Damn chips control everything

Gwendolyn’s due in for a spa day later this month, and while the basic services aren’t particularly pricey — oil change, new filters all around, drop the pan and refresh the transmission fluid — there’s going to have to be some diagnostic work done, because one of those annoying dash lights won’t go away despite a total lack of symptoms. And I have yet to see an incident where this sort of thing didn’t cost me at least $500.

Then again, it could be a whole lot worse:

[A] BMW 335i owner recently found out the hard way that changing the radio prevented him from having his transmission serviced. How are these systems related? They aren’t, except the chassis computer wouldn’t let the transmission software be updated unless all systems were validated first. Lacking the original radio, that system couldn’t be validated, so the car couldn’t be fixed. Eventually, the owner found the original radio in a closet, but otherwise, he would have had to buy a new OEM radio to the tune of $700. He couldn’t use another used OEM radio because the OEM radio had to be uniquely paired to the car first, an operation that could only be performed once.

Even lowly Bluetooth can re-pair. Why the hell can’t BMW?

Oh. That’s why.

Comments (4)

Your 2010 State Questions

The fifth biennial roundup of ballot measures, eleven in all — plus a couple that actually aren’t on the ballot.

Comments off

You can’t do that

As a rule, you probably should not say this to someone who is actually doing it:

One night a guitarist friend from college stayed over. In the morning I found him sitting at my harp, pushing the pedals in a way that was distinctly non-harpistic. “Hey, check this out,” he said, “you said you couldn’t play a chromatic line here — but look, if you move these three pedals on this side and two on the other, you can do it.”

“But you can’t move three pedals on one side and two on the other,” I said. “It’s not possible on the harp.”

He looked at me for few seconds. “But I just did.”

This is the point where, if you’re wise, the light bulb — a traditional incandescent, none of this modern-day sacred-to-Gaia toxic-waste stuff — appears above your head with full illumination.

And eventually you discover that things like this are not only possible but actually come naturally to you:

Then again, you already know what I think about this particular artist.

Comments off

The First Church of Bob Dole

And may Bob Dole have mercy on our heathen souls:

The Scottish Episcopal Church has denied charges that its use of gender neutral language in its revisions to the 1982 Eucharistic liturgy marks a change in the church’s view on the nature of God. Inclusive language, the church said on Sept 6, merely reflected current speech patterns, and implied no theological changes.

It further stated that changes such as “God is love and we are his children” found in the Confession and Absolution to “God is love and we are God’s children” were drafted “in a way that reflects everyday speech and writing.”

Well, yeah, if you’re Bob Dole.

Times have changed, the SEC said, and since the 1982 liturgy was drafted “conventions have changed concerning the use of words which express gender, and the Church is merely seeking to reflect these in its worship. No change in our understanding of God is taking place.”

And you know, it could be worse. We could be talking about Jedi Knights trying to sound like Yoda.

(Via Christopher Johnson, this is.)

Comments off

Mary Sue and her sisters

Steph Mineart on Woody Allen:

His films are one big Mary Sue about how he’d like women to respond to him, and how much he hates women for not responding that way, and how he recruits men that women actually are attracted to in that way to treat the women badly, punishing them for not responding to Woody Allen in the way they respond to the more attractive men.

Which makes sense, given this description by Paula Smith:

[T]he truest mark of a Mary Sue is not how she’s described or what she does, but the effect the sheer fact of her existence in the story has on the other characters in the story. If program characters start worrying endlessly about her, or go all gooey because she’s just so darn cute or smart …

And Paula Smith knows her Mary Sues: she invented the term, in a Star Trek fan-fiction sendup she did back in the Seventies, while Woody Allen was still actually funny.

Me, I’m siding with that space alien in Stardust Memories: if Woody wanted to do mankind a real service, he’d tell funnier jokes.

Comments (1)

On the wings of a light-green bat

As reported here, fall 2005:

Chevrolet has put out a little twelve-page booklet which I found glued to the inside of one of the car mags this month. It’s called MEN, WOMEN AND THE TRUCK, subtitled A RELATIONSHIP HANDBOOK, and the bow-tie boys have managed to work in just about any vehicle-related sexual stereotype you can think of. I mean, here’s the opening: GIRLS PLAY WITH DOLLS. BOYS PLAY WITH TRUCKS. LET’S START THERE.

Here’s one they missed — or maybe were saving up for this year:

Rear view, 1959 Chevrolet

I’m pretty sure Manny, Moe and Jack had something to keep your beverage in place in 1959, even if you had a front bench seat.

