Brightness abides

Something I wasn’t expecting to say this season: “The Thunder bench was led by Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot with 12 points.” But it happened, a by-product of Terrance Ferguson’s absence for personal reasons and the late scratch of Alex Abrines. TLC pulled down four rebounds, and served up an assist as well, prompting Billy Donovan to give him extended minutes. And maybe, after three games out of 15 against the Suns, OKC has learned a little bit about how Phoenix operates. (Unfortunately, they only play them once more in the next 67.) It never hurts, of course, to start a road trip with a win, and 110-100 over the Suns is indeed a win, even though Phoenix put together an 11-0 run in the middle of the fourth quarter.

Come to think of it, the Suns were missing one of their mainstays: veteran forward Trevor Ariza had personal matters to attend to as well. Still, the Valley Guys actually outshot the Thunder by a smidgen more than a percentage point, and T. J. Warren, as usual, led the squad with 23. Devin Booker came up with a double-double (18 points, 11 assists), and rookie center Deandre Ayton pushed through a highly-creditable 19. The Thunder, however, utterly dominated the boards (52-31), and they’ve evidently been working on their free throws (27 of 32, 84 percent). Steven Adams battled with Ayton pretty much all night, and rose to a season high of 26 points, with 10 boards beside. The heaviest of heavy lifters was once again Paul George, with 32 points including 11 of 11 free throws, and 11 rebounds to see if you were paying attention. No explanation was given for Russell Westbrook, who was listed as away for personal reasons rather than as injured. Go figure.

Let’s face it, if you start the season 0-4 and find yourself 10-5 a couple of weeks later, you must be doing something right; ten and five is good enough to tie the Trail Blazers, who had the night off, for first in the Northwest. And hell, even the mighty Warriors have five losses. (Draymond? Kevin? Keep it up.) But the Kings are playing .500 ball right now, and they can be ferocious at home — and they’re next.

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“Kill me now,” said van Kull

This is what you might call Not The Greatest Planning:

The Bayonne Bridge was shut down in both directions Thursday afternoon, making for a worse commute for those driving in the snow, sleet and rain.

The bridge was shut down by Port Authority due to slippery conditions and several cars becoming stuck on the incline of the renovated bridge, which is steeper than it used to be, a spokesman said.

Said bridge runs from Bayonne, New Jersey across the Kill Van Kull to Staten Island, New York. (Perhaps non-intuitively, Bayonne is at the northern end of the bridge.) The idea was not to make the bridge impassable in winter storms, of course, but to make room for larger container ships down below; there’s only so much dredging they can do.

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Wielder of a mighty pen

One can write about only so many TV hosts before things start to get repetitive. So this time we’re looking at an actual print journalist, Carolina Neurath, business writer for Svenska Dagbladet (Swedish Daily News) in Stockholm, who turned 33 today; she’s married and has one child.

Carolina Neurath and baby, circa 2014

Carolina Neurath deals with a Stormtrooper

Carolina Neurath in seriously tight pants

Like many a print journalist, she’s tried her hand at fiction:

Carolina Neurath's first novel

She’s apparently not venturing far from the door to her wheelhouse: Speedblind is about a young female finance journalist who attempts to uncover the business of shady financiers.

Oh, and that Stormtrooper up there? In 2014, a band of not even rebellious Swedes made a 110-minute fan film called Star Wars: Threads of Destiny. Neurath, billed second, played Princess Arianna Ad’lah. The timeline is somewhere after Return of the Jedi. The whole film is on YouTube, albeit scrunched-up badly. But here’s a trailer:

The production reflects, among other things, the production cost, which was somewhere around $6,000.

