Slower than the speed of night

The Big Storms converged right over my house at 8:10. I think. The power had dropped by 8:03, and stayed gone for the better part of three hours. (Which meant no cable, which meant the basketball game on the old portable radio on top of the fridge. Now you know why it’s there.)

As of last night before I turned in, I noticed rather a large section of tree out back entirely too close to the power line. If it doesn’t move too much, no problem. (And inasmuch as it’s practically screwed itself into the ground, it may actually fend off threats to the line.) Then again, this is May. Things move. I’ve had entire trees split in half in May.

For now, though, I am grateful to have a relatively unpunctured (we shall see later on) roof over my head. I spotted no hailstones over ping-pong ball size, but they made up in volume what they didn’t carry in sheer heft.

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Second curse, same as the first

Pretty much anything the Spurs did to the Thunder in Game 1, they did again in Game 2: they found holes in the OKC defense, they put up shots you wouldn’t believe — even Manu Ginobili might not believe them, and he was responsible for several of them — and while OKC fought back from a 22-point deficit in the third quarter, they would remain at least two possessions back for the rest of the night, as the Spurs eased out to a two-game lead with a 120-111 win.

The San Antonio offensive machine was in high tune: the Spurs actually took ten fewer shots than the Thunder, but sank six more. If the Thunder doubled them up on offensive rebounds — 16 versus 8 — well, if the shot goes in, you don’t need the offensive rebound, do you? The pesky Texans made 55 percent of their shots, the Thunder only 42. And Tony Parker was in his own private zone: he went 16-21 from the floor for a game-high 34. Ginobili, in a third less tome, racked up 20; both Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard posted double-doubles, having snared rebounds in mass quantities.

Scott Brooks had allowed before the game that maybe he should have played Serge Ibaka more on Sunday night. And Serge turned in a reasonable, if not noteworthy, performance. Unfortunately, these are the playoffs, where “Screw reasonable!” is the desideratum. Kevin Durant got 31 points somehow; James Harden got 30, and might have gotten some more had he not fouled out. And did we get the Good Russell or the Bad Russell tonight? We got the Good Russell That Doesn’t Shoot All That Well: he scored 27 on 10-24 shooting and a trio of treys, and didn’t turn the ball over so much as once while serving up eight dimes. If he ever maxes all the categories out, he’s dangerous.

But right now danger has to take second place to figuring out a way to beat the Spurs four of the next five. It can be done. But I’m not lying awake at night thinking up plays.

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Really delayed reaction

Somebody asked this on Yahoo! Answers back in October ’09, and it just now got around to having a Best Answer selected. Here’s the question, which is definitely within my realm of expertise, such as it is:

Why would a person initially start a blog if there’s no guarantee no one would read it at all?

Why would you start writing for virtually no one…

Ah, Grasshopper, you are so young.

My answer (which got one whole vote for Best, out of one):

Sometimes you just feel the need. It took me a year and a half to get my first 3000 visitors; now 3000 is a slow week.

And no, there are no guarantees. I figured if I threw enough stuff against the wall, some of it would stick.

Site’s been up 13.5 years as of today. Total visitors: 1.85 million. Patience sometimes is a virtue.

We’ll hit 2.3 million next month, maybe.

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Wide-body jets

These days, once you’re finished with your government-mandated assault on your person, you’ll be assigned to your lousy eighteen-inch-wide inflight penalty box, and you’ll like it, peasant. Or you can just pay for two seats, unless you’re in Canada, where this is considered a Discriminatory Practice.

Alternatively, you can hope (1) you’re riding on an Airbus A320 and (2) the airline checked the right boxes on the order form:

The standard economy seat on an A320 is eighteen inches wide; the XL versions will be twenty inches wide. Ostensibly airlines that order these planes will be able to choose how many XL seats and how many standard-size seats they would like, and will be able to upcharge accordingly for the more spacious ass accommodations.

“These seats are not meant just for overweight passengers,” Airbus’ aircraft interiors director Zuzana Hrnkova told journalists, before adding, “Mothers with children may be ready to pay a little more in order to be able to keep their babies in their lap, and large football players may be interested.”

Disclosure: While I’m on the wide side, I’ve never been asked to buy a second seat, though I did once have to ask for a seat-belt extension. I am, um, a bit narrower these days.

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Serial groper

“This is not a joke,” says Jennifer, though I’m having trouble imagining Henny Youngman coming up with one better:

Former priest Thomas Harkins molested so many children, even the Catholic Church was no longer willing to tolerate it. So he was defrocked, and is now happily employed as a TSA supervisor in Philadelphia. (Not even a run-of-the-mill agent, mind you, but a supervisor.)

And they say job skills aren’t transferable anymore.

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Well, that explains everything

Chicago Public Schools and the teachers’ union are engaged in contract negotiations, a process which a Chicago Tribune editorial explains thusly:

By law, that negotiation will extend until mid-July, barring an earlier agreement. If there is no agreement then, the mediator will propose a compromise.

Both sides will have up to 15 days to accept or reject that compromise. If either side rejects the deal, the terms are then made public. That will give residents a full view of what’s on the table. Thirty days after the report becomes public, the union can call a strike.

