Loud City gets a present

So I figured that, extension or no extension, Carmelo Anthony is still a Nugget, and the rest of the team would extend themselves to fill in the gap while he’s away — and indeed, that’s the way the game unfolded early on, with Denver dominating the proceedings. The Thunder began fighting back in the second quarter; by the end of the third, they were up three, 88-85, and Kevin Durant had already knocked down 40 points. Kid Delicious was quieter in the fourth — he finished with 44 — but Oklahoma City held serve and then some, sending the Nuggets away with a 114-106 lump of coal.

Still, Denver didn’t give anything away. Chauncey Billups had a season-high 30 points, Nene had the night’s only double-double — 21 points, 12 rebounds — and Ty Lawson came up with 19 off the bench. Besides which, the Nuggets shot over 50 percent, which the Thunder didn’t. But they turned the ball over 17 times.

And tonight, OKC was taking care of the ball: they gave up only eight turnovers. Durant had five of them, but then he seemingly always had the ball. Jeff Green’s inner sharpshooter apparently had the night off, so James Harden took up the slack, putting up 21 points; between Harden and Durant, the Thunder, usually not a factor from beyond the arc, managed to hit six of 17 from international waters. More important, though, was forcible removal of the ball from Denver players: the Thunder pulled off 10 steals and blocked eight shots. And Nenad Krstić was back; he didn’t exactly keep Nene out of the lane, but then neither did anyone else.

Three more home games at the Expensive To Heat Arena: the Mavericks on Monday, the Nets on Wednesday, and the Hawks on Friday.

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Slow motion

Although I have to admit, it’s better than no motion at all.

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Zooey has lawyers

And while they’re not coming after me, so far as I know, they’re definitely zeroing in on Steve Madden:

Actress Zooey Deschanel, best known for her turn in the Will Ferrell movie Elf, is suing shoe designer Steve Madden for a $2,000,000 breach of contract.

The deal was made to use Zooey’s likeness and name in a line of shoes and accessories, cleverly named ‘Zooey shoes & accessories’.

Why the deal fell through, I don’t know, though BNET’s Jim Edwards offers a possible explanation:

Here’s some speculation: Although Deschanel is a luminous and appealing screen presence, she’s not that famous.

Emphasis added. And, well, you can’t say I’m not doing my part.

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Buy your leave

By now everyone knows the drill: fill out the card at the supermarket, and you save a few cents here and there, in exchange for the gory details of your purchases. I remind you, though, that it would never occur to me to suggest that you give them a dose of Garbage In:

It’s not like a huge amount of security or quality control is applied to this ID tracking involved. You can just borrow someone’s card, or give them any old phone number (your wife’s, friend’s, etc); actually I often get the impression that the cashier would be perfectly willing to just let you use their phone number if it’ll get you the discounts and make you happy. I even think I’ve had it happen. So suddenly a purchase history full of maxipads, pre-made sushi and organic-everything is buying up cheese puffs, beef jerky and a 12-pack of Cup O’Noodles. Ha! Let’s see your algorithms deal with that, oh so clever “data miners”!

Of course, if someone introduces actual organic cheese puffs, all bets are off.

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Party of the replacement parts

In response to this piece, Charles Pergiel grumbles about auto parts:

In the old days, things were built to last forever. There were parts that wore out, but they were very small and replacements were cheap. Things like light bulbs, bearings and brake linings. However, the down side of many of these parts is that it took considerable time and effort to replace them.

Nowadays there are no small parts. Some little dohickey fails, like the door latch, and you don’t replace just the failed part, you replace the entire subassembly, like the entire door.

On my car, anyway, the latch and the striker are individually replaceable, though the prices will make your nose, or at least my Visa, bleed. (Still, gotta be cheaper than a whole door, right?)

The smallest part I can remember replacing is the cap for the coolant-overflow tank, which was priced at a startling $10.21, more than an oil filter but way less than a wiper blade.

