Me and my narrow

Rather a long time ago, I paid perhaps too much for a belt, deeming it a smidgen sturdier than the others available at the time — which, given my girth, was not exactly the most extensive selection, but it had the standard five holes, and it fit me at the third, so I wasn’t going to complain.

For some reason, I lost 37 lb in 2004, and moved to the fourth, sometimes even the fifth hole. Things stabilized after that, and if nothing else, the belt proved itself satisfactorily sturdy.

Then after about six years of nothing else happening, I pulled up my pants — cheap imitation Dockers, as is my wont — took two steps, and watched them fall right back down again. The scale hadn’t told me anything remarkable, but I went ahead and punched a sixth hole.

I am, it appears, down about 25 lb from last summer. I don’t feel it. But that sixth hole was supplanted by a seventh, then an eighth.

In the interest of making finer adjustments, I set those later holes not quite a full inch apart. Still, I’m within a day or two of punching #11. I have no explanation for that, or for the fact that I’m evidently too damned cheap to buy a new belt. And perhaps I’m better off not knowing, or at least not giving an axiomatic sauced gander.

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Leif would be proud

I caught this in Jenny Coon Peterson’s “ShopGirl” column in the Gazette:

Balliets also has a new line from Leifsdottir, a clothing line that is making its first foray into shoes. The line has a boho feel with lots of tan and brown leather flats, wedges and heeled sandals, but take a look at the attention to detail, like tiny gold grommets on tassels and a muted gold zipper up the back of a heel. So cool.

The line is apparently so new to Balliets that they haven’t put up any pictures of it yet, so I scarfed this picture from one of those fancy out-of-town stores:

Ilona by Leifsdottir

“Ilona” here comes fairly close to meeting the “tan and brown” criterion, but isn’t anywhere near flat; it caught my eye because there are a couple of people I can imagine wearing this, perhaps with rolled jeans. And yes, I caught some nifty details: that heel, for instance, is stacked and then partially covered in leather. Height minus the platform is 3¾ inches; the listed price is $328.

The Leifsdottir line is part of what is technically Urban Outfitters, Inc. but prefers to style itself as “URBN,” which at least matches its NASDAQ stock symbol — which may or may not explain why Anthropologie, also in the URBN family, came up with a spinoff with the bewildering name “BHLDN.”

(Previous admission to reading ShopGirl here.)

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Traveling eclipse

The Phoenix Suns were in an uncomfortable position before this game started: they were in second place in the Pacific, but at a game below .500, they weren’t anywhere close to a playoff spot. (This ain’t no Eastern team.) Besides, they’d just been beaten last night by The Team Soon To Be Formerly Known As The Sacramento Kings. The Thunder, coming off a close win at home against Golden State, were probably just as tired, but you wouldn’t have noticed it in the fourth quarter, where OKC began with an 18-7 run, and the Suns eventually got desperate enough to try the Hack-A-Perk strategy. Kendrick Perkins promptly sank five out of six free throws, and that was the end of that; with sixty-five seconds left, a couple of Suns were T’d up and then bounced into the locker room, presumably for expressing their frustration too loudly. Oklahoma City got its 50th win of the season, 116-98, and won the season series 3-1.

Telltale statistic: Vince Carter, always a thorn in the Thunder’s side, led all scorers with 28; Jared Dudley had 16; but no one else from Phoenix broke into double figures. (On the other hand, rookie Garrett Siler, brought in during garbage time, got a career-high eight points.) The usual Suns barrage of long-distance shots was reduced to a 4-14 trickle. Steve Nash can still move the ball — he had 8 points and 9 assists — but somehow, it seems like he’s had enough of this.

The Thunder shot a startling 53.8 percent; both Kevin Durant and James Harden weighed in with 22 points, Serge Ibaka had yet another double-double (15 points, 10 rebounds), and the turnovers were kept to a modest ten. OKC had a slight edge on the boards, 40-37, but the Thunder were blocking shots left and right: Ibaka had three, Durant had three, even Russell Westbrook had one. Eleven in all. Did I hear someone yell “DE-fense”?

It doesn’t get any easier on this road trip, though: Friday, to the Rose Garden, where the Blazers are spoiling for a fight, and then Saturday in Los Angeles, where the Clippers always seem to have the Thunder’s number. Skip to Tuesday, and the Nuggets are about half an order of magnitude tougher in the Post-Carmelo Era. Fasten your seat belts.

Update: Ejections explained.

