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(The Web Site Formerly Known As Chez Chaz)

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21 July 2004
Mirror, mirror, on the wall

Who's the Majorest Babe of all?

Some "panel of experts" has put together a list of the most naturally beautiful women of all time, and at the very least, their findings are deeply flawed.

I mean, I really didn't expect to find She Who Is Not To Be Named on the list, and I have no particular quarrel with Audrey Hepburn at the top — she's a bit on the insubstantial side, perhaps — but there's something wrong with a methodology that ranks Liv Tyler above both Monica Bellucci and Halle Berry.

If it's a methodology at all, which I tend to doubt. Surely any rational system would have noticed that a couple of individuals are represented twice on the list (Beyoncé Knowles, at #18 and #29, and Marilyn Monroe, at #27 and #36), and, as Craig Ceely notes, Cleopatra makes the cut (at #86), "although no man alive knows what she looked like." And it was always my understanding that Cleo's appeal was more, um, functional than aesthetic anyway.

As a (generally inactive) member of the male half of the species, I of course applaud research in this area, even though I believe, as Hugh Hefner seemed to believe before the invention of the airbrush, that the natural habitat of the hottie is wherever you may find her.

3:54 PM | Almost Yogurt | Link | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
96 tears

If you parted with exactly one drop of lachrymal fluid for every edition of the Carnival of the Vanities, you'd be up to ninety-six.

And Carnival #96 is now up at Soundfury, with the sort of theme one used to see only every four years or so. As always, it's the best of blogdom in a single handy package, suitable for framing or for sneaking out of the conference room in one's socks.

10:59 AM | Blogorrhea | Link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Restraint of trade

Marie Stopes International, which provides "sexual health and pregnancy choices" in the South Pacific, offers the following advice to would-be customers on their FAQ page:

We are occasionally subject to demonstrations by anti-abortionists. They usually take the form of a few people gathered outside trying to dissuade our clients from entering the centre. Although these people have no right to interfere with your legal or moral right of choice, we cannot prevent them protesting unless they break the law. We do understand how traumatic this may be and stress that you do not enter into any conversation with these people. Note that they cannot prevent you from entering our centres. Try not to let them distress you and walk calmly past. There will be a member of our team to help you once you are inside the centre.

I have no doubt that Marie Stopes' concern about trauma is genuine; in fact, they filed a protest against the establishment of a childcare center on an adjacent city lot in Perth, saying that "the sight and sound of children playing in a neighbouring property might cause emotional strain for women considering terminating a pregnancy."

Charlie Gregorini, mayor of the City of Swan, can relate:

It would be an emotional situation for someone who's decided to have an abortion and then the last thing they hear before they enter the clinic is the happy voices of children.

Indeed. A two-meter brick wall will be erected to block those scary sights and sounds. Meanwhile, Tim Blair has another idea:

Here's a compromise: the childcare centre is allowed to be built, but all children attending it must be dead.

Solomon in all his glory never rendered a decision as crisp as this.

10:12 AM | Political Science Fiction | Link | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
They're younger than that now

The history of the Japanese game manufacturer Nintendo goes all the way back to the 80s.

That would be the 1880s.

I knew this — read it somewhere back around 1990 — but I had no idea about Google's origins in the early 1960s.

(Via the ageless Dean Esmay.)

8:42 AM | Dyssynergy | Link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
Hot air

Is your electric utility a "public nuisance"?

If you live in California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont or Wisconsin, your state's Attorney General evidently thinks so; those states and the City of New York have joined together to file a public-nuisance lawsuit against five major power companies, demanding that they cut carbon-dioxide emissions in the interest of curbing global warming.

The utilities — AEP, Southern Company, Xcel, Cinergy, and the Federally-operated TVA — are said in the suit to produce about ten percent of the nation's CO2 output.