Then again:

On the other hand, parts last a lot longer now. I got 95,000 miles out of the brakes on my truck before they had to be redone. Actually, I think I still have the original brakes on the rear, and I’m up to something like 110K miles. Engines used to last 100,000 miles, now they should last 250,000. However, transmissions which used to be good for the life of the car now seem to be a weak link.

I suspect that fiendish complexity is responsible for (some of) the seeming weakness in slushboxes these days. The old Chrysler TorqueFlite A727, introduced back in the early 1960s, was just this side of indestructible, and could be adjusted by that kid who worked weekends at the Texaco. Get one of these modern-day six-speeders (or seven or eight) and look at it crossways, and suddenly you’re looking at a $3000 rebuild.

Then again, nobody seems to change transmission fluid anymore. And it’s not like they make it easy to do it, either. In my previous car, you couldn’t even drop the pan and drain it: the pan was on the side of the case. Being resistant to the whole idea of $3000 rebuilds, I change out the stuff every 30k or so.

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The Christmas edition (says so right in the title: “CoTVing into Xmas”) of the Carnival of the Vanities is the 405th, which makes perfect sense, since this is the 405th anniversary of the Christmas tree:

The first reference of the Christmas tree was in 1605 in Strasbourg, Germany. The German emigrants brought the idea of the Christmas tree to the United States. By 1848, there were Christmas trees selling in the markets in Philadelphia, and three years later it was Mark Carr who sold the first Christmas trees from the New York City docks. By 1880, there were more than 400 tree merchants in New York.

And if today’s “trees” seem to be mutant Festivus poles at heart, well, you can’t blame that on Strasbourg.

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The perils of single-source

About four years ago, I wrote about a hardware innovation that, as Shania would say, don’t impress me much:

IBM’s 6500-series printer is an impressive workhorse, but don’t try to fool it with a generic ribbon: the spindle is just slightly too small, and there’s a gizmo inside the head assembly that:

  • tells you how much life the ribbon has left, based on some algorithm which you’re not told;
  • checks the spool for the presence of a barcode, and refuses to accept an off-brand ribbon no matter how clever your jury-rigging may be (and mine’s close to legendary).

This in itself would create no problems, other than additional expense, were the OEM ribbons worth a damn.

Which lately they aren’t. Since this machine and its support were spun off to Infoprint, the quality of OEM ribbons has dropped dramatically: they’re severely overinked and tend to leak onto the paper. Infoprint alleges that no one else is having a problem with these things, implying that it’s Somebody Else’s Problem. Yeah, right. If I call in a tech to examine the situation, about 15 seconds at most will elapse before he notices the droplets of ink oozing out of the fabric.

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Unamerican Idols

The Obama administration proposes “periodic reviews of evidence” against inmates at Gitmo, and Ric Locke sees an opportunity for a high-concept TV series:

Appoint three judges to hold the hearings, and find or construct a suitably photogenic courtroom, perhaps modeled on the Kremlin facility for show trials of Public Enemies in the Thirties. Perhaps the relevant prisoner could be ensconced in a chrome-plated cell, wearing his orange boiler suit. Each week during prime time, broadcast the summations of testimony and argument, with the judges awarding points for style and content, ultimately resulting in a grade 1…10 for overall effect. Add Internet and telephone polling of the audience. Once a quarter, play excerpts from the arguments of the highest-graded participants, with audience polling for Favorite Denouncer, Best Sob Story, and the like. What to offer as prizes is a bit problematic, but of course money is always good. The real prize would be the exposure.

Gotta be better than Jersey Shore.

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Not exactly stocking stuffers

At least, it doesn’t appear that hosiery is a factor in this photograph.

Still, Jessica and Lisa Origliasso, hereinafter referred to, slightly inaccurately, as The Veronicas, have impeccable Christmas credentials, having been born on the 25th of December. (If you must: 1984.)

Jessica and Lisa Origiliasso

No, I don’t know which is which. (For awhile, Jessica went blonde, but that’s no help here.)

