May 31, 2018

Our game is about joy and... CLEVELAND DELENDA EST


Game 1 - The Warriors' Plus/Minus leader in regulation is...


And...Shaun Livingston 4-4 from the field, 2-2 from the line.


May 30, 2018

The banality of talent

Good Cop: But for real, you really can’t make the The Warriors Are Too Good argument anymore. If we don’t take anything else from these playoffs, we can take that. The Warriors are beatable now.

Bad Cop: But they’re not. You keep saying they’re beatable but they didn’t get beat.


Bad Cop: Remember in The Fast and the Furious when Brian nearly beat Dom in that first race when they were racing for money and pink slips?

Good Cop: Of course I do.

Bad Cop: Brian was laughing and pointing at Dom, talking about how he almost had him. And Dom was like, “You almost had me? You never had me. You never had your car.” That’s the Warriors. They have everyone’s car. And that’s just not appealing.


Houston: a Warriors story

We talked about it leaving this building after Game 5 [down three games to two], this was a part of our story that we hadn't been through before. Our backs against the wall, not having home-court advantage, needing to win two games to keep ourselves alive...   - Steph Curry  (link)

Oh man.  These idiots.  The most gifted team in the universe nearly found a way to lose a seven game series, to a team (with Chris Paul injured) with one legitimate star.

There is an old formula for farce:  "In the first act get your principal character up a tree; in the second act, throw stones at him; in the third, get him down gracefully.”  Games six and seven of the Western Conference Finals followed this recipe to the letter.

In Game 6 the Rockets came out strong and built a 13 point lead, but then tired and the Warriors stormed back, taking the lead in the third quarter and winning by 29 points.

Actual footage of Klay Thompson in Game 6

In Game 7 the Rockets came out strong and built a 17 point lead, but then tired and the Warriors stormed back, taking the lead in the third quarter and winning by 9 points.

Actual footage of Steph Curry in Game 7

Kurtenbach of the San Jose Mercury News writes:
Instead of panicking — instead of succumbing to the weight of the moment and the daunting challenge ahead of them — Golden State tapped into that experience. They knew the script — they trusted the script — and they believed that they had what it took to come back in the biggest game of the year.

The Rockets helped move the plot along by missing 27 consecutive three pointers, including each one they took in the third quarter:

Some say this was just terrible, terrible luck, but note that the Warriors have consistently been one of the best teams defending the three in recent years, and maybe they just decided to try.  Or maybe, like Aang in Avatar: The Last Airbender, they actually depowered their enemy in the climactic scene. It's a great path to resolution when the writers have painted themselves into a corner.

In any case, the laws of farce were respected and honored.  In each game Warriors fans truly felt the jig was up in the early going, and then wondered how they could doubt their heroes when the final score was posted.  In the end, the Warriors are what we thought they were: an incredible collection of talent the likes of which the NBA has never seen, which narrowly escapes defeat at the hands of James Harden and Trevor Ariza.  In this series the Warriors took another step on their special journey together, and reportedly even experienced fear before making a whole bunch of three pointers to win the games.

"Obviously stressful, but fun," said Curry.

But what about Houston?  What about their story?  That's the worst part.  They proved they could beat the Warriors.  They were right there, with a lead at halftime in two elimination games, including game seven at home.  And now they go home with nothing, as the goofy, flaky Warriors advance, still turnover-prone, inattentive, and invincible...


May 27, 2018

For our European visitors [Updated]

We have no idea how this works.  Google runs Blogger.  If you trust them, read on.  If not, we understand.

- The Eisengeiste Team

Addendum from VMM:

I reviewed Blogger's EU cookies notification guidelines and verified:
  • Eisengeiste served from Blogger's European URLs (e.g., display Google's cookie policy notification correctly

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(My GDPR consulting bill is in the mail -VMM)

I admired him once, not without reason

Slate asks - What the Hell Happened to Rudy Giuliani?


