Guarded optimism

They’re barely a year apart, and in this photo, seemingly barely an inch apart:

Liam and Allison keep watch

Allison is four; Liam is almost three. Awfully close together, you think? Just look at them.

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Formerly known as Iraq

Iraq, an arbitrarily created nation with artificial boundaries, is this year’s Balkans, and Michael Totten says it’s good as dead:

Iraq is finished, an expiring, cancerous nation on life support. Pulling the plug might be merciful. It might be cruel. But either way, it’s time to accept the fact that this country is likely to die and that we’ll all be better off when it does…

President Obama campaigned on ending the war in Iraq. For years — and for perfectly understandable reasons — he was very reluctant to wade into that country’s eternally dysfunctional internal problems, but even he was persuaded to declare war against ISIS in the fall of 2014 when its fighters made a beeline for Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region and the only stable and America-friendly place in the country.

But however engaged the US chooses to be, the current war in Iraq is likely to drag on for years. If Iraq somehow manages to survive its current conflict in one piece, another will almost certainly follow. Its instability is both devastating and chronic. Far better at this point if Iraq simply terminates itself as a state and lets its various constituent groups peaceably go their own way, as Yugoslavia did after its own catastrophic series of wars in the 1990s.

And good riddance, says Bill Quick:

This was what George W. Bush always didn’t quite get: “Guaranteeing” Iraq’s territorial integrity, which was synonymous with guaranteeing the imposed geographical structure of Iraq, necessarily involved guaranteeing a strong-man government, because that was the only way to enforce that structure on people who hated it.

And if his “Democracy Project” had been successful, the voters themselves would have ripped Iraq apart.

Now at least the voters won’t have to exert themselves.

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Creative pre-destruction

The following clip deals with two of my Favorite Things as a lad aged in single digits: dominoes and the Etch-A-Sketch. The results are as satisfying as you, or at least I, could possibly want:

There’s even a blooper reel, kinda sorta.

(Found over at Miss Cellania’s place.)

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Swiped and locked

Right off the bat, you get the Telltale Statistic: the Clippers executed 11 steals tonight, the Thunder only five, and two of those came very late. That level of non-defense undid Oklahoma City early: seven minutes in, L. A. was up 28-11. There was enough rally in the Thunder to tie it a couple of times in the second quarter, but there was no stopping the Clips, even without Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford; things were so dire for OKC that they had to resort to fouling DeAndre Jordan. (Jordan took it in stride, hitting 12 of 22, 15 percentage points above his average from the stripe.) Eventually, Loud City was bored enough, or demoralized enough, to yell at head zebra Joey Crawford to pull up his damn pants already. The Clippers won the game, 120-108, and the season series, 2-1, and the Thunder fell half a game behind the New Orleans Pelicans for the eighth and last playoff spot.

The numbers, except for steals and turnovers (OKC 20, Clippers 14) were actually pretty close: the Thunder got one more rebound (39-38), the Clips three more assists (22-19), and while there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Los Angeles longball, their 15-30 was only a tick or two above the Thunder’s 12-25. Maybe it was who got those treys: Chris Paul was 5-8, Matt Barnes 6-7, J. J. Redick 3-6, and somewhere Spencer Hawes made one. So it’s no surprise that CP3 ended up with 33 points, Barnes with 22, and Redick with 25. Meanwhile, Jordan was collecting those freebies and reeling in 18 points and 17 boards.

Maybe a Westbrook triple-double would have helped, but Russ was merely good, not great: 24-9-7, and a whopping 10 of those 20 OKC turnovers. He had help offensively: Anthony Morrow came up with 26 off the bench, including 6-9 from outside, and Enes Kanter and Serge Ibaka added 18 and 15 respectively. Just don’t look at the plus/minus: all the Thunder starters were minus, all the reserves were plus, and the opposite was true for Los Angeles.

The newly revitalized Minnesota Timberwolves will show up Friday night: some of their long-injured players are injured no longer, and, well, Kevin Garnett. You don’t, or at least I don’t, bet against the Big Ticket.

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Noise and harshness, no vibration

Jack Baruth speculates as to the reason for the suspension of Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson:

The Minitrue report on Clarkson’s dismissal makes reference to a warning he received concerning “racist statements”. Those TTAC readers who are currently wearing an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt in the basements of their parents’ gated-community homes should be aware that “racist statement” means something different in the UK than it means in the US. Here in America, “racist statement” is a term used to refer to the kind of stuff that white kids at Oberlin do because all the actual racists in the area died of old age around the time that Gerald Ford fell down a set of airplane exit stairs.

