Works every time

As the guy said in the antacid ad, “Try it, you’ll like it”:

Seattle news clipping from Bad Newspaper

(A Bad Newspaper special via Miss Cellania.)


Give that man a statue

And by “that man,” I mean almost any man but this man:

… current Major League Baseball Commissioner and former Brewers’ owner Bud Selig, a man who has visited upon us the annoyance of interleague play, the silliness of linking World Series homefield advantage to the outcome of the All-Star Game and the absolute abomination of the 2002 All-Star Game, which he called after 11 innings as a tie. The only previous All-Star tie came in 1961 because of rain. If there is any fitting monument to Selig, a man who has left the game more or less leaderless since his tenure as commissioner began — first in an acting capacity in 1992 and then officially in 1998 — it is not a statue. It is a scorecard with a tie game on it. Or better yet, a rainout.

Google reports over 50,000 results for “bud selig sucks,” including Bud Selig Sucks.


Hardware update

The old box, once restarted, managed to go six hours without one of those inexplicable reboots. Which means that the problem has been greatly reduced, but hardly solved.

Then again, with Ol’ Man Winter descending upon us heavily again, I’m not in a shopping mood, and delaying the process is a Good Thing.

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Once, not on a bet or anything, I turned out 300 words on a requested subject in 11 minutes flat. (I had promised no more than 15.)

This is not to say that I can do this sort of thing on a regular basis:

For someone who writes almost compulsively, the way some people scratch their ass, having to sit down and generate organized words on a specific topic is unbelievably hard for me. Therefore, like any task I find even slightly daunting or off-putting, I am splendid at finding reasons to avoid it.

I think maybe ten of the last fifty Vents were planned more than ten or twenty minutes in advance; a lot of times, I just have to faceplant into the keyboard and hope it makes an impression on me.

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Where dreams go to die

The Thunder hadn’t won a game in the District of Columbia in years, and it became apparent early on — 13 points in the first quarter — that they weren’t going to win this one. The Wizards calmly and efficiently snuffed the occasional OKC rally; the Thunder were able to pull to within one late in the second, but no closer, and Washington evened up their record (23-23) and the season series (1-1) with a 96-81 thrashing that ended the OKC win streak at ten.

I suspect that the game plan was to concentrate on the deadly Bradley Beal, a certified sharpshooter. And Beal was indeed held to five points. However, the other four starters finished in double figures, as did Martell Webster to lead the bench, with John Wall (17 points, 15 assists, not to mention six steals) and Marcin Gortat (14 points, 13 rebounds) collecting double-doubles. Trevor Ariza was the high scorer, with 18. Still, the Wizards’ offense may not have been as pivotal as tonight’s Telltale Statistic: OKC committed 21 turnovers, more than twice as many as did Washington.

And you have to figure that any night when Kevin Durant puts up 26 points and still finishes -16, which is where he was when he exited with 6:26 left, is not going to end well. Serge Ibaka contributed 14 points and four blocks, the entire Thunder bench 21 points and one block. Nor did the long ball help them: the team that made 16 threes against Miami came up with only four against Washington, in 24 tries. (KD was 0-6.) Perhaps there’s just something about the Verizon Center, although being in D.C. seems frightening enough.

But forget the East for a while, and by “a while” I mean a little less than a week: the Grizzlies will be visiting OKC on Monday night, the Timberwolves on Wednesday, and then it’s off to Orlando on Friday.


Hardware blues

Consider this a brief summation of what goes through your head as you desperately search for ways to keep this old clunker running for just a few more weeks. And by “you,” I of course mean “me.”

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Covered stories

Being a person of the masculine persuasion, I’ve read a few magazines that are supposedly aimed at me, and generally, they’re about Things Guys Like To Do, supplemented with Things Guys Should Buy; see, for instance, Maxim, which once spun off its Stuff section into a separate magazine, only to discover that the readers realized that Stuff was basically Lucky with a neckbeard. And yes, there are babe pictures now and then, but they’re of secondary interest, unless you’ve gone twelve years without any feminine attention.

If this sounds uninspiring, consider what women are expected to read:

Women … are continually exposed to a single message: it’s time to have sex. Don’t women deserve adventures of their own, ones that have nothing to do with sex or sexuality? Shouldn’t their magazines celebrate that stuff first, put that stuff ahead of the bedroom agenda? Why does every magazine aimed at women in the supermarket have sex as its primary topic?

