Political rebranding

The two major Philadelphia dailies, plus the philly.com Web site, have been sold for the fourth time in the last six years, and Bill Quick suggests a minor change across the top of the page:

I would suggest that the Inquirer change its name to the Democrat-Inquirer, and the Daily News to the Daily Democrat News. Just to be honest.

I can see his point: those Philly papers have been reliable supporters of Democratic Party initiatives and candidates in recent years. But I look a little closer to home, and note that the Arkansas Democrat was decidedly to the right of the rival Arkansas Gazette. And in 1991, the Gazette’s owner (Gannett) sold out to the Democrat, which remains a right-of-center paper to this day.

We will not, for the sake of sense and/or sensibility, mention the Dacron Republican-Democrat.

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US Phish

For today’s scam, we have a fake reservation confirmation:

You should check in from 24 hours and up to 60 minutes before your flight (2 hours if you’re flying internationally). After that, all you need to do is print your boarding pass and head to the gate.

Confirmation code: 329679

Check-in online: Online reservation details

According to the “details,” which conceal a link to a site in Chile, I’m booked on US Airways Flight 7952, scheduled to leave DCA (Reagan National) at 10 pm Thursday. As it happens, US Airways does have a Flight 7952, but it’s a West Coast route, from SFO (San Francisco International) to BUR (Bob Hope Airport, Burbank).

And I’m still fuzzy on how I’m supposed to check in and then print my boarding pass.

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All this needs is a badge

Angie Harmon, aka Detective Jane Rizzoli, got this T-shirt from a fan, and tweeted this picture to everyone:

Angie Harmon as Detective Sexy McBadass

She’s, um, excused.

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Mower than I bargained for

A couple of weeks ago, I sent the electric mower out for regrooving; they called Thursday to say it was done, but I didn’t pick it up until yesterday.

And I almost didn’t recognize it: apart from a couple of spots on the handle where the paint had scraped away, it looked brand new. From the looks of the invoice, they replaced everything that moved, and a couple of things that didn’t: even the handle grips are new. I can’t imagine they’re making a whole lot of money on this at the $90 (plus tax and the usual shop-supplies fee) price tag. I admit to not having tried out the machine yet: there was baby stuff to deal with when I got home, plus storms on the horizon. Still, all the parts about which I had doubts were replaced, so I’m going to assume that All Is Well.

Incidentally, once I wheeled the mower out to the car, I took the handle off so I could get it into the trunk; a fellow in a Ford, just pulling in, offered to help me boost it. I thanked him and waved him off, sure I could get it myself. He probably had no idea this machine weighs barely 60 pounds.

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Ground to a fine powder

One of these days, I expect to see Grizzlies vs. Thunder: A Quentin Tarantino Film. Seriously. The violence level fits, and tonight Scott Brooks — Scott Brooks! — drew a technical for saying God knows what. All you need to know about this one, though, is this Thunder statistic: Two fast-break points. Two. That’s how stifling the Memphis defense was, and when O. J. Mayo lofted a 25-footer at the shot-clock buzzer with 17 seconds left to put the Grizzlies up four, Loud City assumed an eerie quiet. OKC pulled within two on a pair of Russell Westbrook free throws, but Zach Randolph got two of his own, and Tony Allen tacked on two more just to rub it in. It’s the first time Memphis has beaten Oklahoma City this season in four tries, but it’s the one that’s going to hurt the most. Grizzlies 94, Thunder 88, and it pulls Memphis a couple of percentage points ahead of Dallas for the fifth seed in the West. (At this writing, the Mavs are being pounded by the L. A. Clippers.)

Mayo, in fact, outscored everyone: he had 22 points. Jeremy Pargo, starting in place of the ailing Mike Conley, came up with an unexpected ten; Zach Randolph, beside O. J. on the Memphis bench, had ten more. The Griz did not shoot well — 39 percent, 4 of 16 from beyond the arc — but they nailed 22 of 24 from the stripe. (The Thunder likewise put up 24, but only hit 17.) What Memphis does best, though, is force turnovers, and OKC obligingly coughed up the ball 18 times.

You have to assume that Westbrook is not happy with 5-16 from the floor (19 points), and Kevin Durant is less than pleased with 8-20 (21). Rebounds were even, OKC was up two in assists, but where’s the ball going through the net? “It wasn’t a lack of effort,” said Brooks; “we were out of sync.” Outscored 52-44 in the second half, they were evidently syncing out of sight.

Now to take it to South Beach. The Heat will not be in a forgiving mood, I suspect.

