Base of the learning curve

Jack Baruth reveals how he learned how to ride a motorcycle:

You probably don’t remember this, but Simon and Simon is basically a TV show about what would happen if Bark M. and I opened a private detective agency. The older brother is an unrefined boor who waves a .44 Magnum around and drives a Dodge Power Wagon — that would be me, of course. The younger brother is very suave and handsome and doesn’t like to get his hands dirty.

In one episode, they’re chasing a bad guy who hops on a motorcycle and rides away. There are two Harleys sitting around so the brothers jump on. Now, of course the younger Simon has no idea how to operate a Harley so the older brother yells, as he’s riding off in pursuit,

“There’s nothing to it! First is down, the other four are up!”

This matters because Jack has a six-year-old:

I wanted a motorcycle for pretty much every moment of my childhood, but my Brooklyn-born father was no more going to get me a dirt bike than he was going to take me to the Grand Ole Opry. It goes without saying that nobody in my entire extended family has ever owned a motorcycle, except for me, the official White Trash Baruth.

50cc motorcycles are very fast and the neck of a just-turned-six-year-old child is fragile and that, to me, is a bad and dangerous combination.

But if he doesn’t learn about motorcycles from me, he’ll do what I did when he’s a teenager — he’ll find a bike to ride and I won’t know about it or have any way to make sure he’s riding safely.

Said six-year-old now has a 24-volt electric dirt bike — and his neck is intact.

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Major hotness

I have my doubts about some of this, captured about 10:35 last night:

Screenshot from Weather Underground for Philadelphia

That negative rainfall has got to hurt, especially with 83 feet of it.

(Via John Salmon.)

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No place to dive

PB Jams is a little sandwich shop on 38th west of MacArthur, owned by Ashley Jiron. The other day, she was a bit unnerved to discover that someone had been Dumpster-diving on the premises: “I had noticed some bags, when I had taken out the trash, were torn open and some of the food was taken out.”

Someone else might have put up a sign saying Don’t Do That. She chose to do this:

Sign posted at PB Jams

“I think we’ve all been in that position where we needed someone’s help and we just needed someone to extend that hand and if I can be that one person to extend that hand to another human being then I will definitely do it,” Ashley said.

The sign, she says, will stay until the diver returns and takes advantage of her offer.

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Welcome to heck

Even before the game started, weird things were happening. Russell Westbrook’s technical from last night was rescinded by the league, so no suspension. Word came down that the newly-Frail Blazers were going to be missing both LaMarcus Aldridge and Arron Afflalo; what’s more, Nicolas Batum banged up his knee after ten minutes and no points, and was not seen again. This one, pronounced the last Chesapeake Arena crowd of the season, might even be winnable; and the 35-21 first quarter reinforced that possibility. Then the Thunder went colder than a mother-in-law’s kiss, coming up with only 14 points in the second, and Portland trailed by seven at the half. Over the next 12 minutes, the Thunder gradually extended that lead to eleven; over the next six, the Blazers gradually shrank it down to six. (Who knew that Meyers Leonard could shoot the three-ball?) The pivot point, if you ask me, came when the Blazers decided they would foul Steven Adams, who is to free throws what Shaquille O’Neal is to, um, free throws. Adams promptly sank two of them, putting the Thunder up eleven, and they were still up eleven at the horn, 101-90. This puts OKC at 44-37 with one game to go, at Minnesota Wednesday. Meanwhile in Minnesota, the Pelicans were spanking the Wolves, 100-88, pushing their own record to 44-37.

Let it be said, though: Meyers Leonard can shoot the three-ball. The Blazers only had eight makes all night, and Leonard, team-high with 24 points, had five of them, in nine tries. (The Thunder in aggregate made only four.) The only other Portland starter in double figures was Damian Lillard, with 10, but three of the reserves (Joel Freeland, Chris Kaman, Alonzo Gee) combined for 40. (The entire Thunder bench had only 15, 11 of them from Anthony Morrow.)

Hobbled by another lousy shooting night — 41 percent, 4-21 on treys, eight missed free throws out of 27 — the Thunder won this one on the boards, with a startling 58-35 rebounding advantage, 18-3 on the offensive glass, and in transition, stealing the rock from the Blazers eight times while losing it only once. (OKC had only eight turnovers all night, three of them not from Westbrook.) Russ’s line for the night: 36-11-7. Enes Kanter cashed another double-double (27 points, 13 rebounds), and Steven Adams approached one (8 points, 11 boards).

