1 September 2002
Embracing the inner grey

John Powers' L.A. Weekly column contrasting the styles of The Nation and The Weekly Standard got some play in the Blogosphere™, and while Powers' conclusion seems inarguable — yes, the Standard is far sprightlier, but the instructions on a bottle of drain cleaner are sprightlier than The Nation most weeks — I have to wonder if this particular dichotomy is also reflected in other subcultures. Yesterday I took a peek at a new blog, posted what I thought was a reasonably wry gibe about it, and watched it soar many thousands of feet over the blogger's head. Are blogs on the left necessarily more drab, less perky, than their counterparts on the right? Has lack of humor become a prerequisite for 21st-century liberal ideology? How come Michael Moore's earlier works are a lot funnier than Stupid White Men?

Powers offers a hint down in the sixth paragraph: "Too much of the writing is muffled by low-word-rate padding and fear of offending the magazine's many constituencies." Well, you can't get much lower a word rate than what is offered in blogdom, which averages somewhere around zero or slightly below — this site costs me, excluding kickbacks, about $275 a year to run — but that "fear of offending" may be the key. Very few centrist blogs, and hardly any on the right, seem to worry about upsetting anyone's applecart. It's no accident that the most common term used for the evisceration of someone devoid of clues is "fisking", a treatment first visited upon Independent columnist Robert Fisk, who has a tendency to tiptoe gently away from anything that might disagree with what post-Cold War Europeans have come to accept as Revealed Truth. Perhaps needless to say, Fisk is regarded as an iconoclast by the bearers of said Truth, a stance which inevitably results in more fisking.

This is not to say, of course, that there are no sources of left-wing bile. But it's almost always monolithic; there's scarcely ever any sense that this stuff has been hashed out by individual minds. It's the Committee-Approved Version. This process would never work on the right, where individuals, however like-minded, count for far more than groups.

And there's one other thing, which I've actually seen mirrored in Real Life. Self-deprecating humor is evidently considered a Bad Thing among leftists, what with its seeming disregard for one's self-esteem, the single most important quality a person can possess. In response to this pervasive belief, Juan Gato bills his blog as "A Bunch of Crap From a Moron," and just to rub it in, tags his tip jar with "I'm better than you. Give me money." Somehow I can't imagine this kind of irreverence displacing the sanctimony of those who "watch" the warbloggers.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:37 AM to Blogorrhea )
Did you bring enough to share?

Aimee Deep, otherwise known as the MusicPundit, obviously has an axe to grind, but she grinds it so well:

"Will Big Media start to sue bloggers for sharing content? Before you dismiss this notion, consider that Madster FairPlay will make it just as easy to share files from a blog as from Napster, Kazaa, or anywhere else on the Internet. Then will blog journalists, because they link or review shared content, find themselves charged with 'contributory and vicarious infringement', no matter how baseless?"

The Intellectual Property Police are nothing if not persistent. And she knows it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:03 PM to Tongue and Groove )
Identity cards, and a joker

In The Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes says that those weird ACLU types and those pesky libertarians have stalled enough; it's time for a national ID card, in the name of, you guessed it, "national security".

There are plenty of reasons to take issue with this premise. We've already lost a measure of privacy, what with various licenses, credit records, medical records and whatnot, so what's a little more? Besides, says Barnes blithely, "the Constitution has never recognized a right to anonymity." If it's not stated in bald type, it does not exist? Has Mr Barnes read the 10th Amendment lately?

Meanwhile, Quana Jones has further complaints:

"Think about all the powermad bladderheads in airport security. You know what I'm talking about. Any idiot in a uniform will feel compelled to demand identification."

And still further:

"Exactly how will knowing a person's name and identity make us safer? Murderous homicide bombers don't intend to go home."

Mr Barnes calls objections of this sort "essentially frivolous". Of course he does. If he didn't, he'd have to take them seriously, and then all he'd have left of his argument would be "The government will protect us." How very, very September 10th of him.

Dash it all

A few months ago, FARK.com made an addition to its usual categories like "weird", "dumbass" and "Wheaton": there is now a category called "Florida". And the Sunshine State, true to form, is delivering all manner of farkable news items.

Consider the case of Patrick Feheley, running for the 13th District House seat currently held by Rep. Dan Miller, who is retiring. Feheley filed suit against another Democratic rival, Candice Brown McElyea, claiming she'd inserted a hyphen into her name when she filed to run for the office; as "Brown-McElyea, Candice", she'd appear on the ballot ahead of "Feheley, Patrick". (Two other Democrats are running, but their names fall farther down in the alphabet.) Says Feheley, this is a deceptive manipulation of the election process. (Deceptive manipulation? In Florida? Sheesh. Now we've heard everything.)

The judge designated to hear the case set a routine procedural hearing for the 5th of September, five days before the primary election, too late for the ballots to be reprinted should Feheley prevail. Upset, but knowing there wasn't much he could do about it, Feheley dropped his suit.

Of course, this is only the primary. Should Feheley win, he'd still have to beat out a Republican to be determined, and an independent candidate. Who might that Republican be? The front-runner right now is Katherine Harris. Yes, that Katherine Harris. Then again, her candidacy is being challenged by rival John Hill (no relation).

It's times like these I almost feel sorry for Jeb Bush.

2 September 2002
The usual crap

There are times when you just have to let the text speak for itself:

Johannesburg (CNSNews.com) - In what some see as a sign that the Earth summit is literally going down the drain, an environmentalist at the Earth summit here has lamented the introduction of the flush toilet.

One of the panelists taking part in a television special on the Earth summit complained about the "pernicious introduction of the flush toilet," according to Competitive Enterprise Institute President Fred Smith, who also was a panelist on the program.

The TV special, hosted by PBS's Bill Moyers, was taped on Tuesday and is set to air Friday night.

A female panelist from India complained that the flush toilet encourages excessive water consumption around the world and is not ecologically friendly.

The remark prompted an associate of Smith, CEI's Chris Horner, to ponder what alternative the woman would suggest. "Presumably the preferred solution to human waste problems is now abstinence," Horner quipped.

Of course, far more water is used for agricultural purposes than for our piddling (sorry) little homes, but what I want to know is this: How many of these high-dollar diplomatic types attending the Summit, moved (so to speak) by this speech, went out and took a dump in their hotel parking lots?

Yeah, I thought so.

(Muchas gracias: Andrea Harris.)

Another coat of paint

NewsOK.com, the joint venture between KWTV television and The Daily Oklahoman, got a facelift over the weekend. What it didn't get, of course, was an injection of content, so NewsOK.com remains what it was: exactly the sort of Web site you'd expect from two organizations who didn't put any work into their sites when they were separate.

On the plus side, at least they're not making you register, unless you're browsing the archives for items older than three days. The Tulsa World charges forty-five bucks a year for access to just about anything, which might be defensible if they carried anything much that wasn't already on the AP wire.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:23 PM to Soonerland )
CNN news from Fox

While looking at some local TV-station sites as perfunctory research for the preceding item, I noticed that apparently the Fox TV network doesn't demand that its local affiliates wrap themselves in Rupert Murdoch-approved isolation; quite a few Fox stations have affiliations with CNN, including KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City, KABB-TV in San Antonio, and WTIC-TV in Hartford, Connecticut.

There's nothing particularly weird about this — CNN swaps video with affiliates of the other major broadcast networks as well — but really, if the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy™ were the ideologically-driven monolith it's alleged to be, shouldn't Murdoch, or Fox News boss Roger Ailes, or somebody, have pulled the plug on these deals by now?

Not likely. Fox, first and foremost, has to make money, and annoying the affiliate stations is not the most efficient way to do it. What's more, Fox, having acquired the old United Stations (Chris-Craft) group, now owns some of the biggest UPN affiliates, including WWOR-TV in Secaucus, New Jersey (New York City market) and KCOP-TV in Los Angeles. Strange bedfellows are the rule, not the exception, in today's Big Media market.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:11 PM to Dyssynergy )
3 September 2002
The legend that was Lemons

He won 599 games, missing the 600th by one point in his last game before retirement. "Damn referees," he said. "I'll miss them less than anybody."

Abe Lemons had a quip for everything. He coached basketball for thirty-four years: eighteen at Oklahoma City University, three at Pan-American University, six at the University of Texas, and then seven more years at OCU.

"Maybe it would be best for me to finish at 599," said Abe. "People seem to like you better when you finish just short."

Naw. Everybody liked Abe, win or lose, and 63.6 percent of the time it was win.

And now he's gone. His name is over the door of the basketball arena at OCU; his influence will be felt by everyone in Oklahoma hoops for many years to come.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:43 AM to Soonerland )
The last of the line

Okay, $71,500 seems like a stiff price, but it's the last Chevrolet Camaro to be sold. (It's the second-to-last Camaro off the assembly line; the actual last vehicle is bound for a museum.) General Motors pulled the plug on the Camaro and its sister ship, the Pontiac Firebird, after more than three decades, citing plummeting sales and high costs — no other GM car is built on this platform.

