I could swear I’ve heard this already

The play-count function in iTunes is sort of useful to me. My default Smart Playlist extracts the 500 tracks (of 6,001) that haven’t come up lately, and I impose a ceiling on play count (currently 25) so the numbers eventually create the illusion of evening out.

For Lileks? Not so much:

I know if I’ve listened to the songs. It is not important if the program knows it. This is the sort of anal-retentive nonsense computers force on us, a clear violation of what we know to be true and what the machine knows. Right? I mean, why is it important for the machine to validate what I know to be a fact? Does it matter that I know I’ve listened to Eddie Cochran’s “Sittin’ in the Balcony” at least three times in my life, but the machine — its memory and experiences born anew when I did a clean install and a fresh import of the songs — stubbornly believes the tune has never once been summoned? Who the hell is this computer to tell me I’ve never listened to “Oliver’s Army” by Elvis Costello?

My current count on “Oliver’s Army”: twenty-four. You can score that as anal-retentive nonsense.

Just for the hell of it, here are eight tracks — not to be confused with 8-tracks — that as of this morning had never been played on this box:

  • Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”
  • Alex Band, “Without You”
  • Arcade Fire, “Modern Man”
  • Lee DeWyze, “Sweet Serendipity”
  • Fierce Bad Rabbit, “All I Have Is You”
  • Finger Eleven, “Whatever Doesn’t Kill Me”
  • Ingrid Michaelson, “Soldier”
  • Train, “Marry Me”

As Eddie Cochran never said, there ain’t no cure for the shuffle-track blues.

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Without even mentioning flying cars

Glenn Reynolds’ #4 bit of shtick, following “Heh,” “Indeed” and “Today at Amazon,” is “Faster, please,” intended to encourage the developers of that which is incredibly cool and/or incredibly useful. It’s an idea Lynn can get behind:

Scientific breakthroughs are one of my biggest pet peeves. You read about some amazing breakthrough that is going to change everything and you wait and wait … and nothing really changes. I’m ready for change. I want to see this wonderful new world they keep promising me and I want it now and I want it to be cheap enough that I can afford it. I don’t have an infinite number of years left to enjoy all this new stuff so come on! Let’s have it!

Just for the historical record, I once rigged up a Commodore 64 — I forget the program I used, but it ate a whole lot of RAM — to render what was then a full-screen (320 x 240, 16 colors) GIF file, which didn’t look at all like this:

Keyboard Cat is scowling

It took all night with that antediluvian hardware to pop up a picture that size.

Now if everything else in life advanced as quickly as graphic display, I’d be a little more content.

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Brain bath and beyond

If you see “bath salts” and think “Calgon,” you might want to think again:

A December US Drug Enforcement Agency drug alert warned parents that teens are snorting coke knock-offs marketed as “bath salts” and “plant feeders.” The DEA warned that users experience … euphoria and extreme energy, often resulting in agitation and hallucinations.

Epsom salt, this ain’t. It’s more likely to be methylenedioxypyrovalerone, and apart from the fact that there are people out there who will try anything that has the syllable “meth” in it, with the notable exception of “Methodism,” it has little to recommend it other than a cheap buzz — except that it isn’t cheap:

At Rayburn’s Grocery in Satsuma [Louisiana] there were six different brands of the “bath salt” for sale behind the counter. Each around 250 milligrams per packet for $20 to $45 each.

Mr. Bubble was not available for comment.

(Suggested by Nicole.)

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Redistricting made easy

The Census is over, the numbers are pending, and the legislative districts must be redrawn. Michael Bates suggests some minor adjustments to simplify the task:

I urge our legislature to use common boundaries to define House, Senate, and Congressional districts. Since the federal courts tossed aside our constitutional provisions on legislative apportionment back in 1964, the number of legislators in each house has been defined by statute.

So let’s add two senators to make 50, subtract one rep to make 100. Define 100 State House districts. Combine them in pairs to make 50 Senate districts. Combine 10 Senate districts into each of our five Congressional districts. Or start with Congressional districts and divide them into 10 Senate districts each, and each Senate district into two House districts.

