Archive for March 2009

Not with a whim, but a banker (2)

Kinda hard to argue with this:

You know, in every movie I’ve seen about the end of the world, civilization collapses because of something wicked cool happening — an asteroid hits, nuclear war, a supervirus, an ape revolution, whatever. If civilization collapses over credit default swaps I am going to be pissed.

(Title reused from here. Via Outside the Beltway.)

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Walking wounded called for traveling

I believe we’ve reached the point of diminishing returns. Without Jeff Green and Kevin Durant, the Thunder go on a winning streak; without Uncle Jeff, the Durantula and Thabo Sefolosha, who turned up at practice with a sprained MCL, the eight remaining members of the OKC squad — Robert Swift managed to avoid this trip for “personal reasons” — were sitting ducks for the New Orleans Hornets, once the Bees got their defense firing on all cylinders in the fourth quarter. After three, it was New Orleans 76, Oklahoma City 72; twelve minutes later, it was 108-90.

When you’ve got only eight players, you don’t dare get into foul trouble, so the Thunder were perhaps a tad less physical than usual; New Orleans shot 53.8 percent, the Bees controlled the boards, and Chris Paul delivered 13 assists, only two fewer than recorded by the entire OKC roster. What’s more, the Hornets were without Peja Stojakovic; Julian Wright started at the three and came up with 20 points, tying his career high. David West cleared 12 boards, four offensive, and scored 14; CP3 had 21; and streaky shooter Rasual Butler was on the high side tonight, with 20. We didn’t see so much of Tyson Chandler, who got into foul trouble early, but he still had 12 points and 8 rebounds.

Damien Wilkins, nailed to the bench more often than not of late, started in place of Sefolosha; while he didn’t have the Thabster’s sheer menace, he knocked down 18 points, a new season high. The Last Musketeer — this would be Russell Westbrook — actually led all scorers with 24. And the Thunder bench, all three of them, came up with 23 points, versus 21 for the half-dozen reserve Hornets. But the Thunder did not shoot well, and it got worse as the Bees amped up the D; they finished at 39.8 percent, though they sparkled (19-21) at the free-throw line.

Back home tomorrow for a shot at the Sixers, and then out on the road for a week, with the Kings, the Nuggets and the Suns waiting. This may not be pretty.

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The hamburger economy

Start here:

When I go to Vons to buy a steak, most of the time I get USDA Choice, but on occasion I’ll get USDA Prime. So literally, ‘choice’ is by definition, ‘sub-prime’.

And yet it’s still Choice. Now consider this:

The facts in question were exactly how many subprime and other mortgagees were defaulting or likely to default. The alarming news was something on the order of 4 percent, which was double the usual amount. And now as we squawk comfortably like Santelli, we rather blithely accept that about 92% of mortgage holders are not going to default.

When I get a 92% on any test, I consider that an A-. An A- is subprime. And similarly, people are freaking out that we have unemployment of 10% here in California. That would be 90% employment. Also an A-, also subprime.

(Aside: The unemployment rate in the Oklahoma City metro is 4.6 percent.)

I suspect, though, that this is right at the threshold: were California unemployment to rise to 12 percent, leaving a presumed B-plus 88 percent, it would be decidedly more difficult to dismiss.

And besides, the issue isn’t so much the grade of, um, beef as it is the likelihood of nonbeef substances being found in various tranches.

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Shootout at Gender Gap, Euroversion

The pay gap between men and women in the European Union is 17.4 percent, and several explanations are proffered:

The pay gap is linked to a number of complex causes which are frequently interrelated: the undervaluing of women’s work, segregation in the labour market, traditions and stereotypes, and problems in balancing work and private life. The gender pay gap is the consequence of all these factors and inequalities in the labour market.

Or not:

The real surprise is that the most Catholic countries in Europe, traditionally considered as “backward”, such as Poland, Italy and Malta, have the SMALLEST gap (a statistically insignificant 4.4% in “macho” Italy and a tiny 7.5% in Poland), while the allegedly more “progressive” and “feminist” countries, such as Holland, United Kingdom and Germany, find themselves with the LARGEST gaps (in Holland men are paid 23.6% more than women). Even Scandinavian countries like Sweden and Denmark have pay gaps that are larger than the EU average of 17.4%.

This is not an East-West divide (Estonia is the worst country in Europe with a 30.3% gap). Rather, the results seem determined by religion: the seven countries with the smallest gaps are all Roman Catholic, followed by Eastern Orthodox ones, while the Protestant nations are among the worst offenders.

Not being aware of any specific commandment to the effect that “Thou shalt pay women less,” I am a tad perplexed by this finding.

Incidentally, that second link should be considered NSFW, which is why you’re getting it on the weekend.

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Where Sarah shops for shoes

It’s a little store on Juneau’s Seward Street called Shoefly + Hudsons, and here’s the scoop:

The shop, opened in 2005 by business partners Sydney Mitchell and Dawn Walsh, carries an array of rugged-meets-girly footwear, from strappy sandals to colorful cowgirl boots.

