Whoever they are

Gawker, for some gawking reason, has issued a list of The 50 Least Important Writers of 2012. And no, I’m not on it. There are liberals (Ezra Klein), conservatives (Thomas Sowell), best-selling novelists (Mitch Albom), worst-selling novelists (Georgina Bloomberg), and everyone at Gawker who was ever mean to the intern who actually assembled the piece.

Maybe next year.

(Via Patti Niehoff.)

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Maybe it’s the distributor

OscarPRGirl, identified as an actual PR person in the Oscar de la Renta organization, posted this nifty spread from Vogue, circa 1994, in which the ostensible mechanic is wearing one of Oscar’s black wool dresses:

Model vs. Tatra

She tagged it “I’m dying to know how to fix cars.”

Unfortunately for this particular low-level fantasy, there exists one fashion blogger who is also a car buff, who responded thusly:

The engine’s in the back, for starters. #Tatra603

I couldn’t tell you what model year this was, though it had to be a ’62 or later: previous 603s had three headlights, the center unit turning with the wheel in a Tuckerly manner.

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A minor oversight

You know, guys, you can’t just assume something is illegal, even in California:

The city of Anaheim has paid $400,000 to settle a wrongful arrest suit brought by a father and son accused of beating an opossum and trying to cover it up. It turns out there is no law in California against killing opossums.

Why, they’re not even endangered.

This suit got all the way to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, where a dismissal was reversed:

“The police had no evidence that plaintiffs did anything more than try to kill the opossum, which they are entitled to do,” wrote Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. “A reasonable officer could not have believed that the arrests … were lawful.”

I expect the Assembly, having solved all other problems in the Golden State, will address the social problem of opossum-beating in its next session.

(Via Hit Coffee.)

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Pokes, however, are still free

Facebook hits on yet another method of prying dollars out of the user base:

Ordinarily, a Facebook user’s Inbox will only display messages from friends and people the user might know, such as friends of friends. Messages from other sources end up in a separate Other folder, where they’re likely to be overlooked.

“We’ve heard that messages people care about may not always be delivered or may go unseen in the Other folder,” Facebook said in a statement on Thursday, explaining that it has launched the experimental pay-to-message feature to see whether “economic signals” can be used to help determine message relevance.

The buzz has been solidly negative, but I think this is a swell idea: if you want guaranteed access to my inbox, it ought to cost you, and $1 doesn’t seem unreasonable. (About three decades ago, I was hooked up to MCI Mail, where every message you sent cost half a buck. Needless to say, there was no spam.)

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Energy ill-starred

Startling revelation of the day: people who rent apartments tend to have fewer energy-efficient appliances than those who own their own homes.

You’ve already figured this one out, of course, but here’s the explanation:

In most rental units tenants pay their own electricity bills, so landlords don’t have much incentive to invest in energy-efficient appliances. Landlords would only benefit from buying more costly energy-efficient appliances if enough tenants were willing to pay slightly higher rents in exchange for the lower utility bills. Unfortunately, tenants typically have no way to learn the energy efficiency of each appliance in each potential apartment and translate that efficiency into projected utility bills. Thus, tenants are rarely willing to pay higher rent for more energy-efficient apartments.

In a few areas, tenants can find this information, but most of the time they don’t. And if lower energy expenditure vs. higher rent comes out as a wash, incentive is exactly zero. Captain Obvious at the WaPo (first link) sees this as a “market failure,” which is apparently defined these days as any transaction in which the government doesn’t get what it wants.

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Milk drinkers to be skimmed

You probably didn’t think that there was a separate zone of the Fiscal Cliff (Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.) for dairy products. It has nothing to do, I assure you, with dietary laws; it’s just politics as usual, as usual:

Come Jan. 1, there is a threat that milk prices could rise to $6 to $8 a gallon if Congress does not pass a new farm bill that amends farm policy dating back to the Truman presidency.