At least it's a Z28. With T-tops, of course. And Chevy is donating the proceeds to charity. On to Woodward Avenue, and let those eight cylinders be heard!

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:47 PM to Driver's Seat )
4 September 2002
Remembrance at the bridge

Back on the 26th of May, the Interstate 40 bridge over the Arkansas River near Webbers Falls, Oklahoma was struck by two barges; a span collapsed into the river, and fourteen people were killed.

Funding has now been obtained to build a memorial at the site. The bridge has since been reopened and traffic is flowing normally, or as normally as it can flow on I-40. I rather expect that most drivers coming through won't pay a whole lot of attention to the memorial; this is fine with me, so long as they pay a whole lot of attention to their driving. Too many of them don't.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Soonerland )
It's a gas, gas, gas

Car and Driver editor Csaba Csere, in the October '02 issue, dissecting California Assembly Bill 1493, which orders reductions in the emissions of greenhouse gases in the Golden State starting in 2006:

"As large as California is, however, it produces only 6.5 percent of America's man-made CO2 emissions, and the U.S. accounts for 25 percent of the world total. Moreover, California's privately owned vehicles account for 40 percent of the state's CO2 output. Multiply the percentages, and you get a global man-made CO2 reduction of well under one percent, even if private driving in California were completely banned."

Yeah, that ought to make a dent in global warming.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:52 PM to Driver's Seat )
It's a Volokh world, after all

Admittedly, the world is not exactly teeming with Volokhs. Still, I read The Volokh Conspiracy fairly regularly, and I've subscribed to Movieline for over a decade, and it never once occurred to me that Movieline founder and CEO Anne Volokh might be somehow related to Sasha and Eugene. As Homer J. Simpson might say: "D'oh!"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:29 PM to Dyssynergy )
Girl, uninterrupted

Once upon a time, I was actually married, which does much (though clearly not everything) to explain why I have two children. And I admit that I was taken by surprise when I was informed that the first one was on the way. For one thing, there had been no testing: no cutesy strips, no trip to the OB/GYN, nothing. It didn't matter: she knew. From the very moment of fertilization, somehow she knew.

And, of course, she was right. Delivery turned out to be something less than flawless, but what matters here is the terminology: at no point in those nine months, so far as I can recall, did either of us use the word "fetus".

And maybe that's some of what Susanna Cornett is talking about when she asks, "What is nine months for a life?"

5 September 2002
Wide open

There are none so blind as those who slide down the Interstate at 80 mph, unable to see anything beyond the frontage road. An example:

"I'm not sure where Dylan's Desolation Row is, but I-35 between Des Moines and the outer suburbs of Kansas City is pretty desolate in its own right; it's like all the farmers were given Federal subsidies to get as far away from it as possible."

From my very own World Tour log, this past summer. Obviously the rantings of a madman, and a tired madman at that.

And there was a gentle nudge today from Regions of Mind, reminding me — as many of us perhaps need reminding once in a while — that the rim of the world is neither desolate nor deserted.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:02 AM to Driver's Seat )
Beat the Reaper!

It's called Sick Day. Think of it as The Real World with physiological, not just behavioral, toxicity. Will it come to the States? How desperate do you think the networks are? (Two words: Desmond Pfeiffer.)

(Muchas gracias [sort of]: JunkYardBlog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:24 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Skid Marx

You and I probably already knew this, but Wylie wants to make sure the Usual Suspects, just departed from the Earth Summit, get the point:

"It cannot be emphasized enough that the model of centrally planned economies has failed, and no amount of fiddling around the edges will ever make it work. The only way these countries will ever advance economically is to establish the rule of law, contracts and especially private ownership of land and let the free market take its course."

The Usual Suspects, including First World greenozoids, the International Monetary Fund, and a collection of Third World "We aren't sure what we need, but we sure want money" types, probably won't take heed this time either, but not to worry: eventually they'll be looking for real jobs, just like the Central Planners.

Take this dial and shove it

I've run for a number of years with two ISPs, one local and one national, mostly out of a sense of maintaining redundancy in case of emergency. This doesn't work very well, however, when the local dial doesn't answer half the time and the national service insists that you install their insipid software package or they won't answer either. (It may even be true; I set up standard Windows DUNs for their two local numbers and neither one of them will connect.)

Broadband, you say? For this? Sheesh.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:27 PM to PEBKAC )
6 September 2002
Sharp! Distance!

It would be possible, I think, to make up a perfectly lovely blog made up entirely of passages from James Lileks. Of course, Lileks himself has already done that, to the delight of all, or at least most, but sometimes he says something that resounds so wonderfully that I can't help but fall into its echo, vibrating with it until the inevitable fade.

And then, of course, I post it here, just to keep the vibration going. What do you think of Jon Anderson? Here's Lileks:

"To those unfamiliar with Yes' singer, imagine a hamster that has been dipped in helium and squeezed between the thighs of a pro wrestler."

Thank you, kind sir. Yours is no disgrace.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:18 AM to Blogorrhea )
Oxymoron: "Property Management"

During the six years this site has been in operation, I have delivered a few righteous denunciations of things which I thought needed denouncing, but I don't think anything in this domain qualifies as a world-class Fisking; I've never really been all that vicious.

Until I got home this afternoon and found, of all things, an eviction notice waiting for me, five days after the rent was due — but seven days after it was paid. And I've got the receipt to prove it. What's more, they cashed my check on Tuesday, which is rather easily verifiable by a call to the bank.

So this particular quasi-Fisking will be delivered in person tomorrow morning. I don't really expect anyone to quake in fear when I arrive, but you'd better believe they're going to be shaking when I depart.

And if their response is not satisfactory, well, it will be Google-able for the remainder of eternity, for the edification of all.

Update, 6:40 pm, 7 September: The one staffer on duty happened to be the one who signed the rent receipt, so there was little arguing to do; what bothered me was the bland admission that, well, these things happen. Perhaps they do; however, they should not.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:29 PM to Dyssynergy )
7 September 2002
The last McKinney joke?

Hmmm....

"[Cynthia] McKinney's compassionate attitude towards the Palestinians is a continuation of the teachings of one of her heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King. It is simply unthinkable that King, if he were alive today, would remain mute in the face of Israel's persecution of the Palestinians, which has included: the use of death squads; torture of detainees; home demolitions; forced deportations; the siege of Jenin, Ramallah, and Bethlehem, the holiest site in Christendom; and the ongoing collective punishment of the innocent."

So speculates William Hughes in Counterpunch. Of course, punishing the guilty would be out of the question, since they've already transformed themselves into noxious swirling gases, which are then condensed, reduced, and published as articles in places like, well, Counterpunch.

As for Dr King, I seriously doubt any part of his dream called for people to wrap themselves in plastique.

Another look at Roe

Dean Esmay offered the following observation as a comment to a posting at Cut on the Bias that I'd previously mentioned here. In it, he brings up something I hadn't previously considered:

"[S]urveys show pretty clearly that pretty much half of American women now generally classify themselves as 'pro life' and a firm majority of women would support more restrictions on abortion than Roe v. Wade rammed down the country's collective throat....if we held a special referendum where only female voters were allowed to decide the fate of abortion in the United States, the rabid pro-choice crowd would howl with rage at the result."

I doubt any such referendum would ever take place; the male of the species would howl with rage at being disenfranchised. But if Mr Esmay's numbers are correct, at least part of the philosophical underpinnings of the pro-choice position — that opposition to abortion would scarcely exist were it not for a small core of activists — has already started to disintegrate.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:37 AM to Life and/or Death )
Minor adjustments

Now that comments for this site have been brought in-house (thank you, Mena and Ben) and work most of the time, I have taken down the Grouse-O-Matic Message Board, which was getting scant use: in two years of operation, it got maybe thirty posts.

The pre-MT log archives are now accessible through a framed (but very lightly framed) page that opens up any of the twenty-odd months from the list on the left. And the MT archives have been resorted to start with the first post of the month, which corresponds more closely to my preposterous notion that the log is actually a secret (possibly even unauthorized) autobiography and should be read in sequence.

As always, thank you for coming.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:00 PM to Blogorrhea )
It's only a number (plus two)

The next step, perhaps, is to blame those horrid liberals in the Connecticut Department of Public Health; apparently Ann Coulter is a couple years closer to AARP membership than she's been willing to let on. Of course, whether she's 38 (as she claims) or 40 (as Connecticut records indicate) is largely irrelevant, unless you think that 40 is some horrible age for a woman to be, in which case I suggest you've been hanging around too many Britneys for your own good.

And let us not snipe solely at Ann Coulter. Just to show you that this sort of thing transcends mere political stances, Barbara Walters' bio has always said she was born in 1931, two years later than the actual date.

Besides, Walters and Coulter share other attributes besides the ability to write off years with the stroke of a pen: both are well-served by short skirts, and both tend to overestimate their journalistic credibility.

