A lobless relationship

I’m not quite sure which was less expected: Serge Ibaka’s departure to the locker room in the third quarter — isn’t this guy supposed to be, like, indestructible? — or Nick Collison’s trey with 01.4 left in that quarter to tie the game at 72 after the Thunder had trailed by as many as 16 for 35 of the preceding 36 minutes. That Collison jumper, however, set Oklahoma City firmly on the path of righteousness; over the next 5:15 they outscored the Clippers 15-8, and with 3:11 left, still up seven, Blake Griffin drew his fifth foul, motivating a fan to lob a water bottle onto the court. Forty-five seconds later, Russell Westbrook made his standard mad dash to the rim, and Griffin bit. Goodbye, Blake. OKC ran the lead to eleven before the Clips pushed back with a 7-0 run; a pair of Westbrook free throws made it 99-93 with :32 left. J. J. Redick missed a scoop, Kevin Durant snatched the rebound, drew a foul, made two more freebies. Chris Paul, not going for the obvious trey, came up with a layup; Derek Fisher drew the foul, made two more freebies, and CP3, not going for the obvious layup, knocked down a trey; Reggie Jackson drew the foul, hit one of two, and goodbye, Clippers: 104-98, Thunder in six, and OKC will face — who else? — the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference final.

Three double-doubles contributed to this happy state: Durant, of course (39 points, 16 boards); Westbrook, of course (19 points, 12 assists); and, mirabile dictu, Steven Adams (10 points, 11 boards). Jackson’s last free throw gave him 14 to lead the bench. What is perhaps most remarkable, I think, is that neither Durant nor Westbrook accomplished a great deal in the first half; Westbrook ended up 4-15 for the night, collecting 11 out of 12 from the line, and KD finished with a +6, Westbrook +12. (Both of them will happily point out that Adams was +17 and Collison +16.)

No double-doubles from Los Angeles, though Griffin, his time cut short, came close to a triple: 22 points, eight rebounds, eight assists. CP3 led the Clips with 25. Somehow Jamal Crawford, who’s always a threat, wasn’t a threat; he played 14 minutes and made more fouls than shots. DeAndre Jordan pulled down a rollicking 15 boards to go with 9 points. The Clips left eight points at the charity stripe, which can’t have helped their cause. (They were 12-20, OKC 29-33.) And in the end, the Clips were as good as their third seed said they were. It just didn’t happen to be enough.

Monday night in San Antonio. It doesn’t get any better than this — not right away, anyway.

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Plenty of nothing, and then some

I have always been a skeptic about homeopathy. Wait, scratch that. “Skeptic” suggests serious consideration followed by grave doubt. I, by contrast, offer sarcasm:

A 30C preparation is a dilution to the 10-60 level, which means that there is one molecule of the compound for every 1060 molecules of water. To test this yourself, dump a teaspoon of the stuff into Lake Itasca, at the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and then wait for it to show up in New Orleans.

On the upside, such absurdly small concentrations mean that, well, if the stuff has been adulterated, how would you know?

Apparently it’s something like this:

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) knocked the stuffing out of homeopathic drug company Terra-Medica [in March], when the regulatory agency announced that a number of its “natural” remedies contained actual drugs.

According to Wired UK, the FDA found that 56 lots of the company’s drugs contained the antibiotic penicillin and its derivatives. But Terra-Medica’s product information clearly states that their remedies are antibiotic-free. This is problematic because a number of people are allergic to penicillin, and the concentrations found in the products are high enough to spark a reaction.

Moreover, Wired UK points out that homeopathy is based on the idea that medicinal products should only be present at extremely low or undetectable levels because these concentrations can prompt the body to “heal itself.” This is largely how homeopathic products manage to evade most of the FDA’s oversight because, in theory, these drugs don’t contain active ingredients (the FDA currently checks the drugs for ingredient purity and packaging accuracy, not effectiveness).

So if I’m reading this correctly, these batches of homeopathic remedies were considered defective because they actually worked. Got it.

(Via Hit Coffee.)

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Sort of organized law

This is, as the young people say, a thing:

So, on the one hand, we have the skilled-trade laborer, inheritor of a justifiably-proud tradition. You may not like his union’s politics — he might not, either — but it does stand for more than picket lines and hard-fought contracts. He (or she) works with hands and brain. On the other, professionals with post-graduate degrees. They may labor in genteel poverty (law school isn’t cheap and the vast majority of legal work doesn’t pay all that well; the rich lawyer is a real thing but he rests upon a vast pool of J.D.’d scriveners who make less than a journeyman plumber) but it is indeed genteel. The heaviest tool an attorney lifts is a pen. They couldn’t be more different, could they?

