Archive for January 2011

Doesn’t look like Parson Brown

Christopher Walken demotivational poster

(Very Demotivational, indeed.)

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Reprobates from the Doppel gang

Note to spammers: working variations of my actual URL into your fake URLs will not help to get your spam onto the site.

Just saying.

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Parallel LOL

One of the foundations of this site, easily visible if you spend enough time looking, is Reusable Shtick; there are lots of fragments here and there which occasionally can be fused into something resembling a coherent post — with, perhaps, the exception of the search-engine stuff, which exists in a world of its own, shtickwise.

Then again, the best shtick is not only fun, but fungible: it works even when someone else is doing it. Clark Collis of Entertainment Weekly has, to my knowledge, never set virtual foot on these premises. However, this pair of adjacent listings in EW’s “What to Watch” (#1137, 1/14/11) would have fit right in with those strange search queries:

My Strange Addiction [TLC]
This week: a teen who eats detergent. Well, at least it’s low in fat.

Man v. Food: The Carnivore Chronicles [Travel]
This week: hot dogs and burgers. Well, at least they’re low in detergent.

Nicely done, Mr Collis.

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Grizzly business

The Thunder, we had to hope, would not make the same mistakes they made against Memphis last time. The Grizzlies, who had beaten the Jazz last night and the Lakers earlier in the week, certainly weren’t showing any signs of fatigue. But the old ratchet-down-the-defense trick still works, and Oklahoma City pulled out a 109-100 win over Memphis at the Largely Inaccessible Arena.

At least one major difference was Jeff Green, who at some point had to defend just about every Grizzly on the floor. And Uncle Jeff didn’t flinch; holding Zach Randolph to 27 points and 16 rebounds is a tough job by any standard. Rudy Gay had 20 more before fouling out late. But the Griz didn’t dominate the boards this time around, they missed fourteen straight treys before O. J. Mayo finally got one in the last minute, and they left 11 points at the foul line.

Meanwhile, Kevin Durant, who had a fairly-pedestrian 12 points in the first half, dropped in 28 more in the second, for a total of 40; Russell Westbrook added 22 and 11 dimes, and Uncle Jeff, when he had the chance to shoot, got 15. The Thunder put up 42 foul shots, connecting on 35. If OKC had gotten some points in the paint — the Griz managed almost 60 — this might have been a blowout instead of a grinder; the game was, for the most part, a lot closer than that nine-point margin might suggest.

Take a rest, guys. You’re gonna need it, and Houston’s coming up.

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In which I invent a word, though I’m not the only one.

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Expurgation station

In the wake of Alan Gribben’s expurgation of Huckleberry Finn, D. G. Myers suggests some other possible targets:

In Chilly Scenes of Winter, Ann Beattie commits a double fault when she describes a character as a “fat oriental nurse.” This should be Gribbenized to read: “clinically overweight Asian American or Pacific Islander nurse.” And of course, when warning that Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises would become the next American classic to be Gribbenized, I completely forgot about Brett Ashley’s famous line: “You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a bitch.” This must be changed. Brett must not be permitted to call herself a bitch. She must say something like this: “You know it makes one feel rather good deciding not to be a self-empowered woman whose sexual freedom challenges masculine privilege to define women’s sexuality as ‘chaste’ or ‘promiscuous’ for the political purpose of controlling it.”

That was morality; things that made you disgusted afterward. No, that must be immorality.

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We’re in the wrong business

Sonic Charmer has compiled five observations on the subject of finance, of which we herewith quote the second:

A large and largely-unnoticed effect of “regulations” is to create pointless, zero-productivity jobs for overeducated people who want and demand six-figure incomes doing something, and to guarantee similar lifestyles for their kids. The more regulations you write, the more people will get jobs in “compliance”. Or as the “chief operating officer” (which, as far as I can tell, is something like a “corporate mommy”). Or “reporting”. Or “consulting”. This means plenty of jobs for people in cufflinks or pants-suits, having meetings with each other and making Important reports about how the banks are compliant with this and that, or collating numbers together to prove that banks are measuring their risk appropriately, and then submitting their Important findings to the government (to be filed away in Important file cabinets), and then doing it again next quarter, and so on, for a lifetime of reasonably well-paid (or in some cases perhaps even ridiculously-well-paid) pathetic make-work. They will live middle- to upper-middle-class lives, many will send their kids to private schools, and those kids will grow up to be bond traders. If this is the outcome you seek, oh so egalitarian lefties — creating, maintaining, and paying a permanent technocratic overclass that produces no product of any value (not even just pure PnL!) — then fine. But don’t kid yourself that you’re doing it to help out Iowa truck drivers or Louisiana fisherman. You’re effectively doing it to help out your classmates from Brown.

The egalitarians, I think it’s safe to say, have no problem with any overclass designed to include them.

And they’ll argue that they create scads of value, inasmuch as the aforementioned Important people want to know those numbers that are constantly being compiled: it’s an information society, Bunkie, and this is its new currency. Which might truly be Important, given the efforts of other financial types to debase the old currency at every turn.

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Once more, ballot access

A quote from Thom Holmes of Oklahoma’s Constitution Party:

Participating in the Election process, both by voting and by having the opportunity to run for office as a candidate, are worldwide symbols of freedom and they should be encouraged, not discouraged in Oklahoma. One of the things that makes America great is the concept that competition yields a superior product. Competition in the political realm is greatly restricted in Oklahoma by the worst Ballot Access laws in the entire country.

I’ve been grumbling about those laws for years now, to little discernible effect. Fortunately, I’m not the only one. Mike McCarville reports on the latest effort to shape things up:

Rep. Charles Key [R-OKC] has filed two pieces of legislation that would reform the way the state conducts elections.

House Bill 1057 would require political parties to pay for presidential primary elections.

House Bill 1058 would change the required number of signatures on a petition to get a political party on the ballot. The legislation would remove the 5 percent of total votes cast in the last general election and replace it with a requirement of 5,000 signatures from registered voters.

You’d think five thousand should be enough, since it’s within the realm of possibility to collect 5,000 signatures without having to hire outsiders.

As for the funding of primaries, Key says: “There is nothing fair about taxpayers funding primary elections in which they don’t take part.” If we’re going to have closed primaries, a concept which generally I support, the parties themselves ought to pay the bills in exchange for the state’s keeping out those pesky [fill in suitable pejorative for nonmembers].

Dave, aka Oklahoma Lefty, has already called for the passage of Key’s bills; from my perch somewhere to the right, I’m happy to do the same. And if it’s going to happen, it really needs to happen quickly, because Key runs up against the term-limit wall in 2012, and I don’t see anyone on the horizon to pick up this particular banner.

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A slimmer, trimmer dinosaur

The Oklahoman has ditched its hideous Sunday TV supplement, replacing it with a marginally-shiny syndicated product called TV Weekly, which is actually available by individual subscription even if you don’t take the paper. In fact, if I’m reading the fine print correctly, getting it with the paper will actually cost you a few bucks; we’re talking 68 cents a week for a two-year subscription, and presumably it won’t be bundled in newsstand copies.

The Oregonian adopted this model last fall, and published a related FAQ section a month in advance. The Q we all want to ask:

Q: Why do I have to pay extra for the TV section?

A: The growth of on-screen listings has dramatically reduced the volume of advertising and readership of TV sections. Contracting with TV Weekly to provide our TV book allows us to provide a better TV book for those who want it. Many major newspapers have gone to some form of “opt in and pay” TV sections (rather than dropping the sections) and have found only about 10 percent to 20 percent of subscribers use the sections. By making this move, those readers who want a section can still get a good section for little cost.

And it’s a decent little tabloid for all that, though as Meredith Willson might say, it doesn’t know the territory: state broadcast listings are consolidated into Oklahoma City and Tulsa subgroups, though the Tulsa subgroup inexplicably includes stations in Lawton, Ada, and north Texas.

