Archive for March 2013

Two wheels good

Most newfangled automotive options are intended to keep you from running into things. Running into people, well, that’s another matter.

This obviously cannot stand. So now we have a bicycle-friendly Volvo, sort of:

Volvo has just announced Cyclist Detection with full auto brake — a technology that detects and automatically applies a vehicle’s brakes when a cyclist swerves in front of a moving car. The basic components of the system include a radar unit integrated into the front grille, a camera fitted in front of the interior rear-view mirror and a central control unit. The radar is tasked with seeing obstacles in front of the vehicle and calculating distance, while the camera is responsible to determine what the object is. The central control unit, with rapid processing capabilities, monitors and evaluates the situation.

There’s a downside, but a logical one: to get this option, you must also get the related (and presumably using some of the same hardware) Pedestrian Detection technology. Production begins this spring.

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Kittehs tortured

Rumor has it that Charlotte may try to reclaim the Hornets name after New Orleans becomes the Boisterous Sea Birds during the off-season. I’d be in favor of this nomenclature adjustment, if only because the current CLT roundballers are, let’s face it, lacking in ferocity. (We won’t discuss their D-League affiliate, the Mad Ants of Fort Wayne.) In defense of the ‘Cats, they did have the lead after the first quarter, 29-28, but the Thunder were in the midst of what became a 21-0 run, and it was pretty much over after that. And while 116-94 qualifies as a rout, it was kinder than the thwacking the Bobcats got in Oklahoma City in November.

It didn’t help that Ramon Sessions was hors de combat with a sprained knee, but there were a few bright spots for Charlotte: Gerald Henderson’s game-high 21 points; Kemba Walker’s perceived adequacy as a stand-in for Sessions; Ben Gordon’s 19 to lead the bench; a mere eight turnovers all night; and Byron Mullens’ development into a plausible starting power forward. Still, the ‘Cats were clearly outclassed.

With the starters being pulled early, OKC had plenty of points to distribute evenly, what with 56.8 percent shooting and 12 of 24 treys going in. As usual, Kevin Durant led the parade, but playing less than half the game, he finished with a mere 19. And of the three point guards, Derek Fisher produced the most scoring: 13, versus 11 for Russell Westbrook and 9 for Reggie Jackson. I’m sure this means something to someone.

After this, things get a little more complicated for the Thunder. The Celtics will be in OKC Sunday afternoon; then a quick trip to San Antonio (Monday) before returning home to meet the Jazz (Wednesday) and the Magic (Friday). The crunch is on.

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But it says you’re calling from Saskatchewan

Area codes just don’t mean that much anymore. Trini, who lives about ten miles from me, is in a wholly different area code, not because we’re on opposite sides of a boundary, or because there’s supposed to be an overlay (572?) coming to the 405 in the near future, but because she doesn’t have a land line, and she obtained her wireless service out of state. And if you feel compelled to fax me for some reason, there’s yet another code involved.

The FCC, not normally attuned to market reality, might conceivably scrap the whole idea of area codes attached to geographical areas:

[FCC chair Julius] Genachowski began circulating a series of proposals among fellow commissioners Wednesday that could make it easier for VoIP (voice over Internet protocol) providers to tap the national telephone numbers pool and eventually sever the relationship between an area code and an actual geographic area… [the] plan includes a notice of proposed rule-making that seeks comment on new rules governing the way VoIP providers get access to the pool of phone numbers. It also seeks to establish a pilot program to test direct numbers access and launches an inquiry into the way numbers are managed, including their relationship to a geographic area.

One of the stumbling blocks, I suspect, will be long-distance vendors, who already don’t make a dime if I call Trini on my cell phone, and who will resist any effort to make their business model look any more ludicrous than it already is.

(Via Outside the Beltway.)

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Quote of the week

Jack Baruth really doesn’t regret not going to the Geneva auto show:

[T]he people who went weren’t excited about the product either. Sure, they took Facebook pictures of their triple-seven sleeping pods and eighty-euro mystery dinners, but when it came to the actual rolling stock, the lack of enthusiasm among the professional enthusiasts could be viewed from space. Assuming, of course, you have an Internet connection in space and are willing to use it to read auto blogs. The closest thing to a universally acclaimed car at the show was a diesel version of a sporty hatchback. That’s like getting worked up over Diet Dr Pepper.

The responsibility for this dismal state of affairs can be clearly laid at the feet of three companies. Porsche, Ferrari, and Lamborghini were given a chance to render automotive equivalents of Miss Alex Morgan in steel, aluminum, and carbon fiber. Instead, they chose to give us Honey Boo-Boo’s mother, Snooki, and Janet Reno in a Predator mask, respectively.

Bonus snark, on what has been dubbed the “LaFerrari,” aka Snooki:

It’s far from beautiful but it isn’t beautiful from far.

File under “Damn, I wish I’d said that.”

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Readers wanted

This unsourced quote has been making the rounds, and a friend on Facebook — as distinguished from “a Facebook friend” — posted it. I figure the least I can do is pass it on.

