Captain, we are not being hailed

Everything you wanted to understand about Oklahoma weather was contained in a 30-second radio commercial yesterday, when Fiat of Edmond (which isn’t precisely in Edmond, but no matter) announced a Pre-Dent Sale.

Wait, what?

“The hail’s coming, everyone knows it, let’s just get the promotion cranked up and go with it.”

I’m sort of hoping this works the same way my snow pusher did: rendered itself unnecessary for two years just by my going out and acquiring it.

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It’s the same old story

Last October, Roger, having observed the signs of Imminent Death in his wife’s computer, ordered a new one, though for some reason he didn’t open it until March. And when he did, he may have wished he hadn’t:

I turn it on, and the first thing I say is: “Where the heck is the Start button?” I had to Read The (Online) Manual to figure out where it was, and that Windows 8 was installed on my computer. (A few days after I turned on the machine, someone told me, “Whatever you do, DON’T download Windows 8.”)

But then, of course, it was too late. And it gets better, for some definition of “better” that doesn’t actually imply improvement:

Anyway, I figure out, kinda, how this thing is supposed to work. I go to the Office suite button. It asks me if I want to buy the product. I have to BUY the product separately? Suffice it to say, it took another week before I could FINALLY use the contraption correctly. This involved, among other things having someone uninstall one of the security products I installed, because it actually made the computer LESS secure. Product A thought Product B was taking care of the bugs, so neither one actually worked.

I expect stories of this sort to continue for all eternity at least for another year.

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Let’s all go to the Laissez Faire!

Not that Equestria is some sort of free-market utopia or anything, but this line jumped out of yesterday’s episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Take it away, Princess Twilight Sparkle:

[A]ll I’m supposed to do is settle disagreements over whether a trade is fair or not. And since the rule is that a trade is fair as long as both ponies get what they want, there’s never been a disagreement. So there’s really no reason for anypony to treat me as anything special.

“By virtue of exchange, one man’s prosperity is beneficial to all others.” — Frédéric Bastiat, The Law, 1850.

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One o’ them newfangled head units

A decade and a half after Gwendolyn’s birth in Oppama, Japan, Infiniti is still sourcing auto audio from Bose, though things are obviously much different today. With a few days to fiddle about with a G37, I decided to do some exploration.

The first thing I spotted was a succession of weird variations in volume. Since the lowest volume seemed to occur at idle, I concluded that this was an effort to compensate for road and engine noise: crank up the RPMs, and the box cranks up the volume. If this actually worked well, I never would have noticed it. To do this correctly, there’d have to be a sensor located near the listener’s head to feed back sound-pressure level on a realtime basis, and I don’t think Nissan wants to spend that kind of money. Digging down in the audio menu, I found a toggle for the function, and switched it off.

Pushing the AUX button brings up satellite radio, which will tune but will not actually deliver a station unless there’s a proper subscription in effect. Curiously, there’s no formal three-connector AUX jack, just the USB port in the console, at an angle where it’s difficult for either driver or front-seat passenger to access while seated, unless you’re riding with Reed Richards. I attached my little Sansa Clip Zip, and smiled as the song titles rolled up on the screen. Downside: I have yet to figure out how I can get the Sansa’s 32GB microSD card to read; the menu only brings up the stuff from the resident memory. And while the device powered on and off when the car was shut off, which was greatly appreciated, the last restart was met with “Check Device Connections.” I’m thinking that Rockbox, puzzled by the start/stop command sequence, basically locked itself up. After a very long shutdown sequence, it started again normally. I’m thinking that if I had to deal with this on a regular basis — and eventually, I suppose I will — it would be easier just to plug in a 32GB flash drive.

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Resurrection shuffle

I don’t think I’d trust this, even if “Jesus H. Christ” is written on the flyleaf in red:

I heard St. Thomas the Apostle was putting one of these up on eBay.