The bloody dismemberment of TV Guide makes me somewhat less than optimistic about the future of this arrangement. And I’d hate to be the guy who stands near the entrance to Crest Foods on weekends hawking Oklahoman subscriptions.

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Strange search-engine queries (258)

By now you know the drill, and also by now you know the futility of a drilling ban, so here’s this week’s collection of weird search strings.

brilliant nude photo sites:  Most nude photos, alas, are not brilliant; if they were, they wouldn’t end up as wank material. (Maybe.)

I always tell myself this when I dont wanna remember anything:  “Dane Cook is still performing.”

grackle distress call:  “If they actually start cleaning up the parking lot at Burger King, we’re all gonna starve!”

sweetgum seed pod safety hazard:  When mowing beneath the trees, it might be a good idea to wear pants. Just saying.

blade ruiner:  For instance, sweetgum seed pods.

“bikini wax” nacogdoches, tx:  Must have been an influx of Brazilians or something.

lackodusa:  A hamlet on the edge of Louisiana’s bayou country. Not your first choice for a bikini wax.

maureen dowd big feet:  You say that as though it were a bad thing.

“sporks illustrated”:  Featuring the annual Beach Utensils issue.

in glorious bustard:  We’ve been trying to get Tarantino to do a nature documentary for years now, with Samuel L. Jackson doing the voiceover for the, um, Mother Bird.

“close date on comments:”  If you make enough comments, you can avoid getting any dates at all.

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The gentleman prefers Hanes

KingShamus is happy to dump on Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), who after shedding his first wife in 2009, has already presumably found True Love: his erstwhile nominee for Montana’s US Attorney, Melodee Hanes. It was suggested to Baucus that putting up his girlfriend for a government post might be a tad unseemly, and he subsequently withdrew her nomination.

Melodee HanesNow KingShamus, wielder of the mighty phrase, characterizes Baucus as a “drunken sleazeball pile of fail masquerading as your United States Senator,” which is indeed a distinction with a difference, since not all Senators drink; but to give Baucus some smidgen of credit, it appears he wasn’t interested in the standard-issue half-his-age trophy wife. (“Hillary Clinton Circa 2006 Look-Alike Contest Winner,” sniffs the King.) Hanes, presumably in her middle fifties — she finished her law degree at Drake in 1982 — isn’t that much younger than 69-year-old Max, though clearly she’s another case of “the legs are the last to go,” as one (and by “one,” I mean me) might hope of someone with a name like “Hanes.”

Strangers in the night, exchanging glances? Not a chance. Apparently Hanes had been trying for the US Attorney job for several years, and taking a job in Baucus’ 2002 campaign was just one step. (She and Billings physician Thomas Bennett split in 2008; it’s not known who got custody of the alleged skeletons in their joint closet.)

Still, I have qualms about the propriety of it all. I don’t date anyone where I work; I won’t even accept them as friends on Facebook. (I went several places with Trini, but nothing that could be construed as a date, and anyway she doesn’t work with me anymore.) Perhaps it’s just that not being a politician, I can still afford to have some semblance of standards.

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Because, you know, she’s a doll

Zooey Deschanel in doll form:

Zooey Deschanel doll by Madame Alexander

A variation on the Madame Alexander “Happy Birthday, Wendy” theme.

(Via, um, Zooey Deschanel.)

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At least we’re not burning it for fuel

The scientists, following the lead of the natives, dubbed it Chenopodium quinoa. It’s not exactly a cereal, but it has distinct nutritional advantages: quinoa contains ten essential amino acids, lots of protein and dietary fiber, and zero gluten. The people of the Andes who grow this stuff should be eating healthy, right? Not necessarily:

Some local children are showing signs of malnutrition because their parents have substituted rice and noodles for quinoa in the family diet, said Walter Severo, president of a quinoa producer’s group in southwest Bolivia.

“Only 10 percent of it stays in Bolivia. The other 90 percent gets exported,” says Rural Development Minister Nemecia Achacollo.