Of Palin’s shopping sprees, Mitchell stuck to the store’s “what happens at Shoefly + Hudsons stays at Shoefly + Hudsons” policy (okay, that’s really just in regard to sharing the personal info of those who sign up for the email newsletter) but she did say this: “Obviously she’s a busy elected official and doesn’t spend a lot of time shopping. But when Palin does stop in, usually there’s a family member with her. Last time she had Trig with her. She’s very personable and gracious and fun to help.”

To absolutely no one’s surprise, the governor “tends toward heels.”

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The Rite of Oldfield

From Francis W. Porretto’s Rumination this Sunday:

A couple of days ago, I revisited an old favorite piece of contemporary music: Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells. An unfortunate number of persons dismiss it as a mere firework, a showcase for Oldfield’s multi-instrumental virtuosity. Yet it’s much more than that. If you have the opportunity, listen to it closely, with full attention. I’d be surprised if you were to come away without the sense that a great, overarching theme had been expressed in its melodies and harmonies. My only quarrel is with its title; it should have been a Mass.

Could it have been a Mass? Surely Oldfield didn’t intend it to be, but it’s not so hard to find a Mass within it.

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76ers 86ed

Thabo Sefolosha was back, and Andre Iguodala knew it: the Thabster, after missing the festivities in New Orleans, shadowed the Ig all night, holding him to a mere nine points. And that summed things up for Philadelphia well enough: Andre Miller and Thaddeus Young each snagged 20 points, but nobody else even hit double digits, and what’s more, the Sixers managed to miss ten of 25 free throws in the process of losing to the Thunder by an ignominious 89-74 count.

Weirdly, the Sixers went on a late-first quarter run to go up 24-18; but between the end of the first quarter and the start of the fourth, Philadelphia banked in a total of twenty-eight points, and never came close in the second half. Samuel Dalembert, by all accounts, has not been a happy man lately; he was not exactly jovial tonight, scoring exactly no points in 17 minutes. The Sixers shot 39.4 percent and rolled up only nine assists.

The Thunder, still missing Uncle Jeff and Kevin Delicious, are still acting like it doesn’t matter, with six players (out of eight) in double figures and Sefolosha right behind at nine; Nenad Krstić led the parade with 20. Another double-double for Nick Collison: 12 points and 11 boards. And once again, Malik Rose came up big, scoring 14 points and raking in 7 rebounds in 24 minutes. (Why was this man stuck on the Knicks’ bench? They gave him maybe 9 minutes a game; he’s getting twice that here in the Big Breezy.) The Thunder shot 47.9 percent, and 81 percent from the stripe. Treys were hard to come by on either side, though: OKC got two of eight, the Sixers three of 13.

So after beating no one in the East for the longest time, Oklahoma City is now doing slightly better against the Eastern Conference (7-17, .291) than against its brethren in the West (10-29, .256). Unfortunately, it’s time to head West again, and after those three games, there will be a visit from the Spurs. Let us pray (or something) for the speedy healing of Green and Durant.

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At least it’s not an Oxford comma

News Item: State Rep. Shane Jett said one exclamation point has gotten him more attention than the rest of his four-year legislative career combined. “People ask me if there aren’t more important things for me to work on,” the Tecumseh Republican said Thursday. “I am, they’re just not paying any attention to them.” Jett, as chairman of the House International Relations and Tourism Committee, introduced a bill this session to italicize the word “OKLAHOMA” on the state flag and put an exclamation point at the end. The bill also creates an official state abbreviation: OK!

Top Ten Things That Are More Important For Shane Jett To Work On:

  1. End gender discrimination in access to Viagra
  2. Get as many casinos as possible to relocate to Highway 9, thereby saving fuel for his constituents
  3. Move Pottawatomie County line northward so people don’t think he lives in Shawnee
  4. Bar all campaign funds from outside one’s own district
  5. Extend the drive-thru hours at Van’s Pig Stand
  6. Obtain TARP funding to buy tarp to cover bass boat
  7. Change state motto from “Labor omnia vincit” to “ZOMG WE R AWESUM”
  8. Pester Annie Leibovitz for photos of Joan Jett
  9. Divert state Rainy Day Fund to rainmakers to address growing drought
  10. See if we can’t get some of those hotshot prisoners from Gitmo sent here

(Suggested by BPD in OKC.)