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Not the usual grind

The first half, the Thunder promised to make it a laugher: they led the Grizzlies by as many as 25 before James Johnson nailed a trey with two seconds left before halftime. Nobody was laughing in the third quarter, though: Memphis outscored OKC 31-13 in the third quarter to pull within four, and they narrowed it to two early in the fourth. This is approximately the point where I think Scott Brooks pointed to his wrist and mouthed the words “SPEED IT UP.” Which is what the Thunder did, going on a 13-1 run, and the Griz never regained their momentum. First game goes into the books: OKC 100, Memphis 86, on a night where three other teams with home-court advantage fell.

Seriously. The Raptors, the Clippers and the Pacers all were beaten at home. This, of course, means nothing at the moment. What this game means is something we knew all along: the Grizzlies are befuddled at any pace other than Slow Grind. They did a good job of protecting the rock, giving up only six turnovers, but otherwise they were largely at sea, missing nine of 11 treys, 13 of 31 free throws, and shooting only 36 percent. The statistic I’m staring at, though, is Zach Randolph’s line: he had a team-high 21 points on 7-21 shooting, 11 rebounds, and three assists, despite spending time on the bench with five fouls, and still ending up with 39 minutes. Mike Conley (16 points, 11 assists) also played 39; Marc Gasol (16 points) played 45. Apparently the only reason the bench got any burn tonight was because Tayshaun Prince took ill early and did not return. Tony Allen led those reserves with 13; Mike Miller, the three-point specialist, made exactly one of them.

It was a decent night for Kevin Durant, who knocked down 13 of 25 for 33 points. Russell Westbrook, officially off his minutes restriction, played 33 minutes, collecting 23 points and 10 rebounds; Serge Ibaka, who played one minute more, scored 17 and retrieved nine boards. (The Thunder was never seriously threatened on the boards, finishing 51-41.) Caron Butler and Reggie Jackson each kicked in nine from the bench.

If there’s anything I wonder about, it’s this: would this have gone any differently had Nick Calathes been available? The rookie Memphis guard is a pretty good shooter, but we won’t see him in the playoffs at all: he’s serving a 20-game suspension for violation of the NBA’s drug policy. The drug in question, tamoxifen, is usually prescribed for treatment of, um, breast cancer; Calathes isn’t suffering from that, but there’s an off-label use to reduce the effects of steroids.

Game 2 is Monday night at the ‘Peake; Games 3 and 4 will be played in Memphis, and as Beale Street Bears reminds us: “There is still a ton of basketball left to be played and the Grizzlies are still very much alive in this series.” These are, after all, the same Grizzlies who won their last 14 home games. If they can upset the Thunder at home even once — but let’s not bring back that memory.

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Look away

Not so far away, there’s a blonde in her middle sixties who can rock tight contemporary jeans better than the teenager up the block. She is, of course, spoken for. Even if she weren’t, though, I have no business even mentioning it.

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Still rhymes with “Gosh”

Upon Nina Foch’s death in 2008, I recalled a scene from An American in Paris:

Milo (Foch’s character) has invited Jerry (Gene Kelly) to a party; Jerry is not sure about this sort of thing, but Milo reassures him that there will be an “extra girl” on hand, so it shouldn’t be a total loss for him.

And then he arrives, and:

Jerry: Where is everyone?
Milo: Here.
Jerry: Downstairs?
Milo: No, here in this room.
Jerry: What about that extra girl?
Milo: That’s me.

At the time I first saw this film (late 1960s), I was startled at this sheer demonstration of forwardness on her part, although in retrospect it occurs to me that the only startling aspect of it was that I couldn’t imagine anyone coming on to me in such a way.

And it’s not like Milo didn’t have anything to offer:

Nina Foch circa 1951

Foch was twenty-seven at the time; I suspect they made her look Just A Tad Older to provide contrast with the object of Jerry’s fixation, played by 20-year-old Leslie Caron. This is what he was turning down:

Nina Foch late-1940s photo

Incidentally, the “Foch” pronunciation was probably an invention of Hollywood: her name at birth was Nina Consuelo Maud Fock. In 1954, she married James Lipton, he of Inside the Actors Studio; the marriage lasted five years. Her last role was in 2007, in an episode of The Closer.