So here’s the situation, how it really stands: For the Thunder to get into that eighth playoff slot, they must beat the Wolves day after tomorrow, and the Spurs must more or less simultaneously win at New Orleans. Will Gregg Popovich idle the big guns just to shaft OKC? Probably not. San Antonio is idle tonight, but Houston won tonight at Charlotte, and both Spurs and Rockets now sit at 55-26, with the Spurs owning the tiebreaker and the #2 seed. I can’t see Pop wanting to give that up, especially with the Rockets closing out against the 37-43 Jazz. All will be known in forty-eight hours, unless of course there’s overtime.

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Just like yesterday

That’s today, and tomorrow will be much the same, and what’s it to you?

I’m giving up feeling bad that I live in routines. I need routines; they give my life structure and they help me keep the illusion that the world isn’t sometimes a frighteningly random place where you have no control over things. So for me, doing the same thing for breaks, or stuff like food-jags (my standard lunch these days: a cup of plain Greek yogurt, a string cheese, a tangerine, a small thing of applesauce and some kind of a cereal or fruit bar) doesn’t bother me. I don’t always crave novelty. (I’m not QUITE to the point of “Four o’clock, time for Judge Wapner” but I do have my routines I like to stick to and I am open about the fact that I get unhappy when someone decides to mess with my schedule.)

Judge Wapner? Oh, my. You gotta be Rain Man to like this guy.

Still, I have to respect this position, since for the most part it’s my position: I figure, once things start working well, changes in those things I deem counterproductive until proven otherwise. I rotate through about eight basic menu items, though I tend to reset on Saturday, as it’s my grocery-shopping day. And as anyone who has watched my Twitter timeline already knows, I get seriously boxer-knotted if someone who’s supposed to get something to me by time T doesn’t deliver until T plus one day.

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Selfie indulgence

“Show business kids, making movies of themselves,” sneered Steely Dan, suggesting that said kids were indifferent to all other considerations. Pertinent observation, or just typical cross-class, and possibly cross-generational, abuse?

When I was a substitute teacher, during a poetry lesson, I read aloud “Phenomenal Woman” by Maya Angelou and asked the classes what they thought. Five classes of kids, and four of them would only talk about how cocky and full of herself the author was. They talked about her with disdain, sometimes outright shock. How dare she?

However, one class loved the poem. The kids in that class loved how she owned every wonderful aspect of herself, in spite of what society deems appropriate. They called her a “badass”, and asked me to read the poem again.

Incidentally, this class was also the so-called “remedial” class. It was full of kids who lived outside the box, who spent the majority of their time bombarded by low expectations. Those kids understood exactly what Maya Angelou was talking about.

We live in a world that actively PUNISHES confidence. We’re not allowed to think we’re attractive. We’re not allowed to agree with compliments. I have spent so much of my life minimizing my intelligence, my looks, and my accomplishments; because I was socialized to believe that owning your beauty, your intelligence, your hard won success, equals being “cocky” or “full of yourself”.

Now I’m not the one to argue against humility; I have much to be humble about. But if all you ever do is hide your light under a bushel, eventually something’s going to catch fire, and not in a good way either.

So I don’t sneer at selfies qua selfies; after all, they’re not being done to get attention from the likes of me. And besides:

I see people posting selfies all the time, and I never think they are being shallow or are too full of themselves. I think “That must be nice. To feel so good about yourself in that moment that you freeze it for all eternity and post it for the whole world to see.”

I’m sick and goddamned tired of living in a world where we are forced to minimize ourselves for the comfort of others. Where we have to actively neg ourselves so no one will feel threatened by our worth.

Incidentally, “Phenomenal Woman” dates back to 1978, but its descendants are everywhere. The opening lines:

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.

Not so different, really, from these:

Yeah it’s pretty clear, I ain’t no size two
But I can shake it, shake it like I’m supposed to do
‘Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase
All the right junk in all the right places

The true narcissist is not just a person who takes a selfie; it’s the person who takes a selfie because it matters to him and therefore it should matter to you.

