Preyed upon

One hates to say so, but the Toronto Raptors seem so much stronger since they dealt Rudy Gay to Sacramento a couple of weeks ago; they are, after all, leading the Atlantic Division despite being well below .500, they’d won three straight on the road, and they were up six at the half. Somewhere in the third quarter, though, the Thunder defense woke up: after yielding 37 in the second, they held Toronto to a mere 13 on 4-22 shooting, putting OKC in the lead by nine. Then in the fourth, the OKC offense snoozed, and a 10-0 Raptor run put Toronto up five with 2:30 left; with :26 left, the Raptors led by two, and Amir Johnson (16 points, 13 rebounds) dropped in two free throws at the :14 mark. Kevin Durant got a good look, but no points, and Kyle Lowry put it away on two more foul shots. The final: Toronto 104, Oklahoma City 98, and rather a lot of streaks came to a close.

Toronto shot a fairly dismal 39 percent from the floor, still three percentage points better than the Thunder. Five Raptors, though, made double figures, with Lowry’s 22 at the top. The secret weapon, if you ask me, was John Salmons, who led the bench with 14 points and +22 (game high). And there’s a Telltale Statistic: Toronto got fifteen more shots than OKC.

The one thing keeping the Thunder in this game, really, was their free-throw prowess: they hit 35 of 36. They had a slight lead in rebounds (47-42), a less-slight lead in turnovers (19-13). And while Durant had a decent 24, and Russell Westbrook a sizzling 27, nobody else broke into double digits. Second-night fatigue? Maybe, maybe not. I persist in thinking that Toronto, when sufficiently motivated, gets the job done, and on this road trip, they had the motivation.

Next outing: Madison Square Garden, Christmas Day. The Knicks are terrible, but they’re consistent.

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Their generosity is underwhelming

Leave it to Chase to come up with a timely response to the Target card-security breach: they’ve imposed strict limits on any debit card that might have been used at Target, and by “strict” we mean $100 a day from non-Chase ATMs and $300 a day in purchases. Just in time for Christmas, too.

Chase has about 23 million cardholders; they estimate that two million were affected by the Target snafu.

You might remember that Roberta X said earlier this week:

I’m one of the forty million, waiting for the other shoe to drop and wondering what I ought to do next. If I do go back, I’ll pay in cash.

If more than a handful of consumers follow suit, there will be ructions in the industry.

Disclosure: I’ve been to Target three times since Black Friday. No card swiped: strictly cash. This is less a tribute to my ability to see these things coming than an acknowledgement that it seems like a waste to bring out the plastic for a Glitter Pinkie Pie and a bottle of Flexeril.

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Miso sorry

Wonder why that price is variable?

Miso Specialties

(Via Miss Cellania, a May flower if ever there was one. No matter when her birthday is.)

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Not really a mean user

Said I after my first two weeks on Twitter:

The follower count seems to have leveled off at around 130, which is about a third higher than I anticipated.

Actually, I had originally planned for 50-75 followers, but since I tend to misunderestimate my influence, I decided I had a shot at that third digit despite not even slightly deserving it.

Four years and change later, I really have to wonder:

In comparative terms, almost nobody on Twitter is somebody: the median Twitter account has a single follower. Among the much smaller subset of accounts that have posted in the last 30 days, the median account has just 61 followers. If you’ve got a thousand followers, you’re at the 96th percentile of active Twitter users. (I write “active users” to refer to publicly-viewable accounts that have posted at least once in the last 30 days; Twitter uses a more generous definition of that term, including anyone who has logged into the service.)

How I got to the 95th percentile, I’ll never know.

(Via this TweetSmarter tweet.)

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More season’s greasings

One more 6×9 card in the mail. Collin Walke and his wife have no children, but they do have two dogs. Text on the address side: “Wishing you and your family a wonderful Christmas and a New Year filled with blessings of love, joy and peace.” For a minute there, I almost thought he was a Republican, just by dint of mentioning the C-word.

But no: Walke’s a Democrat, running for House District 87, currently represented by Republican Jason Nelson. (See previous edition.) Still a couple of days to go.

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Balmy in Bexar

The high today in San Antonio was 76. But the reception at the AT&T Center is always a bit chilly, and the Spurs/Thunder first quarter was downright frosty, though it ended in a 21-all tie. OKC warmed up the joint in the second, 40-29; the Spurs clambered back to within three with ten minutes left, but seven minutes later were down 12 again, and a minute after that, Pop, who’d already been T’d up tonight, conceded; the Thunder walked away with a 113-100 win, the first time they’d won a regular-season game in Alamo City in four years.

