Archive for May 2016

No joy of six

After fifteen years, the government of Ontario has decided that this plate is offensive:

Ontario license plate VI6SIX, expires November 2017

In vain did Daniel D’Aloisio try to explain what it meant:

“My relationship with my father was very short. He passed away when I was 19 years old due to cancer,” said D’Aloisio.

The pair shared a passion for the Habs.

D’Aloisio explained there were only so many characters, so VI is short for vie, French for “life”.

“‘6’ is from ’76, I was two years old and Montreal won their cup, and ‘six’ being six Stanley Cups my dad and I celebrated together in his short life with me.”

Their favourite player of all time, Mario Lemieux, wore 66.

A lot of sixes. The provincial government, however, saw exactly three:

If you read VI as the Roman numeral for six, the plate becomes 666.

In the New Testament, that’s the “number of the beast” and some see it as representing Satan.

Sheesh, Toronto. You want fire and brimstone, look westward; Fort McMurray is going through hell right now.

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We are all roadkill

The Hour of Indecision presents: “There’s a dead squirrel on the curb!”

For comic relief:

Hope it works.

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Wrenching torque

You always have to wonder what Gregg Popovich is going to throw at you. Tonight, the Spurs didn’t put up so many treys, and David West was turned loose to wreak havoc. West delivered, Tony Parker turned in another sterling performance, and it was obvious that something was going to have to happen if the Thunder were going to climb back into this thing. That something, like so many times before, was Kevin Durant, with 17 of his 41 points in the fourth quarter, while Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge — and possibly even Pop — wondered what the hell happened. With Durant in the middle of a pair of free throws — he got one — Pop pulled the big men, and it was window-dressing from that point. The Thunder won this one decisively, 111-97, and the series is tied up 2-2. “What was going on here tonight?” asked TV guy Brian Davis. “Basketball,” answered Dion Waiters laconically. And he could afford to be laconic; he’d just played keepaway for 24 seconds to burn up what was left of the clock.

Except for free throws, the Thunder owned the major box-score numbers: 51-47 shooting, 39-17 on treys (the Spurs hoisted twelve, hit only two), 40-30 rebounding, 23-12 on assists. Neither Aldridge nor Leonard got a shot from the floor in the entire fourth quarter. Neither Tim Duncan nor Danny Green got a shot from the floor in the entire game. Still, you want a hero here, you go to Steven Adams, +21 for the night, 16 points and 11 boards, much of this late alongside Enes Kanter, Billy Donovan having concluded that going small late in the fourth wasn’t working. (Kanter checked in with 11, and Waiters was a thumping 7-11 for 17.)

Beforehand, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth: what if this were the last game ever for Kevin Durant in Thunder home white? And we’ll probably hear that again before Game 6. The important thing for right now, though, is that there will be a Game 6.

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Strange search-engine queries (536)

Data-acquisition methods have changed somewhat over the ten years we’ve been doing this feature, but the motivation remains exactly the same: find out what people are searching for, and make fun of it whenever possible.

are the goats in the hsbc ad really up the tree:  You wanna try telling a goat it can’t go up a tree?

mark never stops ranting about the dangers of pornography. he gives endless examples of smut he has seen in movies and on television, and spends a lot of time hanging around porno houses to get even more examples:  And his right palm is covered in coarse, sticky hair.

unmitigatedly cute 18y.o. virgin skinny young teen & compacted breast strip:  That you, Mark?

10000 leagues under my nutsack:  No, maybe that’s Mark.

definition of a nerve:  Whatever it is, Mark’s got a lot of it.

chickens could not be taught to play baseball because they would chase the ball after it was batted, rather than run to first base:  Perhaps if you built a road perpendicular to the base path.

oldest known board game: Um, Great-Uncle Wiggily?

sofia still lives at home, but helps with the rent paying $200 per month. she has a job that pays about $700 per month after taxes. she has to pay for her own personal items such as clothing and toiletries spending about $120 per month. going out with friends is important to her, but she also wants:  To buy a brand-new car, because, by golly, she deserves one.

barista salaries:  I hope they make more than Sofia.

relative silence:  Most people’s relatives are anything but silent.

jose had a small bag of marshmallows. the bag contained 5 pink, 6 blue, 7 orange, 9 yellow, and 3 green marshmallows. he picked one of the marshmallows from the bag:  And somewhere, a leprechaun died.

by publishing information packed articles, you’ll soon enjoy rectum:  Not here, you won’t.

meghan trainor tongue:  Her tongue is No. (You need to let it go.)

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Taking four years off

And fercryingoutloud, get your passport in order:

Whether it’s luck or fate, we’re starting Dispatches Europe at the very time an increasing number of Americans are considering their expat options for the next four years or so. In fact, there’s a new poll out indicating one in four Americans would consider leaving if Trump is elected. Others claim they will leave if Hillary Clinton is elected. In terms of trend lines, more Americans are renouncing their citizenships.

From a recent Forbes post:

“[T]he number of published expatriates for the first three months of 2016 was a record 1,158. In 2015, there were approximately 4,300 expatriations. Comparing present to past suggests that Americans renouncing citizenship have risen 560 percent from their Bush administration high. There are now 18 times as many renouncers as in 2008.”

