Bot and paid for

Twitter’s got bots. Lots of bots. Can you spot a bot? Perhaps some of them will be caught:

At Indiana University in Bloomington, researchers have developed an app, called “Bot or Not,” designed to identify accounts on Twitter that are controlled by insidious robots or software.

You can’t trust everything you see on Twitter, even when it’s posted by actual people. But the researchers’ tool was developed as part of a larger effort to raise awareness about how much more easily misinformation can be spread when it’s done by bot accounts that feed off each other.

As some of us have already suspected.

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The Battle of Figueroa Street

This one figured to be close, and it was: first quarter, Clippers by four. Halftime, Clippers by two. Third quarter, Clippers by four. This is Blake Griffin’s theater, and he did a pretty fair job of staying center stage, especially with Serge Ibaka rolling up five fouls. But the Thunder, who weren’t hitting any treys, somehow hit four of them in the fourth quarter, three of them by Caron Butler. With 72 seconds to go, OKC was up six, 113-107; a couple of Reggie Jackson free throws fifty seconds later ran the margin to eight; Griffin dunked, as Griffin will, and Jackson managed to miss the next two freebies. J. J. Redick went after the quick bucket; Russell Westbrook took it away and dropped in a free throw; Redick finally made a trey, pulling Los Angeles to within four; Jackson went back to the foul line, and this time he didn’t miss. Oklahoma City 118, Los Angeles 112, and the Thunder go up 2-1. And no, Serge never did foul out.

The Clips might be wondering just what hit them. As usual, they trailed in rebounds, though they executed five steals while the Thunder managed only one, and they had only six turnovers all night. Griffin ended up with a sterling (sorry about that) 34 points on 14-22 shooting; Chris Paul knocked down 21 points and served up 16 assists; DeAndre Jordan also checked in with a double-double, 10 points and 11 rebounds. But their prowess from down the street failed them: only seven of 26 treys made. (You have to figure that when Danny Granger hits a trey, it’s an omen, and not necessarily a good one. And that was Granger’s only make for the night.)

Meanwhile, the MVP was doing some MVPing: KD played all but two minutes, and collected 36 points. Ibaka got only one block, but he scored 20 on 9-10 shooting. Westbrook served up 13 dimes and scored 23. And the Thunder bench, inconsistent of late, was decidedly less so, with Jackson and Butler each scoring 14 and Steven Adams grabbing nine rebounds in 18 minutes. It was not a high-scoring night for anyone named Collison, though: Nick hit one shot, Darren missed all four of his.

The next Battle will be Sunday afternoon. There were five technicals called tonight, and I have to figure that nobody’s going to be on anyone’s idea of best Sunday behavior.

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Goose given the opportunity to stew

Once again, a gander is o’er-ladled with the appropriate sauce:

Lots of people are angry about FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Internet “fast lane” proposal that would let Internet service providers charge Web services for priority access to consumers. But one Web hosting service called NeoCities isn’t just writing letters to the FCC. Instead, the company found the FCC’s internal IP address range and throttled all connections to 28.8Kbps speeds.

“Since the FCC seems to have no problem with this idea, I’ve (through correspondence) gotten access to the FCC’s internal IP block, and throttled all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds on the Neocities.org front site, and I’m not removing it until the FCC pays us for the bandwidth they’ve been wasting instead of doing their jobs protecting us from the ‘keep America’s internet slow and expensive forever’ lobby,” NeoCities creator Kyle Drake wrote yesterday.

You know what would be hilarious? Wheeler or one of his minions caught using a proxy.

“Greatest thing ever,” says Dave “Iowahawk” Burge.