On the Blatant Sexism scale, this ranks as exceedingly minor, but you’d think Government Motors would be wanting to avoid even the slightest appearance of such, at least until the stock offering is done.

(Via I See Invisible People.)

Comments (1)

Noms de spew

Bob (not her real name) argues that “authenticity,” whatever that is online, is not a function of whether you’re signing your material with your “real” name:

Some people argue that using a pen name is inauthentic and cowardly. Under some anonymous handle, a person would feel the freedom to say anything — including flinging vitriol like a souped-up Linda Blair — without repercussion. This, I think, is patently authentic rather than the other way around.

There’s certainly a tradition, at least in this country, of the Anonymous Pamphleteer, doing a hit-and-run on the powers that be. And unfortunately, there’s certainly a tradition, at least in this country, of the powers that be doing their best to silence their unknown assailant.

I have never bought into the idea that you can’t be taken seriously as a writer/blogger/whatever unless the name on your text matches the name on your birth certificate; while I’ve mostly eschewed pseudonyms in recent years, I had a fistful of them back in the 1980s and early 1990s, and I don’t think I’ve necessarily become any more responsible — or, depending on your point of view, any less irresponsible — by putting my John Hancock (not my real name) on my stuff.

Comments (5)

Behold the power of cheesecake

There have been a few somewhat-arguable photos on this site from time to time, though I don’t think I’ve ever quite stooped to this:

I’ve come across another internet tendency that really irritates me: blogs that use photos of a woman’s lower torso and legs, or just the legs, with a pair of panties or thongs down around her ankles as illustrations or headers on their blogs when the subject of those blogs is not “how to keep the elastic in my underwear from failing at a crucial moment.”

Although I have to admit this: upon reading that paragraph, I thought about raiding Lileks’ Art Frahm collection and putting up a blog on that very subject, though WordPress.com was not exactly keen on the idea of “howtokeeptheelasticinmyunderwearfromfailing.wordpress.com,” and I’d have to do a custom header, which means I’d spend more time than I wanted to spend reviewing the handful of themes that they permit. (I do keep my backup blog over there, albeit with stock artwork — with one exception, of course.)

Besides, it’s the men you have to worry about, descending-clothing-wise.

Comments off

Branded R

“Look! The cool kids have a new logo! What are we going to do about it?”

And the Grand Old Party thought about it for a moment, took another sip of salty water — good for the gums, you know — and brought forth this:

Not the new Republican Party logo

Magoo Rove, you’ve done it again.

(Inspired by Queens of the Stone Age.)

Comments (5)

Quote of the week

From a purely-philosophical standpoint, Tam hates the very idea of voting:

The fact that there are basic human rights that have been left to the the vagaries of snout-counting strikes me as a very basic flaw in our entire system of government. November should consist of a few dull Cincinnati dragged unwillingly to the meanest of public service by a handful of loyal followers, whereupon they will look out their office windows for a term and pine for the day when they can get back to doing something meaningful with their lives.

Of course, what we get are candidates who loudly proclaim the desire to “make a difference”; eleven or twelve dozen times out of a hundred they end up as an object lesson in Townshend’s Theory of the New Boss.

Comments (2)


“Still buzzing from StL,” reports Andrew Ian Dodge as he presents the 391st Carnival of the Vanities.

The following isn’t exactly buzzworthy, but I’ll do what I can. In Trask v. Maguire (85 US 391, 1873), the successor to the St. Louis and Iron Mountain Railroad, incorporated under the same name after the original railroad company was declared in default and was temporarily placed under the control of the State of Missouri, claimed the right to the same tax exemptions as had been granted to the original railroad, despite the changes in ownership and a subsequent Missouri statute which made the granting of such exemptions illegal. The court found for Maguire, the St. Louis tax collector; the judgment was affirmed upon appeal.

Comments off

Born under a bad URL

My youngest child is pushing 30, which means that these considerations never came up when he was born:

I’m sure people have always had long contested discussions with their partners and friends about naming, but I can’t help but laugh at the role that the Internet is playing in these conversations today. I clearly live in a tech-centric world so it shouldn’t be surprising that SEO and domain name availability are part of the conversation.

Now we’ve always heard that names, to the extent possible, should be “distinctive,” but “distinctive,” I submit, does not necessarily equal “first page of Google”; otherwise, we’d be awash in John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidts and such.