The old method for assigning House seats was cumbersome in the extreme:

Representation in the House used to be determined by taking the total population of the state, according to the most recent Federal Decennial Census, and that number was divided by one hundred, with the quotient equaling one ratio. Counties having a population less than one full ratio were to be assigned one Representative; every county containing an entire ratio but less than two ratios was to be assigned two Representatives; every county containing a population of two entire ratios but less than three ratios was to be assigned three Representatives; and every county containing a population of three entire ratios but less than four ratios was to be assigned four Representatives. After the first four Representatives, a county was to qualify for additional representation on the basis of two whole ratios of population for each additional Representative.

Which is how we wound up with 101 representatives from 77 counties. If that sounds inscrutable, consider how we did the Senate:

[T]he nineteen most populous counties, as determined by the most recent Federal Decennial Census, were to constitute nineteen senatorial districts with one senator to be nominated and elected from each district. The fifty-eight less populous counties were to be joined into twenty-nine two-county districts with one senator to be nominated and elected from each of the two-county districts.

Reynolds v. Sims got rid of that tangle. Even so, it’s still possible to rig the game, which is another reason to support the Bates plan:

[I]t would make it easier for constituents to know who their legislators are, would make it harder to use district boundaries to protect incumbents, and would make it easier for county election boards to draw precinct boundaries.

Let’s hope the current legislature is paying attention.

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Spin the black circle

WordPress throws up a large black dot at you if there’s a new version of WP or of any of the entirely-too-many plugins you use. (I have, yes, a plugin to display the plugins I use; you can see it at work here.)

And actually, I rolled back a version of one particular plugin — WordPress Database Backup — because its most recent version was choking on the last part of its designated function. The way it’s supposed to work: no less than once a week, it’s supposed to download the MySQL tables, gzip the lot, and email it to me. At first, I thought it was a mail issue, because the gzipped file was approach 10 MB. A trip through FTP, though, showed me that all those backups were in fact stored on the site, uncompressed, eight weeks’ worth, about a quarter of a gigabyte of disk space.

Finding that I was not alone, I decided to clear out the current version, which is 2.2.3, and reinstall 2.2.2. Works like a charm.

I expect there will be a fix before too long. In the meantime, the black dot glares at me from the admin panel.

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Self-preservation act

If you’ve read this site for long enough, you’ve seen a full range of emotions from deepest, darkest despair to, um, let’s call it “marginally upbeat.” (If, as some have suspected, I’m actually bipolar, I’m certainly not symmetrical.)

I mention this because D. G. Myers, while composing a sendoff for the late Wilfrid Sheed, turned up this Sheed quote on commitment to one’s writing:

Writing survives everything, even the most paralyzing depression. Recently I came across something I had to write in this condition and found it surprisingly ingenious, like a chicken dancing with its head cut off. Technique can apparently cover for anything short of rigor mortis.

I’m not within screaming distance of Sheed’s league, you may be certain, but having gone through the archives on a regular basis, I am persuaded that my writing does not significantly deteriorate on those days when I’m despondent.

And Myers points out:

Only a certain kind of writer understands this, a writer for whom a high personal criterion of style is non-negotiable. If you never permit your style to flag, if you never lower your standards for the parts of speech, you might even endure the worst of patches.

So the next time someone asks me why I’ve been on this soapbox for fifteen years, I’ll simply point out that I’m trying to save my life.

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Vixens wanted

Costa Tsiokos (who, incidentally, says he’s getting out of blogging) tweeted this yesterday:

oh brunette vixen on those “Fairly Legal” subway ads, you do tempt me to actually tune in to the show. Almost.

I replied at the time:

She has a certain visual (maybe even visceral) charm.

The lady in question is Aahoo Jahansouz Shahi, though you can call her Sarah:

Sarah Shahi in Fairly Legal

Shahi’s character works in her father’s BigLaw firm, though she has resigned from the bar and become a mediator instead.

I don’t know if this is the exact poster CT saw, but it has a certain charm.

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Schedule A-minus

TaxProf Blog quotes Martin A. Sullivan of Tax Analysts on the mortgage-interest deduction:

We always knew the mortgage interest deduction was unfair — favoring those in high tax brackets with big houses over renters and low-income homeowners. But until we did the calculations — as far as we know, the first of their kind — we did not suspect the geographic dispersion of tax benefits would be so large.

