More or less dry

Brian J. Noggle contemplates what clothes dryers have come to:

I’m no expert on nuance, so in my black-and-white world, dry is an absolute value. Therefore, the dial that offers me more dry or less dry is probably offering me either dry or damp. Sandwiched between the two poles on the spectrum, the dial offers me the energy preferred option.

It’s all just greenmongering. My own dryer, now seven years old, has the same dial calibration — except where the Noggle machine says “Energy Preferred,” mine is inscribed “Normal Dry.”

In my experience, “Less Dry” means “Your towels will still be dripping at the end of the cycle,” and “More Dry” means “You know those burn marks on your shorts? Those are really burn marks.”

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Urban fabric in asphalt black

There’s a brand-spanking-new surface parking lot in downtown Austin at 5th and Colorado, and already it’s having an impact:

It’s conveniently located in the very heart of the Warehouse District. The parking lot will save patrons of the restaurants and bars along 4th and 5th a trudge from one of the many surface parking lots a full block or two away. Better, it breaks up the monotonous row of restaurants and offices stretching from Congress to Lavaca, provides some badly needed open space, and gives passersby an unobstructed view of the towers on 2nd street — a view that they could enjoy before only by standing at the corner of the block.

In fact, the only way they could improve on this sort of thing is by slapping a plaza on it.

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None more blue

Just happened to catch this near the back of my iTunes shuffle list (500 songs out of 5,680):

Whole lotta blue

There are in fact sixteen tracks whose titles begin with the word “Blue” — not counting “Blues” or “Blueberry” — so I suppose this isn’t all that amazing, but it still looks pretty damned weird, considering the list was sorted by artist.

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The Germans and your Wall

Under a proposed German law, employers, while permitted to check out job-networking sites for new hires, would be barred from reviewing their Facebook pages:

The bill would allow managers to search for publicly accessible information about prospective employees on the Web and to view their pages on job networking sites, like LinkedIn or Xing. But it would draw the line at purely social networking sites like Facebook.

It’s not like the Germans have suddenly discovered privacy, either:

Concerns have been heightened in recent years by scandals involving companies’ secret videotaping of employees, as well as intercepting their e-mail and bank data. The explosion of Web-based information tools has added to the unease.

The German authorities are investigating Google for having collected private Internet information while doing research for its Street View mapping service, and they have asked Apple to explain its data-collection policies for the iPhone.

Researcher danah boyd is pleased by this development:

I’m delighted by the German move, if for no other reason than to highlight that we need to rethink our regulatory approaches. I strongly believe that we need to spend more time talking about how information is being used and less time talking about how stupid people are for sharing it in the first place.

It should be noted that trolling Facebook for information in this way could be considered a violation of Facebook’s EULA, though the likelihood that Catbert will be busted for it seems fairly low.

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Romance is undead

Presenting ZombieHarmony, “because the apocalypse doesn’t have to be lonely.”

(Seen at the Facebook page of the very-much-alive Julie R. Neidlinger.)

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On the campaign trail with style

New York magazine once asked Kirsten Gillibrand (yes, the Senator) about a pair of flats she was wearing, and she dismissed them with “You would never write about Chuck Schumer’s shoes.”

Depends on how he paid for them, I suppose. But this New York Times piece, while acknowledging Senator Gillibrand’s remark, nonetheless proceeds to identify what is supposed to be the It shoe for women in politics: “Halle” by Kate Spade, an unfussy three-inch-high wedge that sells for about $300. (I checked a couple of online storefronts, but they were out. Evidently the Gray Lady still has some marketing clout.)

Says Times writer Susan Dominus:

They seem to be the shoes of a circle of younger women aspiring to power or already in it, women directly and indirectly passing on to one another ways of navigating the particular challenges of being a woman in the public eye. A woman must look put-together, but not as if she is a slave to fashion; she must look groomed, but never be spotted grooming.

I can’t see Sarah Palin wearing that particular shoe. Then again, I can’t see Chuck Schumer wearing it either.

Says Rachel at Tinkerty Tonk:

Not for nothing, but if the NYT is gonna devote an article to a shoe would it kill them to show a picture of said shoe?

I suspect somebody at the Times checked a couple of online storefronts, but they were out. (Rachel, however, does have a picture.)

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Zooeypalooza 6!

It’s been almost two months, so…

Zooeypalooza 6!

Larger versions are a click away. In case you missed them: ZP 1, ZP 2, ZP 3, ZP 4, and ZP 5.

