1 October 2002
Where credit isn't due

New today: things you can expect with really bad credit, courtesy of The Vent.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:59 AM to Dyssynergy )
Next is the E

Russell Wardlow, in his capacity as Mean Mr. Mustard, takes us out to look at the ravers:

"[A] friend of mine worked for several months at a webhosting company in which many of the other employers were weekly ravers, and had been doing it for several years. They were the most cohesively sour, bad-tempered and generally unhappy group he ever met. I know there isn't conclusive evidence about this, but I took that as a pretty strong indication that you can seriously screw up your serotonin receptors, if not permanently, then at least while you're taking the drug regularly. And who wants to be a depressed sourpuss 6 out of 7 days a week? You might as well just go Goth. The makeup is probably cheaper than the weekly E fix."

I manage eight days a week as a depressed sourpuss, and I've never had so much as a milligram of E. And believe me, you don't want to see me done up as some sort of Mutant Gothboi. But "cohesively sour, bad-tempered and generally unhappy"? I am there, Jack. In fact, I am there so long I should charge these guys rent.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Rhymin' man

Lynn Sislo, grumbling about that New Jersey hack Amiri Baraka:

"Frankly, I have no idea whether my state, Oklahoma, has a poet laureate or not. I suppose we have, but even though I'm more interested in that sort of thing than most people in my neck o' the woods, I have never heard of the Poet Laureate of Oklahoma."

Well, we do have one. In fact, we have a new one every two years, appointed by the governor. Through 2002, it's Carl Sennhenn, whose day job is Associate Dean of Humanities at Rose State College in Midwest City.

You're welcome.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:30 PM to Soonerland )
2 October 2002
Post-Torricelli

As usual, the most sensible commentary on the mess in New Jersey comes from Minnesota. Behold the words of Lileks:

"If the [no ballot changes this late] law is upheld, then 'democracy' is thwarted. Really? There will be an election with a ballot whose names are the ones chosen by voters in the primary. Sounds 'democratic' to me. After all, Torricelli didn't quit because he discovered an eight-pound neoplasm in his small intestine, or had his brain turned into a fine red mist when a marble-sized meteorite from the Oort cloud struck him in a 7-11 parking lot. He's not even under indictment. He resigned because there was such a bad odor coming from him and his campaign that actual wavy cartoon stink lines were coming off him, and the cameras were starting to pick it up. He was going to lose. So he quit."

And those are the kindest words he has for the Torch. Why would Lileks care about a Senate race in Jersey, anyway?

"The Torricelli situation in New Jersey interests me, because it affects the composition of the Senate, and the Senate affects the composition of my bank account."

Yep.

Chow down

How you or I might fix a TV dinner:

  1. Select TV dinner from freezer, remove from box.
  2. Set microwave oven to appropriate time.
  3. Wait.
  4. Remove TV dinner from microwave oven; bon appetit.

How 42nd and Treadmill fixes a TV dinner:

  1. Select as many TV dinners from freezer as possible, arrange on tabletop.
  2. Invert containers to make cooking instructions visible.
  3. Add up the number of minutes specified for each dinner; call this number X.
  4. Place as many dinners in the microwave oven as possible and set the timer for X/2 minutes.
  5. Remove dinners and inspect.
  6. Announce that there will be mandatory overtime until the dinners are properly cooked.
  7. Place as many dinners in the microwave oven as possible and set the timer for X/2 minutes.
  8. Remove dinners and inspect.
  9. Call a staff meeting to discuss the condition of the dinners.
  10. Take any still-frozen dinners to a conventional oven and heat.
  11. Circulate memo regarding microwave management.
  12. Point out to malcontents that everything is being done exactly as it should be.


Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Worth a Fork )
Truly unleashed

Lynn Sislo is touched by the Fiskatorial Muse, and the first object of her scorn is one James Crabtree, who came up with this humdinger:

"Why have Americans started to vilify the Guardian? Why does the actor John Malkovich want to kill the Independent foreign correspondent Robert Fisk? And why is the Princeton economics professor Paul Krugman writing with a new-found attention to detail? Answer: Fisk, Krugman and the Guardian are all victims of the latest web-publishing phenomenon: blogging."

Victims, indeed. I don't see anyone silencing the Guardian or Fisk, and it's probably about damn time Krugman started paying attention to detail.

But Lynn isn't going to let Crabtree and his ilk off that easily:

"I don't think I've actually shifted to the Right. It's just that since September 11 the Right has done a much better job of shutting up their lunatic fringe, while the common sense Left has gone into hiding and let their lunatics take over. So the Left is worried about the Right dominating the blogosphere. This sounds to me like more of the same kind of whining they always do every time someone expresses a different opinion. The right-wingers are trying to shut us up; our civil liberties are being violated; freedom of speech is dead...boo hoo hoo... All while sitting at their PC posting on their own personal website where anyone in the world might read their blatherings.

"I come across lefty blogs all the time. I've even linked a few of them. The 'problem' is not that the blogosphere is dominated by the 'Right', it's that the blogosphere is dominated by common sense. Let a blogger from the far right start preaching their own brand of lunacy — (Sept. 11 happened because God is angry...Creationism is just as valid as evolution etc.) — and that person is just as likely to get a severe fisking as any of the loonies on the far left."

Ask Townhall's Ben Shapiro, who was slapped down by Right and Left.

Lynn's title is Wanted: Common Sense Lefties. You know they're out there somewhere.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:02 AM to Blogorrhea )
Lacking a certain something

In case you were wondering why I didn't have anything in this week's Carnival of the Vanities, it's because I didn't submit anything. Frankly, I can't think of anything I wrote last week that was all that compelling.

Then again, there are times when I can't think of anything I ever wrote as being all that compelling, and this is turning out to be one such time.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:44 PM to Blogorrhea )
3 October 2002
Harshing your melanin

This looks promising: The African and African Descendants World Conference Against Racism, billed as "A Conference for Concerned Black People from Around the Globe".

They're serious about it, too. Delegates to the conference have voted to bar all nonblack participation. Conference chair Jewel Crawford explains:

"There are a number of black people who have been traumatized by white people and they suffered psychologically and emotionally and, as a result of that trauma, some of them did not care to discuss their issues in front of them."

Someone send this woman two tickets to Barbershop.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to Say What? )
Jerked around in Jersey

With the finding of the New Jersey Supreme Court that there are more important things to an election than mere laws, y'know, you have to wonder what precedents are being set.

Greg Hlatky points out the immediate results; IMAO's Frank (no relation to TV's Frank, so far as I know) takes the longer view.

Gang Green

The Greens sent me an informational packet of sorts today, and I'm not quite sure what to make of it. Then again, I'm not quite sure what to make of them. I'm hardly the "progressive" soul they'd like to have on their rolls and on their donor list. On the other hand, if it is true, as some insist, that the Greens cost Al Gore the 2000 Presidential election, then perhaps I ought to send them some money out of sheer gratitude.

Well, maybe not. They did include a clipping from USA Today, dated 22 July, which tells me something I hadn't heard or had forgotten: someone with connections to the New Mexico Republican party (though not the state GOP itself, apparently) offered the Greens big bucks to run candidates for the House of Representatives, which presumably would draw votes away from Democrats. No dice, said the Greens.

Do the Greens have a future? The United States has always been pretty much a two-party country, but nothing gives either of the current major parties an eternal lease on life. In fact, if one were to judge by present-day bloggage, the Democrats are about this close to imploding; in four years or so, they could join the Whigs on the Former Major Parties roster. I can't say I'd be happy to see them go, but it seems fairly clear that the wounds are largely self-inflicted. And anyway, the Greens have no candidates running for anything in Oklahoma, largely due to the fact that getting a third party recognized in this state is a task worthy of Heracles — lest we forget, Oklahoma politics resemble the Augean stables in all the obvious ways.

4 October 2002
A bevy of barbs

I do love snideness, especially when I don't have to come up with it all myself. What follows is a small collection of snarky remarks that have turned up in blogdom this week.

Susanna Cornett, on the possibility that the Green Party's 2004 Presidential Candidate will be that loosest of cannons, Cynthia McKinney:

"Oh, that's a move in the right direction — from Nader to McKinney. Way to make strides into the mainstream."

Bill Quick notes a certain similarity in Microsoft security bulletins:

"I think M$ probably has a huge file of templates somewhere that just allow them to fill in the blanks: 'Microsoft (announced, warned, screamed) that security (flaws, holes, gaping wounds, complete submission) in (Outlook, Word, Office, Windows) could (permit, allow, encourage, demand) an (attacker, hacker, bored ten year old kid) to (take control, own, destroy) a user's (PC, family, home, brain).'"

Frank at IMAO, suggesting an alternate wording for the leaflets being dropped on Iraq this past week:

"On the outside it would say, 'We wanted to tell you how great America is and convince you that Saddam is evil and that you should turn against him...' and then on the inside it would say, 'but we decided it was easier to just lace this card with deadly poison.'"

Finally, James Lileks cashes your reality check:

"I freely admit to preferring Star Trek to The West Wing, and if you think that makes me a dork, well, it is entirely possible that one day Mankind will develop some sort of interstellar drive, but there isn't a chance in hell Martin Sheen will ever become President."

You gotta love stuff like this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 AM to Blogorrhea )
The Windows slam shut

Microsoft has given the Oklahoma City Public Schools until 14 October to rid themselves of software not complying with Microsoft license agreements, and the district has launched a major software-license audit.

In the first pass, the district found 1700 PCs with questionable licensing, each of which could theoretically generate a $500 fine from Redmond; a second pass is scheduled to begin today. "I think we're in pretty good shape," said Jerry Dimmitt, team leader for the audit, "but we have so many computers it will be difficult to catch everything." The district has a site license from Microsoft for volume purchases, but it doesn't cover software acquired before the license, and most of the offending stuff, as it happens, is installed on PCs donated to the district, many of which will have to be weeded out to pass the audit.

The district is also putting out a list of minimum standards for donated machines, which reads as follows:

Minimum Hardware Requirements:
  • Pentium III processor with 64 MB Memory, 6GB Hard Drive, 3.5" Floppy, CD- ROM, SoundBlaster sound adapter, and an Ethernet 10/100 network adapter.
  • Monitor- 15" SVGA 1024x680, .28 pitch with an IBM standard monitor connector.
  • Keyboard- 101 key with a PS2 connector
  • Mouse- 2 button with or without the scroll wheel. PS2 connector.
A certificate of license for that product must accompany any software on the donated computers.

So don't even think about bringing over that old 286.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:37 AM to City Scene , PEBKAC )
It's brown and sounds like a bell

Bigwig has nailed 95 feces (more or less) to the wall, a story which will bring sighs of recognition to any parent who cries "Pee, pee!" but there is no pee.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:04 AM to Dyssynergy )
Totalidiotarianism

A few days back, I brought in a few bits from the estimable Dinah Dienstag on the subject of poverty and its correlation to morality. Once again, Cinderella Bloggerfeller (may his tribe increase) has given us more of the Wisdom of Dienstag, this time explaining that strange affinity some people seem to have for really rotten regimes:

"[W]hy do idiotarians support the right of oppressive regimes to exist, even if they rarely think they are paradises on earth? Because they still treasure the dream that one day, maybe just maybe, a Third World government will appear that will fulfill some of their radical utopian fantasies. These fantasies are unlikely to be fulfilled by a democracy and certainly not by a capitalist one. In the 1950s and 1960s, with decolonization, the Third World became the great 'progressive' hope. Communism, which had failed in the USSR, might work in Castro's Cuba, Mao's China or Pol Pot's Cambodia. By 1990, after the collapse of the USSR (which often bankrolled these regimes) and the publication of Francis Fukuyama's The End of History they were desperate. Now any regime whatsoever would do so long as it didn't resemble a Western capitalist democracy. Cuba had been spat out like a discarded cigar butt by many on the New Left in 1968 after Castro had supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and imprisoned and forced the poet Heberto Padilla into making a false confession. Now it was suddenly a Third World role model again simply because it resisted US influence. Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam, the Taleban? Anyone will do. We don't agree with all your policies but we will support your right to inflict them with all our might because you keep the dying embers of our dreams alive for one more day."

And yet, we are told, they're not truly anti-American; they merely yearn for a more perfect world.

Yeah, right. You can wash two, maybe three hogs with that business.

5 October 2002
Back to the courts - again

Once again, a handful of Democrats who can't deal with perfectly simple election laws are trying to obtain by legal wrangling what they wouldn't have gotten otherwise.

Cynthia McKinney had managed to stay out of the limelight for almost a whole week, and for that we are grateful. But nothing lasts forever, with the possible exception of temporary taxes, and this week McKinney supporters have filed a lawsuit claiming that crossover voting by Georgia Republicans, permitted under the Peach State's open-primary law, was "malicious" and unconstitutional. "Black Democratic voters," said attorney J. M. Raffauf, who represents the plaintiffs, "had their voting rights interfered with and violated."

The ever-watchful Susanna Cornett boils this down to the crucial stuff:

"In a way, though, this whole exercise has been useful. It's starkly highlighted that the goal amongst the 'black leaders' isn't to get black politicians elected — because Denise Majette [who defeated McKinney in the primary] is black. It isn't to get Democrats elected — because Majette is a Democrat. It's to get their person, their politics, elected."

And, I suggest, it also highlights the apparent belief of the post-2000 Democratic Party, not only in Georgia, but also in New Jersey, that state election laws are just another tool, to be used when they are needed, to be disregarded when they aren't. Any candidate who actually believes this sort of thing, I contend, deserves to lose. Were I a Republican strategist, I'd be pointing fingers at every Democratic candidate from Bangor to Bakersfield: "If So-and-so loses, is he going to sue to overturn the election?"

Why I scored lower on SAT Verbal

Ah, this language of ours:

"I know when a sentence sounds good but I can't always tell when a sentence is correct. Sometimes incorrect sentences sound good and correct sentences sound bad. If a split infinitive is wrong then why is it that 'to boldly go' stirs the soul but 'to go boldly' falls flat."

