Close quarters

Almost as long as I’ve been in this little house, I’ve made reference to “the palatial estate at Surlywood,” though pretty much everyone knows I live in a little thousand-square-foot house on a quarter of an acre. I’ve never had any particular desire to live in a really huge house — not alone, anyway — and apparently, with the housing market so soft you could impale it on a stick and roast it over a campfire, the demand for humongous faux châteaux is retreating a bit for all the reasons you might imagine.

Although I hadn’t thought of this one:

Dwellers of small homes know each other. They are more likely, in my unprofessional opinion, to learn to manage the petty slights and annoyances that are part of communal living.

Certainly my own neighborhood seems pretty cohesive. Perhaps it’s just a reflection of the image it conveys: you don’t live here because you have to, or because you think you ought to, but because you want to.

And there’s this:

The bloating of the American house at a time when family size has declined is a cause and result of spiritual shrinkage.

Well, yeah; if we buy lots of stuff to fill whatever emptiness we think we feel, we need a bigger place to put it. (For the first 50 years of my life, I plead guilty.) Eventually, some of us figure out that there are treasures that don’t require storage space.

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Considerably more red glare

Last night in OKC, Goran Dragić, filling in for the wounded Kyle Lowry, wasn’t a factor. Tonight in Houston, Dragić was a monster: 20 points on 7-10 shooting, plus eight assists. Add to this the perennial menace of Luis Scola, and it’s no wonder this one went down to the wire: the Rockets, down two at the half, rallied to a 12-point lead in the third quarter, and it took most of the rest of the game and some Kevin Durant sorcery for the Thunder to come back. Kid Delicious put OKC back on top with 22 seconds left; when the Rockets came up dry on the next possession, Durant got the rebound, drew an immediate foul, and swished two free throws. Down three, Houston had one last chance, but Dragić finally messed up with a bad pass, and that was it: Oklahoma City 98, Houston 95.

Kevin McHale, seeking a different result from last night, swapped around his starters tonight, inserting rookie Chandler Parsons and veteran Samuel Dalembert into the lineup. They got a mere four points between them, though Parsons had eight rebounds, and anyway, Scola had 28 and Kevin Martin 16, so it’s not like the Rockets lacked for firepower. (Parsons finished +14, highest of any Rocket tonight.) It was the first home loss for Houston this season, and you’d almost think it was expected: attendance was reported as 14,327, which is a lot for a half-full arena.

The Durant/Westbrook axis once again had the majority of OKC points — 52 between them — though the bench was forceful enough, with James Harden contributing 16 points and Nazr Mohammed coming up with 17, the most he’s scored since coming to the Thunder. On the downside, Eric Maynor went down four minutes into the fourth quarter and did not return; he’ll definitely miss tomorrow’s game with the Spurs, and probably several more.

Still, you have to figure that Scott Brooks is at least somewhat pleased with winning the first two of a back-to-back-to-back. We’ll have to see whether the absence of Maynor offsets San Antonio’s ongoing absence of Manu Ginobili. After that, it’s a Tuesday trip to Memphis, and while the Grizzlies are 3-4 at this writing, they’re still second in the Southwest, behind the Spurs and ahead of the Mavs.

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Paris after dark

I don’t suppose she’d ever “dress down” for something — it just seems out of character — but this is actually a pretty good look for her:

Paris Hilton as a temporary brunette

Still, Paris Hilton shunning the spotlight is about as plausible as Democrats demanding tax cuts, so we may as well enjoy it while we can.


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Everything returns again

It was about the end of 1997 when Dawn Eden and I stopped crossing paths: we’d both left CompuServe, where we’d swapped pop-music tidbits to great effect, and it would be six years before we’d run into each other again, by dint of this post dealing with the Left Banke.

She eventually found a greater vocation than Rock Historian, and gave up bloggery for a while, though she never actually closed down her site, and what do I see on there this week? This post dealing with the Left Banke.

I had mentioned last year that the reconstituted Banke was actually performing “Desiree” live, something they never did in the Sixties. By now you know what’s coming next:

Oh, yes, they played that Other Song too. (See the link.)

I haven’t actually seen her in person for several years now, but our paths continue to intersect. Maybe someone needs to put out a cover version of “Pretty Ballerina.”

