Archive for March 2011

Block that beta!

I spent not quite half an hour yesterday morning wired to a laptop, and no, it wasn’t to improve the WiFi reception. Lucky me, I got to experience ANSAR, which is a test routine to evaluate my autonomic nervous system.

From the booklet they handed out:

There are two parts, or branches, to your ANS: the sympathetic branch and the parasympathetic branch. Generally, the sympathetic branch is more in control when you are stressed, nervous, or excited, while the parasympathetic branch is more in control when you are relaxing, sleeping, or recovering from an illness or injury.

A balance between the two branches of your ANS is essential for good health. In fact, most illnesses and injuries cause or result from an imbalance between these two branches.

Now “cause or result from” triggers the same flags as “jobs saved or created”: the WTF meter is almost pegged. Still, the discerning reader will presumably have already discerned that I have an imbalance, and a whopping one at that: the parasympathetic branch is apparently up to snuff, but the sympathetic branch is merely pathetic. (Video discussing for whom this test might be indicated.)

So it’s apparently time for a beta blocker, to keep away unworthy men address any potential cardiac issues, since I am a tad hypertensive, albeit reasonably well-controlled. (138/76 of late.) I am, of course, not looking forward to this, but the idea of losing a symptom or three has a genuine appeal.

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Blue-icon stepchild

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GT-R done

You can’t go a single day in Yahoo! Answers’ Cars section without seeing some doofus wail about how he (it’s always a “he”) so wants a Nissan Skyline, preferably in GT-R trim, and what does he have to do to get one?

Of course, what makes him a doofus is not that he wants the Skyline, a legitimate halo (as distinguished from Halo) car, but the fact that he’s asking this question without running a simple search of the site to see if such a thing has been asked before. (Which it has; yesterday, in fact.) On the off-chance that any of them happen to wander over this way, I’ll point them to Tam’s:

I’ll sleep safer in my bed tonight, secure in the knowledge that rough men stand watch in the night, protecting me from cars that haven’t had the full battery of NHTSA frontal offset barrier impact tests.

Curiously, none of these guys seem to want the R35 version, which is actually available in the States, or the V36 Skyline, sold here as the Infiniti G. Maybe in twenty years, when the holographic version of The Fast and the Furious shows up.

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Thread drift by proxy

In the course of explaining that a comment about the iPhone is irrelevant to a post about beauty products, Julie notes that she’s not in the least an Apple fangirl:

While I’m sure they have their benefits, I refuse to drink the Kool Aid and become yet another slavish devotee to a company that is so proprietary and restrictive and yet successful at creating minions willing to die for their techie products. Why no one has a fit about the restrictions, controls, pricing, and marketing voodoo used by Apple is beyond me. It’s a brand. Steve Jobs doesn’t look long in this world. Enjoy your iPad when Apple’s version of Michael Eisner takes over and destroys the company.

And she closes:

At the risk of generating off-topic comments (I know my readers), I click publish.

Now to see if she’s annoyed by this post, which will produce an off-topic pingback. I mean, I’m not trying to pick on her, but that Michael Eisner line really needs further propagation, so I click publish.

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The lessons of the past

The Consumerist has an item this week on the rising cost of US paper money, the largest single component of which is not paper at all, but cotton. And cotton prices, they say, are at a 140-year high.

Which prompted this bit of prime snark in the comments, from one Cheap Sniveler:

Cotton was cheap in the 1800’s. We should look into how they produced cotton so cheaply back then and do what they did. That ought to cut cotton costs.

Lack of expensive pesticides, right?

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What the hack?

The search box over in the sidebar might get some use from you guys, but it probably gets a lot more from me, as I try to see what else I might have said on a subject.

While doing that sort of research Monday, I found a couple of old posts which didn’t bring up the topic desired at all — but which, when served up by the Big G, contained extraneous information that happened to match the search. These were static pages; I sent up fresh copies, just in case. And then I went looking for a reason why.

Turns out that last week someone managed to drop a bogus redirect for search engines into .htaccess, and directed it to an encoded php command hiding in a little-used directory. I had WordPress pretty well locked down, but I’m thinking the problem was with FTP. It took me about two minutes to find the offending code and trash it. Passwords and such, of course, are being adjusted.

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Giant pygmies will love it

When you have only so much space to make a point, clarity sometimes falls by the wayside. An example, from the Consumer Reports Auto Issue (April 2011):

The new unibody [Ford] Explorer shares a platform with the Flex, but it’s taller and is shorter.

Evidently “not quite as long” wouldn’t have fit.

Addendum: You don’t like giant pygmies? How about fast zombies?

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Imagery beyond your wildest imagination

While the rest of us stare in rapturous admiration, LeeAnn comes up with words worth more than pictures:

Ferrets, when properly raised and trained and had their scent-glands or whatever removed, are lovely, intelligent pets. This one was not. I named him Caviar because of the smell, and he constantly bit me. He’d run after me from room to room, biting my ankles. I looked like a shorts-wearing tourist at a Helen Keller weed-whacker convention.

