Only embers remain

The revolving door for the wounded continues to spin: Enes Kanter was back today, but Andre Roberson rolled his ankle in the first 90 seconds of play and did not return. Still, this wasn’t going to be a tragedy for the Thunder, and the one play that epitomizes the whole game — maybe the whole season — was yet another pass by Russell Westbrook to Steven Adams, who dunked the ball while drawing a foul from Hassan Whiteside. The sixth foul, natch. Adams missed the free throw, but no matter: Westbrook had yet another triple-double (12-10-17), and the outcome of the game wasn’t even close to being in doubt: the benches were cleared inside the three-minute mark, and the only question left was whether OKC could finish at 100 points or more for the twenty-third time. They couldn’t. Still, dispatching the new, improved Heat by a 93-75 count points to something we’d been hoping to see for some time: darn near lockdown defense.

And the Heat were indeed throttled. From the floor, 39.5 percent; from outside the circle, 3 of 18; from the free-throw line, 8 of 15. (Not that OKC can claim any credit for the latter.) While Miami had five players in double figures, team-high was Whiteside, who collected 13 points — 6-8 from the floor — before fouling out. Dwyane Wade, who’d been on fire of late, was held to twelve.

Now look at that Westbrook triple-double again. Only 12 points. He was an iffy 5-16 from the floor. Still, it’s his tenth of the season; the rest of the league has only 17.) And Kanter was there to catch passes, collect rebounds, knock down shots and maybe even chew gum: he finished with 27-12. Adams squeaked in with ten points and ten boards. Mitch McGary led the bench with 14, two ahead of Anthony Morrow.

Oklahoma City is now 40-30, which is a fairly remarkable recovery from that 3-12 start. (Do the math. Over the last 55 games they’re 37-18 for .672.) Fifty wins is not out of reach, but they’d have to go 10-2 the rest of the way. First obstacle: the Lakers, on Tuesday.

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A nightmare dressed like a sugar rush

The little girls sell lots of cookies, but they’re not too proud to tap the resources of a big girl:

(Via Hello Giggles.)

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Should’ve said no

The government of the State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations needs more money, perhaps for signage, and they plan to get it from Taylor Swift:

The world-famous singer bought an oceanfront mansion in Rhode Island in 2013 that may now have her seeing red. Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo proposed a statewide property tax on second homes worth at least $1 million in her budget, now widely hailed as the “Taylor Swift tax.”

The tax would raise an estimated $12 million in tax revenue, far short of the $190 million budget deficit the state government needs to close.

If this was a movie — but never mind. You knew this was trouble when you started reading the article.

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Flattening news

And another piece of the dumb-jock stereotype is chipped away:

John Urschel recently co-authored a paper in the Journal of Computational Mathematics. It is titled “A Cascadic Multigrid Algorithm for Computing the Fiedler Vector of Graph Laplacians” and apparently includes “a cascadic multigrid algorithm for fast computation of the Fiedler vector of a graph Laplacian, namely, the eigenvector corresponding to the second smallest eigenvalue.” I understand close to none of the words in that sentence, which comes from the paper’s abstract. I probably never will. The rest of the study is similarly accessible.

For what it’s worth, a Laplacian is a differential operator given by the divergence of the gradient of a function on Euclidean space, while eigenvectors point in a direction which is invariant under an associated linear transformation. I have at best a vague idea about those two words, not so much about some of the others, and it did not become less vague after looking through the actual paper [pdf].

Mr. Urschel, associated with the Pennsylvania State University, is currently an offensive lineman with the Baltimore Ravens.

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H-1B about the cheap

Remember when farm workers were imported en masse to California? Today tech workers are being imported en masse to California, and for much the same reason:

The current system to bring in high-skill guestworkers — on H-1B, L-1, and OPT visas — has become primarily a process for supplying lower-cost labor to the IT industry. Although a small number of workers and students are brought in as the “best and brightest,” most high-skill guestworkers are here to fill ordinary tech jobs at lower wages.

The most recent firing of 500 Southern California Edison IT workers, after they trained their guestworker replacements (as a condition of receiving their severance package), is being repeated by the tens of thousands across the country — Disney, Harley Davidson, Home Depot, Pfizer, and Xerox are just a few among the many companies that have all been doing the same thing.

