Archive for November 2013

The clouds never got in her way

Joni Mitchell turned 70 this week. Her voice has darkened over the years, but her vision has always been clear.

Roger’s listed his twenty Joni favorites, with links to most; you probably know them all by now. But I wanted to mention her reinvention (in 2000, when she was a mere fifty-seven) of one song of hers that’s been covered six hundred times, enough to make you sick of it — until you hear this arrangement, which will make you fall in love with it all over again.

Just for the record, this is my favorite Joni song. I’d love to hear her sing it again as a contralto.

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Lowered compression

I was looking forward tonight to seeing good ol’ Chauncey Billups in a Pistons uniform, the way I’ve always thought he was supposed to look. I did not anticipate, though, that he’d be part of a Telltale Statistic: Billups, on the plus/minus scale, was a team-high +13 — but he didn’t score a point in his first 25 minutes, missing five shots, four of them from outside. Still, Detroit has to be better now that he’s back, and if the Thunder seemed to be disposing of them handily — well, you didn’t see how fiercely physical these Pistons can be. (Josh Smith actually drew a technical after fouling out, which is an accomplishment; Billups got called for delay of game, and then got T’d up for not liking the call.) And then Billups and his point guard, Brandon Jennings, put on a nice little shooting display in the waning moments, cutting a 13-point Thunder lead to five, but Thabo Sefolosha and Kevin Durant sank four free throws to put it away, 119-110.

What was fun, though, was that while KD was rolling up another 37-point game, Steven Adams, the de facto reserve center, came up with a double-double, his first ever in the league: 17 points, 10 rebounds. The Big Kiwi, in fact, played 31 minutes, more than Kendrick Perkins, more than anyone else on the team except Durant. And you have to figure that any night the Thunder bench comes up with 42 is a good night indeed.

Josh Smith, before fouling out, had knocked down 25 points; Detroit big man Greg Monroe had a stellar 20-point/15-rebound night. (Monroe played 39 minutes, but he’s one of those guys who’ll play 53 if you’ll let him.) The three-ball, which wasn’t working for the Pistons in the first three quarters, started falling in the fourth, mostly by Jennings (22 points), though Billups got one; they finished 11-31. (OKC was 6-17.) And Rodney Stuckey, playing sixth man, led the Detroit bench with 17.

Radio guy Matt Pinto noted that the Pistons were under .500 for the moment, but could be expected to fight for one of the last playoff spots. Of course, they’re in the East, where .500 is usually the 7-seed; .500 in the West generally means you’re in the lottery.

Sunday night, the Thunder are at home against the Wizards; after that, it’s off to the Left Coast to face the Clippers and the Warriors on successive nights, and then up to Milwaukee. It’s going to be a long week.

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A short-reach excavator

On the off-chance that there’s someone out there who really, truly liked the song “Wrecking Ball,” but wanted to hear someone else — anyone else — sing it, we have here the second Rebecca Black variation on a Miley Cyrus theme:

The first, of course, was her duet with Jon D on “We Can’t Stop,” which you may remember from July.

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Spamming email, vain consultant

Young whippersnapper aspires to give advice to the old pro; the old pro declines, most ungraciously.

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Oh, we’re taking away your soapbox, too:

A suburban Philadelphia woman has been banned from using Twitter as part of her sentence for a stalking conviction.

Montgomery County Judge William Carpenter barred 34-year-old Sadiyyah Young of Pottstown from tweeting for at least five years.

Authorities say Young used derogatory and harassing tweets against people involved in a custody case regarding her children, including a judge who ruled against her, lawyers, social workers and foster parents.

And this didn’t get her suspended?

Young pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor charges of stalking, forgery, and identity theft. She also was sentenced to 11½ months to 23 months in jail and three years’ probation.

Oh. Identity theft. She probably got suspended and appropriated someone else’s username. There is, I regret to say, precedent for this sort of thing.

(Via Robert Stacy McCain.)

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All they have to do is dream

Originally — we’re talking 1856 here — it was Coal Creek, after the stream that runs through the town. You might even remember the Coal Creek War, which kicked off in 1891 when owners of area coal mines got the idea of replacing their paid labor, which might at any moment unionize, with convicts leased from Tennessee prisons. The conflict lasted over a year; the memories persisted a bit longer, and in 1936 the town was renamed Lake City, there being a new lake not too far up the road, thanks to the TVA’s Norris Dam.

Now comes the possibility of a third name, this one courtesy of Felice and Boudleaux Bryant:

Seriously. Lake City wants to be Rocky Top:

[I]n Lake City, supporters hope a name change would have them tuning in newfound prosperity.

Development plans include a Disney-style interactive, 3-D animated theater; a Branson, Mo.-style live music venue; an indoor-outdoor waterpark and a 500-seat paddleboat restaurant on an as yet-to-be-constructed artificial lake, according to Anderson County Commissioner Tim Isbel.

