Cheerful nonconformists

Mark Alger glances at some of the staff at his local Whole Foods:

[W]hat amused me was the observation that all of the male employees’ beards looked exactly alike as to length and shape. As though they had a beard inspector who went around at morning check-in with a plastic mask he laid over their chins and made them either shave or glue on additional hairs so everybody had the same whole-wheat-and-chambray uniform appearance to match the store’s corporate theme.

That and the fact that everybody acted stoned.

In this town, alt-grocery stores tend to be stocked with (or by) hippie chicks, but Sixties throwback that I am, I believe in being kind to hippie chicks. I blame Dean Friedman.

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Authentic robot gibberish

Somewhere in the vast botnet, there is a machine sending out this weird text sample under the title “PC Error Removal”:

mentiams seemasm crosoduching portle drenation ousnappitters filesspective squero tourness scoper shamps oblelibell shamps. oblindings progichastits ritelenmens waywortsmarks extota bequanized viscent exciand matempendully velyncies peneed romesseld. pealth scrium advelnes shrianest compast forgst simposconcia decluble thsterenth efering acticiouts withendes obscor stickerysly farecienies matemper disgroonesset. jurinap burliner sionce scamation bumbericated benesin franno recroutratess ovissivers atered crifyinger riathelmedly climaxons polimillowerly norment scoffects paratole reascessies reextruch gramazing euchbows rantenvics.

It pains me that there are no definitions for these nonwords, so once, anyway, unto the breach:

Portle, v.i. To make use of a portal. (“We portled our way to Beta Centauri to save time and fuel.”)

Compast, n. A pile of organic material that has decayed beyond usability. (“You’re never going to get your tomatoes to grow if you dump that compast on them.”)

Efer, v.i. To use the F-word (q.v.) profusely. (“The Big Lebowski sets the curve for contemporary efering.”)

Burliner, n. A sock of unusual thickness, intended to protect the ankles from certain weeds. (“Better wear your burliners, there’s a bumper crop of stickers this year.”)

Scoffects, n. pl. The personal property of an individual arrested for a misdemeanor. (“We’re holding Mr Franno’s scoffects as evidence.”)

Norment, v.t. To assail an individual with statistics. (“The doctor normented me for half an hour before she’d give me the prescription.”)

Climaxon, n. The theoretical unit particle of orgasm. (“Two hundred sixty climaxons! I’m telling you, Cindy, this one’s a keeper!”)

Feel free to bumbericate your way to some definitions of your own.

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The wrath of Durant

Radio guy Matt Pinto actually said that when Kevin Durant logged his 40th point tonight. Really, though, Kid Delicious didn’t look all that wrathful: he was utterly methodical as he took apart the Phoenix defense. And when he wasn’t doing it, Russell Westbrook was; with Durant’s 41 and Westbrook’s 36 — well, the Thunder won it 102-90, so there were twenty-five points that they didn’t score. Kevin Martin had just under half of them.

The Suns made a few runs at it, showing a knack for second-chance points — Phoenix grabbed 14 offensive rebounds — and the limited rotation (just eight) put in some serious work. Marcin Gortat played more than 46 minutes in an effort to seal off the cylinder. (He finished with 19 points and 15 rebounds, four off the offensive glass.) Shannon Brown collected a team-high 21 points, though it took him 43 minutes to do it. From the abbreviated bench, Michael Beasley and Sebastian Telfair (14 points each) were busy, Beasley clearing the boards and Telfair sinking the treys. This is what happens when both Channing Frye and Jared Dudley are out of commission.

Speaking of hors de combat, Serge Ibaka still is, but Thabo Sefolosha was back. (Telltale statistic: third-highest scorer of the starters, with four, but at +20 top of the box score.) Nick Collison started at the four, but for much of the night it was Durant and Hasheem Thabeet working the frontcourt. Kendrick Perkins didn’t shoot much, and what he did shoot didn’t go in, but he did collect 13 rebounds.

While all this was going on, Chicago was putting the hurt on Atlanta, holding them to 15 points in the first quarter and five in the second. I mention this here mostly as a “Don’t get cocky, kid” reminder.

The Nuggets come to OKC Wednesday, after which a six-game road trip ensues, starting Friday in Dallas.

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Bend yer own crank

The search for perpetual-motion machines hasn’t entirely ended, but we still have inventors unperturbed by those so-called laws of physics. A recent example:

The cranks of a bicycle are what connect the pedals to the front gears. They’re lever arms that cyclists exert a force onto the end of, through the pedals, in order to turn the front gears. The front gears pull the chain which then spins the rear wheel, sending the bike speeding along.

Just about all the cranks on the market are a straight line from the pedal to turning radius. However a company called Z-Torque claims that their cranks give cyclists more power just by changing the crank arms into a bent shape. The problem is that physics doesn’t work like the company claims it does.

Here’s the pitch:

It is indeed true that increasing the crank length will put more torque at your disposal. However, this doesn’t actually increase the crank length in any meaningful fashion: the pedal is still the same physical distance from the pivot point, no matter what shape your crank is in.

