Lileks explains it all

“It,” of course, being Social Media:

Facebook? Still no. I have the page, but don’t go there. My entire attitude towards Facebook is like a man who knows there’s a surprise party waiting upstairs in his apartment, and spends the evening in a bar, talking to a stranger. I get so tired of being asked to Like something or follow it.

I don’t mean to say I find social media annoying or useless: on the contrary. Facebook is too static. Too slow. Twitter is a stroll down a busy street listening to different conversations; Pinterest is a museum / thrift store / attic you can visit when you please. Facebook seems like hamming pitons in a sheer cliff wall and climbing up, up, up, for no particular reason.

That last bit may backfire on us: what’s to stop Zynga from setting up a time sink game called CliffVille?

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Today’s dietary advice

That big hunk of liverwurst has been there since October first, and today is the twenty-third of May.

You have been warned.

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Turn on Automatic Upsets

I usually leave Windows Update live, on the basis that if I ignore it the way I’d prefer to, eventually I’ll end up having to do a couple of hundred updates at once and the CPU will laugh at me, in between gasps for breath.

Last night, Microsoft sent down three updates for .NET Framework, which I duly accepted and allowed to be installed; I was delighted to see that no reboot was demanded. Then, about ten minutes later, exactly the same updates came down the chute. Okay, maybe I didn’t get the fail message; we’ll watch them this time.

Installation complete, dialog box closed, and ten minutes later, exactly the same updates came down the chute. In a fit of pique, I attempted to uninstall all my .NET Framework stuff, which was met with “Dave, I can’t allow you to do that.”

This obviously required a time machine. I jumped back to a Sunday restore point, allowed the updates to install, and the next time they arrived, instructed the updater never to darken my screen again with these farging things. So far, so good.

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When you wish upon a truck

Daphne wonders, and I don’t blame her for wondering:

When was the last time you bought a new car? Factory new, not used new. I’m wondering because I spent several hours looking at new cars online after a day stuck at home waiting for the septic system guy to arrive. The prices floored me and I was left curious as how normal people earning a median income can possibly afford a thirty, forty or fifty thousand dollar vehicle?

According to TrueCar, at the end of 2011, the average transaction price was running $30,686.

The last time, in fact the only time I bought new, was 2000: I bought a $20,000 car, that being as far as I was able to push.

Although these factors must be taken into consideration:

I also don’t want ugly cloth seats, a roof lacking a retractable window or steering better suited for Noah’s clunky ark. Which leaves me back to scrounging around for another used vehicle and wondering who, in this economy, still buys straight off the lot?

I did. I got cloth seats, which weren’t that horrible looking, no hole in the roof, and pretty sharp steering. And since there were only two of this model left on the lot — arrival of the next model year was imminent — the dealer was happy to let this $20k car go for $15,400 and change. I’d still have it were it not for a wandering ruminant of the family Cervidae.

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In which I attempt to adjust to the idea that there’s only one Bee Gee left.

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Bona fide ponified

Dusty SageAbout a month ago, I did a piece about a My Little Pony-related Linux distro in the form of a letter to Princess Celestia and signed it “Your semi-reliable news gatherer, Dusty Sage.” It occurred to me shortly thereafter that there ought to be a pony, or at least a ponysona, fitting that description. (Rule 85: “If it exists, there is a pony of it. No exceptions.”)

With that in mind, here’s your first look — it would have been your second if you’d clicked on the link in that earlier post, which you almost certainly didn’t, inasmuch as I didn’t add it right away — at Dusty Sage. Note the tumbling tumbleweed used as cutie duty mark.

And no, I can’t draw worth a lick; I spent about three quarters of an hour juggling components on this handy-dandy builder routine.

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Semi-intelligent design

On occasion, I am inclined to revile Firefox for various and sundry crimes against productivity, but one feature recently refined actually scores on the positive side of the ledger.

I hoover up maybe half a dozen graphics a day, sometimes more — sometimes a lot more — occasionally with the intention of using them here for something. Now there exists a “download” directory in My Documents, which I spurn; the default destination is the desktop, on the basis that I can’t lose something on the desktop and can move it at will later. (As a matter of fact, I have lost things on the desktop, but not often.) Firefox, however, at least as early as version 10, has undertaken to guess which of my thousand or so directories is the proper place to save any given right-clicked picture. (Pictures which are not right-clickable, of course, present a different scenario entirely.) Admittedly, there are only 40 active graphics directories, so about 960 possibilities are eliminated right off the bat. Still, Firefox guesses right more than half the time; I assume that it remembers where I’ve gotten stuff before, and if it sees the same site, proposes the same directory.

Curiously, Firefox’s best showing so far is with pictures of Zooey Deschanel, having routed 33 of the last 35 such graphics to the precise directory where I stash same. I have no idea why this should be so, since I have multiple sources for ZD pix.

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And in the end, it was the classic Reverse Cartman: “Screw you guys, you’re going home.” The Thunder were up six after three, and there was just a bit of uneasiness in Loud City. Not to worry: OKC went on an 8-0 run to start the quarter, watching the Lakers burn two timeouts in three minutes and roll up 9 points in ten and a half minutes. At the horn, it wasn’t close to being close: Oklahoma City 106, Los Angeles 90, and the Finals beckon.

