1 August 2003
The grief process

Thanks to everyone who offered kind words while I wrestled with the reality of my sister's death. I've put together a few thoughts, though I've decided that they would fit better in the Vent area than here; you can read them at Vent #351.

I'm all right. A little tearful, maybe, and filled with the sort of regret that comes with knowing that none of us were there for her last moments (no greater fear have I than to die alone, unnoticed and unmourned), but I'm all right.

And to correct the earlier item: apparently some sort of service was held after all.

Not available

As everyone knows by now, the RIAA has declared a jihad on people who swap music files, and regardless of my opinion of the premise that customers who buy "intellectual property" don't quite own it, this particular offensive strikes me as so clueless, so ill-advised, so devoid of common sense, so violently opposed to building a bridge to what's left of the RIAA's customer base, that I really don't understand why Terry McAuliffe isn't getting paid some sort of royalties for it.

Another wrinkle now suggests itself, and the suggestion arises from this single line at Fly Over Country:

I mainly used Kazaa to search for live U2 stuff.

Live U2 stuff being generally unreleased (we used to call such things "bootlegs"), there's no possible way the record company is losing any revenue off this kind of material. Therefore, I must assume, any RIAA efforts to stomp out distribution of same far exceed whatever dubious legitimacy the DMCA has conferred upon the jihad — unless, of course, they have a note from Bono.

(This reasoning would not, of course, apply to material that has been released but has been locked up in the vaults, such as the Cameo-Parkway catalog; the company's ownership of that material is not in doubt.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:32 PM to Fileophile )
A World of its own

I've seldom found any need to link to anything in the Tulsa World, and that's a good thing, since I can't, as Bruce explains:

I can access regurgitated AP stories on the Tulsa World website. But I can get them other places as well. Any content that might be unique to the Tulsa World website is down in the Cul de Sac where my stingy little self will dare not tread. More importantly I cannot LINK to any of the stories or opinions that are posted on the Tulsa World website because any reader from other places besides Tulsa will find the Member's Only sign flashed before their eyes. In essence this creates a black hole of news about Tulsa to the outside world. Do I really need to explain why this is bad?

In brief: tulsaworld.com is free to actual newspaper subscribers, $45 a year to the rest of the world. I will be indeed surprised if more than a handful of people have actually paid for site access.

I don't get too worked up over newspaper-site registration — I signed up for NewsOK.com (The Daily Oklahoman's joint venture with KWTV) because I don't have time to read the dead-tree edition, for the Star Tribune to read Lileks' Backfence column, for The New York Times because sometimes I need to follow up a news link, and for dallasnews.com because every once in a while I need something from the archives and they can generally fetch it on the first try — but $45 a year seems a bit stiff, especially since there are much more specialized databases on the Web which don't cost so much. Still, there aren't many alternatives in T-town: Tulsa Today suffers from hideous design, spastic writing and an erratic schedule, and the suburban papers offer even less.

Griffin Communications, which owns KWTV, also owns Tulsa's KOTV. Bruce doesn't like them either. A perfunctory look at their site suggests that there might be good reasons not to like them; for my part, I distrust any site that gives Fahrenheit temperatures to the first decimal place, like 98.4, as though the reading were obtained from a rectal thermometer. I defer to Tulsa residents on the question of where said thermometer might be inserted.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:48 PM to Soonerland )
2 August 2003
A thesaurus of spam

My POP3 mail client (yes, the dreaded Outlook Express) is set to render all HTML mail as plain text, mainly because, well, I hate HTML mail; if you've got something to say to me, you don't need to tart it up with background graphics and font combinations worthy of a ransom note. What's more, those cute little Web bugs that often come with it, externally-loaded graphics that, by mere dint of having been loaded, verify one's email address for the sake of spammers, get swatted at the very lowest level.

Sometimes, once the formatting is swept away, what's left is almost amusing. The following blank verse is the plain text that remained from an HTML-based spam sent to this address from 218.70.10.150, a verified spam source:

maturing explodes tenfold ex pong tending accumulator temporal tardy ideologically polopony mill hopscotch bart bechtel evermore sardine sands poem sciences tactics accruing sanest temperamental tempters crawls acquits bp bessemer courteously $RANDOMIZE sculptures aaron bounced hydraulic tempera expenditures abe medals mileage secede bluegrass creedal excitingly tautness tangential aerobacter memory algerian covenants admitting exclude matriarch hourglass exciting crested thatches pose teetotal housebreak exits $RANDOMIZE evenly bessemer courageous alfred hyperboloidal algiers adrenal babylonian horribleness hothouse megohm scribbles telephoning poignant hubbub bores ben tended breadboard plume plop

talents counter adjective immediate corrode boarder mechanize please cortical accusatory portage eukaryote maverick bombard scarce evince scraggly bluet polishing adsorbed bernadine tautological tact talkativeness bondholder mattock creases expounded evicting pouted $RANDOMIZE tastelessly tantalizingly boomerang creekside playgrounds exclaims migrates exercisers ainu tearful blur evidences pleasures practiced berwick plunderer boors evocation housing pol imaginings couches seaside bart achromatic mazes plumbed adjured savvy breakfasted $RANDOMIZE bluff creativeness terminally blurred hourly booty theatricals arab bottomed temporal tat illinois possibilities screams county scribbles boilerplate meadowsweet technologies imitates metaphysical

In the HTML version, you'd see none of these words; they appear in white on a white background, and what you get on top of them is a referral to www.365pharm1.com, a distributor of a Viagra knockoff, whose domain registration traces back to China.

And really, if those hourly booty theatricals were truly arab bottomed, it's no wonder they were terminally blurred.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:21 AM to Scams and Spams )
Where all roads are toll roads

If you think my World Tour is a bit limited in its scope, wait until you see Tom Daschle's.

(And how, I'd like to know, does one focus a motor trip around the issue of health care?)

(Update, 9:45 am: The Emperor has cast Imperial aspersions upon Daschle's trip and blog. Hilarity ensues.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:16 AM to Blogorrhea )
Small surprises

A few bomb bits of the bizarre that have crossed my path since my return to the Same Old Place:

  • Apparently I didn't burn up my brake pads during my largely-vertical traversal of the Appalachians; the Mazda store, happy to get me in for the 24,000-mile service less than 2000 miles late — of course, I got the 21k service 400 miles early, five weeks beforehand — informed me that I still had about half the original surface left. What's more, they also told me that the power-steering flush they routinely pitch at this mileage would be superfluous, and that they would not attempt to talk me into it. I attribute this to the following: (1) I'm a steady customer who takes care of his vehicle, and (2) they anticipate they'll make a ton of money at 30,000.

  • I got a query from a reader regarding a late-period (that is to say, from their stint with Reprise Records) Fugs recording. I responded, and he came back with a shocker: he had first put his question to the eminent musicologist/ purveyor of wacky wax Dr. Demento, and the good Doctor had referred him to — me. This is a degree of egoboo with which I am mostly unfamiliar; it's kind of like having a Linux driver you wrote for some obscure peripheral being blessed by Linus Torvalds himself. (On the other hand, at least one Playboy Playmate drops by here sort of regularly, and I know why, but it's still a shock, considering the unlikelihood of ever meeting one in real life.)

  • The banking business evidently has gotten competitive enough that fees are actually coming down; the place where I bank is no longer charging me for online bill-paying, saving me $59 a year (over and above the $90 or so I was saving by not buying stamps), and they didn't tack on a further charge beyond the buck and a half I had to fork over to an ATM in Cockeysville, Maryland for a cash withdrawal from my oft-beleaguered checking account.

It may be well to remember that there exists randomness in life, sometimes enough to make things suck less than usual.

A second opinion

The World Tour is over, but that doesn't mean it's going away quietly.

Last Sunday, you'll remember, I wrote about landing in Delaware and meeting up with Fritz Schranck. Now as a general rule, I don't go out of my way to make myself look like an idiot — sometimes, it just comes naturally — so I didn't go into a whole lot of detail regarding my failure to negotiate the foibles of the First State; if you want the really gory details, well, you'll have to go to Fritz.

Maybe I need a "warts and all" category.

Gibleting idiots

Martin Brest is the man behind Gigli — he directed it from his own script — but so far as I can discern from all the negative buzz, the spiritual father of this film is Arthur Carlson, station manager at Cincinnati radio station WKRP. "As God is my witness," said Brest, evidently channeling Carlson, "I thought this turkey would fly."

Turkeys play a role in the film, or at least in its dialogue, being the central image in the least-convincing sexual come-on since — well, since I used to date. Natalie at Pickle Juice is happy to rewrite the line, with considerably more persuasive results.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:09 PM to Almost Yogurt )
3 August 2003
Mouse droppings

After six months or so of speculation, the new KOCY AM facility at 1560 kHz is on the air, and it's gone Radio Disney.

If you've spent more than twenty minutes watching the current Disney Channel on cable or satellite, you know what this means: bouncy pop aimed just below the middle-school audience. Nothing more ambitious than, say, Avril's "Sk8terboi", but nothing as noxious, or as dripping with innuendo, as you're likely to hear at your regular Top 40 and/or dance outlets either. Having never quite outgrown the Cuff Links and "Tracy", I'll probably wind up saving a button for this station.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:57 AM to Overmodulation )
No democracy, please, we're Democrats

The California conference of the NAACP has announced that it will file a lawsuit to delay the state's gubernatorial-recall election at least 30 days.

Alice Huffman, president of the conference, says the 7 October date "does not leave enough time to educate minority voters about election issues or encourage them to vote." Two other ballot measures are scheduled, one of which is Proposition 54, Ward Connerly's "Racial Privacy Initiative", which if passed would bar the state from collecting racial and national-origin data. And that's apparently the real issue; Rob Howard, president of the north San Diego County branch of the NAACP, has said, "It is extremely difficult to educate people on Prop. 54 because of the time."

So, if I understand this correctly, the vote to recall Gray Davis must be postponed because it will take more than 60 days to energize opposition to Ward Connerly. This makes even less sense than the usual noises from California, and Andy at The World Wide Rant is properly scornful:

[A]ll of California's newspaper websites, vending machines, and television news anchors come with the new-fangled BlackBlock™ and SpicStop™ technologies (in which all news anchors speak in something, remarkably, resembling English, which they speaky good) preventing minorities from gaining access to information available to white people across the state via direct mail and specially targeted television commercials.

There are times when I regret leaving California in the late Eighties. This isn't one of them.

DLC on the right?

Matt Deatherage objects to the standard description of the Democratic Leadership Council as "moderate" or "centrist":

This is only true in a world where nutcases who want a theocratic government are "mainstream conservatives" — that is, the world our media describes. The DLC believes in lower taxes, higher defense spending, privatizing public programs, and that the role of government is more to enable business than to ensure equality.

The DLC is conservative. This is a classic conservative agenda. Just because it's too progressive for Tom DeLay and his corporatist agenda does not make it "centrist" or "moderate." What today's media calls "conservative," the media of 30 years ago would have called "John Birch Society member."

The DLC believes the only real choice in America is one between a conservative agenda and an insanely conservative agenda. Even though the vast majority of Americans agree with progressive principles in most polls, the DLC's sole job is to sell Democrats on a conservative agenda, so of course they're going to attack anyone who is not hewing the conservative line. That's why they exist.

For "anyone who is not hewing the conservative line," read "Howard Dean," who has indeed been getting flak from the DLC.

The John Birch reference isn't a cheap shot, either. For example: thirty years ago, the Birchers were just about the only group urging that the US back away from the United Nations, an idea now being bounced around the mainstream.

Still, something sounds odd here. Do the vast majority of Americans really support "progressive" ideas? And if so, why is it that Naderites and Greens and their friends do so poorly in actual elections? Surely it isn't just the buckets full of GOP cash. And if it is the buckets full of GOP cash, doesn't that suggest that the voters' "support" for leftish causes is awfully tenuous at best?

This may be ultimately a matter of semantics. The DLC is clearly to the right of the Democratic base. Does this make them "conservative"? If you think the Democratic base is somewhere in the middle, perhaps it does. I've got my doubts.

4 August 2003
Back to work

Heaven help us all.

Trying out for the Walker Brothers

This is not good. I can barely move, I can't keep my eyes open, and my temperature is holding right around 100.

