1 February 2003
Sox nox, hox box

Back in 1991, the Chicago White Sox moved to a new facility. What made this move unusual was that the new ballpark was given the name of the old ballpark: in effect, Comiskey Park moved across the street.

The Sox aren't going anywhere, but this year and the next twenty-two, they're playing in something called "U. S. Cellular Field", in exchange for $68 million. That's the plan, anyway; given the ongoing shakeout in the wireless-telephone industry, the likelihood that there will even be a "U. S. Cellular" in 2025 strikes me as really low.

Of course, there are options even then.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:01 AM to Almost Yogurt )
On Columbia

As always, the Professor has sage advice regarding the destruction of the space shuttle:

This won't traumatize people the way Challenger did because (1) it's not the first time; and (2) we're at war now, and people's calculations of such things — especially post-WTC — are different. I hope, however, that we'll look at moving beyond the elderly and unreliable Shuttle now.

Rand Simberg should have something to say later today.

Meanwhile, prayers might seem to be in order.

Update, 10:50 am: Rand Simberg has checked in, and he's calling, once again, for some rethinking of the space program:

Until we increase our activity levels by orders of magnitude, we will continue to operate every flight as an experiment, and we will continue to spend hundreds of millions per flight, and we will continue to find it difficult to justify what we're doing. We need to open up our thinking to radically new ways, both technically and institutionally, of approaching this new frontier.

When I was growing up in the Jurassic period, it was taken for granted that space flight by 2000 or so would be routine. Obviously it isn't. Would more extensive experience have prevented this disaster? It's hard to say for sure, but it seems reasonable to me that if we'd done a lot more of these flights, we'd have a better grip on what can go wrong and what can be done about it beforehand.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:58 AM to Dyssynergy )
A Mini driver wannabe

Brock Yates, inventor of the Cannonball Run, owns one. My daughter isn't quite the leadfoot that the Assassin is, but she wants one too. And me?

Well...

Of such notions are Vents built.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:41 AM to Driver's Seat )
A surplice of neuroses

The Vatican has decreed that transsexuals suffer from "mental pathologies" and therefore should be barred from Catholic religious orders.

Yeah, they wouldn't fit in with the well-established straight-arrow image.

But what do I know? I don't have the emotional stability required to work for the U. S. Postal Service.

(Muchas gracias: Jesus Gil.)

Detention deficit disorder

I'd like to announce, first off, that I was never, ever kept after school for any misdeeds whatsoever.

This is a blatant lie, but I'd like to announce it anyway.

Be it noted, however, my high crimes and misdemeanors pale by comparison to those of this kid.

2 February 2003
The verdict

Leaving a "medical facility" in a Baghdad suburb today, Dr Hans Blix cast his eyes downward for a fleeting moment, and in that split second he saw something of grave importance:

His shadow.

There will be, apparently, six more weeks of weapons inspections.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:17 AM to Dyssynergy )
Godwin lurks

By now everyone has seen that noxious little bumper sticker that spells "Islam" with a swastika. It's noxious, not so much because it suggests that there is some similarity between Islam and Hitler's National Socialism — you can get the same suggestions seven days a week in Arab News — but because damn near everything these days is compared to the Third Reich; the next step in political benchmarking, no doubt, is to set up a scale and rate each and every incident from 35 to 98 Reichspoints.

And what's wrong with that, you ask? Jennie Taliaferro nails it down:

[T]he only result of trivializing the evil of the real Nazi Reich and Hitler will be to change the meaning of the Holocaust from "Never again" to "No big deal. That's just something people say when they don't get their way".

And in fifty years World War II will be remembered as some vague border skirmish, and Kristallnacht as some minor incident therein.

I'd just as soon not be party to the wholesale rewriting of history for the sake of a few ephemeral political points.

Lunchtime alert

I live only a few miles from the industrial compound that is the world headquarters of the Sonic drive-in chain, but it has never actually occurred to me to scale the walls and find out the true nature of their culinary secrets.

Kevin Parrott, by contrast, is a hell of a lot farther away — but for some reason, he was willing to do the dirty work. Regrets? He has a few.

(Muchas gracias: Marc at Quit That!)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:37 AM to Worth a Fork )
All filler, no thriller

Aaron Haspel was talking about something else when he stumbled across something with MetaTruth potential:

The better the album, the more likely that the hit is the worst song on it.

I'm not ready to claim that this is invariably the case, though I have no trouble finding examples. For instance:

Blonde on Blonde: Does anyone even play "Rainy Day Women #12 & 35" anymore?

Revolver: "Yellow Submarine"? Oh, please. And "Eleanor Rigby" is tired enough to stuff into a jar by the door.

Zeppelin's officially-untitled fourth: technically, "Stairway to Heaven" wasn't a single, but it got more airplay than the rest of the tracks combined, to its everlasting detriment.

Zeppelin's officially-titled fifth, Houses of the Holy: This would be, inevitably, "D'yer Mak'er". Even the James Brown parody ("The Crunge") was funnier.

I'm sure those of you who have actually listened to something released in the last two decades can add to the list.

The ghosts of Tailgunner Joe

If there's one twentieth-century historical figure whose name is bandied about with a frequency approaching Hitler's, it's Joseph McCarthy. It's been more than fifty years since the Wisconsin senator first stood in a room and announced the existence of a list; and ever since then, it seems like everyone who's ever seen himself as being singled out for verbal abuse, however trivial, has shuffled the Deck of Delusion and played the McCarthyism card.

This might be a useful metaphor had Joe McCarthy been a silly-but-cute character like Ko-Ko from The Mikado, who had a little list of his own. He wasn't. McCarthy meant business. And while there actually were, as he had charged, some real-life Communists and fellow travelers uncomfortably close to the seats of power, McCarthy was ultimately censured by the Senate for his wholesale destruction of reputations.

This weekend on Usenet, some person with an exaggerated sense of his own importance (no need to identify him here; if you need to, you can Google the thread later), slapped down in a discussion, played the McCarthyism card and further likened himself to one of the Hollywood Ten. This, of course, was a serious anachronism — the House Un-American Activities Committee first took steps against the Ten in 1947, and McCarthy didn't open his mouth until 1950 — but the complainant apparently presumed that the rest of the world, or at least the rest of the newsgroup, would pick up on the historical references and smile.

He was wrong. Enter Al Moore, whose father was on the receiving end of a McCarthy-inspired witch hunt. And Moore was in no mood to listen to this guy's whining:

My father finished engineering school at Stanford, leaving when his GI Bill benefits ran out in 1954, to go to work for a local electronics firm. He was employed for about a year before the blacklisters caught up with him. He was tried (by a court-martial, for "disloyalty") and was found not guilty, but was never employed other than self-employed thereafter. I can still recall the day he was given notice at work. My mother told us kids "We may not be eating so well for a while."

So when you find you can't feed your kids because of something someone posted to the internet, then you can talk about McCarthyism.

Until then, keep it to yourself, please.

And that goes for the rest of you poor souls who think that because no one is buying your argument, it's because you're being suppressed. Actually, it's more likely because you're being idiotic.

God is an iron

And an example of the irony committed: I come up as #4 in Google for "women will desire you".

Sounds like #2 to me.

(Apologies to any Spider Robinson fans.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:04 PM to Table for One )
3 February 2003
Well, no wonder

CNN screen shot


If I were going that fast, I bet I'd break up too.

Note to CNN: NASA has yet to demonstrate anything close to warp 1, let alone 2.6.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:26 AM to Say What? )
And he'll never, never be any good

Legendary rock producer/recluse/nudnik Phil Spector was arrested today for allegedly killing a woman in eastern Los Angeles county.

[insert "Unchained Melody" joke here]

Update, 10 pm: I left this in a comment at The Last Page, and after reviewing its contents, I figured I may as well inflict it on you guys as well. The melody, I think, you already know.

Met her on a Sunday and my heart stood still
(da doo ron ron ron, da doo ron ron)
Knew that she was someone that I ought to kill
(da doo ron ron ron, da doo ron ron)
Yeah, my heart stood still
Yeah, I ought to kill
And when I left her home
(da doo ron ron ron, da doo ron ron)

I should probably create a "Taste Takes a Holiday" category for this sort of thing. Then again, I'd probably have to pay Laurence Simon a retainer.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:51 PM to Dyssynergy )
The state of the state

The major interest when a new governor has to give a State of the State speech right away is how much of his campaign agenda he will be flogging, and Brad Henry was up to the task today.

After a moment of silence for the Columbia crew, Henry pointed to the state's budget shortfall, and declared: "Our will has outstripped our wallet." The condition of that wallet didn't stop him from proposing some new expenditures, but so what else is new? At least he didn't suggest raising taxes or the ubiquitous "user fees". And once again, he called for a state lottery, receipts to be earmarked for education.

It will be an interesting year in the legislature, to be sure. Henry has a Democratic majority to work with, but not much of one, and the Republicans aren't giving out any signals just yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:00 PM to Soonerland )
Supplemental restraint system

Are you, like Sherlock Holmes, suspicious when the dog does not bark? Diane L. at Everything Must Go seems to be:

After I heard the news about the space shuttle disaster, I assumed most of my favorite blogs would display pictures of Palestinians dancing in the streets. This has not happened. The only thing I've seen is a few comments about American arrogance, and the statement from the 22-year-old Iraqi mechanic to the effect that it was Allah's punishment. No Palestinians dancing in the street.

Assuming that no one in the Greater Islamic Co-Terrorism Sphere is going to send us condolences, or even set aside a moment of silence, there's something vaguely offputting about this seeming lack of response. And its implications are clear enough:

If Palestinians refrain from dancing in the street on orders from their leaders, that would imply that Palestinians would also refrain from terrorism if ordered to by their leaders. So, when Palestinian and American politicians act as though Palestinian terrorism were beyond the control of Palestinian leaders, they are lying.

Could be. Are their lips moving?

4 February 2003
Flying fickle finger of fame

Jeebus. Yesterday the meter on this site was running, if not 18 times the speed of light, certainly faster than it's ever run before. And instead of the usual 350 or so for a Monday, the spreadsheet shows a startling 1699.

I could, I suppose, characterize this event as yet another step on the long journey from Completely Unknown to Deeply Obscure, but once this flurry passes (and that CNN goofup falls off Blogdex, where it climbed briefly to #51), I'm gearing up for resettlement in a moderately-priced area of Oblivion Heights.

For those of you who were here, however briefly, on a day more than twice as busy as any I've ever seen — the previous record for 24 hours here is 728 — thank you for making possible something entirely unexpected: a veritable Instalanche without any participation by InstaPundit. In the immortal words of Marx: That's the most unheard-of thing I ever heard of.

Regular programming will resume shortly.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 AM to Blogorrhea )
Tears on my pillow

This piece from Dancing Brave hit awfully close to home. A sample:

The simple act of yearning for contentment is emotional alchemy. It turns coal into diamonds, the bland into the exotic, the adequate into the absolute. And it turns the quest for anything into a constant question: Do we ever reach the goal, or is real happiness a mirage that gets just close enough to slip ghost-like through our grasp?

I think Zeno had this one figured out: you can get halfway there, or three-quarters, or seven-eighths, but there will always be some distance, however infinitesimal or indefinite, that separates you from where you really want to be.