And where does it get exported? You guessed it:

“I’ve got high-performance athletes that swear by it,” said David Schnorr, president of Quinoa Corp., the largest U.S. importer. It’s also being embraced by the increasing number of Americans with food allergies or celiac disease, an immunological rejection of gluten, a wheat protein. NASA researchers consider it ideal for inclusion in possible future long-term space missions when crops would need to be grown on spacecraft.

Growing quinoa in the States may be problematic: high temperature (over 95°F) stunts its growth. It doesn’t seem to mind high altitudes — it’s grown in the Andes, fercryingoutloud — but so far, the only place we’ve been able to come up with a domestic supply of quinoa is in the San Luis Valley in Colorado, and only about 500 acres are actually planted with the stuff.

Still, the Whole Foods crowd loves it, so expect to see more quinoa around town, if maybe not so much on its home turf.

(Via Finestkind Clinic and fish market.)

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Is it better to lurk?

In 1998, the National Commission on Civic Renewal issued a paper called A Nation of Spectators: How Civic Disengagement Weakens America, And What We Can Do About It. I’ve singled out this one paragraph:

During the past generation, our families have come under intense pressure, and many have crumbled. Neighborhood and community ties have frayed. Many of our streets and public spaces have become unsafe. Our public schools are mediocre for most students, and catastrophic failures for many. Our character-forming institutions are enfeebled. Much of our popular culture is vulgar, violent, and mindless. Much of our public square is coarse and uncivil. Political participation is at depressed levels last seen in the 1920s. Public trust in our leaders and institutions has plunged.

On the other hand, today we have Social Media. Will that help? Start with a hypothetical:

What the hell would Facebook/Twitter look like on 9/11? I mean look, I’m not insensitive, but I certainly didn’t want to have information overload regarding yesterday’s tragedy. I think one of the greatest downfalls of the notion of expressing oneself is the great ability of having the tools to do so. Expressing oneself mattered more when it was hard. Nowadays a tragedy happens that, while sad, has a bandwagon effect similar to the principle of when a standing ovation happens at a concert you didn’t exactly care for.

If we tweet, if we click a Facebook Like button, are we actually engaged, as distinguished from that generation of spectators? Or are we just getting caught up in a whole lot of sound and fury?

I’m still not sure about all this. I have noticed this, though: when everyone else is all about the immediacy of the moment, I’m working to stay off topic. I haven’t decided whether this particular form of disengagement is a kick in society’s pants, an act of sheerest self-preservation, or somewhere in between.

(More motivation than you can imagine came from this tweet.)

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Quote of the week

I know, it’s still early in the week, but I’m pretty sure we’re not going to top this. If your BVDs are already uncomfortably arranged for the moment because of that “culture of violence” stuff, Ric Locke has a wedgie for you:

It is you, not I as a responsible gun owner, who demands perpetuation of the “culture of violence” in order to gain your ends. I can get what I want without raising a finger, let alone a firearm, if you and your fellows will just leave me alone. You can’t get what you want without messing with me, with violence, including gun violence actual or threatened, to back it up — and more and more of us are coming to the conclusion that the point of your effort is to make it safer and easier for you and your goons to mess with us. You don’t want to get rid of guns, and you’re a liar for saying you do. What you want is to have all the guns in your own hands and those of the enforcer-goons you hire to do your dirty work.

Mr Locke being a gentleman, he will not finish with the two-word expletive you so richly deserve.

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And they’ll buzz if they damn well please

I am not keen on having standard, garden-variety hornets anywhere near my epidermis. I suspect, though, these are worse:

As every middle-school child knows, in the process of photosynthesis, plants take the sun’s energy and convert it to electrical energy. Now a Tel Aviv University team has demonstrated how a member of the animal kingdom, the Oriental hornet [Vespa orientalis], takes the sun’s energy and converts it into electric power — in the brown and yellow parts of its body — as well.

The team determined that the brown shell of the hornet was made from grooves that split light into diverging beams. The yellow stripe on the abdomen is made from pinhole depressions, and contains a pigment called xanthopterin. Together, the light diverging grooves, pinhole depressions and xanthopterin change light into electrical energy. The shell traps the light and the pigment does the conversion.