Yet there's no chance in hell I'll be able to sleep tonight, no matter how much fatigue I may seem to have. I'm thinking that maybe it's time to readjust all those dosages again. Or something.

Then again, I can always blame it on work. "Seven and a half hours into the day, and look at me! I tell you, this place makes people sick."

(Update, 3:50 pm: Well, at least it's probably not flesh-eating bacteria. And if it is, they'll die of excessive engorgement.)

The road to unwellville

Two chest X-rays, forty bucks worth of drugs, and enough blood drawn to fill up the pit at Spee-D-Loob, and still there's no explanation. White count is acceptable; blood pressure is slightly high, but not enormously so; temperature rose briefly to the 102-103 range.

Heavy antibiotics were prescribed, which suggests an attempt to knock out Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, or some other nifty ailment spread by bloodsuckers.

And yes, they're doubling my tranqs. Just in case.

(Aside to SWINTBN: EPM is on hand, should it be necessary.)

Induction into the rotary club

The Professor has bagged himself a Mazda RX-8, the very car I was drooling upon at the local dealership last Friday. (Well, not the same literal car, but you know what I mean.)

What I want to know is: Did he get the stick shift?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:36 PM to Driver's Seat )
5 August 2003
I now pronounce you

I've mostly stayed out of the gay-marriage brouhaha so far. Way back in 1996, I complained about the Defense of Marriage Act, and got a tad hyperbolic in so doing; subsequently I figured it might not be a bad idea to lower my profile on this issue.

But while I haven't exactly recanted, I would rather avoid demonizing the opposition. And along these lines, Moira Breen has precisely the argument I'd been unable to come up with on my own:

I believe most people who are uneasy about gay marriage are not so because they are hateful bigots, but because they are looking back over forty years of trends in marriage, divorce, and sexual behavior that (righly) disturb them — serial marriage, high divorce rates, contempt for concepts of duty and loyalty toward spouse and family, the view that children's lives are secondary in importance to the ever-shifting desires of adults. They see the push for gay marriage not as a separate argument revolving around fairness and justice, but as an extension of those deplorable trends — and they are encouraged in that perception by many of [same-sex marriage's] proponents, who do make the argument in those terms.

Emphasis in the original. Regardless of the hardware possessed by Heather's, um, parental units, marriage is fundamentally about children, about providing them a structure within which they can grow and develop; the partners themselves, like it or not, are secondary players. This is not to say that childless couples don't deserve to have their unions sanctified by church or state or whatever, but the fact remains: marriage is fundamentally about children. Moira again:

As state and society we don't poke our noses into people's reproductive plans or fertility status before they marry, but this (quite proper) delicacy and respect for privacy cannot negate the fact that societies institute marriage because of the existence of children. If children did not exist, we would not be arguing this issue at all, for an institution of marriage would never have arisen to fulfill a non-existent need.

Of course, if children did not exist, we would probably not exist either — as the story goes, if your parents didn't have children, neither will you — but since they do, any plan to redefine marriage that doesn't focus primarily on children is going to draw opposition, and, I think, rightfully so. I still don't like DOMA or its preemptive-strike motivation, but proponents of same-sex marriage have yet to offer an alternative that puts the emphasis back where it belongs: on the kids.

(Update, 6 August, 9:30 pm: Bruce at This Is Class Warfare takes exception to this reasoning.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:02 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Chunky style

Someone called Cam Edwards on his radio show this morning with the following question:

Say you have a plain looking woman in her mid 40's, decades of experience, and a well qualified candidate for a job. You also have a 20-something with a big chest and little work experience who gets hired over the first woman.

The caller objected to this sort of thing, and Cam says he's not too fond of it either, but:

We have the right in this country to make bad hires. Companies like McDonald's and Jazzercise have a compelling interest in not putting 400 pound employees in front of the customers. Is it fair? Probably not. Is it morally wrong? Maybe so. I just don't know that it's not illegal, and it shouldn't be.

The alternative, of course, is some sort of governmental court that would pass judgment on every employment application, and I can't imagine anyone wanting that — though it could be argued that we already have it.

My Index of Sphericity is on the high side, and I work in the back of 42nd and Treadmill; I doubt they'd care at this point if the customers saw me, but I don't think they ever would have hired me as a receptionist.

And suddenly

In the September Car and Driver, editor-in-chief Csaba Csere says goodbye to technical assistant Mike Lapprich, all of twenty-two, who was killed in an accident in one of their long-term test cars. This isn't the first time a C/D staffer has had a wreck; this isn't even the first time a C/D staffer has died in a wreck. But it's a grim reminder that even the best cars, even the best drivers, are still subject to the Reaper's quota system.

I mention this because when I was turning seven, I came down with double pneumonia and scarlet fever. Simultaneously. I missed nearly two months of school and broke a couple of thermometers. Up to that point, this was about as close as I got to a meeting with that scythe-wielding son of a bitch; I didn't really come close again until 1985, when a petroleum tanker truck making too tight a left turn didn't notice my teensy little sports coupe under his midsection.

Now it's 2003 and I've gotten, so far as can be determined, another visit from the Pneumonia Fairy. This time, he's not presenting himself as particularly harsh, and it seems unlikely that I'll suffer any permanent damage from his little jaunt through my lungs. (The earlier incident, I have always suspected, caused some very specific forms of dain bramage.) But pneumonia comes in a number of different flavors, and scoring a relatively minor one, while something of a relief, isn't exactly a testimonial to my stamina; with a different variety of the disease, I could wind up just as dead as that poor fellow from Car and Driver, and without benefit of having driven the whee out of a 350Z, either.

If there's a lesson here, it's simply this: the number of times you cheat Death equals the number of times you cross his path — minus one.

6 August 2003
A dash of empiricism

Regular readers will recall that much of this space over the past three years has been devoted to griping about the music industry. And while I think they've earned every bit of the criticism they've received, assuming that everyone in the business is some sort of villain is neither accurate nor useful.

Last night I had a fairly long talk with the head of a small record label specializing in pop/rock reissues, a chap who qualifies as one of the Good Guys. He's of two minds about the Big Five companies: they control roughly 80 percent of the titles available for reissue, so he has to deal with them, but once that deal is struck, they go out of their way to give him decent service. After all, they have an incentive too: tracks sitting in the vault aren't making them any money.

Unfortunately, they're not making him all that much money either; those license fees are stiff, and the drooling collector-geek crowd (such as, well, me) who can be counted on to buy almost every single release simply isn't large enough to make those releases profitable. As a music buff, he'd like to exhume rare and precious tracks; as a businessman, he knows he has to surround them with familiar stuff to maximize sales potential.

We really didn't get into the piracy question. It seems reasonable to assume that it's probably not doing him any good, but since his label has a reputation for high-quality sound, getting the same recordings as lower-quality MP3s is not likely to appeal to his target audience.

All in all, it was a useful discussion, and while I didn't have a pitch of my own to make, I think I held up my end pretty well. And I have the small comfort of knowing that somewhere in the monstrous, monolithic music industry, there's someone who is actually interested in what I might want to hear.

Laughing out loud

Most of the time, I can listen to The Diane Rehm Show without so much as cracking a smile; the show is so often deadly earnest that grinning is simply out of the question.

Then there was this morning, when Diane asked guest Jennifer Finney Boylan about the, um, effectiveness of sexual-reassignment surgery, an operation Boylan had undergone and subsequently described in her memoir She's Not There: A Life in Two Genders.

Said Boylan, the surgery was "very good"; she stumbled a bit, then finally quoted Kate Bornstein: "The plumbing works, and so does the electricity."

Well, I thought it was funny.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:51 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Carnival XLVI

I rather think the crew from Across the Atlantic were wishing and hoping and thinking and praying they'd get to do Carnival #42, because they're just awash in Hitchhiker's stuff.

Still, even in the #46 slot, it's nice to see that they didn't let it (or Max Quordlepleen) go to waste, and anyway, the Carnival of the Vanities remains the first (and still the initial) weekly roundup of the Best of the Blogs, so you need to read it even if the sight of Eccentrica Galumbitts, the triple-breasted whore of Eroticon VI, leaves you as cold as Marvin's shiny metal keister.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:07 PM to Blogorrhea )
Evidence of dain bramage

One-third of my freezer is given over to the sort of thing we used to call TV Dinners. I don't eat these in front of the TV, of course; I cart them off to work, one a day, so I have time to wolf down something that doesn't say "Burger King" on the packaging during the meager half-hour I get for lunch.

I was rotating the stock this evening when I noticed something highly unStoufferlike; for some reason, in the midst of all that cardboard, there was actual plastic. A tilt of the stack, and out it came: a CD I had burned late last year, in one of those half-height not-exactly-jewel boxes, a hot mix literally put on ice.

I doubt that the cover art would have put anyone off his appetite or anything, but audio products in general do not belong in the freezer. And God only knows how long it's been there: I know how it got there — obviously I pulled the disc when I got back from the supermarket, dropped it into one of the sacks and then forgot about it — but the last time I went grocery-shopping was last Thursday, and I didn't take this disc with me, and I'd been on the road for rather a long time before that, so the latest this could have occurred is, um, the fifth of July.

Oh, and it plays just fine. Bless you, Verbatim.

We pass the savings on to you

I haven't priced the British edition of Elle lately, and thanks to Kevin at Wizbang, I don't have to.

(Note: A number of comments to this post have been removed due to some seriously inappropriate content, for which I alone am to blame.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:29 PM to Blogorrhea )
7 August 2003
And Fess Parker as Hal Rogers

A between-segments filler item on NPR's Morning Edition today reported the renaming of the Daniel Boone Parkway in Kentucky, which will now be the Hal Rogers Parkway. Susanna Cornett is just appalled:

The Parkway is in roughly the place where Boone and the settlers coming over the mountains would have traveled, and Boone is also an historic figure that evokes good thoughts about eastern Kentucky (at least in my mind). The Dan'l Boone Parkway is a very good name. The name Hal Rogers Parkway makes me feel like I'm about to lose my hat, purse, car and possibly house to the giant sucking sound coming out of Frankfort's Dept. of Transportation.

I rather doubt the new name will catch on with the residents. I've never driven the Daniel Boone, but I have driven the Cumberland, and truth be told, nothing about it reminded me even slightly about Louie B. Nunn. Kevin McGehee suggested that this practice should be restricted to dead politicians, which has a certain appeal, but it would definitely throw a spanner (lower-primate variety) into the efforts of some GOP Congressional types who would like to paste Ronald Reagan's name on everything between Bethesda and Alexandria, and frankly, I'm glad my uncle, who devoted his life to parks and recreation in Austin, Texas, got to see a new park with his name on it before he died in 2001.

(I can't get no) damn reportage

Memo to Al Sharpton: The news media aren't ignoring your candidacy because you're black; the news media are ignoring your candidacy because you're a national punchline. They'd do the same for Johnny Knoxville if he were running for governor of Tennessee.

Sorry we burned your esophagus

Workers cleaning pumps at the Canton, Oklahoma water department last night accidentally spilled 250 gallons of hydrochloric acid into the town's water supply.

There is no truth to the rumor that Pfizer is airlifting ten thousand rolls of Rolaids to the stricken community.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:52 PM to Soonerland )
None so fine as 69

Get your minds out of the gutter. (Yes, I know this was a favorite phrase of my high-school class, but climb up on the curb for a moment, fercrissake.)

Chris Lawrence, a cheerful fellow I met up at Dean Esmay's birthday party last month, runs a site called I69Info.com, all about Interstate 69, the very road I took out of Indianapolis to start my trek up to Dean's place, and how it's eventually going to be extended south. Way south. I'm talking south Texas here.

The number of motor vehicles in this country is increasing faster than the number of miles of roadway, so I'm definitely interested in stuff like this, if only because I may need to drive somewhere someday.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:08 PM to Driver's Seat )
He's just toying with them

One of the traditions at Frosty Troy's Oklahoma Observer is the Christmastime doll list, consisting of a series of oneliners along the lines of "The Carroll Fisher doll: wind it up and it carries drinks across town." Easy to do, harder to do funny.