At this point, you should be asking yourself, not “Why is a farm policy from 1949 still on the books?” but “Why do we have farm policy in the first place?”

Under the current program, the government sets a minimum price to cover dairy farmers’ production costs. If the market price drops below that, the government buys dairy products from farmers to buoy prices and increase demand. Since milk prices have remained above that minimum price in recent years, dairy farmers usually do better by selling their products commercially rather than to the government.

But if 1949 rules go into effect, the government would be required to buy dairy products at around $40 per hundredweight — roughly twice the current market price — to drive up the price of milk to cover dairy producers’ cost.

And that, of course, is why we have farm policy in the first place: to pretend that we’re guaranteeing a living to individual farmers. It’s why Uncle Sam will always drink your milkshake.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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Summer dancer

Given my ongoing fixation on dancers, it’s surprising — to me, anyway — that I seldom feature a dancer in these pages. In an attempt to address this situation, I bring you Paloma Herrera, who has danced with American Ballet Theatre since 1991; she was named a Principal Dancer four years later.

Paloma Herrera, circa 2007

Why “summer dancer”? She was born around the summer solstice (12/21) in 1975 in Buenos Aires, a place I never think of as wintry. But inasmuch as I’m in the dead of winter in Northern climes at the moment, here she is in the Nutcracker with Gennadi Saveliev, a soloist with ABT. You might think from the photo that she’s not exactly sylph-like, and this clip won’t change your mind:

Then again, dance is hard work, and I suspect it’s not all that well-suited to seven-stone weaklings.

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The Times of your life

Steve Sailer, speculating on the future of the Grey Lady:

I see a rumor that the New York Times will be for sale in 2013. I think it would be nuts for politically dependent billionaires (i.e., most billionaires) to evaluate buying the NYT solely based on net present value of cash flow. Do you think Carlos Slim regrets the money he spent bailing out the NYT in 2008? The Mexican telecom monopolist bought himself years of being not considered terribly newsworthy, while Americans who want to reduce the profits Slim makes on calls to and from illegal aliens were recurrently demonized. And any connection between Slim’s bailout and the NYT’s virulence against immigration skeptics is simply Not News. Money well spent.

Slim bought 6.4 percent of the company’s Class A stock in 2008, and has since bought more; he subsequently lent them $250 million at a reported 14-percent interest rate, which has been repaid. Then again, the real power at NYTCO remains the Ochs/Sulzberger clan, which continues to control the Class B stock, if not necessarily Slim.

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Quote of the week

Frothing Mouse on Newtown, and a thousand other things that have gone before:

Some things cannot be fixed. Some things are so awful that the only good thing that comes out of them is that the perpetrator is out of our society. It has nothing to do with prevention. There are too many thousands of mental machinations, weaponry abilities and combinations thereof that will defeat any random generator computer, even, from preventing them from going wrong.

Add into the mix our lovely leaders and the soup of stirring a stick into an open stewy wound for weeks and weeks and weeks to evidence their SADNESS, and we have us a fine, continuing still-to-be-published novel of descent into hell.

Evil is no more powerful than Good; however, this culture has decided that Evil is vastly more entertaining, in a sick and twisted way.

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In practice

A brief bit of facepalm-worthy goofiness from a Rebecca Black rehearsal last week:

She did a second Ustream Thursday afternoon, fraught with sound issues. (Which perhaps was an improvement over the first one, which had no such technical problems but which was marred by side commentary from various low-level griefers.) She blamed the dubious audio on having to use her manager’s Mac instead of her own, which was hors de combat for some reason. Points, though, for remaining cool under pressure. And I admit to something of a grin when someone streaming the show sent her a marriage proposal, and she replied demurely, “Isn’t this a little early in the relationship?”

Yes, I’m acting like an overstewed fanboi. Deal with it.

Meanwhile, Peter Larsen reports in the Orange County Register:

Even Black sees how her trajectory doesn’t exactly follow the norm for overnight sensations, and admits it wasn’t always easy to stick to the well-considered career path she and her advisors have followed.

