Gas giant left hanging

Apparently you can mess up for three quarters as long as you make up for it in the fourth. The Thunder trailed by as many as sixteen points in the third, then poured it on. “Total eclipse of the Suns,” said radio guy Matt Pinto, and he wasn’t kidding: that fourth quarter went 31-16 OKC, as the Thunder dispatched Phoenix 115-104. But it took some heroic effort to pull that off: Russell Westbrook had 31 points (and ten assists); Serge Ibaka had 18 points (and twenty rebounds, nine offensive, a career high); James Harden had 30 points (a career high), as did Kevin Durant (close to his average).

Your telltale statistic: Steve Nash got 13 assists in the first half — and finished with 13. It took the Thunder somewhere on the far side of 24 minutes to figure out what the Suns were doing. In the meantime, six Suns finished in double figures, three with double-doubles; Marcin Gortat was formidable, with 28 points and 11 boards, and in the first half he could do no wrong. Second half? Not so much. Phoenix hadn’t been relying much on the long ball, but in the fourth quarter they peppered the air with them, hoping the Thunder defense around the perimeter was porous. Like granite, maybe: not one of those fell, and the Suns wound up 3-19 for distance.

But then there’s another telltale statistic: Harden got all 30 of the bench points and finished +27, but Royal Ivey, who put up four treys himself to no avail, was +23. In the 22nd century, box scores will show all the “intangibles.”

And the Cavs will be here Friday, the Bobcats Saturday. Were I Scott Brooks, I’d hang a picture of Admiral Ackbar in the locker room.

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This is not what we meant by “backsliding”

Next time I start whining about my failure to feel like I’m twenty-two and indestructible, I’ll need to read this again:

The problem with my back is that I have two degenerated disks, bone spurs, and my spine has actually slipped apart into two sections, one section is jutting in on my spinal cord while the bone spurs are digging into the bundle of nerves that run up the spine. It’s called spondylolisthesis, it’s congenital, and this is what it looks like. The good news is that surgery will take care of these things. She said that I’m the perfect candidate for it. The truth of the matter is, if I don’t get it, I could be paralyzed, and that just isn’t who I am. No, sir.

How bad is it? One specific variant is called, for apparently good reason, the hangman’s fracture.

The word “spondylolisthesis” sounds like it was made up last year out of various Internet memes, but in fact it dates back to 1854; it’s a combination of the Greek words for “vertebra” and “slip.”

Here’s hoping that everything falls into place, so to speak, in the operating room.

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Holy Hannah! (part deux)

Last week I put up something to acknowledge the adulthood of Dakota Fanning, who turned 18 last month. There was the obligatory kinda-sexy photo (from UK Elle), and upon finding it I hemmed and hawed for rather a long time before I decided that I would post it, but I would not submit it for the Rule 5 roundup because she was still 17 when she posed for it. This is known in some circles as “trying to have it both ways.” (My favorite photoboard accepts 16 and 17, but no younger.)

This picture is a bit less striking, perhaps, but it was taken day before yesterday (5 March), and I have decidedly fewer qualms about it:

Dakota Fanning outside the Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Actual news: Dakota will be starring in an adaptation of Jenny Downam’s novel Before I Die, to be released as Now Is Good; it’s the tale of a teenage girl with an incurable disease and a fairly scary bucket list. (And here’s the trailer.)

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The Texas chainsaw, madame

Eight years ago, quoting the lovely Aisha Tyler:

[T]alk about how you spent a weekend building a house for a low-income family and learned how to use a compound mitre saw. In metric. They will be cowed. But they will also be fascinated. Girls will think you’ve got balls, and boys will imagine you with a hammer in your hand, wearing nothing but a utility belt. Everybody wins.

This is not to say, however, that all women take equally well to devices of this sort:

Power tools scare me back into childhood nightmare territory. I’d rather use a butter knife to drive in a screw than work up the courage to touch the drill, snip the overgrown walkway grass with scissors before shouldering the giant weed wacker, use my shoe as a makeshift hammer until hell froze over or my hands ran bloody before plugging in the pneumatic nailer.

So she was not thrilled to receive a chainsaw as a gift, until:

My first balky lesson took place on our ancient, deformed pear tree. A plant that I despise beyond reason. It stands Oz warped against the night sky, ugly with its witch finger twigs waving over my boy’s bedrooms, offering up bitter, fallen fruit that tempt the dogs into flagrant states of explosive diarrhea.

And motivated by the desire to dispatch this horrid sample of Pyrus obnoxious, she took saw in hand, and:

The first cut felt almost soft, like running your fingertips over the rough edge of raw cut silk, so much easier than the sticky hack-bow I’ve manhandled into compliance over the past ten years.

Twenty minutes later, confidence found, I was ripping through the backyard like a tiny, euphoric lumberjack.

And, be it noted, she’s okay.