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(500) weeks of reserves

I am, of course, distraught at the collapse of the marriage of Ben Gibbard and Zooey Deschanel, but judging from her disclosure sheets, she’s not going to be hurting financially:

  • Zooey — who stars in New Girl — makes an average of $95,000 a month
  • Her expenses average $22,550 a month
  • She has 3 credit cards … AmEx, Visa and Mastercard, all of which have a 0 balance.
  • She has $1,578,000 in the bank
  • Zooey has an additional $1,645,000 in stocks, bonds, etc.
  • Zooey has real and personal property valued at $693,300

Those monthly expenses are detailed at that second link.

Wilkins Micawber was not available for comment, but I have reason to believe he would approve.

(Via this Bill Peschel tweet.)

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Simple enthusiasm

On Shinsaibashi Shopping Street in Osaka, Japan, they’re really pumped up to sell you stuff.

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Not much red glare

It’s hard to get a handle on this year’s version of the Rockets: clearly the talent is there (though Chuck Hayes, the league’s smallest big, is missed), but too often Houston just misfires. Maybe it’s just a matter of getting used to Kevin McHale and his portfolio of low-post moves. For now, though, the Thunder will be content with blowing them out, as they did tonight at the ‘Peake, 109-94 — at one point, OKC led by twenty-seven — and as they hope to do tomorrow night in H-Town.

The real surprise here was how easily Luis Scola was neutralized, held to 5 of 14 shooting and a mere ten points. Kevin Martin was little better: 4-9, plus 5 of 5 at the line. The Rockets actually did better on the glass than the Thunder, but they had trouble turning those 11 offensive rebounds into second-chance points. The Houston bench got some extra minutes, and they actually shot better than the starters; still, the long ball was denied them (3 of 13), and apart from Martin, they were not so hot from the stripe.

Things were definitely falling OKC’s way: Serge Ibaka actually drained a trey at the first-half buzzer, which is up there with the most unheard-of things you ever heard of. Thabo Sefolosha was back, if not exactly 100 percent; he didn’t score, but his pesky defense put him at +13 for the night, better than anyone else on the floor. Kevin Durant may actually be getting his foul shot back: after missing his first two, he sank the next six and wound up with 26 points. And James Harden tossed in 23 to lead a happy bench.

The tricky part, of course, is having to play these same guys tomorrow night at their house — and then come back home Sunday and play the Spurs, who are always tough, even in their current state of deGinobilization. (Manu’s out for eight weeks or so with a broken hand.) If things go well, I can just copy and paste this piece tomorrow night.

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Olfactory seconds

The price one pays for trying to approach things sensibly:

I decided that instead of buying liquid hand soap, which only comes in very small bottles, I would start buying “shower gel” to use for hand soap. That which will clean my butt should work okay for my hands too, right? Trouble is, very few shower gels come in pump bottles. One that does is Neutrogena Rain Bath. And it’s supposed to be good for your skin and I thought that would be a good thing for hands too so I bought it.

Big problem: the stuff smells absolutely fricking horrible! The description on the bottle says it smells like a “fragrant blend of spices, fruits and herbs.” Really? That’s what they think it smells like? I suggest they sniff it again, after they stop sniffing that other stuff that they’ve obviously been sniffing. What it really smells like is a blend of hospital disinfectant and the cheapest, stinkiest men’s cologne you can imagine.

The only Neutrogena product with which I am familiar is the Norwegian Formula Hand Cream: it smells like two parts Old Spice, one part Pennzoil 5W20, and one part lutefisk.

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Many stickers peeled

Last year, 12,778,885 cars and light trucks were sold in the US, up somewhere around 10 percent from last year, prompting the following not-entirely-random extrapolations from yours truly:

  • The Blue Oval wins Most Ubiquitous Badge for ’11; 2.05 million Fords were sold, versus 1.78 million Chevrolets and 1.64 million Toyotas.
  • Audi outsold Infiniti last year, and nearly caught up with Acura, though they still trail Lexus by a bunch.
  • Market share changes, ’10 to ’11: GM, 19.1 to 19.6 percent; Ford, 16.9 to 16.8 percent; Chrysler Group, 9.3 to 10.7 percent.
  • Both ostensibly Swedish brands — Volvo, now owned by a Chinese firm, and Saab, now circling the drain — showed modest gains in 2011.
  • Hyundai/Kia outsold Nissan last year, and darn near caught Honda.
  • Mitsubishi sales were up over 40 percent. No one knows why.
  • Almost thirty thousand Porsches? Really?
  • So far, Fiat doesn’t seem to be taking any sales away from Mini. (In Canada, though, Fiat outsells both Mini and Toyota’s Scion brand.)

And for the 11th year in a row, I did not buy a brand-new car.

