Well, well

A tidbit from inside State Treasurer Ken Miller’s monthly Gross Receipts Report:

Rig counts last week were set at 192 total, 22 higher than at the same time last year. However, active natural gas rigs have dropped from 122 last year to 53 this year. Active oil rigs have climbed from 48 last year to 139 this year.

Which of course is due to the fact that the price of natural gas has been tanking, dropping as low as $2 per thousand cubic feet before rebounding to about $2.50/Mcf last month, while oil prices, while down slightly of late, are still on the high side.

If nothing else, this demonstrates the occasional wisdom of outgoing Chesapeake chairman Aubrey McClendon, who started moving the company out of gas and into oil last year.

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More of the same, but less of it

One proposal to salvage what’s left of the Eurozone calls for the issuance of “Eurobills,” short-term (one year or less) debt instruments backed by all 17 member nations, which will buy some time for the countries farthest in the hole. Daily Pundit’s nemo paradise is downright optimistic about the prospects:

I have to admit that, after years of scoffing at the idea that the Greeks and the Germans could live in the same house, I now think it’s inevitable. They’ll just live on different floors, with the Greeks in the basement and the Germans in the penthouse.

The solution of a common fund for shaky sovereign debt is brilliant, because, if it’s done right (a big “if,” admittedly) it solves in one stroke the capital flight issues of Spain and Italy without granting the Greeks a free pass for their outright hold-up of German taxpayers.

How this might work out:

[I]f Spain, Belgium or Italy were to use their entire quota of Eurobills (10% of GDP), this would cover about half of their refinancing needs for 2012. Thus financial markets would remain an important mechanism to provide price signals and incentives for fiscal discipline on longer dated debt. But at the same time, Eurobills would give them time to implement credible fiscal reforms. In Le Monde, the authors write that a fund of 100 to 200 billion euros would be enough to guarantee the safety [of] Eurobills. Eurobills would allow a country like Italy to save 5 billion a year directly (by lowering short rates), and at least as much indirectly through its stabilizing impact on long rates.

Emphasis in the original.

I’m just wondering how blissful life in these United States would be if saving €5 or €10 billion a year would actually make a difference in our balance sheet.

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Now that’s some asymmetrical information

Mary Katrantzou has a variant version of this dress that’s cut straight across at the hemline, and it’s very nice, but that’s just not enough for Detective Sexy McBadass. Here’s Angie Harmon at the Gracies, displaying just a hint of asymmetry:

Angie Harmon at the Gracies

Okay, more than a hint. The shoes appear to be the same Louboutins we could barely see on Beyoncé a few weeks earlier, in pretty much the same orange. And we can hardly see that clutch she’s carrying against that background.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Just a quiet little ocean drive

Or, you know, not:

It took nearly six years to build this 8-km road, and it’s not hard to see why.

Lots of stuff to do along the way, assuming you survive.


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The ants crawl up

If I remember correctly, the ants also crawl down. And sometimes they just stare back at you and sneer:

I cannot find where they are coming from. There is no trail or run, they are just there on the cabinet or on the wall. Where we keep finding them is by a cabinet that stores dishes, there is no food nearby.

These bastards are hard to kill. They swim in bug spray then build sand castles in the Sevin dust. They strap on bibs and feast on ant bait. If you wash them down the sink, they come back up the drain arms held high like they just completed some made-for-TV obstacle course. These ants do the backstroke and frolic in the toilet as if it were a municipal pool.

I have long believed that many of our common indoor pests have evolved a form of immunity to our trusty poisons and treatments. (Simple Darwinism: the ones least affected lived the longest and got to reproduce the most.)

There aren’t a lot of ants in any one place, which leads to this conclusion:

It is my theory these we find are the lookout ants, watching for “The Man” while their evil cohorts do drug deals and sugar buys with the spiders and pill bugs in hidden nooks and crannies.

Of course, the spiders, omnivores that they are, will happily turn on their ant benefactors given an opportunity, but hey, it’s not personal, it’s just business.

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Executive rotation

Last time we heard from Audi North America boss Johan de Nysschen, he was telling everyone that the Chevrolet Volt was “a car for idiots.”

Friday he abruptly quit his job at Audi, and now we know why: Carlos Ghosn has lured him to Hong Kong to take over worldwide operations at Infiniti.

I’m not sure what I think about this. Audi has been one of the most focused of automakers in recent years, though de Nysschen, stationed at the US outpost, presumably didn’t have a whole lot to do with that. (Peter Schreyer, Audi’s esteemed designer, did; he has since decamped for Kia.) I’m guessing that de Nysschen, who does deserve credit for nursing Audi sales back to health after the unintended-acceleration debacle of the middle 1980s, will be expected to come up with big numbers for Infiniti, which has been trailing Audi — and worse, Acura — in the US market.

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Memorize, then destroy

Kottke.org has reprinted what is described as “the world’s worst password requirements list,” and it is indeed pretty dire, what with its demand for eight characters — not more, not less, but exactly eight, or approximately 2.67 Holy Hand Grenades — and no adjacent repeating characters, which would eliminate something useful like “geekcr@p.”

