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February 15th, 2020

The Tao Of Love And Automobile Maintenance…Not Exactly In Harmony

Mercedes-Benz USA has some advice for the lovelorn this Valentines Day…

Yes…of course! A German boyfriend who is everything I ever wanted, good looking, solid, reliable, goes the distance, and a great ride, but periodically requires me spend thousands of dollars on him for maintenance. 

I don’t think the word for that is boyfriend.

A few days ago the cabin overhead lights in my car, a 2012 E350 Bluetec, went out. The map lights still worked, as did the rear cabin overhead light. But the main overhead light up front, just in front of the rear view mirror went out. The lights (there are two) are inside a ceiling panel with switches for the map lights, the rear cabin light, the sunroof and the emergency call system. Everything else was still working so I figured it was either a bulb or a fuse.

The other day I took the car to the new Mercedes mechanics I’ve been using in Westminster. They’re the folks who did the couple grand DEF tank heater replacement for about 500 bucks less than the dealer quoted and gave me a two year warranty on the repair which the dealer would not. I’ve been using them ever since and regard them highly. Today I was wanting my usual between regular service interval oil change, plus an inspection for the road trip to California I’m taking in March.

I got a call from them shortly after I got back to the office. They were recommending replacing some coolant hoses and a few other simple items. Then they got to the overhead cabin lights. It wasn’t a bulb or a fuse. There was an error code on the entire front ceiling control panel. It would have to be replaced. Cost: about a grand. The part was that expensive, I suppose because it controls all that other stuff too.

Mind you everything else is still working. It’s just the overhead cabin lights that aren’t. So…dig it. One-thousand bucks just to get my overhead cabin lights working again. This is what comes of jamming everything onto a single electric panel that nobody but Daimler can make because of the proprietary firmware embedded into it.

I found a source for one second hand, presumably from an accident car, for $75. This is versus the $750 the part costs from Daimler. For $75 I can take a chance on it working. Installing it is a bit tricky, but not beyond my means. But there is a catch. Having all those other features in it may still make a do it yourself repair impossible. One gotcha could be resynchronizing the sunroof. From what I read in the Mercedes forums some people get the sunroof synced on the first try. The steps for doing that are pretty simple. But other people never get it right. Then it has to go to a certified Mercedes mechanic with the certified Mercedes computer diagnostic and programming equipment. My mechanics have already told me they won’t work on customer supplied second hand parts because of liability issues.

So anyway…about Valentines Day this year…Dear MBUSA, I appreciate the thought…really…however…

The object of my affection and I are going through a rough patch these days. And the car too.  I really need to stop letting Germans get me twitterpated.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Tao Of Love And Automobile Maintenance…Not Exactly In Harmony

September 2nd, 2009

From Our Department Of Obvious Things That Stare You In The Face

Matthew Yglesias discovers something about social conservativesYou know what?  They never seem to point the finger at themselves, do they?

Ross Douthat has a great column in today’s times looking at American social conservatism through the lens of Judd Apatow’s movies. All three Apatow films have, as he points out, strains of conservative values running through them. But in The 40 Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up conservative choices wind up working out suspiciously well. In the darker Funny People, by contrast, bad choices have unchangeable consequences and doing the right thing proves painful…

And that’s the one movie of his that didn’t do too well at the box office.  Now why would that be…?  I’ll hazard the same guess Yglesias does:  Because the United States is a country that’s “conservative right up until the moment that it costs us.

I think this explains a lot about the appeal of anti-gay crusades to social conservative leaders. Most of what “traditional values” asks of people is pretty hard. All the infidelity and divorce and premarital sex and bad parenting and whatnot take place because people actually want to do the things traditional values is telling them not to do. And the same goes for most of the rest of the Christian recipe. Acting in a charitable and forgiving manner all the time is hard. Loving your enemies is hard. Turning the other cheek is hard…

Christianity…honest to goodness Christianity…is Hard.  When you hear someone vacantly telling you that becoming a Born Again Christian has taken all the hardship, lifted all the burdens of their lives from their shoulders, you can be pretty damn confident that you’re dealing with a Mega Church christian.  Yes, yes…  when your church has its own Olympic size swimming pool and a Chick-Fil-A in it the life of a Christian must be very easy indeed.  But…it isn’t.  Forgiveness, for example…is Hard.  Damn near impossible sometimes.  Ask me how I know…

Homosexuality is totally different. For a small minority of the population, of course, the injunction “don’t have sex with other men!” (or, as the case may be, other women) is painfully difficult to live up to. But for the vast majority of people this is really, really easy to do. Campaigns against gay rights, gay people, and gay sex thus have a lot of the structural elements of other forms of crusading against sexual excess or immorality, but they’re not really asking most people to do anything other than become self-righteous about their pre-existing preferences.