The practice of using the H-1B program to replace American workers is widespread. In fact, currently as many as two-thirds of new IT hires are guestworkers; not because there aren’t enough skilled Americans but instead because guestworkers are cheaper. And if current bills … become law, the number of guestworker visas will be over 100 percent of new hiring needs — if it so chooses, the IT industry can legally hire only guestworkers without even having to look for an American to fill all new IT jobs.

Congress, of course, thought it was clever enough to ward off this easily predictable situation by requiring the Labor Condition Application with each H-1B, which must certify that the incoming worker is being paid no less than the prevailing wage. Now if everyone is on an H-1B, guess what? They’re being paid the prevailing wage by definition.

So I expect the new expansion to pass: Big Tech wants it, and Big Tech is willing to buy the allegiance of Congress to get it. I’m betting it passes by 31 March — which, in California, is César Chávez Day.

(Via Will Truman.)

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No Coke

Today we, or at least I, celebrate the birth of Turkish model-turned-actress Aysun Kayacı, who is 34 today. Of late, she’s been a presenter on the NTV television network out of Istanbul, and she does have that not-entirely-scrubbed TV-hostess look:

Aysun Kayacı photo

Aysun Kayacı photo

Why “No Coke”? Because of this Pepsi commercial from 2007:

Try that with your diet soda.

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Birdeen

A few years back, I came up with “guanophenia” as a euphemism for the state or condition of being batshit crazy. Multitudes suffer from, or perhaps enjoy, this particular ailment. The problem with that particular neologism, of course, is that the production of guano, per any dictionary you’re likely to find, is not at all limited to bats. For example, my trusty Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, Eighth Edition, which has been at my side for three decades and more, says that “guano” is “a substance composed chiefly of the excrement of seafowl and used as a fertilizer; also: a similar product (as of fish-cannery waste).” More bird than bat, then. What to do? When in doubt, ask Nancy Friedman:

I once worked for a group of civil engineers who referred to birdshit — an occupational nuisance because it interfered with electrical transmission, or something — by the Irish-sounding euphemism birdeen. I have never seen or heard this circumlocution before or since.

“Birdeen” apparently was a not-so-rare given name in the 1930s: among the first eight items from a Bing search were the obituaries of two women (and one man) named “Birdeen” who passed away in 2014, all born in the early Thirties. But the name existed before the turn of the century. From Fiona Macleod’s The Dominion of Dreams, 1910 edition, written in the 1890s:

They were happy, Isla and Morag. Though both were of Strachurmore of Loch Fyne, they lived at a small hill-farm on the west side of the upper fjord of Loch Long, and within sight of Arrochar, where it sits among its mountains. They could not see the fantastic outline of “The Cobbler,” because of a near hill that shut them off, though from the loch it was visible and almost upon them. But they could watch the mists on Ben Arthur and Ben Maiseach, and when a flying drift of mackerel-sky spread upward from Ben Lomond, that was but a few miles eastward as the crow flies, they could tell of the good weather that was sure.

Before the end of the first year of their marriage, deep happiness came to them. “The Birdeen” was their noon of joy. When the child came, Morag had one regret only, that a boy was not hers, for she longed to see Isla in the child that was his. But Isla was glad, for now he had two dreams in his life: Morag whom he loved more and more, and the little one whom she had borne to him, and was for him a mystery and joy against the dark hours of the dark days that must be.

They named her Eilidh.

Macleod, otherwise known as William Sharp (1855-1905), assumed the pseudonym circa 1893; his widow Elizabeth subsequently compiled, and in some case edited, his works. I still don’t know, however, how this mystical, and presumably airborne, child is connected to the stuff that lands on your windshield 45 seconds after departing the car wash.

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Very nearly scarlet

A not-necessarily-fashion bit from earlier this week:

Outraged celebrities tore into Italian fashion designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana on Monday after Dolce described children born to gay couples through fertility treatment as “synthetic”.

Pop superstar Elton John, leading the chorus of criticism, called for a boycott of the brand on Sunday.

