Someone ostensibly in control

TTAC’s Aaron Cole, on the weakest link in traffic today:

[E]ven though fatal crashes are proportionately declining, year-over-year, the least-reliable components of cars — drivers — are still the least regulated.

To be safe at any speed, it’s clear that automakers should be held to a higher standard to reduce human interaction or increase driver attention.

Not gonna happen, says Jack Baruth:

The cynic in me wants to yell, “WHAT ABOUT BOTH, HUH? HOW ABOUT MAKING THE WHOLE CAR AUTONOMOUS AND STILL MAKING SOME POOR BASTARD SIT IN THE ‘DRIVER’ SEAT WITH HIS EYES PEELED OPEN LIKE A CLOCKWORK ORANGE AND THE SAME PERIODIC SHOCKS TO THE CORTEX THEY GAVE HARRISON BERGERON? IS THAT ENOUGH?” But then I return to reality. And in the American reality, there is not going to be any improvement in driver’s education, nor will American drivers get any “better”. Save your leather-fetishist fantasies of outrageously expensive Swedish driver’s licenses that include two years’ worth of skidpad training and a mandatory WRC podium. That’s not how America works. It’s also not how Europe will work once the the majority of the population adheres to sharia law. Ask the British how easy it is to get a massive extra-cultural immigrant base to obey homegrown motor-vehicle regulations of any kind.

Okay, there is one possibility, but you’re not going to like it:

If the American driver cannot be improved, then he must be stripped of his power to guide the car. Yet that cannot be done — not yet. The autonomous vehicle, as it exists now, is basically a terrified senior citizen. It doesn’t see very well, it isn’t always certain where it is, it has trouble interacting with other traffic in a predictable manner, and it slows down the traffic around it. Its primary virtue, as with a terrified senior citizen, is the low speed at which it operates. So we could obtain all these safety benefits for Americans in a heartbeat by making 25 mph the maximum speed limit off the freeways and 45 mph the limit on limited-access roads. Presto, watch deaths from traffic collisions disappear even as deaths from road-rage murders skyrocket.

I take heart in the fact that everyone who has ever said “If it saves just one life…” is, or eventually will be, dead.

In the meantime, have a Twisted Tune:

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On the acquisition of fabulousness

File this under “Well, at least it’s a favorable stereotype”:

We all want a gay best friend — someone clever, witty, and über-stylish who makes life more entertaining. Meet Douglas, a painter by trade but also an organic farmer, a music aficionado, the host with the most, and without question the person you hope to be seated next to at a dinner party. Oh, and of course he has fabulous taste.

We’ve watched our pal Douglas oversee countless home purchases, remodels, and reinventions over the years. There was the midcentury modern, the Ralph Lauren classic, the urban Zen … and along the way, there have also been castoffs. A lot of castoffs.

Some pieces went to the housekeeper, other things to the local white elephant. Truthfully, they usually went to whoever showed up first with a truck, because once the redo was in process, everything needed to go.

Therein lay our aha moment! What savvy collector wouldn’t want access to these high-end, eclectic, beautiful, and often one-of-a-kind gems — always tasteful, always mint condition, but out of reach for most buyers at their full retail price?

After we finally intercepted one of these items before it circulated, the idea for Previously Owned by a Gay Man was born. After that, the online-consignment concept was a no-brainer. Beyond the basic principles of “reuse, reduce, recycle” and “one man’s trash…”, you need only consider how many pages of shelter magazines feature the homes of chic gay men to realize that this concept is a foolproof formula.

Truth be told, I’m surprised HGTV hasn’t spun off a separate subchannel for exactly this situation.

And I do love the company slogan: “Openly Good Furniture.”

(Via Sassigeek.)

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Foot, meet bullet

Twitter evidently thinks this is a really swell idea:

We are changing our star icon for favorites to a heart and we’ll be calling them likes. We want to make Twitter easier and more rewarding to use, and we know that at times the star could be confusing, especially to newcomers. You might like a lot of things, but not everything can be your favorite.

The heart, in contrast, is a universal symbol that resonates across languages, cultures, and time zones. The heart is more expressive, enabling you to convey a range of emotions and easily connect with people. And in our tests, we found that people loved it.

What people? Earth people? The heart symbol does not “convey a range of emotions.” It conveys exactly one emotion — admittedly, a complex one, but still only one.