Don’t get me wrong: the day I can’t have sex with women I’m going to stare at the wall in the nursing home and cry. I’m all about it. But I don’t think it should be the primary focus of every woman’s life.

Then again, this is the culture that gave us Sandra Fluke, attorney and potential Congressional candidate, who will forever be remembered, not for any actual accomplishments which may be in her future, but for demanding that her contraception be subsidized. A culture in which a person like this is taken seriously is a culture that can’t help but serve up cover stories like “26 Ridiculously Hot Moves.”

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More than just a toy

Toy cars for kids to “drive” tend to look plasticky and, well, toylike. And that’s only fair: you wouldn’t want the resident three-year-old tooling about in a shrunken Malibu.

On t’other hand, where does it say that a vehicle for grownups can’t be toylike?

street-legal Little Tikes Cozy Coupe

This is a street-legal Little Tikes Cozy Coupe, built by John Bitmead at a cost of something like $6500. Supposedly it will do 70 mph. I suspect it probably doesn’t have side airbags.


Payback in Brooklyn

On the second of this month, the Thunder had a 15-point halftime lead over the Nets, and still lost. The game plan this time around, evidently, was to pile up twice as big a lead: Oklahoma City was up 63-35 at the half, and even a barrage of Brooklyn treys in the fourth quarter couldn’t save the Nets from being blown out by the Thunder, 120-95.

And that fourth quarter was conducted with neither Kevin Durant nor Serge Ibaka, who must have set some sort of record for aggregate efficiency in the first 36 minutes: Durant hit 10 of 12 for 26 points, Ibaka 12 of 12 for 25. (Okay, Serge missed a free throw. Sue him.) OKC shot a stirring 63 percent, landing six players in double figures, and Kendrick Perkins just missed it by a bucket. (Yes, Perk. Four for nine. And eight rebounds.) The Thunder outrebounded the Nets by a startling 41-17, and moved the ball around with aplomb: 28 assists.

Still, this didn’t look like a blowout early on, as Nets guard Shaun Livingston was hitting everything in sight. (He finished 6-8 to lead the Brooklyn effort with 16 points.) The Thunder had a slim 11-10 lead in the first when all of a sudden Perk hit three shots in a row, courtesy of assists from KD and Reggie Jackson, and something in the karmic bubble began to boil; after that, the Nets, who’d won eight of their last ten to jump from the bottom of the Titanic Division to just below the Raptors, came totally unglued. The Brooklyn bench did yeoman work, contributing a hefty 55 points to the cause, but when the starters have only 40 to offer — well, this is the result.

The Great Eastern Sweep continues tomorrow night in the District of Columbia; in their last meeting, the Thunder beat the Wizards by one point. I’m sure Scott Brooks mentions that on the plane tonight.

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Banker’s ours

I don’t actually have a Google Alert for “longest legs,” but if there’s more competition, I’ll be tempted to set one up. Meanwhile, with contestants from Britain and Russia already entered, we have a contender from the good old USA — from New York City, in fact:

Brooke Banker as seen in the New York Post

The New York Post claims credit for discovering Brooke Banker, twenty-six, born in Marine Park, Brooklyn:

The 5-foot-11, blue-eyed stunner with 47-inch legs was discovered by The Post, and while her stems are Amazonian, her life is more down-to-earth.

A former Penn State volleyball player who eschews heels for flats, Banker dreams of being a television host and says lanky legs are so common in her family that even her goldendoodle, Tuna, has uncommonly long ones.

“I’ve been around tall girls my whole life with volleyball, so I know my legs are long, but I never thought to enter a contest or get a title,” says Banker, lounging in a black leotard atop the 75 Wall St. condo, with its equally towering views of the Brooklyn Bridge and her native borough.

And, guys, she’s not spoken for:

As for the opposite sex, Banker is single. She grudgingly admits her friends tell her she’s intimidating to men.

“I try not to think about it too much. And I don’t want to sound creepy, but I get approached by a lot of really short guys or guys with fetishes.”

Not that I’d know anything about that.

