Dry wood

The last new episode of MLP:FiM — see, I can work pony into anything! — featured a scary creature called the Timber Wolf, which, remarkably, was made of actual timber, sort of a cellulose-based Transformer. Tonight at the Peake, the usual sellout crowd got to witness lots of wooden performances in the first quarter, which ended a stolid 16-16. Thunder fans who were sweating the possibility of Wizards 2: Electric Boogaloo were relieved to see the home team shift into something closer to high gear, dispatching Minnesota’s strange woodland creatures, 106-82.

It didn’t hurt that Kevin Love and J. J. Barea — and, for that matter, coach Rick Adelman — were no-shows. Still, slack was uptaken, and the Wolves logged the only two double-doubles tonight: stalwart center Nikola Peković (17 points, 10 rebounds) and reserve forward Derrick Williams (14 points, 11 rebounds). I continue to be impressed by Luke Ridnour at the point: he’s definitely improved from his Sonics days. On the other hand, I can spare an eyebrow to raise over backup big Greg Stiemsma, who racked up six fouls in less than thirteen minutes. Still, that’s what he does.

The astonishing Serge Ibaka offensive show took the night off: six points and two Shaq-quality free throws. I never know what to think when Kevin Durant beats Ibaka in points, rebounds and blocks (26, eight and four respectively). Russell Westbrook has rediscovered efficiency, going 7-14 (3-4 on treys). And Kevin Martin was only 4-12 — but all four makes were 3-pointers. In fact, OKC was 11-20 from Lower Bricktown, a sterling 55 percent, better than the 47 they shot overall, and way better than the 28 they shot in the first quarter. (The Wolves improved from 33 in the first to a final 43.)

Coming up: three road games in four days against Pacific foes. It’s the Lakers on Friday, the Trail Blazers on Sunday, and the Suns on Monday. Watch that jet lag, guys.

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The non-laughing gnome

Thomas Forget’s 2002 biography of David Bowie contains this fairly inarguable statement:

Because he has succeeded in so many different styles of music, it is almost impossible to find a popular artist today that has not been influenced by David Bowie.

Note that Forget is not limiting this to musical artists, either: given Bowie’s seemingly infinite capacity for self-reinvention — Madonna only wishes she were so protean — the Thin White Duke’s influence is all over the map. (ObPony: late in the first season of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, there appeared three surly canine miners dubbed “Diamond Dogs.”) For his 66th birthday, which was yesterday, Bowie showed off yet another persona: the boulevardier turned perhaps immobile and definitely melancholy.

“Where Are We Now?” heralds the arrival of The Next Day, due in March, Bowie’s reunion with longtime producer Tony Visconti. I admit to being a little uneasy about the prospects. Then again, it took me twenty years to warm to Ziggy Stardust.

(With thanks to Michele Catalano.)

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Stocking up

The slogan of the Van Raalte company was “Because you love nice things,” a bit of commercial whimsy I found quite persuasive: “[I]t cuts straight to the chase; only L’Oreal’s ‘Because I’m worth it’ exceeds it for ego massage.”

A lot of their advertising proved to be (somewhat) collectible, as late as the middle 1960s:

Van Raalte ad from 1964

As always with these, you get a dollop of historical commentary, this time from the Van Raalte family themselves:

In the late 1920’s (1927?) the decision was made to sell the company to Goldman Sachs and Lehman Bros. There are several theories as to what prompted the decision to sell, but no definitive reason has survived the years. The Company was still a leading manufacturer in its field and its name and products were highly respected. The new owners kept the name, product lines, and slogans and it became a publically traded company with shares on the American Stock Exchange.

The company prospered through the years and was the first to produce stockings made with Dupont’s new “nylon” fiber in the late 1930’s. By 1965 the company had sales of over $70 Million. In 1970 VAN RAALTE was sold to the Cluett, Peabody & Co (the Arrow shirt company) and then again in 1977 to the Kellwood Company. In 1994 Warnaco acquired the Van Raalte trademark for apparel, and the following year sold Van Raalte bras and products exclusively through Sears stores. Production of Van Raalte products eventually ceased by the end of the century.

I admired this picture enough to make a CD jacket out of (some of) it.

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When they was post-fab

Roger speculates on how things might have been different had Mark David Chapman been somewhere else that night in 1980:

John and Yoko’s album Double Fantasy comes out in the fall of 1980. It does all right [not as well as it did in response to Lennon’s death]. They put out Milk and Honey a year later; ditto. They tour for a few months.

