Quote of the week

Ace riffs on l’affaire Phil Robertson, and points out where we’re going wrong:

Yes, A&E has the right to suspend Phil Robertson. A&E also has the right to stand up for a broad and generous principle of Freedom of Thought and Expression.

Why does no one speak of that right? Sure, they have the right to act hostilely towards the spirit of the First Amendment and use coercive power to hammer people into only speaking the Officially Approved Institutional Corporate Slogans.

They also have the right to stick up for people’s right to dissent, to be “weird,” to have unpopular thoughts and heterodox beliefs. And as a media company, they really ought to have an interest in doing so.

Why does no one ever mention this? Why does no one ever push companies to recognize that right, rather than the other one?

It is well-conceded that an employer has the right to fire you for some heterodox belief or some oddball sexual habit, but an employer similarly has the right to foster an environment of self-expression and freedom, and yet no one seems to talk about a company’s capacity to be a Good Actor in the realm of free expression.

Of course not. The people who do support free expression would never dream of screaming at the top of their lungs about boycotts and such. But maybe it’s time they should:

[T]his War on Individuality hurts everyone who considers himself an individual.

It is time to tell these people, with no politeness whatsoever, to Shut the Fuck Up and stop making life awful for everyone else.

They are enemies of freedom — of freedom of conscience, of freedom of thought, of freedom of expression; of freedom, generally — and should be hectored, harassed, and humiliated as such.

They are retrograde simpleton bullies, and bullies requiring the bracing lesson of a punch to the face.

In the meantime, I’ll wait for someone to show me the specific clause in the Constitution that says he has the right to go through life without ever hearing anything that conflicts with his views.

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Primus inter pares sucks

I was coming out of the grocery store last night with my 15 items or less, and in the parking lot I encountered a fairly unhappy fellow with a presumably attached female. The source of his unhappiness? The store’s ATM. “This is the United States of America,” he growled. “We shouldn’t have to push a button for English; they should have to push a button for Español.”

I figured that if Presumably Attached Female hadn’t pointed out to him that both English and Spanish users have to push a button — that’s how the machine starts up — there wasn’t much point in my doing so, so I trotted on, if my typical just-about-twilight-after-a-long-day gait can be considered a trot.

Aside: One of my land-based phones has three-language capability, which has to be reset every time the battery for the Caller ID module is changed out; I don’t even bother, and often as not I get Spanish or French. (Now if it had actual translation capability for calls … but no, not at that price point.)

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Turmoil in Turkey continues

Istanbul chief of police Huseyin Capkin has been fired:

Istanbul’s police chief has been sacked in the aftermath of mass arrests on Tuesday by officers investigating corruption claims, reports say.

Huseyin Capkin’s dismissal comes a day after several senior officers, including his deputies, were removed.

Some 52 people, including three sons of ministers, were arrested in the dawn raids which prompted the dismissals.

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has denounced the inquiry as a “dirty operation” against his government.

In the absence of obvious explanations, there are speculations:

Many believe the arrests and firings reflect a feud within Turkey’s ruling AK Party between those who back Mr Erdoğan, and supporters of Fethullah Gülen, an influential Islamic scholar living in self-imposed exile in the US.

Members of Mr Gülen’s Hizmet movement are said to hold influential positions in institutions such as the police, the judiciary and the AK Party itself.

“Hizmet” — “service to the common good” — would seem at least slightly incompatible with Islam as we know it, but I admit to having read very little of Gülen’s work.

Meanwhile, where there is turmoil, there are jokes:

“How Turkey has regressed,” says Jerry at Commonsense & Wonder.

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Finely ground

If the Bulls without Derrick Rose are hobbled, the Bulls without both Rose and Luol Deng are, um, hurting. Chicago’s defense, at least, was up to par: they fought for every rebound they could get, and they drew fouls at an amazing rate, especially in the first half. But once the Thunder started playing at their own pace, the Bulls were sausage: down three at the half, they trailed by seventeen with just over three minutes left, and OKC pocketed yet another home win, 107-95.