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Strange search-engine queries (162)

Another Monday, another batch of search strings. Some things just never change.

can i collect on a bounced check for an illegal in law apartment:  Huh? Your inlaws are outlaws?

meredith vieira on the view wearing pantyhose with open toe shoes:  Wouldn’t it be easier just to get a decent-sized HDTV and a TiVo?

sluttiness equation:  We hold this truth to be self-evident: all sluts are created equal.

the poem the mcalester high school read about meth:  “I will not use it in the hall / I will not use it at the mall / I will not use it here or there / I will not use it anywhere.”

ludacris finniest picture:  I don’t think I’ve ever seen Ludacris with fins.

men label women as cars as a maserati – complement or insult:  This guy has obviously never dated a Pontiac Aztek.

who said two things cannot occupy the same space at the same time:  Anyone who’s ever hit the wall at Daytona.

blogger + no traffic:  This describes most of us.

Better Oblivion Cities:  I dunno about “better,” but for faster oblivion, you can’t beat Detroit.

darvocet is fun:  So is liver toxicity, or so I’ve heard.

“she wears a size 10 shoe”:  The better to kick your ass with.

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Grudge sustained

Someone in southern Oregon doesn’t like green Ford Escorts:

Three of them have been burned in recent weeks, a series of acts that Medford police Sgt. Mike Budreau described as “pretty bizarre.”

A 1995 green Ford Escort was destroyed by flames early Sunday morning after someone broke a window and poured flammable liquid into it. A similar fire was set in a 1993 green Ford Escort parked in a driveway on Feb. 22.

Investigators have also uncovered a Feb. 2 case of a 1992 green Ford Escort damaged by a plastic container filled with flammable liquid placed next to a tire that burned without setting the car afire.

The only thing I can figure: jilted lover seeks revenge but can’t recall the specific license-plate number.

(Via Autoblog.)

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Darth Cranesbill was here

“The Sith,” says Bill Peschel, “move in mysterious ways:”

Dark Lord Geraniums

Feel free to try these if you find your lack of geraniums disturbing.

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Time considerations

You want to win in the NBA, you’ve got to be able to work the clock.

And no, that doesn’t necessarily mean the game clock, as Ric Bucher has noted:

After consulting with doctors and a sleep expert, the team decided the best way to succeed away from home was to act as if they’d never left. So the [Portland Trail] Blazers stay on Pacific Coast time, no matter where they are. On the East Coast, that means 11 a.m. wake-ups and 10 p.m. practices to go with the club-kid bedtime.

So instead of starting a trip with an early-morning flight, the Blazers take off closer to noon. Players get a full night’s sleep in their own beds. That makes them less likely to nap after boarding. And no napping means they rarely miss meals. Sure, the guys can’t explore the local nightlife immediately upon arrival; that’s when they practice. But they do get to skip the traditional morning shootaround on game days in favor of another good night’s rest.

The Blazers haven’t lost their edge back home, either. [Dr. Charles] Czeisler has taught them about circadian rhythms and body clocks, so now they know that by the start of a second half in Portland, an Eastern squad will be feeling the effects of melatonin, the body’s hormone that regulates sleep.

With 20 games left this season, the Blazers are 39-23, and 20-18 against other teams in the NBA’s Western Conference — which means they’re 19-5 against the teams from the East.

Doesn’t offer much hope for those of us in the middle of the country, though.

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Evidently I’m ready for the group home

The discussion was heated, as the best discussions are, and I proposed as supplemental material a book I’d bought, read and enjoyed. “I’d be happy to lend it to you.”

And I would if I could find the damn thing: it seems to have vanished, if not from the face of the earth, certainly from anywhere I might conceivably have left it.

Question: Should I be sufficiently bothered by this to order another copy? And what is the probability that the old one will turn up before the new one arrives?

Yeah, I was afraid of that.

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Keep your burrito to yourself

Oklahoma City police are looking for a convenience-store shopper with severe wardrobe issues:

On Jan. 25, a white man with dark hair and a mustache walked into the store near Northwest Expressway and Council Road and exposed himself to a store clerk, Master Sgt. Gary Knight said. The photos show that the man appears to have some sort of tattoo on the left side of his chest.

OKC flasher

The man then left the store and drove away in a blue, four-door Toyota.

I am impressed that someone actually noticed the tattoo.

Still: WTF? White socks?

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We’re saving what, exactly?

Certainly not daylight: we have pretty much the same amount of it no matter how we jerk the clocks around.

And apparently not energy, either:

Focusing on residential electricity demand, we conduct the first-ever study that uses micro-data on households to estimate an overall DST effect. The dataset consists of more than 7 million observations on monthly billing data for the vast majority of households in southern Indiana for three years. Our main finding is that — contrary to the policy’s intent — DST increases residential electricity demand. Estimates of the overall increase are approximately 1 percent, but we find that the effect is not constant throughout the DST period. DST causes the greatest increase in electricity consumption in the fall, when estimates range between 2 and 4 percent. These findings are consistent with simulation results that point to a tradeoff between reducing demand for lighting and increasing demand for heating and cooling. We estimate a cost of increased electricity bills to Indiana households of $9 million per year. We also estimate social costs of increased pollution emissions that range from $1.7 to $5.5 million per year. Finally, we argue that the effect is likely to be even stronger in other regions of the United States.

