Near-total eclipse

You have to figure that any night Nick Collison serves up five assists is somewhat atypical. The Suns were in this one for the first 24 minutes, but the Thunder put together a 21-0 run in the third quarter, and the rest of the game was just mopping up: the final was 127-96.

The phrase “balanced attack” actually meant something tonight: the Thunder had five in double figures, all within five points of one another. (For the record: Kevin Durant 21, Thabo Sefolosha 18, Russell Westbrook and Kendrick Perkins 17, Kevin Martin 16.) Everybody got to play, even Daniel Orton, who bagged three rebounds and four points in the last five minutes. But here’s the key number: OKC made 50 shots from the floor (out of 87, for 57.5 percent), and 14 out of 21 treys. You do that and it doesn’t matter if you outrebound the Suns only 40-39.

What happened to Phoenix? Take your pick. Goran Dragić was formidable in the first quarter — 16 points — but only three thereafter. Marcin Gortat didn’t make a bucket until the fourth quarter, and he wouldn’t get another. The Suns bench outscored the starters 66-30; Michael Beasley led all scorers with 25. But even Beasley was -10 for the night; Markieff Morris was the only Sun to creep onto the positive side of the ledger.

Maybe they were saving it for later, and not much later at that: the fourth and last game of the series will be Sunday in Phoenix. Maybe Gortat will have recovered his mojo by then. In the meantime, let’s send a thank-you note to the Pistons, who whacked the Spurs tonight.

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Featuring TepidMail

Microsoft, which terminated Outlook Express with extreme prejudice some years back, replacing it with something called Windows Live Mail, is also keen to rid itself of Hotmail, replacing it with something called, um, Outlook.

Janie is not impressed:

They dumped me into the Outlook format. This was totally unacceptable, and as I use my email for the bulk of my communication I lost no time fixing the format back to Hotmail. However, even still they’ve changed Hotmail so that it shows all the emails in a particular thread. I find this terribly irritating. But, I haven’t yet had time to try and see if there’s a way to un-do that too.

Which is why I’ve stayed with WLM: it picks up all five of my usual email addresses, one of which is Hotmail, and doesn’t fuss about any of them, even (gasp!) AOL.

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Quasi-automotive imagery

Mark Stevenson, contributing half of an Infiniti JX35 QX60 review to The Truth About Cars:

The JX seems to be able to hit that middle ground sweet spot: not terribly forgettable like the Audi Q7 but it won’t make your kids lose their government approved school lunches when you pull up to the front door at the end of the day like the Lincoln MKT. While I would be remiss to call the JX sexy, it definitely has the right curves in the proper places, like an over-sexed female biology teacher with a strict workout regimen and a winky eye. You know it is wrong to like her, but you still do, even 15 years after she taught you the reproductive rituals of chimpanzees.

For the record, I took my high-school biology classes from a nun — a Sister of Saints Cyril and Methodius, if I remember correctly. She looked like she might have worked out, to the extent that you could tell, but you may be assured that her eye wasn’t the least bit winky.

The other half of this review, incidentally, contains this remark by Matthew Guy: “I think it looks like a Murano with breasts, and well developed co-ed ones at that.” I guess a two-person review is easier when both persons are single-minded.

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Instant twilight

Bill Quick argues for a sunset provision in all new legislation:

I’d make it four years or less, maybe even two.

There would be several benefits: First, it would reverse the current situation, in which it is basically impossible to repeal bad laws; second, the time necessary for legislators to spend re-establishing necessary legislation might keep them so busy they wouldn’t have any time to dream up new legislation; third, such a quasi-zero based legislative policy (along with term limits for federal legislators) would do more than anything I can think of to not just limit, but reverse the endless growth of Leviathan that is strangling our liberties, our pocketbooks, and the futures of our children.

What I’m wondering is how this can be made retroactive, to cover the last few hundred thousand bad laws. (And yes, perhaps two or three actual good ones; if they’re any good, they’re worth redoing, say I.)

