Spells checked

The Thunder had been having trouble with the Wizards when the Wizards were lousy. Now the Wizards aren’t lousy at all — they were 22-9 and third in the East coming into this game — but the Thunder still had trouble with them, largely because of the three-ball, which Washington wielded with considerable skill and accuracy, right up until the very end, when the Wiz cut an OKC eight-point lead to three in a matter of seconds. Russell Westbrook, who’d already had enough of these Wizards — he’d tightened his hold on the season technical-foul lead — lay in the weeds, and when the Wiz looked like they were going to tie it up, promptly stole the ball. He couldn’t convert, but Serge Ibaka showed up for the putback. With 12 seconds left, Westbrook took it away again, and this time the bucket was good, and one. With 5.9 left, Westbrook looked like he knocked John Wall upside the head; it was a foul OKC had to give, Scott Brooks sent in the reserves just for spite, the last Wizard trey didn’t go, and Ish Smith (!) retrieved the last rebound to secure a 109-102 win.

Still, Washington made 11 of 21 treys, and were 13-15 from the stripe, which is some pretty decent shooting by any standards. (They were 39-84 from the floor, a decent 46 percent.) And six Wizards, including four starters, hit double figures, led by Bradley Beal with 21; Wall added 14, and stalwarts Nene and Paul Pierce had a dozen apiece. (The twin guards posted double-doubles for the night, Beal seizing ten boards, Wall serving up 12 assists.) The Washington bench, we must note, also has sharpshooters: the well-traveled Andre Miller and Rasual Butler knocked down 15 and 11 respectively.

And it takes someone like Westbrook, I think, to turn a perfectly dreadful night into a decent line: 8-23 shooting, but still 22 points, six dimes, only two turnovers. Of course, he got to play with Kevin Durant for the whole game for once, and KD had an effortless (12-18) 34 points that, upon second look, actually were a hell of a lot of work. Ibaka had another one of those Wat? nights: 13 points, six boards — two fewer than Durant — and nary a swat. Reggie Jackson, who’d been missing treys for weeks, got one (of two) to go; but Nick Collison (10 points, five rebounds) was the official Bench Leader.

The .500 Club has finally opened up. (The Pelicans put the bite on the Rockets, so no real ground was gained.) Monday night, the Thunder are at Oakland for another shot at Golden State; there follow road games at Sacramento, Utah and Houston.


Steel your heart away

The American steel industry didn’t get its dander up when automakers started messing with things like aluminum spaceframes and carbon fiber: the vehicles so designed tended to be pricey, low-volume, and, well, un-American.

That was before Ford decided that what the world needed now was an aluminum F-150, and when the single largest-selling vehicle in the country makes a switch like this — well, there’s a full-page ad in the buff books, which I saw in Motor Trend, the first of the February 2015 issues I read, extolling the virtues of steel and not even mentioning That Other Metal. Inevitably, there’s a Web site, at autosteel.org, and so I figured I’d see who was up to this:

The Automotive Applications Council (AAC) is a subcommittee of the Steel Market Development Institute (SMDI) and focuses on advancing the use of steel in the highly competitive automotive market.

The SMDI Automotive Market program continues to be the catalyst for bringing together steel, automotive industry, and federal partners (such as the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation) to conduct research, provide technology transfer, and promote steel-intensive solutions in the marketplace. Advanced high-strength steels, which are the fastest-growing materials in automotive design, enable our automotive customers to deliver vehicles that are more lightweight, fuel-efficient, and affordable, while still protecting passengers.

That last bit, about protecting passengers, might well turn out to be their best talking point, since a fair percentage of the public is familiar with aluminum only as foil or beer cans, neither of which is exactly known for puncture resistance.

Participants in the SMDI include three big domestic producers — AK (a merger of Armco and Kawasaki), Nucor, and US Steel, and major European producer ArcelorMittal. A quick glance at the financials indicate that all four of these firms have taken substantial hits to the bottom line of late, so it’s no surprise that they’re trying to keep things from getting worse.


Is this a trick question?

It’s certainly baffled this guy:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: If I hold three digits up, how many are not pointed up with all my digits? This is a security question for fishtanktv.com and I cant answer

For what it’s worth, I’m holding up one digit.


Quote of the week

Lynn can’t take this nonsense anymore:

I am so very, very tired of “my suffering is worse than your suffering” screeds.

Listen boys and girls, suffering is always individual and very personal and is not necessarily proportional to the sufferers actual situation and the injustices suffered. What one person can easily shake off might be a deeply personal and hurtful attack to another and telling someone that “your suffering is nothing compared to mine” is just as hurtful as actual bullying.