Don’t think you can keep them away with a flamethrower, either:

Like air conditioners and refrigerators, the hornet has a well-developed heat pump system in its body which keeps it cooler than the outside temperature while it forages in the sun.

Sheesh. The only way this could be worse would be if they had frickin’ lasers on their frickin’ heads.

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To be held, privately

Hugh Hefner wants his bunny hutch back, or something:

Playboy Enterprises Inc. agreed to be taken private for $207 million by founder Hugh M. Hefner, who increased his bid to gain full control of the 58-year-old magazine publisher amid slumping circulation and losses.

Hefner, 84, is offering to buy the Class A stock and Class B shares he doesn’t already own for $6.15 per share, representing an 18 percent premium over the Class B closing price of $5.20 a share on Jan. 7, the company said in a statement [Monday].

Hef had previously offered $5.50 per share. A bid last summer from FriendFinder Networks, which owns rival Penthouse, apparently did not appeal to the Playboy board.

Playboy magazine these days is selling about a quarter as many copies as it did thirty years ago; the company apparently makes most of its money from its Web presence (largely behind a paywall) and licensing the Rabbit logo.

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Durden if I know

The ninth rule of Fight Club: you do not make a musical out of Fight Club.

If you do, however, you must use LeeAnn’s song.

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Not at all bogged down

Amanda Peet turns thirty-nine today, and still looks like this:

Amanda Peet

In addition to her task here — making you not notice the sofa — she’s the, um, celebrity spokesperson for an outfit called Every Child By Two, which advocates for the immunization of infants. Sort of the un-Jenny McCarthy, if you will.

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Welcome to Alpha Complex

I was always at least slightly paranoid about the guys who participate in — I almost said “espouse,” but that wouldn’t work, would it? — the putative sport version of dating, and this helps to reinforce that response:

For those of you not familiar with the bizarre internet phenomenon known as “Game”, it is this complicated system wherein 2nd level Nerds with low STR and DEX attempt to level up their CHA so they can go to popular night clubs and score the 9th level Hotties they are owed by nature using the tactic of “negging” or insulting them. You know, or shooting them in the face. Whichever works.

Because, you know, they’re supposed to like that sort of thing from Truly Manly Men.

Far as I’m concerned, they can bring back celibacy any time.

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Band wagon

Sports guys have their superstitions: former Astros infielder Craig Biggio, for instance, never washed his batting helmet until the season was over.

George Hill of the San Antonio Spurs wears something called a “balance bracelet,” and he swears by it. The rest of the team? Not so much:

“Have you heard of a placebo?” Manu [Ginobili] asked.

Hill didn’t follow.

“It’s a Spanish word,” Richard Jefferson chimed in, jokingly.

This might not matter so much, except that the manufacturer, a firm called Power Balance, is reported to be the high bidder for the naming rights to the (soon to be) former Arco Arena in Sacramento, so we may be hearing more about these little confidence-builders.

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Worst-case scenario

I’m guessing: letting the 16-year-old drive the Mercedes.

This will also cause your health insurance to go up, because you’ll be diagnosed with some unpronounceable mental disorder within twenty minutes of putting the kid on your auto policy.

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Sprawl together now

An early-2004 item I stumbled across last night while looking for something else:

As of this morning, this Web site was using 57.125 megabytes of disk space, which is awfully close to 60 million bytes. Which means that to reproduce this site on punch cards would require, oh, 750,000 of them.

Most recent disk usage: 1.09 gigabytes. In seven years, this site has grown almost twentyfold.

The Final Jeopardy! Answer: 14.6 megabytes.

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Strings added

Said I: “I am not inclined to underestimate a band with songs in the Guitar Hero series that don’t actually have any guitars in them.”

Along those lines, here’s an acknowledged Guitar Hero hero trying his hand, and his axe, at a particularly-tricky Freezepop tune:

This is, you may be certain, loud and boisterous.

