A classic Rose Garden grind

What do you do if you’re missing two defensive specialists? If you’re Scott Brooks, you replace Serge Ibaka with Nick Collison, and Thabo Sefolosha with DeAndre Liggins. Yes, really. The rook, who has played well in the D-League, got his first real-life NBA start tonight at the Rose Garden, and he turned in a Thaboesque line: 11 points and nine rebounds before turning his ankle with 45 seconds left. (He made it back after a timeout.) The industrial-strength battle, though, was between Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge, who just kept running up numbers all through the fourth quarter. OKC had a ten-point lead with three and a half left; Portland went on an 9-0 run, finally closed out by a Kendrick Perkins free throw. With 8.5 left, it was Oklahoma City 85, Portland 83; Aldridge, bothered by Perkins, missed a jumper, and Russell Westbrook snagged the ball. The Blazers fouled Westbrook, who sank two from the line, and that was it for Portland’s nine-game home winning streak at home. OKC 87, Portland 83; Durant 33, Aldridge 33. You can’t get a whole lot closer than that.

The Blazers had other problems: indifferent 36.5-percent shooting and six men on the bench contributing a whole six points. Still, Portland is known for tenacity, and Nicolas Batum is known for getting a bunch of points in a hurry, as is rookie point guard Damian Lillard. Batum delivered (21); Lillard, not so much (9, half his average).

This was not the best night for Westbrook — or, for that matter, for Kevin Martin — to have off-nights. Still, Westbrook managed 18 points on 5-21 from the floor, while K-Mart kept coming up empty. (He finished with four.) Reggie Jackson led the bench with six. And while Perk had only one bucket to go with that single free throw (he missed one), he solidified the middle and secured 12 rebounds, more than anyone else except Aldridge.

Tomorrow night, it’s another shot at the Suns. A lot depends on whether Thabo and Serge are back — unless, like tonight, it didn’t.

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Still on the line

If ever you catch me whining about having nothing to write about, feel free to toss this back at me:

Rhymes With Orange January 11 2013

(From Hilary B. Price’s webcomic Rhymes With Orange.)

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Feel the (freezer) burn

Friday it got up to 70 (call it 21°C) in Oklahoma City, which was followed by a particularly cold weekend incorporating a few minutes’ worth of sleet. (Nastier stuff, and more of it, fell to the east.) Now 70 is not the record for the date: that would be 77, set on 1/11/1911. This immediately got people thinking about 11/11/1911, on which date we got both a new record high (83) and a record low (17), and someone wondered if the whole year was freakish, weatherwise.

I dug through the records, which go back to 1891, and while I’m not prepared to say 1911 was the freakiest year on record, it had more than its share of weirdness: thirteen record highs (I had said twelve, but I missed one) and seven record lows.

Weird pattern #1: high 83 on 1/31, 90 on 2/1. (The 1/31 record holds up for all of January; we’ve since had one warmer day in February.)

Weird pattern #2: four record highs in June, two record lows in July, two record highs in August.

Keep in mind, all this happened in 1911, back when the temperature of the planet was constant; it would remain so until the introduction of the first sport-utility vehicle, the Chevrolet Suburban, for model year 1935, which promptly set off the Dust Bowl.

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Northern Lights

Canadian musician Lights, whom you may remember from this piece from last spring, sent this up as a Twitpic last night:

Lights poster in Inuvik

Inuvik, you should know, is about as northwest as you can go in the Northwest Territories, which may or may have something to do with Lights’ comment thereupon:

In retrospect, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a red T-shirt under my flannel in that shoot… #photoshopskills

The high temperature in Inuvik on the 11th of January was, um, -31.6°C. (At this temperature, conversion to Fahrenheit is largely irrelevant.)

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Traction improvement

From somewhere in the middle of chapter three:

“Lou Gehrig,” a comedian once joked, “actually died of Lou Gehrig’s disease. Now what are the chances of that?”