The Bulls did get plenty of second-chance points in the least favorable way: they missed a lot of first chances. They shot 38 percent, versus 51 for the Thunder. The three-ball was not their friend, either: 29 went up, only eight made. (OKC: 9-15, which is almost unheard of for this club.) Still, Chicago did manage to land six players in double figures, led by the indefatigable Joakim Noah, who had 23 points and 12 rebounds. D. J. Augustin, pressed into point-guard service, had a creditable 15 points and five assists; Taj Gibson, spelling Noah and/or Carlos Boozer, paced the bench with 16. And you have to figure, six blocks and eight steals counts as respectable D.

Even with Serge Ibaka having a bad night (early foul trouble, only five points), though, OKC came up with seven blocks and 12 steals. (Steven Adams had four of those swipes, but then he goes after everything.) Another 30+ performance from Kevin Durant: 32 points, nine boards. And another double-double from Russell Westbrook: 20 points, 10 assists. Westbrook looked bent, possibly broken, late in the second quarter and retreated to the bench, but he stayed gone only long enough for the horn to open the third. From the bench, Reggie Jackson had 18 points; Nick Collison rattled down nine, and Jeremy Lamb seven.

So once again, an Eastern foe is disposed of with dispatch. Then again, Western teams only get to play the East 30 times in a season, and the West is full of teams like San Antonio, to whose house the Thunder must hie themselves Saturday night.

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An even more modest recall

Last week there was an item in this space noting the recall of twenty-three cars, which number, said I, suggested that the failure was “evidently not what you’d call a widespread problem.” This is not, however, the smallest automotive recall on record. In fact, a new contender has just arisen:

BMW of North America, LLC (BMW) is recalling certain model year 2013 X3 xDrive 28i/35i vehicles manufactured February 11, 2013, through February 27, 2013. Due to a production process error, the tear seam on the instrument panel was not manufactured correctly.

In the event of a crash, the air bag could improperly deploy, thereby reducing the effectiveness of the air bag’s protection and increasing the risk of injury to the front passenger. In addition, parts or fragments from the air bag system could strike and injure the front passenger or other vehicle occupants.

The punchline:

Potential Number of Units Affected: 3

Then again, they’re having to replace the entire dash on these Bimmers, so this isn’t exactly cheap, even if there are only three of them.

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Despite their obvious greenity

It has been several years since I bothered to dish up a serving of lima beans, and apparently it’s unusual for a civilian to get near the things:

My theory is that they’re sold exclusively to prison cooks, school cafeteria cooks, and people who like to let canned goods ripen in their pantries before giving them to the food banks. And maybe parents who hate their kids. I bet Joan Crawford made her kids eat Lima beans all the time.

Or maybe it’s this:

Like many legumes, the seemingly innocent lima bean should not be eaten raw — doing so can be lethal. (And who wants to die in such an ignoble way as death by lima bean?) Also known as butter beans, the legumes can contain a high level of cyanide, which is part of the plant’s defense mechanism.

Which, of course, mandates some precautionary measures:

[L]ima beans should be cooked thoroughly, and uncovered to allow the poison to escape as gas. Also, drain the cooking water to be on the safe side.

This is probably the point at which I said “Screw it, I’m having Brussels sprouts instead.”

Then again, I have the advantage of not being a cardiac patient.

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Open-door policy

I am generally loath to hang stuff around the door, except for things you really, really need to see — the city alarm permit comes immediately to mind — but maybe I need to rethink this a bit:

[W]e have a sign hanging outside our front door stating this is a nudist household and if you are ok with that ring the doorbell one way, if not ring it the other way… makes confusion and embarrassment a non-issue. We actually bought a “Nudist Zone” sign from Amazon.com and put our own sticker on it saying, “Ring doorbell twice quickly if your comfortable with nudism and we won’t bother getting dressed”.

The downside to this is if someone is worried that they are ringing it wrong it can be a major issue for them. We had someone come by who was afraid of ringing it wrong so drove a couple of blocks away and called us. That’s when we added “Ring twice quickly” to help ease their concerns.

“Quickly,” after all, is fairly subjective.

