The usual semiannual scrutiny

If my car could talk, she might say, along with “You know, these seats of mine can only take so much,” something along the lines of “Yeah, I got insurance. You wanna make something of it?”

Okay, she’s got an attitude. That’s part of why she’s here. And the insurance bill has arrived, so it’s time to go over that stuff again.

Premium is up a not-quite-negligible $20.40 this time around, ten bucks of which goes straight to bodily-injury liability, with half of the rest going to property-damage liability. Uninsured motorist coverage remains unchanged; it also remains the single priciest item on the bill. We shall see if the new state law allowing troopers to confiscate the license plates of uninsured motorists — and, even more fun, providing temporary liability coverage to those motorists at a price yet undetermined to be added to their fines and fees — does anything to address that matter.

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Non-vertical integration

News Item, Monday: The Oklahoman is returning to downtown. Century Center, 100 W Main, is set to become home to The Oklahoma Publishing Company, The Oklahoman and NewsOK by September 2014, subject to remaining government approvals. About 350 employees will make the move, while the production operation will remain at Britton and Broadway.

Top Ten rejected names for the new Opubco complex downtown:

  1. Gaylordia
  2. The Dwarf Tower
  3. News’ Last Stand
  4. FAO Schmucks
  5. Steve Lackmeyer’s Lunch Room
  6. Stage Center East
  7. Soon to Be a Steakhouse
  8. TIF Central
  9. Darth Mall
  10. Oklahoma City Times Square

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Two great tastes that taste horrible together

Vi Hart gives the Google+/YouTube integration the denunciation it deserves:

Google’s products used to augment humanity with beautiful tools that helped us get the information we wanted to see. That was the superiority of Google search, Google Reader, gmail with its excellent spam filter, and YouTube, which allowed you to subscribe to any individual who might want to post videos. Empowering humanity to efficiently search for and find information, and then to choose what information they consume, is not just a noble goal, but turned out to be a wildly successful thing that people want.

So naturally, it had to go:

Now a Google search shows me a full page of promoted, local, and social results — I have to scroll down to see actual search results. Google decided to drop Reader altogether. YouTube inflates subscriber numbers during signups while choosing which videos will actually show up, with a malicious algorithm that includes both total time a user spends on the site (promoting videos that suck you into watching things you don’t really like but are easily distracted by) and revenue gained (this means that by not having ads on your videos you miss out on both the ad money and on having your stuff displayed to many of your own subscribers). You can still “subscribe,” but YouTube changed the definition of the word in the same way Facebook changed the definition of “friend.”

YouTube used to be designed to help you find what you were looking for. Now, it’s designed to keep you looking.

It’s all about the eyeballs, and tracking where those eyeballs fall.

I started typing “new gmail” into a Google box, and the sixth thing suggested was “new gmail sucks;” there’s even a “Gmail’s new look sucks” page on Facebook.

And eventually, I did find someone who argued that no, it does not suck. Not being a Gmail user, I really can’t say much here; but I tend to believe that any IMAP-based mail system sucks.

Still, when both Vi Hart and Violet Blue are using the same word — “trick” — to describe what was done to YouTube commenters, you may safely assume that the users are clearly Not Happy. I’ve been signing my Actual Name to YouTube stuff now for over a year, but you can’t judge a movement based on what I do.

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Sound and fury and such

Brian Shaw is running the game for Denver these days, and so far as I can tell, he’s pretty much memorized George Karl’s notebooks. Certainly these Nuggets have the same swarm-and-overcome tendency of previous Nuggets, and after OKC took a 2-0 lead early, Denver was utterly dominant, taking a lead as large as 14. Still, the Thunder are hard to beat at home, and with just over four minutes left they squirted ahead 103-102. The biggest play of the night might have been with 7.8 seconds left, with Serge Ibaka called for goaltending, putting Denver within two at 112-110. Russell Westbrook got one of two free throws to make it 113-110; Ty Lawson, attempting to miss the second of two, actually hit it. Derek Fisher got a pair of freebies, Westbrook fouled Lawson, and Lawson went back to exactly the same scenario. Lawson did in fact miss this time, and it went out of bounds off Nick Collison; the Nuggets got one more chance with 2.2 left, but that’s where it ended, OKC 115, Denver 113.