Of course, it’s not just for the bling:

At city hall Thursday night, a standing-room-only crowd broke into loud applause after the council took the first step toward making the change, voting to ask the state legislature for authorization. State Rep. John Ragan was at the meeting and said he thought it would pass easily in Nashville.

One of those in attendance was Gordon Cox, a long-time Lake City resident whose grandfather served several terms as mayor. Cox said the city has lost so many businesses in recent years that it is in danger of becoming unincorporated and losing its police force.

“Only good can happen from this name change,” he said.

The Bryants, who supposedly wrote “Rocky Top” in ten minutes, weren’t available for comment, having long since passed on; however, BMI, I’m pretty sure, wouldn’t have any complaint.

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Go this way and that way

Everything you always wanted to know about labyrinths:

The labyrinth talk was interesting. It was mainly about how they are becoming increasingly used in the US, both as a spiritual exercise (lots of churches, especially, it seems, Episcopal churches, have them) and as a relaxation technique (some hospitals have them available both for staff and patients/relatives of patients). But he also touched on the history a bit and made the assertion that the general form of the labyrinth, like the famous one at Chartres, is more or less common across cultures, even cultures that might not have had contact for thousands of years at the time they were building them. So either it’s an idea far, far older than the 4000 years or so (his claim, I don’t know that for sure) that the oldest ones known date back to, or else it’s a common idea “in the air” that multiple cultures came up with. (Or, I suppose: there was a lot more cultural contact than what we know about. There are legends, for example, of the “lost years” of Jesus (between age 12 and age 30 or so) including time spent in what is now India.)

He also noted that in some Hopi and Navajo art, a similar form shows up and sometimes it is called “maze” or something similar.

He also noted that they were set up so that there was no “wrong” way to do them. Heh. That struck me because I am always excessively worried, I think, about doing things the “correct” way. (Of course, labyrinth design is simple enough that you don’t have to think to follow it — that’s kind of the point). But he observes there’s no set speed you’re “supposed” to go (though the idea is to do it slowly) and no set time you’re supposed to spend at the center.

I have added a couple of links to the original.

As I understand things, if it’s one continuous, albeit torturous-looking, path, it’s properly a labyrinth; if there are several dead ends scattered within, it’s a maze. (The convoluted structure outside Canterlot Castle is a maze.) There is, therefore, no “wrong” way to navigate a labyrinth; there are several wrong ways to navigate a maze.

And the popular Labyrinth game turns out, on closer inspection, to be more of a maze.

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It’s okay to shoot the moon

It seems that ninety-something percent of photographs of singer/guitarist Susan Tedeschi, forty-three today, show her in Intense Musician Mode, concentrating on the flow as it goes. Then there’s this one, from the 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival:

Susan Tedeschi in blue

Still, this is an anomaly, as such things go.

In 2010, both Tedeschi and husband Derek Trucks — he’s the nephew of original Allman Brothers Band drummer Butch Trucks — put their individual touring bands aside and formed the Tedeschi Trucks Band. Watch her face, and watch his fingers. Better yet, just listen:

It’s a familiar theme: A goes on the road, B remains behind and cries into the night sky. It’s perhaps the most morose song John Sebastian ever wrote; there’s something almost reassuring about seeing an actual married couple pulling it off.

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Hardly ineffable

It’s always F-bomb time somewhere:

The site maps in real time whenever the F-word is dropped on Twitter. America and Britain are leaders in cursing online, according to the interactive map, with New Yorkers tagged as the biggest offenders.

Thanks to its creator Martin Gingras, a junior at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, the map not only tracks the F-bombs as they happen, but also features pins that can be clicked to see a tweet and who tweeted it. On Twitter, @FBomb_co retweets random tweets that make up the map.

There are days when I suspect it’s retweeting my entire timeline.

In the time it took me to type this and paste that, about 40 effers were lofted into the Twittersphere. While the tweets are not identified by specific location — all you get is the map — they do include the entire text (with links, if present, though not directly clickable) and the username.

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Hey, at least they asked

Apple delivered iTunes 11.1.3 this past week, and as usual, the Standard Sources kicked up all manner of information about what’s new in the Mac OS version, most of which doesn’t apply to us poor Windows heathen.

That said, while the install was as tedious as ever, I caught one little bit of phraseology whipping by above the status bar: “Checking to see if system restart is necessary.”

Would that actual Windows applications had that much courtesy.

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Mrs. Paul was never this finicky

Having once — way back in, oh, the 1980s — demonstrated my ability to produce a pie crust that didn’t end up with the general texture of a bicycle inner tube, I decided I would rely on simpler means thereafter. (There’s a reason for that word “once.”) Usually this requires a trip to the local market or to a separate bakery, but for some reason (I’m guessing a sale price) I plucked one of Mrs. Smith’s frozen concoctions out of the supermarket and schlepped it home.

The instructions on these, it seems to me, have gotten somewhat anal. Six steps now, of which the first, not unreasonably, is “Place oven rack into center position. Preheat oven to 400°.”