In addition to the wide disparity in benefits, the other striking feature about the mortgage interest deduction is how well the subsidy correlates with Democratic strength. … [The fourteen] states with the highest per capita benefit were states captured by Obama in the 2008 election [Maryland, District of Columbia, California, Connecticut, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Delaware]. In the six states with the lowest per capita benefits [West Virginia, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma], Republican challenger John McCain won the vote.

Of course, in those six states, housing prices tend to be lower, so less money is borrowed, therefore less interest is deductible.

Is this an argument for getting rid of that particular deduction? No more so than for getting rid of any other particular deduction, if you ask me: it’s unreasonable to expect financials, or much of anything else, to be evenly distributed across 50 states and 310 million people. It would certainly cost me money were it discontinued — the $131 figure quoted for Oklahoma is about one-eighth what the deduction saves me for 2010 alone — but I suspect that it’s not going away unless there are adjustments elsewhere in the code.

Then again, Sullivan says:

As tax reform moves forward, we can expect Democratic senators to be the most lukewarm to proposals for limiting the mortgage interest deduction to less expensive homes. And if it is a choice between cutting the mortgage interest deduction and cutting tax subsidies for energy companies, that will be an easy decision for the senators from Oklahoma.

Yeah, sure. Call me when someone, Democrat or Republican, gets the gumption to kill off the ethanol boondoggle.

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About damn time

House Bill 1259, by Rep. Wade Rousselot (D-Wagoner):

SECTION 1. [NEW LAW] A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 70 of Title 25, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

A. The standard time in Oklahoma shall be known as Central Standard Time.

B. This section shall not be construed to affect the standard time established by United States law governing the movements of common carriers engaged in interstate commerce or the time for performance of an act by an officer or department of the United States, as established by a statute, lawful order, rule or regulation of the United States or an agency hereof.

C. As authorized by the Uniform Time Act of 1966 as amended and notwithstanding any other provisions of law to the contrary by the United States government relating to adoption of daylight saving time by all of the states, the State of Oklahoma elects to reject such time and elects to continue in force the terms of subsection A of this section relating to standard time in Oklahoma.

D. The rejection of daylight saving time as provided for in this section may be changed by future legislative action.

SECTION 2. This act shall become effective November 1, 2011.

The chance that this will actually pass is next to nil, but I’m just delighted that someone actually considers it possible.

(Via this tweet.)

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QUILT = 14

Scrabble fabricUnless, of course, you can manage to land on one of the premium squares. There are premium squares, aren’t there?

Get ready to have some fun and use your creative imagination with this Scrabble fabric featuring crisp textured alphabet tiles ready for you to form words and works of art with!

One can, of course, go beyond the quilt:

[M]aybe a shirtdress made of Scrabble fabric will give me magical powers? Worth a shot. With wooden Scrabble tiles as buttons, of course.

It has sufficient powers to render me speechless, which surely is worth something.

(Via this Nancy Friedman tweet.)

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Bees continue to buzz

Before tipoff, I caught a story to the effect that Hornets power forward David West was thinking about opting out of his last contract year. Another case of ‘Melo-drama? If West was distracted, he didn’t seem so tonight; he disappeared briefly into the locker room early on, but returned quickly enough, and he recorded his usual 20 points on a mere 18 shots. More to the point, he and Chris Paul (24 points) performed like the well-oiled machine they’re been for all these years, and a CP3 steal inside the 10-second mark set up West for a fadeaway jumper to give New Orleans a 91-89 win, their ninth in a row.

The Thunder, one must note, led 33-19 after the first quarter, but the Hornets held them to a meager twelve points in the next twelve minutes and took a 50-45 lead at the half. Oklahoma City tied it up late in the third, and the lead ping-ponged during the fourth. Numbers were mostly close to even: the Thunder got more rebounds (41 vs. 33), but also turned the ball over more often (18 vs. 10). And New Orleans effectively bottled up Kevin Durant in the last quarter: KD scored precisely zilch in the fourth.