The discerning reader will already have discerned that 4,300 is a hell of a long way from “one in four.” Still, if you’re on your way out of here, we wish you well, and don’t let the door strike you as you leave.

(Via Cameron Aubernon.)

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But can she dance?

This shot of singing group Fifth Harmony apparently came from a Billboard cover shoot, and there’s something seriously wrong with it:

Fifth Harmony for Billboard maybe

I’m pretty sure Ally Brooke Hernandez, known professionally as Ally Brooke (seated, center), wasn’t born with two right feet.

Billboard said it wasn’t any of their doing:

“The photo circulating on the internet is a manipulated outtake from a Billboard photo shoot. It was never published by Billboard.

But perhaps the best commentary came from Hernandez herself:

Where this would get complicated, I submit, is when you have not only two right feet but a left one as well, as with this character from American Horror Story a couple of seasons back:

Three-legged woman from American Horror Story

I’m sure she can dance, especially the waltz, but I’m not so sure I want to find out for myself.

(Via HelloGiggles.)

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In lieu of a business model

Is my face insufficiently spited? Here, let me take a blade to that proboscis there:

Wired magazine's popup box

Here’s the thing with us paying magazine subscribers: we hate being presented with crap like this on the mag’s Web site, and if you really don’t want us around, we can take a hint, and you may never get another dime from us for the rest of your miserable lives.

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Mere “stick” seems inadequate

I mean, this sucker might be a full-fledged rod:

A long silhouette found wriggling on a mountain road in south China has proved to be the world’s longest insect, authorities said Thursday.

Zhao Li, with the Insect Museum of West China (IMWC) in Chengdu, found the 62.4-cm-long stick insect during a field inspection in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in 2014, breaking the record for length for all 807,625 insects discovered so far, according to the IMWC.

This is over two feet of six-legged bug.

(Okay, it’s technically not a bug.)

Zhao took the insect back to the IMWC, and it laid six eggs. After hatching, Zhao found the smallest of the young insects’ bodies measured at least 26 cm, almost twice the size of those at the Natural History Museum.

The insect has been named Phryganistria chinensis Zhao, and a thesis about it will be published soon.

(Via Fark.)

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Dollars here, dollars there

The apparently not-dead-yet Ted Cruz — at least, that’s the name in the From field — has issued this blurb on behalf of Rep. Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma’s 1st District:

There are hundreds of congressional races taking place across the country this year, but this election in Oklahoma is especially important.

Jim Bridenstine is one of the top conservative leaders in the House today and he isn’t afraid to stand up to the powerful interests in Washington.

He has fought to stop Obamacare, to defund President Obama’s executive amnesty, and to stop Planned Parenthood from receiving taxpayer money.

Time after time, Jim has stood with me and other conservatives in Congress to defend the Constitution, and now he needs your help.

The Washington establishment has recruited a candidate to run against Jim in the June 28th Republican primary election. He’s a threat to the Beltway insiders so they are determined to defeat him.

*Please join me in supporting this outstanding conservative leader by making a contribution to his campaign today.*

Some of us down here in Soonerland are, shall we say, suspicious of solicitations for out-of-state money. And we know this is going out of state, because Ted Cruz and/or his fellow travelers in this particular PAC didn’t send this to me; it was sent to good old Roger Green in Albany, New York, who isn’t the least likely person on earth to send a contribution to the Jim Bridenstine campaign, but he’s a long way from the top of the list, if you know what I mean.

There is no Democrat running in the First District, which should give you an idea of how this area skews politically. (There is an Independent in the race.) Tom Atkinson, the “establishment” Republican candidate, actually considered running against Bridenstine two years ago, but eventually thought better of it. With Bridenstine vowing to serve a maximum of three terms — he’s completed two — Atkinson may actually get a chance in 2018.

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Synths and sensibility

After Switched-On Bach, the deluge: all manner of music was processed through the magical Moog and its rival devices. Perhaps the biggest hit was a Debussy collection called Snowflakes Are Dancing, on which Isao Tomita spent fourteen months trying to do polyphonics on a machine that did one note at a time. Wendy Carlos faced the same issue on her early Moog work, but she was doing mostly Bach, nicely mathematical and discrete. Debussy, a “tone painter,” would prove tricker, but not at all impossible:

The only off-note is the title of the collection, a slightly warped translation of Debussy’s original La neige danse. I played the very dickens out of this disc, and it still comes out a couple times a year to remind me.

Unfortunately, this came down the stream yesterday:

Tomita was 84. And before he was through, he did some Bach of his own:

The numbers still add up.

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Boxed in

Well, the new Mini Boxes were not going to install themselves, and I wasn’t about to call in a tech for something I damned well ought to be able to do myself, so I set aside an hour to deal with both of my ancient television sets.