No fooling.  Your gay and lesbian neighbors have been pointing out for decades now that these people have been waging a culture war on us, but not…oh…divorce…infidelity…premarital sex…teenage pregnancy.  Yes, they will bellyache about those things, but not throw millions and millions of dollars into political campaigns against them.  Nobody on the religious right is trying to get constitutional amendments passed making divorce or adultery or pornography or having babies out of wedlock illegal.  They’re not putting planks in the republican party platform about divorce.  But homosexuality?  Oh…ThATs the biggest threat to western civilization since  Earl Warren.  Since Roosevelt.  Since Lincoln even.

This isn’t rocket science.  We’re their scapegoats.  Their scarecrows.  The disposable lives of faceless Other People they can pave their highway to heaven with.  It wasn’t enough that Christ died for their sins.  We have to bleed so they can tell themselves they’re righteous.  Because otherwise they have to deal with their own lives, their own sins, their own cheapshit failures of moral character, and anything but that.  As long as they can wage war on the Homosexual Menace, they don’t have to look at themselves. 

Right there is where that venomous ferocity against homosexuality comes from.  You see parents who do absolutely horrific things to their gay children that they would never do even if they’d committed some terrible crime like murder or rape.  It’s not that they suddenly think their kid is some kind of unspeakable monster.  It’s that first hand face-to-face evidence that the monster isn’t real pulls out from under them a vital pillar of self respect.  I may be an unfaithful husband…I might be cheating on my spouse…I might be stealing from my employer…I might be abusing my own children…but by god I am not a faggot.  My cheap little crimes aren’t as damaging to society as Homosexuality.  God will forgive me…but not Them…  You take away that scapegoat, that punching bag, that Faceless Other who has to die for their common everyday bar stool sins, and suddenly morality isn’t something they can beat someone else over the head with whenever their conscience starts tapping them on the shoulder.  Nothing on this earth gets more enraged then a cheat caught in the act.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on From Our Department Of Obvious Things That Stare You In The Face

May 4th, 2009

From Our Department Of Unsurprising Things…Redmond Bureau…

Via Slashdot…  Behold…the Open Document Format that Microsoft Rammed through the international standards committee…

Office 2007SP2 ODF Interoperability Very Bad

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the are-you-really-surprised dept.
 

David Gerard writes "Microsoft Office 2007 SP2 claims support for ODF 1.1. With hard work and careful thinking, they have successfully achieved technical compliance but zero interoperability! MSO 2007sp2 won’t read ODF 1.1 from any other existing application, and its ODF is only readable by the CleverAge plugin. The post goes into detail as to how it manages this so thoroughly."

ODF: The open standard file format that only Microsoft applications can use…

[Update…] In comments Jonathan Allen points out that ODF is the Oasis Group open document standard, not Microsoft’s, which is OpenXML.  I was confusing the two, and the point of the Slashdot post.  This isn’t about Microsoft’s own proprietary open standard.  It’s about them applying their usual Embrace, Extend and Extinguish tactic on ODF.  Here’s some of the Slashdot commentary…

If it achieves 100% technical compliance with the standard, but zero interoperability, this is certainly a problem with the standard itself.

And the problem in this case is the missing formula specification. It’s not in ODF 1.1, and ODF 1.2 is still a draft. While this is Microsoft and we all "know" that this was intentional, ODF is what should be fixed first. We were all bashing OOXML specifications, but ODF 1.1’s far from perfect, as we can see.

That is, curiously, not quite true. ODF 1.1 doesn’t fully specify formulas, but it does specify the general syntax that should be used for them, and Microsoft seems to have ignored this. (Also, in practice, the major spreadsheets are quite similar in terms of what expressions they accept in formulas. This makes it relatively simple to convert between MS Office formulas and OpenOffice.org ones, which are what most ODF-based apps use.)

The irony here is that the formula language used by OpenOffice (and by other vendors) is based on that used by Excel, which itself was not fully documented when OpenOffice implemented it. So an argument, by Microsoft, not to support that language because it is not documented is rather hypocritical. Excel supports 1-2-3 files and formulas and legacy Excel versions (back to Excel 4.0) neither of which have standardized formula languages. Why are these supported? Also, the fact that the Microsoft/CleverAge add-in correctly reads and writes the legacy ODF formula syntax shows not only that it can be done, but that Microsoft already has the code to do it. The inexplicably thing is why that code never made it into Excel 2007 SP2.

Just look at this.  They’re in complete technical compliance, and yet if you read an ODF file format spreadsheet into Excel and then write it back out again it’s now locked utterly into MS Office’s specific implementation of ODF.  You can no longer read it back into any other spreadsheet program that supports ODF, because it can’t read Microsoft’s ODF formula implementation.

