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October 5, 2009

iTunes serendipity

The advantage of pseudo-random ordering a few thousand songs is that occasionally you’ll find a pair, otherwise unrelated, which seem meant to be played next to each other.

Today’s example: the Spin Doctors’ “What Time Is It” (which starts with sampled voices lifted from a newscast, and includes similar voice-overs on occasion through the song) and R.E.M.’s version of The Clique’s “I Am Superman,” which starts with its own indecipherable sampled voices. It’s as though the producers wanted them to flow into each other.

Posted by pjm at 6:24 PM | Comments (0)

October 2, 2009

Replacing license plates shouldn't be this hard

I’ve got New York plates for the car. The back one replaced the Mass plates easily enough. The front one is a little tougher.

The Mass plate, of course, hasn’t moved since I screwed it on eight years ago. When I started turning the screw, I noticed pretty soon that it was turning but wasn’t going anywhere. Whatever the screws were threaded in to must be turning too, inside the bumper.

Later, I tried again with some tools. Unfortunately the head of the screw was too close to the plate to get at it effectively with a file, and the metal was too hard to notch or abrade any other way. I was able to use the file and some bending to make a cut in the plate down to the screw on one side, but I couldn’t get behind the screw to actually get it free.

I decided to try again from behind, and wound up taking the entire front bumper cover off. (Two screws, one on either side in the front wheel-well at the corner of the fairing, and two bolts on the bottom of the frame; that’s all that’s holding it on.) I discovered that the screws went in to funny little nuts: flat like washers, but obviously threaded, and long ovals (that is, they had wings, they weren’t round). It was clear from the setting that these were supposed to be held in place by plastic on the inside of the bumper cover; it was equally clear that they no longer were.

I tried getting a grip on these nuts with vise-grips and with real pliers, but had no luck either way; they were too flat and flush to the inside of the bumper cover. I then got frustrated and took out my bolt-cutters, which I used to gnaw one of the screws down to a nub but wasn’t able, again, to get close enough to the nut to do any good.

So I put the bumper cover back on (only one bolt left over; I don’t know where it came from, because I didn’t take it out). Now I’m thinking maybe I need someone to drill out the screws. Or, with better snips, get rid of the nuts from the inside.

Or just replace the bumper cover, which looks like it would cost on the order of $150 for an unpainted one. And I thought I’d won an expensive battle when I convinced New York that the car was exempt from state sales tax.

Update: The garage in town did a bunch of these a few years ago when New York did a mandatory plate update. They ground the heads off the bolts and pushed them out the back, then screwed on the new plate. Total cost: under $9. Clearly having the right tools helps.

Posted by pjm at 9:07 PM | Comments (0)

This marketing story has been told before

I’m not very close to the center of things: I’m not even sure what Google Wave is supposed to be. (I haven’t tried to find out.) But the scurry and bustle around the invitations (I must have seen half a dozen micro-blog messages asking for invitations now) reminds me very much of the Gmail rollout.

Maybe I’m cynical, but since Gmail my mind has automatically translated “invitation-only beta” into “exploiting early adopters for unpaid marketing.”

(Yes, I now use Gmail as my primary non-work email address. Just because I didn’t like the marketing, that doesn’t mean I don’t like the service.)

Posted by pjm at 9:47 AM | Comments (0)