Thunderous numbers

Once a year, Forbes takes a stab at determining the value of NBA teams, and this year, your Oklahoma City Thunder rank 18th out of 30, worth 329 million ForbesBucks (not to be confused with “Starbucks,” the currency of the previous franchise owner).

The numbers are here, and here’s my own backspin:

  • Revenue was $118 million, $44 million of which came from ticket sales of some sort. (That’s just about a million dollars per game; home and visitors do not split the gate.) Operating income, calculates Forbes, is $22 million.
  • Sort of verifying what ownership was saying about their previous digs: “Although the Thunder do not operate their arena, the team still gets roughly $20 million more in premium seating revenue a season from the Oklahoma City Arena than they took in from Key Arena in Seattle.” Um, yeah.
  • One interesting stat is “player-costs-to-win ratio,” defined thusly: “A score of 120 means that the team achieved 20% more victories per dollar of payroll compared with the league average.” Playoff wins count double. By this metric, OKC pulled a stirring 158 for 2010, though this is likely to drop as core players fall off the rookie salary scale and start getting real money.

For a small-market team, not too shabby. The Thunder fall between the 76ers and the Wizards, neither of which have especially great records this year, but which operate in far larger markets.

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Litter is healthy, isn’t it?

To me, “5320″ is just another Nokia phone I don’t need. To some residents of Oklahoma City, “5320″ is just another nuisance they don’t need.

Steve Lackmeyer kicked off the Grand Reveal yesterday:

At some point, with all the money being spent on this campaign (which employs some of the oldest, most tired tricks in the book), names will come out. And to my readers, I will make this pledge: I will endeavor to not just provide the name and contact info of the client, but I will also provide the name and contact info for the folks who thought [of] placing ILLEGAL paper signs along a public pocket park.

Steve was as good as his word. He fired off a public nastygram to the ad agency in question, to which he got a reply to the effect that “Well, politicians do it.” Now there’s an inspiring role model.

Now when you see “5320,” what do you think?

  1. Fourth-floor balcony in Denver.
  2. The restaurant biz is truly out of names.
  3. Aggregate IQ of the Senate.

As it turns out, the state Department of Health paid for this attempt at viral marketing, and I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who winces at the juxtaposition of “Department of Health” and “viral.” The number is an estimate, likely of post-duodenal origin, of the number of lives that could be saved were the death rate brought in line with regional and/or national averages, or some such nebulous bushwah.

I’ve got news for ‘em: the death rate here is exactly the same as it is in Texas, in New Hampshire, and in Burundi: 100 percent. Standard for the species, you know. Nothing to discuss. Were there to be a dialogue, though, it might go something like this:

“Well, yeah, but we were talking about premature deaths.” But of course. Everyone’s death is premature, and by “everyone” I mean, well, everyone, with the possible exception of Hugo Chávez.

“We just want people to take better care of themselves.” And what better way to inspire them than to litter their neighborhoods?

What’s most galling, of course, is that taxpayers are shelling out both to have these signs put in place and to have them removed. There’s got to be something in the Big Book Of Health Advisories about excessive levels of indiscriminate screwing.

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Hands on

The cloud may be a nice place to work, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to live there:

I think a lot of people do so much “virtual” work, where there’s nothing to be able to point to at the end of the day and say “I made that” (and that’s part of my periodical career frustration, I am sure. I need tangibility) that people want to do stuff like play instruments, or write poetry, or, heck, write blogs … so that the time they passed becomes visible, or at least can be experienced for a time (as with music, but then the tangible part is the learning, the improvement). And so they feel some sense of control in the world: putting THIS precise word exactly HERE. Building a dollhouse to your own exact architectural specifications. Going old-school photography and using film and a darkroom. We are made to use tools, and I think maybe we get a little sad when we feel too cut off from tools.