Not in New Jersey! Deputy ADAs there have, after a long fight, got themselves a union. Not the Teamsters (amazing, really — this is New Jersey we’re talking about), not some “Worshipful Guild of Barristers,” conjured from whole cloth to serve their special needs, nope, they’ve joined the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers!

Of course, public-sector unionization is nothing new, but this isn’t normally in the IBEW’s wheelhouse: most things their members work with actually have some connection to electrical power. However, I suspect the lines will continue to blur: the Communications Workers of America, of which I was a member for about a decade, has since subsumed the Association of Flight Attendants.

And “Worshipful Guild of Barristers”? I’d just love to see that on a picket sign somewhere.

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The invention of color

Apparently it took place some time after 1900:

At one point I was discussing the uniforms of the Civil War when immediately two or three hands shot into the air. I was not giving a lecture and throughout the discussion we were doing give and take, to make sure the kids understood what I was presenting. I acknowledged one boy who stated in complete seriousness and with an earnestness and thirst for knowledge “I thought there was no color until the twentieth century. Weren’t the uniforms grey and black?” I looked at him in dumbfounded amazement and noticed several other kids nodding in agreement.

You gotta admit, though: Betsy Ross did one hell of a job on that greyscale flag.

The Birth of Old Glory by Percy Moran

Read the rest of this entry »

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Urban chill

This track was so billed on an EqD “Music of the Day,” and I was vaguely familiar with the composer, so I decided to give it a listen.

I was somewhat taken aback: it tugs, not particularly gently, at one’s synapses, yet it’s not creepy or offputting.

This is part of a four-track EP, for which the composer, a fellow over in Lithuania, was asking a single euro. One of the less-explicable facts of my old age, I suppose, is that I’ve developed a fondness for this sort of music. (And I tossed him €2.50, just because.)

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Enough to last a while

In the best of all possible worlds, all automakers would have about 60 days’ worth of inventory on every model, according to automotive orthodoxy the right balance between supply and demand.

And then there’s Cadillac’s Volt Plus, the ELR:

The Cadillac ELR is shaping up to be one of the biggest automotive flops in recent memory — as of May 1, inventories had expanded to a 725 day supply, with Cadillac moving just 61 units in April.

At the start of April, dealers had 1,077 ELRs on their lots. As of May 14th, that number had increased to 1,517, with inventories far outpacing sales of the car.

In case there’s a run on this $80,000 version of a $40,000 Chevy, Cadillac is prepared. Otherwise, they’re screwed:

While a Cadillac spokesman insists that the inventory backup is a result of production scheduling, the rising inventories, lagging sales and heavy incentives paint a clear picture: the ELR is an overpriced dog that is finding few buyers compared to the much cheaper Chevrolet Volt and the much more prestigious Tesla Model S, to say nothing of the various plug-in and pure EV offerings from other car makers.

I’ve seen exactly one of these critters on the local roads, and this market has never been particularly Caddy-adverse; apparently we’re buying the CTS, which is a hair or three bigger — “bigger” counts for a lot when you’re talking Cadillac — and which costs maybe three-fifths as much on a slow day.

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Starting point

What strikes me as odd about the call for bumping the minimum wage to $10.10 is the seeming arbitrariness of the sum. And apparently I’m not alone in this:

What has always troubled me about this is how do the people setting the number know what the right number is? Why $10.10? Why not $10.38? Or $9.71? Or $15.00 or $35.00? Or $5,000.00? If $10.10 is good wouldn’t $5,000.00 be 495 times better?

There aren’t, I suspect, a whole lot of jobs that pay 5k an hour. Certainly I’ve never had one, and don’t anticipate getting one.

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The least possible wardrobe expense

We’re talking very near nothing:

For nearly half a century, the Muong people of this village in Hoa Binh Province have become accustomed to the image of a naked figure in their community. She is Ms. Dinh Thi Dong, 53, who never wears clothes.

“Never” is a pretty strong word, don’t you think? But she’s not entirely insane:

Although Dong does not wear clothes, her life remains normal. Every day, she goes to work like everyone else in the village. She goes to the field to plant rice and cassava and to the river to catch fish.

