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Would you lease a car from this woman?

This is Ling Valentine. She runs — almost singlehandedly — a car leasing company in the UK that moved £35 million in cars in 2008. She keeps citing that 2008 number, so the crash probably put a dent in her bottom line, but the business is still doing well and growing. She’s internet famous over here.

Ling was born in Chengdu Province, China and worked her way through a BSc in Chemistry in Jinan. She decided to do her master’s in Finland (because it was free) and describes herself standing in the Helsinki airport, crying. She took a course in wood chemistry and flunked on account of her bad Finnish.

But by then she had met and married an Englishman named Jon Valentine and emigrated to the UK. Her English wasn’t so great, either, but she managed to push herself through a Masters in Environmental Quality at Bournemouth.

Which is where she became fascinated with programming and databases. Which is how she swears she’s able to operate the business with such a small staff and undercut the competition — crazy efficient computer systems, designed by her.

All of which leads up to this:

the greatest website on the internet

No, now…don’t be like that. Don’t just scream, “my eyes are bleeding!” and wuss out. I seriously recommend you follow links, watch YouTubes and generally treat yourself to a happy half hour of Ling. (Though I didn’t link directly to the top page — autoplay music warning). You’re welcome.

sock it to me

February 24, 2015 — 6:36 pm
Comments: 20

Nice going, socialists

That’s the front window of a little music shop in Shropshire. The manager, on his way out, paid a sign writer to decorate it thusly.

That’s a great wickedness of the local system of government — the power and incompetence of county councils. It was a Tory government, unfortunately, that decided to cut costs by combining councils into larger and fewer bodies. The upshot is, our local services are controlled by people who live far away, who are apt to see us more as cash cows than a constituency.

At one time — so I’m told — councils were run by local businessmen on a voluntary (or at least modestly remunerated) basis. Now, of course, it’s run by our global professional ruling class (read: smug, self-important lefties) on eye-watering salaries. And those lefties in turn hire scores of other lefties, in the form of Lesbian Outreach Managers and Pet Hair Recycling Wardens.

But, hey, if there’s anything socialist dimbulbs know how to do, it’s make money, right? Cut essential services and raise taxes! Pff! Easy peasy. It’s not like raising prices ever changes buying behavior.

Down here in the sunny South, most towns still have a charming high street (read: Main Street) full of interesting little shops and pubs and cafes. We do as much buying as we can in these places. You pay a bit more, but you get undeniably better goods and help keep the heart of the town beating.

We’ve watched as high streets all over our shopping territory visibly shrink, thanks to…well, read the sign.

sock it to me

February 21, 2013 — 1:42 pm
Comments: 21

So, this is legit. I guess.

There’s a bit of a mystery and a bit of a buzz here — Adobe appears to have released the entire CS2 version of its Creative Suite, legal serial numbers and everything, for free. That’s Acrobat 3D 1.0, Acrobat Standard 7.0, Acrobat Pro 8.0, Audition 3.0, GoLive CS2, Illustrator CS2, InCopy CS2, InDesign CS2, Photoshop CS2, Photoshop Elements 4.0/5.0 and Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0. Either all together in a big, fat suite, or à la carte. Nobody is sure why.

Each of those programs alone was hundreds of dollars new. The catch is, “new” was 2005. While this may cause problems for Mac users, not so much for Windows users. I know several people still using the CS version of Photoshop, so CS2 should be a doddle to run.

As y’all know, I’ve just expensively upgraded my Photoshop from CS3 to CS6 and, while there are lots of incremental tweaks and improvements, the difference is hardly dramatic. Before that, I had CS, and before that Photoshop 6. Frankly, the basic guts of the thing haven’t changed in…ever, really.

So I downloaded and installed the Illustrator and InDesign components this afternoon (two excellent bits of Adobe kit I’ve used in the past and couldn’t afford to buy for myself). They installed fine, accepted the serial numbers and appear to be running with no problems. I registered them to my official account as if they were legitimate, because as far as I’m concerned, they are…until Adobe tells me otherwise.

This could be a clever bit of marketing from Adobe. You know, get people hooked on an old version and hope to make a customer for life. But if that’s the case, why aren’t they advertising it at all? The download page is just sitting there, no promotional blurb, no index page, no link of the front…nothing. I have no idea who discovered it and started spreading the word.

This could be a stupid move on Adobe’s part, as these versions are probably good enough for most people. In which case, I’d expect them to recant real soon now.

Zo! If you’ve ever wanted Photoshop (or any other Creative Suite component) but gagged at the price, I’d scoot on over and grab this. Quick. Before they change their minds.