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“Bunny” slippery

Peter Larsen of the Orange County Register (via Mediabistro), from the Friday before Christmas, on the subject of, you guessed it, Rebecca Black:

In the spring, she’ll star as one of the lead voice actors in the English-language version of Bunny Fu, which reportedly is the most successful Chinese animated movie ever. [Her manager Debra] Baum says there are also talks about doing a feature film based on Black’s unlikely Cinderella story of success.

For two weeks, I’d had no luck trying to track down Bunny Fu, not to be confused with “Bunny Fu Fu,” bopper of field mice. With Friday approaching, I was about to give up, and then:

The $18-million Legend of a Rabbit, which was made at a smaller animation facility in Tianjin, is China’s most expensive animated feature to date. The movie, which arrived in theaters in July and took in $2.4 million in its first two weeks, centers on a hare because 2011 is the year of the rabbit in the Chinese zodiac; in all, a dozen films are planned over 12 years to celebrate each zodiac animal.

So this year they’ll do a dragon, I presume. Unlike Bunny Fu, Legend of a Rabbit was listed in IMDb, “also known as: Kung Fu Rabbit.” And there’s this little detail:

China’s Tianjin North Film Studio has signed a breakthrough deal with Cartoon Network, giving the cabler TV rights to the stereoscopic 3-D effort Legend of a Rabbit for Australia, New Zealand, India and Taiwan, Variety reports. This is the first Chinese animated film acquired by the network.

Rabbit will have a day-and-date theatrical launch in major Asian territories in late July, with Cartoon Network air dates to follow six to eight months later.

No mention of a US appearance. Still, I find it utterly delicious that Rebecca Black, so often derided for the alleged deficiencies of her voice, has been hired as a voice actor.

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Quote of the week

Bill Quick, contemplating the (perhaps temporary) rise of Rick Santorum:

Do Republicans seriously believe that in an America governed by Barack Obama, an America with an economy flat on its back, unemployment well over fifteen percent, rising prices on food and energy (which isn’t an inflationary problem as long as you don’t eat, drive a car, or heat your home) and a President and his party hell-bent on forcing you to spend your money in any way they tell you to do so (the first such mechanism being Obamacare itself), again, do you seriously believe that the main issues we need to deal with are abortion and gay marriage?

Similarly — but not that similarly — from the Curmudgeon Emeritus:

Your Curmudgeon has no problem with Santorum’s prescription, if it’s meant as an appeal to private American citizens to make themselves better. But if it’s to be taken as a call for intensified social meliorism through government action — e.g., strengthened “vice” laws; revival and rigorous enforcement of vestigial laws against adultery and fornication; laws criminalizing homosexual sodomy and other sexual deviances; perhaps a “public service” campaign against pharmaceutical contraception — your Curmudgeon will have no truck with it. Neither will the great majority of American voters.

Of course, we could just tell ourselves that Santorum is just blowing Holy Smoke to draw the social conservatives, and wouldn’t actually try to enact, for lack of a better term, Prohibition 2.0; but if we really wanted someone whose words and deeds tend to diverge, we could always throw our support to Mitt Romney — or, for that matter, to the incumbent.

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We need to talk about “Kevin”

Before you name that poor unsuspecting child after your great-uncle Genghis, or something even less explicable, you might want to consider the ramifications thereof:

A poorly chosen baby name can lead to a lifetime of neglect, reduced relationship opportunities, lower self-esteem, a higher likelihood of smoking and diminished education prospects, according to a new study of nearly 12,000 people.

The research, which appears in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, is thought to offer the firmest conclusions to date that “unfortunate” first names evoke negative reactions from strangers, which in turn influence life outcomes for the worse.

“There seems to be prejudice based on name valence (or associations),” says study co-author Wiebke Neberich.

Dr Wiebke NeberichAt which point I dropped the transcription and attempted to come up with a mental image that fit the name “Wiebke Neberich”; I wound up with “Deadly Serious Science Genius Girl.” And then, purely for the sake of illustration of course, I happened upon the picture at left, from Dr Neberich’s days at the Max Planck. But this sort of musing practically defines prejudice, so I immediately denounced myself, and then, properly humbled, I returned to the original article:

The study is based on users of the European matchmaking website eDarling, where researchers found most people would sooner remain single — and continue paying for online dating — than consider a romantic partner with an unappealing name… In one of the researchers’ experiments, online daters whose names carried the most positive valence (Alexander) received 102 per cent more profile visits, relative to opportunity, than daters whose names carried the worst valence (Kevin)… Across all tests, which drew on 11,813 adults, those with “unfortunate” first names were generally more likely to smoke, be less educated and have lower self-esteem than those whose names were considered positive.

