From the Not Happening files

So last night, while I should have been heading for the sack, I found an interesting little plugin which would list every single tag used on this site. I’d planned to give it its own page and a link up top; you click on that and you get an index of sorts, whether you’re looking for something mentioned only once (rather a lot of these) or more than five hundred times (Thunder-related stuff). In fact, I installed it briefly, and the results were at least acceptable.

But there’s one minor problem: there are ten thousand tags. (The number has climbed as high as 10,001; recent paring has whittled it back to 9,990, and considering it was 9,800 in September, I can’t complain too much.) It’s not exactly like indexing an encyclopedia, but it’s tedious, and it takes a heck of a long time to load. So I disposed of that idea, and also killed off the Tag Cloud I’d had hidden elsewhere, as it was kind of silly, as those things almost always are.

I might have gone along with it had it been possible to limit the listings to, say, things that had at least two mentions, which would have cut down the size of the display by half. (Which tells you what kind of concentration level I must have, if there are 5000 topics here that have been mentioned only once.) There apparently is a hack for this, but I couldn’t get it to work, so I set the idea aside. For now, anyway.

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Lost without translation

When New York City’s classical station, WQXR, moved down the dial, it also gave up some of its service area. A couple of translators in the fringe area have helped a bit, but station management has other plans as well:

New York Public Radio has acquired 90.3 WDFH Ossining, NY from Hudson Valley Community Radio for $400,000.

Then again, this isn’t a big signal boost — yet:

WDFH currently operates with 53 watts at 145 meters. As part of the asset purchase agreement, NYPR has agreed to file with the FCC an application to increase power to 250 watts. FCC approval of that application is a condition of the sale to close.

The main WQXR signal is only 610 watts, but it has the advantage of 416-meter height — on top of the Empire State Building, that is. The current 53-watt version of WDFH makes it almost all the way to Mount Vernon.

(Via a Doc Searls link pile.)

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Third time’s the charm, and then some

Volume 3 by She & HimThe fourth album by She & Him is called Volume 3, a title which perhaps is curious for its use of the digit instead of spelling out the number as they did in two previous albums, not including the obligatory Christmas album, which I bought but did not review, inasmuch as it didn’t really fit into whatever grand scheme Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward were planning, except of course for (what else could it be?) World Domination.

Based on the evidence of Volume 3, I’m ready to hand over the premises. The eleven ZD originals here show serious growth in her songwriting chops, plus a certain amount of unexpected faithfulness to one of my own guiding principles: love is composed of the magical and the mundane, not necessarily in equal quantities. As an object lesson, see track eight, “Together,” arguably ZD’s drippiest bit of romantic tomfoolery since the tearful “Sentimental Heart” on Volume One, which somehow remains grounded: she (mostly) keeps the quaver out of her voice, and not even the shimmering strings that come in during the instrumental break (nice touch, Mister Ward, sir) can drag it over to the weepy end of the scale.

As always, S&H have selected some unexpected covers: Blondie’s “Sunday Girl,” a track from Parallel Lines which was never released Stateside as a single; “Baby,” the B-side of Ellie Greenwich’s demo-turned-single “You Don’t Know”; and the early-Fifties torch song “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me,” mostly remembered today as a mid-Sixties soul single by Mel Carter. Deschanel’s reading of “Hold Me” is heavy on the torch.

And as always, Ward’s production is simultaneously impeccable and unobtrusive, and his instrumental work is always appropriate. (He also sings a bit, mostly on “Baby.”) Nicely, he cuts off the strings-and-choir reprise of “I Could Have Been Your Girl” at the close, right before you begin to wonder why it’s there in the first place.

I admit to speculating a bit as to whether any of these songs were intended to recall ZD’s recent split from Death Cab for Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard. Maybe a little: “I’m stronger than the picture that you took before you left” (from “Turn to White”) sounds ever so slightly accusative. But that’s about it: if there’s sadness here, and there is, it’s a generic, and possibly more universal, sadness. And that, too, is a component of love, though determining whether it’s part of the magic or part of the mundane is way above my pay grade.

(Previously discussed: Volume One; Volume Two. Reviewed from my own purchased copy.)

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Corner of Desolation Row and Positively 4th Street

Now this is nifty: a map of every place mentioned in a Bob Dylan song.

And there are a lot of such places, believe me.

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The check isn’t in the mail

The IRS “Where’s my refund?” site is down this weekend, “due to several factors, including scheduled maintenance,” and one might reasonably ask, “What other factors?”

