Here endeth the lesson

“Good judgment,” Will Rogers would tell you, “comes from experience.” Oklahoma City didn’t have a lot of it, playoff-wise, and in the closing moments, you could tell. With 39 seconds left, Russell Westbrook sank two free throws to bring the Thunder to within two. Dallas worked some clock, and Dirk Nowitzki actually missed a shot, but Jason Kidd cleared, fired it back to Dirk, and Eric Maynor pretty much had to foul him. Nowitzki duly dropped in both foul shots — he’s missed only two in five games — putting Dallas up by four, 100-96, and that’s the way it ended.

The obligatory Telltale Statistic: Daequan Cook, who put up no shots and pulled in one rebound in just over four minutes, was +5, highest on the team, despite lots of OKC offense: Westbrook had 31, Kevin Durant and James Harden 23 each, Nick Collison 12 plus 12 boards. Major problem: Kidd moved the ball seemingly at will, serving up 10 assists. (The Thunder in aggregate had 16.) And he moved it to Dirk (26 points), or to Shawn Marion (also 26). Scant consolations: OKC won the battle of the boards, 49-44, and shot slightly better: 42.7 percent versus 41.

So the Mavs go to the Finals, and if they play the Heat, I suppose I’m cheering for Dallas. (Chicago, last I looked, was in a 3-1 hole.) There will be another season, perhaps as early as next season, though they’re still talking lockout. Experience, it turns out, pays dividends; the Thunder, by next spring, will have earned them. Will could have told you that, too.

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Moonlight and doo-wop

KingShamus was kind enough to put up Debussy’s Suite bergamasque in full, and came up with the following conclusion:

The magnum opus that we see is the final draft of a piece with countless revisions, false starts and trashcan fodder laying behind it. Debussy could’ve published his first or second attempts at the Suite bergamasque — of which ‘Clair de lune’ is a part — and it probably would’ve sounded great. But it also probably wouldn’t have transcended time and circumstance. It might’ve been just a notable piano composition.

Interestingly, the Suite has its own Facebook page.

My mother seldom played the piano, but when she did, “Clair de lune” was her signature piece. And in 1961, the Rays, best known for their hit “Silhouettes” four years earlier, scraped into the Top 50 with a vocal-group version.

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Fleeting efficiency

The White House has issued a memorandum on government automotive fleets, and as is often the case with government decrees of this sort, what isn’t said is often at least as important as what is.

This paragraph, for instance, seems pretty comprehensible:

By December 31, 2015, all new light duty vehicles leased or purchased by agencies must be alternative fueled vehicles, such as hybrid or electric, compressed natural gas, or biofuel. Moreover, agency alternative fueled vehicles must, as soon as practicable, be located in proximity to fueling stations with available alternative fuels, and be operated on the alternative fuel for which the vehicle is designed. Where practicable, agencies should encourage development of commercial infrastructure for alternative fuel or provide flex fuel and alternative fuel pumps and charging stations at Federal fueling sites.

This is mostly in response to the fact that the government buys a lot of flex-fuel vehicles, but very little actual E85; the President has decided, not unreasonably, that this was ultimately counterproductive. And I’m thinking that if the agencies are having to insure some sort of Federal infrastructure for AFVs, there might have to be some openings for the private sector, if only out of speed considerations: I can assure you that Chesapeake and OnCue can build a CNG station a lot faster than anyone in area code 202.

The next paragraph, however, gets a trifle murky:

Pursuant to motor vehicle management regulations, set forth at 41 C.F.R. 102-34.50, executive fleets are required to achieve maximum fuel efficiency; be limited in motor vehicle body size, engine size, and optional equipment to what is essential to meet agency mission; and be midsize or smaller sedans, except where larger sedans are essential to the agency mission. Within 180 days of the date of this memorandum, any executive fleet vehicles that are larger than a midsize sedan or do not comply with alternative fueled vehicle requirements must be disclosed on agency websites.

Now obviously the Secret Service is not going to allow the President to be schlepped around town in Malibu One. Beyond that, though, I’m wondering what sort of “agency mission” deems anything bigger than an Impala “essential.”