The ferret, for his part, probably looked like one of these guys.

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She’s such a cut-up

What more need I say?

Hello Kitty chainsaw

(Filched from Must Have Cute; spotted first at Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Philly cheesed

You don’t argue with a team that starts the season 3-13 if, at the time you have to play them, they’re 33-30. The Sixers have been fairly hot of late, closing in on the Knicks for #6 in the East, and they gave the Thunder some seriously scary moments for forty-eight minutes. Then again, while OKC isn’t always at its best toward the end of regulation, they shine in overtime, and tonight in Philadelphia they held the Sixers to 2-9 shooting in those extra five minutes, escaping the Wells Fargo Foreclosure Forum with a 110-105 win.

Telltale statistic: Andre Iguodala rang up fourteen points in a mere 23 minutes, and then didn’t score for the rest of the game. Blame this on Durant, whom the Ig was supposed to be guarding, and on Nick Collison, the Thunder’s glue guy, who stuck to the Sixers like you know what. The Sixers weren’t short of offense — both Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams were good for 22, Jodie Meeks added 17, and wily veteran Eldon Brand picked up 13 points and 15 boards. The Sixers sent up a flurry of treys: seven of them connected in the first half, but only three in the second.

And you have to figure, when Collison posts a double-double (13 points, 10 rebounds), things ought to be going well, especially if there are two others in the box score — see Durant, K., 34 points/16 boards, and Westbrook, R., 27 points/12 dimes. OKC shot an even 50 percent, and if they weren’t quite as proficient as Philly at the long ball, and only hit 12 free throws all night, there’s a lot to be said for collecting 53 rebounds. (Offensive boards were even at 16; if you dream about second-chance points, this was your game.)

So in game 63, the Thunder collect win number 40. (It just dawned on me: only 19 left.) They’re going to see nothing but the East for the next week and a half: at home against the Pistons Friday, on the road to Cleveland, Washington and Miami, and back home for the Bobcats and the Raptors. OKC has done well against the East, posting a 17-6 record; unfortunately, all the playoff foes are in the West. One of them will not be the 15-50 Minnesota Timberwolves, who are the first team officially eliminated from the playoffs this season. We have to play them once more.

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Getting a little behind

Which is damned hard to do if you started with a big one, believe me.

Below, an ode to one of your least-favorite medical procedures:

The main reason this is here, apart from the garnering of random laffs, is to call attention to the production work of B. J. Leiderman, who wrote the theme to NPR’s Morning Edition way back when, and who was quick to defend himself when I grumbled about its transmogrification into “gormless ‘smooth jazz’.” I think we can safely say that Mr Leiderman has plenty of gorm.

Before you ask: yes, I’ve had one. I am not looking forward to another.

(Via Miss Cellania.)

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Screaming phonemes

Add this to the Things That Make You Go Hmmm…

Why all of a sudden… is the media spelling Kadaffi’s name “Gadaffi”? Couldn’t have anything to do with an attempt to blind search engines to older, now-inoperative stories about him?

Twenty-five years ago, I was spelling it “Khadafy,” as was the Associated Press. But apparently the G word is the Colonel’s preference:

Flash back to 1986, a year that started out with the AP (and many others) spelling the Libyan leader’s name Khadafy, based on the long-standing advice of Middle East experts. That changed when he sent letters to American schoolchildren, signed in Arabic script over his typed name: Colonel Moammar El-Gadhafi.

This is not, of course, to say that the self-appointed gatekeepers aren’t fudging the results elsewhere. And not everyone follows the AP stylebook: the New York Post, for instance, still calls him Khadafy.

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Putting the bite on George

You won’t have George W. Bush to kick around chew on anymore, at least if you’re a terrier:

Up in Sonoma there are sticks and fence lizards and rotting deer carcasses and all manner of great things to play with. But Oscar has always been very clear about his preference for his Dubya Doll. Well, to be truthful, he’d trade Dubya for a squeeky ball, but Oscar is banned from any toy that squeeks. Squeeky things make him more batshit crazy than Charlie Sheen. (Believe me, you don’t want Charlie Sheen attitude in a terrier body.) So George W. Bush has remained the chew toy of choice for most of Oscar’s short life.

A squeeky W. would absolutely drive this poor dog bonkers. (Is there a Charlie Sheen chew toy?)

But apparently production has ended on the Bush 43 model:

I found the site for the manufacturer and was initially excited to see that the Dubya toy is marked down on most sites. Sadly, further reading and browsing found that the toy has been discontinued and is not available, except for a few models at ridiculous prices on eBay. In fact, it seems political chew toys have fallen out of favor altogether. In a fit of bi-partisanship, I briefly considered the “Bark” Obama toy, but it, too, is discontinued.

Where does that leave little Oscar? Any of you crafty people want to sew up a John Boehner or Michele Bachmann chew toy?

A Boehner chew toy, I suspect, would be like Jackie Wilson’s pillow in “Lonely Teardrops”: it never dries out.

