A page from the old playbook

How many times have we seen this in the last couple of years? The Thunder play it close for a half, slip badly in the third quarter, only to come back strong in the fourth. Tonight we had a textbook example: tied after the first quarter, up one at the half, outscored by seven in the third, and then a 17-6 run to start the fourth. Unfortunately, this was the point where Luol Deng realized he was much bigger than Kevin Martin and knocked out five consecutive points. Darnell Mayberry suggested at this point that the Thunder should put Martin on Kirk Hinrich, Russell Westbrook on Rip Hamilton, and Thabo Sefolosha on Deng. It was tied at 85-all with 3:30 left, but Scott Brooks stuck with small ball. And damn, but it paid off, to the tune of 97-91 over Chicago’s tall timbers.

Deng, albeit finishing -2, still wound up with a game-high 27 points, with Rip Hamilton adding 20 more, and both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer missing a double-double by a single point. The Bulls’ bench contributed 14 points, one less than Kevin Martin. Chicago had a slight lead in rebounds, and had two fewer turnovers — though 20 is nothing to brag about.

This was a big night for Serge Ibaka, who scored 21 on 8-15 shooting and reeled in nine boards. Durant, who got six of the last eight OKC points, finished with 24; Westbrook was erratic from the floor (7-22, 16 points) but mostly passing well (12 assists). Eric Maynor added ten points in a mere 12½ minutes. Telltale statistic: the Bulls took 11 more shots than the Thunder (84-73), but managed to hit fewer (35-36, 42 versus 49 percent). “Small ball,” says Scott Brooks, beaming.

Back home tomorrow to blow by the Pistons, and then a Sunday matchup with the Cavs.

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Trophy cars

In the December issue, Car and Driver throws an unexpected question to John Hennessey of Hennessey Performance:

Why do guys in the Middle East seem to have such extravagant taste in cars?

I have a theory. And I’m saying this in the most respectful way. When you’re over there, you generally don’t see any women in public. And when you do, they’re all covered up. In that culture you can’t show off your girlfriend or your wife, but you can show off your car. I think that, at least somewhat, the cars take the place of women.

There’s a throttle-body joke in there somewhere.

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Somewhat lacking in Dash

Chevy SparkThe little car in the little picture is the very small Chevrolet Spark, GM’s attempt to sell an A-segment car in the States. (What’s “A-segment”? Two sizes smaller than a Cruze or Corolla or Civic, which are considered C-segment cars for reasons other than starting with the letter C. In other words, the Spark is farging tiny.) TTAC opened up a discussion of this model, and how it’s reaching buyers twice the target age (mid-twenties), which sparked (sorry) the following exchange in comments:

noxioux: “This car is crying out for an electric purple paint job and a pornographic My Little Pony decal on the hood.”

Jellodyne: “And who better to do it than a 48 year old brony?”

colinshark: “You are mistaken. Decals go on the flanks.”

There are 48-year-old bronies? Who knew?

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From the Forever Alone files

James Friel bewails, not his singleness, but the fact that couples always bring it up:

Take dinner parties. There comes a moment, and that question: “Why don’t you have a partner?”

It is usually asked by one of a couple, with always a swivel of the eye to his or her other half, so really two people are asking this question.

And I struggle to answer: “I have never found the right person … I am a sad and sorry manchild … I am incapable of love… I am a deviant, and prefer giraffes.”

I could use these responses, it occurs to me, with little alteration.

But however horrid this condition may be for men, it’s apparently downright unspeakable for women:

A few years back, in an age of Bridget Jones-type heroines, the novelist Carol Clewlow wondered about a female reader of her own generation, a woman who had long decided not to twin her destiny with another’s. She wrote a novel about this single state. About spinsters.

She called it Spinsta.

She delivered Spinsta to her agent, who was delighted, as were her publishers. A campaign was initiated. Various columnists and celebrities were to be asked to consider and celebrate this word, but then another word came back from the booksellers.

That word was “no”. They would not stock and no one would pick up a book with such an ugly word as its title. The novel was retitled Not Married, Not Bothered.

At least it wasn’t Fifty Heights of Giraffe.

(Via this @syaffolee tweet.)

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Reduced spectacle

Now and then, someone brings up the notion of amending the Constitution — and, by extension, the 22nd Amendment — to allow the President only a single six-year term. Usually the argument goes something like this:

In The Federalist No. 51, James Madison famously noted that “if men were angels, no government would be necessary.” Because presidents are not angels, if knowing they can serve only one six-year term frees them to make decisions that are right for the nation but wrong for their reelection, presidents still will make decisions that subordinate the interests of the nation to the electoral aspirations of the political party of which a particular president is the titular head. But there will be fewer of them. And opposition solons like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner (and Nancy Pelosi during the Bush presidency) will have a more difficult time publicly justifying their obstructionism.

