And this isn’t even a portal

Yesterday I was treated to a rare non-treat: SiteMeter running backwards. Apparently there was one hour yesterday when I had -16 visitors.

Fortunately, I’ve seen SM anomalies before — I’ve been on there for thirteen years, after all — so I knew what was going on. There are two machines involved in every account: the one that records the actual visits, and the one that updates the front-end. The latter had gone south, and somewhere around Macon they discovered the issue and backed it up to Chattanooga or thereabouts. Number of visitors actually lost: apparently zero. However, 116 of them have exactly the same time stamp, which will make the reports look screwy for a while.

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Don’t stop

It’s late 1969, all kinds of noises are pouring through the dorm, and I’m visiting a guy down the hall with a niftier-than-average stereo rig: we’re talking honest-to-Ampex tape reels, zipping along at seven and a half inches per second. (My own music source, a clumsy drop-down autochanger from Monkey Ward, wouldn’t even be allowed in such a place.) “Try this,” he said, and handed me a set of headphones with cups the size of saucers. I strapped in, he hit the transport keys, and Dionne Warwick began singing into the middle of my head, instruments seemingly somewhere off in the void.

This persuaded me that my 45s were inadequate, and when finances permitted, I went out and got both volumes of her Golden Hits, in stereo of course. I cherish them to this day, though admittedly the CDs get played more often. And once in a while, something like this lands in my Recommended queue:

(From earlier this year.)

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Suns Hardened

With Phoenix up a dozen halfway through the first quarter, Thunder fans were readying their OHNONOTAGAIN thought balloons. Oklahoma City then ran off 16 points in a row, and as the Suns fans slid into the shade, James Harden made a run for the record book. He made it, too: 40 points, a career high, on 12-17 shooting (5-8 for three) and 11-11 from the line. Plus 26, if you count stuff like that. The Thunder, though, will simply cite the W: 109-97, making a 3-0 sweep against the Suns.

Not that this was a one-man show: Kevin Durant turned in a double-double with 29 points and 11 rebounds, and Kendrick Perkins pulled down nine boards while keeping Marcin Gortat off-balance. (Gortat outrebounded everyone, with 12, but was held to nine points on 2-13 shooting.) OKC shot a tolerable 45 percent, 6-16 on treys; but take Harden’s line out, and they went 1-8 from distance.

For some reason, Grant Hill drew a DNP-CD tonight: perhaps the Suns are saving him for tomorrow night against the Clippers. Jared Dudley paced Phoenix with 21 points; Steve Nash was good for 12 and five dimes. Robin Lopez led the bench with 11. The Suns, however, left nine points at the line, while OKC was hitting 31 of 34. (Dudley, 5-10, was the worst.)

And there were a lot of technicals, four on the frustrated Suns (including one on coach Alvin Gentry), and one on, um, what a surprise, Perk. For about the sixth time, it’s his 12th. (The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry says he expects this one to be rescinded.)

Two and one on the road trip, with two to go: next comes Sacramento on Friday night. Admiral Ackbar already has his seat reserved.

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Citified public accounting

According to the Bureau of the Census, more than 80 percent of us now live in urban areas, and by “us,” they apparently mean “people who don’t live in Oklahoma,” since more than half of Soonerland’s population is rural by this definition.

Then again, this definition specifies, to qualify for true urbanity, a population of only 2500 — “for statistical inflation purposes,” insists the intrepid Brian J., last seen researching the teeming metropolis of Aurora, Missouri, population 7406. This metropolis, in fact, is teeming even more than Metropolis: the seat of Massac County, Illinois, population 6500 or so, an actual stopping point during World Tour ’05. I blame Lois Lane.

Trivial sidelight: There is a Lois Lane in Metropolis, extending eastbound from North Avenue, opposite the Masonic Cemetery. I told you she was dangerous.

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What crap through yonder email ooz’d?

It is Shakespearean Spam by Megan Anram. Just a brief sample:

my wife Desideminna was killed with a stab &and I tragically cannotget in her will which left me many of her possessions: moneyes, whitescarves, whiches bramble. Please help me live wi/out the brambles by donating your pence !