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Quote of the week

The Style Rookie, from the (I hope) ongoing series “Things I Learned in High School”:

Some boys reach a certain age in which they are convinced they invented anarchy, poor hygiene, and Kurt Cobain.

… And I have reached the age in which I am too often under the incorrect impression that I am wise enough to make that kind of observation.

My last day of high school was about three lifetimes ago for her, but I did eventually learn that the getting of wisdom is not necessarily a function of age.

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On the other hand, there’s no traffic

According to conventional wisdom, cars from South Korea range from not bad at all (most Hyundai and Kia models) to sort of meh (Daewoo) to way short of meh (SsangYong). But the worst of them is a farging Bentley, or at least a Buick, next to the transportation devices they build in North Korea:

[W]hen the South Koreans began designing and producing cars from scratch, the dictator Kim Il-sung ordered his minions to show that the North could build cars, too. Except they had no clue what they were doing. The North Korean automotive “engineers” imported several Mercedes 190Es and copied most of the parts with workmanship that made the Yugo look like a Rolls-Royce. The result was the Kaengsaeng 88. Allegedly, it had a four-cylinder engine, no heat, and no air conditioning, and the cabin was prone to fill with dust while driving.

That was, however, a Kim ago. The current official DPRK automaker, Pyeonghwa Motors, is actually partially owned by the Unification Church, from those uncharted lands south of the 38th parallel, and they produce two rebadged Fiats and assemble some Chinese trucks from kits.

One such Fiat is shown here, at a rather relaxed pace:

Not that actual associates of the Dear Leader would be caught dead in the Pyeonghwa Hwiparam:

So where do the corrupt officials of a small Third World dictatorship do their car shopping? With the official brand of rich dictators worldwide: Mercedes-Benz. Photos of Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital, inevitably feature a ’70s or ’80s black S-class.

But of course.

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The sins of the (grand)fathers

Next year, California will award contracts for construction of the yellow brick road a high-speed rail system, and if you want a piece of the action, you better not have collaborated with the Nazis, Buster:

The French rail company Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF) is among the bidders.

SNCF provided trains, personnel and logistics that sent thousands of Jews, American soldiers and others to concentration camps.

The bill’s author, State Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, who represents the San Fernando Valley area of Los Angeles, said that although SNCF was the impetus for his bill, the legislation would apply to any company that transported persons to concentration camps from 1942 to 1944.

I assume Blumenfield will eventually get around to excluding all the companies who did business with the Third Reich from doing business with the Golden State.

(Via Coyote Blog.)

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The Truth About Cars has another Curbside Classic, one with which I have some familiarity: a middle-Seventies Toyota Celica.

The TTAC find is a ’74 in ST trim; to match it up with mine, you jump to ’75 — which bumps you up to the 20R engine, a 2.2-liter SOHC four, awfully hard to kill — and add the GT bits. At the time, the Celica was derided as a Japanese attempt at Mustangery, but given the general lameness of the Mustang II, it’s always seemed to me, and TTAC seems to agree, that Toyota did a better job of shrinking the ‘Stang than Ford did:

The original Mustang, especially a six with a stick, was much closer akin to the Celica than its 1973 namesake. And Toyota’s timing with the Celica was perfect, even more so a year later when the energy crisis hit. The drastically-downsized Mustang II was Ford’s acknowledgment that the Celica had it right. But by that time, the Celica had won over a lot of loyal fans, especially with its 1975 refresh and the very Mustang-esque Liftback.

Toyota was careful not to push the Celica as some sort of sports car, but it had as much of the look as the bean counters would permit: semi-fancy (albeit still steel) wheels, some sort of simulated woodgrain on the dash, and a nice snickety-snick stick to stir the gears. It took me seventeen years to kill this car, and actually, it wasn’t quite dead: the steering gear (a Benzish recirculating ball) had fragged, but the person to whom I sold it (for $100) put a few dollars into it and kept it going for another year, until it was T-boned by a peripatetic drunkard.

The one thing I never could explain about the car was the name: Dymphna is the patron saint of those of us whose brain functions are a little, or a lot, off-plumb. I suppose, had I decided to go for the cheap laffs, I could have called her Connie.

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The 388th Carnival of the Vanities is billed as a “Beckapalooza,” which I’ll assume has nothing to do with my daughter Becky, whose birthday is this week. And there aren’t really any good ways to link her and that number, so I’ll just casually mention the Battle of the Save, fought in 388, an attempt by Magnus Maximus (now there’s a name) to seize control of the Roman Empire. He was not successful, and was subsequently executed by the Empire.