And, occasionally, OU nasty boys. I don’t think the practice is quite dead just yet, more’s the pity.

In the UK, “racist statement” means “anything that doesn’t meet the principles of IngSoc,” up to and including having the temerity to rev the engine of your Lotus Esprit at a stoplight in the approximate presence of a Muslim immigrant. So it’s in no way plain that Clarkson called for the restoration of slavery or disrespected Haile Selassie I or anything like that. He might have revved an engine or looked in a certain direction or something like that.

Horrors! Off with his head! (He can borrow a helmet from The Stig, can’t he?)

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Playing the erase card

Front page of this morning’s New York Post:

Polls taken after her presser yesterday indicate that a lot of people believe her story — a lot of people in the media, anyway.

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There’s always one

If you look hard enough, you can find fans of just about anything, including, in this specific case, Daylight Saving Time:

Since I am an extreme evening person, getting much of my work done after most of the English-speaking world has gone to bed, I’m a big fan of Daylight Savings Time because spring and summer afternoons allow me to get out and enjoy the sunlight.

My ideal day would be Alaska in early July. My wife and I made a driving/camping tour of Alaska in early July 1988 and the length of the day fit our schedules well. About 10pm we’d be tooling along, and it would occur to us that we ought to look for a campground in order to pull over pretty soon to cook dinner and set up the tent before it got dark and the grizzlies came out.

Alaska in July is also good for golfing. I teed off at the Elmendorf AFB course at 6:20 pm on a cloudy day. The sun finally came out and provided us a glorious sunset as we were coming up the 18th fairway around 11pm. (Sunset in Anchorage on the 4th of July is at 11:35 p.m.)

I’m guessing this would probably not work so well in Ecuador.

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Meanwhile at the front

WW2 Tweets from 1943 is just like it sounds: history, 140 characters at a time. An example from last week, offset 72 years:

By the 10th of March, the Allies were well on their way to seizing the Mareth Line, and what with Germany having suffered heavy casualties, Rommel had departed Africa:

The Axis retreated to the Wadi Akarit, but were eventually routed.

(Seen by GLHancock before I got to it.)

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I don’t care if it’s one-way

Then again, it’s almost certainly too early to start packing:

Then again, where would they put an airport? Canterlot’s built onto a mountain, fercryingoutloud: no place for a runway. Cloudsdale? Naw, the planes would just crash through the clouds. Or perhaps that long stretch of nothing southwest of Canterlot on the way to Ponyville…

(Via Equestria Daily.)

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Watson says bite me

Okay, maybe not that specifically — but why the hell not?

Although curse words make up only 0.5% to 0.7% of all of the words we speak, they are rich in nuance and play a variety of roles. Said IBM research scientist Eric Brown, “As humans, we don’t realize just how ambiguous our communication is.”

In 2011 Brown’s team tried to train Jeopardy-winning supercomputer Watson to use more natural-sounding vocabulary by feeding it the entirety of Urban Dictionary. The result was a foul-mouthed machine that learned terms such as “ass hat” and “front butt” but didn’t understand when it was appropriate to use them, once responding to a researcher’s query with “bullshit!” Watson’s failure to distinguish between profanity and polite language meant that Brown’s team had to develop filters to screen out the profanity and eventually ended up wiping Urban Dictionary’s entries from Watson’s memory.

Yeah, but suppose Watson was right? We are awash in bullshit these days.

And “asshat” is a single word. Even Urban Dictionary says so.

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And still nobody rides for free

From this very space in 2011:

There was a pilot program conducted in Oregon several years ago, which was intended to determine whether it might be more useful, or more remunerative, or anyway more something, to drop the gas tax entirely and replace it with a per-mile fee. Not everyone was enthusiastic about having their every trip logged and reported via GPS, it turned out.

So no GPS in the new bill. Instead, someone will have to develop a gizmo that can read your odometer and report the details back to Salem — since they’re sure as hell not going to take your word for it.

It turns out that this wasn’t even its final form:

Automotive News reports the state will offer two options to its motorists: pay at the pump, or pay a 1.5-cent rate per mile traversed. The latter will be conducted through a device that plugs into a vehicle’s OBD port, then gathers mileage data to determine how much the motorist will pay in tax.

Right now, the program — set to begin July 1 — will be implemented by the Oregon DOT in partnership with Sanef ITS Technologies America and Intelligent Mechatronic Systems, the latter supplying the aforementioned OBD mileage reader.

I lean toward pay at the pump, though I must remind myself that there are no self-service pumps in Oregon.