(Muchas gracias: Jeanne d'Arc.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:23 PM to Dyssynergy )
Potsdam II: Iraq and a Hard Place

In 1945, the heads of the three major Allied powers — Harry Truman from the US, Winston Churchill (subsequently replaced by Clement Attlee, an election having intervened) from Britain, and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union — met in Potsdam, near occupied Berlin, and signed an agreement among themselves regarding just how to handle the "conquered countries," by which they meant Germany and whatever lands the Reich had been occupying by force during the preceding years. Other matters were discussed at Potsdam, including the drafting of an ultimatum to be dispatched to Japan.

The Potsdam terms imposed upon Germany, says Frank Martin at Techno-Merc, can be applied with only minor modifications to Iraq, once that war draws to a close, and he offers a revised version of the pertinent parts of the Potsdam declaration to illustrate. Is this necessary? Mr Martin responds, "[D]o Iraqis not deserve the same level of justice meted out to Germans at the end of WWII?"

8 September 2002
Reality bites

The mysterious voice(s) of In Arguendo, with a sentiment we are proud to echo:

We would like to take just one moment to, well, brag really that we have NEVER watched one single episode of ANY reality show that has come out in the last couple of years. Not Survivor, Big Brother, Fear Factor, Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire, or any of them. Yes, this makes us feel good, and we just wanted to share.

This item was titled American Idol Finals!!, and no, I didn't watch that either. Frankly, if I want to see relentlessly-mediocre people who are in way over their heads, I can always tune in C-Span's Congressional coverage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:21 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Fried spam

The email began, like so many others, with this:

DO NOT DELETE THIS READ FIRST IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

By the time I get through with it, the sender will wish I had deleted it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:13 PM to Scams and Spams )
Life among the dogs

At first, I thought Gregory Hlatky was having a bad day:

The march of years has brought less hair and more fat, but it has failed to impart wisdom or maturity. Even as I've reached what should be considered middle age, I completely lack common sense. I remain so socially inept that I'm a constant embarrassment to my lovely bride and now take refuge in taciturnity. I still have the emotional stability of a person a quarter of my age.

Been there, felt that. Still feel that, to a certain extent. But this post, less than twelve hours later, banishes one particularly-annoying publicity hound to deserved oblivion, and in so doing demonstrates the true strength of the man:

Damn you! Damn you, you syphilitic roué, you rancid tub of solipsism, you stuprous slave of your hormones, you fungus that lives off pond scum, you prevaricating confidence-man! May the chancres you acquired from one of your trailer-trash strumpets never heal. How dare you use this somber time to buff up your record! The only thing I forever again want to hear from you is this:

"'I was President of the United States for eight years. I might have, but failed to prevent this atrocity. For that I will feel the deepest shame for the rest of my days.'"

Thanks, Greg. We needed that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:34 PM to Blogorrhea )
It took time for me to know

About the third lesson in Bloggage 101 is "Find someone who says what you want to say, only better, and put up a link." Well, I can't very well link to a 45 (or, for that matter, an LP), but with apologies to the appropriate copyright holder and to anyone else who might take umbrage, here is something said better than I could, said many years before I could, by a chap who calls himself Lobo:

You told yourself years ago
You'd never let your feelings show
The obligation that you made
For the title that they gave

Baby, I'd love you to want me
The way that I want you
The way that it should be
Baby, you'd love me to want you
The way that I want to
If you'd only let it be

Repeat and fade. (Which, of course, I will.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:32 PM to Table for One )
9 September 2002
Little. Yellow. Gravitational.

"What is the value of the pencil test?" asks Susanna Cornett. "What, precisely, does it prove?"

What it proves, I think, is that the contemporary all-breasts-are-beautiful stance is not making much headway against the old-style stereotyping implicit in the test, and that almost everyone has a pencil to spare.

Bette Midler used to do a bit of shtick about this, in which she found herself testing not only with pencils but an entire typewriter, fercryingoutloud. Finally, she fetched the postal scale, positioned the flesh on the platform, and declared, "I'm not saying how much it weighs, but it costs $87 to send it to Brazil."

At some point, I fear someone is going to ask me for a preference, and frankly, I don't have one, though I suppose I would tend to prefer an intermediate sort of structure, somewhere on the continuum between the extremes, neither gypsum wallboard nor Anna Nicole Smith. (Bless you, O mighty bell curve.) But I concede that the nicest pair ever presented for my, um, inspection — as distinguished from those only viewable at a distance — had, in fact, been surgically modified to near-perfect just-shy-of-C curvature.

A hell of a good reduction job, if you ask me, and worthy of a fresh, unsharpened Eberhard Faber No. 2.

Lessons from life (one in a series)

When researching hardware to see if it's sufficiently fast, it is highly sub-optimal to rely on the judgment of the guy who took six years to implement a program enhancement.

Eviction update

As Ron Ziegler used to say, previous statements are inoperative: they issued the Final Demand today. And fortunately, it was a day in which everything at 42nd and Treadmill had gone terribly wrong — Christ on a crutch, why do I put up with these nitwits? — so I was in the proper mood to deliver world-class invective.

Actually, it fell slightly short of world-class, but what the hell, it's better than they deserved; I should have sued the bastards. In the meantime, there is still the task of providing Googleable information about this place, which is called Courtyard Village, owned by Pacific West Management, and managed (and I use the term loosely) by Lisa Rada (for now, anyway; they go through personnel like Gray Davis goes through campaign contributions), for the benefit of anyone seeking a flat east of Oklahoma City and north of Tinker Air Force Base.

Ms Rada, incidentally, seemed unimpressed when I indicated that I was expecting a written apology, and that I would post it here when it arrived — and that I would post references to its absence until it does.

And if I discover anything deleterious has been added to my credit record as a result of this, well, you'll get to hear about that too. I was assured that it would not, but how likely am I to believe that?

Posting, incidentally, may be light around lease-expiration time.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:56 PM to Dyssynergy )
Principles, schminciples

Today's spam comes from Trent Franks, a "principled, pro-family conservative Republican" running for Arizona's Second District House seat, up for grabs now that incumbent Bob Stump is retiring after 26 years. Franks has five opponents in tomorrow's GOP primary, none of whom have (1) spammed me (2) from a Korean mail drop. Not that the Koreans know I don't live anywhere near the district.

Spam, of course, is to principle what Cocoa Puffs are to Ghirardelli chocolate, and I hope it sinks Trent Franks as badly as it did California gubernatorial wannabe Bill Jones. And let this be a warning to any actual Oklahoma politicians with the same cheesy idea.

10 September 2002
Two letters, no waiting

Somebody — was it P. J. O'Rourke? — once opined that the single most useful word in defending US interests was the simple word so, framed as a question in as accusatory a manner as possible. Used in this way, it becomes possible to refute all sorts of criticisms leveled from the Other Side. Example:

The US has imperialist ambitions!

"So?"

And its usefulness extends beyond foreign policy:

Ten percent of the taxpayers got 80 percent of the tax cut!

"So?"

Alternate forms include "Your point being?" and "And this is a problem because...?"

This is actually less flippant than it seems; today, when sloganeering is the primary form of political discourse, giving someone else's shibboleth the rhetorical back of your hand is every bit as effective as trying to explain things to the nudnik, and it saves time and/or bandwidth. A no-lose proposition all around, if you ask me.

What color is your elephant?

Mine is that sort of off-white that distinguishes, or fails to distinguish, too many PCs. It cost about as much as a small sedan, and was purchased on the strength of the same model having served a subsidiary office reasonably well for the past couple of seasons. Curiously — certainly The Man From Tech Support found it curious — setting the box to exactly the same parameters used by its faraway sister produced unsatisfactory results.

Of course, like any piece of hardware these days, it has more settings than Oneida, and only the expert can arrange them all on the first try. Definitely lets me out.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:06 PM to PEBKAC )
11 September 2002
Stillness

So far, things have been very quiet. The calm before the storm? Maybe, maybe not. But we've made it through storms before, and we'll make it through this one.

In the meantime, this would be a fine time to turn away from the screen for a moment and turn toward someone you love.

And then say so.

It's for you

Something called APAC Customer Services Inc. is seeking to fill 500 call-center positions in metro Oklahoma City. If you're interested in being emotionally drained by a soul-sucking job (don't even think of calling it a career) and you think 42nd and Treadmill pays too much, this may be just the spot you've been looking for, and may God have pity on your soul.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:03 PM to City Scene )
Gumming attraction

It's called Trident White, and I never would have bought it had it not been fastened to a bottle of Listerine (another Warner-Lambert product, and how come AOL hasn't bought them yet?); I've never been much of a gum-chewer, perhaps due to an inability to snap it with authority. It's low on the calorie scale — 2.5 per piece — and contains some odd dairy derivative yet is lactose-free. And best of all, it's supposed to whiten, or at the very least maybe de-yellow, one's teeth.

