Such cunning

First, we hear from Yeung Chi-kong, executive vice-president of the Toy Manufacturers’ Association in Hong Kong:

“We make toys to educate our kids to love people. We talk only about love but not hatred. It is definitely not the objective of toy manufacturers to make a toy for people to express their anger.”

Just the same, a plushie from IKEA is stirring up the pot:

The grinning wolf stuffed toy, Lufsig, selling at global furniture chain Ikea, has become an unlikely symbol of protest against the government of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who has long been characterised by opponents as a “wolf” for his perceived cunning and lack of integrity.

And it’s actually worse than that:

The translation of the toy’s name used in mainland stores is close to an obscene three-word phrase in Cantonese associated with female genitalia.

Fortunately, my knowledge of Cantonese obscenities is next to nil.

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Carcinogens to go

I opened the envelope, and the little box slid out; and stuck to its side was an adhesive warning label, about an inch and a half square, reading as follows:

Pursuant to California Health & Safety Code Section 25249.6, the Distributor of this Product Warns you That The Product May Contain Substances Known to the State of California to Cause Cancer and/or Reproductive Toxicity.

Three emblems are printed on the case: a triangle reading “ALL NEW MATERIAL,” a circle with a bar through it implying No Lead, and a certification by the EU regarding RoHS.

This is the deadly item purchased: a collection of miscellaneous screws for jeweler/optician use. Lead is out — says so on the box — so cadmium, maybe? Or perhaps the plastic box contains some heinous chemical. It’s made in India, if that means anything.

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Instant justification

“Whew! That was a close one!” we’re supposed to be saying as the Treasury disposes of the balance of its holdings in General Motors, although Treasury — and therefore taxpayers — lost ten and a half billion dollars on the deal:

Without the bailout, the country would have lost more than 1 million jobs, and the economy could have slipped from recession into a depression, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said on a conference call with reporters.

Which is what he’s required to say: everything the government does, from handing out cell phones to putting tariffs on Chinese tires is justified by “the alternative would have been worse.”

Not that we can actually prove any such assertion, of course:

Well, if Jacob Lew says the alternative was worse than losing $10.5 billion of taxpayer money, who are we to disagree? Because the effects of hypothesized alternative scenarios are always subject to speculation, officials can justify any policy by declaring that things would have been worse if we had done something different. (Let’s keep this principle of Liberal Logic™ in mind: Next time some hippie peacenik tells you that Bush’s Iraq policy was a failure, just remind him that an imaginary hypothetical alternative — e.g., Saddam Hussein’s army invading Connecticut — would have been much worse.)

Oh, and that blue floodlight out in the yard? It keeps tigers away.

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Having a bad day

I started using this plugin last year; it does a pretty good job of hosing out the database when used on a regular basis.

Until, of course, it doesn’t. Judging by the changelog, it’s been a rough few days for the poor guy:

2.7.3 [12/09/2013]

    BUG FIX: deleted some CR/LF’s from the end of the plugin sigh

2.7.2 [12/09/2013]

    BUG FIX: forgot to delete a debug item… oops! sorry!

2.7.1 [12/09/2013]

    BUG FIX: query and depreciated item (mysql_list_tables) fixed

2.7 [12/06/2013]

    NEW: deletion of expired transients (optional)

I’d deactivated it for a while, figuring he’d straighten it out eventually. Looks like maybe he did.

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Grainy night in Georgia

For a while, this was starting to look like a Bad Shooting Clinic: 48-39 at the half does not suggest a superior offensive display on either side. At one point, I found myself wondering, not so much whether the outcome would be favorable, but whether Kyle Korver would make a trey for the 3,000th, or whatever, game in a row. (He did.) The Thunder were up 14 at one point in the third; the Hawks shaved that to three early in the fourth, arousing the folks filling up two-thirds of the seats at the Philips. OKC promptly ran off a 10-0 string to show them who’s boss; Atlanta declined to obey, following Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and reserve guard Shelvin Mack back to within three just inside the two-minute mark. But that was it: the Thunder held firm and earned a 101-92 win.

And this was a night on which Millsap had a season high (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Mack had his best performance ever (17 points on 7-9 shooting in 20 minutes). But the Hawks tossed up too many clangers and airballs: 36 percent from the floor, 9/26 (34 percent) from distance. (The Thunder were not even that wonderful from beyond the arc, hitting a pitiable 4 of 18.) And Al Horford was basically put in a corner most of the second half, held to 7 points, though he did collect ten boards.