Mr. Dinh Van Tan, the village chief said: “Many times I saw her going into the forest to pick firewood with clothes in her basket. She’d put them on before climbing up a tree. After gathering firewood, she’d take off the clothes again and return them to her basket. She said she wore clothes to climb trees to avoid being scratched.”

This, I understand all too well.

Oh, the weather? Not a factor, apparently:

Dong’s village is situated in the Da Bac District’s Tien Phong Commune. To meet with her, reporters had to scale dozens of steep, slippery slopes.

Mr. Khanh, the guide, explained that, even when it’s very cold, with temperatures down to 9-10 degrees Celsius, Dong does not wear anything.

Oh, come on. Ten degrees Celsius — 50° Fahrenheit — is not all that cold.

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I want my books back, you son of a centaur

One of the scarier sights in “Twilight’s Kingdom,” the fourth-season finale of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, is the destruction of the Golden Oak Library in Ponyville. I remember saying, “Oh, Tirek, now you’ve made her angry. You won’t like her when she’s angry.”

There is, of course, a better line:

My name is Twilight Sparkle.  You killed my books.  Prepare to die.

Then again, she was never in the revenge business.

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Take a breath or two

In 1963, Dale Houston and Grace Broussard got an enormous hit out of “I’m Leaving It All Up to You,” with a distinct break between “all” and “up”; they followed it up with “Stop and Think It Over,” in which “stop” becomes almost a command. This tactic was mocked unmercifully by my brother Paul: he’d come into a room, sing “We got to stop,” stand there a minute or three, and then depart singing “and think it over.” Still, it made careers for both Dale and Grace.

I suspect this won’t go quite as far, but it definitely went a great deal longer:

Followed by:

I mean, a lot can happen in five years.

(Via CTV News.)

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Discharged with battery

No, wait. The lawyer was charged. The battery was discharged:

A California attorney has been fined $3,000 for zapping a witness with a trick pen during a Utah trial over whether electrical currents from a power plant are harming cows.

Fourth District Judge James Brady this week ruled Los Angeles-based lawyer Don Howarth’s conduct amounted to “battery of a witness.”

Literally so, it appears:

While testifying against dairy farmers who claim currents from the Delta power plant harm cattle, expert Athanasios Meliopoulos said 1.5 volts couldn’t be felt by a person.

The Salt Lake Tribune reports Howarth, who represented dairy farmers, gave a child’s gag pen to Meliopoulos, told him it contained a 1.5-volt AAA battery and challenged him to push it.

Brady says Meliopoulos “received a strong electric shock” because the pen also contained a transformer that boosted the battery up to 750 volts.

Which, if correct, undercut Howarth’s premise, unless he’s prepared to argue that the cattle are actually being subjected to 750 volts.

No penalty was stated in the article, though I suggest the wayward solicitor be required to lick the tops of a case of 9-volt Duracells.

(Via Fark.)

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Zero hour

“They came to play,” goes the cliché. I don’t think there’s any question that the Clippers came to play. Certainly they led most of the night; only briefly did they surrender the lead. And by now, they seem to have Kevin Durant thoroughly cowed. Seriously. At the five-minute mark, KD had the same 17 points he’d had halfway through the third quarter, having made exactly three of 17 shots. (At least he made the free throws, right?) But it wasn’t just Durant. In the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter, the Thunder had scored a mere eight points. Slowly, the Thunder crawled back to the land of the living, cutting a 13-point Clipper lead to four while enjoying the spectacle of DeAndre Jordan’s sixth foul. (Jordan didn’t make a shot all night, but he put up some serious defense.) Blake Griffin broke the string with a free throw; a miss on the second freebie was retrieved by Glen “Big Baby” Davis, and a Chris Paul jumper put the Clips up 104-97 inside the 50-second mark. Then followed two Durant specials for five points, and it was 104-102 with :11 left. Russell Westbrook’s trey fell short, but CP3 was all over him, and Number Zero knocked down all three freebies. OKC 105, Los Angeles 104, with 6.4 left, and then Serge Ibaka took the ball away from Paul. The least-winnable game in this series somehow was won.

And in the end, KD redeemed himself, bagging ten points in those last five minutes, to finish with 27. Westbrook, who made it his business to take up the slack, finished with a game-high 38. Nobody else made double figures, but Steven Adams created nine points for himself, and Jackson, Thabo Sefolosha and Serge Ibaka all kicked in eight. Still: one point.