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A minor slip-up

I’ve been on the receiving end of exactly one automotive recall notice in my life, and I admit that I found it a lot more amusing than the government did. In ALL CAPS, the text thereof:

CERTAIN RESERVOIR TANK CAPS ON THE BRAKE MASTER CYLINDER WERE PRODUCED WITH A WORN OUT DIE AND LACK VENTILATION HOLES. AS A RESULT, THE PRESSURE IN THE RESERVOIR TANK CAN DROP GRADUALLY AS THE BRAKE PAD OR SHOE WEARS AND AMBIENT TEMPERATURE DROPS. ALSO, THE PRESSURE COULD REACH A POINT THAT THE BRAKE CALIPER AND DRUM CYLINDER ARE PULLED BACK BY THE VACUUM IN THE RESERVOIR TANK WHEN THE VEHICLE IS PARKED FOR A LONG TIME.

I duly presented myself to a Mazda dealer, who popped the hood and announced: “You have the good one.”

Mazda has had hard luck with spider-related recalls, but those could be reasonably defined as design defects, albeit tenuously. Sometimes, though, an automaker just flubs up:

The recall madness over at General Motors isn’t letting up anytime soon, as evidenced by this latest call-back of 8,208 Chevrolet Malibu and Buick LaCrosse sedans… GM issued a statement saying these sedans are being recalled due to “possible reduced braking performance,” according to Automotive News. The problem? Rear brake rotors may have accidentally been installed in the front brake assembly. And since both cars use more robust braking systems up front than out back, braking power could be reduced, increasing the risk of a crash.

All those rotors look alike, man. I duly looked up Gwendolyn’s OEM brake specifications, and they’re within 2 mm of the same diameter — but the front discs are nearly three times as thick as the rears. I can’t imagine the General popping for some combination more exotic than that.

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At least it isn’t Axe

Joe, catching a whiff of a chap who reeked of Aqua Velva, was somewhat startled: “I didn’t think they made that any more.”

This, you may be assured, led me to go track the stuff down. Combe Incorporated acquired the J. B. Williams company in 2002. I remembered Williams for this product (and its longtime slogan, “There’s something about an Aqua Velva man”), and for something called Lectric Shave, which conditioned one’s beard before bringing on the Norelco. The Wikipedia article on Aqua Velva contains the unsupported statement that before it was marketed as an aftershave, the blue liquid was sold as a mouthwash. A guy with some vintage bottles is prepared to say otherwise.

Also passing through Combe ownership via J. B. Williams: Cepacol, which actually was a mouthwash, and later throat lozenges. It is now owned by Reckitt Benckiser, whose own convoluted history probably deserves a once-over on these pages.

Combe, incidentally, first came up with Clearasil, but sold it off after ten years. They still have one -sil product: Vagisil.

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Not invented there

Yesterday, we were talking about absurd patents. If you need another example, here you go:

Hundreds of home builders in the Pacific Northwest have been put on notice that if they use a dehumidifier to dry rain-damaged projects, they are infringing on a patent recently issued to a father and son who claim they invented the process.

And, speaking of the Pacific Northwest, Oregon seems to be interested in doing something about that sort of thing:

[Oregon] recently passed a patent reform law that penalizes patent trolls — entities that purchase patents with the intent of issuing demand letters seeking license fees rather than marketing or developing a product — by making their practices a violation of the Unlawful Trade Practices Act.

Inasmuch as he’s not actually in Oregon, this gives Warren “Coyote” Meyer an idea:

I wonder if I can patent “the reduction in grass height using a sharpened, spinning blade” and drive all of my competitors out of business?

I think he should try, just to see what Murray and Toro and Honda would do.

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Just gimme the Book of Numbers

Someone yesterday dropped a link for what is described as “The Penis Enlargement Bible,” which prompted an immediate “testament” joke that didn’t make it to this post.

I didn’t follow up, of course, so I couldn’t tell you if the information contained therein can heal the sick. (Raising the dead would seem to be above its pay grade.)

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The pounding of the heart

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Something less than inventive

“Patently ridiculous” is closer to the mark, but perhaps overly obvious:

Today a photography blog unearthed another strange development in America’s ongoing patent train wreck: Amazon was recently awarded the intellectual rights to taking pictures of people in front of seamless white backgrounds.