It didn’t help the Spurs that they were missing Kawhi Leonard, who was scratched with dental problems. Then again, the Spurs have seldom lacked for depth, and Marco Belinelli, who got the start in place of Leonard, hit his first five treys. Belinelli wasn’t much of a factor in the second half, though, and finished with 17. Stalwart Tony Parker led the Spurs with 23; ageless Tim Duncan collected 17, and Boris Diaw led the bench with 14.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant was having an off night: 17 points on 6-14 shooting. Fortunately, Russell Westbrook wasn’t: he torched the Spurs for 31. Reggie Jackson, strengthening his case for Sixth Man of the Year, collected 21, just two short of his season high, achieved against the, um, Spurs. And Serge Ibaka picked up 14 points, 14 boards, three blocks, and just for the heck of it nailed two treys in the fourth quarter. But this was a night when the bench would shine, contributing 44 points and most of the plus over minus. (Nick Collison, at +20, led all; Jackson was +19.)

Then again, the Thunder had motivation to get this done in a hurry: they have to take on the Raptors tomorrow night in OKC, where the forecast high temperature is 31. Not that this will impress anyone from Toronto.

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Ice Station Yankee

This particular manifestation of global warming dumped about ¾ inch of ice over the city, similar or slightly smaller amounts across the rest of the state, and generally made life difficult for as many as possible. As late as Friday noon it looked like an inconvenience, but not much more than that — except for this one Weather Guy who called it Thursday night:

Brace yourself for Epic Ice Storm Impact … tonight’s hi-res model has brought in even colder temperatures and lower dewpoints during this entire winter storm and much farther south and east than before. That’s good news for me because it means my forecast from Monday remains unchanged. It also means you’re about to see everyone else change their forecast at the last minute to follow suit. Either that or they’ll wait one more run (the morning one or wait to see other models come around to the same solution) before going all out balls to the wall. Lets just say everyone better hope tonight’s run is wrong or this will be an epic event roughly along the I-44 corridor.

Ah, the dreaded I-44 corridor. I said this yesterday just before what would have been sunset had we any sun:

ODOT: Call me.

Damage report for the palatial estate at Surlywood: one of the twin redbuds was cut almost in half; a couple of questionable fence panels are now essentially horizontal; I had to remove low-hanging bits of mulberry above the driveway to get my car out. Otherwise, not too terribly terrible, and probably less heinous than the horror that was the December ’07 storm.

Oh, and speaking of the December ’07 storm:

I can only hope that we won’t see another ice storm of this magnitude for another five or six years!

Next time, say “twelve or fourteen.” Or “fifty.”

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When ponies attack

I have to admit, something like this would put me off rather severely:

I had just walked upstairs, into my bathroom, when I heard someone say “la la la la la *giggles*”. Hmmm, that sounds like my daughter’s My Little Pony doll. But … why in the hell is it talking without anyone touching it?

“I love youuu!” it said afterwards.

Now there’s a phrase I don’t hear too often, especially out of the blue. Or, in this case, the pink:

I walked into the hummingbird’s room to investigate and saw that the pink pony was mostly under her bed with just the legs sticking out.

UH UHH, I’ve seen Chucky too many times and there was no way in hell I was going to bend down and pull that damn doll out from under the bed.

I looked at the picture of the pony in question. It’s a G3 So Soft Newborn Pinkie Pie from 2007. Wouldn’t hurt a flea — not deliberately, anyway.

Then again, I keep the batteries out of my own Twilight Sparkle Animated Storyteller, lest she start blabbing in the middle of the night.

(Via The Daily Oat.)

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Neither raptors nor tentacles

Amish Vampires in SpaceThen again, who needs dinoporn or whatever the hell it is the Japanese are putting out these days, when you can have Amish Vampires in Space?

Seriously. A 600-page thriller (I guess) about — well, the title gives it away. And it’s not some kind of send-up: the author plays it straight. In fact, perhaps the only thing that puts me off is the actual author bio, as seen on the book’s Amazon product page:

Kerry Nietz is a refugee of the software industry. He spent more than a decade of his life flipping bits, first as one of the principal developers of the database product FoxPro for the now mythical Fox Software, and then as one of Bill Gates’s minions at Microsoft. He is a husband, a father, a technophile and a movie buff. He has one non-fiction book, a memoir entitled FoxTales: Behind the Scenes at Fox Software. His first novel, A Star Curiously Singing, was published in October of 2009.

I know better than to recommend this to officemates: they hate FoxPro the way I do — with a purple passion.

(Found among Lynn’s random linkage.)

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An execrable vehicle

He even says so himself:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: My engine keeps dying at low rpms and won't execrate that quickly. Is this an easy fix?

What sort of horrid monstrosity is he driving?

1992 ford explorer v4 engine

Well, no wonder it’s not quick. Somebody stole two of the cylinders.

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A diamond in the flesh

When I first heard that Rebecca Black was covering Lorde’s ineffable “Royals,” something inside of me died just a little.