JunkYardBlog has revisited this tradition with generally amusing results. The Al Gore doll? "[It] would probably be slightly more lifelike than he is, but would take five minutes to say a single sentence." Remind me not to buy batteries.

8 August 2003
A milestone of sorts

Consider this:

I'm surprised I'm still doing this two years later.

Glenn Reynolds didn't say that, but it is the second anniversary of InstaPundit, and really, it doesn't seem possible: two whole years?

The Prof obligingly provides a link to his first posts. Historical continuity, y'know.

Oh, that pull quote? That was from me, under similar chronological circumstances.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 AM to Blogorrhea )
The dreaded D word

Folks on the sodden Eastern Seaboard will scoff, but out here on the Really Dry Prairie, we've had only about thirteen inches of rain this year, 40 percent below average. Agriculture, of course, is suffering badly, and Governor Henry has asked USDA Secretary Ann Veneman to declare 62 of Oklahoma's 77 counties disaster areas.

Is it officially a drought? Depends on whom you ask. Lawns haven't turned toasty yet, and water rationing in the cities is still somewhere in the future, but cotton and peanuts, among the state's summer crops, are in notably bad shape, and ranchers are selling off cattle for lack of forage.

The full-service car wash a couple miles away has a sign up: MAKE IT RAIN. WASH YOUR CAR. If only it were that simple.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:23 AM to Weather or Not )
Nancy speaks

The envelope was eleven inches long, almost that high, and when I see something like that, I always wonder why someone needs to shriek "Mine's bigger!"

But I opened this one anyway, and well, looky here: a letter from Nancy Pelosi, identified as "House Democratic Leader" under her name. She is indeed that, but considering that this is basically a fundraising letter, and that anyone likely to send her a check presumably already knows this, it strikes me as just a hair superfluous. You don't think so? Fair enough. Maybe just the second iteration is superfluous.

Most of what's left is one of those surveys wherein calling the questions "leading" is rather like calling Monica Bellucci "sorta cute". Here's the second question from Part VII: "How concerned are you that the Roe v. Wade ruling could be overturned with the addition of one more anti-choice Justice to the Supreme Court?"

Suggested donation, incidentally, is $35. The last page is a sheet of preprinted, precut address labels with a nice US flag and my street address; even using every abbreviation in the postal manual, the last character of the address is sliced in two by the die-cutting process. Evidently, when they ran these through the machine, they cut them too far to the left.

Fragrante delicto

Matt Deatherage's Top Ten Bath & Body Works Rejected Scents:

10. Cape Cod Cod
  9. Kale Rub
  8. Sparkling Ex-Lax
  7. Vermicious Vanilla
  6. Aromathuggery
  5. Natural Gas
  4. Fresh Prairie Grasshopper
  3. Creamy Placenta
  2. Mountain Compost
  1. Forest Whitaker

Uh, thanks, Matt.

9 August 2003
Yet another drop-in

KWEY-FM in Weatherford would seem to have it pretty good; they're the only FM in town, they pump out 100,000 watts all over western Oklahoma, and they've got an AM facility to boot.

So why would they want to make themselves over as a lowly 6,000-watt rimshooter in Blanchard? [Adobe Acrobat Reader required; here's a Microsoft Word version.]

The easy answer is "They want a shot at those big-city bucks," but how many of those bucks will they be able to pull? Six kilowatts isn't squat from that far away; indeed, the FCC's proposed change to the FM allocation table states that "the proposed 70 dBu ["city-grade"] signal for a Channel 247A [97.3 MHz] facility at Blanchard [does not cover] any part of any urbanized area." So I'm thinking that maybe they want to sell this station, and they don't think they'll get a buyer out there in Weatherford.

The FCC will take comments on this proposal until 22 September; I'm tempted to weigh in with a simple "What are they, nuts?"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:08 AM to Overmodulation )
Unexpected traffic

The number of readers dropped off considerably during the World Tour, something I hadn't been expecting — the regulars stuck by, but occasionals who rely on pings were presumably let down by the lower volume thereof — but I got a spike yesterday, from, of all places, The Bitch Girls.

Would this be called a "Bitchalanche?" Maybe. I do know that almost 20 percent of yesterday's visitors came from this entry by the self-described Bitter Bitch, to whom I am profoundly (and perhaps even profanely) grateful. I usually don't do this well with the freaking Carnival.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:49 AM to Blogorrhea )
The half-hour is at hand

As a lede for a story, this is hard to top:

Now we may know why the South lost the Civil War: Confederate time was about a half-hour slower than Yankee time.

I'm sure there was more to it than that, but here's the backstory:

In 1864, the Confederate States of America was not doing as well as it had hoped, and Charleston Harbor had been effectively blockaded by Union forces. In response, the Confederacy had developed a submarine. CSS Hunley looked something like an old boiler converted for marine use, largely because it was. Its armament was equally low-tech: a front-mounted harpoon which would ram enemy vessels, leaving behind enough of an explosive charge to blow them up while the Hunley, they hoped, would back away in time.

It worked well enough in its one and only test: on 17 February 1864 the Hunley took out the Union blockade vessel USS Housatonic. The Hunley resurfaced briefly, but never returned to port, and lay on the bottom of Charleston Harbor for over a century. In 1995, divers found the sub, and in 2000, it was raised from the sea and sent to a laboratory near Charleston for study.

Which brings us to that time difference. The study team is trying to figure out how long the Hunley might have survived after the attack. Survivors from the Housatonic — only five sailors were lost to the Union — reported that the attack came between 8:45 and 9 pm. One of the artifacts recovered from the Hunley was the pocket watch carried by Lt. George Dixon, the sub's commanding officer. It's frozen at 8:23, presumably by the action of seawater.

The Confederacy, it seems, operated on local sun time; at the time, all US naval vessels were synchronized to sun time at Washington, DC. The difference between the two is about twenty-six minutes. The attack on the Housatonic took at most five minutes; if it began at 8:45 Union time — 8:19 local Charleston time — it's possible that the Hunley was so heavily damaged itself by the attack that only the one brief surfacing was possible before the sub was dragged off to Davy Jones' locker.

It's probably more than 26 minutes too early to say for sure, but this explanation seems plausible enough, unless perhaps you're a descendant of Lt. Dixon or one of his crewmen.

Oh, and standard time zones were implemented across the States in 1883.

(Suggested by Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:34 AM to Dyssynergy )
Sticking check valve

All the ads say — and almost everyone I've talked to confirms — that you can order replacement checks for your checking account from any reputable printer, not just the one with whom your financial institution is affiliated.

Unless you bank with Wells Fargo, as Kim at Revolving Duck is unhappy to report.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:11 PM to Common Cents )
A truly sad tail

If you're a guy, the OkiePundit is not interested in seeing your rump:

I've been seeing too much of this sort of cleavage lately. I wouldn't mind so much if it was attractive female posteriors — but it's not. It's invariably on some ugly-ass boy or man. Around the mall and in fast food eateries I've seen a parade of inadequately covered posteriors — of teenage boys walking around with their oversized jeans hanging around their thighs with boxer shorts displayed for all to see. I don't mean the boxer waistband — I mean the whole undergarment. Usually old, dirty, boxers. Sometimes the booty is exposed as well. What is this?

Don't ask me. I'm still trying to decide if "ugly-ass", in this context, is redundant.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:11 PM to Dyssynergy )
10 August 2003
The leftmost digit moves

I truly hate to blow my own horn, but since no one is going to do it for me, let this be the official announcement of the 300,000th visitor to this site.

Despite two different URLs and two different counter services over seven years, the count from Day One (9 April 1996) is continuous; number 200,000 arrived on 9 December 2002.

Things would seem to be picking up, albeit slowly. And, of course, 300,000 is a slow week for the likes of InstaPundit, but what the hell.

The person identified as #300,000 in the records, should you be curious, came from IP 198.81.26.143, which appears to be an AOL address; what drove him here at 12:33 this morning was this About.com page about Chuck Woolery which links to this Single File item. The counter, while it does pick up that page, doesn't display the count, so he will never know. Not that he'd be likely to care.

Of course, I have no life: I stayed up to watch.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:47 AM to Blogorrhea )
Way the hell out there

There's a very nice piece by Tom Lindley in The Sunday Oklahoman today about life in the Panhandle, a place that to most of us is "no man's land, a thin slice of hardship and desolation sandwiched between prairie and blue sky somewhere north of Amarillo."

That very hardship, though, may be an advantage to residents of the narrow three-county strip: whatever problem you throw at them, it's probably not so different from one they've already seen and already solved. Right now, the area is enjoying an influx of Latino immigration, some of it legal, as meat processing, a Hispanic stronghold for generations, continues to flourish in an otherwise-struggling economy. These people want to work, and in the Panhandle, that's a good thing; as Mayor Jess Nelson of Guymon says, "People here are hardworking people or they don't stay."

As the phrase goes, Read The Whole Thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:19 AM to Soonerland )
Authentic street gibberish

On this entry yesterday, I posted the following comment:

The Wino Look seems to have two separate sets of champions: young black men, who desperately fear being tagged as "acting white", and young white men, who desperately need to annoy their parental units.

At the time, I wondered if maybe "desperately" was too strong a word. Now I don't. Here's John McWhorter in the New York Post on the culture so airily dismissed as "urban":

The attitude and style expressed in the hip-hop "identity" keeps blacks down. Almost all hip-hop, gangsta or not, is delivered with a cocky, confrontational cadence that is fast becoming...a common speech style among young black males. Similarly, the arm-slinging, hand-hurling gestures of rap performers have made their way into many young blacks' casual gesticulations, becoming integral to their self-expression. The problem with such speech and mannerisms is that they make potential employers wary of young black men and can impede a young black's ability to interact comfortably with co-workers and customers. The black community has gone through too much to sacrifice upward mobility to the passing kick of an adversarial hip-hop "identity."

For those who insist that even the invisible structures of society reinforce racism, the burden of proof should rest with them to explain why hip-hop's bloody and sexist lyrics and videos and the criminal behavior of many rappers wouldn't have a negative effect upon whites' conception of black people.

I take issue with McWhorter's negative characterization of "The Message" elsewhere in his article — to me, it's far more an expression of despair than a call to street action, and besides, it's a damned good record — but for the most part, he's nailed it. Replacing "Tha Man hates us 'cause we're black" with "Tha Man hates us 'cause we're assholes" is not my idea of an improvement.

(Muchas gracias: Phillip "delusional duck" Coons.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:46 PM to Almost Yogurt )
11 August 2003
Blatant plugola

I am no kind of bluegrass expert. On the other hand, my father was, and is, a devotee of the sort of country music that grew out of bluegrass, and resisted the orchestral intrusions that followed, which inevitably meant that I grew up with Lefty Frizzell and Webb Pierce and Kitty Wells and Ernest Tubb; taking a step or two sideways up into the hills was not so difficult for me.

The advantage of being no kind of expert, of course, is that there are still plenty of discoveries to be made, and one of those discoveries, for me, was a store. And what a store it is: County Sales, down the hill from something or other in beautiful downtown Floyd, Virginia, seems to be the repository for all that is good and melodious in Appalachia. Fred First and I wandered into the modest little operation, and I was instantly smitten: there was enough there to justify filing by label and catalog number. (At the time, I didn't know they also did a thriving mail-order and Web business.) I snagged an Alison Krauss album I hadn't seen before, and asked the staff about late-Fifties/early-Sixties Starday recordings of the Stanley Brothers. Somewhere a lamb shook his tail twice, and before the second shake was quite through they'd come up with a 4CD box set. I didn't want to schlep this all the way across the country and have it melt down on me in the trunk, so I asked them to mail it out when I got home, which they did.

And yes, I suppose I could have gotten the same box set from amazon.com, but I wouldn't have had the thrill of browsing the old store, and I would have had to fork out an extra eleven bucks to boot. God only knows what it would have cost to special-order it from one of our wondrously-uninformed chain stores.

Speaking of overheated gases

Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), in an effort to nail down some point or other on global warming, offered a quote from science writer (and blogger) David Appell. By the now-nefarious process of Dowdification, he managed to totally misrepresent Appell's point.