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All the yammering before this game was how the Thunder, and the Sonics before them, hadn’t gotten a win in Houston since William the Conqueror was drafted by the Normans, or some such business. And the crowd started filing out of the Toyota Center with two minutes left, so they didn’t see the Rockets put together a 12-1 run to erase almost all of a late Thunder lead. On the other hand, they also didn’t see Oklahoma City hoist six free throws in the last 18 seconds — four by Russell Westbrook, two by James Harden — to seal a 118-112 win.

This one was pretty close early on: tied after one, Rockets up by two at the half. The big Thunder crunch began halfway through the fourth quarter, with OKC pushing out to a 13-point lead. The Rockets weren’t about to take this lying down, and twice closed to within two. As always, Luis Scola was a force to be reckoned with, leading all scorers with 31 points and hauling in 11 boards. Courtney Lee, summoned from the bench, got 12 of his 19 in the fourth quarter, including three of five from way out in the Woodlands; Kevin Martin was out, but Aaron Brooks, contained early, broke loose for some timely Houston buckets towards the end.

The difference here, though, was on the glass, where the Thunder dominated, 49-35. OKC shot a better-than-decent 51.2 percent, though they missed some early free throws. (The late ones, they dropped through methodically.) Kevin Durant was back up at the 30-point mark; Jeff Green got no rebounds but scored 16; and Thabo Sefolosha tied a career high with 13 boards. (Speaking of 13, Westbrook had that many dimes to his credit.) And Serge Ibaka came up with 16, missing only one shot all night.

Tomorrow: the Magic come to the Downtown Roundhouse. They will be in a foul mood, having had a winning streak of their own snapped this evening.

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A series of tubes

Snowtubes, that is:

Trying not to think, I plopped into the tube that was hooked to a rope and got lifted to the top of the slope. A guide immediately directed me to the ride with shortest line — I didn’t have time to get sufficiently scared: boy managing the ride asked me if I wanted a push, I mumbled something vague, meekly assumed “on the stomach” position and in a split second was already flying down, flying like a wind, like a bird of pray (overdressed owl, most likely…)

I figure the time for panic had come a bit earlier:

… words “fatal accident” and “in case of injury call …” jumped on me from the disclaimer form I had to sign …

Not to worry, I always say. It’s only the last thing that gets you.

(Seriously, I’m impressed. I mean, I can get spooked by roller coasters.)

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Funner money

Had I enough cash to divert into another bank account, I might well be tempted to stash it in Redneck Bank:

The Internet bank is an arm of Snyder-based Bank of the Wichitas, and the brainchild of [Wade] Huckabay — whose family owns three Oklahoma banks. The Redneck Bank name was an attempt to differentiate its website from thousands of online banking operations, Huckabay said.

The bank’s home page features a braying mule, and customers access their accounts by clicking on an outhouse.

Of course, the real reason I’d want to do this is to get their branded Visa Check Card.

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Funny farmers

This quote, usually unattributed — according to my Stack O’ Quotes, it’s Rita Mae Brown — has been making the rounds of late:

The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans are suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they’re okay, then it’s you.

I have my doubts about this particular statistic, but should anyone need reassurance, please note that I spent one summer, a couple of decades ago, in the Home for the Bewildered; feel free to feel better about yourself and two other friends.

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Slow forward

Dick Stanley describes some perhaps-unexpected Kindle-related behavior:

[S]ometimes, reading from the screen, instead of reaching out for the button that shifts the screen to the next page, I get an urge to turn the nonexistent paper page with my fingers. It’s fleeting. I smile and move on.

If it’s any consolation, I have had instances when I got into the car, caught the end of a song I liked, and hit the back button to hear the beginning again — only to realize that I was listening to the radio.

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Badass bunnies

Both Jimmy Carter and Monty Python had unfortunate run-ins with rabbits of unexpected ferocity, though you really need to get back to the source: Beatrix Potter, who gave us The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit in 1906.

In 2011, Fierce Bad Rabbit, obviously the perfect name for an indie band, will be touring; they’ll be here Saturday night at the Belle Isle Brewery.