The Box box from Cox contains, in addition to the box and its power supply, a smallish remote (with a couple of AAA batteries), a large sheet of paper for the benefit of people with ancient television sets whose remotes need to be cloned, a Quick Start guide which I looked at once, and two cables: one HDMI and one with F connectors. The idea is that if you don’t have HDMI, as I don’t on the turn-of-the-century Sony WEGA, it will still be possible to hook up the box, though nothing is going to produce an actual HD picture. (With judicious use of a button on the remote, you can do the old letterboxing trick to get 16:9, albeit with the usual black bars at top and bottom.) The Vizio (2007) is a proper HD set, but the connectors, as I had forgotten, required me to turn the screen upside down to get to them.

That said, I didn’t actually use up the entire hour, though for some reason the install on the Vizio immediately phoned home for a software update, and it’s just as agonizing watching such things on TV screens as it is on proper computer monitors. And now, instead of 105 channels I don’t watch, I have about 225 channels I don’t watch.

Downside: Each box seems to eat up about 10 watts, whether anyone’s watching TV or not. This works out to somewhere around $20 a year on the electric bill. It’s not a Frigidaire, exactly, but it’s still noticeable.

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Grand appearance

In fact, several grand: back in 1990, supermodel Linda Evangelista said of herself and her few peers, “We don’t wake up for less than $10,000 a day.” On this, her 51st birthday, it seems fit to look back a bit: two of these shots qualify as vintage, but the last comes from 2015, part of a campaign she did for Hudson’s Bay. (I continue to be gobsmacked by the fact that this is the Hudson’s Bay Company that showed up in my history texts, many years ago: the firm dates to 1670.)

Linda Evangelista in red, white and blue, sort of

And who better to embody the red, white and blue than a woman from St. Catharines, Ontario?

Linda Evangelista sports a bob

Linda Evangelista for Hudson's Bay

She retired from the runway in 1998, only to return in 2001. Maybe she needed a reason to wake up in the morning.

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Gimme five

After the thirteenth Thunder turnover — still in the second quarter, mind you — you might reasonably have concluded that OKC was going down, and going down hard. You might not have expected that they’d learn some ball control in the second half, but they manifestly did: in those last 24 minutes they gave the ball up only seven times. And with 42 seconds left, the Thunder actually held a one-point lead, 92-91. Danny Green stripped the ball away from Kevin Durant, but the Spurs weren’t able to turn that turnover into actual points, and after a difficult inbound, Russell Westbrook made a mad dash to the rim — “and one,” as Dion Waiters is wont to say — and the Thunder were up four with six seconds left. Kawhi Leonard tried a three, Tony Parker retrieved the miss and Green tried another, but to no avail. Oklahoma City 95, San Antonio 91, the Thunder lead the series 3-2, and suddenly something the local pundits had been suggesting started to make sense: give the Spurs three days rest, and they’re fine, but with only one day — well, Tim Duncan once got a DNP-OLD, and he’s way older than that now.

Then again, Duncan played 28 minutes tonight, and if he’s lost some speed, he’s lost none of his slyness. And Danny Green, held scoreless last time out, sprang for 20 points, tied with Kawhi and six behind LaMarcus. But the San Antonio bench, while it did yeoman work keeping the Thunder away from the cylinder, didn’t make much in the way of shots: five reserves, 11 points. (Then again, the OKC second string managed only 20.) The Spurs wound up shooting just under 40 percent, which doesn’t exactly shine. And they pulled in a mere 36 rebounds, while the Thunder collected 54.

Still, it’s never just numbers. And tonight it was Westbrook, blurry like he’d taken some of those Acme earthquake pills, with 35 points, 11 boards, and nine assists. (And yes, eight turnovers.) Kevin Durant added 23. It took those two 48 shots to get 58 points, but what the heck; Steven Adams went 5-8 from the floor and posted yet another double-double.

Game 6 is in OKC. Day after tomorrow. Suddenly that seems portentous.

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The Enucleator

Sounds like a straight-to-video semi-thriller, doesn’t it?

Oh, it doesn’t? Well, never mind then.

One thousand dollars Canadian

Pinicola enucleator, the pine grosbeak, is a Very Big Finch, and this is a very high-value banknote, as seen in a Guardian article on, um, high-value banknotes. Says the caption to this picture:

A Canadian $1,000 dollar note (£499), issued in 1988. It stopped being printed in 2000, but despite requests to return them to banks, nearly 1m of them are still unaccounted for.

“It stopped being printed.” Imagine the cry of the grosbeak: “Stop printing me!” The actual story is more humdrum:

The Bank of Canada will no longer issue $1,000 bills as of this Friday [29 September 2000] in an effort to fight organized crime and money laundering.

The bill’s extinction was made official Monday after formal approval from the federal government. It was the final step in a February proposal by the the Finance Department, the central bank and the RCMP to get rid of the bills which are favoured by criminals.

Nicknamed “pinkies” for their reddish-purple hue, $1000 bills were an easy way for criminals to hide and carry their earnings.

Of course, you’re looking at the back of the bill: Queen Elizabeth is on the front.

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Be true to your shool

And remember: they’re concerned.

This particular Marietta is in southeastern Ohio.

(Title inspired by Little Stevie Weingold.)

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That wasn’t so easy

Staples and Office Depot will not be merging after all:

Office Depot and Staples called off their plans to merge, triggering a trading halt for the companies’ stocks Tuesday.