May 26, 2018

Gotta play Game 7 now

As a shameless professional frontrunner, I acknowledge that tonight, I thought the Warriors were done.  After seizing home court advantage in their opening game against the Rockets, the Warriors began to go inexorably backward, losing home court advantage, and tonight, facing elimination, seemed unable to even play well at Oracle.

Down ten at the half, the Warriors looked ready to call it a night, wrap it up right here, skip that long trip back to Houston.

(Due to time limitations I have not completed my supercut of Warriors first half miscues set to the "Dead March" from Saul.  Just imagine it instead.)

But, as the chess master Siegbert Tarrasch once said, before the end of the game the gods have placed the third quarter.  And for the 2018 Golden State Warriors, the third quarter has been where they braced themselves and played their best.  Well, once more into the breach...

But the Rockets had shown, at Oracle just two nights ago, that they could take the Warriors' best shot and still win.  Could.  Tonight, after the first quarter, they were outscored 93-47:

And now...

May 25, 2018

I hate it, I love it, don't stop

This is a book about the power of language – strong style, single words – to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to literature I love, and it is a word-hoard of the astonishing lexis for landscape that exists in the comprision of islands, rivers, strands, fells, lochs, cities, towns, corries, hedgerows, fields and edgelands uneasily known as Britain and Ireland.

Macfarlane, Robert. Landmarks (p. 1). Penguin Books Ltd.

Date with destiny

Hockey remains the sport least infected by the once-enjoyable but now omnipresent cult of metrics.  On any given rink, on any given night, a motivated team can take down one judged far superior, a hot goaltender can shut down the most fearsome scorers in the world, a kid out of nowhere can cut loose for a hat trick, a random guy off the street can step in and play goalie.  All those things have happened in hockey.   In fact, all those things happened to the Chicago Blackhawks this year.

It is a sport of spirit and courage, a sport where skill and technique find themselves enhanced, or often challenged by that most insidious disruptor of all, the human soul.  As a result, hockey has the greatest underdog story in sport, the 1980 Miracle on Ice.

The Golden Knights, as they prepare for the Stanley Cup Finals starting Monday, have their own shot at history.  I don't believe any expansion team in the history of the world has every won anything, much less Lord Stanley's sacred Cup.  If they can pull it off it would be huge - incredible.  Not, say Terrance Doyle and Neil Paine of FiveThirtyEight, not quite as impressive as Leicester City...
Infamously, the sportsbook Ladbrokes offered 5,000-1 odds against Leicester winning the EPL title. That number, which was bandied about constantly in the wake of the Foxes’ surprise championship, was probably a sham, set to entice people to place any bets on Leicester at all...
The “real” odds of Leicester’s victory were staggering enough, though. Leicester had to play near-perfect soccer for the final two and a half months of the 2014-15 season just to avoid relegation.2 According to our Soccer Power Index (SPI), Leicester City was the 12th-best team in England entering the 2015-16 Premier League season. Preseason odds for the 2016-17 and 2017-18 seasons indicate that the 12th-best team in the league would have roughly 465-1 odds to win the Premier League.  

The Knights were maybe 200-1.  But if that's the air you're breathing, breathe deep.  Such moments are rare and fleeting, to be a part of such a team is not once-in-a-lifetime, it's once in a million or so lifetimes.  The older I get, the greater the existential please of watching such things.

When we celebrate these underdog upsets we celebrate a certain disorder in the world, an incompleteness in our understanding.  It is the rare joy of humility, a celebration of the (melancholy if you think about it) fact that anything really can happen.  It is a strongly American cultural trait:  in Japan something would be viewed as systemically wrong if the Iron Chef didn't usually win (Michiba had an 85% winning percentage); and in Russia Mr. Putin scores all the goals.

But on this continent?  In Vegas?

Golden Knights' Stanley Cup Run is no fluke

A shining ray of hope

You know, America, just when I think you couldn't possibly be any dumber, you go and do something like this…and totally redeem yourself!

