Maybe a little spite

What’s different between Clippers at Thunder and Thunder at Clippers? For one thing, the likelihood of a Flagrant 1 being called on Chris Paul in Los Angeles is vanishingly small. For another, there’s the incredible speed with which Loud City can change direction: Blake Griffin, homeboy, got lots of applause — until the tipoff, at which time he became Blake Griffin, enemy. I always marvel at that. Regardless of venue, though, these two teams always mix it up: the Clips have definitely earned their position as No Longer The Other Team In Los Angeles, and the Thunder will never run out of “Beat L. A.” stuff. It helps, of course, if you actually beat L. A. once in a while, and the Thunder got a measure of revenge for their loss at the Staples last week, pounding the Clippers, 105-91.

What the Clips did really well was finding shot opportunities: they put up 13 more shots than the Thunder, including a 29-shot barrage in the second quarter. What they didn’t do was cash in those opportunities consistently: those 29 shots brought only 21 points. It didn’t help that they only got 15 foul shots in the whole game — and missed eight of them. Still, the stalwarts lived up to their billing, with CP3 (17 points, 12 assists) and Griffin (27 points, 10 rebounds) collecting the only double-doubles for the night, and DeAndre Jordan bagging 12 boards. Jamal Crawford anchored the bench with a solid 18.

The Thunder’s newfound 3-ball prowess got lost on the way to the arena, or something: OKC went 4-19 from long. Russell Westbrook hoisted six of those bricks all by himself. Still, Russ was there when you, or Kevin Durant, needed him, and KD logged a game-high 28 points. Serge Ibaka showed some more of that offensive stuff: 17 points on 8-10 shooting, and oh, three blocks, just in case. Jeremy Lamb led the reserves with 11.

So 1-1 against the Clips. Not too shabby. The second rematch of the season comes Sunday against the Jazz.

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Melissa displays it all

I have occasionally expressed discomfiture over the appearance of Hervé Léger’s Bandage dress, which to me suggests really stylish mummification. On the other hand, Melissa Joan Hart seems to grasp the Zeitgeist here, and by “here” I mean at the premiere of Disney’s Frozen:

Melissa Joan Hart in Herve Leger

Or maybe she’s the only one who managed to get it in the correct size.

Random stumbled-upon biographical bit: Apparently MJH is named for an Allman Brothers song.

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Zapruder than ever

The guy I feel bad for is William Henry Harrison, who caught a cold three weeks after his inauguration; he wound up with pneumonia, which killed him on the 31st day of his term. Everyone, of course, explained that it was because he gave the most godawful long inaugural address on a raw March day without benefit of overcoat. But that’s what everyone does: coughs up an opinion.

This week, we’re getting all manner of JFK-related, um, nostalgia, and frankly we should knock it the hell off, or at least back off from the crushing volume of drama:

Once again, we’re told that it was the worst, the most terrible thing that ever happened to a U. S. President, in all of history —

And that, as H. L. Mencken might’ve said, is utter buncombe. While no President — or any other law-abiding citizen — deserves to be shot down, especially as long as there’s an independent press and the process of impeachment available, it’s an amazing coincidence that the only one they’ve got on film and tape is somehow the very worst.

The press isn’t as independent as it used to be, or for that matter as it thinks itself to be, but that’s not what’s at issue:

Consider Lincoln, who was assassinated in the actual (defective) course of an actual conspiracy, for which eight people were eventually convicted and four were hanged. Consider James A. Garfield, suffering though eleven weeks of increasingly dire infection before dying in agony, or William McKinley, lingering for days before succumbing to gangrene. If there’s a scale of terribleness, someone else is going to have to rank these untimely deaths — but not on the basis of which one offers the most compelling video.

Yeah, but this society has declared itself proudly ahistorical: unpleasant details are left out of the textbooks, and we’re awash in wannabe revisionists with political axes to grind. I can think of no better way to honor Mr Kennedy’s memory — or, for that matter, mine, once the time comes — than to hang the lot of them.

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The llama’s ass has been whipped

Winamp is being sent to the Old Programs’ Home:

Winamp.com and associated web services will no longer be available past December 20, 2013. Additionally, Winamp Media players will no longer be available for download. Please download the latest version before that date. See release notes for latest improvements to this last release.

Thanks for supporting the Winamp community for over 15 years.

I do, in fact, have the latest version on the home box, and an actual Pro license; there are some things Winamp does that are simply not feasible otherwise.

(Title adapted from the original Winamp slogan (here expanded a bit), after this Michele Catalano tweet.)

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In socialist England, TV watches you

And as you might expect, it’s justified as a business model:

A blogger who calls himself DoctorBeet wrote in a blog post earlier this week that he’d run a traffic analysis on his home router and found that whenever he switched the channel, his LG Smart TV would ping LG’s servers with the name of the channel, along with his TVs individual identification number.