Actually, this is not an issue for me: I keep a robe by the door, just in case. (There were these two Jehovah’s Witnesses that one time, but that was years ago.) As a general rule, I am disinclined to outrage the neighbors. That said, it must also be said that there used to be a woman around the corner who in two years saw me dressed exactly once: there has always been a small number of people who have given notice, one way or another, that they won’t be perturbed at the sight. The operative word, though, is “small”: I don’t think there’s ever been more than four or five names on the list, and most people just call first so I’ll have time to feign decency.

(Via Nudiarist. Both of these links may have trouble with your workplace filters.)

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Season’s greasings

In the mail yesterday: cards of a sort from local politicians, complete with obligatory Family Pictures.

Jason Nelson, who currently represents House District 87, sent a 6×9 card with “Merry Christmas” on one side and a Bible verse (Isaiah 9:6) on the other.

John Handy Edwards, who hopes to replace the term-limited Cliff Branan in Senate District 40 in 2015, sent a 6.875×10 card, folded once, with “Happy Holidays” on the outside and “Sending warm wishes from our family to yours this season” within.

More as they arrive, if more arrive.

Why, no, I didn’t mention their party affiliations. Did I need to?

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Lots of mice have been plugged into my trusty desktop, and all but one of them have been unplugged for various reasons, the most recent being a Logitech rodent that for some reason couldn’t complete a cut/paste cycle.

So out it goes, in favor of what the label says is a Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse 3000. Using the same settings as the Logitech, it’s absurdly fast; I had to crank everything back to get to the point where I could keep track of the pointer. What’s more, it’s silly-looking: two-tone silver over black. Still, it works, which the old meece in the cabinet don’t.

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Maybe just a sip

Apparently Costco carries Château Mouton Rothschild 2010:

I was impressed that they let me in the same room with it. It was locked in glass case. I wonder how many of the people who drink this wine appreciate it. I am sure it is very good, but it would be wasted on me with my barely functional nose. I bought a magnum of Cook’s Champagne for $7.

Which works out to $3.50 a (standard 750ml) bottle. Costco was asking $1,150 for the good stuff.

Oh, wait. This is a big-box store. They were asking $1,149.99.

I did enjoy the description:

This strides in with distinction, starting off with a showy but integrated layer of espresso-infused toast, followed by plush tiers of crushed currant, plum and blackberry fruit interspersed with cocoa and well-roasted.

Well, it sounds wonderful, anyway. I wonder how these experts would describe Dr Pepper (750 ml for 74 cents), which claims to have 23 different flavor notes.

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To the manner born

In other news, Walter White was convicted of dealing in meth and drew a 12-year jail term.

Yes, really:

Like the Bryan Cranston antihero-turned-villain, White allegedly dabbled in the illicit crystal trade. Federal court records show that the DEA found four ounces of meth at White’s Billings, Montana home earlier this year. Afterwards, White reportedly “copped to receiving up to two pounds of meth a week from one supplier,” “accepting a firearm as payment for the drug,” selling some of the meth and fronting some of the drug “to others for distribution.” The Smoking Gun reports that White slept with a gun under his pillow as “protection from other individuals involved in drug trafficking who may intend to rob or shoot him.”

White was also sentenced to five years probation after jail and to forfeit over $15,000 in cash and two handguns. Criminally, the report does not note whether White was familiar with AMC’s Emmy-winning drama and its similarly named, similarly career-situated lead character.

Next guy I meet named Don Draper, I’m going to ask if that’s his real name.

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Here’s dirt in your eye

A little over a decade ago, Chevrolet put up a billboard (with a Corvette on it, natch) to the effect that “they don’t write songs about Volvos.”

Do take a while to consider the following songs about Volvos, and then come back to the first TV ad I’ve seen with that much sheer snottitude:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Or perhaps a young lion

Diversity by Emily BearThe following things you need to know about Diversity by Emily Bear:

  • This is her sixth album, though her first on a major label (Concord Jazz);
  • All thirteen tracks are her own compositions;
  • She turned twelve at the end of August.