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Hollering up a storm

For those of you keeping score, the total grandchildren count is now up to six. Becky texted me to advise that they were going to induce labor; by the time I actually got to read said text, the youngster had already emerged.

Anyway, if you’re so inclined, say hello to Liam Luke Carson, born 4/2/12, 9 lb 8 oz, 21″, and somewhere around 85 decibels. Major lung power runs in the family, you may be certain. Pictures will follow when I can get some.

(Once again, I had to issue the Standard Reminder of how these things happen. They never learn.)

To update the books: this is Becky’s third, following Nick and Allison. Russ has three: Laney, Jackson and Gunner. That’s half a dozen. Considering I’m not yet 60, you’d think this would be plenty for a while.

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Nobody’s waiting by your side

Once in a while one of those image macros actually gets to me. I lost the link, and I can’t bring myself to go back through three weeks of Facebook ephemera to find it, so I’ll simply tell you that it’s a simple picture of an old man on a bench under a streetlight, saying “For fifty years, I have loved only one woman.”

Next panel: “If only she knew.”

Now jump back in time six centuries or so:

Majnun Dies on the Tomb of Layla by Behzad

This is a miniature attributed to the Persian painter Kamal al-din Bihzad, circa 1495, depicting Majnun (“he who is possessed”), the poet formerly known as Qays, laid to rest beside his beloved Layla, whom he could never, ever approach.

The story goes back at least to seventh-century Arabia, though the best-known version was created by Persian poet Nizami Ganjavi in 1192. They met as children, and were promptly barred from each other’s company by the parental units. In time, she was betrothed to another; Qays slowly, then not so slowly, seemed to go mad. In an effort to free the lad from his madness, his father took him on the Hajj; not only did it not work, but Qays actually raised a hand to the Kaaba itself:

“None of my days shall ever be free of this pain. Let me love, oh my God, love for love’s sake, and make my love a hundred times as great as it was and is!”

By now Layla must have forgotten him, and the madman wandered through the desert, singing the praises of his lost love. Passers-by listened to his songs, and sometimes they wrote them down. Eventually those songs reached Layla, who has not forgotten him at all: she could not, of course, respond, but she wrote her own messages and cast them forth, hoping the wind would carry them to him. And while she had married, that marriage had not been consummated, as she could not in good conscience participate. Her husband, understanding, chose not to press the issue.

Years passed, and the wind, helped by travelers who knew of Majnun and his plight, did bring Layla’s messages to him, and he gave thanks that she lived. A man named Zayd became their go-between, carrying messages back and forth; eventually they would meet at twilight, keeping a decent distance of ten paces between them, speaking in that mysterious tongue only lovers know, until the break of dawn.

And they were still apart when Layla’s husband died, and Layla, despairing, died of grief. Majnun returned to her, but too late, and having nothing further to live for, was laid to rest beside her. Zayd has a vision of them in the next world:

“Eternal companions: he is Majnun, the king of the world in right action, and she is Layla, the moon among idols in compassion. In the world, like unpierced rubies they treasured their fidelity affectionately, but found no rest and could not attain their heart’s desire. Here they suffer grief no more. So it will be until eternity.”

And Zayd himself notes:

This world is dust and is perishable. That world is pure and eternal… Commit yourself to love’s sanctuary and at once find freedom from your ego. Fly in love as an arrow towards its target. Love loosens the knots of being, love is liberation from the vortex of egotism. In love, every cup of sorrow which bites into the soul gives it new life. Many a draft bitter as poison has become in love delicious… However agonizing the experience, if it is for love it is well.

Now what you want to know is probably: Did Eric Clapton know about all this?

I am yours.
However distant you may be,
There blows no wind but wafts your scent to me,
There sings no bird but calls your name to me.
Each memory that has left its trace with me
Lingers forever as a part of me.

You may be absolutely certain that he did.

And you would never believe how I arrived at this topic in the first place, so I cut this down from the original thousand words to a shade under 700.

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Beyond logrolling

Aesop’s fable The Frogs Who Desired a King, from somewhere around the sixth century BC, as retold by NoOneOfAnyImport:

There were once some frogs who lived in liberty, but they wanted a king. They asked Jupiter to give them a king. They asked in one voice — no dissent, so it was all democratic and everything. Now, Jupiter knew these frogs weren’t the smartest bunch. So to placate them, he sent a piece of wood which splashed loudly in the pond.

This commotion scared the frogs at first. They approached their king cautiously, to make obeisance to him. When they realized their new ruler was just an ineffective lump of wood, they weren’t happy. They went back to Jupiter and asked for a better king. Jupiter was like, fine. And he sent a Heron to be their king.

