The modest photographer

An inspirational line from Nate:

God did all the work here; I just managed to sit still for 1/500th of a second and capture it.

The photo is pretty wondrous, too. Those of us who can never hope to be an f-stop Fitzgerald will have to content ourselves with being awed.

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Welcome to Clunkergate

Already there are Web sites claiming to be able to register you for the government’s turn-in-a-beater program. Robert Farago reports at TTAC:

The agency in charge of implementing the Cash for Clunkers program gave us a heads-up that the Car Allowance Rebate System (their name) is already attracting scam artists (our name). To wit: cashforclunkersheadquarters.com and cashforguzzlers.net, which sucker surfers into “pre-registering” for the program. “There are a number of people out there who are implying that dealers and/or consumers need to register with them to be eligible for the CARS program,” DOT spokesman Rae Tyson reveals, leaving aside questions about what these sites may do with the information. “This is completely untrue.”

Tyson said that cars.gov is the only official DOT CARS website. He also said his agency is working with car manufacturers and dealer associations to contact all state-registered dealers and promote the program to consumers. “If you’re a consumer, there is no need to pre-register with anyone. If you’re a dealer, we will contact you as and when the program is initiated.”

I’m putting this here on the off-chance that Googlers and such might find it even before they get to TTAC.

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And no pesky Alt keys, either

Roberta X is typeblogging on an Underwood portable, which is probably a tad louder than my IBM Model M keyboard, but surely a heck of a lot more fun.

Kinda reminds me of Google, fortysomeodd years ago:

Humble origins of Google

(Found last year at Mediajunk.)

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Dispatches from Switzerland

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Faked in

I seem to spend a heck of a lot of time doing things that are somehow connected to Caterina Fake: I post photos to Flickr, I answer questions on Yahoo! Answers, and I’ve just signed up for Hunch, a new “decision engine.”

If you immediately think “A what?here’s something of an explanation:

Hunch is a new concept, but it’s probably best described in terms of the familiar. Fake says it’s a hybrid of several different ideas, similar in some ways to both Wikipedia and Yahoo! Answers, but different in others. The analogy she uses is of a high school student asking questions of a Guidance Counselor. “Hunch gets you to a decision better when you don’t already have a decision in mind,” she says. “It can show you the right questions to ask.”

Greg Sterling’s companion article goes into detail on how Hunch works. In short, it helps users make decisions by guiding them through a series of questions on their chosen topic… After answering a series of questions (all created and modified by Hunch users), Hunch provides a recommendation based on your answers, on what it knows about you from other activity on the site, and from the likes and dislikes of similar Hunch users.

This differs substantially from Yahoo! Answers, in which you get responses directly from other Y|A users, who may or may not have learned anything in the time they’ve been there.

And while I’ve answered several hundred questions on Y|A, I expect I’ll be doing my actual asking at Hunch.

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Somehow this doesn’t look right

Let me see if I have this straight:

  1. Stain underpants.
  2. ????
  3. Profit?

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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First among second bananas

Ed McMahon has gone to that big Green Room in the sky, and at first I wasn’t quite sure how to give him a proper sendoff. After snooping around the corners of Funk and Wagnalls’ porch, I remembered this bit of vintage Carson snark: “Ed did a wonderful act of charity recently. During a rainstorm, he let a family of midgets huddle under his belly.”

In view of the above, I suggest we add an extra dollop of McMahonnaise, as he called it, to our sandwiches today. (McGehee is exempt for humanitarian reasons.)

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Creative uncommons

The Congress shall have power, says the Constitution in Article I, Section 8, “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” The specific limits of those times were not spelled out; in 1790, Congress set a 14-year term, which could be extended another 14 years. The copyright period has been extended several times since then, and Dave Schuler wonders if maybe the whole idea has outgrown its usefulness:

The foundations of our current system of copyrights were laid in the era of Mozart, Beethoven, and Goethe, an era in which unique and wonderful works were being created by geniuses who appeared like bolts from the blue. A system designed for such prodigies is ill-adapted for the ordinary mortal world in which everything is derived from something else and the effect of perpetual copyrights held by undying corporations is stultifying rather than incentivizing. Intellectual property is different from real property, especially in that it is non-rivalrous.

Which is not to say that he would like to see the concept retired:

I’m not arguing against copyright entirely. I’m arguing for the older idea of copyright: fifteen years or the natural life of the author, whichever is shorter. Provide incentives rather than embedding works in stone.

Actually, I could probably go along with this in reverse: fifteen years or the natural life of the author, whichever is longer. It’s not [fill in name of author]‘s fault he isn’t dead yet.