I have my doubts that this would actually work. On the other hand, there is one indisputable benefit from the single six-year term: a third fewer Presidential elections, which means a third less of this sort of thing:

I hate how our nation seemingly goes kind of crazy for a year every four years. It’s like Pon Farr or something. (I know, PMS is probably a more apt and simple metaphor, but … I don’t like the comparison. Also there seems to be no chocolate involved in politics.)

Then again, Pon Farr is every seven years, and seven Vulcan years at that. (How long is a Vulcan year, anyway? Gene Roddenberry once suggested 456 Earth days, so every eight years, nine months, maybe.)

Still undetermined: whether ’tis better to have PMS every four weeks, or every six weeks.

Disclosure: If I lost any friends during this campaign season, I have not been so advised.

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A short walk spoiled

Here we see Craig Ferguson on the Monday night edition of The Late Late Show, perhaps surprised that Sarah Shahi is not in fact wearing shoes by Christian Louboutin:

Sarah Shahi with Craig Ferguson

Atypically for talk shows of this ilk, this segment opened with Shahi already seated, instead of walking in from stage right, apparently because of a sore foot. This being the case, we perhaps should assume Ferguson’s interest is purely humanitarian in nature.

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Stickers to be peeled

The Autoextremist on the Hyundai/Kia “40-mpg” controversy:

It was clear that Hyundai/Kia’s successful journey would continue and that it would be a key industry player for years to come.

But I also cautioned repeatedly that the upward trajectory of the Hyundai/Kia conglomerate would not continue as a rocket launch majestically arching into the cobalt sky, that they would make mistakes. It was inevitable and it’s just the way this business goes when human nature clashes with an arrogant bureaucracy and aggressive corporate goals.

And now that the EPA has forced Hyundai/Kia to reduce inflated mileage claims on 900,000 vehicles sold in the 2011-13 model years, we’re going to find out if the upward trajectory will be leveled off a bit, or if it will only be a slight vibration en route.

What I’m hoping happens here is that the car-buying public starts to get properly cynical about the EPA’s fuel-economy numbers, which are useful only for comparisons, not for budgeting your fuel costs. You’ll note that the EPA isn’t slapping them down because an Elantra (or whatever) won’t ever get 40 mpg on the highway; the slapdown comes because the EPA couldn’t duplicate the 40-mpg claim by Hyundai in its own lab.

And those numbers have nothing to do with the numbers used to calculate Corporate Average Fuel Economy, exactly the sort of convoluted scheme you’d expect from a government that wants to “encourage” the purchase of less-thirsty vehicles but doesn’t dare do it in an obvious way — say, by raising the gas tax.

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No doubt he thought himself clever

But you know, they do have someone monitoring the self-checkout lines:

An Abilene man was arrested Friday after police said he tried to pass off a TV valued at $228 for less than $2.

According to police, 52-year-old William Keltner had been shopping at Walmart on Highway 351 when he removed a barcode tag from a hanger worth only $1.17 and placed it on the TV valued at $228.

Then again, he has previous theft convictions, so perhaps he’s even dumber than we thought.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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The true spirit of the 2012 election

Pejman Yousefzadeh has it:

I wrote my name in for an office because a Democrat was running unopposed. I don’t remember which office it was. This is a problem because if I win, I won’t know where to show up for work. All I know is that the office was not Emperor. Alas.

At least he got to write someone in, which we can’t do here in Optiscannia.

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In advance of Hearth’s Warming Eve

We have here a shot of a My Little Pony Advent calendar sold in Germany at Lidl stores:

MLP Advent Calendar

I think it’s a safe bet you won’t see these in the States.

(Original photo supplied to EqD by SleepToFade.)

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Giant lizards shut down

How bad were things going for the Raptors? Kyle Lowry departed the scene early on with a sprain, and matters did not get worse. The Thunder were up 30-17 after the first quarter, 57-38 at the half, and won it by 20, 108-88.

Still, there were bright spots for Toronto. Jonas Valančiūnas, the #5 draft pick by the Raptors last year — they were unable to buy him out of his Eurocontract at the time — put in a solid 31 minutes at center, with a team-high 18 points on 6-8 shooting, and José Calderón makes a perfectly plausible sixth man. On the downside, DeMar DeRozan had DeWorst night he’s had in a while, shooting 2-10 and watching four swats.

With the starters exiting early, both benches got a workout, with OKC’s reserves outscoring Toronto’s by one point (42-41). Unsurprisingly, Kevin Martin led the Thunder bench with 15; not at all unsurprisingly, Hasheem Thabeet managed ten points (and, of course, six fouls). That rare crossbreed, the Average Russell Westbrook, showed up tonight to claim game-high honors with 19. And for OKC, it was the kind of night where Kevin Durant could score only 15 and still finish +23.

