Archive for April 2010

Beware the Jabberwonk, my son

Bill Clinton used to fret over the meanings of words like “is.” Today, the tendency is to go straight for the full Scrabble rack:

“President Obama’s administration has been working diligently to perfect what is often seen as a crude and much maligned concept of an economic system that can provide not only positronic endibulation, but also supply inverse bilateral erapsilance, thereby enabling automatic synchronization of actuarial credisrodicants.

“We refer to this groundbreaking fiscal emarsifoliation technique as the Obamanation Destrafulating Rescamulator and believe its introduction to the current economic recession will bring instant antidismarnication and redistribulation not only to Wall Street but to mortgage lumorizators and loan gefinerationists all across the torminic spectrum.

“The basic premise of our nation’s fiscal system has always been, of course, reliptification and dehusticating, but in the absence of proper fedeglation, a dreaped fenata can occur almost without warning, throwing reminatusilage and gradofleximission into deep scintillious egrappocation, or if you prefer, a classic nopped fenata.”

After that, it starts to get complicated.

You gotta admit, as bandersnatches go, this is among the frumiousest.

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AOL to experience shrinkage

It’s never made a whole lot of sense to me that AOL should own two mostly-incompatible instant-message platforms, and apparently AOL’s need for cash now exceeds its desire to control the world:

AOL is reportedly juggling several offers for its ICQ instant messaging service, as the online media company looks to pare down its assets and focus on generating content for its wide range of websites.

Binding offers have been submitted by Chinese Internet portal Tencent, Russian media holding company ProfMedia, and Russian Internet holding outfit Digital Sky Technologies (DST), according to a Reuters report citing Russian business publication Vedomosti.

Vedomosti figures ICQ is worth $300 million, not too far from what AOL paid for it in 1998. AOL will presumably continue to operate AIM.

Beyond that, AOL is seeking to rid itself of the troublesome social-networking site Bebo, either by spinning it off or shuttering it entirely.

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Outfoxing ourselves

Stephen W. Browne finds himself perplexed by Megan D. Fox:

It was almost heartbreaking to think of her public persona as a slutty, bull-busting, bi-rhymes-with-witch.

And then she went and told the press, on the occasion of her engagement (is it official?) that she’s only slept with two men in her life, her first boyfriend and her fiancee, and couldn’t think of sleeping with someone she didn’t love.

No, it’s not that he was hoping she was slutty:

[W]e used to have female Hollywood stars who projected purity in public to protect their careers, and had sometimes perverse, self-destructive, or just plain scarily weird lives in private. Now we apparently have the case of a pretty good person pretending to be all that, for career advancement. What the heck does that say about our culture now?

About as much as this does: if the comments here are at all representative, most people don’t believe she’s really squeaky-clean. [Expect that link to melt your workplace filters.]

Meanwhile, here’s a moderately-modest shot of Megan in a Martin Grant dress, accepting some award or other from Spike TV last fall:

Megan Fox at Scream Awards

(Previous Megan Fox coverage here.)

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Sounds great in stereo

Shel Silverstein once wrote admiringly: “Everybody got one — Stacy Brown got two.

He got nothing on this critter, though:

Biologists have reported the discovery of a spectacular species of giant lizard, a reptile as long as a full-grown man is tall, and said it is endowed with a double penis.

The secretive but brightly-coloured beast, a monitor lizard, is a close cousin of the komodo dragon of Indonesia.

But unlike the fearsome dragon, it is not a carnivore, nor does it feast on rotting meat. Instead, it is entirely peaceable and tucks into fruit.

Dubbed Varanus bitatawa, the lizard measures two metres in length, according to the account, published by Britain’s Royal Society.

It has a cousin, but they’ve never met:

V. bitatawa has a relative in southern Luzon, V. olivaceus, but the species are separated by three river valleys and a gap of 150km and may never have met up.

And the, um, duplicate function is not unheard of in reptiles; you may find it on, for instance, iguanas. Not that I’m trying to bait Googlers looking for iguana penises, of course.

(Via JammieWearingFool.)

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Massive drought

The last half of the fourth quarter, the Thunder couldn’t buy a bucket. They couldn’t even borrow one. And so it was that the Denver Nuggets put together a 22-5 run over the last seven minutes and odd to grab the win at Oklahoma City, 98-94.