According to the suit, those emissions can be reduced by increasing efficiency at coal-burning plants, switching from coal to cleaner-burning fuels, investing in energy conservation and using clean energy sources such as wind and solar power. Some of this is even true, though the "cleaner-burning fuels" business is a canard. How much carbon dioxide is produced from a fuel is solely a function of how much carbon it contains in the first place; anything else along for the ride has no effect on CO2.

If the suit should fail, the next step is obvious. Humans exhale carbon dioxide with every single breath, yet have no emission controls whatsoever. So far.

8:17 AM | Dyssynergy | Link | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
20 July 2004
Now in Gippervision!

Dawn Eden writes to Film Forum:

Would you ever give serious consideration to a Ronald Reagan film festival, or would you instantly laugh away the very idea of it?

I admit up front that I've seen fewer than a third of Reagan's fifty-odd film appearances, but I'm inclined to think there's enough good stuff to justify a retrospective. Certainly The Girl from Jones Beach, with its pre-Stepford eye on Perfect Womanhood, is relevant today; in Cattle Queen of Montana, Reagan holds his own against the formidable Barbara Stanwyck; and Kings Row demonstrated once and for all that he could play leads that were something other than just affable.

And yes, there are some stinkers in the bunch, but Bedtime for Bonzo isn't one of them.

Eureka College, Reagan's alma mater, scheduled just such a festival this past May. I wonder which films they chose.

(Update, 21 July, 10:25 am: Film Forum responds.)

6:07 PM | Almost Yogurt | Link | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Let there be leaps

Which, historically, begin with one small step for a man.

Says Rand Simberg:

Thirty-five years after Neil and Buzz walked on the moon, we have neither the NASA Mars base, or the huge spinning space colonies. But we're finally seeing new progress on a front in between those two visions. Forty years after the end of the X-15 program, we're recapitulating some of the early NASA program privately, and diversely, with the efforts of Burt Rutan and the other X-Prize contestants and suborbital ventures. They won't be diverted down a costly dead-end path of giant throwaway rockets. Instead they'll slowly and methodically evolve capabilities and markets, creating the infrastructure for low-cost access to space. Once we can afford to get, in Heinlein's immortal words, "halfway to anywhere," we'll finally be able to return to the moon, to complete the job begun by those first voyagers, and this time we'll be able to stay.

We're at our best, I think, when we're pushing the limits of what we know. On a much smaller scale, I know I'm a lot more focused during the World Tours, which so far have been through unfamiliar territory, than I am during the 49 weeks when I have to work for a living, when the only limit pushed is the threshold of exasperation. There will likely never again be the sort of excitement that John F. Kennedy managed to whip up for that first moon-landing program — for one thing, every special-interest group between here and Betelgeuse will complain that money put into space, be it private or "public," is money that won't go into its pet programs — but I persist in my belief that we were put on this earth to find out stuff.

And, yes, occasionally to fart around.

3:19 PM | Almost Yogurt | Link | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
A blow to the Anti-Destination League

I missed this completely, probably because almost every mile I drove in Colorado during the Tour was along a two-lane road (US 385), where it's irrelevant.

Still, it's worth mentioning, and worth suggesting to other jurisdictions:

If you are caught lagging in the left lane, you will be subject to a $35 fine, an additional $6.20 surcharge and a three-point penalty to your driving record.

Three points, of course, will do more damage to your wallet, via increased insurance premia, than $41.20 worth of fines. In my experience, the number of left-lane bandits is relatively small, but it only takes one to screw up traffic flow for miles.

(Via Baldilocks, no doubt a glorious travel companion.)

12:55 PM | Driver's Seat | Link | Comments (8) | TrackBack (0)
Wow, I coulda had a V6

Bruce's thinking on engine choices:

I wanted a car with something better than a four because I assumed that it would hold up better. I tend to think that fours are pushed too hard by highway and stop and go driving.

Bruce drives something (he's not saying what) with a six-cylinder.

