To hear the Jazz go down

Seldom did the Oklahoma City Thunder play with the precision you’d want from the Sultans of Swing, but after three quarters of too close for comfort, they put away the Utah Jazz in the fourth, opening up a lead as large as 18 points before winning it 106-94 at This Is Not The Convention Center, Dammit.

This statistic sums up the game as well as any: Utah’s Al Jefferson led all scorers with 32 points, reeled in 12 rebounds to boot, and still finished -14. If this suggests to you that Big Al can’t do it all, consider this: take out Jefferson’s 14-18 shooting, and the Jazz otherwise went 17-51. That’s 33 percent, give or take a repeating decimal. OKC did yeoman’s work of keeping the Jazz out of the paint; Utah was relying on the trey to keep them in the game, but eventually the Thunder came up with some semblance of perimeter defense. C. J. Miles might have gotten the worst of it: he went 2-12, 1-5 from beyond the arc, and ended up getting most of his 11 points from the charity stripe.

Both Kevin Durant (29 points) and Russell Westbrook (31) were hitting well tonight, and Serge Ibaka seasoned a nice double-double (15 points, 13 boards) with four blocked shots. There were lots of fouls both ways: the Jazz were 26-32 at the line, the Thunder 30-36. OKC had the rebounding advantage, 35-30. I have to wonder what might have happened had Andrei Kirilenko not grunged up his knee early on, or if Derrick Favors, listed as active despite a recent ankle sprain, had gotten something other than a DNP-CD, but as the phrase implies, that’s the coach’s decision.

Next two home games are against the Timberwolves and the Trail Blazers. One of those, I’m thinking, will qualify as a shiver in the dark.

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Upper story

The Professor reports that nearly 300,000 women last year sought breast implants, a statistic Robert Stacy McCain does not in any way endorse:

I have long campaigned to discourage breast-enhancement surgery. While a trend away from mammoplasty — a return to the natural order, breast-wise — will likely lead to a relative scarcity of extra-large breasts, our patients will be able to compensate for the resulting shortage of C- and D-cups by staring twice as long at A- and B-cups.

Dan Collins will explain that business about “our patients.”

As a practicing leg man, I am not subject to this particular affliction. (Which is a lie, but you knew that.) That said, I must remind you that by far the nicest, um, enhancement I’ve ever been privileged to see at close range was a reduction: from double Ds and backaches to a cheerfully perky just-this-side-of-C. It was the kind of work that corroborates one’s belief in private-sector medicine, among other things.

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They don’t do it like this in Luzianne

An unfortunate, make that unpleasant, encounter in a Portland tea shop:

Getting my mouth drilled by a dentist and negotiating with a used cars salesman at the same time would have been absolute zen compared to this. All I wanted was some green tea. I got my green tea, but not before I was water tortured with samples and verbally abused by the sales rep — who was like a super-evil and super-snooty version of an infomercial host. If I wasn’t so generally laid back, I’d be suffering post-traumatic stress syndrome by now.

My first thought was “Hmmm. What are they saying on Yelp?” And in fact, they’re saying stuff like this:

Right off the bat I was followed around by a saleslady who was asking me a million and one questions. Since I had never been there before, I politely told her I was just looking before making my final selections.

Which apparently wasn’t enough to fend off the assault:

Anyway, come to find out the tins are extra, the tea was pricey and I ended up paying about $100 dollars for tea. That isn’t even for me.

This wasn’t the same location, but apparently the staff gets the same training at all of them.

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It’s not exactly “Kumbaya”

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You say goodbye, I say hello

I don’t know why you say goodbye; I say hello.

Hello Kitty tombstone

(By Yoshitomo Nara. Via KA-CHING!)

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The cure for the common hoarder

GreenCanary, on the accumulation of Things:

You know… THINGS. The Things we spend money on. The Things I can’t afford but still really want, even though they cost the same as four months’ rent. (Hey, I may be reforming my ways of thinking, but that doesn’t mean this spendthrift is REFORMED.)

Now, let it be known that I’m a huge fan of Things. I have Things all over the place. In fact, it can be said that the reason for my current financial state is my love of Things. I don’t begrudge anyone their Things, but I’m starting to think that we’d all have what we needed and wanted if we just moved shit around, instead of buying new stuff.

I once heard, or learned, or read about how there is a set number of stuff in the world. That we can not create more. That we may take what’s existing and change it into something else, but we can never actually create anything MORE. I don’t remember what this is called, but when I looked up “stuff in universe AND can’t create more AND super neat concept” on Google I got something called the “omnipotence paradox” and lots of stuff about not being able to create new user accounts in Windows 7, so y’all will have to deal with not knowing what I’m talking about.

I am not quite sure how much this train of thought contributed to my not buying an iPod Touch this week, but I like the idea that there could be a Law of Conservation of Crap: should some amount X come in, and you don’t immediately respond by declaring some comparable amount Y as outgoing, eventually you’ll end up on a reality TV show, being mocked on Twitter.

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Frontispiece on earth

I don’t go to many book signings, even if it’s a book I know I’d buy anyway, simply because I never know what to say to the author: strive as I may for the bon mot, I’m far more likely to come off as the bonehead.

