Compression test

Remember when the Detroit Pistons were a smoothly running, highly efficient machine? Sure you can. You may have to go back a few years, but you can do it. Now, the jalopy that showed up in Oklahoma City tonight — well, there’s a reason they call it a “rebuilding” year; it’s almost pointless to imagine them getting a new set of rings. At one point in the second quarter, the Pistons were down 32; they fought back, so to speak, to within 27 at the half, and lost it by 20, 99-79.

Which is not to belittle the Thunder’s accomplishment, but this is one of those games that they were supposed to win. (Then again, they were supposed to win against the Wizards last Wednesday, and we know how that worked out.) Still, the numbers were good: 53.2 percent shooting (7-16 on the long ball), 51-38 rebounding edge, and ten blocked shots (half by Serge Ibaka). That’s good enough to offset a startling 19 turnovers. (Detroit took better care of the ball, when they could get their hands on it.) Both Russell Westbrook and James Harden contributed 24 points to the cause, and Kevin Durant kicked in 20 more. I won’t even mention that Kendrick Perkins is on pace to record 1,329 technicals this season, for which he will be fined a sum equal to the sovereign debt of Greece.

Props must be given, though, to Pistons rookie guard Brandon Knight, who led all Detroit scorers with 13. He’s had better nights — his average was 12-ish coming in — but he managed to look a lot less confused than some of his teammates. (What happened to Rodney Stuckey? He rolled up six points in three minutes, and took twenty minutes to get six more. Blame Thabo.) Then again, the Pistons did beat the Trail Blazers this season, something the Thunder have yet to do.

Nick Collison may be out for a while, or he may not: all we know is that he exited after about nine minutes with an apparent ankle problem, and did not return. I hope he’s well for the arrival of the Hornets on Wednesday, since he normally makes life difficult for them.

Update: Collison is now listed as day-to-day.

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Those shiftless kids

How to keep your teenagers’ minds on their driving and their driving on their minds? Make them stir their own damn gears:

Some local parents say they chose a stick shift for their teen drivers in hopes of keeping them occupied with driving rather than texting.

Britt Hurley is a 17-year-old driver and says she was less than thrilled when her parents gave her a car with a stick shift for safety, but after a few days learning, she’s become comfortable with the manual transmission.

Now the economic strata I’ve straddled over the years tend to be occupied by people who say “You bought her a car?”

Still:

While this is hardly empirical or scientific, it’s a novel approach to a pretty serious problem among teens, and flies in the face of the constant push for smartphone integration in new vehicles.

And in a year or two, the kids will have figured out how to time-slice, so that they can continue to juggle the wheel, the stick, the iPhone and the Big Gulp. (Or they won’t, and they’ll drive up the side of a telephone pole.)

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Sounds like “hormones”

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I want my status markers, dammit

I am not one of those people who believes that Prius owners, as a group, are necessarily smug. However, I’m hard-pressed to come up with any other adjective for this character, and not because he drives a Prius either:

The KBB value of my car went WAY down…WTF!!!?

A few months ago I checked the KBB value of my 2006 Toyota Prius and it was valued at $18,500. I just checked now and it is valued at $15,000. Is this because the new 2012 models came out? This seems like way too much of a decrease. What happened?? It has nothing to do with the mileage, options or zip code.

Now why would someone be checking in regularly with Kelley Blue Book for the same damned car? There’s no indication that he’s thinking of selling it, which is the only practical use for the number, so what we have here, apparently, is an example of Smugfuckery In Action: he wants people to be impressed with how much his six-year-old car is worth. I’d suggest that he drive off a farging cliff, but I’d be willing to bet his estate wouldn’t get more than twelve grand for the car.

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Aggressively inarticulate

Yesterday I was making noise about finding patterns in blank verse, on the basis that if they’re not there, you might as well be reading, um, something else. I perhaps should have pointed out that reading it out loud often helps.

Along those lines, here’s a critique of today’s quavering, indecisive vocalizations passing themselves off as speech:

If you’re not keeping up with the text for some reason, here’s the whole thing, like, you know, statically.

(With thanks to Fillyjonk.)

