Something less than inventive

“Patently ridiculous” is closer to the mark, but perhaps overly obvious:

Today a photography blog unearthed another strange development in America’s ongoing patent train wreck: Amazon was recently awarded the intellectual rights to taking pictures of people in front of seamless white backgrounds.

Critics of the deal from the tech and photography worlds are split on what they see as the bigger affront: the gullibility of the US Patent and Trade Office, or the genius of Amazon’s patent lawyers.

I see it as yet another example of how our much-adored “intellectual property” really isn’t all that damn intellectual.

The US patent system makes it quite easy for people to lay claim to intuitive, easy processes, which so-called “patent trolls” have used to throw wrenches into the cogs of actual innovation (an issue that some in the US Senate are trying to address). However, as TechDirt writer Tim Cushing points out, it’s unlikely that Amazon is actually going to go this route. Instead, he thinks, they just want the credit for dreaming it up.

So here’s what we do about Ukraine: parachute 500 patent lawyers into Crimea. If Vladimir Putin is half as smart as I think he is — approximately one-sixth as smart as he thinks he is — he’ll have Sevastopol evacuated in a matter of hours.

(Via Mark Cuban.)

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This has something to do with the Mets

At least, I’m pretty sure it does:

Marlins 1, Mets 0

(From the Twitter of the Blog of the Nightfly.)

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Raise a glass to the idea

In case you were wondering about the Secret of Adulthood:

You do things you’d really rather not do because you know on some level it’s expected of you.

Yep. It’s that whole doggone Responsibility thing, which actual grownups understand, and children — who may be older than I am, actually — simply cannot, or will not, comprehend.

Not that it’s all that wonderful, I suppose:

(Note: This is the 1988 remake, from the Love Junk album, produced by Todd Rundgren. The 1986 original looked like this. I mention this because I have Canadian readers who can call me out on it.)

And there’s this:

Now that I think of it — I often complain that when I was a kid, I expected there’d be some kind of Manual of Adulthood I’d be issued on my 18th birthday or so to help me figure it out. Now, I think if such a manual existed? Eighteen-year-olds all over the world would be running screaming from adulthood.

Rather a lot of them are doing that now.

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Checking the Clippings

No, I did not attend this game: almost exactly at tipoff, there was a power failure, not addressed for several hours, and while I did listen to the radio coverage, I was in too poor a condition to make any notes, even if I could see well enough to write them, which I couldn’t.

That said, Kevin Durant’s comment about Russell Westbrook — “An emotional guy who will run through a wall for me” — evidently was taken seriously. Westbrook ran through just about everything last night, posting a triple-double (31 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds) as the Thunder thrashed the Clippers, 112-101, to even up the series at one apiece.

The newly-minted MVP didn’t have a bad night either, collecting a game-high 32 points and 12 boards. Thabo Sefolosha came to life in the third quarter; he wound up shooting 6-9 for 14 points. Serge Ibaka went 6-10 for 14; Kendrick Perkins, sticking around for 25 minutes, hauled in nine boards and scored eight. The weakness in the OKC offensive machine, once again, was the bench, led by Steven Adams with, um, six. Still, the reserves did show up on defense, making for some interesting anomalies, like Chris Paul getting five fouls. (DeAndre Jordan also had five, but you expect that of Jordan; CP3’s spurned-debutante mien played well enough to earn him a tech.)

Clipper scoring was pretty balanced, with J. J. Redick pounding out 18, Paul with 17, Blake Griffin with 15, and Darren Collison leading the reserves with 13. Their ball movement was good as ever $151; 23 assists, 11 by Paul, and 11 steals divided up among seven players. Apart from being outclassed on the backboard 52-36, they were competitive all the way — all the way into the fourth quarter, when the Thunder had a 17-point lead going in.

This is a travel day; the series resumes in Los Angeles Friday night.

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Grudge borne

Although persistence, I suspect, is futile:

KIRO-TV Seattle still complaining

I mean, even Bill Simmons gave it up after a while.

(Snagged by Brad Neese.)