All this is secondary, though, to actual chewing satisfaction, and here the stuff comes up short. This particular flavor (billed as "peppermint", but it tastes like discount-store mouthwash) is something less than enthralling, the pieces are tiny (perhaps to ensure that 2.5 calories per), and I have certain qualms about anything this small that lists a dozen and a half ingredients. And titanium dioxide? Well, that certainly explains the "white" part.

I have no doubt that it will sell, and sell well, but I don't think it's persuasive enough to win over Doctor No. 5.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:13 PM to Dyssynergy )
One year ago

This is what I wrote in this space on this date last year:

Blessed are the doubters; though they be thought indecisive and wishy, washy even, it would never occur to them to settle a petty grudge by mass murder.

Donald Rumsfeld was saying that the Pentagon bureaucracy needed to be shaken up, but this isn't what he meant at all. So far, I've remained just as calm as can be — going through the Oklahoma City bombing perhaps has taken some of the fright out of me, and gallows humor will take care of some of the rest. But somehow I can still see myself tumbling from bed at the stroke of midnight, sweating to beat the band and screaming my fear into the night sky.

I haven't started screaming. Yet.

12 September 2002
How we did it

There is no longer any doubt that small, decentralized terror cells like those of the al-Qaeda network can wreak serious havoc in a short time. But did they win the early battles only to lose the war?

Of course they did. American resolve is famously implacable, and American military might is unequaled. But the third force in this triad — American culture — will prove to be the decisive factor.

Even the late, unlamented Osama bin Laden would have to admit it. However much he may have railed against the evil modern West, he never would have stood a chance using the tools of medieval Islam, and he knew it. And Western mores, which much to the annoyance of European Community types are de facto American mores, have already gotten a foothold in Islamic countries, and no amount of haranguing by the mullahs and the military will dislodge them. The burqa will be just as obsolete as the codpiece, and in retrospect just as silly.

So the larger war is already won. We must still remain on guard while the last of the medievalists empty out their curiously-modern weapons, and the necessity of replacing a few regimes is still on the agenda, but the hearts and minds of millions of Muslims enslaved by the perversity of their leaders are already starting to turn our way. There will probably always be hard-line Islamic fascists, but they will be banished to the margins, not by American forces, but by the insistence of a Muslim people anxious to join the rest of the twenty-first century.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Stones of solid brass

Look for a definition of the handy Yiddish term "chutzpah", and you'll likely be told of the wiseguy who murdered his parents, and then threw himself on the mercy of the court on the grounds that he was an orphan. As nuanced explanations go, this is one of the best.

I'm approaching the front door, and for the third time in a week, there's a notice stuck up there. Is this the written apology from the landlord for the shabby treatment I've been getting of late? Of course not. It's the standard sucky "renew your lease now and get a smaller rent increase" pitch. The increase isn't much — 2.3 percent — but that hardly mitigates the gall.

Actually, given the history of this place, I suspect I may be here longer than the current management (Pacific West, for all you Googlers), in which case I think I shall keep discreetly silent about future plans until the last moment possible.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:57 PM to Dyssynergy )
Vanishing act

It was titled "The Lady Vanishes," and Charles Sheffield wasn't kidding. In this short story (which first appeared in Science Fiction Age, November 1996), one Dr Lois Doberman devises a computer-assisted bodysuit that took the input from light receptors on one side of her and fed it to an LCD array on the other side. If you happened to be looking at her, what you were actually seeing was whatever was behind her; so long as the computer didn't crash and the fiber optics weren't twisted into ineffectual shapes, Dr Doberman was effectively invisible.

This of course isn't the first example of a cloaking device in SF or fantasy, but it might be the first example of one that could conceivably exist, and Ray Alden, an inventor from North Carolina, has not only conceived of it but applied for a design patent. For those of us with a heftier-than-normal interest in the unseen, it's a sure-fire wish-list item.

13 September 2002
UN finished business

Were you impressed with the way President Bush stuck it to the United Nations? James Lileks was:

"It was sheer malicious brilliance to cast the entire case in terms of UN resolutions, because it mean the UN had to choose: either those resolutions mean something, or the UN means nothing. Why, it's almost as if the UN painted itself into a corner — and woke up to find this rude simple cowboy holding the brush."

Exactly so. Watching the Global Goofs trying to argue their way out of it will be most amusing, and while they're so engaged, Mr Bush can proceed with the plan.

And otherwise-intelligent people called this man "dumb"?

It's all explained in your booklet

The big news at 42nd and Treadmill today was the arrival of new Certificates of Benefits from our newly-appointed Czar of Health Care Bucks. It is apparent to me that said Czar is desperate to save dollars any way possible: the Certificates, seventy-six pages, were printed, per the back page, in 1995, and sixty pages of changes, amendments, exclusions, Special Notices, and other insurance-company effluvia are stapled to the inside covers. Needless to say, this makes the Table of Contents well-nigh worthless; I have to assume that the First Commandment of Insurance — "Thou shalt not pay claims if there is any way to avoid them" — has a Sub-Commandment somewhere about making the actual obligations of the company as murky and indistinct as possible.

Of course, we'll drop them in a year or so, once they've finished the initial contract and start charging what they really wanted to charge in the first place, and subsequently we'll be suckered in by yet another pack of twerps who'd rather be in Mergers and Acquisitions than in some tedious business like health care.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:39 PM to Dyssynergy )
14 September 2002
Picking favorites in the Baghdad Bowl

College football, writes Patrick Ruffini, testifies to the strength of American society:

"The fact that we've built massive stadiums in the middle of nowhere for something that's not a professional sport says something about America's sense of proportion and scale. College football isn't something we need to have, strictly speaking...and yet we've build this scaffolding of civil society around it that's stronger than it is with any other professional sport. To me, this is the mark of a uniquely strong society."

Anyone who's ever been stuck in a traffic jam in Norman, Oklahoma on game day might argue that we need a bit more proportion and/or scale, but Mr Ruffini's point is clear: if we have the resources to spare to pour into what is, by and large, a trivial pursuit, well, just imagine what we can do with truly important tasks. For example:

"We're going to kick your ass, Saddam. We're going to take Baghdad, and with fewer than 100 casualties."

There's your morning line. The only real question is by how much we will beat the spread.

Lessons from life (another in a series)

Dealers in consumer electronics, particularly video consumer electronics, should not hire football fans as salespersons — or if they do, they should arrange their work schedules to correspond to periods when no games are being broadcast.

I mention this in case anyone was wondering how the nineteen-year-old (I'm guessing) kid from Sears was the one who made the sale on the DVD player today; he couldn't care less about football, and was therefore available to answer questions.

15 September 2002
A Mickey Mouse operation

If you think, as I have, that Michael Eisner's tour of duty at the top slot at Disney has been at best sort of Goofy, you'll be pleased to know that Eisner's days are numbered, and the numbers are low.

Aimee Deep, who broke this story, adds this little historical note:

"Eisner is the last of the hitmen to go, now that Levin of TimeWarner, Messier of Universal, Middlehoff and Zelnick of BMG, and Berry of EMI have all fallen, victims of their own greed and collusion."

Come to think of it, I don't miss any of those guys either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:37 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Tribune axes Greene

Chicago Tribune columnist Bob Greene, famed for his nostalgic looks back at lost youth, apparently had a taste for present-day youth as well. A tipster informed the Tribune that Greene, a few years ago, had met a teenaged girl through his column, and the two subsequently had had an affair. The newspaper confronted Greene with the story, then asked for his resignation.

Evidently I'm not cut out for journalism; I get the chills just talking about vaguely sexual matters with twentysomethings.

(Muchas gracias: Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

Update, 4:40 pm: "Good riddance," says Spoons.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:12 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Alternative tools

Blogger still is the dominant content-management system for bloggage, with Movable Type coming up fast on the outside, and there are a handful of others, not to mention good old classic hand-coding, which I did for umpteen years. (I still do, on items outside the purview of this blog.)

But there's always room for another one, if it's good, and Marc Lundberg over at Quit That has come up with something called SimCat, which he's using for his own blog. It's still in test mode, but then one could argue that anything blog-related is more or less permanently in test mode anyway.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:32 PM to Blogorrhea )
More complaints from across the pond

"Bush planned Iraq 'regime change' before becoming President", says the headline in Scotland's Sunday Herald.

Well, sort of. The think tank Project for the New American Century actually drew up, in September 2000, a list of foreign-policy desiderata, one of which was to increase American power and influence in the Persian Gulf area. Sunday Herald writer Neil Mackay quotes from the PNAC report as follows:

"The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein."

This would seem, at the very least, to contradict the Sunday Herald's headline, which suggests that the Bush team was already, before the election, looking to score Saddam's head on a platter.

The really amusing aspect of the article, though, is the querulous quote from Labour MP Tam Dalyell, who just isn't happy about anything those darn Americans do:

"This is a blueprint for US world domination — a new world order of their making. These are the thought processes of fantasist Americans who want to control the world. I am appalled that a British Labour Prime Minister should have got into bed with a crew which has this moral standing."

There is no word on whether Mr Dalyell is contemplating switching to the Tories.