George Karl, however, would not have countenanced missing 18 of 43 free throws, as Denver did. (OKC went 26-32.) The Nuggets did shoot better — 46 percent versus 40 — though the 3-ball was falling for OKC, which made 13 of 27. (Denver was 8-23.) And J. J. Hickson, as always, had the Thunder’s number: this time he had 18 points and gathered 19 rebounds. Lawson finished with a team-high 29.

Still, it took 30 from Westbrook and 38 from Kevin Durant to seal the deal: combined they went 21-52. (The rest of the team was 17-41.) The Thunder did have a slight edge on the boards, 53-45, though the number you want to hear is 19, which is the number of offensive retrievals. Lots of second-chance — and a couple of third-chance — points.

The Clippers will be here Thurday. Expect ferocity.

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However many leaves

There is a finite period between the time the leaves start to fall and the time the trees are completely bare. I have no idea how long that might be.

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Not much interest in this sort of thing

This actually showed up in Y!A Cars & Transportation:

Yahoo! Answers screenshot: Where is there a loan place that u do not have to pay back?

There is “unclear on the concept,” and then there’s downright opaque.

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For lack of a proper drinking game

We are maxed out on this whole ethanol scheme, says the EPA:

The US Environmental Protection Agency acknowledged that a “blend wall” has been reached for motor fuels with 10% ethanol as it released its proposed 2014 biofuel quotas under the federal Renewable Fuels Standard.

“Production of renewable fuels has been growing rapidly in recent years,” it said in its Nov. 15 announcement. “At the same time, advances in vehicle fuel economy and other economic factors have pushed gasoline consumption far lower than what was expected when Congress passed the [RFS] in 2007.

“As a result, we are now at the ‘E10 blend wall’, the point at which the E10 fuel pool is saturated with ethanol,” it continued. “If gasoline demand continues to decline, as currently forecast, continuing growth in the use of ethanol will require greater use of higher ethanol blends such as E15 and E85.”

Faced with these numbers, EPA decided, not actually to cut the quotas, but to suggest an increase in the lower half of the proposed range, presumably in an effort not to tick off the people who make money off ethanol. It did not work:

Brooke Coleman, the Advanced Ethanol Council’s executive director, noted: “While only a proposed rule at this point, this is the first time that the Obama administration has shown any sign of wavering when it comes to implementing the RFS. What we’re seeing is the oil industry taking one last run at trying to convince administrators of the RFS to relieve the legal obligation on them to blend more biofuel based on clever arguments meant to disguise the fact that oil companies just don’t want to blend more biofuel. The RFS is designed to bust the oil monopoly. It’s not going to be easy.”

Shorter Brooke Coleman: “It’s after Halloween, but dammit, we’re entitled to a permanent candy ration!”

Of course, I had to go hunt down a quote from Bob Dinneen, the addled head of the Renewable Fuels Association, and the one good thing about Dinneen is that he picks up his cues on time:

“We’re all just sort of scratching our heads here today and wondering why this administration is telling us to burn less of a clean-burning American fuel.”

Call me when you start pushing for natural gas, Bob. Not only is it right up there on the “clean” scale, but nobody actually eats it. Or maybe you could team up with Michael Jacobson of CSPI and build an engine that runs on Slurpees.

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And yet somehow these people get dates

According to “Raw Data” in the December Playboy, the answer is 4:

Number of times the average single man changes his sheets per year.

Clearly I miss the average, since I change mine a minimum of once a week, if not more often, and God knows it’s not because it’s a hotbed of activity back there.

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Strange search-engine queries (407)

Why is this here again? Because of a promise I made to myself: if I like this feature, I can keep it. And promises, I believe, must be kept.

zone holys nude:  How close is that to the friend zone?

ethelylene in perfume:  It’s flammable, so it sustains the flame of desire.

yosemite sam dynamite under piano key:  Believe me if all those endearing old cartoon gags don’t still pack a wallop.

is Johnny get angry sexist:  Only if you think incurring one’s boyfriend’s wrath is a Good Thing.

ford el trans overfull of oil:  Better not tell Johnny. He might get angry.

fuses and solenoids associated with instrument cluster lighting and guages on 2001 mazda millenia:  Generally do not fail until it’s one in the morning and pitch black outside.

ruby red squirt statin:  For kids with high cholesterol, no doubt.

black jailbait teens twerking in the nude booty shorts or panties:  Hey, at least he isn’t picky.

tammy monkey dust:  You might spread this over the ultimate waste product of Purina Monkey Chow.

property taken by imminent domain for windstar casino:  Hence the “Coming Soon” sign.

dustbury hombres:  Sí, señor. Right this way.

