And the badge is spiffy

It’s easy to be cynical about blog awards: imagine the Ouroboros gazing into his own navel. (For that matter, imagine the Ouroboros having a navel in the first place.) I’ve picked up a few over the years — some of them are hanging on the Backdrop — and some of them might even have been deserved.

The Versatile Blogger AwardCertainly Nancy Friedman, the second-smartest woman in the nation — admittedly I’ve never met the first, and I’d probably be afraid to — earned her Versatile Blogger Award, and she was kind enough to pay it forward in the general direction of Your Humble Narrator. Specifically, she said this:

In a typical week, the sole author, C. G. Hill, might cover social media, automobile tires, basketball, My Little Pony, print magazines, transportation in Oklahoma, women’s shoes, and Zooey Deschanel — all with enviable literary skill and brio.

Words like that from someone who makes a living from words — well, either I’m blushing or I’m having an amoxicillin reaction.

The rules of the game:

  • In a post on your blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
  • In the same post, add the Versatile Blogger Award.
  • In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
  • In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
  • In the same post, include this set of rules.
  • Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs. (Or tweeting.)

Seven random factoids:

  1. The stack of magazines on my breakfast bar is as tall as I am — or would be, were it not subdivided into four substacks.
  2. Given my limited kitchen skills, it’s perhaps a surprise that I eat out maybe once a week at most.
  3. There are books in the back room that I have yet to unpack from the last move in 2003.
  4. I have never owned a television set larger than 20 inches.
  5. While I have made progress, I’m still entirely too susceptible to implausible impulse purchases.
  6. I have an amazing capacity for denial, although it usually takes 12 to 24 hours to kick in once the Bad News is received.
  7. They say the camera adds ten pounds. In that case, I’ve lost seven cameras in the past seven years.

Equally deserving, if not more so:

Notifications to follow.

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As though he’d dodged a bullet

Email received from Philipp Humm, Chief Executive Officer and President, T-Mobile USA:

This is a personal note of thanks for continuing to choose T-Mobile as your wireless provider! And in light of the way customers like you stood by us, we’re eager to continue serving you as T-Mobile. Your loyalty and the outpouring of messages in support of keeping us independent were both gratifying and humbling.

Um, Phil? It’s not so much that we wanted to keep you independent — although that’s nice — as it is that we wanted to avoid That Other Company at all (or at least “any reasonable”) cost.

With the uncertainty of the potential AT&T acquisition removed, we’re rapidly moving ahead with plans to ramp up investments in ways that will benefit YOU. We’re improving the coverage and speed of our 4G network, while bringing you the very latest selection of 4G devices and great 4G plans and services for every budget. We’re also adding convenient retail locations and modernizing our current stores.

What “uncertainty”? We knew what was going to happen: (1) engulf; (2) devour. In that order.

T-Mobile is here, in fighting shape, and we’ll compete aggressively to continue earning your business and meeting your expectations.

And give Carly Foulkes a raise, wouldja please?

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What’s this “uPad”?

CNN has a multi-page story up about counterfeit goods seized by US Customs and Border Protection, and the bulk of the bogus products are electronic gadgets:

When it comes to total dollar value, consumer electronics make up the bulk of counterfeit goods imported into the U.S., according to Customs and Border Protection. Among the hottest items: smart phones, tablet computers and DVD or music players.

The following numbers are cited:

Value of counterfeits seized: $39 million
Retail value: $101.2 million
Percentage of total seizures: 22%

So if $101.2 million worth of stuff was faked up, and the fakes are worth $39 million — well, if I peeled off more than a couple of Franklins for a Bloo-Rae™ player worth 101.2/39 = $2.59 38.5 cents on the dollar, I’d probably have a total seizure right then and there.

(Via the Consumerist.)

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Tilt that way

The building is called Power Balance Pavilion, and the balance of power was decidedly with the Kings: what they presumably lacked in clout, they made up for in volume and in execution. Sacramento, for instance, got off 99 shots; you have to figure that even 40 percent of that — which they hit — would produce some serious scoring. The eight-point Thunder lead from the middle of the fourth quarter evaporated in four minutes flat, and the Kings ran them out of the place, 106-101.