Bill Peschel tells the tale of a fellow named Bill Ryan who seeks to wrangle insults from authors. And why would someone do that, you ask?

Asking for praise sounds douche. Asking for a witty phrase sounds presumptuous. But everyone can kick out an insult.

Of course, now that Ryan’s staked out this territory, I can’t very well do that sort of thing myself. Besides, “please hurt me” doesn’t come easily to this old tongue.

You can see some of what Ryan’s accomplished at Do look into it. And do read Peschel’s piece; it has a wonderful photo of a book-writin’ person you may know well, complete with perfect caption.

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The issues at steak

The latest mailing by the so-called “Committee for Oklahoma City Momentum” generated some mirth on the social networks today. I decided to hold off (mostly, but see below) until I got a copy in my hot (okay, tepid) little hands. Now it’s on your screen, unless you’re blocking graphics for some reason:

Anti-Shadid mailing

Notes from yours truly:

  • Is there something actually wrong with living in a solar-powered house? It’s not like he’s beaming death rays into the neighborhood.
  • Anybody who’s having to pay for fossil fuels these days, which means damn near all of us, is apt to agonize, especially when the bill comes in.
  • Any government of any size that seriously considers putting cold medicine on a prescription-only basis is too stupid to regulate marijuana.
  • The funniest thing here, though, is the charge of being a vegetarian. Horrors! What’ll we do if we can’t schlep him over to Cattleman’s for a top club and lamb fries?

My one earlier tweet on the subject:

@saucybritches Good thing he doesn’t do summer stock. They’d say he was a thespian.

I suspect even Charlie Swinton, the candidate by whom this mailing is not authorized or approved, is wincing at this.

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Meanwhile at the Fletcher Memorial Home

Last month I was quoting Ric Locke’s idea of how to deal with tyrants, without necessarily understanding it. Locke himself subsequently commented:

Maybe we should set up an isolated place for retired tyrants to build palaces and live out their days.

Come to think of it, they could call it The Dictator Retirement Island:

Here is how it works. The US puts a sum of money in a Swiss account for the dictator. The US moves dictator to a lush island complete with lavish lifestyle complete with personal performances from US pop stars (this seems to be a very popular activity for both dictators and US singers). The US guards the dictator from vengeful rebel groups, human rights organizations, threats if extradition, etc. In exchange the dictator gives up power and allows the US to impose an interim Constitution and supervise free elections.

It used to be that deposed kings/emperors/strong men could find a home in exile somewhere. The promise of exile probably helped prevent scorched-Earth battles by dictators who know that loss of power will mean torture and death. The German Kaiser lived in exile for 20 years in the Netherlands after WWI.

Whether this will lead to a Final Solution, as Roger Waters once suggested, is not entirely clear.

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Pushing that Number 2 pencil

Somewhere in the midst of critiquing No Child Left Behind, Steve Sailer brings up the Scholastic Aptitude Test:

The point of relativistic tests such as the SAT is not to make sure that every student knows what he or she needs to know: it’s to find out who is best. Nor these test designers claim that administering their test will make the students smarter. In fact, the designers worry when scores go up that perhaps somebody is gaming the test.

Of course, relativist tests do top out at some score. But that’s merely for convenience and cost-effectiveness. It’s obvious that an 800 on the SAT doesn’t necessarily represent the ultimate in human intellectual proficiency. What would John Updike have scored on the SAT Verbal if the test had been 48 hours long? 1050? What would John von Neumann have scored on the SAT Math? 1100?

I took the SAT twice in the late 1960s. My scores were okay, if you define “okay” as “more or less acceptable to any college to which I was likely to apply.” The scale never struck me as being exactly linear, though I’ve never actually tried to ferret out the Double Secret Algorithms that govern the scoring. I assume there’s some sort of normalized bell curve back there somewhere, but that’s as far as I’m going to go with it.

And on general principle, I question my “intellectual proficiency,” if only because there’s so much I don’t know that I wish I did.

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Calling all Eurobirds

July and August are slow times for central Florida’s naturist resorts. What to do? Paul Brenot, who heads up the Pasco Area Naturist Development Association, says it’s time to target the European traveler:

“That’s the time frame Europe goes on vacation,” [said Brenot]. “Everyone is looking for somewhere new to go. We have the facilities. We have the hotel rooms.”

As a result, PANDA is in the process of formulating a plan to market Pasco County to European travelers. The project, dubbed Eurobird, will include a variety of promotional undertakings to bring Pasco County and its naturist resorts to the attention of vacationing Europeans.

Pasco, says Brenot, is actually a tad cooler than Mediterranean resorts, at least that time of year. Certainly the tourist infrastructure is largely in place.

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Le New Car

Fiat’s brought back an updated version of the 500, and BMW has been very successful with a revised and edited Mini. Renault would like a piece of the Premium Retro Small Car market, and apparently they’re thinking about bringing back the Seventies semi-icon R5, which sold here in small numbers as “Le Car.”