And “like” makes as much sense in this context as it does on Facebook, which is to say none at all. Zeynep Tufekci has already explained this once:

Let me explain with a sad example. I saw a heartbreaking video recently, two refugee kids wading in water among floating dead bodies, being brought, finally, to safety. A man comforts them, “come on baby,” he says, “we made it,” while the children cry. It broke my heart. This is a topic I write about often, and one my social network cares deeply about, as many are from the war-wrecked region producing these refugees.

I read your piece about native video. So I downloaded the video, and uploaded it natively to Facebook, just to make sure. I published it as a public status update. The first comment I get is on how my friend cannot “like” it.

And of course, lacking actual likes, the video goes largely unseen:

It will mostly get ignored, because my social network has no way to signal to the algorithm that this is something they care about.

Of course, that was Facebook. Does Twitter make situations like this look any better?

I’ll take that as a “No.” Twitter didn’t think this one out; all they can see is well, Facebook has it, and Facebook is making money.

And if my Twitter feed is at all representative, a lot of people do not “love” it.

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The no-ply list

Okay, it isn’t that bad yet — see, for instance, the situations in Chile and Venezuela, but God help us, there’s inequality all over this scenario:

As exposés go, it may not rank up there with the Pentagon Papers, but student journalists have captured the attention of Ryerson University, in Canada, and national coverage there with an investigation of differential toilet papers.

Under the headline “Two-ply toilet paper creates two-tiered Ryerson,” The Ryerson Eyeopener reported that bathrooms throughout the university are stocked with one-ply. The exception, the newspaper said, is in two floors of the administration building, which house the offices of president, provost, and vice presidents for administration and finance, research and innovation, and university advancement.

Ryerson officials did not dispute the finding but noted (and the student newspaper subsequently acknowledged) other, leased spaces off campus, where Ryerson employees enjoy two-ply comfort: the offices of alumni relations, international affairs, diversity institute, finance and human resources.

I am pretty sure no one at Ryerson reads my Twitter feed, which is regularly packed with tales of college students for whom this could not possibly be a problem, inasmuch as they apparently are not capable of wiping their own asses no matter what material might be available for their use.

(Via Fark.)

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Not a single polymath

File this under “Duh”:

A study at Loyola University suggests that people who believe themselves experts in a field are fairly close-minded towards new ideas. That’s a problem, but another one is often a bigger headache: The number of people who become experts in a field who then think that makes them authorities in unrelated fields. That problem is why we have people asking celebrities about politics and politicians about how to save money.

Shorter version: “I don’t know, why don’t you ask Noam frigging Chomsky what the Check Engine Light means?”

Not to humblebrag or anything, but the subjects on which I can claim even marginal expertise can be counted on the fingers of one hand and still leave one finger to raise at anyone who dares question me. (Which, as you’d know if you’d read this site for more than a couple of days, is pretty much everyone.)

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A nation of ghosts

No thanks to the ubiquitous smartphone, this is our future, says Francis W. Porretto:

We are becoming a nation of ghosts: persons whose bodies are wholly separated from their minds and souls. This isn’t a good thing, I assure you most sincerely. But there seems to be no stopping it. Indeed, suggesting that a traveling companion turn off his iPod or put away his phone so that a conversation can commence is now considered rude. Not that long ago, it was exactly the other way around.

A friend of mine told me about a woman he dated — a “blind date” — who never put down her phone throughout their dinner at an expensive restaurant that she selected. He paid the check and left her sitting there. I asked if she noticed his departure. He wasn’t sure.

Probably just as well. I have resisted the putative blandishments of the smartphone up to this point, at least partly due to parsimony, but I am all too aware of my capacity for distraction.

Addendum, 4 November: Lynn didn’t say so, but I think she took exception to this.

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Sort of damp-ish

Matt Gasnier is attempting a cross-country drive, and unlike most of us in the States who’ve envisioned this notion, he’s going north to south. He started, in fact, at Barrow, Alaska, way up on the Arctic Ocean. Several days and a few ferryboats later, he’s in Ketchikan, about which he says:

Looking up the Ketchikan section on the Alaska Lonely Planet reads: “If you stay in Ketchikan longer than an hour, chances are good that it will rain at least once if not several times.”

This seemed wild enough to consult Wikipedia, which is good on weather (if not necessarily climate) coverage. This picture was waiting:

Ketchikan Alaska Rain Gauge, 2002 photo by Robert A. Estremo

(Photo ©2002 Robert A. Estremo. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike License v. 2.0.)

There’s a reason it’s that tall. The yearly rainfall average is a mind-boggling 153 inches, which includes a mere 37 inches of snow; 229 days a year see at least 0.01 inch of rain. This is, I note for record, nearly twice as much rain as falls on Dhaka, Bangladesh. And speaking of record, in 1949 the gauge actually overflowed, having failed to collect all of 202.55 inches of what is decidedly world-class wetness.