(If this looks like I’m just using this as a pretext to bait someone who just bought a book of Beatrix Potter’s letters, just wait until she finds out that the band’s current CD is called Spools of Thread.)

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Magicians tricked

What I expected from the Magic: a lot of 3-point shots (they did, hitting 14 of 28) and Dwight Howard missing a lot of free throws (he did not, hitting 17 of 20). And while Orlando never took the lead, they never went away either: the Thunder had a four-point lead with two seconds left, and Jason Richardson buried yet another trey at the buzzer, leaving the Magic men one point short. Not that anyone was lacking for points in a 125-124 game.

With Howard actually accurate at the stripe, he accumulated points at a startling rate, and finished with 39, keeping his Clark Kent disguise well out of sight. Stan Van Gundy played only eight men to get those 124 points; Hedo Turkoğlu had the fewest, with seven.

But that barrage of treys was probably unavoidable: this is what Orlando does, and the Thunder apparently decided to let a few perimeter shots go by in favor of keeping the Magic out of the paint. (Defense was “decent,” said Scott Brooks.) OKC controlled the boards when Howard wasn’t around — 42 rebounds for the Thunder, 18 for Howard, 18 for all of Howard’s teammates. Russell Westbrook got ten of those boards, along with 13 assists and 32 points, to log his second triple-double of the season; Nenad Krstić came up with 16 points and 11 boards in only 23 minutes. And that Durant fellow got the last four points for OKC, his 33rd through 36th respectively. The Thunder shot a commendable 56.4 percent, and even hit half their treys (7 of 14).

Two tough road games follow — the Lakers on Monday, the Nuggets on Wednesday — and then back home Saturday to face the Knicks at Robinson Round Garden.

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It appears, judging from the title of the 408th Carnival of the Vanities, that Andrew Ian Dodge is snowed in.

Having been snowed in a few times myself, I am pretty sure that not much is going on in the midst of all that frozen stuff, so I’m not about to ask, on the basis that I won’t get any kind of response but the most minimal — or, in HTTP parlance: “408 Request Timeout.”

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Quote of the week

You may have already heard this one:

At a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized — at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do — it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds.

Barack Obama, at the memorial service following the Tucson massacre. Call it a gentle rebuke, in a world that’s seemingly forgotten how.

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Behold this, eyes

Another serendipitous (as in “I was looking for something else”) find, this one in LA Weekly:

A lifelong beauty outsider, [Toni Raiten-D’Antonio] was unequivocally informed by her family that she was ugly, and she has adopted that familial candor in a book about her struggle with beauty and the lack of it: Ugly as Sin. In its best moments, D’Antonio’s book cuts to the bone, stripping bare the searing pain that comes with the terror of aesthetic insufficiency, which most often originates in childhood’s unhealed wounds.

Gee, thanks, family. I thought I was supposed to be my harshest critic.

So I figured that if she has a book that gets noticed in LA Weekly, it’s not unreasonable to assume that she’s done a book tour, and that there are therefore publicity photos to be had.

Toni Raiten-D'Antonio publicity photoBingo. But what’s this? At the very least, I was expecting a nose the general shape of San Francisco’s Lombard Street, a replica of the lunar surface only partially masked by half an inch of foundation, and a nest of vipers for a coif. Sin, or at least this particular variety, is evidently a lot better-looking than we’ve been led to believe. Dear Toni’s Family: It appears she blossomed a bit after escaping your baneful influence.

From her bio:

Toni Raiten-D’Antonio, LCSW, is a well-known psychotherapist with a thriving private practice in Suffolk County, Long Island. She is a professor of psychology and social work at Empire State College. Prior to becoming a therapist she worked in television and theater as both a performer and producer. She has two daughters and lives in New York with her husband, the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Michael D’Antonio.

Mirror, mirror on the wall: someday you will take a fall.