Renault Le CarI remember my one and only ride in an original US-spec R5, every bit as crazed as Renault’s American advertising, which typically called your attention to Le Performance, Les Features, and of course Le Price. (In one town in Washington state, it was used as Le Police Car.) Being a Frenchmobile of its era, it rolled around on its door handles half the time, but it never actually lost its grip on the road; steering was somewhere between fast and “Jeebus, what was that?” In terms of sheer fun, it was right up there with Fiat’s rollicking Ritmo, which for some reason was rebranded “Strada” in the States.

Renault doesn’t have a US distribution channel, but it does own about two-fifths of Nissan, which means that it’s not entirely out of the question that Le Car nouveau might some day show up amid the Sentras and Cubes and Jukes. The earliest it could happen, though, is probably 2014.

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Not a peanut-butter cup

“Remember when you couldn’t wait for your life to begin… and then, one day, it did?”

That was the tagline for a lovely little drama called The Man in the Moon, twenty years ago, the first place I saw a young lady named Reese Witherspoon. (There’s an obviously-body-doubled scene early in the film where she’s heading off to the swimmin’ hole, dropping articles of clothing as she goes, but we’re not going there.) I don’t think the young Reese ever envisioned herself coming out of a tony Beverly Hills salon, let alone that someone would bother to take a picture of her so doing:

Reese Witherspoon in Beverly Hills

As I understand it, Witherspoon, then 14, showed up for an open casting call for The Man in the Moon, hoping for a bit part. The rest, as the phrase goes, is history. (She’s 35 this week.)

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The Death Star advances

Barack Obama, always fond of pie-in-the-sky proposals, said in his State of the Union message that he wanted 98 percent of the country covered by high-speed wireless within five years.

I think it’s safe to assume the President didn’t anticipate the plopping of this meadow muffin:

AT&T will acquire T-Mobile USA from telecommunications company Deutsche Telekom for an estimated $39 billion in cash and stock, the companies said in a joint release Sunday.

The acquisition will expand AT&T’s 4G network 1.2 million square miles, making it accessible to an additional 46.5 million Americans, the statement said. AT&T also expects to gain enough cell towers to increase its network density by 30%.

I suppose going from “wholly inadequate” to merely “inadequate” counts as a win in some circles, but just about everybody loses in this deal:

T-Mobile has been pretty experimental and innovative — it has experiment with newer technologies such as UMA, built its own handsets and has generally been a more consumer centric company. AT&T on the other hand has [the] innovation of a lead pencil and has the mentality more suited to a monopoly — a position it wants to regain.

The chances that the Obama administration will raise even the slightest antitrust questions are somewhere between slim and none. We know this much: AT&T is forking over $25 billion in cash (the rest is in stock) for this deal. That’s $25 billion they weren’t about to spend on actually upgrading their network.

If I were U. S. Cellular, I’d be making some spectacular consumer offers right about now.

Disclosure: I’ve been a T-Mobile customer since the VoiceStream days. I do not expect to remain one.

Addendum: This should be Fark Blurb of the Year: “AT&T is getting married to T-Mobile. There will be no reception afterwards”.

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Vassalized remains

According to Barbara Tuchman’s A Distant Mirror, courtly love progressed through stages somewhat like this:

  • Attraction to the lady
  • Worship from afar
  • Declaration of passionate devotion
  • Virtuous rejection by the lady
  • Renewed wooing with oaths of virtue and eternal fealty
  • Physical manifestations of lovesickness
  • Heroic deeds of valor which win the lady’s heart
  • Consummation of the secret love
  • Endless adventures and subterfuges avoiding detection

That’s how it was supposed to go, anyway: the stuff of romance novels, even today. And yet the reality and the myth were always somehow far apart from one another:

I had seen mostly the “sanitized” version in the bowdlerized fairy tales I read. I had pictured courtly love as sort of an elaborate crush, with the typical pining and sighing that crushes bring… but also, like many crushes, the fact that the object of the crush is unattainable (because, in courtly love, she was MARRIED, see?), they went unconsummated. Or maybe I — at 12, 13, and 14 — kind of overlaid my own way of thinking on the idea. (And yes, in a lot of cases, the unattainability is a feature of the crush — I think, in fact, if some of the chaps I had crushes on in those days had shown up on my doorstep and said, “I’m yours,” I would have run away and hid. [Heck, even at my advanced age now — and yes, I still occasionally develop crushes — I would likely WANT to — if not in actual fact, did — run away and hide if the object of my crush happened to reveal an interest in me]. So I saw courtly love as something much more… chaste… than what it actually was.)

Technically, I know no more about courtly love than I do about Courtney Love, and I suspect I’d probably run from both.

Actually, that’s not quite true. I am quite familiar with the “worship from afar” bit. And if I’m wise — alas, not always the case — I keep my trap shut, since I’m not in a position to go on some damnfool quest right this minute.

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Such sick, sick guns

Front page of the Oklahoman this morning:

Oklahoman front page 3-21-11

How do they know a gun is mentally ill and therefore has to be registered? Did it jump out of its owner’s holster and take a shot at someone?

(Actual story here.)

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