16 September 2002
Leaves that are green

The seasons in Oklahoma pay little heed to the calendar dates or, for that matter, to the position of the earth from which those dates are putatively derived. Still, it's possible to figure out the line of demarcation between one season and the next, and the task is easiest in the fall: take one day in the upper 90s (Friday), a day of heavy rain and thunderstorms (Saturday), a placid day about twenty degrees cooler than it's been (Sunday), and the pattern is set. It will still get hot from time to time between now and November, but it won't be the sort of I'm-gonna-kill-something heat that beats on us during July and August.

However, the one most recognizable feature of fall, the evolution of foliage from green to orange to lawn rakings, won't kick in for another month yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Weather or Not )
Cue Cleavon Little with the revolver

A New York judge has been receiving threatening letters; the police have evaluated the letters and are leaning toward the theory that acting Supreme Court Justice Marylin Diamond actually sent the letters to herself.

Why would she do such a thing? Retired NYPD profiler Ray Pierce, asked to join the investigation, has observed that the letters always seem to show up right about the time security alerts are issued — or right about the time that Justice Diamond's authorization for bodyguards is scheduled for expiration.

Justice Jacqueline Silbermann, who serves alongside Diamond, calls the profiler's contention preposterous. A handwriting analysis failed to connect Diamond to the letters; in the meantime, Diamond's additional security has been cancelled.

Why do I think this is destined to be a Lifetime Original Movie?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:14 PM to Wastes of Oxygen )
17 September 2002
Round two

Runoff elections are today, and the two biggest races are on the Democratic side of the aisle, for seats currently held by Republicans.

Governor Frank Keating is out due to term limits, and while Rep. Steve Largent easily won the Republican primary, none of the four Democrats were runaway favorites, forcing a runoff. I tend to prefer Vince Orza over Brad Henry, Orza's previous dalliance with the GOP notwithstanding, and I'd prefer a bowl of blue Jell-O over Steve Largent.

David Walters, who used to be governor, and who got into some serious trouble with campaign finances during his term, will face Tom Boettcher for the right to lose to Senator Jim Inhofe in November.

There are other things going on, but these are the ones that are going to get the breathless, insipid local news coverage tonight.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:25 AM to Soonerland )
Bite this

Okay, I give up. What the heck is a Shenandoah Steak Sandwich?

Update: Jump forward one week.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:00 PM to Dyssynergy )
Lessons from life (yet another in a series)

Do not mention the word "Florida" in the presence of polling-place workers in any other state in the Union.

They will not be amused.

18 September 2002
Judging the judge

President Bush would like to fill a vacancy on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals with Michael McConnell, Presidental Professor of Law at the University of Utah. McConnell is acclaimed by legal scholars on both sides of the political fence; though distinctly conservative, he does not come across as an ideologue.

Just the same, McConnell faces an uphill battle. The Senate Judiciary Committee is jam-packed with Democrats who are persuaded that, for instance, any suggestion that access to abortion might be regulated by the states is an instant slide down the slippery slope to coat-hangers in Tijuana. People for the American Way, a group assembled to counter religious conservatives, now increasingly shrill in its defense of indefensible liberal shibboleths, doesn't like anything about McConnell; they even complain about his membership in the (gasp!) Federalist Society.

The Senate Judiciary Committee gets first crack at McConnell this morning. I wish him luck.

The voters have spoken

And, in the case of the Oklahoma gubernatorial race, Democrats have declared that they'd rather have a candidate who has been loyal to the party apparatus than one who might actually win the general election.

Now to November, where Brad Henry will lose, and lose big, to a GOP empty suit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Soonerland )
I hear he gets up before Dawn

Eric Olsen, despite dropping back from Tres Producers, is still a busy man. Not only is he doing a nifty job as editor of BlogCritics, but he's made it to Salon.com with a frighteningly-detailed (of course) article about the weirdness that was, and is, American Idol. And it's not Premium content, except in the purely qualitative sense, so people who can't stand the idea of giving money to the likes of Salon can still read it.

I wonder if Mrs Olsen plans to blog this item.

Update, 3:45 pm: She has.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Blogorrhea )
From the Really Dead Tree Department

News Item: Rosie O'Donnell is ending her publishing deal with Gruner + Jahr USA. Matthew Rose says G+J CEO Daniel Brewster told Rosie mag staffers that O'Donnell is effectively shutting down the magazine, but the company will consider other publishing options using the existing infrastructure.

Top Ten Rejected Titles For The Magazine To Replace Rosie:

10.  R: The Ricki Magazine
  9.  Shopping with Winona
  8.  We're Not Redbook, Dammit
  7.  Sharon Osbourne's Family Circle
  6.  Sewing Patterns Again!
  5.  Up Yours — And Other Helpful Tips
  4.  Lifetime Original Movie Digest
  3.  As Seen On QVC
  2.  NASCAR Girl!
  1.  Ellen

Nyuk^3

Gregory Hlatky, in praise of the Three Stooges:

"[G]reat Americans, every man jack of them. Probably did more too for classical music (the boys singing the sextet from Lucia di Lammermoor, Christine McIntyre singing 'Voices of Spring,' Larry with his violin) than the combined present-day managements of Vivendi Universal, EMI, BMG, and Sony."

I am compelled to point out here that the sole American firm among the Big Five, AOL Time Warner's Warner Music Group, is not mentioned by Mr Hlatky, and with good reason: they do even less for classical music than their four rivals.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:32 PM to Almost Yogurt )
19 September 2002
Ordure of the day

10:15 am: "Slow drain" reported to management.

5:15 pm: First acknowledgment of report. Minion inspects tub, finds a small quantity of damp detritus, flushes bowl, watches quantity of detritus increase twofold.

5:20 pm: Minion returns with quart bottle of Volcano Extract or something, spritzes a quarter of it down drain.

5:25 pm: "Didn't work. I'll call the plumber."

5:50 pm: Entire building is suffused with the gentle aroma of discarded jockstraps. I decide I will not cook tonight, and order pizza.

6:20 pm: Pizza is delivered.

7:00 pm: Tub now half-full of brown, brackish, bubbling brew.

7:50 pm: Level of said brew recedes to half an inch. I pour two gallons of boiling water into the cauldron.

8:00 pm: Nasty phone call to management.

8:04 pm: Management advises that plumbers are "on the way".

8:10 pm: Begin questioning neighbors. Upstairs residents report no problems; downstairs residents aren't home.

10:45 pm: Winds kick up to 60 mph; storm begins.

11:25 pm: Peak of the storm; winds exceeding 65 mph, rain falling at 0.05 inch per minute.

11:27 pm: Plumbers arrive.

12:05 am: Plumbers, having run both ends of line, report no blockage; suspect combination of Volcano Extract and boiling water may have loosened up the clog.

12:10 am: Off to bed at last.

5:15 am: But it doesn't last, does it?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:00 AM to Dyssynergy )
20 September 2002
Get the PNAC

Joshua Claybourn weighs in on that think-tank piece that so spooked the Europeans:

"Think tanks are always drawing up reports and suggestions like this, and they're always giving them to politicians. Visit any Washington office and you'll [see] scores are delivered each day. This particular report is so 'secretive' that it's been placed prominently online. This is nothing more than some very well thought-out report that was sent to political leaders. Bush never had a long-standing plan to go after Iraq. [Reporter Neil] Mackay is dishonest, ignorant, or both. He should be fired. Memo to people everywhere: this story is nothing, so don't make it out to be something."

Exactly so. Some of the PNAC brain trust indeed wound up on the Bush team, but in 2000, when this report appeared, they had no official status whatsoever. Do the Europeans not have think tanks of their own? Or are they just emotionally wedded to the notion of Bush fils as the Avenging Son, bound and determined to pay back the enemies of Bush père?

G whiz

I admit up front that this is not my area of expertise; the only thought I've given to this sort of thing up to now has been wondering what it's like to stop at the top of the Ferris wheel when Freddy Cannon or Chuck Barris or somebody fell in love down at Palisades Park. On the other hand, I can't let this go by without comment, either.

So here's the story: beginning October first, amusement-park rides in New Jersey will be subject to statutory limits on gravitational forces — sort of. Under the new rules, amusement-park rides must not exceed a force of 5.6g for more than one second. The law was devised after the death of two women at Ocean City in 1999 who were thrown from a malfunctioning roller-coaster car. Had the coaster been working properly, the riders would not have been subjected to forces exceeding 5.6g — no ride in New Jersey is designed for forces over 5.0g — but the state evidently felt that outlawing malfunctions themselves was not a viable option.

Do high g-forces cause brain damage? The medical profession is divided. On the other hand, extensive brain damage among New Jersey residents could be just what ethically-challenged Senator Robert Torricelli needs for his reelection effort.

(Muchas gracias: Bo Cowgill.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:55 AM to Dyssynergy )
21 September 2002
Decrypt this

Up until now, cryptographic keys have been derived from mathematical functions. Now MIT researchers have figured out a way to derive keys from actual physical objects: they've embedded glass beads in small blocks of epoxy, directed a laser beam into their midst, and then converting the interference pattern from the beam into a string of approximately 2400 bits.