The Heron flew down and began to eat the frogs, one after another. The frogs began to cry, and they begged Jupiter to deliver them from the throat of this tyrant. Jupiter replied, tough. The king which you demanded shall be your master.

Obviously said frogs didn’t know when they were well off: why, even their wooden ruler was good, or at least better than bad. And you have to figure that towards the end of the story, certain of the frogs were trying to arrange to be eaten last.

Then again, this does not look like a winning strategy for Mitt Romney, however wooden he may be: the last serious autoanimatronic Presidential candidate (as distinguished from a mere puppet) was defeated in 2000.

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As seen on “View From The Porch”

I admit that I don’t have a satisfactory answer to this question of Tam’s:

Lying in bed this morning, half-awake, I was suddenly gripped with a nagging concern over how to denote the title of a blog in writing? What does the style guide say? I haven’t checked yet, but are we supposed to italicize them, like an album or periodical (Instapundit, National Review,) or do we put them in quotes, like a song or essay (“The Daily Kos”, “The Uplifters Try It Again”)?

My own practice has been inconsistent over the years: I used to italicize faithfully any blog names I encountered, but I gradually drifted away from that, and now I tend to leave them as is. I don’t even have a good excuse for that, since I am generally conscientious about italicizing book titles and enclosing book chapter titles in quotes. (Same practice with record albums and “Track 4.”)

If nothing else, this demonstrates that I’ll probably be spending several millennia in purgatory reading the AP Stylebook. Or maybe the Fake AP Stylebook.

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Strange search-engine queries (322)

The major search engines, as a rule, do not pass judgment on the searches you make: they just provide results. Me, I’m judgmental and then some, as the following demonstrates:

post adolescent kids:  If they’re not growing up at all, I assume they’re planning careers in politics.

self cleaning oven methamphetamine:  Better you should try Easy-Off. Smells just as bad, but it’s a lot cheaper than meth.

why does my 96 mazda 626 5 speed only go to 5500 rpm?  Did you try taking it out of fifth?

woman shows bra:  Which is as it should be. When men start showing bra, then you can worry.

thing on a boot:  I try not to get anything on my boots.

i want to meet zooey deschanel:  Yeah, you and every dorky guy from Natchez to Mobile.

she is a great cook:  Get in line behind the guy wanting to meet Zooey Deschanel.

zooey deschanel male fantasy:  For her sake, I hope she can’t cook.

canada should annex:  Michigan, not that you can get Ottawa to take it.

drop them off or drop off them?  Are we talking the kids or the radar?

what is shortening effect:  I yield the floor to the Crisco Kid. (He was a friend of mine.)

news flash— spears westbrook is not teresa much to his dismay:  I’m sorry, what were you saying?

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Schrödinger’s candidate

David Javerbaum puts forth the theory that Mitt Romney is the first true quantum candidate:

In much the same way that light is both a particle and a wave, Mitt Romney is both a moderate and a conservative, depending on the situation. It is not that he is one or the other; it is not that he is one and then the other. He is both at the same time.

Nor is this the only example of observed quantum behavior by Romney:

Frustrating as it may be, the rules of quantum campaigning dictate that no human being can ever simultaneously know both what Mitt Romney’s current position is and where that position will be at some future date. This is known as the “principle uncertainty principle.”

And really, this makes more sense than the once-popular Etch A Sketch model, which suggested that Romney was full of, um, aluminum powder.

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Muffle this, pal

The conventional wisdom about Nissan’s VQ engine is that the greater the displacement, the less appealing the sound of it: a Car and Driver scribe once asserted that the 3.7-liter version buzzes “like a blender set to ‘frappé’.” (The 3.0 version bolted into my car doesn’t sound bad at all.) Still, even if they stroked and bored it into the 4-plus range, it’s hard to imagine it making noises like this:

And then there’s the latest Merc’ Hammer. Yes it now has enough torque to strangle a humpback-whale, but at what cost? Even at idle, the old 6.2L engine burbles like the borborygmi of Cthulhu, and when prodded with a violent downshift barks like a stabbed Allosaur.

Try that with your fart-canned Civic.

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Welcome to Matador City

It was hard to get a feel for this game before tipoff. Yeah, Derrick Rose is still hors de combat, but the Bulls are hardly a one-player show: they beat the Miami Heat without Rose, and they were the first team to 40 wins this season. I concluded that it would be fairly tight early on, but the Thunder would blow it open in the third, the same way they handled the Lakers.

And so it came to pass. The Thunder, up 49-39 at the half, blew out the Bulls in the third, 31-12; the Bulls finished with a late rally, powered mostly by reserve guard John Lucas III, but OKC still won it by fourteen, 92-78.