The retailers made the announcement after a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction Tuesday that had been requested by the Federal Trade Commission, which opposed Staples’ plan to acquire Office Depot for $6.3 billion.

Now the companies “plan to terminate their merger agreement,” Staples said in a statement.

The FTC’s position is simple enough [warning: autostart video]:

The agency pointed to the market for large business customers, where Staples and Office Depot are often the top two bidders.

“By eliminating competition between Staples and Office Depot, the transaction would lead to higher prices and reduced quality,” the FTC said in a statement.

At 42nd and Treadmill, we buy from both, and we have no qualms about playing both ends against the middle.

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Neither Rand nor McNally

I suppose I could find a gizmo, or an app, that will find directions for me, but maybe I don’t want to:

The park rangers at Death Valley National Park in California call it “death by GPS.” It describes what happens when your GPS fails you, not by being wrong, exactly, but often by being too right. It does such a good job of computing the most direct route from Point A to Point B that it takes you down roads which barely exist, or were used at one time and abandoned, or are not suitable for your car, or which require all kinds of local knowledge that would make you aware that making that turn is bad news.

Death Valley’s vast arid landscape and temperature extremes make it a particularly dangerous place to rely on GPS. In the summer of 2009, Alicia Sanchez, a twenty-eight-year-old nurse, was driving through the park with her six-year-old son, Carlos, when her GPS directed her onto a vaguely defined road that she followed for 20 miles, unaware that it had no outlet. A week later, a ranger discovered Sanchez’s Jeep, buried in sand up to its axles, with SOS spelled out in medical tape on the windshield.

Too much faith in the machines, perhaps:

Most death-by-GPS incidents do not involve actual deaths — or even serious injuries. They are accidents or accidental journeys brought about by an uncritical acceptance of turn-by-turn commands: the Japanese tourists in Australia who drove their car into the ocean while attempting to reach North Stradbroke Island from the mainland; the man who drove his BMW down a narrow path in a village in Yorkshire, England, and nearly over a cliff; the woman in Bellevue, Washington, who drove her car into a lake that their GPS said was a road; the Swedish couple who asked GPS to guide them to the Mediterranean island of Capri, but instead arrived at the Italian industrial town of Carpi; the elderly woman in Belgium who tried to use GPS to guide her to her home, 90 miles away, but instead drove hundreds of miles to Zagreb, only realizing her mistake when she noticed the street signs were in Croatian.

I’m pretty good at fumbling with maps, if not with folding and refolding them.

(Via American Digest.)

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Potentially mortarfied

One of the great fears of our technological time is installing an update and then watching in horror as the device assumes the general position and activity level of a paperweight. I got a chance to anticipate just such a thing yesterday:

Some ASUS users are having UEFI-related Windows update problems that may brick their systems. A few news sites have stories on this:

[…] KB3133977, a security update for Windows 7, has been identified as the cause for this problem. Following its installation, it forces Windows 7 to enable Secure Boot, even though it is actually not supported by Microsoft anymore. This eventually prevents the system from properly rebooting. Microsoft has clearly stated that it is in no way responsible for this predicament. Providing clarification, a company spokesperson stated that the problem occurs because of how Asus has created some of its motherboards with its own modified version of the Secure Boot feature. In other words, users facing problems in this regard will have to contact Asus directly to have the issue addressed. […]

Well, actually, it was never supported in Win7; Secure Boot was an innovation, so to speak, that came with Windows 8. Still, I have an Asus mobo, I run Windows 7, and yesterday was the due date for Microsoft’s Patch of the Month Club. So when I got home, I dragged myself into UEFI — which, as the lovely and talented @SwiftOnSecurity reminds us, is not actually BIOS — drilled down a couple of levels, and hit the toggle on Secure Boot to match up, not with Windows, but with some mysterious “Other OS” that I don’t actually have on this machine.

And then down came fourteen patches, none of which turned out to be KB3133977.

I suppose I can toggle it back when I cede control to Windows 10 in the next couple of months.

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Seems really legit

Somehow this struck me as odd:

Taylor Swift turned heads Tuesday night when she accepted two major honors — including one named after her — at the 64th annual BMI Pop Awards held at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Wait a minute. Named after her?

The country-turned-pop star’s family joined her for the special ceremony where she was honored with the first-ever Taylor Swift Award for “incomparable creative and artistic talent and influence on music lovers around the world,” as described by BMI.

In other news, Lou Gehrig died of Lou Gehrig’s disease.

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This much and no lower

Meanwhile in London, they worry over whether you’re wearing shoes of the correct height:

I’m not quite sure how I feel about this. The British naturist Lady God1va, from whom I got this report, doesn’t think much of the petition:

After noting that it would be just about as useless to petition for nudity on the job, she added:

I can manage only so much empathy here: I can remember exactly one instance of a woman wearing heels to work on any day after her first, and I remember that only because — well, never mind.

In the meantime, this is the petition in question.