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Cheerios, old chap

OMG, what in the name of Horatio Magellan Crunch are they thinking?

There’s a new study out stating that children report liking a cereal better if it has a cartoon character on the box. Oddly, a lot of the online sources treat that like it’s a huge fail, like it’s all “LOOK HOW THEY BRAINWASH KIDS.” I see how it could be a way to promote healthful cereal: slap a fun character on the box!

You’ll notice they don’t put Charlie Sheen (Tigerblood is GRRRREAT!) on breakfast food. Then again, there’s a five-letter S word even worse than “Sheen,” and that’s “Sugar”: although Post hasn’t officially fired Sugar Bear, they don’t allow That Term in the name of the product. (Except, apparently, in Canada.)

But that’s kid stuff. How come we Bigger People don’t get cartoon mascots?

I think they need to repeat this study with the healthful cereals that many adults buy. They could have Bugs Bunny’s Bran Bits, and SpongeBob Seaweed Crunch (now with more crab chitin!). In fact, I think they must try that.

Me, I’m waiting for Michael Moore’s Breakfast Donuts® — or, better yet, a low-priced knockoff.

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Entirely too mandible

“Some tortures are physical,” noted Ogden Nash, “and some are mental.” The one that’s both, though, is dental:

[I]t’s not like I’m the first person to play hurt; everyone has, or will have, periods of protracted discomfort. You could note that dental pain is unique, since it’s usually both sharp and throbbing and dull and uniquely electric and IN YOUR HEAD, which makes it particularly personal, but I don’t think we want to get into a contest of Pain Theaters to determine which is worse. Just know that everything on the site this week was done while a railroad spike was being hammered into the side of my jaw. And it’s still lite ‘n’ breezy! Ah, the indomitable human spirit.

Oh, and just one thing more:

Owwww.

I should note here that many years ago, this same chap refudiated that business about Procter & Gamble being in league with the Prince of Darkness, pointing out that their premier dental product was called Crest, and not Anti-Crest.

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The flowers of Mopar

Sit back and let Charles Baudelaire sell you a car:

The new Lancia Thema, of course, is a Chrysler 300 that speaks Italian, but nobody at either home office is even slightly bothered by that fact, and you’re not going to see me complain about it.

(Via Autoblog.)

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415

It’s sleeting on Andrew Ian Dodge, judging by the “Sleeting to CoTV” title he’s affixed to the 415th Carnival of the Vanities.

For a couple of months after WWII, the 415th Tactical Fighter Squadron was temporarily assigned to the Alaska Air Command (now the Eleventh Air Force); however, those months were during the summer, so I’m pretty sure the squadron didn’t encounter any substantial sleet.

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Quote of the week

Robert Stacy McCain formulates what he calls the Existential Theory of Liberalism:

Everything that exists must be subsidized by the federal government; ergo, to argue against government subsidies for something is to advocate the abolition of that thing.

Examples thereof:

The Existential Theory of Liberalism can be seen in action whenever any conservative proposes reducing federal expenditures for, say, the National Endowment for the Arts, and is therefore accused by liberals of being “anti-art.” By the same token, if you criticize the federal Department of Education, you are “anti-education,” and if you oppose using taxpayer dollars to fund embryonic stem-cell research, you are “anti-science.”

On the other hand, I can legitimately be called “anti-ethanol,” except in shot-glass (or similar) quantities.

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Hotsy-totsy Notsy

The Manolo has dubbed ex-Dior designer John Galliano — “ex” because of some idiotic remark about Hitler — a “repulsive little fashion troll,” but asks:

[H]ow does one enjoy the transcendent clothing of John Galliano without feeling that one is somehow patronizing the bigot?

How to sanction the artist, while admitting that his art brings beauty and joy to the world?

The Manolo, who loves the poetry of Ezra Pound, the music of Wagner, and the clothing of John Galliano, has no easy answer to this question.

I remember my own send-off for the late Ike Turner, which mentioned, albeit obliquely, that he was a Horrible Person, but concentrated on matters more purely musical. At the time, nobody accused me of making excuses for Ike, which was something of a relief, especially when you consider what passes for making excuses these days:

In a phone interview this afternoon, [Patricia] Field described Galliano’s controversial videotaped behavior as “farce” and said she was bewildered that people in the fashion community have not recognized it as such.

“People in fashion all they do is go and see John Galliano theater every season. That’s what he gives them. To me, this was the same except it wasn’t in a theater or in a movie,” she said. “John lives in theater. It’s theater. It’s farce. But people in fashion don’t recognize the farce in it. All of a sudden they don’t know him. But it’s OK when it’s Mel Brooks’ The Producers singing ‘Springtime for Hitler’.”

The Ha Ha Only Kidding defense, often used by politicians (and people who think they’re politicians) confronted with the transcripts. It plays no better on the catwalk than it does on the nightly news.

And there’s this question, posed by La Petite Acadienne, one of the Manolo’s commenters:

What does it say about us, as a society, if we continue to pad the pockets of someone so hateful and abhorrent, just because he makes beautiful things? What message is that sending?

