Dessert monitor

I dropped into Sprouts over the weekend and somehow failed to divert myself from the baked-goods section, which means that I brought home a pie: blueberry, with a lattice crust.

Somehow I made it last through Wednesday evening. As is my wont, I washed out the little aluminum pan, and discovered on the bottom the ominous letters N-S-A.

It took me a moment to regain my composure. “Oh, yeah. No sugar added.” But after forking out $50 that evening on prescription drugs, I figured that it’s just a matter of time before the government starts watching my groceries — assuming they’re not already.

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Present at the creation

This year, proclaims the Guardian, “the Blog turns 20,” and they interviewed three of the old-timers. One section resounded with me:

What was blogging like 20 years ago? What kind of tools did you use? What did the web mean to you?

Dave Winer: My first blog post was on October 7, 1994. I was playing around with some scripts to do stuff on the web, which was new and I found fascinating. I started out timidly at first, to see what would happen, and quickly saw how powerful this was. I could publish all on my own, and get lots of interesting people talking, and push that back out to them. It felt risky, but I loved the feeling.

Meg Hourihan: My first post on was May 9, 1999, and I considered that my blog. I was using a database back-end to manage entries, and I was consciously putting new posts at the top of the page, but keeping the older ones too. Before Megnut, I hand-coded entries and just over-wrote whatever was on the page. With a new domain, pictures and a database of entries, I felt like I was starting my own publication. It was incredibly empowering.

Justin Hall: My first web page went live in January 1994. My first daily entry on the front page went live in January 1996. When I started writing regularly on the web, the pages were crude — basic pictures and text. Meg describes the feeling of owning a publication and it’s true — blogging felt like you’d launched your own magazine. I started writing on the web because I could. Because it seemed easy.

I know from crude pages: mine certainly were. (Some might argue that they still are.) But “incredibly empowering,” I suggest, actually understates the case; if you ever harbored notions that you just weren’t good enough, there are literally (in the literal sense) millions of blogs out there, and some of them are written by people who actually get paid to come up with that crap.

Everything here was hand-coded from the finest-quality bits from spring 1996 to summer 2002, when I first decided to install something resembling a content-management system. The static pages still are written and maintained by hand; it’s too much trouble to merge them into WordPress. (And there are more than 8,000 of them.)

Says Dave Winer:

There will always be a small number who are what I call “natural born bloggers.” They were blogging before there were blogs, they just didn’t know what it was called. Julia Child was a blogger as was Benjamin Franklin and Patti Smith. I inherited my blogging gene from my mom, who is 81 and has a blog.

I don’t think I have any genetic component in my urge to write — or if I do, it’s because of a beneficial (maybe) mutation that occurred after I started.

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Extra dry

As always, no one says it quite the way the British do:

(Found at National Review Online’s The Corner.)

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As I have foreseen

Back in 2011, on Bill Quick’s 10th blogiversary, I made a list of predictions for 2111. In the middle of the list were these two items, which are happening a lot more quickly than projected:

6. Top-level domains with fewer than 11 letters will no longer be offered

5. Google “upgrades” your thermostat

Two weeks ago, Nest Labs, which makes a “learning” thermostat that can be set by remote control, was acquired by Google.

And while two- and three-letter TLDs can still be had, there are about to be a lot more, a lot longer:

[I]n June 2008, more than two years after an internal policy group first started considering it, ICANN’s board approved recommendations to create a fourth set of new gTLDs [generic top-level domains]. Rather than planning extensive consultations about what they should be, this time ICANN allowed the market to decide. Anybody could apply to run a new domain, so long as they met certain requirements and coughed up a $185,000 application fee.

Many did. Google applied for 101 gTLDs through a subsidiary. Amazon bid for 76 of them. Donuts (“We are nuts about domain names. We are Donuts.”), a firm set up with more than $100 million specifically to make a business of gTLDs, went after 307 new domains.

One of those on Donuts’ application list is .sucks, which has yet to be granted. It will be expensive, though maybe not the most expensive:

The .guru TLD is open for pre-registrations (before it officially opens to the general public) on GoDaddy for $39.99 per year. A domain on .ventures is $69.99. One on .luxury starts at $799.99 per year. One of the applicants for .sucks has declared it will ask for $25,000 during the “sunrise period,” a 30-day span during which trademark holders can register their domains to avoid domain-squatting.

I can see someone registering, and then selling subdomains to the pissed-off.

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Installing a Heat sink

News item: Using generally accepted accounting procedures: American Airlines Group — which included the former US Airways numbers only since Dec. 9 — lost $1.83 billion in 2013, compared with a $1.88 billion loss in 2012.

American, whose name is over the door where the Heat play, might have been smiling early on despite that bottom-of-the-report report: the Thunder made the first shot, and didn’t make another until Miami had rolled up 20 points. Somehow OKC pulled to within nine at the end of the quarter.