Since no two physical objects are absolutely identical, the little epoxy blocks can serve as identification keys or as verification for security devices. You'll probably be carrying something like this yourself in the next ten years.

Update, 7:05 am, 24 September: Fusilier Pundit reports the following:

"Scientific American had a little sidebar story long long ago, on a technique the US developed to authenticate serial numbers on cruise missiles. They sprayed a mixture of lacquer and microscopic ground glass particles over the serial numbers, and photographed each one from several angles. The reflection patterns of each marking were unique and reproducible (duplicate the flash intensity and color and the angle of incidence) but not practicable to duplicate. I'd venture this was 1987."

Evidently, there is truly nothing new under the sun.

Back-to-school tire-chain sale

DavidMSC is way too enthusiastic about snow, if you ask me.

Thoroughly Stude

Of course, I wasn't actually going to the mall, but there are some worthwhile shops around the periphery, and while I was getting back onto the service road, I took a sideways glance at the adjacent lot, and to my surprise, there were, not one, but two middle-Fifties Studebakers. This, I decided, called for further exploration.

And sure enough, once I'd turned the corner, I found dozens of Studes on exhibition: bullet-nose sedans from '50 and '51, classic coupes from '53 on, ferocious late-50s and early 60s Hawks, a couple of the legendary Avantis ('63-'64), a smattering of pickup trucks (this is Oklahoma, after all), a vintage-'48 school bus, and, perhaps the biggest surprise of all, a '66 Commander.

I had never before seen any '66 Studebakers. After the 1964 model year proved to be one bust too many, Studebaker shut down its production facilities in South Bend, Indiana; all subsequent Studes would be built in Hamilton, Ontario. A mere two years and not quite 30,000 cars later, it was all over. This particular '66 was a nice enough medium-sized sedan with a small-block Chevrolet V8. (Studebaker's own engine-production line had died with the South Bend plant.) It seems to me that it should have been at least reasonably competitive with Detroit products of that era; certainly it was more stylish than the '66 Chevy II Nova that I used to drive. But all the '66 Studebakers combined totaled fewer than 9,000 cars. Probably that many Chevys fell off the transporter en route to the dealerships.

Fall days around here are perfect for outdoor auto shows, and I couldn't have asked for a nicer one. I didn't even carp at the presence of a semi-imposing '54 Packard Clipper sedan; this was the year, after all, that Studebaker and Packard had merged. And, needless to say, the owners were happy to bend any and all ears with Stude lore, with the notable exception of one guy who went to sleep in the trunk of his (I assume it was his) Gran Turismo Hawk.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:03 PM to Driver's Seat )
Digital threats

The OkiePundit (you knew there had to be one, didn't you?) analyzes that business about the Muskogee student who was suspended for pointing a finger, weapon-like, at classmates.

I was going to say something to the effect of "They'll get my finger when they pry it off my cold, dead hand," but it's probably easier just to give it to them.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:21 PM to Soonerland )
22 September 2002
You may fire when ready

How is it, exactly, that Quana Jones became a hunter? Why, by learning to shoot, of course. It's a wonderful story, and it's not nearly as long and boring as she thinks it is.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:03 AM to Blogorrhea )
It's all about the hydrocarbons

"No war for oil!" say the signs along the President's motorcade routes. Bryan Preston at JunkYardBlog points out that there are lots of places with oil reserves besides Iraq, and suggests, tongue presumably in cheek:

"Since the whole dang war is all about oil anyway, let's just forget about Iraq. First we should invade Mexico, then we'll take out Venezuela (they've been acting bellicose lately too, better pre-empt them while we can), and then work out a re-colonization plan for Africa. Canada--well, we've been stealing their best comics and actors for years without much of a fuss. They won't put up a fight when we move in to take their oil, so we can pretty much consider that one done. The United States will finally achieve the Manifest Destiny, from the Canadian arctic to the Mexican jungles. As for Russia, it can't get to its oil without us, so we can leave them alone for now. For now...but if Putin gets uppity, he's toast."

Being, um, somewhat less bellicose, I propose a deal with the Mexicans: for every illegal immigrant we accept from Mexico, they have to send us 5000 barrels of crude — reducible to zero if the immigrant accepts relocation in some place that might actually benefit from increased population, such as the Dakotas.

Welcome back, Qatsi

I saw Koyaanisqatsi during its first release in 1983, and it scared me, or at least left me decidedly off-center. On the face of it, the film seemed easily dismissable as neo-Luddite Technology Is Evil stuff, but no such conclusion is ever reached; if anything, the incredibly-detailed cinematography of technology both amazing and mundane comes across as equal parts condemnation and glorification. And the score by Philip Glass is a true masterpiece of minimalism, shifting imperceptibly in synchronization with one's brain waves. I left the theatre, made a copy off cable the first time it aired, and duly put it out of my mind for the next couple of decades, managing to miss Powaqqatsi, the sequel.

With the third Qatsi film, Naqoyqatsi, due this fall, MGM has issued the first two films separately on DVD, and bound them together as a promotional two-pack. (I paid $22.99 at Best Buy for the set.) No doubt the DVD would look better than my old Beta tape, but at least part of the motivation for buying this thing, apart from getting to see Powaqqatsi at last, was to see if my interpretation of the film, such as it was, stood up after all these years, or if I was just young and dumb and full of it.

And there are still no answers, nor, says director Godfrey Reggio in an interview tucked into the Special Features section, are there supposed to be. The film is supposed to open the mind, not fill it up with some particular agenda; if there are questions, the film has done its job. On that basis, Koyaanisqatsi must be considered a roaring success. And Glass' score still haunts me. (Yeah, I know, Glass can be repetitive. So is hip-hop. But you don't hear anyone complaining about hip-hop, probably because it's Authentic Ethnic Street Gibberish and therefore cherished by Relentlessly Multicultural types, under penalty of face-loss. Give me Glass any day. Steve Reich, even.)

If you haven't seen the first two films, I urge you to take a look for yourself. If nothing else, you'll get a look at the source material for almost every music-video cliché you've ever seen.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:23 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Prescription for hideousness

"Is it just me," I wondered, "or are all these new Walgreens stores real eyesores?"

It's apparently not just me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:01 PM to Dyssynergy )
23 September 2002
Turning another corner

Fall arrived this year with a full moon and temperatures uncharacteristically temperate. It won't stay that way, of course, but for now, these are among the nicest days Oklahoma has to offer. (I mention this in case DavidMSC is snowbound.)

Now comes the hard part: to get through some truly hellish weeks at 42nd and Treadmill and some truly stupid campaign rhetoric leading up to November.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:33 AM to Weather or Not )
I got the Red Blues

The "Red vs. Blue" stuff invented for the benefit of clueless TV anchordrones has turned into a cultural measuring stick, and too often We the People are using it to beat upon each other.

The ever-thoughtful Geitner Simmons dissects this phenomenon today in Regions of Mind. "This isn't, or shouldn't be, a caste society based on one's geographical location," says Simmons. "But a lot of people, in the blue-state region as well as the red-state camp, certainly act as if they would like it to be."

Well, maybe. My one remaining chat haunt attracts mostly people in the Tri-State Area. (And what's with that name, anyway? Are the other 47 states forever separate from the Connecticut-New York-New Jersey axis, and separate from each other?) I occasionally catch some flak from newbies, surprised to hear a voice from "deepest Oklahoma, where the wind comes rushing up your shorts," or something like that, but the regulars don't have any problem with me — especially since I've actually visited them in their element and was quickly able to persuade them that yes, we do have running water here, and no, I don't have to remove bison residue from the front yard on a regular basis.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:15 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Sympathy for the devil

That's the title of Mike's latest rant at Cold Fury, and it's so good it's all I can do to keep from pasting the whole thing over here.

The bottom line, though, is this:

"Perhaps the only possible long-term solution...is the establishment of a Palestinian state of some sort, but if it comes to pass, none of us needs to pretend it's anything other than a plain gift to an ungrateful people who have in no way earned such largesse."

Now quit fooling around here and go read the whole thing.

Mommy! They hit me back!

Rob McGee takes apart that America-Is-A-Bully codswallop that has been oozing through the European Union and elsewhere of late:

"[I]f the U.S. is playing any role, it's taking inspiration from Adam Baldwin's pecs-tacular performance in the 1980 nerd wish-fulfillment pic My Bodyguard — the muscular galoot with the heart of gold who doesn't like to see his skinny, asthmatic, frequently-perceived-as-gay classmates (i.e., Western Europe) get shoved into a gym locker by a petty-thief chainsmoking dirtball (i.e., Jihadism). Got it? America isn't the bully; America is the cool jock friend you always wished would come along to kick the bullies' asses. Or, if you like, America is the cute teenage girl who roundhouse-kicks monsters into quivering submission and saves Sunnydale."

