Archive for December 2013

Pacers outrun

There was an item in the paper this morning about how Paul George was so great. I don’t know if they thought it has jinx potential, but I’m here to tell you that it didn’t have any effect: George was legitimately great tonight. The Thunder bottled him up effectively in the first half, holding him to six — Thabo Sefolosha did the best job of containing George — but that wasn’t going to last, and Frank Vogel decided to leave George in as long as possible.

“As long as possible” proved to be until the 6:41 mark, when Vogel found a spare towel on the bench and threw it in. At the time, George had 32 points on 9-17 shooting, including 4 of 6 for distance, and OKC was up by 19. Scott Brooks pulled Batman and Robin a couple minutes later, and it then became a question of who among the reserves might do something interesting. The much-traveled Rasual Butler, a favorite at this desk while he was at New Orleans while New Orleans was, um, here, hit two of three treys; Perry Jones III emerged from the shadows and went 3-3; and the Thunder pocketed a 118-94 win over one of the NBA’s premier defensive outfits.

Maybe the Pacers needed a couple more Georges. David West and Roy Hibbert got into double figures, but just barely, and Hibbert, who can outblock anyone, went swatless. The Thunder outrebounded Indiana, 46-29, and outshot them, 61 percent to 40. OKC moved the ball like crazy — 27 assists, including 13 from Russell Westbrook — while the Pacers could manage only 13 in aggregate.

Meanwhile, Westbrook was piling up 26 points, and Kevin Durant, brought back at precisely the time George was making his biggest splash, put together an even better line: 36 points on 14-23 shooting and 10 rebounds. And this was a night for Kendrick Perkins to stand there and say No, which he did with considerable alacrity: 22 minutes, about half again his usual, six points, seven boards and two blocks. Speaking of blocks, Serge Ibaka had but the one tonight; but he knocked down 13 points in a mere eight shots.

This is a single-game homestand; the Thunder are off to Atlanta on Tuesday, followed by Memphis on Wednesday. Both can be expected to offer resistance.

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Strange search-engine queries (410)

Your Monday morning begins with another set of peculiar search strings, as picked up by this very site over the past several days, in lieu of actual, you know, content.

85yrs old grannies fucking pictures:  Get your own effing pictures.

jessica alba fantasy story:  I bet she wasn’t 85, either.

nudity in bizet carmen:  Because Frenchmen know intuitively what sort of things happen in deepest Seville.

tight wet ones:  Carmen was like that, but then she was still young.

unicorn breeders association:  Have you seen how much those breeders will charge you?

dawn fairchild new roads school aol settlement:  It’s hard to imagine anyone settling for AOL these days.

GF4AEL went out:  And probably had a good time, too.

don’t start sentences with with:  With what authority do you make this demand?

philander vedio:  One should never attempt adultery beneath a surveillance camera.

Skinny ankle jailbait:  Especially if she’s underage.

john doak uninsured motorist:  John Doak is the Insurance Commissioner. Surely someone would have written him a policy.

so much for your bright idea:  Could be my epitaph, if you think about it.

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Enter the caretakers

It’s been a while since I put a dream sequence up here, but then it’s been a while since I had one worth remembering — especially since this one was a product of Saturday-night insomnia.

Anyone who’s kicked an automobile tire knows precisely the amount of give the tire is supposed to provide: zero. The same applies to bicycles, but bike tires are hard to kick, being narrow and all, so the usual expedient is to give it a pinch. Upon finding a definite deficit of air pressure in the front, I decided I’d chance it for the first mile or so, and then push it the rest of the way. The bike, of course, handled like a raccoon on an ice floe, so it wasn’t too long before I dismounted. When the rain started, I ducked into a convenience store, which was probably rude of me since I was still carrying the bike; I made it most of the way down the main aisle before I passed out.

I awoke to find no sign of either the bicycle or my clothing; apparently I had died and was in some celestial Fort Dix awaiting Final Orders. They had issued me something tunic-y, about a hospital gown and a half, with just enough material to cover my back bumper but nowhere near enough to keep me warm. A staffer speaking some sort of mutant Esperanto, of which I comprehended maybe every sixth word, bade me accompany him, and after about four and a half changes in direction he left me in some sort of dorm room with three beds narrower than twin size and two occupants, one a guy who looked like he’d just been told he wasn’t getting the Glengarry leads, the other a girl who might make a nice hippie chick once she grew up. Neither of them acknowledged my arrival: the guy was watching whatever was on the television, and the girl was half-asleep.

Some unknown amount of time later, another lackey popped in, this time bearing a tray full of tiny wood splints. Both my roommates groaned in classic “This again?” fashion. The lackey brought me a couple of them and gestured toward my face. “Did I ask for toothpicks?” I thought, but didn’t say. The girl was fumbling with hers; the lackey attempted to show her how to use the tool, and it appeared to me that this was intended as some sort of gum-cleaning device: the absence of curtain pulls, shoestrings, and the like told me that whoever our keepers were, they weren’t likely to trust us with floss. I obediently began tracing the appropriate area; the lackey gave out with a smile, probably programmed, and in a burst of syllables urged the girl to follow my example. She did so, and in so doing earned another smile from the lackey, who then turned his attentions to the old guy. (He probably wasn’t older than I am, really, but I wasn’t, at this time, as old as I am usually.)

I’d slept for several hours when yet another minion showed up: apparently the girl and I had earned a trip outdoors. And “outdoors” looked like what Le Corbusier might have thought a Turkish bazaar ought to look like: it was disorganized, but it was neatly disorganized for most of its two-block length. Nothing looked at all familiar; apparently that convenience store, and my bicycle, were far, far away.

