A downright speedy slog

A bit tired but always game, Heracles, having captured three-headed Cerberus, asked if there might be a thirteenth labor. Came the response: “We want you to guard Stephen Curry.”

The hero demurred. “No way I can keep up with that SOB.”

He wasn’t kidding. In the middle of the second quarter, Curry put together a string of three treys in what seemed to me no time at all, nearly wiping out a double-digit Thunder lead. And then the gods came up with a plot complication: a minute and a half into the third quarter, Curry, after assisting on a Harrison Barnes dunk, rolled his ankle, and disappeared into the locker room for the next five minutes. No way Steph would stay gone, and sure enough, he didn’t; with 1:15 left in the third, one of those patented Curry treys gave the Warriors their first lead of the night. Kevin Durant responded to this with two treys of his own, and the Thunder were up five going into what Judge Radar called “Twelve Minutes of Hell.” With 11:33 of that 12:00 elapsed, OKC led 100-99. KD used up half the remaining time to find a spot from 26 feet back, and splashed the trey; Klay Thompson drove in for a layup, and with 0.7 second left, Andre Iguodala, drawing Durant’s fifth foul, nailed two free throws to tie it at 103, and five minutes more hell ensued.

Then, 47 seconds into the overtime period and the Thunder up by five, Steph Curry drew a foul from KD, his sixth. (Bye-bye, Kevin.) Shortly thereafter, Curry’s eleventh trey of the game — tying a career high — tied the game at 110-all; in the last second, he got his twelfth, and that was it, 121-118, a Russell Westbrook trey at the buzzer falling short. And with 24 games left, the Warriors, 53-5, have already clinched a playoff spot.

Curry’s 46 points, of course, dwarfed everyone else’s. (Durant had 37 to lead the Thunder.) Overall shooting was almost dead even, Golden State 45-95, OKC 46-96. And neither side was particularly adept from the stripe, the Warriors making 17 of 25, the Thunder 17 of 26. The commanding OKC lead in rebounding — 62-32 — was more than offset by the turnover count: the Warriors lost only 11, the Thunder 23. You almost have to wonder what it would have been like had Steph Curry not spent five minutes in the locker room getting some fresh tape around his ankle.

Coming up: three games on the West Coast in four days, Monday at Sacramento, Wednesday at the Clippers, and Thursday at, yes, Golden State. Get your prayer shawls out of storage. In the meantime:


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Her name was Joanne

Joanne Gignilliat Trimmier Woodward, as of this writing, is the second-oldest person in Wikipedia born on the 27th of February: she’s 86 today. She did a whole lot of Golden Age television, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1957 for The Three Faces of Eve, in which she played a woman with dissociative identity disorder — what we used to call “multiple personalities.”

Joanne Woodward on the beach

In 1960, she was among the first group of celebrities honored on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; she was the first to pose for a photoshoot with her star, which has led to the belief that hers was the first star on the Walk, which it wasn’t.

Joanne Woodward on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

She and Paul Newman were married for fifty years, until his death in 2008.

Joanne Woodward with Paul Newman

Which may explain the dedication in Lucky Them (2013), Woodward’s most recent film, in which she has a small voice-only role and an executive-producer credit: it’s to Newman, “an inspiration, mentor, cheering squad, and darn good reason a gal could still have trouble finding a gent to fill his boots.”

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Like Lazarus, but with department stores

Consumerist follows up on a chap we’ve mentioned before, named Ellia Kassoff:

[Kassoff has] been battling Macy’s for several years over a slew of trademarks for stores Macy’s acquired and shut down. Today, Kassoff says he’s reached a deal with the department store giant that will allow him to try to breathe new life into several long-dead retail brands.

Kassoff has a knack for researching defunct brands and taking a risk on claiming trademarks that he believes are up for grabs because the most recent owners of those marks have not used them.