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Bouillons and bouillons

Lindsay Beyerstein comes up with a spiffy title — “Humanist Vegan Screed is Tripe” — and while you’ll never see her in a steakhouse, you’ll also not see her getting preachy on the subject:

I am not willing to give up the pleasure of cooking my grains in homemade chicken broth. I’m just going to come right out and say it: My delight in a pot of chicken stock, and the delight of all the people I share it with, is worth more than the life of a barely self-aware chicken.

Please understand, I cook delicious vegan dishes every day. I know plenty of people who are fully sensually satisfied on a vegan diet. I will simply never be one of them.

And this seems particularly sensible:

There are all kinds of practical and ethical benefits to eating little or no meat. But veganism seems like keeping Kosher, a way of deliberately disrupting your own life to force yourself to constantly reflect on your values. If you think that’s a good use of your time, go for it; but you’ll need better arguments if you want other people to get with your program, especially if you’re pitching humanists who don’t put a lot of stock in mystical ideals of purity.

Keeping kosher, of course, was originally, at least in part, a health measure.

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These people aren’t on the level

I am not, by my own reckoning anyway, the most astute user of parking garages, but I can assure you, I don’t do anything quite this dumb:

There is a kind of driver who thinks it’s acceptable to idle at 3mph behind an exiting pedestrian to wherever their car is in the hopes of taking their spot, or to stop abruptly and put the turn signal to wait for 5 minutes while an exiting family they’ve spotted lackadaisically loads up in their minivan, regardless of who’s waiting behind them.

This is fairly common in surface parking lots, but pulling this stunt in the ill-lit confines of a garage adds a layer of perceived menace, probably due to too many TV crime shows with the same plot. I should point out here that I have never reached into the trunk, withdrawn the tire iron, and beaten the crap out of the waiting vehicle — but I’m not about to say that it’s never occurred to me.

A related retarded behavior is to drive extra-slowly on the first or second floors scouring every single spot for an empty spot, when if you’d just f*cking keep driving up to the higher floors you’d almost surely find acres of empty parking spaces easily that don’t require waiting.

This might be a matter of importance if the retard in question were going to walk down — and, eventually, up — several flights of stairs, but what are the chances of that?

The problem might be exacerbated in places like Oklahoma City, where a substantial percentage of the population believes there is no place to park downtown, despite abundant evidence to the contrary. I think they just resent the idea that parking isn’t free.

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A Friday in the life

Compare and contrast:

Friday vs. A Day in the Life

Of course, the Beatles envisioned an orchestra behind their song of songs, something that would never happen with Rebecca Black.

Oh, wait…

(Via BlogOklahoma.)

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Pay no attention to that graph behind the curtain

Faced with the prospect of having debit-card interchange rates regulated — and, under the current proposal, regulated downward — by the Federal Reserve, the American Bankers Association is arguing that the rates aren’t that high [pdf], and that the numbers only look that way because of the sheer volume of transactions.

Adam Levitin at Credit Slips says otherwise:

The Nilson Report, the ABA’s source, does not break down interchange into credit and debit. For MasterCard and Visa and Discover, it just reports a blended number.

The blending of debit and credit interchange masks what’s really been going on. Both debit and credit interchange rates have risen pretty significantly since 2000. But the percentage of payment card transactions and dollar volume performed on debit has also increased significantly over this time period … and debit has lower interchange rates than credit. So even though debit and credit interchange rates are both rising, the average rate has been more or less steady because of the increase in debit’s market share.

And that average rate is the one the bankers want you to look at. Just another day in the lobby, says Levitin:

Since 2005, we’ve seen the phantom $400 bankruptcy tax, the end of consumer credit claim with the CARD Act, the 200[-basis-point] (and then 150bp) mortgage rate increase from cramdown, the 160 bp increase in cost of credit from the CFPB, and innumerable declarations that free checking will go the way of the dodo bird. On virtually every consumer finance issue, we’re bombarded by misleading or simply fake statistics out of bank lobbying organizations. I’m starting to have a unwanted (and unpaid) second career just in debunking them.

I admit to having my doubts about the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection, but with foxes loudly asserting their rights to maintain the henhouse, I figure we can use all the terriers we can get.

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Does this name make our bottom line look bad?

First, let’s get the Beavis and/or Butthead stuff out of the way early. This is a corporation of long standing and substantial reputation:

The company was founded in 1961 as Custom Service Chemicals.
In 1964, the company paid a marketing firm (that shall remain nameless) to come up with a different name. They said, “Well, you guys do Analytical Technology — why don’t you put the two words together and call it ‘Analtech’!”