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Squirrel update

Over the weekend, I discovered a dead bishop on the landing squirrel out by the curb. After contemplating the disquieting possibility of hoisting the poor deceased critter from his resting place and dropping him into the refuse bin, I decided that hey, I pay taxes for this, and Monday morning I left a note for the city’s Action Center.

Almost exactly 24 hours later, within the time frame expected, Animal Control failed to find the ex-furball, perhaps because it was in the shadow of said refuse bin. I know this because I sent a second note to the Action Center Tuesday afternoon, and that’s what they told me. Wednesday they were properly contrite, and promised to have it hauled off that day. Which they did.

I think this is only the second time I’ve dealt with the Action Center. Not bad for twelve and a half years, I guess.

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Insidiously hideous

This particular WordPress theme was two years old when I adopted (and to some small extent adapted) it, and that was eight years ago. Then again, we’re still talking the 21st century here, although the worst excrescences of the 20th seem to be coming back into style:

There’s an interesting trend in web design these days: Making websites that look, well … bad.

Look at Hacker News. Pinboard. The Drudge Report. Adult Swim. Bloomberg Businessweek features. All of these sites — some years old, some built recently — and hundreds more like them, eschew the templated, user-friendly interfaces that has long been the industry’s best practice. Instead they’re built on imperfect, hand-coded HTML and take their design cues from ’90s graphics.

Which is the way I learned to do things, back in the, um, Nineties. It has the advantage of familiarity.

Is there enough of this stuff to constitute a whole school of thought? Apparently so:

The name of this school, if you could call it that, is “web brutalism” — and there’s no question that much of the recent interest stems from the work of Pascal Deville.

In 2014 Deville, now Creative Director at the Freundliche Grüsse ad agency in Zurich, Switzerland, founded brutalistwebsites.com. He meant it as a place to showcase websites that he thought fit the “brutalist” aesthetic: Design marked by a “ruggedness and lack of concern to look comfortable or easy” in “reaction by a younger generation to the lightness, optimism, and frivolity of today’s web design.” (In architecture, brutalism describes a ’70s architectural movement characterized by large buildings with exposed concrete construction.)

I defend this sort of thing more or less reflexively. Then again, I defended Oklahoma City’s Stage Center for many years, and we all know what that got me.

“Bad is the new good,” tweeted Nancy Friedman.

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Get outta here, ya knuckleheads

Early in the second quarter, with the Thunder cranking up the intensity, it occurred to me what might have been said in the OKC locker room before tipoff: “Do we really want to play these guys one more time?” The answer seemed pretty obvious at the time, but the third quarter hammered it home. The Spurs, held to a miserable 31 points in the first half, got loose for 34; but the Thunder picked up 36, so San Antonio actually lost ground. So I decided to focus on Tim Duncan, the grand old man in grey and black, who had his best night of the series tonight, and just to make it interesting, the Spurs opened the fourth quarter with a 14-3 run, most of which seemed to come from Kawhi Leonard. The Thunder stumbled around a bit, as they’ve done too often in fourth quarters before, with Russell Westbrook inflicting a Flagrant One upon Danny Green. (Green, obligingly, missed one of the two free throws, and the extra San Antonio possession produced no bucket.) But order was restored to the universe, and Duncan and Andre Miller, possibly on their way to Retirementville, were allowed to finish things up in grand style. (Good call, Pop.) Oklahoma City 113, San Antonio 99, and if you had “Thunder in six,” step forward and claim whatever it is you’re supposed to be getting.

This is the juxtaposition that screamed at me from the box score: the Spurs were 13-16 on free throws. Kevin Durant was 12-12. (KD finished with 37 for the night.) And really, I’m not used to seeing San Antonio get a whole crapton of fouls; Manu Ginobili (how?) actually fouled out. Desperation will make you do strange things. And for a while there, the Spurs were flailing about like crazy. Still, you don’t get this far into the playoffs without something intangible. Maybe it was those two elderly gentlemen, Miller and Duncan, showing how it’s done. (Duncan was +13 for the night with 19 points; Miller dished up four assists and snagged three rebounds in a mere nine minutes.) You have to figure that next season’s Spurs will be plenty tough: they still have Kawhi and LaMarcus and maybe even Tony Parker. But, as the poet said, that’s next season. For now, our attention turns westward, where the Warriors will be waiting in Oakland, and they’re tough and scrappy and incredibly freaking dangerous, the way defending champions are supposed to be.

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Level perspective

There are some things we just don’t think about, because we don’t see them quite the same way. An example from yesterday’s tweetstream:

Frazer describes herself as a “wheelchair and chocolate user,” which seems sensible enough to me.

I really need to work something like this into a pony story, inasmuch as one of my recurring characters is a stallion about 9 hands who used to be a guy about 6 feet.

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Don’t be Evil McEvilface

This is the sort of thing that makes me think I need a Why The Hell Not? category:

At Google, we spend a lot of time thinking about how computer systems can read and understand human language in order to process it in intelligent ways. Today, we are excited to share the fruits of our research with the broader community by releasing SyntaxNet, an open-source neural network framework implemented in TensorFlow that provides a foundation for Natural Language Understanding (NLU) systems. Our release includes all the code needed to train new SyntaxNet models on your own data, as well as Parsey McParseface, an English parser that we have trained for you and that you can use to analyze English text.