Plenty of good exists in my life. And yet I bury my face in the comforter to muffle the sounds and shield the shaking shoulders of a girl who's trying to lose herself because she feels so lost.

Thwarted perfectionism? Or something far deeper?

I can't answer that for Dancing Brave. Most of the time, I can't answer that for me.

Veni, vidi, Visa

TO: Humongous Bank and Trust Company (Member F.D.I.C.)

FROM: CGH

Inasmuch as you rejected my credit application on the basis of eighteen-year-old information from some two-bit credit bureau not among the established Big Three, you've got a lot of damn gall to follow up the rejection letter with a copy of the same promotional offer.

I will make a point of determining the identities of all your subsidiaries and affiliates and avoiding as many of them as is humanly possible for the rest of my earthbound existence.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:53 PM to Common Cents )
Java enabler

There's a lot of cute blog schwag out there, but if you're going for maximum cute, you want the Rachel Lucas "Imagine" mug, guaranteed to hold your favorite hot beverage without once complaining that the top ten percent contains as much warmth as the bottom 90.

I'm sure this will tide me over until Susanna Cornett finishes up work on her signature lingerie line.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:43 PM to Blogorrhea )
5 February 2003
The Carnival pulls out a plum

Carnival of the Vanities Episode 20 is now being screened at Plum Crazy; as always, this is where you catch up on the best bloggage of the week, and we won't even mention the stuff I wrote.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:59 AM to Blogorrhea )
J. C. gets a day job

Former Representative J. C. Watts, drawing on his experiences in Congress and as a University of Oklahoma football star, will be writing a monthly column for The Sporting News, on the role of sports in contemporary society. The first installment will appear in next Monday's issue (10 February).

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to Soonerland )
And bullet holes may affect respiration

In a regulatory filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Microsoft made the following startling declaration:

To the extent the open-source model gains increasing market acceptance, sales of the company's products may decline, the company may have to reduce the prices it charges for its products, and revenues and operating margins may consequently decline.

In a footnote, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates noted that rainfall is sporadic at best in the Mojave Desert, and that children under six should not drink bleach.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:57 AM to Common Cents , PEBKAC )
Lunatic pamphleteers

I'm not quite sure what's most annoying about this San Diego Union-Tribune piece about blogging: the rendering of URLs without making them clickable, the scattered typesetting commands that weren't screened out or converted to HTML, or the definition of "blogrolling" as "linking to sites that tend to share similar ideologies." On the far reaches of the political spectrum, maybe, but not for most bloggers within screaming distance of the mainstream.

On the other hand, Neal Pollack's characterization of bloggers as "lunatic pamphleteers shouting into the wind" — that I'll buy.

(Muchas gracias: Becky at Paradigm Shifts.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:15 PM to Blogorrhea )
6 February 2003
Snow is just a four-letter word

As I'm ducking into my car this morning, some doofus four or five doors down is spinning his wheels at a prodigious pace and getting nowhere.

What's annoying about this is that the snow has yet to fall; it's still (barely) above freezing and the rain let up an hour ago. Imagine how well this guy is going to drive once the white stuff settles in earnest.

Now multiply him by half a million, and you'll know why I get antsy about winter storms.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Weather or Not )
Back to the shadows again

Well, it was nice while it lasted — 1699 visitors Monday, 1166 Tuesday, 604 Wednesday — but apart from some Carnival traffic, things are pretty much back to normal around here.

I was slightly amused by a thread at Café Utne which linked back to that CNN screenshot, in which someone wondered why there was a goldfinch on the page. I duly copied the pertinent paragraph from the site to the thread, and somehow managed to refrain from asking "How come you couldn't find this?"

Still, I got a couple of new readers out of all this brouhaha, and, as John Lennon once observed, you know that can't be bad.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Blogorrhea )
More on bloggage

Neal Pollack, you may remember, tagged all of us in blogdom as "lunatic pamphleteers," a term with lyricism enough to compensate for its barely-veiled sneer. Pollack, of course, has his own blog; people who don't, don't bother with the veil. An example:

[T]hey rant about things that upset them, they swoon over girls/boys they like, they expose their deepest fears and herald their most miraculous events with bold tags and large colored fonts. They evangelize for their favorite computer manufacturers, they list URLs they find interesting, they philosophize on mundane linguistic topics and editorialize on current political issues to, apparently, everyone. Therein lies the catch, of course, for their "audience" is probably, at best, only a couple of pairs of eyeballs and the countless hours they spend at the keyboard typing out their inner thoughts are likely wasted on a couple of readers, whom they will probably never actually meet.

And that was the kindest thing he said.

Jeff Jarvis suggests that it's "a desperate urge to get links from webloggers," and he may be right. Fortunately, whether it's desperate or not, it's at least reasonably amusing. And since I am intimately familiar with the process of trying to be both desperate and amusing, and mindful of the Second Commandment of Blogging — well, what the hell, he gets a link.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:36 AM to Blogorrhea )
7 February 2003
Fahrenheit 4.51

When it gets this cold, you can convince yourself that the decimal places actually mean something.

From the onset of the howl to the last decaying harmonics, the sound of the 6:15 freight took about twice as long as usual this morning. I don't know whether this was a trick of the atmosphere or a problem with the track — I do know that railroad men have been working on the bed just west of the Air Depot crossing — but the call of the horn was so long and so mournful that I wondered if Junior Parker's Mystery Train, sixteen coaches long, was the train actually making the run. And given the fourfold increase in minor (and maybe not so minor) physical issues I've faced this year, I've got to wonder if next time the train is coming for me.

(Aside to Elvis: Yeah, I know, you'd have hopped that freight and dared them to take your baby away. That's why you're Elvis and the rest of us aren't.)

Do you know where your pervs are?

Following up on a report that 33,000 sex offenders who are supposed to be in California's Megan's Law database aren't there at all, the national Parents for Megan's Law organization started checking the other 49 states and asking "And how are your databases?"

In Oklahoma, at least, they stink; according to PFML, half of the state's sex offenders aren't in the state database, a figure roughly twice the national average, promptly disputed by state officials. Brian Johnson at Corrections says there will be an audit of the database, but cautions against expecting too much from the list, or from Megan's Law itself:

"There's three reasons to have a sex offender registry. One is public protection, the second is it supports law enforcement investigations and it might prevent future acts of criminal behavior. I'm not aware of any research that says any of those things are accomplished."

And, in fact, the Supreme Court heard two cases last fall challenging Megan's Law. I've always been a little uneasy about this law myself — why is it, for instance, we don't register armed robbers or white-collar criminals or other people who present threats to the community? — but you know the drill: if it's for The Children™, it must be good.

(The Children™  is a trademark of Juan Gato.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:43 AM to Soonerland )
Our big fat Greek allies

David "Clubbeaux" Sims (that just looks so cool) isn't too impressed with Greece these days:

Greeks contribute the least to the E.U.'s funding and are the biggest freeloaders of E.U. welfare, yet squawk and strut and obstruct E.U. business as if they?re bankrolling the whole operation. One does not want to even begin to calculate the total tonnage of money America flushes down the Greek rathole. E.U. diplomats I met in Istanbul told me privately that if the E.U. had a mechanism for kicking countries out Greece would have been shown the door a long time ago.

So they're, um, obstreperous. Do they stand behind us when we need them?

The Wall Street Journal's editorial page...gives these facts: 87.8% of all Greek citizens are against military action in Iraq — even with U.N. approval; more Greeks have a positive view of Saddam Hussein than of President Bush, and when asked "which country is more democratic, the U.S. or Iraq" a full 57% said "neither," and 8% said Iraq. On balance the French are more reliable allies than the Greeks.

Gad. What a bunch of Cretans.

Cadre remarks

Everyone knows the canonical collective nouns, even the weird ones like a murder of crows or a pride of lions or a clutch of mechanics or a graft of politicians or a gaggle of Googlers.

So how shall we denote a multiplicity of bloggers? The first thing I thought of was crash, but then it occurred to me that in this context, "crash" equates to something properly single, and a proper noun at that: a crash of Blogger. Okay, there are a lot of such, but as Bono might have said, we still haven't found what we're looking for. (And Bono apparently has no qualms about finding prepositions to end sentences with.)

If you have better ideas than I — and who doesn't? — please pop open Comments and expound.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:10 PM to Blogorrhea )
8 February 2003
New kid on the news block

It was last Saturday, and word had just come down the wire that Columbia was in trouble. Management at KOMA radio, which was getting ready to drop its oldies format (still carried on KOMA-FM) for news/talk the following Monday, apparently decided that if they were going to build any credibility as a news operation, they had to cover Columbia, and damn the official schedule.

And so they did, staying with the story most of the day, and when the regular schedule began on Monday morning, I suspect they had a lot more listeners on board than they'd originally anticipated.

So how did they do? The lineup hews pretty close to what you'd expect from a station of this type, and pretty close to that of rival KTOK. For some reason, KOMA thinks it takes a two-person anchor team in morning drive, but only one in the afternoon, which I attribute to lingering morning-zoo philosophy. Local personality Carole Arnold, bounced by KTOK a few years back, has the late-morning talk slot. After an hour of news at noon, Bill O'Reilly's Radio Factor slides in, two hours of which run directly opposite Rush Limbaugh on KTOK. (Bottom line: Evenly matched, bile-wise, but Rush is usually funnier.) The afternoon news block is nothing special. Early evenings are given over to Laura Ingraham, who is the answer to the question "What if there were someone like Ann Coulter, only normal?" After midnight is a bit of weirdness called The Edge, a sort of macrobiotic Art Bell.

A couple of tweaks I would suggest to KOMA as they try to build a news powerhouse on a budget:

  • Is it really necessary for the guy in the traffic helicopter to read off promos for AT&T Wireless? For that matter, is it really necessary to have a guy in the traffic helicopter? This ain't New York or Los Angeles. The same intersections are clogged every day at the same time; only the accident locations are different. And hardly anyone in these parts will make a route change to avoid a wreck — most of the time, I think they actually want to see it.

  • The KOMA News Web site is indistinguishable from your average fifth-grader's Tripod or Geocities page. I'm not saying you should tart it up with Clear Channel-styled bombast, but this is just hideous.

That's the news, as Dennis Miller would say, and I am outta here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:10 PM to Overmodulation )
Rebound effect

You may remember Behind the Mantle, operated by a blogger who was sacked (Bite me, King Stan!) for having a blog. (I mentioned it briefly here last month.)

Now working for someone less anal, he's back blogging at entrebat.net.

(Muchas gracias: Edward Ocean.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:55 PM to Blogorrhea )
Southern exposure

Charleston, South Carolina, 333 years old and still a charmer, has a memory nearly as long as its history, and downtown, parallel-parked Volvos aside, is not all that different from the way it was when Rhett Butler supposedly wandered around its streets. King Street is the main north-south street, and it was a wild mix of modern-day commerce and antebellum gentility when I lived in the Holy City in the 60s; it still is today.

