Quote of the week

A history lesson courtesy of Roberta X:

Y’know who really won the Second World War? Mussolini. Yeah, the Italians strung him up from a streetlight, but he was first across the line with the Leader Principle, and by the time The Last Good War was over, Mr. Roosevelt, Mr. Stalin, Mr. Churchill and Mr. Hitler had established this damfool notion that the guy runnin’ a country was the boss of everyone who lived there. (Mr. Tojo took advantage of something similar by proxy.) I guess the nitwits were starved for Kings; whatever, the friggin’ fascists colonized the zeitgeist and we have been stuck with it ever since.

As her roomie is wont to say, “Vobis non me dux.”

Comments (2)

In which I claim to know what I’m doing

After Nice Deb got (temporarily) bounced off WordPress.com for some unspecified Terms of Service violation — she’s back now — I decided I probably ought to reread the TOS at my own host, and found this somewhat amusing section:

2. Use of DreamHost Web Hosting’s service requires a certain level of knowledge in the use of Internet languages, protocols, and software. This level of knowledge varies depending on the anticipated use and desired content of Customer’s Webspace by the Customer.

3. The following examples are offered:

  1. Web Publishing: requires a knowledge of HTML, properly locating and linking documents, FTPing Webspace contents, Graphics, text, Sound, imagemapping, etc.
  2. CGI-Scripts: requires a knowledge of the UNIX environment, TAR & GUNZIP commands, Perl, CShell scripts, permissions, etc.

4. The Customer agrees that he or she has the necessary knowledge to create Customer’s Webspace. Customer agrees that it is not the responsibility of DreamHost Web Hosting to provide this knowledge or Customer Support outside of the defined service of DreamHost Web Hosting.

That’s me: a minimum acceptable level of competence since 2001. (I’d been doing this five years before that, but at a different host.)

Comments (5)

Bit by bit

It wasn’t that long ago that the Royal Equestrian Mint made one-bit coins available to us non-pony folk, and given the utter absence of an official, or even an unofficial, exchange rate, I suspect most of them are being sold as objets d’art.

Equestrian two-bit bill with Twilight SparkleStill, one bit is not an enormous sum, which may or may not have motivated this interested party into reproducing Equestrian paper currency. Denominations are as follows:

I have no idea what, if any, rate of inflation may prevail.

Comments (8)

Son of a glitch

There exists a blog called QA Hates You, which asserts that QA, well, hates you. We’re not given much opportunity to hate them back, so this proposal definitely has its charms:

[W]ith the amount of time I have to spend learning the new package, I think software company executives should be responsible by wearing a shock collar that’s connected to the internet. When I get frustrated, they get a jolt. When they change the entire format, menus and make it exasperating to use the software, I get up to 30 seconds on the button — just to get their attention.

They probably won’t call this the Milgramator, but they ought to. (Besides, some of us would just lean on that damn button.)

Comments (1)

So very Prout

Kirsten Prout will be 22 on Friday, which means that yes, she was born in 1990. (Seems like only yesterday, doesn’t it?) She’s been acting since she was ten, mostly on television, though she has some big-screen credits, including a role in The Twilight Saga: Eclipse, playing Lucy, one of the original Southern vampires. She wasn’t in the previous Twilight film, New Moon, the following photo notwithstanding:

Kirsten Prout

About the time she was appearing in Elektra, which would make her 14 or thereabouts, she volunteered that she’d had a rough time in second grade:

I was actually very lucky to receive a horrible teacher… I was such a spunky little kid and anytime I would do anything creative like add hair on my teddy bear and long eyelashes or something she would make fun of it. She completely stifled anyone’s creative spirit. I completely withdrew and became a really shy kid. I do owe it to her to be acting right now because she was the one that made me depressed and my mother asked me “what can I do to make you happy again?” and I’d always, always wanted to act. I always loved movies and wanted to be in them and I asked my mom if I could get an agent and start martial arts and start Tae Kwon Do.

Stuff like that matters when you’re fourteen. Sometimes, even later.

Comments (2)

Maintenance page of the week

The Consumerist is down for another round of technical revamping, the most extensive since Consumer Reports bought the site from Gawker in 2008. Until actual content returns, this is what they have to say:

[I]t was a tough choice to take the site down while we make changes, but our readers are the most important consideration, and everything we do is with your best interests in mind.