Fortunately, I heal quickly, and I’m here to tell you that this is pretty amazing, especially given her early history of, um, studio fine-tuning. She recorded it live on her MacBook, with absolutely zero production values.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Truly phone-y

I change cell phones as little as possible, so I knew this item in the mail wasn’t for me:

Thanks for your recent T-Mobile handset order. To complete your order, please click on the link and use the PIN provided to sign your Equipment Installment Plan agreement.

You must complete this process within 48 hours or your order will be canceled.

Besides, (1) it was sent to a mail account TMo doesn’t know about and (2) it was addressed to some guy named Vince Offutt.

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Sufficiently tough

Nicole de Boer, forty-three today, might be best known for her six-year stint as Sarah Bannerman on the USA network series The Dead Zone, though I remembered her better as Ezri Dax, ninth host to the Dax symbiont on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, following Jadzia Dax’s death at the hands of Gul Dukat of the Kardashians Cardassians.

This is apparently a publicity still for the Syfy film Metal Tornado (2011), which is about, um, a metal tornado.

Nicole de Boer 2011

Ezri Dax, at the end of DS9, found herself in a relationship with Dr. Bashir. I’d like to think that worked out, given the problems she had on the station.

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Quote of the week

Ace riffs on l’affaire Phil Robertson, and points out where we’re going wrong:

Yes, A&E has the right to suspend Phil Robertson. A&E also has the right to stand up for a broad and generous principle of Freedom of Thought and Expression.

Why does no one speak of that right? Sure, they have the right to act hostilely towards the spirit of the First Amendment and use coercive power to hammer people into only speaking the Officially Approved Institutional Corporate Slogans.

They also have the right to stick up for people’s right to dissent, to be “weird,” to have unpopular thoughts and heterodox beliefs. And as a media company, they really ought to have an interest in doing so.

Why does no one ever mention this? Why does no one ever push companies to recognize that right, rather than the other one?

It is well-conceded that an employer has the right to fire you for some heterodox belief or some oddball sexual habit, but an employer similarly has the right to foster an environment of self-expression and freedom, and yet no one seems to talk about a company’s capacity to be a Good Actor in the realm of free expression.

Of course not. The people who do support free expression would never dream of screaming at the top of their lungs about boycotts and such. But maybe it’s time they should:

[T]his War on Individuality hurts everyone who considers himself an individual.

It is time to tell these people, with no politeness whatsoever, to Shut the Fuck Up and stop making life awful for everyone else.

They are enemies of freedom — of freedom of conscience, of freedom of thought, of freedom of expression; of freedom, generally — and should be hectored, harassed, and humiliated as such.

They are retrograde simpleton bullies, and bullies requiring the bracing lesson of a punch to the face.

In the meantime, I’ll wait for someone to show me the specific clause in the Constitution that says he has the right to go through life without ever hearing anything that conflicts with his views.

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Primus inter pares sucks

I was coming out of the grocery store last night with my 15 items or less, and in the parking lot I encountered a fairly unhappy fellow with a presumably attached female. The source of his unhappiness? The store’s ATM. “This is the United States of America,” he growled. “We shouldn’t have to push a button for English; they should have to push a button for Español.”

I figured that if Presumably Attached Female hadn’t pointed out to him that both English and Spanish users have to push a button — that’s how the machine starts up — there wasn’t much point in my doing so, so I trotted on, if my typical just-about-twilight-after-a-long-day gait can be considered a trot.

Aside: One of my land-based phones has three-language capability, which has to be reset every time the battery for the Caller ID module is changed out; I don’t even bother, and often as not I get Spanish or French. (Now if it had actual translation capability for calls … but no, not at that price point.)

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Turmoil in Turkey continues

Istanbul chief of police Huseyin Capkin has been fired:

Istanbul’s police chief has been sacked in the aftermath of mass arrests on Tuesday by officers investigating corruption claims, reports say.

Huseyin Capkin’s dismissal comes a day after several senior officers, including his deputies, were removed.

Some 52 people, including three sons of ministers, were arrested in the dawn raids which prompted the dismissals.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has denounced the inquiry as a “dirty operation” against his government.

In the absence of obvious explanations, there are speculations:

Many believe the arrests and firings reflect a feud within Turkey’s ruling AK Party between those who back Mr Erdoğan, and supporters of Fethullah Gülen, an influential Islamic scholar living in self-imposed exile in the US.

Members of Mr Gülen’s Hizmet movement are said to hold influential positions in institutions such as the police, the judiciary and the AK Party itself.

“Hizmet” — “service to the common good” — would seem at least slightly incompatible with Islam as we know it, but I admit to having read very little of Gülen’s work.

Meanwhile, where there is turmoil, there are jokes:

“How Turkey has regressed,” says Jerry at Commonsense & Wonder.

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