Approximately 42 mh

Millihelen, n. That quantity of beauty required to launch one ship.

Samantha BrickSamantha Brick, forty-one, drew over five thousand online comments for this Daily Mail article in which she echoes an old Pantene ad tagline: “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.”

I admit to having read only a relative handful of those comments, but one common theme seems to be that they hate her for thinking she’s a looker. Based on the available evidence — see photo and click to enlarge if desired — I’m willing to accept Roxeanne de Luca’s judgment here, up to a point.

[F]or a normal woman (i.e. one you are likely to encounter while walking to the supermarket), she’s lovely, and for over 40, she looks damn good.

The smile looks somewhat forced to me, but otherwise, I’ll go with “damn good for over 40,” if nowhere near, say, Helen of Troy.

The key here, I think, is “supermarket,” since I have previously admitted to scoping out the babes in the frozen-food aisle. On any given Saturday afternoon, there’s probably someone at least as high on the millihelen scale as Samantha Brick, somewhere within the Homeland at May and Britton, and while she’s not going to pay any attention to me — odds are she’s spoken for anyway — I am always grateful for the view.

Well, almost always grateful. Somewhere in this sea of pulchritude might be someone like this:

There is a certain type of middle-aged woman who is just so unhappy with her lot in life that she’s not going to rest until every other woman around her is miserable, too, and her prime targets are younger, successful, well-proportioned, happy women.

And Lewis Grizzard isn’t around to take them off our hands anymore, either.

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Dogged pursuit

They’re yelling “Play ball!” at the Nickel Slots Ballpark tonight, and Greg Ezell notes in the Gazette that the concession food has been substantially upgraded from last year. For example, Franx, a hot-dog vendor, has this offering known as the “Memphis”:

[It’s] a grilled dog covered in pulled pork and cole slaw. That doesn’t just hit the spot; it carpetbombs the whole area in case there are other spots around.

There is no higher praise for the humble America wiener.

Speaking of Memphis, their evil Redbirds, Triple-A farm club of the Cardinals, will be the visiting team tonight, and they have a new manager in tow: Ron “Pop” Warner, who ran the Double-A Cards affiliate in Springfield the last five years. (The S-Cards are in the Texas League, which makes even more sense than Memphis and Oklahoma City in the Pacific Coast League.)

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Chilled factor

The trouble with being at the top of the conference, the Thunder are discovering, is that everyone else will try that much harder to knock them off. Of course, if you’re stumbling, you can knock yourself out in a matter of seconds, and OKC tripped up several times at Miami, handing the Heat a 98-93 win despite better shooting and more rebounding.

The difference: perimeter defense — the Heat actually had some — and LeBron James, who presented his case for MVP with considerable aplomb, rolling up 23 points in the first half on his way to 34, distributing the ball with dispatch (10 assists!) and pulling off four steals. Dwyane Wade, who’d been unwell, was declared okay at gametime, and he came up with 19 points. What broke the Thunder’s back, though, was Shane Battier’s two consecutive treys in the fourth quarter, running exactly the same play. If you ask me, this is exactly the point where the cause was lost, though stats guys will note that OKC was within three with 46 seconds left and hadn’t missed a free throw all night, whereupon Kendrick Perkins clanged a pair off the rim.

Perk, incidentally, got his 12th technical for about the fourth or fifth time tonight. (He’s had several rescinded, so the count varies.) Batman and Robin got decent numbers, though Kevin Durant’s 30 points were offset by nine turnovers — half the team total — and Russell Westbrook shot 9-26 to get his 28. At various points they were seemingly manhandled by the Heat; radio guy Matt Pinto’s “How is that not a foul?” turned into a second-quarter mantra. Miami expat Daequan Cook, back in the Thunder lineup, only put up one trey, but it went; the rest of the team went 4-16 from Coral Gables.

The Spurs edged the Celtics tonight, which means that the gap between first and second in the West is down to one game (OKC is 40-14, San Antonio 38-14). Being drubbed by #2 in the East obviously did not help, and the next game up is with #3: the Pacers, in Hoosieropolis Friday night.

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One particular place to go

Normally I shy away from those humongous infographics you see here and there, but this one raised a couple of points I’m sort of willing to discuss:

Killer Commute
Created by: College At Home

As it happens, my normal commute runs 18 minutes each way, though recent construction on I-44 near the Broadway Extension adds two minutes to the return trip, bringing me up to, yes, 38 minutes a day.

Of the “anger” responses, I prefer the simple digitus impudicus, as it seems pointless to yell, and if you’ve heard one horn, you’ve heard them all.

As a rule, I keep the seatback at about 110°; there’s a movable lumbar support which feels remarkably like a piece of, um, lumber.