Dear Lynn:

The reason why split infinitives are "wrong" is that for grammatical purposes, the two (or more) words are a single entity, and are treated as such when the sentence is to be diagrammed.

If, however, you're not diagramming a sentence, but writing one, and you think it sounds more forceful or more rhythmic or just "better", feel free to blithely insert anything into the midst of an infinitive that your heart, or your Muse, may desire.

Just the same, I still think prepositions are lousy words to end sentences with.

What a day for a daydream

Most of what gets posted here is ignored, not so much for reasons of quality, or the lack thereof, but the simple fact that this particular site doesn't have the reputation of the better-known blogs. (Of course, since it's been up far longer than most of the better-known blogs, maybe it is reasons of quality, or the lack thereof.) Still, once in a while, something I write resonates in sections of the blogosphere, and this, from 27 June, is one such item:

"[P]ersonally, I don't have much use for Ann Coulter — to me, she's simply the flip side of Katie Couric, albeit with nicer legs."

Contrary positions were staked out, and eventually a consensus was reached, which, I suppose, proves that there's always room for irrelevancy, though it does support Jesse Walker's premise that Coulter fans have much in common with fans of boy bands. And I read enough issues of 16 and Tiger Beat during my, um, formative years to understand the concept of a non-sexual object of desire.

Of course, Mr Walker reminds us, "Coulter's merits or demerits as a writer, thinker, and human being have nothing to do with whether anyone thinks she's cute," and that's true as far as it goes, but after sixty years or so of pervasive, even invasive, television, it must be said that superficial aspects of appearance count for something. Sometimes they even inspire fantasies, and not always pleasant ones, either.

(Disclosure: I am not, to my knowledge, anyone's object of desire, sexual or otherwise.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:40 PM to Almost Yogurt )
6 October 2002
Second verse, same as the first

I am in no way heartened by the fact that in almost every corner of the nation, there are workplaces every bit as toxic as 42nd and Treadmill, and for much the same reasons; all this means is that there are going to be people just as annoyed as I am.

However, giving them an airing is probably a Good Thing, so I refer you to Caterwauling.com, and recommend that you scroll down to the Part Deux entry under October second. (No individual links that I could find, sorry.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:54 AM to Dyssynergy )
A Higher Truth

From Andrea at Ethereal Reflections:

"Being depressed and having PayPal isn't always a good combination."

Yea, verily.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:47 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The post-Torch firestorm

Yesterday I muttered something about how the GOP ought to make this New Jersey election debacle into a campaign issue.

John Rosenberg, now in his new Sekimori-designed digs, points out that it's already a campaign issue for Doug Forrester, should he be sensible enough to pick up on it, and offers a speech fragment that's right on the money:

"My friends, our Democratic opponents are right about one thing: this election will indeed have a significant impact on the direction of our country. The one-vote Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate has been blocking the nomination of judges who will apply the law as written. They prefer judges who will ignore plain text and 'liberally construe' statutes when it suits their own partisan purposes. If you want judges who will 'liberally construe' a 51 day deadline so that it is no deadline at all, then by all means vote for my opponent, who benefited from their liberal construing. If you want judges who will be bound by law rather than who feel free to create it, then vote for me."

When something doesn't work, I am the first person in line to say "Get rid of it," but no one, I believe, can argue with a straight face that the New Jersey election laws pertinent to this case had in any way failed.

(Oh, and "Sekimori", in case you were wondering, is an ancient Malayan word that means "We can draw this better than you ever could, so don't even think about it." Terse folks, those Malayans.)

Vegetable Monitors at work for you

The following Incredibly Specific instruction is printed on the back of the one-pound bag of Albertson's Cut Corn I just took out of the freezer:

SELL BY 11 27 2003 11:07 pm

What happens after that? At midnight, does it turn into pumpkin-pie filling?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:37 PM to Worth a Fork )
Pop go the weasels

When two different Web sites give you the same bogus YOU ARE THE 10,000,000TH VISITOR TO THIS WEBSITE popup, the most generous interpretation possible is that someone can't count worth squat. Zeldman has had over ten million, and probably so has Glenn Reynolds, but neither of them have indicated that they feel compelled to sell me crap.

Being the diligent soul I am, I followed up this link, which goes to something called qualypromos.com (cripes, even Streisand can spell better than that), a front for some Florida vacation spot. The domain is registered to one David Randall; I mention this in case I see some of his handiwork again, in which case I hope to be alert enough to offer a cross-reference.

In the meantime, I'm about two months away from my 200,000th visitor. Legitimately, yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:29 PM to Scams and Spams )
Yet another reason to leave Blogspot

Here's a seven-year-old with her own domain, running Movable Type yet.

(Muchas gracias: Jessica Parker.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 PM to Blogorrhea )
7 October 2002
Stupidity: it's everywhere you have to be

I'm sorry I missed this when it happened, but I'm sure its Rankle Quotient still remains fairly high.

Ever since debit cards acquired Visa and MasterCard logos, they've been heavily promoted as the way to make a purchase without going through a whole lot of may-I-see-your-ID stuff. The reality, reports writer Katie Allison Granju, is quite different indeed, and if you've seen those TV spots — no, never mind, I won't spoil it for you.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:11 AM to Common Cents )
Lessons from life (another in a series)

When Microsoft states up front that the "maximum download" for an operating-system update is 30 MB, you can usually be sure that you're not going to get by with a mere 1.9.

A door closes, a door opens

Arts & Letters Daily is dead.

Long live Philosophy & Literature.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:20 PM to Almost Yogurt )
All the leaves are brown

And the sky is grey, and where are the blog updates?

Angie Schultz finds four-part harmony on such a winter's day.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:10 PM to Dyssynergy )
Chevroletions

General Motors hasn't had any problem moving Chevy trucks lately, and I'm inclined to believe it's because they knew how to sell them. A pickup, even if it's driven by your Aunt Hilda, is still a big ol' bruiser, and advertising for trucks reflects the long-standing American desire for Industrial Strength stuff at home. (Sister GMC's "We Are Professional Grade" nattering is slightly sniffier, but ultimately just as elemental.)

What the General wasn't doing all that well was selling Chevy cars, sales of which have been sinking, well, like a rock. Really, what's the last Chevrolet ad campaign you remember? If you, like me, have to go all the way back to Dinah Shore, the problem becomes obvious: Chevy is simply off most buyers' radar.

Until, perhaps, now. This year the bow-tie boys took a tiny step away from the blandness of "We'll Be There"; Campbell-Ewald, Chevy's ad agency, figured out that scores of popular songs over the years had mentioned Chevrolet and its cars, and decided to run with the idea. The first installment was a shot of a little red Corvette, complete with the appropriate lyric fragment courtesy of The Artist Usually Known As Prince. A verse from AC/DC's "That's The Way I Wanna Rock And Roll" accompanies a new Monte Carlo coupe; a '63 Impala evokes the Beach Boys' "409".

The big question, of course: will these rockin' ads strike a chord with buyers? I think they will; even if you're not considering a Chevy, you'll certainly think about Chevy. And two years ago, the precursor of this campaign, a billboard in Chevrolet's home town of Warren, Michigan, placed just in time for the Woodward Dream Cruise, said succinctly: "They don't write songs about Volvos."

Now to see if Ford fires back with some Mustang sallies.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:48 PM to Driver's Seat )
8 October 2002
In the early morning rain

This time of year, the sun doesn't come up until after seven-thirty, so there are a lot of poor souls wending their way to work, sliding along pavement just wet enough to confuse their tires. Ribbons of roads, seemingly stretched to their limits, shine eerily under the street lights. It's too warm for a jacket, too cool for summer gear. At the bus stop, umbrellas are conspicuous by their absence.

Later today, the rain will pick up, and so will the sense of urgency about it all. Swollen rivers in the northern part of the state will become more so. The sun may make a cameo appearance this afternoon, but no one is counting on it.

A fairly ordinary fall day in Oklahoma, in other words, and perhaps cherishable for its very plainness. Not everything in life has to make your synapses sizzle.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to Weather or Not )
Nashville nattering

Jason White wrote a song called "Red Rag Top", and Tim McGraw cut it for his upcoming album; it's out now as a single, and it's getting some radio airplay, though some stations are distinctly uncomfortable with it, for lyrics like this:

Life was fast and the world was cruel
We were young and wild
We decided not to have a child
So we did what we did and we tried to forget
And we swore up and down there would be no regrets.

Later, when they're not so young and wild:

You do what you do and you pay for your sins
And there's no such thing as what might have been
That's a waste of time.

It's not too hard to see how this might make some people squirm.

Of course, there's as much in between the lines as there is within them. It's possible, for instance, to see the latter-day narrator struggling with this "waste of time" stuff while suspecting that he doesn't really believe a word of it; the mere fact that it's being mentioned at all shows clearly that what happened back then is still on his mind after all these years.

Some may see this as encouraging the termination of pregnancies. I'm not buying it. "See? Just go to the clinic, write the check, and all you have to do is remember what you've done for the rest of your life." Yeah, that should encourage 'em, all right. "Red Rag Top" is no more an endorsement of abortion than "Big Bad John" is an endorsement of mine accidents. If your local country station won't play it, that's fine with me — they shouldn't have to if they don't want to — but let's not turn this into the flip side of "Papa Don't Preach".

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:30 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Dealing with J. Random Sniper

Kim du Toit wearily points out the obvious:

"[T]his 'sniper' did not shoot people in rural Alabama or Texas (or even, for that matter, western Maryland) — he went where people are most likely to be unarmed, not where there'd be a chance that other people would start shooting back at his truck/van."

Then again, if his description of Maryland's politicos is accurate — and I'm inclined to believe that he's got them pegged to the nth detail — it's not at all obvious to them. Yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:12 PM to Dyssynergy )
The love/Haight relationship

Freshly squeezed through The Vent: If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some ammo in your belt.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:50 PM to Blogorrhea )
It's a metaphorical trifecta

Yes, it's time for Cinderella Bloggerfeller (with a new, or at least different, template!) and the latest installment from Dr Dinah Dienstag, on the dodgy subject of equating Israel with the Third Reich:

"How did the idiotarian 'Israelis are Nazis' metaphor evolve? There are several theories. The first is that idiotarians simply couldn't help it. They were so used to accusing people they didn't like of being 'Nazis' that it just came naturally to them. It was the equivalent of parrotting 'Polly want a cracker'. The typical leftist idiotarian's debating method is like a two-speed hair drier — it emits hot air at varying powers in order to try to blow away the opposing argument and the opposing arguer without using difficult things like logic or reason. In other words, the idiotarian will accuse his adversary of being (1) a 'fascist' (warm); or (2) a 'Nazi' (hot). These labels have nothing to do with historical fascism or National Socialism. They are a labour-saving device. When the 'fascist' insult doesn't work, the idiotarian ups the power to 'Nazi'."

That's one theory. But there are others:

"The other theories about this metaphor are more literary. The first is that it is postmodernist. Words don't mean anything any more so the labels 'Israeli' and 'Nazi' are simply empty, interchangeable husks. Perhaps the postmodernist idiotarian is using a fancypants rhetorical device called 'chiasmus' in which two terms are crossed over in an X shape. The postmodernist has probably written a dissertation called The Anatomy of Melancholy, or the Melancholy of Anatomy: A Hermeneutic Discourse on the Seventeenth Century Psychological Text. So it's no great strain to come up with The Israelis as Nazis, the Nazis as Israelis: A Hermeneutic Discourse on a Modern Political Chiasmus. The postmodernist likes that. It's ironic. It confirms his worldweary view of politics (which he acquired from his tutor at the age of eighteen): any nation is just as bad as every other nation, all political systems are equally stupid. Everything is meaningless but the postmodernist's meaninglessness is more meaningful than your meaninglessness (and much better paid)."

Dr Dienstag means it, too. But there's more:

"The other literary theory is that the 'Israelis are Nazis' metaphor is so blatantly false that it is simply surrealism. The surrealist poet André Breton once wrote 'The world is as blue as an orange'. Maybe comparing Jews to Nazis is like saying 'green as milk' or 'black as snow'. Hey, far out, man!"

"The house is pretty ugly and a little big for its lot." Or something like that.

This level of erudition is far beyond my own, which probably explains why I quoted so much of it: maybe some of it will rub off. I admit to having affected a level of world-weariness for most of the time I've spent in this world, which is either an admission that I don't have the stuff to be a proper nihilist, or a practice session for the actual physical weariness that has set in.

And give Dinah and, um, Cindy due credit: they did all this without once having to trot out Godwin's Law.

9 October 2002
The number crunch

Two hundred thirteen million dollars.

That's how much the state of Oklahoma is going to come up short in the FY 2003 budget. Absent some sort of divine intervention, or, say, Eddie Gaylord putting the whole deficit on his MasterCard, spending must be cut — the state Constitution prohibits going into the hole — and each department is expected to pull its own weight.

The Department of Corrections has a budget-cutting plan which involves furloughing (a state term meaning "involuntary unpaid vacation") its staffers for a total of twenty-three days between now and the 30th of June. Upset, a couple of hundred Corrections employees put in an appearance at the steps of the Capitol, hoping to draw attention to themselves and their plight. Corrections is, by some estimates, about 20 percent understaffed already, so the furloughs will exacerbate matters, but there simply isn't any extra money at the moment, the Legislature is not in session and will not likely be called into special session between now and Election Day, and revenue projections continue to decline.

What does the state plan to do? There's little or no support for raising taxes, and enacting new ones is even less likely. Maybe Oklahoma can start buying tickets in the Kansas lottery.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:26 AM to Soonerland )
But it's even better dreck!

There's a progress report at BlogCritics on over-the-air digital radio, for which the FCC is expected to declare an official standard tomorrow.