On the upside, you (or at least I) get the pleasure of driving to work in the dark a lot more often.

You can read the gory details here [link goes to PDF file] should you so desire.

(Via Coyote Blog.)

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A visitor from Vega

It had to be, right?

There’s something amusing and heartening about watching a young woman with “VEGAN FOR LIFE!” tattooed in fancy Spencerian script two inches high across the yoke of her shoulders, tearing in to the biggest, juiciest, RAREST hamburger I have ever seen.

No, it wasn’t a veggie burger, either. Our caf doesn’t even serve them. It was 100% beef, baby.

Now that’s hope and/or change.

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Presence of malice (follow-up)

From the original post, just before Christmas:

I wheeled the trash cart to the back yard, and the brown object underneath the evergreen by the fence, I figured, was a neighborhood cat who occasionally wanders through. But no: this thing wasn’t moving at all. I got the cart back into place and went around to investigate, and it turned out to be somebody’s purse.

Contents: not much. Anything that could have been used for ID was conspicuous by its absence. There were a handful of generic (store name, but no individual names) business cards. Obviously someone had snatched it, extracted what he wanted, and lobbed it over the fence.

After a small amount of low-level detective work — nothing that would impress the likes of Encyclopedia Brown, you may be sure — I was able to contact the owner.

At last night’s Neighborhood Association meeting, I recounted this story to a rep from the OCPD. He told me that this was not such a good idea. “Nowadays, we routinely get DNA samples from things like that,” he said, “and the DNA we’d be most likely to get would be yours.

So there.

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Range on the home

Indoor Comfort Meter by La CrosseI have one of these contraptions mounted beside my bedroom door, mostly so I can feel some sort of justification when I start kvetching about how frakking uncomfortable it’s gotten all of a sudden. And as it happens, so long as the batteries (a pair of AAAs) hold out, the gizmo retains the highest and lowest values it’s ever recorded; while thunderstorms were going on last night, I thought it might be interesting to pull up those extremes, if only for the sake of blogfodder.

Temperature range: 66.1° F to 82.1° F.

Humidity range: 19.4% to 79.4%. (Odd, that should come out to such an even interval.)

With the storm brewing and several windows open, I recorded a 67.6-percent humidity. (Five minutes after closing the windows, it dropped to 62.4.)

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On a Twin Spin weekend

From last summer:

The iTunes installation on the work box, set to shuffle through 3,236 tracks, managed to put these two together:

  • P. J. Proby’s “Niki Hoeky,” from 1967, cowritten by Pat and Lolly Vegas.
  • Redbone’s “Come and Get Your Love,” from 1974, written and sung by Pat and Lolly Vegas.

As the phrase goes: “What are the chances?”

Doing the actual math is left as an exercise for the student. But clearly this phenomenon isn’t exactly unheard-of; almost daily iTunes surprises me with an unexpected but utterly spiffy juxtaposition of two, sometimes even three tunes.

And it’s not just me, either. From Rich Appel’s Hz So Good newsletter (3/09):

I’d be lying if I said I understood how “shuffle” works on the iPod. I’ve been using it for weeks, and I’m convinced there’s a miniature Lee Abrams in there. Why else would 50s and early ’60s cuts almost always play together (such as, the other day, The Volumes’ “I Love You” followed by Don & Juan’s “What’s Your Name”)? Why would Kelly Clarkson’s “If I Can’t Have You” come after Beyonce’s “Halo”? Or Tommy Roe’s “Sweet Pea” go into The Osmonds’ “Yo-Yo”? Sure, there’s the occasional train wreck — Sinead O’Connor’s “Mandinka” was paired with Steve Lawrence’s “Poor Little Rich Girl” the other morning, and just yesterday Beyonce’s “Video Phone” was followed by Richard Harris’ “MacArthur Park” — but most of the time, with a 4,600-and-still-growing playlist, my ‘Pod sounds like nothing more than a very good oldies station (with the occasional “Future Gold”).

About 4240 here, but the same general results.

That’s one key point about [Portable Digital Music Players]: if yours doesn’t sound like the best oldies station you’ve ever heard — music-wise, that is — you’re either doing something wrong or you’ve programmed all new music (and if you’re doing that, I take off my hat to you: we need more folks like you). I might be hitting some musical extremes on mine — nowhere near what several of my friends have going on theirs, trust me — but for most users, I have to think that even a 500-song playlist on shuffle would sound like a ballsy AAA, Urban AC or Hot AC.

Get up to 1500 or so and you’re already ahead of Jack and Bob and all those other FMs with Christian names and snark from elsewhere.