Longevity, of course, is the result of many factors, but there's not much doubt that a four works harder than a six when asked to perform the same tasks. My own car has a small undersquare four, the long stroke intended to produce some additional torque, and at its 6500-rpm redline, the mean piston speed is 3929 ft/min. The V6 offered as the up-option is allowed to rev to 7000 rpm, and its shorter stroke results in a mean piston speed of 3170 ft/min. In this benchmark, at least, the V6 is having to strain itself about twenty percent less — and given the gearing on these cars, it's probably doing 25 mph faster. (No, I didn't do the math; Julian Bradbury did.)

Still, there weren't too many times during the past couple of weeks when I really wished I'd spent the extra two grand for the V6, even with the A/C running.

7:30 AM | Driver's Seat | Link | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)
19 July 2004
Not so damn smart

I don't have a whole lot of faith in software-filtration systems, and here is Exhibit F. To this article at Fragments from Floyd, I attempted to post the following comment:

I've used the CA product for several years; results were satisfactory enough that 42nd and Treadmill, on my recommendation, installed it on all the corporate boxes under a site license.

The firewall that comes packaged with the EZ Armor package, incidentally, is a rebranded ZoneAlarm.

The comment was rejected with the following curt missive:

Your comment submission failed for the following reasons:

Your comment could not be submitted due to questionable content.

Please correct the error in the form below, then press POST to post your comment.

Emphasis in the original.

I have no idea exactly what Fred's using to keep down the spammers, but it's obviously turned up too high. (It won't take a ping for this, either, for the same reason.)

7:47 PM | Blogorrhea | Link | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)
Enough already

Dustbury, Oklahoma — 4088.0 miles

For a trip that was supposed to be a couple days shorter, it certainly didn't seem like it; then again, it's usually about day 14 or 15 when the serious fatigue starts to set in, and, well, this was day 15. And while it's certainly a good thing that Oklahoma is actually fixing some of the more heinous sections of I-35, it's also the sort of thing that slows one down on the way home.

Still, I can't complain. Apart from the windshield (still unfixed) and some small items for the kids, this trip cost a mere $1575, about two-thirds of last year's tab despite markedly-higher fuel prices.

This year's data:

Total amount of fuel used, in gallons: 139.0
Fuel consumption, in miles per gallon: 29.5
Worst tank, in mpg: 27.4
Best tank, in mpg: 31.7
Fastest speed attained, in miles per hour: 91
Number of emails accumulated: 855
Number of which I actually had some reason to read: 126

And no Toll Report: I didn't spend one dime on toll roads this year.

I would like to acknowledge the kind participation of the following:

Dynamo Dave Sherman, my guide to the Treasure State and a treasure in his own right;

Gate City Bank, West Fargo, North Dakota;

Wash Tub Laundry, Vermillion, South Dakota;

River City Glass and Mirror, Omaha, Nebraska;

Fate Unknown, Jackson County, Missouri.

And to the next generations — Rebecca, Rob and Nick; Russell, Alicia and Laney — lots of love, and thanks for putting up with the old man.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled tedium.

7:15 PM | World Tour '04 | Link | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)
18 July 2004
In the Forbidden Zone

I've traveled to forty-two states and a handful of foreign countries; I've driven enough miles to reach half a dozen times around the world. Even in the cases where I can't say "Done that," I can still often say "Been there." But nothing between here or there can prepare the unsuspecting male — and I suspect less than most — for a hall of mirrors, lined with organza, fueled by estrogen.

I refer, of course, to the bridal salon.

For some inscrutable reason, my daughter wanted some input from me in the process of selecting her wedding dress. Inasmuch as her mom was already booked for this task, I definitely felt like the third wheel on this particular axle, but far be it from me to shy away from a Parental Duty, even one for which I am ill-prepared. Interestingly, the ex and I were in almost total agreement on the four gowns being tried, which surely is a first. (There was a disagreement on the tiara, however.) And I was at least possessed of enough presence of mind not to yell things like "Six hundred dollars for this?"