There are two people you’ll meet in your life. One will run a finger down the index of who you are and jump straight to the parts of you that peak their interest. The other will take his or her time reading through every one of your chapters and maybe fold corners of you that inspired them most.

You will meet these two people; it is a given. It is the third that you’ll never see coming. That one person who not only finishes your sentences, but keeps the book.

Maybe the reason this isn’t sourced is that no one will admit to using “peak” instead of “pique.”

Still, my own life is based on the library model: I am occasionally checked out, but never for more than two weeks.

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How it’s done

At the higher levels of government, the people handing out tax breaks and similar largesse to their friends and relatives are required to appear at least marginally discreet: it would never do, for instance, for the House to pass a continuing resolution containing something like “[dollar amount] for [giant corporation] in exchange for services to be rendered,” or for the Senate, were it capable of writing a budget, to set aside [dollar amount] in such a budget specifically to hand out to groups raising money to fight [giant corporation].

Maryland, which surrounds the District of Columbia like a frightened, mentally retarded amoeba, has learned much from D.C. For example:

The Maryland Senate advanced a bill Friday that would exempt Lockheed Martin from paying about $450,000 a year in hotel taxes to Montgomery County related to a training center that the giant defense contractor operates in Bethesda.

As written, the bill applies to any company that operates a lodging facility in Maryland solely to support a training or conference facility that is not open to the general public. Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery), the bill’s chief sponsor, acknowledged that no company but Lockheed Martin currently qualifies for the exemption.

Oklahoma, perhaps due to its considerable distance (in several senses) from Washington, is slightly less adept at this scheme. This is the statute (68 O.S. Supp. 2005, §1356) that exempts Thunder tickets from sales tax:

58. [Exempt:] Sales of tickets made on or after September 21, 2005, and complimentary or free tickets for admission issued on or after September 21, 2005, which have a value equivalent to the charge that would have otherwise been made, for admission to a professional athletic event in which a team in the National Basketball Association is a participant, which is held in a facility owned or operated by a municipality, a county or a public trust of which a municipality or a county is the sole beneficiary, and sales of tickets made on or after the effective date of this act, and complimentary or free tickets for admission issued on or after the effective date of this act, which have a value equivalent to the charge that would have otherwise been made, for admission to a professional athletic event in which a team in the National Hockey League is a participant, which is held in a facility owned or operated by a municipality, a county or a public trust of which a municipality or a county is the sole beneficiary.

Note that there are two possibilities here, inasmuch as both NBA or NHL teams were being sought at the time. The facility currently known as Chesapeake Energy Arena is in fact owned by the city of Oklahoma City. And the statute would apply equally well to Tulsa, which owns the BOK Center, were they to get a team; since Tulsa wasn’t on the major-league radar at the time, it may be presumed that the wording was designed to ensure at least some support from hopeful and/or dreaming Tulsa legislators.

Still, what’s most alarming about that measure is not the fact that it’s yet another tax break on behalf of someone other than the grandly general “We the People,” but that by 2005 Title 68 had at least 1,356 sections. This is micromanagement on a megascale.

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Unwanted momentum

What’s the difference between turning 50 and turning 60? More than just 10 years, says Roger:

When I turned 50, I could think, “Maybe I still have another half a lifetime left.” After all, the number of centenarians in the United States has been growing… Now that I am 60, though, I have to acknowledge that I’m not going to live another 60 years, even if I move to Azerbaijan and start eating yogurt soup. (And if I’m wrong, which one of you is going to write to correct me?)

The trouble with the phrase “over the hill” is that it reminds you of the downward slope, which in turn, the laws of physics being what they are, implies picking up speed, precisely what you don’t want to do unless your life is as miserable as, oh, let’s say, mine when I was thirty-five. (It was not a very good year.) Still, in the event that someone doesn’t catch my last name, I will invariably say “As in ‘Over The’.” Dismayingly, it always works.

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Decidedly mixed signals

In the days of Ralph Spoilsport Motors, having both AM and FM in your car was not only optional at extra cost, but damned well worth it. Now, maybe not so much:

A Mark Kassof & Co. survey of radio station owners, general managers and group executives finds that 41% of them identify internet access in cars as the biggest “threat” to AM/FM radio. Following in descending order were: Pandora 18%; Sirius/XM Satellite Radio 13%; iPods/mp3 players 13%; podcasts 8%; iHeartRadio 7%; and YouTube 6%.

YouTube? Really?

The most discouraging aspect of this, perhaps, is that iHeartRadio, which actually aggregates content from major radio stations, is considered an actual threat to them.

Meanwhile, minor radio stations continue on the path to extinction, or at least format changes. The new owner at KKNG — Tyler had to sell it off to meet the government’s laughable ownership limits after buying Renda’s Oklahoma City cluster (KOMA/KOKC/KRXO/KMGL) — has dropped the classic-country twang in favor of religious programming. Atypically for this part of the world, though, it’s Catholic religious programming.