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Disserving suggestion

It never looks the same right out of the microwave as it does on the box. (Example here.)

Then again, “never” might be overstating the case. Does there exist a microwavable food product which actually resembles its package portait? The closest I’ve seen has been Van de Kamp’s Xtra Large Crunchy Fish Sticks, but then fish sticks are kind of hard to jazz up, and besides, VdK “does not recommend microwave preparation.”

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All your bass are belong to us

We got your woofer right here, pal:

Watching one of those YouTube videos of a record playing on a turntable, I realized that if your eye can pick up 30 frames per second, and your ears can hear down to 20 Hz, you should be able to listen to something vibrating at 20 Hz and see it move. Is the eye really faster than the ear? At what point does a tone start to sound like individual thumps?

My current crop of loudspeakers (KLH Thirty-Eights) won’t go all the way down to 20 Hz, but they do have measurable output at 40 Hz, and given suitable program material — and a device to pry off the grille — you can actually see the woofer cone deflect.

In days of old, one speaker manufacturer (I seem to recall it was Cerwin-Vega) ran a traveling demo in which they attached a lamp cord to the speaker terminals, and then plugged it into a wall socket, producing a very loud 60-Hz hum. You could see that cone moving from halfway across the room.

Those KLH speakers, I remind you, are nearly forty years old. Nowadays it’s easier to do this via psychoacoustics:

MaxxBass® has been shown to extend the perceived low frequency response by up to 1.5 octaves, but it does not force the speaker to deliver these frequencies. MaxxBass® also utilizes high pass filters to remove the bass frequencies below the physical limits of the loudspeaker. This reduces peak amplifier/speaker excursion requirements, protects the speaker from low frequency damage and removes undesirable intermodulation distortion.

The bass extension achieved with MaxxBass® is perceived as natural sounding and does not alter the frequency balance of the original content.

This works because the brain responds to harmonics: you give it 60, 90, 120 and 150 Hz, and it will assume the presence of 30 Hz, whether or not any 30-Hz content is actually present.

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Craptastic Four

Not a new Marvel comic parody, but a notion that seems to be at the heart of an upcoming Syfy series, which I somehow managed not to notice up until this announcement:

According to, [James] Marsters, best known to Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans as evil vamp Spike, announced that he will play Troy, leader of a gang of superheroes with substandard powers, in Syfy’s new series Three Inches. The project was previously announced in March with the pick-up of a 90-minute pilot episode from Twin Peaks writer Harley Peyton.

The operative phrase here is “substandard powers”:

The show revolves around a man named Walter who gets struck by lightning and finds he can move objects with his mind — but he can only move them three inches. He is then recruited into a superhero gang full of people with similarly lackluster powers. Marsters’ character, Troy, is the gang leader. His power(s) have yet to be revealed.

Please allow me to point out that Ultra Short-Range Teleportation has been around for a while.

Personally, I’d like to see the return of Apathenia, Queen of Not Giving a Damn, first seen in BFD Comics way back in ’93.

(Via Oklahoma Lefty.)

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The heeding of the sacred tablets

My system is awash in drugs, or so it seems: there are five I take daily, three others on an as-needed basis, plus various and sundry other preparations for extraordinary circumstances. Given the sheer volume of pills involved, it strikes me as silly to hire a service to send me a text message every time I’m supposed to pop one.

And apparently it’s not all that effective a service, either:

Despite the good intentions of pilot programs that use text messages to remind people to take their meds, it seems that ladies on birth control can’t even be persuaded by technology to swallow The Pill. According to a study published this month in Obstetrics and Gynecology, 82 women enrolled in a randomized trial at a Boston Planned Parenthood clinic set up to test the effectiveness of text message reminders. However, participants in the SMS-encouraged group and in the control group forgot to take roughly five of the oral contraceptives, on average, during their monthly cycles.

I dare say, the consequences for them missing a day or two would be, um, more dramatic than if I missed a day or two of the tabs I take.

Judge Maxwell and his bailiff from What’s Up, Doc? explain it all:

Judge: You see this yellow pill?
Bailiff: Yes sir.
Judge: You know what it’s for?
Bailiff: What, Judge?
Judge: To remind me to take this blue pill!
Bailiff: What’s the blue one for, Judge?
Judge: I don’t know. They’re afraid to tell me.

Just in case you thought this was a problem only for women.

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