In 2000, reconstruction began on the William Aiken House at 456 King Street, about a third of a mile north of Marion Square, a world away from the presumed haughtiness of the SOB (South Of Broad) district — but only a few steps from the present-day Charleston Visitor Center. The new owners have turned it into a small-scale (about 20,000 square feet) convention center, a place for small gatherings with a taste of history.

This afternoon, Senator John Edwards (D-NC) is at the Aiken House, doing some of the obligatory legwork for his Presidential campaign. None of this matters, except that Edwards is supposed to be paying lip service to the NAACP's South Carolina boycott, and yes, it is true, William Aiken actually once owned slaves. Rather a lot of them, in fact. If you wanted to find a place in Charleston that had no discernible ties to anything that even remotely resembled the old Confederacy, you'd have to have your meetings at the Burger King on Dorchester Road near I-526. The NAACP Web site hasn't put up a complaint yet; I'm hoping this means that they're not going to pitch a fit about the Edwards appearance, but it could be simply that their Webmaster has the weekend off.

(Via Drudge, aided and abetted by C. Dodd Harris IV.)

Update, 6:15 pm: Christopher Johnson reports that the fix is in:

"What he's doing meets our guidelines," said James Gallman, president of [the NAACP's] South Carolina branch, adding "I'm very pleased with the efforts he has made and the support he has given our boycott."

Let's see what happens if a Republican tries to hold a pep rally at the Aiken House any time in the next few hundred years.

9 February 2003
Shurden's new game

Sometimes it's hard to get a grip on Frank Shurden. For years and years he's been pushing for a measure to allow chemical castration of sex offenders, and more recently he's been trying to come up with a workaround for cockfighting proponents, who were supposedly dealt the death blow in November's election; his most recent thinking on the subject is some sort of "county option".

The tendency, therefore, is to write off the Henryetta Democrat as some kind of crank. But, the Oklahoma legislature being full of such, it's not the disadvantage you might think. So it's Frank Shurden who gets to introduce the governor's lottery scheme into the Senate, and only God and Frosty Troy know how much wheeling and dealing will go into the final package.

The OkiePundit is not inclined to cut Shurden any slack:

Like a spoiled brat, [Shurden] has tried at every turn to change the rules of the game each time he loses. Given this M.O. by Shurden, the Legislature should consider Shurden's lottery bill only as a county-option. If the lottery loses when and if it comes up for a vote of the people this year we should assume that Shurden will disregard the will of the citizens and try in 2004 to pass legislation to institute a lottery in counties that voted in favor of the lottery.

Of course, a county-option lottery wouldn't work worth a darn — at best, it would increase the take from the state's fuel tax from people driving across the state to buy tickets where they could — but it could be just the thing for lottery opponents, who, after a few months of so-so business, will be able to point and say "See? We told you so!" In Oklahoma, this ability is prized more highly than gold. Or natural gas, anyway.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:09 AM to Soonerland )
Gam bits, again

I tend to pay close attention to anything Andy Crossett does, since Mr Crossett is the proprietor of The Celebrity Legs Gallery [not necessarily safe for work], a biweekly glance at some of the world's major-est Major Babes from here down. And it was inevitable, I suppose, that he should open a blog.

As a skirtwatcher of long standing, I consider this sort of thing noteworthy. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:20 PM to Blogorrhea )
T'ain't funny, McGee

No, not you, Kevin.

The previous entry, reports Movable Type, was number 666.

It caused the database server to error out, and had to be reposted.

Hmmm....

(Mental note: Write to DavidMSC up in Montana and see if he can get me one of those Helena handbaskets I've been hearing about.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:27 PM to Blogorrhea )
Oil together now

Yeah, I know, but this is funny.

Start making scents

Jason Kottke has decided:

The way we figure it, the world doesn't need another stupid web application, it needs bacon-scented candles.

And not just bacon, either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:52 PM to Almost Yogurt )
10 February 2003
14th nervous breakdown

Thus spake Bitter Hag:

Surely I'm not the only one out there who hates February 14th with my whole being.

I can assure her, and you, that she's not.

And if there's some vast quantity of pent-up resentment, well, so much the better. The Hag wants to hear your story. And there will be a prize for the most bitter, or least repentant, or whatever criteria she chooses.

You've got until midnight (Pacific time; you slackers on the East Coast can slide until 3 am) on the 12th, so get with it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:32 AM to Table for One )
Site issues

The site has actually been up, but anything requiring cgi — for readers, this means the comment windows and whatnot — has been down most of the morning due to Actual Hardware Failure, as in "Geez, isn't it about time we got rid of this piece of crap?"

In the meantime, someone Googled his way here looking for susanna porn. Uh, not here, pal.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:18 AM to Blogorrhea )
Site issues (the sequel)

I honestly don't know if everything is fixable at the host end; they seem to be fumbling a lot.

Unfortunately, I'm paid up through the end of the year, so I am loath to move — at least right now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:11 PM to Blogorrhea )
< L

The Letter came today.

Dear Friend,

I am pleased to enclose your AARP Membership Registration and temporary membership card.

I'm just as thrilled about this as you think.

But this is the bottom line, right off aarp.org:

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan membership organization for people age 50 and over.

Uh, guys, "50 and over"? Can't you cut me a few days' slack, fercryingoutloud?

(The rest of you can debate "nonpartisan" if you want. I'm still in denial. And, I hasten to add, still in my forties. Barely.)

11 February 2003
No gander left unsauced

Retired (yeah, that's the word) computer vandal Kevin Mitnick has had his Web site hacked twice in the last couple of weeks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to PEBKAC )
You might be an Old European...

"...if you see no contradiction between your Socialist Party card and your new BMW."

John at Inside Europe: Iberian Notes has literally dozens of these.

(Muchas gracias: Cinderella Bloggerfeller, who, as a European himself, will not be able to vote for Dodd for President.)

When it's meant to be

Okay, maybe I'm somewhere between giddy and delirious, but I dearly love stuff like this:

Sarah and I had a lot in common. We were around the same age. We liked all the same bands (more importantly, we hated the same bands). We?d both worked extensively in publishing. She had a PhD in English; I spoke English.

Just one minor obstacle. After striving for all his life to get out of a 1.5-horse town like Seguin, Texas, he'd finally made it to New York City. She, however, lived in one of those 1.5-horse towns: Seguin, Texas.

You should probably read about it now, before it turns into a movie with Reese Witherspoon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 PM to Table for One )
Oh, those four-letter words

From the We Must Protect The Children™ files:

"I realize people hunt in this area, but I still don't think that warrants the teaching of this word to my daughter or any other child," said Mrs. Sousa.

What word is that?

The word is "gun".

"Look out! He's got — um, wait — one of those things, you know?"

(Explanation, for those requiring one:  Mrs. Sousa's Canadian, so it takes four of her letters to equal three of ours.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 PM to Dyssynergy )
12 February 2003
The Carnival comes of age

John Ray's Dissecting Leftism (it's dead and on the lab table?) is the host for the 21st edition of Carnival of the Vanities, with scads of high-quality bloggage for your reading pleasure. As always, you miss this at your peril.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:10 AM to Blogorrhea )
The view from Joisey

(Please note that I am not actually from New Jersey; nobody there calls it "Joisey".)

Last night, Glenn Reynolds posted an item about the "American street" and its willingness to support a boycott against recalcitrant ex-allies like France and Germany. I read that, shook my head, and decided that it would never happen; our band of happy consumers is simply too apolitical to worry about such things.

Later, it's another session in my usual chat haunt, and one of our regulars is expounding upon what appears to be a sudden shift in tastes. "I can no longer buy from the French," she explains. "They refuse to support us."

I made some jest about giving up French fries, but there it was. Your basic (Jewish, but whatever) soccer mom archetype, dyed-in-the-wool Democrat but utterly disconnected from politics except right around election time, is telling the French to blow it out l'aperture.

"I suspect a lot of people are starting to think this way," Reynolds had said. I suspect he's right.

When the colors change

Susanna Cornett responds to the heightened level of alert:

[W]hat I'm not is generally fearful. I know every day when I leave my apartment that I could be killed by a drunk driver, or shot during a robbery. There are all kinds of risks in life, and this is one more. I hope I don't have to deal with it. I'll take what precautions I can. I'll occasionally play out scenarios in my mind of what I'll do in this or that type of situation. But the reality is the majority of my safety is dependent on others — the US military, police, people's willingness to obey the law. The part that belongs to me is not to wring my hands, but to live my life with a consciousness of the risks, doing what I can to circumvent them, pray that our country will be spared, and stand ready to do what I can to lessen the chances of terrorist success.

Good advice. Under circumstances like this, the best thing you can do is to prepare yourself and make sure those around you follow your lead. Fretting over every piece of news that comes down the wire will eventually drive you mad. Unfortunately, purveyors of news, with few exceptions, want to make sure you get that opportunity to fret.

Transaction declined

It should surprise no one that I'm not the only one cheesed off at a credit-card issuer. Dennis Rogers at The Legal Bean has written his own nasty letter:

For the remainder of 2003, let's make a deal: How 'bout you calculate your total projected cost of future mailings to me over the next 11 months, cease sending me any more pre-approved notices, and thensforth send me a check for that amount. I will duly sublimate the funds into my bank account and use the money as I see fit.

No way am I gonna ask him what's in his wallet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:09 PM to Common Cents )
13 February 2003
The D word

I am speaking, of course, of what Tammy Wynette referred to as D-I-V-O-R-C-E.

No, I'm not contemplating one; after having gone through the process in 1987, I have no marriage to undo. But I've always found the concept a bit disquieting, an uncomfortable reminder that the best of intentions will not always guarantee the best possible results. And seeking some connection between theory and real life, I looked at my own parents, who were wed on this date in 1953. My mother died in 1977; had she lived, they would be celebrating their 50th anniversary.

Or would they? Is it possible that somewhere along the line, after five children and however many harsh words, they might have decided that enough was enough?

If the topic was ever discussed, it certainly wasn't discussed in front of me. And I tend to doubt that anything was in the works in 1976 when she took ill, what with a nine-year-old still in the household. (Feel free to point out that in 1987, my younger child was six, and there had been a separation prior to that.) But for the life of me, I can't think of anything holding them together except the five of us: I may be wrong — it wouldn't be the first time by any means — but it always seemed to me that within two hours of the last child moving out, they'd put the house up for sale and head in opposite directions.

Second marriages, they say, are often better. After the standard Decent Interval following Mom's funeral, Dad married a co-worker, and theirs (she was also previously wed) might be; while there were certainly some rocky periods along the way, there's less of a sensation that there are burning issues being suppressed, and by now it's lasted two decades and more. My ex-wife's probably wasn't; while the chap in question was a bit more exciting to be with (and how difficult is that?), he had far too much fondness for the Peruvian marching powder to suit her.

Still, one doesn't get to a second marriage without going through a first. And with the hated Valentine's Day looming, I wonder about this mysterious force that works to bring together people who seemingly shouldn't even be speaking to one another, let alone making a vow to remain together for always.

But that, I suppose, is an entirely-different word.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:55 AM to Table for One )
So it must be raindrops

It is indeed rare that we get an actual spring rain this early. A 120-degree change in the wind direction would mean, not a inch or so of rain, but nine or ten inches of snow — or worse. But here we are, nowhere near the freezing point, and there's even a chance of a thunderboomer before it's all over.