Russell Westbrook had an off night, if a night in which you come one board short of a triple-double counts as “off”: 14 points (scary 6-21) and 11 assists did the trick, though. For that matter, Kevin Durant was not shooting so well either (9-21), though he ended up with his more-or-less usual 30, with 10 boards. Also with ten boards: Serge Ibaka, who scored 19. Thabo Sefolosha, officially day to day with a knee sprain, drew a Not Today; Andre Roberson started, and while he only made one shot in 12 minutes, he reeled in five rebounds. (OKC led the battle of the boards, 54-45.) And the Doublemint Twins, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, earned double figures. Oh, there was a flagrant on Kendrick Perkins, which even radio guy Matt Pinto conceded early on.

The depleted Grizzlies — Ed Davis and Tony Allen are day-to-day, Marc Gasol is off for some unspecified period, and Quincy Pondexter is lost for the season — will be waiting in Memphis tomorrow night.

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Helle breaks loose

A case study in side-eye, as taught by the First Lady:

“That girl,” it turns out, is Helle Thorning-Schmidt, forty-seven this week, who for the past two years has served as Prime Minister of Denmark under Queen Margrethe II. A Social Democrat, she has pursued policies which these days are considered centrist; she’s married to Stephen Kinnock of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Obviously not just someone who caught the President’s eye. In fact, they’ve met before:

Helle Thorning-Schmidt with Barack Obama

And like the rest of us, she puts her shoes on one at a time:

Helle Thorning-Schmidt exits her car

Commentary has ranged from snarky to really snarky, with this tweet perhaps summing it up:

Michelle’s death stare is the distilled rage of a million black women losing the attentions of their men to white blondes.

Beyond that, deponent saith not.

Addendum: Well, maybe something more about the shoes.

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The exotic becomes mundane

We take contemporary automotive technology more or less for granted. No, really:

The one piece to this story that I haven’t mentioned (at least I don’t think I have), is just how exotic this engine is. It’s an all aluminum, DOHC (Dual Overhead Camshafts) 24 valve V6. When I was a kid and muscle cars with their pushrod-operated, cast-iron, V8’s were all the rage, the only place you would have found an engine like this would have have been in something truly exotic, like a Ferrari Dino, and oh! how I lusted after a Ferrari in those days. Now it’s just one of a zillion very similar engines, and no one even appreciates how special they are. DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder are just a couple of bullet points on the marketing brochure, and they might just be one bullet point.

Down to one bullet point: one can do four valves per cylinder with a single overhead cam, but it hardly seems worth the effort anymore.

Interestingly, the engine being discussed is presumably the Chrysler LH, a 2.7-liter DOHC 24-valve V6; the next step up, in those days, was the 3.5, which had only the single cam.

Because I need to remind myself that there is progress being made, here’s what the mill in the Dino 206 was like: 2.0l DOHC V6, 9.7:1 compression, 160 hp @ 8000 rpm, 138 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm, redline 8000 rpm.

And this is my daily driver: 3.0l DOHC V6, 10:1 compression, 227 hp @ 6400 rpm, 217 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm, redline 6600 rpm. No trademark banshee wail, but you can’t have everything.

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Here’s looking at you, skid

I have long believed that properly winterizing a car meant shipping it to somewhere around San Diego and then retrieving it after Winter Wrap-Up. We’ve had iced-over residential streets since early Thursday, and, well, there’s only so much you can do about it, and by “so much” is meant “basically squat”:

When the surface goes as frictionless as a Physics 101 thought experiment, anti-lock brakes just ensure you’ll slide sideways into the middle of the intersection with all four wheels turning instead of locked up tight.

This outcome is, I need hardly tell you, sub-optimal.

Oh, traction control, you say? What do you think happens when you divide by zero?

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Your photos shall not escape us

Yahoo!, which managed Flickr competently until last year’s system-wide makeover, which got on users’ last collective nerve, is now looking for another photo site to mess up:

This fall, Yahoo began serious talks to buy photo-sharing site Imgur, a source with first-hand knowledge of those discussions tells us.

Since she joined Yahoo in July 2012, CEO Marissa Mayer has acquired dozens of startups. Most of these acquisitions have been acqui-hires.

The buy that cost Yahoo the most was its $1.1 billion purchase of Tumblr. Yahoo bought Tumblr because it has a deeply engaged, youthful audience, that uses the product on mobile. It would buy Imgur for all the same reasons.

Not that Imgur is going to cost that much, even allowing for the standard 50-percent markup on brands ending in R:

Our guess is Yahoo would have to offer something between $100 million and $500 million. But who knows in a world where Snapchat supposedly turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook.

And what the frak is “acqui-hiring,” anyway?

[It is] the process of acquiring a company to recruit its employees, without necessarily showing an interest in its products and services (or their continued operation).