So whenever he switched from say, the BBC to Scuzz, his TV would report back to the mothership. Err, LG. Even when he went to his TV settings and switched the “Collection of watching info” that was set to “on” by default to “off,” it still sent that information to LG’s servers.

In other news, there’s a British TV channel called Scuzz.

And this is only the beginning of the Master Plan:

Sometimes his TV would upload the names of personal files he’d stored on an external USB drive that was plugged into the TV. Even though the upload didn’t include the actual files, those names could relay private information, like a video with his kids’ names as the title. He tested it out by creating a file name called “midget_porn.”

The Reg shall hear of this! Oh, wait:

CEO Michael Collette walked us through a very simple idea indeed — instead of a second screen application trying to identify what’s on TV, an application in a smart TV can do the job, with a little bit of help from its Engage platform in the cloud.

This in turn tells everyone what is actually playing on TV right now, which allows the owners of that content to serve advertising and other services against it.

I don’t know about you, but I feel better about my brace of dumb TVs.

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Achievement uncrocked

Tim Holman’s “The Useless Web” promises a useless Web site at the touch of a button. Half expecting to see something of mine, I pushed, and got the stirringly unproductive OMFGDOGS.

Remarkably, that wasn’t the most useless site I found in half a dozen clicks.

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Occasionally Grimm

Fillyjonk defends the fairy tale:

One of the reasons I like fairy tales, and liked them as a kid, is that they follow certain rules. The cruel, the greedy, the evil are punished in the end. The good, kind, honest, and hardworking are rewarded. Suffering is generally not in vain. And while death happens, often the parents of the good kind protagonists are described as dying peacefully after a long, good life. In other words, it portrays a world that seems to me more just than our actual world. (Too often in this world, it seems to me, the cruel do not see the consequences of their actions, and the fact that “no good deed goes unpunished” is a saying tells me this world is less just than it could be.)

I’ll go a little farther with that: the examples of justice being meted out, of heroes triumphing over frightening foes, are absolutely essential for young folks. They have to see that it’s possible to survive something scary, and that wrongs are eventually righted. There’s plenty of time for them to become cynical once they become teenagers.

And now that I think about it, this may be my true rock-bottom objection to Equestria Girls: they took half a dozen examples of Equestria’s finest, who have stared down (literally, in Fluttershy’s case) some of the scariest scenarios known to pony, and dropped them into a remarkably ordinary suburban high school. This is about as useful to a kid’s development as sending Andersen’s Ugly Duckling to the mall for a makeover.

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Can’t beat the tweet

Add this to the list of things I wasn’t expecting:

(A couple of these folks have been here before.)

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Overheated commentary

A discussion of automotive clocks two years ago drifted into a discussion of automotive temperature gauges, capped off by this explanation by the late Ric Locke:

What the temperature gauges of my recent experience have is a remarkably elastic center section. It’s always been true that everything within the white lines was “normal”, but people got worried anyway when the needle got close to an extreme. The manufacturers therefore compress most of the normal range into a few degrees of travel near the center. When the temperature gets within ten or twenty degrees of the maximum, the needle starts moving much faster.

TTAC commenter “autojim” expands the scale, so to speak:

The evolution of the temperature gauge in the US has several stages. First, there were gauges that worked. Some even had numbers on them. But US drivers, who a) can’t be bothered learning that a 50/50 ethylene glycol/water mix boils at 224F at atmospheric pressure, and b) that the boiling point goes up 3F for each PSI, would get all sorts of panicky if the temperature gauge read over 200F and bring it back to the dealer for warranty work.

So the automakers scrapped the numbers and just put cold/hot markings. Well, then customers wanted to know what part of the gauge’s range was trouble, and brought anything “too low” or “too high” by their subjective judgement back to the dealer for warranty work.

So the “NORMAL” band was added, typically with letters. Now we get into the same problem as with numbers: customers expected it to be in the middle of the NORMAL range, right between the R and the M. And never move.

So the automakers started putting huge flat spots in the gauge’s response curve. And under most conditions, that helped. Except with some heat-challenged engines in cold climates, where the coolant temp would dither around the point where the flat spot started, and the needle would move slightly in normal operation, causing customers to bring the car back for warranty work.

So the automakers did two things: one, they removed the “NORMAL” lettering again, and two, they increased the flat spot on the response curve.

And thus was gestation of the idiot light disguised as a gauge.

My old ’66 Chevy Nova had an idiot light which looked like an idiot light; however, my ’75 Toyota Celica had a real-life gauge, with calibrations at 100, 180, 210 and 250. Only once did it ever hit the top of the scale, determined to be the result of a severely clogged radiator, which was subsequently replaced.