And Analtech they have remained. But they’re contemplating making a change, for pretty much the reason you think:

  1. Analtech is a brand name known and trusted by the academic and science communities worldwide
  2. Under normal circumstances, such a branding after nearly 50 years would be considered a huge success
  3. Analtech faces certain challenges because of the “juvenile” humor that has developed in the past few decades and current web filters that may block the company name

In what appears to be a temporizing measure, they’re imaging themselves in some realms as ichromatography, which is a perfectly reasonable and generally unfunny name. However, they’d like feedback from their actual customers before they do anything drastic.

(Via this Nancy Friedman tweet.)

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Curry favored by some

John Rohde bloviated this morning about what life would be like if the Thunder had drafted Stephen Curry instead of James Harden, and if nothing else, it proved that “What if?” is still a viable topic for sports pages, if ultimately futile in terms of philosophy: you can’t interchange A and B without expecting C through Z inclusive to be changed somehow. That said, Curry does well against the Thunder, rolling up 35 points tonight, and it didn’t hurt that the OKC offense was stuck in a rut through much of the fourth quarter. The defense, meanwhile, was briefly stunned: up 6 with 24 seconds left, they stared in disbelief as first Reggie Williams, then Monta Ellis (with a Curry assist), made up the difference in just about seven seconds. So we had overtime, and the Thunder prevailed, barely: 115-114.

Keith Smart has kept one of Don Nelson’s commandments: put up a hell of a lot of shots, and eventually some of them will drop. The Warriors made 104 shots in 53 minutes, and hit 44 of them for 42.3 percent; exactly one quarter of them were treys. Ellis, despite shooting 9 of 30, had a double-double (20 points, 11 assists); David Lee (11 of 17) got one too; (24 points, 15 rebounds); Dorell Wright came close (7 points, 10 boards). Then again, the Nelson-Smart combine also believes in working the starters: Golden State played only eight men, and the reserves played only long enough to pick up 16 points, two more than James Harden got all by his lonesome.

It didn’t hurt that Kevin Durant was actually in something resembling the zone tonight, with 39 points on 13-23 shooting. (At the other extreme: Kendrick Perkins, who did not score, but pulled down 13 boards and blocked a shot.) Serge Ibaka continues to shine at the four, with 19 points and eight rebounds and three blocks. Russell Westbrook was all over the place; he had 15 points, eight boards, and nine assists. The Thunder shot 45.5 percent (40 of 88), and outrebounded the Warriors 52-42.

So the homestand ends 5-1, which is highly respectable. Now things start to get complicated. Tomorrow night, Phoenix will be fighting for that last playoff spot, and they’ll be doing it in their house.

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What’s the story, morning glory?

Neil Kramer asks: “Does anyone really think social media does a better job in creating real communication between individuals?”

A better job than what, you ask? Well, for one thing, this.

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Mama said there’d be shows like this

If I wanted to come up with an idea for a Broadway musical, I probably would not have thought of a bio of Florence Greenberg. But this sounds like it has potential:

Before Motown and the British Invasion, Florence Greenberg took the male-dominated music industry by storm, revolutionizing pop music and becoming the most influential and successful female record company president ever. After discovering one of the greatest girl-groups of all time, The Shirelles, at her daughter’s high school, Greenberg packed the girls in her car, drove across the George Washington Bridge to New York City, and embarked on a trailblazing journey from New Jersey housewife to record mogul, creating the independent house of hits that was Scepter Records. Showcasing non-stop doo-wop, pop and rock ‘n’ roll classics such as “Dedicated To The One I Love,” “Duke Of Earl,” “He’s So Fine,” “I Say A Little Prayer,” “It’s My Party,” “Louie Louie,” “Mama Said,” “Shout,” “Sixteen Candles,” “Stop In The Name Of Love,” “Twist and Shout” and many more, Baby It’s You! is the true story of how Florence Greenberg launched the careers of such groundbreaking musical sensations as The Isley Brothers, B. J. Thomas, The Kingsmen, Chuck Jackson, Burt Bacharach, Hal David, and Dionne Warwick.

You could do a six-part miniseries on the story of Scepter, its sister label Wand, and some of the behind-the-scenes machinations that were perhaps inevitable with any independent label in those days. (Or you can read about them here.) The one thing that always fascinated me, though, was that Scepter was the quintessential New York indie label, located a block up Broadway from the Brill Building, and yet its biggest hit, Shirelles and Dionne notwithstanding, was a West Coast pickup: the Kingsmen’s “Louie Louie,” recorded for Jerry Dennon’s Seattle-based Jerden label and picked up for national distribution as Wand 143, which promptly sold several zillion copies, to the delight of Greenberg and the consternation of the governor of Indiana.

