Archive for January 2013

Budget bubbly

How much should you spend for a standard-sized bottle of Champagne? I’ve had the stuff exactly once, and I wasn’t paying for it at the time, so I can offer you no personal data.

Then again, there are other persons who can:

I stopped in North Plains for gas and picked up a bottle of Cook’s Extra Dry Champagne from Apu at the Kwik-E-Mart. They also had Andre’s Brut Champagne. I recalled from my last excursion into Champagne land that Brut is drier than extra dry, and I’m thinking I don’t need drier than extra dry, so I sprung for the extra dollar for Cook’s ($7 versus $6 for Andre’s), and it was pretty good. Older son tells me that Cook’s is well worth the extra dollar.

Which is the difference between me and those Champagne drinkers. You mention Extra Dry to me, and I assume you mean Arrid.

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If that’s okay with you

Coat of arms of Novokuznetsk

This lovely little bit of heraldry is the current coat of arms of Novokuznetsk, an industrial burg of half a million in south-central Russia. The town is coming up on its 400th anniversary, and would like ideas for updating that symbol. Last I looked, this was the frontrunner:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Neither gassers nor rail jobs

Believe it or not — and I had to look at it twice — more than half a million alt-fuel vehicles (hybrids, electrics, diesels, whatever) were sold in the States last year. This is, I note for the sake of completeness, slightly less than the number of F-series pickups that Ford sold, but it’s a 60-percent increase from last year, which suggests that a fair number of converts are being made.

About 240,000 of these cars bore the Toyota Prius badge, which now adorns four different vehicles, including a plug-in. Volkswagen — not counting dreamy sister Audi — mailed us over 80,000 diesels. In fact, only one automaker is really faltering in this niche market:

Honda remained the only automaker truly struggling in the alt-fuel field, with December sales dropping 40 percent from a year earlier to 1,084 units. While Civic Hybrid sales were down slightly, demand for the CR-Z and Insight plunged.

The entire Honda alt-fuel line accounted for just over 17,000 sales. Even the much-maligned Chevy Volt did better than that (23,000).

(Title source.)

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Venial synopsis

Netflix just can’t seem to grasp this series:

Netflix screen shot for My Little Pony

At least they didn’t bring Clint Eastwood into it this time. I assume Bill is laughing.

(Via My Little Brony.)

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Quote of the week

Megan McArdle slips this zinger into a piece about that hypothetical (so far, anyway) trillion-dollar coin:

When I was reporting on Wall Street, I used to be told with some regularity that government was needed to counteract the short-term thinking of the business sector, who never thought much beyond the next quarterly earnings report. This now seems as quaintly adorable as picture hats and daily milk deliveries. An ADHD day trader with a cocaine habit and six months to live has considerably more long-term planning skills than our current congress.

Speaking of that chimerical currency, it fits perfectly into the story we told in first grade — which was more than 50 years ago, hence the seemingly modest pricing — about the youngster who sold his puppy to some kid up the street for a thousand dollars.

Well, he didn’t actually sell the puppy for $1000: he traded it for two $500 kittens.

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Code squawkers

What some people will do for a teensy speed increment:

Like the title, I installed Universal OBDII Oxygen Sensor Simulator for 2007 corolla to get rid of P0420 because I installed a racing header. Can someone help me solving these codes? Or any other good way to get rid of P0420?

I suspect this may be against the manufacturer’s advice: how likely is this guy, or any guy, to be racing a 2007 Corolla, fercrissake?

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When they was post-fab

Roger speculates on how things might have been different had Mark David Chapman been somewhere else that night in 1980:

John and Yoko’s album Double Fantasy comes out in the fall of 1980. It does all right [not as well as it did in response to Lennon’s death]. They put out Milk and Honey a year later; ditto. They tour for a few months.

Around 1982, George, whose career was in a bit of a downturn — no “All Those Years Ago” hit single — plays on a John and Yoko album. John and George play on Ringo’s comeback album.

Live Aid in 1985 becomes the venue in which the Beatles get together for a one-off reunion. But they enjoy it so much, they put together an album a year later. They get together periodically, but primarily continue with their solo careers.

Roger doesn’t say so specifically, but it sounds to me like the stumbling block, had John lived, might have been Paul. (How does he sleep?)

As long as we’re fiddling about with timelines, you might have a look at “The plane that didn’t crash,” based on an earlier catastrophe.