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Apparently somebody likes it

Opel AmperaThe grotesque blob to the left is one of the two winners of the 2012 European Car of the Year award, and its sheer hideosity, to me anyway, suggests something Peugeot might have come up with after hitting the schnapps really, really hard. But no, this is an American car with a schnoz transplant: the Opel Ampera — to be sold in the UK with a Vauxhall badge — is the European version of the currently-in-hibernation Chevrolet Volt.

Apparently Volkswagen’s tiny Up!, exclamation point included, took second place, and the worldwide Ford Focus finished third.

Both Volt and Ampera will be sold in Europe, though Opel, being ostensibly a more prestigious name than Chevrolet, carries a higher list price: €42,900 versus €41,950 (including VAT). The Vauxhall variant, due in the spring, starts at £33,995 including VAT, but before Her Majesty’s Plug-In Car Grant.

Eventually, I’m told, the Volt will be sold in Australia as a Holden, and it will probably look better than either the Chevy or the Opel.

Still undetermined: if, after invoking Volt and Ampere, GM will come up with more electrical names for future EVs. (Watt TF, perhaps?)

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Conducting a civil campaign

And that matters to some of us on this ostensibly Super Tuesday:

Fluttershy for President

Besides, it’s not like Princess Celestia is about to abdicate or anything like that. Oh, and The Great And Powerful Trixie was not available for comment.

(Pix for the Mane Six at Equestria Daily.)

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Your primary turnout report

Okay, my primary turnout report. I caution that it is not strictly comparable to any of my previous turnout reports, inasmuch as (1) it’s technically a whole new precinct with new boundaries, even if I’m voting in the same place, and (2) therefore the purple balance may have been upset by redistricting.

That said, the place was deserted when I showed up. It’s a closed primary, so members of the specific parties got their own color-coded ballots; I noted with amusement that as I entered the polling place, the Democratic signin was on the left, the Republican on the right. (Two poll workers for each.) And yes, I was asked for ID, as required by the new state law. Slowed me down by a whole 2.5 seconds.

It took me a while to decipher the new machines, but the basic ballot-casting movement — slide it on in — remained the same. Three hundred thirty-nine ballots had been cast before my arrival at 4:59, which does not sound like a lot; there being only one machine, I couldn’t even begin to estimate what percentage of those were D or R.

The joke today on Twitter was “If it’s Super Tuesday, how come no one’s wearing a cape?” We had 40-mph winds much of the day, so capes were definitely not on the agenda. Edna Mode is no doubt pleased.

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The case for Ralph

Yeah, that Ralph. Peter explains:

Let’s be honest: right now, even to a centrist libertarian like myself, Ralph Nader looks more honorable and honest than most of our existing Congressional representatives and Senators. He may be far to my left in political terms, but at least he’s honest about it! As far as I can tell, he’s never made a habit of lying in his teeth to his constituents. Yes, at this point I’m sufficiently fed up with most ‘establishment’ candidates — of both parties — that I’d probably vote for Mr. Nader in preference to them, given a choice!

Reminds me of something I said eight years ago:

At this point, I find myself wishing that Dennis Kucinich (!) had emerged as the Democratic front-runner: he may have barked at the moon once too often, but even when his answers were palpably absurd, you knew he was serious about them, that he believed what he was saying.

Speaking of Dennis Kucinich, he got redistricted out of his House seat, and is running in OH-9 against incumbent Marcy Kaptur; the GOP opposition is Joe the Plumber. Tell me this isn’t a fun race.

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Now with Corrupt-O-Matic!

Just a brief bit from Mike McCarville, who pays attention to this kind of stuff:

Former Senate President Pro Tem [Mike Morgan] has been convicted on a single count in his criminal trial.

Okay, so far so good, but…

The jury acquitted Morgan or were deadlocked on 61 other counts.

Sixty-one “other counts”? Ship this man to Chicago, stat!

(Slightly more detail in the Oklahoman.)

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Checking in with Dr. Smith

By the way, this is not Dr. Smith, the band, but Dr. Smith, the head of Surgery Center of Oklahoma, who has noticed something of late:

Surgeons are telling me that patients approaching Medicare age are having their procedures prior to turning 65, the opposite situation of just a short time ago. In order to avoid the personal out-of-pocket expense associated with a knee replacement, for instance, patients in the past would typically wait until their Medicare enrollment was effective. This is no longer the case. Patients are telling their physicians that they fear that the care they need will not be available once “health care reform” takes place. The Medicare beneficiaries or soon to be Medicare beneficiaries are particularly concerned that the looming bankruptcy of this program will increasingly result in rationing to them.

Hmmm. Last time I had knee surgery, I was advised that I’d probably be needing a full-fledged replacement by age 60. That’s twenty months away. On the other hand, apart from the usual creaks and twinges and such from osteoarthritis, I’m not in any significant pain — about a 1.5 on the scale of 1 to a Rob Schneider movie — so I’m not feeling any particular urgency here.

