The sorest of losers?

On the face of it, there is nothing particularly unusual about this:

The losing candidate for Oklahoma County sheriff is asking county election officials to count the votes again.

Darrell Sorrels, a former sheriff’s deputy who works as a contract security officer for the U.S. Marshals Service, filed papers Friday seeking a manual recount of the race results.

Sorrels, 58, of Midwest City, also put up a $25,800 deposit to cover the costs of the recount.

This is all in compliance with the law: legally, any candidate may ask for a recount, but the candidate must pay for the expense incurred.

But here’s the punchline:

Incumbent John Whetsel beat Sorrels, 163,839 to 89,353, according to the county election board.

Historically, recounts have been called for after races finishing with splits like 50.2 to 49.8 percent, not 64.7-35.3. What’s missing from this story?

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Positively angelic

Cleve Duncan, who died last week at seventy-seven, is one of the few singers who ever got to sing his own name on a record:

This was what they nowadays call a “metasong,” a song whose major purpose is to recall other songs, and in fact, it was meta-er than most such. In 1960, L. A. deejay Art Laboe put out a compilation album called Memories of El Monte, songs recorded by vocal groups who sang at the dance parties he held in, yes, El Monte, California. Frank Zappa, a major doo-wop fiend, thought there ought to be a song called “Memories of El Monte,” and broached the idea to future Mother of Invention Ray Collins, who came up with a verse or two based on the chord changes of “Earth Angel.”

Laboe, needless to say, thought this was a swell idea, and what eventually emerged was a song incorporating bits of doo-wop favorites that were presumably regularly heard in El Monte, although only two of the songs thus name-checked (“You Cheated” and “Cherry Pie”) were actually on Laboe’s compilation LP. The masterstroke was getting Cleve Duncan, who sang lead for the Penguins on “Earth Angel,” to sing this one. He’s identified herein as “Cleve Duncan along with the Penguins,” which was technically true, though the original Penguins had long since broken up and Duncan was trying to create a new version of the group. Walter Saulsberry, who sings lead on some of the other song fragments, would remain a Penguin; the backing vocals were done by the Viceroys. Zappa produced the single, which wound up being credited to the Penguins; Laboe released it, and while it never made the national charts, “Memories of El Monte” is still loved and cherished in places where vocal groups never really ever went away.

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Fewer tags

One of the first things that happened to me, that day in 1972, was being brought into compliance with General Order No. 204, 20 December 1906:

An aluminum identification tag, the size of a silver half dollar and of suitable thickness, stamped with the name, rank, company, regiment, or corps of the wearer, will be worn by each officer and enlisted man of the Army whenever the field kit is worn, the tag to be suspended from the neck, underneath the clothing, by a cord or thong passed through a small hole in the tab. It is prescribed as a part of the uniform and when not worn as directed herein will be habitually kept in the possession of the owner. The tag will be issued by the Quartermaster’s Department gratuitously to enlisted men and at cost price to officers.

The shape of the dog tag would change somewhat over the years, but its purpose has remained the same: to identify the fallen when they can no longer identify themselves. In other words, it’s a preparation for something you’d rather not think about.

There are times when I think the whole nation would rather not think about things like that; there is much talk of peace, comparatively little about the idea that maybe you have to fight once in a while to obtain it. They forget that during most of human history, peace was the exception, not the rule; and they believe that ultimately, mankind will happily lay down its arms. Anyone who’s ever had any of those arms pointed at him knows better. But there are fewer and fewer of them — of us — to serve as a reminder, and so we forget, lulled into a false sense of security by those who prefer butter to guns, or would if butter didn’t have so much darned saturated fat.

My own role in pacifying the angry hordes was exceedingly minor yet absolutely essential: if I wasn’t on the front line, I was backing up someone who was, and had the rotating blades been struck by waste material at the right (or the wrong) time, it could just as easily have been me out there. You should, of course, remember that someone before you remember me, especially if he didn’t come back; but you should remember all of us, from the time when you needed us — because such a time will come again. It always does.

