Jazz cooled

Rudy Gobert is the center of the Utah Jazz, in several senses of the word; his absence from this afternoon’s game proved to be a serious handicap to the team — but not the sort that kills a team’s hopes, even with Derrick Favors also sidelined. The Utah bench rose to the occasion, and then some: no Jazz starter managed double figures, but the reserves definitely carried their weight, with Dante Exum scoring a career-high 22 points and Alec Burks picking up 21 more. If the Thunder thought this was going to be easy, their wake-up call came quickly enough: a 20-plus-point lead was almost entirely erased in the fourth quarter, waiting for Russell Westbrook to take over the game. Which, of course, Westbrook did, going 33-11-14 and sinking 12 of 13 free throws. And so it was that the Thunder would win the season series, 3-1, with a 112-104 victory over the visiting Utahns, pulling OKC to within four games of the Jazz for the Northwest Division lead.

The Jazz did shoot decently — 48 percent, nine of 20 treys — and pulled off nine steals. The Thunder owned most of the rest of the statistics, though, and any day that Gordon Hayward is held to nine points, the Jazz are going down. Victor Oladipo did another of his patented 20-pointers (22, actually), and the Stache Brothers collected double figures, 11 for Steven Adams starting and 16 for Enes Kanter off the bench. (Kanter, obtained from Utah, generally does well against his former team.) Taj Gibson started up front, but was pulled in the second half with what appeared to be a minor hip ailment.

Coming up next: a two-game Chill Factor tour, starting with Brooklyn (Tuesday) and then moving to Toronto (Thursday). In this time slot next week: the Sacramento Kings come to town.

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The boss wants your DNA

No, not that way. This is an, um, enhancement to the GOP health-care scheme:

A little-noticed bill moving through Congress would allow companies to require employees to undergo genetic testing or risk paying a penalty of thousands of dollars, and would let employers see that genetic and other health information.

Giving employers such power is now prohibited by legislation including the 2008 genetic privacy and nondiscrimination law known as GINA. The new bill gets around that landmark law by stating explicitly that GINA and other protections do not apply when genetic tests are part of a “workplace wellness” program.

Because what could be more important than allowing your employer to complain about the state of your health — and collect from you if they don’t like it?

The bill, HR 1313, was approved by a House committee on Wednesday, with all 22 Republicans supporting it and all 17 Democrats opposed. It has been overshadowed by the debate over the House GOP proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, but the genetic testing bill is expected to be folded into a second ACA-related measure containing a grab-bag of provisions that do not affect federal spending, as the main bill does.

This is, you should know, not an exclusively Trumpazoid evil:

Employers got virtually everything they wanted for their workplace wellness programs during the Obama administration. The ACA allowed them to charge employees 30 percent, and possibly 50 percent, more for health insurance if they declined to participate in the “voluntary” programs, which typically include cholesterol and other screenings; health questionnaires that ask about personal habits, including plans to get pregnant; and sometimes weight loss and smoking cessation classes. And in rules that Obama’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued last year, a workplace wellness program counts as “voluntary” even if workers have to pay thousands of dollars more in premiums and deductibles if they don’t participate.

We have one advantage at 42nd and Treadmill: most of the staff is old and beaten down and highly cynical about BS like this.

(Via Fark.)

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Nothing happening here

I’ve felt for years that actual football was a low priority at the Super Bowl, but I didn’t know how low until someone ran the stopwatch during the three hours, fifty minutes of Super Bowl LI, and duly reported:

Time distribution in Super Bowl LI

And actually, this was an unusually large segment devoted to Ball in Play, inasmuch as the Patsys and the Farkers played 64 minutes instead of the usual 60.

(Via TYWKIWDBI.)

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A modest spectacle

Singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb, forty-nine today, is probably best known for her trademark eyeglasses, which she eventually developed into a full line of designer specs. She’s also recorded 13 albums.

Lisa Loeb attends a BMI function

Lisa Loeb sits up

Lisa Loeb goes casual

Her 1994 single “Stay (I Missed You)” was played over the credits of Ben Stiller’s film Reality Bites, and eventually climbed to the very top of the Billboard Hot 100, despite the fact that Loeb didn’t have a recording contract at the time.