One of those is Foley’s, a Houston-based department-store chain founded in 1900, which Macy’s absorbed in 2006; there were four Foley’s stores (formerly Sanger Harris) in Oklahoma.

“After over five hours of negotiating with Macy’s, we finally hammered out a deal that we’re really happy with,” says Kassoff, who hopes to bring these stores back to the markets where they are remembered fondly.

“Consumers noted the current shopping experience is quite drab, as there is no localized marketing or buying for the regional stores anymore,” he says of his research into retail habits. “People want to go back to the days when shopping was a real experience at their local department store. They really miss that.”

It may take a while; one of Kassoff’s other ventures, the return of Hydrox cookies, is so far limited to a few of the major grocery chains.

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When “failed state” isn’t enough

Just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse in Venezuela, things got worse:

Since my SO, and the mother in law, are physically unable to stand in line for anything for more than half an hour, we must all share the burden. I cannot so I am resorting more and more to black market. I put on Instagram the latest of my loot on toilet paper, two heavy bags at 8 times the normal cost (and I learned that actually I got it for cheap!). But I also got 12 kilos of pasta that way, albeit at only twice the normal cost. Currently I am waiting for milk (it will be twice) and rice (at least thrice). But I have also been told not to hope much for that arrival. Corn flour is too political so my black market guy does not dare to go there. For that I will need to go to “buhoneros” in Petare at 4 times the cost, if not more, under the eyes of the Nazional Guard.

And let’s hope you’re not on medication:

There is no black market for medicine because there is none. Well, almost no black market. One of my siblings got some of his heart medicine from some one bringing it form the US and cashing it in USD!!!!!!! Well, in all fairness apparently there had been some mistake so the guy sold what he did not need through contacts, but in dollars, with overhead anyway. I am expecting some form of black market for some medicines to start organizing.

Last week, the Maduro government devalued the bolívar; the official exchange rate, formerly 6.3 Bs.F per $1 US, is now 10 Bs.F per $1 US. Then again, the official exchange rate means essentially nothing: on the black market, a single American dollar will bring as much as 1000 Bs.F. It is, of course, illegal to mention such details in the Venezuelan press. Meanwhile, Venezuela’s gold reserves are being shipped to Europe to pay sovereign debt. Can things get any worse? Wait a few weeks.

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You’ve got (marginally cheaper) mail

The price of a first-class stamp is about to drop two cents, and the Postal Service is not happy about it:

Absent Congressional or court action to extend or make permanent an existing exigent surcharge for mailing products and services — including the Forever stamp — the Postal Service will be required to reduce certain prices on Sunday, April 10, 2016. This mandatory action will worsen the Postal Service’s financial condition by reducing revenue and increasing its net losses by approximately $2 billion per year.

“The exigent surcharge granted to the Postal Service last year only partially alleviated our extreme multi-year revenue declines resulting from the Great Recession, which exceeded $7 billion in 2009 alone,” said Postmaster General and CEO Megan J. Brennan. “Removing the surcharge and reducing our prices is an irrational outcome considering the Postal Service’s precarious financial condition.”

An order from the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) requires the 4.3 percent exigent surcharge to be reversed after the Postal Service has collected surcharges totaling $4.6 billion. As outlined in a notice filed with the PRC [Thursday], that amount is expected to be reached by April 10th.

She keeps using that word. I do not believe it means what she thinks it means:

ex·i·gent, adj. 1. requiring immediate action or aid; urgent; pressing. 2. requiring a great deal, or more than is reasonable.

Decide which of those you like better, and compare to this:

Postal Service prices for Mailing Services are capped by law at the rate of inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers (CPI-U). However, the law does allow for exigent pricing (price increases beyond the CPI-U cap) due to extraordinary or exceptional circumstances.

On the upside, this is the second time I’ve had reason to mention the Postmaster General, Megan Brennan, in a mere two weeks.