Frankly, why SHOULDN’T the uber-talented be held to the same standard as the rest of us? Permitting crap behaviour, on the grounds that the person is somehow more valuable to society, is the sort of mindset that leads the very rich or the very famous to think that they’re above the law and above society’s mores.

Roman Polanski, line one, please.

But there’s this:

Let the Gods forgive what I have made
Let those I love try to forgive what I have made.

From Ezra Pound’s Canto CXX, a title he himself never applied to it.

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Just wedging in

About fifty seconds on the Zappos.com heat map yielded up this cute wedge, sold to someone presumably shoeless in Seattle:

Coretta by Naya

This is “Coretta” by Naya, with an actual hemp platform midsole for that espadrille look — well, an espadrille on a slant, anyway. The platform is an inch and a quarter, the heel 3¾ inches, and the lining is leather. And this part of the company pitch was sort of interesting:

The styles feature chrome-free or vegetable-tanned leathers, natural, organic or sustainable fabrics, heels made from sustainable bamboo, biodegradable latex foam cushioning, natural cork and rubber footbeds, outsoles made with recycled materials, nickel-free metal buckles, recycled paper boxes, and water soluble glues and cements.

I had to think about “chrome-free” for a moment, but then chemistry class from forty-odd years ago came back to me: chromium salts are often used in the tanning process, and they’re not something you particularly want seeping into your water supply.

“Coretta,” it turns out, has a vegetable-tanned upper. I’m thinking this might be a little too dark for a classic neutral — if that doesn’t bother you, there’s a version in navy — but hey, now you can bring out that peasant skirt you left in the back of the closet decades ago, right? Zappos will sell you this shoe for $145.

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Attack cat is attacking

Some of you may remember that childhood classic Tiger’s Revenge by Claude Balz. (I figure sooner or later Mr Balz will show up in the end credits on Car Talk, alongside chief accountant Candice B. Rittenoff.)

Anyway, while Tiger’s Revenge is presumably fictional, that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen.

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Just a hint of blow-by

Scott Brooks didn’t have a lot of reasons to be happy tonight: the Pistons jumped out to a four-point lead after one, and while the Thunder kept things under control for the next two quarters, opening up an 18-point lead in the fourth, Detroit took advantage of OKC lethargy, or something, to close that gap to six in the last minute. But the Pistons would get no closer, and when Russell Westbrook missed at the stripe and Serge Ibaka somehow managed a putback, the Thunder were up ten, and Ibaka swatted away Detroit’s last chance to seal the 104-94 win. So maybe Brooks did crack a smile at the very end.

Remarkably, the Thunder shot 50 percent from the floor including 50 percent of their treys (nine of 18). Kevin Durant, as usual, led with 24, but James Harden beat him for efficiency: seven of 11, four of six from Way Out There, for 22 points. Westbrook posted yet another double-double (13 points, 11 assists), and by gum, there’s Serge again with another Jeff Green-ish line: 16 points, eight boards, two blocks. Okay, maybe the blocks aren’t all that Uncle Jeff-y.

But the Pistons, their lowly record notwithstanding, still made a game of it. Rookie center Greg Monroe put together a double-double (12 points, 10 rebounds), and Tracy McGrady, recently promoted to starting at the point, came close to one himself, missing by a single dime. Richard Hamilton, who never saw himself as a sixth man, was a darned good one, scoring 20. And Detroit managed to outrebound Oklahoma City, 38-34.

The Thunder have five more games against the East before their next battle with a Western opponent: the Jazz, at home on the 23rd. The third of those five, against the Heat, will presumably be the most difficult, if not necessarily tearful.

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Leaving Fort McHenry behind

Some thoughts on Gene Weingarten’s New National Anthem:

Still, the Weingarten proposal has much to recommend it. For one thing, it doesn’t mention fruited plains, an integral component of an oft-proposed alternative anthem, which always made me giggle as a kid. The National Anthem should not induce giggles.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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The off-green screen

Teresa is persuaded that TV talking heads need to be positioned atop better-dressed bodies:

After sitting in the dentist chair for about 2 hours or so watching CNN, I can say without a doubt there are far too many people who wear clothes all the wrong color. Anchor chick was wearing a “coral” color dress today. I think she was looking to be all springlike. Sadly it was just exactly the wrong color for her skin tone (at least on tv). Then some other woman graced the screen wearing a purple top and a maroon jacket … seriously it made my eyes cross.

Is it just my imagination, or is she suggesting that CNN has an anesthetic effect?

I’ve always suspected that if someone is supplying Anchor Wear™ in exchange for a brief mention in the credits, said someone expects every last one of those outfits eventually to show up on screen, or else. Not that anyone should trust my fashion sense or anything.

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Walking the Planck

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) was unable to persuade the Commerce Committee to discard the GOP-backed Upton-Inhofe measure to strip the EPA of its putative authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions, but he did get off some creditable snark during the process:

“I won’t call for the sunlight of additional hearings, for fear that Republicans might excommunicate the finding that the Earth revolves around the sun. Instead, we will embody Newton’s third law of motion and be an equal and opposing force against this attack on science and on laws that will reduce America’s importation of foreign oil.