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It’s worse with a d20

Dice usually have several sides, the typical cube having six, with various other shapes in general use. Why might you want a die with only a single side? For predicaments like this:

Imagine this all too common scenario faced every day by D&D DMs around the world: your group is in a dungeon crawl. There’s a room with a pie in it, and the pie is guarded by an orc. If the characters open the door, one of these things happen:

1. The orc attacks

That’s it, there’s only the one option. So the characters do indeed open the door and the poor DM consults the chart. Unfortunately the smallest die type he has is a d4, so our DM has no choice but to roll the d4 over and over until he gets a 1 before he knows what the orc is going to do.

This is exactly the situation that 1-sided dice are designed to solve. Now the DM can grab the d1 and quickly roll just one time, see what the orc will do, and get on with the action of the game.

This is why I never became a gamer of any renown: I never could come up with neat stuff like that.

(Via this Dave Richeson tweet.)

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Circumferential evidence

If you’re planning to surprise her with a ring, asking her “Um, what size do you wear?” is one of the more efficient ways to ruin the surprise. It’s possible that she may have acted proactively, so to speak, but you can’t count on that sort of thing. If you happen to be close enough to Germany, this seems like a nifty way to get the information you need:

It’s generally hard to make an impression on a piece of cardstock that’s 3.5 by 2 inches, but German agency Jung von Matt definitely found a winner with its incredible business card for jewelry company Marrying — which, as the name suggests, specializes in engagement rings and wedding bands.

The card rolls up, becoming a handy tool to measure one’s ring size. The idea is that men who are shopping for a ring can use the card at home to subtly check the size of a woman’s current rings.

Assuming this can be done subtly. I’d probably run the risk of “What the heck are you doing in there?”

(Via this tweet by former OKC jeweler Dan Gordon. He’s still a jeweler, but he’s relocated to another state starting with O.)

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Squeaky wheels on the Gravy Train

Right out of the Akismet holding facility, this inexplicable bit of nothing:

Dog arthritis

Somehow I can’t see Fido clamoring for Kibbles ‘n Excedrin ‘n Bits.

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We gotta keep searchin’, searchin’

Although this may be overkill:

Screen shot from Pale Moon browser from www.google.com

If the next question is “Over what period of time?” I admit I don’t know — which, I suppose, makes things worse.

(Thank you, Del Shannon, for the title.)

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Sun tax error

Roger sent me this, and I imagine he was shaking his head as he read it:

Oklahoma residents who produce their own energy through solar panels or small wind turbines on their property will now be charged an additional fee, the result of a new bill passed by the state legislature and expected to be signed into law by Gov. Mary Fallin (R).

On Monday, S.B. 1456 passed the state House 83-5 after no debate. The measure creates a new class of customers: those who install distributed power generation systems like solar panels or small wind turbines on their property and sell the excess energy back to the grid. While those with systems already installed won’t be affected, the new class of customers will now be charged a monthly fee — a shift that happened quickly and caught many in the state off guard.

You can read the measure in its current form here. This is how I replied to Roger:

I admit to not knowing what Ann Griffin was up to when she wrote that bill. (Most Republicans in the OK Senate have at least decent ratings from the Sierra Club; Griffin rates a 93% on their scale.)

The bill provides for a surcharge limited to “that required to recover the full costs necessary to serve customers who install distributed generation on the customer side of the meter after the effective date of this act,” which date is the first of November. However, it also expects the utilities to determine the amount of those costs, and implement the appropriate tariffs by the end of 2015. Typically, a tariff has to be approved by the Corporation Commission, and they will generally open a period of public comment before issuing a decision. So this may not be the done-est of deals.