I suppose you had to be there. But it occurred to me the next morning, while I was thinking up excuses not to get out of bed, that some fairly unlikely things had been happening to me of late, things I wouldn’t have dared to predict a couple of months ago. That space/time discontinuity, or whatever it was, could have opened up a path to just about any place in the universe. Or it may have been there all along, waiting for someone — make that somepony — to pass through. I’d never have known. It never would have occurred to me that the fabled land of Equestria was something more than just a clever idea by some talented people, a premise on which stories could be based, a pretext to sell toys to youngsters — and, yes, I admit it, occasionally to me. And the idea that Twilight Sparkle, of all ponies, should find that portal, step through it, and find me at the other end? What are the chances of that? With apologies to the late Mr. Gehrig, I consider myself the second-luckiest man on the face of the earth.

I am surprised and delighted to announce that this weekend, The Sparkle Chronicles passed the 1,000-reader mark. I wouldn’t have dared to predict that, ever.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Pay the $35 fee, and you can have anything you want, within reason, on your Georgia license plates. The obvious question: “Whose reason?”

The state has rejected thousands of vanity license plates with such themes to protect the public from offensive language. Most are too vulgar to print. Some are just silly: BIGBRA, ER0TIKA, F0XIE1.

But buried amid that list of licentiousness are religious, philosophical and political expressions the state also has deemed unsuitable to appear on motor vehicles. G0DROKS, G0DWH0, ILUVGUNS, GAYPWR and FEMM have been nixed by State Department of Revenue employees, who have wide latitude and only vague statutory guidance in deciding what speech gets squashed. Yet G0D4EVR, GUNLUV, GAYGAY and FEMFTAL got their nod.

Vicki Lambert, who’s in charge of such things, sees the problem this way:

Lambert understands Georgia residents have a right to free speech. Her job, she noted, is to balance that against not subjecting other people to a disgusting license plate while sitting in traffic on Interstate 75.

Well, there’s your problem: traffic is just sitting on I-75. Get it moving, and there will be no time to worry about other people’s bad taste in plates.

(Via Fark.)

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Ripping through the past

“Why are they doing this?” I asked myself when I first read about Amazon’s Auto-Rip. It became obvious quickly enough: they want me to sign up for their Cloud Player’s premium service at twenty-five bucks a year. But how much do I, personally, have that’s Auto-Rippable?

While I loaded up the Player to find this out, I found this caution:

Auto-Rip goes back to purchases made in 1998, and the late ’90s and early 2000s are pretty close to the Golden Era of Terrible Musical Decisions. We didn’t just badly photoshop Celine Dion into The Shining because it was funny: 1998 was when “My Heart Will Go On” shattered chart records and somehow drove Celine Dion to stop eating. There are a lot of people who never want to admit that they bought that album, but once it falls to Auto-Rip, they’ll get a reminder when they least expect it.

Think about all the CDs you bought. All the crappy Top 40 bands where you bought the album because you couldn’t get the song out of your head. All the gifts you bought for teenage nieces and loving grandmothers. All the cassette replacements for your dad who just would not stop listening to the f*cking Eagles.

For the curious, the oldest item I have in my new 366-track bounty is Worldes Blysse, the second album by Mediæval Bæbes, acquired in September 1999. I am not the least bit embarrassed by it — or, for that matter, by the Shaggs’ Philosophy of the World.

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Bots asking for help

This spam disguised as a comment, trapped by Akismet, might actually make sense in the right context:

First off I would like to say excellent blog! I had a quick question that I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing. I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out. I truly do take pleasure in writing however it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are wasted just trying to figure out how to begin.

Any ideas or hints? Cheers!

Any day I can get by with only 10 or 15 minutes wasted is rare indeed.

I should point out, though, that this observation, whatever its level of (in)sincerity, is a poor fit for most of my posts, especially the one about the Korean toilet theme park.