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All kinds of kinds

A few days back, I tossed out a casual description of country singer Miranda Lambert as “slightly squarish.” Shortly thereafter, perhaps as a rebuke, this showed up in my inbox:

Miranda Lambert in W Magazine 2012

Okay, not so squarish. Then again, she is married to Blake Shelton, and they do live in idyllic Tishomingo, Oklahoma.

(Photo apparently from W Magazine, June 2012, by Santiago & Mauricio. Great American Country has a few more images from that photoshoot.)

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Meanwhile, back in the desert

This statistic is startling, not least because it has the ring of truth to it:

They’ve been saying on the local news that this has been the driest January to May period since 1936.

Since the Dust Bowl. That’s scary.

I’m a bit to her north. Let’s see what kind of numbers we have:

    January: normal 1.39 inches, actual 0.07.
    February: normal 1.58, actual 0.36.
    March: normal 3:06, actual 1.26.
    April: normal 3:07, actual 1.00.
    May so far: normal 0.85, actual 0.00.

So instead of the ten inches we should have had so far this year, we’re below three. This isn’t creating a water-supply issue yet — last year, we had over fifty inches of rain (normal is about 35), and we’ve had watering restrictions for over a year — but it’s probably just a matter of time. (Meanwhile, Wichita Falls proposes to recycle wastewater.)

What I find remarkable is that the winter of 2013-14 (defined as December through February by meteorologists) was the ninth driest on record — 1.69 inches — and yet we had over eight inches of snow. (Plus an inch and a half in March, which counts toward spring.)

This does not bode well. Drought depresses me, the long string of rainless cloudless days, and also the worry about what will happen to my trees (my lawn, I’ve given up on). The constant unending days of heat. I know people in northern climes complained about this winter, but honestly, for me, the four to six months of summer is worse than any winter — in winter, you can bundle up and go outside for 20 minutes or so and come back in and make tea and feel grateful. In summer, here, I can never get my house quite as cool as I’d really like it to be, and while it is a relief to come back into the house after being out in the heat, it’s not quite as GREAT a relief.

The wide swings perplex me. Wettest August ever was 2008 (9.95 inches); 2009 followed with 5.74, good for 7th place; and then 2010 dropped a mere 0.48 inch on us, tied for fifth driest, and just 0.02 inch above the entire summer of 1936.

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Codes revealed

I’ve never been a playwright, and probably never should aspire to be one, but I definitely relate to this:

I started using computers in 1984 at the computer lab at my college when I realized that I could actually use them as a way to write, save and edit the plays I was writing without having to actually re-type all 120 pages every time I made a change to bit of dialogue. For me this was nirvana. What you should know, though, is that I never took a course or had anyone actually teach me how to use those computers. I just walked in to the lab, asked for an account, sat down at one of the terminals, and sorted out that if I used a few commands like Center and Bold and JustifyLEFT I could format the entire document to print on the dot-matrix printer to look exactly the way I wanted it to look and if I remembered to actually SAVE everything, I could then go back and just edit the small bits that needed to be changed. For a playwright in 1984 who was writing lots of plays this was, well, revolutionary.

Of course, once you get in the habit of taking care of business at this level, something like this happens thirty years later:

I had no idea, none at all, that text actually wraps and formats for you. No clue. In my world, it has always been my responsibility to create a line break, a paragraph break, a page break, to justify things, to format the entire page of text on every single page of the Internet (no matter where I am, mind you) to look exactly the way I want it to appear before I hit publish. Do you know, really know, how freeing it is to just let the words flow and not to have to think at all about format?

I shook up a WordPress guru rather badly the other day when I said that no, I’d never used the WP Media Library for any of the three-thousand-odd graphics on this site: I size and resize manually, upload via SFTP, and code it in the HTML — not the visual — editor. The nature of Twitter is such that I couldn’t see her facial expression, but I imagine that it would have been the same one she would have given me had I told her that my lawn maintenance is performed by goats.

Note: It occurs to me, now that I think about it, that my lawn maintenance might be better if it were performed by goats.