While a lot of her YouTubage shows her in front of orchestras, she’s fronting a traditional jazz trio here, with Carlitos del Puerto on bass and Francisco Mela on drums. Zuill Bailey drops in for cello parts on four tracks. And it’s a very traditional sound indeed; you could imagine this fifty years ago on Verve with Creed Taylor at the board. It’s not, however, particularly diverse. Not that I mind; I could listen to this stuff for hours on end. Quincy Jones, Bear’s producer and mentor, has provided a particularly lovely acoustic aesthetic. Oddly, the weakest number here might be “Q,” her tribute to the master, which never really gets off the ground. Favorite track? Perhaps the leadoff, “Northern Lights,” which does an admirable job of setting the stage for what’s to come. And I admit to cracking several smiles at “Salsa Americana,” which opens up wildly like an old Tito Puente record and then suddenly heads downtown.

You can hear all thirteen of these tracks (via Soundcloud) on emilybear.com; I decided I wanted a copy for my shelf, and bought the CD.

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In back of the Front Range

Any Thunder/Nuggets game is likely to contain remarkable moments, but you don’t generally expect actual fisticuffs. Early in the fourth quarter, Denver’s Jordan Hamilton was sufficiently vexed with Steven Adams to throw a punch at him; Hamilton was tagged with a Flagrant Two and thumbed, and Adams promptly missed the first of two free throws. Then someone woke up Nate Robinson, who knocked down all ten points in a 10-3 Denver run. This, as you might expect, woke up the OKC offense, which ran the lead from six to 18 in two minutes flat. It wasn’t going to stay there, of course, but the Nuggets had whittled it down only to 12 by the time the horn sounded: Oklahoma City 105, Denver 93, and another 2-0 series lead.

The Nuggets did get five into double figures — four starters plus Robinson — led by J. J. Hickson, who came up with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Ty Lawson also double-doubled: 17 points, 13 assists. (Hamilton had four points and five boards before getting tossed.) Denver did leave six points at the foul line, but OKC did too, so that’s a wash.

The Thunder outshot Denver 48-41 and outrebounded them 53-43. The numbers went about the way you’d expect: Kevin Durant had another 30-point night on 11-23 shooting; Russell Westbrook, who came up big in the fourth quarter, had 21 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists; Serge Ibaka returned to form with a 17-point outing, during which gathered 10 boards. Jeremy Lamb headed the bench with nine.

It’s in and out of town for the rest of the year: against Chicago at home Thursday, to San Antonio on Saturday, back home against Toronto on Sunday, an afternoon match in New York on Christmas Day, followed by a trip to Charlotte, and then two home games: the Rockets and the Trail Blazers, the latter on New Year’s Eve. Seat belts should be fastened at all times.

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A very modest recall

The details, admittedly, are a little scary:

Nissan North America, Inc. (Nissan) is recalling certain model year 2014 Infiniti Q50 vehicles equipped with Direct Adaptive Steering. The affected vehicles received a power steering software version that, should the engine compartment reach freezing temperatures, the power steering software may disable the electric steering system and also may delay the engagement of the mechanical steering backup system.

And this isn’t some electric-assist steering job like you see elsewhere: this is true drive-by-wire, with only a stream of electrons connecting the tiller and the rack. (Which is why there’s a mechanical backup, which also seems to be tetchy.)

This line provides a (small) quantity of reassurance:

Potential Number of Units Affected: 23

The local Infiniti store has at least that many units sitting on the lot, so this is evidently not what you’d call a widespread problem. Still, we’re talking software, goshdarnit, and I’m not sure I want to steer with software, now or any time soon.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Harmonization now

UNICEF, one of the zillions of United Nations alphabet agencies, doesn’t get on my radar much anymore, what with kids no longer trick-or-treating for it, the way they (occasionally) did when I was of an age to tote a sack. They did, however, hold the Snowflake Ball, presumably a fundraiser, in New York a few days back, and here’s Angie Harmon looking wonderful in an Angel Sanchez frock:

Angie Harmon at the Snowflake Ball

Now let’s turn her ninety degrees, and — oh, my:

Angie Harmon at the Snowflake Ball

Bless you, Angel Sanchez.

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