We've had 6.7 inches of snow this season, about two-thirds of an average winter here. While we're not getting it now, I'm going to flashback to a spring rain during an actual spring — specifically, last April, when I said this:

Start the clock when the first droplets fall, and this is what you will find:

The most inspiring moment during a spring rain is at approximately T plus two and a half minutes. This is the point where you learn if you're going to get a genuine downpour or just some random spattering. This is also the point where if you take a deep breath, you'll get a whiff of largely-desmogged air, faintly redolent of damp vegetation, a scent once considered by deodorant-soap manufacturers to be the Holy Grail until they discovered they could sell Strawberry-Daiquiri-with-Antibiotics in volumes even greater.

The least inspiring moment during a spring rain is at approximately T plus four and a half hours. This is the point when you (or at least I) start whining, "When is it gonna stop already?"


Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:06 PM to Weather or Not )
14 February 2003
When you walk in the room

Jackie DeShannon says it so much better than I:

I close my eyes for a second and pretend it's me you want
Meanwhile I try to act so nonchalant
I see a summer night with a magic moon
Every time that you walk in the room

Cue the guitars playing lovely tunes....

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:55 AM to Table for One )
Still ahead of Senegal

The Oklahoma Department of Health issued its annual We Are In Sorry-Ass Shape report yesterday, complete with ominous warnings and the usual gratuitous Third World comparison — this time to Costa Rica, where the estimated life expectancy is a tick or two higher than Oklahoma's. I searched in vain for a video from Costa Rica's last killer ice storm.

Who gets the blame? Some of it goes to the state's residents themselves, who simply can't bring themselves to conform to the standards of the New Puritanism, and some of it goes to the state, which has inexplicably failed to quintuple the tobacco tax or to enact anything resembling mandatory health insurance.

"The current state of the state's health," says the report, is "unacceptable." Well, of course. Were it excellent, you'd all be out of a job.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:26 AM to Soonerland )
Not including "Drugrats"

(Disclosure: I know the guy who wrote the item linked below. He's not a blogger. He doesn't even play one on TV. But he has a genuinely-warped sense of humor, honed by the desperation that befell him after he deserted the front lines during the Peloponnesian War.)

Who has the top basic-cable series? Fox News? Lifetime? MTV? Not even. You want audience, you go to Nickelodeon. Half animated, half might-as-well-be-animated, the Big Orange Blotch dominates the segment like no other.

Of course, this means a lot of audience research, and some shows inevitably don't make it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:47 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Two weeks and counting

If Salon's latest sob story is to be believed, they'll run out of (borrowed) money at the end of February and have to shut down.

I suppose it's too late to ask that the balance of my Premium subscription be transferred to FARK.

(Muchas gracias: Jeff Jarvis.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:43 PM to Dyssynergy )
Down by the banks of the Ohio

Something is dreadfully wrong in Cincinnati, and this is the opening of a SpicedSass report:

I had not held much hope the black community in this town would respond reasonably to a simple matter of a cop apprehending and killing a criminal. No riots, but plenty of attitude and sneering simpering suspicions. The local apologist for the community writes a piece suggesting the "poor" victim became what he was in a vacuum.

"Sherrer's family plans to bury him Saturday. And our community is asking, again, why this had to happen."

Not rocket science. A life long criminal decided to continue as a criminal and was caught acting like a criminal and ran like a criminal and was shot like a criminal. And, no, the white community did not do a damn thing to help him along his chosen path, but, you might want to talk to his family about that.

Read the rest of it. I figure it's just a matter of time before Al Sharpton saunters in and tries to capitalize on the, um, incident; it wouldn't be the first time.

15 February 2003
Why people live here

About 520,000 people live in the city, about as many in the suburbs, and you could probably get close to a million different answers to the question "Why do you live here?" But surely some of them will point out that on a comparative basis, it's cheap.

The most recent cost-of-living survey by ACCRA puts Oklahoma City at 9 percent below the national average, with housing costs a startling 21 percent below the national average. In all the areas covered by the survey, only transportation carried an above-average price tag, perhaps due to the spread-out nature of the place and the limited availability of public transportation.

Those who argue that you get what you pay for — well, we'll get to that some other time.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:07 AM to City Scene )
The Dr. Seuss State of the Union Address

Can this, will this, make you think?
Will you, won't you, click this link?

("If the permalinks are fried,
Scroll to the 14th!" he cried.)

Have a heart

Apparently I was wrong: it is possible to defend Valentine's Day. (No permalinks: scroll to 2/14/2003 12:15:41 AM.)

And there's one point I've made before, though in a decidedly less upbeat manner. Quoth Jonathan:

Being more romantic one day hardly means you'll end up being less the other three hundred and sixty-four. If anything, the opposite is true.

Contrast and compare to this bit from Vent #136, four years ago:

If I am fortunate enough to find someone to love — and, even less likely, to find someone to love me — shouldn't I want to celebrate it every day?

(No, I didn't enter Bitter Hag's contest. Why do you ask?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:11 PM to Table for One )
Time expiring

The end begins this way:

Haddon Brooks, a poet, stood in the last city of the Earth, waiting for the word impact to come from space. He was being recorded. What he saw, how he felt, all the sounds and smells and smallest touches of the death of his world went up and out to the ships as they began the final journey to new homes somewhere in the stars. His vital signs were being monitored, thalamic taps carried his thoughts and transmitted all the colors of what lay around him, to be stored in memory cassettes aboard the ships. Someone to report the death of the Earth had been the short of it, and from that call for a volunteer he had been winnowed from the ten thousand applicants.

This is the opening paragraph from Harlan Ellison's 1972 short story Hindsight: 480 Seconds. A planetoid is approaching the solar system; it will not reach Earth, but will graze the Sun, ripping into its corona and spraying radiation for hundreds of millions of miles. As you'll remember from your grade-school science, the Earth lies just within the first hundred million.

And so the cities were melted down and the peoples gathered together and the ships built, and everyone on Earth would be moving to new homes in the galaxy — except for Haddon Brooks, who offered to remain behind and chronicle the eight minutes between the collision with the Sun and the end of all life on Earth.

In Ellison's story, everyone knows that the end is coming — they've had plenty of warning — and the departure from Earth is orderly and organized. But suppose there wasn't plenty of warning. Dr Geoffrey Sommer of the Rand Corporation think-tank opines that it might be better that way, that it might be better if the world did not know what was to come:

When a problem arises with high uncertainty, there is an opportunity to spin the problem to avoid global panic. If you can't do anything about a warning, then there is no point in issuing a warning at all.

This might apply just as well to presumably more concrete threats — or, in the wake of this past week's increased terror threshold, less concrete threats. Are we better off not knowing? I'm not entirely sure what I think about this. Given my standard anxiety levels, which are considerable, I'm inclined to believe that news of certain impending death within X time period (as distinguished from certain impending death, period, which is presumably unscheduled as of now) might be quite enough to push me over the edge, in which case it would be a kindness to put me out of my misery.

Or perhaps I may find the eloquence of Ellison's Haddon Brooks at the very end of his report:

"I'm afraid, up there. I'm afraid of my vanity to be the last one here. It was foolish, oh how I want to go with you now. Please forgive me my fear, but I want so much to live!"

If there only had been time. He was chagrined for just a moment that he had let them down, had failed to do what he had been left behind to do. But that lasted only a moment and he knew he had said as much as anyone could say, and it would be right for the children of the dark places, even if it took them a thousand years to find another home.

Then he turned, as the seconds withered, knowing the solar storm had drenched him and at any moment he would vaporize. He looked up into the water-blue sky, past the blinding sun that suddenly flared and consumed the heavens, and he shouted, "I'll always be with you—" but the last word was never completed; he was gone.

(Muchas gracias: Susanna Cornett.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:55 PM to Almost Yogurt )
No "fair and balanced" jokes, please

On Thursday, Mohammed Allawi, who had been covering the UN for the Iraqi News Agency, got a letter from the Deputy United States Ambassador to the UN, which told him bluntly that he had 15 days to pack his bags, gather his family, and get out of Dodge. According to the Bush administration, Allawi had "engaged in activities considered to be harmful to the security of the United States and those activities constitute an abuse of privilege of residence in this country."

The Iraqi government's response was to announce the expulsion of four Fox News staffers, to be gone by Monday, although it appears now that only reporter Greg Palkot will be forced out. With the remainder of their team still apparently allowed on site, Fox hopes to persuade Baghdad to allow a replacement.

The question naturally arises: why Fox? Could it be that Baghdad considers Fox News a greater threat than any of the other American news agencies?

16 February 2003
Failure to prognosticate

Around 7 pm, what passes for nightlife around here begins, and everyone loads up the cars and heads out to the Interstates.

Where they promptly slid into the guardrail. The weather guys had said nothing whatsoever about freezing drizzle and snow flurries last night — wasn't any chance of precipitation at all, in fact — and right on time at 7 pm, with the temperature dropping just below freezing, out came the partygoers, wholly unprepared for the carnage awaiting them within the next couple of miles.

Well, okay, it wasn't that bad, in the sense that no one got killed or anything, but you can probably expect a higher proportion of tow-truck operators on your next Caribbean cruise.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:24 AM to Weather or Not )
The quest for B.O.

Fametracker has a lovely feature called "The Fame Audit", in which a celebrity's perceived level of, well, celebrity is contrasted and compared to where, in the opinion of the auditor, it by rights ought to be. An example: the Audit of Leonardo DiCaprio, which, after fourteen paragraphs and a pair of boxes listing Assets and Liabilities, concludes that while Leo is Up There with Brad Pitt, he really belongs in Jude Law's neighborhood.

Inasmuch as the Blogosphere never metadata it didn't like, something of a Blog Fame Audit would seem inevitable. But where to do the math? While fumbling for the shampoo this morning, it hit me, and rather painfully so.

So say hello to the Blog Overachievement Factor — for various aesthetic reasons, we can call it the B.O. factor — which is defined in terms of BlogStreet data: the Blog Importance Quotient (BIQ) divided by the BlogStreet rank. The BIQ, says BlogStreet, is based upon how many high-ranking blogs link to your blog.

Auditing Glenn Reynolds for B.O., we find that he has a rank of 1 and a BIQ of 1, which puts him at a B.O. of, well, 1.00.

To pick a few not entirely at random out of BlogStreet's Top 100 or so:

USS Clueless
 rank 13; BIQ 5; B.O. 2.60

Lileks' The Bleat
 rank 14; BIQ 9; B.O. 1.56

The Volokh Conspiracy
 rank 20; BIQ 4; B.O. 5.00

Tim Blair
 rank 22; BIQ 8; B.O. 2.75

A Small Victory
 rank 49; BIQ 61; B.O. 0.80

PejmanPundit
 rank 52; BIQ 17; B.O. 3.06

Amish Tech Support
 rank 82; BIQ 75; B.O. 1.09

Cut on the Bias
 rank 102; BIQ 31; B.O. 3.29

In a check of the top BIQs, the B.O. leader was Aint No Bad Dude: rank 277, BIQ 29, B.O. 9.55.

My own B.O. computes as follows: rank 2282, BIQ 531, B.O. 4.30.