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Meanwhile, far from Wasilla

From the last time I had anything to say on this particular subject:

The very first post I did about Sarah Palin was in early 2007, when she was so far under the radar she’d practically have to wear ridiculous shoes to be seen.

I gather she’s probably enjoying her less-than-household-word status these days, and on the basis of current evidence, I’m pretty sure her tastes in Wacky Footwear have changed not a whit. From a Friday appearance at a forum at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida:

Sarah Palin at Southeastern University

Now historically, I’ve argued that if you have legs like that you should be able to wear any damn shoes you want, and I’m sure that this bondage boot, or whatever it is, is not often seen on college campuses affiliated with the Assemblies of God; but after keeping a close eye on Sarah for six years, I’m thinking that she got into the habit of wearing things like this specifically because it annoyed the hell out of John McCain, and really, who hasn’t wanted to annoy the hell out of John McCain?

(With thanks to The Ledger.)

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Green in the spring

Jeff Green, dealt to Boston so long ago, finally returned to OKC today, and the crowd greeted him warmly. The Celtics had been doing well of late, posting a five-game winning streak despite the absence of Rajon Rondo, and Green had been a major factor in a couple of those wins. Not today, though: the Celtics did a good job of keeping the Thunder out of the cylinder, not such a good job of getting in there themselves, and OKC bagged a 91-79 win on a windy Sunday.

Due to that patented Boston defense, Oklahoma City had rather a lot of one-and-done situations — OKC snagged only three offensive rebounds all day — and shot a mediocre 44 percent. Nor was the Thunder effective on the long ball: they missed 16 of 20. Both the Thunder and the Celtics missed six free throws, though Boston only got 20 shots from the stripe, while OKC took 33.

In a low-scoring grind of a game, you don’t expect much in the way of double figures, though the Celtics did have three starters pull it off, led by Paul Pierce with 20 — and Brandon Bass had a game-high 13 rebounds. Green managed eight despite shooting 2-11. The Thunder also had only three in double figures, led by Kevin Durant with 23. Russell Westbrook added a quiet 15, and Kevin Martin managed to make his shorter shots fall while his long ones failed, leading the bench with 12.

Of course, all the talk was Spur-related, San Antonio having been trounced last night at home by Portland, and the Spurs/Thunder gap is now down to a single game (48-15 vs 47-16). Tomorrow night in Alamo City promises to be ferocious, especially with Tony Parker down for the count.

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Behind the quill

On this, the shortest day of the year — a mere twenty-three hours, going faster than they have any right to — I find the story of an erstwhile kindred spirit, shifting regularly between formal seriousness (serious formality?) and sheer fun.

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I hate to see him go

Francis W. Porretto, who’s been a forceful voice for freedom and against stupidity for many years, has withdrawn from the scene:

I’ve been harassed, slandered, insulted, derided, and demeaned. I’ve had my intelligence, my erudition, my sincerity, my faith, my morals, and my ethics questioned by persons who haven’t even had enough courage to use their right names. A typical day brings me dozens, sometimes hundreds, of obscene, insulting, juvenile emails. Even flushing them out of my computer leaves me feeling soiled. And that’s not the worst of it. Both I and my wife have been threatened, and more than once at that.

So I’m calling it quits. I’m an old man, and not a well one. I’d like some peace for the conclusion of my life. I’d also like to be free of the jackasses who’ve awarded me the various crowns of thorns mentioned above. It appears that the only way I can acquire those things is to cease to write these op-eds.

Which sounds like an odd statement, coming from the most heavily-armed man on Lawn Guyland, but I can see his point: some of these people simply aren’t worth the waste of a round, when there are greater threats on the horizon.

I suppose I have been fortunate, inasmuch as I have largely been spared the sort of contumely visited on FWP. Then again, he was always more willing to engage drive-by vilifiers, while I’ve tended to ignore them.

As a send-off of sorts, a few FWP quotations that made it into the random-quote thing on the sidebar:

“Nothing reveals low character quite as well as the proximity of high character.”

“Tyranny flows from the top down. Freedom swells from the bottom up.”

“In the absence of a competing claim of rights, a man is unconstrained by anything other than the laws of physics.”

Even if you’d rather not remember him for some reason or other, do remember his words.

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Strange search-engine queries (371)

What would Monday be without these semi-charming little excursions into deepest Web effluvia? (Answer: Still Monday. Can’t live with ’em, can’t sleep through ’em.)

Servicing Big Daddy torrent:  I’m willing to bet this is not included in the service contract.

“replaced german as the language of science”:  “What is jargon?”