Besides, the kid might not want that kind of attention:

Sure, we all want our kids to be successful, but what if they’re not? And what if they don’t want to stand out? I always thought it was horrific when parents would name their kids ridiculous names that were destined for torturous middle school nicknames, but what does it mean to take it to the next level such that they stick out like sore thumbs online? It’s a lot easier to live down middle school than to live down a persistent digital identity.

If the Lord had meant us all to be in Wikipedia, we’d have all been born with a disambiguation page.

Comments (1)

Not a hollow star

You might remember Alexis Bledel from the Gilmore Girls TV series, which ran seven years on The WB and The CW. (Parenthetical note: What’s with the “The” on these networks? Also, why say “Parenthetical note” when it’s obviously in parentheses?)

Anyway, it’s her 29th birthday today, and I had this photo lying around, so…

Alexis Bledel

Besides, she’s not wearing those damned Traveling Pants.

Comments (1)

All right, get ‘em up

No, I didn’t mean your hands, mister:

The Minnesota Court of Appeals [Tuesday] upheld the conviction of a motorist whose pants fell down after he was ordered to put his hands up. Judge Kevin Ross noted on behalf of the three-judge panel considering the case that previous courts had never considered a search quite like the one conducted on Frank Irving Wiggins as he was ordered out of his car in the parking lot of a St. Paul White Castle in November 2008.

You know, if this happened in a movie, people would be jeering about the lack of realism:

Officer Kara Breci had seen Wiggins in his idling vehicle and assumed he was involved in a drug deal since he was not eating. Breci investigated. After she saw a rear-seat passenger with a bag that looked like it contained marijuana, she ordered Wiggins and two passengers out of the car with hands on their head. The loose-fitting jeans Wiggins had been wearing immediately fell to the ground. As Breci pulled up Wiggins’s pants, she felt an object that turned out to be a .380 pistol in his pocket. Because of his prior convictions, Wiggins was arrested and convicted by a district court for unlawful possession of a firearm.

Stoners at White Castle? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Anyway, it is the finding of the court that contrary to Wiggins’ argument, Officer Breci’s search did not actually begin until after she made the adjustment to Wiggins’ pants.

Mental note: You know, I haven’t bought a new belt in over two years.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

Comments (2)

Bury interesting

One of those pull-apart mailers which says in big letters WASHINGTON, D.C. and in decidedly-smaller letters “not affiliated with any government agency” showed up yesterday with the subtle heading: SENIOR FINAL EXPENSE INFORMATION.

Gee, thanks.

I didn’t bother to rip the thing open, which would be a violation of all I hold sacred, but I did manage to recall this bit from the joke wall on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, from some time in the last century:

“My grandfather’s funeral cost over five thousand dollars so far.”

“So far?”

“Yeah, we buried him in a rented tuxedo.”

“Final expense,” my sweet bippy.

Comments off

The Gas Game (redux)

Every fall, ONG offers something called the Voluntary Fixed-Price Plan, and the one time I bothered to keep track of it — well, you’ll get the idea:

Last October, with gas prices in flux, Oklahoma Natural Gas Company offered to sell gas to its customers for a Voluntary Fixed Price of $8.393 per dekatherm, which struck me as a fairly crummy deal, inasmuch as gas was selling in the $6.50 range at the time. So I passed, and gas promptly jumped off the farging scale.

It wasn’t until July that the price dropped below $8.393; it peaked in the winter (of course) at over $12.

Now it’s come around again, and the deal is for $5.754. (Yes, gas prices, if you’re a producer anyway, have gone to hell.) Under state law, they can’t turn a profit on actual gas, so they make it up in fees and such, which is how last month’s gas bill was $35 and change though I used less than $4 worth of gas.

I went back through this year’s bills, and the price has been in the $6-$7.50 range since January. Conventional wisdom would say that it’s only going to go up in the winter, due to that supply-and-demand business you’ve heard so little about in the news. But the fly in this particular ointment has always been the timing of ONG’s purchases: there’s no way to tell when they bought any specific dekatherm. So I studied the price for NG on the NYMEX, and it hasn’t been above $6 all year, meaning current gas is being delivered under old contracts still.

But then I looked at the worst of last winter’s bills, which included the Worst. Snowstorm. Ever. and a three-day period where the temperature never got above 22 and dipped as low as 5, and that $135 bill would have shrunk by $20 easily with $5.75 gas. So I may take the plunge and sign up for the Fixed Rate this year, which is defined as November through October. And if ONG is going to be serving up this year’s $4 gas next summer, well, I’m not using much of it.

Comments (4)