Around 1982, George, whose career was in a bit of a downturn — no “All Those Years Ago” hit single — plays on a John and Yoko album. John and George play on Ringo’s comeback album.

Live Aid in 1985 becomes the venue in which the Beatles get together for a one-off reunion. But they enjoy it so much, they put together an album a year later. They get together periodically, but primarily continue with their solo careers.

Roger doesn’t say so specifically, but it sounds to me like the stumbling block, had John lived, might have been Paul. (How does he sleep?)

As long as we’re fiddling about with timelines, you might have a look at “The plane that didn’t crash,” based on an earlier catastrophe.

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Code squawkers

What some people will do for a teensy speed increment:

Like the title, I installed Universal OBDII Oxygen Sensor Simulator for 2007 corolla to get rid of P0420 because I installed a racing header. Can someone help me solving these codes? Or any other good way to get rid of P0420?

I suspect this may be against the manufacturer’s advice: how likely is this guy, or any guy, to be racing a 2007 Corolla, fercrissake?

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Quote of the week

Megan McArdle slips this zinger into a piece about that hypothetical (so far, anyway) trillion-dollar coin:

When I was reporting on Wall Street, I used to be told with some regularity that government was needed to counteract the short-term thinking of the business sector, who never thought much beyond the next quarterly earnings report. This now seems as quaintly adorable as picture hats and daily milk deliveries. An ADHD day trader with a cocaine habit and six months to live has considerably more long-term planning skills than our current congress.

Speaking of that chimerical currency, it fits perfectly into the story we told in first grade — which was more than 50 years ago, hence the seemingly modest pricing — about the youngster who sold his puppy to some kid up the street for a thousand dollars.

Well, he didn’t actually sell the puppy for $1000: he traded it for two $500 kittens.

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Venial synopsis

Netflix just can’t seem to grasp this series:

Netflix screen shot for My Little Pony

At least they didn’t bring Clint Eastwood into it this time. I assume Bill is laughing.

(Via My Little Brony.)

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Neither gassers nor rail jobs

Believe it or not — and I had to look at it twice — more than half a million alt-fuel vehicles (hybrids, electrics, diesels, whatever) were sold in the States last year. This is, I note for the sake of completeness, slightly less than the number of F-series pickups that Ford sold, but it’s a 60-percent increase from last year, which suggests that a fair number of converts are being made.

About 240,000 of these cars bore the Toyota Prius badge, which now adorns four different vehicles, including a plug-in. Volkswagen — not counting dreamy sister Audi — mailed us over 80,000 diesels. In fact, only one automaker is really faltering in this niche market:

Honda remained the only automaker truly struggling in the alt-fuel field, with December sales dropping 40 percent from a year earlier to 1,084 units. While Civic Hybrid sales were down slightly, demand for the CR-Z and Insight plunged.

The entire Honda alt-fuel line accounted for just over 17,000 sales. Even the much-maligned Chevy Volt did better than that (23,000).

(Title source.)

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If that’s okay with you

Coat of arms of Novokuznetsk

This lovely little bit of heraldry is the current coat of arms of Novokuznetsk, an industrial burg of half a million in south-central Russia. The town is coming up on its 400th anniversary, and would like ideas for updating that symbol. Last I looked, this was the frontrunner:

Read the rest of this entry »

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Budget bubbly

How much should you spend for a standard-sized bottle of Champagne? I’ve had the stuff exactly once, and I wasn’t paying for it at the time, so I can offer you no personal data.

Then again, there are other persons who can:

I stopped in North Plains for gas and picked up a bottle of Cook’s Extra Dry Champagne from Apu at the Kwik-E-Mart. They also had Andre’s Brut Champagne. I recalled from my last excursion into Champagne land that Brut is drier than extra dry, and I’m thinking I don’t need drier than extra dry, so I sprung for the extra dollar for Cook’s ($7 versus $6 for Andre’s), and it was pretty good. Older son tells me that Cook’s is well worth the extra dollar.

Which is the difference between me and those Champagne drinkers. You mention Extra Dry to me, and I assume you mean Arrid.

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Deduct for hyphens

Mark Alger continues to pile up the words on his current writing project, noting that he’d broken the 30k barrier, and continuing thusly:

Not great, but not bad, either. So, to make it to official, league-rules minimum novel length, I need a round 10,000 words more.

I emitted a brief squee, he sent me to a source, and I wound up looking at the Longest Novels Ever, headed up by Proust’s unsummarizable À la recherche du temps perdu, which checks in at approximately 1.2 million words, or twice as long as any pony story I’ve seen. If Kkat were ever to put it out as an actual book, Fallout: Equestria, at somewhere around 660,000 words, would make that Top Ten list.