Not to mention the fact that it’s not about you: if someone else is in pain, hearing about your pain is not going to improve matters even slightly.

This might work with mild discomfort, maybe: I know I get exasperated during the winter, and then I think about way-colder places like Flin Flon and Saskatoon, and finally I shut up. But the person contemplating walking into the front of a moving truck? Clearly there are needs that simply can’t be met by trying to compare comfort levels.

And we can start by holding our heads up and not whining quite so much no matter what our position in the hierarchy. We can show sympathy to other people who are suffering instead of belittling their feelings. We can refuse to play the game that keeps some people down while protecting those at the top.

If we’re all in this together — and we are — jockeying for position is an exercise in self-aggrandizement, and not a particularly good one at that.

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Among the local delicacies

Michael would like you to know that he did not actually sample these on a trip to the Bricktown Brewery’s Remington Park outpost:

Appetizers menu from Bricktown Brewery

“Even my stomach has limits,” he said.


Approved by the Bureau of Appropriate Clothing

They’ll get my hoodie when they pry it off my (up to that point) warmly insulated body:

After consulting with the Department of Public Safety, Senator Don Barrington (R-Lawton) has authored a bill that would make it unlawful to wear a mask, hood or covering during the commission of a crime or to intentionally conceal his or her identity in a public place.

There are provisions. Such as, pranks of children on Halloween, religious beliefs and special events like a parade, masquerade party or weather.

But if you wear a hood with ill intentions, you could be slapped with a misdemeanor fine of $50 to $500 and or one year in jail.

I grumbled about this earlier:

This is the epitome of “Well, let’s give the prosecutors something else to hang on ’em.” And the first time some woman in a burqa gets busted for something like shoplifting, what you’ll see hitting the fan will not be at all halal.

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Tesla unplugged?

Bark M. figures that in a year’s time, there won’t be any more muskrats to guard Elon Musk:

The Emperor’s New Clothes are starting to fall off. Sales numbers don’t match registrations. Oil prices are artificially low. Even in peak selling conditions, Tesla couldn’t make the inroads they wanted — how will they do it when oil is hovering around $55 a barrel? Elon Musk had the cards stacked his way, but he couldn’t capitalize. The party is likely over for Tesla by the end of the year — and likely in a sale to an unlikely buyer (Apple? Google?).

Actually, those buyers seem relatively likely, if only because they could pay for the automaker out of petty cash. “Unlikely” would be, say, BlackBerry, whose financial state is such that they can order either corn or flour tortillas, but not both.

Besides, a major contributor to Tesla’s bottom line is the trading of ZEV credits, and they can’t last forever, even in California.

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Off the reading list

Some of the browser tabs that Lileks will no longer be opening:

Another thing I do at the end of the year: ruthlessly cull and trim bookmarks. I look at the site I have set aside for regular visits, and regard them with a total lack of ruth. Every year a big site gets cut, it seems. A tentpole falls. This year it was Fark. I’ve been on Fark forever, but it looks old and the comments are … well, it’s like Reddit. A lot of clever males unmoored from anything but tech and snark. The sort of smug adolescent impotent anger that makes them feel superior because everyone else is deluded or stupid. For some this lasts their entire life, and while it’s cute in the young it’s unbearable in those who carried this guttering pitch-stinking torch into middle age.

I have always believed that the way to handle Fark — and probably 60-80 percent of all sites with umpteen thousand visitors a day — is simply to avoid the comment threads at all cost. (I break this rule for things about which I may have personal knowledge, and for the weekly thread that accompanies any new My Little Pony episode, but for nothing else.) Also, some planetary alignment involving Adobe Flash, the Pale Moon Web browser, and whoever is providing Fark advertising these days invariably results in a lock-up resistant to anything short of Fletcher’s Castoria. I dislike ad blockers, but I can’t have stuff crashing my browser either, so I compromise by toggling off Flash.

But I also tire of the places where the men of my demographic cohort have pulled away and disconnected and have no interest in the world at large, and seem content to shoot little toothpick arrows down at the pullulating hordes banging on the gates. Most of all I tire of the sites and comments that luxuriate in their critiques of West as the most perfidious manifestation of human nature that ever blackened this innocent orb. People who put the seed corn in the microwave and complain because it takes two minutes to pop, is probably GMO, and was marketed in a way that reinforces some horrid old social norm. And then bitch because you don’t have French sea salt to sprinkle on it.