(Thanks to Don for the heads up).

Update InDesign and Illustrator seem to be working okay for me, Windows7 64-bit professional. Photoshop crashed thrice for Uncle B, running XP on a ThinkPad, so he’s uninstalling it. So. Word to the wise.

sock it to me

January 8, 2013 — 10:48 pm
Comments: 32

To sit a good, honest cubicle

Any of you punched a real, live timeclock like the one above? I have. Well, not like the one above — a bit more modern — but my Dunkin’ Donuts gig involved paper timecards and a timeclock. Also brown paper pay packets with paper money and coins shoved in, and the itemized sums written on the back in ballpoint pen.

I loved that stupid job. But I digress.

I have been trying to digest this Krugman article in the NY Times about the Tea Party movement. Sooper genius Krugman has worked it out: the Tea Partiers think the GOP is about helping people, but it’s really about helping corporations.

The mood on the right may be populist, but it’s a kind of populism that’s remarkably sympathetic to big corporations.

What the fuck does Krugman think corporations are made out of? Gremlins? Orcs? Delicious cream filling?

Krugman apparently imprinted on It’s a Wonderful Life. He thinks the world outside The Bubble consists of hard workin’ Joes who drive trucks, dig trenches and stock shelves in mom and pop drugstores. That’s what the whole Democrat machine evolved to pander to: the scary populist monster prowling around outside the ivory tower.

In reality, most of us have had jobs like that, before we moved on to something like…I dunno…a corporation.

I spent a miserable hour at the Bureau of Labor Statistics trying to work out how many of us work for corporations, but gave it up as hopelessly hard to define. Whatever. I’m willing to assert, whether you sit in a cubicle or not, the health of corporations is intimately bound up in the prosperity of us all.

Oh, look…I know management can be shitbags. It burns me up the way some of the guys at the top reward themselves WAY out of proportion to any contribution they could possibly make to the company. It’s just plain bad capitalism, that is.

But corporations employ millions of us, and that’s where most of their money goes. And to shareholders — who are also overwhelmingly made up of people like us. And to growth, which is where jobs come from.

I worked for a medium-sized corporation for a quarter of a century. Here’s how the math went: the company had a good year, I got a bonus in January. The company had a bad year, my boss was invited to look around and decide which two of us he could live without.

Okay, I know small, scrappy businesses are the true engines of growth. But the Blue Chips are the lumbering dray horses of our mutual prosperity. How can a fucking Nobel-winning economist think punishing corporations is a good thing?

sock it to me

May 26, 2010 — 12:24 am
Comments: 28

Other brands that will never, ever make it in the States

retardex

retarDEX.

The one on the left is a mouthwash and the one on the right is a toothpaste. Clinically proven to eliminate bad breath and make weasels spray milk out their little pink noses.

I am so TOTALLY adopting this as my insult-de-jour. You know, like when I catch Uncle B jigging around the bedroom with his underpants on his head, I’ll be like “dude! DUUUUDE! Did you brush with RETARDEX this morning?!

As opposed to RETARDex, which is clinically proven to eliminate retards.

Sorry for the fuzziness of this. I have to employ great stealth. Lord Sainsbury doesn’t like weasels taking pictures of his retarDEX.

Happy Friday!

sock it to me

January 30, 2009 — 8:15 pm
Comments: 24

Paper, plastic or pennypinching clothed in sanctimonious green twaddle?

weaselbags

Has this come to the States yet? Stores in Britain don’t automatically give you a bag any more. I don’t mean one or two items at a little store, I mean the supermarket and a whole cartload of groceries.

They sell these “permanent” bags at about a pound a throw. I wouldn’t mind that so much if they didn’t usually sport some vomitous greenie slogan in puke-colored ink.

Some stores will give you freebie plastic bags if you ask. One we frequent won’t even do that unless you spend X amount, although they will give you an empty box for free (boxes that, Uncle B says, would otherwise cost them plenty to get rid of, as they are technically considered “industrial waste” by the local council). When we go to that one, if I haven’t remembered to cram a bag in my pocket, we stack our purchases and walk out with them in our hands in big, tottery pyramids.

That particular store has a sign outside thanking us for helping them keep umpty-ump million plastic bags out of landfills this year. Huh. I would be happier if they had the honesty to thank us for saving them umpty-ump pounds on their bag costs. A couple of pence times umpty-ump million isn’t chump change.