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Something not all that new

The very first record album I bought was Something New, one of Capitol’s patchwork Beatles compilations, which included “Matchbox” and “Slow Down” from the Long Tall Sally EP (not released as such over here), a track in German (“Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand”), and eight tracks from the British A Hard Day’s Night, the last of which was “If I Fell,” an utterly lovely John Lennon ballad that apparently they didn’t take too seriously: on tour in 1964, the band often introduced the song as “If I Fell Over.”

That said, the Lennon/McCartney harmonies were seldom better than they were on “If I Fell,” and you may be certain that the MonaLisa Twins did them justice:

And really, the idea of a couple of young Austrian expats relocated to Liverpool to do British Invasion songs — and the occasional original — is really no weirder than the fact that “If I Fell,” a B-side in the States, was a Number One A-side in, um, Norway.

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I know, right?

The Democratic Party’s Twitter account circulated this image following last night’s Republican debate:

Donald Trumpified emoji

(I got this from Dawn Summers.)

Addendum: Added a link to the original tweet.

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Good against remotes

I’m sure I need not explain this:

At the very least, she’ll no longer be a little short for a stormtrooper.

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Shed shed

From late in the fall, and fall is the operative word here:

Gale-force winds for much of Wednesday came awfully close to blowing my old metal shed off its concrete block. There wasn’t much of anything out there worth saving — a bottom-of-the-line broadcast spreader was about it — but the structure itself looks like about two and a half seconds before the end of a round of Jenga.

You may safely assume that it didn’t gain any additional stability in the last hundred days or so, and yesterday I had it torn down. No great loss.

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I hear you knocking

But some of you, at least, can’t come in:

What is “this”? This:

No political or religious soliciting!
We already know who we're voting for and where we're going when we die.

I suppose that’s kinder than “Please wait while I reload.”

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An overdose of PHP

Not that you asked, but the servers behind the scenes here are running PHP 5.6. This is “Recommended” by the host; they still support 5.5, but no earlier version.

But they’re now offering 7.0, which they describe as “new and scary.” Maybe it is; I wouldn’t know. It’s been out since December, and is considered a stable release; the current install is 7.0.3. The shade of Ned Ludd tells me I probably should wait until 7.1, but what the hell does he know? And besides, I’m on a new server as of yesterday, so none of the statistics are statistically significant, at least for a little while.

(Before you ask: there is no PHP 6.)

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Attack of the hungry sea birds

Best explanation for this game: the Thunder shipped their defense via air freight from Dallas to New Orleans, and somehow it ended up in Saskatoon. Whatever defensive brilliance Oklahoma City used against the Mavericks was conspicuously absent against the Pelicans. Radio guy Matt Pinto might cite some weird calls — for example, with 6:14 left, Anthony Davis earned a foul for knocking Steven Adams down, but Adams got one too, presumably for hurting Davis’ arm — but the real issue was failure to shut down the New Orleans offense, which shot better than 50 percent all night, even from the three-point line. With four minutes left, the Pelicans were up by 11 and smelled blood; with 1:14 left, the Thunder managed to shave that lead to three, and a minute later to two, but a pair of Jrue Holiday free throws put it out of reach. New Orleans 123, Oklahoma City 119, the only Pelican win in this series this season.

New Orleans wound up hitting 52 percent from the floor, and a solid 60 percent (12/20) from outside; what’s more, they missed only one free throw (of 18) all night. The Birds also outrebounded the Thunder 39-36, and outassisted them 29-25. But this may be the clue: Holiday, Ryan Anderson and Toney Douglas, the three Pelican reserves to score, picked up 60 points. Thunder bench? 20. Of course, Kevin Durant was Durantlike (32 points, 14 rebounds), and Russell Westbrook was otherworldly (44 points, 9 assists), but that wasn’t enough to hold off the Birds, led by 30 from Davis.