It’s even more so, I think, for those of us who are reluctant to define themselves in terms of their paid work; we feel the need to validate ourselves with something that’s ours alone. My poetry is lousy, and I haven’t made a serious attempt to play an instrument in nearly half a century — but I do have these three million (or so) words, and something resembling a reputation. Steve Lackmeyer of the Oklahoman tweeted so:

I do hope you know you’re partially to blame for how I’ve developed my side gig as a NewsOK blogger. You’re a bad influence.

Which beats the hell out of having no influence at all.

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Stupor Tuesday

The lead editorial in the Oklahoman yesterday suggested that the state might be better served by giving up its Presidential primary, inasmuch as all the attention goes to (1) big states with lots of delegates and (2) small states sworn to be first on the calendar no matter what.

Alternatively, says the paper, convention delegates could be chosen in caucuses, à la Iowa. Independent voters presumably would like this, since they have no voice in Oklahoma’s closed primaries anyway. There’s not a chance of the state adopting a caucus in place of a primary, though, since there will be anguished letters to various editors about how so many people have been disenfranchised by this cold, calculated maneuver, and at least one aggrieved writer will notice that word “caucus” and blame those evil Caucasians.

Half an answer comes from Rep. Charles Key’s HB 1057, which would require the parties themselves to foot the bill for their Presidential primaries. This action would take care of the tab, though picking a date is still going to be problematic: even if we go all the way back to the first week of January, New Hampshire and Iowa will simply move to December. Primary Christmas, everyone.

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The Car and Driver guys, having rented four cars for a sort-of-comparison test (3/11) at the North Carolina Center for Automotive Reseach, boldly go where no one without really good insurance has gone before: they decide to lap NCCAR’s test track. In reverse.

It appears that if you want to do this sort of thing, the sort of thing you want to do it in is the venerable Lincoln Town Car, which can apparently top out at 63 mph in reverse; in fact, zero to sixty backwards runs a mere 9.2 seconds, which is faster than rather a lot of cars can do zero to sixty forward. (Headed in the, um, canonical direction, the Town Car does 8.1.)

Incidentally, the magazine article gives a URL whereby one can “witness the fruity massacre” — later on, they smashed a few watermelons — but as of this writing, it’s hosed.

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Not authorized by the Byrds

Frozen-pizza maker DiGiorno is catching some flak from the Eat Healthy And Die Anyway crowd for its combo box containing both a pizza and a slab of chocolate-chip cookie dough. (And not just any chocolate-chip cookie dough, either: this is the genuine Nestlé Toll House product, Nestlé by sheerest coincidence having recently acquired the DiGiorno line.)

I was more interested in DiGiorno’s other announcement: there will also be a pizza/”wygnz” combo, which is closer to something I might actually buy. Still, the idea of “wyngz,” which presumably look sort of like wings but aren’t, is a bit off-putting. Turns out, though, there’s a Federal definition of “wyngz”:

[USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service] has a standard of identity in Title 9 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Section 381.170(b)(7) that defines a poultry “wing.” The use of the term “wing” cannot be used on any poultry product unless it complies with this standard of identity. In comparison, FSIS allows the use of the term “wyngz” to denote a product that is in the shape of a wing or a bite-size appetizer type product.

This being an actual Federal regulation, there are five subparagraphs to further nail things down.

And to think we used to agonize over McNuggets.

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It’s the Kevin Show!

Thunder at Timberwolves, somewhere in the second half, turned into Kevin vs. Kevin: both the Wolves’ Kevin Love and OKC’s Kevin Durant put on a heck of a show in the fourth quarter, and the lead went back and forth, back and forth, right up until the very end of regulation, which ended with a 110-110 tie. At this point, Love had 31 points and 19 rebounds; Durant had 43 points and 16 rebounds.

The five minutes of what radio guy Matt Pinto calls “bonus basketball” proved to be just as wild and woolly. It was 118-116 Thunder at the 7.6-second mark when Corey Brewer drew a foul; Brewer sank one of the two free throws, there was a mad scramble for the miss, and OKC came up with it at the horn to escape with a one-point win.

