Bottom-feeders chow down

The Phoenix Suns have been scraping the bottom of the Western Conference most of the season, and after 13 consecutive losses, you’d think they might be somehow demoralized. Not so. They’d beaten the Thunder once this season already, and tonight, they were in fine form to do it again. Perhaps you could blame the absence of Alex Abrines and Andre Roberson, but we’re not buying: the Suns came out fighting, and they didn’t let up for even one of those 48 minutes. (We’re also not buying the notion that Russell Westbrook might be playing for stats; he clinched that triple-double season average early on, and if anything, he was flailing about randomly late in the game before exiting in favor of Semaj Christon.) The Thunder shot a miserable 37 percent and hit a mere seven of 30 three-pointers on the way to a staggering 120-99 loss to the Suns, who earned a split of the season series. And if anyone looked Westbrook-like tonight, it was Phoenix guard Devin Booker, who picked up 37 points on 13-29 shooting, five of nine treys, and a tie for game-high +21 with teammate T. J. Warren (23 points). Seems only fair, given that Booker, a week and a half ago, rang up 70 points against the Celtics, and the Suns still lost.

Doug McDermott got his first start in Thunder blue; he knocked down 11 points in 40 minutes. Steven Adams was in decent form with a double-double (12-11), and as usual, Enes Kanter led the bench with 17. But all of them took too many shots for too little return: McBuckets and Adams both went 4-10, Kanter 5-14, and, lest we forget, Westbrook 6-25.

The last three games of the season are against Northwest rivals, though the division standings are not likely to change: Utah wins the division outright, Denver and Portland are still in a race for third, and Minnesota is mired at the bottom. Two games against the Nuggets and one against the Wolves will leave at least three of five positions unchanged. Houston has third in the conference locked down, so the Thunder will play the Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. It would be unwise to speculate beyond the first round, especially after tonight’s poor road showing.

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The go-go bhoot

The sort of person who sends me a link to something like this can be safely said to, um, know me entirely too well:

A young man Kanan (Suraj Sharma) returns to India from Canada to marry his long-term girlfriend Anu (Mehreen Pirzada), but comes to know that as he is a manglik (born under an unlucky star) he has to get married to a tree before getting married to her. He very reluctantly marries the tree, which is duly chopped down after the completion of the ceremony. As a result, from that day onwards he is haunted by the spirit of a woman named Shashi (Anushka Sharma), who lived in that particular tree and hence claims to now be “married” to him.

This is consistent with Hindu astrology:

In Hindu astrology, Mangal Dosha is an astrological combination that occurs if Mars (Mangal) is in the 1st, 2nd (Considered by South Indian Astrologers), 4th, 7th, 8th, or 12th house of the ascendant chart. A person born in the presence of this condition is termed a manglik.

It is believed to be unfavorable for marriages, causing discomfort and tension in relationship, leading to severe disharmony among the spouses and eventually to other bigger problems. This is believed to be caused due to the “fiery” nature of the planet Mars, named after the Roman god of war.

There is a belief that the negative consequences for a single-manglik marriage can be resolved if the manglik first performs a ceremony called a kumbh vivah, in which the manglik “marries” a banana tree, a peepal tree, or a silver or gold idol of the Hindu God Vishnu.

And what of this mysterious tree-dweller?

Anushka Sharma looking pensive

Anushka Sharma, twenty-eight, is a model turned motion-picture star; according to one source, she was the highest-grossing actress in all of India in 2016.

Anushka Sharma posing for one of those lad mags

Anushka Sharma strikes a pose

Her first release in 2017 is Phillauri, which doesn’t seem to have anything much to do with famed Hindu writer Shardha Ram Phillauri. There is, however, a lot of poetry, and, as mentioned before, a wedding to a tree. This being Bollywood, there is also a lot of music:

She has almost 10 million Twitter followers. I can’t imagine why.

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Possibly an example of good timing

“The Great Divide” dropped to #33 in Billboard this week, and were I an avid watcher of musical trends, I’d suggest it was just about time for a new single from Rebecca Black.

Well, guess what:

Yes, it’s called “Foolish.” I haven’t heard a note of it. But I will.

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Roasted hockey puck

Five million Internet trolls fancy themselves the True Successor to Don Rickles.

Not one of them comes close, or ever will.

One reason for that is that Mr. Warmth could take it as well as he could dish it out.

“You can’t study comedy; it’s within you.”