Did he say what I thought he said?

Parsey McParseface is built on powerful machine learning algorithms that learn to analyze the linguistic structure of language, and that can explain the functional role of each word in a given sentence. Because Parsey McParseface is the most accurate such model in the world, we hope that it will be useful to developers and researchers interested in automatic extraction of information, translation, and other core applications of NLU.

And why the hell not?

(Via Selena Larson.)

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Quote of the week

Robert Stacy McCain, scoffing at what we are being told is some sort of “masculinity crisis,” comes to Casablanca, not for the waters, but for a very specific character:

The weak and helpless need heroes who are strong and brave. Do not let weaklings tell you that your strength makes you a “bully,” and never let cowards make you ashamed of your courage. Do not seek praise from fools. They mock the hero because they resent his greatness, and express their envy by ridiculing his virtue. Do not let yourself become discouraged because you are misunderstood. To be insulted by fools is an honor.

Resist the temptation of self-pity. Never blame others for your own failures. When you find you must suffer for the evil that others have done, do not expect anyone to help you, but be grateful you have the strength to endure suffering. Survival is victory, when you are surrounded by enemies who wish you dead, as heroes so often are.

Laugh in the face of danger. You are a survivor. You have lived through hard times before, and have the scars to prove it. Hold your head high and be happy for each new day. Every new challenge is a chance to show those sons of bitches they can’t beat you. And if you ever find yourself in a moment of doubt, just ask yourself, “What would Rick Blaine do?”

Now I appreciate a interesting antihero as much as the next guy, but it’s the hero, the one who does the right thing because it’s the right thing, who’s going to save the world, or the part of it that’s worth saving anyway.

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Sweet and simple

In an era of Rampant Overdecoration, I have to appreciate something like “Amanda” here:

Amanda pump from Shoesinitaly

That heel is 4.1 inches. And there are three non-black colors, should you prefer.

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Even bigger pharma

I was apprehensive when Target sold off its in-store pharmacy business to CVS, partly because the big drugstore chains have never given me any compelling reason to shop there, but mostly because I expected prices to rise. Late last month, the Target store nearest me — a third of a mile from the freestanding CVS store nearest me — underwent The Change, and I decided not to move any prescriptions for at least a month, so I could gauge what was going on. Having now received the first batch, I report.

Upside: CVS.com is less dumb than Target’s pharmacy site was, and way less dumb than the idjits to whom Target briefly tried to outsource the function. Once I learned the flow, which didn’t take long, ordering refills took about half as long. What’s more, CVS, if requested, will send text messages; at best, Target could have a disembodied voice in Minneapolis call you. Prices, at least for the moment, have changed hardly at all.

Downside: The polygonal Target pill bottle was a lot easier on the hands and eyes than is the standard-issue CVS (and everywhere else) cylinder.

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Meanwhile on Orange Street

Last month, I extolled the manifest virtues of nine-year-old journalist Hilde Lysiak, editor/publisher of Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania’s Orange Street News, and announced that I was going to take out an actual subscription — one year, $14.99 — to help support her effort. An issue, number 18, arrived this week, and it looks serious: eight pages, professionally printed and bearing a proper presorted postage inscription. (The mailing service is in Lewisburg, one county over.) Page 7 contains Community Announcements and about three-quarters of a page of actual advertising.

And there’s an editorial:

The front page story for the May issue of the Orange Street News is about how the vandal who has been terrorizing our community may have been caught. The police did a great job in catching the suspect and hopefully ending his reign of terror, but why did it take police so long to just give the suspect’s name to the media? […] The police in Selinsgrove need to remember that they work for the people. The people don’t work for the police.

Ms Lysiak appears to have been seriously ticked off.

Oh, and now she has a Wikipedia page, which reveals that despite her deep Pennsylvania roots, she was born in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, New York. Her dad used to work for the New York Daily News, and he “talks with Lysiak about her stories and occasionally helps tighten up a lede, but mostly leaves her in the driver’s seat.”

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Number deleted

There was some brief outcry earlier this week when Governor Fallin signed House Bill 3167; apparently some people thought this meant that speed limits in this state were canceled. It means, of course, nothing of the sort:

The speed limit set for the turnpikes, interstates and other state highways was erased in a bill, signed by the Governor Monday. That doesn’t eliminate current speed limits, but eliminates the maximum that was once set by law.

House Bill 3167 deletes the section of the law prescribing a maximum speed limit.

It replaces it with the following: “On a highway or part of a highway, unless otherwise established in law, a speed established by the Department of Transportation on the basis of engineering and traffic investigations used to determine the speed that is reasonable and safe under the conditions found to exist on the highway or part of the highway.”

Before that, there was a hard limit: 75 mph and no more.

ODOT, for its part, isn’t suggesting anything:

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation did not request the bill and did not oppose it, said Terri Angier, an agency spokeswoman.

The department has “no intention of raising any of the speed limits across the board on any of the highways, but it allows us to look at specific situations, if requested,” she said.