No matter. In the best of all possible worlds — and in the weird wonderland of weddings, that's the only world that's permitted to exist — all brides are beautiful, and all brides are entitled to look like a storybook heroine. And after a bit over an hour of Deep Immersion, I'm inclined to think that the bridal salon, in its dedication to these premises, is probably doing us a favor, albeit a short-lived one: if today is, as the phrase goes, the first day of the rest of your life, why not look like a fairy princess for that day? Real Life™ will intrude soon enough.

It will start intruding on me again rather quickly; barring catastrophe, I should be home late tomorrow.

5:33 PM | World Tour '04 | Link | Comments (3) | TrackBack (0)
17 July 2004
Surrounded by youngsters

Which is an improvement over last night's hotel room, which was perfectly nice except for its utter lack of air conditioning: it would work for half an hour or so, and then trip the circuit breaker, which prompted a call to the front desk, who dispatched someone to look at the system, after which it would work for half an hour or so, and — well, you get the idea. This wouldn't have been an issue, perhaps, except that the room opened out into the pool area, which means that humidity seemed to be somewhere in the 140-percent range. Nice place, but a tad disorganized; I will look elsewhere next time I need a room in this part of the world.

And for the next night or two, I'm crashing at my daughter's place; during this time, I will look over some of her more outrageous wedding plans, observe my son's band (which practices in her garage) in action, and reacquaint myself with the grandchildren. (As the saying goes, had I known how much fun the grandkids would be, I'd have had them first.)

The crack in the windshield has turned slightly northward, which may or may not mean it's going to stop creeping toward the driver's side. At any rate, I'm not going to have it looked at here; I would be most annoyed if I replaced the windshield and then caught some stray gravel during the last few miles home.

Did I mention my son has a band? Minus their vocalist, who's out with some unspecified ailment, they're making some serious semi-metallic noises as I type. (I don't think they're quite ready to be compared with Metallica or anything, but then they've never sued a download service either.) And it's eerily quiet when they stop.

4:03 PM | World Tour '04 | Link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
16 July 2004
Westward movement

Independence, Missouri — 3689.2 miles

Actually, my movement today was more or less southerly. What moved was a teensy star break near the right edge of the windshield, the result of a bit of flying debris somewhere in Wyoming. Inasmuch as it exactly resembled the last one of these I got, three years ago, I opted to leave it alone and have it fixed when I got home.

Bad mistake. This morning the little so-and-so waited until I was safely out of town and tried to expand on its little asterisk of destruction. There was nowhere to go on the right side, so it started spreading leftward. By the time I'd done 30 miles, it had grown to two inches; by 75, it was fully a third of the way across the glass.

Inasmuch as the break is not yet within my line of sight, I'm not really upset, but I'm going to have to pony up for some new glass. First estimate I got was about 60 percent of my insurance deductible.

That aside, US 75 south of Sioux City is a good low-level thrill ride, at least until you've passed the two reservations. I wandered onto Omaha's north side, which offered an unexpected historical reference: a house on Pinkney just west of the Belt Line Railway turns out to be the birthplace of Malcolm X. And after days of gawking at babes of Scandinavian extraction, it's probably about time I shifted back into a more, um, diverse mindset. Omaha's west side, your basic suburban sprawl writ large, completed the task, although getting there required me to run through midtown, where I noted the presence of a pavilion at the University of Nebraska Medical Center bearing the inspirational name Storz.

And from there into Kansas City, where none of the streets actually go anywhere but it's so damned much fun to drive. Or would be, if you didn't have to share those streets with all those other drivers. And they're probably still out there, long after I've checked into a room for the night.

6:34 PM | World Tour '04 | Link | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
15 July 2004
Verily, upon the cusp

North Sioux City, South Dakota — 3334.1 miles

I got your Tri-State Area right here, pal: while Sioux City (airport symbol SUX) is in the northwest corner of Iowa, North Sioux City is in South Dakota — and South Sioux City is in Nebraska.