There are many, but these are the Top Ten:

  1. IRS accidentally got put on the Sequester List
  2. All the field agents’ cars ran out of gas at about the same time
  3. Joe Biden’s doing some replanting, if you know what I mean
  4. Cost of buying votes unexpectedly rose 4.5% this year
  5. Nobody remembers who was supposed to renew domain
  6. Congressional health plan expanded to include polygraph tests
  7. Had to cover Antonio Villaraigosa’s unemployment check
  8. Eric Holder had to subpoena himself, causing an endless loop in government computers
  9. Tim Geithner’s late with his payment again
  10. Hey, them drones ain’t cheap

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On the far side of Lake Wobegon

Over at Hot or Not, the sole attraction used to be a seemingly endless collection of pictures of various and sundry individuals, which you would presumably rate for hotness, or perhaps notness. This gets really old really fast, especially for some soft-headed bozo like me who’s reluctant to give anyone less than a 4 out of a possible 10, except, of course, himself; when asked to rate myself on this scale in the past, I have usually said somewhere between 2 and 3, though lately I’ve cut myself a little more slack — say, 3.5.

But maybe I was right the first time:

Scientific American reports that a new study finds that “most of us think that we are better than we actually are — not just physically, but in every way.”

Psychologists Nicholas Epley of the University of Chicago and Erin Whitchurch of the University of Virginia put together a slightly less feel-good experiment than the idealized setup in the Dove commercial above.

Participants were shown a cluster of images of themselves. One was original. The rest were digitally doctored. Some made the participant less attractive, while others made them more attractive. When asked to select the unmodified original, subjects tended to gravitate to one of the computer-enhanced images that made them look better.

It didn’t stop there. A stranger who had met the participant a few weeks earlier was asked to select that person from the same set of portraits. Surprise: They tended to pick the unmodified, less-than-perfect original.

And it gets worse. Says SA:

Most people believe that they are above average, a statistical impossibility. The above average effects, as they are called, are common. For example, 93 percent of drivers rate themselves as better than the median driver. Of college professors, 94 percent say that they do above-average work. People are unrealistically optimistic about their own health risks compared with those of other people. For example, people think that they are less susceptible to the flu than others. Stock pickers think the stocks they buy are more likely to end up winners than those of the average investor. If you think that self-enhancement biases exist in other people and they do not apply to you, you are not alone.

Nor do I have this going for me:

A 1995 study concluded that “negative correlations between individuals’ overall self-enhancement of their personality” led to more favorability among their peers [pdf]. In other words, people who didn’t think the world of themselves were more motivated to present themselves to others in a more positive light. They were more likable, possibly because they weren’t insufferable narcissists.

I admittedly don’t think the world of myself, but I do try to avoid presenting myself in too positive a light.

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A fairly B9 artifact

Sam the Sham’s “Wooly Bully” came out shortly after my eleventh birthday, and having lived a relatively sheltered life up to that point, I had no idea what Sam meant by “Let’s not be L7.” Eventually, of course, I did figure it out — I’m not entirely dim — and in my later years I was delighted to see that there was an actual band called L7. Better yet, they’d put out a song called “Bite the Wax Tadpole,” which was alleged to be “Coca-Cola” in Chinese.

Eventually the band drifted from punk to grunge, and put out this anthem which every so often gets stuck in my head:

I am not in a position to explain that brief trou drop.

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Decor values

Another one of those Not Unreasonable Questions: How Far Can You Go in Decorating Your Cubicle?

Some employers have written guidelines about personalizing workspaces, while many others do not. What’s appropriate is sometimes difficult to define.

But a survey of marketing and advertising executives uncovered objects that would strike someone as surprising in most office settings — a live pig, punching bag, mermaid sculpture, a pair of men’s underwear, a rock collection, hair dryer, and a drawer full of clothes.

Not being any kind of executive, I figure no one should be surprised at my shrine to Twilight Sparkle.

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Meanwhile on the Amazon

I had five items on order from the World’s Largest Invisible Retailer, all of which arrived the same day — yesterday — and three of which required explanations.

Two of them (a book and a CD) had been preordered at some price X, which since had dropped to some lower price Y. The charges were adjusted accordingly, with X-Y equal to $1 on the book and $6.34 on the CD.

And then a credit for $2.79 showed up; evidently I’d qualified for Super Saver (free) Shipping, had checked the box accordingly, and yet didn’t notice that I’d been charged anyway.

None of this, however, compares to the corporate announcement that they’re acquiring licenses from intellectual-property owners to permit Kindle publication of fanfiction. Surely no one is going to pay for my pony stories; still, the idea goes beyond intriguing. (And besides, I said no one was going to read them, either, and that was 3,200 readers ago.)

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Finder’s keepers

This is apparently Rebecca Black’s desktop:

Screen shot from Rebecca Black's Mac

Two things (apart from Hello Kitty in the center) jumped out at me:

  • There’s a folder called “My Book.” Oh, really?
  • AIM? Seriously?