This was followed by an ’84 Mercury Cougar with an idiot light, of which I saw entirely too much, given the Essex V6’s tendency to munch on its own head gaskets. Subsequent vehicles had gauges with tremendous flat spots. Gwendolyn’s thermostat supposedly opens at 82°C (180°F), and the gauge, sure enough, sits just a hair below the halfway point.

One gauge I’ve never had went through similar down-dumbing:

The oil pressure gauges had similar things happen, except of course the average consumer has no idea how much oil pressure is normal.

Sixty-nine kPa at idle, 390 at 2000 rpm. (I do pay attention to specs; somewhere in the glove box is the proper torque setting for the lug nuts.) Then again, Nissan wouldn’t even put a stick shift on this car, so you know they’re not interested in oil-pressure gauges.

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Like a verging

Lynn was happy to spear a Facebook status in which I expressed some confusion as to why I’d get an Instalanche off a pretty mundane post. And that’s fine; it’s not like I’m such a Superior Being or anything, or even on the verge of becoming one.

Then followed this:

Honestly, I don’t really care that much anymore. I started blogging with hopes of being Somebody in the blogging world — feeble hopes even then but, nevertheless, real hopes. But now I’m satisfied being in my own little universe. I can’t do politics because I don’t fit neatly into the Left-Right dichotomy so most people try to fit me into “the other side”, whichever side that happens to be for them. Some current events I would comment on but I never have anything particularly insightful to say. How many ways are there to say that a horrible disaster was a horrible disaster? And pop culture? Please. For the most part, I just really don’t want to know.

Then again, a manifestation of pop culture that actually turns into a horrible disaster — I’m looking at you, Miley — has, I believe, substantial potential as blogfodder in the right hands. Or maybe the left hands.

So, I’m not envious of Glenn Reynolds or the other A-list bloggers and I don’t crave their attention. (Okay, maybe I do, just a little bit) The bloggers I envy are those who get 15 to 25 comments on almost every post — little people like me but not as boring as me. But I do appreciate the few comments I do get and try to remind myself to be thankful for those and that quality is better than quantity.

On the off-chance that she intends to group me with the A-list, a place I’ve never actually been — back when N. Z. Bear was doing the Ecosystem, I managed to climb above “Large Mammal” status for about a week — I will now disclose my Number of Comments Per Post: two point eight. (Yes, really. Since the second week of September 2006, which is the first week in the WordPress database.) So there’s certainly no reason for me to be the object of anyone’s envy.

And besides, Lynn gets better trolls than I do.

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Second tour of duty

Melinda May, according to the current ABC/Marvel series Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., has been here before. Says Ming-Na Wen, who plays the role:

“[She] needed to be saved. She returned to S.H.I.E.L.D. out of loyalty to [Phil] Coulson, but there’s a part of her that remains reluctant. She still gets her pissed-off face. If it weren’t for his intervention, she’d still be down in that dark, dingy room stapling things.”

This is not her pissed-off face:

Ming-Na Wen at TCA panel for Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

Ming-Na Wen’s first TV role, back in 1985, was as a Royal Trumpeter in two episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. She turns 50 tomorrow.

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Is this a clear choice?

So now we have gluten-free vodka. Seriously. Are the distillers pulling our chain?

[T]he new spirits labeling trend contradicts long-standing advisories from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that all distilled spirits are gluten-free unless it is added after distillation. So is this all a marketing gimmick?

Distillation involves heating, which vaporizes the alcohol as a way to remove it from the mixture. “Distilled spirits, because of the distillation process, should contain no detectable gluten residues or gluten peptide residues,” says Steve Taylor, co-director of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Food Allergy Research and Resource Program. “Proteins and peptides are not volatile and thus would not distill over.”

Which is what I was thinking. But I’m the kind of guy who washes his hair with trans fats, so I’m relatively unconcerned about such matters. Other folks, they’ve got concerns:

A 2011 FDA report, “Health Hazard Assessment for Gluten Exposure in Individuals with Celiac Disease,” recommended the “most sensitive individuals with CD” eat foods with less than one-ppm gluten levels to protect them from “from experiencing any detrimental health effects from extended to long-term exposure to gluten.”

And the “gluten-free” label on vodka only assures 20 ppm or below, consistent with the labeling on other such products.

So this isn’t quite as risible as it could be. Maybe. I know very few celiac sufferers, and in general, they don’t drink a whole lot of distilled spirits.

(Via Consumerist.)

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The usual semiannual scrutiny

If my car could talk, she might say, along with “You know, these seats of mine can only take so much,” something along the lines of “Yeah, I got insurance. You wanna make something of it?”

Okay, she’s got an attitude. That’s part of why she’s here. And the insurance bill has arrived, so it’s time to go over that stuff again.

