Quotulatiousness

September 4, 2017

Hollywood facing the worst box office returns in years

Filed under: Business, Media — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ryan Faughnder reports on the bad summer movies season:

As Hollywood wraps up the all-important summer box-office season this Labor Day weekend, a sobering reality has gripped the industry.

The number of tickets sold in the United States and Canada this summer is projected to fall to the lowest level in a quarter-century.

The results have put the squeeze on the nation’s top theater chains, whose stocks have taken a drubbing. AMC Theatres Chief Executive Adam Aron this month called his company’s most recent quarter “simply a bust.”

Such blunt language reflects some worrisome trends. Domestic box-office revenue is expected to total $3.78 billion for the first weekend of May through Labor Day — a key period that generates about 40% of domestic ticket sales — down nearly 16% from the same period last year, according to comScore. That’s an even worse decline than the 10% drop some studio executives predicted before the summer began.

The usual suspects are being blamed: unlike previous years, moviegoers have other calls on their entertainment time and dollars, including the rise of gaming platforms, streaming sites like Netflix, and the attraction of watching freshly painted surfaces dry. The online critics at Rotten Tomatoes also come in for their fair shame of blame for Hollywood’s plight.

Update: Fixed broken link. Sorry for any inconvenience.

August 16, 2017

Thompson SMG in 30 Carbine

Filed under: History, Military, Technology, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 17 Oct 2016

When the US military released a request for what would become the M1 Carbine in 1940, the Auto-Ordnance Corporation offered up a Thompson submachine gun simply rechambered for the new .30 Carbine cartridge. This entailed a new magazine, a receiver modified for the longer magazine, and a new barrel and bolt face – but the other Thompson parts could remain unchanged from the standard .45 ACP models. This made the submission a pretty cheap and easy effort for Auto-Ordnance … which is a good thing, considering that it was almost assured to be rejected.

The stipulations for the new carbine included a weigh requirement of 5 pounds, and the Thompson weighed more than double that (in both .45ACP and .30 Carbine forms). Only a few were made, and the one submitted for military testing was rejected outright on the basis of weight. This example is serial number 1, and resides at the Cody Firearms Museum.

August 13, 2017

CBC Comedy exists to make us appreciate private-sector comedians that much more

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In the National Post, Tristin Hopper gently points out that the taxpayers are not getting positive results from their involuntary funding of yet another Canadian Broadcasting Corporation “comedy”:

If there was ever a textbook example of the terrible, bone-chilling things a government can do to humour, it’s CBC Comedy.

To be clear, I’m not talking about the general phenomenon of comedy appearing on CBC. I’m talking instead about cbc.ca/comedy, a section of the CBC website devoted in part to publishing satirical news headlines.

Although it’s existed for three years, chances are you’ve never heard of it. Because while CBC doesn’t publicly release its website analytics, all signs point to the site having utterly dismal traffic.

CBC Comedy’s social media accounts are embarrassingly devoid of attention. On Twitter, posts will commonly fail to attract a single retweet or like — meaning that they aren’t even being promoted by the writers who created them.

On Facebook, a sample of 53 recent satirical news posts found that they averaged 65 reactions apiece — a standard routinely bested by Newfoundland grandmothers.

So where can you go to get your regular ration of full maple-flavoured online comedy? That is, something actually funny, unlike CBC “Comedy”.

Of course, there already is a Canadian Onion: The Beaverton, an online satire site founded in 2010.

The Beaverton became so widely read that its producers secured a show on the Comedy Network. Meanwhile, their posts routinely tear up social media, constantly topping 1,000 likes on Facebook and dominating the Canada sub-forum on Reddit.

They are a motivated, private sector venture that has arguably mastered the form — and yet our public broadcaster insists on propping up a piss poor competitor.

In head-to-head competition, The Beaverton routinely spanks anything that comes out of CBC Comedy offices.

H/T to Chris Myrick for the link.

August 3, 2017

I’d name this Ontario county, but apparently it’s been trademarked so others couldn’t “tarnish” the name

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Law — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:57

Trademarks. Is there nothing they can’t make worse?

It’s stunning how often trademarks that never should have been granted get granted — leading to all sorts of bad outcomes. One area that sees far too many bad trademarks involves trademarking geographic areas, with the holder of the mark often then trying to lock out local businesses from using the name of the locations in which they reside. If ever there were a trademark type that everyone ought to agree should be rejected, it’s one based purely on geography.

Entirely too many of these slip through. For example, one Canadian man managed to get a trademark on the name of the county in which he resides, with the stated aim not of using it in commerce, but rather protecting that name’s reputation.