Kobe, at least, did what he could, tossing up a highly creditable 42 points on 18-33 shooting. The problem, of course, is that all the rest of the Lakers could manage only 48 points in aggregate. Pau Gasol, who played 44 minutes, spent at least ten of them doing his best impression of the stereotypical cigar-store Indian. Andrew Bynum had more fouls than rebounds, fercrissake. In fact, the Lakers had only 35 rebounds, 16 from Gasol. And while I hate to harp on L. A.’s lack of depth, the bench came up with a whole 5 points.

The Thunder, meanwhile, reeled in 51 boards, 14 off the offensive glass. (The Lakers had three.) Russell Westbrook, struggling early, made it look easy in the second half, finishing with a team-high 27. Kevin Durant tossed in 25; James Harden got 17. (The rest of the bench got 18. Nyah.) But what will be remembered about this game will be the defense: Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison making life difficult for anyone daring to trespass into the paint, and KD scooping up ten boards just because he’s Kevin Durant.

Well, that and the crowd chanting “Beat the Spurs” on the way out of the roundhouse.

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Enjoy the silence

Nicolas Cage performs John Cage’s 4’33”:

Clearly this was a piece he was born to play.

(See also this fully orchestrated version.)

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Shut up and take your Golf Channel

Allegedly, there are ways to buy your cable programming without being tethered to the actual cable. Or not, as Gabriel Rossman points out:

A famous Oatmeal cartoon showed the cartoonist making a good faith effort to buy Game of Thrones. He finds that the show is not available on iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu. He tries to buy HBO Go, but it’s only available as an add-on to a cable package. Finally, the cartoonist gives up trying to pay for the show and pirates it through Bit Torrent. This cartoon is probably the best ever expression of the “piracy is a customer service issue” thesis.

In a way, this doesn’t make any sense for HBO, which makes its money off subscriptions and would ostensibly welcome an opportunity to sell subscriptions to another market segment. HBO claims that (a) people aren’t interested in a la carte HBO Go and (b) the transaction costs are too high to do their own billing, etc. The technical term for these explanations is “bullshit.”

A closer look at said excrement:

Cable is a total cash cow and a more flexible business model means lower revenues. The reason is that the incumbent business model of cable combines the features of bundling (basic cable) and a two-part tariff (premium cable channels) for a perfect storm of price discrimination. For much the same reason as Disneyland could only lose money if it sold a la carte tickets to Splash Mountain for $20 without requiring $80 park admission (which includes access to Main Street, Jungle Cruise, etc), cable companies would lose money if you could buy HBO Go for $20 without first buying basic cable (which includes access to ESPN, MTV, etc).

And I need hardly point out that $70 a month is a hell of a lot of money if all you’re likely to watch is, to pick a couple of examples entirely at random, the NBA and My Little Pony. The alternatives, however, are not good. A whole season (26 episodes) of MLP:FiM on iTunes runs $77.74; NBA League Pass is only $189.95 for the season, but if local-team games are broadcast anywhere, be it over-the-air or on cable, they’re duly blacked out on NBALP, which somewhat defeats my purpose.

So I wait for this business model to crumble, as it must, and as others are crumbling before it.

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Keeping secrets from the Overlords

I was going to post a comment over at Jeffro’s — specifically, on this piece about the band Shinedown, a few of whose songs I have put into the regular rotation — and I duly went to the Google sign-in page. For the second time, they asked me for my mobile number; for the second time, I declined to give it up; for the second time, the session ended with an obscure error code and no comment posted.

There are, it seems, three ways to approach this matter:

  1. Give up the number and be done with it, following Scott McNealy’s dictum: “You have zero privacy. Get over it.”
  2. Give them my fax number instead. It’s not like anyone is likely to send me a fax.
  3. Avoid Blogger-based sites in the future.

I am leaning toward #2, but I’m open to suggestions. In the meantime, I need to see if my OpenID still works.

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Strange search-engine queries (329)

Once a week, we open up the logs — which, contrary to popular belief, are not kept in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnalls’ porch — and hunt down anything marginally joke-worthy. It’s a nasty job, but someone has to do it.

Windy Skirt Sexy Thong Ass:  And this was one of the reasons why it’s nasty.

granny wears mini skirt:  Probably not a thong, though, but you’ll have to wait for the wind to pick up to be sure.

how to save the CD4E transmission:  If you have to ask, it’s already too late.

bore is 86 stroke is 86 how many liters is this 4 cylinders:  Um, two. I had a girlfriend like this once; when she was stroked, she was bored.

iq male v’s female:  About the same overall, though if they’re standing together and she’s cute, his drops by half a dozen points.

is russell westbrook of haitian descent:  The Haitian section of Los Angeles, maybe. You want an NBA player from Haiti, look up Samuel Dalembert.