Durant rang up 22 points, below his average; Westbrook had the game’s only double-double (18 points, 10 assists); Jeff Green, shifting positions throughout the game, scored 19. The Thunder shot a blah 46.5 percent, though the Hornets were a comparably-blah 45.5.

After this cold reception in the Big Easy, the Thunder may be happy to be heading to the Big Freezy: they’ll meet the Timberwolves on Wednesday.

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Pundits of yore

Roberta X recalls the golden days of the commentariat:

We used to have a host of ‘em, mostly men, who wielded typewriters and microphones like scalpels and engraver’s points; we had Buckley on the Right and Gore Vidal on the Left, at least, guys who composed on the fly in their own pedantic battle rap and if I thought they were both wrong on a lot of things, at least I knew what they thought. Their invective was a rapier, not a poisoned bludgeon, even when they were on the verge of fisticuffs.

Textual style, alas, does not make for Good Television, although I always found WFB’s Firing Line to be good fun, even when it was just waiting around for him to twist out some spectacular polysyllabic like “anfractuous” or “eleemosynary.” (Aside: The Firefox spellchecker approves of the latter, didn’t recognize the former.)

Only Vidal is left from that era:

Yeah, I loathe his politics (etc.) but I’ll still sit and listen to him talk — because he can put words together, the right words, properly assembled. Attractively, even. If he wants ‘em envenomed, he uses the better grades of venom for the job and applies the stuff with precision.

Today’s bludgeoneers — well, try to imagine any of them writing a decent novel.

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Life’s a gas

Steve Skubinna, in a moment at Tam’s, recreates a scene from my own life:

Back in basic, in the mid seventies, we had to use the atropine autoinjectors. The drill sergeant demonstrated one by stabbing a piece of cardboard, the needle popped through and the fluid shot at least a yard.

“If it doesn’t feel like you’re punching his leg off,” we were told, “you’re not pushing hard enough.”

And then, of course, they led us into a darkened room and dropped a canister of CS gas, to see how quickly we could don our masks.

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Not exactly truck science either

Normally your auto journos prefer to do comparison tests with vehicles of more or less the same type and price point, but once in a while they veer off into Fantasyland, and we are, I think, the better for it, if only because of the potential for bar bets.

It appears, for instance, that the 2011 Ram 3500 HD truck will outrun a Delta IV Heavy rocket from zero to sixty: 10.4 seconds versus 15. By 100 mph, though, the rocket has pulled ahead, and in five minutes it will reach a speed of 17,500 mph, which the truck formerly known as Dodge won’t do unless you somehow manage to put it into orbit. (Which, incidentally, the Delta IV can do.)

The downside for both vehicles is fuel economy. The Ram with the Cummins diesel gets only 11.8 mpg; the Delta IV, 0.00087 mpg, about four feet seven inches per gallon, even worse than your father’s Oldsmobile. Then again, Dad never had to climb a 100-percent grade.

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Strange search-engine queries (260)

You have to figure, with 16,000 blog posts and about 1,000 pages that aren’t blog posts, I’d catch every Googler from Saskatchewan to San Salvador. Not so. However, I do keep the logs open, just in case something like this happens to fall into place:

“abolition of politics”:  Not gonna happen. Too many people would be put out of work, and God knows most of them aren’t savvy enough to serve up shakes at Mickey D’s.

is it okay for Jews to eat in chinese restaurants with statue of buddah:  Sure. Separate checks, though.

clumsy clod:  Well, yeah. An agile clod would defy imagination.

3 women 2 men one bedroom nude:  I warned you about that budget clothing-optional cruise.

saint theresa’s prayer snopes:  If we’re at the point where actual saints are praying to Snopes, well, God help us.

sarah palin and bloodladle:  Um, no. That was “blood libel.” For your penance, you must pray to Snopes.

mazda 626 boring size:  Au contraire. I’ve owned two of them, and they were exactly the right size.

kilpatrick turnpike rates what is exact change?  It occurs to me that if you can’t count coins, you probably shouldn’t be driving.

benz down years:  I suppose that given enough years, yes, it eventually benz down.

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Political tips

Not for the actual politicians, who won’t follow them anyway, but for those of us who are compelled to keep an eye on them.

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