The Thunder shot a couple of ticks better than the Nuggets, but were hopeless (1-14) on the long ball, and Denver controlled the boards, 50-41. Chauncey Billups was fearsome, scoring 31, and Carmelo Anthony was, well, Carmelo Anthony, logging a double-double (24 points, 11 boards). Fortunately, sharpshooter sixth man J. R. Smith wasn’t making any treys, or it would have been a lot worse than it was.

Perhaps everyone was worn out. Kevin Durant put in nearly 45 minutes; he managed 33 points, but he was only 9-21 from the floor. (On the upside, he did reel in 11 rebounds.) Jeff Green doubled up — 11 points, 10 boards — and Russell Westbrook dropped in 21 points. But total production in the fourth quarter was a mere 14 points, with not so much as a single field goal in the last nine minutes.

The playoff shuffle: the Nuggets surge to second, the Jazz (who lost to Houston) drop to fifth, and the Spurs, playing at Phoenix, remain in sixth. Whether the Thunder drops to eighth depends on whether Portland can dispatch the Clippers later tonight. (Assume they can.)

Next game: the Suns, on Friday. Still not getting any easier.

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First, you tax those other guys

One of the more risible aspects of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts is its income-tax system, as Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr explains:

We have a two-tier income tax in this state, you know. You have the option of paying either at the standard rate of 5.3 percent, or at the old, higher 5.85 percent rate.

As of [last] Wednesday, here are this year’s numbers, according to the state DOR:

Of 1,840,000 state tax filers, exactly 931 have opted to pay taxes at the higher rate. That works out to one-twentieth of one percent. Think of it this way: In 2000, only 60 percent of the Massachusetts electorate voted to cut the income tax, but a decade later 99.95 percent of the population has decided to take advantage of the tax cut a lot of them claimed they didn’t want or need.

Which prompted this thought from me: “Yeah, they’re hypocritical, but they’re not stupid.

Obviously I spoke too soon. TaxProf Blog excerpted the Carr column, and drew this amazing comment:

I don’t think it’s fair to characterize left vs right as pro-tax vs anti-tax. No one is in favor of paying more taxes for the sake of paying more taxes, but they are willing to pay more taxes because of the return on those taxes — education, infrastructure, etc. But we only get those rewards if a lot of people pay taxes.

For example, if a small increase in the sales tax meant great advancements in education then I would be a supporter. I won’t, however, add an extra one percent to what I buy now because the total amount I add personally is insignificant.

Therefore, your argument that if someone doesn’t pay additional taxes then they don’t want additional services, I disagree with.

One has to wonder on what world, exactly, it’s possible to obtain additional services without additional taxes.

And really, it’s a win-win situation for this fellow: he can whine all day about the horrible lack of governmental revenue, and he can decline to step up to do something about it because his contribution is “insignificant.”

So much for that “Change Begins With Me” crap, huh?

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Getting chatty

Lokidude is busily mastering the fine points of the Droid, and I have to admit, I wouldn’t have thought of this angle:

Unfortunately, Verizon blocks IRC, so I have to use wifi (yeah, Droid has that, too) to use the very nice AndChat IRC app, but Mibbit works on the browser, so I can get around their little restriction.

Jeepers. It’s been several years since I even thought about IRC. (I do have a copy of mIRC, and even a few channel logs, but the newest of them dates to September 2000.) I was, for a while, a pIRCh fan, but it was pretty much dead even then.

Then again, I still pull up Usenet news once or twice a week, so I’m hardly in a position to smirk about IRC.

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Something you could never have

Pretty Hate Machine, the 1989 debut album by Nine Inch Nails, is about to be reissued:

Billboard.biz reports that Los Angeles-based music publishing firm Bicycle Music has acquired the master recordings to Pretty Hate Machine from Prudential Securities Credit Corporation. Yes, you read correctly: Prudential has been holding on to numerous TVT master recordings, including Pretty Hate Machine, after TVT failed to repay a loan to the banking company for $23.5 million.

The last time PHM was in, um, print was 2005, from Rykodisc. Trent Reznor wanted to do a deluxe version, but it didn’t happen:

“Now I’ve got Ryko asking me if I’d like to do a deluxe version. Yeah, I would. I would like to have a 5.1 version. I’ll do extra songs. I’ll redo the packaging. Everything. But I’m not doing it for free. They’re not willing to pay, so they put out whatever they put out. That’s that.”

This time, I suspect, Reznor will get what he wants.

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368

In the title to the current Carnival of the Vanities, the 368th overall, Andrew Ian Dodge gives a shout-out to the natural phenomenon known as the Spring T-Storm.