[Note: A similar query, from a different location, came in for Kevin Durant. Someone really wants to find Haitian ballers.]

ten foot pole that fits in your pocket:  You’d better have very deep pockets, or be as tall as Samuel Dalembert.

sith happens baby:  I find your lack of foresight disturbing.

teeny doing it:  Yeah, but it’s too small to see.

take a pomeranian bowling:  Poor little dog weighs less than the ball, but them’s the breaks.

girls bra in guys mouth:  Um, guys, you’re doing it wrong.

what kind of pantyhose does maria bartiromo wear:  The kind that doesn’t melt under TV-studio lights, I hope.

worcestershire sauce false positive:  Must have been stray traces of anchovy.

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Loonie attuned

In Iceland, 1 króna = 100 aurar, each of which is worth — well, nothing, really. In 2008, when the world economy tanked, American banks were deemed “too big to fail”; Icelandic banks, not that big, did in fact fail, and Icelanders are ready to ditch the króna in favor of something with a bit more stability. The euro, maybe? Not a chance, with bits and pieces of the Eurozone rapidly circling the drain. Better to look westward, to the dollar. That is, the Canadian dollar:

As resource economies, Canada and Iceland’s economic cycles are more likely to be in sync, loonie proponents argue. Also, Canada is home to about 200,000 people of Icelandic descent, more than anywhere else in the world.

Almost, in fact, as many as Iceland itself, which has barely more than 300,000 people.

And technically, Canada doesn’t have to consent to this plan: if Iceland were to buy enough loonies to replace its existing krónur — about 300 million would be enough to cover krónur in circulation — the system could be in place in a matter of days.

A further possibility presents itself: a newly-autonomous Greenland, which sits between Canada and Iceland and whose economy is also largely based on resources (mostly fishing, some mining), could conceivably ditch its Danish currency in favor of Canadian dollars, though I wouldn’t expect this to happen so long as Denmark is subsidizing Greenland’s transition to independence.

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Sister Sara is best pony

This must be a Season 3 episode, because I don’t remember this from either of the first two:

Inaccurate description of My Little Pony on Netflix

Dr Egon Spengler warned us about crossing the streams. It’s a shame he didn’t warn Netflix.

(Via My Little Brony.)

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Meanwhile at Bandcamp

I’ve spent a few bucks for indie music at Bandcamp over the last several months, and last night I forked over $12 for something called The Ultimate MandoPony Collection. (Assuming MandoPony — er, Andrew Stein — is too indie or too pony for you, I will point out two instances where he’s been referenced on this very site: on Michelle Creber’s cover of “The Boy from New York City,” where he’s the music behind the voice, and “I’ll Be Waiting (Derpy’s Song),” a Mando original.)

If I’m going to keep coming back to this place, I thought, I ought to learn something about it. From their FAQ:

We’re not yet another site wanting to host your tracks alongside the trailer for High School Musical 4: I’m Pregnant. Instead, we power a site that’s truly yours, and hang out in the background handling all the technical issues you dread (and several you’ve probably never even considered). We keep your music streaming and downloading quickly and reliably, whether it’s 3am on a Sunday, or the hour your new record drops and Pitchfork gives it a scathingly positive review. We make your tracks available in every format under the sun, so the audiophilic nerderati can have their FLAC and eat MP3 v2. We adorn your songs with all the right metadata, so they sail into iTunes with artwork, album, band and track names intact. We mutter the various incantations necessary to keep your site top-ranked in Google, so when your fans search for your hits, they find your music long before they find or iMyFace. We give your fans easy ways to share your music with their friends, and we give you gorgeous tools that reveal exactly how your music is spreading, so you can fan the fire.

Although what earns my somewhere-between-respect-and-awe is this response to “How do I make the shared player autostart?”:

Welcome home! We trust your 8 year expedition to the heart of the Amazon was a great success. SO much has happened since you left. The first Delawarean was elected Vice President of the United States, the Chronicles of Riddick defied box office expectations, and tabbed browsers became commonplace. As a result, many web enthusiasts now open tabs as they surf. Autostarting media players don’t play well with this behavior, since they put you in a position of wondering whoah, where is that sound coming from and then force you to play find-the-tab-making-your-eardrums-bleed. AUTOSTART IS EVIL is a fairly common refrain nowadays, and who are we to disagree?

Who, indeed.

Anyway, the MandoPony album contained 50 tracks plus a half-hour video; he was asking $10. I anted up $12, because, well, I could. And then I read this:

Albums outsell [individual] tracks 5 to 1 (in the rest of the music buying world, tracks outsell albums 16 to 1).

On name-your-price albums, fans pay an average of 50% more than the minimum.

I, cheapskate. Still, sales have been brisk, which is always good news to the Struggling Musician.

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Quote of the week

Murilee Martin discovers a 1989 Chrysler New Yorker — with Landau roof, yet! — in a local salvage yard, and describes its scent this way:

This one smells like an ashtray inside a Porta-Potty inside a potato-chip factory that’s on fire, but imagine the class when it was new.

Then again, ChryCo did not bestow rich, soft Corinthian leather on this particular car, or Martin might have gotten even more lyrical with his description.

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