I await the breathless announcement of a conspiracy dedicated to protecting the Bicycle Establishment by keeping this invention off the market.

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Beyond rehab

Entertainment Weekly (#1242, 1/28/13) has a list of “25 Songs To Download Before Grammy Night,” and at #20 is “Cherry Wine,” by Nas, featuring Amy Winehouse. They note that “longtime fan Winehouse recorded her vocal a few years before her death.”

Can you imagine the outcry if she’d recorded it after her death?

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Time life

1970s clock“Sweet smoking Jesus, what was the matter with these people?” asked James Lileks in his epic Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes from the Horrible ’70s (New York: Crown Publishers, 2004), and you may be certain that this ghastly clock, which I bought in an Eighties garage sale for $1.50 or so, does not actually hang in my crisp mid-century house, but in the garage, where it’s kept indifferent time for the last decade.

Usually it loses about three minutes a week; when it stops doing that, it’s generally time for a new C battery. Since New Year’s, it’s been gaining about three minutes a week; yesterday, it stopped dead. I duly fetched another C-cell from the pile, and it refused to start. Okay, fine, it’s more than earned its eternal rest. I set it back on its mount and started contemplating its replacement. About two hours later, I went out to the garage, and it had started up again. I assume it can’t be due to temperature variations in the garage — it’s been within a couple of degrees of 45 since Saturday morning — so it must be Just One Of Those Things.

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Strange search-engine queries (363)

If you like this regular Monday-morning feature, please feel free to drop a trillion-dollar platinum coin into the tip jar.

what words do we no longer use in the vocabulary vocabulary:  Things like “Pago Pago,” “beriberi” and “Irving R. Levine.”

we don’t talk about such things:  Instead, we hope that they’re on Google.

“my little pony” “exchange rate”:  I’ll trade you a sack of gold, a bar of silver, and two scoops of raisins for a weekend with Twilight Sparkle.

piercing my brosnan:  First, take the Steele out of your Remington.

“students wear boxers”:  Aren’t you a little old to be contemplating students’ underwear?

manly men and gay sex blogs:  Man does not live by twinks alone.

what is the advantage of viagra tablet:  I’m guessing you’ve never, ever gotten any email before.

how to write check for 418:  First, make sure you have 419 or more available.

troll mechanisms:  It was just a matter of time before they were automated.

dolly parton leather pants:  If Dolly wore no pants at all, who’d know?

bra removed on road:  That doesn’t sound like Dolly.

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A classic Rose Garden grind

What do you do if you’re missing two defensive specialists? If you’re Scott Brooks, you replace Serge Ibaka with Nick Collison, and Thabo Sefolosha with DeAndre Liggins. Yes, really. The rook, who has played well in the D-League, got his first real-life NBA start tonight at the Rose Garden, and he turned in a Thaboesque line: 11 points and nine rebounds before turning his ankle with 45 seconds left. (He made it back after a timeout.) The industrial-strength battle, though, was between Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, who just kept running up numbers all through the fourth quarter. OKC had a ten-point lead with three and a half left; Portland went on an 9-0 run, finally closed out by a Kendrick Perkins free throw. With 8.5 left, it was Oklahoma City 85, Portland 83; Aldridge, bothered by Perkins, missed a jumper, and Russell Westbrook snagged the ball. The Blazers fouled Westbrook, who sank two from the line, and that was it for Portland’s nine-game home winning streak at home. OKC 87, Portland 83; Durant 33, Aldridge 33. You can’t get a whole lot closer than that.

The Blazers had other problems: indifferent 36.5-percent shooting and six men on the bench contributing a whole six points. Still, Portland is known for tenacity, and Nicolas Batum is known for getting a bunch of points in a hurry, as is rookie point guard Damian Lillard. Batum delivered (21); Lillard, not so much (9, half his average).

This was not the best night for Westbrook — or, for that matter, for Kevin Martin — to have off-nights. Still, Westbrook managed 18 points on 5-21 from the floor, while K-Mart kept coming up empty. (He finished with four.) Reggie Jackson led the bench with six. And while Perk had only one bucket to go with that single free throw (he missed one), he solidified the middle and secured 12 rebounds, more than anyone else except Aldridge.

Tomorrow night, it’s another shot at the Suns. A lot depends on whether Thabo and Serge are back — unless, like tonight, it didn’t.

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Still on the line

If ever you catch me whining about having nothing to write about, feel free to toss this back at me:

Rhymes With Orange January 11 2013

(From Hilary B. Price’s webcomic Rhymes With Orange.)

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Feel the (freezer) burn

Friday it got up to 70 (call it 21°C) in Oklahoma City, which was followed by a particularly cold weekend incorporating a few minutes’ worth of sleet. (Nastier stuff, and more of it, fell to the east.) Now 70 is not the record for the date: that would be 77, set on 1/11/1911. This immediately got people thinking about 11/11/1911, on which date we got both a new record high (83) and a record low (17), and someone wondered if the whole year was freakish, weatherwise.

