J. R. shot first

Actually, we didn’t see J. R. Smith until the second quarter, but the streakiest shooter in the NBA was having one of his streakiest streaks: 33 points in the next 30 minutes. (With six minutes left, J. R. had piled up the same number of points as all five New York starters.) When the Thunder finally managed to slow Smith’s progress, he complained; both Smith and Thabo Sefolosha, who’d been doing the slowing, wound up with technicals. And the Knicks had been doing a pretty good job of slowing the Thunder; Russell Westbrook, who’d had 19 points in the first half, was limited to two in the second, though Kevin Durant did his best to pick up the slack, scoring 21 of his 34 in the second half. With 38 seconds left, OKC clung to a 95-94 lead; Smith somehow missed a trey from the left wing, Durant got a good look but nothing more, and finally Westbrook disrupted Smith’s last-second fadeaway, leaving the Thunder out of breath but victorious.

Smith finished with a game-high 36, though Durant was right behind. The difference, though, may have been Kevin Martin. All season, K-Mart has been more effective at home than on the road; but tonight in the Garden, he made his relatively few shots count, going 4-6 for 16 points. OKC shot a mundane 44 percent from the floor; the Knicks barely broke 40, and apart from Smith’s 14-29 they didn’t break 37. And maybe the most interesting line of the night was Jason Kidd’s: he took only two shots, missed them both, but hauled in ten rebounds.

Tomorrow night against the Bobcats, who have had a rough time of it of late; the Admiral Ackbar sign is probably going up on the team plane to Charlotte.

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Capitalist running dog pulls up lame

If you’re not Goldman Sachs, says Steven Rattner, you ain’t squat:

Most troublesome is the legalization of “crowd funding,” the ability of start-up companies to raise capital from small investors on the Internet. While such lightly regulated capital raising has existed for years, until now, “investors” could receive only trinkets and other items of small value, similar to the way public television raises funds. As soon as regulations required to implement the new rules are completed, people who invest money in start-ups through sites similar to Kickstarter will be able to receive a financial interest in the soliciting company, much like buying shares on the stock exchange. But the enterprises soliciting these funds will hardly be big corporations like Wal-Mart or Exxon; they will be small start-ups with no track records.

And God, or Robert Reich, forbid that small investors should actually own anything, am I right?

Write this down and memorize it, Rattzo: “Too big to fail” is the functional equivalent of “too big to be useful,” and will remain so just as long as Wall Street’s sole interest is the care and feeding of Wall Street.

Oh, and before you express your oh-so-sincere concern about all us player wannabes, you might consider this from Warren Meyer:

I predict that over [time] that Internet entrepreneurs running such crowd-sourcing sites would develop reputation management and review tools for investors (similar to those at Amazon and eBay). Over time, it may be that these become far more trustworthy than current credit agency reports or investment bank recommendations. After all, which do you trust more — a 5-star Amazon review with 35 responses or a Goldman Sachs “buy” recommendation on an IPO like Facebook or Groupon? Besides, it would take a very long time, like eternity, for fraud losses in a crowd-sourcing site to equal 1/100 of the investor losses to heavily regulated Bernie Madoff.

Consider yourself downgraded, Rattski.

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Thank you for your support

What I know about brassieres isn’t enough to fill up one hand, as I’ve admitted in the past. And apparently the volume of information is growing by leaps and bounds:

I can remember a time not so long ago when the lingerie sections of department stores were relatively simple affairs, with choices adequate but not overwhelming. There were the strapless, the halter, and the regular; the wired and the wireless; the low-cut; and the padded and the un. Cotton, satin, and lace, and a relatively small number of manufacturers.

Now the styles have proliferated exponentially, and each has a very special task to do. Eliminate back fat. Minimize. Maximize. Do away with the side boob. Look good under clingy tank tops. Have comfortable straps. And on and on and on. And the efficacy of none of these things can be ascertained by merely looking at the bra on the hanger; all must be tried on.

And then presumably discarded because they didn’t actually fit.

Last December, I had the dubious pleasure of watching my daughter hunting down Exactly The Right Strapless to fit under her wedding gown. And she rationalized this purchase exactly the way she’d picked out the shoes: its lifespan is going to be measured in hours, and not so many hours at that, so maximum robustness of construction was not a priority. Downside: this tends to expand the number of choices exponentially, since you can’t rule out something that looks like it won’t survive more than a wash or two if it’s not going to get more than a wash or two.

It is seldom that I give thanks for my Y chromosome. This was one of those times.