What Appell had said was this:

The latest scientific assessment, the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment Report (which, yes, has broad consensus in the scientific world), projects that the globally averaged surface temperature will increase by 2.5 to 10 deg F by the year 2100. A temperature change near the top of this range will seriously threaten the very concept of civilization.

Inhofe, or more likely his handlers, eliminated the qualification "near the top of this range" and substituted the term "global warming", which served his putative purpose of making scientific types like Appell look like alarmists. For those of us who tend toward the skeptical side on this issue, Inhofe's action actually weakens the skeptical position: it creates the impression that we can't be trusted with the data.

Back at home, Bruce puts the screws to Inhofe:

Do you think he actually reads or understands any of the studies that he comments about? Not likely. His game is to run out the clock on any real environmental regulations while his sponsors pad their wallets some more.

For "sponsors", read "fossil-fuel promoters".

Basically a Dick Armey with lower pesticide residues, Jim Inhofe's major concern, first and foremost, is the care and feeding of Jim Inhofe. This isn't exactly atypical in the Senate, and his record of nonaccomplishment is better than some Senators' record of antiaccomplishment, but every time he opens his mouth, I think, "Can't we do better than this?"

Taking stock 30 days early

It's a month before the anniversary of the date which will live in infamy as "9/11", and I admit to having given the matter little thought.

In the meantime, Michele reminds us:

In our haste to get back to "normal" we forgot how to stay together. The spark that lit our souls and made us vow to be united become a dull ember, growing darker and darker until no one even remembered it had existed.

We failed to take the single most important lesson from that day with us when we climbed out of our blackness. We did come together, but we did not stay together. We went our separate ways and some turned their anger back on us and spit on us as we mourned.

Some stopped remembering. They stopped staring at the skies, waiting for the lion to awake once again. They stopped comforting each other and stopped thinking about that day.

It is a mistake to think the sleeping lion will always sleep. It is a mistake to think our enemies have spent their energy and will retreat forever. It is a grave mistake to turn from each other again and split this place in two, for that is what our enemy wants, and that's when he will wake and pounce again.

He laughs at us as the day slips farther and farther from our memories. The flags are battered and torn, the signs hanging over freeways broken and written over. He grins as his day of glory becomes less and less of a factor in our lives.

When we forget, we drop our resolve, we lose our strength and we open ourselves up to letting it happen again.

Just a reminder. It's here because I need it too.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:47 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Roll another one

It began, apparently, with this observation from Jeff "Alphecca" Soyer:

I've made it no secret here that I am a link whore and I am trying to "grow" Alphecca. If you are a blogger — please consider adding Alphecca to your blogroll and quickly emailing me so I can do the same for you. It keeps you in my "radar" and I really appreciate it. Don't be shy or stuck-up. All I want is to dominate the world...

But... BUT... If you're one of these silly people who have seperate blogrolls for folks such as, "Always read," "Sometimes read," and "Never read but I'll link to them anyway" then please know that I think that's tacky and especially if I'm appearing in the, "Only read when I'm totally fucking bored" category and I'm not likely to rush any support for you and your blog. If you don't like Alphecca, fine. I can deal with that. But please don't list me as some "also ran" with the implication that you don't give a hoot about me. Because that just insures that I probably won't give a hoot about you either.

I understand his impatience with weird blogroll divisions — I find some of them utterly incomprehensible — but some of them seem eminently justified. Spoons, for instance, divides his up into "Everyday", "Occasionals", and "The Other Side"; not all of us say so, but I suspect most of us have similar divisions in the back of our minds, if not coded into our templates. Of the hundred or so items on my blogroll, maybe twelve or fourteen get read every day, owing to the tedious necessity of having to earn a living, which requires the allocation of a finite (and sometimes, it seems, infinite) number of hours away from the Blogosphere™.

Still, I like my alphabetical arrangement, even if it's a lot more arbitrary than it seems: Dean's World is listed as "Dean", not as "Esmay", but Dr. Weevil duly shows up in the W's. It is indeed a pain in the neck to maintain, especially for someone who keeps changing the name of the blog. (Yes, Mr. Duck, I'm talking to you.) But so far, no one has complained about it, which must be reckoned a Good Thing.

And none of this really addresses Alphecca's subtext, which is "How do I get on the blogroll?" I have no hard-and-fast rules; I used to say "If I read you five times, the fifth time you go on," but there are lots of people I have read more than five times who haven't been added yet. Then there's the curious case of Acidman, whom I dropped when he announced he was going on hiatus — knowing Acidman, I'm sure it was actually a loatus — and forgot to reinstate when he returned.

Of course, if you want to get to the top of my blogroll, you might want to identify yourself as, say, Aardvark A. Aarhus.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:54 PM to Blogorrhea )
12 August 2003
Forward-motion devices

The Professor tells us what it's like to whip a Mazda RX-8 around town and out in the twisties.

Which means, for me as a D-list blogger anyway, that it's time I finished off this box of Cheerios and did some testing on the little metal NASCAR simulacrum packed therein.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 AM to Driver's Seat )
It figures

So I'm reading someone's tale of angst regarding her hosting service, and she's calling for recommendations, and I duly put in a plug for the fine folks who host this site, with the following caveat:

"...they had some issues with [Movable Type] earlier this year that took a while to resolve...."

My conscience was clean.

Then, of course, I posted the entry just prior to this one, and the server errored out. Easy recovery, but bad timing, guys.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:44 AM to Blogorrhea )
Tripped up in the patent minefield

The University of California owns US patent number 5,838,906, granted in 1998 after a four-year wait, which describes a method for embedding executable code in a Web page and a means to execute it in a browser. The University has engaged Eolas Technologies to administer this patent.

Eolas quickly hit upon an administration tool: sue the pants off Microsoft, whose ActiveX controls constitute a method for embedding executable code in a Web page and a means to execute it in a browser. The suit was filed in 1999, and yesterday a jury found that Microsoft was liable for infringement of the California patent. Damages of $520.6 million were assessed.

Bill Gates, of course, could pull this sum out of petty cash, though Microsoft can be expected to fight this tooth and nail — at least until the patent expires. And rival browsers might also be considered to be infringing upon the patent, but makers of rival browsers don't have this kind of money.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:33 AM to PEBKAC )
Why I will croak at 53

How hostile are you?

Well, you know I can't pass up a test like this. And forty-six A or B answers later:

Cynicism Score: 9
  • If your score is 0 to 3, your Cynicism level is very low.
  • If your score is 4 to 6, your Cynicism level is probably high enough to be of some concern.
  • If your score is 7 or more, your Cynicism level is very high.

Anger Score: 11

  • If your score is 0 to 3, your Anger level is very low.
  • If your score is 4 to 6, your Anger level is probably high enough to deserve your attention.
  • If your score is 7 or higher, your Anger level is very high.

Aggression Score: 9

  • If your score is 0 to 3, your Aggression level is very low.
  • If your score is 4 to 6, your Aggression level is borderline, and you may want to consider ways to reduce it.
  • If your score is 7 or more, you probably need to take serious steps to reduce your Aggression level.

Total Hostility Score: 29

If your Total Hostility score is 10 or less, some research suggests that your hostility level is below the range where it is likely to place you at risk of developing health problems. Any score higher than 10 may place you in the group whose hostility level is high enough to increase your risk of health problems.

From Anger Kills
by: Redford Williams, MD, Virginia Williams, PhD.

Well, the hell with that. :)

(Muchas gracias: Altered Perceptions.)

Anything you can do, I can...um....

So what would happen if the National Education Association got to run a school?

Seven years ago, the NEA, staked with $1.5 million, decided to get into the admininstrative side of the Ed Biz. The Charter School Initiative, for all its flowery prose, managed to open a total of four schools (out of six planned), and their track record is — well, here's a report from the Education Intelligence Agency. You decide:

Kwachiiyoa opened in September 1999, two years later than expected and after a change of administrators, but the school had the financial and staff support of the California Teachers Association, the San Diego Education Association, the local school board and the teachers' college at San Diego State University. San Diego Union-Tribune reporter Maureen Magee called it "perhaps the most enthusiastic charter school launch the city had seen."

The school was to be run by a 12-member governance council, which consisted of six teachers, two parents, two community partners, one classified employee and one student. "The governance structure of Kwachiiyoa Charter School is based on the philosophy that teachers are professionals whose voice in school management and operations is essential to achieving academic goals," read a school goals document. Goal #1 was "high student achievement."

By the time Kwachiiyoa's initial charter expired on January 14, 2003, enrollment was at half-capacity, three classroom teachers were jointly running the school without benefit of an administrator, and the school was the lowest-performing of the 121 schools in the San Diego Unified School District. It ranked lowest even when compared to other California schools with similar student socioeconomic backgrounds. For the 2002-2003 school year, Kwachiiyoa was forced into a state intervention program for underperforming schools. Similar poor academic results were reported in 2000 and 2001.

Moreover, district staff found the school "had failed to maintain adequate financial records and adhere to commonly accepted accounting practices." The district concluded that the "lack of school leadership clearly contributed to this breakdown of fiscal control and to the failure of the school's academic program."

This year, the Kwachiiyoa staff sought a new charter for the school, without union involvement, but the San Diego City school board denied the application on June 24, citing the school's track record.

Is this the Peter Principle in action? I can already hear Cam Edwards ready to pounce.

(From Education Weak, via Joanne Jacobs.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:43 PM to Almost Yogurt )
13 August 2003
Delicate nuances vs. furniture polish

Lileks on the various varieties of vodka:

There is a difference between vodka brands. The cheap stuff is all varnish remover, as far as I'm concerned, but in the upper end, the rarified realm where the bottles look like something hand-blown to hold a relic of a saint, the distinctions are quite subtle. I'm a Belvedere man, myself. It's a lovely marriage of velvet and freon.

Can't wait until the Rev. Mr. Green gets hold of this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:29 AM to Almost Yogurt )
If 9 was 6

Five thousand people turned out at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater to hear six of the nine Democratic presidential candidates (no-shows: Graham, Kerry, Sharpton) attempt to explain why it's necessary to replace George W. Bush with one of them.

On the hot-button issues, Edwards and Lieberman weren't willing to support same-sex marriages, and Braun said they were essentially identical to interracial marriages. Lieberman ventured the view that some of his colleagues wouldn't know a just war if it bit them. Kucinich wants the US to admit that it was a bad idea to invade Iraq. Dean said that he's actually balanced budgets before. But the Quote of the Day came from Gephardt:

"This president has only one idea in his head: tax cuts for the wealthiest, followed by tax cuts for the wealthiest followed by tax cuts for the wealthiest."

The Democratic primary is 3 February. Expect more of the same over the next six months.

Carnival XLVII

Acting on the reasonable assumption that if one Republican babe is good, two must be better, the women of Right We Are! have put their heads together and come up with this week's edition of Carnival of the Vanities, the best of the blogs in one fell swoop, the forty-seventh incarnation thereof since the Decree of Bigwig.

As always, it's a must.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:14 PM to Blogorrhea )
Worm turns

Blasted are the users, for they are afflicted with that damnable MSBlast thing. Among the blasted: the Oklahoma State Supreme Court.

I'm not even sure I want to boot up the Road Warrior tonight.

(Update, 9 pm: My trusty notebook is just fine — evidently I downloaded the pertinent patch some time during the World Tour, probably while running to the ice machine at the hotel — but Norton jumped in with a scream screen anyway, mainly because it's been almost a year since Symantec got paid.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:28 PM to PEBKAC )
"A Musical Gift For You"

McGehee channeling Fine Young Cannibals?

I wouldn't have thought it possible, but this is both raw and cooked.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:53 PM to Blogorrhea )
14 August 2003
An exercise in sexism and objectification

Which, of course, is more than enough justification right there.

Matt Moore of The Blog of the Century of the Week, having discovered that nothing rolls the meter faster than dubious polls, is conducting the Second Annual Sexiest Female Blogger competition.

Last year, you may remember, I nominated Susanna Cornett for this lofty position; she is still speaking to me as of this writing, but I'm not at all certain I want to go through this sort of thing again.

What's that you say? Sexiest Male Blogger competition? Well, ganders are equal under the Sauce Laws. And the number of people who would vote for me can be counted on the fingers of no hands, so I don't really have to worry about it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Blogorrhea )
A corner turned?