Trini and I have been experimenting with the shuffle, or at least with trying to see if we can outguess it. As applied to my current automated playlist (the 320 tracks least often played, your mileage may vary), it has some predictable tendencies: it tends to jump to a track by an artist whose name begins with the same letter, or to a track with the same playcount — or, most remarkable of all, to a track with a combination of both characteristics. With this in mind, and Andy Kim’s remake of “Baby I Love You” (the Ronettes song) playing, we recorded our predictions for the next track to be shuffled in. I picked “Too Shy” by Kajagoogoo; she went for “Lips Like Morphine” by Kill Hannah. These tracks were exactly two apart, when the list is sorted by artist, and the one iTunes eventually served up was the one in between: Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long.”

This also precipitated a discussion of whether Kid Rock should be filed under Kid or under Rock. I pointed out that despite his name, Kid Rock is not a kid, nor does he rock, but this observation did not result in a re-sort.

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It’s good to beat the Kings

Oklahoma City scored the first ten points at Arco Arena tonight, but everyone knew that lead wasn’t going to hold up. The Thunder led by one after the first quarter; the Kings had tied it up at the half. The Thunder led by eight after the third quarter; with ten seconds left, the Kings had pulled to within two. Then Sacramento flubbed it: Andres Nocioni put up an air ball, Bobby Jackson went for the rebound, and the ball bounced out of bounds. The Thunder got the ball back, and with 3.4 seconds left, Thabo Sefolosha sank two free throws, but not Sacramento’s hopes. The Kings, undaunted, used 2.2 seconds to land a trey; Russell Westbrook fumbled the inbound out of bounds, and the Kings got off one last futile shot in the last tenth of a second. Oklahoma City 99, Sacramento 98, the Thunder taking the series 2-1.

The return of Jeff Green was welcome: he rattled down 22 points, including 9 for 9 from the stripe. Westbrook also had 22. But between them, they had 14 turnovers, which explains much about how the Kings were never out of it until literally the very end. Nenad Krstić played Terminator tonight, grabbing 15 boards and blocking three shots to go with his nine points; Malik Rose had 11 points and six rebounds. The Thabster once again held his target (Kevin Martin) to half his point quota. And with Green back, Nick Collison inexplicably (at least, no one explained it to me) drew a DNP-CD.

The Kings had five in double figures, led by Spencer Hawes (20 points, 10 rebounds). As always, Francisco Garcia was sharp from off the bench; he hit 6 of 7 from the floor, four of them treys, for 18 points. Sacramento did foul a lot, though — both Hawes and Nocioni piled up five — and the Thunder responded by hitting 22 of 23 free throws.

Oklahoma City is now 18-46. The tour of the West continues tomorrow at Denver and winds up Saturday at Phoenix.

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Woe is we

If you’ve constructed any kind of online presence for yourself, you’ve no doubt noticed that there’s a certain amount of navel-gazing built into the process. Whether this is a good thing or not is open to debate, but clearly a lot of us are inclined to give anyone but ourselves the benefit of the doubt.

And what’s more, we seem to be in France: (which translates as bad life), a website where the French are encouraged to wallow in self-pity, has become one of the top ten most visited sites in France since its launch in January 2008 by two young French entrepreneurs.

Well, not exactly “bad” life. Nor is this site unique:

A host of similar sites for “les serial losers” are doing a roaring trade, including (FailYourLife), which has become a hot topic in France ever since Jacques Séguéla, an advertising guru and close friend of President Nicolas Sarkozy, claimed last month that those who did not have a Rolex watch by the age of 50 had “failed” their life. Mr Sarkozy has been criticised for his love of Rolexes.

Other spin-offs include (I’ve no luck) and (s***ty job).

Note that it’s not “bad” job.

And I must point out that it’s not like I’m exactly averse to whining.

(Via the relentlessly-optimistic Tim Blair.)

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Why DRM was always doomed to fail

There were always ways to get around it. Go back a quarter-century or so:

I spent more time illegally copying cassette games to be played on a TRS-80. The method? Putting two old time cassette players next to each other and then pressing Play on one machine while pressing Record on the other. I then sat there quietly while the beeps, whistles and hisses emanated from one player. It didn’t always work, but it successfully duplicated games about 90% of the time.

Did I ever attempt to do this sort of thing with Commodore Datasettes?

Well, no, actually, since by the time the first program had finished loading from tape, I’d already been back to the store and bought a farging disk drive.

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Lessons from life (another in a series)

While there’s technically nothing wrong with carrying the Walkman and keeping your headset on while you make a bathroom run, you will find that there is a distinct disadvantage to having an extra-long cable for it.

(The above generally does not apply to women.)

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In search of a Tiffany lava lamp

An interesting hypothetical from Lisa:

It was clear that the market for Fabergé’s work was a tiny, tiny subset of the wealthiest 1% of the aristocracy of Europe. I couldn’t help feeling relieved that Tsarina Alexandra of Russia never woke up one day and said, “I’m just so OVER Fabergé.” All of Europe would have followed suit and then what would all those thousands of artisans on Fabergé’s payroll have done? They would have had to scramble for dollars, Rubles, Marks and Franks from the rising Nouveau Riche. That would have been a different clientele, probably demanding items with some sort of useful purpose. How would Fabergé have tackled making, say, a gem-encrusted fondue set?