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Franked assessment

Rather than wait for her Senator to send her the usual form letter, Julie decided to compose one on her own:

Dear Constituent,

We received your letter here at Sen. [Kent] Conrad’s office and are responding back to you mainly because that is one of the job requirements we are paid to do out of your tax dollars. We can’t possibly care about everything everyone writes to us about. We admit we don’t really care about what you wrote about, then, but in an effort to make you think that we do, we want you to know that your letter was received and here we are, responding.

Who knew? This comes off as the hard-copy equivalent of voicemail.

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Gadget reinstated

The old Twitter widget, which I kept on the sidebar until people started complaining about its scrolling, is back in version 2, which apparently can be taught not to scroll. There were some moments during the install when I wondered if maybe I’d forgotten how to work the sidebar code, but things seem relatively placid for the moment.

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Toxic sock syndrome

Sooner or later, this subject always seems to come around:

Now I know someone probably remembers that at one time or another I said that one should not wear socks with sandals but I also said that it’s okay if the sandals are casual and the socks are the kind that are meant to be shown off — novelty or any kind of print or colorful socks. Besides, how can I be a fashion rebel if there are no fashion rules to break, so I defend and perpetuate the rule and break it at the same time. I think the “no socks with sandals” taboo probably came about because of guys wearing grubby athletic socks with sandals, which is gross, guys. Just stop that. But in spite of my bold talk about fashion rebellion I probably won’t ever go out in public like this. Or maybe I will. Who knows?

Well, I certainly don’t know. But the thing about rules, and not just fashion rules, is that sometimes you break then, sometimes you bend them, and sometimes, in the spirit of defiance, you actually follow them. (I swiped this particular bit of wisdom from Charles Goren, who would probably be amused to see it used in this context, perhaps less so to see me leading the top of nothing against three no-trump.)

As for the origin of the taboo, I blame these guys.

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So long as you don’t actually text

TTAC’s Ed Niedermeyer has a nice preview of the 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK coupe, focusing on cabin ambience, which apparently is way above average for a two-door with sporting pretensions, what with the available glass roof and all.

Most any Benz is out of my price range, and the SLK is surely more so. The interior pictures furnished, however, were quite appealing, though something concerns me about this particular shot:

Command view from 2012 Mercedes-Benz SLK coupe

I have reference to the obvious Google screen at the midpoint of the dash. The potential for driver distraction seems obvious to me. Then again, at least it isn’t TVTropes.

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A bustle in my hedge fund

Comes now the 401(k) report for the year just ended, and, says the fund manager, my “personalized rate of return” was 9.27 percent, after adjustments, fees, and whatever fudge factors go into these things. This figure is the aggregate from several different types of investment — I tend to hedge rather than to go full-out on any single option — and while bonds and large-cap stocks and an S&P stock fund all improved by double digits, the money-market fund (to which I haven’t contributed in several years, but which is still out there) made a whole 94 cents.

The running gag for several years has been that I could retire now and have enough to last until, say, next Tuesday. This is, of course, an exaggeration; I could easily make it through the following weekend with only minor inconvenience.

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The flow of information

One of the finer aspects of living in this century is being able to pull off something like this:

I was looking for a particular article, and Tweeted my dismay at not being able to get access to it through our various subscription services. One of the people that follows me (and that I follow. There should be a term for mutual following in Twitter) sent me a message asking for the citation, as she might be able to find it.

She works at the Bodleian Library. THE BODLEIAN. As a book-nerd and library-nerd from childhood, that just thrills me.

Indeed. To me, this sounds at least as impressive as making a reference to some obscure nth-century saint and getting a response from the Vatican. And the Bodleian, which in its present form dates to 1602, has had books pretty much ever since there were books to be had; when I was a young, impressionable prep, I was advised that I should regard it with awe, and in those days I actually took advice.

Things change over the years — the Bodleian these days is headed by a woman, and an American woman at that — but apparently The Declaration is still required of visitors to the library:

“I hereby undertake not to remove from the Library, nor to mark, deface, or injure in any way, any volume, document or other object belonging to it or in its custody; not to bring into the Library, or kindle therein, any fire or flame, and not to smoke in the Library; and I promise to obey all rules of the Library.”

Then again, you used to have to recite it in Latin.

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