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he’ll even get to play against the Blazers: that technical is his 16th, earning him a one-game suspension unless it’s rescinded.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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When airbags aren’t enough

If a long motor trip is on the agenda, I will try to drive as much of it as I possibly can before giving up the wheel: for somewhere around half a century I have been susceptible to untimely bouts of carsickness. (As though any bouts of carsickness are timely, doncha know.) It didn’t occur to me, though, that occupying the driver’s seat in one of those newfangled autonomous autos might be comparably pukulating:

The excitement over self-driving cars might be vomit-inducing. No, really. Researchers at University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute polled 3,200 people across the world and discovered that between 6 and 12 percent of adults will get motion sickness from riding in autonomous [vehicles].

A lot seems to depend on what those folks are doing when they’re not actually driving:

“Motion sickness is expected to be more of an issue in self-driving vehicles than in conventional vehicles,” [Dr Michael] Sivak said. “The reason is that the three main factors contributing to motion sickness — conflict between vestibular (balance) and visual inputs, inability to anticipate the direction of motion and lack of control over the direction of motion — are elevated in self-driving vehicles.

“However, the frequency and severity of motion sickness is influenced by the activity that one would be involved in instead of driving.”

The U-M report found that more than 60 percent of Americans would watch the road, talk on the phone or sleep while riding in a self-driving vehicle — activities that would not necessarily lead to motion sickness.

Unfortunately, I can barf in my sleep.

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Your moment of crypto-Zen

Here we have a question that is not related to the supplemental material — and the supplemental material itself is utterly inscrutable:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: metal or fiberglass

It’s like this, or maybe it isn’t:

i want a older newer truck

No, you don’t. They’re pretty ugly, and they tend to be a little big for your needs.

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Purple predators

The Kings have never won in Oklahoma City, and it would have been a genuinely lousy time for them to do it now. But it’s unreasonable to expect any team, especially any George Karl-coached team, to just lie down and die, and the Thunder, still seemingly stunned after several recent misadventures, had a great deal of trouble putting Sacramento away. In the end, OKC prevailed, 116-103, but the Pelicans trounced the Suns 90-75, so no ground was gained on New Orleans, and perhaps worse, Perry Jones came down on his ankle with 24 seconds left.

On the upside, the offense was spread around a bit: Russell Westbrook collected the night’s only double-double — 27 points, 10 assists — Enes Kanter knocked down 25, Dion Waiters 22, and Anthony Morrow 19 off the bench. Inexplicably, the Thunder attempted thirty-one treys, nailing ten. (Half of those were scored by Morrow.) Sacramento led the rebound race, 50-47, but somehow OKC gave up only seven turnovers, the Kings yielding on sixteen.

The Kings’ brace of youngish guards, Ben McLemore and Ray McCallum, scored 20 and 17 respectively. Derrick Williams led the bench with 17. But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the Kings’ presence was the brief appearance of Gursimran Bhullar, from Punjab via Toronto, a seven-five, 340-pound behemoth on a 10-day contract, who played the last 63 seconds, blocking a shot and serving up an assist. Sim, as they call him, is the first NBA player of Indian descent.

Three games to go: at Indiana Sunday, vs. Portland at the Peake on Monday, and at Minnesota on Wednesday to close it out. Somehow the Thunder must win one more than the Pelicans, who face the Rockets and the Wolves on the road, and then the Spurs at home. I don’t even want to know what the Las Vegas line is.

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Open book, it isn’t

I came up with some weird ideas for exam preparation when I was a schoolboy, but I don’t think I could have even imagined a scheme like this:

A German schoolboy has taken exam preparation to ingenious new levels by making a freedom of information request to see the questions in his forthcoming Abitur tests, the equivalent of A-levels in the UK.

Simon Schräder, 17, from Münster, used the internet platform fragdenstaat.de (“ask the state”), to ask the education ministry of North Rhine-Westphalia for “the tasks of the centrally-made Abitur examinations in the senior classes of high school in the current school year.” He was specifically invoking his state’s freedom of information law.

One provision of that law, though, may yet foil his scheme:

Schräder set the ministry the legally allowed one-month deadline — falling on 21 April — to comply, though his first exam is on 16 April.

“If they answer in time it might fit for one exam,” Schräder told the Guardian.

(Via Fark.)