Apparently I would be allowed some quantity of goodies from the bazaar, but none of them looked particularly interesting: a double-sized thimble, various puzzle boxes, what looked like a Super Ball. I was about to check the ball for Superness when someone’s failure to negotiate the ice on the corner of my street woke me up.

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Demote the general welfare

Should we declare victory in the War on Poverty and bring the boys home from Washington? It has a certain visceral appeal, but it might not work the way we think it would:

The money isn’t being spent on the poor, but it is being spent to prevent poverty; some people’s poverty, anyway. The bureaucrats who administer the anti-poverty programs are themselves the objects. Their jobs coordinating one of the hundreds of jobs programs is itself a jobs program. That’s not sarcasm or hyperbole. Really, there isn’t any other place for them, and they won’t be allowed to live in the condition they would end up in if not for that government job.

They have no marketable skill, and at 45 they can’t now learn anything that will earn them a middle class living. If that seems unkind or offensive, express it this way: the private economy has no place for them. Firing them en masse won’t unleash a bounty of entrepreneurship, as the former grant administration compliance auditor pushes his own weenie cart, selling dogs to the former diversity coordination outreach specialist who now builds houses. Though maybe tearing down empty houses would be a better business model today.

Short of hiring them to dig holes, and then reassigning the Department of Education to fill them back up, it’s difficult to come up with a way to dispose of these folks humanely.

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A different kind of buzz

Never in a million off-seasons would it have occurred to me that Lorde’s inspiration for “Royals” was, um, a member of the Kansas City Royals:

It took a few weeks of research, but National Geographic has confirmed that pop star Lorde was referring to a photo of Kansas City Royals’ baseball legend George Brett when she explained where she got the inspiration for her megahit “Royals.”

In an interview a few months ago with VH1, Lorde (real name Ella Yelich-O’Connor) explained how she “had this image from the National Geographic of this dude just signing baseballs. He was a baseball player and his shirt said, ‘Royals.’ It was just that word. It’s really cool.”

Someone, of course, would have to track that down, and someone did:

After The [Kansas City] Star wrote a story on Nov. 19 about the interview, an astute reader found a photo that matched the description.

The photo, published in July 1976, shows the star third baseman surrounded by adoring fans and signing baseballs. According to a National Geographic spokeswoman, “this appears to be the only photo in our archives of a Royals baseball player signing autographs.”

I have to assume that hearing “Royals” twice a day, to and from the K, had nothing whatever to do with the Royals’ 86-76 season, third place in the AL Central, their first finish above .500 in a decade — but you never really know, do you?

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You ducks are expected to sit

A front-page (albeit below the fold) story in this morning’s Oklahoman described the horrors of a westside neighborhood, an area in which I used to live many years ago and which apparently has been heading into the ol’ porcelain facility of late.

The story (behind the paywall) was long enough to fill up page 2A, where I found this:

Oklahoman photo of Terrace Apartments in OKC

I ought to call up a local sign painter and ask what he’d charge for “SHOOT US, WE’RE UNARMED.”

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Your photos shall not escape us

Yahoo!, which managed Flickr competently until last year’s system-wide makeover, which got on users’ last collective nerve, is now looking for another photo site to mess up:

This fall, Yahoo began serious talks to buy photo-sharing site Imgur, a source with first-hand knowledge of those discussions tells us.

Since she joined Yahoo in July 2012, CEO Marissa Mayer has acquired dozens of startups. Most of these acquisitions have been acqui-hires.

The buy that cost Yahoo the most was its $1.1 billion purchase of Tumblr. Yahoo bought Tumblr because it has a deeply engaged, youthful audience, that uses the product on mobile. It would buy Imgur for all the same reasons.

Not that Imgur is going to cost that much, even allowing for the standard 50-percent markup on brands ending in R:

Our guess is Yahoo would have to offer something between $100 million and $500 million. But who knows in a world where Snapchat supposedly turned down a $3 billion offer from Facebook.

And what the frak is “acqui-hiring,” anyway?

[It is] the process of acquiring a company to recruit its employees, without necessarily showing an interest in its products and services (or their continued operation).


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Here’s looking at you, skid

I have long believed that properly winterizing a car meant shipping it to somewhere around San Diego and then retrieving it after Winter Wrap-Up. We’ve had iced-over residential streets since early Thursday, and, well, there’s only so much you can do about it, and by “so much” is meant “basically squat”:

When the surface goes as frictionless as a Physics 101 thought experiment, anti-lock brakes just ensure you’ll slide sideways into the middle of the intersection with all four wheels turning instead of locked up tight.

This outcome is, I need hardly tell you, sub-optimal.

Oh, traction control, you say? What do you think happens when you divide by zero?

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The exotic becomes mundane

We take contemporary automotive technology more or less for granted. No, really:

The one piece to this story that I haven’t mentioned (at least I don’t think I have), is just how exotic this engine is. It’s an all aluminum, DOHC (Dual Overhead Camshafts) 24 valve V6. When I was a kid and muscle cars with their pushrod-operated, cast-iron, V8’s were all the rage, the only place you would have found an engine like this would have have been in something truly exotic, like a Ferrari Dino, and oh! how I lusted after a Ferrari in those days. Now it’s just one of a zillion very similar engines, and no one even appreciates how special they are. DOHC and 4 valves per cylinder are just a couple of bullet points on the marketing brochure, and they might just be one bullet point.

Down to one bullet point: one can do four valves per cylinder with a single overhead cam, but it hardly seems worth the effort anymore.

Interestingly, the engine being discussed is presumably the Chrysler LH, a 2.7-liter DOHC 24-valve V6; the next step up, in those days, was the 3.5, which had only the single cam.

