Citations needed

I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but the plagiarists are getting even lazier these days:

I discovered that a topic I assigned in a previous semester had been asked as a question on Yahoo! Answers.

What really upset me a bit was that the person who had asked it was someone I had thought was interested and engaged in the class, and what he had done on Y!A was essentially put out a “write my paper for me” request. Not that blatantly, but he did get other people to do the background research and spoonfeed it to him.

There are some topics — Programming & Design is one of them — where as many as half the questions are part of someone’s homework. (And many of the rest are “How can I get [application] totally free?”)

Learning stuff IS fun, right? I’m not totally messed up on this, am I? Because some days I begin to wonder.

There hasn’t been a day in the sixteen years I’ve been running this place that I haven’t learned something, even if it was only “Damn, I was totally wrong about that.”

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Lacking in 1040tude

One of the dumber things George W. Bush did — and there are plenty of items to pick from — was push for tax cuts with expiration dates, a bargaining chip that was slightly less useful than a cow chip:

There appears to be a general confusion and muddleheadedness about the way all this is discussed, so I propose that everyone remind themselves that all tax rates are always “temporary”. There’s just no such thing as a “permanent” set of tax rates. As far as I can tell Congress could revisit and alter tax rates every single year, or whenever they felt like. They could take the current tax rate percents and add 2*(rand()-.5) to each number. They could flip some coins. They could use a Ouija board. If they then passed the new set of tax rates, those would be the new tax rates. Why do people ever think of any of these numbers as “permanent”?

A “temporary” tax change, then, is a law that says “let’s make the tax rates X for the next few years, but then back to Y after that”. Needless to say, that’s a dumb law. Why ever do that? If you want the tax rates to be X just change them to X. If, in a few years, changing them back to Y seems like a good idea, sure, go ahead. But why bind yourself to it beforehand?

Beats me. Hell, the Senate doesn’t even bother with budgets anymore, not that anyone believes that they’re binding.

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Fawning attention

Indianapolis is contemplating an Urban Deer Hunt, and Roberta X approves:

It’s what our State Parks do when the problem arises, as it does with some regularity. Nevertheless, the city is expecting some protest from witlings who cannot figure out that we are the sole remaining predator of deer (give or take a very ambitious bobcat — and even the non-ambitious ones are vanishingly scarce here). Lacking predators, deer will breed themselves into starvation; it’s what they do. The time to control them is before they leap through the windshield of your car, trying to get across the road to polish off someone’s flowerbed.

The specimen that took out my car back in the summer of ought-six was a decidedly rural type, but the principle is pretty much the same — with one exception:

Is it mean of me to hope local media will have a camera at the public hearing, so I can watch teary-eyed fools pleading for the poor innocent widdle baby-waby deers? Look, they’re real cute but they’re not even as clever as goats.

There may be fools in Boondocks County, but they don’t get weepy over such matters.

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Support your local bureaucrat

Or at least, don’t go out of your way to be rude to him:

Don’t say “I pay your salary.” It’s trite and offensive. Lots of people pay our salaries (such as they are, and many elected officials in this country work for free). If you’re looking for help with a problem, know that we’ll do our best, but we are constrained by laws and budget. If the guy down the street is a hoarder, it bothers us, too, but our options are limited. We don’t live in a police state and can’t just go in and clean the place out. Those laws can be maddening, but they also protect you from an overly intrusive government.

I’ve always thought that the proper response to “I pay your salary” is “So where’s my raise?”

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To the lockup with you

Or, more precisely, with me. The home box is showing signs of an old Nineties phenomenon: RAM seeming to “stick,” locking up the machine in place, and refusing to budge for at least six minutes. I reseated the two DIMMs, just in case, but it doesn’t seem to make any difference. I’m beginning to wonder if Mercury is retrograde at Turnpike Cruiser levels.

Addendum: Sysadmin thinks it’s a capacitor on the motherboard.

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A lullaby for Luna

I remarked earlier this week that the work box, where my major iTunes install resides, now contains about 0.5 percent pony-related material, which is not an inconsiderable number considering that there are around 6800 tracks on said box, accumulated over a decade or so, and there are at least 50 I haven’t hauled up there yet.

This one, however, will be transported with all due haste:

Backstory, should you need it:

Just as she promised, Luna stood her ground and refused to lower the moon. Faced with the collapse of the delicate order they had worked so hard to build, Celestia was forced to do the unthinkable. Unable to fully utilize the elements of harmony by herself, she used a fraction of their power to imprison her sister in the moon, saving the world, but at a terrible cost. The harmonic bond between sun and moon was broken forever; now, the elements lie dormant, awaiting new bearers. In time, the darkness in Luna’s heart will begin to wane, but with it, so will the sealing spell that holds her in the moon. In a thousand years, she will escape, weakened but still powerful, and the world can only hope that new ponies will be found who can wield the elements and save Luna from herself.