“This bill will live in the House while simultaneously being dead in the Senate. It will be a legislative Schrödinger’s cat killed by the quantum mechanics of the legislative process.”

Speaking of quantum matters, it occurs to me that most members of Congress can be described by one of the flavors of quarks: up, down, charm, strange, top, or bottom.

(Suggested by Lisa Paul, who knows of my fondness for physics jokes.)

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The grande dame

Oops, sorry: I meant the Grand Am. I never could figure out what Pontiac, GM’s former “We Build Chevys With Plastic Body Kits Excitement” brand, was doing in those last few years, though it clearly wasn’t enough to spare them the axe. It seems clear, though, after looking at where their buyers ended up, that the standard image of Pontiac driver as boy-racer was fuzzy at best:

How did over ten percent of GM’s “driving excitement” brand end up at the its truck brand (GMC)? How did over 14 percent of buyers replace the brand that brought us the GTO and G8 for the mainstream, thrill-free anonymity of Honda and Toyota? How on earth did Dodge, the remaining brand that most resembles Pontiac, only manage about 3%?

And is this conclusion inescapable?

[A]re automotive brands not as important as people make them out to be?

The answer, I think, is that an individual brand loses its importance once it strays too far from its intended purpose. About ten years ago, Nissan’s Infiniti division was foundering, mainly because no one was quite sure what they were selling other than really-expensive Nissans. Eventually they figured out what they wanted to be — the Japanese BMW — and recast the G from a pleasant little front-driver to a reasonable facsimile of the 3-series. (The I, an overdressed Maxima in the manner of the Lexus ES, a tarted-up Camry, was banished forthwith.) Ironically, BMW is now kicking around the idea of a line of FWD cars, and not necessarily to sell as Minis either.

To this day, General Motors hasn’t figured out all its brand positioning. Chevrolet, of course, is pitched to Everyman, and GMC to the guy who thinks he’s a trifle too good to drive Everyman’s truck. It seems clear, though, that the Chinese are calling the shots at Buick — not surprising, since they buy more of them than we do — and Cadillac is still trying to reestablish itself as a creditable luxoboat. (Which is more than Lincoln is doing; except for the ancient Navigator, they have nothing that wouldn’t be equally at home in a Mazda dealership these days.)

This may be why I like that Dodge “Never Neutral” tag. It doesn’t seem to say much, but the implication is crystal clear: “We’d say ‘Badass’ if only they’d let us.” Of course, since their volume vehicle is the Grand Caravan — well, what the hell, it’s about time someone built a badass minivan, right? If they can pull that off, they can be the new Pontiac, especially since they won’t have Chevy constantly nudging into their territory.

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Weirdness in store

Once again, I get to update an ancient post, this one from spring ’05:

[M]y experience with organic lettuce has been uniformly positive: it doesn’t taste any better — I mean, we’re talking lettuce here — but the two-dollar amorphous organic head inevitably lasts longer in the vegetable crisper than the 99-cent spheroid with the big brand name, and less of it winds up being thrown away for excess wilt.

I grumbled a couple of summers ago that the stuff was getting harder to find, but while doing the (two-store) grocery rounds today, I noticed that Homeland had put up a slightly-bigger sign over the organic ghetto in the produce section, and sure enough, they had some good ol’ iceberg. Just one little hangup, though: the heads were not much bigger than a softball, and the asking price was a whopping $3.49. So this is what Whole Foods is going to be like.

Arriving a few hours later at Crest, I caught a teensy sign over on the bread aisle to the effect that no, we don’t have any of the Flowers Foods products in stock, because we found their pricing unacceptable. This isn’t the first time Crest has made such an announcement, and I figure Flowers will be back in a month or two — or maybe not. It didn’t affect me, inasmuch as I bought a loaf of Mrs Baird’s, a Bimbo brand.

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High finance at the low post

Veteran Atlanta Hawks center Etan Thomas — he was on the Thunder roster last year, and may move a few more times before his career winds down — wonders what the NBA would think of a proposition like this:

No salary cap. Bringing split for BRI to 50/50 but we have no salary cap. Teams spend what they wish, the NBA is guaranteed a revenue certainty of 50 percent and everyone is happy. This would eliminate the overspending or teams being “held hostage” because they could sign anyone for as little (should please Donald Sterling) or as much (should please Mark Cuban) as they choose.

BRI — “Basketball-Related Income” — includes almost everything except receipts from franchise moves or the luxury tax. At the moment, player salaries and benefits are set at 57 percent of BRI, which may float upwards by a point or so if revenues permit. So a 50/50 split would presumably appeal to owners, who right now are getting at most 43 percent.