The second is a little snippier: “Remove frozen pie from box, and remove plastic overwrap from pie. Do not remove pie from original foil pan. Leave pan on counter while oven is preheating. After 10 minutes on counter, cut 4-6 slits in top crust.”

Emphasis added. Apparently Mrs. Smith, or one of her lackeys, believes that it takes 11 minutes or more to preheat an oven to 400°. I am here to tell you that my own 11-year-old Kenmore can do the job in 8:25. Moral: Render unto Sears the things that are Sears’.

The rest is fairly typical, though the juxtaposition of KEEP FROZEN and BAKE BEFORE SERVING on the front of the box suggests the potential for cognitive dissonance for the buyer who doesn’t quite understand the dynamics of frozen pie, and for the lawyer who’ll take his case after an unsatisfactory experience therewith.

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Over by the waste gate

The last page of Car and Driver these days is titled “What I’d Do Differently”; it’s an interview with someone who has earned a measure of fame somewhere in the automotive world. In December ’13, it’s specialty builder Reeves Callaway, who, says the intro, “has blanketed America with 1800 modified Corvettes and more than a few peculiar engines.”

Regarding the latter, this Q/A exchange reflects the intractability of the laws of physics:

Q: You’ve turbocharged Alfas, Holdens, and Land Rovers. Is there a marque that proved to be a big mistake?

A: Oh, sure, the turbo system we made for the VW Vanagon. Never turbocharge anything that will be driven all day long at wide-open throttle. Never.

About 1983, the successor to the Microbus was the recipient of a new Wasserboxer engine, water-cooled and blessed with Bosch digital engine management. Then again, we’re still talking 95 hp pushing around a box with the general aerodynamic profile of, well, a box; I learned to drive in a second-generation Microbus, which had half the ponies and 90 percent of the mass, and I drove that thing flat-out mostly to avoid becoming a very tall speed bump. Vanagon drivers, moving up from the Microbus, no doubt had developed similar habits.

And longevity in a turbo systems is at least partially dependent on how often the blower is having to blow. If it’s blowing all the time, as it would do in a vehicle constantly at WOT — well, you can see Callaway’s problem here, since his reputation was built on cars that didn’t grenade their engines.

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Have you seen these Wizards?

Washington hadn’t won a game here in several years. Then again, they’d had a series of losing teams, barely on par with the infamous Generals; it was late last season before they started to show some life.

They showed a lot more of it at the ‘Peake tonight: the Thunder, after a horrid ten-point second quarter, had trouble regaining their composure, and the Wizards calmly, to the extent that anything involving Nenê can be called “calmly,” took the Thunder apart. The greatest damage was done by Bradley Beal, who racked up 34 points on 13-23 shooting, a Durant-ish line that included six treys. Trevor Ariza added 15 despite missing every one of his five free throws; Nenê had 14 before being ejected for a second technical, despite missing six of his ten free throws. He got those T’s by getting up, or down, in Russell Westbrook’s face. Westbrook wasn’t going to take that sort of thing, and he responded both times; he, too, was thumbed. And then the Thunder began to take it personally. Down ten at the time of the ejections, they ran off nine straight, and with 13.6 seconds left, OKC, via a KD trey, forged a 96-all tie. Overtime, as it will, ensued. With four seconds left and the Thunder up 106-105, a Jeremy Lamb shot bounced back out of the rim; John Wall’s layup lay down, Thabo Sefolosha took the ball away, and that’s how it ended.

Did I mention Durant’s line? Thirty-three points on 12-23 shooting. How Bealesque. Now add 13 rebounds to that. In the absence of Westbrook, Reggie Jackson and Serge Ibaka had to kick in some offense; Jackson led all reserves with 12, and Ibaka posted a season-high 25 points with 12 rebounds. And we didn’t see Nick Collison all night; he was scratched after a contusion.

Still, the Wizards are fearable: all five starters (plus Al Harrington) in double figures, and their We Quit never, ever showed up at all.

Off to the West Coast we go.

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Strange search-engine queries (406)

Yes, it’s Veterans Day, and no, this feature is not taking the day off. I was a soldier once, and I knew that at any moment it could become a 24/7 job.

List The homesex hungry roman emperers in ancient rome:  This is what porn does to you. A year ago, this guy was looking for Hungry Hungry Hippos.

taripal sax xxx pechar:  Well, if you ask me, your spelling is taripal.

quasi-automotive:  About half of the Car Talk Puzzlers are so described.

2001 mercury mystice transmission wont go intodrive:  I do hope your checkbook is primed.

shiri zinn for baci minx:  Sounds like a fair trade to me.

disney’s first law:  “When you wish upon a star…” (You know the rest.)

Company that deals on refurbished Mazda 626 brainbox:  Since the last 626 was made 11 years ago, just finding one should be considered a deal.

where is my 401k money from metris companies:  They borrowed it to rent programmers for

Great mens lives begin at forty where the mediocre man’s life ends.The genius remains an ever-flowing fountain of creative achievement, until the very last breath he draws. -Glenn Clarke:  Hmmm. I’ve already beaten the spread by two decades. Who knew?

lmiss you Ø­18:  I miss you too, R2.