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Yes, those were the days

The most jarring aspect of this, I think, is the fact that it’s 2015:

Then again, having put up a Web site in 1996, perhaps I shouldn’t say anything.

(Via the ineffable @SwiftOnSecurity.)


Some day she’ll be 30

Stephanie Be runs TravelBreak, and how she got there probably merits a book:

I financed traveling around the world by age twenty-two, worked illegally for the Lebanese Mafia at twenty-three, started and lost two companies by twenty-four, and built a successful brand by twenty-five.

In other news, there’s a Lebanese Mafia.

Still, I’m trying to imagine her 26th birthday party. Not that I was invited or anything.


Glared at redly

The Houston Rockets dropped their first three games, losing by 20 to Denver, by 20 to Golden State, and by 20 to Miami. You have to figure that this couldn’t go on indefinitely, and indeed the Rockets jumped out to an early seven-point lead; the Thunder fought back, and by halftime had a 65-54 lead. Then both Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson got into foul trouble — four each — and while they were sidelined, the Rockets erased the entirety of that lead while confining OKC to a mere 14 points in that third quarter. Things got hairy after that, and is anyone surprised to hear that Westbrook and Patrick Beverley drew offsetting technicals? Not me, and probably not you either. Houston never led by more than seven, but all you need at the horn is one, and the Thunder never got any closer than three in the waning moments. Houston 110, OKC 105, and two streaks come to a grinding halt.

I’ve harped on turnovers, and I’m sure Billy Donovan has harped on turnovers, but I’m not quite sure it’s sunk in yet: OKC had all sorts of superior numbers tonight, including most notably a 55-34 rebounding advantage, 14-7 off the offensive glass, but the Rockets had seven blocks and 18 steals. That’s twenty-five times the Thunder gave up the rock, against 12 for Houston. There were several times when the team seemed downright panicky: “What do we do now?” “Execute the way you’re supposed to” is always the answer, but they didn’t do it. And James Harden, who’d had a horrific start to his season, started looking like James Harden again, with a game-high 37 points. Truth be told, I think he was just looking for his confidence to come back. Hell of a gift for the Thunder to hand him.

If nothing else, this game should tell OKC that there are only so many times in a season where old-fashioned hero ball will actually work. This wasn’t one of them. At the very least, they need to pass the ball around a bit: 17 assists will not do the trick, especially if you’ve committed a couple of dozen turnovers along the way. (Houston had 22 assists and, I repeat, only 12 turnovers.) We’ll see if they remember that Wednesday night when the Raptors come to town.


As flat as the town itself

Some people, I am told, can run in heels. I’m guessing none of those people are Italian schoolgirls:

Secondary school l’Istituto Tecnico Industriale di Avezzano, in L’Aquila, Italy, has reportedly banned wedges, flip-flops and high heels measuring over 1.6 inches. The Ansa news agency reports the rule was set in place due to concerns that the shoes could prevent a quick exit in the event of an earthquake.

“The directive isn’t the result of a puritanical fantasy,” Anna Amanzi, a teacher at the school, tells Ansa. “It’s a serious requirement to teach students prevention and education, especially in a high-risk seismic zone.”

Which L’Aquila evidently is:

The town was devastated by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in 2009, which killed 309 people and displaced over 60,000.

This is the same town where six seismologists and one government official went on trial for allegedly misinforming the public about the seismic risk. Some convictions were obtained, but were later overturned. None of the defendants, I suspect, had been in the habit of wearing high heels.

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Pass the carrot cake

Proteus, in Greek legend, was a water god, his shape, like his domain, always changing. (See also Heraclitus: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”) Close as we can get to Proteus these days is Heidi Klum, who in this shot is pulling microphone duty at some MTV Europe event in 2012:

Heidi Klum for the channel formerly known as Music Television

But that’s work. For play, she goes all out:

Heidi Klum as Jessica Rabbit

As I live and breathe, Jessica Rabbit!

[S]he’s been planning her vampy Jessica Rabbit costume for weeks. At the beginning of October, she gave a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the first steps of creating a prosthetic body and cartoon face. When Heidi Klum decides to dress as Jessica Rabbit, she doesn’t go to Party City and buy a red wig, some purple eyeshadow, and a sparkly dress. Nope, she has a professional team fashion her a new butt out of movie-quality materials.