But this is the position I prefer, and in fact actually take:

Under the 1998 revision of United States copyright law, for works created after January 1, 1978, copyright protection will endure for the life of the author plus an additional 70 years. In the case of a joint work, the term lasts for 70 years after the last surviving author’s death. For anonymous and pseudonymous works and works made for hire, the term will be 95 years from the year of first publication or 120 years from the year of creation, whichever expires first. This author feels that the Berne Convention, to which the United States is a party as of 1988, provides sufficient protection, and that extensions beyond the provisions of Berne are inimical to the development of the public domain; therefore, copyright beyond the Berne provision of fifty years after the death of the author, as provided in the 1998 revision or any subsequent revision of US copyright law, is herewith specifically repudiated.

Actually, I don’t know if I can legally do that or not; just the same, this is the way the notice reads. And if in the unlikely event that anyone is interested in this stuff 51 years after I’m gone, well, someone else will have to worry about that.

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A major benefit of zoom

Close-up pictures of poison ivy, without subsequently needing an ocean of calamine lotion.

In fact, let’s just link to all her pictures, since a goodly portion of them are downright amazing.

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Maybe it has something to do with the warp core

There was once a TV spot for the Mazda 626 in which the young boy asks, “Dad, what’s it like to drive?”

This question has been kicking around pretty much ever since there were cars, which has guaranteed a market for tiny kid cars that go around at lowish speeds and reproduce something of the experience for the four-year-old who just can’t wait to be sixteen. Actual carmakers just love this, of course, because it helps build their future customer base. So I’m not at all surprised that a kid car would attempt to replicate the contemporary Tesla roadster.

Since the same basic form has to be used for several models, you’d expect at least one departure from stylistic perfection, though probably not a howler like this:

Junior Telsa Roadster

I mean, really. Exhaust tips on an electric car? I don’t think so.

(Neither does AutoblogGreen.)

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Now is the time on sprockets when we look goofy

I admit up front that once upon a time, I did hop onto a bicycle wearing nothing but a smile. (No, no helmet. Stop that.)

I would like to think that during that brief and exceedingly-uncomfortable period, I did not make this much of a spectacle of myself. [Possibly not safe for anyone, anytime, anywhere.]

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From the Jumbo Shrimp Lab

Ross Honeywill, in a desperate attempt to shore up the sagging status of the aging Baby Boomers, invents a subgroup called NEOboomers — “New Economic Order boomers” — and proclaims their superiority to all those Gen X-and-later upstarts.

It is, of course, a crock:

Fourteen million of America’s 65 million Baby Boomers are part of an influential breed know as the new economic order or NEO. These NEOboomers out-perform, out-rank and out-spend the younger generations 2:1.

Characterised by their determination never to retire and by their progressive social values, these NEOboomers vote governments in and out, are more confident about the economy (yes, even in these times of financial crisis), are less interested in religion and spend more than anyone else in the economy.

I suspect that when their days wind down to the last few, they’ll spend even more than anyone else in the economy, just to make sure that their lives are prolonged a few extra days. I’d even bet that they’d develop a sudden interest in the religion they so confidently scorn.

But it’s in their social attitudes and behaviour that the NEOboomers really stand out. They love the arts and are far more socially progressive than Gen X and Y and look forward to an ‘exciting life’ rather than the ‘secure life’ their traditional cousins prefer.

As Grantland Rice never said: “For when the One Great Scorer comes / To write against your name / He marks — not that you won or lost — / But hell, at least it was ‘exciting’, wasn’t it?”

There are times when I am utterly embarrassed by the sheer fatuousness of my demographic cohort, and this is one of them.

(Via jenX67.)

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Uncertainty blows

Trouble is, so does certainty, sometimes.

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Geez, it’s cold

We’ve got a wind chill of 83:

WX graphic

How long can this go on?

(From NewsOK.)

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It followed me to the kitchen, honest

Donna’s looking for a way to take it with her:

I have Rhapsody and love it and listen to it often but I find it leaves me feeling stuck. I have to be right in front of my computer to enjoy it. Instead I want to be able to have music available to me throughout my house. Queue up songs in my bedroom and then be able to hear the music as I unload the dishwasher or sit up in my loft. I keep searching around trying to find the perfect solution.

My own inelegant solution is to play it loud enough that it can be heard in the whole house, though this works only because (1) I have a small house and (2) I have a large amount of buffer space surrounding that house.

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Strange search-engine queries (177)

Weekly, or sometimes weakly, I run through last week’s logs, and if I’m lucky, I’ll find ten or twelve snarkworthy search strings therein. And they’ll look something like this:

sir blair william cobol:  Not related to Blaise Pascal.

can a person get buried in a pine box in okla:  If he’s dead, maybe.

parsley flakes ok for dogs:  It won’t hurt them, but they want steak.

all of that and she can cook:  Watch for those parsley flakes, though.

let the panties hit the floor:  Not a song by Drowning Pool.

