Season’s greasings

In the mail yesterday: cards of a sort from local politicians, complete with obligatory Family Pictures.

Jason Nelson, who currently represents House District 87, sent a 6×9 card with “Merry Christmas” on one side and a Bible verse (Isaiah 9:6) on the other.

John Handy Edwards, who hopes to replace the term-limited Cliff Branan in Senate District 40 in 2015, sent a 6.875×10 card, folded once, with “Happy Holidays” on the outside and “Sending warm wishes from our family to yours this season” within.

More as they arrive, if more arrive.

Why, no, I didn’t mention their party affiliations. Did I need to?

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MSC3K

Lots of mice have been plugged into my trusty desktop, and all but one of them have been unplugged for various reasons, the most recent being a Logitech rodent that for some reason couldn’t complete a cut/paste cycle.

So out it goes, in favor of what the label says is a Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 3000. Using the same settings as the Logitech, it’s absurdly fast; I had to crank everything back to get to the point where I could keep track of the pointer. What’s more, it’s silly-looking: two-tone silver over black. Still, it works, which the old meece in the cabinet don’t.

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Maybe just a sip

Apparently Costco carries Château Mouton Rothschild 2010:

I was impressed that they let me in the same room with it. It was locked in glass case. I wonder how many of the people who drink this wine appreciate it. I am sure it is very good, but it would be wasted on me with my barely functional nose. I bought a magnum of Cook’s Champagne for $7.

Which works out to $3.50 a (standard 750ml) bottle. Costco was asking $1,150 for the good stuff.

Oh, wait. This is a big-box store. They were asking $1,149.99.

I did enjoy the description:

This strides in with distinction, starting off with a showy but integrated layer of espresso-infused toast, followed by plush tiers of crushed currant, plum and blackberry fruit interspersed with cocoa and well-roasted.

Well, it sounds wonderful, anyway. I wonder how these experts would describe Dr Pepper (750 ml for 74 cents), which claims to have 23 different flavor notes.

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To the manner born

In other news, Walter White was convicted of dealing in meth and drew a 12-year jail term.

Yes, really:

Like the Bryan Cranston antihero-turned-villain, White allegedly dabbled in the illicit crystal trade. Federal court records show that the DEA found four ounces of meth at White’s Billings, Montana home earlier this year. Afterwards, White reportedly “copped to receiving up to two pounds of meth a week from one supplier,” “accepting a firearm as payment for the drug,” selling some of the meth and fronting some of the drug “to others for distribution.” The Smoking Gun reports that White slept with a gun under his pillow as “protection from other individuals involved in drug trafficking who may intend to rob or shoot him.”

White was also sentenced to five years probation after jail and to forfeit over $15,000 in cash and two handguns. Criminally, the report does not note whether White was familiar with AMC’s Emmy-winning drama and its similarly named, similarly career-situated lead character.

Next guy I meet named Don Draper, I’m going to ask if that’s his real name.

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Here’s dirt in your eye

A little over a decade ago, Chevrolet put up a billboard (with a Corvette on it, natch) to the effect that “they don’t write songs about Volvos.”

Do take a while to consider the following songs about Volvos, and then come back to the first TV ad I’ve seen with that much sheer snottitude:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Or perhaps a young lion

Diversity by Emily BearThe following things you need to know about Diversity by Emily Bear:

  • This is her sixth album, though her first on a major label (Concord Jazz);
  • All thirteen tracks are her own compositions;
  • She turned twelve at the end of August.

While a lot of her YouTubage shows her in front of orchestras, she’s fronting a traditional jazz trio here, with Carlitos del Puerto on bass and Francisco Mela on drums. Zuill Bailey drops in for cello parts on four tracks. And it’s a very traditional sound indeed; you could imagine this fifty years ago on Verve with Creed Taylor at the board. It’s not, however, particularly diverse. Not that I mind; I could listen to this stuff for hours on end. Quincy Jones, Bear’s producer and mentor, has provided a particularly lovely acoustic aesthetic. Oddly, the weakest number here might be “Q,” her tribute to the master, which never really gets off the ground. Favorite track? Perhaps the leadoff, “Northern Lights,” which does an admirable job of setting the stage for what’s to come. And I admit to cracking several smiles at “Salsa Americana,” which opens up wildly like an old Tito Puente record and then suddenly heads downtown.

You can hear all thirteen of these tracks (via Soundcloud) on emilybear.com; I decided I wanted a copy for my shelf, and bought the CD.