And suddenly, there was an generally unaccepted loss. Oklahoma City outscored Miami 70-45 over the next two quarters and then opened the fourth with a 7-0 run. With 1:46 left, the writing was on the arena wall, and the starters vanished; the ticket-holders were already gone. Oklahoma City 112, Miami 95, and I’m not saying it’s a preview of the Finals, but — hey, it could happen, right?

This game was billed as Kevin Durant vs. LeBron James, and that aspect of it turned out to be a draw. James had 34 points, Durant 33; James shot 12-20, Durant 12-23 (though KD made four of nine treys, LeBron one of five); James delivered three assists, Durant five. But as KD will probably tell you, he got a lot more help than King James did: the other two members of the South Beach Triumvirate, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, had 18 and 15 points respectively, but nobody else in black hit double figures. Chris “Birdman” Andersen led the bench with, um, eight.

Meanwhile, Jeremy Lamb and Derek Fisher banked treys from all over the place, Lamb nailing four of six for 18 points and Fisher hitting five of five for 15. It helped that Scott Brooks saw the wisdom of playing small against the Heat: Kendrick Perkins played the opening five minutes and was never seen again, and Steven Adams appeared just long enough to appear in the box score. And it looked like the entire team was hosed down with Battier Repellent: Shane disappeared after 19 minutes with three points and four fouls. But here’s your Telltale Statistic: OKC forced twenty Miami turnovers, thirteen of which involved simply swiping the ball. Serge Ibaka had to block only once. Then again, Serge also threw down 22 points.

Of course, what you’re going to see in the highlight reels is the last couple minutes of the third quarter, with James and Durant going at each other. You could do a whole SportsCenter just on that.

Friday night: in Brooklyn. Not a joke. Saturday night: in Washington. Also not a joke. For now, let us laugh.

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From the Office of Terrorist Credentials

And there will be one. There has to be:

The United Nations Security Council Monday passed unanimously its Resolution 2133.

In it, UN member states are urged not to pay ransom to terrorist groups who have kidnapped someone and who intend to use the money to finance terrorist operations. Private citizens or companies are also urged not to pay these ransoms.

Does this mean that if a group is just a plain old garden-variety criminal enterprise kidnapping people in order to pay for a new supply of blackjacks or cement mix for overshoes, the UN says that’s OK? How exactly will kidnappers certify themselves as regular organized crime instead of terrorists? “Sure, we broke a few legs and we burnt a couple of stores what was late on their protection fees, but we didn’t aim for the violent overthrow of the government and established social order or eradication of the state of Israel.” Does the group get a sticker from the U.S. Attorney General? “This seal affirms that the holder is a traditional criminal organization operating according to the standard principles of graft, corruption, extortion, money-laundering and prostitution but has no known affiliations with any politically active terrorist groups and would, if called upon by their government, unhesitatingly make such groups an offer they couldn’t refuse.” The current AG and staff seem to have difficulty keeping track of who are good guys and who are bad guys, so how well would they do differentiating between groups of bad guys?

UN resolutions generally come in one of two flavors: useless posturing that doesn’t cost much, or useless posturing that costs a bundle, much of which the US is expected to pony up. Until the Office is formally established, this qualifies as the former.

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Curve negotiation

Don Gammill has a nifty weekly column in the Oklahoman called “Traffic Talk,” much of which is devoted to answering questions from people who are tired of being stuck in it. This particular example wasn’t, but it was pertinent to me for other reasons. Sharon writes:

When … on Interstate 35 going north and turn(ing) west onto I-44, you curve off to the left and go on a large curve above I-44 and nowhere is there a sign to reduce your speed in the curve. I don’t feel the speed should be the same as on I-35 as it is in that curve. The same is true when you exit I-44 from the west to go south on I-35, again there is no reduce speed sign of any kind. As an experienced driver, I know to reduce speed, but young drivers don’t necessarily know or realize this.

You may remember this little expostulation from 2009:

The ramp from I-44 eastbound to I-35 southbound, which I use five days a week, sometimes six, is about a 75-degree curve that I routinely take at 60 mph unless it’s wet or the 6:30ish traffic doesn’t permit. (I’m going from a road where the speed limit is 60 to a road where the speed limit is, um, 60, so 60 seems like the most logical speed.) In fact, I consider this a test of car and/or tires: if there’s any squeal, it’s a fail. Hardly anyone else pulls this sort of stunt, which makes me wonder if I’m pushing too hard.

Since then, I have switched to tires with a little more cushiness and a little less stick, so I’m usually taking that ramp at 55 now. Curiously, the other ramp in this stacklet, from I-35 north to I-44 westbound, I seldom take at faster than 50. There are two reasons for this: on the return trip, there’s generally a lot more traffic, it being on the bleeding edge of rush hour, and what’s more, this ramp is very narrow and lined with Jersey barriers, which allow for a whole lot less slop.