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Quit horning in

Not only is the vuvuzela annoying, it’s a fairly efficient distributor of airborne pathogens:

[P]lastic blowing horns (vuvuzelas) have the capacity to propel extremely large numbers of aerosols into the atmosphere of a size able to penetrate the lower lung. Some respiratory pathogens are spread via contaminated aerosols emitted by infected persons. Further investigation is required to assess the potential of the vuvuzela to contribute to the transmission of aerosol borne diseases. We recommend, as a precautionary measure, that people with respiratory infections should be advised not to blow their vuvuzela in enclosed spaces and where there is a risk of infecting others.

Citation: Lai K-M, Bottomley C, McNerney R (2011) Propagation of Respiratory Aerosols by the Vuvuzela. PLoS ONE 6(5): e20086. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020086

(Via this Syaffolee tweet.)

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Putting the Ass in Aspirational

The Hyacinth Girl doesn’t “get excited about politicians anymore”:

Every single one of them will disappoint, especially Republicans. The problem with most people who want to get into politics is that they either want to be liked or believe they should be liked. Republicans consistently buy into the false narrative written by the media and gleefully embraced and recited by the Left. We lost the culture war in the 1960’s, and we’ve been playing catch up ever since. Republicans don’t want to be the nerds, the unpopular kids, the squares, and they suck up to the media because they view the media as kingmakers. They claim to be outsiders and sometimes they really are, like Sarah Palin, but to believe the lame false narrative, you’ve got to be in the bubble. The rest of us mouthbreathers know that the narrative is bullshit, but when you’re in the political machine — like, say, Newt — you can’t see the forest for the particularly obnoxious tree interviewing you at the moment.

Sarah Palin, I suspect, works the machine just a trifle too well to be completely persuasive as an outsider.

On the other hand, she’s got Gingrich dead to rights: you can be absolutely certain that Newt’s primary concern was, and is, Newt.

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A drought in the rainy-day fund

Not that this surprises me in any way:

Nearly half of Americans are living in a state of “financial fragility,” a new paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research reveals. To determine this statistic, researchers from the George Washington School of Business, Princeton University, and Harvard Business School asked survey participants whether they would be able to come up with $2,000 for an “unexpected expense in the next month.” 22.2 percent predicted they would be “probably unable” and 27.9 percent said they’d certainly be unable to foot the unplanned bill. The hypothetical cost “reflects the order of magnitude of the cost of an unanticipated major car repair, a large co-payment on a medical expense, legal expenses, or a home repair.”

My own response would be something like “Yes, if you can somehow figure out some way to keep anything else from happening for the rest of the year.”

(Via swirlspice.)

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Astroturf by the strand

The Herald of Everett, Washington finds an enthusiastic booster of red-light cameras in its Web discussion areas:

A poster using the screen name “W Howard” has commented 43 times on our site since June. The unifying themes in these posts are that the cameras are good, that they are making the world safer and that anyone who says otherwise — particularly Mukilteo initiative activist Tim Eyman — needs their head examined.

So far, no big deal. But then:

Some readers have suggested “W Howard” has been posting comments as part of a marketing campaign run by American Traffic Solutions, Inc. The Scottsdale-based company contracts to provide enforcement camera services in Lynnwood and Seattle. It had inked a similar deal in Mukilteo last year, then Eyman pushed for a public vote. Upshot: no cameras in Mukilteo, and a spreading movement around Washington that has growing numbers of people asking questions about enforcement camera technology.

So the paper acted on those reader suggestions, and guess what? requires that people who wish to post comments supply us with a live email address at the time they create their user account. “W Howard” gave an address at American Traffic Solutions. It is one used by Bill Kroske, vice president of business development at ATS. Somebody techie here ran down the internet protocol address that’s being used for “W Howard’s” posts. The electronic trail led straight back to Kroske’s company in Scottsdale.

It occurs to me that expat lefty Glenn Greenwald could make a ton of money instructing these hapless corporate swine in the arcane arts of astroturfing and sockpuppetry.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Ringside seat at Tornado Alley

Yours truly, a few days after the F5 tornado in Oklahoma City, May 1999:

You can’t watch destruction at this level, even at a “safe” distance, without something happening to you. The deeply religious, and we have lots of them, saw this as a severe test of their faith; the vast majority of them, I believe, held on. For those of an environmentalist bent — and perhaps also for those who scoff at such things — the storm was a none-too-gentle reminder that Nature always gets the last word.