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Thunder über Dallas

Few things in life are quite as satisfying as sending the Mavericks home with a loss, mostly because it’s seldom easy to do. And it didn’t look like it was going to happen: Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki, of course, presented the greatest challenges, and Dirk drilled home a three — his fourth of the night — with two and a half minutes left, giving him a game-high 27. But that was all he would get; in fact, that’s all any of the Mavs got, as the Thunder shut them out the rest of the way en route to a 95-91 win, taking the season series 3-1 and indeed sending the Mavs home to deal with the Knicks.

This one, though, was tight all the way through: lead changes left and right, especially in the fourth quarter. The Thunder didn’t actually pull ahead until the 0:46 mark, when Serge Ibaka drew Ian Mahinmi’s sixth foul and sank two free throws. Three more freebies, one from Kevin Durant and two from Russell Westbrook, iced the deal. For those who were wondering if James Harden was going to come to life after a less-than-indifferent opening, wonder no more: The Beard owned the place starting in the fourth, garnering 14 of his 16 points. Twenty-four for Westbrook, 22 for Durant, and 14 rebounds for Kendrick Perkins, who was on his best behavior all night.

Jason Terry, arguably Harden’s only competition for Sixth Man of the Year, wound up playing 37 minutes, more than any of the Mavs except Dirk, and he was his usual fearsome self. Mahinmi, pressed into service in the middle thirty seconds in after Brendan Haywood rolled his ankle somewhere over Perk, was the most efficient shooter on the floor: five of six and all three of his free throws for 13 points. But if Rick Carlisle was hoping for some Vinceanity, it didn’t happen: Vince Carter checked out in ten minutes, having missed his only shot. And Sean Williams essentially scored four for the Thunder, having goaltended two OKC shots in rapid succession.

But hey, this is what happens when you play Dallas, and we don’t have to see them again until the playoffs. The Suns will be here Wednesday, the Cavs on Saturday, and neither of them figure to be quite as much of a handful as the Mavs.

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But can you bypass the warnings?

The trouble with remote controls, of course, is that sooner or later you attempt to use them on something that isn’t remotely controllable.

Which may, or may not, lead to something like this:

(Via this Tony Hanadarko tweet.)

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Pinkie Pie, your ride is ready

Ignoring for the moment the likelihood that ponies can’t actually drive, this Chinese-vended Lamborghini Gallardo seems perfect for Pinkie, even if it’s way too fast for the bucolic streets of Ponyville:

Lamborghini Gallardo courtesy of CarNewsChina

Or maybe it’s just that Pinkie Pie, in common with most Lamborghinis, pays little attention to the laws of physics.

Beyond this, we could place Applejack in an F-150, Rarity in a Lexus ES 350 (a Camry would so not do), Fluttershy in a mid-1980s Volvo 240 (polite, safe, and unassuming), and, well, we’ve already seen Rainbow Dash’s trick Mustang.

That leaves Twilight Sparkle, and to me the choice seems obvious:

Honda Civic in purple

Methodical, comprehensible, and no frills.

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Buy Terran!

Michael Karesh, reviewing Chrysler’s 300C with the SRT8 package:

A sign of the times: the most American sedan you can buy is assembled in a Canadian plant with a Mexican engine and a German transmission by an Italian-controlled company.

Meanwhile, your American-controlled companies have seemed more interested in building Japanese sedans in, for instance, Mexico.

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Strange search-engine queries (318)

This weekly feature highlights the lowlights of last week’s server logs, and it comes to you free, out of the goodness of my heart and at my own expense, totally unlike all the “free” stuff people think they’re getting from the government.

mazda 626 transmission exploded view:  Keep forgetting to change the fluid, and you can see it happening live in your own driveway.

naked man sitting down position:  Some people will be disturbed if he’s, um, standing up.

german sewerage treatment rachmaninoff:  It’s amazing how microbes respond to blatant Romanticism.

gambar background power point romantic:  It’s amazing how PowerPoint viewers respond to blatant Romanticism.

“search pollution”:  When the pr0n links outnumber the links you actually wanted.

why does my mazda 3 need a new transmission:  Because life is unfair. Deal with it.

come to me softly with piano:  Trust me, it will be a lot easier to sneak up on you with a flute.

why is mid grade cheaper than regular in iowa:  It’s ten percent corn squeezings. Maybe more.

what is the distance between toilet area and the farthest point at the building per ibc:  Approximately the distance over which you can hold it in, plus thirty-five percent.

girls neon dc shoes:  But of course. If they ran on AC, they’d have to be plugged into the wall.

why is even in his youth not on nevermind:  Has anyone really been far even as decided to use even go want to do look more like?

“consumer reports” “best rated condoms”:  Nice to see you too, Ms Fluke.

is political blogging trustworthy:  As much so as politics itself.

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A fabric that stands up

Mr. Hicks Casuals would like you to know that these slacks are made with 50 percent Fortrel® polyester:

Glo-Tone slacks by Mr. Hicks

Ah, if only we could still buy slacks for nine bucks a pair.

(This was Found In Mom’s Basement.)

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