So why is the union calling for a strike vote now?

“It is impossible to take a vote in summer when all our members are on vacation,” union vice president Jesse Sharkey said Tuesday.


(Via Dave Schuler.)

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But do you Like your Shares?

The conventional wisdom holds that Facebook’s Initial Public Offering was something of a failure, because the stock price has since fallen by a sixth. As usual, the conventional wisdom is braying through its own sombrero. The IPO went just fine for the institution that’s supposed to benefit from it:

The entire purpose of an Initial Public Offering, after all, is to bring cash into the company by offering ownership shares in the company for sale on the open market. Since these IPOs are all done through investment banks and brokerage houses, though, there are parties with conflicting interests at the table prior to the day the stock goes public. It’s in the best interest of the banks and brokerage houses that the stock be priced somewhere below what the market might pay for it, because they are the ones who buy the stock from the corporation in order to either sell it to their clients or keep it in their own portfolio in the hope that it will gain value. It’s in the best interest of the corporation that the initial offering price be as near to the top of market value as possible so that they maximize the value of the shares of ownership that they’re selling. Remember, after IPO day a corporation reaps almost no benefit from what happens to its share price unless it holds what are called “Treasury Shares” in its own name, or it decides to issue additional shares at some point in the future. Who benefits if the stock goes up sharply on IPO Day or immediately thereafter? The banks and brokerage houses.

Emphasis in the original. Remember, the company doesn’t get a cent if the stock goes up after the IPO: those initial shares go out at the scheduled price, they bank the proceeds, and that’s that. The only thing that changes is the market-capitalization value, and market cap is important to investors the way semisextiles are important to astrologers.

There’s still the question of whether Facebook is a harbinger of the future or just a flavor of the month — but the results of the IPO wouldn’t have told you that either way.

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A bit of illumination

This is Canadian singer Lights, and yes, that’s her legal name:

Lights on the sofa

Admittedly, it says “Valerie Anne Poxleitner” on her birth certificate. She’s twenty-five, and she got married a couple of weeks ago to Blessthefall lead singer Beau Bokan.

I am deeply fond of her song “Second Go,” from the 2009 album The Listening:

A couple of notes:

  • Tats aside, she looks remarkably like Rebecca Black, and indeed RB could sing this song if she did this kind of song;
  • The whole video was done in one shot.

Bless you, O God of Random Discoveries.

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Small French fry

We have been favored this weekend with photos of both Tam and Roberta X seated inside a cute little Vespa 400 — not simultaneously, I hasten to add — which prompted me to take a peek under this carlet’s not-exactly-oversized nose skirt:

Engine bay of Vespa 400

The teensy mill is an I2, 63 x 63 mm, around 393 cc, hence the “400” tag. It’s a two-stroke, with all the irritations of that breed, less one: later examples have a separate oil reservoir, and would attempt to mix the oil and gas together on the fly, saving the driver a little bit of work. The suspension, remarkably, was independent at all four corners, with coil springs all around; there was even an anti-roll bar up front. A contemporary test by a British magazine came up with a top speed of just under 52 mph; 0-40 (forget 60) was a stately procession of 24 seconds, or about what I tend to expect from someone in front of me climbing one of Oklahoma’s idiotically short onramps.

From the Art for Art’s Sake department, here is an example of a car bringing back memories you never actually had:

“She was so pretty,” he mused.

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Inconstant craving

Saturday morning I had the urge for cinnamon rolls, and made a mental note to grab some at the grocery store. But cinnamon rolls somehow manage to be both wildly variable yet consistently blah, so said mental note slid down the priority list — until I had actually schlepped my shopping bag into Sunflower and had begun my usual path, which starts in the corner with the baked goods.

On display I found small loaves of cinnamon bread, bearing the Sweet Paradise brand, from remote Hayward, California. They were small, but hefty: a full twenty ounces, the same weight as an inflated loaf of Mrs Baird’s. I decided that not having a whole faceful of icing was an advantage, and slid a loaf into my bag.

I got the thing home, sliced off a corner, and went into Beaming Mode: the urge was more than satisfactorily dealt with, and I said something to the effect that “Well, this was certainly worth the —” breaking off when I realized I hadn’t ever looked at the price, not even at the checkout lane. I duly went back to my desk, pulled up the register tape, and scanned down the list.

Five ninety-nine.

I was a trifle put off for a moment — “I just paid six bucks for a loaf of bread?” — but that passed quickly, and I sliced off another chunk. As they say on eBay, “A++++++ would buy again.” Even at $5.99.