Probably not — the economy still seems to be sputtering — but for the first time in two years, state revenues in Oklahoma have actually exceeded projections.

The projections have been very conservative, what with the state's budget in the tank, but the numbers are encouraging just the same; three more quarters like this and we can stash some money in the Rainy Day Fund and shave a quarter-point off the state income tax.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Soonerland )
We ain't got no culcha

SurlyPundit would like to visit New York, and a lot of the usual reasons apply, but her reasoning behind those reasons is interesting:

Canadians and other non-Americans love to jeer at Yanks for lacking culture, which I will never understand — the MOMA, the Metropolitan Art Gallery, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Carnegie Hall, the art galleries and opera houses and theatres and museums even in relatively small cities? Canada is a cultural wasteland, and not only by comparison. The only gallery really worth seeing here besides the National is the Lord Beaverbrook in Fredericton, and I bet most Canadians haven't heard of it. The AGO is passable, but it hardly measures up to the New Brunswick place, and you expect more from Toronto, the largest city in the nation. If we spent less time complaining about this fact and more time actually making art, things might be different. So the next time someone starts jacking off about how Americans are such boors with their McCulture or whatever, please punch him in the face and tell him what I just told you, and then go make some art.

(Internal links added by me.)

Some of our off-jackers will be unimpressed — "So our dead white men are just as good as their dead white men?" — but out here on the prairie, we do our damnedest to preserve the good stuff because, well, that's just the sort of thing we do.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Blue Screen of Math

Scott Charney, Microsoft's go-to guy for security matters, told developers at Tech.Ed 2003 in Brisbane, Australia that "half of all crashes in Windows are caused not by Microsoft code, but third-party code."

Of course, this means that half of all crashes in Windows are caused by Microsoft code.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:30 AM to PEBKAC )
Sacramento whine

The Golden State's list of gubernatorial wannabes carries, at most, one surprise, and it was no surprise to me:

Gallagher's first name.

15 August 2003
Not necessarily hosed

The following item is from 1999. Really. However, since I only found it last night, while following up some of the items in my referrer log, I have no qualms about reprinting it today, especially since my reaction to it is the same today as it would have been four years ago. The source is Breakup Girl's SuperList, a worthy protoblog that unfortunately didn't make it into the current version of the site. (I did update the link.)

Last week (sorry!) was the Venastat Great American Cross-Out, which called for women to stop crossing their legs for one day. Why? Apparently it leads to bad circulation (blood, not social). According to Venastat's research, 45% of American women cross their legs most or nearly all the time. Most of those (72%) say it's just a habit; 59% say it's flirting. And 70% of men say it works. I say "Your legs are your friends; keep them together."

All thoughts of Sharon Stone aside — just 70 percent?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:28 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Sure is dark out there

When my daughter and I talk, topics fly fast and furiously, and somewhere alongside the consideration of convertibles, real estate and the perfidy of Toyota starters, she wondered: "Would there be this much news coverage if the power went off in the middle of the country?"

I thought for a moment, then answered: "Well, yes, but most of it would be on The Weather Channel, because we'd be in the middle of a farging ice storm."

In the background, I can hear the air conditioner kicking in.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Dyssynergy )
8 or 10 simple rules

Rachael at Mookie Riffic has issued the Idiot's Guide to Teenage Dating. Not having dated any teenagers since I was, um, fifteen, and inasmuch as my children are well into their twenties and more or less permanently attached, I don't quite know why I noticed this, but what the heck. Here's the very first rule:

If you like someone, tell them yourself. Don't have Tina tell Gabrielle to tell Carmen to tell her boyfriend George that Sheila likes Dave.

Apart from the minor pronoun issue, this seems to be eminently sensible. There are nine more, seven if you count 8 through 10 as a single item, which you probably could.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:11 AM to Table for One )
Another shoe drops

For a medium-sized market, Oklahoma City seems to have an awful lot of weird radio stories.

The latest (found at a thread at Radio-Info.com) involves Ralph Tyler, owner of KTSH in Tishomingo, mentioned before in this space because Tyler had applied to move the station to Tuttle, on the edge of the Oklahoma City metro. (A separate Tyler company, not owned by Ralph Tyler, had successfully moved other stations into the area.)

The FCC apparently discovered that Tyler's acquisition of KTSH from a small Christian broadcaster didn't go quite the way the transfer application claimed, and the resulting consent decree [requires Adobe Acrobat Reader] calls for Tyler to give up the license for the station and to divest himself of his interests in two other stations, one of which is the newly-hatched KOCY. The application to move KTSH to Tuttle will, of course, be dismissed.

Given the fact that blatant violations of so-called "decency" rules will get a station owner a stiff fine at worst, I've got to wonder just how horrendous those misrepresentations in that transfer application really are.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:35 PM to Overmodulation )
16 August 2003
Spinning templates

Lynn Sislo administers a semi-detached suburban quasi-fisking to this MSNBC piece, and while I was reading her specifications for writing a classical-music editorial, I remembered this thing I wrote last year. Let's see if I meet her standards:


1. Shower praise on the European arts scene and lament Americans' apparent lack of interest in classical music.

Apart from claiming that Seventies LP pressings from Europe were better, I didn't have much to say about the Continent, but I did issue the pertinent lament. One-half point.


2. Throw in a few scary statistics about declining CD sales. Try to compare interest in classical music to interest in other arts.

I didn't do that.


3. Talk about the past. Be sure to mention that 10,000 people attended Beethoven's funeral.

I didn't do that, either.


4. Talk about the lack of interest in contemporary art music. Blame atonality and be sure to mention Schoenberg and use the words "twelve tone" so you'll sound like you know what you're talking about. Feel free to throw in as many other names and -isms as you can manage to work in.

"[I]t is assumed we won't buy unless we are assured we're getting something with established market appeal." I'd say this probably eliminates Pierrot lunaire somewhere along the way. One-half point.


5. Concede that "not all modern music is impenetrable."

Never. :)


6. Quote one or two performers or composers but do not under any circumstances include a quote expressing enthusiasm for atonal music.

Do you get the feeling that twelve-tone is the cod-liver oil of music? It's supposed to be good for what ails us, but damn, it's hard to swallow.


7. When you've milked the "bad news" for all you can get out of it turn things around and say something like, "Today's audiences are slowly coming around." Now you can throw in some positive statistics — concert attendance is up in some cities, etc. Talk about what orchestras are doing to "bring back audiences." Cheesy gimmicks are a plus.

"[The] audience may always be a minority, but there's no indication that it's shrinking. And while the bigger labels go after 'crossovers' and other ephemera, smaller companies are always there to take up the slack." Close enough. One point.


8. Mention those sophisticated European audiences again.

The hell with them. The only reason they go to the opera house is because it's air-conditioned. (Yeah, I know, this is the sort of thing one says about a place like Tulsa, but then Tulsa actually has an opera company, and this gives me a chance to mention it while simultaneously sneering at the Europeans.)


9. Finally, wind it up with a gushy little paragraph. Use words like beauty, excitement, spellbinding, electric, and pain. Bonus points if you can work in a dead composer quote here.

"This may not be quite a Golden Age, but certainly its mettle is strong." One point for sheer syntactical hubris.

So on the Lynn scale, I score 3 out of 9, which disqualifies me from writing stuff like that — or like this Newsweek piece that I covered last month. Perhaps it's just as well.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:02 AM to Tongue and Groove )
For Toronto is never truly dark

Spiffiest quote from the Great North American Blackout, courtesy of Debbye Stratigacos:

The perennial optimism of Torontonians was evident in the fact that it seems like everyone trooped over to beer stores Friday convinced that the Powers That Be would recognize those stores as an essential service and thus they would be open — and were proven correct.

There's a lot to be said for having your priorities in order.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:16 AM to Almost Yogurt )
California, there you go

I need hardly point out that tossing Gray Davis out of Sacramento, while certainly a boon, is only the tiniest of steps toward putting the Golden State's affairs in order. And if that last phrase sounds like California is on its deathbed, lacking only a few formalities before ringing down the curtain and joining the Choir Invisible, well, maybe it is. With half again as many people as any other state, a level of political and cultural fractiousness that would embarrass a middle-school class, and a tendency to regulate not only the things it can but also the things it can't — the timing belt in my car is supposed to be changed at 60,000 miles, unless I'm in California, in which case the Assembly has decreed that it will last until 105,000 — it may be time to put the California Republic out of its, and our, misery, by splitting it in two.

Or, suggests UPI's James C. Bennett, in three:

There are hardly any scale advantages to California's size. Its government is one of the costliest and at the same time the least effective, and almost impossible to reform. Almost any of the small Western states are better-governed than California, and far more accessible to the input of their citizens.

Dividing the state into perhaps an East California of the Central Valley and Sierras, a Northern California of the coast down to, say, Morro Bay, and a Southern California of the coastal regions below that, would create three large but not monstrous states, each capable of substantial economies of scale, but also much more tractable, each less politically fragmented, and far cheaper to campaign in. Six senators would give the region a more appropriate clout in the Senate and reduce the disproportionality of the current body.

I don't really think we're going to see the states of Lodi, Moonbat and La Raza in my lifetime, but weirder things have happened, and there's already a Constitutional provision for the division of existing states, in Article IV, Section 3:

New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress, I think, will look more kindly upon the idea of three states in place of California than they do upon the idea of one state in place of the District of Columbia, which admittedly isn't saying much. Selling it to the California Assembly will be much harder; just getting them to agree on the new borders will be a major accomplishment. Still, the state is almost forty billion dollars in the hole; what's the alternative? Foreclosure?

(Muchas gracias: Geitner Simmons.)

Received wisdom (one in a series)

Touchingly lyrical, yet totally vulgar, this High Truth straight from Donnaville:

I have never understood the reason for strip clubs for women. If a woman wants to see a naked man, all she has to do is ask.

(If I had the slightest bit of sense, I'd kill comments on this item. Fat chance.)

17 August 2003
Remembering Ed Townsend

For your love,
Oh, I would do anything,
I would do anything,
For your love.

Ed Townsend's "For Your Love" is one of the great R&B ballads of 1958, its simple lyric married to a spectacular orchestral (and choral, featuring the Blossoms) structure. Issued on Capitol 3926, it was a #7 R&B hit (#13 pop), though subsequent singles over the next three years failed to click.

Ed kept writing songs, though, and in 1963 he took over as the A&R man for Scepter/Wand in New York, replacing Luther Dixon. Theola Kilgore scored a 1963 hit with Ed's "The Love of My Man". "Foolish Fool", written and produced by Ed for Dee Dee Warwick in 1969, was nominated for a Grammy. In 1973, recovering from a bout with booze, Ed wrote "Let's Get It On", partly as a reminder to himself to get on with his life; once adopted by Marvin Gaye, it became an ode to sensuality that's still hard to beat thirty years later. Townsend's last big hit was "Finally Got Myself Together" for Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions.

Now Ed's gone; his heart finally gave out. He was 74. If you need me, I'll be at the record shelf.

Baghdad laughs and sweats some more

I had heard Anne Garrels' All Things Considered report on the Iraqi response to the Northeast blackout Friday afternoon, and inasmuch as it had been a long day at the salt mine, I assumed that what I heard as smugness and snideness was just the effect of fatigue on my remaining brain cells, and thought no more about it. I mean, I'm sort of fond of Garrels: she's been through a hell of a lot as a Baghdad correspondent, and under the circumstances, a little bit of attitude is forgivable.

Well, I'm not the only one who picked up on smug and/or snide. At The Sound and Fury, LAN3 singled out this particular paragraph, matching the italics to Garrels' inflections:

It seemed like God was finally on their side after a long long time, inflicting a hint of the pain Iraqis have experienced for the past 5 months. Iraqis were just disappointed the blackout hadn't lasted a little longer, so Americans could really understand what it means to live without regular power. And when told that Americans were suffering in 95-degree heat, Iraqis were a tad disappointed; suffering is living every day with daily highs topping 125.

Ain't it awful? This isn't quite as annoying as, say, Palestinians cheering after 9/11, but it does make me wish that I owned the patent on Schadenfreude; I could retire tomorrow without a care in the world.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:10 PM to Almost Yogurt )
The poodle chews it

I'd gotten away from "Weird Al" Yankovic for a while. Partly it was his erratic release schedule, but mostly, I think, it was the discouraging notion that pop hits these days are largely crap, and not even Weird Al-level parody can save them from their fecality.