I, for one, don't care. Radio in this country has become far more of a vast wasteland than Newton Minow ever imagined for television; the Same Old Crap in crisp digital sound is still, well, the Same Old Crap. And it probably won't be all that crisp, either; the vast majority of FM stations, at least near me, compress their signal beyond all understanding in a desperate attempt to push a couple miles farther into the sticks, and I have no reason to think they're going to mend their ways. And even if you think that digital will bring music back to the AM band, which it very well may, how much Clear Channel-approved music is even worth listening to these days?

So I pass until it's mandatory. I got to my middle twenties without ever owning a color TV; assuming I don't drop dead from overwork and/or boredom in the interim, I can get to my middle fifties without ever owning a digital radio.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:15 PM to Overmodulation )
Speaking of airwaves

Chip Kelley has finally retired from 100000watts.com, perhaps the most extensive guide to AM, FM and TV broadcast stations in the US. I am happy to report that the site is now in the capable hands of Scott Fybush, keeper of NorthEast Radio Watch and publisher of the annual Tower Site Calendar for true radio obsessives. (The change apparently took place during the summer, but Kelley's email box was still taking updates from the field, and the Official Announcement is only just now appearing.) For those of us for whom the minutiae of broadcasting are actually more interesting than the programming, this is good news indeed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:51 PM to Overmodulation )
From the "Omigod" file

John Scalzi channeling George Michael?

With pictures, yet. (No internal links, sorry; scroll to about the middle, or make the browser find it for you.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:45 PM to Blogorrhea )
10 October 2002
Thinking liberally

It's not hard to imagine someone surfing over to Dean's World, reading the blurb ("Defending the liberal tradition in history, politics, science and philosophy"), reading the bloggage, and then wondering out loud: "This guy calls himself a liberal?"

The explanation, of course, is that when American leftists aren't chafing under the term "liberal", they're trying their best to redefine it. Michael at Two Blowhards explains the concept:

One of the tricky things about "liberal" is that it's just such a damned attractive word. It's nice to think of yourself as being a liberal person. "I don?t care if my neighbor?s gay" equals "Thus I?m a liberal." Sure, why not? But there's a tendency to extrapolate from that, and that's where the trouble begins: being a liberal person, you want to root for the team that calls itself the liberals. And you get sucked in, because "liberal," in current American practice, means "Democrat." And there you are, back in the world of racial quotas, love of bureaucracy and regulations, warring ideals, and dictated and policed outcomes.

The "liberal tradition", as understood by Dean Esmay and others, has little or nothing to do with today's putative "liberals". Michael again:

What the word originally meant was favoring freer rather than more restricted markets. This is in fact what "liberal" still means in much of the world — Adam Smith, free trade, freedom of thought and expression, separation of church and state, etc. A French "liberal," for instance, is anything but a leftist or a Marxist. In this sense, a liberal is someone whose attitude boils down to: Let people go about their own business in their own way as much as possible. Political scientists with a historical cast of mind now label that viewpoint "libertarian" or "classical liberal."

"Libertarian", of course, carries its own baggage these days, hung on it by defenders of the Big Huge State who mock the very idea of smaller government. Political language is nothing if not mutable. Back to Michael:

In America, somehow the meaning of "liberal" changed. How and why, I'm not sure. Whatever the case, circa 1900, the meaning of the word shifted in a huge way. Instead of "free trade, personal freedom, etc.," it came instead to mean "leftyism-that-isn't-too-very-Marxist"...[B]y the 1930s and '40s, "liberal" in America had come to mean "favoring lots of government intervention in the name of such ideals as equality." These days in America, political scientists label this viewpoint "welfare liberalism" or "social liberalism."

These days in America, bloggers label this viewpoint "idiotarianism". And Michael cuts it no slack:

Personally, I find it helpful to see the contempo American left as a kind of redemptive religion. Get on board, subscribe to its tenets, believe in them real hard, demonize nonbelievers (in practice, normal people who can settle for something less than perfection), and heaven on earth — a flawless environment, wonderful art, and endless wealth equally shared — will arrive. It's a kind of intolerant fundamentalism that represents a yearning for unity and theocracy, a return to a tribal state — all of which, I think, helps explain why the left can be so sympathetic to such looniness as, for example, Islamic fundamentalism.

The left, curiously, is unsympathetic to Christian fundamentalism; I am inclined to believe that this is because Christian fundamentalism is primarily an American phenomenon, and the American left reflexively opposes anything that reminds them of the United States. Jerry Falwell is denounced, not so much because he comes up with the occasional weird pronouncement, but because he comes from the same culture that gave us Mickey Mouse and McDonald's; if Falwell's pulpit were in Luxembourg rather than Lynchburg, I suspect he'd catch a lot less flak.

I am, I tend to argue, a centrist, not so much because my beliefs tend to cluster around the center of the political spectrum, but because I really don't want to encourage the edges. The left might embrace me for being something of a First Amendment absolutist, but they would certainly spurn me for being just as adamant about the Second. And while on economic issues I tend to the Republican side, I'm not particularly inclined to throw in my lot with the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Lacking a more appropriate term, I have settled on "centrist", and given it, well, a liberal sort of definition — in the classical sense, to be sure.

Paging Lobachevsky

Of course, you've heard about those term-papers-for-sale operations, and certainly you'd never, ever consider buying one of these things and passing it off as your own research.

Jack Schwartz did his own research (which I am blatantly copying) on one of these outfits, and he reports:

[S]eeing the Fastpapers.com website makes me wonder if temptation would get the best of me if I had a term paper to write about Moby Dick. I don't know. But probably not. For one thing I am cheap.

And I am envious. Ten bucks a page? And we're sitting here blogging for...uh, yeah, right, never mind. Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, and don't shade your eyes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:26 PM to Dyssynergy )
11 October 2002
Getting to the point

We all have had the experience of tunes running through our heads, and often as not they won't go away without serious distraction. This morning, despite being tuned to NPR's Morning Edition, I kept bopping to the proto-metal grunt of Mountain's 1970 single "Mississippi Queen". It was over in two and a half minutes, and suddenly there was my distraction: Whatever happened to the two-minute pop tune?

Works in the classical tradition, I assume, run just about as long as the composer had something to say, subject to minor timing variations by performers. (And sometimes not so minor: I have two recordings of Ravel's Boléro, one running twelve minutes and change, the other pushing past the 17-minute mark.) Some pieces have repeats which may or not be observed — the second movement of Beethoven's 9th comes to mind — but by and large, classical works are presumed to have artistic reasons for their length. Popular singles, on the other hand, have grown from a shade over two minutes when I was younger to twice that today, and surely it's not because contemporary songwriters have more to say. (Yeah, I know, "Who wears short shorts? We wear short shorts" isn't exactly Gershwin.) In 1964, legend has it that Phil Spector, worried about getting airplay for the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'", which ran 3:50, deliberately ordered a misprint on the labels of DJ copies of the single, claiming a more reasonable 3:05. It's impossible to imagine something like that happening today. And a brisk little 1965 number like Marianne Faithfull's "Summer Nights", which runs about 1:44 (the label says 1:50), would never fit into today's "extended music sets" on the radio.

Were I really disturbed by this, I would blame Paul McCartney, who conceived "Hey Jude" as a three-minute song with a four-minute fade. Then again, I don't know anyone over the age of ten who doesn't sing along with at least some part of that fade, so Sir Paul apparently knew what he was doing.

No accounting for taste

Zeldman on TrackBack and similar blog innovations:

[R]eflective links serve as this year's version of the Hit Counter, which, by declaring somewhat accurately how many people have visited a site, implies merit or at least popularity.

In 1996, Jeffrey Veen sagely observed that such counters add no value to user experience and only betray the producer's vanity. Hit Counters tell approximately how many people have seen a page, but not who, or what they thought about it, or how long they stayed, or how much (if any) of it they read. Hit Counters are also at best semi-accurate. (A Hit Counter may record 500,000 AOL users as a single visitor.) Even their name is a bust. Hit Counters record page views, not hits. For these and other reasons, almost no modern site includes a Hit Counter.

The Daily Report sports a Hit Counter mainly to annoy Mr Veen. It's been restarted three times since 1995 and is about as accurate as anything else on the web.

Reflective links can add value but may also discourage the very practice they record. If your site is shown to have sent two or three visitors to someone else's site, your vanity might prompt you not to link to that site again. After all, who wants to suggest that no more than two or three people are reading their site? For a personal site, the implication is embarrassing; for a commercial site, it could have financial repercussions.

There were days early on (say, most of 1996) when I thought having two or three people reading my site would be Cloud Nine, or at least Cloud 7.62. And present-day tracking services are quite a bit more detailed, and possibly even more accurate, than the old-style Hit Counters.

And I'm happy to send people elsewhere; after all, I couldn't do that unless they got here first. I'm far more interested in giving my readers something worthwhile to look at, whether it's on-site or off, and I suspect the vast majority of bloggers feel pretty much the same way. Traffic hasn't grown much in the past six months — approximately 2,000 visitors per week, heaviest on Mondays — but I'd like to think I've made some progress from the bottom of the blogosphere, and I'm reasonably certain I've made some friends along the way. If I'm at all embarrassed, it's because of something I've written, not because of something I've linked.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:45 PM to Blogorrhea )
12 October 2002
Addressing the hip-hop shortage

Well, of course, there isn't any hip-hop shortage — basically, I think we're up to our aching ears in the stuff — but Russell Perry, who owns the only "urban"-formatted radio station in this market, a 1000-watt AM daytimer, has been wanting to add an FM facility for ages. There is, however, no room on the dial.

Now OKCityRadio.com reports that Perry has acquired a small string of stations in the southwest part of the state, and that the northernmost of those stations, KRPT-FM in Anadarko, has applied for a power boost from 75kw to 100kw and a tower move to south of Weatherford. This, I don't think, is enough to make much of an improvement in the station's Oklahoma City metro coverage; the existing FM facility in Weatherford, with 69kw, barely makes it in. Extreme audio compression might help, but not much. It should be interesting to see how this develops.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:13 AM to Overmodulation )
Unanimity in the House

Well, not exactly, but the Oklahoma delegation, five Republicans and one Democrat, went for House Joint Resolution 114 — the resolution that authorized the President to use force against Iraq — six to zip.

I'm curious: did any other state delegation with three or more Representatives vote this way?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:59 PM to Soonerland )
A long Saturday drive

It wasn't my drive — Weetabix did this one — but, with the exception of minor geographical discrepancies, I could have:

Here, everything is very modest. The environment threatens to overtake everything if you're not careful. It will consume you, in one way or the other. There are probably more animals than people. The landscape is incredible, barren and dispersed but also somehow lush and giving. This is what molds us. This is what gives us our stereotypical Midwestern friendliness. This is what sets us apart, good or bad. Something in the land, in the way that the silos stand sentry over us, season by season. Something in the way that squat little barns, the womb of any farm, huddle apologetically amidst the farmhouses and cows. And cows. And cows and cows and cows. Something in the way a dog will run, tail wagging, up a long driveway to see if you belong to him. Something in the way that sumac, the most plebian of weeds, becomes a roadside ditch peacock and reminds us that things that are beautiful are sometimes poison too. Something in the way we settle in, like it or not, until we've worn a groove into the earth. And we belong. We belong to this strange often-ridiculed land, the butt of jokes we don't even understand, far more than it belongs to us. It?s the soil in which our family trees grow. It's beneath our fingernails.

That's Weet's Wisconsin. The Oklahoma I know is very much like that. The red clay sticks to your shoes, to your wheels, to your very soul. There are things in the land of Central Time that I suspect simply cannot be understood on the coasts.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:34 PM to Driver's Seat )
Greatest Hits: an introduction

The Daily Log began on 23 June 2000, and it's entirely possible that you might have missed some of my best stuff, especially the stuff that predates the switch to Movable Type in August 2002. Greatest Hits will repost some of the bloggage I thought was, um, least ineffective.

Of course, The Vent began way back in 1996, and all of them are still available at the same old URLs. I am told that at least two people have tried to read every last one of them.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:24 PM to Greatest Hits )
Greatest Hits, volume I

Originally posted 18 March 2001

I'm getting ready to back out of the parking lot at the BBQ place on the edge of town, a sack half-full of cholesterol-ridden delights at my side, when a three-quarter-ton pickup truck rolls into the lot, and pulls up just far enough to avoid blocking my exit. The truck is pulling a trailer, and on board is a vintage (say, 1960 or so) farm tractor, cleaned up if not exactly concours condition, apparently on its way to a new home. Within seconds, a crowd had gathered to see the old relic, and here and there I picked up snatches of conversations along the following lines:

"We used to have one of these back around '64, and we just drove it and drove it until it finally died." "You know, with a rig this big, you really need that shorter axle ratio, just to be able to get away from a stoplight." "I hear they're changing the laws on trailer licenses again."

And it occurred to me as I sped away, if "sped" is the word that applies to a four-cylinder sedan heading up a twelve-percent grade, that there was no way in hell the government and the Greens were going to talk these people into Honda Insights and such. Two-dollar gas, three-dollar gas, five-dollar gas — we'd no more give up our trucks than our guns.

And yes, before you ask, there is a National Motorists Association.

13 October 2002
Rounds about

The Loyal Peon is annoyed by questionable weapons speculation in the DC-area sniping epidemic:

Numerous on-camera ignorami (plural of ignoramus, for those who missed that class) have opined that the sniper/shooter must be ex-military or an expert hunter, because of the round, a .223, and the "extreme" range. Excuse me? The M-16 does use a .223, but it's one of the few military weapons that do. Most use the 7.62mm NATO, better known in this country as the .308 Winchester. I used to own a .308 deer rifle, myself. I never hunted with it, but it was a good gun. The .223 is primarily a varmint round, being marginal for deer, which are rather small game animals themselves. As for the range, while 300-400 yards is quite good for an unsupported shooter, it's no big deal with either a bench rest or a bi-pod. Shooting from a van, I'd certainly use one or the other. Why is that reporters speak so confidently upon topics about which they obviously know nothing?

Um, they get paid for it?