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Strange search-engine queries (312)

This feature is presented once a week as a public service, largely because we don’t think anyone could stand it more often than that. (Those of you in charge of scheduling Republican debates could learn something from this level of restraint.)

“zooey deschanel” “sneezes”:  Well, yeah. She’s only human. Though I can’t explain the multicolored spray.

“brown bunny” swallow “three times” gallo:  No way in hell am I doing a “multicolored spray” reference here.

mule won’t:  Take it up with Hari Seldon.

speaking with flight attendants:  It’s got to be more pleasant than speaking with airport security.

on rainy nights my nude neighbor does not close her curtains:  And this is a problem — why, exactly?

mlp fim valentines chocolate:  Over to you, Pinkie Pie.

rainbow dash car seat covers:  Rarity can have that stitched up for you in no time, provided you promise not to help.

kirsten vangsness’ favorite food:  A neatly-sliced section of your heart, braised in liquid.

feigned nonchalance:  I used to do that, back when I gave a damn.

audrey hepburn physical features:  Go to sleep. Dream. Now imagine the woman you dreamed about, only better dressed.

i need a damn business idea!!!  Might I suggest — well, something that doesn’t require a blog.

can you change shift points on my ford escape:  Not right now. I’m trying to make some money off a blog.

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Applied Derpytology

Rather more truth here than we had any reason to expect:

Derpy gets hit with a stick

What? You’ve never seen anyone making a point with slapstick before?

(Found in the Smosh Pit.)

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Watts all this, then

In the course of explaining a Great Truth, Gagdad Bob brings out a lesser truth about which we give little thought:

In a painting, the boundary, or container, is the canvas and frame; in a poem, the meter or rhyme scheme; in a song, the rhythm, harmony, and melody; in a play, the stage. Remove the “limiting boundary” and there is no way to even perceive the work of art, because it is not set off from the rest of reality.

I note here that when those boundaries are obscured or seemingly absent, we will seek them just the same: blank verse may not have an obvious meter or anything resembling a rhyme scheme, so we look for internal rhythms and patterns, something that will tell us that this is a poem and not just a rewrite of a newspaper article, formatted funny.

Note also that this explains how the work of the true artist “spills over,” beyond the confines of its container. It is somewhat like the phenomenon of “headroom” in audiophile lingo. If you want to get the best performance out of a good pair of speakers, you need to have much more power than they technically require.

This is especially true if you’re playing music with substantial dynamic range. Recordings today tend to be highly compressed and limited, a response to a perceived — or imagined — audience demand for convenience at the expense of high fidelity. Even so, a brief high-level transient might be 15 dB louder, which requires 31.6 times as much power. As Bob says:

In my case — at least since I splurged on a new Luxman integrated last year — I barely have to turn up the volume in order to power my speakers. The distance between this and the full capacity of the amp is the “headroom.” A less powerful amp will still power the speakers, but you will be able to detect the “strain” at high volumes.

Most of your listening requires little actual amplifier power: a watt or two, maybe. But if you’re cruising along at 2W, and suddenly one of those 15-dB peaks shows up, the amp has to figure out some way to deliver 62W. Easy for a 200-watt amplifier; not so easy for a 20-watter.

The Institute of High Fidelity used to quote a “dynamic power” rating for amplifiers. My own vintage-1974 receiver carries a rating of 280W, distributed among four channels, which is About Enough. (The amp does four channels at once, so figure 70 watts per channel. The so-called continuous-power rating — it can do this much all day long — is 42.) I have so far managed not to damage my equally-old speakers.

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Come see the softer side of Kalimdor

World of Woolcraft

(Obtained in a quest to FAIL Blog’s WIN!)

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Quote of the week

By way of introduction, yours truly, on Twitter, Wednesday:

So, if I understand this #SOPA thing correctly, no one should be allowed to rip off artists except studios and record companies?