Stranded: I’ve Come from a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains:  Look at it this way: you had just enough fuel to make it to the crash site.

bikini hypnosis:  “Hey, my mesmerize are up here.”

happier endings to romeo and juliet:  Almost anything would have been happier than “both of them die,” don’t you think?

the tale of fialuridine:  Remember, you can’t spell “fialuridine” without “lurid.”

scam “windows technical support”:  $400 to reinstall Win98SE? Coming right up.

what the fuck is wrong with itunes skipping songs win7 itunes 10.7  It’s the deadly combination of iTunes and Win7. (Otherwise known as “Buy a Mac and shuddup.”)

sorry disease:  I’ve had a few of those. “I wish to hell I could get rid of this sorry disease once and for all.”

on cklw mike & lisa played a guy singing in a low voice. what did he swallow as a kd:  Maybe he had some sorry disease.

did mayor mick cornett say epic fail in 2013 state of the city address?  If he did, it was off the cuff: it’s not in the transcript.

what unexpected pop culture word did mick cornett use in the state of the city address:  Well, it certainly wasn’t “epic fail.”

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It’s just grass

I was delighted to see a fifth of an inch of rain two days after the first lawn treatment of the season — I bought a package of eight — and said so; and then by the sheerest of coincidences, Dan B, a regular in these parts, told this story on Facebook:

The home was bought from an older couple, and he was METICULOUS about his lawn, including yelling at kids to get off of it. He always had the best lawn in the neighborhood, and he made sure EVERYONE knew he worked hard for that perfect lawn.

The older couple sells the house to a family with a 5 year old boy, who has many of the toys typical to a suburban/exurban 21st-Century Lonely Only, including a battery-powered mini-truck that destroyed the old man’s 3 DECADES of effort in less than 6 months.

A hit, a palpable hit.

That said, I note for the record that I have never once told a kid to get off this lawn, not even on the day when several of them were lined up to run through the sprinkler.

And I do have one rule: never have the best lawn — or the worst lawn — on the block. I do believe I have been at least somewhat successful.

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Temporary to permanent

Though the “permanent” you might not actually want:

Satanic ritual advertised on Craigslist

It is a measure of my own level of dementia, I suppose, that my first thought was “Migod, and people want to buy cars off this site?”

(Via Jeff Thompson on Facebook.)

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Beware of online frauds

One “Mr. Max Marcus” left this in my email box with exactly that title. Let’s go ahead and see what he wants to tell me:


Ministry of Finance

Address: Plots 745 & 746, Ahmadu Bello Way, Central Area, P.M.B 14 Garki, Abuja.


ATTN: Beneficiary

Records show that you are among the individuals who are yet to receive their overdue funds. Well we want you to know that your compensated fund worth the total amount of $ (One Million United State dollars Only) that was suppose to be deliver as an ATM CARD to you was return back to our Head Office due to the fact that you refuse to contact the right person with your fund. The Cyber Crime Division of the FBI gathered information from the Internet Fraud Complaint Center (IFCC) of how some people have lost out sums of money to these impostors.

As a result of this we hereby advise you to stop dealing with any one not referred to you by us.Because most of the early transactions made by you, where illict and not backed by law.So follow the necessary process,so that your $ (One Million United State Dollars Only) will be released to you via a custom pin based ATM card with a maximum withdrawal limit of $3,000 per day which is powered by Visa Card and can be used anywhere in the world and Visa Card Logo must be on the Automatic Teller Machine (ATM). We have advised that this should be the only way at which you are to receive your payment because its more guaranteed, since over 500 thousand people have fallen victims of those fraudsters and was ripped off their hard earned money on fake bank draft, years ago till date.

To redeem your fund you are hereby advised to contact Mr. James Jeffery via email, who is in charge of your ATM Card. Note, he’s a legal personnel,that understands the law,and will never do anything to deopardise that. For the requirement to proceed and procure your Approval of Payment Warrant and Endorsement of your ATM Release Order on your behalf, it will cost you $300.00usd Three Hundred United State Dollars only nothing more and no hidden fees as everything else has been taken cared of by the Federal Government Of Nigeria, so all you will ever need to pay is $300.00 Three Hundred United State Dollars only which is legal to enable us deliver your fund to your door step.

Don’t be deceived by anyone and you are advice to Reconfirm the below information
that is needed.

Full Name…………………………
Full Address……………………..
Phone Number……………………
Date of Birth………………………
Scan copy of any means of your Identity, eg. Driver’s license/National Id Card

Well, I certainly wouldn’t want to deopardise anything here, would I?

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Would you like a turnover with that?

I swear, the Thunder were coming up with turnovers faster than Arby’s at lunchtime. Seriously. The Oklahoman’s Darnell Mayberry, livetweeting from San Antonio: “I can’t type fast enough to keep up with OKC’s turnovers.” I assure you, Darnell is no slouch. And this debacle occurred in the absence of Tony Parker, mind you; stepping up with great vigor was Tiago Splitter, a punch line last year, a hero in Spurville tonight. San Antonio, down double figures early on, wound up outscoring OKC 35-18 in the second, and the Spurs never looked back, pocketing a 105-93 win that put them up two games over the Thunder in the West.