The Clippers, nonetheless, had three starters with double-doubles: Griffin (24/17 rebounds), Paul (17/14 assists), and Matt Barnes (16/10 rebounds). Jamal Crawford reeled in 19 from the bench. Your Telltale Statistic: the Thunder were called for 21 fouls, giving Los Angeles 20 free throws, of which they made 16, while the Clippers, amazingly, drew 28 fouls, from which OKC went 32-36 from the stripe. Otherwise, the numbers were very close: 44 rebounds for each; L. A. shot 43 percent/44 from outside, OKC 42/41; nine steals for the Thunder, seven for the Clips; five blocks for the Thunder, four for the Clips. If it could have been closer than one point, I suggest, it would have been.

Game 6 is Thursday night at Staples. The Clippers can be expected to bring their A-game. It may take an A-plus to beat them. Then again, it didn’t tonight.

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A thousand winds that blow

I was gingerly stepping through the minefield — but it’s a cute minefield! — that is J-pop, when I stumbled across something that isn’t J-pop at all, but which was staggeringly popular in the Land of the Rising Sun:

“Sen no kaze ni natte” is a translation, by Japanese singer/songwriter Man Arai, of Mary Frye’s 1932 poem “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep”; the title translates as “a thousand winds,” after the third line of the poem. That poem carries considerable weight in Japan; it was read at the funeral of singer Kyu Sakamoto, killed in the 1985 crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123, by Rokusuke Ei, who wrote the lyrics to Sakamoto’s biggest international hit, which for some reason is called “Sukiyaki” in the rest of the world.

In 2006, tenor Masafumi Akikawa, seen above, recorded a version of “Sen no kaze ni natte,” which became Japan’s largest-selling single for that year; a Korean version by tenor Lim Hyung-joo was reissued this spring to honor the victims of the April capsizing of a Korean ferry.

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An awful lot of this going on

And by “this,” I mean incidents like this:

A Kellyville English teacher has been arrested for second degree rape in connection to an alleged inappropriate relationship with a high school student.

Kalyn Darby Thompson, 25, resigned from her position at Kellyville High School in April, an arrest report states. She turned herself into authorities Monday morning.

You know it’s serious in Oklahoma when they report all three names.

I wasn’t up on the rape laws in this state — “second-degree”? — so I chased down the pertinent statute (§21-1114):

A. Rape in the first degree shall include:

    1. rape committed by a person over eighteen (18) years of age upon a person under fourteen (14) years of age; or

    2. rape committed upon a person incapable through mental illness or any unsoundness of mind of giving legal consent regardless of the age of the person committing the crime; or

    3. rape accomplished with any person by means of force, violence, or threats of force or violence accompanied by apparent power of execution regardless of the age of the person committing the crime; or

    4. rape by instrumentation resulting in bodily harm is rape by instrumentation in the first degree regardless of the age of the person committing the crime; or

    5. rape by instrumentation committed upon a person under fourteen (14) years of age.

B. In all other cases, rape or rape by instrumentation is rape in the second degree.

The lad in question is reportedly 18.

And I wonder if this is where the secret was exposed:

The arrest report states that the student was flunking English last semester but currently has a 98 percent grade point average.

Technically, that’s not a GPA, but it does look at least slightly suspicious.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Restricted for thee, but not for me

Yet another doofus from the Unclear on the Concept legions:

Yahoo Answers screenshot:

Oh, and he means it:

I’ve found several stories I wanted to read on Pastebin, unfortunately the users made their accounts private and I can’t read the damn stories!

I could care less about the users’ accounts, I just want to read their works. How can I do that?

What’ll you bet that “Anthro Fan #1″ isn’t his real name?

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Without benefit of graft

This one particular rosebush, on the west end of the front-walk flowerbox, has in the last ten years resolutely produced pink flowers, and only pink flowers, when it’s bothered to produce anything at all. (The trick for dealing with these plants, apparently, is to bestow upon them something more than mere negligence, but not to go crazy with the TLC.)

This week, the pinks have neighbors, and I mean really close-in neighbors:

Roses photographed May 12, 2014

As you can see, it’s not just a couple of strays: there are white roses adjacent to all the pinks. And the pinks aren’t suffering: if anything, they’re pinker and prouder than previous.

There is a bush in the same flowerbox producing deep reds, but it’s at the far end of the box, on the east end, about 16 feet away. If there’s some crossbreeding going on, color me impressed. (And that bush is currently producing lots of red, but red only.)

(Embiggened version at Flickr.)

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