And there’s the example of Major League Baseball:

MLB has no salary cap and has virtually none of the restrictions on player contracts that the NBA has. For instance, there are no limits on the length of player contracts and no limits on the amount of annual increases in multi-year player deals. Yet MLB has had nine different World Series winners in the past 10 years. (Boston is the only repeat champ in 2004 and 2007.) During this year’s Texas-San Francisco World Series commissioner Bud Selig was quoted repeatedly stating that “competitive balance has never been as strong in MLB as it is right now.” Wouldn’t a similar system be successful for both players and the NBA?

Who won the NBA Championship in the Oughts? In order: Lakers, Lakers, Lakers, Spurs, Pistons, Spurs, Heat, Spurs, Celtics, Lakers, Lakers.

Would this system work in the NBA? Who knows? The owners have been crying poverty, even as they’ve been spending like crazy; when Thunder GM Sam Presti came up with schemes to retain players without jeopardizing future finances, it made news, because hardly anybody else was doing such a thing. Easier just to write a big check and hope for a lockout, I suppose.

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Dear Brigitte

A friend of mine suggested on Facebook that she could really rock this particular dress:

Bardot dress by Talbots

And I believe she can. Talbots — apparently it’s not “The” Talbots anymore, except in the legalese — vends this “Bardot” dress for $159, and I admit, I’d think it was fabulous even if she hadn’t pointed it out to me; I always was a sucker for nice, crisp linen.

Brigitte Bardot, incidentally, was maybe five-foot-seven at the outside, five inches shorter than my friend, but this is the merest quibble.

The title, incidentally, is ripped off from the 1965 film starring Jimmy Stewart and Billy (“Danger, Will Robinson!”) Mumy, which the parental units saw at a drive-in, assuming I was actually asleep in the back seat. I was not.

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Fewer swords than usual

When the final score looks like 95-75, you wonder if the Thunder were that good on defense or the Cavaliers were that woeful on offense. In fact, it was a little of both. Cleveland shot barely 33 percent; they gave up thirteen steals and saw eleven shots blocked. Still, this is a team that can execute more often than not: they outrebounded OKC, 54-44, including a whopping 18 offensive boards, which says pretty clearly that despite their depleted ranks — Baron Davis was away due to a death in the family, Anderson Varejao’s been out since January, and Antawn Jamison banged up a finger a couple weeks ago — the Cavs weren’t going to sleepwalk their way through this one.

And some of the Cavs came up with numbers. Daniel Gibson came off the bench for 13 points; rookie power forward Samardo Samuels, starting for once, had ten points and ten boards; J. J. Hickson had eight points and grabbed 15 rebounds. But maybe it is the defense: last time the Cavs were in OKC, they shot, yes, barely 33 percent.

The big scorers for OKC didn’t score so big, mostly because none of them played that many minutes. Russell Westbrook checked in with 20, Kevin Durant with 19 (and a rare technical), and James Harden led the bench with 16. Serge Ibaka was in good form: he didn’t shoot so well (3-12, 8 points), but he pulled down 14 boards and delivered his trademark swat seven times. And Nazr Mohammed, who typically has been getting 15-20 minutes in Scott Brooks’ rotation, got an extended outing (25:45) today, due at least in part to an ankle injury to Nick Collison, and responded with 11 points and a steal.

If you have to play a back-to-back, this is the schedule on which you want to do it: the Sunday matinee, over with before 3 pm, and then a standard Monday-night game. The Thunder are on the way to Washington to take on the Wizards, and yours truly will be late on the recap, inasmuch as I have a neighborhood-association meeting to attend during those hours. I really don’t expect anything remarkable to happen, but you never know with the Wizards.

Counterpoint: “Listless Cavs sleepwalk to another loss.”

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Somewhere north of Laredo

In Ric Locke’s section of Texas, that old stereotype about “lazy Mexicans” simply doesn’t apply:

[T]he Mexican immigrants who come here are hustlers, in the best possible sense of the term. They find and get jobs, often in the informal, cash, under-the-table economy that is becoming ubiquitous, apply generations of experience in getting along with less to their new environment, and after a year or so the median immigrant has a better car and a nicer house than I do (which doesn’t take much, but still). Not uncommonly, the guy trimming shrubs or finishing concrete is a degreed engineer, accountant, or doctor who has more in common with the Greatest Generation, the Americans who lived through the Depression as adults, than with Boomers like me or our successors — work hard, save money, keep a low profile, and you can prosper in a modest way. He very likely has a lower opinion of the ignorant índios who come expecting streets of gold and the Big Rock Candy Mountain than the most bigoted Anglo.

Nor should the Mexican educational system be despised. My friend Arturo has two sons, and has often shown me their schoolwork. México is deeply racist, in the sense that social status is inversely related to melanin content, but has never had much in the way of institutional racism codified into Law; as a result of that their schools have not been modified by political correctness or the necessity to achieve equality of outcome despite aptitude and preparation (or lack thereof). The curriculum Arturo’s kids matriculate in has more in common with what I experienced half a century ago [than] with modern American pedagogy, and it’s sink or swim. Fifth-graders are doing algebra, learning English, and can find Botswana or Baluchistan on the map — and if they can’t, they don’t get “socially promoted”. The Mexican twelve-year-old following Papá and Mamán down the aisles of Wal*Mart almost certainly has a better grasp of math than the high-school senior coming the other way, and may very likely be able to name more States of the Estádos Unidos on an unlabeled map.