Premium is up a not-quite-negligible $20.40 this time around, ten bucks of which goes straight to bodily-injury liability, with half of the rest going to property-damage liability. Uninsured motorist coverage remains unchanged; it also remains the single priciest item on the bill. We shall see if the new state law allowing troopers to confiscate the license plates of uninsured motorists — and, even more fun, providing temporary liability coverage to those motorists at a price yet undetermined to be added to their fines and fees — does anything to address that matter.

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Non-vertical integration

News Item, Monday: The Oklahoman is returning to downtown. Century Center, 100 W Main, is set to become home to The Oklahoma Publishing Company, The Oklahoman and NewsOK by September 2014, subject to remaining government approvals. About 350 employees will make the move, while the production operation will remain at Britton and Broadway.

Top Ten rejected names for the new Opubco complex downtown:

  1. Gaylordia
  2. The Dwarf Tower
  3. News’ Last Stand
  4. FAO Schmucks
  5. Steve Lackmeyer’s Lunch Room
  6. Stage Center East
  7. Soon to Be a Steakhouse
  8. TIF Central
  9. Darth Mall
  10. Oklahoma City Times Square

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Two great tastes that taste horrible together

Vi Hart gives the Google+/YouTube integration the denunciation it deserves:

Google’s products used to augment humanity with beautiful tools that helped us get the information we wanted to see. That was the superiority of Google search, Google Reader, gmail with its excellent spam filter, and YouTube, which allowed you to subscribe to any individual who might want to post videos. Empowering humanity to efficiently search for and find information, and then to choose what information they consume, is not just a noble goal, but turned out to be a wildly successful thing that people want.

So naturally, it had to go:

Now a Google search shows me a full page of promoted, local, and social results — I have to scroll down to see actual search results. Google decided to drop Reader altogether. YouTube inflates subscriber numbers during signups while choosing which videos will actually show up, with a malicious algorithm that includes both total time a user spends on the site (promoting videos that suck you into watching things you don’t really like but are easily distracted by) and revenue gained (this means that by not having ads on your videos you miss out on both the ad money and on having your stuff displayed to many of your own subscribers). You can still “subscribe,” but YouTube changed the definition of the word in the same way Facebook changed the definition of “friend.”

YouTube used to be designed to help you find what you were looking for. Now, it’s designed to keep you looking.

It’s all about the eyeballs, and tracking where those eyeballs fall.

I started typing “new gmail” into a Google box, and the sixth thing suggested was “new gmail sucks;” there’s even a “Gmail’s new look sucks” page on Facebook.

And eventually, I did find someone who argued that no, it does not suck. Not being a Gmail user, I really can’t say much here; but I tend to believe that any IMAP-based mail system sucks.

Still, when both Vi Hart and Violet Blue are using the same word — “trick” — to describe what was done to YouTube commenters, you may safely assume that the users are clearly Not Happy. I’ve been signing my Actual Name to YouTube stuff now for over a year, but you can’t judge a movement based on what I do.

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Sound and fury and such

Brian Shaw is running the game for Denver these days, and so far as I can tell, he’s pretty much memorized George Karl’s notebooks. Certainly these Nuggets have the same swarm-and-overcome tendency of previous Nuggets, and after OKC took a 2-0 lead early, Denver was utterly dominant, taking a lead as large as 14. Still, the Thunder are hard to beat at home, and with just over four minutes left they squirted ahead 103-102. The biggest play of the night might have been with 7.8 seconds left, with Serge Ibaka called for goaltending, putting Denver within two at 112-110. Russell Westbrook got one of two free throws to make it 113-110; Ty Lawson, attempting to miss the second of two, actually hit it. Derek Fisher got a pair of freebies, Westbrook fouled Lawson, and Lawson went back to exactly the same scenario. Lawson did in fact miss this time, and it went out of bounds off Nick Collison; the Nuggets got one more chance with 2.2 left, but that’s where it ended, OKC 115, Denver 113.

George Karl, however, would not have countenanced missing 18 of 43 free throws, as Denver did. (OKC went 26-32.) The Nuggets did shoot better — 46 percent versus 40 — though the 3-ball was falling for OKC, which made 13 of 27. (Denver was 8-23.) And J. J. Hickson, as always, had the Thunder’s number: this time he had 18 points and gathered 19 rebounds. Lawson finished with a team-high 29.

Still, it took 30 from Westbrook and 38 from Kevin Durant to seal the deal: combined they went 21-52. (The rest of the team was 17-41.) The Thunder did have a slight edge on the boards, 53-45, though the number you want to hear is 19, which is the number of offensive retrievals. Lots of second-chance — and a couple of third-chance — points.

The Clippers will be here Thurday. Expect ferocity.

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