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Five-hour food stamps

Sign in Crest Foods today: “ENERGY DRINKS ARE NO LONGER AVAILABLE THROUGH ACS.” “ACS,” I presume from the context, is short for “Access,” the brand name on Oklahoma’s EBT card.

Wondering if there had been a legal change, I went to the USDA, and found this:

When considering the eligibility of energy drinks, and other branded products, the primary determinant is the type of product label chosen by the manufacturer to conform to Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines:

  • Energy drinks that have a nutrition facts label are eligible foods
  • Energy drinks that have a supplement facts label are classified by the FDA as supplements, and are therefore not eligible

I didn’t go back to read any labels, but I did come up with what I think is a reasonable hypothesis: the store was letting this issue slide a bit, and was slapped down by the authorities for so doing.

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Visually oriented

Niki Karimi, forty-one today, is an Iranian actress turned writer/director; her most recent effort is Final Whistle (2011), in which the following happens:

In this suspenseful social-realist drama, a filmmaker struggles against time and apathy to save a woman she barely knows from the death penalty. Film-producing partners Sahar (played by writer/director Niki Karimi) and husband Saman (Shahab Hosseini, from 2011 Sydney Film Prize winner A Separation) discover that a young actress they employ is living a nightmare. Her mother is charged with murder and sentenced to hang; she can’t afford the blood money that would free her under sharia law. Sahar is desperate to help, but the men in her life are reluctant at best — and distracted by following the World Cup on TV.

Photo of Niki Karimi

In addition to her film work, Karimi translates books into Farsi; her first was Marlon Brando’s autobiography Songs My Mother Taught Me. And her still photography is occasionally exhibited.

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Pushing Huttons

According to the old TV spot, when E. F. Hutton talks, people listen. Today, this would be described as an early example of digital influence, and there’d be some sort of score for it, because online advertisers want to reach people who in turn reach other people, thereby presumably garnering more bang for their bucks. There’s just one problem with this scheme, and it’s simply this: how can you trust these scores? Consider the matter of PageRank:

Google developed an innovative relevance ranking algorithm — PageRank — based on the hyperlink structure of the Web. The PageRank algorithm basically takes inputs (i.e. the hyperlink structures of the entire Web) and cranks out a score for every webpage that, in theory, represents its authority on the Web.

As we learn from the behavior economics of humans, when we put a score on something, we create an incentive for some people to get a better score. This is human nature. Because people care about themselves, they care about any comparisons that concern them, whether it is their websites, cars, homes, their work, or just themselves. Some would go so far as to cheat the algorithm just to get a better score. In fact, Google’s PageRank algorithm has created an entire industry (i.e. SEO) around gaming their score.

Subsequently Google, quite properly I think, began screwing with its algorithms, just to foil those who would game them, a process which continues to this day.

I used to display a little button on the sidebar that looked up my PageRank on a regular basis and showed it to the world, and by “the world” I mean the tiny fraction of humanity who’d visited the site. Eventually I figured out that the number of damns actually given about my PageRank was likely less than the PageRank itself, and deleted the button.

Now comes a trickier scheme: attempting to measure an individual’s personal influence in social media. The justification is the same, and the results are even easier to fudge:

If you tweeted a lot yesterday and your influence score jumps up today, you’ve just discovered that you can increase your influence score by tweeting more. Knowing this, would you continue to tweet more? Most people probably would, especially if they care about their score. This has created a lot of loud mouths who are not actually influential in any meaningful way. Therefore, his influence score is merely a reflection of the fact that he has successfully gamed the algorithm into giving him a higher score simply by tweeting more, but not actually doing anything truly influential.

The poster child for this sort of thing is called Klout, and it measures a mix of social media. Based on my tweetage and Facebookery, I apparently have Klout of 59. Fifty-nine out of what, they don’t say, though some folks I know who take this far more seriously than I do — or who pay no attention to it yet happen to do things that fatten their scores — fall into the 70-80 bracket. This suggests that infinite Klout — so much influence that conversations stop just to hear what you, like E. F. Hutton of old, have to say — would be assigned a score of 100.