    Michael Stinson caused a stir among government officials in Haliburton County last week when they learned he had successfully trademarked the name Haliburton. Stinson says he never intended to deceive or harm anyone, and explains that he trademarked the name so others couldn’t “tarnish” the name of the community.

Now, the Canadian government’s site is pretty clear in stating that this sort of geographic trademark is flatly not allowed, but somehow Stinson got it through anyway. Way to go, Ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development. As for Stinson, his claim for why he applied for the trademark is neither the purpose of trademarks generally nor is it apparently the actual reason why he got this specific trademark.

    Haliburton County’s chief administrative officer, Mike Rutter, says he’s not sure how the trademark could have been allowed. Rutter says he first became aware of the issue when the county’s chamber of commerce started receiving complaints.

    “We received a call from our local chamber of commerce that Mr. Stinson was attending businesses and advising people that they would owe him money if they were using the name Haliburton,” Rutter says.

If true, this would seem to me that Stinson is a bully, attempting to extort local businesses with a trademark that never should have been approved by the Canadian government. This is the damage that can be done by trademark offices not following their own damned rules and not adhering to the purpose of trademark laws to begin with. Stinson appears to be rather slimy, but it’s worth focusing on the fact that he couldn’t be doing any of this is had the Canadian trademark office bothered to do its damned job.

July 12, 2017

Triumph Staaaaag – Clarkson’s Car Years – BBC

Filed under: Britain, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 14 Apr 2008

Jeremy Clarkson has his say about the wonders and worries of the Triumph Stag. Apparently, it sounds better if you stay on the vowel!

June 29, 2017

Tank Chats #12 TOG II*

Filed under: Britain, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 17 Dec 2015

This enormous tank was designed on the premise that World War II would evolve in the same way as the First World War. Some believed that existing tanks would not be able to deal with such conditions, and one of the most influential was Sir Albert Stern, who had been secretary to the Landships Committee in the First World War. In company with many others involved in tank design in 1916, including Sir William Tritton, Sir Eustace Tennyson D’Eyncourt, Sir Ernest Swinton and Walter Wilson, Stern was authorised by the War Office to design a heavy tank on First World War principles.

Two prototypes were built, both known as TOG for The Old Gang and they were even manufactured by the company that built Little Willie and the first tanks in 1916, William Foster & Co. of Lincoln.

http://tankmuseum.org/museum-online/vehicles/object-e1951-49

June 25, 2017

Sometimes, the workman is right to blame his tools

Filed under: Germany, Technology, Woodworking — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Paul Sellers recently bought and tested a new Two Cherries brand “Gent’s saw” and was very unhappy with the tool:

This week I picked up a brand new gent’s saw straight from the pack made by the famous German tool makers Two Cherries. I noticed the unusual tooth shape, which strangely resembled the edge of a tin can when we used to open it with a multipurpose survival knife. I wondered how it would work and whether it was just a miscut. I examined several others and realised it was actually intentional as they were indeed manufactured that way. I offered the saw to the wood and the very middle cut with the dovetailed angle and the broken off section was the results of ten strokes.

“The long saw cut on the left is how the saw cuts by a man who has used such saws every day, six days a week for 53 years. The two to the right are how it cuts after sharpening and redefining the teeth.”

Could this truly be the end product of the once highly acclaimed Two Cherries of German tool manufacturing? I looked at the packet and, well, there it was; Made in Germany. So here is my perspective on the saw. Nice beechwood handle–nicely shaped (but it is unfinished), nice brass back, good quality steel plate, not too soft, not too hard. Two Cherries, the materials leave you no excuse for making such a poor grade product. YOU should be very ASHAMED of your product and yourselves. It is the very worst saw of any and all saws ever, ever, ever manufactured. I have never seen anything worse.

[…]

If you bought this saw and you thought the outcome was a result of your inexperience. It’s not. Blame the tool maker. It’s his pure arrogance to think he can pass something off to you like this and call it a dovetail saw. Shame on you Two Cherries, shame on you!

June 13, 2017

Top 10 Stupid Moves of World War 1 – Mid 1915/1916 I THE GREAT WAR Ranking

Filed under: Europe, History, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 12 Jun 2017

Generals of WW1 did a lot of stupid things, so many in fact that we made a second top 10 list to appeal to your inner armchair general.