We know from such things out here: storms are as much a part of the spring as weeds, and even more unavoidable. I’ve already lost a couple of fence panels to high winds; a few years back, I lost an entire tree. Still, it could have been a lot worse. The city of İznik, in northwestern Turkey, was hit by three earthquakes in a single decade, the last coming in the year 368, motivating Emperor Flavius Julius Valens to order the reconstruction of the place. (You may remember it under its Greek name: Nicaea.)

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Cautiously explosive

Boy (or girl), do I remember this:

Many years later, I’m 22 and I’m in the U.S. Army at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri in basic training. We were at the armory and had just finished watching a film on the care of our weapon, the M-16, and were being issued the weapon we would have all through training. Now remember, a lot of the girls there were barely 18, had never touched a gun in their lives, and all of them had just watched a film about “Joe” mishandling his weapon and then it blowing up in his face when he went to fire it. Now imagine some of them being handed their M-16 and majorly freaking.

I was 18 when I hit Fort Lost-in-the-Woods, but I can assure you, we had some guys freaking out at their first contact with Uncle Sam’s Plastic-ish Rifle.

And this is somehow reassuring:

Weeks later, Sergeant Walters placed a bet with the three other drill sergeants in the company that I could out shoot their guys. I won that bet for Sergeant Walters and he gave me an extra turn firing the LAW.

We didn’t get a whole lot of time to play with the LAW, and I wasn’t among the best shooters in the company — I was among the better wielders of the Unholy Hand Grenade — but we got to the point where we really enjoyed taking out whatever targets were presented to us. Which, you have to admit, is a useful characteristic for a soldier.

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Susan Boyle moves up

She’s leaving the old council house for something of her own:

New home of Susan Boyle

She didn’t move out of town or anything: she’s still living in Blackburn, West Lothian, Scotland, though the new spread, with five bedrooms and three baths, is presumably a step up from a council house. Reported price is a seemingly-modest $447,000.

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I’m just mad about 14

It isn’t exactly saffron, but it’ll do in a pinch.

Which is by way of saying that today marks the fourteenth anniversary of this here site, which began in 1996, during the days of Internet Explorer 2, and which for some reason won’t go away. (Come to think of it, neither will IE.)

Things have grown a bit from the original seven pages; there are now upwards of fifteen thousand. At the time, I was allowed 1.0 MB of space; I now clutter up about 1.3 GB. I had about 1800 visitors in my first year; today, that’s an exceptionally-slow week.

But this startled me when I looked it up:

By Christmas 1990, [Tim] Berners-Lee had built all the tools necessary for a working Web: the first web browser (which was a web editor as well), the first web server, and the first web pages which described the project itself. On August 6, 1991, he posted a short summary of the World Wide Web project on the alt.hypertext newsgroup. This date also marked the debut of the Web as a publicly available service on the Internet.

Which means that I’ve been on the Web for 75 percent of its entire existence — not to mention 25 percent of my own.

Geez. Maybe I should put a sock in it already.

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Can you hear him now?

After all, he apparently wants to be loud:

Him: Yeah, my goal is to be able to say I’m a vociferous reader.
Her: Great. Wait. Is it vociferous?
Him: Yeah, reads a lot.
Her: I think that’s voracious, right?
Him: Um … yeah … they’re like the same thing, right?
Her: I dunno. Let’s look it up on my smartphone.

God forbid I should ever own a phone smarter than I am. I couldn’t take it.

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UPS-y daisy

Oh, this is rich. From “Postal Manager Leopoldo Meza” comes an advisory of “UPS Delivery Problem NR.9259507.” What to do? Why, this, of course:

Unfortunately we failed to deliver the package sent on the 14th of December in time because the addressee’s address is erroneous.

Please print out the invoice copy attached and collect the package at our department.

“Invoice copy” is a 70k Zip file.

I hadn’t seen this particular scheme in a couple of years, and it wasn’t exactly a joy to see it again, but schemesters don’t have to be smarter than everyone: they just have to be smarter than the folks who don’t know any better, who, like the poor, are always with us.

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Giseling points

Gisele BundchenLeggy supermodel Gisele Bündchen — David Letterman, you may recall, used to argue that there was a qualitative difference between mere supermodels and leggy supermodels — is lending her name to a line of flip-flops under the “Ipanema” label, a branding which makes sense if you remember Antonio Carlos Jobim’s gentle bossa nova about a girl therefrom, Ipanema being a district of Rio de Janeiro with a glorious beach, and Gisele is not only Brazilian but probably has a few brazillion dollars tucked away for her old age.