I am suddenly, and horribly, seized by a vision of Chrysler’s TC by Maserati.

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Walls unloved

It may be true that, as Robert Frost says, “good fences make good neighbors,” but they don’t do a whole lot for the Intrawebs: at least two of the sites on Ye Olde Blogroll have gone invitation-only, and I have a semi-firm policy against begging for access.

I’m sure the bloggers in question have perfectly good reasons for taking this action, but it is inevitable, I think, that efforts to keep out people you don’t like will also keep out people you do, or might, or used to, like.

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Different, but not better

The last two meetings with the Nuggets ended the same way: Carmelo Anthony delivering a buzzer-beater to slap down a hopeful Oklahoma City squad in the last second or two. Not this time: the slapping was administered in the first quarter, after which Denver had a 31-19 lead, and the Thunder never quite caught up. The Nuggets, with seven of eight players in double figures, dispatched the visitors from Soonerland, 112-99.

Rebounds were even at 43, but the Thunder weren’t making shots — they wound up at 40.2 percent, versus 50 even for Denver — and the Nuggets passed around the ball seemingly with immunity, recording 33 assists. (Anthony Carter, the one Nugget who didn’t score in double figures, had 12 of those dimes.) ‘Melo led all scorers with 22, though Linus Kleiza might have caught up if there’d been enough time; he was on fire in the fourth quarter and finished with 20. And Renaldo Balkman, replacing Kenyon Martin for the moment, balanced 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Jeff Green finished at 19; Earl Watson had 18 off the bench, a season high. Thabo Sefolosha contributed 14 points and 9 boards. The seldom-seen Robert Swift scored 10, his season high; Malik Rose, now averaging over 20 minutes a game, scored 10. (Nick Collison, we’re told, is suffering a groin injury.) The Thunder shone at the charity stripe, making 30 of 32 free throws.

One more on this road trip, at Phoenix. There are three home games next week: San Antonio, Chicago and Utah.

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There’ll always be an England

Or maybe not: the Royal Navy is now running nuclear submarines on Windows XP.

Why would they do such a thing? To save a few pounds, of course:

The move to use off-the-shelf PC hardware for the naval command systems, instead of custom-built components, is expected to reduce support costs by 25-percent, resulting in a savings of nearly $33M over the first ten years. Implementation of the new systems was also very quick, with the entire project finishing six months ahead of schedule and taking as little as 18 days to convert a single submarine. In total, seven Trafalgar-class submarines, four Vanguard-class submarines and one Swift-class submarine have been fitted with [the new systems], along with a number of systems ashore.

All right, who’s that in the back row snickering about the Blue Screen of Depth?

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Don’t even think of parking here

Sorbus admonitorThis tree, having been tested and inspected by a team of UK botanists, has now been declared to be a new species, “an example of ongoing evolution” according to project head Dr Tim Rich. In accordance with the tradition of naming new species for their discoverers or for the conditions under which they were discovered, this tree has been named No Parking Whitebeam, there having been a No Parking sign nailed to it for many years. (In Latin: Sorbus admonitor.)

At first, it was thought to be a variant of the Devon Whitebeam (Sorbus devoniensis), but S. admonitor proved to have decidedly different leaf structure, and there is apparently no indication that the two trees grow in close proximity.

Approximately 100 of these trees are known to exist.

(Via Fark.)

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A good stamping

During post-Christmas cleanup, I turned up a sheet of 18 first-class stamps from (probably) 2006, which, unlike today’s spiffy Forever Stamps, are never going to be worth more than 39 cents.

The letter rate is scheduled to go from 42 to 44 cents in May, so I had basically two options: find some 5-cent stamps and use up the 39s then, or find some 3-cent stamps and use them up now.

The question was settled by the Postal Service itself, which actually had 3-cent stamps in their mail-order section: panes of 20 Silver Coffeepot stamps could be had for sixty cents. Plus a dollar shipping, I noted ruefully, and ordered two more books of Forever Stamps (20 each) for future consumption.

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A curriculum for the 21st century

The electives are perhaps debatable, but both of these belong in the core:

Reconciling a checkbook. I point that out because it’s such an easy exercise that there’s really no excuse for the school not walking the kids through this. You certainly can’t raise the time-honored question “aw c’mon, when am I ever gonna need to do that?”

It should be pointed out that even if you don’t write any checks — and I write about a sixth as many as I used to — you still need to run a balance once in a while. The penalties for not doing so are, um, well, you know what I mean, and my own memories are far too painful.

And, using a binary editor to hack a file. Because whether you grow up into the exciting field of software engineering or network engineering or computer forensics … or not … computer users, I maintain, really should understand what computer files are and how they’re put together. Just like, before you loan your keys to the teenager, they really should have gone through the exercise of pulling the jack out of the trunk and changing the tire, just to show they can do it and to demonstrate a working knowledge of how the parts fit together.