I dug through the records, which go back to 1891, and while I’m not prepared to say 1911 was the freakiest year on record, it had more than its share of weirdness: thirteen record highs (I had said twelve, but I missed one) and seven record lows.

Weird pattern #1: high 83 on 1/31, 90 on 2/1. (The 1/31 record holds up for all of January; we’ve since had one warmer day in February.)

Weird pattern #2: four record highs in June, two record lows in July, two record highs in August.

Keep in mind, all this happened in 1911, back when the temperature of the planet was constant; it would remain so until the introduction of the first sport-utility vehicle, the Chevrolet Suburban, for model year 1935, which promptly set off the Dust Bowl.

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Northern Lights

Canadian musician Lights, whom you may remember from this piece from last spring, sent this up as a Twitpic last night:

Lights poster in Inuvik

Inuvik, you should know, is about as northwest as you can go in the Northwest Territories, which may or may have something to do with Lights’ comment thereupon:

In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a red T-shirt under my flannel in that shoot… #photoshopskills

The high temperature in Inuvik on the 11th of January was, um, -31.6°C. (At this temperature, conversion to Fahrenheit is largely irrelevant.)

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Traction improvement

From somewhere in the middle of chapter three:

“Lou Gehrig,” a comedian once joked, “actually died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now what are the chances of that?”

I suppose you had to be there. But it occurred to me the next morning, while I was thinking up excuses not to get out of bed, that some fairly unlikely things had been happening to me of late, things I wouldn’t have dared to predict a couple of months ago. That space/time discontinuity, or whatever it was, could have opened up a path to just about any place in the universe. Or it may have been there all along, waiting for someone — make that somepony — to pass through. I’d never have known. It never would have occurred to me that the fabled land of Equestria was something more than just a clever idea by some talented people, a premise on which stories could be based, a pretext to sell toys to youngsters — and, yes, I admit it, occasionally to me. And the idea that Twilight Sparkle, of all ponies, should find that portal, step through it, and find me at the other end? What are the chances of that? With apologies to the late Mr. Gehrig, I consider myself the second-luckiest man on the face of the earth.

I am surprised and delighted to announce that this weekend, The Sparkle Chronicles passed the 1,000-reader mark. I wouldn’t have dared to predict that, ever.

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Fark blurb of the week

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H8INGA

Pay the $35 fee, and you can have anything you want, within reason, on your Georgia license plates. The obvious question: “Whose reason?”

The state has rejected thousands of vanity license plates with such themes to protect the public from offensive language. Most are too vulgar to print. Some are just silly: BIGBRA, ER0TIKA, F0XIE1.

But buried amid that list of licentiousness are religious, philosophical and political expressions the state also has deemed unsuitable to appear on motor vehicles. G0DROKS, G0DWH0, ILUVGUNS, GAYPWR and FEMM have been nixed by State Department of Revenue employees, who have wide latitude and only vague statutory guidance in deciding what speech gets squashed. Yet G0D4EVR, GUNLUV, GAYGAY and FEMFTAL got their nod.

Vicki Lambert, who’s in charge of such things, sees the problem this way:

Lambert understands Georgia residents have a right to free speech. Her job, she noted, is to balance that against not subjecting other people to a disgusting license plate while sitting in traffic on Interstate 75.

Well, there’s your problem: traffic is just sitting on I-75. Get it moving, and there will be no time to worry about other people’s bad taste in plates.

(Via Fark.)

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Ripping through the past

“Why are they doing this?” I asked myself when I first read about Amazon’s Auto-Rip. It became obvious quickly enough: they want me to sign up for their Cloud Player’s premium service at twenty-five bucks a year. But how much do I, personally, have that’s Auto-Rippable?

While I loaded up the Player to find this out, I found this caution:

Auto-Rip goes back to purchases made in 1998, and the late ’90s and early 2000s are pretty close to the Golden Era of Terrible Musical Decisions. We didn’t just badly photoshop Celine Dion into The Shining because it was funny: 1998 was when “My Heart Will Go On” shattered chart records and somehow drove Celine Dion to stop eating. There are a lot of people who never want to admit that they bought that album, but once it falls to Auto-Rip, they’ll get a reminder when they least expect it.

Think about all the CDs you bought. All the crappy Top 40 bands where you bought the album because you couldn’t get the song out of your head. All the gifts you bought for teenage nieces and loving grandmothers. All the cassette replacements for your dad who just would not stop listening to the f*cking Eagles.

For the curious, the oldest item I have in my new 366-track bounty is Worldes Blysse, the second album by Mediæval Bæbes, acquired in September 1999. I am not the least bit embarrassed by it — or, for that matter, by the Shaggs’ Philosophy of the World.

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Bots asking for help

This spam disguised as a comment, trapped by Akismet, might actually make sense in the right context:

First off I would like to say excellent blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are wasted just trying to figure out how to begin.

Any ideas or hints? Cheers!

Any day I can get by with only 10 or 15 minutes wasted is rare indeed.

I should point out, though, that this observation, whatever its level of (in)sincerity, is a poor fit for most of my posts, especially the one about the Korean toilet theme park.

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