Ethan Hawke, who lived across the street from Loeb in those days, was the one who talked Stiller into buying her song for the film soundtrack; he also directed Loeb’s music video.

I frankly find it hard to believe she’s 49 years old. Must be the glasses.

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So you think you’re anonymous

You probably wouldn’t want to bet your life on that:

In the Morse Code era, the phrase “fist” referred to the unique style that every telegraph operator brought to their communications. The phrase “recognized the fist” comes up again and again in various wartime and spy literature; it refers to hearing someone tapping out Morse Code and being able to distinguish the operator by their style. This was far from a trivial detail of the telegraph era; in more than one case lives were saved (or lost) because someone was able to differentiate between who an operator was supposed to be and who they actually were.

Fast-forward a hundred years, and it’s now possible to spy on what someone is typing by leaving a phone on their desk and having it pick up the vibrations from the physical activity of typing. (A laser mike pointed at your window works equally well, unfortunately.) Your typing style is like a fingerprint. It doesn’t even take a high-power microprocessor to determine what you’re doing on a computer. My first wife claimed to be able to tell, from a distance of across our house, whether I was programming, writing for a website, engaging in an Instant Messenger chat, or arguing with someone online on my old IBM Model M mechanical keyboard. Well, I shouldn’t say “claimed.” More like she just plain knew. Her accuracy rate was effectively 100%. Never once did she accuse me of not working when I was working, or vice versa.

Incidentally, this idea of being able to identify patterns in communications behavior is also how most cryptography is undone. There’s a brilliant scene in the novel Cryptonomicon where a highly complex cipher is broken because a cipher clerk doesn’t always close her eyes when she reaches into a bowl full of wooden balls — and although that scene is written right at the edge of the reader’s credulity, it has mathematical basis in fact. The whole difference between “128-bit” and “2048-bit” encryption is how effective the method is in reducing the “fist” or “fingerprint” of a conversation.

I do believe that tale of the first Mrs Baruth; I bang on a Model M to this day, and what it sounded like when I wrote this paragraph is nothing like what it sounded like when I recapped the Thunder-Spurs game. I don’t think anyone is listening — why would they care? — but I have learned not to be surprised.

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It’s only a referendum

“This is the state’s admission that they’re locking up a hell of a lot more people than they probably need to be, and reclassifying some of the druggies, at least, might clear up some of the logjam in the corrections system.”yours truly, giving tepid support, but support nonetheless, to State Question 780 last fall.

SQ 780 passed. What’s in it:

State Question 780, which Oklahoma voters overwhelming[ly] adopted in November, made simple possession of any drug a misdemeanor no matter how many times the person has been convicted of the same crime. The change also repealed enhancements, which prosecutors could use to increase punishments to the felony level. That means anyone caught with drugs on or near a school would face only a misdemeanor charge. The new drug laws go into effect July 1.

Apparently some people are not happy with that, and by “people” I mean “politicians”:

House Bill 1482 allows prosecutors to charge a suspect with a felony if they’re caught with drugs within 1,000 feet of school property. It also allows the enhanced charge for possession in the presence of a child under 12 years old.

“This law exists for children and children only. It’s wrong to say this is what the people of Oklahoma chose when we didn’t allow them to vote on it,” said state Rep. Tim Downing, R-Purcell. “I don’t know what the Senate will do. I don’t know what the governor will do. But I want you to search and say, what should I do for the kids, and what should I do for the schools?”

“This is a War on Drugs, goddamnit. We can’t give up now!”

I hate to break it to you, Timbo, but you lost this one many years ago. And over those years and several more, we’ve been given ample cause to be suspicious of legislation undertaken “for the children.”

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Unhermetically sealed

Roberta X channels her inner SwiftOnSecurity:

The young programmer — and he was no slouch; he’d recently created a custom version of the computer language “C” for his employer, finishing only a little behind the release of “C+” — took on this task with hope; after all, he’d got his start back when the clever students enjoying finding new ways to crash the nearby university’s big IBM mainframe, doing so in the dead of night, and showing the console operators how they’d done it so the vulnerability could be remedied!†

He thought and he thought and everything he came up with — had a hole in it. Allow unrestricted public access to a computer, and people you don’t want in it will get in. Passwords are a trivial problem, given time. Even air-gapping didn’t work, especially if media traveled both directions across the air-gap. Nope, the only way to be mostly safe was to run the support system on an isolated computer from which nothing ever, ever came back to his employer’s network — and that still left the users vulnerable, especially if the support machine was used to distribute software.