(The name “Ipanema” itself derives from the old Tupi tongue, and means “bad water,” which apparently is a reference to the quality of fishing from said beach. It has nothing to do with “Ipana,” which resides alongside Pepsodent and Gleem in the Hall of Faded Brands, Toothpaste Aisle.)

Anyway, Smitty, who reads the HuffPo so I don’t have to, sent me to this slideshow from Gisele’s presentation in Paris yesterday, anticipating (correctly, of course) that I’d have something to say about it. While visual appeal is present in the expected abundance, I singled out this shot to ask a single question: “Do you think anyone noticed that she’s carrying a shoe or two?”

I didn’t think so.

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Never say diuretic

Ryanair, the Irish no-frills airline that makes more money from fees than from fares, will be installing pay toilets in its aircraft, and not many of them at that:

[T]he airline is also looking at reducing the number of toilets on board, leaving just one available cubicle for up to 189 passengers.

To use the remaining toilet on board, passengers would be forced to part with either £1 or €1 for each visit.

Stephen McNamara, spokesperson for the airline, told TravelMail: “By charging for the toilets we are hoping to change passenger behaviour so that they use the bathroom before or after the flight. That will enable us to remove two out of three of the toilets and make way for at least six extra seats on board.”

(Via Jenn, who suggests passengers should, um, void where prohibited.)

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Eclipse of the Suns

“The defense is back,” said Scott Brooks after the Denver game. Some of us might have been wondering what he meant, especially since high-velocity Phoenix rolled up 31 points in the first quarter. But Brooks never kids about such things, and in fact, the Suns managed only 34 points in the entire second half, as the Thunder, despite shooting less than 40 percent for the night, rang up a 96-91 win, taking the season series 2-1.

Things did not look so promising early on. Nenad Krstić sat out — bruised knee — and Nick Collison, getting the start, rolled up three fouls in four minutes. The call went out to Air Congo, and Serge Ibaka got to play 24 minutes, in which he scored 15 and swept the backboard nine times. Thabo Sefolosha had 15 points, and Jeff Green had, um, 15 points. Russell Westbrook played ball handler more than sharpshooter — eight points, eight rebounds, 10 assists — and appearing in the role of Kevin Durant was Kevin Durant, who knocked down an almost-usual 35.

The Suns won the battle of the boards, 46-39, and shot 45 percent. What they didn’t do was cash in the freebies (they missed seven of 23 free throws) and hang on to the leather (they turned the ball over 20 times). Still, Amar’e Stoudemire was at least somewhat unstoppable, scoring 17 in the first half but only seven in the second, and pulling down 15 boards; Steve Nash dished up 12 dimes to go with his 11 points.

Oklahoma City now finds itself 49-30. Three games remain: at Golden State Sunday, at Portland Monday, and the finale at the Ford against Memphis on Wednesday. The Grizzlies were kind enough to beat the Spurs tonight, dropping San Antonio into 8th place; where the Blazers end up depends on how they do against the Mavericks at the Rose Garden tonight. For the next hour or two, I’m rooting for Dallas.

Update: Mavs 83, Blazers 77. Nowitzki went up for 40. Bless you, Dirk. So we’re in sixth, one game above Portland.

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Just don’t ask him how it’s hanging

Erick Williamson, busted last fall for the heinous crime of being visible in his house while not wearing anything, appealed his conviction, and was acquitted in a mere 20 minutes by a Fairfax County (VA) Circuit Court jury.

The Political Naturist reminds us that it can happen to (some of) us, too:

Whether or not this man considers himself to be a nudist or naturist is irrelevant, but the issue strikes at the heart of every body freedom advocate who enjoys nudity at home. The police witch hunt against this man, which included sending letters to schools looking for witnesses who might have seen the man nude at other times, is an abuse of power which goes beyond protecting the community, and is designed merely to cover their own asses. The police exceeded their authority in the initial reaction to the incident and then tried to turn it into some sort of danger to women and children in the community merely to justify their heavy-handed actions.

Imagine, asses requiring cover.

I think, though, the most salient point may be this:

Defense lawyer Dickson Young presented another photo taken from the path, and the carport door seemed very distant. Young ridiculed the notion that [complainant Yvette] Dean made eye contact with the naked man.