If all this means anything — and I'm almost certain it doesn't — I'm punching a class or two above my, um, weight.

(Update, 11:25 am: This data was originally in a table, which I scrapped after deciding its appearance was even more preposterous than the numbers I had plugged into it.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:05 AM to Blogorrhea )
A carousel of time

So it's come to this: fisking thirty-year-old songs by Joni Mitchell.

Then again, were we truly happier when all we had to fisk was Fisk?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:39 PM to Blogorrhea )
Twain in vain

JB Doubtless, bless him, understands Shania:

There is an idea floating out there that somehow it is cynical, manipulative and most importantly EASY to make a record with mass popular appeal like Shania?s Up! I tend to think the opposite is true. Making a record of what you hear in your head is much, much easier than making something other people will want in their heads.

And, more important, he understands pop. From the same piece:

Critics tend to lean toward suffering artiste types like Steve Earle, who they tell us have deep soul, originality and are brave and important.

Important. That damn word keeps popping up when I read about films, music and literature. This is the key ingredient in popular entertainment the critics tell us. The Clash were lauded not for their song writing, record-crafting, musicianship or vocal ability, but rather their attitude — their defiance to the Corporate Music Machine and more for what they weren't than what they were.

"The Only Band That Matters," we were told. And, as it turned out, the Clash did make some damned good records. But we remember them because they were damned good records, not because they encapsulated the Zeitgeist or because they stuck it to The Man or for whatever reasons were being bandied about in those days.

Catchy drivel? Up! might be. So was Pachelbel's Canon in D. I'm happy to have them both at hand.

If you build it, they will hurl

I haven't posted anything on the proposed World Trade Center replacements, mostly because everything I know about architecture could be slipped into the corner of a thimble and still leave room for all my good romantic advice and the souls of half a dozen managers at 42nd and Treadmill.

And maybe it's just as well, since according to Nedward, architecture is so riven with jargon and nonsense that hardly anyone, to include its practitioners, understands it anymore:

The death and destruction of WWI caused a huge shift in Western values, specifically because science and technology was employed so successfully in the killing of a generation of men. In the decades after the war, the long-held idealized notion that technology would usher in peace and prosperity was dashed, and many of the prevailing assumptions in the arts were also vacated. It was in this void that the Modernists arrived — along with their avant garde aesthetics and their intent to social engineer.

So what has Modernism accomplished? Well, not much good. We've still got the rich and poor, yet we have ugly civic space. For instance, the original WTC was a wind-swept, anarchistic structure, cut off, and horribly out of scale from the surrounding streets and neighborhood. When you stood in the Plaza looking up at the structures, it was difficult to feel anything but dread. In fact, that seems to be a prevailing requirement of the Modernists — your building must impart DREAD. Unless, of course, you are one of the initiated. You have to be educated for seven years at MIT to understand the beauty of the Brutalist form.

There's a lot to be said for Mies and "Less is more," but sometimes less just isn't more. And while some contemporary buildings around town seem perhaps a trifle baroque, especially considering the age of said town (114 years doth not an eon make), entirely too many structures look like Stalinist housing for the proletariat. If that's the alternative, I want gargoyles, I want turrets, dammit.

The original twin lights to the heavens that were turned on in the wake of September 11th were far more inspiring, I think, than anything solid so far proposed for WTC replacements. I hope that those lights will inspire someone who can draw, and that the newest additions to the New York City skyline will not only stand tall, but sparkle.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:40 PM to Almost Yogurt )
17 February 2003
Minor but cherishable freedoms

It occurred to me after the fact that various groups hither and yon might have objected to yesterday's exercise of the hunter/gatherer function. Of course, your standard Wahhabist nitwit objects to my very existence on general principle, and he (it's almost always a he) certainly wouldn't look fondly upon pork loin piled high. (At least, he's not allowed to.) Representatives of the Nanny State would also complain, but from a different point of view (hey, my cholesterol is fine), and your local Vegan (and how are things on Vega these days?) might offer yet another. And the Daughters of Arianna, or whatever they're calling themselves these days, might object to the fact that I drove across a town and a half to procure this stuff, using up an incredible amount of fuel in the process. (I figure seventy-five cents' worth at the outside, but I suspect they're loath to trust my math.)

Still, this is Presidents' Day, and I'd like to thank the forty-three fellows who have filled that slot, from George to, well, George, for helping to make it possible for me to ignore all of the preceding.

Airflyte!

I know, you'd read Lileks anyway, but today he's got a lovely little piece that touches on the thoughts running nonstop through your head when you visit an unfamiliar church.

And what's more, he's got a gorgeous picture of a bathtub Nash, postwar automotive aerodynamics at its best. In its time, perhaps the finest highway cruiser we had, though in town it tended to be a handful, what with a fifty-foot turning circle because of the skirted front wheels. And we won't mention the infamous fold-down seats.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Blogorrhea )
The return of Studebaker

Well, sort of. Avanti Motors, which in various incarnations has been building the sequel to Studebaker's fabled Avanti sport coupe, has decided to resurrect the Stude marque for an Xtreme Utility Vehicle.

A preproduction XUV was unwrapped at the Chicago Auto Show last week; it's built on a Ford F-250 SuperDuty truck chassis, but it more closely resembles the Hummer H2. Too closely, says General Motors, which has filed suit, charging Avanti with trademark infringement. DaimlerChrysler, which isn't particularly fond of the H2's Jeep-imitation seven-slot grille, hasn't said a word yet.

No reports of any bullet-nose sedans in the works.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:18 AM to Driver's Seat )
The fine print

Did you ever see one of those "Free Mumia!" posters? Did you ever read the tiny little type at the very bottom?

Me either. But this is what it should say under "Free Mumia":

"Limit one Mumia per customer while supplies last at participating locations. State and local taxes extra."

(Obviously neither Frank J. nor Scott Ott have anything to worry about.)

(Update, 11 pm: For the last hour, I've been deleting and reinstating this piece, on the semi-questionable premise that while I know I've heard this jape before, or some variation thereof, or its application to some other jailbird — um, Incarcero-American — I can't place it to save my life, and I don't want to grab up somebody else's credit if I can help it. So I decided, finally, to leave it up and hope that someone will read it and identify the source.)

Well, they call it the streak

About one month into this Web thing, I was scratching around for topics — rather like now, as a matter of fact — and I decided to post something about one of my more ignoble distinctions: the fact that every year, I take a stab at predicting Playboy's Playmate of the Year, and every year, that stab catches some of my own flesh.

At the time, I'd made thirteen consecutive wrong guesses. Now it's nineteen. You'd think this would be the year, huh? Not on your tintype, Binky. My secret sources within the Mansion (yeah, right) have informed me that my twentieth annual pick is every bit as prescient as its predecessors, which is to say not at all.

I'm not going to be posting the official results until the actual PMOY issue (usually June) arrives, since I don't really know who the PMOY is — only who she isn't. I am, however, going to take some extra time this year to frown and pout and mutter and grumble. (Last year, I didn't start FPMG mode until the 27th of April. On this topic, anyway.)

(Aside to SWINTBN: As His Purpleness might say, "Nothing compares 2 U.")

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:26 PM to Blogorrhea )
18 February 2003
Fear of dead air

When there is breaking news — real breaking news, as distinguished from the parade of ephemera that is routinely pitched as such on television — the first commandment becomes "Get pictures!" And get pictures they will — even someone else's.

During Columbia's last mission, the first pictures came from WFAA-TV in Dallas, an ABC affiliate which has an agreement with CNN. When CNN went live with the story, they used WFAA's video. At a couple of points, so did Fox News, though Fox had no prior arrangement with WFAA. As an experiment, CNN sneaked a small logo into the far corner of the screen, and watched with bemusement as it appeared on the Fox monitor.

Is this actionable? Probably not. Satellite feeds are all over the place, and keeping them out of "unauthorized" hands is likely more trouble than it's worth. And cooperation is not unheard of: during the unfolding of 9/11, all the major networks agreed to share whatever they had. CNN, in fact, considers the Fox action during the Columbia disaster to fall within the bounds of fair use, but it would have been nice if they'd asked first.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:19 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Axis of Feebles

The lovely and talented Rachel Lucas offers the "definitive word on trolls and assclowns", and this is the bottom line thereof:

It's all quite simple and reasonable. If I wouldn't waste time on you at a real party because of your unpleasant personality, then I'm not going to do it here, either.

For myself, I have had no such problems up to now. The nature of trolls and assclowns is to desire the maximum exposure possible for their irritating drivel; this site actively thwarts their desire by going largely unread, thereby reducing exposure, and by containing a high percentage of irritating drivel itself, thereby reducing contrast.

Still, it's probably a good idea to have something resembling a policy on such matters, and when I get around to concocting one, it will probably look a lot like Rachel's.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:53 AM to Blogorrhea )
Typos of truth

A correction from Bleeding Brain:

I wrote that Democrats were failing to get their massage across.

I have corrected the error. After living through a Bill Clinton presidency, I no longer believe that Democrats have trouble getting out the massage.

Well, Clinton certainly rubbed me the wrong way, and I am reasonably certain that I am not alone in this, um, frictional state.

Caught in the devil's bargain

Those of us who have seen only the six-hour telecast (which is about 4:08 after you fast-forward through the commercials) from the Westminster Kennel Club show have no idea what goes on for the rest of the time, and if I'm reading Greg Hlatky correctly, we may not want to know:

Westminster is nice if you're an grand high AKC mucky-muck, a wealthy patron of the sport, an eminent judge, a member of the dog press or of the general public. If you're an exhibitor, it's hell. John Mandeville, in a quiz in Dog News, implies that for the exhibitor Westminster is only slightly better than the Bataan Death March. He's wrong: the Bataan Death March had nicer people supervising it.

And there was more room to stretch out, too:

THERE ARE JUST SIX RINGS for breed judging in the show area. Four are quite tiny. The other two are larger, but are rectangular instead of square. This is bad because the momentum of the dog and handler is broken when going around. The floor was covered in slick carpeting and I saw numerous dogs and handlers slipping and almost falling. If the benching area was hot, the ring area was even worse and hopelessly overcrowded to boot. Only for Variety Group competition does the space open up to what you see on TV. Otherwise it's much worse than at most show sites.

I once went to a show in Oklahoma City, with 14 (I think) rings, and it seemed crowded with only 2000 dogs. (And there's something disconcerting about the phrase "only 2000 dogs," if you ask me.) No carpeting, either; concrete and plasticky mats with a grooved pattern. And the only person who slipped was yours truly, but this was because I was being kneecapped by an exuberant Irish Wolfhound puppy the size of — and comparable in greenness to — the Incredible Hulk. The owner was profusely apologetic, and I wasn't injured, but it was a weird experience just the same.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:25 PM to Dyssynergy )
19 February 2003
It's some carnival, that Carnival 22

Almost live and indirect, it's the Carnival of the Vanities, episode twenty-two, emanating from the People's Republic of Seabrook, Texas, bringing you the finest bloggage from all over the civilized world. (I didn't check to see if there were any entries from France, but, well, write your own joke.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:06 AM to Blogorrhea )
The answer, my friend

Excerpting Lileks is rather like fixating on Marilyn Monroe a square inch at a time, but some things simply demand to be repeated, and this is one of them:

"It is time to think about human rights, not money," I heard one French protester say on the news. "War is not the answer to war." If it weren't for the autonomous nervous system, some of these people would die because they're too stupid to remember to breathe. War is always the answer to war if war is brought down upon you. Evil requires resistance. If a man in a crowd grabs your child from your arms, you do not wonder what brought him to this moment, or petition the city council for a resolution requiring him to hand over the skeletons of his previous victims. You stab him in the eyeball with your car keys.