“It definitely was hard a lot of the time,” she later says of the methodical way her post-“Friday” career has unfolded. “It’s so easy — we could have just recorded a bunch of songs really fast and just put them out there while ‘Friday’ was ‘the thing.’ And yeah, they would have gotten a lot of attention. So it was hard.

“But everyone told me, ‘It’s OK, you can wait.’ And I’m so glad I waited. It’s a hard thing to understand when you’re young, and being that I’m impatient, too.”

The getting of wisdom, a little at a time.

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And oh, what Heitz we’ll hit

On with the show, because this is it for Marc Heitz:

Marc Heitz is going on vacation. He’ll have some time now. On Wednesday, he sold his remaining car dealership to David Stanley Auto Group.

“We’re going to travel,” Heitz said.

He didn’t say whether this had anything to do with his little tiff with General Motors.

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A somewhat darker cloud

Of late, Apple has been stashing copies of one’s iTunes Store purchases in the cloud, and then making them available to all one’s authorized devices automagically, once said devices are noticed. This is wonderful when it works.

And then there was this incident. I was playing through the BT album If the Stars Are Eternal So Are You and I (reviewed here), and track four, “Seven-Hundred-Thirty-Nine,” which normally runs nearly eleven minutes, quit after seventeen seconds and didn’t record a play. I halted iTunes and brought up the track in Winamp, which normally doesn’t choke on unprotected AACs. It played for seventeen seconds, after which time the sound muted and the timing bar slid to the right at a prodigious speed.

I wondered, for a moment, if Apple would spaz out if I asked them for another try. But first, I wanted to check my copy at home, inasmuch as I was at home when I bought the album in the first place. And it was just fine.

Ultimately, I suppose, this is a good argument for CDs, which you can always rerip, unless the surface is marred with hoofprints or something.

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Open thread for the end of the world

(Alternate title: “Apocalypse HA!”)

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None of that 13 stuff

Well, let’s see. The Thunder had won twelve straight; they’d beaten the Timberwolves twelve consecutive times. What were the chances they’d pull off a pair of thirteens? After going down 30-18 in the first quarter, slim, diminishing to none in the fourth after J. J. Barea, having made his case for Sixth Man of the Year, decided to try for an Academy Award in special effects, doing a flop that could only be recreated in CGI. Kevin Durant bought the flop, raised a fuss, drew a tech, and then Barea missed the free throw. By then, though, it was too late: the Thunder were erratic all night, and the T-Wolves methodically disposed of them, 99-93.

Object lesson: contrast Kevin Love with Russell Westbrook, formerly teammates at UCLA. Love’s line: 28 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists, one turnover, 9-20 from the floor. Westbrook’s: 30 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists, eight turnovers, 9-28 from the floor. Sums it up nicely. Want more? Barea finished with 18, nine in the fourth quarter. The OKC bench had seven for the entire game: four from Reggie Jackson, three from Eric Maynor, who not incidentally were the only Thunder players to finish the night as high as +1. (Kevin Martin was out with a contusion.) Durant had a semi-sparkling 33, but clearly that wasn’t enough.

So the high point of the game, perhaps, was seeing Ricky Rubio, declared recovered but still limited to under 20 minutes, work his particular brand of magic. He didn’t make any of his three shots, but he grabbed three boards, served up three assists, and pulled off a steal. Heaven help us when he’s healthy.

And really, wouldn’t you rather have your winning streak broken by Minnesota than by Miami? Oh, you wouldn’t?

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Affairs to be wrapped up

DreamHost, host of this site for the last eleven years, puts out a monthly newsletter, which always ends with unsubscribe instructions. This is the December version:

If the world doesn’t end this month you’ll be on the receiving end of another DreamHost newsletter in January. If it DOES end next month, unsubscribing now would largely just be symbolic. If I were you I’d just let it ride.

Yeah, I can see that.

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