Already we miss you, Don, you knucklehead.

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Painless, my eye

Okay, not my eye, exactly:

I suppose everyone’s forgotten Edward Scissorhands by now.

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Wearing number 15

The Columbia Fireflies (formerly the Savannah Sand Gnats) of the Class A South Atlantic League, a farm club of the New York Mets, opened their 2016 season at home this evening against the GreenJackets of Augusta, Georgia.

No score through the first inning. Then in the bottom of the second:

Not bad for a 29-year-old rookie.

Here, take a look for yourself:

Damn.

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Tailgating those ambulances

Spotted in glorious SoCal:

I did try to bring up that URL, without success. Maybe I need to send them a check first.

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Such a card

House Republicans have been passing around this card to represent what they say is their idea of what the Federal tax return should look like:

House GOP tax plan, not in its final form

One thing that’s obvious: no deduction for state and local taxes. You might think that high-tax states might object to this, and in the case of New York, you’d be correct:

Gov. Cuomo said eliminating the deduction would “effectively increase state and local taxes by 20 percent to 44 percent, depending on a person’s tax bracket.”

“This would be a deathblow to New York, putting us at a horrible competitive disadvantage,” Cuomo said.

Like the level of taxation in New York wasn’t a competitive disadvantage all by itself.

Meanwhile, in that other reputed high-tax state:

Eliminating the state and local tax deduction would hit New York and California especially hard, according to a Tax Policy Center 2016 study. Combined, residents of the two states accounted for 32 percent of the total state and local tax deductions claimed nationwide.

Peter Grant, now a resident of Texas, likes this idea:

This would bring home to all Americans how efficiently their home states are governed. Right now, high-taxing, high-spending states can mask their activities to a certain extent, because their taxpayers are sheltered from the local tax burden by deducting it from their federal taxes. If that were no longer an option, every taxpayer would know precisely how much their state politicians are costing them — because they’d be paying it on top of, over and above, their federal taxes.

I’m not quite so sanguine about this. Few states are governed particularly efficiently; the one in which I live levies taxes at a lower rate than either New York or California, and it’s been in a deep dark budget hole for some time.

Grant continues:

The odds are pretty good that those living in tax-and-spend states such as New York, California, etc. would be very, very unhappy to experience the full magnitude of those states’ punitive taxes. They’d probably launch loud, vociferous campaigns to change their politicians’ habits — or change their politicians altogether.

Complaining about the Oklahoma legislature is de rigueur in these parts, but we don’t seem to be accomplishing a great deal of incumbent disposal, just like those Other States.

That said, I like the basics of this plan, but I question Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), who’s a prime mover behind it:

“We are proposing a change,” Brady said in an interview. “Rather than keep Washington taxes high and have just a few get relief from state and local taxes … No longer will Washington punish or reward you based on how much you earn or where you choose to live.”

They’ll find some way to reward their friends and punish their perceived enemies. They always do.

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The hardest of hard copy

According to a plugin I keep handy for just such an occasion, I have spun out 4.6 million words on the last twenty thousand-odd posts, not counting static pages (the Vents) or comments (1.6 million more). This would make a hell of a large book, not that anyone is asking for one.

This week I got a pitch from something called BlookUp, which, um, yeah, you guessed it:

In a few clicks import your blog, choose your content, your cover and preview your book FOR FREE. Compatible with WordPress, Tumblr, Blogger, Blogspirit, Skyrock, Canalblog, Haut et Fort, Instagram and Facebook.

I don’t think I can import all this “in a few clicks.” More to the point, it isn’t really expensive unless you can say something like “I don’t think I can import all this ‘in a few clicks’.” They seem to max out at 500 pages, and 500 pages in magazine-size format runs $9.60 for the first 24 pages plus 38 cents for each additional page = $190.48. That’s per copy. Not that I could expect to sell more than one or two. Still, I love the idea that this actually exists.

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Accent on “express”

American Express has been running this pitch for some time now, for good and sensible chronological reasons:

Tired of Waiting for your Tax Refund?

Access your refund up to 2 days FASTER* with Serve this Tax Season.

Add your Tax Refund onto your Account and get faster access than a standard electronic deposit.

“Serve” is an Amex reloadable debit card, sold largely on the basis of lacking several fees common in the industry. I got one in 2015 when they were first offered; I pay $1 a month. Inasmuch as I never seem to get tax refunds anymore, I hadn’t tried that scheme.