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My way-back pages

It began with this:

I duly followed the link, and came upon this:

Remember those claims that Publish America was a traditional publishing house, and would only publish worthy manuscripts? What if you set the quality bar as low as you possibly could, on purpose, and you still got an offer from them? Wouldn’t that be something? In 2005, a group of Sci-fi and Fantasy writers and some other willing pranksters got together to test the theory that Publish America would publish anything at all. Over a holiday weekend, they bashed out the worst manuscript they could come up with, an utter travesty. They called it Atlanta Nights and submitted it, under the author name Travis Tea (lol), to Publish America. Travis Tea got his book deal. This, then is your unicorn chaser. Read more about Atlanta Nights here, and check out Travis Tea’s website (not produced by Publish America). As soon as the writers made their jolly jape public, Publish America retracted their offer. Atlanta Nights lives on, and is still available for purchase through Amazon and B&N.

The point of that piece, of course, was that Publish America had resurfaced under a new name, and writers ought to beware. But I fixated on that title: where had I seen it before?

The answer: on a table in the hallway.

Yes, boys and girls, I paid actual American dollars to for a copy of Atlanta Nights, circa 2007. I remember it being terrible, if not necessarily trollfic terrible, and, now that I think about it, it may have fallen a notch below the pace-setter for this class, 1969′s Naked Came the Stranger by the nonexistent Penelope Ashe. To my horror, there’s even a Wikipedia page for Atlanta Nights.

I must also note that I once wrote a piece about music publishers seeking poems from amateurs, which they promised to turn into actual phonograph records, so it’s not like I had no idea this could have been somebody else’s business model.


Demand persisting

Each year, puts out a list of the top 100 most searched for out of print book titles from the previous 12 months. For 2013, the top three slots are occupied by two people. One wrote under his own name for one and under a pseudonym for the other; the other maybe should have adopted an alias, but never would have.

The latter, in the Number One slot, is Sex by Madonna, which perhaps earns its place at the top for reasons other than the subject matter:

The book itself is spiral bound and actually quite fragile making fine copies relatively rare; copies still found in their Mylar wrapping sheet command an extra premium… After the book’s initial, albeit large, print run Sex has never since been reproduced as Madonna has very typically moved on from this phase of her career. As such one can assume that Sex will probably remain out of print indefinitely.

I’m betting most of you can guess the author of the next two.

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Accounting for the offbeat

One reason I gave up the piano after a couple of years is that I could never get the notes on paper to sound correctly inside my head: they were all there, but they fell all over each other, as though they’d just been shoveled in with no regard to tempo. Actual musicians, however, can keep track of these things:

If musicians always played the music in front of them exactly as scored, it could be dull. And, they aren’t automatons — they hear a piece in their own particular way and want to express what it means to them and they have plenty of freedom to do this, within limits. We, the audience, give them that freedom, and also adjust whatever internal metronomes we listen to music with (even those of us who failed 4th grade music have developed a sense of timing) to go with the flow of the music we’re listening to — within limits. This is the rubato. But there are limits, and apparently they are internalized.

According to Wing et al., musicians use linear phase correction to regain synchronicity with either other musicians or with the tick of a metronome. That is, they know when their count is off, because it has been set previously, by the relationship between note values and time between notes, and they are able to tell when they’re off, and adjust to get back into the beat. Musicians learn their skill by spending tens of thousands of hours counting notes; that they can internalize it quickly, and correct it when it’s off is no surprise.

Music is a fundamentally mathematical enterprise, so it should be no surprise that non-musical endeavors based on numbers produce similar phenomena. For instance:

Just last night I was casting on stitches to make a scarf. The pattern called for 85 stitches. There are too many distractions for me to be able to count stitches as I cast on, so I just take time out to count them a few times as I go along. Remarkably — at least I think so — last night when I stopped to count I had cast on exactly 85 stitches. But I’ve had this happen when the pattern called for 285 stitches too. No phase correcting there, do I have an internal counter that turns itself on as I start to cast on, and then alerts me when I’ve met the target number? If so, it seems like a rather frivolous way to spend brain cells though, even if useful.

This variant, however, I have experienced:

And then there’s the internal alarm clock that always goes off 2 minutes before the alarm we’d set. I don’t remember the last time I’ve heard an alarm — except when I couldn’t figure out how to turn the bloody thing off on my phone.

If the alarm is set for six, I almost always find myself sleepily staring at the clock at 5:58. The sense is weekday-sensitive: I don’t stir at anywhere near that time on a Saturday. And I think it’s confined to one particular alarm clock: I tend to sleep through hotel alarms, though I must concede the possibility that I had no idea how to set the darned thing in the first place.

