Just below bronze

Insurance Commissioner John Doak’s Friday announcement, complete with vaguely petulant grumble:

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak announced Friday that health insurers may continue to renew policies not meeting Affordable Care Act (ACA) requirements through 2016.

“The continued twists and turns related to Obamacare confuses consumers and frustrates businesses,” said Doak. “The extension is not a universal remedy for concerns about access and affordability. This change won’t prevent price increases, nor will it ensure that provider networks will stay the same for the next two years. We have decided to leave the renewal decision up to the insurers because of the difficulty they face in trying to adapt to these constantly changing market rules, which I’m sure we haven’t seen the end of.”

Not before January 2017, anyway.

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We need not take Kathleen home

She’s apparently busy at the moment:

I’m assuming this is some sort of smartphone.

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Quote of the week

Tony Woodlief, on the recent departure of Westboro Baptist Church founder Fred Phelps:

In truth, people like me need someone like Fred Phelps. He made me feel better about myself. I am as the Pharisee who gave thanks he was not the tax collector — a comparison to which some might object, on the grounds that in that story, the tax collector was a humbled man, aware of his sins and begging mercy.

But none of us knows what transpires in the heart’s final beating. We can never know until it is we who lay waiting for judgment, our hearts softened or hardened or indifferent. Perhaps Fred Phelps saw, in his final seconds, the cost of his life, the dreadful bloody stink of it, rising up to heaven. Perhaps he saw and he begged forgiveness. And perhaps — how scandalous to think it — he was forgiven.

And while the state of his heart is now a settled and secreted thing, perhaps mine turns, as well as yours, on whether we are willing to pray that it was so, that the likes of Fred Phelps could be saved from the sickness that consumed him. Perhaps such a merciful heart is, in the end, all that saves any of us from his sickness.

Which reminds us that justice, the legal concept, and Justice, the operation of the cosmos under divine guidance, share little more than a word.

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Meanwhile in Florida again

Rebecca Black is once again at Playlist Live Orlando — there’s also a Playlist Live in the fall in the similarly exotic Secaucus, New Jersey — and in case you’re not up on this series, it consists of “three-day gatherings for fans, creators and supporters of online video.” RB qualifies as all three of those.

Oh, it’s sold out, so you may not get to see this:

Those panels look like they might have some entertainment value.

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Rapt up

Weird things sometimes happen in Toronto. Serge Ibaka got no blocks and only five rebounds; Andre Roberson got six fouls in 14 minutes; Grevis Vasquez got six fouls in 31 minutes; Caron Butler got six fouls in 36 minutes; Kevin Durant took several minutes to warm up (13 points at the half); Kyle Lowry banged into Russell Westbrook’s knee in the third quarter, forcing Westbrook to the locker room with a sprain; and nobody built a lead more than eight points. With 17.4 left, it was tied at 96; the Thunder burned up all the clock and never got off anything resembling a shot, forcing overtime. Not a lot happened until 1:34, when KD tossed it in from 27 feet over Amir Johnson, and then got the next two stops against the Raptors. After that, things went to Grind City; the Thunder were up three with 11.4 left, and Lowry poured in a trey to tie it at 107. The Raptors saw their chance, and with 49 seconds left in the second overtime, held an eight-point lead. Then, well, things happened: KD hit a trey, Derek Fisher hit a trey, and to the absolute horror of the crowd, Durant, with 1.7 seconds left, executed a perfect pull-up from 31 feet to put the Thunder up 119-118, sweeping the road trip, earning a season split with the Raptors, and did I mention that the Raptors haven’t won an overtime game at home in five years? Weird things sometimes happen in Toronto.

Of course, some things you can expect. DeMar DeRozan was typically DeStructive, leading the Raptors with 33 points, including 15 of 16 from the charity stripe. The man simply knows how to draw fouls. Vasquez (21 before fouling out), Johnson (25) and Lowry (25) all scored big time; Johnson had 12 rebounds and five blocks to go with his 25 points (in 50 minutes!), and Jonas Valanciunas had eight points and 13 boards. Toronto, in fact, owned the boards, to the tune of 57-47, including a big 14 off the offensive glass; they shot a couple of percentage points better than the Thunder (40-38) and were about three percent better from the foul line.

None of this, however, matters in the face of Kid Delicious, who stretched it out for 52 minutes and scored 51 points, 15-32 from the line. Still, with Westbrook sidelined, Reggie Jackson needed to step up, and did he ever: 25 points (10/10 from the stripe) and a career-high 12 rebounds. Butler wasn’t a scoring factor, particularly, but he pulled off five of the Thunder’s eight steals. And of that 12/36 from beyond the arc — well, as radio guy Matt Pinto might say, it’s when you get them.