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In back of the Front Range

Any Thunder/Nuggets game is likely to contain remarkable moments, but you don’t generally expect actual fisticuffs. Early in the fourth quarter, Denver’s Jordan Hamilton was sufficiently vexed with Steven Adams to throw a punch at him; Hamilton was tagged with a Flagrant Two and thumbed, and Adams promptly missed the first of two free throws. Then someone woke up Nate Robinson, who knocked down all ten points in a 10-3 Denver run. This, as you might expect, woke up the OKC offense, which ran the lead from six to 18 in two minutes flat. It wasn’t going to stay there, of course, but the Nuggets had whittled it down only to 12 by the time the horn sounded: Oklahoma City 105, Denver 93, and another 2-0 series lead.

The Nuggets did get five into double figures — four starters plus Robinson — led by J. J. Hickson, who came up with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Ty Lawson also double-doubled: 17 points, 13 assists. (Hamilton had four points and five boards before getting tossed.) Denver did leave six points at the foul line, but OKC did too, so that’s a wash.

The Thunder outshot Denver 48-41 and outrebounded them 53-43. The numbers went about the way you’d expect: Kevin Durant had another 30-point night on 11-23 shooting; Russell Westbrook, who came up big in the fourth quarter, had 21 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists; Serge Ibaka returned to form with a 17-point outing, during which gathered 10 boards. Jeremy Lamb headed the bench with nine.

It’s in and out of town for the rest of the year: against Chicago at home Thursday, to San Antonio on Saturday, back home against Toronto on Sunday, an afternoon match in New York on Christmas Day, followed by a trip to Charlotte, and then two home games: the Rockets and the Trail Blazers, the latter on New Year’s Eve. Seat belts should be fastened at all times.

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A very modest recall

The details, admittedly, are a little scary:

Nissan North America, Inc. (Nissan) is recalling certain model year 2014 Infiniti Q50 vehicles equipped with Direct Adaptive Steering. The affected vehicles received a power steering software version that, should the engine compartment reach freezing temperatures, the power steering software may disable the electric steering system and also may delay the engagement of the mechanical steering backup system.

And this isn’t some electric-assist steering job like you see elsewhere: this is true drive-by-wire, with only a stream of electrons connecting the tiller and the rack. (Which is why there’s a mechanical backup, which also seems to be tetchy.)

This line provides a (small) quantity of reassurance:

Potential Number of Units Affected: 23

The local Infiniti store has at least that many units sitting on the lot, so this is evidently not what you’d call a widespread problem. Still, we’re talking software, goshdarnit, and I’m not sure I want to steer with software, now or any time soon.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Harmonization now

UNICEF, one of the zillions of United Nations alphabet agencies, doesn’t get on my radar much anymore, what with kids no longer trick-or-treating for it, the way they (occasionally) did when I was of an age to tote a sack. They did, however, hold the Snowflake Ball, presumably a fundraiser, in New York a few days back, and here’s Angie Harmon looking wonderful in an Angel Sanchez frock:

Angie Harmon at the Snowflake Ball

Now let’s turn her ninety degrees, and — oh, my:

Angie Harmon at the Snowflake Ball

Bless you, Angel Sanchez.

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It could always be worse

And when (not “if”) it is, well, Jeni told you so:

In 2012, German researchers conducted a study of elderly citizens and concluded that pessimists are often happier in the end. The study reveals that “understanding that although things are fine right now, they might get worse” seems to have “a positive effect” on their quality of life. The study notes that pessimistic people can actually benefit from a this outlook. The researching psychologists acknowledge that while the results “fly in the face of ‘positive psychology’,” the results make sense because being pessimistic helps you prepare for bad things, even if they never come. I agree completely. Pessimism is at the heart of why we contribute to retirement plans, build well-stocked pantries, wear sunscreen. I dread the hard times, but dreading them makes me think about them and thinking about them makes me DO something. A dreamer — a true dreamer — doesn’t worry about these things too much, instead choosing to spend energy on other pursuits like making wildflower bouquets and starting mason jar Pinterest boards.

Which will be so helpful come the Zombie Apocalypse®.

But don’t cry for me, optimists! While I will never be a member of your club, I may come to your annual picnic if I’m invited. I’ll be the one with a rain cover, bug spray, poison ivy cream, and extra water bottles. Who’s going to be okay when the skies open up and killer bees hunt you down on your nature walk? Me, that’s who! Because I knew these things were likely and I made provisions for them. I’ll be dry and bite-free while you’re trying to soothe your itchy, hungry children with songs about magical fairies who shit jelly beans.