This means, of course, that I've been in South Dakota all day, and of course I have tales to tell.

Last night I was in Pierre, a pleasant-enough town on one side of the Missouri River, in the Central time zone. This morning's first few miles brought me to Fort Pierre, a pleasant-enough town on the other side of the Missouri River, in the Mountain time zone.

And one of the more interesting stories about this area that does not relate in any way to Lewis and Clark comes from Fort Pierre. Back in 1743, two brothers, Chevalier and Louis la Verendrye, chatted up the natives and informed them of their desire to commemorate the event by burying a lead tablet containing the details of their meeting. The natives couldn't read French, so they had no way of knowing that the Verendrye brothers were actually claiming the area in the name of Louis XV of France, and indeed this area was included in the Louisiana Purchase, the deal between the French and the nascent United States sixty years later.

In 1913, the plate was dug up, apparently quite accidentally, by local students; it's now in the South Dakota Cultural Heritage Center across the river in Pierre. A small monument to the Verendryes stands on the hill overlooking Fort Pierre where the plate had been buried; French diplomacy, you may be assured, continues in the same tradition.

I was somewhat put off by the discovery that interspersed among the Wall Drug signs by the roadside were signs advertising the Wall Drug Web site. Somehow it's not the same, unless they've figured out how to make ice water downloadable.

On the subject of radio advertising, I note with some bemusement that Tom Daschle's political spots are paid for by "A Lot of People Supporting Tom Daschle Committee," which, while very probably true, sounds even sillier than it looks.

5:27 PM | World Tour '04 | Link | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
14 July 2004
Ain't ya got no culcha?

Well, maybe. Driving around the country has cut into the time available to calculate my personal Teachout Cultural Concurrence Index, but for those who care, it's 49.5 percent.

8:30 PM | Almost Yogurt | Link | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
And even more Dakota

Pierre, South Dakota — 3026.9 miles

Which, I hasten to add, is pronounced "Peer"; I was sufficiently proud of myself for remembering this at the South Dakota tourist-info booth that it didn't occur to me to check the pronunciation of towns like Watertown. (Hey, you never know.)

The transition between the Dakotas is not abrupt. In eastern South Dakota, farmland predominates, while ranching rules in the West, pretty much the way it is in North Dakota. This far south, the line of demarcation is somewhere along the Missouri River, which is about half a mile from where I'm parked right now. The city of Pierre is built more or less onto the side of a hill overlooking the river, and some of these streets are seriously steep. Outside the city, it looks like the sort of place where they'd film Dances with Wolves, which in fact it is.

Rest areas cost money, and roadside parks usually have just a couple of picnic tables and a trash can. South Dakota splits the difference by equipping roadside parks with actual outhouses. To the extent that an outhouse can be said to be up-to-date, these are; there are proper seats, and someone comes by once in a while to install a new roll of paper. I didn't attempt to measure the, um, drop distance, but it's considerable.

Speaking of drop, the official elevation at Pierre is 1490 feet, which is quite a bit lower than I'd anticipated, what with the Badlands being just beyond the river and all, but still 600 feet higher than Fargo (and 250 feet higher than Oklahoma City). This hotel has a couple of curiosities: hot tubs in some upstairs rooms, and Internet access via the AC power lines. And what would life be without curiosities?

Weird Radio Promo: KPFX-FM in Fargo-Moorhead, imaging as "The Fox," does a commercial-free hour with no DJ announcements weekdays from 9 to 10 am, during which time they, um, Shut The Fox Up. (Of course, they did say that three or four times.)

And it's "Watertown," just like it looks, in case you were wondering.

4:10 PM | World Tour '04 | Link | Comments (5) | TrackBack (0)

Interstate 95, so far, is my least favorite thoroughfare in the Eisenhower system: it's not especially thorough, particularly around the Delaware River, and the fare will eat you alive.

Conversely, Carnival of the Vanities #95, brought to you by Josh Cohen's, has redeeming social value and your weekly minimum requirement of bloggy goodness, all rolled into one. Tell 'em Tom Sawyer sent you.

