From the Enough, Already files

This month Consumer Reports is reviewing mid-sized luxury cars, a segment of no small interest to me, and Infiniti’s revised M37 takes the top spot, though not by a lot. As usual, there are Highs and Lows for each tested vehicle, and one of the Lows for the M jumped out at me: “overbearing optional safety aids”.

Some of the commercial motor-noters have made similar remarks — “Will Big Brother please stand up?” asked Car and Driver — but I have to figure, if Consumer Reports thinks your safety features are “overbearing,” they must be miles beyond merely obtrusive: they have to be just this side of the Hand of God slapping you back into your lane.

If this is the way of the future, I offer a suggestion: a gizmo which detects your presence on an onramp, checks your speed, and if it’s under 30 mph, automatically turns the seat heater up to Stir-Fry. Barely a day goes by in this town when I don’t see the need for such a device.

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The verse that could happen

Having committed all manner of indignities against the good name of poetry, I am not about to mock Little Miss Attila for this act of omission:

I once wrote a sonnet that came out to only ten lines because I forgot a quatrain. I mean, it was just like a sonnet in every way — ending couplet and all — but it was a faster read than those of Shakespeare or Elizabeth Barrett Browning.

I should reintroduce the mini-sonnet; it’s perfect for the digital age.

I myself once knocked out an imperfectly-lovely sonnet. The scansion was exact, the imagery was colorful, and the rhyme scheme was intricate. And the line count, somehow, was thirteen.

I didn’t believe it. “Count them yourself.”

I didn’t have to count them myself; I wrote the damn thing, didn’t I? And then, when nobody was looking, I counted them myself.

It was twenty years before I dared try another one.

And if we’re going to have ten-line mini-sonnets, we probably ought to have kei-class haiku, with maybe thirteen syllables.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Two Amigos might be enough

The Heat, playing a home game in Kansas City — you gotta love the NBA’s circuitous logic sometimes — were without Dwyane Wade, who pulled a hamstring last time out, but they didn’t seem to be suffering much from his absence, especially in the third quarter, when Miami outscored Oklahoma City 32-19. In the fourth, the Heat ran the lead to as much as 19, but Miami’s second unit was no match for the Thunder bench, which came back to within five before succumbing 103-96.

It appears that what we need to know before each game is whether we’re going to see the Good Jeff Green or the Bad Jeff Green. Good Jeff, last time out at Charlotte (actually Fayetteville, NC), was good for 25 points; Bad Jeff had more fouls than points tonight. Cole Aldrich started in the middle tonight, and happily blocked three shots. The Thunder got to shoot 37 free throws, and hit 36 of them; this almost makes up for a horrid 35.6 percent from the floor.

Oh, yeah, the Big Names. Chris Bosh (23) outscored everyone including LeBron (22). Kevin Durant wound up with 21, Russell Westbrook with 18. Both of these teams showed signs of brilliance; this being the preseason, both of them also generated moments of sheerest WTF. They’ll meet twice in the regular season, and I suspect that those games will be so fierce the terrified Kraken will beg to be confined.

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Insignificant other

I don’t know about the rest of you, but were I to stumble across someone who writes like I do, I’d probably be terrified:

Do your partner’s love letters to you sound suspiciously like the ones you pen? Don’t call the plagiarism police: You two may just be very happy together.

A new study finds that people match each other’s language styles more during happier periods of their relationship. Even famous poets who were married exhibited this effect in their poetry, the study found.

Actually, that’s not the scary part. This is:

The researchers are now investigating whether language style matching during everyday conversation can predict the beginning and end of romantic relationships. If the method works, the researchers said, it could be a quick way to judge whether any two people, whether romantically involved or not, are likely to work in harmony.

My most common method of avoiding breakup, of course, is making sure that nothing starts. I’m reasonably competent at that, though not to the extent that I could give advice on the subject. I have, of course, given advice on how to blog this way, but I suspect that’s a lower priority for most people, and if it isn’t, they probably shouldn’t be looking for partners.

(Via the Instant Man.)

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Proving that I’m easily distracted

Yesterday’s photos from Diary of a Nudist [warning page from Google, plus your work filters are gonna choke] followed the theme “What’s on your ‘to-do’ list?” Lots of naked people, of course, but instead of just sitting there soaking up the Vitamin D, they’re engaged in actual work.

