSL has been invented, refined, put into stasis. The hockey-stick acceleration of technology has become a featureless plain where processors from a decade ago work just about as well as the new stuff and the Web browser is the sole interface to everything. The Chinese do the hardware work. Google and Microsoft do the software two thousand miles away. What’s left is mostly janitorial: Windows server maintenance. Coding applications that are designed to be disposable and forgettable. Third-level support that used to be considered first-level support before the first two levels were sent overseas to be operated by people who had never owned a computer themselves and rely on a script to tell someone how to put a new hard drive in a PC.

Our own home-grown applications at the shop may indeed be forgettable, but this is due mainly to the fact that most of them were first coded in the 1980s and updating them to this century will actually take until next century, so I’m not worried. Much.

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For your dubious edification

This, of course, is indisputable:

Blogging has gone from being the new, exciting method for sharing the significant events of one’s day with a circle of intimates, to a proven technology by which total nonentities can vent their spleen onto the World Wide Web for the dubious edification of others, and finally to a hoary old fetish for sexagenarians — get your mind out of the gutter; that means sixty-year-olds — who haven’t the agility to keep up with Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter. Surely once the sexagenarians become septuagenarians unable to find their glasses without their minders’ help, and presently deteriorate to octogenarians whose walkers prevent them from reaching the keyboard, blogging will cease to command an audience.

I was chuckling at the description, total nonentity that I am, when it occurred to me to Do The Math. Not the best idea I’d ever had.

Let’s say I can somehow keep this little dogless pony show going until my 80th birthday. And let us define T as the time elapsed between its beginning and that assumed end point. When do I reach the beginning of the downhill slope, the midpoint of this uncareer, the time of T/2?

Answer: February 2015. Twenty-one months from now.


Disclosure: I make no attempt to keep up with Tumblr.

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High earworm potential

Once again, I’m behind the musical curve. This tune came out in Australia a couple months ago; it won’t get out of my head, so I figure the least I can do is pass it on.

(Recommended by Peter’s Power Pop.)

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Oh, we also make cars

Tesla might actually be earning a fair chunk of change on the Model S sedan, most versions of which go out the door for close to $100K, but that’s not necessarily where the money is:

When Tesla Motors reports its first-ever profit Wednesday, much of the money will come courtesy of the state of California.

In its zeal to push electric cars into the market, the state has created a system in which Tesla can make as much as $35,000 extra on each sale of its luxury Model S electric sports sedans. That’s because the Palo Alto company qualifies for coveted state environmental credits that it can turn into cash.

These Zero Emission Vehicle credits could put as much as $250 million in Tesla’s coffers this year, according to one Wall Street analyst, and they are a key reason the 10-year-old automaker has survived this long. Tesla gets to sell the credits to other automakers that need them to satisfy tough California regulations.

Remember when they said General Motors was basically a health-care outfit that sold cars on the side?

This is, however, California policy. They want electrics, they don’t care how they get them, and the auto industry simply can’t afford to blow off fifteen percent of the US car market at one fell swoop. And you have to figure Sacramento will get plenty of that quarter-billion back.

Update: In its 1Q report, Tesla says 12% of its revenue came from credits, about $68 million.

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All ham should be this way

Skankless ham

(Another newspaper oddity from the vast archives of

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Nothing at nevermind dot whatever

One of the requests I see fairly often on Yahoo! Answers is “How do I get a professional email address?” This, I suspect — I admit I haven’t checked, and Yahoo! doesn’t always disclose such things — is likely to come from someone with a name like “shiggity99,” perhaps at, and who suddenly realizes that a proper, or at least proper-looking, curriculum vitæ is something worth having.

The providers of freebie-ish mail, however, aren’t interested in dealing with Shiggity:

One of the big things about the major services is that, because they are major and there are so few, it’s really quite hard for people to get the email address they want. Unless you have a really unusual name, chances are pretty good that the common versions of your name are taken. Nicknames, too. I was able to get “trumwill” but others, including nicknames that aren’t words, have been taken by people somewhere.

The usual suggestion is to get your own domain name, but this process seems daunting to some. Tucows (remember them?) has introduced, which is dedicated to providing domains and email to people who aren’t even slightly interested in Web-hosting accounts; perhaps this might be the solution for young Shiggity. (I simply can’t imagine old Shiggity.)

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Too mobile a home

Lisa Margonelli writes in Pacific Standard:

One of the biggest questions facing the nation with regard to aging boomers is: Where are they going to live? The options amount to a tangle of euphemisms and politically correct titles: independent living, nursing homes, aging-in-place, naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs), retirement village, memory-care units, age-restricted communities. All this complexity disguises a simple fact about money, happiness, and aging: Seniors who can live on their own cost the country relatively little — they even contribute to the economy. But those who move into nursing homes start to run up a significant tab — starting at $52,000 a year. People who are isolated and lonely end up in nursing homes sooner. Hence, finding ways to keep people living on their own, socially engaged, healthy, happy, and out of care isn’t just a personal or family goal — it’s a national priority. Among seniors’ living options, there is one we overlook: mobile homes. Time-tested, inhabited by no fewer than three million seniors already, but notoriously underloved, manufactured homes can provide organic communities and a lifestyle that is healthy, affordable, and green, and not incidentally, fun. But in order to really see their charms, we need to change a mix of bad policies and prejudice.