Buffy the Jihad Slayer! Now there's a concept. (Shut up, Cordelia.)

Buying silence

A couple of months ago, I mentioned the legal wrangling between British composer Mike Batt and the estate of American composer John Cage, over a Batt composition called A One Minute Silence which Cage's lawyers claimed was a ripoff of the 1952 Cage work 4'33". And a short ripoff at that, I suppose.

The warring parties have now reached a settlement: Batt will pay a sum somewhere in six figures (sterling? dollars? euros?) to the Cage trust, and his recording will be released, with composer credit reading "Batt/Cage".

(Muchas gracias: Andy at The World Wide Rant.)

24 September 2002
And keep your arm off the armrest

Actual text from the owner's manual, right out of the glove compartment (which, by the way, contains no gloves):

"Stacking luggage or other cargo higher than the seatbacks or putting things on the rear package tray is dangerous. During sudden braking or a collision, it can become a projectile that may hit and injure passengers. Don't stack things higher than the seatbacks or put things on the rear package tray."

I don't know about the rest of you, but it seems to me that if they didn't want people to put, um, packages on it, by damn, they should have called it something other than the package tray.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:52 AM to Driver's Seat )
Pay me to stay home

How can anyone possibly oppose paid family leave? Dodd Harris can, and he has darn good reasons:

"[S]ince it...caps out at 55% of their wages (up to a maximum of US$728/week), many times many will not be able to afford the time off even with the check from the state Treasury. So what it really means is that relatively affluent workers will get paid leave at the expense of those who live paycheck to paycheck."

And, of course, that's only the half of it:

"This is pure election year vote buying at its most egregious: The measure doesn't even go into effect for over a year-and-a-half — which means it won't start really impacting the state's already strained budgets until eGray's term is almost up, leaving it as a headache with which his successor will have to deal, not him."

(Internal link added by me.)

Somehow this reminds me of what happened with California's electric "deregulation": it seems that Governor Davis and his minions huddled together, considered all the available options, and discarded any that might have actually worked.

Dear Santa (first in a series)

If you should somehow decide that Jesse Jackson has been nice this year, please bring him a sense of humor.

(Oh, and last year, I hung up a pair of Hanes Silk Reflections on the mantel. I really didn't expect you to fill them up, and you didn't, but if this small act of yearning landed me on the Naughty List, I do apologize.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:23 PM to Outgoing Mail )
Shenandoah!

Last week, I asked:

"What the heck is a Shenandoah Steak Sandwich?"

The answer, courtesy of those fine folks at the Greater Southington (CT) Chamber of Commerce:

"It's like a pulled pork sandwich, except it's beef. It's also a great marketing name, so people will be interested in the product and want to check it out."

Gotcha. And thanks. (Of course, out here in Soonerland, if you ask someone about "pulled pork", he'll glare at you and tell you it's none of your damn business, but that's another issue entirely.)

Now to contrive to get one of these sandwiches without having to drive 3200 miles....

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:32 PM to Dyssynergy )
25 September 2002
Round, round, get around

Last night's Bad Dream was not really worse than usual, but it was atypically vivid.

I had left my car at a dealership handling mostly German makes (never mind which ones) for a minor once-over before hitting the road. When I returned, a stern Teutonic type solemnly informed me that the cost of necessary repairs would exceed the value of the car — or would, if the law permitted repairs of this kind to be made.

"What am I to do?" I wailed.

He pointed me towards the garage, where a couple of staffers presented me with a Transportation Alternative. No, not the atomic lawnmower they sell as the Segway; this was more of a phone booth on wheels, and it required considerable assembly to get going. What's worse, it required frequent reassembly on any trip longer than a couple of blocks.

After thinking it over, I decided that this was a reference to the fact that walking has become more difficult in recent years as my knee joints continue to deteriorate, and to the possibility that at some point, life itself may become too costly to justify.

License to scam

The always-alert (and almost frighteningly gorgeous) Aimee Deep points to a deal between an advertiser and America Online which was apparently used to generate bogus transactions in an effort to inflate revenue figures for both parties. "I can tell you from personal experience," says Deep, "that these Big Media companies try to coerce you [into scams like this]."

This must be some of what AOL Time Warner used to call "synergy" until the word became a colossal joke.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Dyssynergy )
This way to the windmills

A college student is claiming to have silenced Susanna Cornett.

In a related story, a guy down in Thibodaux, Louisiana has posted a No Trespassing sign in order to repel Tropical Storm Isidore.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:19 PM to Blogorrhea )
26 September 2002
Carnival barking

Never underestimate the power of Silflay Hraka. My little outpost on the far fringes of the Blogosphere™ (and if you can explain how a sphere can have fringe, let alone far fringe, you're doing better than I am) scored about thirty percent more traffic than usual, courtesy of Bigwig's Carnival of the Vanities celebration. I am, of course, greatly surprised at any traffic at all, so this little boost was most gratifying.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:18 AM to Blogorrhea )
Elision course

David Cassel's LA Weekly interview with the amazing Heather Havrilesky gives a couple of insights into The Writer Formerly Known As Polly Esther, and in the process gives the back of the editorial hand to Matt Moore, whose blog title is misrendered as "The Blog Century of the Week". Oh, well, you can't have everything.

Update, 29 September, 9:25 pm: It's been fixed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:36 AM to Blogorrhea )
The Stevester makes the rounds

The OkiePundit reports on a sighting of the man widely expected to be the next governor:

"I actually spotted Steve Largent today, tooling around in his black SUV. He's working the powers hard. He needs to work the people harder. No one seems to know him."

Actually, in this state, working the powers is usually enough, and Largent, being (1) a certified Christian conservative and (2) very, very slow on the uptake, has probably already endeared himself to them. (There is no shortage of bright Christian conservatives, but they never seem to run for office around these parts.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:06 AM to Soonerland )
One in every crowd

What happens "when 75 automobiles converge simultaneously from 4 or 5 directions and attempt to form a single file line"?

According to Marc Lundberg, nothing much this time — until that first, fateful move by the Guy in the Red Car.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:21 PM to Driver's Seat )
27 September 2002
When pigs fly

With the exception of Southwest Airlines, which seems almost immune to the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune that the competition routinely suffers, American air carriers have pretty much been reduced to panhandling.

So, is Southwest doing something right, or is everyone else doing everything wrong? I'm not quite sure. Kim du Toit, on the other hand, is a bit more certain about things:

"Let new airlines arise from the ashes of these burnt-out, bloated conglomerates, let these new airlines heed the lessons from these failed and extinct dinosaurs, and maybe everyone will be better off."

Indeed, something to hope for. In the meantime, if I have to go somewhere, I drive. (It's not like I'm going to France or Hawaii or Madagascar anytime soon.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:34 AM to Dyssynergy )
Neither tech nor support

Problem: Printer spits out 0.93 page (tractor-fed) in 17 seconds, then pauses 43 seconds before beginning the next 0.93 page.

Proffered solution: Reduce printer memory by one-third.

If this works, I'll start carrying extra anvils in the car to improve gas mileage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:10 PM to PEBKAC )
Can you go home again?

Stephanie Losi gauges the distance between Then and Now:

"It has become very clear to me that most of my high school classmates have gone on to do nothing. Not nothing in the sense of sitting around and becoming deadbeats, but they seem to have vanished, disappeared into the vast mass of anonymous humanity, not made a name for themselves. I remember us clearly at 18, filled with delusions of grandeur and ambition. We all would be famous at 25, rich and happy and in love with the person of our dreams. We would travel, we would express ourselves, we would be great. But I search Google now and find very few hints at what my former classmates might be doing. I wonder if using Google to gauge life accomplishment is a foolish pursuit; I strongly suspect it is, but it's the only way to check in on those I no longer speak with. Google selects for Internet savvy; it excludes huge segments of the population who are not online or do not care to leave a record of their being here. I am considering going to my tenth high school reunion. Not sure yet."

I didn't go to my tenth, or my twentieth. Or my thirtieth.

But while I'm easily Googleable, the result of six years on the Web and eight or nine on Usenet, the searcher will quickly discover that whatever my putative Internet savvy, I have gone on to do nothing. And what's worse, I'm damned good at it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Rich guy, needle, some assembly required

In his guise as Dinah Dienstag, Professor of Idiotarian Thought at the University of North-South-West Rhode Island Red, Cinderella Bloggerfeller (bless you, Abi and Esther) explains the Higher Morality that comes with poverty:

"Traditional Christian theology implied that only God could see into a man's soul. Idiotarians reject this as 'mystification'. They have a thoroughly scientific method of finding out the state of a person's soul: just look at their bank balance. Rich people are morally bad, poor people are morally good. Making poor people rich would be a Bad Thing. It would turn them into criminals. The poor are our conscience. Some Leftists are actually split on this — they have a nagging doubt that it might be a good idea to make Third World people a bit richer. This might solve some of their problems (but only if such a scheme involved making rich people poorer, of course). However, such ideas are rarely more than idle thoughts. To the idiotarian, it is in fact the duty of the Third World to be poor, to be one vast monastery so it can act as a conscience for the rich West. Prime example of the use of this metaphor: the environmentalist at the Johannesburg conference who said that poverty was good for Africans as it helped to preserve their culture from the taint of Western materialism."