I avoid such places like the plague they are. To compensate — I really dislike the idea of living in an echo chamber, even if it echoes me — I leave Progressive hash-houses like #p2 open on Twitter.

And really, the cure for hatred of Western civilization is to be parachuted, in the dead of night, into some place that has little or no trace of its presence.


Some kind of magic

Charles Pergiel sent this over from a Chromebook forum, and the truth of it hurts just a little:

I remember my early days with computers, asking a question of the developers of a fairly large (for 1980) piece of IBM mainframe software, and their response was “*We don’t know*.” At the time, I found this unbelievable — *you guys wrote it; why don’t you know how it works!?*”

Things have gotten more complicated by orders of magnitude since then, and sometimes the only reasonable answer is “We don’t know.”

I was working on an IBM mainframe in those days, and I can assure you that this wasn’t at all a unique situation: a lot of legacy stuff outlived its original developer, and subsequent developers opted, quite reasonably, to leave well enough alone.

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Virtually carded

Can I pass myself off as 51 instead of 61? I wouldn’t have thought so, but what the hell do I know?

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Worst titles of 2014

Listed chronologically:

“Fluttershub-Niggurath” (2 January)
“We are never ever getting snacks together” (4 January)
“High-fructose cornball” (13 January)
“Save ferrous” (24 January)
“Doing asbestos we can” (10 February)
“Vampire weakened” (11 February)
“Crease is the word” (15 February)
“This schist is gneiss” (18 February)
“Harry, the feckless Senate runner” (6 March)
“Evenly odd” (18 March)
“You don’t owe Jack” (19 March)
“Multi-tusking” (28 March)
“You can have it all, my empire of fish” (17 April)
“Take me to your liter” (30 April)
“Bot and paid for” (10 May)
“A marked absence of seamen” (21 May)
“Myocardial ingestion” (6 June)
“No, a fence intended” (15 June)
“You’ve seen one, you’ve seen Amal” (16 June)
“Beware of geeks bearing GIFs” (21 June)
“Papa’s got a brand-new Baghdad” (22 June)
“Battle of divulge” (13 July)
“Thorina, Thorina” (21 July)
“Tootsie in the sky with hijinks” (26 July)
“The urge to wax has waned” (14 August)
“Friends with Benadryl” (22 August)
“This doesn’t Pétain to you” (6 September)
“First cud is the deepest” (19 September)
“Fescue me” (25 September)
“A John Deere letter” (3 October)
“The amazing Snyderman” (25 October)
“Let’s all get bewbs for the holidays” (22 November)
“Hair apparent” (27 November)
“Regression to the meanest” (28 November)
“Snot what one aspires to” (5 December)
“Mails of the unexpected” (28 December)

(Total number of 2014 posts: 1,909. Also: Worst Titles of 2013; Worst Titles of 2012; Worst Titles of 2011; Worst Titles of 2010; Worst Titles of 2009; Worst Titles of 2008; Worst Titles of 2007; Worst Titles of 2006.)

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Where have you gone, Rasheed?

Rasheed Wallace, I am told, is the holder of the dubious NBA record for Most Technical Fouls ever, with over 300, including 41 in a single season (2000-01). Tonight, I have to figure that Sheed’s spirit was hovering over Chesapeake Arena, which is a neat trick considering he’s still alive. (He’s only 40, fercryingoutloud.) I’m about ready for the NBA to design a new uniform with a flap on one shoulder to accommodate a chip, which would have been useful tonight.

This is how it started:

Westbrook drew a T; Len was called for a flagrant one; P. J. Tucker, who plowed into Westbrook’s backside, was totally ignored. In a desperate attempt to keep a hockey game from breaking out, the refs started calling techs wholesale. Westbrook, always temperamental, was quickly broomed. Even a Suns assistant was T’d up. At the half, it was OKC 64, Phoenix 62; a T was called on Tucker in the third quarter for an unrelated offense. All of this tomfoolery almost obscured the real news of the day: Kevin Durant is back, melonfarmers, and his trey in the waning moments of the third quarter put the Thunder up 100-94. So KD is making up for Westbrook’s absence? Well, yes. The eight points he scored in a minute and a half late in the fourth quarter speak to that; however, some of the heaviest lifting was done by diminutive Ish Smith, who knocked down eight points in the first half of the fourth. With :26 left, it was tied at 128-all; Eric Bledsoe tried his best to eat as much clock as he could, but his shot went awry, and a last-second Thunder rally — translation: “get the ball to KD” — didn’t either. So the turning point came at 1:54 in the overtime, when Marcus Morris fouled out on an Anthony Morrow trey; Morrow got the free throw, and the Thunder were up four. Two Durant free throws made it a six-point game; the Suns came back with a 4-0 run, and with 9.7 seconds left, Phoenix got one more chance: Markieff Morris had a good look, Andre Roberson retrieved the ball, and Eric Bledsoe fouled out. Roberson dropped in one of two free throws, and that was it: Oklahoma City 137, Phoenix 134. Total technicals: seven.