June 7, 2017

Enfield L85A1: Perhaps the Worst Modern Military Rifle

Filed under: Britain, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 29 Dec 2016

The L85A1 (part of the SA80 small arms family) was adopted by the British military in 1985 as a new generation of small arms to replace the L1A1 FAL (one quick note, where “A1” indicates a revision in American designations, it is simply the first iteration in British ones – there was no “L85”). As a bullpup rifle, the L85A1 was intended to replace both the FAL and Sterling SMG, similar to the French replacing the MAS 49/56 and MAT 49 with the FAMAS.

Unfortunately, the L85A1 had massive problems of both reliability and durability. They were kept pretty much hidden until Desert Storm, when it became unavoidably clear that the weapon was seriously flawed. The UK government denied the problems for several years, until finally contracting with H&K (then owned by Royal Ordnance) to redesign and rebuild the rifles. The result, after changes to virtually every part of the rifle, was the L85A2 – a much better rifle that will be tainted with its predecessor’s reputation regardless.

Mechanically, the L85A1 and A2 are basically copies of the Armalite AR-180, with a multi-lug rotating bolt and a short stroke gas piston. It feeds from STANAG magazines, and it universally fitted with the heavy but rugged SUSAT optical sight.

Thanks to the Institute of Military Technology for allowing me to have access to this rifle (which is extremely rare in the US) and bring it to you! Check them out at:

http://www.instmiltech.com

April 17, 2017

Why big organizations act like idiots (United Airlines is only the most recent example)

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Business — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Charlie Martin knows about big corporations making themselves look foolish … and far too often doubling down on the stupid:

This whole recent thing with United Airlines has me thinking, once again, about how big organizations act like idiots. […]

Like all good consultants, I have a Model, mostly cribbed from others, based on two observations:

  • The SNAFU principle: the farther up a hierarchy information has to travel, the more information is lost. This is because no one likes giving people bad news, so the news tends to get better the farther up it goes.
  • The Peter Principle (modified): people rise in a hierarchy to the limits of their competence in rising in a hierarchy; further, the skill of rising in a hierarchy is largely independent of the skills needed to deal with actual issues.

Of course, the implication of this is something I’ve called Carl’s Corollary (for a friend and co-worker Carl Madison, who first pointed it out). Carl’s Corollary implies that most decisions are being made by people less and less competent to deal with the situation, using increasingly bad information.

Naturally, this results in bad decisions being made. The usual result is that once the bad decision has been made, someone is identified to be responsible, that person is punished, and a new policy is issued to make sure no one makes that mistake again.

[…]

United, though, has a different scheme, clearly. They have a Book, and it Must Be Followed. No one on the ground in Chicago — at least no one in reach of the gate — had the authority to do anything but offer an $800 voucher, which just wasn’t enough. (I can relate. I used to be a “45 weeks a year” road warrior, and there were some nights where if they’d have tried to bump me off a flight home, I would have either killed someone or just thrown myself on the floor of the terminal screaming.) So they followed the Book, and when they couldn’t get Dao to leave, they followed the book again saying he was disruptive, and then the mall airport cops went all Cartman on him…

https://media.giphy.com/media/B1TMcmoBAaSZi/giphy.gif

… and the rest was history.

Now, imagine if, instead, the gate people had the authority to offer more. And the gate agents knew their primary responsibility was to make customers happy and not get bad publicity.

March 25, 2017

When reality TV goes feral

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Guardian, a sad tale of a failed reality TV show that went off the air … but the people involved were not told about it:

After a year cut off from modern life in the Scottish Highlands, imagine re-emerging to find a world where Donald Trump is US president, Britain has left the EU and Leicester won the Premier League.

For the contestants of the Channel 4 programme Eden, coming back from isolation means not just coming to terms with 2017 but also the news that their year of toil in the wilderness barely made it on to television.

The programme, which first aired in July last year, was billed as a social experiment where 23 strangers were brought to the remote west Highlands of Scotland to build a self-sufficient community away from technology and modern tools. The year-long saga would be recorded by four crew members and personal cameras.

However, only four episodes of the show – covering March, April and May – were screened, as viewing figures dropped from 1.7m to 800,000. Sexual jealousy, infighting and hunger also meant that over the year, a reported 13 of the 23 contestants left the show, though Channel 4 would not confirm the dropouts.

Despite the show being taken off air, those still toiling for survival in the wilds of the 600-acre estate on the Ardnamurchan peninsula were not informed that their ordeal had not been broadcast since August.

So much for those dreams of fame and fortune from “starring” in a reality TV show.

H/t to Colby Cosh for the link.