While the visuals are undoubtedly a major part of the package here, I admit to a certain fondness for some of their tunes. (“Untouched” proved to be a medium-level earworm for yours truly, before I’d ever actually set eyes on them.) Of course, what sealed the deal was the name:

Christian Slater: Greetings and salutations… you a Heather?
Winona Ryder: No, I’m a Veronica…

Of course, since we’re all about equal time around here, here’s a couple of Heathers (Ellie and Louise).

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Mistletoe the line

A few bits from Manhattan Infidel’s interview with Santa Claus:

MI: What’s the percentage of kids, on average, that are good?

Santa: It’s usually about 65-70%. Except for New Jersey of course. Only 25% of the kids in that state are good. I blame the Sopranos.

MI: What do you like best about your job?

Santa: Honestly? It has to be the MILFs. I meet a lot of MILFs on Christmas Eve. I mean a lot. I probably get more action that night than Derek Jeter gets all year.

MI: Doesn’t Mrs. Claus object?

Santa: Look. Mrs. Claus. God bless her. A wonderful woman. A provider. A soul mate. But we have an agreement. What happens on Christmas stays on Christmas.

“Mommy, I saw you!”

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Illuminating commentary

While denouncing the devolution of the iPod Nano, Tam comes up with a near-perfect automotive metaphor:

Younger readers might not realize this, but domestic American automobiles used to have a singular triumph of ergonomic engineering: The headlight switch. In pretty much every American car, by whatever maker, was a round knob on the dashboard just to the left of the steering wheel. Pulling it out one click turned on the parking lights and pulling it out all the way turned on the headlights. Rotating it clockwise brightened the instrument panel lights and turning it all the way clockwise turned on the overhead dome light. Genius. It could be operated totally by feel and it worked the same way in your car, your drunk friend’s car, or a rental car on a dark and rainy night far from home.

There’s a lot to be said for universality. Murilee Martin, seeking parts for a Dodge project van:

It appears that Chrysler used the same headlight switch for damn near every motor vehicle they built from the time of the Bay Of Pigs to the time of the Iranian Hostage Crisis.

To perform those same functions on my car requires two different twisty things on a stalk (I have fog lights, which are worth even less than you think they are) plus a push-button a meter away.

The only real problem with the headlight knob, apart from the fact that it was a knob and therefore in the eyes of regulators a threat to anyone with a forehead, is that it did not incorporate the so-called “dimmer switch,” which despite its name is used to switch on the high beams. (Go driving around an hour and a half before sunrise and you will quickly discover that no one has a clue as to how to switch them off.) Had they found some way to work that into the basic switch — but no, let’s not go there. Let’s be grateful that a couple of generations were able to learn as much as they were with the equipment they had.

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Speed freaking

Well, this is what the story says, anyway:

Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers arrested a man after they received a YouTube video link showing the 30-year-old driving over 190 mph on the Kilpatrick Turnpike on Monday, December 20.

Dee Albert Replogle was arrested Monday night on two counts of reckless driving and booked into the Oklahoma County Jail.

The YouTube videos show Replogle driving his super-charged Chevy Corvette over 190 mph on the Kilpatrick Turnpike and on I-235 Monday afternoon.

I could believe that, maybe, on the Kilpatrick. But on I-235? Wall-to-wall Walmart trucks? Not even in Joe Walsh’s Maserati.

And I can assure you that if I should find it necessary to reduce as much as possible the travel time between Point A and Point B, I will not find it necessary to invite a video camera along for the ride.

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Well, they’re not being left behind

The high school I attended back in the Pleistocene era sends out a quarterly newsletter, supplemented by occasional emails. It’s not that I’m a particularly notable alumnus or anything, but I have been known to drop a few coins in their collection basket now and again, so it’s worth keeping me on the mailing list.

This time around, they disclosed class of ’10 SAT/ACT scores, something I don’t remember from previous issues. As expected, they were a bit higher than state and national averages. And, oh, they had a golf tournament. (Don’t laugh. Proceeds went to the Tuition Assistance Fund, so that kids as poor as I used to be can attend this somewhat pricey place.)