  • "I wanted to find the cutest Barbie Power Wheels car online and turn it into a drift kart." 
  • The kart's frame couldn't fit into the Mustang's 36-inch wheelbase, so it had to be cut down and welded back together. 
  • [The] engine was pulled from a Honda CRF 230 dirt bike and has been bored out to 240 cubic centimeters with an upgraded piston and camshaft. 
  • According to Olding, the pink mini-Mustang can reach 70 miles per hour...


May 23, 2018

We're reconstructing the heck out 'em

[T]he Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction concluded that 1,186 munitions were dropped in that country during the first quarter of 2018 ― the highest number recorded for the first three months of the year since tracking began in 2013; that number is also more than two and a half times the amount dropped in the first quarter of 2017.


What a great time to start talking about hockey

This team is going to be bad, potentially historically so. They’ll be bad for a few years. They won’t even be enjoyable to watch once the novelty of new uniforms wears off, not unless you consider 4-1 losses enjoyable.  (link)

Congratulations to you, then, if you put a few bucks on Vegas at the beginning of the season: All the [expansion] Knights have done since is finish the regular season with the fifth most points in the NHL, then sprint through the Western Conference playoffs while losing just three games. That torrid run has landed them a spot in the Stanley Cup final... (link)

May 16, 2018

Anarchist calisthenics

I'm reading the book Two Cheers for Anarchism by James C. Scott. He relates his experience in an East German town during reunification in 1990 to explain the concept of anarchist calisthenics. The specific setting was an intersection near the train station in Neubrandenburg, bereft of auto traffic:

Again and again, fifty or sixty people waited patiently at the corner for the light to change in their favor: four minutes, five minutes, perhaps longer. [...] 
Twice, perhaps, in the course of roughly five hours of my observing this scene did a pedestrian cross against the light, and then always to a chorus of scolding tongues and fingers wagging in disapproval. [...] If my last exchange in German had gone well and my confidence was high, I would cross against the light, thinking, to buck up my courage, that it was stupid to obey a minor law that, in this case, was so contrary to reason. 
As a way of justifying my conduct to myself, I began to rehearse a little discourse that I imagined delivering in perfect German. It went something like this. "You know, you and especially your grandparents could have used more of a spirit of lawbreaking. One day you will be called on to break a big law in the name of justice and rationality. Everything will depend on it. You have to be ready. How are you going to prepare for hat day when it really matters? You have to stay 'in shape' so that when the big day comes you will be ready. What you need is 'anarchist calisthenics.' Every day or so break some trivial law that makes no sense, even if it's only jaywalking. Use your own head to judge whether a law is just or reasonable. That way, you'll keep trim; and when the big day comes, you'll be ready."

May 15, 2018

via Wikipedia, a parody of Edward Lear - recommended by Latouche Jr.

There was an old man with a beard,
A funny old man with a beard
He had a big beard
A great big old beard
That amusing old man with a beard.

- John Clarke

May 14, 2018

Strength in Dumber

Nick Young of course was crucial in the first half, making three of five shots, all three pointers, for nine points.  According to Warriors PR, Young's +/- of five was better than any Warriors starter, and matched only by...anyone? Bueller?  ...Shaun Livingston.

Young buried a three at the end of the half that tied the score and silenced the Houston crowd.


And...we're done here:

May 12, 2018

Got to play the game now, CLINT.

Dahntay Jones' ill-advised bump of Draymond Green in 2015 had cosmic, perhaps even karmic significance.  I marked it at the time as a moment of recognition when we all realized what Draymond Green was: a stone-cold killer with a long memory.

I'm going to write your name down in the notebook I keep of asses I have to beat.

That second look Green sends Jones tells you all you need to know, but I'll fill you in on the rest of the the story:  the Clippers never had a chance against the Warriors after that.  Dahntay Jones kicked around from team to team and was last on an NBA roster- hmm, let's see - yes, at the end of the Cav's bench last year as the Warriors defeated them to win their second championship.  So much for Dahntay.