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Stocking up

The slogan of the Van Raalte company was “Because you love nice things,” a bit of commercial whimsy I found quite persuasive: “[I]t cuts straight to the chase; only L’Oreal’s ‘Because I’m worth it’ exceeds it for ego massage.”

A lot of their advertising proved to be (somewhat) collectible, as late as the middle 1960s:

Van Raalte ad from 1964

As always with these, you get a dollop of historical commentary, this time from the Van Raalte family themselves:

In the late 1920’s (1927?) the decision was made to sell the company to Goldman Sachs and Lehman Bros. There are several theories as to what prompted the decision to sell, but no definitive reason has survived the years. The Company was still a leading manufacturer in its field and its name and products were highly respected. The new owners kept the name, product lines, and slogans and it became a publically traded company with shares on the American Stock Exchange.

The company prospered through the years and was the first to produce stockings made with Dupont’s new “nylon” fiber in the late 1930’s. By 1965 the company had sales of over $70 Million. In 1970 VAN RAALTE was sold to the Cluett, Peabody & Co (the Arrow shirt company) and then again in 1977 to the Kellwood Company. In 1994 Warnaco acquired the Van Raalte trademark for apparel, and the following year sold Van Raalte bras and products exclusively through Sears stores. Production of Van Raalte products eventually ceased by the end of the century.

I admired this picture enough to make a CD jacket out of (some of) it.

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The non-laughing gnome

Thomas Forget’s 2002 biography of David Bowie contains this fairly inarguable statement:

Because he has succeeded in so many different styles of music, it is almost impossible to find a popular artist today that has not been influenced by David Bowie.

Note that Forget is not limiting this to musical artists, either: given Bowie’s seemingly infinite capacity for self-reinvention — Madonna only wishes she were so protean — the Thin White Duke’s influence is all over the map. (ObPony: late in the first season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, there appeared three surly canine miners dubbed “Diamond Dogs.”) For his 66th birthday, which was yesterday, Bowie showed off yet another persona: the boulevardier turned perhaps immobile and definitely melancholy.

“Where Are We Now?” heralds the arrival of The Next Day, due in March, Bowie’s reunion with longtime producer Tony Visconti. I admit to being a little uneasy about the prospects. Then again, it took me twenty years to warm to Ziggy Stardust.

(With thanks to Michele Catalano.)

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Dry wood

The last new episode of MLP:FiM — see, I can work pony into anything! — featured a scary creature called the Timber Wolf, which, remarkably, was made of actual timber, sort of a cellulose-based Transformer. Tonight at the Peake, the usual sellout crowd got to witness lots of wooden performances in the first quarter, which ended a stolid 16-16. Thunder fans who were sweating the possibility of Wizards 2: Electric Boogaloo were relieved to see the home team shift into something closer to high gear, dispatching Minnesota’s strange woodland creatures, 106-82.

It didn’t hurt that Kevin Love and J. J. Barea — and, for that matter, coach Rick Adelman — were no-shows. Still, slack was uptaken, and the Wolves logged the only two double-doubles tonight: stalwart center Nikola Peković (17 points, 10 rebounds) and reserve forward Derrick Williams (14 points, 11 rebounds). I continue to be impressed by Luke Ridnour at the point: he’s definitely improved from his Sonics days. On the other hand, I can spare an eyebrow to raise over backup big Greg Stiemsma, who racked up six fouls in less than thirteen minutes. Still, that’s what he does.

The astonishing Serge Ibaka offensive show took the night off: six points and two Shaq-quality free throws. I never know what to think when Kevin Durant beats Ibaka in points, rebounds and blocks (26, eight and four respectively). Russell Westbrook has rediscovered efficiency, going 7-14 (3-4 on treys). And Kevin Martin was only 4-12 — but all four makes were 3-pointers. In fact, OKC was 11-20 from Lower Bricktown, a sterling 55 percent, better than the 47 they shot overall, and way better than the 28 they shot in the first quarter. (The Wolves improved from 33 in the first to a final 43.)

Coming up: three road games in four days against Pacific foes. It’s the Lakers on Friday, the Trail Blazers on Sunday, and the Suns on Monday. Watch that jet lag, guys.

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Putting the curse in cursive

Jack Lew, who headed up the Office of Management and Budget before becoming Barack Obama’s Chief of Staff — which makes a certain amount of career sense, since the President is known far more for staff than for either management or budget — is reportedly being considered for Secretary of the Treasury when Tim Geithner steals away into the night. I think we can say that Turbo Tax Timmy had his drawbacks, but he never presented a problem quite like this:

Facsimile signature of Jack Lew

That delicately Photoshopped shot from’s Daily Intelligencer shows you what Jack Lew’s signature looks like. And you thought defacing American currency was illegal.