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So totally unwired

There used to be a metal pole west of the driveway that contained a light fixture; the light would go on at dark and turn off at sunrise, or at least it did for a while. Then the bulb socket broke, and I didn’t rush to have it fixed; when the ground to the west began eroding away, the pole began to lean at an embarrassing angle. Finally, on a day of 60-mph winds, the pole loosened up from what little base it had, and a couple of scavengers hauled it off for scrap metal.

I don’t miss it, exactly, but I’m wondering what I should do with this length of cable the thieves left behind. I am loath to call my usual electrician, since he’s fixated on bringing the whole house up to code, at a price that leaves little change from a $10,000 bill.

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Strange search-engine queries (480)

Most sites that sift through the logs are looking for patterns of some sort in the hope that they can somehow monetize those particular user behaviors. We do it to find something to laugh at on a Monday morning. And who’s to say which of us is right? (Hint: I am.)

the mouse denny randell copyright:  And you ask me, he’s welcome to it.

older women nudiarist:  Not everyone who doffs her duds at the beach is going to be twenty-three and cute as a button, and you may as well get used to that fact.

how to replace a back of a cloth bucket seat on a fifteenhundred g.m.c. pick up 2003:  As they say to the guys at the nude beach: “Throw a towel over it.”

vanessa steele:  Like vanadium steel, but easier to work with.

breaking trucking news:  This one guy broke his truck while speeding up on the Belle Isle Bridge on a slushy winter day.

ford laser transmission hold light flashing:  Congratulations. You may already have bought a new vintage-Nineties Blue Oval-branded slushbox.

English names of sports teams:  Or, trickier, names of English sports teams.

liverwurst october 1st:  Don’t even be thinking about it in April.

what solenoid causes o/d off light on 2003 mazda:  The one you haven’t replaced yet.

fb_action_types Dog.likes:  There are dogs on Facebook, and I’ve friended one, but he doesn’t post much for some reason.

Jedediah Bila nude pictures:  Well, at least it’s not Bill O’Reilly.

is dustbury own now:  Honey, we’ve been owned for years.

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Spun around in Circle City

It was tied at 88 for a brief moment in the fourth quarter, before the Pacers turned up the pressure. In only two and a half minutes, it was 100-88 Indiana, and Russell Westbrook had been T’d up and advised that he was this close [imagine the gesture] to being broomed. Even then, the Thunder came back, and it was a three-point game, 102-99, with two minutes left. It was still a three-point game after Westbrook uncorked his fifth trey of the night; George Hill got the very definition of a shooter’s roll to run the Pacers’ lead back to five; then C. J. Miles got his sixth trey of the night, and that was the end of that. Indiana’s quest for the #8 seed in the East continues, and Oklahoma City’s quest for #8 in the West is dealt a serious setback. Pacers 116, Thunder 104, and at this writing, the Pelicans were playing the Rockets in Houston; should New Orleans win, the Thunder must win out and the Pelicans must lose its last two. Inasmuch as the next Thunder game is against Northwest leader Portland, you probably should not look for this to happen.

Still, Westbrook did some Westbrooky things, scoring 22 of the Thunder’s 32 first-quarter points and assisting on eight more. In fact, Russ finished with a career-high 54 points. The only question now is whether he’ll even get to play against the Blazers: that technical is his 16th, earning him a one-game suspension unless it’s rescinded. And the problem should be obvious: all those guys not named Russell Westbrook could come up with only 50 points among them. OKC hit at a 43-percent clip, 41-95; the Thunder were 11-28 on treys, a respectable 39 percent, and 11-28 from the stripe, a thousand million times worse than horrible plug-ugly 39 percent. Dion Waiters (7-16) scored 16, Enes Kanter (5-11) scored 13, the entire Thunder bench (5-17) scored 14.

Meanwhile, the Indiana reserves were coming up with 31, including eight from Paul George, who’s been back on limited minutes, for which he’s grateful: that summer leg injury was supposed to have kept him out for the entire season. It was C. J. Miles who did the serious chunking for the Pacers, finishing with 30 and retrieving 10 boards; the towering guys in the middle, Roy Hibbert and David West, hit 17 and 13 respectively, and George Hill came up with 19 while running the point.

The Pacers were not all that swift from the stripe either, hitting only 22 of 35, but 53 percent from the floor — and a 52-43 advantage in rebounding — were more than enough to beat the floundering Thunder.