Now we have a new Dahntay.

Perhaps Clint Capela has forgotten, perhaps he thinks others will forget...what he said in January:
“We’re better than them.  We’re definitely the best team in the league with everybody healthy.”

Now, in January, Clint Capela had a point.  The Warriors were not focused at that time, often trotting onto the court in steambath towels or wearing party hats.  Klay Thompson's dog followed him onto the floor on numerous occasions, Kevin Durant frequently had to be shaken awake during long timeouts.  The Warriors were not themselves, and everyone - except, apparently, Clint Capela - knew it.

Now it is May.  Capela has backed up his words with continued outstanding play.

And now let's check in with the man who will be guarding him.


And your cell phone (ooh, but first I have to answer this text)

Actual comments from a Fark thread on retirement:


Yeah, let's play that:

May 11, 2018

My questions have questions

According to what's known as the "Steppe Hypothesis," a group of horse-riding pastoralists living on the steppe around the Black and Caspian Seas migrated west into Europe and east into Central and South Asia around 3,000 B.C., bringing knowledge of horse breeding and the forerunner of Indo-European languages with them. A new genetic study, however, is now throwing cold water on parts of this long-held theory.


  • What is The Eurasian Steppe?
    • The Eurasian Steppe, also called the Great Steppe or the steppes, is the vast steppe ecoregion of Eurasia in the temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biome. It stretches from Romania and Moldova through Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Xinjiang, and Mongolia to Manchuria, with one major exclave, the Pannonian steppe or Puszta, located mostly in Hungary.
  • What is the Dzungarian Narrowing?
    • On the east side of the former Sino-Soviet border mountains extend north almost to the forest zone with only limited grassland in Dzungaria. 
  • Where is Dzungaria?
    • It's the north bit of northwest China, adjacent to the Tarim Basin.
  • Anything interesting ever happen in the Tarim Basin?
    • Well, the Silk Road ran along the northern and southern edges at various times, the western terminus of this portion of route is at Kashgar.

May 09, 2018

Shaun, Iggy, and The Joker

"Strength in Numbers" has been the watchword of the Golden State Warriors since Steve Kerr took over.  One subtle aspect of Kerr's system (as originally designed) was that the Warriors would make the other team work when in their half court offense, methodically passing to the open man and shooting late in the clock.

"Wait," you astutely interject, "doesn't that lower their effective field goal percentage?"  Not really, because the person shooting in the last six seconds is probably a genius.  Back in 2015 John Schuhmann noted that:
Stephen Curry has an effective field goal percentage of 65.7 percent on shots in the last six seconds of the clock, highest among 173 players who have attempted at least 50 late-clock shots. He’s actually shot better in the last six seconds of the clock than he’s shot in the first 18. 

(He still does this.)

Kerr, I surmise, saw two benefits to playing late in the clock.  First, the longer a defense spends chasing Curry et al through screens, the more likely they are to make a mistake and give up a really good shot.  And second, defending like this for four quarters is going wear you out, and Kerr had a deeper bench than most.

So "Strength in Numbers" wasn't just a slogan, it was a smart way to attack the star-heavy NBA, a bit of democratic spirit in a game that often looks like European cycling, with its legions of domestiques.  In 2015 Kerr had deluxe domestiques, people like Marrise ("Mo Buckets") Speights and Leandro Barbosa, quality role players who could come in and either run up the score on the other team's bench or help run the other team's starters ragged.  But now...

The signing of Kevin Durant altered the deal.  To make way for the gigastar, the Warriors had to give up most their bench "Specials", retaining only Iguodala and Livingston.  The reason this wasn't a big problem in 2017 was that the Cavaliers were even more top-heavy than the Warriors.  After the Warriors took a 3-0 lead in the Finals, Baxter Holmes of ESPN reported that
Steve Kerr said he kept repeating the same message to his players.  "They're going to get tired," Kerr recalled saying, speaking of James and Irving. "Stay in front of them. Force them into outside shots, if you can. Fatigue will play a role."