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You might as well dream big

Usually I put up screenshots of Yahoo! Answers stuff, but this one was so long I figured it would be easier to read as Actual Text:

I used to hate Aston Martins and just recently i started to love em. They are my favorite car and i really want to know how i could possibly own one in the future. the Aston Martin DB7 1997 is about 30 thousand dollars or less. And the Aston Martin i really want is an Aston Martin V8 Vantage Volantile 1980’s but they are about 120,000 dollars. And my dream Aston Martin is Aston Martin DB5 and those are about 500,000 dollars. But i am only 16 and i know that i can’t afford any of those cars yet. I want to become a computer programmer and build my own company become CEO and make millions of dollars off a revolutionary idea i am now thinking about while i am taking AP Computer Science in High School. I don’t have good grades i have like about a 2.5 in high school. Which is complete ****. I plan to work my @$$ off in college. i plan to go to a community college for 2 years get my life in order because i am clinically depressed and i had a hard time in high school because of my suicidal thoughts and my depression. My parents fail to acknowledge my depression. But once i am 18 i want to go out and seek help. I might pay money once a month to see a therapist. And take some medication to get my life back in order. Then i want to after community college to go to a University and get my PHd. yes thats right i want a PHd in Computer Science its my life goal and i want to be called Doctor. I want to work for Google making about a 100 thousand dollars a year possibly my 2nd year in a University i apply for this job. I also want to be part of an Orchestra and be part of Orchestrated Soundtrack. Then i want to build my own company like a software company to make gaming computers. I want a sweet house in Hawaii like one of those villas but i want a car to go with it, What do i need to get these cars and by what age according to my plan can i get the cars. Also before my job at Google i want to play Jazz at places and for a real job during the time of community college / begining of University, i want to work at Lego. I am fine commuting with a 2,000 dollar Mercedes Turbo Diesel until i get an Aston, but i want one. When do you think i can get my first Aston Martin, and i only mean from the 3 i listed above.

The most heartening aspect of this, I think, is that he’s willing to suffer with a Mercedes-Benz until he’s in a position to own that Aston.

And I’d rather not throw water on his dreams, you know?

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Lakers dried out

It did not look good for L. A. even before the tipoff: both Dwight Howard and Pau Gasol were ailing, and the announcement that Jordan Hill would likely be getting season-ending surgery did not help matters. And then the Lakers had to play the actual game. Down 25-14 late in the first quarter, they put together a quick 11-0 run to tie it at the horn, but it was pretty much all Thunder after that: 64-48 at the half, 110-85 when the starters were pulled (4:26 left), and 116-101 at the end. By any reasonable definition of the term, this was a blowout.

The Lakers did what they could with the players they had. Earl Clark, starting in place of Gasol, pulled off a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds), and Antawn Jamison, coming off the bench, had 19 points and 10 boards. You should know that Kobe Bryant had a Kobe Bryant-like night: he put up shot after shot, and enough of them went to give him 28 points. (Then again, Kobe also drew a technical, which never happens at Staples.) Steve Nash was quiet: seven points, seven assists. And this says something: the Lakers made not one three-point shot in the first half. They did better in the second — Devin Ebanks got two of them in four minutes — but 6-28 wins you no games.

Not that OKC was much better on the long ball, going 9-29. But they did break 50 percent on shooting overall, while the Lakers didn’t quite make it to 40. Kevin Durant was a whopping +35 for the night, racking up 42 points before garbage time set in. Russell Westbrook knocked down 27. Kevin Martin led the bench with 15. And Serge Ibaka exited early with contusions to his torso; I’m guessing he’s doubtful for Sunday at Portland.

I apologize for the lack of Metta World Peace jokes. Mr. Formerly Known As Artest did wangle 12 points, though he put up nine treys and missed eight of them. (The box score gives him a non-whopping -34.)

A back-to-back coming up on this road trip: Blazers on Sunday, Suns on Monday.

(Title swiped from @OKCNightCourt.)