Second photo down, a young lady is tossing a bit of rubbish into the bin adjoining the parking area; the vehicle nearest to her is a Matrix. A Hyundai Matrix.

“It didn’t look like a Toyota,” I said to myself, and after a bit of Bingage, I arrived at the heart of the matter: Hyundai’s Matrix is the Euroversion of the Lavita, a mini-MPV that’s not sold over here. Toyota, meanwhile, sells no Matrixes (Matrices?) in Europe.

This is not the first time Hyundai has used a nameplate that you might have seen elsewhere, either; their little i30 wagon, unrelated to anything Infiniti ever sold with an I30 badge, is popular in Europe and Australia, and is establishing a presence in the States as the Elantra Touring.

That said, if you look at that same photo and say “I thought he said there was a car in this picture,” it’s okay with me.

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Your death panel login has expired

Who knew? The 800-lb gorilla wants to be in charge of the delicate matter of computer health:

Microsoft is calling for infected PCs to be quarantined from the internet, with access denied unless they can produce a ‘health certificate’.

In a position paper published this week, Scott Charney, the company’s corporate vice president for trustworthy computing, argues that the world needs a common health policy that would prevent malware-infected machines from connecting to the internet.

“This approach involves implementing a global collective defense of internet health much like what we see in place today in the world of public health,” he explains.

I dunno. I’m more of a Darwinian in this matter: after your third $175 trip to Best Buy to fumigate your $400 PC because you clicked on some stupid-ass link, or some link sent you by a stupid ass, there’s at least a small chance that you’ll realize that you’re just not suited for this environment, and you can crawl back onto the sofa with the remote control and veg out in peace.

The usual “Buy a Mac” crowd will refrain from chiming in here, because they don’t want you either.

(Via SteveF at Daily Pundit, who observes: “It’s pretty rich for near-monopoly purveyors of crap to blame users for having crap.”)

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394

I’m assuming it’s windy out: Andrew Ian Dodge is offering a Gale Carnival of the Vanities this week, the 394th in the series.

Then again, who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I. I, however, will toss up something you can see: this vintage (not sure of the year) semi-glam shot of Gale Sondergaard, who was tested for the role of the Wicked Witch of the West in MGM’s The Wizard of Oz, but decided not to take it, reportedly because she feared the makeup it would take to make her hideous on screen might actually make her hideous in real life. Margaret Hamilton wound up with the role of a lifetime, but Sondergaard managed to keep looking like this for a while:

Gale Sondergaard by the pool

To make this fit both the template and the post conceit, this photo has been resized to a width of 394 pixels. (Click to embiggen, though it’s still none too huge.)

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The horror of a #2 finish

David Fleming, in ESPN The Magazine, on the last thing an athlete ever wants to happen:

The ability to deflect signals from the brain that say, “We’re tired, this is dangerous, we should stop,” is a common trait among elite athletes. In a rather cruel twist of fate, though, that same quality also makes them more susceptible to crapping their pants. Jocks are taught to ignore pain and fight through fatigue, and they often mistake the rectum’s initial accommodation response as a sign of total control over the area.

On the other hand, when you gotta go … well, you know the rest.

(Via TrueHoop.)

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We don’t like your password, boy

I suspect that if my bank made me jump through these hoops on a regular basis, I’d probably react similarly:

Each month I had to take additional steps to confirm my identity. A process that included:

  1. An attempt to log in.
  2. A request for a “one-time” security code.
  3. Checking my e-mail.
  4. Obtaining my code.
  5. A second attempt to log in with the security code.
  6. Finally, logging in.
  7. Changing my password.

At one point, he said something not particularly unprintable, and decided to use that something for his new password. For some mysterious reason, this did not improve the operation of the user interface.

Although I suspect the bank would never have noticed it had he rendered it in 1337-speak: “PhU(|<(|-|4$3666.”

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Pop goes tuition

Jenn questions that whole Higher Education Bubble business promoted by the Instant Man and others for the last couple of months:

It’s true that education costs are rising much faster than the rate of inflation, much like housing prices a couple years ago, but from what I have seen the increase in cost is mainly at private schools — both the “elite” Ivy League schools, and at schools like the University of Phoenix.