Love went scoreless in the extra frame, though he hauled in two more rebounds. Durant also picked up two more boards, giving him a career high of 18, and four more points, for a total of 47, which ties his career high.

Numbers were mostly pretty even, though Minnesota went plus-10 on the boards; both teams shot in the mid-40s, in the high 30s from beyond the arc. The Thunder’s charity-stripe prowess paid off: OKC hit 26 of 27, while the Wolves managed 18 of 25. Which leaves one other not-exactly-intangible: how was Jeff Green? Uncle Jeff was just fine, with 19 points and eight rebounds. But here’s the clincher on how close this game really was: Durant/Westbrook had 63 points; Love/Beasley had 61.

John Wall and the Wizards will show up at At Least It’s Not The 5320 Arena Friday night, followed by a Sunday matinee against Miami’s Wynken, Blynken and Bosh.

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I could swear I’ve heard this already

The play-count function in iTunes is sort of useful to me. My default Smart Playlist extracts the 500 tracks (of 6,001) that haven’t come up lately, and I impose a ceiling on play count (currently 25) so the numbers eventually create the illusion of evening out.

For Lileks? Not so much:

I know if I’ve listened to the songs. It is not important if the program knows it. This is the sort of anal-retentive nonsense computers force on us, a clear violation of what we know to be true and what the machine knows. Right? I mean, why is it important for the machine to validate what I know to be a fact? Does it matter that I know I’ve listened to Eddie Cochran’s “Sittin’ in the Balcony” at least three times in my life, but the machine — its memory and experiences born anew when I did a clean install and a fresh import of the songs — stubbornly believes the tune has never once been summoned? Who the hell is this computer to tell me I’ve never listened to “Oliver’s Army” by Elvis Costello?

My current count on “Oliver’s Army”: twenty-four. You can score that as anal-retentive nonsense.

Just for the hell of it, here are eight tracks — not to be confused with 8-tracks — that as of this morning had never been played on this box:

  • Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”
  • Alex Band, “Without You”
  • Arcade Fire, “Modern Man”
  • Lee DeWyze, “Sweet Serendipity”
  • Fierce Bad Rabbit, “All I Have Is You”
  • Finger Eleven, “Whatever Doesn’t Kill Me”
  • Ingrid Michaelson, “Soldier”
  • Train, “Marry Me”

As Eddie Cochran never said, there ain’t no cure for the shuffle-track blues.

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Without even mentioning flying cars

Glenn Reynolds’ #4 bit of shtick, following “Heh,” “Indeed” and “Today at Amazon,” is “Faster, please,” intended to encourage the developers of that which is incredibly cool and/or incredibly useful. It’s an idea Lynn can get behind:

Scientific breakthroughs are one of my biggest pet peeves. You read about some amazing breakthrough that is going to change everything and you wait and wait … and nothing really changes. I’m ready for change. I want to see this wonderful new world they keep promising me and I want it now and I want it to be cheap enough that I can afford it. I don’t have an infinite number of years left to enjoy all this new stuff so come on! Let’s have it!

Just for the historical record, I once rigged up a Commodore 64 — I forget the program I used, but it ate a whole lot of RAM — to render what was then a full-screen (320 x 240, 16 colors) GIF file, which didn’t look at all like this:

Keyboard Cat is scowling

It took all night with that antediluvian hardware to pop up a picture that size.

Now if everything else in life advanced as quickly as graphic display, I’d be a little more content.

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Brain bath and beyond

If you see “bath salts” and think “Calgon,” you might want to think again:

A December US Drug Enforcement Agency drug alert warned parents that teens are snorting coke knock-offs marketed as “bath salts” and “plant feeders.” The DEA warned that users experience … euphoria and extreme energy, often resulting in agitation and hallucinations.