Back in my Commodore days, I wielded a pretty mean sector editor, but the crackish and/or warez (not pronounced as though it were “Juarez”) types could code rings around me. Probably still can. And they were pretty uniformly half my age, except for the ones who were a third my age. I suspect that today’s Windows-afflicted youth are missing out on this sort of experience.

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Also, get off my porch

Breaking and entering? That’s a harder hand-slapping:

Lawmakers voted … to increase the penalties for home invasion by approval of House Bill 1030, by Rep. John Wright (R-Broken Arrow). The bill now moves to the Senate for action.

The bill makes “home invasion” a specific crime subject to Oklahoma’s “truth in sentencing” law requiring those convicted to serve at least 85 percent of their sentence.

House Bill 1030 defines “home invasion” as a crime involving “two or more” armed persons who enter a dwelling while the owners are present “with intent to commit some crime.” The bill defines a home invasion as a crime that involves “forcibly bursting or breaking the wall, or an outer door, window, or shutter” at a home.

Does this mean that if I take a shot at one of these yahoos, I have to make sure he’s at least 85 percent dead?

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Perhaps weary of these twisted writeups, Andrew Ian Dodge has titled the 325th Carnival of the Vanities “Part Whatever.”

I can’t say as I blame him. In the history of mankind are scores of recurring events that somebody thought went on for far too long. Constantine I, for example, moved to abolish gladiator games in 325, to not much discernible effect.

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Quote of the week

The oft-abused term “American Dream” was popularized by James Truslow Adams in The Epic of America [New York: Little, Brown and Company, 1931]. One of his definitions: “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement.”

Anent which David Kamp notes in Vanity Fair (April):

James Truslow Adams’s words remind us that we’re still fortunate to live in a country that offers us such latitude in choosing how we go about our lives and work — even in this crapola economy. Still, we need to challenge some of the middle-class orthodoxies that have brought us to this point — not least the notion, widely promulgated throughout popular culture, that the middle class itself is a soul-suffocating dead end.

The middle class is a good place to be, and, optimally, where most Americans will spend their lives if they work hard and don’t overextend themselves financially. On American Idol, Simon Cowell has done a great many youngsters a great service by telling them that they’re not going to Hollywood and that they should find some other line of work. The American Dream is not fundamentally about stardom or extreme success; in recalibrating our expectations of it, we need to appreciate that it is not an all-or-nothing deal — that it is not, as in hip-hop narratives and in Donald Trump’s brain, a stark choice between the penthouse and the streets.

Admittedly, no one seems to have a solid definition of what the American middle class really is, but I suspect most of us in this land believe we’re part of it.

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Chuck roasted

You might want to take the kids somewhere else this time:

Chuck E. Cheese mixes the world’s two main sources of trouble in one setting: booze and babies.

A cursory search of Chuck E. Cheese brings up one violent incident after another. A 2008 article about a Brookfield, Wisconsin, location describes the venue as the place where a kid can be a casualty:

“Officers have been called to break up 12 fights, some of them physical, at the child-oriented pizza parlor since January 2007… Law-enforcement officials say alcohol, loud noise, thick crowds and the high emotions of children’s birthday parties make the restaurants more prone to disputes than other family entertainment venues.”

How is this possible?

The environment brings out what security experts call the “mama-bear instinct.” A Chuck E. Cheese can “take on some of the dynamics of the animal kingdom, where beasts rush to protect their young when they sense a threat.” Apart from animal attacks, mascots are also a huge insurance risk, what with the regular assaults on poor Chucky.

What a friend we have in Cheese’s.

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Not for use as a hair dryer

Apparently, though, you can roast coffee beans with it:

If you’re unfamiliar with heat guns, they are a blowdryer-like device that can output hot air anywhere from 200F-1400F in a concentrated stream. Commonly used for tasks like stripping paint and thawing pipes, you can usually find basic heat guns for around $20-30 at your local home improvement store. Starting with green beans and slowly applying heat from the heat gun, you can roast your beans with a high degree of control. It’s this fine degree of darkness choice that separates the heat gun method from popcorn popper-as-coffee roaster technique we’ve previously reviewed.

I have one of these contraptions, and I expect that if I ever have to buy another one, it will have a warning about roasting coffee pasted alongside the existing warning about not pointing at your noggin.

(Via Bill Peschel.)

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These aren’t the operatives you’re looking for

The Assistant Village Idiot conducts an intelligence analysis:

R2-D2 is what you wish the CIA were like: all the hotshots get the glory, but when you look at it, R2 is what makes the whole thing work. Who projects the hologram of Leia? Who shuts off the crushing walls? Who finds where the teenie bomb is supposed to be dropped in the Death Star?