Nova tossed me a copy of Poodle Hat. "You need to hear this," she insisted.

I took it home, shoved it into Drive H: and was promptly informed that I needed to upgrade QuickTime to at least 6.0. Nine point something megabytes later, I got to see the Enhanced features, including a genuine set of Yankovic family home movies with up-to-the-minute commentary. Good enough, I suppose, but isn't this what AL TV is for?

Finally, to the music. And yes, the hits, as expected, suffer from high crud levels, though Avril Lavigne's "Complicated" is handled beautifully. What you want here are the Al sort-of-originals, and Poodle Hat contains two of the best he's ever done: "Bob", a Dylanesque (circa "Subterranean Homesick Blues") number in which every single line is a palindrome, and "Genius in France", arguably the first successful Frank Zappa pastiche in recorded history, complete with bizarre changes in tempo, lyrics stuffed full of innuendo, odd noises masquerading as vocals, and serious guitar-hero riffing — some of which is contributed by FZ's son Dweezil, a serious guitar hero in his own right.

Then there's "Party at the Leper Colony", a spiffy update of "Willie and the Hand Jive" that...um, maybe I'd better leave it at that.

And, oh yes, there's a polka. Some things never change.

18 August 2003
Where all the lights are bright (2)

Once upon a time, an ill-fated Oklahoma City urban-renewal plan put downtown on two shifts — twelve hours business district, twelve hours mausoleum — and people wondered why. It's no secret, says Linda Stinnett of Oklahoma Main Street Center:

If you want to have a vital downtown, you have to have people living downtown.

Simple as that. And in Oklahoma City, it's actually starting to happen; lofts have been carved out of buildings in Bricktown and along the downtown Automobile Alley, and more are coming. Lofts are in place in Norman and Cordell, and planned for other cities. The supply is coming because the demand is there, and because people have been willing to pay above-average rents for desirable locations. Were I twentysomething and on the party circuit, I probably wouldn't be able to resist the temptation myself.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:34 AM to City Scene )
Last train to Splitsville

Tiger would like you to know that it's possible to kick a marriage to death with a single pair of size-six Manolo Blahniks:

I generalize, and there are sometimes good reasons to divorce, but in my divorce practice, it is the woman who files the divorce action more often than not and the reason most often given as the reason for her action: "I am just not happy anymore." Women are less choosy about the men they get involved with than were our grandmothers and their mothers and their mothers before them and seem to continually be looking for some reason not to be happy. Men have not changed; men will never change. Men are a bunch of sex-crazed dogs who will try to charm the pants off of any gal. They can be domesticated, but never tamed.

I don't hate women. I could never hate that lovely curvaceous gender than provides life and emotion to an otherwise bleak and lonely world. I just wish they would not work so hard to blur the line between what is expected and what is reality in the male/female equation.

Am I afraid of marriage? No, but I am very, very afraid of marrying the wrong woman.

I'm not so sure that women are less choosy in this day and age; if they truly were less selective, surely they'd be lined up on my porch more than none deep.

More to the point, we all have romantic delusions, and one of the worst of them is expecting the other person to meet every conceivable emotional need we may have. We marry, and we think all of our troubles are over, all of our fears assuaged. In practice, this lasts about thirty-six hours at most.

Similarly, the woman who believes she can change a man will likely merely exchange him for another.

I've already figured that there isn't anyone for me, but this isn't because women have fluctuating levels of pickiness or because I'm some sort of "sex-crazed dog"; it's because marriage ultimately is a transaction, and I have very little of value to bring to the proceedings.

And if you approach the altar with more than the usual degree of trepidation, perhaps you might be better served by the Lewis Grizzard system: "I'll just find a woman I don't like and give her a house."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:41 AM to Table for One )
Surely this means something

Somebody searched the Australian branch of Google for my life is a complete and utter failure.

I didn't mind getting the hit, really, but this is the only result for this search.

Failure is not an option

Public schools in Beaufort County, South Carolina, have implemented a new policy: first-semester grades must be on a scale from 62 to 100.

I thought at first this might be an homage to American Bandstand's Rate-A-Record, which scored current 45s on a scale from 35 to 98, but no, it's a self-esteem thing. Explains Deputy Superintendent Edna Crews:

"What we're trying to do is look at how can we send the message to students that we want them, number one, to be successful. We want to give kids some hope."

Some hope that they can pass a class even if they screwed off for half a year? Why stop at 62? Why not just give them 100 right off the bat? Surely they'll feel even better about themselves when they get that automatic A.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:37 PM to Almost Yogurt )
19 August 2003
"I'm not quite dead yet"

We get another crummy C-60 ostensibly from Osama, and the world goes spastic once more.

Is it real? According to Venomous Kate, it may not matter:

[W]hether OBL is dead or alive isn't really the issue, is it? The crux is whether extremist Muslims believe he's alive, and every al-Qaeda related terror attack certainly indicates they very much believe this.

But what if he isn't — does it matter? Bin Laden — as a concept, not a person — will remain a major player in international politics and events long after his body is worm food. He is but one head on this Hydra: slay him, and two more will take his place.

How do you kill a beast of such mythic proportions?

Heracles, presented with exactly this task, called upon an ally: Iolaus, his charioteer, who stood off to the side with a torch. When Heracles lopped off a head, Iolaus was there to burn the stump to prevent regrowth. The last head, it is said, was immortal, so Heracles buried it beneath a boulder.

And just to prove that this ancient tale has contemporary resonance: Eurystheus, king of Mycenae, for whom Heracles had performed this task and nine others as ordered, refused to release Heracles from his bond: not only did Heracles actually get help with dealing with the Hydra, but he had tried to turn a profit on the cleaning of the Augean stables.

The beast can be — will be — killed. But don't expect to meet cost projections, or to garner more than perfunctory support, along the way.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:55 AM to Dyssynergy )
Coming soon: Megagrams!

Health-O-Meter, a leading manufacturer of bathroom scales (so to speak), has introduced a new product line which will record weights up to 400 lb.

With two-thirds of us overweight, at least according to the bean counters of the Nanny State and the minions of the insurance industry, who seem to think we all should look like Kate Moss after a long weekend, it was probably inevitable. The real need, I think, is for scales that read in stone, which, at least to non-British ears, might seem less accusative: "Twenty-eight stone? Doesn't sound so bad."

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:19 PM to Dyssynergy )
Are you a boy or are you a girl?

Alexandra at Out of Lascaux, on gender-related differences in writing:

Although I am still convinced that a woman's fiction writing is very different from a man's, I am finding that there is little difference between male and female bloggers. There are aggressive and militant women, and gentle and sensitive men. Very often, the only way to tell the difference is when they mention spouses or they have a picture on their site. Well, a name helps too, but not always.

Has anyone found a difference that we can point to?

I haven't, but Moshe Koppel, Bar-Ilan University in Israel, and Shlomo Argamon, Illinois Institute of Technology, apparently have. Their findings can now be tested in (more or less) realtime with Bookblog's Gender Genie.

I fed the Genie three items from this very blog, and it tagged two as male, one as female. A respectable batting average, though the algorithm claims an accuracy of 80 percent — and it does suggest that I probably should not try to pass myself off as a woman.

(Swiped from 601am)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:55 PM to Blogorrhea )
Carnival 48, Bengals 0

This week, Outside the Beltway presents the Carnival of the Vanities, the first (and still the earliest) weekly roundup of the Best of the Blogs. James Joyner has chosen a football theme, and in keeping with same, I have submitted an entry which is listed under "Offensive Throwbacks".

Well, okay, it isn't really, but it could have been.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:42 PM to Blogorrhea )
20 August 2003
Slow and proud of it

With the return of school comes the return of school zones, and a new season of one peculiar subset of left-lane bandits. You know the ones I mean: nailed for six over while they were in the school zone, they are now plodding along at six under, trying to create the illusion that they are morally upright, law-abiding citizens. The rest of the world quite properly views them, not as pillars of the community, but as mobile speed bumps.

What's worse, of course, is getting two of these twits in parallel on a four-lane, which is what happened this morning. The clod to the left, in a late-Seventies GM beater with the not-quite-completely-detached headliner whipping around the interior like a bullfighter's cape, finally got the message and pulled over to the right, but it took him miles to see the light. I'm sure he'll get some sort of commendation from the Anti-Destination League.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 AM to Driver's Seat )
Belt and suspenders

Susanna Cornett takes exception to an offhand description (on a History Channel program) of Indianapolis as "in the middle of the Bible Belt". Somebody, she concludes, is wearing his belt way too high:

As far as I know, the Bible Belt pretty much includes the Southern states, which typically have more fundamentalist and charismatic religious groups than the North, Midwest and West. If I had to draw it, it'd start somewhere off the coast of North Carolina, and encompass a swath from southern Kentucky to northern Florida, out to the mesquite and tumbleweeds of west Texas. It would not include the Midwest (all those cool Lutherans! No open avowals of ... well, anything, there). Indiana is firmly in the Midwest. Them's Yankees.

But her objection is less to the geography than to the subtext:

It's little comments like that, basically throwaways in the context of the whole program, that reveal the depth of the biases of the people involved. They really do see the middle of the country as this monolithic entity filled with tight-lipped illiterate and hateful people, except for the few who happen to have coastal sensibilities or alternative lifestyles. The comment about the Bible Belt was clearly meant to be derogatory, indicative of religious bigotry and callousness toward the pain of others because they're different.

I'm not so sure the producers were deliberately trying to be mean-spirited — I mean, if I really meant to be derogatory, I wouldn't confine myself to a single throwaway line — but I think she's right about this "monolithic entity" stuff. When I relocated to the West Coast in the late 80s, I encountered a surprisingly large number of people who, upon seeing my Oklahoma plates, were surprised that my teeth were my own and my résumé was readable.

And some of this does go in reverse: when I returned, this time with California credentials, some people wondered if I'd "gone Hollywood." Not a chance.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Is that daylight saved?

Speaking of Indiana, it presents some unusual problems for travelers on a schedule: of the state's 92 counties, only fifteen observe Daylight Saving Time, and some of them are in the Central time zone. (Most of Indiana is on Eastern Standard Time year-round.) A business/labor/trade alliance which spent a year and a half trying to persuade the state government to switch to DST has finally thrown in the towel; the General Assembly won't budge.

Not being keen on DST myself — you can't cut off one end of a rope and tie it to the other and expect it to be any longer when you're through — I doff my hat to those stubborn Hoosiers.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:41 AM to Dyssynergy )
Notes from a Zen Bastard

The New York Press has a funny (but not all that safe for work) reminiscence by Paul Krassner, founder (and, originally, entire staff) of The Realist, the Sixties Zeitgeist in magazine form. "Irreverence," said Krassner, "is our only sacred cow," and The Realist managed a sixteen-year cattle drive (1958-74) before running short of capitalist moolah. Krassner revived The Realist as a newsletter in 1985; it lasted, um, sixteen years.

I doubt the Press will get much traffic from this little blurb, but hear me out: if you think everything that's wrong with the world originated in the Sixties, you need to read this, just so you know whom to blame. For those of us who flirted with the counterculture — and as everyone knows, I'm a terrible flirt — it's just as essential.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:45 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Who's responsible?

And now for something completely different: a new Bill Whittle essay.

Any link to Bill comes with its own marching orders: "What are you doing here? Go read. It's better than anything else you'll see this week."

And it always is.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:10 PM to Blogorrhea )
21 August 2003
Taking stock

If a blog lasts a year, it's a safe bet that the blogger will have something to say about it on the first anniversary. Usually it's no big deal, but sometimes it gets seriously introspective. Costa Tsiokos at The Critical 'I' demonstrates:

After one year, the end result — and to a certain extent, this blog is still evolving, so perhaps characterizing it as an "end result" is a bit inaccurate — hasn't been quite what I envisioned.