I’m sure you will be wanting Moor.

(Via another stirring Nancy Friedman linkfest.)

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Down easy

Reasoning that mortgage-interest rates are not going to drop much more, if at all, the city has a new plan to boost home ownership which concentrates on helping out with the down payment:

Qualifying Oklahoma City residents can receive assistance of up to $10,000 for making a down payment on a home in the city’s core as part of a program funded by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department. Those with incomes near or less than the area’s median income are eligible.

None of you exurban types need apply.

Additional qualifications: you have to have an actual lender willing to make you the loan, and you have to stay in the house for a minimum of five years. No flippers, no NINJAs. Says Teresa Smith of the city’s Planning Department: “What we’ve found is that, unless you have some skin in the game, you probably aren’t as good of a homeowner or investor.”

(If you read the NewsOK article linked above, you might want to stop before you get to the comments. In fact, this is true of almost any NewsOK article.)

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Preferred tilt

Maybe it’s just me, but I find this particular question risible:

Most objective and bias-free media outlets? (Does one exist? XD)?

Hi, my ip address was banned by CNN for speaking the truth. I am now looking for a bias-free news outlet. Any recommendations?

Now what are the chances his definition of “bias-free” is “agrees with me”? I mean, you have to be pretty damned bilious to get yourself banned by the likes of CNN. (And “speaking the truth” in a comment section of a news site, I suspect, equals “posting endless strands of copypasta.”)

And come to think of it, if there existed a site that agreed with him in every particular, what on earth would be the point in contributing to it? Is the echo chamber not loud enough or something?

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Let there be frivolity

I’m on a sort-of-strict budget these days, but with a bit of squeezing here and there, I can come up with a few cents for a treat now and then, which is not in the least bit objectionable:

[Y]ou shouldn’t always judge “frivolous” purchases. Neither my brother nor I grew up to be spendthrifts (despite the fact that I now wonder at the fact that I was willing to mow the near-acre of lawn — with a regular, walk-behind mower, not a lawn tractor — for $2.50, and then spend that money on stuff.) But I think, if the budget allows, the occasional “frivolous” purchase is good. For one thing, frivolity is fun. Without frivolity, we might as all wear black and grey all the time and farm rocks. And for another — spending money frivolously, I think, maybe reminds us (or at least, it reminds me) of the limitations of money. And that being grasping and tight and always worrying about money isn’t necessarily healthy either (as compared to throwing money away).

My first reaction to that was “Hmmm, why was I mowing for seventy-five cents?” (Well, it was about 15 years earlier, and the lots were lots smaller.) But on my second reading, what jumped out at me was that business about wearing black and grey all the time and farming rocks. Now where have I heard that?

Pinkie Pie as a filly and rock farmerMy sisters and I were raised on a rock farm outside of Ponyville. We spent our days working the fields. There was no talking. There was no smiling. [sigh] There were only rocks. We were in the south field, preparing to rotate the rocks to the east field when all of a sudden… I never felt joy like that before. It felt so good I just wanted to keep smiling forever. And I wanted everyone I knew to smile too, but rainbows don’t come along that often. I wondered, how else could I create some smiles?

And as we all know, that’s how Equestria was made.

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This is not my first pretty pony

To celebrate Liz Phair’s 45th birthday, here’s a picture of Liz Phair from about a year and a half ago:

Liz Phair circa 2010

The title, incidentally, is not a reference to that oft-discussed (here, anyway) pony show, but a line from “Bollywood,” a savage satire on The Industry, from her 2010 album Funstyle.

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Stumbling over objects

Laura Conaway at the Maddow Blog quoted Hob Bryan, a state senator from Mississippi:

What we have not done is to pass bill after bill after bill that was obviously unconstitutional just so we could all get on record one more time as casting another vote realizing that what was going to happen was someone would file suit the next day and the legislation would never take effect.

And “for the pure geek of it,” she invited Maddow readers to diagram that salamander of a sentence — which they did.