And really, the Thunder didn’t have to hand the ball over that often: the Spurs were shooting exceptionally well, and none of them better than Splitter, who shot 9-11 for a team-high 21 points while gathering ten rebounds. Splitter didn’t put up any treys, but Danny Green tossed up four and hit them all. San Antonio shot over 50 percent almost all night, finishing a hair above 52; OKC scraped in with just under 43, Russell Westbrook trying his best to move things along but winding up 11-27 for a very hard 25 points. Meanwhile, Kevin Durant collected 11 of his 26 at the free-throw line. (Much was made of Terrible Officiating tonight, but the Spurs got called for more fouls than did the Thunder, and OKC got ten more foul shots.) And the Thunder’s +8 in rebounding was more than offset by their +5 in turnovers.

The Spurs now have a 2-1 edge in the season series, with one left to play (at Oklahoma City on 4/4). If Pop is worried, he isn’t acting like it.

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The 17-ounce solution

You probably always suspected that Nanny Bloomberg’s soda-cup fixation was full of holes, and the New York Supreme Court (I think that’s the one) has now pointed out those holes using the mighty Permanent Injunction.

The biggest hole? Capricious and arbitrary rules:

[T]he Big Gulp didn’t fall under the Board of Health regulations, which is part of the reason the Supreme Court was so keen on striking down the prohibition. Convenience stores like 7-11 were excluded from the law, meaning that while a person couldn’t Super-Size their beverage at a corner McDonalds, they could obtain a bucket of soda easily twice as large at the Stop ‘n Shop across the street. Supermarkets, which like most major businesses are licensed and regulated by the state of New York, were also exempt, laying enforcement of the law at the feet of independent restaurants, mobile food vendor stands, and food truck proprietors who got their licenses to operate from the city. And, of course, there was no ban on simply purchasing multiple 16oz drinks instead of just one exceedingly large drink. All the ban really would end up doing is cutting into the profits of New York businesses that pay their taxes directly to the city, and cutting into the choices that New Yorkers should, by all rights, be allowed to make for themselves.

But that’s an insignificant detail when people’s health and well-being are on the line! And you know Mayor Bloomberg hates having to share a subway seat with an overweight rider. When he rides the subway. Which is probably never. But still.

Nanny’s minions will of course appeal. In the meantime, I’m opening up a two-liter (67.6 ounces, dammit) Dr Pepper to celebrate.

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Pinoy puns

A friend in the UK sent over a link yesterday, and I have to admit that it took me a while to catch on. It’s a TV show for children, produced in the Philippines; it’s called Wansapanataym, and I had to say it out loud before it dawned on me.

There are over 100 episodes, and I must single this one out for sheer wackiness: “Juan To Tree,” about a ten-year-old kid who chops down a tree in his yard to make room for a basketball court. To his horror, he finds that he has to replace the tree — in person. I suspect even Fluttershy would balk at that.

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Worn by Forties scene kids

Okay, maybe not:

EMO hosiery ad 1947

Not a cultural reference, but a French brand name of long standing. This page dates to 1947; they were still around into the 1960s.

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Buckle down

T-shirt with seat belt print designThe young lady in the BMW is not actually wearing a seat belt: it’s a T-shirt with a picture of a seat belt printed on it. From this angle, it’s fairly obvious, but the proper combination of interior upholstery color, viewing angle and duration can make it much less so. Chinese drivers can buy this shirt for 35-50 yuan; it’s legal, although the police don’t seem to be particularly amused. Being caught unbelted means a 50-yuan fine and two points out of a possible twelve, so this is a fairly high price to pay to avoid buckling up, but apparently there are people willing to pay it.

(Found at CarNewsChina.)

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Left out

One thing we have in abundance in Oklahoma is former Democrats. This is not entirely a blessing, as one of them notes:

Detractors may like to point to the current GOP-run state legislature as a not-so-much-of-a-bargain bin of genuine knuckle-dragging mouth-breathers, but the accuracy of that assessment doesn’t eliminate the fact that it was not entirely different under the other outfit.

And my former party has done little in the last few years to correct some of their problems: nominating people almost guaranteed to lose given the political makeup of their districts, supporting establishment candidates over those who have a chance of winning, sacrificing some of their best and brightest in races they could not hope to win and so on. The few successes they’ve had did little to rebuild the party infrastructure or offer reasons why “Democrat” in Oklahoma doesn’t mean the same thing it means in San Francisco.

Were I running the Democratic organization out here — before you ask, I am not volunteering — I’d suggest that the nomination of a sacrificial lamb is a far, far better thing then letting an incumbent run unopposed. And you never know: the GOP might actually lose the 5th Congressional district one of these days, given the population growth pattern around here.

What goes around, they say, comes around. The fact that the GOP has not been able to enact everything on its wish list, despite an overwhelming legislative majority, tells me that the wheel continues to turn.

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Box O’ Books

Mayfair Heights Little Library

One of the niftier ideas of recent years is the Little Free Library, bigger than a breadbox but just barely, located in urban neighborhoods and rural areas. And we’re about to get this one in our neck of the woods. The scoop, from our neighborhood’s Facebook page:

The SHINE program will install this one near NW 45 and Mayfair Drive in the park. It will be stocked with books, donated by Barnes and Noble and Full Circle Book Store. You can take a book and return it when you are finished or replace it with a new book. What a great way to encourage literacy, increase community involvement and spirit!