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Waiting for Blofeld

Thunderball was always the most controversial of the James Bond films, for reasons that had nothing whatever to do with the subject matter; there has almost always been some sort of litigation connected to the title.

To understand this, we have to go back to before any of the movies were made, to the 1961 novel by Ian Fleming — except that technically it was only partially by Ian Fleming:

Ian Fleming published his novel based upon a television screenplay that he, and others developed into the film screenplay; the efforts were unproductive, and Fleming expanded the script into his ninth James Bond novel. Consequently, one of his collaborators, Kevin McClory, sued him for plagiarism; they settled out of court in 1963.

The settlement, basically, gave Fleming the rights to his novel, and everything else to McClory.

Later, in 1964, Eon producers [Albert B.] Broccoli and [Harry] Saltzman agreed with McClory to cinematically adapt the novel; it was promoted as “Ian Fleming’s Thunderball”. Yet, along with the official credits to screenwriters Richard Maibaum and John Hopkins, the screenplay is also identified as based on an original screenplay by Jack Whittingham and as based on the original story by Kevin McClory, Jack Whittingham, and Ian Fleming. To date, the novel has twice been adapted cinematically; the 1983 Jack Schwartzman-produced Never Say Never Again, features Sean Connery as James Bond, but is not an Eon production.

McClory also got a “Produced by” credit for Thunderball, in exchange for an agreement not to do anything with the intellectual property for at least ten years.

Ten years later, McClory started working toward a remake of the story, with the working title Warhead. It was Jack Schwartzman who did most of the heavy legal lifting to get Warhead made, with an interim title change to James Bond of the Secret Service. The Never Say Never Again title, it turns out, was suggested by Sean Connery’s wife, who recalled that after Diamonds Are Forever he’d said he’d never play 007 again.

In 1997, Sony came up with the idea of a Bond series, starting with Warhead 2000, and paid McClory $2 million to obtain his rights. Lawsuits ensued. Sony settled; the rights remained with McClory, who had gotten the idea that he was entitled to a cut of the entire Bond series. This particular suit was thrown out, but bad blood remained between McClory and Eon — until last Friday:

MGM and the producer of the James Bond movies have finally acquired all of the rights to the 007 franchise. After a legal battle royale that has gone on more than 50 years, the studio and Danjaq [LLC, of which Eon is a subsidiary] today announced they now have all of the rights and interests to the British spy held by Kevin McClory and his estate.

McClory died in 2006 at the age of 80, so the legal unpleasantness actually outlived him.

You’ll remember that Thunderball introduced the fright-inducing organization SPECTRE, headed by Ernst Stavro Blofeld. They’d hang around for a few more films, but eventually weren’t mentioned anymore because of the legal wrangling; a Blofeld-ish character showed up in the pre-title sequence to For Your Eyes Only, but he’s unnamed. Does this mean we’ll see him in another Bond film? I’m with Michelline Connery: one should never say “never again.”

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And all that fa-la-la

I simply cannot believe that this perspective is unique, though it’s certainly uniquely expressed:

If working retail has taught me anything, it’s dread. Dread of that one customer that ruins your day. Dread of being yanked around from one project to another. Dread of having your day off hijacked. Dread of suddenly realizing that you’ve just wasted another chunk of your life on people and things you not only don’t care about, but that you loathe. Dread that colors all holidays, all pleasures, all you see and hear, blacker than the blackest crayon in a depressed box of sad crayons. And the stupid muzak stuck on Away in the Bloody Manger is driving us all mad.

More and more, “brick and mortar” makes me think of Fortunato being sealed up in that wall.

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Four-wheeled bricks

The first time Renault’s Zoe EV got onto my radar, it was because someone named Zoe Renault objected to the name.

This, however, is a more serious objection:

Unlike the other EVs, however, the Zoe comes with DRM attached to its battery pack. In short: If you value your ability to drive the Zoe at all, then you will submit to a rental contract with the pack’s manufacturer. Should you fail to pay the rent or your lease term expires, Renault can and will turn your Zoe into an expensive, useless paperweight by preventing the pack’s ability to be recharged, consequences be damned.