(Via Fark.)

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Texas messes with you

Alaskan couple arrives in the Permian Basin — bless you, energy boom — and local rep notes that wildlife is a bit different just off I-20:

Her: You … have rattlesnakes?

Me (hoping to defuse the situation): Oh, but don’t worry about them. The scorpions generally kill them before there’s a problem.

Well, I feel better.

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A truly noble gas

Even if you haven’t read the TwiBrush trilogy — and let’s face it, most people haven’t — you may have seen this passage therefrom in Vent #794, in which the earth pony-to-be addresses the unicorn he loves:

“Twi, honey, there’s only one thing wrong with you: you can’t stand the idea that there’s one thing wrong with you. You seem to be able to put up with my flaws just fine. Can’t you cut yourself a little slack now and then? I don’t want to come home some day and find you’ve put a Starvation Spell on yourself because you farted in the bathtub the night before. But you make me worry about things like that, and it scares me.”

It did not occur to me at the time that she might be harvesting the stuff for semi-medicinal purposes.

(Via Belhoste.)

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Sustain this, pal

Brian J. quotes a letter to the editor of The Wall Street Journal:

While most studies show that certain organic crops, such as corn, would have slightly lower yields and lower total production than conventional crops, the studies also show organic farming can feed the world, and in developing countries organic methods would increase food production and self-sufficiency.

Or maybe wouldn’t:

Both of these things cannot be true. Well, they cannot be true unless there’s an unspoken premise in the second that the world eat organic bean burritos per day and give up their steaks and chicken. Which is not so unspoken in other parts of the movement.

While I am generally at least somewhat enthusiastic about organics, I suspect that the best part of the bean burrito is the pesticide residue.

And we could save a hell of a lot of the corn crop if we’d quit squeezing it into the nation’s gas tanks.

Side note: The nearest Crest store occasionally carries Dole-branded organic bananas, clearly marked, albeit at a 75-percent price premium (98 cents a pound versus 56, subject to minor variations). But the last three times I picked some up at this store, they ignored the little “ORGANIC” tape and rang up the lower price. I have no idea what they’re thinking.

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I got plenty of nothing

And nothing, evidently, is plenty for all of us:


(Via Dating Fails.)

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Zooeypalooza 17!

It took the Baseball Crank to remind me that I have been remiss:

Tweet by Dan McLaughlin

Crank links to this. With that in mind:

Zooeypalooza 17!

Mousing about may prove enlightening, or at least enlargening.

Paloozas gone by: ZP 1, ZP 2, ZP 3, ZP 4, ZP 5, ZP 6, ZP 7, ZP 8, ZP 9, ZP 10, ZP 11, ZP 12, ZP 13, ZP 14, ZP 15, ZP 16.

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All Wikiness is but little

Something wrong with the Wikipedia article you just read? Fix it yourself, says the conventional wisdom. Bill Quick says it may be conventional, but it’s hardly wise:

[W]hat this is actually advocating is a supposed unbiased reference work that is the product of the outcome of contests of strength between two warring factions.

In other words, Wikipedia is a perfect example of an intellectual tyranny of the majority.

Rather a lot of topics are marked with the little padlock that means “semi-protection,” which limits edits to presumably trusted individuals. One such page is the one devoted to Elizabeth Warren, where much of the current dustup originated.

A few observations from me:

  • I am “presumably trusted,” having contributed at least the minimum number of edits; what’s more, I’m cited as a source on a handful of pages. I am as impressed with this as you are, which presumably is Not Very.
  • “Weird Al” Yankovic’s claim to being “White & Nerdy” is partially based on editing Wikipedia (around 1:49).
  • I once edited something on Megan McArdle’s page because she asked me to.
  • Political controversy is not the only thing that will get one’s page locked, as Rebecca Black can tell you. (And this is all the RB update I have for the week, as the poor girl has had the flu.)

I admit to citing Wikipedia rather a lot in these pages, but it’s more a form of shorthand than it is a means of deceit, at least for me.

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Sunrise over Labrador

KingShamus has what should be the final word on the President’s new nominee for Secretary of Defense:

[I]t’s not like Chuck Hagel is some beloved conservative stalwart. Yeah, I guess he helped spike the Kyoto Treaty back in the day. When pondering that, it’s also important to remember that the sun shines on a dog’s ass every once in a while.