I’ve mentioned only two of the rules. There are eight more. Overall, it might even be worse than this one.

(Via this Nancy Friedman tweet.)

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Overcooked copypasta

If you don’t want to lug around War and Peace — and if you don’t routinely bench 240, you probably don’t — there’s always the trusty e-book reader, which will not fail you, mostly:

Although I am committed to supporting my neighborhood independent book store (Books to be Red), and enjoying honest-to-goodness books, the .99 Nook edition was so lightweight that it has made reading War and Peace a genuine pleasure. For those of you who have not tackled this tome as yet, it is a page-turner.

As I was reading, I came across this sentence: “It was as if a light had been Nookd in a carved and painted lantern…” Thinking this was simply a glitch in the software, I ignored the intrusive word and continued reading. Some pages later I encountered the rogue word again.

The third time prompted the unearthing of the hard copy, and the following discovery:

For the sentence above I discovered this genuine translation: “It was as if a light had been kindled in a carved and painted lantern…”

Someone at Barnes and Noble (a twenty year old employee? or maybe the CEO?) had substituted every incidence of “kindled” with “Nookd!”

Smooth move, B&N. What do you do with, say, Lynne Cherry’s The Great Kapok Tree: A Tale of the Amazon Rain Forest?

And it gets better:

What this reader should really be outraged about is the fact that he spent $.99 on an e-book when there are other editions — most likely with the exact same text, sans the “Nookd” goof — available for absolutely nothing.

And now I’m hearing Edwin Starr in the back of my head: “War and Peace! Unnnh! Good God, y’all! What does it sell for? Absolutely nothing!

Were Starr still alive, he’d walk twenty-five miles to kick my behind for that.

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And the fortress is showing strain

Pop had this one figured out before tipoff: start Manu Ginobili, and make the Thunder sweat the matchups. And Manu, you may be sure, was up to the task. (Downside: Danny Green, reasonably effective when he was a starter, came up empty as a reserve.) With 5:17 left, the Thunder were up by 13; over the next four minutes, the Spurs gradually eroded that lead to two. With OKC up 103-101 at the 29-second mark, James Harden lofted a trey right over Kawhi Leonard’s head. The Spurs weren’t dead; Ginobili duly bagged a layup, and then a bad pass gave them the ball back with 15 seconds left. Manu was in position, but his attempted trey clanked, and at the 0.8 mark, Kevin Durant sank two free throws to ice it. San Antonio got a perfectly useless trey at the horn, which was eventually waved off: Thunder 108, Spurs 103, and what was an 0-2 series is now 3-2.

Still, Manu remains Manu, and there is still no consistent way to shut him down. Ginobili bagged a game-high 34 points on 11-21 shooting, including five treys, and the ancient Tim Duncan merely hit 7-10 and pulled in 12 rebounds. His mere presence gives hope to us classmates of Methuselah. Tony Parker was a bit more himself, with 20 points. With Ginobili starting, though, the bench had to fight for scraps: only 22 among them, with Stephen Jackson getting 13. The Spurs seriously outrebounded the Thunder, 42-34, and shot a decent 46 percent.

But the Thunder shot 50 percent, forced 21 Spur turnovers while giving up only 16, and somehow got Russell Westbrook out of his three-game funk. He didn’t shoot all that well — 9-24 — but 12 assists to go with 23 points is worthy. Durant, a slow starter in the first half, ended up with 27; Harden, just as slow, still found his way to 20. I suspect a tracking device in the beard. Kendrick Perkins drew a tech early on, and then fouled out inside the two-minute mark; he hadn’t done much offensively, but he pulled down ten rebounds.

This is the first game of the semifinals that was not won by the home team. This means — well, damned if I know what it means, except that Game 6 will be back in the OKC on Wednesday, and the Thunder will have every incentive to make sure they don’t have to go back to San Antonio.

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It will not rent pigs

Or maybe it will, depending on your vendor. A Russian bank will be issuing Angry Birds MasterCards:

Angry Birds MasterCard from Promsvyazbank Bank

Russian fans of the videogame Angry Birds will soon be able to get special debit cards — or “Angry Cards” — giving them discounts on the game’s products.

Moscow-based Promsvyazbank said it will start issuing the new MasterCards on June 4. They will be printed with images of the various characters and will give users a 10 percent discount on all Angry Birds-branded products.

Besides debit cards, the bank will also issue Angry Bird cash cards, which users top up with money. The bank will pay a 4 percent annual interest rate on the card’s balance.

Which frankly is a better deal than you’re going to get from Too Big To Fail Bank (Member FDIC).

(Swiped from Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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In case we run out of meaningless numbers

There are always the monthly job reports, and they set the bar for worthlessness:

I hate to be a cynical contrarian (actually, who am I kidding) but headlines like Jobs report upends 2012 race just strike me as dumb.

