One could reasonably ask, I suppose, if a rant can truly be random: a person can contemplate only so many subjects at one time, and this limitation would seem to lead inevitably to selection bias. But I didn't worry about that when I did the first set of random rants in the fall of 2009, and I'm not going to worry about that now: I'm just going to type and see what comes out.

Newfangled tech has given us all manner of unlovely terms, from "bleeding edge" to "phablet" — hey, wasn't Phablet I the guy who ruled Lower Egypt during the 22nd Dynasty? — but the one that grates on my eardrums the worst is "webinar," a word so unappealing that Wikipedia won't even give it its own page, preferring to stick with "Web conferencing". "Web" anything, of course, has been overused ever since one of those O'Reilly Media Conferences started pushing "Web 2.0," a term which meant basically anything that wasn't Web 1.0. (Blogs, supposedly, are pure 2.0, though I've done my damnedest to stay as 1.0 as possible.) But "webinar" is heinous in its own right, a portmanteau of "Web" and "seminar," and the only term that approaches it for dysphony is the next one down at Merriam-Webster.com: "webisode," which is apparently even older but clearly no wiser.

Photo of Sheila Heti by Lee TowndrowOne of the reasons I let myself be drawn into Twitter in the first place was the hope of finding new blogfodder, and I consider that effort very successful, based simply on the sheer quantity of times I've credited a piece as being via so-and-so's tweet. This is all very proper and appropriate. However, too often I allow myself some fanboy-style squee, and the results can be embarrassing. The winter '13 issue of mental_floss had a single-page interview with Canadian author Sheila Heti, complete with a photo (by Lee Towndrow) that for some reason the magazine had flopped. I read the interview with interest, noted that "Twitter and Facebook don't take up much" of her time, decided to put her books on my To Read list, and took another look at that picture, which seemed, to my weary eyes, to be the answer to the hitherto-unasked question "What if Leonardo's Mona Lisa had a decent pair of stems?" I sought out her Twitter account, and followed; after I'd responded to something she'd said, she actually followed me, which is something I never expect from anyone with any kind of real-life following. And then, as quickly as I'd found her, I lost her: she vanished from my timeline. Was it something I'd said? I worried about this for a whole two days before it occurred to me to see if I'd been blocked. I hadn't; she'd killed her account entirely. Her friend Margaux Williamson, who was likewise following me, also dropped off the service, so I have to conclude that they'd had a talk and decoded that maybe it was taking up much of their time after all. They owe me no explanation, of course, but I'm still a bit miffed at myself for getting upset about it. (She still has a Facebook community page.)

I don't, as a rule, think of myself as today's best value in sensible reasoning, but I have no trouble seeing myself as at least somewhat better off than those yahoos on Yahoo! Answers/Cars & Transportation who are willing to spend $400 swapping out parts rather than spend $100 to have a proper technician look over the problem. Inevitably, they clamber onto the service and cry plaintively: "What else could it be?" Often as not, they haven't pulled whatever codes have been thrown, and if they have, they misunderstand them: "So I changed the oxygen sensor and the light still didn't go out!" This is especially fun with cars that are fussy about electricals; I know this because I drive one of them. I used to advise them, when emissions were involved, to stick to OEM sensors and such, but they'd rather buy three of 'em at $70 apiece and hope one of them works than go to an actual dealership and pay $160 for the correct part with (typically) a one-year warranty. These are usually, though not always, the same people who thing it's totally fricking unfair that they should have to use premium gas in a used car; I swear, if there were used gas to be had, they'd be out there with their little plastic jugs, which, by the way, suck.

This last is more a lament: how is it that random insects are so much more likely to impact your windshield after you've come out of the car wash? Is it something in the cleaning/rinsing solutions that attracts them? I'd gotten two miles away from a good (okay, fair) scrubbing yesterday when the splatters came in rapid succession and wide dispersion, like Jackson Pollock with the green-apple quick-step. The bugs are against us anyway — this is a Law of Nature, after all — but you'd think they'd have evolved beyond suicide squadrons by now.

The Vent

#854
  26 January 2014

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