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Punch in and shut up

Robert Stacy McCain leads off the Case of the Aggravating Actress with a grandly general — and pretty damned accurate — summary of the way workplaces are supposed to, well, work:

People must be judged strictly on their ability to get the job done. It doesn’t matter whether you “like” somebody or not. It’s not about friendship or popularity. The key to survival is to focus on the task in front of you — cranking it out day after day on deadline — while ignoring all merely personal considerations.

This is one of those big Life Lessons that young people have to learn the hard way, if they are ever to succeed at the highest levels. The real world isn’t like high school. A childish fascination with “popularity” is counter-productive in most real-world work environments. People who attempt to manipulate their way to undeserved success by playing office-politics games will ultimately produce harmful effects to the organization.

I generally don’t claim to be especially “successful,” deserved or otherwise, but I probably have less fear of being sacked than most of the population, simply because I have a good grasp of the nose/grindstone interface: I crank it out, day after day, and my deadlines are only slightly less inexorable than McCain’s.

Have I always been this conscientious? No. However, I have more than a passing acquaintance with the consequences for failing to be.

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Don’t let Bloomberg find out

A phytobezoar is a mass of fibrous plant material trapped in the stomach because it resists the normal digestive process. (Major offender: persimmon skins.) Several treatments exist, but I suspect the most cost-effective one is this:

New research has shown that Coca-Cola has a success rate of more than 90 per cent in treating the condition.

This is because it has chemical ingredients that do a similar job to gastric acid — in helping to digest fibre — while the bubbles help speed up the process.

Of course, if this catches on as a standard treatment, the 1.25-liter bottle that sells for 98 cents at the Hy-Vee will be billed to your health-insurance carrier to the tune of $600 or so.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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Sunrise over Labrador

KingShamus has what should be the final word on the President’s new nominee for Secretary of Defense:

[I]t’s not like Chuck Hagel is some beloved conservative stalwart. Yeah, I guess he helped spike the Kyoto Treaty back in the day. When pondering that, it’s also important to remember that the sun shines on a dog’s ass every once in a while.

And if the GOP imagines that it might someday want to grow a spine, it would help if the party had some vague familiarity with vertebrae, doncha know.

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All Wikiness is but little

Something wrong with the Wikipedia article you just read? Fix it yourself, says the conventional wisdom. Bill Quick says it may be conventional, but it’s hardly wise:

[W]hat this is actually advocating is a supposed unbiased reference work that is the product of the outcome of contests of strength between two warring factions.

In other words, Wikipedia is a perfect example of an intellectual tyranny of the majority.

Rather a lot of topics are marked with the little padlock that means “semi-protection,” which limits edits to presumably trusted individuals. One such page is the one devoted to Elizabeth Warren, where much of the current dustup originated.

A few observations from me:

  • I am “presumably trusted,” having contributed at least the minimum number of edits; what’s more, I’m cited as a source on a handful of pages. I am as impressed with this as you are, which presumably is Not Very.
  • “Weird Al” Yankovic’s claim to being “White & Nerdy” is partially based on editing Wikipedia (around 1:49).
  • I once edited something on Megan McArdle’s page because she asked me to.
  • Political controversy is not the only thing that will get one’s page locked, as Rebecca Black can tell you. (And this is all the RB update I have for the week, as the poor girl has had the flu.)

I admit to citing Wikipedia rather a lot in these pages, but it’s more a form of shorthand than it is a means of deceit, at least for me.

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Zooeypalooza 17!

It took the Baseball Crank to remind me that I have been remiss:

Tweet by Dan McLaughlin

Crank links to this. With that in mind:

Zooeypalooza 17!

Mousing about may prove enlightening, or at least enlargening.

Paloozas gone by: ZP 1, ZP 2, ZP 3, ZP 4, ZP 5, ZP 6, ZP 7, ZP 8, ZP 9, ZP 10, ZP 11, ZP 12, ZP 13, ZP 14, ZP 15, ZP 16.

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