Because I need to remind myself that there is progress being made, here’s what the mill in the Dino 206 was like: 2.0l DOHC V6, 9.7:1 compression, 160 hp @ 8000 rpm, 138 lb-ft @ 6500 rpm, redline 8000 rpm.

And this is my daily driver: 3.0l DOHC V6, 10:1 compression, 227 hp @ 6400 rpm, 217 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm, redline 6600 rpm. No trademark banshee wail, but you can’t have everything.

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Helle breaks loose

A case study in side-eye, as taught by the First Lady:

“That girl,” it turns out, is Helle Thorning-Schmidt, forty-seven this week, who for the past two years has served as Prime Minister of Denmark under Queen Margrethe II. A Social Democrat, she has pursued policies which these days are considered centrist; she’s married to Stephen Kinnock of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

Obviously not just someone who caught the President’s eye. In fact, they’ve met before:

Helle Thorning-Schmidt with Barack Obama

And like the rest of us, she puts her shoes on one at a time:

Helle Thorning-Schmidt exits her car

Commentary has ranged from snarky to really snarky, with this tweet perhaps summing it up:

Michelle’s death stare is the distilled rage of a million black women losing the attentions of their men to white blondes.

Beyond that, deponent saith not.

Addendum: Well, maybe something more about the shoes.

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Grainy night in Georgia

For a while, this was starting to look like a Bad Shooting Clinic: 48-39 at the half does not suggest a superior offensive display on either side. At one point, I found myself wondering, not so much whether the outcome would be favorable, but whether Kyle Korver would make a trey for the 3,000th, or whatever, game in a row. (He did.) The Thunder were up 14 at one point in the third; the Hawks shaved that to three early in the fourth, arousing the folks filling up two-thirds of the seats at the Philips. OKC promptly ran off a 10-0 string to show them who’s boss; Atlanta declined to obey, following Paul Millsap, Jeff Teague and reserve guard Shelvin Mack back to within three just inside the two-minute mark. But that was it: the Thunder held firm and earned a 101-92 win.

And this was a night on which Millsap had a season high (23 points, 12 rebounds) and Mack had his best performance ever (17 points on 7-9 shooting in 20 minutes). But the Hawks tossed up too many clangers and airballs: 36 percent from the floor, 9/26 (34 percent) from distance. (The Thunder were not even that wonderful from beyond the arc, hitting a pitiable 4 of 18.) And Al Horford was basically put in a corner most of the second half, held to 7 points, though he did collect ten boards.

Russell Westbrook had an off night, if a night in which you come one board short of a triple-double counts as “off”: 14 points (scary 6-21) and 11 assists did the trick, though. For that matter, Kevin Durant was not shooting so well either (9-21), though he ended up with his more-or-less usual 30, with 10 boards. Also with ten boards: Serge Ibaka, who scored 19. Thabo Sefolosha, officially day to day with a knee sprain, drew a Not Today; Andre Roberson started, and while he only made one shot in 12 minutes, he reeled in five rebounds. (OKC led the battle of the boards, 54-45.) And the Doublemint Twins, Reggie Jackson and Jeremy Lamb, earned double figures. Oh, there was a flagrant on Kendrick Perkins, which even radio guy Matt Pinto conceded early on.

The depleted Grizzlies — Ed Davis and Tony Allen are day-to-day, Marc Gasol is off for some unspecified period, and Quincy Pondexter is lost for the season — will be waiting in Memphis tomorrow night.

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Having a bad day

I started using this plugin last year; it does a pretty good job of hosing out the database when used on a regular basis.

Until, of course, it doesn’t. Judging by the changelog, it’s been a rough few days for the poor guy:

2.7.3 [12/09/2013]

    BUG FIX: deleted some CR/LF’s from the end of the plugin sigh

2.7.2 [12/09/2013]

    BUG FIX: forgot to delete a debug item… oops! sorry!

2.7.1 [12/09/2013]

    BUG FIX: query and depreciated item (mysql_list_tables) fixed

2.7 [12/06/2013]

    NEW: deletion of expired transients (optional)

I’d deactivated it for a while, figuring he’d straighten it out eventually. Looks like maybe he did.

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Instant justification

“Whew! That was a close one!” we’re supposed to be saying as the Treasury disposes of the balance of its holdings in General Motors, although Treasury — and therefore taxpayers — lost ten and a half billion dollars on the deal:

Without the bailout, the country would have lost more than 1 million jobs, and the economy could have slipped from recession into a depression, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said on a conference call with reporters.

Which is what he’s required to say: everything the government does, from handing out cell phones to putting tariffs on Chinese tires is justified by “the alternative would have been worse.”

Not that we can actually prove any such assertion, of course:

Well, if Jacob Lew says the alternative was worse than losing $10.5 billion of taxpayer money, who are we to disagree? Because the effects of hypothesized alternative scenarios are always subject to speculation, officials can justify any policy by declaring that things would have been worse if we had done something different. (Let’s keep this principle of Liberal Logic™ in mind: Next time some hippie peacenik tells you that Bush’s Iraq policy was a failure, just remind him that an imaginary hypothetical alternative — e.g., Saddam Hussein’s army invading Connecticut — would have been much worse.)

Oh, and that blue floodlight out in the yard? It keeps tigers away.

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Carcinogens to go

I opened the envelope, and the little box slid out; and stuck to its side was an adhesive warning label, about an inch and a half square, reading as follows:

Pursuant to California Health & Safety Code Section 25249.6, the Distributor of this Product Warns you That The Product May Contain Substances Known to the State of California to Cause Cancer and/or Reproductive Toxicity.