Coming up: yet another back-to-back, and it’s home-and-away, Monday against the Nuggets, and then to Dallas on Tuesday.

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Ay, there’s the nub

Tisha is twenty-six, lives in Missouri, and has no arms. (Also, one leg’s shorter than the other, but let’s not complicate matters.)

She also paints. (See below the jump.)

Read the rest of this entry »

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Checking in with the herd

The 2014 State of the Herd Report is out, and this year’s pony fans are marginally more female, a teensy bit more married (though 4.7 percent won’t overwhelm the Los Pegasus wedding chapels), and just about as likely to pester friends and neighbors to watch the darn show already.

A few not-entirely-random quotes from the report:

Utah has the most Bronies per 100,000 … followed closely by Alaska. Mississippi, once again, is dead last in per capita Bronyism.

Utah checks in with 9.03 per 100k; Mississippi, 1.87. (Oklahoma, should you be curious, is mid-pack at 4.47.)

There’s a very distinct gender break on the Pegasister question. While 60% of males basically “meh” at the question [“Women should be pegasisters,” as distinguished from bronies], 47% of females either disagree or strongly disagree, with only 14% agreeing or strongly agreeing.

A desire not to be segregated? Fancy that.

On the question of Favorite Character, it takes seven slots to include the Mane Six, since Princess Luna has vaulted all the way to third. (Derpy is eighth.) And this is a trifle alarming:

As you look through the list, stop to consider that Tom, a piece of rock, drew more votes than Flim, Flam, and either Mr. or Mrs. Cake.

And the data-collection period ended long before we met Pinkie Pie’s sister Maud, so I see Tom, if only as a possible ship for Maud, gaining popularity in the near future. Also, Flam outdrew Flim, which makes me wonder if people can really tell them apart.

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My laundry equipment is ancient (ten and a half years old) and operates in a suboptimal environment (out in the garage) that has become more so of late, what with the plumbing issues behind the scene. One of the two faucets, in fact, is now in Running Constantly mode, prompting me to shut off the spigots when not actually using the machines.

It was a matched pair, a step or two above the bottom of Sears’ Kenmore line back then, but nowhere near the top. And weirdly, they have the same issue, although in opposite orientation: the washer’s lid switch is stuck in the Off position, the dryer’s door switch in On.

Parts and service, fortunately, are no particular problem for this line, except for the minor detail of writing the check. The washer switch has been replaced once in a decade; this is the first attention that will be paid to the dryer.

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Putting it all on 7

Back in the Old Silurian times, I ponied up for WinZIP 6.0. At least, I think it was 6.0; I never paid much attention to it while it was working.

Now they’re at 12 or thereabouts, and of course, the old version didn’t make the transition to the Windows 7 box I had built. The builder, mostly as a convenience, threw in an evaluation copy of WinRAR, but WinRAR has always left me cold as a cod for some reason.

So I’m trying to get the hang of 7-Zip, which nominally isn’t too tricky, but which isn’t totally free of learning curve. I did have the install for a 32-bit version, but tossed it in favor of 64 bits. Not that I particularly understand 64 bits, either.

Addendum: About half an hour after I posted this, I got an offer for WinZIP version 18.

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First-night jitters

Russell Westbrook was a “game-time decision,” they said, and given the fact that Cleveland would be missing both Luol Deng and Kyrie Irving, Westbrook’s absence was virtually guaranteed. Easy win, you might think. And then with the Thunder up 2-0, the Cavs took over, and maintained a lead halfway through the second quarter; OKC went on an industrial-strength run (19-8) to close the half with a ten-point lead, which they padded to 24 points halfway through the fourth. But Cleveland then went on a 16-0 streak, pulling to within eight. A clearly irritated Scott Brooks had begun reinserting the starters he’d pulled, but it didn’t stanch the bleeding: at 1:12 the Cavs were down only five, and OKC held on for a 102-95 win despite missing three of the their last free throws.

Second-year shooting guard Dion Waiters proved to be a powerhouse, collecting 30 points and three steals; if he could hit free throws (he went 6-12) this thing would have been a lot closer. Spencer Hawes knocked down 20 points; rookie point guard Matthew Dellavedova led the bench with his first career double-double (11 points, 10 assists). The Cavs moved the ball pretty well (27 assists), but trailed badly on the boards (53-36) and blocked no shots.

As is usually the case in Westbrook-free zones, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka had to supply most of the offense. Durant had 35 points for the night, along with 11 rebounds and six assists; Ibaka had 16 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. For a change, Jeremy Lamb got some serious minutes (26), during which he scored 10, second only to Derek Fisher (12) among the reserves. We also saw the second appearance of Mustafa Shakur, who went scoreless in two minutes before the starters began filtering back in.