I do, however, question that bit about “when a car steps on its brakes.” If a car is doing its own braking, either it’s a megabuck sedan with some high-priced alleged “safety” option, or it’s one of Google’s automated autos.

And by the way: last cholesterol reading (late last month) was 163. Nyah.

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Land Run 2.0

I’m typing this from a point about four miles from the epicenter of the 1.0 version in the spring of 1889, so my interest in an updated version is perhaps keener than most.

Here’s the pitch:

Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute released a new study by Adjunct Scholar Rand Simberg: Homesteading the Final Frontier: A Practical Proposal for Securing Property Rights in Space. Simberg argues that the U.S. should recognize transferable off-planet land claims under conditions such as those outlined by the proposed Space Settlement Prize Act, which Simberg renames the Space Homesteading Act.

A legal private property regime for real estate on the Moon, Mars, and asteroids could usher in a new era of space exploration at little or no cost to the U.S. government. As the study explains, space is rich in valuable resources. But without off-planet property rights, investors have little incentive to fund space transportation or development. Simberg proposes that the U.S. begin to recognize off-planet land claims of claimants who

A) establish human settlements on the Moon, Mars, or other bodies in the solar system;

B) provide affordable commercial transportation between the settlement and Earth; and

C) offer land for sale.

These claim rights would transform human perception of space. Currently, the international community treats outer space as an off-limits scientific preserve instead of what it could be: a frontier of possibilities for exploration, resource development, and human settlement.

With regard to that last quoted paragraph, here’s Francis W. Porretto on a slightly nearer faraway place:

Antarctica could be quite valuable real estate, if its riches were properly appreciated and exploited. It conceals deposits of fuels and minerals enough to satiate the human race for a millennium or more. But in its “pristine” state, it’s near to worthless except as an outpost for weather observation… Such a desire is inexplicable upon any basis but utter hatred of Mankind.

It may be simply that the right palms need to be greased. Land Run 1.0 couldn’t take place until residual claims by the Creek and Seminole nations were considered; the Feds ultimately bought them off for about two bucks an acre, a decided gain over the under-four-cent price in the Louisiana Purchase. (I note with some amusement that my own little parcel, according to the taxman, is now allegedly worth over $100,000 an acre.)

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Featuring the new Rotating Name signage

News Item: The Oklahoma City RedHawks will host a news conference Wednesday [4/4] to announce RedHawks Field in Bricktown will be renamed after the Newcastle Casino.

Naming rights being a competitive sort of thing — highest bidder wins — here are the Top Ten rejected names for the ballpark in Bricktown:

  1. Bass Pro Bowl
  2. The Moshe Talarium
  3. Brewer anything
  4. Civic Center Park East
  5. Project 180 Stadium [3000 seats will face away from the field]
  6. We Swear Larry Nichols Didn’t Name This
  7. Remaining Gaylord Family Bricktown Park
  8. Magnetic Field
  9. Power Balance Pavilion [discontinued]
  10. Steak Sandwich Supreme Stadium

You just don’t get this kind of coverage anywhere else.

Update, 4/5: The Chickasaw Nation, owner of said casino, has backpedaled a bit, and will now bestow the name “Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark” on the facility.

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On behalf of quiet time

Despite my not-inconsiderable social-networking profile, I’m not really all that social, so this resonates rather strongly with me:

For someone like me, an afternoon alone feels more like a blessing than a curse. I’ve said to a colleague of mine before — and I’m not quite sure he gets it — that sometimes I “run out of words” and just need to be where I don’t have to talk to people or even, necessarily, be verbal at all. (That’s why I knit and quilt as a hobby. Oh, granted, you do need to read patterns for those, but a lot of the time you’re not dealing with words). And why most of the music I choose is instrumental. I mean, I love words — I wouldn’t have a blog otherwise — but sometimes I just run out of them. Or, more correctly, don’t feel like using them.

One of the reasons I tend to show up at the office around six-thirty is the fact that it will likely be an hour and a half before I actually have to talk to anyone. A lot can get done in those ninety uninterrupted minutes, and sometimes it actually does.

And those of us who have lived alone for many years, I think, are likely to be much more annoyed by People And Their Damned Interruptions than those with a full house and a low signal-to-noise ratio.

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And once again I’m late to the party

The story so far:

1. Andrea Harris, having read something by an ignorant, possibly anti-Semitic moron, calls him an ignorant, possibly anti-Semitic moron.

2. The IPASM responds this way: “[redacted], where I made the [redacted] comment, is the FOREMOST INTERNET HUMOUR SITE IN ALL OF CANADA!

3. Shortly thereafter, Harris closed the comment thread, so she will be spared my observation to the effect that “Isn’t that like having the second-oldest Dairy Queen in Nacogdoches?”