And I’m thinking that, once actually imposed, this fee will probably be on the same scale as what I pay to support the state’s first wind farm. Ten years ago, it was a buck and a quarter a month; revised tariffs make it a bit more variable, but my most recent electric bill, for $56.95, included a “net wind cost” of $3.39. I’m betting they ask for about twice that, and the Corp Comm will approve half of it, and everybody will pretend to be happy.

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Foreign dung

I tell you, dogs can be trained to do almost anything:

A highly specialised detection dog trained to sniff out koala droppings is on the case in Logan, south of Brisbane, Australia, in a bid to boost protection for the vulnerable species. Logan City Council enlisted conservation canine Maya to help identify koala habitats in the area. Maya’s owner is Dr Cristescu, an ecologist who specialises in koala research.

And how did this pound puppy develop her, um, koalafications?

“You need a dog basically with an OCD on a tennis ball, an absolute nutcase on a tennis ball,” [Cristescu] said. “Then you scent-associate the tennis ball with the target odour — which is a koala poop — and then the dog will search for ages just to try to find that odour. She will go into an open area and she just has to find one little koala poop and she will just hit the deck. Maya will do a drop and then when you go up to her she’ll go and put her nose over the top of it and pinpoint exactly where it is. You’ve got a whole acre and you’ve found one tiny piece of koala poop.”

Maya, it appears, will be searching 1200 acres (about 500 hectares) over a two-week period.

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Needs an eye-bleach dispenser

Nissan, perhaps due to rubbing up against corporate cousin Renault for all these years, always seems to have a weird mix of genuinely handsome and downright fugly vehicles. I drive a 14-year-old Infiniti sedan which I think is at least acceptable-looking (apart from a really dumb aftermarket spoiler), especially considering the atrocities that have been vended in this size class in recent years in the name of fuel economy/aerodynamics/designer perversity. On the other side of the divide is the Juke utelet, of which Car and Driver said: “There are no logical reasons for it to look the way it does, so clearly drawn without conventional aesthetic considerations in mind.” And they liked it.

The revised Infiniti QX80, née QX56, née Nissan Patrol, may get similarly blistered in the press. At TTAC, Cameron Miquelon made no particular observation about its appearance, other than to note that the hood was “massive.” However, Michael Zak at Autoblog brought out the pejoratives:

[I]t’s hard to call this SUV anything but ugly. It’s bulbous and almost brutish, which aren’t generally words you want to have to use when talking about any kind of luxury vehicle.

Or even Lincolns.

On the basis that you should be able to make this fine judgment call on your own, here’s the new QX80, as seen at the New York auto show:

2015 Infiniti QX80

No amount of ethanol could persuade me that this thing is desirable. (Your mileage, of course, may vary.) Then again, the driver only has to look at the inside of it, except when refueling — which, given the size of this thing, he’ll be doing rather frequently.

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Spot almost hit

Among the Big Three colas, I’ve pretty much always seen Pepsi as third, maybe even fourth if Shasta was being discounted more heavily than usual; but for no really good reason, I had an urge for a Pepsi yesterday, and the wherewithal to obtain a 20-ounce bottle. Which I did.

While it was occurring to me that I could have gotten the same results by opening an RC Cola and letting it sit until Tuesday, I started reading the label, and discovered something I hadn’t actually noticed before: the full name “Pepsi-Cola” is no longer being used.

When did this happen? According to Wikipedia, it’s been simply Pepsi since 1961. I know I’ve had several Pepsis since the year I turned eight, but maybe it’s a we-don’t-serve-Coke kind of deal.

Come to think of it, in 1961, Pepsi kicked off that “For Those Who Think Young” business, so the actual transition might have been in this very advertisement. That’s Joanie Sommers on the vocal; now I wonder if Johnny got angry because she brought home a carton of Coke.

And anyway, before it was Pepsi-Cola, it was, um, Brad’s Drink. This is Brad.

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