Critics of the deal from the tech and photography worlds are split on what they see as the bigger affront: the gullibility of the US Patent and Trade Office, or the genius of Amazon’s patent lawyers.

I see it as yet another example of how our much-adored “intellectual property” really isn’t all that damn intellectual.

The US patent system makes it quite easy for people to lay claim to intuitive, easy processes, which so-called “patent trolls” have used to throw wrenches into the cogs of actual innovation (an issue that some in the US Senate are trying to address). However, as TechDirt writer Tim Cushing points out, it’s unlikely that Amazon is actually going to go this route. Instead, he thinks, they just want the credit for dreaming it up.

So here’s what we do about Ukraine: parachute 500 patent lawyers into Crimea. If Vladimir Putin is half as smart as I think he is — approximately one-sixth as smart as he thinks he is — he’ll have Sevastopol evacuated in a matter of hours.

(Via Mark Cuban.)

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This has something to do with the Mets

At least, I’m pretty sure it does:

Marlins 1, Mets 0

(From the Twitter of the Blog of the Nightfly.)

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Raise a glass to the idea

In case you were wondering about the Secret of Adulthood:

You do things you’d really rather not do because you know on some level it’s expected of you.

Yep. It’s that whole doggone Responsibility thing, which actual grownups understand, and children — who may be older than I am, actually — simply cannot, or will not, comprehend.

Not that it’s all that wonderful, I suppose:

(Note: This is the 1988 remake, from the Love Junk album, produced by Todd Rundgren. The 1986 original looked like this. I mention this because I have Canadian readers who can call me out on it.)

And there’s this:

Now that I think of it — I often complain that when I was a kid, I expected there’d be some kind of Manual of Adulthood I’d be issued on my 18th birthday or so to help me figure it out. Now, I think if such a manual existed? Eighteen-year-olds all over the world would be running screaming from adulthood.

Rather a lot of them are doing that now.

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Checking the Clippings

No, I did not attend this game: almost exactly at tipoff, there was a power failure, not addressed for several hours, and while I did listen to the radio coverage, I was in too poor a condition to make any notes, even if I could see well enough to write them, which I couldn’t.

That said, Kevin Durant’s comment about Russell Westbrook — “An emotional guy who will run through a wall for me” — evidently was taken seriously. Westbrook ran through just about everything last night, posting a triple-double (31 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds) as the Thunder thrashed the Clippers, 112-101, to even up the series at one apiece.

The newly-minted MVP didn’t have a bad night either, collecting a game-high 32 points and 12 boards. Thabo Sefolosha came to life in the third quarter; he wound up shooting 6-9 for 14 points. Serge Ibaka went 6-10 for 14; Kendrick Perkins, sticking around for 25 minutes, hauled in nine boards and scored eight. The weakness in the OKC offensive machine, once again, was the bench, led by Steven Adams with, um, six. Still, the reserves did show up on defense, making for some interesting anomalies, like Chris Paul getting five fouls. (DeAndre Jordan also had five, but you expect that of Jordan; CP3’s spurned-debutante mien played well enough to earn him a tech.)

Clipper scoring was pretty balanced, with J. J. Redick pounding out 18, Paul with 17, Blake Griffin with 15, and Darren Collison leading the reserves with 13. Their ball movement was good as ever $151; 23 assists, 11 by Paul, and 11 steals divided up among seven players. Apart from being outclassed on the backboard 52-36, they were competitive all the way — all the way into the fourth quarter, when the Thunder had a 17-point lead going in.

This is a travel day; the series resumes in Los Angeles Friday night.

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Grudge borne

Although persistence, I suspect, is futile:

KIRO-TV Seattle still complaining

I mean, even Bill Simmons gave it up after a while.

(Snagged by Brad Neese.)