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Walking distance

From the Things I Wasn’t Aware Of files:

At 11 a.m. Feb. 7th, 2013, Louisville Metro Mayor Greg Fischer rededicated the Big Four Bridge — formerly a railroad crossing — as a pedestrian walkway over the Ohio River between Louisville, Ky. and Jeffersonville, Ind.

To quote a marker placed thereupon:

Forty-two workers perished during construction of this bridge, which was built between 1888 and 1895. Through the years, the bridge has been hailed as a monument to those who lost their lives.

In 1929, a new bridge was built inside the old bridge using the existing structure. Bridge operation ceased in 1969.

And now it’s up and running, or walking anyway, once more. The bridge is just under half a mile long; its largest span is 547 feet.

Cameron Miquelon has posted a photoset from yesterday’s ceremony. The Kentucky-side ramps are open now; the Indiana-side ramps should be open in a few weeks.

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Anarchy in the OKC

My working definition of Chaos is Organization minus Time, and this is an excellent illustration of how it evolves:

Let me be clear — I LOVE ORGANIZATION. I’m a huge fan of it. I’m just not very good at maintaining systems for a long time. I’m just like everyone else. My organization tends to peak in January, and then usually spends the rest of the year on a slight downhill slide. It’s just life. I’m running a company (that requires a TON of organization) — I’m raising kids (more schedules & maintenance) and I’m married to a BOY (who organizes never, dusts never, and resists being organized just to drive me crazy).

I can usually spot my own Turn for the Worse about 10:30 on the day after New Year’s, by which time any resolutions I may have made will have been unceremoniously discarded.

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Needs more hull

I’d turned all of one page in the March InStyle before hitting the Louis Vuitton ad, two pages of one design, and that design appears to be the Oklahoma City Emergency Snow Route map.

And the shoes — well, decide for yourself:

Sort of flats in a Louis Vuitton collection

Disturbed, I sought out the Shoe Girl, who had the proper response: “Anyone up for some waterskiing?”

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Twenty items or fewer

About the only place I ever use the self-checkout lane is at the Homeland store at May and Britton, which I hit about every second or third week despite its manifest deficiencies:

[T]he scanning zone seems to be wildly variable, and it may refuse your can of tomato sauce right in front of its frickin’ laser beam because it’s worried about something it thinks you tried to sneak into a bag without scanning at all.

Contrast and compare with this:

I will say my experience with the self-checkout, once I got to a working stand (more about that in a moment) wasn’t too bad — except the attendant had to come over and tell me, “Don’t push the ‘I’m paying with a credit card’ button before scanning your card even though it tells you to.” (There’s something symbolic about modern technology in that statement).

The machine evidently has a short memory.

The first stand I went to, though, even though its green light was on, it had an error message on the screen. I mentioned it to the attendant and she came over and tried to fix it. And it turned out that someone had scanned a bunch of stuff and not paid. (And while it’s possible they gave up when it wouldn’t accept their credit card and went to a “real” check station, it’s also possible they went through the motions and then walked out with about $25 of groceries. If that keeps up, the self-checkouts may not persist for long.)

I dunno about that last point. $25 will barely pay for a checker for two hours. Then again, you’d think the attendant would have seen someone trying to sneak a couple of bags of stuff off the premises.

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No longer board

School-board elections tend to be placid, even passive, affairs in this part of the world.

Not this time. With Oklahoma City Public Schools in turmoil — the district’s most recent report card was a marginal D, and one of the high-school principals has been accused of fixing grades — there’s more interest than usual in next Tuesday’s election.

The OKC Chamber of Commerce has decided to throw its weight behind Lynne Hardin, who is challenging incumbent chair Angela Monson. To this aim, they sent me a flyer this week, which did not name their favored candidate but which included a link to their school-board subsite. Now flyers I’ve had before, but for the first time in recent memory I got an actual robocall from Hardin.

Monson, you may remember, defeated former OKC mayor Kirk Humphreys last time out, four years after being term-limited out of her state Senate seat. I was generally a Monson supporter when I lived in her district — I moved away in 2003 — and she’s never quite struck me as being exactly a Chamber of Commerce type, which could be a point in her favor. Still, with horrible things happening on her watch, she might well be done for.