The general rule he evolved was this: “If you want to keep a computer safe, you cannot allow any form of unrestricted access. If it is accessible, people you don’t want in will inevitably get in.” That’s Stockman’s Law: if your computer has to be secure, it can have no network connection, no removable media, no unvetted users, no nothing but a display and HIDs — and even that can be defeated by a malicious authorized user. And then what good is it?

Actually, Swift is a bit more forgiving than that:

You cannot just buy “security.” It is something obtained through simple choices and knowledge. Tragically, these aren’t even hard to do or obscure to learn. But no one makes money telling you how to use what you already have. What you need is someone who doesn’t care about your money or looking smart by spouting off fancy words of no consequence — just that you not be a victim.

It pains me to see people who distrust and fear their computers, and who feel powerless in that fear. Because that’s not what I see when I look at computers and phones and websites. I see tools I trust with the story of my life, and the secrets I leave out when I tell that story to others. Everyone should be able to feel like that.

Which is about where I find myself. There is, of course, no way to fight off the most determined hackish types forever. Fortunately, most of the vandals on the far side of the firewall are looking for easy marks, and I work diligently to avoid appearing easy.

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Stargirl

“The Great Divide” continues to climb the dance-club chart:

The Great Divide by Rebecca Black at 27 on the Billboard dance-club chart

And there is, yes, another cover for your delectation, this time of “Starboy” by The Weeknd.

You should probably consider this totally unsafe for your workplace, what with the pseudo-Oedipal references scattered throughout.

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Party time, excellent

It’s nice to know that one of the kids made it big:

Schwing America is located in St. Paul, Minnesota, and can be reached, should you require their services, at 888-SCHWING.

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San Antonio trolled

How did the Thunder lose four in a row to league also-rans — the Suns, the Mavericks, and the Trail Blazers twice — and then come back to crush the Spurs? If I didn’t think too long, I might say it had something to do with Taj Gibson’s being moved into a starting slot. Or I might simply point to the location: three of those losses were on the road. But maybe it’s nothing more than this: it’s all in how you execute. Tonight, the Thunder executed, and they did it just a hair better than San Antonio did. Okay, more than a hair: before garbage time, the Spurs were down 20. So the final score — Oklahoma City 102, San Antonio 92 — might be slightly deceiving.

The Spurs were admittedly slightly below full strength: Manu Ginobili had been given a day of rest, and Tony Parker was not well. Still, most of the core was on hand, with Dewayne Dedmon starting in the middle and Pau Gasol coming off the bench. As usual, Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and the scary Kawhi Leonard were responsible for the offense: they got 54 of the Spurs’ 92 points. Leonard departed early in the fourth quarter for some reason we were not told. SA shot only 42 percent, 32 percent from the three-point line, and that just doesn’t happen, does it?

The difference, of course, is (1) Russell Westbrook got another triple-double (23-13-13), and (2) he didn’t have to carry the offense alone. Victor Oladipo was healed enough to snag 20 points, and Enes Kanter produced a double-double (14-10) off the bench. Domas Sabonis played about the same 20 minutes a reserve as he did as a starter, and got the same six points. Meanwhile, Semaj Christon, one of very few players with a five-letter, three-syllable first name, seems to have worked his way back into the backup point-guard slot. He didn’t score, but he didn’t turn it over either.

Up next: the Jazz, on Saturday afternoon. Utah leads the Northwest by five games and is wedged between Houston and the Clippers for fourth place in the West. (The Thunder are in sixth, a tiebreaker ahead of the Grizzlies.) So this is Serious Business for a matinee game. Let’s hope nothing laughable happens.

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A piece of the neighborhood action

He’s looking to buy houses in this neck of the woods, and he’s trying to keep his overhead as low as possible, which probably isn’t a bad idea.

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GOPcare

I am having no difficulty curbing my enthusiasm for whatever spaniel’s brunch the Republicans come up with to replace the ACA. Mostly, it seems hurried, as though someone went through an outline, printed up a set of bullet points, and then tried to come up with something for each of them.