We’ll see 80 on the Turner Turnpike by this time next year. And the nimrods who currently drive 84 in a 75 zone will — well, actually, I’m not sure what they’ll do. About eight years ago, during a brief blast down a Texas highway posted at 80, I seldom saw anyone going much faster than 82 or 83.

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When the right name is still wrong

I mean, yes, it fits, but no, you shouldn’t:

Maybe a hyphen between the two words?

For the curious, area code 858 covers northern sections of San Diego County in California.

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McQuestion McAnswered

In the wake of Boaty McBoatface, Katy Waldman — not, you’ll note, Katy McKaterson — traces the origin of this odd bit of name construction:

By the time Adam Sandler introduced a creature called Fatty McGee on his double platinum comedy album They’re All Gonna Laugh at You in 1993, the parodic “Mc” had absorbed some bite from its association with McDonalds. In the ’80s and ’90s, a dismissive Mc often prefaced “something that is of mass appeal, a standardized or bland variety,” says the OED. In 1986, the sociologist Amitai Etzioni coined the word “McJob” to describe what the novelist Douglas Coupland would later immortalize in Generation X as “a low-pay, low-prestige, low-dignity, low benefit, no-future job in the service sector.” Like a McDonald’s hamburger, such positions were cheap, ubiquitous, and un-nourishing. A glib and pandering best-seller was a “McThriller.” A meretricious construction project was a “McMansion.” (Even today, couples in Hong Kong can get McMarried at a fast food outlet for about $1,300.)

But the Internet didn’t take up the “X-y McXerson” construction in earnest until 2001, according to lexicographer Ben Zimmer: “The first [Usenet] appearance of Hottie McHotterson (on rec.games.video.sony),” Zimmer writes, beat out “Fatty McFatterson, Stiffy McStifferson, Drinky McDrinkerson, Jewy McJewerson, etc.” Zimmer also notes a cornucopia of deprecative McNicknames for George W. Bush, including “Chimpy McBunnypants,” “Drinky McCokeSpoon,” and “Smirky McWarHardon.”

Apparently I picked up on this construction for the first time in 2010, in a reference to James Lileks:

Of course, if you do as much scanning as Lileks — but no. No one does as much scanning as Lileks. He’s the original Scanny McScannerton. He could probably justify an industrial-strength scanner that would make Great-gramma throw up her dentures in despair, but they’d make him pay industry-level prices for it, and I suspect he’d like to feed the family once in a while.

I’m surprised nothing along these lines has showed up in the cloud of effluent surrounding the 2016 general election; apparently Donald Trump prefers the name “John” [warning: autostart video], but that’s about it so far.

(Via Heather Froelich.)

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We are not delirious

Mexican actress Anahí Giovanna Puente de Velasco — you can just call her Anahí, everyone else does — occupies a rather uncommon spot near the intersection of Pop Culture and Politics: in her thirty-three years she’s been an actress, a member of a musical girl group, and a solo singer/songwriter, and last year she wed Manuel Velasco Coello, governor of the Mexican state of Chiapas.

One might expect from this CV that she’d have a certain visual appeal, and you’ll get no argument from me:

Anahí out in front

Anahí sitting in the back

A thousand kisses from Anahí and Pepsi

In 2009, Anahí came up with this poppy tune called “Mi Delirio,” which I think was her first entry into the Billboard US Latin chart, peaking at #29. Parts of the video are perhaps disturbing:

Then again, you don’t need Google to translate “Mi Delirio.”

Feliz cumpleaños, Anahí.

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On being merchandise

Pretty much everyone is agreed that slavery is a heinous thing, and we’re all better off without it. (I’d just as soon not hear from anyone who thinks we’re not better off without slavery, thank you very much.)

Then again, none of us actually lived in those days, so it’s all kind of theoretical to us — until we stumble upon something like this:

1855 slave sale poster

Typography aside, this could be an auto-dealer ad today, except for the lack of rebates.

Debra Monroe observes:

[P]osters like this were as common as dirt. They should be in history books in school — not college. School. One month of black history.

It doesn’t even have to be in February.

Side note: Lewis County, Kentucky is just south of the Ohio River. It’s 98 percent white; over 40 percent of county income is government benefits of one sort or another.

(Poster from the Facebook page Black Knowledge.)

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Hard luck, your lordship

As Cher Horowitz might have said, “As if”:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: I had to purchase a transmission less than 2 months of getting the car. The vehicle was repossed today. Can i retrive my transmission?

Yeah, like they’re going to just hand it to you.

At the time Sandy, my second Mazda 626, was totaled out after meeting up with a doe on a rural road, she was wearing spiffy new high-performance tires with barely a thousand miles on them. $650 down the chute. C’est la vie.

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Not that they’d try at this point

The workplace has long since learned that my standard-issue scowl is at least as permanent as the buildings we occupy, and has lasted at least as long. It doesn’t stop them from trying to ward off my baleful influence on new arrivals, not that we have that many new arrivals to begin with. The law, however, is on my side:

More managers than ever are striving to create a happy workplace culture brimming with enthusiasm, rainbows, and increasingly obscure perks. But can a company actually require that employees be positive at work?