3:33 PM | Blogorrhea | Link | Comments (0) | TrackBack (1)
13 July 2004
At the very edge of civilization

Tom Isern is a professor of history at North Dakota State University, a couple of miles from my temporary perch in Fargo, and basically, he's had it up to here with doomsayers:

North Dakota now holds in eastern perceptions the position held by Kansas in the 1890s and Oklahoma in the 1930s — a gray place on the plains abandoned by anyone with any youth or gumption left. I get calls from reporters all the time (the last one was from Japan) asking where they can go to find the most human tragedy in the least amount of time and space. They have their lists of things to cover: abandoned churches and schools, dusty main streets with stores boarded up (preferably with a yellow dog lying about), old people reminiscing about the good old days, young people complaining there’s nothing to do here.

The writers also all have their pat explanations for regional decline — big farm machinery, fast cars, harsh climate. They are strong on description, but their explanations are clueless.

Not that it would ever occur to me to tell you that North Dakota is doomed. Yes, the rural areas of the state are declining in population; the same thing is happening in most of the other forty-nine. And while it's very easy to issue romanticized pronouncements about the family farm, the fact is, we don't need millions of folks to work those farms anymore; what determines the quantity of farm production these days is not the number of available field hands, but the unsteady balance of market economics and government subsidies.

And I don't believe for a moment that having a population of ten per square mile, as North Dakota does, is some sort of tragedy. (Oklahoma has around fifty; factor out the two largest metro areas and the figure drops into the twenties, with Lawton, about the same size as Fargo, as the largest remaining city.) Maybe it's inevitable that a place called the Peace Garden State is going to be rather sparsely populated. But I figure that the people who live here are ingenious enough to keep themselves afloat; after all, they manage to get by without voter registration just fine, and this is the sort of independent streak that usually means a finely-tuned survival instinct.

I talked to at least half a dozen Fargonians (if that's the term) today, generally with kind words for the place, and always with the qualifier: "Of course, this is July. Had I arrived in February, I might think different." All of them understood, but none took umbrage, and the general impression I got was "Yeah, we have horrible winters, but so what else is new?" Not that Oklahoma in February is particularly wonderful. And given the delights of a July in Fargo — people are all over the place, while back home in the Okay City everyone is indoors cranking up the air conditioning — it might be worth enduring that February. It is, after all, three days shorter. Usually.

When Dave left Oklahoma for Montana, he didn't announce that he was never coming back. But once he got into the Great Falls groove, living anywhere else just seemed, well, silly. I saw some of that during my brief stay in Montana; I'm seeing the same sort of thing in North Dakota. Not everyone can live here — not everyone should live here, perhaps — but the place has its rewards, if you know how to look for them.

Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times evidently doesn't:

It sounds cruel to say so, but towns like Rawson are a reminder that the oversettlement of the Great Plains has turned out to be a 150-year-long mistake, one of the longest-running and most costly errors in American history.

Ten per square mile — a figure which has remained more or less constant for more than half of those 150 years — doesn't constitute anything resembling "oversettlement."

What Kristof wants, as it turns out, is the Buffalo Commons, the entirety of the Great Plains turned into a giant theme park, a vacationland for lawyers in love. If Bismarck and Pierre and Helena don't sneer at this, well, they should. Tom Isern does:

At the heart of this consensus is the conviction that human civilization has failed on the plains. People failed, and they left. This leads to a logical conclusion: the plains are empty of people whose wishes need be taken into consideration. The region is a frontier again, a place in need of a plan. So all sorts of people from distant places propose their plans.

Me, I like North Dakota just the way it is.

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12 July 2004
Thanks, I'll eat it here

Two words: Famous Dave's.

Although to avoid situations like this, I directed all my remarks to a large, burly gentleman.

(There's one in Tulsa now. Surely it's just a matter of time....)