Three emblems are printed on the case: a triangle reading “ALL NEW MATERIAL,” a circle with a bar through it implying No Lead, and a certification by the EU regarding RoHS.

This is the deadly item purchased: a collection of miscellaneous screws for jeweler/optician use. Lead is out — says so on the box — so cadmium, maybe? Or perhaps the plastic box contains some heinous chemical. It’s made in India, if that means anything.

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Such cunning

First, we hear from Yeung Chi-kong, executive vice-president of the Toy Manufacturers’ Association in Hong Kong:

“We make toys to educate our kids to love people. We talk only about love but not hatred. It is definitely not the objective of toy manufacturers to make a toy for people to express their anger.”

Just the same, a plushie from IKEA is stirring up the pot:

The grinning wolf stuffed toy, Lufsig, selling at global furniture chain Ikea, has become an unlikely symbol of protest against the government of Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying, who has long been characterised by opponents as a “wolf” for his perceived cunning and lack of integrity.

And it’s actually worse than that:

The translation of the toy’s name used in mainland stores is close to an obscene three-word phrase in Cantonese associated with female genitalia.

Fortunately, my knowledge of Cantonese obscenities is next to nil.

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A private little mix

Rita Moreno is perhaps best known for playing Anita in the film version of West Side Story and dancing up a storm. (Her vocals on “America” were dubbed, but you’ll get over it.) This year, she’s been on a book tour to promote a memoir:

Rita Moreno and her book

Which may be the perfect picture: Then and Now in serious proximity, and that’s a nifty little orange dress. The photo source has a whole gallery from this March 2013 appearance in south Florida.

Oh, and she turns 82 today.

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Care Bears just a tad indifferent

The Grizzlies were more or less forced into a nine-man rotation, by dint of having four injured players; the Thunder were missing Thabo Sefolosha still, but lost two during the game, Steven Adams taking a hard fall in the fourth quarter and spraining an ankle, and Kendrick Perkins disappearing into the locker room after fourteen minutes for reasons no one would disclose. (It’s a Hasheem Thabeet sighting!) Still, Memphis had Zach Randolph and Mike Conley, and as always they were worth their weight in [name of semi-precious metal]; it just wasn’t enough to overcome superior Thunder power, with Oklahoma City leading by double digits most of the second half and pocketing an unexpectedly easy 116-100 win.

Conley led the Griz with a respectably efficient 20 points on 13 shots, including two treys on five tries. Randolph was right behind with 17, though he inexplicably missed five of 12 free throws. Also with 17: backup big Jon Leuer, a formidable defensive force with two blocks, two steals and six rebounds. More double figures for Kosta Koufos, understudying Marc Gasol, and Jerryd Bayless, in the Tony Allen role.

But with almost all the numbers in their favor, the Thunder got only brief contributions from two starters in that fourth quarter: Andre Roberson, filling Thabo’s slot, who played 19 minutes and collected a career-high seven points, and Serge Ibaka, who came on briefly after Adams was felled. (Ibaka had the highest plus-minus of anyone: +29.) Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, in their abbreviated stints, collected 18 and 27 points. KD got those 18 while shooting 6-12; Jeremy Lamb got 18 for the first time ever by shooting 7-9. (No, not that Seven of Nine.) And the other Doublemint Twin, Reggie Jackson, tacked on 17 more points. (Fifty-two bench points for OKC. Remember when they struggled to get 20?)

The Lakers come to OKC on Friday. Kobe Bryant will play. Whether that will make any difference or not, we shall see.

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Alias Smith and Jones

I had to read this [pdf] just for the title and the authors: “The Economic Payoff of Name Americanization” by Costanza Biavaschi, Corrado Giulietti and Zahra Siddique.

But this is what’s truly amazeballs (doncha just hate that word?) about it:

We examine the impact of the Americanization of names on the labor market outcomes of migrants. We construct a novel longitudinal data set of naturalization records in which we track a complete sample of migrants who naturalize by 1930.

We find that migrants who Americanized their names experienced larger occupational upgrading. Some, such as those who changed to very popular American names like John or William, obtained gains in occupation-based earnings of at least 14%.

We show that these estimates are causal effects by using an index of linguistic complexity based on Scrabble points as an instrumental variable that predicts name Americanization. We conclude that the tradeoff between individual identity and labor market success was present since the early making of modern America.

I dunno. “John” may be short, but it’s 14 points. (“William” is 12.) Still, putting the names on tiles is probably as valid as, and certainly less complicated than, writing down every single name and doing some overwrought extrapolation therefrom.

(Via the umlautless Chris Blattmann.)

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And no black interiors, either

Now this question, in and of itself, doesn’t necessarily imply anything racist:

Yahoo Answers screenshot: Cadillac, BMW or Mercedes? (Asian brands do not count)

Until you read what comes next:

This question is only for traditional white people to answer. Not interested in the China-man’s Lexus or cheap wanna-be-Mercedes brands like Audi. The real question is — Cadillac or Mercedes? I think Cadillacs will last significantly longer than Mercedes — assuming it receives proper care and maintenence.

Not being a traditional white person, I gave him just the hint of a flame.

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Not a mail-enhancement product

Wondering about the future of the US Postal Service? Take a look up north to what Canada Post is doing:

Canada Post’s abrupt announcement that it is ending door-to-door delivery in urban areas and charging $1 for an individual stamp has alarmed opposition MPs and postal workers who say the new plan is bad news for Canadians.

The plan — released the day after the House of Commons started its Christmas break — caught parliamentarians by surprise.

Which, if nothing else, proves that Canadians understand the news cycle at least as well as we do.