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The diminution of culture

Not everyone who writes ponylore is a lowbrow, or even a mediumbrow. This discussion has broken out at FIMFiction, and it’s interesting enough, I think, to bring over here. It begins with a difficult — in several senses of the word — piano piece by Brian Ferneyhough, and goes from there:

[I]f Ferneyhough is great, I don’t want to be that great.

The march to self-isolation always starts with great works by a great artist — Picasso, Stravinsky, T. S. Eliot, Miles Davis, Joyce. People imitate them, and try to take it further. Then it goes too far, and no one can admit it’s gone too far because by that time everybody in the elite power structure of that art has gone on record praising it.

Is this a uniquely 20th-century event? Has it happened before in history that the leaders of an entire art form deliberately isolated it from the masses? As far as I know, it hasn’t.

I pointed out that the leaders decide who gets the grant money, and this inevitably must affect the artists, few of whom are independently wealthy. But it seems to me that there’s probably something involved besides retention of face and/or grubbing of money.

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Dessert monitor

I dropped into Sprouts over the weekend and somehow failed to divert myself from the baked-goods section, which means that I brought home a pie: blueberry, with a lattice crust.

Somehow I made it last through Wednesday evening. As is my wont, I washed out the little aluminum pan, and discovered on the bottom the ominous letters N-S-A.

It took me a moment to regain my composure. “Oh, yeah. No sugar added.” But after forking out $50 that evening on prescription drugs, I figured that it’s just a matter of time before the government starts watching my groceries — assuming they’re not already.

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Present at the creation

This year, proclaims the Guardian, “the Blog turns 20,” and they interviewed three of the old-timers. One section resounded with me:

What was blogging like 20 years ago? What kind of tools did you use? What did the web mean to you?

Dave Winer: My first blog post was on October 7, 1994. I was playing around with some scripts to do stuff on the web, which was new and I found fascinating. I started out timidly at first, to see what would happen, and quickly saw how powerful this was. I could publish all on my own, and get lots of interesting people talking, and push that back out to them. It felt risky, but I loved the feeling.

Meg Hourihan: My first post on was May 9, 1999, and I considered that my blog. I was using a database back-end to manage entries, and I was consciously putting new posts at the top of the page, but keeping the older ones too. Before Megnut, I hand-coded entries and just over-wrote whatever was on the page. With a new domain, pictures and a database of entries, I felt like I was starting my own publication. It was incredibly empowering.

Justin Hall: My first web page went live in January 1994. My first daily entry on the front page went live in January 1996. When I started writing regularly on the web, the pages were crude — basic pictures and text. Meg describes the feeling of owning a publication and it’s true — blogging felt like you’d launched your own magazine. I started writing on the web because I could. Because it seemed easy.

I know from crude pages: mine certainly were. (Some might argue that they still are.) But “incredibly empowering,” I suggest, actually understates the case; if you ever harbored notions that you just weren’t good enough, there are literally (in the literal sense) millions of blogs out there, and some of them are written by people who actually get paid to come up with that crap.

Everything here was hand-coded from the finest-quality bits from spring 1996 to summer 2002, when I first decided to install something resembling a content-management system. The static pages still are written and maintained by hand; it’s too much trouble to merge them into WordPress. (And there are more than 8,000 of them.)

Says Dave Winer:

There will always be a small number who are what I call “natural born bloggers.” They were blogging before there were blogs, they just didn’t know what it was called. Julia Child was a blogger as was Benjamin Franklin and Patti Smith. I inherited my blogging gene from my mom, who is 81 and has a blog.

I don’t think I have any genetic component in my urge to write — or if I do, it’s because of a beneficial (maybe) mutation that occurred after I started.

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Extra dry

As always, no one says it quite the way the British do:

(Found at National Review Online’s The Corner.)

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As I have foreseen

Back in 2011, on Bill Quick’s 10th blogiversary, I made a list of predictions for 2111. In the middle of the list were these two items, which are happening a lot more quickly than projected:

6. Top-level domains with fewer than 11 letters will no longer be offered

5. Google “upgrades” your thermostat

Two weeks ago, Nest Labs, which makes a “learning” thermostat that can be set by remote control, was acquired by Google.

And while two- and three-letter TLDs can still be had, there are about to be a lot more, a lot longer:

[I]n June 2008, more than two years after an internal policy group first started considering it, ICANN’s board approved recommendations to create a fourth set of new gTLDs [generic top-level domains]. Rather than planning extensive consultations about what they should be, this time ICANN allowed the market to decide. Anybody could apply to run a new domain, so long as they met certain requirements and coughed up a $185,000 application fee.