Incidentally, the old Hutton company disappeared into the void of Wall Street consolidation many years ago; a grandson of Edward Francis Hutton and some former Hutton execs are trying to restart the company anew. As of today, they have a PageRank of two. Mine is, um, five.

(Tweeted by high-Klout Jeff Jarvis, with the observation that “Klout is bullshit.”)

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Occasionally quoteworthy

Lynn has a weekly feature called Quotes From Here and There, and once in a while one of the four slots goes to something I’ve said.

This week I got two slots, which qualifies as an honor. (Picture me bowing.) Now I’m wondering: is it worth the trouble to go back through twenty thousand posts to pick out the best 100 or so?

Possible side project: given my high state of anxiety of late, perhaps it might be worth trying to determine if being agitated enhances, or detracts from, the quality of these little monologues. (Then again, it may have no effect whatsoever. I can’t tell, and I’m arguably the worst judge of my own work.)

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At a loss

Which describes my feelings of late to the proverbial T.

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The whir of machinery

“It has not been a pretty performance,” said radio guy Matt Pinto, and churning up the mud in that 18-point first quarter did nothing to flatter the Thunder’s new Ultra-Drab™ alternate jerseys. OKC recovered a bit in the second, taking a 49-42 lead into the locker room; the Pistons didn’t at all act like an 0-5 team in the third, though, and the Thunder had to work at putting them away. The final was 105-94, a reappearance of the Bad Russell Westbrook (3-10 from the floor, 10 points) offset by Serge Ibaka’s career-high 25 points (9-13). (Okay, he had 26 in a playoff game once, but that’s a different set of records.)

Detroit did show strength tonight: starting center Greg Monroe posted a double-double (14 points, 10 boards), and three of the other starters (Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Brandon Knight) landed in double figures. What’s more, rookie power forward Andre Drummond put together a 22-point, 8-rebound night, and the Pistons actually outrebounded the Thunder, 41-38 (16-8 offensive).

Kevin Durant, yet again, came up with a double-double (25 points, 14 boards), and with Westbrook mired in whatever quag was surrounding him, Eric Maynor got more time to strut his stuff. And Maynor’s stride was long tonight: 5-6 from the floor, including 3-3 from Way Out There, for 13 points. The Thunder actually shot 53.5 percent, with Westbrook’s woes costing almost four percentage points. Still, Westbrook served up six assists. Then again, so did Kendrick Perkins (!). And how was Kevin Martin? Not the greatest shooter tonight, with 16 points (5-14), but the defense he allegedly doesn’t have, he showed he had: three steals and a block.

The Pistons get another shot on their home court Monday night. In between, there’s a Sunday-evening game against the Cavaliers, who might be without both Anderson Varejao and Tyler Zeller. “But what can you do?” said Cavs coach Byron Scott. We shall see.

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For amusement value only

This, says Rebecca Black, is “the appropriate thing to do while in my manager’s office.” Huh?

Rebecca Black does a handstand

No comment from said manager at this time. And who took this picture, anyway?

Addendum: Another clip from “In Your Words” has been posted.

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Purple reign

There was some realignment of voting precincts between 2010 and 2012, and my precinct has changed both its borders and its designation, but one thing hasn’t changed: the red/blue balance. If anything, it’s even purpler than before. Some numbers from the precinct-level table, pending certification:

President: Mitt Romney (R) 693, Barack Obama (D) 670.

Congress: James Lankford (R) 665, Tom Guild (D) 585.

House District 87: Nick Singer (D) 661, Jason Nelson (R) 658.

All the State Questions passed handily except 759, the bar on affirmative action, which passed by a comparatively close 683-569.

The State Election Board has posted lots of data for your reading and sampling pleasure.

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Worst shoe ever?

