A sharp idea

Leatherman RaptorI’d heard enough about Leatherman tools over the years to pique my curiosity, and it turns out that there is in fact an actual Leatherman, though I presume his hide remains untanned. The newest tool from Leatherman’s company is the Raptor, due out next year, and it’s designed for a very specific market:

Hopefully you’d never have to use it, but should the need arise, you’ll certainly be glad to have the Leatherman Raptor at hand. Developed for uniformed medics, this scissor-like multi-tool features 420HC stainless steel shears, a strap cutter, a carbide glass breaker, a ring cutter, a ruler, and an oxygen tank wrench.

Price has yet to be announced.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Philly emptied

One of the stock sports clichés is “They wanted it more.” Hard to tell who wanted it more tonight: the Thunder led for most of the game, but the 76ers were never out of it, and when OKC simply stopped making shots with four minutes left, the Sixers closed in, and tied it at 98-all with a minute and a half left. And then nobody could score. Maybe nobody wanted it.

Then suddenly it was overtime, and Oklahoma City owns overtime. After hitting a meager two treys in 48 minutes, the Thunder knocked down four in four minutes, dropping the Sixers 116-109. You’re entitled to ask how it is that OKC scored a lousy 13 points in the 12-minute fourth quarter and 18 in the five-minute overtime, but again: Oklahoma City owns overtime. Over the past three seasons they’re over .800 in extended play.

Fifty-three minutes of game time, and Kevin Durant played 49:36 of it. The first half? Meh. Eight points. And yet he finished with 37. This isn’t an argument for benching Durant for 24 minutes and then turning him loose, but clearly the man does more damage after halftime. Russell Westbrook dropped in 30, Serge Ibaka 18, and Nick Collison a season-high 14. Attention K-Mart shoppers: Kevin Martin had another rough night, with three points in regulation — but a trey with 2:00 left in the OT shifted the momentum permanently. As radio guy Matt Pinto said, it’s not how many you get, it’s when you get ’em. Still, the Thunder went 6-21 from out there.

For some time now, Thaddeus Young has been someone with whom you did not mess, and he remained so tonight, snagging 29 points and 15 boards. Next door, Evan Turner added 26 more. (Hmmm. 55 from the forwards. OKC had … 55 from the forwards.) And senior swingman Jason Richardson, on his 42nd team in the last century, scored right at his 13-point average. Richardson, I suspect, will still be here in 2050. Make no mistake: these Sixers are good. But if you’re going to beat the Thunder, you get only 48 minutes to do it.

Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at home, against Charlotte, Houston and Utah respectively, then a quick trip to New Orleans on Saturday. Warning: this year’s Bobcats have utterly failed to suck.

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Negative Voltage

Motor Trend Editor-at-Large Angus MacKenzie divulged in his January column, historically devoted to the magazine’s Car of the Year selection, that two years earlier, the announcement of the Chevy Volt had drawn some, um, critical correspondence. An example:

I’ve seen your Car of the Year announcement and realize how fully and completely hollow your rag is. You pass your biases off as fact and outright lies to push your liberal agenda. The Volt is garbage and you know it, but you have crawled in bed with the gutless wannabe dictator Obama. I’m an electronics design engineer by trade, for 32 years, so I know what a crock the Volt is. Americans are not European pussies, like evidently you folks are. No one wants this piece of crap, and darn few will be sold. Only a social and political whore could have so completely sold out their integrity for a joke of a car no man with any balls could possibly want. It is not a triumph nor milestone, just a political waste of time and money.

Now what I want to know is this: why would someone ready to point an accusative finger at “European pussies,” or at a “social and political whore,” characterize the putatively low sales of the vehicle as a relatively bloodless “darn few?” Is there a little device in Microsoft Word to advise you that you’ve maxed out your pejoratives-per-paragraph quota? And if if the software is that smart, why didn’t it beep at the risible “fully … hollow?”

MacKenzie says this was one of the more polite letters that came in:

… no egregiously homophobic slurs, no sudden threats of grievous bodily harm, and no suggestion we’re acolytes of either Adolf Hitler or Karl Marx (hey, political theory is complicated stuff, y’know).

I’ve been critical of some MT stuff over the years — see, for instance, this evisceration of tech director Frank Markus for talking out of his exhaust manifold — but I try to keep the invective on target. Besides which, I am growing weary of this sudden upsurge, as it were, of guys who whine about how American manhood is under attack. Why so sensitive, bro?