This is perhaps one of the few extant examples of Good Parenting that can (maybe) be attributed to yours truly: my itchy, hungry children prefer death metal. Then again, they’re in their thirties now.

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Another reason for the season

I don’t know if I can make a meme of this, but let’s see what happens:

Nancy Kwan in Keep Kwan in Kwanzaa

(Via — no, actually, I did this myself. I have no idea why.)

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Still not a mail-enhancement product

The Canada Post Mass Shrinkage Maneuver (or, probably, Manoeuvre) apparently has a distinct, and weirdly American-sounding, bias:

Canada Post president and CEO Deepak Chopra is a board member of the organization that highlighted the financial plight facing the Crown corporation and suggested eliminating door-to-door delivery as a way for it to save money.

In announcing Wednesday a five-point restructuring plan that includes ending door-to-door residential mail delivery in urban areas, Canada Post repeatedly pointed to a Conference Board of Canada report released last spring that documented challenges facing the postal service. That same report included options such as eliminating door-to-door service for urban residential households and increasing postal prices as ways to cut costs and improve the bottom line — options the Crown corporation has now adopted.

And Chopra, of course, sits on the CBoC board.

Oh, and now there’s a petition to Canada Post calling for a halt to the job and service cuts and an investigation into Chopra’s apparent conflict of interest.

(I had a Twitter source for this, but in the time it took me to write it, she’d deleted the tweet.)

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Are you User Experienced?

What GM has to say about the Cadillac User Experience:

CUE blends first-of-its-kind technology with highly intelligent design, bringing the intuitive control of smartphones and tablets safely to the road. With a clean, uncluttered design, Natural Voice Recognition and responsive touch-screen technology, CUE creates an experience that’s as simple to use as it is advanced.

With his thumb firmly downturned, John Phillips of Car and Driver [January] says that the system is “about to lap itself in the Indy 500 of Idiocy”:

[CUE] urged me to differentiate between “Infotainment Gestures” by memorizing the seven secret finger movements: “press/tap,” “press and hold,” “drag,” “nudge,” “fling or swipe,” “spread,” and “pinch.” I’m not making this up. Turned out that my personal favorite was “punch real hard,” followed by a finger gesture I already knew.

I hope these are intended for use in stationary mode, because if I’m flying along at freeway speeds — or, perhaps, freeway speeds plus 10 percent — I don’t have time to remember whether I’m supposed to be pointing this way or that.

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The little red heart

Where did it come from? What did it mean? And why is it sitting on my desk?

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Persistence is rewarded

One of my more curious record-acquisition techniques in the middle 1960s was to sit by the phone and wait for a chance to win one from one of the two Top 40 stations in town. The big 5000-watter, much harder to get into, usually just mailed you a card which you could redeem at a local music store. The little thousand-watter, though, gave you stuff right out of their music library, where I bagged a few enduring hits and rather a lot of non-hits.

And one record which I broke, maybe, and forgot about. It was some time late in 1965 when I claimed this 45 at the station, and about a year later when it disappeared. I don’t remember what happened: did I break it? Did I lend it out? Where did it go? No answers forthcoming, I let it go, and gradually it faded from memory.

Now here we are, just about 48 years later, and the record is on my mind once again. All I can recall is the record label itself, because the spelling of the name was a bit eccentric, and the last line of the song, which was probably the title. My Google-fu would be challenged to the max.

The first clue came from a reference site/message board called Soulful Detroit, which actually knew the label: it was on the fringe of the Eddie Wingate empire. Wingate, you may remember, operated a pretty decent sub-Motown operation in those days, and had one sizable hitmaker: Charles Hatcher, aka Edwin Starr, aka Agent Double-O-Soul. Ostensibly to acquire Starr’s contract, but mostly to get the Funk Brothers to stop playing on other people’s records, Motown HMFIC Berry Gordy Jr. offered Wingate a ton of money to do a disappearing act.

And Wingate, it appeared, owned a piece of this independent-ish label called Volkano, with a K, which would issue four singles during its short lifespan, including one by a fellow named Bob Santa Maria. (It is suspected that Bob’s real last name was Seger.) The first issue on Volkano was “The Beginning of the End,” by Little John and Tony; “Tony” was Pete Saputo, also known as Anthony Raye — the more pseudonyms, the better, am I right? — and “John” was producer John Rhys, who co-wrote the song with longtime Detroit bassist Dennis Coffey. Coffey also arranged the record, and, most important from my point of view, still had a copy of it.

Now if I could just find a copy on YouTube — or, better yet, iTunes.