But in 2018 fatigue caught up with the Warriors, too.  The platinum plated starters showed signs of wear and tear.  Durant, Curry, and Thompson lost significant time to injuries, and Green played with a bad shoulder through much of the season.  The bench suffered as well:  Iguodala, reportedly suffering from sore knees, often looked old and a step behind.  Livingston was his usual efficient self, but plays with a minutes restriction due to past injuries.  The result, as history now records, was disappointing 58-24 record, for a .707 winning percentage, only third-best in the NBA.

So I was interested to see what the Playoffs would bring.  I've been tracking Livingston and Iguodala's +/- scores.  Together they amount to a fifth All-Star on the team - accounting for 44 minutes per Playoff game between them, and bringing extreme levels of basketball intelligence to the proceedings (Bay Area broadcast Greg Papa calls them, with David West, "The Three Wise Men").  In the ten games so far, each player has given you a plus/minus of about +0.3 per minute on the floor.

Against New Orleans, the Warriors seemed to falter, and in the fourth game Kerr inserted Iguodala into the starting lineup, with spectacular results:

For these ten games, Iguodala is +81, 3rd on the team after Green and Durant.  Livingston, who plays about half as many minutes is +44.  (Not to beat a dead horse, but Nick Young is -14...)

So, as the real Warriors season gets underway, we have a team that in all probability cannot be beaten four times, so long as the top seven men remain healthy.  After that it gets very thin.  Beyond the All-Stars and the Three Wise Men we have point guard Quinn Cook, who started off this season getting waived by the Hawks out of training camp, and rookie Jordan Bell, who shows flashes of brilliance but has been slowed by injuries.

And beyond that, nothing but centers - Zaza Pachulia, Javale McGee, Kevon Looney, and Damian Jones...and, of course,  Nick Young.


Nick. Young.

Nick Young, who is of no use to anyone except in a three point shooting contest where defense doesn't matter, a matchup where there's so much offensive talent on the floor that the rules of basketball logic no longer hold...

Like the series against the Rockets that starts Monday.

I am not ready for this.


May 08, 2018

Meanwhile, down at Murder, Inc.

May 06, 2018

Just sayin'

Party of the rich

Further to Krugman's thesis, I took a look at the poorest states and noticed that nine out of ten of them are predominantly Republican (basing my judgment on party affiliation using this interesting article on Wikipedia).  Here is the list:

Here is the rich list.  The three Republican states have small populations and resource-based economies, the Democrat states are much more populous and economically diverse:

For the full country the mean and median GDP/capita for a Republican state is 51,000. Democrat states are 60,000.  Deleting some rich states list New York and California from the overall list doesn't change the conclusion much.

It's also true that support for Democrats virtually collapsed in some states during and after the financial crisis and recession:

Seems kind of funny after all those "The Republican Party is Demographically Doomed" articles of a few years ago.  A hundred years from now historians looking at this table will be thinking about economics, not demographics.

No one asked, but here is The Other Fronts' advice to the Democrats:

Recognize you are are a party of the rich.  Silicon Valley, Wall Street, the Chicago Board of Trade, the Pacific Northwest technology region, are all under Democratic control.  These states may have some progressive tendencies, but like the rest of America they are governed by the rich for the rich.  The public schools stink.  Homelessness is pervasive (and rising in California).  If Democrats want to be more competitive, they need to think about actually delivering good government where they have control.  If this is what a rich Democrat state looks like, what do you have to offer Wyoming?
  • Clean up San Francisco’s streets, tourist industry pleads (link)

And maybe visit the rest of America once in a while, and stop calling it "Flyover Land"?

Another failure of the tax and spend liberals

California's economy is now the 5th-biggest in the world, and has overtaken the United Kingdom