Many did. Google applied for 101 gTLDs through a subsidiary. Amazon bid for 76 of them. Donuts (“We are nuts about domain names. We are Donuts.”), a firm set up with more than $100 million specifically to make a business of gTLDs, went after 307 new domains.

One of those on Donuts’ application list is .sucks, which has yet to be granted. It will be expensive, though maybe not the most expensive:

The .guru TLD is open for pre-registrations (before it officially opens to the general public) on GoDaddy for $39.99 per year. A domain on .ventures is $69.99. One on .luxury starts at $799.99 per year. One of the applicants for .sucks has declared it will ask for $25,000 during the “sunrise period,” a 30-day span during which trademark holders can register their domains to avoid domain-squatting.

I can see someone registering, and then selling subdomains to the pissed-off.

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Installing a Heat sink

News item: Using generally accepted accounting procedures: American Airlines Group — which included the former US Airways numbers only since Dec. 9 — lost $1.83 billion in 2013, compared with a $1.88 billion loss in 2012.

American, whose name is over the door where the Heat play, might have been smiling early on despite that bottom-of-the-report report: the Thunder made the first shot, and didn’t make another until Miami had rolled up 20 points. Somehow OKC pulled to within nine at the end of the quarter.

And suddenly, there was an generally unaccepted loss. Oklahoma City outscored Miami 70-45 over the next two quarters and then opened the fourth with a 7-0 run. With 1:46 left, the writing was on the arena wall, and the starters vanished; the ticket-holders were already gone. Oklahoma City 112, Miami 95, and I’m not saying it’s a preview of the Finals, but — hey, it could happen, right?

This game was billed as Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James, and that aspect of it turned out to be a draw. James had 34 points, Durant 33; James shot 12-20, Durant 12-23 (though KD made four of nine treys, LeBron one of five); James delivered three assists, Durant five. But as KD will probably tell you, he got a lot more help than King James did: the other two members of the South Beach Triumvirate, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, had 18 and 15 points respectively, but nobody else in black hit double figures. Chris “Birdman” Andersen led the bench with, um, eight.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher banked treys from all over the place, Lamb nailing four of six for 18 points and Fisher hitting five of five for 15. It helped that Scott Brooks saw the wisdom of playing small against the Heat: Kendrick Perkins played the opening five minutes and was never seen again, and Steven Adams appeared just long enough to appear in the box score. And it looked like the entire team was hosed down with Battier Repellent: Shane disappeared after 19 minutes with three points and four fouls. But here’s your Telltale Statistic: OKC forced twenty Miami turnovers, thirteen of which involved simply swiping the ball. Serge Ibaka had to block only once. Then again, Serge also threw down 22 points.

Of course, what you’re going to see in the highlight reels is the last couple minutes of the third quarter, with James and Durant going at each other. You could do a whole SportsCenter just on that.

Friday night: in Brooklyn. Not a joke. Saturday night: in Washington. Also not a joke. For now, let us laugh.


From the Office of Terrorist Credentials

And there will be one. There has to be:

The United Nations Security Council Monday passed unanimously its Resolution 2133.

In it, UN member states are urged not to pay ransom to terrorist groups who have kidnapped someone and who intend to use the money to finance terrorist operations. Private citizens or companies are also urged not to pay these ransoms.

Does this mean that if a group is just a plain old garden-variety criminal enterprise kidnapping people in order to pay for a new supply of blackjacks or cement mix for overshoes, the UN says that’s OK? How exactly will kidnappers certify themselves as regular organized crime instead of terrorists? “Sure, we broke a few legs and we burnt a couple of stores what was late on their protection fees, but we didn’t aim for the violent overthrow of the government and established social order or eradication of the state of Israel.” Does the group get a sticker from the U.S. Attorney General? “This seal affirms that the holder is a traditional criminal organization operating according to the standard principles of graft, corruption, extortion, money-laundering and prostitution but has no known affiliations with any politically active terrorist groups and would, if called upon by their government, unhesitatingly make such groups an offer they couldn’t refuse.” The current AG and staff seem to have difficulty keeping track of who are good guys and who are bad guys, so how well would they do differentiating between groups of bad guys?

UN resolutions generally come in one of two flavors: useless posturing that doesn’t cost much, or useless posturing that costs a bundle, much of which the US is expected to pony up. Until the Office is formally established, this qualifies as the former.

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