Thanks for your patience, your understanding, and your offers of assistance. Our readers are the best, and anyone who says otherwise probably does PR for Bank of America. We look forward to writing for you again soon.

In the last four “Worst Company of America” competitions conducted by the Consumerist, B of A has finished no worse than fourth, though they’ve never actually won the Golden Poo.

Update: Looks like they’re starting to put up content again, at an alternate location.

Comments off

And he wasn’t even under the bridge

A man decides to track down a particularly hateful troll, with unexpected results:

In July I was approached by a friend, who’s basically an IT genius, and he offered some help. He said that he could trace the hackers and trolls for me using perfectly legal technology, which would lead to their IP addresses. I said yes. Then I baited them — I was deliberately more provocative toward them than ever I’d been before…

It transpired that the abuse had emanated from three separate IP addresses in different corners of Ireland. Two of them were public wifi locations but the third …

The third location was the interesting one.

The third location was a friend’s house.

The Troll was his son. His 17yr old son.

The friend’s reaction:

He was horrified at what his son had done. Horrified, but not surprised. He wanted to call the authorities there and then and turn him in. But I said no.

More than usual, I urge you to Read The Whole Thing.

(With thanks to Joy McCann.)

Comments (4)

Infinite battery backup not included

I’ll bet someone’s working on a story about this even now:

Researchers have now proposed an experimental design for a “space-time crystal” that would be able to keep time forever. This four-dimensional crystal would be similar to conventional 3D crystals, which are structures, like snowflakes and diamonds, whose atoms are arranged in repeating patterns. Whereas a diamond has a periodic structure in three dimensions, the space-time crystal would be periodic in time as well as space.

Eternal clocks! How do they work?

[T]he scientists would aim to create a ring of charged particles, with the resulting electromagnetic forces causing the structure to rotate perpetually. At its lowest quantum-energy state, also known as its ground state, the system has no disorder, or entropy, and there is no way for its entropy to increase over time. Thus, the crystal’s temporal structure and timekeeping ability would continue even after the universe reached a state of “heat death,” also known as thermodynamic equilibrium, when it had devolved into entropy.

Alfred Centauri finds this concept just slightly risible:

[E]ven if we allow for the possibility that the universe, which is everything, could cease to exist, there would be nothing. If in fact, there is anything, including an alleged eternal clock, then there is something and thus a universe in which it exists.

Star Trek: The Next Generation agrees, obliquely:

Dr. Crusher: Computer, what is the nature of the universe?
Computer: The universe is a spheroid region, 705 meters in diameter.

If the clock is all there is, the universe must be the clock, n’est-ce pas?

Still, I predict that (1) there will be a story and (2) somehow Twilight Sparkle will be involved.

(While I was finishing this up, WordPress was suggesting tags. Somehow tagging something “universe” seems illogical; shouldn’t everything be tagged “universe”?)

Comments (4)

Being needled

Two, four, six, eight, why can’t someone calibrate?

Screenshot from Yahoo! Answers - How come my car says it can go up to 140 but I can only go up to 80

For some reason, Toyota Celicas seem to invite this question.

Comments (2)

Bent tracks

“Human train wrecks,” Mark Butterworth calls them, and “they’re too wrenching to enjoy anymore.” As examples, he cites Billie, Janis, Judy, Piaf and the Lizard King.

I’m not so sure. I threw in those abbreviated references because I figure all of you would immediately recognize them anyway. And the recordings they made, pretty much all of which are still in print after all these years, don’t necessarily evoke memories of their sad lives — at least not for me. But your mileage may vary, as Mark’s obviously did:

They are very compelling at the moment, but when that moment passes, they are hard to take. It’s as if in retrospect you want to yell at them “Get a therapist, for God’s sake! You don’t have to be this effed up. Your pathos is really pathetic and turning into bathos. Smell the coffee, plant some roses, do a jigsaw puzzle, but geez, get off your favorite subject — your misery ought to be everyone else’s, too. Let’s all slit our wrists together.”

If I yell at anyone, it’s likely to be the subject of a song by the late Harry Chapin, who had a knack for personalizing human train wrecks. Your attention is directed to “Sniper,” a tale of a tower gunman not unlike Charles Whitman. It’s compelling and frightening and fictional. Mostly.

Comments (3)

Version downdate

You may have seen me kvetching about iTunes 10.7 yesterday on Twitter. Here’s the scoop from a soul even more anguished:

As soon as i downloaded the 10.7 update on Itune, music skips and stutter!! what caused it???