(The Shirelles’ best record is examined here.)

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Making midnight meaningless

The Colorado River Municipal Water District is imposing watering restrictions which at first seem to make sense:

Those with homes and businesses ending in odd numbered addresses are being asked to water on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays while those with even numbered addresses are asked to water on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Seems clear enough, right? But Obfuscation is nearly as big an industry as Diversity today. Or tomorrow, depending on when the day begins:

An individual’s designated day starts at 6 p.m. and carries into the following morning, meaning the yard of an odd numbered home could be irrigated between 6 p.m. on Wednesday and 10 a.m. on Thursday. Even numbered homes, in turn, could use outdoor water between 6 p.m. on Tuesday and 10 a.m. on Wednesday.

Pick one:

  1. The bureaucrats are genuinely dense.
  2. This is a transparent effort to maximize the potential for assessing fines.

(Via Eric Siegmund. He waters on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday — he thinks.)

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The adventure winds down

From twenty-five years ago:

There are forty-some-odd pieces hanging on my walls, including … autographed photos of Jim Clark and Graham Hill to a 1957 Mercedes-Benz 300Sc radiator grille. Paintings, caricatures, photographs, old license plates, and a reproduction of a want ad from the Times of London, soliciting recruits for a 1914 Antarctic expedition. It stirs me every time I spot it up there. It says: “MEN WANTED for hazardous journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success — Ernest Shackleton.”

The ad pulled like crazy. It is said that guys were lined up around the block the next morning. I like to think that I’d have been lined up with them.

Thus spake David E. Davis Jr. in the August 1986 Automobile Magazine. If there are roads in the Antarctic, I suspect Davis got to drive them. He died Sunday, aged 80.

As for Sir Ernest Shackleton’s expedition, he had over 5,000 applicants for barely fifty places. Disaster struck, as disaster will, but nearly everyone returned safely.

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Avast, ye Swabians

Jack Baruth’s Porsche 944 is getting readied for the road once more:

The 944 has relatively few needs, if you use the Dai-Ichi power plant as a standard of comparison. A new slave cylinder. Probably a drain of the gas tank, flush of the brakes, new timing belt (not trivial in a 944), a new water pump, a solid detail job, whatever else has gone wrong. I won’t worry about the air conditioning, the interior fan, or any cosmetics. This is two thousand dollars, tops. Maybe twenty-five hundred. Alternately, I could take delivery of a 2011 Porsche GT3. The first month’s payment would also be about two thousand dollars, but the GT3 wouldn’t give me the thrill that comes from not knowing if one will actually arrive at one’s destination on any given day.

But then, that’s not really a fair comparison:

[T]he 944 is really a better way to get around than a 911 GT3. To begin with, it’s possible to use full throttle pretty much all the time, everywhere. This includes all the times in Ohio when it rains. The 944 is honest. It weighs 2600 pounds. You can see out of it. Nearly twenty years after the last of its kind left a showroom, it has shed all the nasty little social stigmata of Porsche ownership. There are no blinking lights on the dashboard informing you that the car is wiping your ass and saving you from putting it backwards into that Jersey barrier. It’s just you and the car. Good times.

Not inconsiderable virtues, those. I’ve spent the last decade in mid-sized sedans, and if I were to go looking for a replacement, I doubt I’d be able to find one that I could load up for a three-week road trip without pushing the scale beyond the two-ton mark — or one that had better visibility than your average duck blind.

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4Ging ahead

The expected bloody dismemberment of T-Mobile USA by AT&T will result in at least one job lost: that of 4G Girl Carly Foulkes, resplendent in her magenta-and-white dress. Unwilling to let her fade away the way T-Mo’s earlier Major Babe did, I figure the least I can do is show you Carly Foulkes not dressed in magenta and white:

Carly Foulkes

Hmmm. Maybe I overdid the “not dressed” bit. Or not. The main thing was not duplicating Proof Positive’s Foulkes-A-Rama from February.

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Don’t hate me because I’m doodyful

This seems inarguable enough:

Some of the companies that produce luxury perfumes also produce natural flavourings in common foods, and they often use the same synthetic chemical ingredients for both. They’re only emulations, but in a lot of foods you eat on a day-to-day basis are things like civet, a mimic of the anal secretions of the civet cat, and ambergis, which plays fakey at being a sperm whale’s gallstone. Then there are your more standard emulations of musk deer secretions and various tree secretions.

Which somehow is supposed to explain “Surplus,” which is a £40 perfume made from this guy’s excrement. (Link may not be safe for work or any place near the dinner table.)

Note: I am not making this **** up.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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