“i hate grout”:  I bet you’re not all that fond of spackle either.

rectal cancer awareness tattoo:  There seems to be no really good place to locate such a thing.

number of sexual partners and happiness:  Not necessarily related, though it’s possible for both to be zero.

male equivalent of swoon:  Watch Chris Matthews any night on MSNBC.

i cant believe its not beta:  Would you look at that! Somebody actually installed Internet Explorer 8.

how to help a prude woman:  You can start by keeping your damn pants on.

people who don’t date:  Spend a lot of time reading their server logs.

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Seriously weird shoes

I suppose you’re expected to wear something a bit extravagant to the CFDA Fashion Awards, but I just don’t get this particular pair of shoes:

Lake Bell in Louis Vuitton

That’s Lake Bell standing on that laboratory equipment, or whatever it is. And if the shoes look weird, you should see the dress. Louis Vuitton was spared this particular vision, what with having died in 1892.

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We don’t need no stinkin’ buses

The one thing you can count on from a contemporary transit advocate is that there’s one specific form of transit that’s not on the table:

“When people talk about transit, they aren’t talking about buses. When people talk about improving transit, they aren’t talking about the frequency or quality of buses. There’s transit, and then there’s buses.”

The bus is the transit equivalent of the minivan: no matter how much functionality you can cram into it, it’s still never going to be cool.

Before you write the check for one shining steel rail, though, consider this:

If all of the sudden every streetcar and commuter train that ever ran was to suddenly reappear, would we still need buses? I would argue “absolutely, yes”. Whether we like it or not, my grandparents’ generation is responsible for a huge amount of decentralization. There are dozens of neighborhoods that didn’t exist 30 years ago which are now served by buses. And in neighborhoods where rail now re-exists (in my hypothetical example), they are struggling to get enough people on the trains because, in many of these neighborhoods, the population isn’t anywhere near what it was at its height, and people’s destinations are not necessarily point-to-point the way that they were 50 years ago. Buses (and, eventually, demand responsive transit) [have] a very important role — to serve areas that it is not effective to serve by trains.

That’s it, blame everything on the baby boomers.

He’s right, though: the bus isn’t going away. A transit proposal for Oklahoma City calls for streetcars, but it also calls for retrofitting the buses to operate on CNG, which would at least reduce the stench.

A lot of streetcar vs. bus discussion in the comments here.

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Long-distance runaround

Lenora Mae got one, in spades, from some guy she met on the Net:

Their families don’t exist or they’re contrived with names of friends and extended family members … even characters from a movie, book or play. They have grandiose college degrees, accolades and personal affiliations with well known people that only exist in the Potemkin-esque village that thrives in their lurid imaginations.

What’s worse is the fact that you can’t change these people. They are so warped mentally and emotionally that they are impervious and will never see themselves as being anything but perfect and righteous. Though obviously, these self-appointed attributes serve as a means to cover the rampant insecurities caused by their own inadequacies, almost always created by an abusive parent(s). Then there’s the proceeding self-loathing, which stems from the fact that they lack self respect to the point that they reinforce their own insidiousness by making themselves completely unattractive due to neglect and/or rampant sublimation with food which has created a girth that allows them to be seen from space.

And those, I suspect, were his good points.

On some of the World Tours, I have met with women of the blogosphere, with generally happy results. It’s not that any of them were the least bit, um, interested, so to speak; but I suspect that in some cases they were willing to come out just to verify that I did in fact exist and in some way resembled the online persona. (The mostly-harmless vibe didn’t hurt, either.)

Meanwhile, someone who didn’t come close to living up to his billing has been given the grand bounce:

Anyway, I’m gone. It’s done, it’s over; the little red plastic thing is now protruding outside the tasty, crispy dermis of the juicy Butterball inside the new GE range.

If only she could have given him a nice, solid kick to the giblets.

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Consarn it to heck

James Delingpole explains why he’s on the right side of the aisle [page four for this specific paragraph]:

The reason I’m a conservative is that I believe in life at least as much as I believe in the afterlife. I have, on occasion, drunk to excess; I have driven too fast; I have imbibed rare herbs and proscribed chemicals; I have in my youth — though not nearly often enough — enjoyed meaningless sex with beautiful strangers; and, yes, I still swear. You can do all these things and still be an honest-to-God, properly authentic, ideologically pure, first-principles conservative. This is the glory of conservatism: it’s the catch-all, be-all-you-can-be philosophy that embraces saints and sinners alike.

I submit that Mr Delingpole has left out one important detail: for none of those alleged vices did he request a government subsidy.

(Via Ghost of a Flea.)

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