I have no idea what books will be selected for the initial load; I have several I plan to contribute to the cause.

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Double yellow swine

Eric Scheie contemplates the left-lane bandit (Decelerus scumbili):

What I would love to know is what it is that makes certain swinish people think that they have a God-given right to occupy the passing lane and refuse to move.

I suspect that, like so many others, they have remade God in their own image, and conflate His interests with theirs.

While I try to understand people by putting myself in their position, where it comes to this business, I’m stumped because I am in their position all the time. I have to drive in the left lane a lot, because here in Michigan, trucks are forced to stay in the right and follow the slower 60 m.p.h. speed limit, which means that cars that travel at their speed limit of 70 must either get in the left or be forced to slow down to 60. Under this system, naturally there are often people who driving faster coming up behind me. Sure, some of them are rude about it, but I always get over, just as I would expect the same from a driver in front of me going more slowly. It’s just one of the basic rules of driving on the highway, and I have been doing it for many decades. But it seems that there are more left lane road hogs than ever before, though. Is it because there are more drivers and they stand out more, or might the problem be that driving schools have stopped teaching that the left lane is for passing? Or are people just ruder?

The same two-tier speed limits prevail in Texas — on the fastest non-toll roads, cars go 80, trucks 70 — but Texas has some semblance of lane discipline, and similarly enlightened states, such as my own, will happily bust you for plodding along in the left lane.

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Way too much way too soon

I never expect to see supermodels in Target, but there she was: hair carefully arranged to look 10 percent tousled — 15 would have been overdoing it — eyes expertly lined and shadowed, hemline positioned exactly where it should have been.

She was maybe four feet, four inches tall, and almost certainly no older than ten or eleven.

This sort of thing has been bothering me since before she was born:

She might have been ten, she might have been twelve; it would never have occurred to me to ask. And she’d chosen the middle swing from the row of three, because there was much more room to swing, not only to and fro and up and down, but also side to side. I smiled at her as I stumbled down the hill towards the “cluster boxes” that the Postal Service finds so endearing and the postal patrons find so annoying.

“Whatever happened to my youthful exuberance?” I muttered to no one in particular while I pulled bill after bill out of its dingy receptacle. I mean, I don’t have the urge to clamber onto a swing and get myself airborne or anything; the cruelty of gravity is something I’d just as soon not face. But here she was, a pretty girl on her way to becoming a beautiful woman, seemingly paying no attention whatsoever to the unending pressures from a culture she barely knows. “Grow up! Find romance! Spend money!” Who needs this sort of foolishness? Let her fly while she can, and let her grow up when she’s ready.

Besides, heavy makeup is a serious drain on one’s allowance, even at Target prices.

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My knees are up here

On the left: Svetlana Pankratova, assistant basketball coach (girls varsity) at George Mason High School in Falls Church, Virginia, reported, and apparently certified by Guinness in 2009, to have the longest legs of any woman on earth: fifty-two inches. (She stands 6’5″.)

Svetlana Pankratova and friend

On the right: I have no idea. The Falls Church News-Press, whence this photo came, didn’t bother to tell us.

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Where have all the meth labs gone?

Evidently, they’re along Interstate 44:

Meth incidents in the US 2012

Oklahoma, ranked eighth highest in 2004, has now risen to sixth, despite a modest decline in the number of methamphetamine “incidents” recorded. The biggest drop seems to be along the Left Coast, for reasons I’m not entirely sure of. (Oregon, it appears, now requires prescriptions for all products containing pseudoephedrine, though the effect of this law is yet unclear.)

Still, Missouri remains your go-to state for illegally produced meth. I assume they’re not crazy about that distinction.

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Uneasy listening

The Jazz scored nine points in the second quarter. Think about that for a moment. Nine points in twelve minutes. Reggie Miller once scored eight points in less than nine seconds. The only question at that point was how much the margin of loss would be. The Thunder were up 50-28 at the half; Utah managed 28 points more in the third quarter and 31 in the fourth, but by then it was too late. OKC stomps yet another Western opponent at home, 110-87.

Despite the seeming one-sidedness of it all, there was a lot going on, much of it unpleasant: five technicals were assessed, along with 52 “other” fouls, two of them deemed Flagrant. The Jazz went a creditable 27-33 from the stripe, the Thunder 29-33. Away from the stripe, though, Utah wasn’t hitting; they were below 30 percent at the half, and managed to improve only to 35. (The Jazz put up 11 more shots than the Thunder, but hit nine fewer.) Then again, Utah had “only” 18 turnovers; OKC coughed it up 24 times.

With stuff like that going on, actual scoring seems irrelevant. For the Jazz, Gordon Hayward and Enes Kanter, reserves who played more minutes than the starters, were the only two players in double figures, Hayward getting 20, nearly half again his average. Kevin Durant had 23 (and ten boards) to lead the Thunder; Russell Westbrook checked in with 19, and the bench put up good numbers, led by Kevin Martin with 15.