Transport Minister Lisa Raitt defends the moves:

“The Government of Canada supports Canada Post in its efforts to fulfil its mandate of operating on a self-sustaining financial basis in order to protect taxpayers, while modernizing its business and aligning postal services with the choices of Canadians.”

About those community boxes:

The move from door-to-door delivery to community mailboxes will be rolled out over the next five years, starting in the second half of 2014. About one-third of Canadian households will be affected. Mail delivery to rural households will not change.

And you may not have to pay a full loonie for a stamp:

The cost of a stamp will also jump from $0.63 to $0.85 for bulk purchase of stamps, or $1 for individual stamps. That change comes into effect March 31, 2014.

There will, of course, be job reductions, though Canada Post expects more than enough retirements in the next year to cover them.

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Shoes for European industry

While gathering material for the Rule 5 piece on Helle Thorning-Schmidt, I happened upon these shoes of hers:

Shoes worn by Helle Thorning-Schmidt to a EU convocation

Couldn’t find any identifying material on them except for this:

Great shoes from Denmark’s Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt as she arrives for an EU summit in Brussels. European Union leaders meet in Brussels ostensibly to agree on ways to find more jobs for the young, who’ve been disproportionately punished by years of crisis and recession. Photograph: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/AP

And I did find a shot of what she wore them with:

Outfit worn by Helle Thorning-Schmidt to a EU convocation

Well played, Madam Prime Minister. (This photo by Georges Gobet.)

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Kick that block

From this moment on, blocking someone on Twitter doesn’t actually, you know, block them:

If your account is public, blocking a user does not prevent that user from following you, interacting with your Tweets, or receiving your updates in their timeline. If your Tweets are protected, blocking the user will cause them to unfollow you.

Kashmir Hill (no relation) reports for Forbes:

It’s the “see no evil, hear no evil” approach to combating harassment. Twitter spokesperson Jim Prosser says Twitter made the change because it thinks it will cut down on the vitriol, anger, and resentful Jezebel articles that result from knowing you’ve been blocked.

“We saw antagonistic behavior where people would see they were blocked and be mad,” says Prosser. He also says “block” doesn’t really make sense when the content is still visible. “Twitter is public, we want to reinforce that content published in a public profile is viewable by the world.”

If you ask me, if your delicate sensitivities are upset because someone blocked you, you should hie yourself to Facebook and involve yourself with as many games as possible — and never again speak a freaking word online to anyone.

Update, 10 pm: Twitter caves after about a bazillion appearances of #RestoreTheBlock. The action is reversed.

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The velveteen robot

“But I am Real!” No, honey, you’re not:

This particular telemarketer for a company hawking health insurance has her own name and a tinkle of laughter to go along with her denial of actually being a robot.

Time’s Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer encountered the robo-woman when his cell phone rang and the voice on the other end wanted to know if he was looking for a good deal on health insurance (sassy!). Things didn’t sound quite right, so he asked point blank if she was a real person or a robot voice.

She laughs it off and says of course, she’s a “real person.” But she couldn’t answer other simple questions that weren’t part of her script, like “What vegetable is in tomato soup?” (although technically, a tomato is a fruit, but whatever) or “What day of the week was it yesterday?”

When she’s got nothing good to say or is accused of being artificially intelligent, she asks if you can hear her, and ponders whether the connection could be bad, as heard in recordings made by other Time staffers to the same number.

Just once, I want one of these quasi-creatures to call up James T. Kirk. Won’t last an hour.

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Cast into the wilderness

Once upon a time, the great digital god Google smote me with the back of its algorithmic hand; I had to mend my ways and atone for my wickedness before I would be readmitted to Google’s good graces, a process which ultimately required me to hire the services of a white-hat malware consultant, my own mad skillz being insufficient to the task.

But that’s Google: it knows the quality of mercy, even if it’s difficult to entreat them to extend it to someone. Lesser entities have their own methods of persuasion:

The McAfee Site Advisor website claims, about, “We tested it and found security risks. Beware.”

These claims by McAfee are utterly false and highly defamatory. By spreading this information through its downloadable browser tools, McAfee is severely harming the reputation and web traffic of Natural News while misleading potentially millions of users about a website that they find to be highly informative, reputable and completely free of security risks.

UPDATE: McAfee contacted us and explained that if we paid them $38,000, they would certify our website and “take care” of the red reputation rankings. In a second conversation, they told us that if we made the decision to go with them TODAY, they would reduce the fee to just $32,000. Feeling forced into having our website reputation destroyed if we did not pay, we paid McAfee $32,000, which we consider an “extortion fee.” Magically, within minutes, all the red flags on our website were lifted and Natural News is no longer being blocked by McAfee. This cost us $32,000!!!

“We tested it” seems arguable:

Site Advisor’s scores are derived from users who sign up to be “site reviewers.” The ratings from these “site reviewers” are then TRUSTED by McAfee to be accurate, regardless of whether they are accurate or not.

This faulty reputation structure allows gangs of online paid trolls (so-called “anti-P.R. companies”) to game the system and coordinate a campaign of submitting negative ratings for any targeted website (such as Natural News).

I need hardly point out that if there’s one thing trolls like better than trolling, it’s getting paid for trolling.

They haven’t sent Maggie a bill yet, but they’ve blacklisted her on the flimsiest of “evidence”:

[T]he warning on Site Advisor about Maggie’s Notebook points to Blogads as my problem, and to be clear, Blogads is not the problem, and because of McAfee, Blogads has not been on my site for months. BUT here’s the story: McAfee says they “haven’t tested it [Blogads] yet,” and by their own admission they “don’t have enough information,” but flagged me anyway. Many, many sites use Blogads as an advertising source. They are completely reputable.