The National Labor Relations Board has weighed in on this question, and their answer is that you are free to be as grumpy or disagreeable as you please. Or, in other words, your employer can’t force you to be happy at your job.

And I suggest that this is doubly true when an Emergency Project comes up at 4 PM on a Friday. Maybe even trebly.

State law, at least in this state, holds that you can be sacked for something as trivial as picking your nose with the wrong finger. I don’t anticipate being a test case, but the future, generally, is not something I’m especially good at predicting.

(Via Shayna.)

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Stopping after none

I was one of five children, my mother one of seven. A friend has eight, with a ninth on the way. Surely there’s room for someone who doesn’t wish to have any.

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Now that’s a destroyer

The very first of the Zumwalt-class destroyers is, duh, the USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), due to be commissioned in mid-September. It’s an impressive beast, to say the least:

USS Zumwalt stealth destroyer

The Zumwalt has stealth capabilities of a sort:

Although it’s huge, the Navy says this thing is surprisingly stealthy. Much of the ship is built on angles that help make it 50 times harder to spot on radar than an ordinary destroyer. “It has the radar cross-section of a fishing boat,” Chris Johnson, a spokesman for Naval Sea Systems Command, told CNN last year.

Captain James A. Kirk, commander of the USS ZumwaltIt’s not exactly a Romulan cloaking device, but it will do for now. Certainly you’ll get no argument from Captain Kirk.

Wait, what?

Capt. James A. Kirk will be commander of the Navy’s new USS Zumwalt, the first of the DDG-1000 class of destroyers. It is longer, faster and carries state-of-the-art weapons that will allow it to destroy targets at more than 60 miles away, according to the Navy.

You can’t tell me this isn’t nominative determinism, once removed.

Elmo Zumwalt (1920-2000) was Chief of Naval Operations in the early 1970s, appointed by Richard M. Nixon; Admiral Zumwalt had previously served as Commander Naval Forces, Vietnam.

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Strange search-engine queries (537)

Every Monday morning we shake the dew off the lily, wash and dry, and then sort through a thousand or so log entries, looking for the inspirations of people out there who are looking for things. Some of the things they look for — well, take a look for yourself:

+meaning of are you in to big titis or a huge ass:  If you have to ask, you’re not going to encounter much of either.

2016 hyundai azera spanish fork:  Optional when you order the Romance Languages Flatware option ($295).

terrell’s science class volunteers at the pet shelter each week and assists with keeping the puppy cages clean. combining academic work with a community project is an example of:  A desperate plea for extra credit.

bonds womens pantyhose 70d opaque electric blue average/tall:  Okay, you have my attention. Unless you’re talking about Bobby Bonds.

when bob noticed a pain in his thigh, he was convinced it was a sign of bone cancer. although x-rays revealed no sign of cancer, bob sought the opinions of a dozen other physicians who agreed with the original opinion. what:  Bob did not know is that eleven of those doctors were out of network and he was billed for $63,000.

tg://resolve?domain=stalin_gulag:  For some reason, the Solzhenitsyn function has fallen into desuetude.

bratty sisters converted to sex bots:  You have more faith in contemporary debrattification techniques than I do.

brian is very creative. if he goes a week without seeing another person, he doesn’t even notice. he likes to garden and is currently redesigning the entire landscape around his property. according to holland’s theory, what type of person is brian?  The sort of person who forgets to pay his property taxes for three years and ends up on the street drinking RoundUp.

gigger bites:  “Gigger”? Please.

barely-melted capacitor:  Connect the power supply just one more time. Let’s see if we can melt that sucker for good.

i love her yahoo answers:  Wait until you find out the reason why she was posting as Anonymous.

which one is beavis:  The one who looks more like Ted Cruz.

powered by gossamer links perversity:  Is that the new name for Tumblr?

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Not sophomoric

Cover art Meghan Trainor Thank YouMeghan Trainor’s Title album ran up such amazing numbers — exactly eight albums in the entire world outsold it in 2015 — that I was prepared for a major letdown with her second effort, Thank You. The story goes that Epic Records bossman L. A. Reid was not overly impressed with the album as it was presented to him, dismissing it as “an album of Nice Meghan,” prompting M-Train to go dash off a badass anthem with serious attitude. “No” was a hit, reaching #3, and at least some of the concerns were allayed.

The late-Fifties doo-wop feel of Title has been ruthlessly excised, replaced in most cases by R&B beats: “Watch Me Do” invokes, musically and lyrically, the spirit of James Brown, and “No” out-Britneys Britney. The slow acoustic songs don’t quite fare so well, except for “Kindly Call Me Down,” a visit to Adeleville that tugs at the heartstrings with the strength of a meathook. Sophomore slump? Maybe, to some extent. “Champagne Problems,” to be sure, isn’t a patch on Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Boy Problems.” But when something goofily upbeat like “Dance Like Yo Daddy” comes along, you get moving so quickly that you forget what a nifty lyricist Trainor really is. (“Simon says, go touch your nose / Meghan says, touch your toes / But like, I still can’t touch my toes.”) So long as the next album is not a double-length live set, I’ll keep on paying attention.

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