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All kinds of kinds

A few days back, I tossed out a casual description of country singer Miranda Lambert as “slightly squarish.” Shortly thereafter, perhaps as a rebuke, this showed up in my inbox:

Miranda Lambert in W Magazine 2012

Okay, not so squarish. Then again, she is married to Blake Shelton, and they do live in idyllic Tishomingo, Oklahoma.

(Photo apparently from W Magazine, June 2012, by Santiago & Mauricio. Great American Country has a few more images from that photoshoot.)

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Meanwhile, back in the desert

This statistic is startling, not least because it has the ring of truth to it:

They’ve been saying on the local news that this has been the driest January to May period since 1936.

Since the Dust Bowl. That’s scary.

I’m a bit to her north. Let’s see what kind of numbers we have:

    January: normal 1.39 inches, actual 0.07.
    February: normal 1.58, actual 0.36.
    March: normal 3:06, actual 1.26.
    April: normal 3:07, actual 1.00.
    May so far: normal 0.85, actual 0.00.

So instead of the ten inches we should have had so far this year, we’re below three. This isn’t creating a water-supply issue yet — last year, we had over fifty inches of rain (normal is about 35), and we’ve had watering restrictions for over a year — but it’s probably just a matter of time. (Meanwhile, Wichita Falls proposes to recycle wastewater.)

What I find remarkable is that the winter of 2013-14 (defined as December through February by meteorologists) was the ninth driest on record — 1.69 inches — and yet we had over eight inches of snow. (Plus an inch and a half in March, which counts toward spring.)

This does not bode well. Drought depresses me, the long string of rainless cloudless days, and also the worry about what will happen to my trees (my lawn, I’ve given up on). The constant unending days of heat. I know people in northern climes complained about this winter, but honestly, for me, the four to six months of summer is worse than any winter — in winter, you can bundle up and go outside for 20 minutes or so and come back in and make tea and feel grateful. In summer, here, I can never get my house quite as cool as I’d really like it to be, and while it is a relief to come back into the house after being out in the heat, it’s not quite as GREAT a relief.

The wide swings perplex me. Wettest August ever was 2008 (9.95 inches); 2009 followed with 5.74, good for 7th place; and then 2010 dropped a mere 0.48 inch on us, tied for fifth driest, and just 0.02 inch above the entire summer of 1936.

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Codes revealed

I’ve never been a playwright, and probably never should aspire to be one, but I definitely relate to this:

I started using computers in 1984 at the computer lab at my college when I realized that I could actually use them as a way to write, save and edit the plays I was writing without having to actually re-type all 120 pages every time I made a change to bit of dialogue. For me this was nirvana. What you should know, though, is that I never took a course or had anyone actually teach me how to use those computers. I just walked in to the lab, asked for an account, sat down at one of the terminals, and sorted out that if I used a few commands like Center and Bold and JustifyLEFT I could format the entire document to print on the dot-matrix printer to look exactly the way I wanted it to look and if I remembered to actually SAVE everything, I could then go back and just edit the small bits that needed to be changed. For a playwright in 1984 who was writing lots of plays this was, well, revolutionary.

Of course, once you get in the habit of taking care of business at this level, something like this happens thirty years later:

I had no idea, none at all, that text actually wraps and formats for you. No clue. In my world, it has always been my responsibility to create a line break, a paragraph break, a page break, to justify things, to format the entire page of text on every single page of the Internet (no matter where I am, mind you) to look exactly the way I want it to appear before I hit publish. Do you know, really know, how freeing it is to just let the words flow and not to have to think at all about format?

I shook up a WordPress guru rather badly the other day when I said that no, I’d never used the WP Media Library for any of the three-thousand-odd graphics on this site: I size and resize manually, upload via SFTP, and code it in the HTML — not the visual — editor. The nature of Twitter is such that I couldn’t see her facial expression, but I imagine that it would have been the same one she would have given me had I told her that my lawn maintenance is performed by goats.

Note: It occurs to me, now that I think about it, that my lawn maintenance might be better if it were performed by goats.

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