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Where it all goes (’18)

Butch Freeman, the County Treasurer again — he was re-elected this past week — can be counted on to send out a notice to us lowly escrow-payers telling us just how the county is spending the proceeds from our property-tax bills. As is the usual practice around here, I’m passing the details on to you (last year’s numbers in [brackets]):

  • City of Oklahoma City: $122.21 [$123.21]
  • Oklahoma City Public Schools: $465.42 [$479.27]
  • Metro Tech Center: $122.23 [$124.74]
  • Oklahoma County general: $92.63 [$96.57]
  • Countywide school levy: $32.75 [$33.43]
  • City/County Health Department: $20.49 [$20.91]
  • Metropolitan Library System: $41.13 [$41.98]
  • Total: $897.31 [$915.19]

This year’s millage is 113.44, up a pittance from last year’s 113.35. (Record millage: 117.58, 2011.) The assessed value, per the Assessor, is off a few bucks from last year, has increased by a whopping 1.3 percent over the last four years, and still hasn’t broken a hundred grand despite the notions of sites like Zillow, whose Zestimate starts at $114,000. Then again, I’ve been here long enough to fall under the state’s cap law: they can’t jack up the assessed value more than five percentage points in any single year, unless the property changes hands, and as of 2019, the valuation freezes solid, an example of Senior Discounts I can, um, appreciate.

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The Information Highwaymen

The nature of the American economy, circa 2018? Nothing natural about it, the Z Man might tell you:

Sure, there are still people coming up with ideas to solve old problems, but most of what is called economic activity is just organized theft. Some clever guy figures out how to monetize the social capital of a part of society and then proceeds to sell it off. Amazon is an obvious example of this. There will be no little league teams sponsored by Amazon. There were always little league teams sponsored by the local store owners. That’s all gone because Amazon cannibalized it.

The internet economy is pretty much just the monetization of existing ideas, along with the artificial creation of bottlenecks. Apple and Google control the mobile space, so they now operate as toll takers. Neither company does anything interesting, in terms of technology or innovation. They just rob helpless travelers on the internet. PayPal is another example of a firm that adds zero value, but gets to operate as a gatekeeper. None of this would be possible without the massive taxpayer subsidies to build and maintain the internet.

And the number of potential victims is staggering. If Something Dot-Com can pry a single American dollar out of every resident with a ZIP code, that’s a third of a billion dollars. Information may want to be free, as the slogan says, but there’s always someone looking to turn a buck, or several bucks, from it.

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And not a Z between them

In the P. T. Barnum sort-of-biopic The Greatest Showman, Zac Efron and Zendaya duetted on “Rewrite the Stars,” a new love song loosely based on all the old love songs; Zac’s character is singing to Zendaya’s that somehow, some way, they were supposed to be together.

Matt Bloyd and Rebecca Black have one common experience: they were both Artists on Fox’s The Four, and after winning the right to continue, they were defeated in a Challenge Round. Is that enough for them to sing “Rewrite the Stars”?

The answer may not be a Z, but it’s definitely a Y.

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Dirty Trix Dept.

But what if you gotta have your bowl, gotta have cereal, and you’re underage?

I figure within three years, Kellogg’s, or one of those types, will bring out CBD-infused Raisin Bran.

(Via Quinn Cummings.)

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Man of inconstant borrow

Why is the auto financing sometimes not fair? asks Mr. I Wouldn’t Give My Name Either:

I always see people with poor or not credit at all not a stable job and taking subsidies from the government getting those brand new cars while I have a stable job with good credit not getting even approved for a car loan which I really need to move on this car dependent city.

One of these, or both, will apply:

  • His credit isn’t as good as he says it is;
  • Their credit isn’t as bad as he says it is.

What I want to know: Are their FICO scores stenciled on the deck lid?

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Fark blurb of the week

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Somewhat silly sod

It’s like a prairie dog, kinda sorta:

Apparently, Sod Poodles mature into Chihuahuas and ultimately Padres:

The Friars’ new Double-A Affiliate in Amarillo, Texas, on Tuesday announced that “Sod Poodles” had won its “Name the Team” contest. The other finalists were the Boot Scooters, Bronc Busters, Jerky and Long Haulers, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

The Chihuahuas are San Diego’s Triple-A affiliate in El Paso.

(Via Fark.)