If nothing else, this shows you how often they update their “information.”

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Desperation maneuvers

Seldom am I moved to read a page a spammer is trying to link here, but I took a look at one — no, he’s not getting a link, don’t be silly — and they’re “offering” this:

  • We create 1,500 up to PR8 Wiki article for only $1
  • Each article will have 3 backlinks for your website “recommended”
  • this will give you 4,500 backlinks for your URL and keywords
  • you can ask for more keywords per article if you want we just recommend only 3 backlinks per article.

And people wonder if the Wiki might not be trustworthy.

In point of fact, I get a small but steady flow of traffic from Wikipedia: there are at least half a dozen pages there that link to my, um, outside sources.

The same dillhole, eleven minutes later, offered to sell me 100 “social bookmarks,” whatever the hell that may be, for a buck.

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Something to rail against

On the off-chance that you think our local transit mavens are just slightly deluded — well, imagine what it’s like in we-gotta-do-something Austin. Chris Bradford sends an open letter to City Council:

It is thus remarkable that Project Connect’s planners managed to choose the only sub-corridor — Highland — that lacks either a current or future Core Transit Corridor connection to downtown or UT. Airport Boulevard, of course, is a Core Transit Corridor. But it does not connect to downtown/UT, and there is no Core Transit Corridor connecting Airport to downtown/UT through the Highland “sub-corridor.” (Of course, Guadalupe-Lamar — the preferred alternative of many — connects UT and Airport quite nicely, but it appears to be off the table.) Choosing the Highland sub-corridor will require that our next high-capacity transit investment be made on Duval or Red River… Neither of these has been identified as even a future Core Transit Corridor.

Duval, if I remember correctly, has about 1.6 speed humps per block; the only advantage I can see to Red River is that you can occasionally see it from the upper deck of Interstate 35. Maybe they’re wanting to push 38½ Street as a connector.

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Down at the end of Cyanide Court

Those hardy souls up there in N’Hampsha can deal with anything — with the possible exception of French:

Since she opened her indoor skydiving business in 2006, SkyVenture co-owner Laurie Greer has been coping with an unexpected downside to her location in Nashua.

The business is on a small stretch of pavement off Daniel Webster Highway. Called Poisson Avenue, the roughly 500-foot-long road leads up to the edge of the Merrimack River.

It bears a fitting name, given the geography; “poisson” is the French word for fish. But Greer said people often make a different association, mistaking the street name for “Poison Avenue.”

In other news, there’s an indoor skydiving business in Nashua.

Ward 7 Alderman June Caron and Mayor Donnalee Lozeau are sponsoring legislation on behalf of the business to rename Poisson Avenue. They’re proposing “Adventure Way” as a replacement. Greer said the mayor suggested Adventure Way because it speaks to the type of experiences people have at her business.

I must point out that few experiences are quite as memorable as Poison.

(Via Fark.)

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More purple than gold

The Lakers are not at all accustomed to being the Other Team in Los Angeles, and their injured list is as lengthy as any team’s, which hasn’t helped their cause. But heck, why can’t Kobe Bryant play point guard? Bryant admittedly hasn’t been himself lately, but he’s been somebody, and without the Gang of Steves — both Blake and Nash are on the DL — well, he turned in a PG-ish line, with only four points but with 13 assists and two steals. Unfortunately, he gave up the ball seven times, and the Lakers, who jumped out to an early lead, couldn’t sustain it beyond the middle of the first quarter. The Thunder claimed a 10-point lead after one quarter, increasing to 15 after two and 20 after three, and somewhere in the midst of all that it ceased to matter anymore: Oklahoma City 122, Los Angeles 97, and as always with Loud City, they love to beat anyone, but they especially love to beat anyone from L.A.

If anyone in purple and gold really shone tonight, it was Nick Young, who led the Lakers with 17 points, including four of seven treys. (Overall, the Lakers were 7-24, which means that apart from Young, they were 3-17 from distance.) Xavier Henry got fouled rather a lot, and earned 16 free throws, but he missed seven of them. On the upside, it was good to see Chris Kaman again, even in limited minutes: he nailed nine points in 12 minutes.

Once again, none of the Thunder starters showed up for the fourth quarter except Andre Roberson, who continued to start in place of the wounded Thabo Sefolosha. Kevin Durant knocked down 31 points in just under 31 minutes; Serge Ibaka, Russell Westbrook and Reggie Jackson each checked in with 19. (Give Serge ten rebounds, and Russell twelve dimes.) Jeremy Lamb contributed 11 to the score. Even Hasheem Thabeet, pretty much #11 in Scott Brooks’ ten-man rotation, got some burn, what with Steven Adams fouling faster than he could score.

The Magic will be coming to town Sunday; after that, it’s off to Denver on Tuesday, followed by a single home game against the Bulls on Thursday.

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Quote of the week

As predictable as the dawn, and a hell of a lot less illuminating:

News trucks and reporters are descending on Newtown to exploit the almost-an-anniversary by interviewing residents about how they don’t want news trucks and reporters descending on them to exploit the almost-an-anniversary.

Not one mention of the fact that not a single piece of antigun legislation proposed since then would have even slowed the killer down. Not a single mention of the fact that making a desperate loser the Single Most Talked About Person On The Television is only adding fuel to the fire of the next guy, who already has his spreadsheet laid out with the numbers to beat.

As Don Henley once observed, “It’s interesting when people die.”