For one, I haven't dwelled on a great deal of deep personal stuff, mainly because I've felt rather awkward in doing so in this format. Partly, that's because I know my writing here is going out to a group of strangers, and while that can be a liberating feeling in one sense, in another it's inhibiting. I mean, no offense, but I don't know you people. From what I've gathered, my offline friends and family read this blog only occasionally, if at all, so it's not like I'm going to write a whole lot for an infrequent audience. Plus, I'm sure anything of that nature will be appreciated much more coming from me "live", i.e. not on a website.

No offense taken. I've dredged up some seriously painful stuff over the years, but there are some boundaries I haven't dared to cross, partly because I'm not comfortable with what lies beyond, partly because I can't imagine any of my handful of regular readers being the slightest bit interested. And as it happens, hardly any of my relatives qualify as regular readers, which is probably a Good Thing.

To continue with Costa:

I've found that, for myself, the blog format just doesn't lend itself particularly well to long-form essay writing. I'm not saying you can't write a lengthy, well-structured piece on anything you care to — fiction, opinion, commentary, reminscences, etc. But for some reason, I can't, not on this blog. It could be due to something as simple as the layout, the font, the background colors. It could be that, as has often been suggested, content on the web isn't meant to be presented or consumed in traditional long form, but rather as shorter, bite-sized morsels — and for the most part, that's the type of stuff I offer up on this site every day.

There is, I think, some resistance to really long blog articles, which explains why so many of them end with a link reading "Continued..." On the other hand, getting the first few words in an RSS feed frustrates some readers, who want the whole ball of wax at one fell swoop. (And believe me, if there's enough wax, I'll swoop and fall.)

I don't want to make this sound like a total drag. Overall, I'm satisfied with what I've done here. I like that I've made myself stick to a daily writing schedule; that the writing is not always top-calibre is beside the point. It's rarely ever a chore; in fact, I'm more often frustrated that I can't write more here. So, I think I've gained something useful out of this.

I think I could say that myself, though probably not as clearly or as eloquently.

Here's to another year of The Critical 'I'.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:39 AM to Blogorrhea )
The official line on smoking

It's called the Oklahoma Tobacco Helpline, and it's intended to provide assistance to those who want to quit the evil weed. (I somehow doubt that they'd have anything useful to say to someone who wanted to start.) To no one's surprise, this service has a telephone number that spells something: in this case, it's (866) PITCH EM.

The cost of the Helpline, we are told, will be paid from the interest earned on the state's cut of the tobacco settlement. As a nonsmoker since Day One, I doubt I'll have any reason to talk to these folks, but it should be interesting to see how (if?) it works.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:58 AM to Soonerland )
The last word on Blackout '03

"Would there be this much news coverage if the power went off in the middle of the country?"

This was my daughter's question while watching the anguished reports from the darkened Big Apple. The answer, from E. Henry Thripshaw:

I've spent time in New York and I can imagine that it must have been a huge pain in the patoot to get from Point A to Point B. But the people of New York were no more or less inconvenienced than the people of Cleveland or Detroit (or Lansing or Oneida). Here's where my grapes get sour: had a major outage happened in Denver, or Austin or Minneapolis there would have been a story on the evening news... probably in the second segment. It might — might — have warranted a special report had it affected more than 5 million people. And they would have felt obligated to say Denver Colorado, Austin Texas, or Minneapolis Minnesota because cities without a huge body of water next to them need to be further identified as cities within the boundaries of the United States.

But Sustaining Coverage? Doubtful. Can you even imagine Dan and Tom/Brian and Peter/Ted sitting at their news desks looking concerned as we watch aerial shots of 50,000 people schlepping their briefcases and haversacks along Interstate 70 in St. Louis?

"We're entering hour number 2 of Sustaining Coverage of this CBS News Special Report of 'Blackout 2003, the Missouri Misery.' I'm Dan Rather and we have video now of a bus seemingly filled with what we think are people trying to get to the Mississippi River in an effort to abandon the town. You might say they are on a cruise ship to nowheresville and Isaac has run out of mixer. For those of you who are not aware, St. Louis [is] a town located in Missouri approximately half-way between New York and Los Angeles. We also believe — believe — that St. Louis is the capital of Missouri, but we're waiting for confirmation from CBS' Ed Bradley on that. Meanwhile, in New York, the Dow Industrial Average is down two-and-a-third points on news of the power outage."

The coasts, as Susanna says, just don't get it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:35 AM to Dyssynergy )
Why's everybody always picking on Gray?

Quite apart from the obvious geographical reference, it's hard to imagine any other state with a political group called "Californians Against the Costly Recall of the Governor"; only in California would you find someone who insists on reminding people that elections — or de-elections — cost money. I am frankly surprised that there isn't some committee somewhere in the Golden State billing itself as "Californians Against Things That Suck".

Fortunately for Web surfers, CATCROTG (don't say it out loud) is accessible at a reasonably-memorable URL: No-Recall.com. One of the items I found there is what purports to be a blog by Mrs Gray Davis, and it's pretty much what you'd expect. One quote I simply must pass on:

We have been moved by all of the people who have come forward to be supportive and to help. We are grateful for every Democrat who has stood with us and every Republican with the courage to admit this is wrong.

In aggregate, this probably isn't enough votes to elect a county commissioner in Oklahoma.

Trying to have it both ways

It's not every day I get to quote the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, but here's an opinion piece by Anke Bryson that provokes no small amount of thought. Apparently at least some Germans are wearying of waiting in the welfare line:

Fifty-one percent of Germans would prefer to live in a political system where individuals can assume as much responsibility for their own lives as possible, according to a new survey by the Allensbach opinion research institute. Some commentators have hailed this as a sign that their compatriots are finally tiring of a state that swallows more than half of their output only to redistribute much of it in a highly dubious manner.

And maybe they are. German socialism is extremely expensive, and not just in Deutsche marks (or, lately, euros). But don't expect the electorate to lurch rightward anytime soon:

Are Germans finally prepared to shake off this corset and exchange it for more freedom and self-responsibility? Not necessarily: It is also possible to conclude from the Allensbach poll that tens of millions of Germans still want the state to play the leading role in looking out for them. It shows that nearly half of all eastern Germans, and one-third of western Germans, believe the state should assume primary responsibility for its citizens.

The East, of course, spent all those years under the Soviet yoke. Still, if there's a substantial number of Germans chafing under their system of government, there's a chance that it will eventually be modified for the better.

(Muchas gracias: Hans Ze Beeman of Cum Grano Salis, who comments: "Well, 51 percent seem to approach the Clue™, that is more than I expected.")

22 August 2003
"Needs improvement"

The "No Child Left Behind" legislation mandates that each state prepare a list of low-performing schools each year. Oklahoma's list was issued yesterday and contains 51 schools (of about 1800), including eleven in the Tulsa district and eleven more in the Oklahoma City district. (The OKC list technically includes 14 schools, but three of them were closed after last school year.) There were 30 schools on last year's list; thirteen schools have been on the list for four years and theoretically could be closed if there is no improvement in year five.

The Oklahoma City district will send a report to parents of students in those eleven underperforming schools next week; parents wishing to have their students transferred to another school must file a request before 2 September.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:43 AM to Soonerland )
Rings 'round you logically

"If you believe this, how can you believe that?" If you're thinking that maybe some of us out here in the blogeoisie are not entirely consistent in our worldviews, well, aldahlia is one step ahead of you, and has compiled some blatant examples, none of which (thank heaven) appear to be mine.

Not that I can make any claim to consistency, mind you.

PETA strikes again

A letter to Governor Henry from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (remember them?) has asked that the annual "Outlaw" Rodeo at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary at McAlester be canceled, claiming it encourages criminals to torment and abuse animals.

The governor's spokesperson called the request "silly," and said that the rodeo would go on as scheduled next Friday and Saturday.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:46 PM to Soonerland )
23 August 2003
The new Home Sweatshop kit

The predicted high temperature for today is 101 degrees Fahrenheit, about what it was yesterday when my ancient air-conditioning unit gave up the ghost. The tech was actually fairly sympathetic: "It's probably a good thing. Replacing the entire unit will cost only slightly more than replacing the bad parts." The current definition of "slightly" seems to be in the $50 range, which is slight enough, I suppose.

The problem, of course, was that this was discovered at 5:15 pm Friday, which means that I have to hope that a new unit can be located and installed this morning, or I'm up the Ganges without an antiperspirant until some time Monday. Should the latter be the case, I'm making tentative plans for a daytrip out of town.

Big Brother wants your love

Pertinent observation from Steven Chapman:

Government sustains and justifies its own existence by presenting itself (and being presented by its enthusiasts) as the solution to all our most pressing problems. In point of fact, I would suggest that it presents itself as the solution to the problems that it has created. Never is this clearer than during a war, when government, having created the situation that led to war, now fools the majority into believing that by sacrificing their own lives and liberties, government is defending them — when the truth is that it is clearly the other way around!

He wasn't talking about John Ashcroft's dog-and-pony show, but he could have been.

A life of MTness

As this site begins its second year powered by Movable Type, I've polished up the stylesheet a smidgen and cleared up a blemish or two — and probably induced further coding zits somewhere else that won't be caught right away. A handful of entries from the previous week were imported and their dates changed to match the original hand-coded system, but the very first MT-only posting is this one, a year ago today.

For those curious about the underpinnings: this is the third MT install — I went from 2.21 to 2.51 to 2.64 — and the MySQL database that runs it all consumes 3.31 megabytes of disk space, including 1474 entries and 2548 comments. (The entire site, with all the subsections and whatever, comes to 45 megabytes.) Current bandwidth usage is about 1.4 gigabytes per month, or about what Glenn Reynolds chews up before lunch each day.

As always, I am amazed that anybody at all comes to read these little screeds of mine, and I thank you for coming.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:09 PM to Blogorrhea )
Handed down through degenerations

Mercury, as a record label, dates back to 1945. Based in Chicago, it quickly became a major player, scoring hits with pop, jazz, country, rock, and classical releases. (The Living Presence classical series, begun in the Fifties, enjoys a colossal reputation among audiophiles to this day.) Acquired by Philips in the Sixties, Mercury became part of the giant Polygram combine, which itself was absorbed by Universal a couple years ago.

Given the sheer enormity of its back catalog, it's hard for me to grasp the idea that Mercury, as a record company, simply doesn't exist anymore; a few things still slip out of Nashville under its imprint — the last one I bought was Shania Twain's Up! — but basically, it's just another Universal brand name. This point was hammered home while I was perusing the fine print on Hard to Find Orchestral Instrumentals II, another in a series of nifty reissues from the Eric label, and discovered this note on Sil Austin's version of "Danny Boy", released in 1959 on Mercury 71442:

Courtesy of The Island Def Jam Music Group under license from Universal Music Enterprises

Island? Def Jam? A couple of tails wagging the family dog? Ain't that a kick in the London derrière?

Train in vain

Bruce sees a future where cities here on the Lone Prairie are tied together much like the BosWash corridor back East:

The first critical step would be to tie Tulsa and Oklahoma City together and then to tie each of those locations to other cities to the north and south, with the most obvious choices being Kansas City to the north and Dallas/Fort Worth to the south. Promoters planning an event could then extend the reach of their potential audience to those cities and as long as access to the venue would require little more than a few trips on a fast and air conditioned train then you can count on people being willing to attend that event from other cities. Its no fun driving five hours either north or south to attend an event only to have to drive that distance back after the event has ended. It would be much more pleasurable if you knew that the return trip home might mean taking a nap or reading a book, watching a movie or visiting with friends.

I think a Tulsa/Oklahoma City train could be doable; Amtrak already has service of a sort in Oklahoma City, there's plenty of traffic between the two towns, and the distance is only about 100 miles, about the same as Baltimore to Philadelphia. And at the moment, Oklahoma City has better event facilities, so it's conceivable that Tulsans might come down en masse. But not a lot of people take the train south of here to Dallas, and how many people are likely to come down from Kansas City?

We'll never be BosWash, simply because the distances out here are too great. And that will have to be one heck of a fast train to beat my 5:10 time to Kansas City. What's more, Southwest often offers a $39 (!) air fare to Kansas City, which the train would be hard-pressed to match. (There is, of course, the fact that KCI is practically halfway to Des Moines and therefore you'll have to rely on ground transportation in the opposite direction to see anything, which offsets the fare bargain to some extent.)