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Strange search-engine queries (330)

It’s time once again to see if anything in the week’s search logs will rustle our collective jimmies. (I admit, after doing this for over six years, my jimmies remain largely unrustled, but you can’t have everything.)

train travel from houston to tulsa:  Rotsa ruck. As close as you’ll get is Oklahoma City — and you’ll have to ride all the way to San Antonio to make the northbound connection. How are you at hopping freights?

sin tax failure:  For instance, the tobacco tax, which brings in less money every year because there are fewer smokers, which wouldn’t be a problem except that there are various health agencies (so to speak) which rely on those revenues. Not that the agencies will declare victory and disband or anything.

uc santa cruz clothing optional campus:  You wish. At least they don’t have a dress code.

twilight sparkle birthday:  The only thing I know for certain is she’s old enough to drink cider.

dihydrogen monoxide oklahoma:  Parts of the state are awash in the stuff; Oklahoma City has over a dozen square miles of it.

why do i feel like crap when the novocaine wears off:  Funny thing about novocaine: it can’t be timed to last exactly as long as the pain it’s masking. Pop a painkiller and wash it down with a tall glass of dihydrogen monoxide.

forced sex free download website yahoo answer:  I don’t know what’s sadder: that this guy is trying to hoover up smut on his ‘droid, or that he manifestly couldn’t find an elephant with a nosebleed in a snowstorm.

mercedes benz fragrance competitors:  For instance, BMW’s “Eau de Roundel,” or Porsche’s 911 Turbo-inspired “Wallsmack.”

roll back odometer 2006 nissan armada:  Shall we publish your IP address, so the buyer knows where to find you when he discovers the fraud?

You are damn smart:  But mostly, I’m damn tired.

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On this Memorial Day

Last respects

(American soldiers burying their dead, Bois de Consenvoye, France, 8 November 1918. A reprint from 2007, via the very much missed Susanna Cornett.)

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All the Oklahoman sports guys predicted the same outcome: Spurs in seven. The one non-guy, Jenni Carlson, says Thunder in six. Through 36 minutes, I was all ready to believe Jenni, what with OKC up by nine with momentum out the wazoo. But wazoos are fragile, and in nine minutes San Antonio had turned that nine-point deficit to a seven-point lead. The Spurs ultimately won it, 101-98, to go up 1-0 in the series.

You wouldn’t think of Manu Ginobili as a secret weapon — I mean, everybody knows what he’s capable of — but the Thunder hadn’t seen him this year, so maybe it was a case of out of sight, out of mind. Ginobili provided a jolt to the memory in the last minute of the first quarter, during which he scored seven points, and through the fourth, when he racked up 11 of his 26 points. With this much Manu, neither Tony Parker nor Tim Duncan had to be exceptional, though Duncan did log a double-double (16 points, 11 rebounds), and Parker did outscore Russell Westbrook, 18-17.

What happened to the Thunder, apart from Ginobili, was a spectacular fourth-quarter offensive drought: in those nine minutes the Spurs went 29-13, responding to a total lack of ball movement. (The Thunder logged exactly one assist in that final frame.) They got themselves somewhat righted in the last couple of minutes, but by then it was already out of reach. Kevin Durant did lead all scorers with 27, and while the Beard was hard to get started, James Harden did finish with a respectable 19. Still, when your sharpshooter is Derek Fisher (6-8 for 13), you have to figure that something’s a trifle askew.

Next game is Tuesday. I’m sure Scott Brooks is reminding the troops that it, like tonight’s game, will run 48 minutes.

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Undeath and taxes

No, really, this is a serious piece of research:

The U.S. stands on the precipice of a financial disaster, and Congress has done nothing but bicker. Of course, I refer to the coming day when the undead walk the earth, feasting on the living. A zombie apocalypse will create an urgent need for significant government revenues to protect the living, while at the same time rendering a large portion of the taxpaying public dead or undead. The government’s failure to anticipate or plan for this eventuality could cripple its ability to respond effectively, putting us all at risk… This article fills a glaring gap in the academic literature by examining how the estate and income tax laws apply to the undead.

After all, the IRS is used to its existing definitions. What happens when those definitions don’t mean what they used to anymore?

Citation: Chodorow, Adam, Death and Taxes and Zombies (April 23, 2012). Iowa Law Review, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

(Via io9.)

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To this we have sunk

The subject is Texas House Bill 41, which contains the following as caption text:

Relating to prosecution and punishment for the offense of official oppression by the intrusive touching of persons seeking access to public buildings and transportation; providing penalties.

Matthew Dowling explains:

Earlier this year, Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) authored HB-41, with the support of 100 something co-authors, to punish screeners who made inappropriate sexual contact with people trying to fly or enter public buildings. The bill was authored on the heels of the young, old and everyone in-between being forced into (and many times unnecessary) invasive full body searches by TSA screeners. This bill wouldn’t prevent further pat-downs or searches, but would prevent federally sponsored groping of someone’s private areas unless there was reasonable suspicion to search there.

Now if you’re Simpson’s primary opponent, and for some reason you want to make an issue out of this — well, read it yourself:

Political mailer by Tommy Merritt

Opposition to being groped means the terrorists have won. Sheesh.

Historical note: Tommy Merritt, under whose name this scurrilous balderdash was sent, occupied the District 7 seat in the Texas House through 2010, at which time he was defeated in the GOP primary by, um, David Simpson. Can you say “sore loser”?

(Via this Carly Rose Jackson tweet.)

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About time someone took this on

I may have to start an Epic category for stuff that transcends Entirely Too Cool.

Anyway, you know the song:

No pipe wrenches, but what the hay. (And it really looks better when it’s not scrunched down to fit this design theme.)

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