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You ducks are expected to sit

A front-page (albeit below the fold) story in this morning’s Oklahoman described the horrors of a westside neighborhood, an area in which I used to live many years ago and which apparently has been heading into the ol’ porcelain facility of late.

The story (behind the paywall) was long enough to fill up page 2A, where I found this:

Oklahoman photo of Terrace Apartments in OKC

I ought to call up a local sign painter and ask what he’d charge for “SHOOT US, WE’RE UNARMED.”

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A different kind of buzz

Never in a million off-seasons would it have occurred to me that Lorde’s inspiration for “Royals” was, um, a member of the Kansas City Royals:

It took a few weeks of research, but National Geographic has confirmed that pop star Lorde was referring to a photo of Kansas City Royals’ baseball legend George Brett when she explained where she got the inspiration for her megahit “Royals.”

In an interview a few months ago with VH1, Lorde (real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor) explained how she “had this image from the National Geographic of this dude just signing baseballs. He was a baseball player and his shirt said, ‘Royals.’ It was just that word. It’s really cool.”

Someone, of course, would have to track that down, and someone did:

After The [Kansas City] Star wrote a story on Nov. 19 about the interview, an astute reader found a photo that matched the description.

The photo, published in July 1976, shows the star third baseman surrounded by adoring fans and signing baseballs. According to a National Geographic spokeswoman, “this appears to be the only photo in our archives of a Royals baseball player signing autographs.”

I have to assume that hearing “Royals” twice a day, to and from the K, had nothing whatever to do with the Royals’ 86-76 season, third place in the AL Central, their first finish above .500 in a decade — but you never really know, do you?

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Demote the general welfare

Should we declare victory in the War on Poverty and bring the boys home from Washington? It has a certain visceral appeal, but it might not work the way we think it would:

The money isn’t being spent on the poor, but it is being spent to prevent poverty; some people’s poverty, anyway. The bureaucrats who administer the anti-poverty programs are themselves the objects. Their jobs coordinating one of the hundreds of jobs programs is itself a jobs program. That’s not sarcasm or hyperbole. Really, there isn’t any other place for them, and they won’t be allowed to live in the condition they would end up in if not for that government job.

They have no marketable skill, and at 45 they can’t now learn anything that will earn them a middle class living. If that seems unkind or offensive, express it this way: the private economy has no place for them. Firing them en masse won’t unleash a bounty of entrepreneurship, as the former grant administration compliance auditor pushes his own weenie cart, selling dogs to the former diversity coordination outreach specialist who now builds houses. Though maybe tearing down empty houses would be a better business model today.

Short of hiring them to dig holes, and then reassigning the Department of Education to fill them back up, it’s difficult to come up with a way to dispose of these folks humanely.

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Enter the caretakers

It’s been a while since I put a dream sequence up here, but then it’s been a while since I had one worth remembering — especially since this one was a product of Saturday-night insomnia.

Anyone who’s kicked an automobile tire knows precisely the amount of give the tire is supposed to provide: zero. The same applies to bicycles, but bike tires are hard to kick, being narrow and all, so the usual expedient is to give it a pinch. Upon finding a definite deficit of air pressure in the front, I decided I’d chance it for the first mile or so, and then push it the rest of the way. The bike, of course, handled like a raccoon on an ice floe, so it wasn’t too long before I dismounted. When the rain started, I ducked into a convenience store, which was probably rude of me since I was still carrying the bike; I made it most of the way down the main aisle before I passed out.

I awoke to find no sign of either the bicycle or my clothing; apparently I had died and was in some celestial Fort Dix awaiting Final Orders. They had issued me something tunic-y, about a hospital gown and a half, with just enough material to cover my back bumper but nowhere near enough to keep me warm. A staffer speaking some sort of mutant Esperanto, of which I comprehended maybe every sixth word, bade me accompany him, and after about four and a half changes in direction he left me in some sort of dorm room with three beds narrower than twin size and two occupants, one a guy who looked like he’d just been told he wasn’t getting the Glengarry leads, the other a girl who might make a nice hippie chick once she grew up. Neither of them acknowledged my arrival: the guy was watching whatever was on the television, and the girl was half-asleep.

Some unknown amount of time later, another lackey popped in, this time bearing a tray full of tiny wood splints. Both my roommates groaned in classic “This again?” fashion. The lackey brought me a couple of them and gestured toward my face. “Did I ask for toothpicks?” I thought, but didn’t say. The girl was fumbling with hers; the lackey attempted to show her how to use the tool, and it appeared to me that this was intended as some sort of gum-cleaning device: the absence of curtain pulls, shoestrings, and the like told me that whoever our keepers were, they weren’t likely to trust us with floss. I obediently began tracing the appropriate area; the lackey gave out with a smile, probably programmed, and in a burst of syllables urged the girl to follow my example. She did so, and in so doing earned another smile from the lackey, who then turned his attentions to the old guy. (He probably wasn’t older than I am, really, but I wasn’t, at this time, as old as I am usually.)