Last home game in OKC is Monday night. The visiting Trail Blazers will be administering what could be expected to be the death blow. And if Westbrook’s on the bench, he shouldn’t show any ill effects from his 40-minute effort today. Maybe. You never know for sure with Westbrook.

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Like the priests for whom they were named

The San Diego Padres are spending about $125 million on player salaries this year, ninth highest in Major League Baseball. And the team is spending money on a pitcher who can no longer pitch, there being no place for his wheelchair on the mound, but that doesn’t matter to the club’s front office:

San Diego has signed former left-hander Matt LaChappa to a minor league deal each year since 1996, when LaChappa suffered a heart attack while warming up in the bullpen for a Class-A game. He was only 20 at the time.

Now minor-league players aren’t exactly rolling in dough, so this isn’t costing the Padres a whole lot. Still, there’s a very good, even very kind, reason for this:

LaChappa, now 39, is now a wheelchair user, and his contract with the Padres gives him access to health insurance.

If possible, this is even more remarkable: LaChappa was pitching for the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes of the California League, which in 1996 was the Class A affiliate of the Padres. Affiliations change over the years, and the Quakes are now a farm club of the Los Angeles Dodgers; the Padres’ current Class A club is the Storm, over in Lake Elsinore. This doesn’t matter one bit to the Padres. Says Padres director of minor-league operations Priscilla Oppenheimer:

“It’s our way of saying to Matt that you’re a Padre for life. When Larry Lucchino [the team’s former president who now holds the same position with the Red Sox] was here, he said that’s the way it should be. And as long as I’m here, that’s the way it’s going to stay.”

(Via Fark.)

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There’s always another version

Bill Cosby once quoted his old football coach: “You just keep running that play ’til you get it right.” Apparently this philosophy holds sway at Microsoft:

A related genius of Microsoft is its ability to just keep producing new versions of software until a product actually takes root, a process that describes practically every product that Microsoft has ever succeeded with. DOS had some versions that were total flops. The first actually usable version of Windows was 3.1. Before Microsoft Word and Microsoft Excel there were Multi-Tool Word and Multiplan. The list goes on.

I think it was Winston Churchill who said that success consists in failing repeatedly without losing heart. If any company embodies that, it must be Microsoft.

I might also add that Multiplan was one of vanishingly few Microsoft products that somehow got ported to the Commodore 64.

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Oh, citrus

There are lights of various colors on Gwendolyn’s instrument panel, but the color I fear most is orange: the Low Fuel light is orange, the Service Engine Soon light is orange, and the light I saw yesterday for the first time is orange. I explained this thinking to Trini, and she identified the indicator: “You’re low on wiper fluid.”

I hit the lever to spritz the glass. “No, I’m not.”

The working theory, at least for now, is that a particularly bad pavement discontinuity — pothole season in Oklahoma City runs from April 1 through March 31 — had jarred the pertinent sensor. And the light turned off some time in the next half mile. I did, however, pop the hood when I got home, and the fluid level was about an inch below the top, which should have been insignificant considering the fluid reservoir is half a foot tall.

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Short of a half-measure

Do we have enough mosquito netting to keep the bears away? A Quora user asks:

I am powering a bank’s website using WordPress. What security measures should I take?

At this point, your best bet might to have Montresor brick up the entrance to your house.

(Via Popehat.)

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Saturday spottings (dude descending a staircase)

The one spring event I do not miss in this town is the Architecture Tour, put on by the Central Oklahoma Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and from 2007 through 2013 I had the singular delight of getting to take the tour with Trini. She begged off last year — family matters come first, after all — but she was by my side once more this time around, arranging the tour schedule and doing the navigation. (Which latter I should have heeded more often: the answer to the question “Which of these otherwise indistinguishable downtown streets is the one that goes one-way westbound?” is, um, the other one.) The eight tour stops resulted in a 92-mile jaunt, about half of which involved going to and returning from item number three. Without further ado:

1) 3341 Quail Creek Road

Bill Howard home in Quail Creek

A trigonometry test come to life, the Bill Howard home off Quail Creek Country Club is a dazzling array of irregular polygons, reflecting both Howard’s desire to blend into the nearby woodlands and his study under Frank Lloyd Wright. The house was built in 1970, but much of its interior pays homage to mid-century modern, which hadn’t been entirely forgotten by then.