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Not yet faded away

There are fewer of us every year: the oldest pass on to a different plane of existence entirely, and not so many of the youngest are putting in their time anymore.

I used to wish for the day when we’d no longer be needed. But this wish was in vain: the delusions of our current batch of policy wonks and rank amateurs notwithstanding, it takes ordnance to do what ordinances cannot. So now I wish for the day when we can complete a proper mission and then go home, the way God and General Patton intended. Is that so much to ask?

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He’s not the girl you thought he was

A Canadian chap has been ordered off Twitter for a year for pretending to be someone else:

A [Sault Ste. Marie] man is banned from Twitter for 12 months for creating accounts in a young woman’s name on the online social networking service and posting explicit photographs of her.

David Pajunen, 41, pleaded guilty to personation when he appeared in court Wednesday on charges from February.

At the request of the Crown attorney, Judge Nathalie Gregson dismissed a charge of criminal harassment.

So we have “personation” and “impersonation.” Kind of like “flammable” and “inflammable,” I guess.

As part of Pajunen’s probation, he can have no access to a Twitter account and can’t communicate with the victim.

“You can’t reference her name anywhere on the Internet,” Gregson warned him.

Pajunen, being Canadian and all, will probably comply with these restrictions, unlike some Americans you could name.

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Sun returning

It was de rigueur at one time to mock that silly Greenwich Village fellow John B. Sebastian for this infamous lyric: “The record man said every one is a yellow Sun record from Nashville / And up North here ain’t nobody buys ’em, and I said ‘But I will’.”

Sun Records, of course, was from Memphis; Sam Phillips was never one of those Nashville cats. Then in 1969 Shelby Singleton bought Sun from Sam Phillips, and eventually moved Sun headquarters to, um, Nashville. So Sebastian got the last laugh, and he is welcome to it. Sun wasn’t recording any new material, anyway: Singleton was content to maintain the Sun catalog as it was.

Then Singleton died in 2009, and Collin Brace, who’d only just started at the label, saw his chance. The first act signed by Sun in forty years is Julie Roberts, who’d done two albums for Mercury and a third on her own Ain’t Skeerd imprint.

Roberts’ first Sun release is Good Wine and Bad Decisions, and if that’s not a classic country title, I’ve never heard one. There exists a lyrics-only video of the title track. Chuck Dauphin of Music News Nashville notes:

What is so captivating about this disc is that she couldn’t have recorded it during her days on Mercury a few years back. Sometimes, survival is one of the most attractive trait of all, and over the past few years Roberts has survived losing her home in the 2010 Nashville flood, a battle with MS, and more than a few nights with decisions that she might have regretted. Knowing where you have fallen, and not killing yourself over it is something that Roberts can sing and write very ably about.

Something for the wish list, you may be sure.

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Ermahgerd! Studernts!

Says so right here:

Cranberry School Geography Bee

The Cranbury School is located in Cranbury, New Jersey (Exit 8A), in case you need to brush up for the next Geograohy Bee.

(One of many inscrutable offerings at

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Cookie sales in China aren’t zooming upward the way they used to be:

At Mondelēz distributors in China, there are piles of unsold Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookies. Why? China is in an economic slump. The brand is used to 25% sales increases every year, and increases are down to only 3% in the first quarter of 2013.

Aw. Quelle fromage.

Now if we find out they’ve been hoarding Mallomars — well, perhaps we should not go there.

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But privacy!

Like the Postal Service is going to deliver to someone named, oh, how about “herbtarlekxoxo11”:

I recently bought something off eBay. Will the package have my name (on my account) or my eBay username? Does the buyer have access to my real name?

Um, aren’t you the buyer?

If you insist on leaving no trail, go to the farking thrift shop like everyone else. And pay cash.

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Suck will be embraced

Michael Bates has made his official disendorsement for Mayor of Tulsa:

Both the Taylor and Bartlett campaigns have spent piles of money pushing their preferred memes — positive memes about their own candidates and negative memes about the opposition. Because I wish they could both lose on Tuesday, I’ve spent my limited blogging time during this campaign trying to debunk the nonsense from each side. No, Kathy Taylor did not bring us to the brink of bankruptcy, and Dewey Bartlett Jr didn’t rescue us from bankruptcy. Dewey has been as big a spender as Kathy. You can’t push all the blame for the trash mess onto Bartlett Jr; Taylor deserves a big share of the blame, too. Neither candidate is visionary or competent or bold. Both backed the Great Plains Airlines bailout. Both have had problems working respectfully with those who disagree with them, particularly their fellow elected officials.

Tulsa voters have made a mess. Maybe if their noses are rubbed in it they won’t do it again.

I hear it’s really nice in Bixby these days.

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Candidate for replacement

Opportunity: Gorgeous actress on red carpet. In Italy, no less, and wearing Balenciaga. Difficulty: Utterly preposterous outfit.

Solution: Set it up correctly, and then find a snarky quote about it.