C-3PO is more like the State Department. Of course, our State Department wouldn’t be so twerpy and ridiculous. They are a serious, socially facile bunch.

On the other hand, C-3PO would have gotten the Russian translation for “Reset” correct.

Well, yeah. He’s a protocol droid. That’s his job.

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What is this crap?

Sour FlushWords — except for “Eww” — fail me. (Trini gave out with several iterations of “Eww,” each one higher-pitched than the last, and adamantly refused to look directly at the screen.) It would be difficult to imagine a nastier “food” product than this. I mean, come on, now:

I understand gross-out candy to a point, but this is just crossing a line.

Lollipop shaped like a toilet plunger. Pixie-stix like candy hidden WITHIN the toilet bowl. Plunge, eat. Plunge, eat. I would imagine that the constant introduction of moisture into the toilet dust would eventually cause it to form kitty litter-like clumps, as the specimen [above] appears to be doing.

I did say it would be difficult to imagine a nastier “food” product than this. I did not say it was impossible.

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Younger than yesterday

Bill Quick makes this startling prediction:

If you can survive until 2020 in good health and physical condition, you stand a 50-50 chance of maintaining or even improving your condition for at least another hundred years.

This is, I contend, less improbable than you might think.

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Pilgrims to Bakersfield

Lisa remembers a man of American music:

When Buck Owens and The Buckaroos burst on the scene in the late Fifties, Country Music was dominated by the corporate suits in Nashville and stringed, almost Pop-y arrangements were the standard. Suddenly with Buck, Country was back as the raw, hard-driving music of hard-living working men. It was a blast of fresh air (well air that seemed to be tinged with cow manure, barroom sawdust and the sweat of a hard day’s labor). Buck was the real deal: a Texas Dust Bowl refugee, a truck driver through the San Joaquin Valley, and a honky tonk musician who served his time in the Bakersfield bars. (Merle Haggard kicked it up a notch by robbing a Bakersfield honky-tonk which landed him in San Quentin.) Musicians from Gram Parsons to the Byrds to the Beatles and the Rolling Stones took notice and incorporated Buck’s influence.

So this trip down the coast makes perfect sense:

[W]hen Mom and I hit the road next week, one of our stops will be Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield — the club and steak house where he played until the last night of his life. On March 25, 2006, Buck ate his favorite chicken-fried steak, then decided he didn’t feel up to his usual Friday night performance. But he met some fans in the lobby of the Palace who said they’d come all the way from Oregon to see him. Buck took to the stage saying, “If somebody’s come all that way, I’m gonna do the show and give it my best shot. I might groan and squeak, but I’ll see what I can do.” Buck finished the show, went home and died peacefully in his sleep.

I’m bringing this up for two reasons: to plug the piece I wrote after Buck’s death, and to respond to this later post of Lisa’s:

I Twittered about that Buck Owens post and the Tweet connected automatically to my Facebook page. Almost immediately dozens of readers showed up — most from metropolitan areas — and, according to my Secret Squirrel traffic detecting software, stayed on that post long enough to read the whole thing. But nobody commented. Hey, I know this was a tough one. Yeah, you are all City Sophisticates and you don’t want to admit that you’ve ever listened to Country Music. Let alone that you actually watched Hee Haw when you were kids. And, admit it, you LIKED IT.

By “nobody,” I assume she means me.

Besides, you never need an excuse to listen to Buck Owens: I gave “Under Your Spell Again” a spin while I was typing this.

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There must be somebody I can sue

Baseball Crank points to an opinion from the Fourth District Court of Appeals [link goes to PDF file] which dismisses, en masse, several suits like this:


TYRONE HURT, Plaintiff – Appellant, v. GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States; U.S. CONGRESS; U.S. SENATE; THE COUNTRY OF IRAN; ALL NEWS MEDIA OF THIS NATION, U.S.A., Defendants – Appellees.


Also being sued by Mr Hurt: “Clinton” (unspecified) and the Falun Gong. Said the court:

Tyrone Hurt appeals the district court’s orders dismissing these actions as frivolous or for failure to state a claim. We have reviewed the records and find that the appeals are frivolous. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeals for the reasons stated by the district court.

Mr Hurt is apparently well-known in judicial circles: in October, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia barred him from filing pro se appeals in forma pauperis and dismissed the 44 such he’d already filed. The court summed up Hurt’s suits this way:

An extraordinary number of people, institutions, and inanimate objects have wronged Tyrone Hurt. In just the last couple of years, Hurt has sued the Declaration of Independence, Black’s Law Dictionary, the United Nations, agencies of the District of Columbia and the Federal Government, and various courts and their officers… Nor are the slights Hurt suffered mere glancing blows; he routinely demands trillions of dollars in damages.

None of this should be construed as an argument that pro se litigants with IFP status should be barred from the judicial system. But there ought to be some way to exclude obvious dimwits from the proceedings, at least until such time as said dimwits are nominated to a Cabinet post.

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