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OKCTalk is reporting that WinCo Foods, a Boise-based discount chain, has signed the papers on three Oklahoma City-area locations, the nearest to me at 39th and I-44, on what used to be a hotel site.

The chain dates to 1967, when it was Waremart; the WinCo name, they say, comes from “Winning Company.”

Discussion at OKCTalk seems to boil down to “Hurray, something that isn’t Walmart!”

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Way before supersizing

I had just left a job at McDonald’s (yes!) when these prices went in, which would be about 1970-71:

McDonald's menu board, early Seventies

Back then, when they said “limited menu,” by Grimace, they meant “limited menu.”

And the 60-cent Quarter Pounder, adjusted for inflation since 1971, would now be, um, $3.50. I had been making $1.95 an hour, 20 cents over the minimum wage; that would be $11.48 today. Make of that what you will.

(Via HistoryInPics.)

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Coming in January 2017

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that the GOP has recaptured the White House. What happens next? This, says Miriam:

[T]he homeless, who you never read about during the Obama administration, will start flooding the streets of American cities.

Among them will be decorated veterans, many with limbs missing, and small children. This great mass of homeless will take to the streets the day after inauguration, January 2017.

Assuming the machine is willing to wait that long. Finding a TV screen full of people who look pathetic is child’s play for the Democrats.

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As the ruling classes fail to tremble

“Drug-war conservatives are better than Marxists,” but not that much better:

While conservative drug warriors want to punish people for (in their view) hurting themselves, Marxists want to punish people for bettering themselves and creating jobs (because making money is evil and hiring people is exploitative). So, while both want to criminalize private consensual activities, the Marxists’ goal is to kill the economy entirely, while the conservatives’ goal is to make the people’s lives more miserable for wanting relief from misery, while creating economic opportunities for lawbreakers.

Rock. Hard place. Choose one.

But why do I have to keep having to choose between the two?

Because they have a common enemy, and that common enemy is Everybody Else.

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Early shade

A serious advance in the art of watercolor:

[A]n artist known only as “A. Boogert” sat down to write a book in Dutch about mixing watercolors. Not only would he begin the book with a bit about the use of color in painting, but would go on to explain how to create certain hues and change the tone by adding one, two, or three parts of water. The premise sounds simple enough, but the final product is almost unfathomable in its detail and scope.

Spanning nearly 800 completely handwritten (and painted) pages, Traité des couleurs servant à la peinture à l’eau, was probably the most comprehensive guide to paint and color of its time.

“Its time” was 1692. Only a single copy was produced, for perhaps obvious reasons; it still exists and can be viewed online. I’ve never been to the Bibliothèque Méjanes in Aix-en-Provence, but that’s where the actual book presently resides.

(Via this Jennifer Ouellette tweet.)

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Is this the worst film ever?

If you believe the film ratings at the Internet Movie Database, Gunday, a run-of-the-mill, or slightly above, 2014 Bollywood action movie, is the worst motion picture in the history of motion pictures, with a solid 1.4 rating. By comparison, Manos: The Hands of Fate scores an upbeat 1.9; no film scores lower than 1.8 except Gunday.

You might infer from this that there’s something to this other than actual film quality, especially if you read Danny Bowes’ review for (three out of four stars). And, sure enough, there is:

Gunday offended a huge, sensitive, organized and social-media-savvy group of people who were encouraged to mobilize to protest the movie by giving it the lowest rating possible on IMDb. Of Gunday’s ratings, 36,000 came from outside the U.S., and 91 percent of all reviewers gave it one star. The next lowest-rated movie on IMDb — 1.8 stars overall — has a more even distribution of ratings, with only 71 percent of reviewers giving it one star. The evidence suggests the push to down-vote Gunday was successful, and that shows just how vulnerable data can be, especially when it’s crowdsourced.