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Add to Favorites

Repeat after me: Correlation does not equal causation.

Then go download a new browser:

Comparison, murder rate to Internet Explorer usage

If it saves just one life, isn’t it worth it?

[sound of Firefox crashing]

(Via GraphJam.)

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Arrows to the knee

There are basically only two ways to beat the Golden State Warriors: throw about one and a half times as much defense at them as you usually do, or shoot about ten percentage points above normal. Last time the Thunder played them, they didn’t quite do either of those things, with the expected and unfortunate result. As it turns out, OKC couldn’t do a whole lot against the Warriors’ long ball — the visitors put up twenty and hit ten — but the Thunder executed twelve steals and 16 blocks to leave Golden State in a pile of yellowish dust, 119-98.

Six of those blocks came from Serge Ibaka, when he wasn’t shooting 7-10 for 15 points and grabbing nine rebounds. He might have gotten more, but there wasn’t any need to bring the starters back for the fourth quarter, even though the Warriors had shaved their 18-point halftime deficit down to 11 after three, which is why you see only 25 from Kevin Durant and 22 from Russell Westbrook: the second (and third) string were doing well enough, thank you very much. Backup point guard Reggie Jackson snagged 12 points, something he’s never done before in the Big Show.

Golden State partisans could argue that Jarrett Jack was ailing and couldn’t play, which may have made some small bit of difference at some point. And I was sort of hoping that Andrew Bogut would show, but they’re not ready to play him on back-to-backs just yet. (The Warriors were trounced in Houston last night, 140-109, by dint of that other tactic: a barrage of treys. The Rockets nailed 23 out of 40, in fact, and without sharpshooter Carlos Delfino, yet.) Still, four Golden State starters finished in double figures, which is nothing to be ashamed of, especially since two of them — Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes — had 19 each.

What’s heartening here, of course, is that the Thunder followed a blowout of a mediocre team (I’m looking at you, Dallas) with a blowout of a good team. With the next two games — a home-and-home — against Phoenix, a team which is perhaps not quite as good as the Mavs, it’s time for a little confidence-building.

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Penalties for compliance

This sounds like a pretty routine announcement out of Sacramento:

The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) recently issued FTB Notice 2012-03, stating that the FTB will disallow the exclusion or deferral of gain under California’s qualified small business stock (QSBS) statute for all tax years beginning on or after January 1, 2008. FTB Notice 2012-03 comes on the heels of the California Court of Appeal’s decision in Cutler v. Franchise Tax Board, 208 Cal. App. 4th 1247 (2012), where the court held that California’s QSBS rules impermissibly favor California corporations in violation of the commerce clause of the U. S. Constitution. Rather than simply striking the particular offending provisions from the California QSBS statute, the FTB has deemed the entire California QSBS statute to be invalid and unenforceable, thereby impacting all California taxpayers who have claimed QSBS exclusion or deferral benefits in recent years. The Cutler decision and FTB Notice 2012-03 impact only the California QSBS rules, and do not affect the availability of federal QSBS benefits under the Internal Revenue Code.

“Impacting”? Well, yeah, kind of:

That may sound like a relatively minor matter, especially if you don’t own startup shares or aren’t an active investor. And in light of California’s financial woes, it would certainly be intellectually understandable if the state had decided to drop the exemption going forward. But the changes don’t stop there. Under the California Franchise Tax Board’s interpretation of a 2012 state Court of Appeals ruling, which found part of the tax law to be unconstitutional, anyone who acted in good faith to claim the now-deceased QSB incentive on their 2011 California return owes the state back taxes on the excluded or deferred income.

And the same goes for 2010. And 2009. And 2008.

And, what’s more, these taxpayers will also be hit with back interest and possible penalties.

“A bad, bad precedent,” says Warren Meyer of Coyote Blog. I have to figure that there are weasels in the District of Columbia facepalming right about now: “Why the hell didn’t we think of that?”

Sooner or later, they will.