And if the GOP imagines that it might someday want to grow a spine, it would help if the party had some vague familiarity with vertebrae, doncha know.

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Don’t let Bloomberg find out

A phytobezoar is a mass of fibrous plant material trapped in the stomach because it resists the normal digestive process. (Major offender: persimmon skins.) Several treatments exist, but I suspect the most cost-effective one is this:

New research has shown that Coca-Cola has a success rate of more than 90 per cent in treating the condition.

This is because it has chemical ingredients that do a similar job to gastric acid — in helping to digest fibre — while the bubbles help speed up the process.

Of course, if this catches on as a standard treatment, the 1.25-liter bottle that sells for 98 cents at the Hy-Vee will be billed to your health-insurance carrier to the tune of $600 or so.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Punch in and shut up

Robert Stacy McCain leads off the Case of the Aggravating Actress with a grandly general — and pretty damned accurate — summary of the way workplaces are supposed to, well, work:

People must be judged strictly on their ability to get the job done. It doesn’t matter whether you “like” somebody or not. It’s not about friendship or popularity. The key to survival is to focus on the task in front of you — cranking it out day after day on deadline — while ignoring all merely personal considerations.

This is one of those big Life Lessons that young people have to learn the hard way, if they are ever to succeed at the highest levels. The real world isn’t like high school. A childish fascination with “popularity” is counter-productive in most real-world work environments. People who attempt to manipulate their way to undeserved success by playing office-politics games will ultimately produce harmful effects to the organization.

I generally don’t claim to be especially “successful,” deserved or otherwise, but I probably have less fear of being sacked than most of the population, simply because I have a good grasp of the nose/grindstone interface: I crank it out, day after day, and my deadlines are only slightly less inexorable than McCain’s.

Have I always been this conscientious? No. However, I have more than a passing acquaintance with the consequences for failing to be.

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Lakers dried out

It did not look good for L. A. even before the tipoff: both Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol were ailing, and the announcement that Jordan Hill would likely be getting season-ending surgery did not help matters. And then the Lakers had to play the actual game. Down 25-14 late in the first quarter, they put together a quick 11-0 run to tie it at the horn, but it was pretty much all Thunder after that: 64-48 at the half, 110-85 when the starters were pulled (4:26 left), and 116-101 at the end. By any reasonable definition of the term, this was a blowout.

The Lakers did what they could with the players they had. Earl Clark, starting in place of Gasol, pulled off a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds), and Antawn Jamison, coming off the bench, had 19 points and 10 boards. You should know that Kobe Bryant had a Kobe Bryant-like night: he put up shot after shot, and enough of them went to give him 28 points. (Then again, Kobe also drew a technical, which never happens at Staples.) Steve Nash was quiet: seven points, seven assists. And this says something: the Lakers made not one three-point shot in the first half. They did better in the second — Devin Ebanks got two of them in four minutes — but 6-28 wins you no games.

Not that OKC was much better on the long ball, going 9-29. But they did break 50 percent on shooting overall, while the Lakers didn’t quite make it to 40. Kevin Durant was a whopping +35 for the night, racking up 42 points before garbage time set in. Russell Westbrook knocked down 27. Kevin Martin led the bench with 15. And Serge Ibaka exited early with contusions to his torso; I’m guessing he’s doubtful for Sunday at Portland.

I apologize for the lack of Metta World Peace jokes. Mr. Formerly Known As Artest did wangle 12 points, though he put up nine treys and missed eight of them. (The box score gives him a non-whopping -34.)

A back-to-back coming up on this road trip: Blazers on Sunday, Suns on Monday.

(Title swiped from @OKCNightCourt.)

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You might as well dream big

Usually I put up screenshots of Yahoo! Answers stuff, but this one was so long I figured it would be easier to read as Actual Text:

I used to hate Aston Martins and just recently i started to love em. They are my favorite car and i really want to know how i could possibly own one in the future. the Aston Martin DB7 1997 is about 30 thousand dollars or less. And the Aston Martin i really want is an Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volantile 1980’s but they are about 120,000 dollars. And my dream Aston Martin is Aston Martin DB5 and those are about 500,000 dollars. But i am only 16 and i know that i can’t afford any of those cars yet. I want to become a computer programmer and build my own company become CEO and make millions of dollars off a revolutionary idea i am now thinking about while i am taking AP Computer Science in High School. I don’t have good grades i have like about a 2.5 in high school. Which is complete ****. I plan to work my @$$ off in college. i plan to go to a community college for 2 years get my life in order because i am clinically depressed and i had a hard time in high school because of my suicidal thoughts and my depression. My parents fail to acknowledge my depression. But once i am 18 i want to go out and seek help. I might pay money once a month to see a therapist. And take some medication to get my life back in order. Then i want to after community college to go to a University and get my PHd. yes thats right i want a PHd in Computer Science its my life goal and i want to be called Doctor. I want to work for Google making about a 100 thousand dollars a year possibly my 2nd year in a University i apply for this job. I also want to be part of an Orchestra and be part of Orchestrated Soundtrack. Then i want to build my own company like a software company to make gaming computers. I want a sweet house in Hawaii like one of those villas but i want a car to go with it, What do i need to get these cars and by what age according to my plan can i get the cars. Also before my job at Google i want to play Jazz at places and for a real job during the time of community college / begining of University, i want to work at Lego. I am fine commuting with a 2,000 dollar Mercedes Turbo Diesel until i get an Aston, but i want one. When do you think i can get my first Aston Martin, and i only mean from the 3 i listed above.

The most heartening aspect of this, I think, is that he’s willing to suffer with a Mercedes-Benz until he’s in a position to own that Aston.

And I’d rather not throw water on his dreams, you know?

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Bots asking for help

This spam disguised as a comment, trapped by Akismet, might actually make sense in the right context:

First off I would like to say excellent blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are wasted just trying to figure out how to begin.

Any ideas or hints? Cheers!

Any day I can get by with only 10 or 15 minutes wasted is rare indeed.

I should point out, though, that this observation, whatever its level of (in)sincerity, is a poor fit for most of my posts, especially the one about the Korean toilet theme park.

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Ripping through the past

“Why are they doing this?” I asked myself when I first read about Amazon’s Auto-Rip. It became obvious quickly enough: they want me to sign up for their Cloud Player’s premium service at twenty-five bucks a year. But how much do I, personally, have that’s Auto-Rippable?

While I loaded up the Player to find this out, I found this caution:

Auto-Rip goes back to purchases made in 1998, and the late ’90s and early 2000s are pretty close to the Golden Era of Terrible Musical Decisions. We didn’t just badly photoshop Celine Dion into The Shining because it was funny: 1998 was when “My Heart Will Go On” shattered chart records and somehow drove Celine Dion to stop eating. There are a lot of people who never want to admit that they bought that album, but once it falls to Auto-Rip, they’ll get a reminder when they least expect it.

Think about all the CDs you bought. All the crappy Top 40 bands where you bought the album because you couldn’t get the song out of your head. All the gifts you bought for teenage nieces and loving grandmothers. All the cassette replacements for your dad who just would not stop listening to the f*cking Eagles.

For the curious, the oldest item I have in my new 366-track bounty is Worldes Blysse, the second album by Mediæval Bæbes, acquired in September 1999. I am not the least bit embarrassed by it — or, for that matter, by the Shaggs’ Philosophy of the World.

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Pay the $35 fee, and you can have anything you want, within reason, on your Georgia license plates. The obvious question: “Whose reason?”

The state has rejected thousands of vanity license plates with such themes to protect the public from offensive language. Most are too vulgar to print. Some are just silly: BIGBRA, ER0TIKA, F0XIE1.

But buried amid that list of licentiousness are religious, philosophical and political expressions the state also has deemed unsuitable to appear on motor vehicles. G0DROKS, G0DWH0, ILUVGUNS, GAYPWR and FEMM have been nixed by State Department of Revenue employees, who have wide latitude and only vague statutory guidance in deciding what speech gets squashed. Yet G0D4EVR, GUNLUV, GAYGAY and FEMFTAL got their nod.

Vicki Lambert, who’s in charge of such things, sees the problem this way:

Lambert understands Georgia residents have a right to free speech. Her job, she noted, is to balance that against not subjecting other people to a disgusting license plate while sitting in traffic on Interstate 75.

Well, there’s your problem: traffic is just sitting on I-75. Get it moving, and there will be no time to worry about other people’s bad taste in plates.

(Via Fark.)

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Fark blurb of the week

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Traction improvement

From somewhere in the middle of chapter three:

“Lou Gehrig,” a comedian once joked, “actually died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now what are the chances of that?”