Said I, back in the fall of 2005:

My own thinking is admittedly somewhat murky on this issue. Clearly our borders are entirely too porous, and some people we’d rather not have (gang members, the occasional terrorist) take advantage of this fact. On the other hand, people who simply want to work aren’t my idea of a threat. And while rounding up seventy thousand people might have a certain visceral appeal, it’s not going to happen — at least, not on George W. Bush’s watch.

And inasmuch as ninety-something percent of Oklahomans have ancestors who were immigrants, I tend to think it’s just a bit unseemly to complain about all those damn furriners. When we, as a nation, look at the new arrivals, and our first thought is not what they might bring to the table, but what they might take from the Treasury, we’ve changed, and not for the better.

W. is out of the picture, and the numbers may have changed a bit, but otherwise, I’m standing by that, murkiness notwithstanding.

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Transparency!

We haz it:

Yahoo story on spy satellite

Clink to embiggen. Fark blurb for this story:

Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, but the NRO announced that it had launched a secret SPY satellite today. It’s a secret, so the NRO refused to acknowledge what their SPY satellite will do in space. If I SPY any clues, well, it’s a secret.

Subtlety. We haz that too.

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Strange search-engine queries (267)

A typical Monday morning around here calls for me to stare at the alarm clock in disbelief, stagger through the standard ablutions, drive through the darkness to work — it was almost light last week, but obviously that couldn’t be allowed to continue — and then release the latest batch of Google flotsam, which was actually compiled Sunday night because, well, what else am I gonna do on a Sunday night?

dustbury beyond faith:  Which is unusual, because I am more typically characterized as “beyond belief.”

viagra in spain:  Goes mainly down the drain.

220 lb kid tripping on diphenhydramine 300 mg:  I weigh a bit more than 220 these days, and twelve Benadryl will definitely not make me trip.

“before casey kasem”:  This is before the Rock Era, possibly even before the Mesozoic Era.

handy whiter tools:  Well, a snow shovel should be black, lest you lose sight of it. Otherwise, I suppose it doesn’t matter much what color they are.

dodgammed sassmole:  If you use this phrase to cover up a werty dird in a song in order to get it on the radio, please send a check to James Lileks, Star Tribune, Minnie Appleless.

root meaning of mcgehee:  Trust me, you don’t want to know what happens once McGehee gets root.

“native americans” “no butts”:  This dumb story started back in the 19th century, probably along the Trail of Rears.

“clothing optional neighborhood”:  Lots of butts. Yes, even on the Native Americans.

feel me touch me heal me:  Bite me.

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Almost totally tubular

Once upon a time, Francis W. Porretto vouchsafed the notion that Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells could be seen as a Mass.

I went a bit farther with this idea, and I call your attention here to one particular section therein:

Seventeen minutes in, there begins a repeated bass-plus-guitar figure, a creed if you will, which escalates with each new line, each new instrument, finally ending in the simple prayers of the faithful.

Of course, every Mass is slightly different. Here’s a take on that same passage, by the Brooklyn Organ Synth Orchestra:

Admittedly, Mrs Leverlilly might have objected to this sort of thing, but I found it fascinating in several senses of the word.

(First seen — by me, anyway — on Fark.)

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This is not an app request

Women, one study says, use Facebook as a self-esteem booster:

University at Buffalo researcher Michael A. Stefanone and others found that not only do women share more photos on Facebook, but that they generally base their self-worth more strongly on their appearance. As a result, Stefanone believes that sharing photos on Facebook may be a way for women to try and boost their self-image.

“The results suggest persistent differences in the behavior of men and women that result from a cultural focus on female image and appearance,” he said in a video interview.

Ten-page PDF of the findings here. Men, in the meantime, apparently have no reason to do likewise:

We all know the real purpose of Facebook: a means for girls to whore themselves out and bask in the glow of male attention after uploading pictures of themselves in various states of undress. Any male on Facebook is at an immediate disadvantage as it honestly does nothing for him unless he documents his life to show his high value lifestyle.

On my own FB friends list, percentage of females: 53. Percentage of said females who have uploaded pictures of themselves in various states of undress: pretty close to 0, unless I’ve missed something somewhere. Then again, I’m not in the target demographic, which seems to be “18-34 with a trust fund,” and neither are they, generally.

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Following you back home

“Walk Away Renee” occupies such an iconic position in my life that I’m unwilling to listen to anyone other than original Left Banke vocalist Steve Martin-Caro singing it — except maybe for Levi Stubbs, who cut a stirring cover with the Four Tops. I mean, I actually worked up a post about the sign that points one way.

But maybe it’s time to modify that position. Holly Cara Price writes:

The last time the Left Banke stepped onto a stage to perform together as a band was 1969, so to say those in the audience at Joe’s Pub last weekend were breathless with anticipation would be an extreme understatement. Two shows had been scheduled — March 5 and 6 — and sold out in a bohemian fingersnap.