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Toll you so

For some inscrutable reason, this press release landed in my inbox:

On February 13th, Tulsa attorney and former Gubernatorial candidate Gary Richardson will speak to the Tulsa County Republican Men’s Club about his plan to eliminate the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority.

“The turnpike is a scam on the people of Oklahoma,” said Richardson. “It was a scam when they proposed it in the 1950s and it is a scam today.”

In Oklahoma there are 10 turnpikes with more of 600 miles of pavement, making the state tied for 1st in the nation for the amount of turnpikes.

Richardson will talk about the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority and how the tolls that are collected are actually spent.

“Most people don’t know that the State of Oklahoma does not make one red cent off of the turnpike,” said Richardson.

Well, yes, we did know that, if we were paying attention, and some of us were:

The authority will spend about $73 million on road and other improvements this year [2012]. Of remaining revenue, $66 million will be spent on operations and maintenance, including salaries, and $95 million on the debt service. About $26 million (39 percent) of its operations budget goes toward the cost of collection, including toll booth operators and the Pikepass system.

Then again, it’s not like I expect a road, even a toll road, to turn a profit.

My own viewpoint on toll roads, informed by 25,000 miles worth of World Tours, is simple: I’ll take them if I’m in a hurry. Otherwise, meh. (Trip to Kansas City last December for my daughter’s wedding? $12 for the Kansas Turnpike. Worth it.)

Oh, and if you want to attend, or hang around outside, Richardson’s presentation:

Richardson will speak at the Tulsa County Republican Men’s Club monthly meeting on Wednesday, February 13th, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm at the Hibachi Grill, 74th and Memorial.

Hibachi Grill? Do they have an ATM machine?

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Questionable answers

At exam time, the most valuable commodity to be had, apparently, is someone else’s paper:

I gave a quiz the other day and there was one fellow I kept looking closely at to try to tell if his eyes were on his own paper. But I will solve that issue with Form A and Form B. And I’ve taken to handing out each exam INDIVIDUALLY rather than counting off a stack and having them pass them down — I learned last semester that there are people in the class devious enough to quickly grab two of the same form from the stack and hand the identical form to the patsy (or accomplice) next to them.

Is this disheartening? Totally:

It frustrates me that I have to be such a cop, and that I have to try to think deviously to figure out as many ways as possible that students might cheat (and confer with colleagues at other schools: it seems a current fad is to bring in a bottle of water where you have written notes under the label, and you can read them through the clear bottle).

It’s been four decades since I set foot in a college classroom, and maybe I’m behind the times, but it seems to me that if you spend more time working up a scheme to avoid studying than you do actually studying, you’ve pretty much defeated your own purpose.

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Two and away

Term limits, you say? Smitty contemplates the matter:

There is no way, given a 300 million+ population, that the number fit to hold office is that small. We can’t be that hurting for talent.

The problem here is that people who are fit to hold office won’t even try, because they suspect — correctly, as it turns out — that the fix is in. So we get the same parade of maladroits and malefactors, D’s and R’s, year after even-numbered year.

Perhaps we’ll have to draft candidates.

On the other hand, I have no argument with this:

There is no excuse for our system of government to overgrow itself to the point that it takes a professional cadre with a lifetime of knowing where the bodies are buried in order to operate the thing. No. We keep it simple, and we swap out the people in charge at a reasonable frequency so that the playing field stays level.

Though I suspect there may be a few more, or a lot more, burials before that cadre can be sent packing.

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Do not disturb tenants

I have on occasion been amused by the swings in the “Zestimate” of the value of the palatial estate at Surlywood, as issued by the real-estate site Zillow. Of course, pricier places are subject to greater volatility. Consider, for instance, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20006:

According to the latest Zestimate for the president’s home at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C., the White House has a current value of $294.9 million.

Since President Barack Obama and his family moved into the home in January 2009, its value has risen approximately 7%, from $275.6 million. In Washington, D.C., as a whole, the Zillow Home Value Index rose almost 13.6% — to $397,000, from $349,600 — between January 2009 and November 2012, the most recent month for which data are available.

So the White House is falling behind the comps. Quelle surprise.

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