I yield to the Peon's weapons experience — indeed, to most people's, since I've never owned multiple guns and didn't fire off that many rounds when I wore Uncle Sam's duds — but I do claim some expertise in shooting off my mouth without backup. And in your average newsroom, you're probably not likely to find a whole lot of firearms enthusiasts, so I wouldn't be surprised to find that these on-air conclusions are being pulled out of thin air, made only slightly thicker by thirty seconds of Googling.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:14 AM to Dyssynergy )
Greatest Hits, volume II

Originally posted 1 May 2001

The train goes by.

I don't really hear it, even at two in the morning, but just the same, I know the train goes by. There's an east-west freight line that approaches to within 600 yards of my bedroom window, and it crosses section-line roads half a mile from me in either direction, so the train, as a safety measure, will sound its horn. It doesn't sound quite like anything else. The occasional police siren, the storm-warning horns, the yelp of the ambulance — all these things will rouse me from my fitful semi-slumber, not because they're any louder, but because they announce that something is wrong, something must be done quickly, something will never be the same again.

But when the train goes by, even if I hear it, I don't really hear it; it's part of the aural landscape, part of the regular routine, a reassurance that the world has not come to an end, that shipping and business and life go on. "All is well," as the town crier used to say in places like Woodbury, Connecticut, where the clock in the tower of the First Congregational Church sings the hour, in the middle of the day or in the dead of night, stirring up complaints from people who don't understand — or have forgotten — what it means when the train goes by.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:01 PM to Greatest Hits )
Our simplified health plan, revisited

Last time, I was kvetching about the way in which prescription drugs were being handled by our new insurance carrier. A revised version of said kvetch was dispatched by snailmail to the pertinent officials last weekend. They have now responded with a check for the proper 70 percent of the out-of-pocket expense. Apparently the entire group was miscoded, so presumably they've heard from four or five dozen people by now. I am, of course, grateful for the refund, which, all things considered, was pretty damned quick; but I will be even more wary than usual when I actually have to seek outpatient (or, worse, inpatient) services.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:08 PM to Dyssynergy )
14 October 2002
One step beyond drug court

The county's so-called Drug Court, which provides an alternate jurisdiction for nonviolent drug offenses — individuals who plead guilty to same are put on treatment programs and report to the Drug Court rather than to the normal (and overcrowded) criminal-justice system — is apparently successful enough to justify a spinoff. The new Mental Health Court will open on the first of November and will provide supervision for offenders who are diagnosed with a recognizable mental illness. Given the sheer number of people who might qualify — county officials estimate that 20 percent of current jail inmates are "severely" mental ill — this court could further reduce the backlog at Criminal Court.

The state authorized this court during the past legislative session, but provided no funding for it, so the county is scrambling for money to operate the court and has asked for $500,000 next fiscal year. Sounds like a bargain to me, if it works.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:20 AM to Soonerland )
Greatest Hits, volume III

Originally posted 28 May 2001

The sun comes up early in mid-Missouri on the first of April, but we were already awake. Sort of.

It was 5:02 am, cool and damp getting a head start on its way to becoming warm and sticky, and we were standing outside on the gravel wondering what would happen next. Most of us were eighteen or nineteen, but the adolescent bluster that had sustained us for the last few years had vanished with yesterday's sunset and our arrival at Fort Lost-in-the-Woods.

Not all of us wanted to be there. Our company seemed evenly divided among draftees, Reservists and the so-called "Regular Army". "RA, Drill Sergeant!" I recited as I moved up the line to the mess hall. The Drill Sergeant managed to look both scary and unimpressed at the same time.

Very little in that spring of 1972 made a whole lot of sense to me. "Hurry up and wait" was the order of the day. The story goes — I'll probably never know for sure, and maybe I don't want to — that after we finished training, the Army arbitrarily dispatched everyone in the company whose surname began with A through G to Vietnam. My H and I eventually landed in the Middle East, where there was arguably just as much tension but definitely a lot less live ammo.

If there's a lesson in all of this, it's that sometimes, whether we wear the uniform or not, we have to go through things that don't make a whole lot of sense, on the off-chance that it might do some good somewhere down the line. Many men went through the same things I did, and not all of them got to come home. Perhaps their deaths didn't make a whole lot of sense, either.

Their lives, on the other hand, most certainly did.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Greatest Hits )
Call them Chicago

A chunk of this weekend was spent rediscovering the band known as Chicago. I had, of course, grabbed their early LPs when they first appeared, and when Columbia Records decided that the take would be better if they pitched the act as a singles band, I started picking up the 45s. It's been about a decade since Chicago made any serious Top 40 noise, but they're still touring and releasing the occasional numbered album. (The recent two-CD Very Best issue from Rhino, Only the Beginning, can be considered Chicago XXVII.)

I ran through much of the band's Web site, and while it suffers from a bit much IEcentricity, it's one of the better band sites out there, and the history section — over a dozen pages, as befits a band in existence for 35 years — is a model of its kind. I did find myself wishing for a separate FAQ file with about, oh, 67 or 68 questions, though two of the three which immediately occurred to me were answered in the history section.

It was Nick Fasciano, I learned, who designed the Chicago logo, which appears on every album and which was once beautifully parodied by Ed Thrasher for Warner Bros.

The second question I had seen answered elsewhere, but it seemed logical that it should be discussed on the band site. Robert Lamm, who wrote the song, explains the meaning of "25 or 6 to 4": "It's just a reference to the time of day. The song is about writing a song. It's nothing mystical." And at 3:35 (or 3:34) am, well, waiting for the break of day makes perfect sense, especially if you can't sleep.

Then again, does anybody really know what time it is?

The spawn of Kimberly Anne

It was billed as "A plea from a sick little girl," and it went something like this:

Little Kimberly Anne is dying of a horrible tropical brain disease, Owa-Tafu-Liam. Her goal, before she passes into the Great Beyond, is to collect as many free America Online disks as she can, to make the Guinness Book of World Records. Her project is being sponsored by the Wish-Upon-a-Star Foundation, which specializes in fulfilling the final wishes of such sick little girls.

So, next time you get an unwanted AOL disk in the mail, don't throw it away! Think of the sparkle it will bring to the eye of a dying child.

Also, remember her when you open a magazine and find one of those blow-in cards that offers a free AOL disk. The card is postage-paid! Fill it out with little Kimberly's name!

Please copy this message and circulate it to your friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Only you can make a child's wish reality!

God bless you from the Wish-Upon-a-Star Foundation!

Kim Rollins, nowhere nearly as young as her text implied, was arguably sick, though not fatally so, and this little stunt of hers (now 404, alas) won her a place in the heart of every online prankster. Besides, what in the world would anyone do with all those AOL disks?

You could always ask Dani.

(Swiped from FARK)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:09 PM to Blogorrhea )
15 October 2002
A lot like winter

They're not saying so, but what we have here is a mid-January weather pattern with mid-November temperatures. It's a pattern we all know: high pressure settles nearby, winds remain northerly, and so-called "normal" temperatures are missed by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit, for a week and a half, maybe two weeks in a row. It's not actually freezing — yet — but it's not out of the question either. (Mid-October 2000 brought us three consecutive freezes at night, during a period where the official normal low is around 50, and then the daily highs rebounded into the 80s.)

I'm not actually complaining, though. Given the choice, I'd rather have a semblance of winter than winter itself.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 AM to Weather or Not )
Greatest Hits, volume IV

Originally posted 2 November 2001

Already there is a flood of complaints from the usual suspects, unhappy with the settlement between Microsoft and the Justice Department. As usual, they missed the whole point of the exercise, which is simply this:

People, by and large, are lazy. Nobody buys a Windows machine to learn computer science; Windows machines are bought because they appear to do cool stuff without a whole lot of effort. At least from Windows 3.0 on, Microsoft has done its best to cater to user indolence, throwing in all manner of applications — the Web browser is merely the most obvious — on the reasonable assumption that if the customer already has a suitable application for something, he won't go looking elsewhere. Much is made of how Microsoft steers Windows customers to its own, presumably inferior and cranky, programs, though I'm inclined to believe that none of these complainers have ever gone through, say, a RealPlayer installation.

I have, or at least I think I have, enough computer smarts to choose my own tools for my own Windows box. Some of them come from Microsoft; more of them don't. For me, the status quo prevails: I stand to gain essentially nothing by the settlement. Joe and Susan Sixpack will be faced with choices they weren't willing to make before, so it's hard to see how they will be able to work up any enthusiasm for it. The only winners here are the PC manufacturers, who won't have Redmond breathing down their necks quite so heavily; other software manufacturers, who might sell a few more copies of something now; and, of course, two platoons of lawyers. But it is worth noting that had the megacorporation actually been broken up into a number of, um, kilocorporations, the results would be likely much the same — only the volume of paperwork would change. If someone at Justice indeed figured this out, there is hope for the department yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:20 AM to Greatest Hits )
A truly hands-on Fisking

Tim Blair reports the following offer, made by a professor of English at Wheaton College:

I would donate $1000 to the relief for the poor charity of his choice for the privilege of punching Fisk in the nose. How much do you think we could raise?

"Millions," says Blair, and I don't doubt it for a moment.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:39 AM to Dyssynergy )
Fix or repair daily

Ford Motor Company is in bad need of fixing, and, says The Vent, recovery is Job 1.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:24 AM to Blogorrhea )
Truly damning evidence

If you doubted for a moment that Saddam Hussein is Evil Incarnate, consider this:

His campaign theme song for the current coronation — er, election — is Whitney Houston's caterwauling rendition of "I Will Always Love You".

Q.E.D.

Muffins fresh from the meadow

I have tended to regard outgoing 1st District Representative Steve Largent, currently running for governor, as the emptiest of empty suits. Apparently, though, he is discerning enough to recognize crapola when he hears it.

Two cheers, maybe 2.2.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:31 PM to Soonerland )
Direct miscommunication links

Dr Dinah Dienstag makes it four for four with another look inside the mind (for lack of a better word) of the Idiotarian, courtesy of the endlessly-redecorating Cinderella Bloggerfeller.

Throughout history idiotarians have been gifted with telepathic powers denied to mere mortals. They, and they alone, were capable of chanelling the deepest thoughts of God, the People, the Nation, thoughts so deep that God, the People and the Nation were unaware that they had had them. When God speaks through David Icke, the Supreme Being mysteriously always has a BBC sport reporter's accent, when Gore Vidal speaks for the People, the People seem to have acquired an oddly patrician drawl. Now God and the People and the Nation are old hat and it's the mind of the Terrorist that every fashionable idiotarian wants to interpret. We must understand him. By 'understanding' we don't mean listen to what he actually has to say, we mean wangle his words into something resembling our own personal agendas.

God forbid anyone should be goofy enough to try to channel me.

And suspicion of those who have putative communications with the supernatural, quite understandably, goes back many centuries, or at least as far back as Henry IV, Part One:

Owen Glendower: "I can call spirits from the vasty deep."

Hotspur: "Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?"

I do hope that no one is calling for terrorists, and that none come if called.

16 October 2002
Greatest Hits, volume V

Originally posted 26 January 2002

It began, curiously enough, with shoes.

My sartorial standards are, shall we say, relaxed to the point of being insensate. Indifference accounts for some of this, but the real issue is my inability, for reasons having to do with my failure to conform to the normal size tables, to buy off the rack. (This is less a factor of sheer bulk than you may think; even if I weighed exactly what the anorexiphiles in the insurance industry might desire, I would still be six foot one with a twenty-eight-inch inseam, which is anomalous at any conceivable width.) Confined to catalogs and specialty shops, neither of which is inclined to sell cheaply to their captive customers, I go to as little effort as possible to appear fashionable. The $19.99 pair of shoes, therefore, is an essential ingredient in the wardrobe. However, if you buy these things on a regular basis, you know there are hidden costs beyond twenty dollars and change. There is no real social stigma attached to them except in the snootiest circles, yet somehow you feel as though you have done a disservice to your feet. And three months later, when the shoes seem to be disintegrating with every step, you know it.

Two things you must know about our maintenance guy: he notices things like this and will point them out when no one else is around, and he favors New Balance shoes, not so much for comfort as for their sheer indestructibility. So we had had a discussion earlier this week on the sad state of my sneakers, and unwilling to start the 90-day cycle again with another pair of El Cheapo Grandes, I set out this morning in search of something suitable, and damn the costs. In view of my always-precarious financial situation, this latter was unwise, but damn them anyway.

In general, the farther you get from where I live, the better the shopping — up to a point. And that point is about twenty miles away, at one of several industrial-sized enclosed retail compounds. I have avoided the malls for the last couple of months, what with the holidays and all, but I figured late January would be fairly unstressful.

And somewhere on the second floor of the third mall — or maybe it was the third floor of the second mall, like it matters one way or another — I almost totally went to pieces. It wasn't frustration over the dearth of size 14 EE; I expected that. It was the screaming sensation in the back of my head that I had no business trying to pass myself off as a normal person in shopping mode. I was an impostor, a fraud; I shouldn't be allowed in the same building as Joe and Susan Sixpack and their 2.3 kids churning their way through the pack to the Food Court. I was in tears long before I could get out to the parking lot and blame my condition on the wind.

I've been here before, and I wound up with an ongoing addiction to low-grade tranquilizers in lieu of actual response. And still there is no reasonable response. I was still shaking by the time I made it to the supermarket. (The very gates of hell may be yawning open, but dammit, the chores must be done first.) A sign of creeping agoraphobia? I don't think so. There are symptoms that point elsewhere. For one, I don't sleep well at all; two hours, maybe, and I awake, and the cycle repeats once or twice, three times on weekends. And this pattern exists without the usual bane of the apartment-dweller: the idiot upstairs. It will only get worse when they finish remodeling. There is no comfort zone anywhere, no place where I might find some small semblance of peace.

And I still need a new pair of shoes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:55 AM to Greatest Hits )
Yesterday

Paul McCartney showed up last night at the Ford Center, the first-ever appearance of any Beatle in the Sooner State. I didn't go, reasoning that I had probably better things to do with $250 — or perhaps rationalizing my failure to pay attention to the ticket-sale schedule — but by all accounts a splendid time was guaranteed for all.