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Schedule your rage accordingly

“Anger management,” if you ask me, is at just about the same level of pretentious donkey dust as “search-engine optimization,” and one should be very suspicious when encountering a recommendation for either.

And that goes double if it comes from a legislator:

The bill filed Saturday by state Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, would require a three-day waiting period for the sale of any firearm and the sale of ammunition to anyone who has not completed anger management courses. The proposal would require ammo buyers to take the anger management courses every 10 years.

“This is not about guns,” Gibson said. “This is about ammunition and not only for the safety of the general community, but also for the safety of law enforcement.”

This, buoys and gulls, is why Florida has its own Fark tag.

I’ll take this seriously when it comes with a rider that requires “law enforcement” to take the same silly classes, and not one second before.

(Via drach at Daily Pundit.)

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They can’t be Sirius

Nicole reports that her satellite-radio provider really has been dogging it of late:

It’s 2013. I can buy a car online. I haven’t looked but I bet I can buy a house online. Why the hell can’t I buy a lousy radio subscription online? Do they think they are going to sell me more if I talk to a live person? I suppose it does work like that for some people. Not us people, though.

It’s a significant cost difference. Penalized for not using an outdated technology that opens me to an attempt at sales pressure. Not sure it’s a company with whom I want to do business.

Along similar lines, I buy an email address from Earthlink — it’s one I had when I used them as a dial-up — so as to maintain continuity with certain of my online relationships. This is billed monthly: it’s possible to pay a year in advance and get a few bucks knocked off, but only if I endure a live (so to speak) chat session with a corporate drone who will try to sell me every damned thing under the sun. Worse, he types with an accent.

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Weedier than thou

For several years, I happily did business with one of the major national weed-control outfits, dropping them only when I realized that keeping the yard nicer was costing me a thousand dollars a year, far more than I could spare.

Two years and two-thirds the usual amount of rain later, you can actually hear the grass whine. I hunted around and found a local firm who offered me a yearly program for under $500. (If this sounds like a lot to you, keep in mind that the palatial estate at Surlywood sprawls over 11,000 square feet, more than 7,000 square feet of which is actual lawn.) I’m hoping that things will look a little better next year, or the next visit by Google Street View, whichever comes first.

And I’m hoping nopony reminds me of this:

Desert Brush took a bite of his sandwich. “If I’d known dandelions were this tasty I’d have never spent all that time trying to kill them.”

“I never understood that. Dandelions break up the monotony of grass, grass, nothing but grass, even if you’re not going to eat them.”

“It’s those crazy humans,” Brush explained. “They like the monotony of grass, grass, nothing but grass. It’s like the ideal place to live is on a golf course.”

Perhaps I need to renew my Crazy Human card.

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The non-profit motive

Yours truly in Vent #640:

There is no more exasperating aspect of modern-day leftism than its insistence that anything from which someone actually makes money is somehow impure and unworthy.

Which is not to say that nonprofits are either above reproach or above raking in the dough:

Since hospitals are responsible for the vast majority of medical costs in this country, slashing these outrageous charges brings incredible savings without even touching physician pay. Since we own our facility, we are content with solid fees for our professional services with no desire to plunder and bankrupt our patients with gigantic facility fees, unlike the so-called “not for profit” hospitals. We actually act more like a “not for profit” entity than those claiming this tax-free status.

Nor is this condition peculiar to the health-care industry:

Just because it’s “non-profit” doesn’t mean people aren’t getting paid. The entire environmentalist movement exists because, in the 1970s, a bunch of hippies figured out that protesting against pollution — everybody hates pollution, right? — could be a full-time job, if the hippies could convince a lot of big-money “philanthropic” foundations to cut them a check every year.

It worked out pretty good for those hippies, some of whom have long since retired in luxury after successful careers as professional (non-profit) environmental activists, having never done an honest day’s work in their entire worthless lives.

Just don’t ask them about their goddamn carbon footprints.

I suspect that not too long after I’m gone, the rules for nonprofits will be radically changed, not because of this particular plaint, but because government will be desperate to get its mitts (not to be confused with “Mitt’s”) on whatever hoards of cash still exist.

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Hitting the ‘Deck

Not wishing to face an immediate learning curve when Twitter kills off the original TweetDeck, I installed the new version on the home box last night. Observations:

  • Nobody needs a Reset Password button that big.
  • On the upside, they don’t actually reset it until you answer an email link.
  • There are lots of keyboard shortcuts.
  • I guess I’m used to the old yellow icon; the blue one just looks funny.
  • Memory usage seems to be about 40-50 percent less, which is clearly a boon.
  • On the other hand, I miss the “via” statements that tell which client an individual tweeter is using. (They were scraped off twitter.com long ago.)