Ms Margonelli lives in Oakland, where this might actually make sense. But in Oklahoma City, a manufactured home creates nightmares from March through September: the very thought of Gary England calling on his bevy of storm trackers puts occupants into a severe case of night sweats — even if it’s daytime.

Of course, my little stick house can just as easily blow away if Mr Fujita assigns a 4 or 5, as he did fourteen years ago. But it’s never actually caused me any fright, except maybe that one time when the ground began to shake like a bowl of Jell-O — which California folks presumably might be used to.

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Get in line on the 30th

I mentioned the new online auto-tag renewal system way back in 2010, and praised it with faint damns:

[T]his counts as progress of a sort, even if it’s probably not going to change my particular habits.

The Oklahoman notes editorially that most people’s habits remained unchanged:

Oklahoma tag agents howled in 2010 when the state Tax Commission began making some tag agent services available online. The commission was complying with legislation directing all state agencies to offer online services. At the time, a lobbyist for the Oklahoma Tag Agent Coalition complained about the Tax Commission “spending money to put the state in competition with private enterprise.” (Horrors!) Turns out the concerns were for naught. The Tulsa World reports that three years later, the number of online license tag renewals has grown but business conducted over the Internet comprises less than 1 percent of total tag agent-related revenue. In 2012, tag agents collected $817 million in taxes and fees. Online transactions amounted to just $427,287. For now at least, it’s clear folks much prefer to conduct these transactions in person.

The state giveth, and the state taketh away. But it better not taketh away from those to whom it giveth, or there’ll be hell to pay.

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Where size really matters

Would this actually work? The technology seems logical enough, and I can appreciate the thought behind it, but…

“What if your abuser is Lord Farquaad?”

(From via this @OpenBookJen tweet.)

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Strange search-engine queries (379)

Nothing says “Monday” like a batch of freshly squeezed search strings, straight off the meter. The question of whether you’d want “Monday” said in the first place remains unanswered, on this page anyway.

names of people houses that byrned in California wildfires?  I think we can eliminate David Byrne; he’s an ordinary guy, but he’s not burning down the house.

did Jessica Rabbits underwear fall off in a car crash? (For example — you can Google that one for yourself):  I think you can make the case that she didn’t have it on in the first place.

where are the 1992 ford escape engines and transmissions manufactured?  
Somewhere over the rainbow, since Ford didn’t actually make any Escapes until model year 2000.

catmax show all s.u.v. at $8000.00:  How about this lovely ’92 Ford Escape?

chelsea triple access account is it passbook operated:  Are you kidding me? Passbooks went out with the ’92 Escape.

methamphetamine oven cleaner:  Works up to 70 percent faster, but it eventually rots the door seal.

princess cadence and shining armor sex:  Well, yeah, I assume so, they’ve been married for over a year.

I hope both of you are fine:  Although I hear one of you is occasionally coarse.

is there a sensor:  There’s always a sensor. And it always costs at least $100.

friend keeps concern trolling me:  What you need is some new friends.

Jason would really like to become more clueful than clueless, but he daydreams a lot and can’t seem to finish anything. He is irritable most of the:  time and is tired of being concern-trolled by his friends.

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A shortage of warm

There is “climate change,” and there is climate change, but neither provides much in the way of inspiration:

I think I’m just resentful of being cheated out of a spring yet again and knowing there is nothing I can do about it. No one to complain to, no one to make fix it, just gotta put up with it. I do believe that the climate is changing (I think that can be illustrated quite well by actual science). Like as in Ice Age, Medieval Warm Period kind of change though. Not as in SUV exhaust, carbon pollution, fully solvable by humans kind of change (that is only illustrated well by politically driven consensus, not science). And that, in a way, makes it suck even more. There truly is nothing anyone can do about it. Except move. I’m still pushing for that. I’ll put up with perpetual summer if it means I never have to see lingering winter again.

I think it was Mark Alger who first complained that everyone’s all agog about the temperature of the earth not being what it should be, but nobody has a clue as to what that temperature actually should be.

Addendum: For example:

I submit that this shows that we do not even know the global temperature. I further argue that we cannot know the global temperature in any meaningful fashion, that even if we could construct a network of recording stations of sufficiently high resolution and reliability as to allow us to get an accurate record of global temperatures, the sampling would still be inadequate for determining with any degree of certainty a global “average” temperature, and that, still further, as such the very concept of such an average is thermodynamically meaningless.