Andrea Harris, as usual, sees the Bigger Picture, and gives it the denunciation it deserves:

[W]hatever law the government passes to “protect” us from some supposedly awful thing always ends up hurting the powerless the most. Look at the War On Drugs — if we aren’t worse off when it comes to illegal drug use and crime therefrom we certainly aren’t any better off, and the jails are filled mostly not with the big drug producers (who live rich lives in other countries anyway), but with hapless junkies and plenty of innocents who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and don’t have money to hire good lawyers, and the lives of their families, many of whom had never even used drugs, are wrecked. How about the TSA and the patriot act? That was supposed to protect us from terrorists. Instead, it seems mainly to have protected us from cancer patients, old men with artificial hips, teenagers wearing clothing with pictures of guns, retarded kids’ toys, and has enabled us to see what color your shampoo is. I know I feel better. Now this SOPA thing is supposed to “protect” us from “pirates” — whose only connection with the fearsome guys with eyepatches and knives in their teeth is the body odor. Actually this bill is supposed to “protect” the moribund entertainment industry, and will do very little to protect that new musician — in fact, it almost sounds like the entertainment industry is rather miffed at the idea that they won’t be the sole rapists of artists any more. Anyway, it has nothing to do with protecting the interests of the powerless any more than those two other things, so don’t even try to fool me.

Not entirely incidentally, I’ve only just unwrapped the CD version of the Trent Reznor/Atticus Ross soundtrack from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a gorgeous 3-CD package with a plastic (not just cardboard) case, which Reznor, having no use for record companies of late, was happy to sell me for $14 — including downloadable versions of the entire collection, so I don’t have to spend an hour ripping those CDs. (Admittedly, it took half an hour to download the ZIP file, which was close to half a gigabyte.) For some unknown reason, it shipped about three weeks later than originally scheduled, but otherwise this purchase paid off in two ways: I had the pleasure of getting a package I wanted for a reasonable price, and the satisfaction of knowing that no fraction of that price went up the nose of some middle manager at Ginormous Entertainment Industries, LLC.

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Toward a new Automan Empire

That bankrupt Swedish automaker owned by a Dutch firm may wind up in the hands of the Turks:

Brightwell Holdings BV, a Turkish private-equity firm, said it plans to bid for bankrupt Swedish carmaker Saab Automobile and revive its manufacturing.

“We will make a bid very shortly, there’s no question,” Zamier Ahmed, a board member of the Istanbul-based group, said [Thursday] in a phone interview.

Brightwell’s bid does include the Saab plant in Trollhättan, though I suspect future product may be built elsewhere for cost reasons; see, for instance, the short-lived 9-4X, assembled in Mexico alongside the similar Cadillac SRX.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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In which we make no mention of Brick City

Nets, n. pl. The braided fabric sort-of-cylinders that hang from the basketball hoops: “Neither Oklahoma City nor New Jersey demonstrated any consistent ability to put actual balls through the nets.” (dustbury.com, 21 January 2012)

The Thunder’s last visit to New Jersey — next year, they’ll be visiting Brooklyn — was rather easily summed up: neither Oklahoma City nor New Jersey demonstrated any consistent ability to put actual balls through the nets. OKC shot a mediocre 41.6 percent (four of 17 treys), but New Jersey tossed up a horrendous 31 percent (three of 23). Avery Johnson probably tossed up something just watching it (not) happen. The 84-74 final suggests a titanic defensive struggle, but actually it was a series of miscues; the Thunder just had slightly fewer of them.

Telltale statistic: In 26 minutes, Nets center Mehmet Okur had nine rebounds, which is decent, and zero points, which is less so. Deron Williams and MarShon Brooks managed 14 points each, though it took them 35 shots to get those 28 points, and all ten of their three-point attempts clanked. Kris Humphries, at least, seemed focused, perhaps [rest of thought redacted to avoid unnecessary Kardashian references].

To beat this, all the Thunder had to do was not suck, and for the most part they didn’t, though Kevin Durant really doesn’t have to take all those three-point shots — at least, all the ones he missed, which tonight was all of them. (Six.) Still, KD had a double-double, with 20 points and 15 rebounds, Russell Westbrook dropped in 21 points, and Serge Ibaka blocked five shots, making the Nets’ woeful shooting look even more so. Still, this is the kind of night it was: the Thunder were assessed two T’s, and Kendrick Perkins got neither of them.

Williams Report: Of the four Nets named Williams, Deron (see above) got 14 points, Shelden 3, Shawne a DNP-CD, and Jordan was off playing in the D-League.