Today’s line of storms contained entirely too many tornadoes. We didn’t get the Joplin treatment, but there exist reports of casualties and lots of fuzzy video. Apparently one tornado tracked to my north and one to my south; all I got was a lot of rain — I estimate about ¾ to one inch in an hour — a few broken limbs, and a dinner delayed by an hour and a quarter. I suppose I’ll know tomorrow if it took out the office.

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Angrier birds

Or maybe they’re just intoxicated:

Drunk lorikeets are falling out of the sky in Darwin.

Despite tough laws on alcohol consumption across the Northern Territory, a vet was preparing for another season of alcohol-fueled avian vertigo.

The noisy birds — famous for creating a racket at the Friday Palmerston Markets, on the outskirts of Darwin — act in a drunk manner and then fall over, according to Ark Animal Hospital vet Dr Stephen Cutter.

Sounds like your cousin from [fill in name of disfavored region], doesn’t it? But Wikipedia notes:

Due to the largely liquid diet of lorikeets, their droppings are also of a very liquid nature, making them one of the messier companion birds to keep.

Let’s hope that doesn’t sound like your cousin from [fill in name of disfavored region].

(Spotted, so to speak, by the Friar.)

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Finally I can see you crystal clear

So far as I know, the Menendez brothers, having been convicted of murdering their parents, did not actually request clemency on the basis of having been cruelly orphaned.

The better example of unmitigated gall, therefore, is here:

Adele has revealed that her ex-boyfriend — the inspiration for her debut album 19 — has been in touch seeking royalties.

The singer has made no secret of her former partner’s influence on the album. As a result, the man, who Adele refuses to name, has called repeatedly trying to gain financially from the heartbreak he inflicted on the singer.

Inasmuch as she wrote her own lyrics (except for a Dylan cover) on 19, which has sold somewhere upwards of three million copies, the scuzzball clearly hopes to make a killing off his treachery, and has pretty much validated her current opinion of him.

Let him make his own damned record, say I.

(Title from “Rolling in the Deep,” which is on her second album, 21, but no matter.)

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Choos for industry

Jimmy Choo Ltd., co-founded by the famed Malaysian shoe designer back in 1996, is changing hands, as it were, once again: German holding company Labelux Group GmbH, owner of a few other couture brands including Bally Shoe, is buying Choo from TowerBrook Capital, which acquired Choo in 2007 for £180 million. Price of the transaction was not disclosed, though some estimates suggest about £500 million.

Former Vogue editor Tamara Mellon, 43, the other co-founder, still owns about 17 percent of the company, will continue as Chief Creative Officer, and presumably will continue to dress like this:

Tamara Mellon in 2010

(Photo courtesy of Harvey Nichols Birmingham.)

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Letting it slide

Once in a while we get a close-up of somebody’s shoes on the red carpet, and often as not, those shoes don’t actually fit.

Along with several illustrations of same, the Shoe Girl proffered this possible explanation:

Maybe it’s because stylists usually put the outfits together and sometimes the celebs don’t try them on until the last minute?

Which seemed at least plausible enough. A semi-heated discussion ensued, and the following scenario emerged from the comments section: celeb’s stylist requests shoe from designer, designer sends over whatever is on hand in one of a couple of Standard Sizes, neither of which is necessarily the correct size for celeb.

So the next time you see J. Random Starlet half out of her pumps, now you know why.

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The juggernaut begins to accelerate

If we’ve learned anything from this series, it’s that the Mavericks are supreme opportunists: give them any kind of opening, and they’ll take advantage of it. With about five minutes left, the Thunder had forged a 15-point lead; four and a half minutes later, Dallas had shaved it to two, and with six seconds left, Dirk Nowitzki, who hardly ever misses a foul shot, hit two of them for the tie, and overtime was upon us.

The Mavs, in fact, got their first lead of the night during the extra period, as ominous a sign as the storms going on outside the arena, and The Two Jasons got the last seven points to put it out of reach, 112-105. Once again, youth and exuberance fall to age and experience.

And once again, the box score might fool you. The Thunder absolutely owned the boards — 55-33, including 20-5 offensive — and the only double-doubles of the night were posted by Kevin Durant (29 points, 15 rebounds) and Serge Ibaka (18 points, 10 boards). But OKC managed to lose the ball twenty-five times, and eleven of thirteen treys failed to find their way to the net. (The Mavs missed 17, but then they put up 25.)