They just never stop, do they?  I started out as a Microsoft platforms developer.  Now I work on software that runs on many different platforms and swear to God I will never again be a Microsoft only developer.  I will not help them betray the promise of the personal computer.  I will not help them put handcuffs on the whole goddamned world just because that’s their business model.

by Bruce | Link | React! (4)

April 23rd, 2009

Those Homosexuals Masters and Johnson Said They Cured Back In 1979? Yeah…Guess What…

Scientific American finds the usual void of actual data behind the claim of successful ex-gay therapy

Back in 1979, on Meet The Press and countless other TV appearances, Masters and Johnson touted their book, Homosexuality in Perspective—a 14-year study of more than 300 homosexual men and women…The results seemed impressive: Of the 67 male and female patients with "homosexual dissatisfaction," only 14 failed in the initial two-week "conversion" or "reversion" treatment…During five years of follow-up, their success rate for both groups was better than 70 percent.

Not bad.  However…there was just one wee problem…

Prior to the book’s publication, doubts arose about the validity of their case studies. Most staffers never met any of the conversion cases during the study period of 1968 through 1977, according to research I’ve done for my new book Masters of Sex.  Clinic staffer Lynn Strenkofsky, who organized patient schedules during this period, says she never dealt with any conversion cases. Marshall and Peggy Shearer, perhaps the clinic’s most experienced therapy team in the early 1970s, says they never treated homosexuals and heard virtually nothing about conversion therapy.

When the clinic’s top associate, Robert Kolodny, asked to see the files and to hear the tape-recordings of these "storybook" cases, Masters refused to show them to him…

Kolodny began to suspect Masters had, at best created "composite" cases out of many individual ones at best, or at worst had committed outright fraud.  Virginia Johnson apparently had similar misgivings about Master’s conversion successes, but never spoke publicly about them.  She later regretted that the book had gone to the publisher in the form it had, saying, "That was a bad book."  She feared that "Bill was being creative in those days" in compiling the conversion case studies.

Masters insisted right up to his death in 2001 that his work had been based on "…10 years of work with five years of follow-up—and it works."  But he never showed anyone the actual data, and few who worked with him can saw any of the patients, let alone the work with them actually taking place.  Given how reliably such therapy fails to work for everyone else, it isn’t hard to figure why Masters never showed anyone the data.  He had the same reason Exodus, Love In Action, and a host of other conversion therapy quacks have.  The data doesn’t exist.  The human consciousness isn’t a blackboard anyone can scribble their will on.  It doesn’t work that way.  You can’t talk someone out of being homosexual any more then you can talk them out of being left handed, or having blue eyes.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Those Homosexuals Masters and Johnson Said They Cured Back In 1979? Yeah…Guess What…

April 20th, 2009

From Our Department Of Unsurprising Things…

For the past couple weeks or so, the net has been all abuzz about that almost too campy to be real National Organization For Marriage ad…you know…the Scary Gathering Homosexual Menace Storm ad.  The National Organization For Marriage said it was spending 1.5 million dollars to saturate several New England states considering same sex marriage with it.

Listen okay…just listen.  When some group you only vaguely ever heard of before suddenly bursts into the national dialogue with millions of dollars to spend on anti-gay advertising, the very first fucking thing that should cross your mind is: Where Did The Money Come From? 

That was my first thought, but I didn’t see anyone else out there who seemed to be sharing it.  I knew that the usual suspects, Forcus On Your The Family and other religious right groups were actually hurting for money since Proposition 8 drained their coffers of what little was left. They’re just not raking in the dough from the faithful like they used to, since the Bush Gang started eating the life savings of all those older folks in the pews.  So where the hell did the National Organization For Marriage suddenly get one and a half million fucking dollars to wage a targeted media campaign in New England?

I figured I’d wait and see, because sooner or later someone was going to turn that rock over and see what maggots crawled out of it.  Swear to God I thought it was going to be one of the usual right wing billionaires funding this.  Ahmanson most likely…

Surprise!

Tomorrow Californians Against Hate will be launch a six-state online ad campaign in the Northeast to let everybody know that NOM, the National Organization for Marriage, is a front group for the Mormon Church. Banners ads will appear on the capital city hometown papers of states currently in play for marriage equality: NY, NJ, DE, ME, NH, and RI.

Jesus Christ…why couldn’t Joseph Smith have sold extended automobile warranties or hedge fund shares or something?

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

February 27th, 2009

From Our Department Of Unsurprising Things…

This has been making the blog rounds today…

Porn in the USA: Conservatives are biggest consumers

A new nationwide study (pdf) of anonymised credit-card receipts from a major online adult entertainment provider finds little variation in consumption between states.

"When it comes to adult entertainment, it seems people are more the same than different," says Benjamin Edelman at Harvard Business School.

However, there are some trends to be seen in the data. Those states that do consume the most porn tend to be more conservative and religious than states with lower levels of consumption, the study finds.