Epsom salt, this ain’t. It’s more likely to be methylenedioxypyrovalerone, and apart from the fact that there are people out there who will try anything that has the syllable “meth” in it, with the notable exception of “Methodism,” it has little to recommend it other than a cheap buzz — except that it isn’t cheap:

At Rayburn’s Grocery in Satsuma [Louisiana] there were six different brands of the “bath salt” for sale behind the counter. Each around 250 milligrams per packet for $20 to $45 each.

Mr. Bubble was not available for comment.

(Suggested by Nicole.)

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Redistricting made easy

The Census is over, the numbers are pending, and the legislative districts must be redrawn. Michael Bates suggests some minor adjustments to simplify the task:

I urge our legislature to use common boundaries to define House, Senate, and Congressional districts. Since the federal courts tossed aside our constitutional provisions on legislative apportionment back in 1964, the number of legislators in each house has been defined by statute.

So let’s add two senators to make 50, subtract one rep to make 100. Define 100 State House districts. Combine them in pairs to make 50 Senate districts. Combine 10 Senate districts into each of our five Congressional districts. Or start with Congressional districts and divide them into 10 Senate districts each, and each Senate district into two House districts.

The old method for assigning House seats was cumbersome in the extreme:

Representation in the House used to be determined by taking the total population of the state, according to the most recent Federal Decennial Census, and that number was divided by one hundred, with the quotient equaling one ratio. Counties having a population less than one full ratio were to be assigned one Representative; every county containing an entire ratio but less than two ratios was to be assigned two Representatives; every county containing a population of two entire ratios but less than three ratios was to be assigned three Representatives; and every county containing a population of three entire ratios but less than four ratios was to be assigned four Representatives. After the first four Representatives, a county was to qualify for additional representation on the basis of two whole ratios of population for each additional Representative.

Which is how we wound up with 101 representatives from 77 counties. If that sounds inscrutable, consider how we did the Senate:

[T]he nineteen most populous counties, as determined by the most recent Federal Decennial Census, were to constitute nineteen senatorial districts with one senator to be nominated and elected from each district. The fifty-eight less populous counties were to be joined into twenty-nine two-county districts with one senator to be nominated and elected from each of the two-county districts.

Reynolds v. Sims got rid of that tangle. Even so, it’s still possible to rig the game, which is another reason to support the Bates plan:

[I]t would make it easier for constituents to know who their legislators are, would make it harder to use district boundaries to protect incumbents, and would make it easier for county election boards to draw precinct boundaries.

Let’s hope the current legislature is paying attention.

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Spin the black circle

WordPress throws up a large black dot at you if there’s a new version of WP or of any of the entirely-too-many plugins you use. (I have, yes, a plugin to display the plugins I use; you can see it at work here.)

And actually, I rolled back a version of one particular plugin — WordPress Database Backup — because its most recent version was choking on the last part of its designated function. The way it’s supposed to work: no less than once a week, it’s supposed to download the MySQL tables, gzip the lot, and email it to me. At first, I thought it was a mail issue, because the gzipped file was approach 10 MB. A trip through FTP, though, showed me that all those backups were in fact stored on the site, uncompressed, eight weeks’ worth, about a quarter of a gigabyte of disk space.

Finding that I was not alone, I decided to clear out the current version, which is 2.2.3, and reinstall 2.2.2. Works like a charm.

I expect there will be a fix before too long. In the meantime, the black dot glares at me from the admin panel.

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Self-preservation act

If you’ve read this site for long enough, you’ve seen a full range of emotions from deepest, darkest despair to, um, let’s call it “marginally upbeat.” (If, as some have suspected, I’m actually bipolar, I’m certainly not symmetrical.)

I mention this because D. G. Myers, while composing a sendoff for the late Wilfrid Sheed, turned up this Sheed quote on commitment to one’s writing:

Writing survives everything, even the most paralyzing depression. Recently I came across something I had to write in this condition and found it surprisingly ingenious, like a chicken dancing with its head cut off. Technique can apparently cover for anything short of rigor mortis.

I’m not within screaming distance of Sheed’s league, you may be certain, but having gone through the archives on a regular basis, I am persuaded that my writing does not significantly deteriorate on those days when I’m despondent.

