Almost live and indirect

I have yet to happen upon any concert footage from Wild 100, the August concert on the Jersey shore in which Rebecca Black appeared, but RB did favor us with thirty seconds of video connected to the event, and for now, that’s going to have to do:

It’s billed as a “trailer,” and there’s that “COMING SOON” blurb, so I remain hopeful.

(Title swiped from a DJ I remember from forty-odd years ago.)

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It needs to be about 20 percent shufflier

Tam reports an anomaly among her most-played iPod tracks:

[T]he one I don’t get is the Gin Blossoms song [“Hey Jealousy”]. How did it get that high up there? I don’t use playlists, everything is random shuffle, and I know I’ve never repeated it, because I don’t even particularly like it. However, it is blandly inoffensive enough that I’ve probably never skipped it either when it’s been served up; it’s the acoustic equivalent of eggshell white paint on the walls.

There must be something about Gin Blossoms. I have exactly three Gin Blossoms tracks out of 6800 on the work box, and yet they seem to come up every third day or so.

Also high on her list was the Emerson, Lake & Powell epic “Touch and Go,” which to me has always sounded like Greg Lake’s attempt at recreating King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man” — on which, incidentally, he sang. Certainly Lake’s lyric style here is a direct descendant of Pete Sinfield’s there.

Note: I had originally intended to post this as a comment to Tam’s original post, but Blogger was having one of its periodic snits.

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Vroom with a view

Jack Baruth waxes lyrical about the Shelby GT500, and it ain’t Turtle Wax either:

It cruises windows-up at 72 mph on the freeway, delivers twenty miles per gallon, chills the cabin, plays Sade’s “Love Deluxe” with appropriate fidelity, doesn’t cook the luggage in the mail-slot trunk, rides acceptably on bad pavement, looks spectacular, costs less than a loaded German mid-size sedan, will be sought-after in the used market as long as there’s a gallon of gasoline to be had anywhere. It reaches for the road ahead with incandescent aggression and remains stable long after the fenceposts have blurred into invisibility.

I actually passed a GT500 ragtop yesterday in the general vicinity of the I-44/I-235 clusterfark, not because I had superior speed or mad driving skillz or anything like that, but because I saw the hole open up and the Shelby didn’t take it. Then again, it might be horrifying to think about your astronomical horsepower numbers while you’re practically idling at 59 mph. I did, however, have time to note the ponycar’s tag: VROOOOM. I think it was four O’s.

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Quote of the week

Given my not-awful score on the Verbal section of the SAT, you might have thought I was a passable writer in those days. I was not. And, says Peg Tyre in The Atlantic, things have only gotten worse since then:

According to the Nation’s Report Card, in 2007, the latest year for which this data is available, only 1 percent of all 12th-graders nationwide could write a sophisticated, well-­organized essay. Other research has shown that 70 to 75 percent of students in grades four through 12 write poorly. Over the past 30 years, as knowledge-based work has come to dominate the economy, American high schools have raised achievement rates in mathematics by providing more­-extensive and higher-level instruction. But high schools are still graduating large numbers of students whose writing skills better equip them to work on farms or in factories than in offices; for decades, achievement rates in writing have remained low.

Fortunately for me, IBM’s various control languages aren’t particularly nuanced, and they pay the bills around here. Still, I was well into my forties before I got to the point where I wasn’t thoroughly embarrassed with my command of written English. Not that anyone is threatening to turn me into a farmhand or a factory worker, exactly, but c’est la vie.

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It’s all there in black and white

The 411 on Fifty Shades of Grey, as explained by Katrina Lumsden:

Women who defend this book are, however unwittingly, participating in some of the most blatant misogyny I’ve ever witnessed, giving the impression that some women enjoy being debased, abused, and controlled (outside of a consensual Dom/sub relationship). This is not a book about BDSM, this is a book about one sick, abusive man and his obsession with a young, naive invertebrate. It’s a book about a girl who has absolutely no sense of self, who sacrifices any pretense of individuality in order to hold onto a man who doesn’t even show her the faintest glimmer of respect. It’s about two attention-starved individuals with the emotional maturity of toilet paper convincing themselves that their relationship is “like, the best thing ever, OMG”. It’s trite, insulting, and dangerous.

I mention in passing that despite Ms Lumsden’s enthusiastic rejection of the book — you should probably read the entire review to get a feel for that level of enthusiasm — nearly a quarter-million readers have rated it highly enough to average 3.62 stars out of a possible 5. Then again, every one of us knows someone who’s slightly less stable than a four-pack of Charmin. Over the years, alas, I’ve even voted for a few.

(Via this Cara Ellison tweet.)

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Amazingly, this does not involve Pinterest

Or, for that matter, Harold Pinter. We’re talking PINs, and this one was nice while it lasted:

The safest 4-digit PIN is “8068” — or at least it was, until researchers at Data Genetics told everyone this week. The researchers there went through a set of 3.4 million four-digit personal identification numbers and found “8068” came up only 25 times.

The most common PIN, unsurprisingly, is “1234.” Beyond that:

[T]here are several numbers that people seem drawn toward. For instance, PINs starting in “19” are common because people like to link their identification numbers with a significant year. In fact, all PINs that start in 19 fall into the top fifth of the dataset.

The top 20 includes all the series in which the first number is repeated throughout (such as 3333) plus 4321, 1212 and 2001. The study also found that many PINs are based on visual clues. Coming in at No. 22 is 2580 — the numbers that run down the middle of a phone or ATM keypad.

I’m waiting for something harder to guess, like, say, √2+3.

(Via Fark.)

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Give them no quarters

The Golden Gate Bridge is going to electronic toll collection, which, Bill Quick reminds us, will be a pain in the neck for tourists:

The GG Bridge is one of the great tourist attractions in the entire world. It connect two other monumental tourist attractions — Marin County / Wine Country and San Francisco.

Now, what is the primary characteristic of tourists? Easy — they aren’t from any of those places. And so they don’t know things like, for instance, that the pile of small bills and change on their front console, used for paying whatever tolls they happen to come across in their travels through distant, unknown climes, will be useless when they try to return to their hotel from a day trip up to Napa and Sonoma to slurp the vino.

Inevitably, since this is a California project, the question arises: “How do they do this in Texas?This way:

Drivers without an electronic toll tag are also welcome to use the express lanes on Austin area toll roads. When a driver does not stop to pay at a toll booth, cameras above the toll lanes will photograph the license plate, and the vehicle owner will receive a monthly bill for toll charges. We call it “Pay By Mail.”

The Pay By Mail toll rates are one-third more than TxTag rates to offset the costs related to processing the license plate information. Also, a $1.15 fee is applied to each monthly bill for non-tag customers.

Segments 1 through 4 of State Highway 130, now $5.40 for TxTag holders, will rise to $6.75 around the first of the year. An out-of-state tourist will therefore pay $9 per trip, plus that $1.15 for the monthly billing. I grant that TX 130 is not as scenic as the Golden Gate, but it beats the hell out of looking at Interstate 35 for two or three hours, and the speed limit is as much as 80. (The extension toward San Antonio, not yet open, will be posted at 85 mph.)

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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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