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A river runs through it

Fargo, North Dakota — 2628.0 miles

A Red river at that, and while those of us who occupy the southern tier of the Plains insist that our river is the truly Red one — see, that Oklahoma clay is good for something! — the Red River of the North isn't some somnolent stream that winds its way between North Dakota and Minnesota because it doesn't have anything better to do. And while it seemed calm enough today, it wasn't so long ago that the city of Grand Forks had it up to here with the Red River.

I remembered the news coverage back in '97, but I had to see for myself: when the river crested at 54 feet — flood stage is a mere 26 feet — did it destroy the heart, the soul, of the city?

No way, Don José. Seven years after the fact, Grand Forks is glorious and, well, grand; I made just enough wrong turns through town to see quite a bit of the place, and it's clean, green, and (I hope) prepared for the next Flood of the Century. And as I passed over a bridge into Minnesota, I glanced down into that still, silent water and thought, "Sneaky bastard."

Upstream in Fargo (the Red flows north, ending up in Lake Winnipeg), things weren't quite so bad. But the biggest little city in North Dakota was already in the process of reinventing itself. As James Lileks once said:

[A] funny thing happened to Fargo during the 1980s and '90s — the area started booming and never found a reason to stop. As the rest of North Dakota emptied out, people came to Fargo for the clean-fingernails jobs: insurance, hospitals, banking.

And to support them, a lot of fingernails were, and are, getting seriously soiled doing major construction. I have yet to see more than a small fraction of the city so far, but I had Lileks' article in mind as I crossed through town, and he's not at all kidding about the boom: there is so much activity in so many places you could almost sell this town as the home version of Faust. (Add your own blast of demented, tormented heat.)

Does this make Lileks the Midwestern Mephistopheles? Probably not. But note: friends and neighbors in the Okay City plan weekends in Branson, excursions to Vegas, trips to Padre. I spend half a week in North Freaking Dakota. And frankly, I think I'm getting the better end of the deal.

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11 July 2004
Against the grain

Jamestown, North Dakota — 2337.3 miles

Around the end of May I made some noise about someday driving US 52, an odd diagonal route that slashes across the States 45 degrees out of phase. One end of it is in downtown Charleston, South Carolina: in fact, I used to catch the bus after school from where 52 (which was Meeting Street) crossed Calhoun Street. I've driven it as far north as Florence, which isn't any great shakes, but now I've seen the other end, which is on the Canadian border, separating the town of Portal, North Dakota from the town of North Portal, Saskatchewan. There's not much on this side of the border crossing, and there was no activity this Sunday morning. On the other hand, it didn't look like a really good idea to be seen taking pictures of a border crossing, lest Tom Ridge have to dig into his box of Crayolas.

52 angles southeastward through Minot and joins I-94 at Jamestown, which boasts, among other things, the World's Largest Buffalo, constructed in 1959 for some sort of bisontennial celebration. What I didn't find around here was any mention of someone I assumed would have at least some sort of shrine downtown, the late Norma Deloris Egstrom, who reminds you that chicks were born to give you fever, be it Fahrenheit or Centigrade.

And speaking of the latter, of course Canadian radio gives the specifics of the weather report in the metric system; it was a chilly 12 in Estevan this morning, while over here in North Dakota it was an equally chilly 54 following a brief early-morning thunderstorm.

The definition of "early," I suppose, is flexible: sunrise is about 6:10 am in these parts this time of year, about fifteen minutes earlier than what I'm used to. On the other hand, sunset isn't until almost 10 pm.

And if Montana is sporadically wild and woolly, North Dakota is placid. To those people who demand excitement in their lives, it might even be soporific. But I looked at those mostly-green fields today and I found myself wondering: what is it with these people who want to live their lives in some sort of rabid rabbit warren, right on top of one another, constantly on the move? Maybe I'm just getting older, but right now I can appreciate the virtues of a place which isn't going to grow 40 percent — maybe not even 4 percent — in the next twenty years.

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