And then there was Dirk. He wasn’t that much of a factor in the overtime, but he did his damnedest to make sure Dallas got there. He finished with 40 points and four turnovers. For comparison: Durant turned it over nine times, though this is more of a tribute to Shawn Marion’s stifling defense. And be it noted, both James Harden and Nick Collison fouled out, which hampered OKC’s efforts to regain control of this thing.

Which efforts, I presume, will resume Wednesday in Dallas. But down 3-1, the Thunder now have to win three straight to get into the Finals, and two of them will be on enemy turf. Then again, they didn’t do so hot at home, either.

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Presumptive heir to the Massengill fortune

In hell, they ask for ice water. On Yahoo! Answers, they ask for stuff like this:

Striving to automate my regular target monthly income (TMI) of $10000 USD by having a profitable online business or otherwise in order to achieve my ever desired ultimate goal that’s living my dream luxury playboy kind of lifestyle similar to Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Work Week lifestyle.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could refer me to the best resources as well as step by step tutorials that will help me generate and earn a minimum of $10 K a month as my target monthly income (TMI).

Besides, I am also open to all your possible suggestions and ideas referring to making the above mentioned target monthly income offline (outside the internet) despite the fact that I truly believe that a profitable online business is the best and quickest option for me.

What’ll you bet that:

  • He hasn’t even bought the Ferriss book;
  • He doesn’t have any sort of idea that could actually make money on the Net;
  • The least he could do is start paying his mom some rent.

“Dream luxury playboy kind of lifestyle,” indeed. Were he any more delusional, he could run for Congress.

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An obligation to be discharged

In a piece called “The EV Expectation Gap,” The Truth About Cars editor Edward Niedermeyer reproduces this graph from an Accenture study, and it looks to me like electric cars like Nissan’s Leaf are going to have a whole lot of trouble selling to anyone beyond committed green folk:

Survey results from Accenture May 2011

Survey respondents evidently want a single charge to last for eight days’ worth of driving.

One current EV — Tesla’s $100k-plus Roadster — claims a range close to 400 km, though it seats only two, snugly, and cargo space is theoretical at best. And while it does zero to sixty in a shade under four seconds, actually verifying this for yourself will cut into that range rather substantially.

The Chevrolet Volt, with its gasoline-engine backup, can actually pull off something close to a 400-km range for less than half what Tesla asks for the Roadster, and it seats four. I suppose there might be EV purists out there who reject the Volt because it occasionally burns some gasoline, and premium gasoline at that. If there’s a lot of them, Niedermeyer’s conclusion seems inevitable:

[T]here’s a giant disconnect (nearly ten-fold in fact) between the actual number of kilometers driven each day and the range expectations for future EV purchases. Meanwhile, 62% of respondents rejected battery swapping, the most credible current solution for range anxiety, for reasons that are not immediately clear. In short, Energy Secretary Chu had better be right when he says EV range will triple and costs will be reduced over the next six years… otherwise, EVs will die a quick death at the hand of consumers’ outsized range expectations.

And this time they won’t be able to blame General Motors.

Addendum: “In a land where 40-mile commutes are a lot more common than 4-mile ones, the Nissan Leaf has a tough row to hoe.”

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A book at bedtime

Books, we are told, are going the way of the vinyl LP: a specialty market at best, while the majority of sales will be digital files for electronic readers.

D. G. Myers isn’t buying that:

Children fall in love with books as physical objects long before they experience them as meaningful texts. As I have noticed before, children’s books celebrate their materiality: there are board books, touch-and-feel books, lift-the-flap books, pop-up books, musical-sound books. These are not the precursors to hypertext; they are early training in the handling of books.

And those of us who have long since left childhood behind?

Reading a book requires intense concentration, but it also leaves a physical memory. We recall a passage as falling on a left- or right-hand page, at the top or bottom or in the middle. We thumb the remaining pages and place an incident or argument in a spatial context, not just in time. The multi-sensory aspect of reading a book is an aid to memory, just as language instructors (who teach their students to write and read and speak and listen and pick up objects while translating their name) have always suspected.

More often than not, when I recall a passage from a book, I’m seeing the actual page in my mind’s eye; it makes life much easier when I actually hunt down that passage to quote online, because I know where to look: “about a third of the way through, left-hand page, about three paragraphs down.”

But the main reason I have not embraced Kindle et al. is simply that a lot of my reading gets done right before bedtime, and for me, it’s much more convenient, maybe even safer, to have the actual book on the nightstand instead of some pricey, breakable device.

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