Maybe it was the crowd. In the Good Old Days, the old Arco Arena sold out just about every night, and legend has it that you could hear the noise on the far side of Stockton. The Kings were lightly regarded this year: this was the only national TV appearance for which they were scheduled, and attendance was not so great earlier in the season. Did Oklahoma City misunderestimate the one-time Purple Paupers? The Kings grabbed twenty-three Thunder turnovers, had a 46-40 advantage on the glass (17-12 offensive).

Telltale statistic: the Thunder blocked 17 shots — Serge Ibaka had 10 before fouling out — and yet Sacramento rolled up 60 points in the paint. Against something like that, 33 points from Russell Westbrook and 27 from Kevin Durant (which comes to, by coincidence, 60) doesn’t help.

Oh, you wanted to know about Tyreke the Freke? Evans was speedy as ever, thank you very much, and good for 22 points. The only double-double on either side was garnered by Jason Thompson, who had 11 points and 10 boards. And in the Ferocious Big competition, DeMarcus Cousins had it all over Kendrick Perkins, who played only 19 minutes.

So the Thunder have to beat the Jazz Friday night to come back 3-2 from this road trip. We shall see.

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Kontemporary klothes

So I’m thumbing through the new InStyle, and there’s a jeans ad featuring some familiar faces and, um, other body parts. It appears that Sears is now vending a line called the Kardashian Kollection. The jeans appear decent enough, and at $46.99 (marked down from $68) they aren’t horrendously expensive.

Still, somebody missed a good bet here. As I tweeted last night: “Um, shouldn’t this stuff be at K mart?”

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Teachers to be FCCed over

Arizona Senate Bill 1467, in full:

§15-108. Public classrooms; compliance with federal standards for media broadcasts concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity; violations; definition

A. If a person who provides classroom instruction in a public school engages in speech or conduct that would violate the standards adopted by the Federal Communications Commission concerning obscenity, indecency and profanity if that speech or conduct were broadcast on television or radio:

1. For the first occurrence, the school shall suspend the person, at a minimum, for one week of employment, and the person shall not receive any compensation for the duration of the suspension. This paragraph does not prohibit a school after the first occurrence from suspending the person for a longer duration or terminating the employment of that person.

2. For the second occurrence, the school shall suspend the person, at a minimum, for two weeks of employment, and the person shall not receive any compensation for the duration of the suspension. This paragraph does not prohibit a school after the second occurrence from suspending the person for a longer duration or terminating the employment of that person.

3. For the third occurrence, the school shall terminate the employment of the person. This paragraph does not prohibit a school after the first or second occurrence from terminating the employment of that person.

B. For the purposes of this section, “public school” means a public preschool program, a public elementary school, a public junior high school, a public middle school, a public high school, a public vocational education program, a public community college or a public university in this state.

They want to outsource state standards to the Federal Communications Commission? Are Mesa kindergartens roiling with wardrobe malfunctions? Are Flagstaff English classes being forced to read some contemporary F-bomb Fitzgerald?

Greg Lukianoff in HuffPo:

The law not only hobbles the ability to teach about sexuality and other non-Victorian topics, but it also puts teachers in jeopardy for teaching such mainstays as the Canterbury Tales, The Catcher in the Rye, certainly Ulysses, and probably every work by an obscure English writer named William Shakespeare. These days, such a law could certainly make any professor or teacher think twice about teaching Mark Twain or Kurt Vonnegut. And how on earth could you possibly teach a class about cinema studies without showing movies like The Godfather, The Graduate, Annie Hall, or for that matter, Pulp Fiction?

English, melonfarmers. Do you teach it?

I can only conclude that the Arizona pols heard about that semi-serious anti-onanism amendment in Oklahoma and thought they’d lose their place at the front of the Idjit Lejislators line.

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I just don’t know what went wrong

You can’t spell “fanatic” without “fan,” and you may be absolutely certain of this: whatever my enthusiasm for any given person, place, thing, or concept, there’s someone out there who makes me look almost indifferent by comparison.

Plush Derpy HoovesThis custom-crafted plush Derpy went on eBay this week, complete with all the pertinent accessories: mailbag, one piece of mail, and a muffin, the latter two items magnetized so she can be posed actually carrying them, upon hoof or in mouth. There’s even a little electronic voice box that plays back the closest thing she has to a catchphrase (see post title). About halfway through the description, I heard the little WANT buzzer going off in the back of my head, so I went off to the auction and crossed my fingers.