I suppose you had to be there. But it occurred to me the next morning, while I was thinking up excuses not to get out of bed, that some fairly unlikely things had been happening to me of late, things I wouldn’t have dared to predict a couple of months ago. That space/time discontinuity, or whatever it was, could have opened up a path to just about any place in the universe. Or it may have been there all along, waiting for someone — make that somepony — to pass through. I’d never have known. It never would have occurred to me that the fabled land of Equestria was something more than just a clever idea by some talented people, a premise on which stories could be based, a pretext to sell toys to youngsters — and, yes, I admit it, occasionally to me. And the idea that Twilight Sparkle, of all ponies, should find that portal, step through it, and find me at the other end? What are the chances of that? With apologies to the late Mr. Gehrig, I consider myself the second-luckiest man on the face of the earth.

I am surprised and delighted to announce that this weekend, The Sparkle Chronicles passed the 1,000-reader mark. I wouldn’t have dared to predict that, ever.

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Northern Lights

Canadian musician Lights, whom you may remember from this piece from last spring, sent this up as a Twitpic last night:

Lights poster in Inuvik

Inuvik, you should know, is about as northwest as you can go in the Northwest Territories, which may or may have something to do with Lights’ comment thereupon:

In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a red T-shirt under my flannel in that shoot… #photoshopskills

The high temperature in Inuvik on the 11th of January was, um, -31.6°C. (At this temperature, conversion to Fahrenheit is largely irrelevant.)

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Feel the (freezer) burn

Friday it got up to 70 (call it 21°C) in Oklahoma City, which was followed by a particularly cold weekend incorporating a few minutes’ worth of sleet. (Nastier stuff, and more of it, fell to the east.) Now 70 is not the record for the date: that would be 77, set on 1/11/1911. This immediately got people thinking about 11/11/1911, on which date we got both a new record high (83) and a record low (17), and someone wondered if the whole year was freakish, weatherwise.

I dug through the records, which go back to 1891, and while I’m not prepared to say 1911 was the freakiest year on record, it had more than its share of weirdness: thirteen record highs (I had said twelve, but I missed one) and seven record lows.

Weird pattern #1: high 83 on 1/31, 90 on 2/1. (The 1/31 record holds up for all of January; we’ve since had one warmer day in February.)

Weird pattern #2: four record highs in June, two record lows in July, two record highs in August.

Keep in mind, all this happened in 1911, back when the temperature of the planet was constant; it would remain so until the introduction of the first sport-utility vehicle, the Chevrolet Suburban, for model year 1935, which promptly set off the Dust Bowl.

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Still on the line

If ever you catch me whining about having nothing to write about, feel free to toss this back at me:

Rhymes With Orange January 11 2013

(From Hilary B. Price’s webcomic Rhymes With Orange.)

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A classic Rose Garden grind

What do you do if you’re missing two defensive specialists? If you’re Scott Brooks, you replace Serge Ibaka with Nick Collison, and Thabo Sefolosha with DeAndre Liggins. Yes, really. The rook, who has played well in the D-League, got his first real-life NBA start tonight at the Rose Garden, and he turned in a Thaboesque line: 11 points and nine rebounds before turning his ankle with 45 seconds left. (He made it back after a timeout.) The industrial-strength battle, though, was between Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, who just kept running up numbers all through the fourth quarter. OKC had a ten-point lead with three and a half left; Portland went on an 9-0 run, finally closed out by a Kendrick Perkins free throw. With 8.5 left, it was Oklahoma City 85, Portland 83; Aldridge, bothered by Perkins, missed a jumper, and Russell Westbrook snagged the ball. The Blazers fouled Westbrook, who sank two from the line, and that was it for Portland’s nine-game home winning streak at home. OKC 87, Portland 83; Durant 33, Aldridge 33. You can’t get a whole lot closer than that.

The Blazers had other problems: indifferent 36.5-percent shooting and six men on the bench contributing a whole six points. Still, Portland is known for tenacity, and Nicolas Batum is known for getting a bunch of points in a hurry, as is rookie point guard Damian Lillard. Batum delivered (21); Lillard, not so much (9, half his average).

This was not the best night for Westbrook — or, for that matter, for Kevin Martin — to have off-nights. Still, Westbrook managed 18 points on 5-21 from the floor, while K-Mart kept coming up empty. (He finished with four.) Reggie Jackson led the bench with six. And while Perk had only one bucket to go with that single free throw (he missed one), he solidified the middle and secured 12 rebounds, more than anyone else except Aldridge.