And there’s this:

The student trip to France next summer will take place in early June. Students will experience Paris, the Loire Valley (where they will visit the castles), and Normandy (where they will visit the D-Day beaches).

Okay, maybe it’s a little more than somewhat pricey. Still, what you’d spend to send your kid to school there is about what the state of South Carolina would spend on an individual student. (Trips to France not included.)

I wonder what they have planned for the 100th anniversary of the school (which would be in 2015).

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Refudiation of the week

Robert Stacy McCain is grilled by “a certain Republican communications strategist,” and comes back with a snappy answer to what he clearly thought was a stupid question:

Q. Do you believe promiscuous women deserve to be raped, regardless of their chosen partner’s proclivities?

A. No one “deserves” to be raped, just as no one deserves to be robbed or murdered. If I advise against parking your car in Southeast D.C. with the windows down, the doors unlocked and the keys in the ignition, that doesn’t make me “pro-car theft.”

Blaming the victim? Hardly:

[W]omen should be strongly cautioned against putting themselves into predicaments where they risk being victims of a crime where successful prosecution is so difficult.

For that matter, men should be strongly cautioned against putting themselves into predicaments where they risk being accused of a crime. Sauce for the gander, and all that.

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Nirvana, this exit

Most people, I suspect, will just snicker at you if you suggest that we’re living in some sort of automotive Golden Age: when the gas costs three bucks and the government keeps coming up with ideas that aren’t worth a plugged nickel, things don’t seem so promising.

In an effort to provide you with some measure of reassurance, I point you to the January “10Best” issue of Car and Driver, which as always includes a list of the ten Best and Worst Performers of the previous year. The Best numbers are always impressive, but the eye-opening stuff is in the Worst column.

An example: Worst Zero-to-Sixty. Ford’s little Transit Connect bread truck, imported from Turkey (!), takes a whole 11.1 seconds. It is a measure of how much our expectations have changed that 11.1 seconds is now considered slow: V-6 family sedans routinely break the seven-second mark, and even the four-cylinder cars manage nine or better. The new electromobiles — Chevrolet Volt, Nissan Leaf — keep the acceleration at bay to preserve battery range, but even they can knock off easy 10s. The Transit Connect does the quarter-mile in 18.3 seconds at a trap speed of 75 mph, which also rates as Worst.

Then again, here I am with, according to its manufacturer, the “most powerful” car in its class, ten years ago. Says C/D, it runs 0-60 in 8.3, and does a 16.4 quarter at 87 mph. Not a whole lot slower than Ford’s vanlet, really. (And about the same fuel economy: low 20s around town.)

Incidentally, we get the Transit Connect here by way of a loophole in one of those brilliant government ideas: the 1963 “chicken tax,” which set stiff tariffs on a variety of imports, including trucks, as a response to European duties imposed on American poultry. The rest of those tariffs have fallen by the wayside, but the truck tax (25 percent) remains. Ford gets around this by importing the passenger version of the Transit Connect, and then throwing away everything inside back of the B-pillar. Remember this next time someone tells you that the government has thought out some new scheme very carefully and there’s no possible way anything can go wrong.

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The right direction, anyway

David Holt, the new Senator from District 30 (northwest Oklahoma County), has prefiled Senate Bill 70, which would drop the top income tax rate by 0.1 percent a year for the next ten years.

The current top rate is 5.5 percent, though it’s scheduled to drop to 5.25 for 2012, due to legislative action taken in 2006 which provides a trigger mechanism based on anticipated revenue increases. Senator Jim Wilson of District 8 (he’s from Tahlequah) has proposed delaying that drop, pointing out that revenues are still below the pre-recession level, even if they are increasing, but that idea isn’t going anywhere in the GOP-dominated legislature.

Then again, this suggests a possible deal: the GOP could kill Holt’s bill in exchange for the Democrats’ shutting up about Wilson’s. The Republicans don’t have to deal — they have the numbers to get pretty much what they want — but paying lip service to bipartisanism is de rigueur these days.

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