Mark Liberman of Language Log is pleased to nominate Bryan’s effort for the semi-coveted Trent Reznor Prize for Tricky Embedding.

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L’opprobre de tous les partis

If you think our Presidential election has all the elements of a French farce, well, you should see what the actual French have to deal with on a regular basis:

To ensure that the Élysée Palace is inhabited occasionally by bigamists (François Mitterand), megalomaniacs (Charles de Gaulle), diamond smugglers (Valéry d’Estaing), or influence peddlers (Jacques Chirac), the presidential electoral system works like this: In the first round on April 22nd, candidates from a diverse number of parties across the spectrum will face off. If none of the candidates get more than 50 percent of the vote (unlikely), a runoff is then held two weeks later, featuring the top two finishers of round one.

And who’s competing in Round One, Don Pardo?

In the current cycle, the major candidates are President Nicolas Sarkozy (right of center; best imagined as a tough detective on Law and Order), François Hollande (socialist; looks like Seinfeld’s friend George Costanza), Marine Le Pen (far-right nationalist; uses the word deportation as a noun, verb, adjective, and term of endearment), François Beyrou (centrist; keen on the moral purity of centrism), and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (far left; speaks for those whom Le Pen would deport).

If the name “Le Pen” seems familiar, it should be: Mme Le Pen (she’s currently unmarried, but this is standard French-government usage now) is the youngest daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, who founded the National Front, under whose banner she’s running.

This, however, I did not suspect:

François Hollande has four children with Ségolène Royal, the socialist party candidate for president in 2007. Imagine a relationship — they never officially married — in which both partners want to be president of France? Ségo lost to Sarko in 2007. During that election it turned out that life-partner Hollande was “campaigning” with a Madame de Pompadour-like magazine journalist, who now might become the first official live-in girlfriend at the Élysée Palace.

And to think we whined about Rick “Sanitary” Santorum.

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Way above their pay grade

There are meteorologists, and there are Big Media types who try to report on the weather. Nobody with a lick of sense will ever confuse the two, but unfortunately, sense is in short supply these days, so here’s an actual meteorologist to point out some minor details:

In January of this year, Diane Sawyer of ABC News went on a nightly network news broadcast and reported that a fatal Alabama tornado had “struck without warning.” Makes for great TV — it immediately incenses the audience and satisfies the desire to search for someone to blame. The only problem is that it was dead wrong.

A tornado warning had been issued well before the tornado struck. The average lead time that night was between 20-30 minutes.

Of course, Diane Sawyer is a Big Media star, so she can’t be expected to bother with trifling things like, um, facts.

More recently:

Oklahoma and Kansas just had a big tornado outbreak. In April. The national media calls it “cataclysmic, weird, extreme” … meteorologists call it “Spring.”

Then again, the national media have been possessed by the notion that anything that doesn’t look like Arbor Day in San Diego is part of that whole “climate-change” thing — which explains in part why so many of them are about to be repossessed.

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It’s a Young world

Nick Young, that is, the Clippers swingman who ran more or less roughshod through what passed for Thunder defense tonight as the Clips came back from an eleven-point deficit to tie the game at 66 after three quarters and utterly crush Oklahoma City in the fourth, 92-77, winning the season series and clinching a playoff spot in the process.

And Young, who got 19 points on 7-10 shooting, deserves as much credit as you can give him, because the L. A. offense was maybe half a tick better than meh. Still, Chris Paul moves the ball like nobody else — he had ten assists — and Blake Griffin mostly played like Blake Griffin, who scored 17 and retrieved 11 rebounds.

Apart from not being able to guard Young, Oklahoma City’s major problem was the inability to generate any offense in the second half. Kevin Durant, who had 19 points at halftime, finished with 24; Russell Westbrook, who had nine, finished with — nine. And the Thunder missed 11 of 29 free throws and 17 of 22 treys on the way to their worst numbers of the year.

But hey, it’s after midnight. Bring on the Suns. It can’t possibly get any worse. (Famous last words, indeed.)