I am not convinced that a boycott will make that much difference. By coincidence, Eric Wilson’s “Look Smart” article in the April InStyle — Wilson is the magazine’s Fashion News Editor — looks at the case of John Galliano, a designer who was pilloried back in 2011 for what Wilson describes as a “drunken outburst of anti-Semitic and racial remarks,” resulting in the house of Dior telling Galliano to take a hike. Galliano is back in the industry, as creative director for Maison Margiela, and all, or at least most, seems to be forgiven:

Flash forward to the Screen Actors Guild Awards on January 25, when Jennifer Aniston became the first A-lister since the uproar to wear Galliano, a deep-cut gold dress from his signature collection for 1998, on the red carpet. And there wasn’t much to-do. Not even on Fashion Police, where the E! critics made no mention of Galliano’s past. On February 8, Sophie Hunter wore a Maison Margiela gown at the BAFTAs in London, the same night Rihanna performed at the Grammys in a Margiela tux.

Dolce & Gabbana window in Florence, photo by Debra KolkkaSo if there is any banishment of Dolce and Gabbana, I suspect it will be brief, and then no one will ever speak of it again — with the possible exception of Eric Wilson.

In the meantime, Debra Kolkka has done some window-shopping in beautiful downtown Florence, and judging by D&G’s window, their signature color for the moment is red. Not just any red, of course; we’re talking Spanish bullfighter red. I could learn to like that very quickly, I think. And you should definitely read the whole thing, from which you will learn that (1) not everyone in Florence is thinking of that same color, and (2) yes, D&G will happily sell you the appropriate shoes to go with those dresses.

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Narrowish broadcasting

The FCC will put 131 vacant FM allocations up for auction on the 23rd of July, including four in small Oklahoma towns.

Minimum bid is $1,000 for a class-A (6,000 watts maximum) slot in Clayton (Pushmataha County) on 100.3. It will cost you at least $5,000 for a class-A slot in Hennessey (Kingfisher County) on 97.9. (Don’t even think of trying to move it to OKC.) Twenty-five thou might bring a class-A in Waukomis (Garfield County) on 106.3, or even a class-C2 (25,000 watts maximum) in Millerton (McCurtain County) on 100.9.

Elsewhere, minimum bids of as low as $750 are sought; a handful will command $75,000 or more.

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A rousing defeathering

I had a feeling I was going to regret this:

The Hawks, the East’s top team by a considerable margin, will be here Friday night, having already thrashed the Thunder in Atlanta. They’ll be missing Kyle Korver. At this point, God only knows who’ll be missing from the OKC lineup.

God, of course, called it correctly: Enes Kanter, roughed up in the Boston game, was out, Serge Ibaka was already out, and Kevin Durant will be out for the duration. Despite that, the Thunder jumped out to an early lead, which Atlanta gradually eroded; the Hawks dominated until halfway through the fourth quarter. But OKC had other ideas: after tying it at 105 on a 9-2 run, the Thunder ran off the next ten points. The Hawks pulled back to within six, but they’d never catch up: the Thunder won it 123-115, on the strength of Anthony Morrow’s six treys (of 10), of Dion Waiters’ implausible 26 points as a starter, and of all manner of Westbrookery, with Russell recording yet another triple double (36-10-14).

There’s even a Telltale Statistic: Oklahoma City turned the ball over only 12 times, none of them in that fourth quarter, in which they outscored the Hawks 33-20. Atlanta’s three-ball had kept them comfortably ahead, but the Thunder ended up 13-30 from deep, only marginally behind the Hawks’ 13-29. There was the usual OKC rebounding superiority: 44-34. And for a change, there were blocks: two from Waiters (!), two from Steven Adams (12 points, 16 rebounds) and two from Nick Collison (13 points, five boards).

Despite all that, seven of nine Hawks finished in double figures, including all five starters, but the two top finishers came off the bench: Pero Antić with 22 and Dennis Schröder with 21. Al Horford did compile a double-double: 10 points, 11 rebounds. Still, this was Westbrook’s game, despite sub-meh 8-24 shooting; he hit all 17 of his free throws, and those 14 assists overshadowed six turnovers.

The Heat will be here Sunday afternoon, and the Lakers will follow on Tuesday. Neither is a pushover, but both can be beaten. If you don’t believe me, just ask God: his NCAA bracket isn’t even broken.

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How soon can you get here?

The Thunder have been plagued with injuries all season, but nothing — really, nothing — compares to this:

The Minnesota Timberwolves are so desperate for bodies they signed a player Thursday based on how quickly he could get to the game.