And a tip of the fedora to Gene Triplett (and if it wasn't Gene, it was Sandi Davis — gad, how I hate shared bylines) of The Daily Oklahoman, who quipped: "If they love him this much at 60, he has nothing to worry about four years down the road." Vera, Chuck and Dave are no doubt very much relieved.

More precipitate than solution

Governor Parris Glendening has ordered a ban on outdoor shooting (indoor shooting apparently is unaffected) in four Maryland counties, ostensibly to cut down on false sniper alarms by people reporting hearing gunfire. The likelihood that the resident sniper is actually going to observe this ban is, shall we say, on the low side. And the ban plays hell with some previously-authorized hunting seasons, which means that in exchange for not catching the sniper, suburbanites will have their gardens eaten by deer.

(Muchas gracias: Ravenwood.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:05 PM to Dyssynergy )
Letting the mediocrity shine through

Is the National Junior Honor Society elitist? A Connecticut middle-school principal seems to think so:

"In reality, there's nothing about their academics that would make them more suited for...leadership roles than a student who works hard for Bs."

And this year, there will be no NJHS chapter at this school, ostensibly because the faculty adviser transferred out, but it seems pretty clear to me that this guy has had too many sips of Berkeley Kool-Aid; he did everything but suggest that students not qualifying for the Honor Society were suffering from impaired self-esteem.

I was sufficiently incredulous to ask an actual teacher for a translation, and here's what I got:

"We want everyone to be happy, noncompetitive and average."

We?

"Nearly every teacher I know thinks this whole entire philosophy of noncompetitiveness is complete and utter horseshit. The upper crust is the only slice of the education community which seems to find this middle school mission enlightening and avant-garde."

Well, the Sixties are over. The principal in question "acknowledges" that he's taking a "bold step"; I guess sliding right off the edge of the cliff requires a certain level of boldness. Me, I'm suffering a certain level of sickness just thinking about it.

Update, 7:23 pm: Expanded the teacher's remarks to improve clarity.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:59 PM to Almost Yogurt )
17 October 2002
Hair today, gone tomorrow

Susanna Cornett is not keen on these pointy buzz cuts for men:

It doesn't look studly, it looks precious. When I see a guy in my age range (35-45) with that gel-spiked short 'do, I want to grab him all right — to put his head under a spigot and get rid of that abomination!

Surely she doesn't prefer, um, mullets?

(When we met this past summer, I figured she was looking at me askance because she hadn't been expecting the Pillsbury Doughboy in a polo shirt and chinos. Now I must conclude that she was unhappy with my hair, such as it is. Besides, I'm out of her age range, and the list of further disqualifications would eat up the rest of this column and part of the next.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:14 AM to Blogorrhea )
Poetic licensing

It's hidden behind the Premium wall, but there's an interesting piece by Suzy Hansen in Salon.com this morning which follows up on the fallout from New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka's blither about how Somebody Blew Up America. The remarks I found most pertinent were those by former United States poet laureate Robert Pinsky, who offered this:

The poet laureate of New Jersey has the same right as any other American to make a fool of himself.... Does anyone doubt that the Cantos would be much better if [Ezra] Pound's thinking were less cockeyed, provincial, demented, nasty? Poets are people; their works are human works.

I don't know, really. Inevitably, the Cantos (which I haven't so much as looked at in thirty years, but which now I feel compelled to tackle once again) reflect Pound's personality and his politics, but by no means does this constitute a qualitative judgment; no one (perhaps save Robert Fisk) writes from within a vacuum.

There is, I believe, a romantic notion on the political left to the effect that artists, simply because they are artists, are necessarily more in tune to the ways of the world than the rest of us, and the Baraka debacle is probably not enough to dispel that notion. Baraka's politics, ultimately, are of little interest; only the poetry matters. And Somebody Blew Up America, as it happens, strikes me as not so great a poem; were it a great poem, its positive qualities, I believe, would ultimately outweigh its political posturing. Ezra Pound might have appreciated the situation.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Start the party again

"You would cry, too, if it happened to you," chirped Lesley Gore in "It's My Party".

"Like hell I would," retorts DragonAttack at RockSnobs, because...well, because that's the way boys are.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:45 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Greatest Hits, volume VI

Originally posted 23 March 2002

Scene: Late Seventies. We're tooling down a very straight, very dull road in rural Oklahoma. Conversation has ground to a halt. What to do? Turn up the radio? No, she hates it loud. Peer down her blouse? Seat angle and fabric arrangement make this difficult, not to mention fairly unsafe. (The same, only more so, for "look up her skirt".) Finally, I glance at this Japanese simulation of a British dashboard and remark, "Why in the hell does the speedo go up to 125 miles per hour? This thing wouldn't do one-twenty-five if you pushed it off the frigging Sears Tower."

She glares — after all, she was the one who picked it out — and says, "And how do you know it wouldn't?"

I pull the stick back into fourth and push the pedal through the floorboard, and we're off: seventy-five, eighty, ninety. Back into fifth, and eventually the needle settles halfway between 100 and 105. The tach flutters just on the far side of 5000 rpm. It is about this point that it occurs to us that the road is becoming both less straight and less rural, and that we're risking a fine of about a week's pay, and I rein in our trusty steed, half grinning, half gasping for breath, mostly the same expression I tend to exhibit after sex, except that I'm not sleepy.

Around noon today, I was on that same road, with the music up loud and the passenger seat occupied by no one, and I wasn't doing anything like 102.5 mph; indeed, there were extended periods of 0 mph while the construction crews repositioned themselves. And it's a good thing that they were there, since this is one of those roads that was apparently originally paved with reclaimed emery boards and then striped randomly with "I Can't Believe It's Not Tar". Forget old memories and such: I was definitely happy to get out of that neck of the woods. The construction zone ended after about ten miles, and a few minutes later I found myself between two Chevy Suburbans, the first of which was making a move to pass up a cement truck doing a modest 58. For some reason, I decided I didn't want the second 'Burb riding me all the way to the city, so I followed the first guy into the left lane. It was only after I'd dropped back into position that I noticed the speedo needle: 94 mph. There must be something about that road.

And one more thing: Why the hell does the speedo go up to 150 miles per hour? This thing wouldn't do one-fifty if you pushed it off the frigging Sears Tower.

Gimme an F

The F Scale, designed in the heady days of 1950, is intended to "estimate...fascist receptivity at the personality level." Now we all know about intentions, and my personality is anything but level, but I took the darn thing anyway, and scored a 3.23, which is fairly near the middle of the scale.

(Muchas gracias: AC Douglas.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:45 PM to Almost Yogurt )
18 October 2002
What was Bill thinking?

Mr Preston at JunkYardBlog, observing that the North Koreans now admit to having nukes, seeks the reason why the Clinton administration would have allowed such a thing in the first place, and comes up with this:

Clinton was either the most naive president we've ever had leading to his incompetence in foreign affairs, or he was so poll-driven that issues like hostile regimes and their weapons programs just couldn't penetrate his prime focus, or he had an agenda to make the world a more dangerous place.

I lean towards #2, myself, since it explains so many other weirdnesses of the Clinton administration. The argument for #3 is contingent on #1; no one this side of Saddam gets out of bed in the morning and thinks "How can I make the world a more dangerous place today?" Of course, if Bill had been truly inept, he might stand a better chance of winning the Nobel Prize for Peace somewhere down the line.

Swept ahead

I made some noises to this effect last year:

Lina Wertmüller's Swept Away was one of the quirkier movies of 1975, throwing gruff sailor Giancarlo Giannini onto a remote island with haughty yacht passenger Mariangela Melato. They can't stand one another, and of course they wind up in each other's arms. Hardly the "unusual destiny" of the original title, and, you'd think, hardly ripe for a remake — especially a remake under the direction of Snatchmeister Guy Ritchie. On the other hand, his wife, also signed for the project, should be able to put her Material Girl experience to good use playing the rhymes-with-snitch female lead.

The buzz on the new Swept Away is, um, not good, which might suggest to the suggestible that Madonna and the Mr. should quit doing films together. The ever-contrarian Wing Chun has other ideas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:38 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Greatest Hits, volume VII

Originally posted 22 April 2002

It happens, as reliably as anything that happens in my life, every spring.

So far as I know, she didn't see me. She was about fifteen feet ahead, bearing north by northeast, and she walked with the sort of jauntiness that comes with being fairly young and fairly lovely, and I had no business even being aware of her existence, but it was spring and she was beautiful and I was stupid. And nearing the end of the walkway, she turned to the left, and shamed that my wandering eye might have given me away, I made a quick turn of my own and plowed into an empty kiosk.

And the next day it was a different someone at a different place and I was loaded down with parcels and paying not the slightest attention to where I was going. She spoke, though not to me, and I froze, knowing the game was up, and started off in another direction where I couldn't see a thing, and the thing I couldn't see barked at me with distinct annoyance.

And so I lurch from incident to incident, playing the voyeur, maybe innocently, definitely ineptly, never quite gaining my footing or my equilibrium, tripped up yet again by a brain which has no right to yearn and a heart which has no choice.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:15 PM to Greatest Hits )
19 October 2002
The handling of pans

It seems to me that the ideal time to conduct audience surveys for commercial radio is right about now, while NPR affiliates are repelling listeners with their semiannual hat-in-hand bit. (I don't know what the PBS pledge schedule is; here in Oklahoma, it seems to run from January to December.) I am aware that it is necessary to take these measures to keep the stations going, and I have a whole shelf of station-branded mugs accumulated over the years, and so far I have never lost a parking space as a result of pledge drives, but there's still something a trifle disquieting about the entire process.

No, I don't know how to replace the pledge drive. I suppose I could slip Diane Rehm a couple of bucks when she comes to town in a couple of weeks, and if anyone is taking contributions to buy Click and/or Clack a Toyota Land Cruiser, I'm in, but I suspect we're stuck with what we have for the time being.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:41 AM to Almost Yogurt )
DOS vidanya

Sean McEntee at GI Party remembers what it was like in the ostensible Good Old Days before Windows of BillG assimilated the desktop, back when all my .BATs were in D:\BELFRY.

(Muchas gracias: Scott Wickstein.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to PEBKAC )
When no one wants you

From The Journal of Doubt, 10 October (no permalinks, sorry), on the results, or lack thereof, of placing a personal ad on the Net:

I am still saddened by the fact the three women I really wanted off these personals did not find me interesting. Mainly I say this because the ideal man they described in the ads sounded much like me. It only goes to show that woman are a complete mystery to me and I will never understand their thinking as long as I live.

If any of you three are reading this, please explain to me what makes me such a loser in your eyes. I'd like to know. Why don't the women I like want me any more? I must be losing my charm, or somehow I have become hideous and unattractive and I am mentally blocking this fact.

Speaking as someone who has never had any charm to lose ("hideous" and "unattractive" are somewhat more debatable), I can say only that women as a group are indeed a complete mystery. But I believe, for some reason unknown, and in spite of an almost total lack of supporting evidence, that each and every one of them has a clearly-defined path to her heart, and when this road is not taken, it's more often than not because (1) we simply don't know where the hell to find it, or (2) it's not in her best interest to point it out. Sometimes both.

Of course, I can afford to act detached about this, since I in no way resemble anyone's ideal and therefore am not likely to disappoint on this basis.

The Doubter continues:

Since I was rejected by the only few women I liked out of the hundreds who had ads, I realize I'm probably not cut out for the personals dating world. God, I sound bitter, eh? Maybe the women who rejected me spotted a flaw in me that I am not seeing, or I refuse to believe is a flaw. Maybe my opinion of myself is way higher than the reality. Maybe I'm just not very attractive.

All I know is that I am going through the worst romantic drought of my life. I'm getting desperate.

I shudder to think how long this man's dry spell has been, and I shudder even more when I contemplate my own, which likely dwarfs it.

But admitting to desperation is absolutely the most useless thing to do under the circumstances. It does nothing to enhance the possibilities; in fact, since women can detect desperation at the parts-per-billion level, it's likely to make matters worse — assuming there exists a condition that can be described as "worse".

So what's the solution? If I knew, do you think I'd be home blogging on a Saturday night? I generally don't recommend giving up except in the direst of circumstances, but the only alternative is to fall back on cliché: "You don't find love. Love finds you."

The irritating thing about cliché, of course, is that too often it contains entirely too much truth.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:40 PM to Table for One )
20 October 2002
Oh, what a dutiful morning

I truly detest getting out of bed these days. I don't think it has much to do with the onset of colder weather (though I keep this place at a relatively uncozy 71 degrees Fahrenheit), and it's certainly not because I'm having to leave someone behind when I get up. Maybe I'm not getting enough sleep — or, more likely, this is payback for hundreds of sleeping pills.

On the other hand, the nearest supermarket is now a distribution point for Krispy Kreme, which will put this detestation to something of a test: if I stay in bed an extra ten minutes, I won't have time to stop in and grab a handful.

Islam as ventriloquist's dummy

Jamil Sayah, writing in Le Monde, finds that more-militant Muslims are arrogating to themselves the right to speak for all Islam: "[a] ventriloquist Islam which speaks through our mouth so that they make it say [both] one thing and its contrary," he asserts. Most of the proffered excuses for terrorism simply don't wash:

Well if so many precedents militate against terrorism, how come Islam remains one of the last civilizations to produce Bin Ladens, regularly and on a large scale? Our numbers? Are we more numerous than the Chinese? Poverty? Africa is far poorer. Imperialism? Latin America, having suffered a far more oppressive American domination, produced sympathetic heroes. Palestine? Who can honestly predict that terrorism will come to an end with the peaceful resolution of the conflict?