Tomorrow night, it’s another shot at the Suns. A lot depends on whether Thabo and Serge are back — unless, like tonight, it didn’t.

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Strange search-engine queries (363)

If you like this regular Monday-morning feature, please feel free to drop a trillion-dollar platinum coin into the tip jar.

what words do we no longer use in the vocabulary vocabulary:  Things like “Pago Pago,” “beriberi” and “Irving R. Levine.”

we don’t talk about such things:  Instead, we hope that they’re on Google.

“my little pony” “exchange rate”:  I’ll trade you a sack of gold, a bar of silver, and two scoops of raisins for a weekend with Twilight Sparkle.

piercing my brosnan:  First, take the Steele out of your Remington.

“students wear boxers”:  Aren’t you a little old to be contemplating students’ underwear?

manly men and gay sex blogs:  Man does not live by twinks alone.

what is the advantage of viagra tablet:  I’m guessing you’ve never, ever gotten any email before.

how to write check for 418:  First, make sure you have 419 or more available.

troll mechanisms:  It was just a matter of time before they were automated.

dolly parton leather pants:  If Dolly wore no pants at all, who’d know?

bra removed on road:  That doesn’t sound like Dolly.

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Time life

1970s clock“Sweet smoking Jesus, what was the matter with these people?” asked James Lileks in his epic Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes from the Horrible ’70s (New York: Crown Publishers, 2004), and you may be certain that this ghastly clock, which I bought in an Eighties garage sale for $1.50 or so, does not actually hang in my crisp mid-century house, but in the garage, where it’s kept indifferent time for the last decade.

Usually it loses about three minutes a week; when it stops doing that, it’s generally time for a new C battery. Since New Year’s, it’s been gaining about three minutes a week; yesterday, it stopped dead. I duly fetched another C-cell from the pile, and it refused to start. Okay, fine, it’s more than earned its eternal rest. I set it back on its mount and started contemplating its replacement. About two hours later, I went out to the garage, and it had started up again. I assume it can’t be due to temperature variations in the garage — it’s been within a couple of degrees of 45 since Saturday morning — so it must be Just One Of Those Things.

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Beyond rehab

Entertainment Weekly (#1242, 1/28/13) has a list of “25 Songs To Download Before Grammy Night,” and at #20 is “Cherry Wine,” by Nas, featuring Amy Winehouse. They note that “longtime fan Winehouse recorded her vocal a few years before her death.”

Can you imagine the outcry if she’d recorded it after her death?

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Bend yer own crank

The search for perpetual-motion machines hasn’t entirely ended, but we still have inventors unperturbed by those so-called laws of physics. A recent example:

The cranks of a bicycle are what connect the pedals to the front gears. They’re lever arms that cyclists exert a force onto the end of, through the pedals, in order to turn the front gears. The front gears pull the chain which then spins the rear wheel, sending the bike speeding along.

Just about all the cranks on the market are a straight line from the pedal to turning radius. However a company called Z-Torque claims that their cranks give cyclists more power just by changing the crank arms into a bent shape. The problem is that physics doesn’t work like the company claims it does.

Here’s the pitch:

It is indeed true that increasing the crank length will put more torque at your disposal. However, this doesn’t actually increase the crank length in any meaningful fashion: the pedal is still the same physical distance from the pivot point, no matter what shape your crank is in.

I await the breathless announcement of a conspiracy dedicated to protecting the Bicycle Establishment by keeping this invention off the market.

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The wrath of Durant

Radio guy Matt Pinto actually said that when Kevin Durant logged his 40th point tonight. Really, though, Kid Delicious didn’t look all that wrathful: he was utterly methodical as he took apart the Phoenix defense. And when he wasn’t doing it, Russell Westbrook was; with Durant’s 41 and Westbrook’s 36 — well, the Thunder won it 102-90, so there were twenty-five points that they didn’t score. Kevin Martin had just under half of them.

The Suns made a few runs at it, showing a knack for second-chance points — Phoenix grabbed 14 offensive rebounds — and the limited rotation (just eight) put in some serious work. Marcin Gortat played more than 46 minutes in an effort to seal off the cylinder. (He finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds, four off the offensive glass.) Shannon Brown collected a team-high 21 points, though it took him 43 minutes to do it. From the abbreviated bench, Michael Beasley and Sebastian Telfair (14 points each) were busy, Beasley clearing the boards and Telfair sinking the treys. This is what happens when both Channing Frye and Jared Dudley are out of commission.