Now, I’m all for re-using stuff, and carrier bags are especially obnoxious — what with their mysterious power to insinuate themselves up trees, stuck to fences, down the gullets of birds or floating majestically out to sea (is it my imagination, or did the greens stick us with plastic bags because paper ones were tree murder?). We re-use carrier bags all the time, mostly for packaging up smelly kitchen waste to sneak into public dumpsters, on account of our trash pickup is only every two weeks (another rant for another day).

But I cannot abide having my leg humped by a bunch of sanctimonious piffle about saving the planet when a) I am, at times, grossly inconvenienced while b) the stores are making a nice bit of scratch out of it, thank you and c) it does fuck-all, really, for The Planet.

On the upside, however, Uncle B and I had a stroll around town this morning. He bought a bag of fat balls for the birds at the first stop and wasn’t given a bag. So the rest of the day, I got to say things like, “I say, did you leave your fat balls on the counter in the bakery?” and “would you like me to carry your fat balls for a while?” and “let’s throw your fat balls in the back and go for a walk on the beach.”

So there’s that.

sock it to me

January 27, 2009 — 6:55 pm
Comments: 41

Pencils!

pencils

The Sanford Corporation (a Newell Rubbermaid Company) is the world’s largest manufacturer of writing instruments, mostly by way of corporate om-nom-nomination of familiar brands: uni-ball, Sharpie, PaperMate, Waterman, Parker, Prismacolor, Eberhard faber, Turquoise, Col-erase, Empire-Berol and more…more than you ever dreamed.

Doug of the Pencil Pages toured the Sanford pencil factory in Lewisburg, Tennessee in 2004 — in June, when a young man’s fancy turn to thoughts of pencil — and brought back this excellent photo essay.

Because having nothing to say for myself doesn’t even slow me down.

sock it to me

January 1, 2009 — 7:17 pm
Comments: 12

A lit-tle too clever for my own good…

chewed phone

When they get wind I’ve left the country, my credit card companies will cut me off. I had to have cards to get here — there were a thousand little, and not so little, moving expenses that wouldn’t take cash — so I didn’t let on. I’ve paid my bills online for years, I figured. I’ll call up from the UK, get my final balance and cancel the account from the warm safety of the Fortress of Solitude, I figured.

Ha! Guess what? 1-800 numbers don’t work from outside the US! Well, they sort of do. They work part way. They string you along. They tease.

You know what it’s like to punch in a boring twelve-digit account number and wend your boring way through all the boring choices in a modern boring automated phone system? Well, imagine you had to poke in twenty digits to get in, and a dial tone cut you off at some random point in the process.

You think this post is boring?

Ummm…you’re right, actually.

sock it to me

December 3, 2008 — 8:07 pm
Comments: 25

Junk!

Ohhhhhh. Ohhhhhh, yeah. That’s the schadenfreude. The New York Times is bleeding so hard, Standard & Poor cut them down to junk bond status yesterday. (You can play with the graphs yourself here. Slu was on this one, too).

I’ve been savoring this situation since I read this NewsBusters post from P.J. Gladnick a few weeks ago. It’s sweeter than it looks. It’s sweeter than Scott Tenorman‘s tears. Much as we’d all like to think the Times is dying due to egregious liberal bias, that’s only a part of the dynamic. Behold — Clusterfuck, the Bullet List:

■The Ochs/Sulzberger family is in its fifth generation. Twenty-seven people hold the controlling interest and live off the proceeds of the Times.

■’Pinch’ Sulzberger, editor and heir, has made many grievously bad business decisions. Good old-fashioned bad business decisions, like real estate and investments. This is a horrible time for print media anyway, so his incompetence is just a big fat cherry on top of the shit sundae.

■To keep the family happy, Sulzberger has been raising the dividend paid to family members even as profits have slid.

BAM. Junk bonds. Now he’s sinking in debt and he can’t raise money. But he can’t lower the dividend or all hell will break loose.

Why is this so very, very tasty? Because the Ochs/Sulzberger family has a collective terminal case of WeAreSoVeryFuckingImportant-itis and it’s totally funded by the Times.

dave golden, NYT trustafarian

“Sulzberger has said that his clan starts going to family meetings when they’re 10 years old and by 15 they understand their roles as caretakers of the New York Times. There’s also a one-day orientation session for kids turning 18 or 21—or people marrying into the family—to learn about the legacy of the Ochs-Sulzbergers.”

[…]

“Younger members of the family are also inculcated in the beliefs of the Sulzbergers on private annual retreats to places like Hawaii. One Timesman compares the indoctrination to Skull and Bones, but it seems more the stuff of summer camp. They sing songs together like “We Are Family” and keep abreast of each other’s lives through a newsletter called The Lookout.”