The none-too-tricky Magic will wander into the city on Friday night. At this point, the best thing you can say about Orlando is that they’re still three games ahead of Charlotte.

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Feeding tube pulled

It has been ordered that Google Reader will die on the first of July:

While the product has a loyal following, over the years usage has declined. So, on July 1, 2013, we will retire Google Reader. Users and developers interested in RSS alternatives can export their data, including their subscriptions, with Google Takeout over the course of the next four months.

Of the 400-odd feed subscribers here, maybe a tenth are actually using Google Reader.

Doug Mataconis is not at all happy about this:

Perhaps the reason that Reader didn’t gain more users is because Google didn’t spend much time promoting it and, quite honestly, never really bothered to update it much after its introduction in 2005. I’d also assume that the fact that it’s not exactly a money maker for them played a part in the decision. Nonetheless, I’m really disappointed.

Google boasts, if that’s the word, that some 70 products and services have been killed off in the last year and a half.

Meanwhile, Adam Gurri doesn’t see this as the Death of RSS:

Imagine all the time lost going to sites when they haven’t updated. This was the original argument for RSS readers, one that I’ve made throughout my usage of them. With RSS readers, that time is not wasted. You only interact with a site when it has updated.

I currently follow dozens of webcomics. The post rate for these varies from 5 times a week, to 3 times a week, to once a week, to once a month, to whenever the hell the artist feels like updating.

Hmmm. Now I wonder if my five-posts-per-day regimen is actually counterproductive.

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A few Northeastern types I met on the World Tours seemed to be surprised that I wasn’t tooling about the countryside in a proper truck like every other crimson-collared resident of the Flyover Zone. This can be explained by my failure to develop this particular syndrome:

[L]ike any guy, I hate borrowing or renting a truck when I need to move something big, such the pinball machines I collect. More importantly, the woman and I have a lot of hobbies that require hauling gear around. Packing her Mini Cooper Clubman with scuba gear for two is an advanced test of spatial reasoning skills, one which I usually flunk. That’s just an excuse, though. In truth I think I suffer from a suburban male’s mental malady, Vehicular Volumetric Capacity Anxiety. Reasonable or not, I don’t feel completely comfortable unless I have the ability to move giant things at a moment’s notice. You’ll find VVCA in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, listed with Electric Vehicle Range Anxiety and the horrifying disorder that makes people buy Land Rovers only to keep them free of mud.

Hmmm. Maybe I didn’t read DSM-IV as closely as I thought I did.

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What’s more, there is no spoon

Is the chopstick ready for the woodpile? It might be:

With 1.4 billion people ploughing through 80 billion pairs of throwaway chopsticks each year, China has admitted its forests can no longer provide enough cutlery for its dinner tables.

“We must change our consumption habits and encourage people to carry their own tableware,” said Bo Guangxin, the chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group, to his fellow delegates at the National People’s Congress.

Cheap plastic, you think? Not even:

Pointing out that only 4,000 chopsticks can be carved from a 20-year-old tree, [Bo] even went so far as to suggest that restaurants offered metal knives and forks instead.

Well, if the chopstick is dead, let there be a tribute:

Recorded at the UCO Jazz Lab, Edmond, in 2008.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)

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Beer instead

KINB, the peashooter in Kingfisher that has yet to make hay with any of a dozen different formats, has given up standards (“The Martini 105.3”) in favor of CBS Sports Radio, there being an obvious dearth of sports on the air in this town (a mere three AMs and now two FMs).

What’s disheartening is not that the standards format failed, but that it was the only such station around, and this experience will tell all the programming types in town (who are mostly out of town anyway) that trying something different is simply Not Done.

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Fark blurb of the week

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Turn around, and you’re old

In ’31, it was a race to see which would be put up faster: the Ramsey Tower or the First National Center.

In ’13, it’s a race to see which will be torn down faster: the Gold Dome or Stage Center.

There is creative destruction, and there is “We need a drug store on this corner.” You’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to tell the difference. Or, if you’ve been here long enough, maybe you wouldn’t.

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The world holds its breath

It’s been two years since “Friday” went viral, and, well, Rebecca Black has yet to become a superstar:

14 mars 2011 : le monde retient son souffle. C’est en effet en ce jour que le premier single d’une adolescente américaine dénommée Rebecca Black, “Friday”, est publié par Ark Music Factory. Depuis plusieurs jours, effectivement, Internet — et au-delà — ne parle quasiment que de ce clip. Rebecca Black, d’ailleurs, aura été la requête Google qui aura le plus progressé durant l’année 2011 !

50 millions de vues sur Youtube plus tard pour la vidéo officielle de “Friday” — à additionner aux 160 millions de la première vidéo, effacée en avril 2011, et que tout le monde s’était partagé — qu’est devenue l’adolescente, âgée de 14 ans lors de son explosion publique ?