With that in mind, here’s the Wikipedia synopsis for the Spike Jonze film Her, opening Real Soon Now:

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a complex, soulful man who makes his living writing touching, personal letters for other people. Heartbroken after the end of a long relationship, he becomes intrigued with a new, advanced operating system, which promises to be an intuitive entity in its own right, individual to each user. Upon initiating it, he is delighted to meet “Samantha” (Scarlett Johansson), a bright, female voice, who is insightful, sensitive and surprisingly funny. As her needs and desires grow, in tandem with his own, their friendship deepens into an eventual love for each other.

I am required, of course, to see that, if only because I wrote this.

And then you wonder: whom did Twombly give up for this disembodied voice? It was his wife Catherine, played by Rooney Mara, and if she was wearing this, he might actually be better off:

Rooney Mara in Balenciaga at the premiere of Her

Oddly, Mara’s attending a screening of Her, in, yes, Italy. For the snark, I turn to the lovely and talented Fug Girl Heather:

There is a hideousness to this which defies description. It looks like a bad joke: “A Gap t-shirt, a Vegas wedding dress, and a pair of L’Eggs from Planet Gargantua walked into a bar. The bartender said, ‘What can I get you?’ And they said, ‘A concussion.'”

Still, she’s a material girl, which the Scarlet Johansson character isn’t. I have yet to decide for myself whether that’s a problem.

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Logistical issues

Dr. B writes from the Philippines:

The storm surge was 20 plus feet in Tacloban. That would mean you could drown on the second floor.

As for the usual complaints by western press:

Before you send in aid, you need for the winds to stop (which would be Saturday afternoon) and repairing the roads etc. Then you need to get there. Airplanes are fast, but limited. Roads are blocked. The sea has to be calm and the port needs to be open, and the roads from the ports/airports need to be cleared.

That takes time. So the country folks will get help from each other, or will die. Luckily, these things happen all too frequently, so they help each other.

See also this Belmont Club report.

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Click here for Communism

To you, it’s a $20 ticket for not buckling your seat belt. To Mark French, it’s much, much more:

He says it’s about government overreach, and he says that leads to such things as Obamacare, gun control and government deciding how large a soda pop you can purchase.

“Where does it end?” French asks. “It doesn’t, there’s no end to it.”

Americans have to draw a line in the sand at some point, French says, and the seat belt ticket gave him his line.

“Why is a seat belt required to be worn to keep us safe in a car, but not on a bus?” French wrote in an email encouraging local residents to show up in the courtroom to support his cause. “Why are we allowed to rock climb, snow ski, water ski, hang glide, hunt and eat candy bars? Why is it not unlawful to refuse medical advice? Are we ready to be told by government that we cannot drink an extra large pop?”

I was more or less sympathetic toward the guy until I read this:

Traveling in the opposite direction from the east, Montana Highway Patrolman Steve Spurr testified he observed a white car with no front license plate pass him. The rear plate, Spurr said, had a protective cover that made it difficult to see the plate number. Both are traffic violations.

There’s a lot to be said in favor of subverting the system — but being clumsily obvious about it will not help.

(Via Fark.)

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Moore or less

Real-estate site has rated America’s Small Cities — by “small” they apparently mean “just under 60,000 population” — and based on their criteria, Moore, Oklahoma slides just into the Top Ten:

While the 57,810 residents of Moore have to contend with tornadoes, the people who live in this Oklahoma City, OK suburb also have to be a bit more concerned with crime. That’s because the city has the only above average crime rate in our top 10 at 45 percent above the national average. Fortunately, some other factors help even things out.

For one, the cost of living in Moore is 10 points below the national average, and the median household income, at $55,710, is 5.6 percent above. The median home price is 37 percent below average at 128,000 but there are 169 residents per home for sale.

A real positive standout for Moore is its unemployment rate, which at 4.3 percent is an impressive 40 percent below the national average.

The only other city in Oklahoma meeting their population criterion was Midwest City, which is tied for thirty-first out of 50. At the very top of the rankings is Rowlett, Texas, in a far corner of Dallas County. (The eastern edge slides over into Rockwall County.) Rock bottom: Ocala, Florida.

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Ladies and gentlemen, your new electorate

I saw this, and thought “This must be some kind of joke, right?”

Do you got insurance?

Afraid not. Here’s the source:

Got Insurance is a project of the Thanks Obamacare campaign, created by the Colorado Consumer Health Initiative and ProgressNow Colorado Education to educate everyone about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act.

This is apparently some nonstandard usage of the word “education.”

There is, however, an upside: the sort of person who would respond to a campaign of this sort is clearly too dumb to be allowed to reproduce, and it’s probably worth the effort to keep them in a nonparental state.

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Oh, come on

The Get Laid Now spam — once I actually got one with that very subject line — is, of course, never going to go away, given the persistent nature of both human desire to get lucky and spammers’ desire to get past your filters. Still, this subject line seems a bit lamer than usual: “CynereMoses44 granted access to her private vidz!” How generous of her.