Perhaps this was not the best idea I’d ever had. I did, however, keep the Visa sheathed, inasmuch as the Derpster here is eventually going to sell for somewhere upwards of $700, or Luna knows how many pony dollars. Me, I’m just a fan.

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Meanwhile, Venus still needs fry cooks

I have to admit, I wouldn’t have come up with this:

Suppose Ferris Bueller never actually existed.

Most of your fictional characters didn’t, but okay, we’ll play along.

The parade float. That’s just silly. And Ferris never gets in trouble. He never has any actual plans for staying out of trouble, nor does he show good judgment or skill at staying out of trouble, but the boom is never lowered on him. The reason is, he isn’t there; he lives inside Cameron’s head. Cameron’s just a lonely bored guy with nothing going on, so he imagines everything.

I don’t want to talk about Fight Club here, but that sounds awfully Tyler Durdenesque: see, for instance, this MetaTalk thread.

(You’re still here? It’s over. Go home. Go.)

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SMG + LBD

This shot of Sarah Michelle Gellar on Bravo TV’s Watch What Happens Live earlier this week was, I deemed, worth further investigation:

Sarah Michelle Gellar on Bravo

Since it is no particular secret that I’m a sucker for the classic little black dress, even when half of it is actually sort of blue, I went scraping through several dozen sources trying to find a shot where she’s standing. I did find one, but apparently she wasn’t happy about something:

Sarah Michelle Gellar on Bravo

Come to think of it, the dress isn’t all that wonderful either. Maybe the person in the second shot is actually the evil twin from Ringer.

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Box, sweet box

A Tulsa-area couple is building their new home out of, among other things, old cargo containers:

Their two-story, 2,650-square-foot house will be constructed from almost entirely recycled materials, including five shipping containers — two on bottom and three on top, built upon a 40-by-40-foot slab facing southwest.

They are, of course, blogging the construction. Last week, the second container arrived on site:

The shipping list from its last voyage is still attached to the door. It hauled furniture, 22 chocolate brown sofas, 16 love-seats, 9 chairs, and 6 ottomans, to be exact. That’s more furniture than we will probably have in all five of our containers!

They’re hoping to have the housewarming, or at least the first-story-warming, in December.

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Still more items from my Wish List

A lot of wishin’ and hopin’, though perhaps not so much thinkin’ and prayin’.

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Someone to look up to

As I may have mentioned before, I used to date someone four foot nine, maybe a shade taller than that but well within the qualifications for the dwarves’ union. Then again, since I’m only a hair above six feet, and not much hair at that, there was only a 15-inch difference between us: noticeable, but not noteworthy.

Now this would be noteworthy:

Zooey Deschanel with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Behold Zooey Deschanel, five foot six, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, five foot twenty-six. Kareem uploaded this picture himself yesterday; Zooey noted that she was wearing four-inch heels at the time.

And you know, he looks pretty darn good for almost 65, if you ask me.

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Curses on thee, little man

Last year an Oklahoma legislator was pushing a bill to require an actual prescription for anything containing pseudoephedrine, insisting that somehow this would deliver us from the horrid scourge of meth. Which, of course, it wouldn’t; and at the time, I expressed my desire that the pol in question sneeze his goddamn head off.

Always more subtle than I, the Instant Man has his own recommendation for politicians of this mindset:

I think these people should be exposed to toddler snot, then locked in a freezing basement with a bag of ragweed pollen tied over their head until they develop a proper appreciation for the consequences of their policies.

Of course, once they start sneezing, I’m content. And let’s face it, we’re never going to run out of toddler snot.

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Nice stems

While the radio coverage of That Game wasn’t that good, it enabled me to avoid both the halftime show and the overwrought advertising. Still, I tried my best to keep up with the tweetstream, and several women I follow were happy to denounce a spot by Teleflora, calling it even more sexist than the latest offering from GoDaddy, if you can believe that. The complaints went something like this:

Teleflora’s “big game” ad essentially suggested there are women out there who will prostitute themselves for a nice bunch of flowers.

So after that, I had to watch the silly thing, and while Adriana Lima always brightens up the scene, the quid pro quo premise rubbed me the wrong way, so to speak.