So it goes. #vonnegut

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Step right up and get your certificate

Once it got to the point that it took a BA to get considered for a secretarial position, it was a short step to our present unhappy state:

So much any more, it seems that education is seen merely as the means to an end — that is, a diploma for a job. And I suppose given the cost of tuition and the state of the economy, that’s not all that surprising. But, darn it — I like the idea of learning for the sake of learning, and I like the idea of the joy of learning, and sometimes I wonder if we aren’t losing some of that in our mad rush to make education as coldly “efficient” as possible, so it can seem more “cost effective.” I will also note that once again, I now kind of wish I had been made to learn Latin. Oh, I think at the time, continuing on with French was a good decision (I had already learned some in middle school, and I was good at it), but still.

Since Job One at the so-called “Human Resources” department is to find excuses not to hire people, for the foreseeable future we can probably expect diplomas to be viewed merely as trade-school completion certificates. And it’s easy to snark about fields which don’t have a lot of lucrative job openings at the moment — art history is, you should pardon the expression, the poster child for this sort of thing — but what kind of world would we have without them?

Look around you. Quants and lawyers, lawyers and quants, hoping for that sixth (or seventh!) digit before the decimal point. I’m a hard-nosed numbers guy myself; but once in a while that nose has to get a whiff of the roses.

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This will represent 100 percent of your grade

The syllabus begins simply enough:

English 135. Fate and the Individual in European Literature: First semester. 2 hours credit. Open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students who secure written permission from Professor Arno Bader, 2222 Angell Hall. Th, 4-6. 2215 A. H. Instructor W. Auden

That’s W. H. Auden to you; the poet taught this course at the University of Michigan during the 1941-42 academic year, and the required reading comes to some 6,000 pages, including both warhorses (the entirety of Dante’s Divine Comedy) and showponies (Rimbaud’s Une Seison en Enfer). Oh, and nine opera libretti, in your copious free time.

I can assure you that by 1970 or so undergraduates were complaining about this sort of load; I suspect that today they object to the very idea of something being required.

(Via Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

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Aliens from L.A.

No one is going to believe the box score of this one. Kobe Bryant, you have to figure, would play 50 minutes if he could; in this game, he departed early with some sort of ulnar nerve contusion, and came back in five minutes because he’s Kobe Bryant and would play 50 minutes if he could. The Lakers were down only five, 110-105, with 5:34 left; the final was 122-105, which should tell you something about the ferocity of the Thunder defense.

You might look askance at those 40 free-throw attempts by the Lakers, 31 of which they made. (The Thunder went 22-24.) Then again, OKC took 19 more shots. (They shot 48 percent, versus 40 for L.A.) But the two figures I’m staring at are utterly improbable. The Lakers blocked exactly one shot all night and made no steals; the Thunder had all of two turnovers, tying the all-time league record for 48 minutes. This is ball control deluxe.

And it was, once again, Russell Westbrook’s night. The Lakers have never had an answer for Westbrook; tonight he went off for 37 points and pulled in ten rebounds. Kevin Durant’s just-about-average 26 was icing on the cake. And since I’ve been griping about bench production, allow me to mention that three OKC reserves scored in double figures — and that one of them was Derek Fisher. For some inscrutable reason, he plays well against the Lakers.

With Pau Gasol still out, Earl Clark got to play at the four; he came up with the Lakers’ only double-double, with 13 points and 11 boards. Dwight Howard had a stirring 16 rebounds before fouling out with a couple minutes left. And Kobe didn’t quite make 40 minutes, but he did collect 30 points, with Steve Nash at his side gathering 20 more. Then again, nobody is going to believe that box score, and besides, the Lakers have to play the Sea Birds tomorrow.

Back East, it’s a back-to-back for the Thunder: Thursday in New York, Friday in Charlotte. OKC is a glittering 31-9 against the West but only 13-7 against the East, so I’m not counting either of these as a gimme.

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Bits champed at

Last year, in a piece on Equestrian currency, I noted that one bit was “not an enormous sum.” No official exchange rate has ever been quoted, a fact which didn’t deter EqD’s Cereal Velocity from attempting to determine the dollar value of the bit.