But Celestia’s thoughts turn again to the present. It will be centuries before she can see her sister again, and for that, she blames herself. Surely she had seen the signs? She thinks over and over of the things she might have said and done differently. But despite her own sadness, she also longs to reach out and comfort Luna, and in this mix of bitterness, tenderness, and very distant hope, she looks to the moon and begins to sing.

And people thought this was all about toys?

(Special thanks to @DaisyAzuras for pointing me to this work.)

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In other news, there actually is a Michigan Republican Party:

The Michigan Republican Party harshly criticized the Obama administration for allowing a Toyota Motor Corp. pickup truck to tow one of the retired space shuttles to its final home in Los Angeles.

“Barack Obama acts as if he singlehandedly built the U.S. domestic auto industry, meanwhile, a symbol of American greatness will be towed to its final resting place by a foreign competitor, forever cementing the image of a Toyota truck towing a retired space shuttle,” said Matt Frendewey, director of communications for the Michigan Republican Party on Monday.

“The symbolism of this PR stunt should be offensive to every red-blooded American with vested interest in the success of the U.S. automotive industry.”

The Toyota Tundra is built only in San Antonio, Texas, with 75 percent domestic (defined as “US and Canada”) content, compared to, um, 62 percent for the Chevy Silverado/GMC Sierra twins that compete with it.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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“Pull it” surprise

Results of an InStyle survey, as published in the October issue:

Do you talk to your bikini waxer while the job is getting done?

57% — No. I’m all about staring at the ceiling and hoping it’s a speedy process.

43% — Yes. Small talk makes it seem less awkward.

I might not have brought this up except that 242 pages later, they review a salon in the San Fernando Valley this way:

The skilled aestheticians make quick work (20 minutes, tops) of partial Brazilians, but not without compassion. One offered our newbie reporter a “test rip” to make sure she could stand the sting, and then talked her through the rest of the session.

This seems a bit stronger than mere small talk.

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Onside kicks

Emmett C. Burns Jr., a delegate to the Maryland General Assembly, borrowed that institution’s letterhead to write a nastygram to Baltimore Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti [pdf]:

As a Delegate to the Maryland General Assembly and a Baltimore Ravens Football fan, I find it inconceivable that one of your players, Mr. Brendon Ayanbadejo, would publicly endorse Same-Sex marriage, specifically, as a Raven Football player. Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other.

Well, one way, anyway.

If Bisciotti has responded to Burns, I haven’t seen it yet. Ayanbadejo, for his part, responded politely. Meanwhile, Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe responded, um, a bit less politely:

As I suspect you have not read the Constitution, I would like to remind you that the very first, the VERY FIRST Amendment in this founding document deals with the freedom of speech, particularly the abridgment of said freedom. By using your position as an elected official (when referring to your constituents so as to implicitly threaten the Ravens organization) to state that the Ravens should “inhibit such expressions from your employees,” more specifically Brendon Ayanbadejo, not only are you clearly violating the First Amendment, you also come across as a narcissistic fromunda stain. What on earth would possess you to be so mind-boggingly stupid? It baffles me that a man such as yourself, a man who relies on that same First Amendment to pursue your own religious studies without fear of persecution from the state, could somehow justify stifling another person’s right to speech. To call that hypocritical would be to do a disservice to the word. Mindfucking obscenely hypocritical starts to approach it a little bit.

I am awed by that phrase “narcissistic fromunda stain.”

(Via Language Log.)

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Tyler, three

Surely there’s something to celebrate on Aisha Tyler’s 42nd birthday:

Aisha Tyler at Logo NewNowNext Awards 2012

The ‘do is nice, with a hint — okay, more than a hint — of a poof at the front and a full-fledged side bun, and the Sam Edelman T-straps are likewise nice, apart from some spiky stuff at the back. In between appears to be something from the I Can’t Believe It’s Not A Tunic collection, and the more you tone down the glitter, the goofier it looks. Still, she’s a gamer girl no matter what you heard, and that makes an awful lot forgivable, if you ask me.

(This is, of course, the sequel to “Tyler, too.”)

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As David Bowie once said: “Fame, it’s not your brain, it’s just the flame that burns your change to keep you insane.”