The Ivy degree, she says, is valuable mostly for access:

With Harvard or Yale on your diploma you are essentially guaranteed access to jobs in the upper levels of government or access to those who take them. That is a valuable commodity and will always be so.

Then again, there are gatekeepers way down here in the Real World too:

The for-profit schools … also provide access, but of a much different sort. They just get you past the idiot HR people, if you are lucky. Their cost is rising because a college degree has become a screening tool for almost every job and there is no access to the state run university systems for most of the people who attend these schools. The managers at these schools have recognized this and are churning out graduates in a very small number of fields very quickly … Unfortunately the market has now been flooded with marginally qualified graduates of courses in Business Administration or Information Services.

And market imbalances tend to be self-correcting in time. Meanwhile, your best buy might well be Obscure State University.

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Rack and opinion

Having fulfilled my pledge to the Boobie-Thon, I was definitely in the mood for something like this:

All good conservatives know that unlike GM and Chrysler, Ford declined the government tit. They were also the only one of the Big Three that made significant profit, even though they declined the money Obama was handing out.

Which is not to say they are anti-tit. In fact, Ford Motor Company is very much pro-tit.

Evidence of same.

(Tweeted by Robert Stacy McCain.)

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Used-car appreciation

A brand-new car loses somewhere around 20 percent of its value the moment it’s driven off the lot with a new title, and unless somewhere down the line it’s deemed “collectible,” the value will continue to dwindle to essentially nothing.

Except this year:

I posted earlier about how Cash-for-Clunkers, by driving up the values of used cars, would hit Rhode Islanders because Rhode Island municipalities tax car ownership based on the Blue Book value at December 31 of the prior year.

We just received our tax bill for this fiscal year, and three of our four cars rose in value for tax purposes, even though the cars are a year older.

Rather a lot, in the case of one of them:

The largest percentage gain was in a 2000 Honda Odyssey with over 200,000 miles on it, which is on death watch. The value rose from $2,800 to $3,849, costing us an extra $44.12.

Geez. I wonder if my car (just as old, but not quite so used) is worth 37 percent more than it was last year. Since I didn’t actually check it last year, though, I can’t really run a comparison. (Still, $5,840 seems a bit high, even allowing for condition, which is, as the record-raters say, mint-minus to VG+.)

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Full stop, hey, what’s that sound

The blog query of the ages:

[A]re there any rules around how to hyperlink a sentence? For the last 11 years, I have always wondered if I should treat the hyperlink like a parenthesis. What I mean is, do I include the period in the hyperlink or should I place it outside of the hyperlink? I have no clue.

My thinking — my actual implementation is something else entirely — is that if the hyperlink is a complete sentence, or if it completes a sentence, the period goes with it.

Where I run into trouble is the Fark Blurb of the Week. Fark headlines don’t end with periods. After agonizing over this for entirely too long, I decided to end the link where it’s supposed to end, and hang a period off the edge to create the illusion of an Actual Sentence.

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She’s had a sandwich or two

Kate Winslet, who turned 35 this week, is the antithesis of the waif. The picture is okay, but the quotation is choice:

Kate Winslet in some UK fashion mag

Which reminds me of when Kate Moss was pregnant, and Jay Leno snarked: “Of course, now she’s eating for one.

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Potential observed

Which is the whole point of the NBA preseason: to see who’s going to be in the rotation, and who’s hungry enough to fight for minutes. The score — Thunder 97, Bobcats 93 — is almost irrelevant, unless perhaps you’re Jeff Green, in which case thank you for 25 of those Thunder points, or Serge Ibaka, in which case you got your first-ever NBA start (at center, both Nenad Krstić and Nick Collison being unwell) and a double-double in so doing.

What will matter to Scott Brooks, I suspect, is the fact that Charlotte failed to come up with a field goal in the last half of the fourth quarter, which means that the second (and third) units put up some decent defense. Although I expect what he’ll talk about at practice was how the ‘Cats erased a 12-point OKC lead in the third quarter.

Next outing is Friday against Miami at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, which will be the only Thunder preseason game on television. Imagine that.

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