"Some of the people who are most outraged turn out to be consumers of the very things they claimed to be outraged by," Edelman says.

If you’re surprised about this then you haven’t traveled much in the bible belt.  I see more highway billboards advertising strip shows and adult entertainment dives when I take a road trip through the Fundamentalist States of America then anywhere else, except maybe Nevada.  But at least there they aren’t hypocritical about it.  Oh…and guess who is the biggest consumer of online porn in the nation. 

The biggest consumer, Utah, averaged 5.47 adult content subscriptions per 1000 home broadband users; Montana bought the least with 1.92 per 1000. "The differences here are not so stark," Edelman says.

Utah.  Where marriage is so sacred they pour millions into California last year to prevent loving same sex couples from being allowed to marry.  Nice.  The magic underwear isn’t working so well I take it.  Or perhaps too well.  Perhaps it was all part of a plan on the part of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints to drain money out of the faithful’s porn budgets.

Church-goers bought less online porn on Sundays – a 1% increase in a postal code’s religious attendance was associated with a 0.1% drop in subscriptions that day. However, expenditures on other days of the week brought them in line with the rest of the country, Edelman finds.

Residents of 27 states that passed laws banning gay marriages boasted 11% more porn subscribers than states that don’t explicitly restrict gay marriage.

I keep thumping my pulpit on this but it keeps being relevant.  They need their scapegoats.  Gay people are their handy punching bags for all their own private secret shame, their own pathetic failures of moral character.  They hate us, because we learned to live with our sexual nature and they, locking it in the closet, never learned how to control themselves. 

Denial isn’t a plan for life.  The human identity isn’t a blackboard anyone can scribble their will upon.  Least of all religions founded by con artists.  No river rises higher then its source.

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

December 3rd, 2008

I See Civil Unions and Tolerance Of Homosexuality Has Certainly Dragged Vermont Down Into The Gutter…

…Not.

Vermont called healthiest state, Louisiana last

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Louisiana has displaced Mississippi as the unhealthiest U.S. state and other Southern states were close rivals due to high obesity and smoking rates in new rankings that deemed Vermont the healthiest.

Many Southern states were clustered near the bottom of the rankings. The region has some of the highest rates of obesity, which contributes to heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some types of cancer, as well as high rates of smoking, which causes cancer, lung disease, heart disease and other problems.

One in five Louisianians lacked health insurance, while 31 percent were obese. It also suffers from high child poverty, infant mortality, premature death rate and cancer deaths, according to the report.

And if you think all that counts as a black mark against Louisiana’s political leaders…well…the GOP has something to say to you about that…

GOP Looks to Louisiana’s Governor

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Last weekend, 18 days after Barack Obama decisively defeated their candidate for president, a mostly Republican crowd of self-described conservatives received their first introduction to someone many prominent members of the GOP think could be the party’s own version of Obama.

Like the president-elect, Gov. Bobby Jindalof Louisiana is young (37), accomplished (a Rhodes scholar) and, as the son of Indian immigrants, someone familiar with breaking racial and cultural barriers. He came to Iowa to deliver a pair of speeches, and his mere presence ignited talk that the 2012 presidential campaign has begun here, if coyly. Already, a fierce fight is looming between him and other Republicans — former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, who arrived in Iowa a couple of days before him, and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is said to be coming at some point — for the hearts of social conservatives.

"The Republicans really have no choice except to look at some people more youthful if they want to have a better chance of winning," said Betty E. Johnson, an independent and the wife of a Cedar Rapids pastor, who voted for George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004 but who went for Obama over 72-year-old John McCain. "I liked Obama’s energy and hope. I don’t know, but maybe a younger person would give Republicans a feeling of more energy, openness."

Jindalof is a religious right nutcase who is still trying to get creationism taught as science in the public schools, and who participated in an exorcism when he was in college.  Yeah…he’s sure to get the vote of the faithful.  And never mind all that stuff about the health and welfare of the citizens of his state.  None of that is more important after all, then their spiritual well being.  Which is why the bible belt states routinely, invariably, rank at or near the bottom of…well…nearly every measure of civilized, industrial nation progress.  Literacy… education levels…  teenage pregnancy… STDs… domestic abuse… infant mortality…  the general health of both adults and children…   But on the other hand they don’t allow the gays to get married…so that’s a plus…right…?

It’s an article of faith among the kook pews that gays live half as long as heterosexuals, spread filth and disease, and cause the general breakdown of family and society.  I guess Vermont hasn’t figured that out yet.  Or Massachusetts.  Meanwhile the bible belt is killing itself with righteousness.  But what the heck, the world is coming to an end soon anyway…right?  Loose the bible belt, and the rest of the United States is right up there with the rest of the industrial world in all these measures.  Include them in, and they drag us into into third world territory…

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

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