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Jill out

Having no compelling interest in celebrating my own natal day, I’ll simply point out that Jill Hennessy turns 44 tomorrow, and that vaguely metallic looks pretty good on her:

Jill Hennessy at From Scotland With Love 2012

New York’s Tartan Week is “a series of independent events, coordinated by the Tartan Week Alliance that promote Scotland and celebrate the ties between Scotland and the USA.” This year’s edition, I am given to understand, was not quite so coordinated, although the “From Scotland With Love” fashion show, whence came the Hennessy picture, seems to have come off well.

Perhaps not coming off so well, in mine humble opinion: Hennessy’s “tartan-inspired” gown on the runway.

Jill’s twin sister Jacqueline also turns 44 tomorrow. She doesn’t do fashion shows.

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Some dissembly required

I’m not sure if this practice really encourages thinking on one’s feet or merely sets more youngsters on a political career path:

Witty pupils at a Cambridge school are being let off for minor offences if they can conjure up quick and clever excuses for what they have done.

Ed Elliott, head of the independent Perse School, told his pupils they could escape punishment if they could explain themselves in 10 seconds.

He said “out-and-out falseness” would not be allowed but “white lies” may be.

I have at best a modest gift for this sort of prevarication, or at least that’s what I’d like you to believe.

(Via Nothing To Do With Arbroath.)

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Quote of the week

Michele Catalano’s new music blog for Forbes — which is, based on the evidence of the first post, a new blog about music, not a blog about new music — contains this oh-so-familiar scenario:

I think this is why I like to listen to my music collection on shuffle rather than listen to whole albums; with about 100,000 songs to choose from I never know what’s going to come on next. I could burst into tears at any moment or I could hear “Steal My Sunshine” and be transported from on a bleak morning to a sunny, scenic freeway on my way to Lake Tahoe.

Music is emotional roulette. Most of the time, I win. And even when I don’t, the music is usually good enough to overcome whatever bad memory it brings up.

I would add only that old songs in new contexts, or heard under new circumstances, can produce new, wholly unexpected memories.

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Irish up

The Celtics, 3-3 at home and 3-3 on the road, really wanted this one at the Garden. And the Thunder did their best to give it to them; they whittled a 14-point Boston lead down to three with about a minute left, but then tossed up a boxful of Bricktown souvenirs while the Celtics calmly put it away, 108-100.

I was thinking, with the starters more or less evenly matched, that this would basically be a battle of the Sixth Men. And wouldn’t you know it, Jeff Green scored a season-high 17, while Kevin Martin scored a season-low three. In fact, the entire Oklahoma City bench contributed only 13 points; the Celtics reserves put up a healthy 35. And while the Thunder managed a decent 22 assists, Rajon Rondo had 16 all by himself. Add to that Kevin Garnett (18 points) coming up one rebound short of a double-double, Jason Terry (16) on a hot streak, and Paul Pierce (27) looking like the Paul Pierce of yore, and the Thunder were doomed from the opening of the second period on.

Which is not to say that OKC was utterly helpless: they did have the edge in rebounding (40-36, offensive even at 8), 29 points from Kevin Durant, and a better-than-average Russell Westbrook (26 points, seven boards, eight dimes). But when they couldn’t score inside, they retreated to the perimeter — and they couldn’t shoot from there, either, missing 18 of 24 tries from beyond the arc. (The Celtics, meanwhile, hit nine of 17.) And just for the hell of it, a telltale statistic: Leandro Barbosa, who played only 11 minutes and missed all three of his shots, went +17 for the night, second only to Garnett.

Still, I think the secret ingredient was Green. Uncle Jeff never acted like it — he’s too much the pro to mouth off — but this was his first chance to take the measure of his former team. And he took it out of their hide.

Tomorrow, the Sixers await. If the Thunder tradition of taking out their frustrations on their next opponent holds true, there will be boo-birds in Philly midway through the second quarter.

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Why, yes, it is Black Friday

Seventy-one Fridays ago, the weekend before Rebecca Black’s sophomore single “My Moment” was issued, I grumbled something to the effect that “real records drop, not on Friday, but on Tuesday.”