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Quote of the week

I know, it’s only Wednesday, but we’re not going to top this description of a quadrennial revulsion:

The annual State of the Union pageant is a hideous, dispiriting, ugly, monotonous, un-American, un-republican, anti-democratic, dreary, backward, monarchical, retch-inducing, depressing, shameful, crypto-imperial display of official self-aggrandizement and piteous toadying, a black Mass during which every unholy order of teacup totalitarian and cringing courtier gathers under the towering dome of a faux-Roman temple to listen to a speech with no content given by a man with no content, to rise and to be seated as is called for by the order of worship — it is a wonder they have not started genuflecting — with one wretched representative of their number squirreled away in some well-upholstered Washington hidey-hole in order to preserve the illusion that those gathered constitute a special class of humanity without whom we could not live.

It’s the most nauseating display in American public life — and I write that as someone who has just returned from a pornographers’ convention.

A friend of mine, before the “event,” said that she didn’t subject herself to such things anymore:

I used to, believing “This is something grownups are supposed to do.” Now I look to see what’s on Cartoon Network instead.

Which makes perfect sense, since Cartoon Network, unlike the participants in SOTU, has effective adult supervision.

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Be sure to brush after brushing

I’m used to fluoride treatments in fruit flavors, but that’s a dentist’s-office thing: citrus-y toothpaste is a non-factor in the marketplace.

And what’s beyond citrus? How about — chocolate?

Chocolate mint, anyway. Like brushing your teeth with a Junior Mint. It’s part of a new line of Crest toothpaste called Be. On a recent earnings call, the company’s finance chief told the reporters and analysts who hang out on earnings calls about this exciting new product. He says that the new line was designed for “experiential consumers,” whoever that is. People who like to experience things? Isn’t that “everyone”?

Anyway, Crest Be will start with the chocolate mint thing, then introduce “Lime Spearmint Zest” and “Vanilla Mint Spark.” Both bold new flavors, but they can’t quite let go of mint.

I imagine four out of five female dentists will happily recommend the choco-Crest. Me, I’m holding out for bacon.

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Two roads diverging

A couple of members of the state House, noting the absurdly high divorce rate in these parts, have come up with schemes to make it harder to split up. Arthur Hulbert (R-Fort Gibson) has proposed a minimum six-month waiting period for a divorce — maybe, just maybe, you’ll change your mind — and Sean Roberts (R-Hominy) has called for “incompatibility” to be stricken from the list of legal grounds.

To Patrick of The Lost Ogle, who has at least as much legal background as any of these guys, these approaches are bass-ackwards:

Instead of spending so much time on draconian legislation that makes it harder for unhappy people to get a divorce, maybe our legislature should make it more difficult for people to get married. Crazy idea, huh? Maybe introduce a 6-month to 1-year probation period before a marriage becomes official, or raise the legal marriage age to 25? I bet that would lower the divorce rate.

Or, lacking that:

Another solution would be to make a couple pay a $1,000 marriage deposit. If a couple stays married for 7 years, they get the money back with interest. If they divorce prior to the 7 years, it goes into a marriage education fund. Who would be against that? It would make people seriously consider whether or not they should get married, and encourage them to make it work if they do. It’s an idea so logical and brilliant it will never see the light of day.

Make it $5,000, and this state will never have another budget deficit.

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You too can be Zooeyfied

Amazing how these things find their way to my inbox:

To Tommy, From Zooey.

It sounds a bit like a love note, but is in fact something different altogether — the name of a new capsule collection designed by Tommy Hilfiger and Zooey Deschanel, the doe-eyed actress, musician and star of the hit TV show New Girl. The collection, which will mainly consist of flirty dresses, will make its debut at Macy’s this spring.

Well, this certainly seems flirty enough:

Dress from To Tommy From Zooey line debuting spring 2014

We will try to overlook the miraculous job they did of transferring every last sign of age from ZD to the steamer trunk.

The dresses will be priced at retail for between $98 and $199, and 14 of the 16 styles will launch at 200 Macy’s stores beginning April 14.

On April 21, the entire lineup is set to reach and Tommy Hilfiger anchor and specialty stores in North America, Europe and Japan. Select Tommy Hilfiger stores will also carry Deschanel-designed jewelry and handbags.

Tommy has an outlet store here in Oklahoma City; I expect to see these dresses no earlier than Memorial Day.

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Such preserveness

This was dropped into the spam trap yesterday, and I suppose there are posts it might fit:

What a information of un-ambiguity and preserveness of valuable know-how about unpredicted emotions.

I mean, if there’s anything I know about emotions, it’s unpredicting them.