A few minor emendations: “Friday” was actually first uploaded in the fall of 2010, and went largely ignored until it was picked up by Tosh.0 and The Daily What. And RB, thirteen at the time, will be sixteen this summer.

And “Whatever happened to…?” questions are inevitable, I suppose. That said, I continue to believe that she’s better off just above the radar, rather than making desperate grabs for the brass ring. What she has going now is reasonably sustainable and even somewhat lucrative.

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Cashing in, ever so slightly

I am of two minds about the not-all-that-hefty Senior Discount being offered at some places. On one level, I’d just as soon not be reminded of how many years have gone by; on the other, I could probably use the few extra cents for something.

Patti, a couple years younger than I, has less of a dilemma:

I am over 55, after all, although only two measly years. Sandy’s only 56. Is it that obvious? Have all my anti-aging secrets, my skinny jeans, artfully highlighted hair, not managed to shave a couple of years off my appearance? Yes and no.

I reminded myself that the cashier was about 19 years old, and anyone who was older than his parents had to be over 55. He’s also been taught to offer the discount to anyone he thinks may qualify. And I do! I do! I don’t lie about my age. I lie (to myself) about being my age, and looking my age.

In some circles, I have begun admitting to sixty already, though the motivation is simply to blur the actual date of my birth; I decline to celebrate my birthday on general principle, and I’d just as soon those people didn’t mention it.

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Quote of the week

Remember the melting pot? Works kind of like a fondue pot, only marginally less cheesy. Or, to borrow a better description from Roberta X:

[T]hat’s the U.S. for you: wherever you are from, if you move here you’re likely to find your holidays co-opted and whatever you grew up eating transformed into a fast (or at least middlin’-quick) food. Then we start doing mash-ups and before too long, you’re celebrating Canada Day by eating bratwurst tacos in a pita-bread shell at a faux-English pub in Nebraska. You want culture? We’re a heated cabinet fulla Petri dishes and they’re all kinda porous!

I know what I want to be doing the first of July.

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Born on the first of July

The reference to Canada Day in the previous piece got me wondering if there might be a big-name actress of Canadian origin who was actually born on Canada Day.

And so we have Geneviève Bujold, born 1 July 1942 in Montréal, in a scene from Charles Jarrot’s 1969 film Anne of the Thousand Days, based on the Maxwell Anderson play; she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for her portrayal of Anne Boleyn.

Geneviève Bujold as Anne Boleyn

Yes, it’s a head shot. What did you expect?

Okay. I hear you. Scoot forward 15 years to Tightrope. (Yes, the Clint Eastwood movie.)

Geneviève Bujold as Beryl Thibodeaux

Bujold is brilliant here too, as a counselor to victims of sexual assault, helping Eastwood’s macho-man detective solve a serial-killer case in New Orleans.

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Depth uncharged

Curious statistic: the five Orlando starters scored 98 points in this game. Curiouser statistic: the six Orlando reserves came up with six. Does the Magic have a weak bench? Who knows? They didn’t get much of a chance to play, because those starters were put to work whittling down what at one time was a 27-point Oklahoma City lead. They got it down to four in the last period before the Thunder closed the door. The final was OKC 117, Orlando 104, which sounds fairly impressive until you notice that the Weather Phenomena had 73 in the first half.

And the Magic were playing without Hedo Türkoğlu, who drew a 20-game suspension last month for using some mysterious pregnant-cat extract. Also not on hand: Glen “Big Baby” Davis, due to a foot fracture. No wonder the starters all played big minutes. The backcourt duo of Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson combined for 46 points, and Nikola Vučević did a worthy job in the middle, with 21 points and 14 rebounds. The Magic pulled off a creditable 12 steals, but blocked no shots.

The Oklahoma City bench, you should know, knocked down 38 points this time around, led as usual by Kevin Martin with a close to usual 15. The KD and Russell Show rang up 49 — 26 for Durant, 23 for Westbrook — and Serge Ibaka put up 20. At some point in the second quarter, the Thunder were shooting over 70 percent; this dropped to 55, but nobody will complain about 55. And OKC had a startling 52-33 advantage in rebounding despite Vučević’s 14; Kendrick Perkins collected 12 in ten fewer minutes.

A week from tonight, it’s these same two teams, in the shadow of the Mouse House. In between, there are trips to Dallas and Memphis, and in between a bout with the Denver Nuggets, who had won 10 straight through last night and are only 4½ games back in the Northwest.

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Next: the Nemean Lions

I do not envy this man:

An emergency financial manager with wide-ranging powers has been appointed for the troubled US city of Detroit, in the biggest state takeover for years.

Kevyn Orr, a lawyer who worked on restructuring the carmaker Chrysler after bankruptcy, will be able to override elected officials.

The Motor City is running a deficit in the neighborhood of $300 million and has piled up $14 billion in debt. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder is clearly tossing up a Hail Mary here, but realistically, what choice does he have? It’s not like they can send Kwame Kilpatrick the bill — except for $850,000 or so.

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