Rockets refueled

I’d suspected for some time that the Houston Rockets, despite the absence of Aaron Brooks and Yao Ming, were capable of a heck of a lot more than their lowly record suggested, and besides, the Thunder never win at the Toyota Center. And they didn’t this time, either: two presumed Oklahoma City strengths — rebounds and free throws — were conspicuous by their absence, and the Rockets squeaked by, 99-98. It was, nevertheless, a squeak: the Thunder pulled to within one with 30 seconds left, and Houston managed to use up the maximum amount of clock. A would-be buzzer-beater by Kevin Durant didn’t.

Where the Rockets excelled, though, was from beyond the arc: 10 out of 17. (Closer in, they weren’t so wonderful: 28 of 67.) And they moved the ball with seemingly wild abandon, recording 26 assists. (The Thunder had only 19, and Russell Westbrook had ten of them.) Kevin Martin rang up exactly his 23-point average; five other Rockets scored in double figures, with both Kyle Lowry and Shane Battier at season highs.

After a terrible opening, the Thunder brought up their shooting percentage to 49.4, but they were hopeless on the long ball: five of 12. Durant was held to a mere 18 points; Serge Ibaka, who started in place of Nenad Krstić, ran up 12 points in the first quarter and finished with 16. Westbrook got the only double-double of the night: those 10 dimes, plus 23 points and no turnovers. But the Thunder left eight points at the stripe, hitting only 15 of 23. (The Rockets, 13 of 20, were no better.)

This season, the Thunder’s tendency has been to lose the first game of a back-to-back and then win the second. Unfortunately, the second is against the 12-4 Hornets, and being back at home likely won’t improve matters: OKC is 6-2 on the road but only 5-4 at the Arena With No Fixed Name.

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Dakota 38

From the production company’s synopsis:

In the spring of 2005, Lakota Spiritual Leader Jim Miller had a dream where he rode 330 miles on horseback. He eventually came to a river bank in Mankato Minnesota where he saw 38 of his own ancestors hanged. Jim soon discovered that he had dreamt of the largest mass hanging in United States history ordered by Abraham Lincoln in 1862. In December of 2008, Jim and many others retraced the route of his dream on horseback as a means of bringing healing and reconciliation to all. Dakota 38 is a feature length documentary film by Smooth Feather Productions which tells the story of this 330 mile journey.

3 Minute Scene from “Dakota 38″ from Smooth Feather on Vimeo.

In fact, 303 Dakota were sentenced, in trials that could charitably be described as “perfunctory,” to hang, after the Dakota War of 1862; Lincoln commuted the sentences of 264, and one more was ultimately granted a reprieve.

According to Wikipedia, the Republicans did not fare well in Minnesota in the next election, and former governor Alexander Ramsey, newly elected to the Senate, told Lincoln that more hangings would have resulted in “a larger electoral majority.” Said Lincoln: “I could not afford to hang men for votes.”

The site of the mass execution, in Mankato, is now known as Reconciliation Park.

Disclosure: A friend of mine is listed as a contributor to the production of the film.

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I consider this a challenge

Apparently the dullest day of the last century was 11 April 1954.

Admittedly, I hadn’t blogged a word by then. In fact, given my age at the time, which was five and a half months, I probably hadn’t so much as spoken a word by then, though I’m pretty confident that I’d expressed some sort of displeasure more than once.

On that day a general election was held in Belgium, a Turkish academic was born and an Oldham Athletic footballer called Jack Shufflebotham died. Apart from that nothing much happened.

In that Belgian election, the Socialists picked up five seats in the Senate and nine in the Chamber of Representatives, enough to keep the Christian People’s Party from winning an outright majority. Then again, this was back when there were national parties in Belgium; no such parties of any size exist today.

Jack Shufflebotham died on his sixty-ninth birthday; he hadn’t played football for nearly forty years.

Abdullah Atalar, PhD (Stanford, 1978), is rector of Bilkent University, near Ankara, Turkey, a town I haven’t seen since, oh, 1974. (And I didn’t see that much of it, what with drinking and all, but you didn’t hear that from me.) In addition to his administrative duties, he teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students analog and microwave electronics.

And one more thing happened, in what is now Yanam, India:

[N]egotiations were going on between the French Government and Indian Government governments in Delhi and Paris. Sri Kewal Singh met all the leaders of the Provisional Government at a conference in Kandamangalam in the night of 11 April 1954. He explained that the French authorities were making fun of the petty Provisional government of Nettapacom. He suggested that if the leaders wanted real liberation of all settlements, they should occupy any of the big four settlements. While dropping Dadala [Raphael Ramanayya] at his home from the meeting, Sri Kewal Singh asked Dadala what he thought of the plan and if he had any ideas. Subsequently, a plan was formed for Dadala to try to liberate Yanam.

A coup! But it didn’t actually happen until the thirteenth of June, and the final agreement between France and India, officially handing over the territory, didn’t take place until 1962.