3½. When seemingly everyone is using “It was a joke, dammit” as an excuse, you realize just how unfunny most people really are.

3¾. Including me, sometimes.

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In the XY trim level

You’ve seen the term “girlmobiles” bandied about here, as a shorthand for vehicles bought primarily by women. (Some people say “chick cars,” but I try to avoid the term “chick,” since the babes don’t much like it.) Admittedly, I have not given a whole lot of attention to the other side of the continuum.

So: boymobiles. Edmunds.com Inside Line describes ten of them thusly: “phallic, fast and pricey.” In tenth place, presumably the least such conveyance, is Chevrolet’s Corvette, which sells 86 of every 100 to men, or at least to males.

The Ferrari 458 Italia wins whatever award there is for being the most “manly” machine, corralling a 95.3-percent male market. (The other 4.7 percent, I assume, is Paris Hilton.)

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Political rebranding

The two major Philadelphia dailies, plus the philly.com Web site, have been sold for the fourth time in the last six years, and Bill Quick suggests a minor change across the top of the page:

I would suggest that the Inquirer change its name to the Democrat-Inquirer, and the Daily News to the Daily Democrat News. Just to be honest.

I can see his point: those Philly papers have been reliable supporters of Democratic Party initiatives and candidates in recent years. But I look a little closer to home, and note that the Arkansas Democrat was decidedly to the right of the rival Arkansas Gazette. And in 1991, the Gazette’s owner (Gannett) sold out to the Democrat, which remains a right-of-center paper to this day.

We will not, for the sake of sense and/or sensibility, mention the Dacron Republican-Democrat.

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US Phish

For today’s scam, we have a fake reservation confirmation:

You should check in from 24 hours and up to 60 minutes before your flight (2 hours if you’re flying internationally). After that, all you need to do is print your boarding pass and head to the gate.

Confirmation code: 329679

Check-in online: Online reservation details

According to the “details,” which conceal a link to a site in Chile, I’m booked on US Airways Flight 7952, scheduled to leave DCA (Reagan National) at 10 pm Thursday. As it happens, US Airways does have a Flight 7952, but it’s a West Coast route, from SFO (San Francisco International) to BUR (Bob Hope Airport, Burbank).

And I’m still fuzzy on how I’m supposed to check in and then print my boarding pass.

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All this needs is a badge

Angie Harmon, aka Detective Jane Rizzoli, got this T-shirt from a fan, and tweeted this picture to everyone:

Angie Harmon as Detective Sexy McBadass

She’s, um, excused.

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Mower than I bargained for

A couple of weeks ago, I sent the electric mower out for regrooving; they called Thursday to say it was done, but I didn’t pick it up until yesterday.

And I almost didn’t recognize it: apart from a couple of spots on the handle where the paint had scraped away, it looked brand new. From the looks of the invoice, they replaced everything that moved, and a couple of things that didn’t: even the handle grips are new. I can’t imagine they’re making a whole lot of money on this at the $90 (plus tax and the usual shop-supplies fee) price tag. I admit to not having tried out the machine yet: there was baby stuff to deal with when I got home, plus storms on the horizon. Still, all the parts about which I had doubts were replaced, so I’m going to assume that All Is Well.

Incidentally, once I wheeled the mower out to the car, I took the handle off so I could get it into the trunk; a fellow in a Ford, just pulling in, offered to help me boost it. I thanked him and waved him off, sure I could get it myself. He probably had no idea this machine weighs barely 60 pounds.

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Ground to a fine powder

One of these days, I expect to see Grizzlies vs. Thunder: A Quentin Tarantino Film. Seriously. The violence level fits, and tonight Scott Brooks — Scott Brooks! — drew a technical for saying God knows what. All you need to know about this one, though, is this Thunder statistic: Two fast-break points. Two. That’s how stifling the Memphis defense was, and when O. J. Mayo lofted a 25-footer at the shot-clock buzzer with 17 seconds left to put the Grizzlies up four, Loud City assumed an eerie quiet. OKC pulled within two on a pair of Russell Westbrook free throws, but Zach Randolph got two of his own, and Tony Allen tacked on two more just to rub it in. It’s the first time Memphis has beaten Oklahoma City this season in four tries, but it’s the one that’s going to hurt the most. Grizzlies 94, Thunder 88, and it pulls Memphis a couple of percentage points ahead of Dallas for the fifth seed in the West. (At this writing, the Mavs are being pounded by the L. A. Clippers.)