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Doctor, please, some more of these

And as I discarded the empty pill bottle, I thought that someone, preferably someone other than myself, should write a story, a poem, something called “The Last Ambien.”

Zero point eight seconds of search later, here’s the poem.

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But how does it look?

Cameron Miquelon, last mentioned here in connection with Tabitha St. Germain’s favorite gladiator sandal, reminds us that cars just might require more than mere engineering:

Fashion and the automobile have been hanging out with each other since the first flapper stepped out of a Ford Model A back in the 1920s. Sometimes it works — any Bugatti that’s not a Veyron, Duesenberg or Talbot comes to mind — and sometimes it misses; AMC and Oleg Cassini, for example. Either way, both examples still have that certain zazz that a lot of today’s vehicles lack. And no, silver paint will not make it any better, I’m afraid.

El Camino by the Black KeysI can also tell you that there are people who view cars differently. They use adjectives like “cute” and “pretty.” They see cars not as appliances per se, but as accessories, as reflections of their own style. Maybe they’re into tech, or they want to be more “eco-conscious.” Maybe both. They could even be “ironic” in their love of minivans, if the album cover of El Camino by The Black Keys is anything to go by.

These people aren’t necessarily women, by the way.

Much as I’d like to earn a point or two on the Man Card by officially denouncing everything in a motor vehicle that isn’t routinely covered in grease, I must point out here that a major reason — apart from penury, of course — for keeping my current largish sedan, now in its twelfth year, is that unlike just about all the modern-day largish sedans, it doesn’t have that tortured-wedge cat’s-ass-in-your-face stance, which I freaking hate and always will, and I don’t give two-thirds of a damn what it does for the drag coefficient. (“Aerodynamics are for people who can’t build engines,” said Enzo.) It’s enough to drive me into a Lincoln Town Car, which, you’ll remember, offered a Cartier-branded trim package for two decades. And it will have to be a used one, because Ford, forced into TW-CAIYF cars by CAFE, dropped the Town Car after 2011.

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Of interest

Reuters finance blogger Felix Salmon snapped this on the tube in London:

QuickQuid advert in London tube

Said he: “Yes, it really does seem to be offering loans at 1,734% interest rates.”

Well, sort of. What we’re actually seeing here is the result of new British regulations, which state:

Under the new Advertisements Regulations, if an advertisement includes an interest rate or any amount relating to the cost of credit, it must also include a representative example. This must contain certain standard information including a representative APR. The example must be clear and concise and must be more prominent than the information that triggered the inclusion of the example.

The representative APR must reflect at least 51% of business expected to result from the advertisement. The standard information must be representative of agreements to which the representative APR applies.

This is, as one might expect of a EU-inspired regulation, simultaneously perfectly clear and incredibly obscure. A British credit guide attempts to explain it:

[W]hat the BSI is saying is that because APR rates can fluctuate so wildly between individual customers, the number that is put on billboards, fliers, and other forms of advertisement must represent the APR rate that the company expects to use on over half, or 51% of the business they get from those advertisements. If they only expect to get 15% of their customers that qualify for the lowest APR rate they offer, they can’t advertise that lower rate just to bring in more customers, because in a way it can be very misleading.

This is advantageous because it really helps out consumers who are often pulled into a loan office because of a low rate they saw and then find out that they are going to have to pay nearly twice that advertised rate. Thus, the advertised figure is “representative” of the rates that the majority of their customers will be receiving. Other charges are also taken into account with the Representative APR, including balance transfer fees that were previously never included.

This is an actual offer from this specific lender:

Representative example: Borrow £50 for 30 days. The total charge for credit is £14.75. Interest is fixed at a rate of £14.75 per £50 loan (359% per annum). The Total Repayable is £64.75.

While this particular example has a 359-percent APR, close to the number you might expect for short-term “payday” loans, more than half the lender’s customers for loans of this type end up paying an effective rate of 1734 percent, for whatever reason — historically, payday loans are often late, incurring late fees, or rolled over into subsequent loans, incurring further interest charges — and presumably that’s the “representative” APR being quoted in the ad.

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