This is, of course, a long-standing music-industry practice, and “My Moment” did appear, yes, on Tuesday. I should have figured, though, that someone would eventually violate the sacred rule, and that someone likely would be Rebecca Black, who’s decidedly orthogonal to the rest of the industry. But the idea of doing so on Black Friday — well, I’m ashamed to admit that it never occurred to me.

So the new single has dropped, as of midnight Eastern. I scored the track from iTunes at about 11:10 (Central) Thursday night. The video came up later today:

At this writing, likes are outpacing dislikes nearly ten to one.

As for the song itself, I’m thinking that if Taylor Swift is wanting to be Katy Perry these days, surely Rebecca Black is bidding here for Swift’s niche: songs simultaneously wistful and accusatory.

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The lure of no limits

I can think of several reasons why I might want more email space, though as a practical matter, since I don’t leave mail on the server very long, the only limitation I’m likely to run into is Maximum Item Size, which varies with mail providers, though 40 MB is typical. The problem with that, though, is my backup routine: the script is supposed to back up the entire 60-MB MySQL database that runs this joint, gzip it, and then email me the .gz file. The gzip process, however, is running out of memory, and the script then tries to email me the full 60 MB, which fails at server level. I’m currently looking for alternatives, but that’s another story. (Nor am I alone in this: a friend this week was amazed that in this day and age, she could not email someone the contents of a music mix, because it exceeded the maximum item size.)

Meanwhile, this bit of pretentious nonsense was dropped into my box, allegedly from an ISP:

Dear Cox Customers,

You are advices to provided the necessary information needed to upgrade your mailbox quota for unlimited storage and spam blocker as well. Fill in the necessary information on the provided link below and make sure all corresponding information are correct.

The link goes to a Google Docs spreadsheet. (“You like Google, don’t you?”)

And, of course, there’s the veiled threat:

Failure to attend to this email will lead to disable of your mailbox and lost of personal information.

Windows Live Mail correctly spotted this as junk, noting that it was sent from a non-Cox address.

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A smuttering of pros

The shortlist for the 2012 Bad Sex Awards has been unveiled, and the Guardian’s critic seems most impressed by the absence of two particular writers:

The two authors heavily tipped to take this year’s most coveted and dreaded literary prize have failed to make the shortlist. Neither J. K. Rowling, for her first adult novel [The Casual Vacancy], nor E. L. James for her Fifty Shades trilogy, will be adding the bad sex trophy to their mantelpieces.

By comparison, the writers who did make the list are given short, indeed miniscule, shrift, even second-time nominee Tom Wolfe, who earned his spot on the list for this passage from Back to Blood:

Now his big generative jockey was inside her pelvic saddle, riding, riding, riding, and she was eagerly swallowing it swallowing it swallowing it with the saddle’s own lips and maw — all this without a word.

If you ask me, Wolfe has a clopfic just waiting in the wings. (Which, if it’s truly in the wings, would have to involve two pegasi.)

(Via languagehat.)

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Four cool cats

On the first day of January 1962, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Pete Best showed up at Decca Records in London and recorded fifteen songs — two written by Paul, one by John, and twelve covers — in the hopes of getting a record contract. Staff producer Tony Meehan presided over the session.

“Guitar groups are on the way out,” read Decca’s official rejection, sent to the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein. This seemed implausible, inasmuch as Decca eventually signed the Tremeloes, a guitar group, who had auditioned the same day. My own theory, for what it’s worth, is that Meehan, who’d been a professional drummer — with the legendary Shadows, no less — was unimpressed by Best’s kit work, and recommended to the higher-ups that the Beatles be passed by.

Epstein had apparently paid Meehan to produce a ten-track demo which could be theoretically shopped elsewhere. That tape is now about to go up for auction:

[T]he original safety master tape the group recorded at Decca’s London studios on New Year’s Day 1962 has come to public light for the first time.

It is thought the Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein held on to the tape he had paid to make, and later gave it to an executive associated with EMI… He sold it in 2002 to a prolific buyer of music memorabilia, who is now selling it at auction with a pre-sale estimate of £30,000.

Bootlegs of this material have been circulating for years, and five of the tracks were subsequently released on the Beatles’ Anthology 1. The ten tracks on the demo, presumably the ones Epstein deemed strongest, include both McCartney tunes. And the Beatles redid two of the covers — “Money (That’s What I Want)” and “Till There Was You” (yes, from The Music Man) — for With the Beatles, their second album for EMI’s Parlophone label.