If a woman is “walking along and sees someone naked,” Young told the jury in his closing argument, “the last thing they’re going to be looking at is his eyes.”

Excuse me while I stifle a giggle.

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Quote of the week

April Winchell, founder of Regretsy, acknowledges the superiority of a culture in which inferiority can be identified and labeled:

Not only is it unnatural to be so relentlessly positive, it’s dishonest. Some things really are better than others. Forcing a positive reaction to everything has created a huge bubble of pressure and resentment. The fail culture has allowed that to burst, and the release is unbelievably satisfying.

It is no accident that, among all the dozens of sites sprung from ICanHasCheezburger.com, the most popular is FailBlog.

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Not so Hy

“How glad I am,” Nancy Wilson used to sing, though it wasn’t about this:

Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd said on Wednesday it won U.S. approval for its generic versions of Merck & Co’s blockbuster blood-pressure drugs Cozaar and Hyzaar.

Teva, the world’s biggest generic drugmaker, also said it will have 180 days to market the generics exclusively, an award generally given to companies that challenge patents first. Israel-based Teva said it was launching sales immediately.

I can feel my blood pressure dropping slightly just from the potential for lower wallet strain.

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Zooeypalooza 2!

Just in case you thought I was through with this whole idea:

Zooeypalooza 2!

Same rules as before: we’ve shrunk the photos into this single graphic for the front page, but clicking on any of them will induce rebigulation.

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Beyond the gates

Some folks prefer to live behind them. I’m not quite sure I want to.

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Poles axed

Well, not yet, but the humble barber pole seems to be an endangered species:

William Marvy Company, the last known manufacturer in North America of the poles, typically sells 500 of them each year, down from 5,100 in the company’s late-1960s heyday.

What caused this decline? The company blames four people: John, Paul, George and Ringo.

No, really:

Bob Marvy, a second-generation owner of the St. Paul, Minn., company, dates the industry’s slowdown back to an unlikely source: The Beatles. The Fab Four and their trendy mop-tops ruined it for barbers, he thinks. Men who previously went to barber shops weekly for their clean-cut looks started waiting two or even three weeks between trims.

I hit the barber shop weekly when I was in the Army, pretty much because I was supposed to, but I’ve been on a four-week cycle ever since the hair started to go south. (By now, it’s made it to Uruguay.) And the unisex shop I patronize lacks a pole.

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Sugar-free tablet

From my favorite novel, Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, a bit of dinner conversation:

The Vicar was watching us across the table.

“When this house was built, people used daggers and their fingers,” he said. “And it’ll probably last until the days when men dine on capsules.”

“Fancy asking friends to come over for capsules,” I said.

“Oh, the capsules will be taken in private,” said father. “By then, eating will have become unmentionable. Pictures of food will be considered rare and curious, and only collected by rude old gentlemen.”

Miss Smith apparently was more prescient than she anticipated. From Wired, via Neatorama:

[T]here’s a certain cold comfort in knowing that if worse comes to worst, nanotechnology might give us a food pill that, taken every 10 years or so, would power our bodies if the planet loses the ability to do so.

This is not the direction we should be going, says Lynn:

I want something that will enable me to eat all the cake, pie, ice cream, pizza, tacos and big-a** burgers I want without gaining an ounce. I don’t care if it’s a pill or a nanobot or what as long as it works and is simple, painless and affordable. And I want it now.

I’ll have what she’s having.

Addendum: “Noshville Katz,” a parody of a certain John Sebastian tune recorded by “The Lovin’ Cohens,” contains this couplet:

Well, there’s 1352 different restaurants in Nashville,
And you can eat anything from a hominy grit to a Contac time pill.

Way too many people are thinking along these lines.

(Lyrics swiped from Blog d’Elisson.)

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Hawthorne updated

Novel-T

“Shouldn’t this be scarlet?” wonders Donna.

(Complete lineup here.)

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Lightning and the single strike

Hawthorn Mineart, operator of Commonplace Book, a site I’ve read for 15 years or so, has a letter in the current Entertainment Weekly (#1098) that’s worth mentioning here:

A mystery is a mystery because you don’t realize at first that’s what it is — you’re going along and you start noticing stuff that doesn’t make any sense. You pull the string and it unravels into a big pile. That’s what Lost has been like. But all these imitator shows come out of the gate saying, “Hey, look at this mystery!”

Which is why they tend to fail quickly, of course. (See also Pop Culture Crackdown for parallel observations.)