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You first, pal

The following landed in the spam trap, and before I send it off to be de-rezzed, I offer it to you:

Great post however you should get rid of all your spam messages.

This is right up there with a Yogi Bear poster reading ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT PIC-A-NIC BASKET THEFT.

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God forbid I should have Dolby Surround

Audio purists will happily sneer at my speaker cables: ordinary lamp cord. I could point out that since it doesn’t flinch at a continuous 100 watts for ordinary lamps, it’s not likely to have trouble with brief 100-watt peaks from the amplifier. What’s more, it’s actually in phase, and I have the test signals available to check it if I have to. But this will buy me no street cred with the sine-wave crowd, which much prefers spending $6800 for eight feet of something presumably suitable for dilithium-crystal power applications.

Although the scariest aspect of it, I suggest, is this Amazon warning: “Only 1 left in stock — order soon.”

But maybe I’m being too hard on the product. Let’s read a product review from a user:

If there is one cable I would whole-heartedly trust to my Chimera-hunting needs, this would be the cable. No other cable has the tensile strength to properly and efficiently garrote a lycanthrope, asphyxiate an Esquilax or even gag a mermaid. Last week, using my trusty AudioQuest K2 (retrofitted with lead weights, bright orange latex paint and a generous coating of crushed glass stolen from the window of an abandoned church at midnight), I managed to snuff 3 golden unicorns in swift succession!

Well, there you have it. Obviously I have no idea what I’m talking about, and should defer to the experts.

(Down the Twitter chain to me from David Pogue.)

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I, dullard

(The following letter is being dispatched to the bank holding the note on my house, because, well, it’s impossible to underestimate my capacity for screwing things up.)

Back around the end of February, you were kind enough to send me a check for the $55.89 overage in my escrow account. And I was dumb enough not to notice it until this week. The local branch, of course, duly pointed out the stale date when I presented it.

I’m enclosing that check, sliced in two. Is it possible that, rather than reissue the check, you could simply credit $55.89 back to the escrow account? My insurance went up quite a bit this year, and this would help rebuild the account more quickly. (If it’s less hassle just to reissue the check, that’s fine; it’s my mistake, and I don’t feel entitled to make a scene one way or another.)

I appreciate your assistance with once again bailing me out of my own foolishness.

(Yes, I still write letters. For one thing, it means never having to thread my way through somebody’s voice mail.)

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The secret of my excess

We’re coming up on fifteen years within this little Bloviational Environment, and if I’m following any model here, it might be this one described by Kevin:

I jump around the web seeking content and reading bits and pieces of this and that (and attempting to follow what my friends and family are up to) without studying deeply in anything or offering much in terms of insight or clarity.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that:

It is my experience that you can provide value and get lot of traffic without being particularly knowledgeable or deep if you 1) provide useful links faster or more comprehensively than anyone else 2) are naturally funny 3) are good at pontificating and/or marketing yourself.

We can probably eliminate 3) right off the bat: the world is awash in pontificators of every stripe, and I have no reason to think that I stand out from the crowd. As for marketing, I couldn’t sell beer on a troop ship.

In a sort of 1)-ly manner, I do serve up the occasional link. “Occasional,” though, would seem to counter “comprehensive,” and God forbid any of this stuff should be characterized as “useful.”

So that leaves me with 2), and surely nobody’s going to believe that.

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Most sales, you’ll recall, are after Christmas

Oklahoma expat Gradual Dazzle reports on How You Know It’s Christmas:

The first thing I do after finishing Thanksgiving dinner is listen to George Winston’s album December. It’s been around more than 20 years now, and I think I’ve probably listened to it every year since it came out.

The next thing I do? I find a way to listen to the B. C. Clark jingle.

If you lived around here, it’s in your blood. Recall, if you will, this incident from 2005:

[A]rguably the high point was when Dawn [Eden] sought to demonstrate the Power of Advertising by giving us a taste of the Mister Softee theme music, and half a dozen of us burst into a spirited rendition of the B. C. Clark jingle.

The crowd at Will’s gave us a sitting ovation.

And just to prove the point, here’s Megan Mullally, Casady graduate, singing that same jingle on the Tonight Show:

Now, of course, it’s gone social.

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Threat level: yellow

Career advice from Tam:

I’m gonna go out on a limb and suggest that if pencils give you the shizzling drits, you should perhaps seek work someplace other than a schoolroom.

Apparently somebody had the No. 2 scared out of her.

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Night of the green-apple quick-step

We’ve already established that yes, bears shit in the woods.

But what about zombies?

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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A long night in Indiana

The last time the Thunder were in Indianapolis, Russell Westbrook was the very picture of ineffectual: he took only four shots, missed them all, and wound up playing only 16 minutes. You have to figure he vowed things would go differently this time, and they did. Westbrook torched the Indiana defense for a career-high 43 points, including four free throws in the waning moments of overtime to give Oklahoma City yet another road win, 110-106.