March 23, 2017

The “Resistance” chooses some Nazi-era symbology for self-labelling

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Curtis Edmonds shared this on the Facebook Conservative and Libertarian Fiction Alliance page. We really do live in a post-parody world (link is to an archived version of the post):

Shortly after the presidential election, “Trump Nation/Whites Only” was written on the wall outside a majority-immigrant church in Maryland. The response is to either quietly wash the wall or stand against hatred and promote tolerance. “All citizens of good conscious must join the Resistance to Donald J. Trump’s authoritarian administration,” writes public relations consultant Len Stein. To visualize and unite the various resistance groups and present the movement with a unifying symbol, Stein proposes that resisters wear a triangle ‘R’ badge on their sleeves when protesting—immigrants, refugees, people of every ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or political affiliation. The ‘R’ triangle symbols were designed by Tucker Viemeister. I asked Stein to talk more about this act of resistance.

If that one’s not setting off your historical symbol alarm, here are the recommended variations for Trump Resistance folks to display:

March 3, 2017

QotD: Is the Internet itself making us less tolerant and more prone to confirmation bias?

Filed under: Media, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I think it’s time to declare the internet a failure. At least with respect to its early promises of increased knowledge sharing and positive impact on collaboration.

Decentralization of media, Social media, has increased the rate in which misinformation is being transmitted. Once learned invalid information has to be unlearned and that is a much harder task than educating people with accurate information in the first place.

Social media also appears to have increased the rate that people cluster around misinformation and create specialized groups of individuals that aggressively seek to disseminate their ideas.

The asocial aspect of social media encourages individuals to behave in ways that they normally wouldn’t when face-to-face with people that don’t share their views. It has made intolerant people more belligerent and it has forced tolerant people to adopt less tolerant stances.

The trend seems to be to continue to partition people into increasingly specialized and narrowly focused groups. At the extreme we see individuals with highly individualized views agitating groups with more generally accepted views.

People have become more militant, intolerant, and unaccepting of society. The impact on society is a weakening of collaborative spirit, increased cynicism, and further increases to militancy.

In the mid-90s I was very excited at the opportunities collective information sharing could produce. We’ve realized some of those but I simply didn’t foresee the degradation of democratic values that reveal the best in the humanity.

Social media has increased the ability to create social anxiety by pouring misinformation into peoples’ lives with ideas that they are directly threatened or that there are limits to resources, ideas that are often mere fabrication.

Today we are bombarded daily with absurdity, aggression, fear mongering, and intolerance. It’s as if we unwound the clock a hundred years and abandoned the great freedom experiment. Only now the weapons to resolve differences of opinion are much more destructive.

Hard to be bullish on the consequences of increased nationalism around the globe.

The world does face some difficult issues we need to address but things are not nearly as bad as what has become status quo thinking.

Douglas Gunn, posting to Facebook, 2017-02-20.

February 23, 2017

QotD: Government failure is baked-in

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

One can build a very good predictive model of government agency behavior if one assumes the main purpose of the agency is to maximize its budget and staff count. Yes, many in the organization are there because they support the agency’s public mission (e.g. protecting the environment at the EPA), but I can tell you from long experience that preservation of their staff and budget will almost always come ahead of their public mission if push comes to shove.

The way, then, to punish an agency is to take away some staff and budget. Nothing else will get their attention. Unfortunately, in most scandals where an agency proves itself to be incompetent or corrupt or both (e.g. IRS, the VA, more recently with OPM and their data breaches) the tendency is to believe the “fix” involves sending the agency more resources. Certainly the agency and its supporters will scream “lack of resources” as an excuse for any problem.

And that is how nearly every failing government agency is rewarded for their failure, rather than punished. Which is why our agencies fail so much.

Warren Meyer, “Congress Almost Always Rewards Failed Government Agencies. Here is Why”, Coyote Blog, 2015-06-17.

February 1, 2017

Ace and the shitty tools of despair

Filed under: Humour, Technology, Woodworking — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Ace put up some shelves recently. He was not impressed with some of the tools he used:

I thought I had a drill that could drill (and drive screws) through studs. I did not. What I had was two pieces of shit which, combined together, made up a collection of shit that took up more space in my tool drawer than a single piece of shit would.

The things could not even push past the first eighth inch of drywall. The easiest part.

It’s like, “Hey, thanks Tool. Thanks for getting me past that first easy eighth inch. I’ll take it the rest of the way, now that you’ve gotten me off to such a swell start. You take a well-earned break, and get back to napping in that drawer. I’ll power through the rest of this with my forearms and my dinky little ratchet.”

I literally was just pushing on the drill to make a small starter hole for the screw, like it was a poorly-balanced nail with a pistol grip.

It’s a poor workman who blames his tools, but I think you can all agree I am a poor workman in the first place, and these really are shitty, shitty tools.

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