Blame Section 1201 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which may be the single suckiest section of that sucky statute: “No person shall circumvent a technological measure that effectively controls access to a work protected under this title.” Almost anyone with a computer has had to fight with DRM at some point, and cars are more computerized than ever.

I am not hopeful, but:

At present, Representative Zoe [!] Lofgren, D-Calif., is leading a bipartisan charge to bring about the Unlocking Technology Act, designed to limit the overzealous use of the DMCA and Section 1201 to cases where real intellectual property infringement has occurred. Should this bill become law, it would go a long way to preventing the abuses that have hindered progress elsewhere from infecting the automotive industry any further.

I’m about at the point where support for this measure will be required to get any votes out of me.

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Something short of nostalgia

Still, as the young people might say, this is a Thing:

Norton Records release event in Dallas

I mean, the event in question is not going to go unnoticed, and Norton Records, as record labels go, is definitely on the side of the angels, but something about this particular enterprise seems a little unsettling. But maybe that’s just me.

The vinyl version, incidentally, is pressed on grassy green vinyl. Of course.

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Check out the boobs on that goose

It’s apparently something you see only in St. Louis County:

The Chesterfield [Missouri] City Council on Nov. 4 amended a city ordinance that outlaws feeding certain types of wild animals within city limits.

Under the amended ordinance, it is now illegal to feed all wild mammals, including pigeons and Canada Geese.

Brian J. asks: “Does the writer need remedial science courses or simply remedial writing courses?” Yes. Next question, please.

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Deer cross

I believe we must start with this:

And any game where Scott Brooks draws a technical has to be weird, right? Now you have to give the Milwaukee Bucks this much: they held the high-powered Thunder to 40 points in the first half. Then again, that’s all they scored. Milwaukee was shooting a blah 37 percent in that half; OKC managed a pitiful 31. The Thunder then ran off a 32-25 third quarter, but the Bucks would not go away, and it took another Serge Ibaka Special to close it out: Ibaka had 20 rebounds, tying his career high, and 15 points. Thunder 92, Bucks 79, and good night, Milwaukee, thanks for playing.

Both sides were a bit depleted. The Bucks were missing Caron Butler, Carlos Delfino and Ersan İlyasova; the Thunder lost Thabo Sefolosha to the dreaded “flu-like symptoms,” and Kendrick Perkins was back. Rookie Andre Roberson drew his first start ever, and while he was in, he did a reasonable job of keeping O. J. Mayo out of the cylinder, though Mayo did knock down five treys (in 11 tries) on his way to a team-high 22 points. (The Thunder managed only five treys in aggregate.) The Bucks collected one more rebound than the Thunder (53-52), with Zaza Pachulia and Ekpe Udoh splitting 24 of them. Second-year man Khris Middleton started in place of Butler, and he did decently enough, with 14 points on probably too many shots.

With Ibaka making all the noise, no one noticed Russell Westbrook calmly — for Westbrook, anyway — dropping in 10 of 20 for a game-high 26 points despite bricking three free throws. Kevin Durant tacked on 24, and Reggie Jackson added 11 to lead the bench, though Nick Collison was the guy with the high plus: +16 for the night.

What makes you feel better after a fairly scary three-game road trip? Why, a six-game homestand, and that’s what’s coming, starting with the Nuggets on Monday night.

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DF the VJ

Someone asked the other day if anything good had happened in Cuba since the rise of Fidel. I was not quite quick enough to come back with “Daisy Fuentes was born in Havana,” which is certainly true and, to my way of thinking anyway, very good. If you haven’t seen her lately, well, here’s a shot from last fall’s New York Fashion Week, where she’s on the front row at the Carlos Miele show:

Daisy Fuentes - New York Fashion Week 2012

Not sure who her friend is.

You can’t tell from this shot, really, but Fuentes is one of the few celebrities who seems to have retained her fondness for the toe ring; in fact, she’s generally seen with two of them.

And this tidbit from her Wikipedia bio actually caused me to do a spit take:

Fuentes learned to speak English while watching I Love Lucy episodes.

Which is more, you know, than the late Desi Arnaz ever did.

Daisy Fuentes turns 47 tomorrow. “How is this even possible?” wails the guy on the cusp of 60.

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