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Unfriendly fire

The Golden State Warriors have something like a hundred and forty-seven ways to score, and it seems like they deployed most of them tonight at Oracle Arena, erasing a twenty-point lead by Oklahoma City and then surprisingly coming up with defense in the last minute or so to edge the Thunder, 120-117.

Comparisons: the Thunder won the rebounding battle, 54-44, but Golden State was far more efficient at scoring: 50.6 percent versus 42.7. (The Thunder actually put up twenty-three more shots, a total of 104.) And the Warriors hit 57 percent of their treys (12 of 21), against 45 (9 of 20) for OKC. The 22 offensive rebounds reeled in by the Thunder produced 19 second-chance points, but it wasn’t enough to ward off the Warrior onslaught.

Monta Ellis (27 points), who’d missed several games with the flu, and Stephen Curry (24) led the Warriors; Reggie Williams added 20 from the bench. Anthony Tolliver, who logged the most minutes (nearly 44), had 14 points and 13 rebounds. The Warriors’ mostly-unheralded defense came up with eight blocks and six steals.

Against all this, another Kevin Durant 40-point performance seemed almost irrelevant, even with 10 rebounds thrown in. Nick Collison, starting in the middle, retrieved 12, as did Serge Ibaka from the bench. Scorers: Russell Westbrook 20, James Harden 18 (nice to see him hitting again), and Jeff Green 16.

This clouds the seeding even further. The Spurs, Trail Blazers and Thunder are all 49-31 now; OKC takes the 8th slot, since both San Antonio and Portland own the tiebreakers. Tomorrow night’s game in the Rose Garden will be pivotal and then some.

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Strange search-engine queries (219)

Time for another round of “What’s lurking in the referrer logs?” (Disclosure: None of the funding for collecting this data was spent at strip clubs.)

g “not for use as pants”:  It’s the wrong shape, g is. Try a W.

waiting injection panties:  I suspect the injection may not go entirely smoothly, IYKWIMAITYD. (Notice: no g.)

where in the hell can i find power seat motor for 86 cutlass:  Have you tried the frickin’ junkyard?

child of dust bury microphones alive:  I’ve wanted to bury a few microphones in my day, and occasionally the persons behind them.

a year old expired yogurt as mask:  What is this, a community-theatre version of A Nightmare on Elm Street?

are new cars driver seat too small:  No. The driver himself has too big a seat.

I’m scared to try out for the Brandywiners:  What you need is some confidence — and a couple sips of brandy.

unclad greeters at MOMA:  They keep those museums pretty cold, too.

“Sophia Loren” “sneezing dress”:  A style for every purpose, and a purpose for every style, I always say.

lee’s summit dairy queen Klan:  No chocolate-dipped cone for you, Hoodsie.

“yogi bear is gay”:  Well, maybe gayer than the average bear.

need cock for my wife in sallisaw:  Not my idea of a great trade, but hey…

“aisha tyler” “well hung”  Either this guy has his terms confused, or this is the surprise of the decade. Your call:

Aisha Tyler

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Sisyphus breaks out the calipers

Mike McCarville summarizes a Rasmussen report:

When thinking about all the services provided by federal, state and local governments, 75% of voters nationwide say the average American should pay no more than 20% of their income in taxes. However, the latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that most voters (55%) believe the average American actually pays 30% or more of their income in taxes.

The corporate income tax is passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices at retail, making it not so easy to calculate. Even before I got to that particular consideration, though, I’d already crashed through the 20-percent barrier with last year’s numbers. And if I count both halves of Social Security/Medicare, which is ostensibly paid half by me and half by my employer, and adjust my compensation figure accordingly, I wind up at, yes, 30 percent.

Taxes, after all, are everywhere. The $35 I spent at the gas pump this weekend included $4.35 in tax, though nowhere on the pump or on the purchase receipt will you see it mentioned. And that figure doesn’t include whatever the refiner or the retailer had to collect to cover their taxes.

Now how “average” I am is open to debate. The numbers, however, seem pretty inarguable.

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Out of practice

Buck looks for a physician who will accept Medicare patients:

So … there we were … making our inquiries. The kind administrative lady on the other end of the phone rattled off several names to me … two of which were female … asking if I had any preference. She also took the time to explain to me that the doctors with the Christian names of “Janet” and “Barbara” were women … and might I have a problem with that? Not really … both names were fine with me and who among us gets to choose their first name, anyway? (I didn’t really say that.) I answered in the negative and suggested she assign me to whichever doctor had the lightest patient load, which would only make sense from my point of view and that of the doctor, I’m sure. And so the deal was done.