Why should a ‘jobs report’ have any effect on anything? I’m pretty sure people know whether they have jobs. If they were disgruntled before some statistic was released, they should be equally disgruntled after. If they were happy, they should stay happy. These statistics have no reality unto themselves; they’re not even correct for crying out loud. They are literally always revised later. They represent some economist’s best guess after throwing some numbers into a spreadsheet. It’s not nothing, but we need to stop treating them with such reverence and reacting like trained seals.

I demur; I think they really are nothing. If these little snapshots of unreality were of any actual value, somebody else would be compiling them and turning a profit on them. The Feds are mandated by the Constitution to gather exactly one set of statistics: the population, every ten years, for purposes of Congressional reapportionment. Everything else is mission creep.

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The beehive gets buzzier

Utah has raised the speed limit on some highways to 80 mph, and Will Truman was there to check them out:

The signs all let us know that it’s experimental. They’re also heavily enforced. I’m not sure if that’s because of concern that drivers will take that as a license to go over 100 or because drivers already have. The end result is that on the way back, when the speed limit was 75 I drove 80 and when the speed limit was 80 I drove 80. Still, it’s a start.

In my circuit of (some of) Texas in 2008, I encountered a few stretches where the speed limit was 80; the Highway Patrol was very much in evidence, and traffic generally kept to 80 or slightly above, though I didn’t see any sudden brake lights in front of me when the limit dropped to 75 or lower.

On the other hand, on old US 90 west of Marfa, which was mostly deserted the day I drove it — well, never mind. No sense in self-incrimination, after all. And by now, Texans are contemplating life at 85.

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The unfairness of it all

Ed Rasimus, telling the story of Texas in the wake of those wicked right-wingers, homes in on one scary phenomenon from Dallas:

Like so many places suffering the legacy of the Bush administration’s evil policies, the place was populated by middle-aged men accompanied by leggy, busty, stylish women who were all apparently turned down by “Real Housewives of Somewhere” casting calls as being too beautiful, too well-mannered, too polite and too sophisticated to be real housewives.

Damn you, W., is there no end to your perfidy?

(Suggested by Joan of Argghh!)

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Strange search-engine queries (331)

Monday morning, we drop what we’re doing — which, if we’re fortunate, is not a whole hell of a lot — and we plunge into a week’s worth of logs to see if there’s anything worth mocking therein. Fortunately, there always is.

a man’s reach must exceed his grass:  Yeah, they expect you to edge around here too.

“Eighteen hour girdle”:  You’re telling me that you’re going to strap into this thing at 7 am and still have it on at one in the morning? That’s scary.

chez chaz ploor plan:  I must here admit that I’ve never once planned for ploor.

population of oklahoma city yep:  About 600,000, uh-huh.

Femme she’s got images:  None of which match the one in your fantasies, so get over it already.

bare butts archive:  Sort of an educational asset?

japan farewell pussy:  Hello Kitty’s evil twin, I presume.

Tomorrow is June is trending because Twitter is filled with a bunch of Rebecca Blacks, apparently:  Just wait until the 21st, when it’s her birthday.

bill whittle brony:  Um, no. Bill Whittle is not a brony. He wouldn’t know a unicorn from a unibrow.

breaking benjamin blow me away annoying girl singing:  That would be Valora. I think Bill Whittle would have sounded better.

does a mazda 1992 626 sport hatch have 3 gears in auto transmission:  Well, yeah, if it’s broken. Usually it has four.

mazda transmission pringle switch:  Yep, it’s broken. Dropping potato chips down the linkage is never a good idea.

meaning of prettier than a red wagon going up a steep hill:  If it’s going down a steep hill, “pretty” is overridden by “panicky.”

incredible hulk drinks:  You’d drink too, if you had that wussy Banner guy breathing down your neck 24/7.

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Kind of a Wrigley voice

How Auto-Tune is supposed to work, according to inventor Andy Hildebrand:

The program’s retune speed, which adjusts the singer’s voice, can be set from zero to 400. “If you set it to 10, that means that the output pitch will get halfway to the target pitch in 10 milliseconds,” says Hildebrand. “But if you let that parameter go to zero, it finds the nearest note and changes the output pitch instantaneously” — eliminating the natural transition between notes and making the singer sound jumpy and automated. “I never figured anyone in their right mind would want to do that,” he says.

How Auto-Tune is not supposed to work:

Europopped, on the origins of this, um, work:

[J]ust about everyone in town offering up a variation of the top You Tube comment on the video: “I’m not proud of being Norwegian now.” But they should be! “Chewing Gum” is so bad it’s good. Iselin, btw, was on some reality show on Norway’s TV3 called “Paradise Hotel.” The tune (her debut, naturally) was written by Trond Hillestad, and other former “Paradise” cast members. The forthcoming trainwreck was filmed in Trondheim, and participating in the video include a bunch of people from the TV show.

The Fark submitter summed it up nicely: “Norway’s answer to Rebecca Black divides autotune by zero”.

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