So that evens up the Cleveland series, 1-1. Next up: the Raptors, who lead the Atlantic division by dint of, well, playing like a division leader the past few weeks. The Thunder will have to beat them to even up that series, 1-1. Westbrook will almost certainly start. I’m making no bets on the finish.

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Meet the ‘Bockers

It’s not a done deal yet, but the New York Knicks have filed for a trademark for “New York ‘Bockers,” presumably for their new D-League team up in Westchester.

Hey, it’s got to be better than the “914s,” also registered by the Knicks operation.

What happens to the Erie BayHawks after this, I don’t know; they’ve also had affiliations with Cleveland and Philadelphia, both since terminated.

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Kind of a losing proposition

Operating costs for Brazilian businesses relying on imported goods are stiff, reports the WSJ [paywalled]:

Keeping prices low has been a challenge for most retailers because operating costs in Brazil are high. Apparel vendors in Brazil pay an estimated 35% in taxes on their products, compared with about 8% in the U.S., according to Alexis Frick, a São Paulo-based analyst for market researcher Euromonitor International. Retailers that ship their products in from abroad pay as much as 35% in addition to those taxes in import taxes.

Which explains how this happened to Fausta:

When a friend from Brazil told me my KitchenAid mixer (that retails for $250 on Amazon) sells in Brazil for US$1,000+, I asked that he take it when he went back, sell it, and we split the profit. He already had bought one for himself, otherwise I would have sold him mine.

As Glenn Frey might have said, it’s the ultimate enticement.

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The Deereslayer

Self-driving cars? Brian J. says we’ll see self-plowing plows first:

[S]elf-directing machines are going to hit the farms first, where they can go along in their laser-and-GPS-guided finery to handle the time-consuming chores of farming with far less insurance liability concerns. Just imagine when this becomes mainstream, at least as mainstream as farming is, and automated farm machines can work day and night on ever larger farms. Great swaths of land will really become food farms, and it’ll squeeze out the family farmers most likely.

One question, however, remains unanswerable for now:

Will the prices go down for commodity foods (but remain high for the locovore organic artisan stuff), or will it put Google in charge of our food supply?

I suspect we’ll see continued demand for Federal price supports until Google actually takes over the government.

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For lack of hard evidence

You might say, he doesn’t want a pickle:

A man who claimed riding a BMW K1100RS gave him a permanent erection has had his claim dismissed in court.

Henry Wolf, from California, alleged four hours on the BMW in 2010 left him with an erection for two years. He sought compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, emotional distress and “general damages” from BMW and seat-maker Corbin-Pacific.

Wait a minute. The K1100 series, if I remember correctly, dates back to the early Nineties. Did Wolf buy a used bike, or has he had it all along?

But the claim has been tossed out by the Superior Court of San Francisco, where judge James J McBride ruled the plaintiff did not present enough supporting evidence.

[insert “kickstand” joke here]

(Via Autoblog.)

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You don’t owe Jack

There is a time-honored definition of Tennessee whiskey: it has to be fermented in the Volunteer State from mash containing 51 percent corn, aged in new barrels of charred oak, filtered through maple charcoal and bottled at 80 proof or more. Which sounds rather like Jack Daniel’s, the best-selling Tennessee whiskey.

Wait, what? That definition dates back to … 2013?

[S]tate lawmakers are considering dialing back some of those requirements that they say make it too difficult for craft distilleries to market their spirits as Tennessee whiskey, a distinctive and popular draw in the booming American liquor business.

But the people behind Jack Daniel’s see the hand of a bigger competitor at work — Diageo PLC, the British conglomerate that owns George Dickel, another Tennessee whiskey made about 15 miles up the road.

The Tennessee law apparently is modeled on the Federal definition of bourbon. (Yes, Cynthiana, there is a Federal definition of bourbon.)

Diageo’s representative says the law would basically require all Tennessee whiskey to taste like Jack Daniel’s:

“It’s not unlike if the beer guys 25 years ago had said all American beer has to be made like Budweiser… You never would have a Sam Adams or a Yazoo or any of those guys.”

Rep. Bill Sanderson (R-Kenton) proposes to loosen the definition only slightly:

The principal change would be to allow Tennessee whiskey makers to reuse barrels, which he said would present considerable savings over new ones that can cost $600 each.

“There are a lot of ways to make high-quality whiskey, even if it’s not necessarily the way Jack Daniel’s does it,” Sanderson said. “What gives them the right to call theirs Tennessee whiskey, and not others?”

Benjamin Prichard was not available for comment.

(Via Consumerist.)

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Honey, my bracket hurts

Some things, they say, practically sell themselves. This is not one of them:

March Vasness from BadNewspaper.com

(Another Bad Newspaper special — and timely, too!)

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