Cinderella Bloggerfeller, who posted the original English translation (and whose title I swiped), points out that this is further evidence that "there are some voices in the Islamic world calling for a long, hard look at what really causes Muslim fundamentalist terror." It's no longer enough to point at the Americans or at the Jews or at McDonald's. The militants will get the bulk of the news coverage because that's part of what militants are trained to do. But in a war on Islamic extremism, we can ask for no better allies than non-extremist Muslims, who care enough about their religion to oppose those who would make it into a weapon. There don't seem to be a lot of them at the moment, but I believe that as we keep the pressure on, their numbers will inevitably grow.

It's another radio rim-shooter

Last weekend I mentioned that local AM-station operator Russell Perry was acquiring a group of stations in the southwest portion of the state, and opined that moving the nearest one closer to the Oklahoma City market, as Perry has requested, would probably not work.

The guys at RadioEmporium.net have developed a coverage map for the proposed new facility, and it looks to me like reception on the east side of Oklahoma City, presumably the target audience for an urban-formatted station (Perry's specialty), will be marginal at best. Then again, it is probably not wise to bet against Russell Perry; he is, after all, making money from a 1,000-watt AM daytimer.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:02 PM to Overmodulation )
Coming soon

What's the Next Big Thing? Recombinant DNA parlors? Remote-controlled taser guns? Nick Denton says that computer-generated erotica, courtesy of Poser and similar products, "is going to be an industry," and for the life of me, I can't think of a way it can possibly fail; the weak link in so much of the material (apart from plot considerations, which in the age of gonzo are now basically obsolete anyway) is "How in the world do we get someone to do that?" Click, click, and it's done.

As Penn Jillette once observed, "Shopping, sex and shopping for sex propel all new technology." I'm not quite sure where those taser guns would fall.

Graven in stone

Members of a class of Joshua Claybourn's were asked to compose their own epitaphs. (I don't know what class, and I didn't ask him.)

I've thought about this myself on and off, and the following have occurred to me:

  • "This is worse than a dial-up"
  • "At least the phone doesn't ring"
  • "Comments (0)"
  • "Worms don't really play pinochle"
  • "27370 days until copyrights expire"
  • "No updates today"
  • "I'm surprised the kids spent money on this"
  • "cgh@rest.finally"
  • "I suppose I was late for this too"


What a spectacle

"Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses," said Dorothy Parker. I never believed it, myself; I mean, it wasn't that I actually made passes at girls who wore glasses — scarcely if ever did I make a pass at anyone irrespective of eyewear — but I knew of no instance where a pair of glasses actually made someone less attractive.

Now it turns out that Mrs. Parker may have been correct after all. I refuse, however, to budge.

(Muchas gracias: This link was swiped from Donnaville; Donna's got the looks, she's got the glasses, but alas, she's got no individual item links.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:27 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Let's go out to the lobby

Apparently The New York Times believes that the National Rifle Association, by no small margin, is the mightiest lobbying group of them all. John Rosenberg of Discriminations demonstrates:

[C]onsider the following results from a Nexis search of the New York Times for "gun lobby" and comparable phrases:

gun lobby — 545 hits
civil rights lobby — 13
peace lobby — 12
gay rights lobby — 8
feminist lobby — 4
privacy lobby — 2

Does this suggest that all the NGOs that serve in, um, an advisory capacity to the Democratic Party would be better served by combining themselves into one humongous National Leftist Association? I imagine it would probably simplify things for writers at The New York Times.

(Note: This was almost called Foyer amusement, but I came to my senses at the last moment.)

21 October 2002
The lone gunman, maybe

If I confined myself to topics clearly within my area of expertise, I'd probably post only one or two paragraphs a month. (Never you mind whether you think that would actually improve the site.) I have, however, steered clear of the speculation regarding the D.C.-area sniper, except to point to an occasional bit of information. What was needed, I felt, was a one-shot, all-inclusive, low-shriek-level overview of the gunman and his possible motivations.

This task was undertaken over the weekend by Susanna Cornett, who is not one to shy away from the Big Jobs. She mentions, in a paragraph on qualifications, that she is not an FBI profiler; it is my opinion that the FBI would be far better off if she were.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:25 AM to Dyssynergy )
Marked for death by Information Services

(Note: Particularly grievous or exceptionally stupid computer actions will be reported here, since it's demonstrably pointless to report them to anyone in a position to do something about it.)

Offense: Putting a notebook computer into hibernate mode instead of properly shutting it down. When the machine was awakened, it responded with a series of BSODs. (Incidentally, leaving a shortcut on the desktop to a game is seldom advisable.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:30 PM to PEBKAC )
Mars needs spiders

DragonAttack (who, despite anything I might have implied elsewhere, is a person of the female persuasion) explains why Bowie's Ziggy Stardust still matters after all these years. (Hint: It's one hell of a good rock and roll album.)

ADA DOA in cyberspace?

A federal judge in Florida has ruled that the Internet is not a "place of public accommodation" subject to the provisions of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

Southwest Airlines had been sued under the ADA by a blind man and a group of advocates for the blind, claiming that the purchase of tickets on Southwest's Web site was "extremely difficult", though apparently not impossible. Judge Patricia Seitz noted that the ADA was very specific in defining areas for which accessibility must be made available, and that no references were made therein to cyberspace.

It could have been worse. They could have wanted to fly the planes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:38 PM to PEBKAC )
Racked with pain

The OkiePundit scans the magazine rack at the supermarket, and he is not impressed:

Well, while I'm here I might as well see if they have the latest issue of Scientific American. Ummm. Well, they have Guns & Ammo and American Metal over there. There's Rod and Steel, Soldier of Fortune, Heavy Metal, and Maxim there. No, it wouldn't be there. Up here are the women's magazines, Redbook, Home & Garden, Sixteen, etc, etc. Every one of them had a big headline about how to have super sex and satisfy their man. Who are these women who are obsessed with sex? Where are they? I know where they aren't — anywhere within sight. There must be over 100 publications before my eyes and not a one of them is the least bit cerebral in nature. Every magazine is designed to appeal to testosterone, homemaking, or the most mindless of pastimes. Forget Scientific American, they don't even carry Popular Science. Do college graduates not shop for groceries? Is there a secret food supply for the thinking part of society that I don't know about?

Scientific American sells fewer than 150,000 copies on newsstands worldwide. The number of copies finding their way into Oklahoma food stores is inevitably very small.

And I bet there are probably more college graduates reading Guns & Ammo than he thinks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:03 PM to Soonerland )
22 October 2002
Kicks just keep getting harder to find

Christopher Hitchens, of all people, heads west in a Corvette (what else?) to find the mystique of Route 66, and he tells the tale in the November Vanity Fair. A few pertinent observations, first near St Louis:

The most striking thing to me...was the constant reminder of Middle America's German past. It's not just the prevalence of the Anheuser-Busch and Budweiser ambience. There was a big Strassenfest, or street fair, in progress, and in Memorial Park were playing the Dingolfingen Stadtmusikanten Brass Band, Die Spitzbaum, and the Waterloo German Band. Some 58 million Americans tell the census that they are of German origin, even more than say English, and you would never really notice this, perhaps the most effective assimilation in history, any more than you "notice" that the minority leader in the House and the majority leader in the Senate are named Gephardt and Daschle.

Regarding Oklahoma City:

Oklahoma City, miles on through more red-soil country, is not so pretty. (Oh, the sacrifices that songwriters will make for a rhyme.) And some of its inhabitants are a tad bored by its piety. In the joint that I find as the evening descends, the bony young barman tells me that locals head for Texas for three things (it's always three things): "Booze, porn, and tattoos." His plump gay colleague, when I ask if there is anything else to look forward to on the road, exhales histrionically and breathes the magic name "California...."

Around Amarillo:

Texas still wasn't as different as it likes to think. You hear a lot about the standardization of America, the sameness and the drabness of the brand names and the roadside clutter, but you have to be exposed to thousands of miles of it to see how obliterating the process really is. The food! The coffee! The newspapers! The radio! These would all disgrace a mediocre one-party state, or a much less prosperous country.

To harp further on radio:

[I]t was a dismal day when the Federal Communications Commission parceled out the airwaves to a rat pack of indistinguishable cheapskates, whose "product" is disseminated with only the tiniest regional variations.

Go read the whole thing. If nothing else, you'll get a glimpse of what it's like to feel superior to an entire region, something I've never been able to manage in forty-nine years and visits to thirty-odd states. I've driven this route a few times myself, at least the western four-fifths of it, and yes, some of it seems a bit dispiriting at times, but I don't believe that civilization ends at the east bank of the Hudson, either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:06 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Marked for death by Information Services (2)

Offense: Activating "Active Desktop" on Windows 98. There is a reason it's disabled when we hand the machines out. Desktops should be quiet, passive, inert, and they are not supposed to distract you from the work you were doing a few moments ago.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:22 PM to PEBKAC )
Stan's the man

My favorite record-label executive, (retired) Warner Bros. VP Stan Cornyn, describing what he left behind:

When it comes to interest in new technology, the record business finishes just ahead of the Amish.

I'm reading Cornyn's book, Exploding: The Highs, Hits, Hype, Heroes, and Hustlers of the Warner Music Group, written with Paul Scanlon, and while I knew quite a bit of the backstory, there are still shockers scattered among the pages.

Actually, it was imperative that I read Exploding: if ever there was anyone's writing style I wanted to absorb and reuse, it was Stan Cornyn's, the inevitable result of reading dozens of Warner Bros. and Reprise LP liner notes over the years. (Besides, he sat still for an email interview when I was putting together my guide to the Warner/Reprise Loss Leaders, which surely required patience worthy of canonization.) An example of Stantalizing prose, from Harpers Bizarre's Anything Goes (Warner Bros. WS 1716):

[T]heir anti-statement: "anything goes." Or, in the inevitable paraphrase of their producer [Lenny Waronker, later president of WBR]: "whatever." This attitude, or this philosophy, or this dilemma, is this album. It takes thoughtful looks at times today and times remembered. It looks as it damn well pleases.

The album goes on, like a brilliant but un-diagrammable sentence, of many parts, all nice words, but making no nice sentence.

I go on like that sometimes, or so I think.

23 October 2002
Computing worthy of trust

When Microsoft announced its Palladium ("Trustworthy Computing") initiative, the cynics among us reacted predictably: Redmond's plan to (among other things) build anti-copying technology into both operating system and hardware was greeted with exactly the sort of grumbling you'd expect when industry Goliaths huddle to plot against individual Davids.

"Digital rights management," the current euphemism for thwarting fair use, is of course part of Palladium, but what concerned some of the cypherpunks was the possibility that enforcement of software licenses might be on the menu as well. (Anyone who has suffered through the Windows XP "activation" farce should fear this prospect.) Microsoft denies such a thing is being planned, but just in case, a member of the opposition went ahead and filed patents for software-license management based on what is known about the Palladium architecture. Needless to say, the patent holder, Lucky Green, is not interested in managing software licenses; his goal is to keep Microsoft at bay. Whether this will work is arguable, but I persist in believing that keeping PCs as open as possible is a Good Thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:14 AM to PEBKAC )
The Empire strikes out

For the fifth consecutive week, Dr Dinah Dienstag, coming to you through the good offices of Cinderella Bloggerfeller, scores big. It's almost a shame to excerpt bits and pieces, but this one is a must:

Most idiotarians think of themselves as revolutionaries. But what they really want are comfortable, expected revolutions — the sort a hamster goes through on its treadmill every day. All their hard talk is really a soft pillow to rest their heads on to save them from the pain of thinking. Things have to be carefully marked with signals identifying them as innovative' and 'rebellious'. For instance, all revolutionary art has a duty to resemble what Marcel Duchamp was doing ninety years ago and we know when a film is 'avant-garde' because it has lots of 'far-out' camera angles and looks like it has been edited by a hyperactive toddler. In rock music, the logic of many 'cutting-edge' bands seems to be: "The Velvet Underground were original. If we copy them, then we'll be original too."

No need for me to read Rolling Stone anymore. But Dinah has bigger fish to shoot:

[T]he USA might be the most influential country in the world, admittedly, but idiotarians credit it with powers so wide-ranging, so omnipotent, omniscient and malevolent that even Beelzebub would demur and think: "Hang on, that's a bit overambitious".... America?s fiendish power is due to the fact that it is a metaphorical empire which, in idiotarian terms, makes its influence unstoppable. Every Barbie doll is a new Amritsar massacre. We can?t escape from its baleful tentacles because they are inside US (that?s right, because what does US spell? Aha! I've proved my point).

But anti-American imperialism just wouldn?t be fun without a metaphorical colony for the metaphorical empire. Lucky we have Israel at hand, a functioning democracy and a functioning economy in the middle of general Third World underachievement which automatically makes it evil. Israel is a colonialist cancer responsible for all the Arab world?s problems. The high birthrate in Egypt, the unemployment in Morocco, the civil war in Algeria, the lack of democracy in Iraq, Syria's occupation of Lebanon (oops! We never mention that in polite society), all, all are the responsibility of Israel?s occupation of less than 1% of Arab land. And by blaming Israel we can conveniently get one in at America.

Had we both the omniscience and the omnipotence — never mind the malevolence — with which we are credited, surely by now we would have stretched forth a mighty hand (it shouldn't take more than one) and reduced the squabbling "majority" in the Levant to a tapestry of protein traces on the sand. The fact that this hasn't happened doesn't seem to impress anyone.

(Or maybe it did happen and the Zionists who control the media didn't tell us about it. Damn.)

Slouching towards ignominy

The Columbia Journalism Review hands out Darts and Laurels as deemed appropriate, a feature copied by, among others, The Oklahoma Observer (which uses the same terminology) and TV Guide (where it's Cheers and Jeers). For that matter, even my site could be said to be ripping off CJR; over in the navigation section, there is a list of "Inspirations" and another of "Irritations".

And speaking of Darts, The Daily Oklahoman was the only media organization to pick up two (of seven delivered) in the current CJR. I tend to doubt that this brings them much in the way of bragging rights, but you never know with the Oklahoman; they've always seemed to enjoy the edge of pariahdom.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:17 PM to Soonerland )
Happiness is a warm segue

"Norton Womble, reporting live from the scene of a sniping in suburban Washington. Now back to music, starting with Queen's 'Another One Bites the Dust', right here on 99.7 FM."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:13 PM to Almost Yogurt )
24 October 2002
Quantifying the Carnival

I'm finding, generally, that the first day of the Carnival of the Vanities gives this site about a 25 to 30 percent spike in traffic — at least, on those weeks when I manage to come up with something to submit.