'Nuff said.

Dreams on wheels

Back in 1999, Peter Michael DeLorenzo ran into a severe case of mixed emotions. He loved the auto industry, its passion for power and its delight in design. Simultaneously, he hated the auto industry for its failure to exercise any of that power to bring good designs to the showroom where you and I could get at them.

The way out of this dilemma was called Autoextremist.com. From his perch in a Detroit suburb, DeLorenzo issued Rant after blistering Rant about the industry's myriad failings and what could be done about them. Nobody admitted to reading DeLorenzo, but damned near everybody did.

And now that the industry is paying attention and reshaping itself into the sort of lean, mean driving machine the times demand, DaimlerChrysler asked itself "Why can't we get this guy working for us?" Turns out they could; DeLorenzo announced today he is taking a sabbatical from the site to shake up things in Dodgetown. (Now there's a reversal of form: giving up a Web site to take a day job.) There's more to Autoextremist.com than just Peter Michael DeLorenzo, and it will continue in his absence, but still, this is the sort of career move that a blogger could envy.

Now when is ABC going to replace Jimmy Kimmel with Scott Ott?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:49 AM to Driver's Seat )
Pennsylvania 6-5 million

If you thought area-code changes were fast and furious, you ain't seen nothin' yet. Three of the Baby Bells are complaining that voice-over-IP calling — where you send your voice as bits through the Net — will eat up the pool of available phone numbers even faster than cell phones and pagers and fax.

The most likely scenario, ten years down the pike: area codes grow to four digits, and telephone numbers to eight. We'll get used to it eventually, though I worry about how I'll explain "867-5309" to Jenny's children.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:09 PM to Dyssynergy )
20 February 2003
Cashing out

Singer/songwriter Johnny PayCheck (that's the way he was spelling it in recent years), bedridden with asthma and emphysema, has died. The former Donald Eugene Lytle built a reputation for hard drinkin' and hard livin'; he served two years in the Ohio pen for shooting a man in the head. PayCheck wrote many memorable songs, including the lovely "She's All I Got", but his major claim to fame is his Seventies working-class anthem "Take This Job and Shove It", which spawned a motion picture and a thrashing cover version by the Dead Kennedys. PayCheck was 64.

Federal Bureau of Imagination

Reason Magazine's weekly newsletter takes the FBI to task for its recent bobblings of the terrorism ball, and part of the problem, apparently, is that the Bureau is actually listening to persons in custody:

A captured terrorist has no conceivable interest in supplying the FBI with accurate information on future attacks. He does, however, have an interest in diverting resources from actual attack plots, scrambling security assets so his cohorts still in the field can observe how they operate, and inducing general panic via grand claims about a "dirty bomb" set to explode in New York or Washington.

A recommendation that all such claimants be polygraphed doesn't strike me as particularly useful — the limitations of the polygraph are fairly well established by now — but what is needed, it appears, is not so much the ability to verify a terrorist's claims as the ability to see why those claims are being made:

The terrorist views himself as a prisoner of war, and like many POWs, he will continue to look for ways to confound his enemies. The FBI needs to understand this very simple concept and break away from its bureaucratic inertia. A third false alert based on sketchy, untested claims should see FBI Director Robert Mueller and his deputies sacked and replaced with individuals committed to something other than ass-covering and empire-building.

Meanwhile, enjoy your Orange.

Crestfallen

Procter & Gamble, perhaps hoping to win some Brownie points from African Americans, announced that it would side with the University of Michigan in its battle to retain race-based affirmative-action programs in the face of White House opposition.

That was too much for one resident of P&G's home town of Cincinnati, who dispatched the following to the company:

Given your recently announced position regarding Michigan University and affirmative action I will no longer purchase P&G products. Your position is short sighted, self serving and, at this critical time in our country, a slap in the face to President Bush. Multi-culturalism and diversity are synonymous with mediocrity. That a company that owes [its] origins to a system of capitalism based on honest competition and the laws of the marketplace, your position is especially egregious. That you are headquartered in a city crippled by the same black activists your position apparently supports is doubly an insult.

I don't think Mr Bush has exactly put his Presidency on the line with his position in the Michigan affair, and it's not likely that he will view it as a slap, but P&G is basically trying to buy its way out of an unpleasant situation — and they have no idea how bad this bargain is going to be.

Undoing the cockfighting ban

State Senator Frank Shurden (D-Doublewide) has actually made some progress in getting around the provisions of the state's cockfighting ban. The Senate Appropriations Committee has passed Shurden's bill to reduce the penalties for participants to misdemeanor level. The bill now goes to the full Senate, where its future is uncertain.

The OkiePundit (if permalinks aren't working, go to 20 February) is not happy with this development:

The sheer arrogance of the Senators that voted to ignore the vote of the people is amazing, even by Oklahoma Legislature "standards".

Personally, I think the bill is DOA once it reaches the full Senate, and Governor Henry wouldn't sign it if it passed, but you can't be sure with the Oklahoma legislature; sometimes they seem to be motivated by pure petulance.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:12 AM to Soonerland )
21 February 2003
She's a doll

Guys of a certain age and/or a certain mindset have no use for Barbie, except as part of a punchline. "But Daddy, she's so popular!" "Popular? How so? Every friend she has, you have to buy for her!" We don't really relate to Barbie: we pop open a Foster's and throw a couple of shrimp her way, and that's that.

So I'm naturally mystified when a Barbie Collectibles catalog shows up at my mailbox. I think, "Well, yeah, those old dolls with their period outfits, they probably bring a few bucks these days." But I don't throw it away, and after a couple of days I work up the nerve to see what all is being offered.

And holy mother of pearl, will you look at this stuff! Serene enough for Merchant-Ivory, hotter than Beyoncé, seemingly every conceivable fashion idiom of the last thousand years clings to that 39-21-40 shape. And while the cynical side of me thinks, "Yeah, this is a way to get someone to pay ninety-five bucks for a doll, fercrissake," I have a sneaking suspicion that outfitting a workaday Barbie for a seven-year-old girl probably isn't any less expensive.

Maybe I ought to get the Lady Camille. "Champagne-colored jacquard, lace-trimmed chiffon and strands of faux pearls envelope this dainty figure in the absolute splendor of [the Neoclassical] period of art." Okay, she just stands there. But she's got The Look, and I don't argue with The Look. Not now, not ever. I don't care if it's Mattel; it's swell.

Shoulda used the drive-thru

The robbery at BancFirst's Expressway branch in McAlester was fairly uneventful, as robberies go. The bank staff was clever enough to switch bags, and the thief walked away with nothing.

Slowly.

Police arrested Kenneth Ray Dean in the parking lot between the bank and a restaurant in a matter of moments. Dean is 71 and walks with a cane. Of course, bank employees had no way of knowing the cane wasn't loaded.

Doc, it hurts when I say this

"Don't say that."

There are 48 words/phrases/bits of vernacular shorthand that are not to be used within earshot of the Jodiverse.

(Actually, there are rather more than that, but let's take them a few at a time, shall we?)

(By way of Cyberangel, who has been known to utter a few of them herself.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:39 PM to Blogorrhea )
Color scheming

Not that anyone notices these things, but I have given a general facelift to the items in The Vent. This makes the fourth redesign of these pages since Day One (today is something like Day 2,509), and I hasten to point out that it does not hint at a future redesign for the blog.

Not much, anyway.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:55 PM to Blogorrhea )
50 ways to look quite stupid

Well, actually, Jane Galt mentions only thirteen, but every single one has been used, perhaps even abused, either in her Comments boxes or in her incoming email, and there are good reasons to eschew them:

Sending off bile-laden missives to your political opponents poisons discourse, makes you look like a jerk, and gives them the evidence they're looking for that your side is just a bunch of evil, potty-mouthed fanatics who haven't had a new idea since the Jurassic.

This phenomenon, incidentally, is not restricted to one side of the political aisle, either:

[T]here is no idiocy on the left, except the worship of Stalin, that is not mirrored on the right.

I, of course, strive mightily to preserve idiocy in the center.

(Update, 9:30 pm: Make that 51 ways. You've heard of forgetting to close a link? It's also possible to forget to open one. Sheesh.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:23 PM to Blogorrhea )
22 February 2003
The return of KOCY

Tyler Broadcasting, this radio market's most avid rim-shooter, is exhuming another set of call letters from years gone by. The new KOCY (1560) supersedes the old KWCO in Chickasha, which, once the FCC signs the papers, will be moving to Del City. KWCO-FM (105.5) remains behind, probably because there's no practical way to sandwich it between existing 105.3 and 105.7 facilities. What will be programmed on the new KOCY? Nobody's saying yet.

This is the third call to be reborn in the Oklahoma City market in recent years. KKNG, now designating Tyler's classic-country station at 93.3, used to be a beautiful-music-turned-adult-contemporary station at 92.5 (now KOMA-FM). And KEBC (1340, former home of, yes, KOCY) used to (per the slogan, anyway) stand for "Keep Every Body Country" when it was used for a country station owned by (yes!) Tyler. Plus ça change and all that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:02 AM to Overmodulation )
In the Hundred-Acre Courtroom

Arguably no corporation screams so loudly about the rights of intellectual-property owners as The Walt Disney Company, which is why it is so delicious to see them embroiled in a suit over royalties.

Shirley Slesinger Lasswell and daughter Patricia Slesinger inherited the merchandising rights to A. A. Milne's Winnie-the-Pooh character. They licensed the characters to Disney many years ago. While Disney pays the bills for stuffed plush and apparel and such, they've never paid any royalties for Pooh videos, computer games and software, on the basis that these items were not specifically mentioned in the Disney-Slesinger contract.

Having been caught once myself by this sort of argument, I suppose I should feel some sympathy for the Mouse House, but at some point in the proceedings, somebody at Disney actually tossed out a bunch of pertinent legal documents, following which the company moved to block the jury from hearing about it. The California Supreme Court has now rejected that motion.

Disney, as a matter of course, doesn't much like paying for things. You may remember their last animated feature, Treasure Planet. (Actually, you probably don't; it was a box-office disaster.) Basically, it's Robert Louis Stevenson in space, just one more Disney effort to wangle something copyrightable out of public-domain material. But God forbid it should ever go in the other direction.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:34 AM to Almost Yogurt )
One hand clutching the top of the drain

The San Francisco Examiner has "repositioned" itself as a free daily newspaper, and will be distributed only through stores and racks; there will be no more home delivery. This move is widely seen as the last attempt to keep the Examiner alive before it's either folded into the thrice-weekly Independent, also owned by the Fang family, or killed off entirely.