It did not help that a couple of hours earlier I’d seen “Secret of My Excess,” in which Spike’s avarice runs amok: the little so-and-so even steals leaves, fercryingoutloud. If a baby dragon can learn that it’s better to give than to receive, so can your average davenport tuber watching football.

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Oakland beauty

Games with Golden State tend to generate amazing numbers, and this one was no exception: David Lee pulled off a triple-double (25 points, 11 boards, 10 dimes), and Monta Ellis had 30 points — in the first half. (He finished with 48, a new career high, and he didn’t play all 48 minutes to do it either.) Oracle was just awash in treys: 47 tries. And very late with the Thunder up one, Ellis went for the trey, and it didn’t fall: Russell Westbrook sank two free throws to salt it away, and a literal last-second rally fell short. OKC 119, GSW 116.

The Thunder had a few numbers of their own: Kevin Durant dropped in 33 points, Westbrook 31, and Daequan Cook went 5-6 from distance for 17. OKC shot 52.4 percent from the field, made 11 of 26 three-pointers, and 20 of 21 from the stripe. (Sixth man James Harden got 19 points, one more than the Warrior bench in aggregate.)

The Warriors, though, had shot close to 60 percent all night, and finished at 55. They made 9 of 21 treys, and had a 36-33 edge in rebounding. Stephen Curry turned in a double-double (16 points, 10 assists).

One could say, I suppose, that the hard part of the series is over: having beaten the Warriors in Oakland twice, there’s only one more game, and that in OKC. Still, one should not underestimate this team. You know Monta Ellis isn’t tired yet.

The West Coast Death March continues Thursday at Sacramento, then Friday at Utah.

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Market pricing and then some

Austin, Texas has the perhaps-dubious distinction of being the largest city in the nation served by only a single Interstate. Loop 1 — the MoPac — runs more or less parallel to I-35, a few miles to the west, and it becomes a toll road north of Parmer Lane. TxDOT’s latest idea to relieve congestion on the MoPac is to add two lanes to the existing six between Parmer and the river, a distance of about 11 miles, which will have variable tolls, and I do mean “variable”:

[T]he added northbound and southbound lanes would be open only to those willing to pay a toll, to transit buses, to registered van pools and to emergency vehicles.

But the real departure would be the nature of the tolls themselves, which would change minute by minute depending on the level of traffic in the lane. The point … would be to keep the toll at a level calibrated to keep speeds in the lane at 50 mph or more.

If traffic gets too thick and traffic begins to slow, the toll would instantly increase in an effort to discourage some people from choosing to use the express lane. Signs well upstream of the express lane entrances would alert people to the current toll rate.

Since traffic on MoPac is occasionally moving a lot slower than 50 mph — sometimes it’s not moving at all — people might be willing to pay quite a bit to get up some speed. Chris Bradford thinks it’s a swell idea:

This is how we ought to add new capacity. It will make everyone better off. The people who choose to pay the toll will be better off because they value the time savings more than the cost of the toll. Bus commuters will be better off — they might be the biggest beneficiaries, in fact — because they will get a suddenly much shorter commute for (I presume) the same bus fare. Drivers who continue to use the free lanes will endure slightly less congestion, even if it’s just a narrower period of peak congestion. Finally, taxpayers, if not better off, will be no worse off because they won’t have to pay for the extra capacity. The capacity will be paid by those who value and use it.

How much would this toll be?

Wilbur Smith Associates, which has been doing traffic and revenue studies on the project for the [Central Texas Regional] Mobility Authority, has indicated to officials that the project would be financially feasible with a top rate initially of $2.57 in 2011 dollars. Since the road wouldn’t open until 2016, that would equate to about $3 on opening day. Officials emphasized that the actual toll rates have not been set yet and that Wilbur Smith later will produce a more rigorous “investment-grade” study.

During periods of low or no congestion — I am told that such exist — the toll might be as low as 50 cents.

So drivers will be faced with a choice. Bradford explains:

[T]he congestion cost each driver imposes on his fellow drivers will be approximately equal to the price of driving in the congestion-free lane. That’s one of the quirks of the economics of congestion — it turns out that the cost of congestion a driver imposes is equal to the congestion-clearing price.

Which seems counterintuitive, but it seems to work in real life.

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