I mention purely in passing that the three short-ish stories that make up the TwiBrush trilogy would require some substantial editing to make into a proper novel, but they’re over 40,000 words in aggregate. All of you who said I oughta write a book: I damn near did. I just didn’t realize it at the time.

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Hardly a feature

You might have seen this lament on New Year’s Day:

Second time that’s happened on a YouTube embed. I have no idea what the problem is. It may not make any difference, but I’ve put it back without changing the screen size, on the off-chance that there’s an issue with resizing.

Well, no, there wasn’t an issue with resizing. Apparently in WordPress 3.5, the combination of iframe tag and scheduled post results in iframe data being deleted from the post upon publication. WordPress has declared it a known bug. I expect it will be fixed by 3.5.1. Until then, I need to publish any YouTube or similar stuff in realtime, rather than schedule it.

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It doesn’t take a wizard

All it takes, apparently, is a bunch of guys who were sick and tired of being characterized as sad sacks, and a special incentive: not having their two top scorers. The woeful Washington Wizards, losers of 28 of 32 games before tonight, and missing both Nenê and Jordan Crawford, managed to embarrass the Oklahoma City Thunder for most of the night; with 36 seconds left, a Kevin Durant trey tied it up, but a Bradley Beal jumper with 0.3 left put the Thunder away, 101-99.

The numbers indicate a squeaker: Washington outshot the Thunder, 44-43 percent; the Wiz got one more rebound (45-44); the Thunder had one more assist (22-21). In fact, it wasn’t that close: the Wizards made the plays late when they had to. Washington, the least effective team from distance, made 10 of 18 from beyond the arc, while Oklahoma City, the most effective, made only six of 25. And in the absence of Big Scorers, the Wiz distributed the points: both Beal and Martell Webster snagged 22, Kevin Seraphin 19, and Emeka Okafor 12 (and 12 rebounds). The reserve Wizards only got 17 points for the night, 10 by Jan Vesely, but the Thunder bench could manage only 13, Kevin Martin going 3-12 for a mere eight.

In fact, nobody from OKC shot that well except Serge Ibaka (12-17 for 26 points, 11 rebounds) and Thabo Sefolosha (5-7 for 14). Durant was an iffy 9-19 for 29; Russell Westbrook was a sub-iffy 4-17 for 17. And then there’s the Great Iron Warrior, Kendrick Perkins, who took exactly two shots all night, missed them both, but did retrieve 11 boards. It was the kind of night where you hope Hasheem Thabeet has something going for him, which for the most part he didn’t.

And you might want to note this: the now 5-28 Wizards are 2-2 against last year’s Finals competitors, having already beaten the Heat once in three tries. Once in a while, the Verizon Center crowd gets happy.

Speaking of hometown crowds, Loud City will be mostly vacant this month: the Thunder will host the Timberwolves Wednesday night, followed by three road games, then the Nuggets the following Wednesday, followed by six road games. Welcome to Crunch Time.

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The ultimate anti-productivity weapon

All but two of “Weird Al” Yankovic’s polka medleys, synchronized to vintage live video, in a single 37-minute burst:

The two holdouts: “The Hot Rocks Polka,” an all-Rolling Stones set from the UHF soundtrack album, and “Bohemian Polka,” which surely needs no explanation. I assume that there was no live footage for either.

Oh, and if you’re keeping score, here’s the list.

(If this doesn’t improve my “time per page view,” nothing will.)

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She reads

And inevitably, she makes me curious.

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Venison on the grille

In the February Car and Driver we get a look at some scary numbers compiled by State Farm, of which the scariest may be this: between 1 July 2011 and 30 June 2012 there were 1,231,710 vehicle/deer collisions. One point two million of them in these 57 states.

On second thought, this might be scarier: more than a third of them took place in just five states. The worst of the lot was West Virginia, where a driver has about a 1-in-40 chance of getting clobbered by Cervidae. (Your best chance of avoiding the pesky hooved rodent is in Hawaii, where the odds are 1:6800. Still, that was 134 wrecks in twelve months.)

Since Robert Stacy McCain is going to ask: 1:115 in Maryland. The magazine reports two collisions involving staffers, one in California (1:940) and one in Michigan (1:72, tied for third worst). It’s 1:195 here in Oklahoma, which did not impress the doe who cut short my 2006 World Tour.

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