Eminently sensible, appropriate for a man of these years. But there’s also this:

I’m off for my “get acquainted” appointment in about an hour and my new doctor is male, by the way. I might have made a mistake here now that I think about it. I’ve more than likely blown my only opportunity to get naked in front of a woman again, ever. Damn.

Which is also appropriate for a man of these years, or any years, but perhaps not entirely sensible. Not to say that I wouldn’t do exactly the same thing were I in his boots.

Disclosure: Both my optometrist and my dental hygienist are Major Babes. However, there are no plausible circumstances under which they’re going to see me unclad.

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You can’t spell “cup” without “c u”

First, a restatement of principles, previously codified as Lileks’ Law of Lingerie:

Let us be frank about the purpose of lingerie… It is not normal clothing. It exists for one purpose: to be, eventually, visible for a very short time. If it is visible for a very long time — and I am trying to be delicate about this — then it is not doing its job.

Fluorescent bra by Deborah MarquitThat said, it must be taken into account that some people do not necessarily endorse this particular worldview. For them, there is this lace underwire bra that comes in five fluorescent colors, which presumably will be worn under something relatively flimsy to a place where the lighting can make it visible for longer than a very short time.

This is, I hasten to add, not something I’ve encountered in real life myself. However, the Shoe Girl, a fashion designer herself, spotted this particular look on an A-list singer/fashionista and was sufficiently smitten by the concept to email the celeb in question and ask “Where did you get these?” Celeb responds, Shoe Girl puts up a blog post, I stare in disbelief for a couple of seconds, and then I put up a blog post. It’s amazing how efficiently this particular process works, even if occasionally it challenges my most cherished values.

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Too hackneyed; didn’t read

No, I don’t mean this site, although it fits. I mean the stuff cited here by The Rejectionist:

Do they, like, hand out a memo on your first day of your MFA program telling you that writing about alcoholic working-class men who cannot communicate with their sons/fathers/wives is the only way to convey Authenticity? Well, take it from the assistant: we never want to see another goddamn book about an alcoholic working-class man who cannot communicate with his son/father/wife ever, ever again, particularly if that story is written by a 22-year-old white kid from Westchester County. Other important things you should know: abortion does not always Tear Relationships Asunder, and anyway Ernest Hemingway already wrote that story in 1927; people from the South occasionally do things besides beat their children; it is possible for a character to have a Moment of Self-Actualization without killing an animal with his/her bare hands; FOR CHRISSAKES HOW MANY TIMES DO WE HAVE TO TELL YOU NOT TO OPEN YOUR STORY/NOVEL WITH A SNOWSTORM.

If this advice perhaps does not pertain to you, read the rest of the article.

(Via the Texas Scribbler.)

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I hear L.A. is nice this time of year

With about three minutes left, radio guy Matt Pinto described Andre Miller and Marcus Camby as “a two-man wrecking crew,” and indeed they laid waste to any plans the Thunder might have had for finishing anywhere higher than eighth seed. How did the Blazers do?

Item: Russell Westbrook didn’t serve up a single assist all night.

Item: Kevin Durant had 21 points in the first half, but only nine in the second.

Item: Serge Ibaka fouled out; Nick Collison finished with five, the last of which was a Flagrant 1.

So Portland goes up 3-1 in the season series with a 103-95 win. Miller and Camby got more than half those points; Camby also reeled in a dozen boards. The Blazers shot 50 percent, and perhaps more important in a Titanic Defensive Struggle, gave up only eight turnovers.

The Thunder did even up the numbers, reboundwise. Big deal. What matters here is that they were tied at 88, and scored only seven points the rest of the way.

The season finale is Wednesday, at the Ford against the Griz, and then it’s Hello Kobe.

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Aorta be a law

Swiped from Marko’s Search Term Safari:

libertarian heartless: “Heartless” is an accusation often hurled at Libertarians by left-leaning folks. In progressive parlance, “heartless” in this context means “insufficiently enthusiastic about spending other people’s money”.

Fortunately for said left-leaning folks, there appears to be no shortage of enthusiasm for spending, on either side of the aisle.

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Biden’s fate determined

Smitty envisions the scene. (Bogus fantasy detected? Well, maybe.)

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Beats the heck out of sticks

We learned otherwise as children, but is there hope for straw as a building material?