Good news: next game is at home. Bad news: next game is against the Golden State Warriors, who last lost during the Eisenhower administration.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Song of the sewer

About a decade ago, the city opted to replace the sewer line that runs along the west side of my property. I made a point of not watching the operation in progress, mostly because I have a certain familiarity with the concept:

The slogan at the base of the Sewer Statue of Liberty reads: Give us your pooped, your piss poor, your tangled masses of toilet paper yearning to swim free, the wretched refuse of your Happy Meal, but stop dumping grease down the drain you jerk.

The typical grease trap in a McPtomaine’s is maybe a couple of feet wide, a couple of feet deep, and perhaps four feet long. The top of it is flat, and it’s set just above the level of the concrete slab. When tile is laid atop the concrete, the top of the trap is level with the finished floor. It’s got a diamond-plate lid that’s bolted down hard — for a good reason. Its contents are the foulest smelling thing in the world.

It’s hard to describe the smell of a rancid grease trap to a civilian. Opening up a neglected grease trap is like sorting out corpses after a mustard gas attack on a Passchendaele trench. That was my grandfather’s job, by the way. The trench sorting, not cleaning out grease traps. So anyway, a little poop never hurt anyone. The sewer you send it down can kill you, however.

This is, not incidentally, why you never neglect a grease trap. I spent the better part of two years toiling behind Mickey D’s grill, and if it was any less lethal four and a half decades ago, it was only because the volume of business was lower in those days.

(Title in fond memory of Ed Norton, who, you may remember, was a “sub-supervisor in the sub-division of the department of subterranean sanitation” in the City of New York.)

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The remotest remote car hack

Once upon a time, it was discovered that if you can splice your way into the car’s wiring, you can do all sorts of wicked things to the computers that run everything. But that was over five years ago. Last year, it was revealed that such things can be done remotely, if you know how to take advantage of certain vulnerabilities in the operating system.

Which brings us to this year:

Last month I was over in Norway doing training for ProgramUtvikling, the good folks who run the NDC conferences I’ve become so attached to. I was running my usual “Hack Yourself First” workshop which is targeted at software developers who’d like to get up to speed on the things they should be doing to protect their apps against today’s online threats. Across the two days of training, I cover 16 separate discrete modules ranging from SQL injection to password cracking to enumeration risks, basically all the highest priority security bits modern developers need to be thinking about. I also cover how to inspect, intercept and control API requests between rich client apps such as those you find on a modern smart phone and the services running on the back end server. And that’s where things got interesting.

One of the guys was a bit inspired by what we’d done and just happened to own … the world’s best-selling electric car, a Nissan LEAF. What the workshop attendee ultimately discovered was that not only could he connect to his LEAF over the internet and control features independently of how Nissan had designed the app, he could control other people’s LEAFs.

The guy’s experiments proved to be reproducible:

Nissan, of course, will have to implement a fix.

It’s a different class of vulnerability to the Charlie Miller and Chris Valasek Jeep hacking shenanigans of last year, but in both good and bad ways. Good in that it doesn’t impact the driving controls of the vehicle, yet bad in that the ease of gaining access to vehicle controls in this fashion doesn’t get much easier — it’s profoundly trivial. As car manufacturers rush towards joining in on the “internet of things” craze, security cannot be an afterthought nor something we’re told they take seriously after realising that they didn’t take it seriously enough in the first place.

And it’s a great argument for fixing up that old ’96 Maxima, which is mostly immune to stuff like this, unless you’re right there with the wires.

(Via @SwiftOnSecurity.)

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Ol’ Bacon Hair is back

So I was thumbing through Tumblr pics on the general theme of “Happy and Vaguely Artistic Nudes,” and suddenly I was propelled through time and space to a body of water not far from Canterlot High.

I mean, is this, or is this not, Sunset Shimmer?

Cropped section of nude photo that looks vaguely like Sunset Shimmer of Equestria Girls

This is the full-jaybird version, probably not safe for work, and definitely not safe for work if you scroll down to the “More You Might Like” section.

I’m going to have to start watching for Sonata Dusk.

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