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No better than graffiti

This is, I think, the most sensible stance to adopt in this age of Damn Near Anything Goes:

I’ve been told my campus has a YikYak “community” or whatever you call it. I don’t want to know. I’m not interested in participating or even hearing what goes on there. I feel like, if people are going to say awful things about me, and aren’t brave enough to criticize me to my face? I don’t want to hear what they’re saying about me anonymously, that that kind of posting doesn’t deserve my time or my attention and my often fragile self-confidence doesn’t need to obsess over the venting that someone may have done in a moment of upset (earned a bad grade, was told to put the cell phone away, whatever). Also, I figure a lot of people who do that kind of posting don’t every really think the object of it will read it. (So I’m happy to oblige by NOT reading it.)

Sort of a variation on the theme of “Don’t read the comments.”

There used to be quite a bit of spam, on Twitter and similar places, to the effect of “Did you read what they said about you?” followed by a link to God knows what. The jerks who left it never hung around for the answer, which was “Hell, no, and why should I?” The fact that there are now “reputation-protection” services tells me that there are an awful lot of people out there with awfully thin skins. If your response is “But what if people will think less of me?” I’ll tell you there’s no possible way I could think less of you.

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A little Sprite told me

Coca-Cola is testing new branding of its flagship products in Spain, and if all goes well, they may go worldwide with it:

Until now, the different varieties of Coca-Cola family functioned as three independent brands (Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero) in the design of their packaging and advertising. From today, as part of the new strategy of “single brand,” all variants of Coca-Cola will unite under a common identity.

The most visible change in this new strategy is that the packaging design will be unified. All cans and bottles have the same style, based on the iconic original brand of Coca-Cola.

What they’re not saying — but they’re showing in the packaging design — is that Diet Coke, or at least the name, is dead, at least in Spain. (Some European countries have been getting Coca-Cola Light, the new name, for several years now.) I don’t think this part of the plan will materialize in the States.

On the other hand, there will now be Coke Zero and Coke Zero Zero, the latter with neither calories nor caffeine. And I detect no trace of the ill-fated Coke II.

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Fresh from Lake Minnetonka

“That ain’t Lake Minnetonka,” said Prince, and didn’t take off on his motorcycle without the dripping-wet Apollonia Kotero, second-billed in Prince’s film Purple Rain back in 1984. She had, shall we say, a certain visual appeal:

Apollonia in the 1980s

And she could sing, kinda sorta. The ad hoc group Apollonia 6 performed a song called “Sex Shooter” in the film; a separate music video was issued to promote both the film and the one and only Apollonia 6 LP.

Apollonia 6, the album, might be more famous for the songs that were left off than for the seven that were included. (“Sex Shooter,” released as a single on Warner Bros. 29182, managed to clamber to #85 in Billboard.) All left on the cutting-room floor: “Manic Monday,” later a Bangles hit; “The Glamorous Life,” subsequently a hit for Sheila E.; and “17 Days,” cut by Prince himself and stuck on the B-side of the “When Doves Cry” single.

After leaving Prince behind, Apollonia appeared in the TV series Falcon Crest, cut a solo album, and set up a production company. She’s 55 now. And apart from a touch of the usual middle-age spread, she doesn’t seem to have changed much:

Oh, and she was nominated for a Razzie for Worst New Star, but lost to Olivia d’Abo.

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Solid psittacine

Good evening. Here is the news for parrots:

Bobby Pacino, our blue and gold macaw, will be ten years old this spring. He was hatched somewhere in the United States and sold to us at a pet store in Oklahoma City when he was just a pup. Err, baby? Kitten? Chick. When he was just a chick. A small, quiet one.

The first few days he was home with us were a lot like having a newborn infant, especially with regard to feeding and bonding. It was actually a very sweet time.

Then the next solid, unrelenting decade was a lot like having a dysfunctional toddler, especially with regard to, well, pretty much everything. A loud, messy, screaming, demanding, attention seeking, affectionate and VERY smart, un-CANNILY smart, but also disruptive and destructive, toddler. It’s been a whirlwind. A loving whirlwind.

And if ten years sounds like a long way to put up with a toddler, well, macaws often live 50 years or longer, so a lot of feathers are going to be ruffled.

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Everyman speaks

And this is what he says:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: How to get REAL and ACTIVE Instagram followers?

Before you suggest a method, though, he wants to make this clear:

is there a way to get real n active followers without following other people and for free?!?! I want to get a lot of followers without doing much work and without paying. any ways?

The scary part, of course, is that eventually he’ll be old enough to vote.

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