Saturday I knocked out my ’16 return — online for once, after many years of hard copy — and discovered to my surprise that I had actually overpaid on ye olde 1040. For the heck of it, I specified the Amex parameters (a routing number and an account number, just like all the other bank stuff) for direct deposit.

It got credited on Wednesday afternoon. No fees, no weirdness.

Good show, Amex.

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Coffee for Westbrook

Oklahoma City. Memphis. FedEx Forum. You can practically smell the bodies hitting the floor. The Thunder barely kept the Griz at bay through three quarters; Memphis started the fourth with an 8-0 run to claim the lead. At the 1:47 point, it was tied at 95-all. On the next two possessions, Russell Westbrook served up a dime to Doug McDermott, who knocked down a trey, and then Westbrook sank a trey of his own. With 0.8 to go, Andrew Harrison snagged a layup to make it 101-100; Westbrook stole the inbound, was fouled, and sank two free throws to put it completely out of reach. OKC 103, Memphis 100, the season series is won, and sixth place in the West is assured.

And no, no triple-double. He missed it by one rebound: 45-9-10. Still, Westbrook’s ability to close ’em out is unequaled, and that’s what he did, getting 14 of those points in the fourth quarter despite missing three free throws. (Just about everyone in Thunder blue missed free throws: the team was a dismal 15-24.) Both sides had injuries to deal with: Mike Conley of the Griz and the Thunder’s Alex Abrines were unavailable, and Andre Roberson exited early. The usual Memphis suspects did the bear’s share of scoring, with Marc Gasol coming up with 23, Zach Randolph with 20 off the bench, and Tony Allen with 14 on 7-10 shooting. The Griz actually outshot OKC, 47 percent to 44; Memphis came up with 9 treys out of 26, while the Thunder managed an improbable 14-31. Most of those came from, yes, Russell Westbrook, who was 8-13 from downtown.

So that’s Game 78. Four left. And none of those four against winning teams: Phoenix, Denver and Minnesota on the road, followed by Denver again at home. Then again, any of these clubs can wallop a sleepwalking Thunder, so staying awake is of the essence. Fortunately, Westbrook is a closer, so he gets coffee.

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The lone and level sands

Remember when the idea was to build something that would last? Forget that nonsense:

Whether you call it the technological age or the global age, these are just polite terms for cosmopolitanism, scaled to the supranational. In the city, you don’t build, you hustle. You don’t own, you rent. Nothing is permanent because a stationary target is an easy target. Instead you make what you can and you move onto the next thing. If you can shift the burden onto someone else, all the better. That’s how the game is played because in the city, everyone is a stranger.

That’s the new economy we are experiencing. No one thinks about the long term, because that’s a sucker’s play. The money is in the short hustle. You make your money and move on. The game is to pick the fruit, squeeze out all the juice and then toss away the rest, leaving it for a sucker to clean up later. The housing bubble is a good example. Everyone involved knew it was a grift. They are too smart to not have known. The game was to make money and not be the sucker left holding the bag.

Oh, and remember these guys?

I used to know someone who worked at Lotus in its heyday, so I had an interest in the company from the early days. I recall the owners turning up in local news a lot and they were brimming with confidence. I wonder if those folks from the glory days of Lotus don’t look back with sadness at what happened to their company. They are rich men and did very well for themselves after Lotus, but still, I bet they would trade a lot to be able to walk past their old building with their old sign still over the door.

I watch Lotus IBM Notes boot up five mornings a week, and the only references to Lotus are an old copyright statement and a serial number that starts with L. And I’m not too sure that L means anything at all.

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Take me off your damn list

Appearing in the spam trap yesterday:

When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same comment.

Is there any way you can remove people from that service?

Appreciate it!

The dirtbag, you may have already guessed, has never commented on anything here and is not subscribed to anything. He also has a stolen URL and an almost-certainly bogus email address. That said, the least I can do is to remove him. Feel free to block 45.57.230.189.

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From The Donald’s garage

A sports car once owned by Donald J. Trump has hit the auction block, with results that could reasonably be described as meh:

While Donald Trump seems to take a keen interest in the current state of the automotive industry, he doesn’t exactly come across as an car enthusiast. However, he is very rich and has had his share of obligatory Rolls, Benz, and Bentley-built vehicles over the years. And, like any exceptionally wealthy American male, he purchased a tomato red Ferrari, drove it infrequently, and then sold it off.