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Under the bored walk

It’s not like the sacred formula has been untouched all these years:

Monopoly for Millenials

Over the last few years, millennials — people born between the years 1982 and 2004 — have been the butt of many jokes; and now it seems they were the inspiration for a new board game. Hasbro has just released a “Monopoly for Millennials” game and people aren’t quite sure how to feel about it.

The game, which is currently sold out on Walmart’s website, retails for $19.82.

It features Rich Uncle Pennybags (a version of the classic Monopoly man) prominently on the cover. He is holding a coffee cup and wearing a medal labeled “participation,” mocking how millennials are sometimes referred to as the “Participation Award” generation.

“Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway,” the game’s tagline reads.

I blame inflation. It wasn’t that long ago that rent on Mediterranean Avenue was a mere two bucks.

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That side of Paradise

Gerard Van der Leun, Camp Fired out of Paradise, reports on what’s happening down the road in Chico, California:

In the 24-Hour Walgreens Pharmacy on East Avenue, the pharmacists have been working overlapping shifts since the fire swept over Paradise last Thursday. These people and their back up staff work seemingly rock solid for hours on end. They fill and file and dispense medications which people from Paradise do not have with them. This is a demanding and thankless and exhausting task. And yet — I am the witness — they have been doing this without letup. Many have come in from surrounding towns, from Redding, to help and to keep the medications needed by a town of 30,000 displaced into a city of 80,000. Yes, the Walgreens pharmacists are leaving it all on the field.

[Tuesday], after the banking holiday of Monday, there was what can only be described as a run on the banks. Not a hostile or panicked run on the banks but just an overwhelming number of people needing to get their money straight in one way or another … such as “My ATM card and my ID were melted in my wallet when my pants burst into flame.” Please understand that today in Chico that is a reasonable statement. And the bankers all showed up looking cool and formal and professional and competent and moved the vast lines of people through with all hands on deck and cleared up a myriad of money crises. One banker I spoke with came up from Santa Rosa on his day off to help the team. He was a sharp dressed man. He and the other bankers were leaving it all on the field.

They all were leaving it all on the field everywhere in Chico. From Penney’s in the Mall to the Birkenstocks Store downtown on Broadway. In big jobs, and in small jobs, there was a long train of people working at the top of their game no matter what their game was. It has been days of this now in Chico; days of there being no big jobs or small jobs but only the unremitting effort the people to help their fellow citizens no matter what.

And since none of the Acronym Agencies have really shown up yet, this has all been done without any real government organization. Instead, it has been like watching a spontaneous Humanitarian Olympics rise up out of the town itself; and once started it has become as self-organizing and self-sustaining as the fire itself. Today as I moved around Chico I saw a town, untouched itself by the flames, rise up to restore and rebuild the lives of their fellow citizens of Paradise; lives that the fire had stolen. And by the end of the day, you could feel, palpably feel, that Chico knew it would win. Chico was leaving it all on the field.

You know what’s scary? The sheer size of the Wikipedia page called “2018 California Wildfires.”

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Fine Chinese wheels

Zotye International Automobile Trading Co., Ltd. is not quite 14 years old. However, they plan to celebrate their 15th by striding into the American market before any of their Chinese competition:

Zotye is setting up a U.S. sales and distribution arm in Lake Forest, California, and plans to sell vehicles through franchised dealers. Considering other Chinese brands (like Lynk & Co) aim to establish a subscription based model using mobile purchasing, it’s interesting hearing that Zotye intends to pursue a more practical alternative.

Presently, Zotye USA is owned by HAAH Automotive Holdings, headed by President and CEO Duke Hale, a longtime executive at several automotive import operations. “I am beyond thrilled to make this announcement, the result of more than four years of discussions and negotiations with the Zotye in China,” Hale said in a statement. “With the agreement, we have begun setting up a franchised dealer network to handle sales and service in America. We’ve had discussions with several major dealers already and will have more to say about that in the months to come.”