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Damned normalization

Very few people, says Jack Baruth, are both extraordinarily talented and emotionally stable:

Dave Grohl, by all accounts, is a sober, decent, hardworking, trustworthy, fan-focused, sense-of-humor-possessing, completely dedicated individual. W. Axl Rose, by contrast, is completely and utterly worthless in every respect, except for the minor fact that he was responsible for Appetite For Destruction and Use Your Illusion. Ask yourself who the rock star is: Dave Grohl — or Axl Rose? If Axl Rose could get his shit together long enough to perform for an evening with at least part of the original Gn’R lineup, and Dave Grohl was also performing that evening somewhere else, where would you go?

In a perfect world, Axl Rose would have Dave Grohl’s sterling personal qualities and we’d be awaiting the release of the seventh or eighth brilliant Guns N’ Roses album on iTunes any day now. In a perfect world, John Bonham and Nick Drake and Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix and Bon Scott and Keith Moon and every other incandescent talent who left the stage too soon as a result of their personal problems would still be making music. Instead, we have endless tours from hardworking nonentities like Phish and the group that has the nerve to call themselves the Who.

Now I have to ask myself if my writing has gotten better, or worse, since I started getting a grip on my own emotions. (First guesstimate: it’s been a wash.)

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Fark blurb of the week

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Waiting for the magenta pin to drop

T-Mobile, once wooed to no avail by AT&T, perhaps will now be courted by Sprint:

Sprint is mulling a potential bid for rival wireless carrier T-Mobile, according to a new report.

The report comes from The Wall Street Journal, citing “people familiar with the matter.” According [to] the Journal, the company is “studying regulatory concerns” and it could be prepared to make an offer as soon as the first half of 2014.

A Sprint/T-Mobile merger would pair the United States’ third and fourth largest carriers into an entity that could better compete against the two largest carriers, AT&T and Verizon. A Sprint/T-Mobile merger is something Sprint executives have sought for many years. Over the last year, in the wake of the failed AT&T/T-Mobile merger, executives from both companies have gone on record arguing that a merger should be allowed.

This is presumably relevant to Deutsche Telekom’s interests, one of which has been to get the heck out of the US market entirely. There’s this bit of fine print in the T-Mobile/MetroPCS merger from earlier this year:

In its agreement to merge the fourth-largest U.S. wireless carrier with MetroPCS Communications Inc., Deutsche Telekom pledged not to sell shares of the listed carrier on the stock market for 18 months. The German company holds a 74 percent stake in the company, which has a market value of $14.2 billion.

“There is an exception clause in the contract regarding the lock-up,” said [Timotheus] Hoettges, who will take over as Deutsche Telekom’s chief executive officer next year. “We are in a position to sell all shares in one go.”

“Why not take all of me?” sings TMo.

The T-Mobile/MetroPCS merger received regulatory approval in March, so the 18-month window closes in September 2014. Market cap is currently about $23 billion.

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Hanging off the edge of the dial

I was glancing down the news listings at RadioInsight, and this little bit of broadcast history caught my eye:

WLFM-LP [Cleveland] debuted the locally oriented “Sound” format in July 2012, as one of the so-called Franken-FM’s. These are low-powered analog television signals operating on Channel 6 using the fact that its audio signal on 87.75 is able to be tuned by many radios. These signals are required to convert to digital operation by September 1, 2015 at which point they will no longer be able to operate as a radio station.

“Are there any more of these?” I wondered. More than a dozen, in fact, including WNYZ-LP in New York, about which an “out of date” Wikipedia article says:

During most of its life, the station has been operated more as a radio station than a television station; though WNYZ-LP broadcasts video, it is usually silent movies that are repeated throughout the day, and only to fulfill the Federal Communications Commission requirement that some sort of video be broadcast on the frequency. Since the digital transition, WNYZ broadcast color bars, a legal ID, and a message telling viewers to listen to 87.7 MHz, the audio of the digital channel. It is the last remaining analog television station in New York City.

So what’s on? It’s Danu Radio, billed as “The Only Russian-Speaking Radio Station in North America.” At least, that’s what it is Monday through Friday, according to the schedule; presumably something else (Caribbean?) fills up the weekend.

And at some point, we’re supposed to hear, maybe, the lovely Tatyana Rodos:

Tatyana Rodos of Danu Radio NYC

She has Twitter and Facebook presences, but hasn’t done anything with either of them lately.

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Advice to the wannabe

If you don’t like the current wisdom on how to do your own blog, all you have to do is wait a few minutes, and something marginally fresher will come along. This one dropped into my lap yesterday: “10 Shortcuts for Writing a Blog Post in Record Time.”

Usually this is the point where I say I don’t do any of these and I’m doing fine, Jack. But I have to admit to using one of these, and using it quite often; that would be Number Three, “Practice Content Recycling.” I wouldn’t say I’m the absolute master of repurposing, but of all the blog vu, I’ve got to have some of the déjà-est.

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Say hello to Patsy

First female CEO at General Motors. Historic moment? Maybe — or maybe not:

I am not as thrilled as the rest of the country seems to be by the appointment of a woman to lead General Motors. If not for the $10.5B-losing bailout, GM would have have had to examine their practices, make changes and compete in the real world market place. The Saturn never would have been killed and Cadillac models would once again have names instead of numbers. As it stands though, the bailout provided a soft landing for all of their stumbles and they are now upright and undamaged. But are they changed? If they’re not, God Help Mary T. Barra the first female CEO of GM and the patsy set up to take the blame for the coming fall.

In defense of Barra, she does seem to understand cars, something no one ever would have said of predecessor Dan Akerson.

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As decreed in the Apple

A peek at a store window in the City of New York, and a call for an explanation:

NYC store window

The question posed at Pergelator:

NYC: $12 for a pack of smokes!?! $5 for the Sunday Paper!?! … Last time I noticed smokes were $5 locally. Seems like the older I get, the faster inflation goes (runs? inflates?).