Mayo, in fact, outscored everyone: he had 22 points. Jeremy Pargo, starting in place of the ailing Mike Conley, came up with an unexpected ten; Zach Randolph, beside O. J. on the Memphis bench, had ten more. The Griz did not shoot well — 39 percent, 4 of 16 from beyond the arc — but they nailed 22 of 24 from the stripe. (The Thunder likewise put up 24, but only hit 17.) What Memphis does best, though, is force turnovers, and OKC obligingly coughed up the ball 18 times.

You have to assume that Westbrook is not happy with 5-16 from the floor (19 points), and Kevin Durant is less than pleased with 8-20 (21). Rebounds were even, OKC was up two in assists, but where’s the ball going through the net? “It wasn’t a lack of effort,” said Brooks; “we were out of sync.” Outscored 52-44 in the second half, they were evidently syncing out of sight.

Now to take it to South Beach. The Heat will not be in a forgiving mood, I suspect.

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Hollering up a storm

For those of you keeping score, the total grandchildren count is now up to six. Becky texted me to advise that they were going to induce labor; by the time I actually got to read said text, the youngster had already emerged.

Anyway, if you’re so inclined, say hello to Liam Luke Carson, born 4/2/12, 9 lb 8 oz, 21″, and somewhere around 85 decibels. Major lung power runs in the family, you may be certain. Pictures will follow when I can get some.

(Once again, I had to issue the Standard Reminder of how these things happen. They never learn.)

To update the books: this is Becky’s third, following Nick and Allison. Russ has three: Laney, Jackson and Gunner. That’s half a dozen. Considering I’m not yet 60, you’d think this would be plenty for a while.

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Nobody’s waiting by your side

Once in a while one of those image macros actually gets to me. I lost the link, and I can’t bring myself to go back through three weeks of Facebook ephemera to find it, so I’ll simply tell you that it’s a simple picture of an old man on a bench under a streetlight, saying “For fifty years, I have loved only one woman.”

Next panel: “If only she knew.”

Now jump back in time six centuries or so:

Majnun Dies on the Tomb of Layla by Behzad

This is a miniature attributed to the Persian painter Kamal al-din Bihzad, circa 1495, depicting Majnun (“he who is possessed”), the poet formerly known as Qays, laid to rest beside his beloved Layla, whom he could never, ever approach.

The story goes back at least to seventh-century Arabia, though the best-known version was created by Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi in 1192. They met as children, and were promptly barred from each other’s company by the parental units. In time, she was betrothed to another; Qays slowly, then not so slowly, seemed to go mad. In an effort to free the lad from his madness, his father took him on the Hajj; not only did it not work, but Qays actually raised a hand to the Kaaba itself:

“None of my days shall ever be free of this pain. Let me love, oh my God, love for love’s sake, and make my love a hundred times as great as it was and is!”

By now Layla must have forgotten him, and the madman wandered through the desert, singing the praises of his lost love. Passers-by listened to his songs, and sometimes they wrote them down. Eventually those songs reached Layla, who has not forgotten him at all: she could not, of course, respond, but she wrote her own messages and cast them forth, hoping the wind would carry them to him. And while she had married, that marriage had not been consummated, as she could not in good conscience participate. Her husband, understanding, chose not to press the issue.

Years passed, and the wind, helped by travelers who knew of Majnun and his plight, did bring Layla’s messages to him, and he gave thanks that she lived. A man named Zayd became their go-between, carrying messages back and forth; eventually they would meet at twilight, keeping a decent distance of ten paces between them, speaking in that mysterious tongue only lovers know, until the break of dawn.

And they were still apart when Layla’s husband died, and Layla, despairing, died of grief. Majnun returned to her, but too late, and having nothing further to live for, was laid to rest beside her. Zayd has a vision of them in the next world:

“Eternal companions: he is Majnun, the king of the world in right action, and she is Layla, the moon among idols in compassion. In the world, like unpierced rubies they treasured their fidelity affectionately, but found no rest and could not attain their heart’s desire. Here they suffer grief no more. So it will be until eternity.”

And Zayd himself notes:

This world is dust and is perishable. That world is pure and eternal… Commit yourself to love’s sanctuary and at once find freedom from your ego. Fly in love as an arrow towards its target. Love loosens the knots of being, love is liberation from the vortex of egotism. In love, every cup of sorrow which bites into the soul gives it new life. Many a draft bitter as poison has become in love delicious… However agonizing the experience, if it is for love it is well.

Now what you want to know is probably: Did Eric Clapton know about all this?

I am yours.
However distant you may be,
There blows no wind but wafts your scent to me,
There sings no bird but calls your name to me.
Each memory that has left its trace with me
Lingers forever as a part of me.

You may be absolutely certain that he did.

And you would never believe how I arrived at this topic in the first place, so I cut this down from the original thousand words to a shade under 700.

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