The Timberwolves signed guard Sean Kilpatrick to a 10-day contract, and he arrived in time to give them the league-mandated eight players in uniform for their 95-92 win over the New York Knicks.

The NBA roster being fixed at fifteen, this tells you that eight Wolves were out. It might have been easier to just tap the Knicks’ D-League team in Westchester, just up the road a piece, but the Knicklets were on their way to a game in Sioux Falls. Kilpatrick, who was playing for the Delaware 87ers but who had been on the Wolves’ radar for some time, was with his family in New York, and he happily drove to Madison Square Garden, arriving at a quarter to seven for a 7:30 tip.

How much will Kilpatrick be paid for his services? At least this much:

The minimum salary a 10-day contract can offer is the # of days in the contract divided by the # of days in the regular season multiplied by the minimum annual salary.

The minimum salary for a player with no previous NBA (D-League doesn’t count) experience this season is $507,336; there being 170 days in this season (28 October 2014 through 15 April 2015), Kilpatrick will be paid no less than $29,843. He put in ten minutes against the Knicks; he did not score, but he did grab a rebound.

Wolves coach Flip Saunders, before the game:

“We’ll be undermanned, but guys that have complained in the past about playing time won’t have to worry about it tonight.”

Saunders was even more of a prophet than he thought: the game went into overtime, and three of the five Minnesota starters played 40 minutes or more.

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Careful with that underboob, Eugenia

Bangkok will make an example of you:

Thailand’s military government warned women on Monday against posting photos of the lower half of their breasts — a current social media trend — saying their actions could violate the country’s computer crime laws.

Thailand’s computer crimes act [of] 2007 bans material that causes “damage to the country’s security or causes public panic” or “any obscene computer data which is accessible to the public.”

It doesn’t sound like a “security” issue to me:

“When people take these ‘underboob selfies’ no one can see their faces,” [culture] ministry spokesman Anandha Chouchoti said. “So it’s like, we don’t know who these belong to, and it encourages others to do the same.”

Lindsey Robertson, writing at Hello Giggles, notes for record:

[T]he edict seems pretty slanted towards keeping women in their place. After all, the ministry has yet to make mention of what sort of selfies, if any, are off-limits to men.

First guy to say “kathoey” gets his peepee whacked.

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How far we have descended

And in a mere fifty years, yet:

(Via @SwiftOnSecurity.)

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No crown for now

Smitty is not persuaded that Hillary wins this in a walk:

People “in the know” have all of the dirt they want on Her Majesty, and will cheerfully let her soak up all the Commie chlorine (pretty sure they are not on oxygen over there) and block other competition, while soiling Her Royal Personage just enough to keep her from actually getting her cankles across the finish line ahead of the GOP.

Well, there is one minor detail:

I don’t think the GOP is actually that deft.

Not to worry. The Republicans are happy to play Charlie Brown for just about any Lucy who offers to hold the football, so their deftness, or lack thereof, is not likely to be an issue.

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And that’s the way it is

Though Cronkite would never, ever have said so:

Like the national product is any better?

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The corner of Hampton and Falmouth

Google Maps screenshot of southern BrooklynIn 2003, I found out this rather startling piece of news:

I knew that Michael Brown’s unrequited love was a real person — a real person named Renee, no less — but it never occurred to me that he was also thinking of a real sign that points one way.

It’s at the intersection of Falmouth Street and Hampton Avenue in Brooklyn.

Petite Powerhouse and pop princess Dawn Eden, now far better known as an advocate for Catholicism and chastity, was happy to pass on that bit of information, and I couldn’t possibly have resisted posting it here, inasmuch as Brown’s song for the Left Banke, “Walk Away Renee,” even now pouring into your head, ranks up there with the most indelible musical memories of my adolescent years, possibly even for reasons unrelated to its subject matter. I once called Michael Brown the “spiritual heir to both Johann Sebastian Bach and Brian Wilson,” and I wasn’t kidding.

So anything that happens to this man matters to me, especially his untimely passing:

Brown was sixteen when Renee walked away with his heart, and I’m pretty certain that she could still have laid claim to a piece of it when he was sixty-five. I’ve been there, and by “there” I don’t mean Brooklyn.

Addendum: A proper sendoff from Brown’s hometown paper.

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