Which may be true, but the culprit in this case is not inflation at all, but another government-inflicted pathology: taxation. New York State charges an excise tax of $4.35 per pack, and Greater Bloombergia tacks on an additional buck and a half. (Where I live, the tax is a more modest, but still deliberately punitive, $1.03; where he lives, $1.18.)

It occurs to me that were the Vampire State primarily interested in the actual health of the citizens, it would apply that same $5.85 tax to the Washington Post.

(Picture purloined from Burro Hall.)

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Mama said knock you off

This is obviously, or perhaps not so obviously, a fake:

Fake warning from Instagram

“Randomly deleting”? As if. Still, there’s always someone who’ll believe it.

Disclosure: I don’t have an Instagram account.

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Something up their sleeves

Nobody expects much of the Orlando Magic these days, and that perhaps included the Thunder, whom the Magic knocked around rather roughly in the first few minutes. That, of course, would not do, and Scott Brooks moved to reset their motivation, or whatever the heck he does. OKC went up 28-22 after the first quarter; the Magic managed to tie it about three and a half minutes before halftime, fell back by a dozen or more several times, and closed to within two (100-98) in the last minute with a 10-0 run. Kevin Durant sank one of two free throws, and a last-ditch block by Serge Ibaka iced the game: with 1.3 left, a jump ball was called, the Magic got one last chance, but that was it. OKC 101, Orlando 98.

All five Magic starters did manage to make it into double figures, led by Arron Afflalo with 25; Nikola Vučević had 13 plus 16 rebounds for the only Orlando double-double. They’d had the early rebounding lead, and finished just even (45-45); they also had problems (17-26) at the foul line. But they were scrappy from beginning to end, and maybe this was just a case of running out of minutes.

There were a few issues on the OKC side as well. Durant (28) and Russell Westbrook (20, 12 rebounds), as seemingly always, paced the starter scoring, and Reggie Jackson (10) and Jeremy Lamb (16) led the bench; Ibaka, however, did not have a great night despite that last block — at first, it was called as a goaltend, which would have been utterly horrible for the Thunder — and that fourth-quarter collapse will undoubtedly be Brooks’ topic on the plane to Denver.

This is a tricky week: out to Denver, back to play the Bulls, out to San Antonio and then back the next night to play the Raptors. Then again, no team is supposed to get a schedule they actually like, right?

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Strange search-engine queries (411)

In case you’ve missed the preceding 410 installments of this feature — well, it’s not like you need a whole lot of training to comprehend it. Web surfers go to search engines to look for stuff; search engine sends them here; log files reveal the details. Simple as that.

what are the biggest challenges to shape our country’s future:  Getting it away from the people who’ve been screwing it up.

what is needed to diagnose CD4E mazda transmittion:  More tools than you have, and the ability to spell wouldn’t hurt.

what is the new old-fashion way:  Brenda Lee, what hath thou wrought?

can old ATF cause hold light:  Real question: “Is there some way I can get this fixed without paying $2500?” Most likely answer: no.

what is the conceptual and operational meaning of “up means good”?  Down, boy.

is mikandi adware:  Are you getting ads? If not, then no.

click to view larger image and other views … have one to sell? sell it yourself 2004 2005 nissan maxima radio cd player dash trim be:  Ruined after you pry out that head unit with a screwdriver, as we know you did.

nicole kidman inseam:  If I had the ability to measure that, I wouldn’t have time to look up search queries.

mazda 626 1997 carburetor:  Fuel injection, son. Look into it.

nude ka hot sexiy imagas mull:  Next time, try typing with both hands.

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Persistence is rewarded

One of my more curious record-acquisition techniques in the middle 1960s was to sit by the phone and wait for a chance to win one from one of the two Top 40 stations in town. The big 5000-watter, much harder to get into, usually just mailed you a card which you could redeem at a local music store. The little thousand-watter, though, gave you stuff right out of their music library, where I bagged a few enduring hits and rather a lot of non-hits.

And one record which I broke, maybe, and forgot about. It was some time late in 1965 when I claimed this 45 at the station, and about a year later when it disappeared. I don’t remember what happened: did I break it? Did I lend it out? Where did it go? No answers forthcoming, I let it go, and gradually it faded from memory.

Now here we are, just about 48 years later, and the record is on my mind once again. All I can recall is the record label itself, because the spelling of the name was a bit eccentric, and the last line of the song, which was probably the title. My Google-fu would be challenged to the max.

The first clue came from a reference site/message board called Soulful Detroit, which actually knew the label: it was on the fringe of the Eddie Wingate empire. Wingate, you may remember, operated a pretty decent sub-Motown operation in those days, and had one sizable hitmaker: Charles Hatcher, aka Edwin Starr, aka Agent Double-O-Soul. Ostensibly to acquire Starr’s contract, but mostly to get the Funk Brothers to stop playing on other people’s records, Motown HMFIC Berry Gordy Jr. offered Wingate a ton of money to do a disappearing act.

And Wingate, it appeared, owned a piece of this independent-ish label called Volkano, with a K, which would issue four singles during its short lifespan, including one by a fellow named Bob Santa Maria. (It is suspected that Bob’s real last name was Seger.) The first issue on Volkano was “The Beginning of the End,” by Little John and Tony; “Tony” was Pete Saputo, also known as Anthony Raye — the more pseudonyms, the better, am I right? — and “John” was producer John Rhys, who co-wrote the song with longtime Detroit bassist Dennis Coffey. Coffey also arranged the record, and, most important from my point of view, still had a copy of it.

Now if I could just find a copy on YouTube — or, better yet, iTunes.

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