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Quote of the week

Jack Baruth hits up the health-care exchange:

Strictly speaking, I should have signed up for my “Obamacare” when the last dregs of my “COBRA” ran out last year, but after seeing that the best “Bronze option” plan I could find charged ninety-seven dollars per week and didn’t kick in until I’d spent $6500, I decided to wait until I had a new day job.

My new day job was with the same contracting company for whom I’ve done half-a-dozen gigs since 2003. They explained to me that they no longer offered healthcare for full-time employees, but that I was welcome to use their ACA exchange. So now I’m paying five grand a year for coverage that doesn’t kick in until I spend $6500 a year. This is, apparently, Mr. Obama’s miracle. Once upon a time I paid $2000 a year for coverage that kicked in once I’d spent $250. The good news is that, uh, well — every poor person I know doesn’t pay enough taxes to see the ACA penalty, and even if they did it wouldn’t change their decisions regarding healthcare because poor people have low future time orientation. That’s why they are poor.

Unless, of course, they were driven to the poorhouse by medical expenses. Then again:

I have the same problem. The only reason that I am not desperately poor is because I know how to make money in a hurry. Someday I will be desperately poor. I have the mentality of a poor person. That’s why I didn’t sign up for ACA until last month, which meant that I wouldn’t receive any benefits until May, so my dental and healthcare expenses related to this Utah Ebola would be entirely paid by me. Well, they would have been anyway — but now they won’t even count towards my $6500 deductible. Sucks to be me.

Note: He was in Utah; he didn’t exactly contract Ebola.

CFI Care (not its real initials) offers no clue as to the level of metal for which 42nd and Treadmill is probably paying $6000 a year on my behalf, only a certification that the policy adheres to the new rules; but the numbers seem to fall between bronze and silver.

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S-ness

The May InStyle arrived last night, and when I finished my expected Reese Witherspoon-induced palpitations, I plunged further into the book, and found a brief fashion layout featuring a woman identified as SZA. These pix aren’t from that photoshoot, but they ring true:

SZA in orange

SZA headshot

First question answered: not related to Wu-Tang’s RZA, but she derives the name from the Supreme Alphabet. She’s twenty-four. She has freckles. And she’s had three EP-length releases: See.SZA.Run, S, and Z, though Z’s ten tracks run 41 minutes, decidedly long for an EP. (Up next: A.) “Julia” is a track from Z, which came out last year; “Tender” is a fragment from an as-yet-unreleased work that starts about 3:41.

To the iTunes Store I go.

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Support your local pony fan

Now here’s a perfectly reasonable question:

I can imagine a Brony scholarship … where maybe I get to give scholarships to the people who drew the cutest fanart or made the fan-drawn comic that made me laugh the hardest. Darn it, why isn’t that a thing?

Well, of course you can make it a thing. But you won’t be the first:

The Brony Thank You Fund is now raising funds to start a permanent animation scholarship to Calarts, the school where such people as Lauren Faust, Craig McCracken, and Tim Burton got their start, among many, many others.

It took a little over a year, but it happened:

Pony makes things happen.

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Apocalypse may be imminent

What we have here is a sport-utility vehicle. From MG. Yes, that MG, kinda sorta:

MG CS concept

SAIC, the Chinese automaker which has owned MG for the past decade, showed off this concept at the Shanghai Auto Show in 2013, and now it appears they’re going to build it:

[The MG CS is] set to debut just after the Geneva Motor Show in March 2016 and will be MG’s first ever entrant into the hotly-contested small SUV segment dominated by the Nissan Qashqai.

It’ll measure up to compete against the larger offerings in the segment like the Kia Sportage and Honda CR-V, and more than likely be offered with a 2.0-litre diesel and a 1.8-litre petrol with two- or four-wheel drive.

Of course, we don’t get the Qashqai here either, ostensibly because Nissan thinks it’s too small for the US market, though I suspect Nissan doesn’t want to have to teach us how to pronounce it. (Hyundai is “HYOON-dye” everywhere but in the States, where we’re considered too dumb to handle Korean names.)

If you’re asking “But where are the sports cars?” here’s your answer, or at least an answer:

MG’s new focus on SUVs has come at the cost of a new MG two-seater roadster. Since the demise of the MG TF in 2010, fans have been crying out for a new sports car harking back to the MGA, MGB, MGF and TF. [MG] told us that a new sports car would arrive in the future, but not for the next five years at least as the brand concentrates on more profitable sectors like the SUV market.

That TF, of course, is nothing like this TF, except for minor details like having four wheels.

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