And Myers points out:

Only a certain kind of writer understands this, a writer for whom a high personal criterion of style is non-negotiable. If you never permit your style to flag, if you never lower your standards for the parts of speech, you might even endure the worst of patches.

So the next time someone asks me why I’ve been on this soapbox for fifteen years, I’ll simply point out that I’m trying to save my life.

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Vixens wanted

Costa Tsiokos (who, incidentally, says he’s getting out of blogging) tweeted this yesterday:

oh brunette vixen on those “Fairly Legal” subway ads, you do tempt me to actually tune in to the show. Almost.

I replied at the time:

She has a certain visual (maybe even visceral) charm.

The lady in question is Aahoo Jahansouz Shahi, though you can call her Sarah:

Sarah Shahi in Fairly Legal

Shahi’s character works in her father’s BigLaw firm, though she has resigned from the bar and become a mediator instead.

I don’t know if this is the exact poster CT saw, but it has a certain charm.

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Schedule A-minus

TaxProf Blog quotes Martin A. Sullivan of Tax Analysts on the mortgage-interest deduction:

We always knew the mortgage interest deduction was unfair — favoring those in high tax brackets with big houses over renters and low-income homeowners. But until we did the calculations — as far as we know, the first of their kind — we did not suspect the geographic dispersion of tax benefits would be so large.

In addition to the wide disparity in benefits, the other striking feature about the mortgage interest deduction is how well the subsidy correlates with Democratic strength. … [The fourteen] states with the highest per capita benefit were states captured by Obama in the 2008 election [Maryland, District of Columbia, California, Connecticut, Virginia, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington, Nevada, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Minnesota, Delaware]. In the six states with the lowest per capita benefits [West Virginia, Mississippi, North Dakota, South Dakota, Arkansas, Oklahoma], Republican challenger John McCain won the vote.

Of course, in those six states, housing prices tend to be lower, so less money is borrowed, therefore less interest is deductible.

Is this an argument for getting rid of that particular deduction? No more so than for getting rid of any other particular deduction, if you ask me: it’s unreasonable to expect financials, or much of anything else, to be evenly distributed across 50 states and 310 million people. It would certainly cost me money were it discontinued — the $131 figure quoted for Oklahoma is about one-eighth what the deduction saves me for 2010 alone — but I suspect that it’s not going away unless there are adjustments elsewhere in the code.

Then again, Sullivan says:

As tax reform moves forward, we can expect Democratic senators to be the most lukewarm to proposals for limiting the mortgage interest deduction to less expensive homes. And if it is a choice between cutting the mortgage interest deduction and cutting tax subsidies for energy companies, that will be an easy decision for the senators from Oklahoma.

Yeah, sure. Call me when someone, Democrat or Republican, gets the gumption to kill off the ethanol boondoggle.

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About damn time

House Bill 1259, by Rep. Wade Rousselot (D-Wagoner):

SECTION 1. [NEW LAW] A new section of law to be codified in the Oklahoma Statutes as Section 70 of Title 25, unless there is created a duplication in numbering, reads as follows:

A. The standard time in Oklahoma shall be known as Central Standard Time.

B. This section shall not be construed to affect the standard time established by United States law governing the movements of common carriers engaged in interstate commerce or the time for performance of an act by an officer or department of the United States, as established by a statute, lawful order, rule or regulation of the United States or an agency hereof.

C. As authorized by the Uniform Time Act of 1966 as amended and notwithstanding any other provisions of law to the contrary by the United States government relating to adoption of daylight saving time by all of the states, the State of Oklahoma elects to reject such time and elects to continue in force the terms of subsection A of this section relating to standard time in Oklahoma.

D. The rejection of daylight saving time as provided for in this section may be changed by future legislative action.

SECTION 2. This act shall become effective November 1, 2011.

The chance that this will actually pass is next to nil, but I’m just delighted that someone actually considers it possible.

(Via this tweet.)

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