I suspect Daily Pundit Bill Quick will shrug this off, figuring the rival Chronicle, whose columnists and letter-writers are regular targets of his wrath, can't possibly get any worse.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:37 AM to Dyssynergy )
It was forty years ago today

Over at Fragments from Floyd, Fred remembers the pop music of 1963 and how — and, perhaps more important, why — it's stayed with him all these years.

It's still a presence in my corner of the world also, but while wondrous things were going on in pop — Spector's Wall of Sound was at its highest and thickest, the Beach Boys were fusing group harmony to Chuck Berry licks, girl groups were everywhere, and Motown was reinventing R&B — I've always felt that one of the biggest musical stories of 1963 was the one that didn't happen at all.

And just what the hell is that supposed to mean? The answer is in this week's neatly-combed edition of The Vent.

Green light at the Grammys

CBS Television has announced that they won't be pulling the plug if someone on stage at the Grammy Awards, as expected, launches into some sort of antiwar speech.

Set the Wayback machine to 3 April 1978 at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles for the 50th Academy Awards. Vanessa Redgrave has just been handed the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for Julia. She thanked the people you'd expect her to thank, and then suddenly launched into this:

"I think you should be very proud that in the last few weeks you've stood firm and you have refused to be intimidated by the threats of a small bunch of Zionist hoodlums...whose behavior is an insult to the stature of Jews all over the world and to their great and heroic record of struggle against fascism and oppression."

Producer (and Academy president) Howard W. Koch groaned. Protesters burned Redgrave in effigy outside the theatre. The last word, though, was had by Paddy Chayefsky, who would present the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay to the (as always) absent Woody Allen for Annie Hall. (Cowriter Marshall Brickman would accept the statue.) But first, Chayefsky said this:

"I'm sick and tired of people exploiting the occasion of the Academy Awards for the propagation of their own personal political propaganda....A simple 'Thank you' would have sufficed."

The applause was deafening.

This Sunday, with CBS taking a hands-off approach, it seems almost certain there will be a rehash of Redgrave-ish rhetoric. The only question is whether there will also be someone as mad as hell who's not going to take this anymore.

Besides you or me, I mean.

23 February 2003
BFD

There is a dubious tradition of referring to action movies by some sort of abbreviation: Men in Black was truncated to MIB, Independence Day somehow became ID4 (if the Declaration had been signed on the 23rd, it just wouldn't be the same), and the second X-Men feature, for which Rebecca Romijn-Stamos has only just now scraped off all that blue stuff, is already being referred to as X2.

Knowing all this, I was still caught off-guard by Fox's film version of Alan Moore's graphic novel The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, which, for the purpose of marketing to the adolescent boys (ages 11 through, oh, 49 or so) who will want to see it, will be advertised as LXG.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:59 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Sideways approach

Last time we heard from Rep. Leonard Sullivan (R-Oklahoma City), he was complaining about the North Canadian River: "I can't see any good reason for Canada to get all of that publicity," he said as he moved to rename the waterway the Oklahoma River.

I didn't think much of that scheme, but to give the guy credit, at least he's thinking outside the box. Sullivan came up with a notion this week to tie starting teacher pay (now $27,060 per year) to legislative salaries ($38,400 per year, plus travel expenses and whatnot). "I guarantee you," he said, "that Oklahoma teachers would be paid better if their salaries were tied to the compensation of state legislators." Of course, what Sullivan was proposing in these thrifty times wasn't a big raise for teachers, but a big cut for legislators.

Sullivan's resolution never made it out of committee (duh), but I have a feeling it may be back next session. By then, teachers will have put in at least nine months of work, and legislators possibly as much as five.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:06 AM to Soonerland )
Not to be confused with post-premillennial

Legal Bean Dennis Rogers seeks a return to pre-postmodernism.

Uh, say what?

[W]hereas a postmodernist liberal would attempt to achieve equality by admonishing all types of "superiority thinking" or "hierarchical thinking" and embracing a fragmented view of reality that negates the concepts of worth and meaning, pre-postmodern, conservative thinking, embraces equality as a moral good, thus rejecting the idea of moral equivalence.

Whence these fragments?

...the postmodern embrace of a destructured, decentered reality as an embrace of "fragmentation." This belief in a fragmented reality is the foundation for multi-culturalism — a belief that no one culture is better or superior, worse or inferior, to another. What a great world eh?

Lefty postmodernists philosophically embrace the idea of fragmentation, incoherence and meaningless of human institutions for a particular purpose — to achieve equality — race equality, gender equality, religious equality, etc.

Gotcha. I think. Although I think it might be simpler — or at least more simplistic, which is not quite the same thing — than that: the Left posits that there are the oppressed, and there are the oppressors, and your personal membership depends upon whether you can be identified as a member of an Officially Oppressed Group. As a practical matter, this means almost anyone other than a white male of European descent. (Exceptions are made for political purposes; for instance, Condoleezza Rice, PhD, currently the National Security Advisor to the President, is grouped with the Oppressors despite being unwhite, unmale and unEuropean, because she doesn't accept the definitions imposed by the Left.)

Of course, in real life, what they seek is not equality: it is equivalence. If the Oppressors make, say, $40,000 a year per capita, then the government must impose a means of providing $40,000 a year per capita for the Oppressed.

No one with any knowledge of history denies that once there was a horrible creature named Jim Crow whose intentions were not at all egalitarian. There is, I think, a place for adjustments here and tweaking there, to compensate for those times when the laws themselves were biased. But the spirit of true equality demands that there be some limit on those adjustments. Should they become permanent, become part of the law, they revive Jim Crow; they merely tilt his beak toward a different set of targets.

I believe the Bean would agree on this point.

Time compression factor 1440:1

At first, Donna reports, she was disappointed, but finally it dawned on her:

[T]hen I realized how unnecessary it is for me to see a movie called How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days since I can lose one in 10 minutes.

Maybe that should be the sequel. (I can see the ads now: "Got a couple of hours? Lose a dozen guys!")

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:23 PM to Table for One )
24 February 2003
Saturday night at the Equinox

Old Man Winter had been drinking. And between drinks, he was scowling at passersby and making notes on a three-by-five card, mumbling things I probably didn't want to hear and generally acting like a man who'd gone too long without a vacation.

I surmised that this wasn't the place to be, and I was halfway to the door when he spotted me. "So how'd you like that nor'easter?" he said.

I shrugged. "Wasn't there." Short, sweet, no details. Better that way.

But he wasn't giving up so easily. "Where you from, boy?"

I knew what was coming. "Saskatchewan, sir."

"Don't lie to me, boy," he growled. He looked at his card, looked at me, looked at his card again. "I know you. You run that damn stupid blerg, or whatever it's called. The one about the fruity pizzas." He spotted the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue at my side. "Well, Crustberries, or whatever your name is, since you're so goddamn anxious for spring, how'd you like a week in the deep freeze?"

"It is an honor I dream not of," I said truthfully.

"Spare me the cross-cultural references, Juliet. Get your fat ass home and get the snow shovel out of storage."

That was Saturday night. Sunday morning, right on schedule, the temperature dropped below freezing. It is not expected to recover until Thursday at the earliest.

Remind me to quit talking to this guy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:28 AM to Weather or Not )
The conscience of blogdom

You know these folks. There's Steven, the analyst; Charles, the front-line reporter; Jane, the chief financial officer; Glenn, the head of distribution; Laurence, who is, well, Laurence. And there are plenty of others who've earned their place on the first team.

And then there's Susanna Cornett, who over the past year has become the unofficial conscience of the Blogosphere, the still, small voice who pipes up to remind us that some things are more than simply inexpedient: they are wrong, and there's a reason why.

Today we celebrate one year of Susanna's cut on the bias. And if you're wondering just what kind of person she is, well, as that Lee Ann Womack record says, "Give the heavens above more than just a passing glance/And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance/I hope you dance."

Susanna dances. She always has. And she always will.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:34 AM to Blogorrhea )
Who you gonna call? Bridgebusters!

Back around 1928, people say, a woman driving between Wilson and Schulter missed the approach to a brand-new bridge and plunged into Montezuma Creek — and if you stand on that bridge late tonight, you can still hear her baby crying.

Is it true? I don't know. They did supposedly fish a car out of the creek, and a woman's body was recovered, but they never did find the baby. And there's not a whole lot of time left to go standing on Crybaby Bridge, because it's way short of modern-day road standards and is scheduled for demolition this spring, in a classic case of "If you don't do this now, you'll lose your funding for the new bridge."

Actually, the county did look for someone to buy the bridge and move it, but there were no takers. The $660,000 tab for replacement includes straightening out that treacherous road, but no money for ghost relocation — perhaps ironic, given this state's reported fondness for ghost employees.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:46 PM to Soonerland )
A little traveling music, Sergei

It's somewhere between Then and Now, though closer to Then, and I'm in the sort of record store we don't have anymore, the sort where John Cusack and Jack Black are running things. And I've just made some unfortunate comment about ordering some classical item by mail, which should give you some idea about how long ago this was.

"Why do that? We can get you anything in Schwann," said Cusack.

Well, okay, that sounded like an offer, and I have to admit I was sort of skeptical; I mean, these guys were specialists, and classical music wasn't their specialty — as close as they got, so far as I knew, was that vaguely-Wagnerian noise from Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. Still, throwing business to your friends is the American way, and so I decided to give them the order: the 3-LP box (circa 1975) of Vladimir Ashkenazy's recordings of the Prokofiev piano concerti (London CSA 2314) with André Previn conducting the LSO.

John was as good as his word, and he called me the next weekend to let me know the set had arrived. I didn't even razz him for mispronouncing "Prokofiev". (A weekend or two later, I stumbled over "Penderecki", which surely proves something.) And I played these things endlessly; in fact, in 1982, I peeled off ten bucks more for a cassette copy of the Third and the Fourth from this very set so I could schlep it along in the car. (I didn't get around to buying a really good tape deck until the following year.)

I still have that tape; it squeaks a bit during fast-wind, which suggests that it's probably not long for this world, but twenty-one years isn't at all bad for a commercial-grade (read: cheap) cassette, and it still sounds pretty decent — though not as good as the CD reissue (London 452 588-2, two CDs), which showed up at my doorstep this weekend. It's not ideally configured, what with my two favorites on two different discs, but I can live with it.

25 February 2003
Greenwood brings out the big guns

Johnnie Cochran and Dennis Sweet are heading up the legal team for the Tulsa Reparations Council, a group which is seeking damages from the city of Tulsa and the state of Oklahoma in compensation for the 1921 race riot in Tulsa's Greenwood neighborhood.

Among other things, the suit claims that Tulsa police and the Oklahoma National Guard used violence to put down what was perceived as a "negro uprising" in Greenwood, and that afterwards, Tulsa city government reworked its zoning laws to discourage people from rebuilding in the area. State law limits liability in matters of this sort; the suit seeks to have that provision stricken from the books.

The Tulsa Race Riot Commission, which examined this matter in detail a few years ago, issued a recommendation which supported many of the suit's allegations and urged the payment of restitution to survivors of the incident. (The number of survivors is estimated at a bit over 100.) No payments of this sort have been made, though the legislature passed measures in 2001 to improve the neighborhood and provide scholarship money for descendants of survivors.