And which crowd might that be? Well, they’re called Gonojagoron Moncho, and this is how they did it:

Flush with success, the movement has since become an online alliance of bloggers focused on protecting Bangladesh’s history and promoting the country’s image. That includes protesting Gunday, because of the film’s reference to the Bangladesh Liberation War as the Indo-Pak war. In its first 11 minutes, the movie claims that India alone defeated Pakistan, and implies that an independent Bangladesh was simply a result of the fight… On Twitter, activists used the hashtag #GundayHumiliatedHistoryOfBangladesh to get the word out about the protests and to ask supporters to bury the film on IMDb. (By using a quarter of their character allotment on the hashtag alone, though, there wasn’t much room for the activists to elaborate.) Facebook groups were formed specifically to encourage irate Bangladeshis and others to down-vote the movie.

I haven’t voted on a film on IMDb in several years; I don’t think I’ll start again, if only because this is yet another outcropping of the absurd idea that a mass of opinions means more than a single one. Anything times zero is zero, after all.

(Via this Virginia Postrel tweet.)

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In which Donald Sterling will not be mentioned

Two-thirds of the way through this game, with the Clippers leading by 25, it occurred to me: the Thunder think they’re still playing the Grizzlies. Their pace, if not Memphis-lugubrious, was downright stolid; their defense was almost adequate to deal with the likes of Courtney Lee; they gathered roughly 60 percent of the available rebounds; their shooting was not too far short of 50 percent. None of these characteristics were worth a hoot against a Los Angeles team that shot well over 50 percent all night, with Chris Paul, supposedly a touch below optimum due to a frayed hamstring, pretty much able to enforce his will. Paul, in fact, sat with :38 left in the third quarter, having knocked down 32 points — 8-9 from across the street — in less than 29 minutes; he was getting ready to come back in when the reserves obligingly dropped in six points on two shots and Doc Rivers decided that matters were not so urgent after all. It got bad enough that the Thunder fouled DeAndre Jordan on four possessions, three of them consecutive, in a desperate attempt to get stops; it got bad enough that a Caron Butler trey early in the fourth drew no “Thunder money ball” call from radio guy Matt Pinto. OKC lost it by seventeen, 122-105, but by no means did it seem anywhere near that close.

Oh, you think we need a Telltale Statistic? How about this? Clippers sixth man Jamal Crawford contributed 17 points; Thunder sixth man Reggie Jackson got his first bucket with 2:28 left in the fourth. Neither Russell Westbrook nor Kevin Durant had a bad night — between them, 18-33 for 54 points; but that means that the other nine guys got only 51. (See Jackson, R., supra.) That Butler trey? Only shot he made all night. Does that justify giving the starting shooting-guard position back to Thabo Sefolosha? Maybe. Thabo at least had five points, in two-thirds the playing time.

There were other unfavorable stats. Assists? L.A. 26, OKC 17. Turnovers? OKC 17, L.A. 8. Steals? L.A. 8, OKC 5. Players in double figures? L.A. five (CP3, Crawford, Barnes, J. J. Redick, and Blake Griffin with 23), OKC three (KD, Westbrook, Serge Ibaka with 12). The Oklahoman sport staff were unanimous: Thunder in seven. At this rate, it will take more like nine or ten.

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Shake it up, baby

Well, we’ve finally caught up with the Golden State, kinda sorta:

Mile for mile, there are almost as many earthquakes rattling Oklahoma as California this year. This major increase in seismic shaking led to a rare earthquake warning today (May 5) from the U.S. Geological Survey and the Oklahoma Geological Survey.

In a joint statement, the agencies said the risk of a damaging earthquake — one larger than magnitude 5.0 — has significantly increased in central Oklahoma.

This is, perhaps not incidentally, the first time the USGS has issued a warning for an area east of the Rockies.

Should you be thinking “fracking,” it’s a definite maybe. Maybe. Thay came up with a model that resembled one particular result. Interestingly, it’s not the extraction of fuel that’s the suspect: it’s the disposal of the wastewater after drilling.

And there’s this:

“We don’t know if this earthquake rate is going to continue… It could go to a higher rate or lower, so the increased chances of a damaging quake could change in the future.”

Which also sounds like a definite maybe.


Just in case you were headed to the shelter.

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