Another look:

Heidi Klum as Jessica Rabbit

Disney, you may remember, wasn’t about to greenlight Who Framed Roger Rabbit with a budget of $50 million, and forced a cut to $30 million. I suspect they had no idea that one of the characters would still be a household word twenty-seven years later.

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Roll playing

The ponies of Equestria presumably have no problem getting toilet paper:

A bit of TPing on Nightmare Night

Meanwhile, the humans of Chile have had to deal with collusion between the two largest makers of the stuff:

Chilean anti-trust regulators have charged two of the country’s biggest toilet paper manufacturers with taking part in a price-fixing scheme to corner the market for sanitary tissue and other products between 2000 and 2011, officials said Thursday.

The alleged scheme has outraged Chileans, who in the past have also been victims of price-fixing scandals involving chicken and prescription drugs.

According to economic investigators, CMPC Tissue and SCA Chile colluded to share out the market and fix the price of toilet paper rolls and other paper products.

The two firms controlled about 90 percent of the market for toilet paper. Then again, at least there was a market; to the north, in Venezuela, there has been chaos.

(Via Fausta’s blog.)

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Strange search-engine queries (509)

Much as I’d like to believe that everyone who visits this site is a personal friend who comes to hear the soothing sound of my voice and the occasional clash of joyous cymbals, it takes only the briefest glance at the logs to reveal that this can’t possibly be true. A lot of people land here accidentally, because they were looking for something. And now and again, it’s instructive to see just what it is they were looking for.

“territory ahead” tee shirts backorder problems:  What’s the problem? T-shirts get backordered all the time.

the song of chrs brwn ft tyga kerin mccal:  Um, this is not Twitter. You can spell things out if you have to.

i’m gonna whip somebody’s duck ringtone:  Better a duck than nae. Or, for that matter, nae.

what is d meaning of 3 mal func written on benz c230 dash board:  It means that you get to write a check to your Mercedes dealer. You should be used to it by now.


if you were a fifteenth-century american indian living in the region of modern-day ohio:  You’d presumably be spared traffic in downtown Columbus.

there was an old man in a tree:  Who found himself taking a pee; the force of his bladder, his lack of a ladder, gave passersby something to see.

tom cruise rock of ages codpiece:  Yeah, nice rock there, Tom.

what kind of sexualized:  Let’s worry about that next Halloween, okay, pal?

snake with boobs:  Must have been somehow sexualized.

teenagers spend billions of dollars on stereo equipment and compact discs. they have the ability:  To drive you nucking futz in a matter of minutes.

get laid in okc:  If you’re asking me, you’re indeed hard up.

finger in the nose:  This may be why you’re not getting laid.


A Nugget-crushing machine

Denver stayed pretty close through the first half of this game; being on the downside of a 58-50 count isn’t that impressive, perhaps, but shooting less than 40 percent and trailing by only eight is not exactly shameful. There would be no turnaround for the Nuggets, however: the Thunder was as dominant as the 37-20 third-quarter says, and the OKC starters sat for the fourth, perhaps resting up for tomorrow night’s match at Houston. Inside the five-minute mark, Mitch McGary and Cameron Payne made their first appearances of the season, and Oklahoma City coasted to a surprisingly easy 117-93 win over the Nuggets.

The absence of Wilson Chandler didn’t help matters for Denver, but the young Nuggets never quite gave up. Consistency seems to be a problem for them: they thrashed Houston in the opener while shooting 50 percent from the floor, then dropped one to the Timberwolves shooting 30 percent. Tonight they seldom managed as much as 40, though OKC’s ten blocks — half of them by Serge Ibaka — definitely hindered Denver’s cause. Starting sharpshooter Danilo Gallinari and reserve swingman Will Barton shared team-high honors, with 15 points each.

With the starters taking a break, seven Thundermen managed double-figure scoring, Kevin Durant collecting 25 points in a mere 27 minutes. For the most part, OKC executed well, though you can bet Billy Donovan is pointing to those 19 turnovers on the box score on the plane. Still, knocking down 52 percent of your shots, and 52 percent of your three-point shots, is plenty good enough most nights in the NBA.

Tomorrow night, however, is not “most nights”: the Rockets have sputtered early on, losing their opener to these very Nuggets, but they seldom stay in sputter mode for too awfully long, and Kevin McHale always has something up his well-worn sleeve. We’ll see how that goes tomorrow. If the Thunder fail to sustain this 110-point-per-game pace — well, they may not have to.


The risk you run

There ain’t no party like a Microsoft party:

A word to the sufficient is wise.

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