Government officials in general have yet to comment on the suit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Soonerland )
Tread on you

This one ought to be good for a sneer or two:

Consider this startling fact: the SUV is the only reason the United States has been unable to comply with the Kyoto Accord on air pollution.

The only "startling" thing about this statement is that some people, including Ted Rall, actually think it is a fact. It's not. And whether you think the Kyoto protocols are a good thing or not — I don't — horsepuckey like this does not advance the cause of the Greens, unless that cause is defined as "increasing population density by making the population dense."

Then again, I don't need to rail against Rall. That's Michele's job.

Neutron dance

Bleeding Brain proposes some timely adjustments to the periodic table. Francium, a nasty reactive (and radioactive) metal, should be renamed; the proffered suggestion is "Britanium". Double the T (Rule, Brittanium!), and I'll go along with it. (Otherwise people might think you're naming it for Britney Spears, and her area of expertise isn't chemistry, but semiconductor physics.)

Further recommended is the renaming of Europium for "the first astronomer who discovers intelligent life forms in France." This could take a while.

I demur, however, when it comes to the renaming of Berkelium. I have no particular reason to want to commemorate Berkeley, but BB's suggested name — "Blogium" — duplicates an existing element.

That element, of course, is Boron.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Dyssynergy )
We've had our Phil

It's official: Phil Donahue's MSNBC show is toast.

And stale toast, at that.

(Update, 7:40 pm: John Bono has posted the name of the winner in the Donahue Show Death Watch. No, 'twasn't I.)

26 February 2003
Bland in the bleachers

I gripe a lot about local radio, but the fact is, all 15 of my automotive presets (five AM, ten FM) are filled, and usually there's a reason for each and every one of them: I normally don't have much use for talker WKY, but they've been carrying the games of the Oklahoma RedHawks baseball club, so they get a button. (Of course, I'll be at The Brick when the Albuquerque Isotopes come to town.)

It's hard to think about baseball, though, when the third batch of freezing drizzle in four days is descending upon you; it's a whole different type of slider.

Carnival letter #23

And not a strawberry in the bunch. This week's Carnival of the Vanities is hosted by Kesher Talk, and once again, if you miss out, the management cannot be held responsible for your failure to keep up with the Best of the Blogs. And it should be even better this week; I'm not in it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:13 AM to Blogorrhea )
It's all about the Valvoline

Dean Esmay neatly disposes of those "No War For Oil" drones:

[I]f Bush and Cheney were really cynical, selfish shills to the oil companies, they'd do two things: 1) Help Saddam set his oil fields on fire, and 2) piss on the Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's shoes and dare him to cut oil production. If they wanted their Texas good old boy pals to get richer, and to make themselves more popular with union workers in that industry, that's exactly what they'd do.

I need hardly point out that neither of these things has been done.

Even if you don't buy the Administration's insistence that Iraqi oil belongs to the Iraqi people, you still have to deal with the law of supply and demand: if we were to seize the oil fields on behalf of the US, the sudden increase in supply would send crude prices plummeting — hardly a desirable outcome for your stereotypical Texas petrobarons.

Eye, meet sharp stick

It's called, yes, "The United White Persons College Fund," and Texas Tech senior Matthew Coday wants to draw a lawsuit — or at the very least, draw attention. And he sounds like he means business:

I would just dare anyone to take me to court and try to have our organization declared discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.

And what about the obvious model, the United Negro College Fund?

I would love to see organizations like the United Negro College Fund disbanded.

John Rosenberg comments:

The Fourth Circuit has held that race-exclusive scholarships are unconstitutional (Podberesky v. Kirwan, 38 F.3d 147 (4th Cir. 1994), cert. denied 115 S. Ct. 2001 (1995)), at least at public institutions. Private organizations such as the United Negro College Fund and the Bill Gates Foundation are allowed wider latitude to engage in discrimination, but I find it curious that, so far as I know, there have been no serious efforts to attack their tax-exempt status on the same grounds that were used to take away the tax exemption from Bob Jones University, i.e., that racial discrimination violates "public policy."

Well, we shall see how "serious" Coday is. Given the current flap over the University of Michigan's affirmative-action policy, Coday's announcement might end up sliding under the radar for a while, which would run counter to his apparent desire to jump-start a debate. Besides, a lawsuit is a terrible thing to waste.

(Originally from The Chronicle of Higher Education [requires subscription])

Got to roll me

What album is at the very center of your existence?

David "Clubbeaux" Sims (that still sounds incredibly cool) makes the case for Exile on Main Street.

And pretty damned convincingly, too.

27 February 2003
Malpractice makes malperfect

Doctors on strike? Not here, not yet. Still, Donald Palmisano, MD, president-elect of the American Medical Association, brought his traveling show to Oklahoma City yesterday. About 600 physicians showed up at the Capitol to protest the current legal climate, "strewn with frivolous lawsuits and exorbitant jury judgments," which has caused malpractice premiums to skyrocket in recent years.

Dr Palmisano's state-level counterpart, Dr Jack Beller, called for immediate action:

We are beginning to see things happen in Oklahoma that have happened in other states and we must convince our Legislature that if nothing is done this session, dire results of an out-of-control medical liability system may happen here.

By no particular coincidence, a bill is before the Legislature to cap pain and suffering awards at $250,000 and limit contigency fees for trial lawyers.

And speaking of trial lawyers, the executive director of the Oklahoma Trial Lawyers Association was on hand to challenge the doctors:

As insurance companies try to make up for revenues lost through bad investments, they have increased their practice of denying claims and denying necessary medical procedures, and they've worked harder to defend bad doctors. These actions drive up the cost of litigation.

The most telling comment, though, came from an Edmond physician:

There's certainly a cost in the United States to our 'always-blaming-someone' society.

Not just in dollars, either. I do not understand the mindset that believes medicine to be somehow equivalent to automotive mechanics, that any problem can be fixed if you replace enough parts.

On the other hand, I suspect that a substantial number of malpractice suits are brought by the same people who ruin their cars because they won't spend $75 for diagnostics when the little warning light comes on.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to Soonerland )
It's a terrible day in the neigborhood

Fred Rogers, always "Mister Rogers" to your kids and mine, lost his battle with stomach cancer this morning. He was 74 years old; his PBS series had run for thirty-two years.

I'll miss the guy. He was one of the few hosts on children's TV who wasn't trying to sell action figures and snacks.

(Update, 1:20 pm: Weetabix, as always, says it beautifully.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Enough with the ice already

After five days in the deep freeze, five days in which every conceivable form of ice except Italian and Vanilla has descended upon the city, I have decided that it is pointless to pay any further attention to the Weather Guys with their splashy graphics and their high-zoot equipment and their unctuous manner. I am weary of arcane jargon like "advection" and so-called "seven-day" forecasts which are revised and edited and revised again within seven hours. All I want to know is this:

When is this crap going to let up?

Until they can answer this simple question with some semblance of precision, I suggest they sit down, preferably off-camera, and enjoy a nice cup of STFU.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:55 AM to Weather or Not )
Scratching a niche

Asked "What separates your page from the pack?" by the ever-reliable John Hawkins, Tim Blair answers:

I'm filling an overlooked market niche: the bitter, personal, unfunny blog.

It's a nasty job, but somebody has to do it. (Though I thought I was.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:05 PM to Blogorrhea )
28 February 2003
Obligatory Lileks reference

As required under the provisions of Article II, Section 2-B of the Blogger Convention (revised '03), here is a spiffy Lileks riff on "What if Saddam Hussein had appeared, not on 60 Minutes II, but on American Idol?"

Simon...would cut him to shreds: "first, lose the moustache; we're not shooting a porno movie and it's not 1979. Second, I don't believe your gestures. I believe you believe them, but that hardly counts. I don't hear passion. I don't hear hate. I sense hate, but I don't feel hate."

Jeebus, I wish I could do that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:10 AM to Almost Yogurt )
One extra order of wings, please

Mean Mr. Mustard reports that PETA's chicken farm-equals-Auschwitz promotion is old news, that PETA's spokesvegetable Ingrid Newkirk has been harping on this notion for years. He cites an incident on Dennis Prager's talk show on KABC, Los Angeles, before Prager went national:

[O]ne of the things [Newkirk] mentioned again and again was the fact that our yearly killing of a few billion chickens was no different than the 6 million Jews that died in the Holocaust. She cheerfully reiterated this point until Prager pursued a line of questioning that asked if she thought it was murder to kill a mosquito on your arm and if she would herself would holocaustify any insect that displayed designs on her veins. She stalled for a while, and when Prager made it clear he wasn't going to relent, Newkirk became huffy, claimed it was an unfair question and hung up.

I figure PETA is probably only two fund-raisers away from a campaign to improve the public image of Escherichia coli, which is routinely bad-mouthed by government health officials and other misguided souls.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:46 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Cast your dreams to the wind

Former videogame power Sega, having abandoned its Dreamcast console, was getting ready to sell itself to pinball manufacturer Sammy. But now Sega may have a couple of other suitors waiting in the wings: Electronic Arts, current videogame power, and Microsoft, current videogame wannabe.

There is reason to think Sega might prefer EA over Microsoft. Presumably, were Microsoft to take over, Sega would become a provider of Xbox games only; EA provides games for multiple platforms, and an EA-controlled Sega would likely follow suit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:50 AM to PEBKAC )
No one will be watching us

Still not good enough a reason to do it in the road.

(Via DiVERSiONZ)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:24 AM to Dyssynergy )
I got your omen right here, pal

A couple of weeks ago, it was speculated in some circles (yes, even here) that Salon might not make it past the end of February.

Are they counting the hours themselves? Looks like it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:19 PM to Dyssynergy )
Off track

Governor Henry still wants a state lottery, but it won't be this year he gets it, which suggests that maybe the operators of legal gambling in the state — non-commercial (yeah, right) bingo, Indian gaming, and horse racing — are breathing a little easier for now.

Remington Park in northeast Oklahoma City has had a couple of rough years, and I was wondering if perhaps, at least in this market, thoroughbred (and occasionally quarter-horse) racing had, um, run its course. Not necessarily, seethes Jo:

[H]orse racing isn't fading simply because its heyday is over. It's a myth and lie state government would love you to believe, but the fact is simple: horse racing has been slowly suffocated by the hands of state government, eager to make a quick buck on state gambling. There is no knowledge needed to buy a scratch-off, powerball is a guessing game. No need to pick up a program or the Form, no effort since you can buy state lottery tickets at 7-11. It is the ultimate in gambling convenience.

Hmmm. Of course, in Oklahoma they bet on fighting chickens (or did until last November), which falls somewhere between racing and the lotto in terms of brainpower required.

And I think at least some of Powerball's appeal stems from the fact that once in a blue moon, a truly enormous payout goes to someone who kicked in a mere handful of bucks. At the track, if you put a C-note on a hundred-to-one shot that comes home, you're handed a mere ten grand (before taxes). If I were going to shoot for the $2 million it would take for me to retire (1) instantly (2) in indecent comfort, I'd never make it at the races, and the fact that the odds are astronomical against making it from the state lottery (even if we had one, which, I remind you, we don't) doesn't seem to make any impression on me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:18 PM to Soonerland )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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