The one track that fascinates me the most is “Money,” not so much because John really stretched his voice on the lead, but because it’s a piano-driven song, and no piano was available for the audition. (George Martin himself played the piano part on the With the Beatles version.) The result could almost be passed off as a surf record.

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Consider yourself tagged

A War on Women, you say? Get a whiff of this:

Denied the right to travel without consent from their male guardians and banned from driving, women in Saudi Arabia are now monitored by an electronic system that tracks any cross-border movements.

Since last week, Saudi women’s male guardians began receiving text messages on their phones informing them when women under their custody leave the country, even if they are travelling together… Women are not allowed to leave the kingdom without permission from their male guardian, who must give his consent by signing what is known as the “yellow sheet” at the airport or border.

This strikes me as just a bit more severe than, say, refusing to pay for contraception. But maybe that’s just me.

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Imagine the premiums

This was obviously a two-page spread originally, but we’re looking at page two (click it to see the whole thing):

Angie Dickinson for Vectra

“Looking like a million” refers to a celebrity practice utterly justifiable yet still sounding outlandish, which began in the 1920s with actor Ben Turpin, a cross-eyed fellow who evidently felt as though he’d be swept from the spotlight if those eyes ever uncrossed, so he took out a $25,000 insurance policy to pay off if it ever happened. As it happened, what killed his career was the rise of talkies; he worked only sporadically in the 1930s, living off his investment income.

The nicely crossed legs here belong to Angie Dickinson, who’d bought a million-dollar policy, as Betty Grable had a couple of decades before, and as did Mary Hart a couple of decades later. (Grable, in fact, starred in a film called Million Dollar Legs in 1939.) As for Vectra itself, the fiber began showing up in carpeting and upholstery in the 1960s, then faded from view.

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Diseconomies of scale

What it’s like to be the queen of yo-yo dieting, as told by Her Majesty Herself:

I no longer know if someone I haven’t seen in a while is giving me that look because I have gained a lot of weight since they last saw me or if I have lost a lot of weight since they last saw me. Actually, my default is to assume that I’ve gained a lot of weight, if the look isn’t quickly followed by “you look great.” Evidently, one NEVER looks great after massive weight gain and the politest of company will stare and then quickly change the subject to “what’ve I been up to these days?” Apparently, eating Doritos.

There are, of course, bottom-line (so to speak) considerations:

Frankly, I don’t even really care about my own weight fluctuations, except if it goes way too far in one direction or the other and I am forced to buy large quantities of new clothes. I DO care about my money.

Always remember: priorities.

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Sputtering around

Hanging around in Yahoo! Answers has given me new insights into America’s car smarts, or the lack thereof. I mean, it’s damned near 2013 and people are still whining about a bad tank of gas?

Why, yes, they are:

On the most recent edition of MotorWeek, Pat Goss warned about the dangers of bad fuel. What danger? The last time I encountered a problem with subpar pump gas was almost fifty years ago.

In his best scary, boogeyman’s-gonna-get-ya voice, Goss warned that “problems” can occur when patronizing “low-volume gas stations.” Huh? No such animals exist around here. So many stations have closed over the past 20 years that only the volume guys remain.

But people will cling to this belief, simply because it’s a whole lot easier to swallow than “Some emissions-related thingumabob went out and it’s gonna cost you $300 to fix.” Somewhere in this country, some time this weekend, some poor shlub is going to hear his transmission grenading at 70 mph, and is going to spend the next half hour looking for the fuse box because hey, fuses!

In point of fact, though:

[I]f your car breaks down these days, the only “tools” you need in your vehicle are a charged cell phone, a valid AAA membership and a bottle of wine with a screw top — to consume while you’re waiting for the tow truck to arrive.

And people like this will drive you to drink: “Will a 5 lug spare fit my ford escort 4lug?” I was tempted to tell him that he had to change the lug fuse.

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Take these thumbs and shove ’em

Facebook passed around this note yesterday:

We are also proposing changes to our site governance process for future updates to our Data Use Policy and SRR [Statement of Rights and Responsibilities]. We deeply value the feedback we receive from you during our comment period but have found that the voting mechanism created a system that incentivized quantity of comments over the quality of them. So, we are proposing to end the voting component in order to promote a more meaningful environment for feedback.

Did anyone not see that coming? Besides Facebook, I mean.

Here’s the list of proposed changes. There seems to be a Like button on it.

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