(What is the Carnival? This week, it's this, or maybe this.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:07 AM to Blogorrhea )
Broiled gander, extra sauce

Let me see if I understand this:

A right-wing group that spends money to affect the outcome of an election is a special-interest group that must be regulated for the good of the country. A left-wing group that spends money to affect the outcome of an election is a professional organization that is only looking out for the good of the country.

If this sounds fatuous to you, get a load of this:

Washington is an "agency shop" state: it is not mandatory to belong to the union to hold a position represented by the union, but nonmembers must pay an agency fee in lieu of dues. The laws provide that money from agency fees may not be used for political purposes without the specific permission of the nonmembers whose fees are being spent. The National Education Association in Washington, pushing initiatives to reduce class size and increase teacher salaries, apparently blew off those restrictions. The state's Public Disclosure Commission evaluated the situation and advised the Attorney General to take action against the NEA, an action endorsed by The Seattle Times.

The Times editorial drew a response from Charles Haase, president of the Washington Education Association, the state's NEA affiliate, who took up five paragraphs to attack the Public Disclosure Commission, complaining that the PDC is being used as a tool for "eliminating the participation of organized labor in the political process."

None of this would have happened, in other words, if those baddies on the PDC hadn't insisted that the agency-shop law means what it says it means. Our man at Horologium finds the NEA's position hypocritical:

Hasse rails against the PDC because it is fulfilling its mandate, to inform the electorate from where the money to support the projects is coming. The PDC is not responsible for the lawsuits; the PDC reported the egregious violations to the Washington State attorney general's office for prosecution.

The NEA has been a consistent proponent of campaign finance reform; they wish to eliminate the "pernicious" nature of big money in politics. However, when it is their money and influence that is under review, they claim unfair persecution. Apparently, big money in politics is only a problem when it goes to causes opposed by the overwhelmingly Democratic teacher's union leadership.

And apparently it hasn't occurred to the union that the reason it has agency-shop money in lieu of dues in the first place might be because there are teachers unwilling to support the union's political agenda.

As deaths go, a short one

Jim Romenesko's Media News is reporting that the late, lamented Arts & Letters Daily can no longer be considered "late". The site, along with other assets of ALD's parent company, has been acquired by The Chronicle of Higher Education, and founder Denis Dutton will return as editor. Debut of the new ALD is scheduled for Friday, 25 October.

Three, maybe four cheers.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:59 PM to Almost Yogurt )
25 October 2002
Chill thoroughly

Yesterday, while the sky was weeping upon us, the temperature managed to creep up only to 44 degrees Fahrenheit, perhaps not the lowest daily maximum in the history of the universe, but by a considerable margin the lowest recorded on this date in Oklahoma City since formal record-keeping began in the late 19th century. During the coldest week of the year — normally the third week of January — the "normal" daily high is, um, 45.

Freakish weather is not news in Oklahoma, but I am sure that there's some homegrown Huffington out there who will blame it on all those Ford Expeditions and Chevy Suburbans in the parking lot.

(Dear Arianna: Yes, I still think you're a Major Babe, but you're way off base on this one, and I'm willing to bet you don't drive around town in a Hyundai Elantra.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:19 AM to Weather or Not )
Final disposition

I have never been able to make a decent case either for or against the death penalty; while I have no trouble thinking up a list of people I think deserve it, there's something vaguely disquieting about the process.

Woundwort is a bit less conflicted than I am, but only a bit:

I am somewhat indifferent of the death penalty, I don?t really mind when people are put to death for horrific crimes, but I don?t always wave the banner for them to be executed either. This is different for me and I?m not sure why.

There have always been killers in America, and a number of them have been put to death. I neither cheered nor mourned when these persons lost their lives, although it is a bit frightening to think of all the people put to death for crimes they might not have committed. But I find myself truly wanting the persons responsible for the shootings in the D.C./VA area to die for what they have done.

Certainly they'd make my list, and for about the same reason:

I wish my motivations could be described as being based on moral principles, and a greater understanding of the common good of community and man, but I fall well short of these things. I think I want them to die because I was able to picture myself in the situation that many of the victims found themselves in and it frightened me.

There, but for the grace of God, and all that.

Making the punishment fit the crime is one of the primary duties of the criminal-justice system; about the only way to make this one fit, I think, would require that we drop the perps on an island somewhere and then hunt them down with a varmint gun.

Slowly.

They said it wouldn't last

And they were right.

Renaissance Radio moved a faltering AM station out of Wichita Falls and into Farmersville, pointed it towards the Dallas/Fort Worth MetroWhatever, renamed it KCAF — "Café 990" — and instituted something previously unheard, maybe even unheard of: a talk format aimed specifically at women.

That was Monday. Thursday KCAF was dead, loans to finance the station's immediate post-startup period having fallen through, and now if you tune into 990, you get the satellite feed from Radio America.

Perhaps it's a good thing this station was in Texas. Had it been located in, say, California, there might have been lawsuits filed by anguished listeners demanding that the station remain on the air, money or no money.

(12:20 pm: Fixed some sloppy syntax.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:38 AM to Overmodulation )
Remembering Paul Wellstone

He was, Mother Jones once said, "the first Sixties radical elected to the U.S. Senate."

Maybe he was. Certainly he was unabashedly liberal, in an era where the very word is spoken as a pejorative.

But Paul Wellstone, in two terms in the Senate, was determined to make a difference, and to the extent that one man among a hundred can make a difference, I believe he did.

He will be missed, on both sides of the aisle.

The shock of recognition

Hard as it may be to believe, when I was younger I was actually even more clueless about all things romantic.

(Muchas gracias, sort of: The World Wide Rant.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:23 PM to Table for One )
Drink the wine while it is warm

Richard Harris, I suspect, will be remembered mostly for his acting, but to me, he'll always be the raspy not-quite-a-singer-but-what-the hell voice of Jimmy Webb on some late-Sixties records that were so far over the top you could intercept lightning bolts on the way up.

The archetype, of course, is the seven-minute-plus "MacArthur Park", in which Harris' voice sounds like W. H. Auden's face, "like a wedding-cake left in the rain." But this soggy saga is only the beginning: "The Yard Went On Forever", a song about heroes and Hiroshima that has the audacity to incorporate a children's chorus singing De profundis, leaves the "Park" in a cloud of dust. With examples like these to guide him, Harris began to write, and his best-known composition, the spoken-word "There Are Too Many Saviours On My Cross", alternates between absolutely stunning and positively cringe-inducing, though the hair still stands up on the back of my neck on the last line:

Our Father, who art in heaven, Sullied be Thy name.

There will be another song for him; someone will sing it.

26 October 2002
Soon everything will BOK

Bank of Oklahoma's corporate sister, Bank of Texas (well, of course), is going after lone-starred dollars in a big way, picking up a Houston bank and looking for other acquisitions. With the oil patch wasting away in Mergerville, hardly anything seems to have headquarters in Oklahoma anymore, so maybe the rise of a BOK Financial empire will bring some investment money this way.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:54 AM to Soonerland )
Harry Potter and the Service Pack 1

Fritz Schranck runs the clock forward thirty-five years, and how surprised are you?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to PEBKAC )
A fan letter of sorts

Dear Faith:

I may be the only person in the Western Hemisphere who found little inspiration in "This Kiss", though admittedly it was one of the few songs to which I danced at my son's wedding reception, and frankly, I turned the sound down to watch the "Breathe" video. But I'm a forgiving soul by nature (please ignore those muted guffaws in the background), and when CMT decided to run the "Cry" video at the exact moment I was trying to learn all the weird control facilities on this new Sony set, I wound up darn near dropping the remote. And it's not every day I'm transfixed by something I see on CMT, believe me.

So this afternoon I spent fifteen bucks on the Cry CD — or "Enhanced CD", as it says on the back. And I'm glad I did. There are, I understand, people out there who take exception to the songs you sing and the orchestration in which they're wrapped, and to some extent I understand that, but country music has always been somewhat insular, and performers who build up a reputation outside the genre have almost always been resented. If Cry had been your first album instead of — what is this, your fifth? — Music Row wouldn't be able to deal at all with this odd admixture of Patsy Cline and REO Speedwagon. But if Cry isn't all that country, it's a fine collection, and if it's indifferent to music-industry pigeonholing, well, so am I.

I promised myself when I started this that I wouldn't say anything about how you look, and I won't. But I must say something about your Official Web Site: "You're FLASH is up to date" is no way to open up a start page. This was probably written by the same character who noted in the News section that your "hotest" new looks are complemented by "jewlery". At least they didn't let him loose on the "Enhanced" computer stuff on the CD.

Love and rockets,

Chaz

The free-market approach?

Today's spam has just the right amount of shamelessness. It emanates from 200.195.239.220, misidentified (of course) as hotbot.com, and which is duly enshrined at SpamCop.

And the text? Get this:

Don't even think about paying for porn on the net! What's the matter with you? Why are all you new surfers on the net running around with your credit cards and paying for porn?

Don't you see that by paying for porn it ruins it for all of us who get it for free?

Normally, this sort of thing sets off my TANSTAAFL alert, but since I don't frequent porn sites — I once had one of those one-year pass things, which I used two or three times to peer at some grainy Victorian erotica or some such stuff, but I let it expire, and anyway this wasn't sent to the email address I used — I consider it more of a mere curiosity. Not enough of a curiosity to induce me to click on the proffered link, though, which apparently leads back to a site hosted at DialNil.com, a Minnesota Web host which may not know that it's leasing space to someone who's, um, giving it away.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:43 PM to Scams and Spams )
27 October 2002
Last will and terrorist

The Arab magazine Majallah, according to Fox News, has published what purports to be Osama bin Laden's will, dated 14 December 2001 and obtained from a "very reliable" source in Afghanistan.

Much of the document is devoted to whining: about how the hated invaders showed strength of purpose; about how Afghans — even the Taliban! — put up such meager resistance; about how al-Qaeda would be a lousy career choice for his children. And, of course, it's liberally salted with verses from the Quran.

Bloggers have insisted for months, despite contrary reports of dubious origin, that what's left of bin Laden has been decorating a rock somewhere in an Afghan cave. US officials aren't saying a word — yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:09 AM to Dyssynergy )
Berserk? We got that

I've been to Sallisaw, Oklahoma a couple of times, and while it would be unfair to call it "sleepy", it's not the most rambunctious place on the map.

Yesterday, some self-absorbed high-school doofus took it upon himself to wake up the place in the worst way, and when his petulant tirade ended — the police shot out the tires of his pickup truck — two people were dead, at least eight were hurt, and the twerp was in jail. He's 18, so they'll throw the book at him.

This being Oklahoma, no one is likely to start shrieking about some imagined need for stricter gun laws, but there's always going to be the question: "How is it that this state produces so many goddamn idiots?" None of the standard responses — weird religious groups, generally low educational levels, scant per capita income, proximity to Texas and/or Arkansas — is likely to provide any answers.

(Before you comment: I was strange before I got here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:58 AM to Soonerland )
Meet the new bosh, same as the old bosh

A pertinent quote:

Politics today is big money. X can be stupid or a drunk or a religious maniac, but if he has the money for a major political career and enough political flair to make a good public impression, he will automatically attract to himself quite a number of political adventurers, some talented. With luck, he will become the nucleus of a political team that then creates his speeches, his positions, his deeds, if any — Presidential hopefuls seldom do anything — until, finally, X is entirely the team's creation, manipulated rather than manipulated, in much the same way that the queen bee is powerless in relation to the drones and workers.

Or how about this one:

[O]nly in America do we pretend to worship the majority, reverently listening to the herd as it Gallups this way and that. A socialist friend of mine in England, a Labour M.P., once said, "You Americans are mad on the subject of democracy. But we aren't, because we know if the people were given their head, they would bring back hanging, the birch and, of course, they'd kick the niggers out of the country. Fortunately, the Labour Party has no traffic with democracy."

And to wrap it up, this one:

The villains, if they exist, are probably Texas oilmen.

All these things were said by Gore Vidal in the June 1969 Playboy Interview; I mention them here in case anyone is actually surprised by his The Enemy Within screed.

The very picture of cool

I mean, it's a blog in Antarctica, after all. What could be cooler than that?

Well, actually, the logo at 70South.com, the first news site I've seen from Antarctica, is at least decently cool, but so far the blog looks more interesting than the news site.

(Muchas gracias for the blog link: Quana Jones.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:20 PM to Blogorrhea )
28 October 2002
Cleaning one's clock

The major thrill of getting out of Daylight Savings Time isn't the sixty minutes of sleep I didn't really get on Sunday morning; it's the fact that for the next couple of weeks, anyway, I can drive to work when the sky is something besides pitch-dark. (Sunrise Saturday was 7:49 CDT, which means I arrive an hour before dawn; even around the late-December solstice, sunrise will not get any later than 7:40 CST.)

From the standpoint of climate, I won't miss this October much; while it's still a few degrees warmer than the coldest on record, it's only a few, and we're headed for the freezer later this week. The TV Weather Weasels are already hedging their bets.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 AM to Dyssynergy )
The budget crunch

The Tulsa World poll shows that while Oklahomans want something done about the sad state of the state budget, they're not in agreement on exactly what that something should be.

Fully 77 percent of the respondents were happy to increase so-called "sin" taxes, though there was no real enthusiasm for any other tax or fee increases. And while 77 percent (again!) called for trimming waste at state agencies, no individual agency is considered the worst offender.

The state has no choice but to balance its budget — it's a Constitutional requirement — and what's most likely to happen is that state agencies will go through the motions of tightening their belts, and low-level state employees will be sacrificed to preserve the positions of their bosses. In other words, nothing new.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Soonerland )
The last word on Wellstone

And, since it's from Lileks, it's also the best word.