Wait a minute. Do I know this guy? Let’s see:

Nanjing Automobile Group, which wound up owning the MG brand after the collapse of UK-based MG Rover, has announced plans to assemble MG TF coupes at a new plant to be built in Ardmore next year. Nanjing will also reactivate a British factory to build the roadster version of the TF, and will build home-market cars in China. Production is expect to begin in the fall of 2008.

Duke T. Hale has been appointed president and CEO of MG North America/Europe, which will be based in Oklahoma City. I’d say he’s got his work cut out for him.

That was 2006. Some of that actually happened: the old MG Rover plant at Longbridge was indeed reactivated, and a handful of TFs were built — though none of them, I assure you, originated from Ardmore, Oklahoma.

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Fine German steel

It might well be fine, but German? Don’t be too sure:

While the current-generation BMW 2 Series isn’t ready for the grave, the company intends to put its next incarnation into assembly by 2021. That’s ages away for a consumer but precious little time for an automaker to make production decisions.

Likely spooked by potential trade issues looming over the horizon, BMW is reportedly considering shifting the America-bound 2 Series to a Mexican plant — specifically, the company’s new San [Luis] Potosi facility, home of the new 3 Series.

In case you hadn’t noticed, all of BMW’s utility vehicles — X[anything] — are built in South Carolina, even the ones to be sold in der Vaterland.

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Floor fight!

Will there be a battle among Congressional Democrats next year, the New Breed versus the Old Guard? Linda Fox certainly thinks so:

I just have this gut feeling that Occasionally-Cortex is gonna get impatient, and go mano-a-mano with The Queen, in public.

I swear, I’d buy tickets for that fight. Can’t you just see it, the Wild-Eyed Hottie and Skeletor getting in each other’s face?

Nancy: “Hey, Kid, why are you taking off those big hoop earrings? Oh, shi–!”

Not only is Nancy gonna get dusted, so are a LOT of Old Not-So Activists — Ayers, Dohrn, Clinton, et al. They’re gonna get chewed up by the impatient New Guard.

I dunno. Pelosi still has age and treachery on her side, and one gaffe notwithstanding — “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” ranks with the stupidest statements by a politician since the French and Indian War — she’s compiled a pretty impressive record of keeping her charges in line, a useful skill in dealing with Democrats generally. (Congressional Republicans didn’t start regrowing a spine until 2017, and there’s some reason to doubt the growth will continue.) I have a certain weakness for wild-eyed hotties, but I don’t see Ocasio-Cortez as a leader of dissidents.

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Knicks knuked again

It’s not often that the Knicks beat the Thunder. In December of last year, OKC was welcomed to New York with a 111-96 thrashing, giving the Knicks a season split. Tonight’s 128-103 spectacle really shouldn’t be considered payback, since both sides were missing regular starters, and I don’t want to be the guy who thumbs the scale in an effort to determine whether Russell Westbrook and Andre Roberson equal Courtney Lee, Lance Thomas and Kristaps Porzingis. And the Knicks do have some firepower even in their absence: Tim Hardaway Jr. knocked down 20 points, and Enes Kanter (remember him?) came up with 19 from the bench. The Knicks bench, in fact, outscored OKC’s, 44-37. But perhaps this was the wrong night for it, what with OKC shooting 53 percent from the floor and splashing 16 of 33 treys. What’s more, Paul George hit a season-high 35 points, Steven Adams yet another 19 — seems like he always gets 18 or 19 — and the first Dennis Schröder double-double of the year (15 points, 12 assists).

Knicks to Knote: Rookie Kevin Knox — he was drafted #9 by New York this past summer — got the start at small forward, and he was mostly up to the challenge; he shot only 5-16, but came up with 15 points in his 29 minutes. And Emmanuel Mudiay started at the point, scoring seven and delivering five dimes.

The second NY/OKC game will be at Madison Square Garden on the 21st of January. At 11:30 am. In the absence of any rational explanation — at least, any that I’ve heard — I’m going to chalk this one down as a Stupid Scheduler Trick. And I kind of hope Porzingis is back; he’s always fun to watch. For now, though, the West is calling, and for all I know, they may be calling collect.

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