Michael Brown is long gone, of course, but two of the original Bankesters, Tom Finn and George Cameron, along with longtime associate Charly Cazalet, who played on the 1978 Strangers on a Train album, make this much more than just some old guys trading on a name. New vocalist Mike Fornatale, who sounds a lot like Steve, secured his connection to the Banke that was by reconstructing the original string charts. By hand, mind you.

Banke lyricist Tom Feher, who showed up at the March 6 performance, noted that the reconstituted band had had the guts to play “Desiree,” a song the original crew never once played in concert. And there’s this:

Also in attendance: Godz founder Paul Thornton, global rocker Alan Merrill and Mary Weiss, who once fell for the Leader of the Pack.

The first song on the only album by Montage, produced by Michael Brown, is “I Shall Call Her Mary,” which I described as “a charming paean to erstwhile Shangri-La Mary Weiss,” and which was written by Brown and, yes, Tom Feher. Tell me there isn’t some karma involved in bringing all this back home. All we need now is to find Renee herself.

Oh, wait:

Renee Fladen-Kamm is a West Coast-based singer and vocal coach, who has been a member of the Sherwood Consort. Born Renee Fladen in New York City in the late ’40s, she attended the High School of Music and Art (the predecessor to the High School for the Performing Arts, depicted in Fame). It was during that part of her life that Fladen served as the inspiration for Michael Brown to write the song “Walk Away Renee,” recorded by the Left Banke and later redone by numerous other artists across the ensuing decades.

If she could have made it to Joe’s Pub, that would have been perfect.

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Wizards spellbound

There isn’t a whole lot to say about the Thunder’s 116-89 blowout of the Wizards at Verizonland — it’s a blowout, okay? — but a few things will come to mind once I start typing.

I think I might have been able to predict the stat line for Kendrick Perkins’ debut for OKC: he played just a shade under 20 minutes, got six points and nine rebounds. This is consistent with Scott Brooks’ standard rotation: guy in the middle gets 16-20 minutes. It will, however, take a while to get used to the idea that the Thunder is, for the first time in recent memory, awash in quality bigs. Scorers, we got: 32 for Kevin Durant, 18 for Russell Westbrook (with 12 assists), 18 for Daequan Cook (six of nine treys). And while Serge Ibaka was scoring 10, he was blocking eight shots. Fifteen swats in 36 hours! (And let’s mention Eric Maynor, who scored only two but served up nine dimes.)

The Wiz did what they could: they got six players into double figures, but none of them managed more than 14 points. (Trevor Booker added 13 boards for the double-double, and JaVale McGee came close with 9.) Some Wizardry was evident on the boards, where Washington pulled in 49 rebounds, 23 off the offensive glass. But they shot only 39 percent, and all nine of their three-point attempts failed. One could argue that things might have gone better if Rashard Lewis or Andray Blatche had been ready to play, but how much better? The future of this team might be guys like Hamady N’diaye, the Senegalese center from Rutgers drafted 26th last year, who actually made both his shots in the four minutes he played, his first NBA buckets. (He’d scored before, but only from the foul line.)

The good news: the road trip ends Wednesday. The bad news: it ends at Miami. I point out here only that there is no crying in basketball.

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For Emily, wherever I may find her

The story of a reacquaintance with a woman I didn’t know quite so well. And no, we never met.

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I don’t snooze, I lose

I’d blame it on DST, but that won’t fly. The night of the actual time change, I admittedly stayed up until midnight-really-eleven, and didn’t roll out of bed until what they laughingly call ten-thirty. But Sunday night is followed inexorably by Monday morning, so I really needed to get some shuteye.

And apparently I didn’t. If I got half an hour of sleep between 10:30 (bedtime) and 6:00 (alarm), I don’t remember it. What I do remember is back and forth from bedroom to medicine cabinet, wondering what else I could take without triggering some horrible drug reaction. I was, by 4:15 or so, desperate enough to take a whiff of Vicks VapoRub.

I managed to work through half past noon, at which point I sensed that my vision was blurry and becoming more so, in which case I’d better go home now. Which I did. I came home, took about a two-hour nap during which I didn’t sleep anywhere near two hours, and blew off the rest of the day.

I’m hoping this does not portend the return of the insomnia that drove me to despondency three years ago. Things did not go badly last night, so I am at least slightly hopeful.

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A mass of conflicting impulses

So said Nomad, although the little probe presumably hadn’t been given the results of this Star Trek fandom survey:

82% considered themselves to be average to below average in terms of involvement, while 18% went all out to go into elaborate detail about how extremely involved they were as fans.

Well, yeah. I know maybe two women with Trek uniforms. But guys? Not so much:

Females: 57% Males: 43%, primarily single, over 40, and fairly well educated — all results from some of the basic demographics.

As Picard said to Data: “I would be delighted to offer any advice I can on understanding women. When I have some, I’ll let you know.”

(Via Fark.)

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