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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It is incumbent upon me as an automotive enthusiast to complain bitterly about the advance of self-driving cars, which will supposedly drain all the life out of what used to be fun before traffic became obnoxious and pavement maintenance became theoretical.

Yet there are some potential advantages to the existence of such vehicles:

As the notion evolves, I think that robocars would actually change the dynamics of car ownership. Most specifically, a lot of people wouldn’t need to own one. Instead it would be Zipcar writ large, except that instead of having to find an available car, the car you need will be able to drive to your curb.

I have to admit, that sounds awfully appealing in its own way. And it may portend a move to smaller vehicles:

As it stands, we tend to drive cars with excess capacity for those rare times when we need said capacity. All of my cars have had room for four or five even though the vast majority of the time it’s only had one or two people in it. Almost always one until we had the baby. But it sucks to need space and not have it, so you get the larger model.

Gwendolyn has space for five, and seat belts for same; in the eight years she’s been here, I think she’s carried five people exactly once. Most of the time, it’s just me; one weekend a year, generally, it’s just me and Trini.

But this is the suggestion that I find most entertaining:

[I]t would actually capture not only the psychological benefits of public transportation, but also many of the environmental benefits. With cars being on call, we could greatly reduce the amount of parking space required.

You and I likely know several people whose main objection to riding the bus is that it involves, well, riding the bus, with its allegedly high population of creeps and weirdos.

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It’s exceedingly hard not to laugh at this character:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Is Customfakeidcards21@yahoo.com legit?

The sordid story:

I ordered 2 IDs from them for 250$ and they said they got my order and they took the money from the card immediately. They still replied back after they took the money saying they will send pictures before they send it out.

I figure he’s taking Chutzpah 101 and needs this for his lab requirement. (At the 200 level, you have to return used burglar’s tools for warranty replacement.)

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Meanwhile, Mr Darwin just smiles

The idea was great, kinda sorta:

Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop.

But who didn’t see this coming?

After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn.

This could have been forestalled, at least to a certain extent:

Key to effective management, said the scientists, were refuges set aside and planted with non-Bt corn. Within these fields, rootworms would remain susceptible to the Bt toxin. By mating with any Bt-resistant worms that chanced to evolve in neighboring fields, they’d prevent resistance from building up in the gene pool.

But the scientists’ own recommendations — an advisory panel convened in 2002 by the EPA suggested that a full 50 percent of each corn farmer’s fields be devoted to these non-Bt refuges — were resisted by seed companies and eventually the EPA itself, which set voluntary refuge guidelines at between 5 and 20 percent.

Elson Shields, a Cornell entomologist, is wholly unsurprised:

There’s a lesson to be learned for future crop traits, Shields said. Rootworm resistance was expected from the outset, but the Bt seed industry, seeking to maximize short-term profits, ignored outside scientists. The next pest-fighting trait “will fall under the same pressure,” said Shields, “and the insect will win. Always bet on the insect if there is not a smart deployment of the trait.”

And once again, man is done in by his obsession with quarterly revenue reports.

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Drools of thumb

Prompted by Jess’ list of Useful Everyday Numbers, I am herewith providing a list of numbers that may not be quite so useful.

1: The number of gallons of gas it takes to go to work and back in my current car. (Total distance is 21.3 miles; average fuel economy is 21.3 mpg.)

1: The difference in size (US) between a woman’s shoe and a man’s shoe of the same length. (If I did serious drag, I’d be looking for a d’Orsay pump in 15 wide.)

355/113: A really good approximation for pi that I’ve only been able to use once in a lifetime.

7: Number of Very Small Ponies standing on the bookshelf. Five are plastic, two pewter.

16: Lowest house number, ever.

28: The number of seconds you get before my answering machine hangs up on you. Very useful for robocallers with 30-second spiels.

28: Capacity in gallons of my ostensible 30-gallon water heater.

143: Distance in feet from the back fence to the curb at Surlywood.

773: Number of gigabytes left on this 1-TB drive immediately after moving all my stuff off the old Windows XP box.

3799: Number of files in the backup copy of this site’s graphics directory.

4990: Total miles traversed in the longest World Tour (2003).

5548: Highest house number, ever.

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