Cereal notes, correctly, from “Putting Your Hoof Down”:

[I]t’s established that a tomato can either be one or two bits worth of value. For the ease of calculation and to eliminate the possibility that the shopkeeper is simply ripping Fluttershy off, we will assume that one tomato is worth one bit.

He then goes into a complicated exposition that ends up, if you ask me, nowhere useful. I suspect he’s never actually gone to the market and bought a tomato. (And if he did, he didn’t pay a cent and a half for it.)

By comparison, this is what happened in The Sparkle Chronicles when Twilight Sparkle, visiting the human world, saw for the first time a Large Automobile:

“What does something like this cost?”

Dollars obviously meant nothing to her, so: “How much for three tomatoes?”

“About two bits,” she said.

“Then this was about twenty thousand bits.”

At the time I wrote that, three tomatoes, smallish, were running about a buck and a half. (I rather suspect that Equestrian tomatoes are not like our humongous hothouse-raised supermarket spheroids grown for anything but flavor.) This is a tad cheaper than the market sequence in “Putting Your Hoof Down” implies, but I got the distinct impression that prices in the Ponyville marketplace are anything but, um, stable.

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Go home, Hugo, you’re dead

Even in Venezuela they think so:

Hundreds of pro-opposition students and other critics of Hugo Chávez’s government marched in Caracas [Sunday] to demand proof that the cancer-stricken Venezuelan leader is still alive and governing.

The crowd, including various leaders at the more militant end of the Democratic Unity opposition coalition, sang protest songs and waved banners as they rallied in a central neighborhood on a sweltering morning.

“Give us the truth!” and “Stop lying!” read banners.

And if it should turn out, as previously reported, that Chávez is no longer fit for anything much more than Weekend at Bernie’s III — what then?

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It’s the end of the world, and we blow it

Mucking around with mystery particles might well be the first step toward The End®, they say:

[F]inding the Higgs [boson], if it’s truly been found, not only confirms the theory about how particles get mass, but it allows scientists to make new calculations that weren’t possible before the particle’s properties were known.

For example, the mass of the new particle is about 126 billion electron volts, or about 126 times the mass of the proton. If that particle really is the Higgs, its mass turns out to be just about what’s needed to make the universe fundamentally unstable, in a way that would cause it to end catastrophically in the far future.

That’s because the Higgs field is thought to be everywhere, so it affects the vacuum of empty space-time in the universe.

And we probably shouldn’t count on saving ourselves with the inevitable anti-Higgs particle. (“Boson’s mate?”) Instead, we should adopt a stance that will stress us less in the long-ish run:

[T]here’s really no reason to worry about this event either. Wherever it started — if it hasn’t already — it would come at you at the speed of light, meaning it would literally be over before we knew it.

Assuming it started nearby, anyway. If the Big Debang should start at the surface of the sun, though, we’d have eight whole minutes to panic.

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Short and sharp

This is Becky. Actually, to be precise about it, this is Becky♪♯, a Japanese actress/singer with an English dad and a birthday tomorrow. (She’ll be 29.)

Becky

Did I mention she sings?

VEVO, in its infinite wisdom, has not permitted any of the videos for her EMI Japan singles to appear on the US flavor of YouTube, so this is what we get.

According to her Wikipedia page, the extra characters in her name are intended to represent “a different half of Becky stepping up.” Whatever that may mean. At the very least, I suppose I should take back anything snarky I ever said about The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As Prince.

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And the cart comes around

Twitter announced yesterday that various versions of TweetDeck, including the one I’ve used for five years, will be put out of their misery in the next few weeks:

To continue to offer a great product that addresses your unique needs, we’re going to focus our development efforts on our modern, web-based versions of TweetDeck. To that end, we are discontinuing support for our older apps: TweetDeck AIR, TweetDeck for Android and TweetDeck for iPhone. They will be removed from their respective app stores in early May and will stop functioning shortly thereafter. We’ll also discontinue support for our Facebook integration.

Reaction in my tweetstream was swift and negative. After all, this isn’t the first time Twitter bought something and then turned it into, um, something else. (There is no small irony in the fact that Twitter’s TweetDeck blog, where this announcement was posted, is on Posterous, which is also being killed.)

There will continue to be desktop apps for Mac and PC, we are assured, which if true means there’s a slight upside: I can get rid of Adobe AIR, the environment in which this old version of TweetDeck runs. (Any day I can get rid of something that Adobe updates at random intervals is a good day indeed.) Still, this new fancy-pants API of theirs had better be able to solve quadratic equations, wash the dishes and walk the damn dog.

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