That said, Megan McArdle thinks even less of it than I do:

There is no sensible thing that you can do to our health-care system that will not offend huge numbers of voters. Thus we got Obamacare, a program which, to a first approximation, 0 percent of Democratic policy analysts would have put forward if asked to design a rational program to extend coverage and improve health-care delivery. It was a gigantic Rube Goldberg contraption, deliberately complicated and opaque to avoid openly angering any important constituency, and arguably, fatally flawed for that same reason.

Now that Republicans have their turn in the spotlight, they’re resorting to all the same tricks: the secrecy, the opacity, the long implementation delays (the better to get a good score from the Congressional Budget Office, and oh, yes, also, get them past the next election before voters meet their program). The inability of either party to make a principled stand for sensible policy is a problem, a very big one. And Republicans sure haven’t fixed it.

The only people who are going to be happy about this situation, I suspect, are those crying in the wilderness for single-payer — because the worse it gets, the more likely they are to have their dream eventually fulfilled.

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Cash issue

The C in JCPenney stands for “Cash,” that being Mr. Penney’s middle name. (For you completeness-seekers: the founder of the store chain was James Cash Penney, Jr.) Penney’s first store was opened in Kemmerer, Wyoming in 1902. A hundred fifteen years later, JCP is cutting back:

JCPenney recently announced that it would close 130 to 140 stores in the next couple of months because of slowing traffic and sales.

The department-store chain hasn’t yet released a list of which stores it will close, but Morningstar Credit Ratings has identified 39 stores most at risk of closing, based on the stores’ sales data.

The stores that made the list have weaker sales per square foot than JCPenney’s average.

One of those stores is in Oklahoma City’s Penn Square Mall. OKC is the only city in the state with two JCP stores; the other is in Quail Springs Mall, five miles northwest. The ‘burbs, meanwhile, have three more.

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The standard Fate

They buried John Schroeder last week, which struck me as slightly odd, since he died back on the 31st of January following a long battle with cancer.

Schroeder’s musical career was long and varied; where it intersected with my life was right in the middle of the British Invasion, when he teamed up with pianist Johnny Pearson at Britain’s Pye Records to provide, for lack of a better term, easy-listening sounds that could compete for radio airplay, and maybe even sales, with the beat groups.

At the end of 1964, using the name Sounds Orchestral, they cut this version of a Vince Guaraldi standard:

Pye had no formal US distribution in those days. Cameo-Parkway eventually acquired the US rights, and issued the 45 on Parkway 942 this week in 1965; it climbed to #10 in Billboard, and the subsequent LP made it to #11. Said LP contains two “Scarlatti Potions,” Number 5 and Number 9.

Schroeder and Pearson and various players kept up the Sounds Orchestral name through sixteen albums, the last of which came out in 1977. I saw only the first two of them here in the States until the CD-reissue era.

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Clickbait for the eyes

“It is indeed a goddam noisy box,” Jubal Harshaw said to the Man from Mars. And of course he was right:

I think I’m done with local news. This morning they reported on a string of burglaries a couple counties south of me and spent about a minute on the story, and then lavished five minutes (roughly) on one of those “Florida Man” stories where someone gets themselves in trouble with the law in a highly stupid way and I was like, “I could use more detail about the LOCAL burglaries so I could know what to do to avoid becoming a victim” but of course, entertainment value and the freak-show that modern life has become seems to be more important and probably gets more eyeballs.

Once again, I think of my plan to offer a “Just News” channel that ran the important news stories — no celebrity fluff, no dumb-criminal stories, no oversweetened Human Interest stuff — and repeated it every 15 minutes or so. Or maybe devoted 15 minutes to Europe news, 15 minutes to The Americas, 15 minutes to Asia, and 15 minutes to Africa … and then loop it around. (And yeah: Australia would have to go in with Asia, I suppose.)

“You give us 22 minutes,” says WINS Radio in New York, “and we’ll give you the world.” And they’ve been doing that for over 50 years.

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Because it’s blue

I probably shouldn’t say anything here:

Whose idea was it to put that stuff in a pump jar, anyway?

(This is where she was.)

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