New York magazine’s The Cut has a slideshow feature of the 50 Ugliest Shoes in History, and while “ugly” is of course in the eye of the beholder — I’d defend Doc Martens and maybe even the Earth Shoe in terms of form following function — some of these Dr. Moreauvian creations perhaps ought not to be beheld at all, and as it happens, of the two I like least, one has already been featured here. This is the other:

Brian Atwood Charleston Peep-Toe Ankle Boots

Said The Cut of the Brian Atwood “Charleston” peep-toe platform ankle boot, unleashed this year:

Dripping with a bordello’s worth of upholstery tassels, the “Charleston” has a Clydesdale look without the unsavory reality of actually killing and wearing a horse’s hoof.

Evidently — and perhaps surprisingly to some — I have a great deal of resistance to hooves in this context.

(Via Nancy Friedman, who also defends Docs.)

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Another RTFM failure

This falls under “conspicuous due to its absence”:

I have owned three 2002 Hyundai Accents, all purchased used, and don’t remember any of them having come with an owner’s manual. What, do the original owners thumb through it, lips moving as they sound out the difficult words, peer at the pictures, gnaw briefly on the cover and throw it over their shoulder?

I figured they sold ’em on eBay to raise some semi-quick cash.

And I’d bet none of them even knew about the Hyundai Service website, either.

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A page from the old playbook

How many times have we seen this in the last couple of years? The Thunder play it close for a half, slip badly in the third quarter, only to come back strong in the fourth. Tonight we had a textbook example: tied after the first quarter, up one at the half, outscored by seven in the third, and then a 17-6 run to start the fourth. Unfortunately, this was the point where Luol Deng realized he was much bigger than Kevin Martin and knocked out five consecutive points. Darnell Mayberry suggested at this point that the Thunder should put Martin on Kirk Hinrich, Russell Westbrook on Rip Hamilton, and Thabo Sefolosha on Deng. It was tied at 85-all with 3:30 left, but Scott Brooks stuck with small ball. And damn, but it paid off, to the tune of 97-91 over Chicago’s tall timbers.

Deng, albeit finishing -2, still wound up with a game-high 27 points, with Rip Hamilton adding 20 more, and both Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer missing a double-double by a single point. The Bulls’ bench contributed 14 points, one less than Kevin Martin. Chicago had a slight lead in rebounds, and had two fewer turnovers — though 20 is nothing to brag about.

This was a big night for Serge Ibaka, who scored 21 on 8-15 shooting and reeled in nine boards. Durant, who got six of the last eight OKC points, finished with 24; Westbrook was erratic from the floor (7-22, 16 points) but mostly passing well (12 assists). Eric Maynor added ten points in a mere 12½ minutes. Telltale statistic: the Bulls took 11 more shots than the Thunder (84-73), but managed to hit fewer (35-36, 42 versus 49 percent). “Small ball,” says Scott Brooks, beaming.

Back home tomorrow to blow by the Pistons, and then a Sunday matchup with the Cavs.

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Trophy cars

In the December issue, Car and Driver throws an unexpected question to John Hennessey of Hennessey Performance:

Why do guys in the Middle East seem to have such extravagant taste in cars?

I have a theory. And I’m saying this in the most respectful way. When you’re over there, you generally don’t see any women in public. And when you do, they’re all covered up. In that culture you can’t show off your girlfriend or your wife, but you can show off your car. I think that, at least somewhat, the cars take the place of women.

There’s a throttle-body joke in there somewhere.

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Somewhat lacking in Dash

Chevy SparkThe little car in the little picture is the very small Chevrolet Spark, GM’s attempt to sell an A-segment car in the States. (What’s “A-segment”? Two sizes smaller than a Cruze or Corolla or Civic, which are considered C-segment cars for reasons other than starting with the letter C. In other words, the Spark is farging tiny.) TTAC opened up a discussion of this model, and how it’s reaching buyers twice the target age (mid-twenties), which sparked (sorry) the following exchange in comments:

noxioux: “This car is crying out for an electric purple paint job and a pornographic My Little Pony decal on the hood.”

Jellodyne: “And who better to do it than a 48 year old brony?”

colinshark: “You are mistaken. Decals go on the flanks.”

There are 48-year-old bronies? Who knew?

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