I’d slept for several hours when yet another minion showed up: apparently the girl and I had earned a trip outdoors. And “outdoors” looked like what Le Corbusier might have thought a Turkish bazaar ought to look like: it was disorganized, but it was neatly disorganized for most of its two-block length. Nothing looked at all familiar; apparently that convenience store, and my bicycle, were far, far away.

Apparently I would be allowed some quantity of goodies from the bazaar, but none of them looked particularly interesting: a double-sized thimble, various puzzle boxes, what looked like a Super Ball. I was about to check the ball for Superness when someone’s failure to negotiate the ice on the corner of my street woke me up.

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Strange search-engine queries (410)

Your Monday morning begins with another set of peculiar search strings, as picked up by this very site over the past several days, in lieu of actual, you know, content.

85yrs old grannies fucking pictures:  Get your own effing pictures.

jessica alba fantasy story:  I bet she wasn’t 85, either.

nudity in bizet carmen:  Because Frenchmen know intuitively what sort of things happen in deepest Seville.

tight wet ones:  Carmen was like that, but then she was still young.

unicorn breeders association:  Have you seen how much those breeders will charge you?

dawn fairchild new roads school aol settlement:  It’s hard to imagine anyone settling for AOL these days.

GF4AEL went out:  And probably had a good time, too.

don’t start sentences with with:  With what authority do you make this demand?

philander vedio:  One should never attempt adultery beneath a surveillance camera.

Skinny ankle jailbait:  Especially if she’s underage.

john doak uninsured motorist:  John Doak is the Insurance Commissioner. Surely someone would have written him a policy.

so much for your bright idea:  Could be my epitaph, if you think about it.

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Pacers outrun

There was an item in the paper this morning about how Paul George was so great. I don’t know if they thought it has jinx potential, but I’m here to tell you that it didn’t have any effect: George was legitimately great tonight. The Thunder bottled him up effectively in the first half, holding him to six — Thabo Sefolosha did the best job of containing George — but that wasn’t going to last, and Frank Vogel decided to leave George in as long as possible.

“As long as possible” proved to be until the 6:41 mark, when Vogel found a spare towel on the bench and threw it in. At the time, George had 32 points on 9-17 shooting, including 4 of 6 for distance, and OKC was up by 19. Scott Brooks pulled Batman and Robin a couple minutes later, and it then became a question of who among the reserves might do something interesting. The much-traveled Rasual Butler, a favorite at this desk while he was at New Orleans while New Orleans was, um, here, hit two of three treys; Perry Jones III emerged from the shadows and went 3-3; and the Thunder pocketed a 118-94 win over one of the NBA’s premier defensive outfits.

Maybe the Pacers needed a couple more Georges. David West and Roy Hibbert got into double figures, but just barely, and Hibbert, who can outblock anyone, went swatless. The Thunder outrebounded Indiana, 46-29, and outshot them, 61 percent to 40. OKC moved the ball like crazy — 27 assists, including 13 from Russell Westbrook — while the Pacers could manage only 13 in aggregate.

Meanwhile, Westbrook was piling up 26 points, and Kevin Durant, brought back at precisely the time George was making his biggest splash, put together an even better line: 36 points on 14-23 shooting and 10 rebounds. And this was a night for Kendrick Perkins to stand there and say No, which he did with considerable alacrity: 22 minutes, about half again his usual, six points, seven boards and two blocks. Speaking of blocks, Serge Ibaka had but the one tonight; but he knocked down 13 points in a mere eight shots.

This is a single-game homestand; the Thunder are off to Atlanta on Tuesday, followed by Memphis on Wednesday. Both can be expected to offer resistance.

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Future idiom

I have always been fascinated by the unexpected paths this language has taken over the past several centuries, and how some terminology has survived long past the actual objects it describes: we may not know what a petard is, but we’re damned sure we don’t want to be hoist on, or with, it.

Now Shakespeare wrote Hamlet back around 1600. Is there anything that happened during my lifetime that could produce an idiom which might engage readers — assuming there will still be readers — in 2400?

I’m thinking there’s at least one possible candidate:

Seriously. I’d bet there won’t be knobs of any sort in 2400 — the first blow already has been struck — but the decimal system as we know it will remain, and 11 will always be just a little bit beyond it. We’re already practically to the point where you can talk about turning something up to 11 without having to explain it at all: the idiom is just that handy. Four hundred years from now, when the last Marshall stack is tucked away in the corner of a Museum of Curiosities, there will still be things that go to 11.

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