Then again, the sender, per the header, was one “Neria Brainless,” which perhaps is redundant. Superfluous, even.

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And then it fell apart

It’s seldom you can see a pivot point, a moment when things change irrevocably, especially in something as aggressively ephemeral as a basketball game. Yet something happened in the waning moments of the first half in the Staples Center, with the Clippers fighting back from a 14-point deficit. The Thunder were up six when Serge Ibaka and Matt Barnes got into an altercation of some sort. Both players were thumbed; Russell Westbrook put up a zinger just before the horn, but the third quarter was all Clippers — 30-16 — and the fourth started out more so.

Not helping the OKC cause was the sudden shortage of bigs: Kendrick Perkins wasn’t with the team — a death in the family — so Steven Adams started, Hasheem Thabeet was pried off the bench, and Nick Collison got into foul trouble with amazing speed. Facing a Los Angeles team that can hit you from any direction — six Clippers made it into double figures — the Thunder wandered in the wilderness until halfway through the fourth frame, when somehow they put together a 9-2 run over the next two minutes. OKC would eventually pull within four, but no closer: the final was 111-103.

The Clips were utterly commanding on the boards, 50-35, and stalwarts Blake Griffin and Jamal Crawford broke the 20-point mark. The Blakester also reeled in 12 rebounds; over at the point, Chris Paul rang up 14 points and 16 assists. (“And one foul,” grumbled radio guy Matt Pinto.) In the wake of these numbers, OKC clearly needed even more than Westbrook (19 points, 10 assists) and Kevin Durant (33 points, 10 assists) were able to provide, and the bench had a so-so night at best.

Tomorrow night against Golden State. How much recovery time does this team really need?

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Portable banshee

Gwendolyn’s brakes were not looking good, and there was this growling noise which I interpreted as a sticking caliper — which, for all I knew, might actually have caused that bit of scoring around the edge of the discs. It was oil-change time anyway, and I had a coupon for $50 off per axle on the brakes, so I scheduled a spa day on Tuesday for the poor girl.

I would have been happier with a stuck caliper. The noise didn’t meet the usual criteria for wheel-bearing woes, but the industry-standard knock-the-wheel-back-and-forth test confirmed it: both bearings were close to the point when they would bear no more.

While the techs messed with that, I was sent off in a ’12 G37. I was wondering if maybe I’d get a Q50, but no. Not this time. And this particular G threw a tire-pressure warning at me the moment I started it up, which I attributed to it being colder than the very dickens Tuesday morning. It did not recur. I remain persuaded that the 7-speed automatic fitted to most of these things is okay, but not much better than that, though the manual shifting mode works well. And just because, I tried the sort of launch that would aggravate the traction control. (It did.)

The drive home was quieter, anyway. And the brakes? Fronts passed muster, rears needed new pads and a rotor refinish. Things could have been worse.

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Pavlova and friend

I don’t do exuberance very well anymore, unlike this delightful youngster:

Child dancing in front of painting of Anna Pavlova

And I miss that.

Sir John Lavery did several portraits of Anna Pavlova; this 1910 canvas hangs in the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. The Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College in Florida has another.

Pavlova herself once said:

When a small child, I thought that success spelled happiness. I was wrong, happiness is like a butterfly which appears and delights us for one brief moment, but soon flits away.

But oh, for those moments when it’s there!

(Via Boned Jello.)

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I suspect this may be truthful

I mean, I have been on the receiving end of something very much like this:

What you drive matters. Sorry. I’m sure you’re saving a ton of money for our first house payment by driving that rolling embarrassment from the decade in which I was born, but you’ll never get to spend it on me because you’ll never get me in the passenger seat. Feel free to call me shallow. Also, feel free to never call me at all.

Okay, it was technically the decade after that, but “rolling embarrassment” might do it justice. So this list of What We Think About Your Ride by Caroline Ellis, not yet thirty, persuades me of her credibility, especially with examples like this:

Chevy Corvette

You think: I look sexy driving this thing.

We think: You’re at least ten years older than you’re telling me you are. Your ex-wife was right to tell you that you weren’t allowed to buy that thing. I’ll take some drinks from you but you’re getting a fake number at the end of the night.

Ouch. And there’s this:

Honda Civic/Toyota Corolla

You think: This is a really reliable car and … sorry, I really don’t have any idea what you’re thinking here.

We think: Great, you’re boring AND poor.

Finally, since I spent a good part of the week in one of these:

Infiniti G35/37/whatever they call it now

You think: It’s just as cool as a BMW.

We think: No, it isn’t.

Side note: Women to whom I have recommended this page — I plugged it briefly on Twitter — were generally delighted. Not one word from the men.