And, of course, wrenching poverty presents all the graphic evidence you could want that these poor souls aren't doing something evil and heinous like producing consumer goods to be sold to nasty, selfish, immoral First Worlders through despoilers of culture such as Le Mart du Wal.

Mr Bloggerfeller suggests that this particular piece is one in a series. An infinite series. The mind reels.

28 September 2002
Boosting the tech sector

Wynken, Blynken and Nod, the three candidates for governor of Oklahoma, do seem to agree on two things: that we ought to have a technology sector, and that it ought to be encouraged.

Oh, and one other thing: that the means by which this encouragement would be implemented should be as vague and inchoate as possible, at least until the election.

Actually, with dot-com dominoes still dropping, there may be nothing left of Oklahoma's tech sector by November but me. And frankly, none of these guys does anything for me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:06 AM to Soonerland )
Our new simplified health care

Under our old, complicated, expensive health plan, the cheaper of my two Daily Drugs would cost me a $10 copay.

Under our new, simplified, low-cost health plan, the cheaper of my two Daily Drugs costs me $23.50, which sum is then submitted to the Plan Czar, who applies the pertinent formula and then sends me a check for — well, nothing, since I haven't met this year's overall deductible.

Next year, if the rumors are true, in order to receive the maximum network discount, we have to have these prescriptions filled at a drug store in the Sudan.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:30 AM to Dyssynergy )
Road styles of the rich and famous

Like most big-but-not-huge American cities, Indianapolis has a beltway of sorts, a highway built to Interstate standards (such as they are) which loops around the periphery and connects to other major highways. This is Interstate 465, and if David Letterman has his way, it will be renamed for him.

To me, this seems to open a world of possibilities. Interstate 5 from Los Angeles north to the Canadian border could be renamed for Alec Baldwin, who presumably would use it to emigrate. Duval Street in Austin, Texas, its curbs lined with yuppiemobiles and its surface pockmarked by pavement irregularities both accidental and deliberate, making driving on it unsafe at any speed, could become Ralph Nader Avenue. And I'm sure Massachusetts can find a bridge to name after Senator Edward M. Kennedy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:38 PM to Driver's Seat )
29 September 2002
Tip-jar protocol

I posted this on the 16th of April:

Support Your Local Blogger Dept.: Over the past couple of months, I've scattered maybe sixty, seventy dollars in various online tip jars, and I expect to continue this practice so long as the budget permits (it's under Reading Material, which outranks, say, Entertainment), but there are times when I feel I must do more. Taking my lead from James Lileks, whose pages contain an icon labeled "Buy The Darn Book", I have bought the darn book, which is a nicely-hardcovered edition of The Gallery of Regrettable Food, an extension of Lileks' Institute of Official Cheer. It is, of course, a hoot. Also arriving today, courtesy of Virginia Postrel, is The Future And Its Enemies; since Postrel's blog is labeled as an Online Companion to the book, it seems only sensible that I should at least read the book.

The figure is now closing in on $200, and the practice has been leaving me with an occasional twinge: "Do I really want everyone to know where I'm making donations?" Normally I prefer the amazon.com tip jar to its PayPal counterpart, because it offers the option of anonymity, though I have since admitted to making a donation here in the blog, and once, while apologizing to a blogger in email, I confessed to having previously deposited a small sum to said blogger's credit and would, in partial atonement for the offense given, make that sum slightly less small.

But even anonymous amazon.com sends out a note from the recipient, which often contains a line to the effect of "Please tell me who you are so I can thank you personally," which, were I to do so, would effectively kill off the whole idea of anonymity. It's not like I'm kicking in such huge sums — two hundred bucks spread over more than a dozen blogs won't buy anyone a beach house — or, for that matter, such meager sums that I'm embarrassed to have my name attached to them.

So I'm just slightly conflicted. I could resolve this conflict by not giving anyone any more money, but this doesn't help the bloggers with real needs, or the ones who just happened to post something I thought was freaking brilliant at the precise moment I had a few bucks to spare.

Suggestions?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:01 AM to Blogorrhea )
And the land we belong to is grist

What does the "Oklahoma Street" have to say about Life, The Universe, And Everything? The New York Times takes a stab at it, but Greg Hlatky has already figured out where the Times buys its knives.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:16 AM to Soonerland )
The number of the two-backed beast

Jan Haugland's Secular Blasphemy teeters on the brink of Too Much Information:

"All men who haven't had sex in the last six months or worse have a sign on their foreheads to that effect. That sign is only visible to women, but they can all see it. And they'll avoid you like the plague.

"Thus the saying 'you have to slay the dragon to get the pretty maiden.'

"You see, you have to find a not-so-attractive girl who, despite seeing the sign on your forehead like any other woman does, are equally desperate, because she hasn't had anything for six months either.

"This will successfully remove the sign on your forehead, and you will be ready for the pretty maiden."

Frankly, I think I'd have better luck with a big, floppy, um, hat.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:41 AM to Table for One )
Don't drive, he said

Mostly reasonable points regarding auto insurance, from Colby Cosh:

"I've heard arguments from time to time, even from people otherwise well-disposed to the free market, in favour of 'no-fault' auto insurance systems like those existing on either side of Alberta (in B.C. and Saskatchewan). As a worse-than-average driver, however, I am convinced that market pricing of auto insurance is a good thing. At my most haphazard, my insurance rates were over $3,800 (Canadian) a year. This was more than I was paying in rent at the time, but it was more or less fair — just as it's more or less fair now that, as an older and wiser man with a clean recent abstract, I should pay closer to $800/yr. There's no right to insurance at any particular price. However strongly we may all wish to drive, there are some people who just shouldn't be on the road, and we cannot, in principle, do a better job of identifying them and discouraging them than by means of a competitive actuarial market."

This is absolutely true, but at least on this side of the 49th — I admit to being unaware of how the Canadians may handle this — states with mandatory-insurance laws also have assigned-risk pools, so that people to whom no rational company would sell insurance can pay a stiff premium and stay on the road, when what is really needed is to keep them as far away from the roads as possible.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:19 PM to Driver's Seat )
Gam bits

Okay, this is an area to which I admittedly pay too much attention, but so be it.

First there was this offhand (I guess) observation from Julie:

"I wish my legs would shave themselves."

Now there's a visual. Switch now to DruBlood's saga:

"One day (pretty much the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of my wanting to be there) my (female) boss came to me and said 'Um...dru? There have been some concerns about your, um, leg hair.'"

Has this become an issue all of a sudden? Did I miss something? Am I simply blinded by testosterone? And how come Dawn Olsen hasn't had anything to say about it yet?

30 September 2002
Feel the burn

After yesterday's, um, performance by Jim McDermott and David Bonior, live from Beautiful Downtown Baghdad, there's only one real question left:

Which one does the exercise video, and which one marries Ted Turner?

The sons of Johnny Knoxville

The producers of The Riot Show, an amateur video shot in central Connecticut by evidently-bored high-school students, would like you to know that they're not ripping off MTV's Jackass.

They probably don't carry as much insurance as MTV, either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:25 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Reembroidered

Susanna Cornett (with the able and probably surly assistance of Page) has reworked Cut on the Bias once again. Remind me to ask her the difference between "selvage" and "selvedge".

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:00 AM to Blogorrhea )
To yell the truth

Will the real Saddam Hussein please, um, shut up?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:35 PM to Dyssynergy )
The Torch passes

I figured Senator Robert Torricelli would be out on his keister this fall; what I didn't figure was that he'd drop out of the race.

Welcome to the Wide, Wide World of Turmoil. Legally, the New Jersey Democratic Party can't replace Torricelli on the ballot — it's about two weeks past the deadline — and while the senator could theoretically resign his seat and let Governor Jim McGreevey pick someone to fill it, it may be difficult to find someone to serve as sacrificial lamb against Republican Doug Forrester, who has piled up double-digit leads in recent polls.

This race, of course, doesn't affect me much, except to the extent that I am still a member of the Democratic Party and feel compelled to keep track of such things. But Torricelli, once his highly-dubious business dealings became known, became an obvious liability to the party, so he had to go, one way or another. And besides, what do we have here in Oklahoma that's even halfway as interesting? Incumbent Republican Jim Inhofe, who is basically Strom Thurmond with a circulatory system, is being challenged, sort of, by an underfunded Democrat — David Walters — who left the governor's mansion years ago under a cloud of his own. Control of the Senate is likely to pass to the GOP this fall anyway, so about all I can do at this point is watch and smirk. Besides, I haven't seen Susanna Cornett this happy since I drove out of Jersey this summer.

The long and short of it

Not that it matters anymore, but I wear a size 14 (US) shoe.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:48 PM to Dyssynergy )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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