Someone I follow on Twitter commented about how she “Squealed like a fangirl” at a fiber-fest when she met a pattern designer whose work she liked. And you know? That’s one of the secret sadnesses of my life. That I will never really do anything, ever, that will gain me that kind of fandom.

I mean, I know. I believe the point of one’s life is to serve and to do things to benefit other people. But once or twice, it would really be nice to walk up on a stage and have people applaud, or go to some big gathering and have people go “OH MY GOSH! YOU’RE **YOU**! I LOVE **YOU**!”

As close as I ever came to that was about six years ago. My immediate response, on mic anyway, was “Where do I go to request a recount?”

Then again, if I show up at some brony convention and somepony asks me “Aren’t you the one who wrote Dead Pony Flying?” you’ll be able to hear the squee as far away as the White Tail Woods.

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Not the usual crap

You might think that two-way window glass was nothing out of the ordinary. But once again, New York has a surprise for you:

The Standard Hotel gives a whole new meaning to the term “poop deck.”

Restroom users at the Boom Boom Room club on the 18th floor are completely visible from the street below as they do their business, thanks to 10-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows.

The toilet-sitters get wondrous skyline views. But the windows work both ways — much to the chagrin of relief-seekers after they’re told what could be seen from the street.

This is probably neither the time nor the place to mention that the Standard is located at 848 Washington Street, off 14th, just west of the Meat Packing District.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man. Original rejected title for this post: “If the enema is in range, so are you.”)

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McRibbed for your pleasure

It’s just gonna take a little longer this time, honey:

Fervent fans of the McDonald’s McRib will have to wait past October and November, when the cult favorite usually emerges, until late December, according to a leaked memo.

The sauce-slathered pork sandwich was originally set to be launched from Oct. 22 through Nov. 11, according to a memo from the McDonald’s Operators National Advertising Fund, obtained by Ad Age. Instead, the popular, limited-time product will appear during the holiday season along with a bigger advertising push that emphasizes its “high-quality pork” and “unique taste,” according to Ad Age.

Not to worry. I have the patience of a saint.

Unfortunately, he has mine.

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Behold Gigatruck

Ram 5500-series concept truck

Last year, The Truck Company Formerly Known As Dodge unveiled a truly ginormous Ram Long-Hauler concept, and Ram boss Fred Diaz is apparently going to try to persuade upper management — in other words, Sergio Marchionne — to let him build it.

Built on the 5500 chassis, it’s twenty-four feet long, sits on a 197.7-inch wheelbase, and sports an eight-foot bed. GVWR is a whopping 37,500 lb. And filling up the tank(s) will run you somewhere around $700 for 170 gallons of diesel. If you can somehow get 10 mpg out of this thing, you can make it all the way up I-35 from Laredo to Duluth — though you’ll have to veer off of 35E through the West Seventh neighborhood in St. Paul, inasmuch as the Ram exceeds the road’s 9000-lb rating by a couple of Vikings wide receivers.

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What brought this on?

I have roughly twice as many feed subscribers as I did two weeks ago, and I can think of no reason why.

Tangential remark: I was typing rss into the Tags field, and WordPress duly suggested two tags it recognized: “RSS,” of course, and then “Björgvin Halldórsson.” (The latter gentleman, you may remember, appeared in this post, singing an Icelandic version of “Walk Away Renee.”) So far as I can tell, I’ve not been overrun with Björgvin fans, though anything can happen in this weird wired world.

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The Mayor of Cheap City

My ancient wireless plan dates literally to the turn of the century, and most months I peel off somewhere between $25 and $30, depending on how crazy I got with the texting. (I think I’ve emptied out my bucket of minutes once in those hundred-odd months.) Third phone now, but still the old plan, still under contract through next summer. Once in a very blue moon I wish I could do a little more with this little flipazoid device, but then I consider this and I vow to carry on:

I heard yesterday on the radio that 1 in 8 people spend $200 a month on smartphone service. That’s $2400 per year so that you can text and get the latest Facebook updates and make a few phone calls. Oh, and check in with FourSquare, which fills a previously-unknown and very mysterious need in some people to inform their 500 or 1000 “friends” on Facebook where they are at all times. Are you sure about that? You might want to revisit that one.

$2400 per year is more than some people’s car payments (and not much less than my own car payment). For a gadget that didn’t exist until five years ago, and is easy to lose, and interrupts our lives and destroys our ability to focus on anything for more than two minutes at a time.

Other than that, Mr. Brokaw, how did you like the phone?

I have no doubt that there are people who can justify these contraptions for business purposes — and who presumably can claim the expense as a tax deduction. I am not one of them.

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