What have these golden people done with their subsidized lives? Zoo keeping. Novel writing. Protecting lighthouses and the rights of native Americans. Folk music. Folk music.

Dave Golden couldn’t stay at the paper mill forever. It was too tied to the family business, too laden with expectations. So he set off to find himself “in the tango halls of Argentina, on the snow-covered Berkshire border of Vermont and Massachusetts, in the halls of Oxford, in the jungles of Guatemala and even in Asia on a Fulbright,” according to his Website. In the Berkshires, he studied mountain music, and in 2004, the 26-year-old released a well-received folk record, with songs drawing from life experiences, as in “All I Never Wanted”: “I coulda been a CEO, they told me / If I could just stop holdin’ on to this ol’ dream.”

Oh. OH. My violence gland is throbbing like a buffalo-skin tom-tom from a native drum circle of the Great Plains. I suppose it’s too much to hope that individual branches of the family have been so incompetent that they will be left with nothing when the Times goes under. I doubt any of them will have to get a real job or anything. They’ll probably even walk away with a tidy sum after the fire sale.

But it’s going to hurt. And on that happy day, I want you to stop, think of this grinning douchenozzle with his frayed straw hat and his ol’ dream and share a warm schadenfreudean virtual hug with me. Sometimes, it is good to be a weasel.

sock it to me

October 24, 2008 — 10:09 am
Comments: 96

Burning down the house…

democrats did this!

This is the first time in my life I have been squished between those giant lumbering retards, The Government and The Market. I’ve lived in the same house for twenty years, had the same job for twenty five. No kids or student loans. However angry it made me in the abstract, government never really touched my life, beyond the steady slow drain of taxation…and that itch between my shoulderblades when I have to deal with an impertinent bureaucrat. The market’s ups and downs were, for me, largely theoretical. Sure, my 401K took some serious hits over the years, but doing the mental math, Zeno’s arrow will hit me in the ass before retirement does.

But now, after years of planning for this overseas move, the final step — selling my house — comes right in the teeth of this shit-storm. Ohhhhh, NOW I feel the flying fist of government incompetence, alllll the way up to my duodenum.

I was back and forth on the phone with my real estate agent last night. Good news! The last guy who looked at my house loved it so much, he offered me $12,000 less than my minimum break-even-and-walk-away-with-nothing price. Erm…no. Six thousand less? I don’t think so. Three thousand, and she waives a thousand of her fee…?

She said — I be not a-shitting of thee — “I just hate to see us get this close to a deal without closing it.”

Yes, I took it. After I sell my car, my guns (oh <sob> my guns! My beautiful guns!), siphon the oil out of the tank in the basement and cash in my unused vacation time, I might just be able to limp into Heathrow with my cat and my fambly heirlooms.

Government has just stolen sixty thousand dollars from me. Let’s be clear about this: THE DEMOCRATS STOLE $60,000 FROM ME. Yeah, I know…all that fucked up impenetrable financial bundling on Wall Street, all the house flipping by yuppies…the final economic cause of death was complex and fairly bipartisan.

But the underlying AIDS that destroyed the market’s immune system was Fannie Mae. It was created by Democrats explicitly to make dodgy loans, its quasi-governmental status bent the market out of shape and forced other lenders (without government muscle behind them) to make dodgy loans of their own, it was HUGE, it was corrupt to the core, and Democrats fought any and every attempt to do anything about it.

Since 2001, Bush tried dozens of times to rein in Fannie Mae. McCain predicted this collapse in 2005 and sponsored a bill that would bring it under control. Shot down by huffy Democrats. Every time.

The Democrats OWN this crisis, the Republicans tried hard to stop it, and Bush and McCain refuse to hang it around their necks. Just so we can pass a bipartisan bill that props up greedy assholes and screws people who didn’t act like idiots. Republicans should totally PWN on this issue, and Obama got the polling boost.

You could light cigarettes off my forehead today.

Okay, you know what? Screw this spreading the blame around thing. I hereby adopt-a-pol. Barack Obama got $126,349 out of Fannie Mae employees and I want my half. Your stupid crisis pinched $60,000 I can’t afford to lose…sixty grand in carefully nurtured home equity. Three decades of frugal living and good decision-making. All my slack, all my seed money.

GIVE IT ME! I WANT MY MONEY BACK, YOU BASTARD!

sock it to me

September 25, 2008 — 2:22 pm
Comments: 67