Speaking of hors de combat, Serge Ibaka still is, but Thabo Sefolosha was back. (Telltale statistic: third-highest scorer of the starters, with four, but at +20 top of the box score.) Nick Collison started at the four, but for much of the night it was Durant and Hasheem Thabeet working the frontcourt. Kendrick Perkins didn’t shoot much, and what he did shoot didn’t go in, but he did collect 13 rebounds.

While all this was going on, Chicago was putting the hurt on Atlanta, holding them to 15 points in the first quarter and five in the second. I mention this here mostly as a “Don’t get cocky, kid” reminder.

The Nuggets come to OKC Wednesday, after which a six-game road trip ensues, starting Friday in Dallas.

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Authentic robot gibberish

Somewhere in the vast botnet, there is a machine sending out this weird text sample under the title “PC Error Removal”:

mentiams seemasm crosoduching portle drenation ousnappitters filesspective squero tourness scoper shamps oblelibell shamps. oblindings progichastits ritelenmens waywortsmarks extota bequanized viscent exciand matempendully velyncies peneed romesseld. pealth scrium advelnes shrianest compast forgst simposconcia decluble thsterenth efering acticiouts withendes obscor stickerysly farecienies matemper disgroonesset. jurinap burliner sionce scamation bumbericated benesin franno recroutratess ovissivers atered crifyinger riathelmedly climaxons polimillowerly norment scoffects paratole reascessies reextruch gramazing euchbows rantenvics.

It pains me that there are no definitions for these nonwords, so once, anyway, unto the breach:

Portle, v.i. To make use of a portal. (“We portled our way to Beta Centauri to save time and fuel.”)

Compast, n. A pile of organic material that has decayed beyond usability. (“You’re never going to get your tomatoes to grow if you dump that compast on them.”)

Efer, v.i. To use the F-word (q.v.) profusely. (“The Big Lebowski sets the curve for contemporary efering.”)

Burliner, n. A sock of unusual thickness, intended to protect the ankles from certain weeds. (“Better wear your burliners, there’s a bumper crop of stickers this year.”)

Scoffects, n. pl. The personal property of an individual arrested for a misdemeanor. (“We’re holding Mr Franno’s scoffects as evidence.”)

Norment, v.t. To assail an individual with statistics. (“The doctor normented me for half an hour before she’d give me the prescription.”)

Climaxon, n. The theoretical unit particle of orgasm. (“Two hundred sixty climaxons! I’m telling you, Cindy, this one’s a keeper!”)

Feel free to bumbericate your way to some definitions of your own.

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Cheerful nonconformists

Mark Alger glances at some of the staff at his local Whole Foods:

[W]hat amused me was the observation that all of the male employees’ beards looked exactly alike as to length and shape. As though they had a beard inspector who went around at morning check-in with a plastic mask he laid over their chins and made them either shave or glue on additional hairs so everybody had the same whole-wheat-and-chambray uniform appearance to match the store’s corporate theme.

That and the fact that everybody acted stoned.

In this town, alt-grocery stores tend to be stocked with (or by) hippie chicks, but Sixties throwback that I am, I believe in being kind to hippie chicks. I blame Dean Friedman.

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Floating in the dark

Welcome to the unreality-based community:

The Internet is a sensory deprivation tank. It somehow has the exact specific gravity of a human brain, so that it cancels out the heavy, reminding tug of our bodies. It deceives us that whatever we can imagine is not only possible, but already sufficiently existent without the salutary work and frustration that is matter’s accursed blessing. Our minds are crumbling like the bones of astronauts who have lived too long in weightlessness.

On the other hand, this may not necessarily be a bad thing, at least in terms of the effect it has on certain sectors. Continuing into a comment:

All those people, full of hope, sending out identical tweets about their social media optimization coaching — they are going to end up bagging groceries.

And bagging groceries is a tangible good, mostly. Sometimes it’s an art form. And sometimes they put the M&Ms under the rotisserie chicken.

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But they had so much in common

Kelly Hildebrandt and Kelly Hildebrandt are breaking up:

The couple who met, fell in love and married over a shared name, have now filed for divorce. Kelly Hildebrandt and Kelly Hildebrandt have gone their separate ways.

The pair with matching names made news when they tied the knot in 2009. But the couple came to realize that sharing a name wasn’t enough to keep them together.

(Background here.)

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