Some of the numbers tonight were astonishing. The Suns outshot the Thunder by 10 percent, 51-41. The Thunder outrebounded the Suns, 50-39. (OKC had a remarkable 19 offensive rebounds.) The Suns were 29-35 at the stripe; the Thunder, 44-49. (That’s a lot of damn fouls.) Eleven players (PHX 6, OKC 5) hit double figures; in fact, the Suns had three players over 20. (Bledsoe, with 29, was team-high.) And Durant had one of those KD games, with 44 points (13-23, 12 straight foul shots) and ten rebounds. But I keep looking at Westbrook’s line, which ends in the first half with 20 points in just over 17 minutes, and I wonder what this game would have been like had he not gone off like illegal New Year’s Eve fireworks.

The Wizards will be here Friday night. After that, it’s another trip out West: the Warriors on Monday, the Kings on Wednesday, and the Jazz on Friday.


Title(s) of the year

Someone thought this one through, and nailed it:

Scan from People Magazine: Rock's papers scissor union

Once in a while I approach these heady heights. Maybe. I can’t claim credit for this one either:

Scooby Doom


Meanwhile at your state healthcare exchange

Dave Schuler, who’s been working on exactly this sort of stuff of late, makes an unexpected disclosure:

There is apparently a known way to build a state healthcare insurance exchange website that flops: do it yourself. That’s what Oregon did. All of the states’ healthcare insurance exchanges that worked the best were apparently built by the technical wing of the same accounting company.

What could possibly be more unexpected than that? This:

[A] plurality of the states’ exchanges were built using WordPress.

Note that he’s not saying that the exchange sites that worked the best were the ones built on WordPress.

I pulled up one state at random: Rhode Island. Sure looks like WP, though they have a cloud-based backend.


Apparently they’re not McKidding

Not even the Hamburglar knows about this place:

There’s not a golden arch, burger or fries in sight.

In fact, the casual diner might be excused for thinking the best known name in the fast food business is quietly trying to conceal its true identity.

Welcome to the future of McDonald’s, a mix of Lebanese lentils, tomato basil soup and chipotle pulled pork all washed down with a balsamic strawberry craft soda.

Where — or perhaps when — is this mysterious place?

The fast food giant last week opened The Corner, a cafe/food laboratory, next to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown without fuss or fanfare.

Amid the shiny white tiling the only way you would know it was Maccas is the tiny McCafe logo on the sign and the Ronald McDonald cookie jar on the counter.

Manager Kyle Jarvis, who oversees a crew of chambray shirt-wearing, cafe-trained workers, said The Corner would be able to hold its own in inner west cafe hipster heartland.

“If they’re looking for a Quarter Pounder they’ll probably be sorely disappointed,” Mr Jarvis said. “It’s a new concept for us, it’s a learning lab where we test the things that Maccas has never done before and push the boundaries of what we can do in a cafe environment.”

No word on whether Mickey D in the US is planning anything similar.


At thirty-one

The 31st is Mariana Renata’s 31st birthday, and in lieu of trekking through the cold to Baskin-Robbins, I opted to celebrate 31 with her. She’s very inviting when she wants to be:

Mariana Renata sends an invitation

Born in Paris to a French father and an Indo mother on the very last day of 1983, she studied English literature at the Sorbonne, and somehow wound up in Indonesia as a commercial spokesperson for Lux soap. I assume she’s a good listener:

Mariana Renata pays attention

And there’s that whole modeling thing, which got her occasional film appearances, such as the 2013 South Korean comedy (I’m guessing) Someone’s Wife in the Boat of Someone’s Husband, from which this is definitely not a still:

Mariana Renata stands tall

If you spend more than perfunctory time at the search engines, though, you discover the one bit of infamy in her career: during Australian Fashion Week in 2011, she (presumably unintentionally) divulged, on the runway, the state of her, um, personal grooming. This incident will probably not make her just-above-a-stub Wikipedia page.

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