Your telltale statistic: Lucas, who hit five threes in 13 attempts and led Chicago with 19 points, shot a mere 7-20 — only slightly better than the rest of the team, which hit 33 percent from the floor irrespective of distance and only 67 percent of their free throws. The vaunted Bulls defense did outrebound the Thunder, 48-40, with Carlos Boozer roping in ten, but Chicago simply wasn’t making shots; forward Luol Deng, who’s always seemed like he ought to be an All-Star, got to demonstrate why he isn’t, hitting four of 13 and contributing neither a rebound nor an assist.

You want to see a line? Look at Russell Westbrook’s: 27 points, three rebounds, five assists, four steals, and no turnovers. Give him a +28 for the day, and then note that Kevin Durant had a +33 on 26 points and 10 boards. And at some point, you’ll notice that the Thunder are going for higher-percentage shots: they tossed up only nine treys instead of the usual 18 or 20. (Four connected, which is a plausible 44 percent.) So you shouldn’t be alarmed at the meager three offensive boards; if you get the ball through the net on the first try, you don’t have to worry about second chances on that possession.

And so OKC becomes the second team to 40 wins, and with 14 games left is still on pace for 50. There will, however, be obstacles, the first of which arrives in the city tomorrow: the ever-ferocious Memphis Grizzlies. After that, it’s off to Miami for a rematch with the Heat, who themselves were expecting to be at 40 wins by now.

Erratum: Jeff Brokaw reminds me that Luol Deng did make it to the All-Star roster this year (see pingback below).

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Next universe, please

“I don’t want to live on this planet anymore,” said Professor Farnsworth. Then again, he had a spaceship; we don’t. Yet.

(Warning: Heavy My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic content.)

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Oh, synapse!

Robert Krulwich, who reports on “science-y” things for NPR, announces the discovery of a Jennifer Aniston-specific brain cell:

A few years ago, a UCLA neurosurgeon named Itzhak Fried, while operating on patients who suffer from debilitating epileptic seizures, discovered what he now calls the “Jennifer Aniston Neuron.”

This obviously calls for a “Wait, what?”

Fried asked his patients if they wouldn’t mind doing a little exploratory science while on the operating table, and a bunch of them said yes.

So he showed them a set of photographs, and he noticed when they came to a picture of Jen, very often a particular neuron would begin to flash, multiple times. When he showed these same patients pictures of Julia Roberts or random (not famous) people, or animals, or places, the neuron was quiet. Back to Jen? Back came the flash. He found this Aniston-specific brain cell in a number of people, and he wondered, what is going on?

Then again, not everyone responds to Aniston, or refuses to respond to Roberts:

Since Fried reported his findings, other neurons have been found that flash only for Julia Roberts, or for Halle Berry, or for Kobe Bryant. It may be that certain very famous people literally occupy special places in our brains…

So when Fried showed his patients pictures of Jennifer, (or maybe if he just mentioned her name) that reference might have triggered not just one, but a cascade of neural firings. And this may be the brain’s way of storing a memory. Jennifer is not a single neuron, she’s a plural, or as MIT professor Sebastian Seung puts it, she’s “hierarchical organization.”

Perhaps I should rewrite the old Living Will to specify a desire to search for hitherto-undisclosed Deschanelization of the brain.

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Going three million NPH

One of the delights of being somewhat above the bare-subsistence level is being able to do wondrous things that don’t have any practical value at all.

The ever-genial Neil Patrick Harris wanted to do something nice for his three-millionth Twitter follower. He’d asked earlier in the week: “How would one quantify that? Is there some sort of log?”

Here’s how it was done:

First, we had to determine if the Twitter API would reliably return a list of NPH’s last 5,000 followers in reverse chronological order. We used three separate twitter accounts to follow @actuallynph at specific times, taking a screen grab of NPH’s follower counts at that time.

We then called the API multiple times over the course of an hour or so, to determine if the follower number remained constant for each test account, and that the distance in followers between the two also remained constant. They did.


[W]e called the API for NPH’s last 5,000 followers, and counted backwards.

And number 3,000,000 is Sarah Bates (@sarahbeep). Harris hasn’t yet announced the prize, though he’s hinted at a “ducky tie,” which would certainly be in character.

If anyone cares, I was somewhere around the 900,000th, which is why I was paying attention to this. For comparison purposes: Presidential candidate Mitt Romney (@mittromney) has about 400,000 followers; singer Rebecca Black (@MsRebeccaBlack) has about 600,000. I have been known to mention this statistic whenever someone shows up in my stream with a Mitt-eating grin.

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