(Is it just my imagination, or is comment spam starting to converge with doge?)

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Chins less bared

Yours truly, from the summer of ’11:

[G]uys have only a few square inches to scrape off every day, if they bother to scrape at all.

And they’re apparently bothering less often:

Movember — the non-profit effort to get guys to let their mustaches grow to raise money for prostate cancer research — got some of the blame for softness in razor sales when [Procter & Gamble] reported financial results [Friday]. In an earnings briefing with reporters, P&G Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller blamed the razor market’s “contraction in developed regions” cited in P&G’s press release in part on “reduced incidence of facial shaving, and that was exacerbated by the quarter we were just in because of the prostate-cancer related movement in North America not to shave facial hair in the month of November.”

That “reduced incidence” seems to apply to all twelve months, in fact:

Consumer Edge Research analyst Javier Escalante said in an email that Movember “possibly contributed,” but that long-term decline in shaving frequency is the real issue. A Consumer Edge report Jan. 22 found average shaving frequency declined from 5.3 to 4.6 times weekly in the U.S. between 2000 to 2013, particularly in the 18-to-24 age group, where it fell from 4.5 to 3.4.

To contribute a lone data point of my own: 5.9.

(Via this Virginia Postrel tweet.)

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Life continues to find ways to kill you

Over the years, they — you remember “them,” don’t you? — have been differentiating between “good” cholesterol and “bad” cholesterol. Apparently, though, the “good” isn’t always so good:

The evidence shows that having a high ratio of good to bad cholesterol is good for health.

However, researchers at the Cleveland Clinic say trials aimed at boosting levels of HDL have “not been successful” and the role of good cholesterol is clearly more complicated.

In their study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, they showed how HDL cholesterol could become abnormal.

One of the researchers, Dr Stanley Hazen, said HDL cholesterol was being modified in the walls of the artery.

There is but one God, and Steve H. Graham is His prophet.

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Fine feathered fiends

This did not begin well. The Thunder jumped off to a 2-0 lead on a Kendrick Perkins turnaround fadeaway. The Hawks responded with a Kyle Korver trey, and from that point continued to knock down three-pointers seemingly with impunity. Atlanta was up seven at the half, eight after three; the Thunder finally tied it up at 107-all with 2:11 left, and took the lead with 25 seconds left on a jumper by (who else?) Kevin Durant. It took only three seconds for the Hawks to come back with a Paul Millsap layup; Durant pulled up with 1.5 left to make it 111-109 Thunder, and Atlanta’s last try ended up out of bounds.

Let us not minimize this Hawk effort. Mike Budenholzer played only nine men, and seven of them made double figures. (Gustavo Ayon didn’t score ten, but he got ten rebounds and the highest plus/minus on the floor.) It was Millsap who got team-high honors, with 23. Atlanta owned the boards, 40-33. And the Hawks connected on 12 of 25 treys — though the box score won’t tell you that at one point in the second quarter they had seven of nine.

Still, nobody closes out a game like Kevin Durant. KD wound up with 41 points on 15-25 shooting and five of seven three-pointers. (When it was all over, OKC actually had one more long-ball make than the Hawks.) Jeremy Lamb went 5-8 to lead the bench with 14; Reggie Jackson knocked down 18, and Serge Ibaka, just for funsies, blocked six shots, four more than all nine Hawks.

It’s not going to get any easier, though. The Heat await in Miami Wednesday night, and either KD or LeBron, or both, will take it personally.

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You’ve got pricier mail

As of today, it costs 49 cents to mail a letter through the Postal Service. You can no longer do what I did, which was buy up a bunch of “Forever” stamps at the old rate at the last minute — save that idea for the next increase — but there’s one step you can take to minimize your expense:

Discount postage exists primarily because of stamp collectors. When I was growing up in the 1960s, the popularity of the hobby was rising; advertisements for collectible stamps were in every issue of Boy’s Life and in comic books. Increased participation in the hobby generated drove prices higher, so many collectors began to put away sheets and blocks of mint stamps as “investments.”

However, as the decades went by, the interests of young people shifted toward pastimes that required electrical outlets. The demographic profile of the average collector got older, so that now many of the stamps saved as investments are coming back on to the market, and are for sale at prices below their “face” value.

There are other reasons for the availability of discount postage, such as scrap left over by current-day collectors of plate blocks and plate number coils, or mistakenly large purchases for business use (and see the addendum at the bottom of this post), but to make a long story short, postage stamps can easily be purchased today at discounted prices. This is perfectly legal. The stamps were originally purchased from the postal authorities as advanced payment for future service; a stamp issued in 1953 is just as valid for postage now as it was then.

That Addendum suggests that you watch out for very recent stamps being offered at discount; there’s a chance their original acquisition may have been, um, questionable.

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