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Strewn about

In 1937, Sylvan Goldman invented the shopping cart, which someone probably left in the parking lot:

For many years I have used every platform and every tool at my disposal to fight against the terrorists who leave their shopping carts chaotically strewn about the surface of the Earth. Every time I drive into a supermarket parking lot these days it looks like 9,000 people were raptured into heaven right as they put their last grocery bag in the trunk. Or maybe they’re all bomb technicians and they had to go diffuse explosives somewhere. Or maybe they’re Batman. Yes, maybe they saw the Bat Signal and had to go find the Penguin and foil another of his dastardly plots. They must be SOMETHING important if they couldn’t carve out the requisite half-minute to shuttle those cart back from whence they came.

Or, or, or maybe they’re just lazy.

There are exactly two ways to deal with this. One of them is used by the German discount chain Aldi: charge you a nominal sum for the cart, which is refunded when you return it to the proper location.

The other is a bit harder to pull off: it requires (1) a store with a marginal cart supply and (2) a weekend when EBT cards and such are recharged. If there are no carts waiting at the door, people can, and occasionally will, fetch them from the lot themselves. (Hard as this may be to believe, I have actually seen it happen.)

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Sweet spot apparently found

A couple of years ago, I did a piece on The Incredible Shrinking Consumer Reports Buying Guide Issue, which over a five-year period had dropped from 360 to 221 pages. The following year, I noted that the Buying Guide had actually grown to 223 pages.

How big is it now? [#twss] Once again, two hundred twenty-three pages. (As with last year, that last page is devoted to the mandatory Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation.)

I said in that first piece:

By 2015 at the latest, you’ll have to be subscribing to their Web site and/or installing their app to get any of this information. Count on it.

I mention this mostly to make it impossible for me to backpedal, should I be proven wrong.

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Well, it wasn’t jet lag

The second night on the Left Coast looked as though it would prove no more fruitful for the Thunder than did the first, and the unwinding was eerily similar: OKC and Golden State were tied 62-all at the half, and the Thunder went pretty much to pieces in the third quarter, dropping back by nine; at a couple of times in the fourth they were down 14. (How bad was it? Kevin Durant, who made his first four shots, missed his next seven, and by then he’d piled up five fouls plus a technical.) And then Russell Westbrook decided he’d had enough. With OKC down two and time running out, Westbrook ignored both the clock and the defenders and sank the coldest-blooded trey he’d done all season, putting the Thunder up 115-114 with 2.3 left. But the Warriors weren’t done yet: Andre Iguodala’s fadeaway almost on top of the horn made it Golden State 116, OKC 115.

The Telltale Statistic for the night is this: the Warriors, worst in the league in turnovers — averaging somewhere around 23 a night — managed to cough up the rock only seven times. That and Golden State’s 3-point prowess — they went 14-23, the Thunder 9-22 — managed to offset a career night for Serge Ibaka (27 points, 13 rebounds), 31 from Westbrook on 13-20, and KD checking in with 20, somehow never having fouled out.

But it’s not like you can score a bunch of points in Oakland and expect a W to be handed over. The Warriors score every way there exists, and several that seemingly don’t. Klay Thompson had 27 to lead Golden State; Stephen Curry and David Lee were right behind. The Ig’s last-second hit gave him 14.

Still: seven turnovers. The Thunder handed it over nineteen times, not far off their average, but not at all good in front of an enterprising bunch like the Warriors.

The Thunder will be in Milwaukee Saturday night; the Bucks will have just arrived from what may have been an epic trouncing at the hands of the Indiana Pacers. Maybe.

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We like your plan just fine

Our Insurance Commissioner weighs in:

The number of health insurance policies canceled in Oklahoma as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has been minimized due to the efforts of Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak.

“Here in Oklahoma, my office has always focused on the consumer,” said Doak. “We recognized the possibility of cancellations early on and worked with the state’s largest health insurance companies to lessen the consumer impact. That collaboration led to our approval of their requests to modify policy renewal dates, which allowed a majority of Oklahoma policyholders to keep their existing coverage through 2014.”

Technically, this does not extend their existing coverage, but does permit renewals at some figure resembling the previous premium.

Doak, of course, is not impressed by the administration’s shenaniganza:

“After yet another failed initiative, President Obama is just passing the buck,” said Doak. “How can the federal government make this decision without offering any guidance to the state insurance departments or the insurance carriers? Cancellation notices have already gone out. Rates and plans have already been approved. How is this supposed to work? There are a lot of unanswered questions right now. This is what you get when you pass a bill you haven’t read.”

This is consistent with the NAIC statement earlier yesterday. Very consistent.

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Quote of the week

Maureen Johnson fields a question from a young reader who aspires to be a young writer:

I’ve been looking into the whole male authors are treated better then female authors, how books are categorized as being boy books that girls can read or just girl books, how female authors seem to get more push back and hate. I’ve been reading quite ALOT of articles and such on this and I was just wondering: What are the perks of being a female YA author?

Apart from not having to pretend that “alot” is an actual word, there are some distinct joys:

The perks of what I do are so numerous as to be like the stars in the sky. Don’t weep for me. I’m ridiculously lucky.