Addendum: It just dawned on me. AOL first put AIM online in May 1997. The service is therefore one month older than Rebecca Black.

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Quote of the week

Nicole Hill (no relation) on being from this little corner of the globe:

At some point, life punches you in the gut for the first time. You watch the hand of God come down, and an entire town disappears off the map.

You fall to your knees and you cry and you spit and you cuss the day and night. And then you get up.

You don’t waste your time asking the heavens why. There’s work to be done.

You see someone else shaking their fists at the sky, so you reach your hand down. And then they get up.

That’s what being an Oklahoman is. Being so goddamned resilient and perseverant that ain’t nothing or nobody can keep you down. I’ve been a lot of places, lived in a few of them, and met many great people. Without minimizing anyone else, Oklahomans are a different breed. When you’re a little guy used to getting kicked, you not only learn to pop back up but you become the first one to reach out to others.

If you were wondering about that #okstandard hashtag, now you know. Even if you weren’t born here, as I wasn’t.

And yes, I meant “corner of the globe.” A lot of us are deemed square pegs by various holes glorying in their roundness.

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Shrimp engine thrown on barbie

Ford is phasing out its manufacturing operations in Australia, following years of declining demand for its big-bruiser Falcon and Territory models:

“The company had hoped to stem the flow of customers out of Falcon with an EcoBoost engine, which was a highly advanced two-litre turbo four-cylinder as opposed to the traditional six-cylinder. Unfortunately, even though the EcoBoost Falcon is a fantastic vehicle out of Australia, the reality was that Falcon buyers don’t want a little four-pot, and buyers stayed away.”

The one genuine advantage of the EcoBoost — less weight over the front wheels — is realized in front-wheel drive vehicles, which these aren’t.

The last Oz-built Fords will appear in 2016.

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Sliding into the sunset

The last time we checked in with Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, the state was moving heaven and earth to prevent disclosure of the black-box data created when Murray crashed his state car on a cold night.

Now Murray’s returning to the private sector, and he swears it has nothing to do with this:

Murray said his plan to resign has nothing to do with an investigation into whether his campaign committee improperly accepted donations raised by former Chelsea Housing Authority Director Michael McLaughlin.

Although his new gig at the Worcester Chamber of Commerce apparently pays better than working for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We’ll see if the C of C actually gives him a car to drive.

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This might be literally accurate

Figuratively speaking, anyway:

Silly pie graph

(Clearly, via GraphJam.)

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Sort of an April/May romance

There being a pertinent case in play — one’s 18, one’s 14Robert Stacy McCain offers this quote from the authorities:

“The idea is to protect people in that vulnerable group from people who are older, 18 and above,” said Bruce Colton, state attorney for Florida’s 19th circuit, which includes Indian River County and other parts of the Treasure Coast. “The statute specifically says that consent is not a defense.”

Colton said … this case exemplifies the purpose of the current law and added he would not support any effort to make consensual relationships among peers legal.

“There’s a big maturity difference between them,” he said. “You’re talking the difference between a senior in high school and a freshman in high school. That’s what the law is designed to protect.”

While I appreciate Mr Colton’s concern, I must note for the historical record that when I was a senior in high school, I was no more mature than the frosh.

(Then again, nothing happened. Nothing that violates any laws of Florida or, um, of South Carolina, anyway.)

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To everything, churn, churn, churn

Nicole pondered this matter earlier in the week:

Maybe I should migrate to Tumblr… All I do lately is reblog and post pictures and links.

Meanwhile, Pejman Yousefzadeh, one of the few Tumblr users on Ye Olde Link List, has migrated to Squarespace.

What does all this mean? I haven’t a clue.

Also this week, Yahoo!, which recently bought Tumblr for no discernible reason, has shaken up Flickr:

Yahoo unveiled some big changes to Flickr on Monday, both in terms of features and overall design. One of those changes is that free users are no longer limited to a certain number of photos; instead, everyone gets 1TB of space for their full-resolution photos.

With that change comes an end to what used to be the biggest difference between free Flickr accounts and Flickr Pro. As it turns out, that’s by design. In addition to lifting the previous upload and storage limits, Flickr is quietly discontinuing its Flickr Pro accounts (existing Pro users can continue to use Flickr Pro) and shifting to a different type of upgrade model.

The different type of upgrade model, incidentally, costs twice as much — or twenty times as much if somehow you have 2 TB of photos.

I just might let my Pro account quietly expire, though I haven’t made up my mind yet, and anyway it’s paid for through the end of this year. (I have, I’m guessing, somewhere around 0.02 TB of photos.)

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