That car — a 2007 Ferrari F430 F1 Coupe — was auctioned by Sotheby’s over the weekend for a little less than one might expect. You would assume having the opportunity to say you owned “the president’s Ferrari” would add a substantial premium to the final sale price, but you’d be wrong.

For one thing, Trump disposed of the Ferrari several years ago, when he was just a guy with a fat wallet on TV. For another, there’s nothing particularly distinctive about it except for generic Ferraritude:

It may be a celebrity car, but it’s also a red Ferrari with a hardtop, tan interior, and semi-automatic gearbox. It doesn’t exude any of the man’s sensibilities or style and, with only 6,000 miles on the odometer, it probably wasn’t his favorite vehicle. Trump only put 2,400 of those miles on himself, before selling it in 2011 — and that extra degree of separation also didn’t do anything to help the final price.

Whereas another car once residing in Trump’s garage, a Lamborghini Diablo VT with all-wheel drive, brought in $460,000 on eBay last year, almost twice the final bid on this Ferrari. The Diablo, as it happens, is much rarer: maybe 400 were built. Ferrari recalled about 2000 F430s, a tiny fraction of overall production.

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Four channels and nothing on

An artifact from the early days of cable:

What I wanted to know is this: what four channels? Sault Ste. Marie had no TV stations of its own in 1969; WWUP-TV (UP, get it?), channel 10, rebroadcast WWTV, the CBS station in Cadillac, Michigan; WPBN-TV (then owned by the Paul Bunyan Network), channel 7, brought in NBC from Traverse City. There was no ABC affiliate back then, so those two split whatever ABC programs they thought might be worth carrying. (In 1971, WGTU, channel 29, would sign on from Traverse City as a full-time ABC affiliate; five years later they added a satellite on channel 8 in Sault Ste. Marie proper.) Educational TV? Maybe, if you could pick up WCMU-TV from Central Michigan University in Mount Pleasant — and if you were on the cable, you probably could, even though WCMU was way out on channel 14.

Still, we’ve accounted for only three channels. For the fourth, we must venture northward. In 1955, CJIC-TV signed on from the Ontario side of the river on channel 2; it became a CBC affiliate, closing down in 2002. (It’s now rebroadcasting CBC Toronto.)

As for prices, well, $3.99 a month (we’re extrapolating from “13 cents a day”) for four channels works out to about a buck a channel. Last time I rescanned the TV I was getting 106 channels for $86, 81 cents a channel. If there were economies of scale in the cable industry, they’ve long since faded away.

(I should point out here that I’ve spent maybe half a week of my life in Michigan, and none in the Upper Peninsula; I do have a lot of reference materials, and occasionally, I have time on my hands.)

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Bucks spent

The Milwaukee Bucks have not yet formally clinched a playoff spot, though they remain two games over .500; a mere four games separate the fifth-place Deer from the tenth-place Hornets. And I really expected them to put up more of a fight tonight, especially with the Thunder stumbling of late. It didn’t happen. Oklahoma City utterly destroyed Milwaukee, 110-79, on a night when nobody looked at the score. It’s that triple-double thing that Russell Westbrook does. He’s done it forty-one times this season; the record for a single season is held by Oscar Robertson with, um, forty-one. And the Thunder have five games yet to go.

There have been detractors, those who have suggested that if Westbrook did a bit less work the rest of the team would step up and then some. Tonight might have been an illustration of that possibility: Westbrook scored only 12 points, tied with Taj Gibson and Alex Abrines (who was locker-room bound after a knee sprain) and behind Enes Kanter (17). Still, Westbrook had 13 rebounds and 13 assists. And for what it’s worth, which is plenty, the Thunder bench came up with 65 points, making it unnecessary for Westbrook to play more than 27 minutes, essential considering the Thunder has to play the Grizzlies. Tomorrow. In Memphis.

The Bucks’ bench also performed well, with 48 of Milwaukee’s 79 points; reserve Michael Beasley showed up with 14 points to lead the team. (The only starter in double figures was Giannis Antetokounmpo, with 11 points and 10 rebounds.) At 36 percent, the Bucks didn’t shoot well at all, and 18 tries from outside the three-point circle garnered only nine points.

Meanwhile, while the thought of a back-to-back ending in Memphis is none too comforting, the Grizzlies have been busy tonight also, in beautiful downtown San Antonio. At the end of regulation, it was Griz 84, Spurs 84. A few of us will urge Kawhi Leonard on.

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