2) 12713 St. Andrews Terrace

House of Good Taste by Edward Durrell Stone

What do you do if the demand for housing on a single block exceeds the space you’d expect to give to a top-rank residence? If you’re Edward Durrell Stone, you create a design that is oriented “inward,” that doesn’t sprawl across the lot. Stone introduced this idea at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York, and sold plans for it nationwide under the name “House of Good Taste.” Restored last year, it’s simple but elegant.

3) 5800 South Anderson Road

Exterior of the Buddha Mind Monastery

Altar inside the Buddha Mind Monastery

The campus of the Buddha Mind Monastery, on a 20-acre site on the far southeast side, is oriented “inward” in a different way, in the hopes that the visitor will turn toward inner tranquility. The Abbess and her staff have made use of traditional Zen Buddhist themes, and regular classes are offered to novice and long-time follower alike.

4) 1315 North Broadway Place

Mayfair Apartments

The Mayfair Apartments, located north of Automobile Alley, are a working definition of splitting the difference: the exterior is pure 1930s, the flats — we visited a fourth-floor walkup, and I never want to hear the words “fourth-floor walkup” ever again — utterly contemporary, and the common areas Somewhere In Between. Several visitors seemed ready to sign a lease for one of the 16 units right then and there, though none of us could imagine how we’d get furniture up and down the narrow stairs.

5) 309 Northwest 13th Street

309 Monterey

This postwar Chrysler-Plymouth dealership, now the home of the Oklahoma Public Schools Resource Center, retains the exterior garage doors, but individual offices inside are created out of thirteen repurposed shipping containers. Architect Brian Fitzsimmons, a regular on all the Tours, is happy to show his work.

6) 828 Northwest 8th Street

828 NW 8th St

You can’t have an Architecture Tour without something in SoSA, the South of Saint Anthony district, and here’s the first of two residences therein. This one, from Ken Fitzsimmons’ Task Design, sits on the corner of 8th and Francis, close to the center of gravity of new development in this area, and is designed to fit in both with the new contemporary houses (think “vertical”) and the original pre-1930 housing stock (think “weather-minimizing features”).

7) 925 Northwest 8th Street

925 NW 8th St

Just one block away, and literally right on the corner at Classen, is this Not Really A Shed house; the slope of the roof serves as counterpoint to the slope of the street. The floorplan is Z-shaped, arranged for maximum bedroom light in the morning and as little heat from the setting summer sun as possible, and is about two and half times deeper than it is wide.

8) 30 Northeast 2nd Street

30 NE 2nd St

This is the one non-permanent structure on the tour: once again, stacked shipping containers, occupying a space just across from the Aloft Hotel, which is scheduled to contain office space with above-average amenities and, downstairs facing Oklahoma Avenue, a “gourmet corn-dog” eatery, and what’s a downtown without gourmet corn dogs? Ten years from now, they say, this will be dismantled and rebuilt somewhere else.

Photo credits: 1) Doug Howard; 4) Sam Day; 5) Joseph Mills; others by me (which can be seen in larger size on Flickr).

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Notice to upside-down drivers

The Texas DMV is looking out for your right not to be offended:

The Texas Department of Motor Vehicles is revoking the personalized license plate issued to a Houston man, because it has now been deemed offensive.

“I had it for more than three years without any problem,” Safer Hassan said.

Hassan recently received an official letter from the state that said his Texas plate, “370H55V,” would be canceled within 30 days.

Believe me, Texas takes inversions of this sort very, very seriously.

(Via Fark.)

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Better watch those English muffins, too

What do we know about Danish butter cookies? They come in this enormous metal tin, they contain no shortening ingredient other than butter, and you should probably keep them away from me.

One of the major distributors of Danish butter cookies is, surprise, Campbell Soup Company, which acquired Denmark’s Kelsen Group in 2013. And Campbell’s was not pleased to see a competitor named Danisa moving into their territory, since Danisa’s manufacturer, “Danish Specialty Foods,” allegedly in Copenhagen, is apparently actually in Indonesia.

Takari, US distributor for Danisa, argued before the National Advertising Division that they’re just the importer and have nothing to do with the contents, and besides, First Amendment. The NAD was not impressed with this argument, and Takari will revise the packaging and advertising.

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