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Strange search-engine queries (411)

In case you’ve missed the preceding 410 installments of this feature — well, it’s not like you need a whole lot of training to comprehend it. Web surfers go to search engines to look for stuff; search engine sends them here; log files reveal the details. Simple as that.

what are the biggest challenges to shape our country’s future:  Getting it away from the people who’ve been screwing it up.

what is needed to diagnose CD4E mazda transmittion:  More tools than you have, and the ability to spell wouldn’t hurt.

what is the new old-fashion way:  Brenda Lee, what hath thou wrought?

can old ATF cause hold light:  Real question: “Is there some way I can get this fixed without paying $2500?” Most likely answer: no.

what is the conceptual and operational meaning of “up means good”?  Down, boy.

is mikandi adware:  Are you getting ads? If not, then no.

click to view larger image and other views … have one to sell? sell it yourself 2004 2005 nissan maxima radio cd player dash trim be:  Ruined after you pry out that head unit with a screwdriver, as we know you did.

nicole kidman inseam:  If I had the ability to measure that, I wouldn’t have time to look up search queries.

mazda 626 1997 carburetor:  Fuel injection, son. Look into it.

nude ka hot sexiy imagas mull:  Next time, try typing with both hands.

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Something up their sleeves

Nobody expects much of the Orlando Magic these days, and that perhaps included the Thunder, whom the Magic knocked around rather roughly in the first few minutes. That, of course, would not do, and Scott Brooks moved to reset their motivation, or whatever the heck he does. OKC went up 28-22 after the first quarter; the Magic managed to tie it about three and a half minutes before halftime, fell back by a dozen or more several times, and closed to within two (100-98) in the last minute with a 10-0 run. Kevin Durant sank one of two free throws, and a last-ditch block by Serge Ibaka iced the game: with 1.3 left, a jump ball was called, the Magic got one last chance, but that was it. OKC 101, Orlando 98.

All five Magic starters did manage to make it into double figures, led by Arron Afflalo with 25; Nikola Vučević had 13 plus 16 rebounds for the only Orlando double-double. They’d had the early rebounding lead, and finished just even (45-45); they also had problems (17-26) at the foul line. But they were scrappy from beginning to end, and maybe this was just a case of running out of minutes.

There were a few issues on the OKC side as well. Durant (28) and Russell Westbrook (20, 12 rebounds), as seemingly always, paced the starter scoring, and Reggie Jackson (10) and Jeremy Lamb (16) led the bench; Ibaka, however, did not have a great night despite that last block — at first, it was called as a goaltend, which would have been utterly horrible for the Thunder — and that fourth-quarter collapse will undoubtedly be Brooks’ topic on the plane to Denver.

This is a tricky week: out to Denver, back to play the Bulls, out to San Antonio and then back the next night to play the Raptors. Then again, no team is supposed to get a schedule they actually like, right?

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Mama said knock you off

This is obviously, or perhaps not so obviously, a fake:

Fake warning from Instagram

“Randomly deleting”? As if. Still, there’s always someone who’ll believe it.

Disclosure: I don’t have an Instagram account.

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As decreed in the Apple

A peek at a store window in the City of New York, and a call for an explanation:

NYC store window

The question posed at Pergelator:

NYC: $12 for a pack of smokes!?! $5 for the Sunday Paper!?! … Last time I noticed smokes were $5 locally. Seems like the older I get, the faster inflation goes (runs? inflates?).

Which may be true, but the culprit in this case is not inflation at all, but another government-inflicted pathology: taxation. New York State charges an excise tax of $4.35 per pack, and Greater Bloombergia tacks on an additional buck and a half. (Where I live, the tax is a more modest, but still deliberately punitive, $1.03; where he lives, $1.18.)

It occurs to me that were the Vampire State primarily interested in the actual health of the citizens, it would apply that same $5.85 tax to the Washington Post.

(Picture purloined from Burro Hall.)

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Say hello to Patsy

First female CEO at General Motors. Historic moment? Maybe — or maybe not:

I am not as thrilled as the rest of the country seems to be by the appointment of a woman to lead General Motors. If not for the $10.5B-losing bailout, GM would have have had to examine their practices, make changes and compete in the real world market place. The Saturn never would have been killed and Cadillac models would once again have names instead of numbers. As it stands though, the bailout provided a soft landing for all of their stumbles and they are now upright and undamaged. But are they changed? If they’re not, God Help Mary T. Barra the first female CEO of GM and the patsy set up to take the blame for the coming fall.

In defense of Barra, she does seem to understand cars, something no one ever would have said of predecessor Dan Akerson.

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