Straw may be an ideal building material for some types of buildings — it can be embedded with other materials to create adobe or stucco. It’s a great insulator. It’s often a waste material so [it] can be recycled for low-cost. Additionally, straw buildings are highly earthquake-resistant because the material is inherently flexible and absorbs seismic energy better than steel, brick or glass.

The Economist details the process:

Modern straw buildings start with a foundation of gravel held in the kind of plastic bags used for vegetables at a grocery store, and covered with a soil mortar. The walls are made of tightly packed straw bales held together with bamboo pins and lined with fishing nets. These are then coated with a clay-based plaster. Aesthetically, the final product is similar to stucco or adobe, but because its components — clay, gravel, straw and netting — are more flexible than brick, concrete or steel, it is much more ductile and thus able to absorb seismic energy.

But what about, you know, big bad wolves? Quips David Eisenberg, the chairman of the US Green Building Council’s code committee:

The lesson of the Three Little Pigs isn’t to avoid straw. It’s that you don’t let a pig build your house.

So there.

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Clogging the Intertubes

And not just clogs, either; it’s also pumps, mules, sandals, and God knows what, under the collective title If Shoes Could Kill, from those wonderful folks who serve up the lolcats and various and sundry other cheap laffs.

Which means that those of you who send me Horrible Shoes now have a second outlet. (Frighteningly, one of their first dozen or so submissions also appeared here.)

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Somewhat artier

Two of my favorite shots from recent fashion bloggery. The first dates from December, and was found at Deep in Vogue:

Leaving on a jet plane

Titled “Leaving on a jet plane,” this picture practically demands some sort of short story. I’ve had a few go through my head, none of them worthy of mention here.

The second involves an encounter between the Style Rookie and a Jackson Pollock:

Style Rookie

Call it “dressing the part.”

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Too distinctive

Some things about radio drive Will Truman crazy:

It’s not the limited playlist or that you can hear the same song on six different stations at once. I can understand why a formulaic playlist would be advantageous. I can understand why they would stick with what works. But on at least two occasions, they took something that was working fine and they completely broke it. Rather than saying “Hey, this new model seems to be working out. I wonder if we can try this elsewhere?” they think about how much better it would be if they took away everything that was unique about it and made it sound like everything else. Like they can’t even begin to imagine that in a world where a formula works, something that differs from the formula may have its own appeal even if the formula is successful where it is.

And then there’s the fear of being too hip for the room. The audience, it is assumed, is composed of dullards. (The fact that to a certain extent it is composed of dullards is almost incidental.)

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No shirt, Sherlock

This past weekend, Steve Lackmeyer introduced the “leakage” theory of retail as an explanation of why we weren’t getting any of the “cool” stores here in the 405. An example, from August Partners consultant David Lobaugh:

Lobaugh’s surveys show that only 52 percent of residents’ apparel purchases are within Oklahoma City. Recipients of that leakage, he said, range from Edmond, Moore and Norman, to Tulsa and Dallas.

“You’re spending a lot of money in other places,” Lobaugh said. “Shame on you. Don’t do that anymore.”

Lackmeyer himself admits to contributing to the problem:

[L]ast month my wife and I went to the Whole Foods in Tulsa, but only because we couldn’t find products she was looking for here in Oklahoma City.

And I suppose I should admit to being a shareholder in Leakville: I buy my shoes from the New Balance store in Edmond, and a lot of stuff from catalogs.

But there’s a semi-vicious circle shaping up here, as noted by Shane down in Norman:

Chain of events: OKC isn’t shopping locally because it can’t get what it wants in OKC. So, in order to get the chain retailers we want, we have to start spending more locally — meaning we need to have local retailers to fill the niche of Urban Outfitters or Whole Foods. Once those local retailers are in place, and we are shopping locally more, the chain stores we wanted finally come in and destroy the local businesses we have built up? So the chains want to have mom and pop stores to destroy if they are going to come into OKC? That’s what the retail experts are saying?

This is what marketing people in every realm say: you want something totally different, yet exactly the same. As Fillyjonk said here:

It seems to me that Madison Avenue, Hollywood, programming execs, publishers, are all looking for something that is “distinctive, but is just the same as all that other stuff that’s popular right now.”

So here’s the deal. Both sides of the retail equation are highly risk-adverse: the sellers don’t want to lose their shirts, and the buyers don’t want to buy the same damn shirts they have already. Is anyone surprised that retail sales are not exactly soaring these days?

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