Incoming!

Occasionally I have posted spam I've received, sometimes here in the log, sometimes in The Vent. I get a lot of it, but probably no more than most people, and certainly less than, say, Saddam Hussein.

As Dave Barry might say, I am not making this up.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:37 PM to Scams and Spams )
The blame game (Michael!)

A couple of years ago, I said some unkind (and, in retrospect, quite justifiable) things about the Clinton administration's War on Guns, and somewhere therein I came up with this:

[I]f a stolen Colt Defender is used in a crime, it's somehow Colt's fault? This makes no sense whatsoever. Then again, the idea isn't to make sense; it's to tie up gun makers in the courts so they can't fight back against the demonization of their products. It's the same process the government has traditionally used against "pornography", whatever that may be, and it's just as odious in this application.

Whether it made sense or not, it seemed to appeal to Michael Moore, who tossed off this snarky comment at his own Web site (let him get his own damn linkage):

[T]hank you, Bushmaster Firearms, Inc., for providing the gun used to shoot the 13 people in the DC area.

If one follows this pattern, is there a next step? Rachel Lucas shows where this train of thought might stop next:

And thank you, Boeing, for providing the four aircraft used to murder 3,000 people last year. After all, we wouldn't want to hold the 19 hijackers solely responsible for that mass murder. Let's blame the guys who built the airplanes! They surely could not have knocked down two giant buildings without them. Thanks, Boeing!

It's certainly a logical progression. And look at all that jet fuel — why, it's flammable! How could they put something like that aboard a plane full of people?

Identifying the correct villain is apparently too much for some people. I expect, in the near future, someone will file suit against Satan for...oops, too late.

29 October 2002
Donkeys and jackasses

Someone once cornered Will Rogers and demanded to know his political affiliation. "I'm not a member of any organized political party," he said. "I am a Democrat."

And I have a feeling he'd be less than thrilled with what's happened to the party since then. For all its vaunted populism, today's Democratic Party values individual voters the way Scrooge McDuck values individual dollars: they're useful only to the extent that they make the numbers look impressive. Groups wield the power, the party believes, and they want to be the power behind the groups.

Unfortunately, the United States of America isn't constituted as a collection of groups. Apart from "We The People," the Constitution recognizes scarcely any groups at all. This hasn't stopped the Democrats from trying to organize existing groups, or when that fails, creating new groups, with the intent of giving them special status under the law in exchange for blocs of votes. Sometimes I think that if I were, oh, a transgendered African-American who writes antiwar tracts for The Nation and runs an abortion clinic on the side, I could probably get DNC chair Terry McAuliffe to drive me to work every day.

Unfortunately for the Democrats, people seem less likely to identify themselves first as group members these days, and that's one of the reasons why they're going to lose, and lose big, in the 2002 elections. Groupthink is, well, oldthink; today's voter wants to know, first and foremost, "What's in it for me?" And who can blame her? The Democrats don't think we're capable of managing our own retirement funds, or of defending ourselves against marauding thugs, or of making any sort of decisions below the federal level. The Democrats worry that if in one state, a sixteen-year-old girl can't have her uterus vacuumed out as easily as she can have an ankle bracelet fitted, the streets will be flooded with coat hangers in all states. And an awful lot of Democrats apparently believe that anything, anything at all, is better than taking a shot at someone who is sworn to kill us.

Odds are, the Democratic organization, such as it is, will spend December licking its wounds and complaining about the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. Maybe, just maybe, they'll devote some small fraction of that time trying to figure out just how it is that they veered to the left at the same time the rest of the country started listening to the right. Or they won't, and by 2004 they may be every bit as dead as Will Rogers. And without the amusing anecdotes, either.

Enough with the boomers already

People have been sick of the baby-boomer generation for some time now, though few seem quite as annoyed as TeeVee's Philip Michaels, who writes:

America will watch as the Baby Boomers yammer on, through their TV series surrogates, about how memorable their life and times have been, how lasting their legacy, and how much better their music is than anything you or I ever listened to. It's a little bit ironic, considering that this is the generation that greeted their parents' oft-told stories of growing up — how tough they had it during the Great Depression, how they had to MacGyver up everything from living quarters to toiletries — with eye-rolling contempt. Well, the Baby Boomers have become their parents, prattling on and on while everyone within earshot wishes they would just shut the hell up.

I'm not about to give in on the music question — the lamest sub-Spectorian girl-group opus is about three orders of magnitude better than anything you'll ever hear out of Christina Aguilera — but otherwise, I'm shutting the hell up.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:50 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Fnord explorer

Somehow, I am the #2 site on Google for "paul wellstone illuminati".

You can't keep a good conspiracy buff down.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:34 PM to Blogorrhea )
30 October 2002
It's what's up front that counts

The only way through this is to quote it directly:

A Japanese doctor is making a titillating claim: The size of a woman's breasts exposes her true character.

Dr. Mitsugu Shiga tells the Mainichi Daily News that extensive examinations of cleavage suggest that women's personalities fall into three boob types.

Flat-chested women like Debra Messing and Gwyneth Paltrow are quick thinkers but really aren't into sex except to please their man.

Meanwhile, Shiga says large-breasted ladies like Dolly Parton or Pam Anderson "have the sturdiness of an ox" and a positive attitude towards life.

But bigger isn't necessarily better.

Shiga says the perfect breast protrudes 2.16 inches from the chest and claims women blessed with these boobs are straightforward, sexy but sometimes go off "in their own little world."

As a practicing (well, actually, out of practice) leg man, I should pay no attention to this, but a few of these assertions demand a response.

In the first place, Pamela Anderson's bust size has gone up and down more than the Nasdaq, what with old implants being replaced by new implants and God knows what other sorts of tweaking going on; the only thing one can reasonably assume about Her Pamness is that she has a fairly high credit limit. (These things ain't cheap.)

And I suspect, based on having heard too many songs and having once read her autobiography, that Dolly Parton would have essentially the same personality if she had a B-cup.

Gwyneth's and Debra's sexual proclivities are unknown to me, and probably to Dr Shiga as well, but I assume their names were thrown in for, um, balance.

My own experience in this realm is too limited to be statistically significant — additional research is, alas, extremely unlikely — but I tend to believe that women generally would benefit more from stuffing their brains than from stuffing their bras.

Now if Dr Shiga wants to extrapolate about the male half of the species based on, say, penis length, well, that's a tale for another time.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:27 AM to Table for One )
The final farce in Minnesota

It should have been obvious that something was going to be terribly wrong with the funeral for Senator Wellstone when Dick Cheney — the Vice-President of the United States, fercrissake! — was disinvited. And when it was all over, Stephen Green said exactly what needed to be said:

Paul and Sheila's sons allowed — perhaps even encouraged — their father's funeral to become a testament, not to a good man's life, but to everything that is wrong and slimy and sleazy and uncivilized about modern politics.

Damn them both. Damn those Democrats partaking in it. Damn those Republicans too cowardly to call them all on it. And may we all be damned, for our politicians are merely reflections of our own ugly tastes, boorish manners, and tolerance for those same traits in others.

Civilization demands civility. Rome didn't fall to barbarians; Rome fell because it took the barbarians in.

If there is any justice in this world, the GOP will pick up this seat in the Senate. And if there is any kindness, Norm Coleman will smile and politely refuse to talk about this incident ever again.

How many bloggers...

...does it take to change a light bulb?

M. Giant at Velcrometer takes a shot at it, and at least he does better than I did.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:11 PM to Blogorrhea )
Though this be madness

Yet there is meth in't: while state agencies in places like Florida and New Jersey agonize over the fate of absentee ballots, Oklahoma takes a free-market approach. Down in Keota, a wide spot in the road in Haskell County, an absentee ballot is worth $20 or the equivalent quantity of methamphetamine.

Then again, what's an equivalent quantity? The powers that be figure three pounds of the stuff to be worth $800,000, so I'm figuring that either it's a far, far better drug than anything I take, or they're quoting Pentagon prices.

Meanwhile, the snarky (and dashedly cute) Arkansawyer at Liquid Courage has some suitable thoughts on the subject.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:46 PM to Soonerland )
31 October 2002
Sallisaw shooting update

Daniel Fears got his first day in court yesterday, during which he was read eighteen charges, including two charges of first-degree murder. Preliminary hearings will be 24 February; until then, Fears will remain in the Sallisaw jail. The defense will likely file a request for a mental-competency hearing in the interim. And the little town on I-40 will wonder just what it was that they had seen last weekend: a young man gone temporarily bonkers, or a brief but lethal flash of pure evil.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Soonerland )
Turkey in the squeeze

The Turkish Republic these days is caught between Iraq and two hard places: the Caucasus and the Balkans. This isn't exactly news, but Sunday the Turks go to the polls, and the pundits are expecting the big winners to be the AKP, the Justice and Development Party, led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been positioning himself as moderately conservative and not at all the militant Islamist that the AKP usually produces. Some observers have their doubts.

And Turkey, at some point, would like to become part of the European Union, and the United States would like to help, but not everyone in the EU is anxious to extend membership to a Muslim nation, even though Turkey has been somewhat secularized for decades. But Ataturk is long gone, and there are real fears that an AKP victory will push Turkey a couple of notches closer to the sort of Islamic fundamentalism that prevails in other powder kegs.

I have a certain fondness for Turkey. I was stationed at a NATO base for about a year in the Seventies, and one of the things I found most interesting about the place was its seeming ability to straddle West and East, to make the rigid framework of Islam flourish in a relatively free-wheeling Western-oriented society. Obviously I wasn't in a position to dig deep enough to see the tensions running through the Republic — I was just one of the troops and was expected to shut up about such things — but I always wondered just how long this tenuous equilibrium could last. And I still wonder today.

(Muchas gracias: Jesus Gil.)

Forty-five

It's my brother Paul's birthday.

It wasn't that many years ago that there was some doubt he'd ever make it this far. What's kept him going is the combination of modern medicine and old-fashioned faith — and the conviction that you have to have both to make it work.

At this rate, he should be good for forty-five more.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:03 AM to Dyssynergy )
Obligatory Googlism

The voice of my mother still rings in my ears, even if she never said precisely this: "If everybody else goes to Googlism, are you going to go too?" Like I'm gonna jump into the reservoir or something.

I expected a whole lot of stuff to come up, inasmuch as I have one of the more common names around and some of the people bearing it, unlike me, have actually accomplished things. And I was not disappointed. This is the list, unedited:

charles hill is a research fellow at the hoover institution
charles hill is a hoover institution research fellow and a diplomat in residence and lecturer in international studies at yale university
charles hill is a black american
charles hill is occupied with candidate questionnaires from all quarters
charles hill is a graduate of mcgill university
charles hill is diplomat in residence and lecturer in international studies at yale university
charles hill is the director of technology
charles hill is a civil war veteran
charles hill is buried if i am not mistaken
charles hill is a 1992 graduate of loudonville high school
charles hill is picasso
charles hill is renowned for his attention to research trends and that is evident in gbt through a variety of real world examples and cases from small
charles hill is the author of books on the bible
charles hill is bagging them again
charles hill is the experienced leader of the still
charles hill is a generally based practice
charles hill is lisa whelchel
charles hill is also provided
charles hill is author of fundamental or fanatical?
charles hill is author of introductions and guides to theology and the bible
charles hill is necessary
charles hill is european secretary and he specifically focuses on relations with the nordic and baltic lutheran churches
charles hill is going to end up with a knife in his back or in a sack in the thames
charles hill is not used to publicity
charles hill is a visiting lecturer and diplomat
charles hill is a visiting lecturer in the political science department
charles hill is playing as well as he has ever played; durrand
charles hill is the ag instructor
charles hill is providing a pig roast and the baxter family is making hot punch
charles hill is director of research for first call
charles hill is as enthusiastic about his new catholic faith as his father isaiah
charles hill is suing defendant united state of america
charles hill is the returning starter and is coming off of a season that saw him notch three sacks and six tfls
charles hill is really playing well and has stood out to me
charles hill is indebted to the public schools of his native state for early educational training and he was about twenty
charles hill is retiring
charles hill is definitely character
charles hill is not being plowed
charles hill is the expert of diplomacy and politics at the department for international studies at the center of the yale university
charles hill is living retired in
charles hill is listening to my remarks
charles hill is all about
charles hill is competing with veteran jerry deloach for
charles hill is explosive off
charles hill is working on an alternative proposal in the event the smart growth grant doesn't materialize or is significantly altered
charles hill is
charles hill is the hughes m
charles hill is a partner in the washington
charles hill is an alleged murderer and an airplane hijacker who for more than 28 years has avoided justice by living in cuba
charles hill is perhaps the lone bright spot up front
charles hill is a research
charles hill is quoted as saying that adverts would not spoil the viewer's entertainment

Not used to publicity? How do you think I convinced Castro I was actually Lisa Whelchel?

And how many of these are actually accurate? One. I am reasonably certain that I am not being plowed. (Well, maybe two, but it depends on what your definition of is is.)

Gently, with a chainsaw

Jonathan Owiecki, literally on the edge of seventeen:

Dear Diary,

Today, I had sex. And by "had sex" I mean "watched Heathers".

Been there, saw that. [sigh]

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:16 PM to Table for One )
Shed those dowdy feathers and fly

After forty years, the Seekers, a major pop group in Australia who enjoyed some big hits in the States as well, are packing it in, and all their intellectual property — song copyrights, film footage, even the group name — will be sold at auction. The official story is that they're ready to retire, but it's hinted that after four decades, they're rather sick of one another. I can certainly relate to that: after almost five decades, I'm rather sick of me.

As for the New Seekers, formed by Seekers guitarist Keith Potger around 1969, they've long since disbanded. Eve Graham wasn't quite the singer Judith Durham was, but she was utterly charming on what I thought was their best record, a remake of the Move single "Tonight".

The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

Click the Permalink on an individual entry to read comments and TrackBacks if any