At eDarling, I turned up two things: a better picture of Dr Neberich, and an infographic (titled “Hot or Not?”; click on “Snapshot”) which details some of the name results. Perhaps Kevin and Chantal are stuck with each other.

Still, you can always do worse. From Nancy’s Baby Names:

In 1931, a couple in Hilden, Germany, tried to name their baby girl Hitlerike in honor of Adolf Hitler. The registrar rejected the name.

The father sued. The court ruled in favor of the father, noting that similar political names such as Bolshewika (for Bolshevik) and Stahlhelmina (for the Stahlhelm) had been accepted in the past.

Along similar lines, this is the Fark headline for the study: “People with unfortunate names are more likely to be abused and get ill, reports Dave Hitler.”

(Title swiped from Lionel Shriver.)

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Blade out

For the last eight years, we’ve been getting a portion of our electrical power from wind farms in the northwestern quarter of the state; I was an early booster of wind power, and I continue to believe it has a place in the energy mix — but one reason it caught on here, I suspect, was that the actual wind farms were a hundred miles away and we didn’t have to look at them. It’s not hard to imagine people having second thoughts, though, and some of them would just as soon not get that far:

Floyd County, Virginia is considering banning structures taller than 40 feet on ridges within the county. Although the ordinance would apply to most structures, with several narrow exceptions, the proposed ban has been drafted in response to local concerns about potential siting of wind farms.

Nestled among the Blue Ridge Mountains in southwestern Virginia, Floyd County has several scenic ridges that wind power companies argue would make good locations for industrial wind farms. During county supervisor meetings, local residents have expressed strong opposition to any such wind farms.

Now I’ve been to Floyd County — described it, in fact, as “all your best dreams of getting away from it all, rolled into one” — and I can’t remember any place along the Blue Ridge that would be aesthetically enhanced by a hundred-foot-tall food processor.

Meanwhile, a friend of mine has opined:

I’ve argued all along that point-of-use energy must be the ultimate objective, forget the grid and nuclear plants and massive solar arrays and windmill farms and the like.

And I suspect he’s not the only person in Floyd County with such ideas.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

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As lovely Rita retires

Neil Kramer mourns a sadistic little machine:

A child born today will probably never see a working coin-operated parking meter, or experience the frantic search for the dropped quarter under the car seat, while the meter hungrily cries for her food like a voracious Venus flytrap.

The typewriter. The telephone booth. And now, the coin-operated parking meter. All gone.

Here in the OKC, we’re perhaps just a trifle less sentimental about the parking meter, since we’ve had them longer than any other place on earth. (If you’re keeping score, since 16 July 1935.)

Although I did like this idea, which, alas, never came to fruition:

[W]hy not re-install either the original parking meter or a duplicate of it where the world’s first parking meter stood — at Park and Robinson. Install it, charge the original rates for this meter and this one only, and put up a sign next to it explaining that the world’s first parking meter was invented and installed here. I know, we’re not supposed to like these gadgets, but they’re a fact of life and why not give tourists and visitors a whimsical chuckle and picture spot while they are here?

Especially since just ’round the corner are some of those new soulless devices with LCD screens.

Disclosure: I do own a typewriter. Unfortunately, it too is a soulless device with an LCD screen.

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NYT: not a hotbed of bronies

This lengthy New York Times article has had the following correction posted:

An article on Monday about Jack Robison and Kirsten Lindsmith, two college students with Asperger syndrome who are navigating the perils of an intimate relationship, misidentified the character from the animated children’s TV show My Little Pony that Ms. Lindsmith said she visualized to cheer herself up. It is Twilight Sparkle, the nerdy intellectual, not Fluttershy, the kind animal lover.

Twilight Sparkle and Fluttershy

Because, you know, they’re obviously so much alike.

(Spotted by Kerri Hicks; ultimately dropped into my stream by Steve Lackmeyer.)

Addendum: Yeah, yeah, I know, I know.

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In which we find out what it means to her

Aretha is getting married:

Aretha Franklin has become engaged to her long-term friend William “Willie” Wilkerson.

The 69-year-old soul legend and Grammy award-winner said she was hoping to marry over the summer.

She told AP that she and Mr Wilkerson were considering Miami Beach, Florida, as a possible location, followed by a reception on a private yacht.

I’m guessing he makes her feel like a natural woman.

Update, 23 January: Or maybe they’re just moving too fast.

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