This one was never in the bag until those waning moments, either. With Nenad Krstić out, Scott Brooks was scrambling to find someone who could stay on Goliath Roy Hibbert. That someone turned out to be Jeff Green, who before fouling out in overtime reeled in 14 boards and 15 points. Still, Hibbert had five inches on Uncle Jeff, and still managed a double-double of his own. For that matter, all five Indiana starters finished in double figures, led by Danny Granger with 30. And while the Pacers shot an indifferent 44 percent, the Thunder wound up at 39.

But shot woes notwithstanding — Kevin Durant, who got two buckets in the last minute, was held to 25, and it took him 26 shots to get that much — the Thunder made this work. Defensive stalwart Thabo Sefolosha garnered a double-double of his own. The story here, though, is Westbrook, who had eight rebounds and eight assists to go with all those baskets. (The OKC bench recorded only eight points, but wangled 16 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.)

Wins at Conseco Fieldhouse — a place I admire greatly because it’s a Fieldhouse and not an Arena or a Center — have been few and far between for this franchise; last year, with Westbrook scoreless, the Pacers enjoyed a 20-point blowout which Durant later characterized as “a disgrace to the game of basketball.” I suspect he’s feeling better tonight.

Next game: Sunday night at Houston.

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Parking reorientation

Broadway, north of downtown, is, well, broad: seven lanes wide, counting the parallel-parking spaces along Automobile Alley. Once upon a time I explained why:

[T]his section of Broadway is one of the widest streets in town. Its 100-foot width, according to legend, was chosen because it was wide enough to do a 180 in a horse-drawn wagon.

Sample back-in parkingIf a proposal championed by the Automobile Alley Association comes to fruition, rather a lot of drivers will be doing some unexpected 180s of their own: the parallel-parking spaces would be replaced by angle parking — which you would back into, rather than pull into nose-first.

The logic behind this is simple enough, it seems: yes, you do annoy traffic behind you when you stop and shift into reverse, but pulling out is a breeze, because you can actually see what’s coming without the usual vehicular blind spots. What’s more, if you have to load up some cargo, you can actually do it from the sidewalk, rather than from a spot immediately adjacent to a traffic lane.

Not that everybody will immediately take to the idea: last year business owners in Victor, Idaho complained bitterly about it, claiming it was unsafe, and that tourists, seeing it, decided to move on to the next town rather than risk it. Victor City Council stood its ground. Over in Rexburg, it was tried, and then abandoned.

On the Alley, I think it will work, if only because it would replace parallel parking, and there are people out there who will go to considerable lengths to avoid parallel parking whenever possible. (There are times when I am one of them.) But I don’t expect the transition would be smooth.

(Illustration courtesy of the Transportation and Parking Commission, Northampton, Massachusetts.)

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The Hennessy Two

(Not to be confused with the Tennessee Two, Luther Perkins and Marshall Grant, who backed up Johnny Cash on early hits like “Hey Porter.”)

This is Jacqueline Hennessy, host of the Canadian cable program Medical Intelligence and associate editor of Chatelaine. (Which answers a long-standing question of mine: if you have a PhD in French literature, what do you do for a living?) She’s 42 this year, as of, well, yesterday.

Jacqueline Hennessy

Also 42 this year, as of, well, yesterday, is Jill Hennessy, best known as the star of the TV series Crossing Jordan. She does not have a PhD in French literature.

Jill Hennessy

The most salient comment here, I think, comes from John B. Sebastian:

Did you ever have to make up your mind
To pick up on one and leave the other behind
It’s not often easy and not often kind
Did you ever have to make up your mind

Not that I have any choice in the matter, of course.

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Sith happens

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that there was a marked increase in newborns named Luke and Leia after the debut of Star Wars.

This, however, is more of a jolt:

The first Star Wars film was released in 1977, and that’s the year we start seeing baby Darths pop up:

  • 1977 — 9 baby boys named Darth
  • 1978 — 13 baby boys named Darth
  • 1979 — 7 baby boys named Darth

The trend line ends there, right before The Empire Strikes Back.

My fervent hope is that nobody saw fit to name some poor, defenseless child “Jar Jar.”

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Fark blurb of the week

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Quote of the week

Robert W. “Gagdad Bob” Godwin, on a world that looks too good for our own good:

For us, the modern world is so alluring that we can forget all about transcendence. It gives the illusion that it can fulfill us, but this is a promise that it can never keep. Unconsciously, this attachment to the world probably just makes us feel less secure. In a perverse way, the more secure we actually are, the less secure we may feel, because we expect things to go perfectly. We can come enticingly close to controlling most of the variables in our lives — which only makes it more maddening that in reality we are promised nothing.

I am sure this is what animates the angry and hysterical control freaks of the left. They always wants to make things “better,” with no appreciation of what a miracle it is that things work at all. They have no earthly conception that the optimal will never be perfect, and that in pursuing perfection, they will only engender the sub-optimal. Their attempts at control always generate chaos, for which they recommend more of the same.

This is not to say that there are no control freaks on the right; I have a mirror to show me one on a daily basis, but I do work diligently to keep the hysterics down below background-noise level.

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