But there’s also this:

Is it ALSO true that female writers tend to have a different FATE than our male counterparts? Yes, that’s true. It’s true in a thousand different ways that I often can’t even talk about, because it would involve talking about people and encounters and conversations. And it’s true in ways I CAN talk about, like when people ask me if I’ll ever write something boys can read (my books carry COOTIES that will make their penises fall off) or if I have an idea and a guy has the same idea, he is likely to get the credit (if it is good) or the fact that what I do has a far greater chance of being called slight, or breezy, or fun, or escapist, or a guilty pleasure, or light, or beach-worthy … and if a guy wrote it it is likely to magically become a masterful work of comic prose, or a subtle and humorous exploration of life and love the likes of which has never been seen before!

[insert vague Dave Eggers reference here]

I suppose, in some totally distended sense of the word, I write YA stuff: the median age of the readers of my fanfiction universe of choice seems to be well short of twenty, though my own material skews older. (Which doesn’t surprise me, given my relatively aged protagonists.) Gender considerations notwithstanding, however, I will insist that it’s slight, maybe even breezy in spots.

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A fine example of recycling

The following landed in the spam trap last night:

If only you could have known what unholy retribution your little “clever” comment was about to bring down upon you, maybe you would have held your fucking tongue. But you couldn’t, you didn’t, and now you’re paying the price, you goddamn idiot. This copypasta will shit fury all over you and you will drown in it.

Not that anyone is actually threatening me with furious fecal matter: that paragraph seems to have been adapted from this prodigious load of ragged braggadocio. God forbid a spammer should write something of his own.

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The first rule of the ruling class

A reminder from Bill Quick:

Conservatives in government are in government first, and conservatives second. Their power comes from being in government, rather than in being conservative.

And, according to the vast majority of consensus opinion, right, left, and middle, in government, the task is to use government to do things. That’s what they all mean when they say they want to make government work. Because they sure as hell don’t mean that they want to make themselves work.

I’d just bet the smallish sum I sent to a local shelter this week will do more immediate good than the decidedly larger sum that various levels of government vacuumed out of my paycheck this week, if only for reasons of lower overhead.

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Here’s looking at Liu

Today is the Day of the Imprisoned Writer, and PEN International’s Flanders outpost has chosen to mark this day by reading Liu Xiaobo’s 1999 poem “You Wait For Me With Dust,” one line by each of thirty-three writers. Liu, you’ll remember, is serving his fourth term in Chinese prison, this time for “spreading a message to subvert the country and authority,” such a wonderfully bland phrase that I expect it to catch on here in the States.

This reading is in Dutch, with English subtitles:

PEN first organized a reading of this poem a year ago:

Since winning the Nobel Prize in 2010, interest in Liu Xiaobo’s essays and poetry has grown in the West, leading to a number of new translations. No Enemies, No Hatred, a collection of essays and poems curated by scholar Perry Link, Liu Xiaobo’s wife Liu Xia, and Independent PEN Center’s current president, Tienchi Martin-Liao, was released in January [2012]. June Fourth Elegies, Liu Xiaobo’s collection of poetry in memory of Tiananmen Square victims, translated by PEN Member Jeffrey Yang, will be released in April [2012].

Here at PEN, we believe that keeping Liu Xiaobo’s words alive is the best tribute to our imprisoned colleague.

You can imagine what China thinks of all this:

On 8 October 2010, the Nobel Committee awarded Liu the Nobel Peace Prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China,” saying that Liu had long been front-runner as the recipient of the prize.

China reacted negatively to the award, immediately censoring news about the announcement of the award in China, though later that day limited news of the award became available. Foreign news broadcasters including CNN and the BBC were immediately blocked, while heavy censorship was applied to personal communications. The Chinese Foreign Ministry denounced the award to Liu Xiaobo, saying that it “runs completely counter to the principle of the award and is also a desecration of the Peace Prize.”

Because, you know, the Nobel Peace Prize had never, ever before been desecrated in such a manner.

(With thanks to Tumbleweed.)

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Hear, Here

Unexpected good news on the plastic wrapper of Here Media magazines Out and The Advocate this month:


Of course, they exchange mailing lists, and I’ve bought stuff from TLA before, though not in the last year or so. Perhaps this is TLA’s way of trying to reattract my attention.

For those of you who were wondering why a beyond-middle-aged straight guy would be reading either of these mags — well, admittedly, they’re not aimed at me, but then neither is InStyle.

This started, actually, some time in the late Nineties while I was still getting the usual package of magazine stamps from Publishers Clearing House. For some reason, I decided to scrutinize the sheet a bit more thoroughly than usual, and to my amazement, there was a stamp for Out, listed as “the leading gay magazine” or something like that. And I figured it was worth my twelve bucks, or however much it was, to encourage this sort of thing, so I sent in the subscription order. In 2010, Here Media started offering a bundle of Out and The Advocate together at not much more than the price of Out alone, so I took that deal as well. And if the information therein isn’t always, as the phrase goes, relevant to my interests, it’s probably of interest to friends, and I have this weird idea that I ought to pay attention to such matters once in a while.

Incidentally, I never saw Out offered again by PCH. Go figure.

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