As for myself, I usually start thinking kindly things about winter around the second week of August — weather permitting.

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The quill is taken up again

I’d been working on this one story — a further extension of an existing three-story arc — for two months, and I got to the point where I had to tell myself, “Self, either you get this chapter into shape and submit it to the repository, or you abandon it altogether.”

“Into shape” is perhaps arguable, but I did submit the darn thing. Now I’m going to be on pins and needles waiting for the initial response — though that won’t come until the moderators pass their judgment, and that could take a day or two.

Word count is 5696 (mine) / 5946 (theirs).

Addendum: The approval came while this post was still in the can. Go figure.

Update: Reaction from the crowd was uniformly negative. I pulled the piece.

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Grindhouse 3.0

After the first quarter, it was Memphis 16, Oklahoma City 14. Just what you might have expected: a slow grind with not a whole lot of offense, especially from the Thunder, who missed ten consecutive shots. And then things were inverted in the second, OKC outscoring the Grizzlies 33-30 to take a one-point lead at the half. Then the Thunder went cold in the third, and the Griz went up nine after three; OKC forged several ties, but never actually regained the lead until 11.1, when a Derek Fisher steal followed by a Kevin Durant pullup put the Thunder up 91-90. At the 3.5 mark, Marc Gasol, passed the ball to Mike Conley at halfcourt, but the momentum carried him out of bounds, and the Thunder got the ball back. Reggie Jackson wound up with the inbound and the inevitable immediate foul; Jackson calmly dropped both freebies, then fouled Quincy Pondexter. Unfortunately, he fouled him on a trey attempt. Pondexter missed the first, got the second, and deliberately missed the third; Durant got a hand on it, Fisher dribbled it away, and that was the game: OKC 93, Memphis 91.

The Tall Trees of Memphis stood as tall as ever, Gasol with 20 points, Zach Randolph with 18, and each with ten rebounds. Tayshaun Prince contributed extra defense. Still, the Griz could not muster any more than four second-chance points, and Tony Allen, normally a major pest, turned out to be a non-factor, playing barely 20 minutes and scoring 3. Pondexter, who hit three treys in the third, and Jerryd Bayless took up as much of the slack as they could.

In the post-Westbrook era, the big lines belong to Durant and Whoever Will. Today Whoever was Kevin Martin, who had another 25-pointer, including three from long distance. (Durant, of course, had the best line in the house: 35 points, 15 boards, six assists and two steals.) Those who argued against Fisher’s alleged “intangibles” getting him undeserved minutes are keeping discreetly silent: his eight points may seem modest, but Fish’s gift for being in the right place at the right time got him +14, tied with Martin for game-high. Serge Ibaka was pretty good on defense (five rebounds, three blocks), not so hot on offense (1-10, five points).

At some point — say, right after Game 6 against Houston — you could hear cries of “Even if we survive this, how will we ever beat the Grizzlies?” It’s the same way you always beat the Grizzlies, when you can. Second try is Tuesday night.

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Non-repeating pattern

It is said that life sucks, and then you die.

Tangential: During an effort to find the source of this notion, I happened upon Life Sucks… And Then You Die! by British thrash outfit Cerebral Fix, which contains such upbeat ditties as “Product of Disgust” and “Existing Not Living.” Says Wikipedia: “To support Life Sucks…, the band toured the UK with Bolt Thrower, Deviated Instinct, Doom, Electro Hippies, Concrete Sox, Bomb Disneyland, Hellbastard, Energetic Krusher, and Hard-Ons.” Cerebral Fix followed up with the easy-listening classic Tower of Spite.

Anyway, if you’ve decided your life sucks, you may well be correct — but there’s no guarantee that you’re using the proper metrics:

As explained by psychologist Daniel Kahneman, “…the score that you quickly assign to your life is determined by a small sample of highly available ideas, not by carefully weighting the domains of your life.”

For example, in an amusing experiment conducted in 1983, a team led by noted psychologist Norbert Schwarz asked subjects to rate their overall life satisfaction on both sunny and rainy days. Those interviewed on a bright, sunny day reported being more satisfied with their lives in general compared with those interviewed on an overcast, rainy day.

In another, more sly experiment, Schwarz’s team set up a situation whereby half of the subjects would — by apparent luck — discover a dime on a photocopy machine before being interviewed. Though the good fortune was meager by most standards, the respondents who stumbled upon it reported significantly higher life satisfaction than those who did not.

Unusually for me, I did a load of wash Friday night, and subsequently found a dime in the tub. I perked right up, only to slide back into the ooze of despair when I realized that obviously I had done a poor job of emptying all the pockets beforehand, and my net gain on the transaction was nil. Dr Schwarz would have understood.

Oh, and Dr Kahneman has been mentioned in these pages before: his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, whence came the above quote, was sort of ripped off at Amazon by a rival “book” with a similar title, intended to garner sales to shoppers who weren’t paying close attention. Now that well and truly sucks.

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