This was another of those “When all else fails, go for the long ball” nights for both sides: the Raptors made seven of 30, the Thunder nine of 25. And just to say they did, Toronto went to a 2-3 zone briefly in the third quarter, which baffled OKC for a couple of minutes, but no longer.

Next: Thursday night in Chicago. The Bulls thrashed the Thunder in the preseason, but hey, that was preseason. Derrick Rose is still out, which may or may not make a difference. Right now, I’m thinking it doesn’t.

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We got your turnout right here

This year, they consolidated two precincts into a single polling place, but hardly anyone showed up for 181, while 195 was busy as all get-out, as the old folks used to say. Still: in and out in thirty minutes flat, with ballot #1211, assuming I read the newfangled machine correctly. (This location can accommodate at least 18 voters at a time; the ballots are barcoded by precinct.)

A lot of youngsters were along for the ride, and not one of them within earshot acted up.

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Rather a lot of Pooh

For some reason this made me laugh:

The other day my 9-year-old daughter asked me which presidential candidate got my vote four years ago. “Bob Barr,” I said. “Babar?” she said. “He must have been a Republican.”

I’m pretty sure he was an elephant, anyway.

And if we’re going to drift into Milne, who wrote the introduction to the first English version of The Story of Babar, we might as well go full Hundred Acre Wood:

If Babar is a Republican, does that mean Eeyore is a Democrat? I rebel at the notion, since he is the A.A. Milne character with whom I identify the most. I suspect that Eeyore is not a member of any party and does not vote. (And why should he?) Winnie the Pooh is probably a Democrat, since he seems to believe he has a right to other people’s honey. Christopher Robin, given his paternalistic attitude and gun, might be a Republican. Piglet obviously is a filthy pinko.

Tigger? Please.

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OMG WS SKPO

Someone filling spare time being creative? Possibly, but probably not:

Sometimes in the playground I’ll see a young mother sitting on a bench, her head bent over her hands, which are working rapidly before her. I’ll think, “Oh, a knitter!” and have a warm rush of nostalgia for playgrounds in certain neighborhoods of New York, as well as for graduate school, the subway, and other places where women, including me, would knit when we had the chance to sit down. I move closer to see what she’s working on, but as I come nearer, I realize that the mom in the playground is actually texting. It’s a small reminder of the fact that very few people in our culture make things with their hands now, and that we spend inordinate amounts of time on the fleeting and the evanescent.

Then again, some common knitting terms, as abbreviated, look very much like txtspk, as anyone who’s ever done a cdd can tell you.

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Press unreleased

Even the biggest blogs don’t have nearly the resources of the, um, legacy news-gathering organizations, says Bill Quick:

Essentially, blogs live on the vast gray hides of the NYTs and APs of the world, like tick-birds on rhinos. What I can easily see happening is that the state will take over that function, either by outright bankrolling favored organizations, or, in the event of their collapse, setting up something like “The Government News Service.”

And bloggers will probably have to buy licenses and pass exams in order to be allowed to reprint anything from that service.

Fortunately, if said Government News Service is anything like, oh, let’s say, the Bureau of Labor Statistics — and realistically, why wouldn’t it be? — the only reason why you’d want to mention anything it says is to show how it’s wrong.

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Another one fights the rust

Chances are, if you have a local Suzuki dealer, he sells motorcycles and/or ATVs or maybe marine equipment. If he sells cars, well, he won’t be for very long: American Suzuki Motors is officially throwing in the towel. Yesterday’s announcement on the Web:

Today we announced that we will realign our business to focus on the long-term growth of our Motorcycles/ATV and Marine divisions. Following a thorough review of our current position and future opportunities in the U.S. automotive market, we have made the difficult but necessary decision to wind down and discontinue new automobile sales in the continental U.S. Consistent with our long history of standing by our products, ASMC automobile owners will be protected. All warranties will continue to be fully honored, in accordance with their terms, and automobile parts and service will be provided to consumers without interruption through ASMC’s parts and service dealer network.

From the press release [pdf]:

In evaluating its position in the highly regulated and competitive U.S. automotive industry, ASMC determined that its Automotive division was facing a number of serious challenges. These challenges include low sales volumes, a limited number of models in its line-up, unfavorable foreign exchange rates, the high costs associated with growing and maintaining an automotive distribution system in the continental U.S. and the disproportionally high and increasing costs associated with stringent state and federal regulatory requirements unique to the U.S. market.

The yen-dollar ratio was critical, since Suzuki had only one locally-sourced vehicle, the Equator pickup, basically a Nissan Frontier with a fresh set of badges.

Through October, Suzuki has sold only 21,188 cars and trucks this year, about half as many as Mitsubishi, which will likely be the next to go.

And a bit of irony, courtesy of Wikipedia’s article on the Suzuki Kizashi sedan:

Kizashi is a Japanese word which means “something great is coming”, “omen”, “sign”, or “warning”.

Not necessarily in that order, it would appear.

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