I reinstalled Itune and restarted the computer and nothing has worked!!! DEF its not the space, i got the 1.5 terabyte LOL…

When i got the updates, I clicked on it and nothing happened!! i had to go on Apple website and download the update from there!

As it happens, trying to roll back to 10.6 fails, because Apple decided this would be a really cool time to change the iTunes database, and 10.6 won’t read the 10.7 .itl file.

The suggested fix — jack up Priority in Task Manager to Above Normal — is no fix at all, since (1) you have to do it every time you reboot and (2) not even High was sufficient to alleviate the problem on my work box.

And that isn’t even the weirdest part of it. I tried to bring up iTunes on the home box — smaller library — and up pops a box: “iTunes cannot run because some of its required files are missing. Please reinstall iTunes.” I’d installed 10.7 there ten days ago without incident. I’m starting to believe this particular version is snakebit.

Comments off

Approved by Mr. Moose

And Bunny Rabbit nods in agreement.

Neither Mentos nor Diet Coke were used in this presentation.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

Comments (6)

Burn it to the ground

GraphJam reports:

Things the Internet hates

If Chad Kroeger ever starts his own church, we are in deep kimchi indeed.

Note: The original title on GraphJam was “No Comic Sans?”

Comments (3)

Hardware deceleration

I complained about a week ago about random system lockups, which have ceased since I performed the following steps:

  • Opened the tower halfway, on the basis that overheating could be a contributing factor;
  • Turned off hardware acceleration in Firefox.

There was a fringe benefit to the latter: Firefox actually seems to run faster with this function disabled.

Nor am I the first to notice this:

This may be counter-intuitive, but many users are reporting that hardware acceleration can have a negative impact on Firefox’s performance. The fix didn’t noticeably affect my installation so perhaps it depends on your OS, graphics card, drivers or other factors.

And this was way back in Version 6, nine “major” releases ago.

For the record, I have an Nvidia GeForce 6600 with 256 MB of RAM onboard. At the time — that would be 2006 — this was a slightly-short-of-high-end card; today, of course, it is Old News.

Comments (1)

Ewww, a girl!

An abstract for your consideration:

Despite efforts to recruit and retain more women, a stark gender disparity persists within academic science. Abundant research has demonstrated gender bias in many demographic groups, but has yet to experimentally investigate whether science faculty exhibit a bias against female students that could contribute to the gender disparity in academic science. In a randomized double-blind study (n = 127), science faculty from research-intensive universities rated the application materials of a student — who was randomly assigned either a male or female name — for a laboratory manager position. Faculty participants rated the male applicant as significantly more competent and hireable than the (identical) female applicant. These participants also selected a higher starting salary and offered more career mentoring to the male applicant.

This is not, incidentally, a case of the Good Old Boys ganging up on a woman, either. From the Data Supplement:

We then explored whether additional variables might interact with participants’ subtle preexisting bias against women to predict their reactions to the target students. Separate models adding faculty participant gender, age, science field, tenure status, each two-way interaction, as well as the three-way interaction of each demographic variable with student gender condition and faculty participant gender (to rule out participant gender differences) revealed no significant novel predictors (all β < 0.38, all P > 0.28). This finding suggests that faculty participants’ gender attitudes themselves played a role in undermining support for the female (but not male) student, and that the impact of these gender attitudes does not appear to vary as a function of participants’ other demographic characteristics, including their gender. Consistent with other results, it appears that female as well as male faculty members’ negative attitudes toward women undermined their support for the female student, irrespective of their age, science field, and career status.

There’s always, it seems, someone willing to perpetuate the status quo, be it good, bad or indifferent.

(Via this @syaffolee tweet.)

Comments (1)

In the middle of decomposition

Link rot has always been a fact of life on the Web; things get moved, other things get removed, and as the age of any given link increases, so does the probability of being thrust into 404ville.

I generally appreciate being informed of a dead link, but if it’s six years old, the point of diminishing returns has long since been left in the dust. Just the same, I got an email from one of those social-media whiz kids pointing out that a service to which I’d linked, the mobile social network Dodgeball, is now the former mobile social network Dodgeball, having been supplanted by Google Latitude, which nobody uses anyway because they’ve all checked in on Foursquare.

The whiz kid, of course, suggested that I replace the dead link with a link to her site, which presumably was the whole point. I didn’t.

Comments (4)