And so ends the sweep through the East, though the Pistons will be showing up Monday for the first half of a Thunder homestand. (The second half comes Wednesday, against the struggling Hornets.) After that, it’s off to the West Coast, and there goes my sleep schedule.

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Dimed, then nickeled

EarthLink sends along this little pleasantry:

We’re writing to let you know that your prepaid EarthLink service term will soon expire.

If you’d like to prepay for another term and continue to enjoy a special discounted rate, just contact a friendly Live Chat representative at:

http://support.earthlink.net/chat

Or you can call us at [number redacted].

For your protection, please do not send us payment information by email.

Please note: if you do not set up a new prepay term your account will be automatically switched to a monthly billing plan. This will ensure your EarthLink service goes uninterrupted.

I’m pretty sure if Dale Carnegie were running an ISP, he wouldn’t run it this way.

I went through this once before. The friendly Live Chat representative has evidently been tasked with “Sell more services or else.” There’s no other reason why a routine which takes a matter of seconds — how hard is it to change an expiration date? — ends up sucking twenty minutes out of the day. This is one of those cases where it’s worth $14 just to avoid talking to someone.

(See also these delightful experiences.)

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Readying the Party Cannon

When you’re a scientist, you can look at a stack of, oh, let’s say, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Valentine cards, and almost immediately come up with an experiment:

It’s actually kind of interesting which characters they use in “heavy” rotation — there are more of Pinkie Pie, Rainbow Dash, and Applejack. I suppose those might be the most popular with kids, I don’t know. They had only one with Fluttershy (and in my mind at least, FLUTTERSHY IS BEST PONY) and NONE with Rarity. (poor Rarity.)

Actually, this brings up something I thought of the other day: it would make an interesting data set for a chi-square contingency table analysis to get different age-groups of fans (I was thinking of the Ponies, but it could be fans of anything that spans a wide age group) and ask their favorite character, and do an analysis to see if different age groups prefer different characters. (My gut feeling is yes: Fluttershy seems to be enormously popular with adult fans, but I suspect Pinkie Pie or Rainbow Dash is more “relatable” for a lot of children. And perhaps a lot of the kid fans don’t like Rarity? I might not have when I was a child…she does seem a bit uppity at times).

Pinkie, it seems to me, has what a kid might think is the ideal job, and Dashie what a kid might think is the ideal superpower. And I’m thinking that generosity, which is Rarity’s Element of Harmony, is not the easiest concept for really young children to comprehend.

It might be worth nothing that at the MLP:FIM Wiki, the dropdown list of Popular Pages includes “Characters,” “Episodes,” “List of ponies,” and four ponies: Fluttershy, Twilight Sparkle, Pinkie Pie — and Derpy.

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But it’s just a show

Topless Robot has a list of the 9 Most Upsetting Characters in Mystery Science Theater 3000 Movies, though it easily could have been 19 or 90; as author James Daniels says, “after 10 seasons of the show, loathsome performances abound, and despicable characters are a dime a dozen.”

By that estimation, Torgo from Manos: The Hands of Fate falls about eight and a half cents short, but hey — he’s satyr-rific!

Yeah he’s creepy and sketchy and looks like he has the kind of B.O. you can literally taste, but we love him anyway!

Not to mention that John Reynolds, who portrayed him, is easily the best actor in the film (though being the best actor in Manos is a lot like being the tallest building in Wichita). He might have actually had a future had he not committed suicide at 25, just before Manos was released.

And some day you’ll get to see him in greater detail: Ben Solovey is restoring an original print in high definition, and a bit over $30,000 has been pledged to support the effort. (The original budget for Manos was reported as $19,000, though 1966 dollars, as I recall, were quite a bit larger.)

Incidentally, the Epic Center, at 325 feet, is the tallest building in Wichita.

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Scenic Lane

If you ask me, which of course you didn’t, the only reason to watch the Golden Globes, or most any other award show for that matter, is to check out the couture, and after looking at several dozen gowns, I decided to single out this lovely Reem Acra number wrapped around Diane Lane:

Diane Lane at the 2012 Golden Globes in Reem Acra

Tomorrow’s her 47th birthday. Is she aging well? “She makes me want to stab myself in the ear,” says despairing Fug Girl Jessica.

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