Still, it's a long-term plan, and there are other factors at work, as Bruce notes:

With the heightened fears of flying and the questionable long term viability of some airlines it might be time to look for better alternatives for at least the short distance traveler.

I can buy that, I think. But all else being equal, I'll probably still drive, if only because I actually enjoy it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:07 PM to Soonerland )
24 August 2003
As the recall approaches

Chris Lawrence at Signifying Nothing sees a couple of patterns shaping up in the California circus. For instance:

There are two groups of voters who are likely to vote no on the recall: those who want Davis to remain in office (probably around a quarter of the electorate, judging from his approval ratings) and those who believe that the second-stage winner will be a worse governor than Davis. Polls leading up to the election may determine how people vote on this question; if there is a sizeable contingent of hardcore Republicans who think Bustamante will win the second ballot, they may vote no on the recall, to retain the lame-duck Davis in office. Similarly, a Bustamante lead may encourage Democrats to vote yes on the recall, so a (potentially) strong incumbent can be on the ballot for the Democrats in 2006.

I'm still wrestling with the concept of "worse governor than Davis" — it leaves a strange, Huffington-shaped hole in the back of my mind — but this scenario makes a certain amount of sense. And if the Gray/Bustamante dynamic seems a lot like Clinton/Gore, well, Chris has thought that one through also:

In 2000, Gore ran to the left, thinking he really needed to stop Democratic voters from defecting to Nader (which he actually didn't need to do), and generally didn't run on the Clinton record. On the other hand, Clinton's approval rating was much higher than Davis', and the economy was doing significantly better too. Assuming it's in Bustamante's personal interest to win the election, it's probably in his best interest to run away from Davis' record. More importantly, in the absence of any credible challenger from the left, he can run to the right — which makes his announced tax hike package seem like a rather boneheaded move, suggesting more is at work in his campaign than a simple desire to win the recall election.

Jerry Brown once said something about "moving left and right at the same time," perhaps a useful tool in California politics, but one which Gray Davis has been unable to wield lately; I have no reason to think that Cruz Bustamante has any facility for it either. So Bustamante is basically playing to the Democratic base here, with almost the same moves Davis would have employed, which tells me that Bustamante isn't about to separate himself from Davis; with Davis arguing that all these horrible things aren't his fault, I expect Bustamante to argue that continuity — i.e. returning a Democrat to the office — is the most reasonable alternative to keeping the existing one.

There are those who think the whole idea of a recall is horrid, but as Chris says:

[T]he recall provision is sound and there is no good reason why it should not be adopted elsewhere — it's one of the few "progressivist" reforms that actually is good for democracy.

Think of it as flexible term limits.

Don't just stand there, ride!

How did I miss this? Blame it on magazine — specifically, Automobile magazine — lead times; this story showed up in the September issue.

Christie's auto auction at Rockefeller Center in early June offered 42 vehicles, including a one-off Abarth Biposto from 1952, a Morgan Plus Four roadster, and Frank Sinatra's Lamborghini Miura (a hideous shade of orange), but here's what's way out there on the asymptote marked High Weirdness: somebody bid $6463, about fifteen hundred dollars over sticker, for a new-in-box Segway Human Transporter gizmo.

Car craziness, I conclude, extends well beyond mere cars.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:12 PM to Driver's Seat )
They don't write 'em like that anymore

Jay Solo was going through the playground of his mind when he started picking up bits of "moldy, perhaps obscenely mellow" background music, which is of couse a subject near and dear to my heart, especially since he worked in a reference to "My Cup Runneth Over", a song from the musical I Do! I Do! that became an enormous hit for Ed Ames in 1967, a year otherwise given over to second-generation Britrock and psychedelia.

Your average oldies station has already decided that catering to the buffs isn't as profitable as recycling the same 400 or so songs, so there are a lot of tunes from my past (and possibly yours) that are seldom heard anymore. Some of them have been killed off by the evil that is political correctness: Ray Stevens couldn't get "Ahab the Arab" released into today's world order, and contemporary women presumably would find Ginny Arnell's "Dumb Head" ("I'm a stupid little girl") insufficiently empowering. But a lot of great records have disappeared simply because no one cares to fish them out of the vault.

Consider the case of Linda Scott, who charted a dozen records (including some she wrote, highly unusual in the pre-Beatles era), but who today is treated as a one-hit wonder. It was a great hit — the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein standard, "I've Told Ev'ry Little Star", redone as a bouncy pop tune — but you're lucky to hear even that on Oldies 98 Point 6. Scott's followup, the self-penned "Don't Bet Money Honey", as pointed as anything Alanis Morissette ever did, made the Top Ten, but is virtually unknown today.

I could go on, and at some point I probably will, but you get the general idea.

25 August 2003
A/C report

The New Box arrived Sunday noon; it was up and running by 1:45, though it took a good five hours to drop the interior temperature from 89 degrees (Fahrenheit) to 75. Of course, middle, then upper, 90s prevailed outside, and I'd hate to imagine how many liters of water were removed from the inside air; it was getting downright moist in here.

All hail Freon, god of refrigeration.

Feeling the heat

It's not just me.

Outdoor burning has been banned in 33 Oklahoma counties. The weather station at Will Rogers World Airport reports a 9-inch — almost 40 percent — rain deficit for this year, and generally, the rest of the western half of the state is no better off.

A few exceptions are authorized: gas or charcoal grilling, organized fireworks displays where permitted by a municipality, and the disposal of wheat stubble. Otherwise, you can't have so much as a campfire in the counties where the ban is in effect.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:33 AM to Weather or Not )
Don't ask about gas mileage

What would you do with a million euros?

If your immediate answer is "Buy a car," here's the car you're going to buy: the Bugatti Veyron 16.4, which will be produced by Volkswagen (!) in a limited edition of three hundred for yes, one million euros. Plus tax.

If your response to this is "But this is insane," well, you'll get no argument from me. I mean, a million euros would buy you quite a fleet of Volkswagen's real cars.

Still, zero to 300 km/h (188 mph) in 14 seconds? Top speed of 400 km/h?

No. NO. I must look away now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:29 PM to Driver's Seat )
Democrats in disarray

George Packer, in the September/October Mother Jones, on the decaying of the Democrats:

Everybody knows that the Democratic Party has lost its way. The Clinton years once seemed to have ended a long-term decline — but they only slowed it, and that only temporarily. Clinton's political genius was to convey an adherence to liberal values while abandoning liberal positions. This served him very well, but it didn't serve his party. It was an entirely personal achievement. Since then the party's decline has picked up speed, with the low, ominous rumble of a landslide. These days one has the sense of having leapfrogged the Clinton years backward and landed in some sunless late afternoon of the Mondale-Dukakis era.

The operative word here, I suspect, is "landslide."

What are the Democrats to do? Can they do anything at this point? Splintered as they are, reduced to a collection of, in Packer's phrase, "small-minded, turf-conscious groups," it's hard to imagine how they can even nominate a Presidential candidate next year, let alone beat the Bush machine. Part of this, I think, is Dubya's willingness to borrow occasionally from the Slick Willie playbook: espouse one set of platitudes for public consumption, embrace another when the votes come down. (What? You thought W's enthusiasm for cutting taxes made him some sort of fiscal conservative? Have you seen the budget lately? Bush suffers Deficit Attention Disorder as acutely as any Seventies Democrat.)

But even if Bush proves, as expected, to be unbeatable, the Democrats are not excused from the obligation to come up with a candidate who is actually credible, and if that means cheesing off substantial portions of the party's base, so be it. As Packer explains:

[T]here is something worse than losing, and that is losing pointlessly, which is how Al Gore lost (or, as you might have it, how he won). The way for the party not to lose pointlessly is to proceed incautiously. The most attractive candidate will be the one who airs ideas that risk alienating a constituent of the alliance — not, in Clinton's manner, for tactical reasons, but because the ideas might be good ones and might catch the public pulse as [Adlai] Stevenson did half a century ago, making future victories possible.

Stevenson, I remind you, is to Democrats what Barry Goldwater is to Republicans; while he never won the Presidency, his particular set of ideas eventually did get to the White House. I'd like to think there's a JFK-like figure (well, in some respects, anyway) in the Democratic Party's future — even if that future doesn't start until 2008.

2012, even.

26 August 2003
It's not medicine. It's HMO.

Dawn at Altered Perceptions explains everything you always wanted to know about Health Maintenance Organizations.*

* but asking wasn't approved by the oversight committee. **

** I owe Tiger royalties for this shtick.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 AM to Dyssynergy )
Spongeworthy

Oh, please.

Did anybody this side of Fred Phelps actually think that SpongeBob SquarePants is gay?

Now bi, I might believe.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:43 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Notes from the Garden State

Julian Sanchez reports in Hit & Run that former Senator Robert Torricelli, a "man with the dubious dual distinction of being sleazy by the standards of both politics and New Jersey," has found happiness after Congress as a Trenton power broker. Said Ross Baker, professor of political science at Rutgers, "He's now in a position to make the money without the public scrutiny." The Torch, in fact, has wangled for himself the responsibility for an environmental cleanup site in Jersey City, a position which will enhance both his stature and his bank account.

And speaking of the environment, Anna Quindlen has a suggestion for dealing with wild bears who wander into suburban yards:

New Jersey, the most densely populated state (in case you hadn?t noticed), wants very much to allow the hunting of bears. No one seems to have considered the obvious alternative: instead of issuing hunting permits, call a moratorium on building permits. Permanently.

"Gee, Yogi, aren't we getting awful close to Route 130?"

"Don't worry, Boo-Boo-boy, they don't issue building permits anymore. We can have a pic-a-nic anywhere we want."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:19 AM to Dyssynergy )
Don't even think that

In the wake of Columbine, the Oklahoma legislature passed this measure intended to prevent such things. It is written as broadly as possible; in fact, it is so broad that it doesn't even require that intent be proven — only that someone perceive a threat, real or imagined.

Remember that word: imagined.

And if you're thinking "It can't happen here," think again.

(Muchas gracias: Matt Deatherage.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:12 PM to Soonerland )
27 August 2003
Time marches on

I still think I'm getting old — contrary suggestions from the field notwithstanding — and my daughter's twenty-fifth birthday today will not do anything to alter the situation.

Then again, it's not like it's her fault.

(Happy birthday, Becky. You're really getting up there, y'know?)

Yet another lottery squabble

The way things work in Oklahoma is sometimes a source of wonderment.

In its spring session, the legislature passed both HB 1278, which authorizes the state lottery and directs the governor to call an election for its ratification by the voters, and SJR 22, which directs the governor to call an election to amend the state constitution to allow for, well, HB 1278.

The trick here is that SJR 22 didn't get a two-thirds vote, which means that the governor can't call a special election, which means that the constitutional amendment must be on a general-election ballot, scheduled for November 2004. Governor Henry insists that both measures must be on the same ballot; legislative Republicans are now claiming that Henry could call a special election for the lottery alone, and that he is practicing the politics of delay; inevitably, both sides have begun sniping at one another.

In this case, I'm inclined to side with the governor, who at least has been consistent on this issue; the GOP's complaints, I suspect, are motivated by the desire to kill the lottery before they catch flak from their right flank.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Soonerland )
The fare for balancing

Al Franken, interviewed by Salon.com:

I think liberals by nature look for information and conservatives look for ammunition.

Al's evidently never seen Indymedia.

Eternal revenue

A question that has me wondering, from JessicaHarbour.com:

[I]s the desire to pay as little in taxes as possible a worldwide idea, or is it particularly visible in Americans? Do, say, Swedes, who traditionally have a much cozier relationship with a redistributing state than we do, nevertheless call radio shows in Göteborg to find out how they can maximize their deductions, and ask their accountants whether it's better to sell the house in November or December? Do they feel more guilty than Americans do when they do take deductions? Are there differences in how cultures approach taxes, or is the desire to pay the minimum and keep the maximum universal?

I haven't lived overseas, except as a functionary of the US military, so I can't really address this question from personal experience, but I rather suspect the following:

  • Nobody, not even your average Californian, wants his personal tax bite increased, no matter what may be said for public consumption;
  • In semi-socialist Europe, they are perhaps more likely to shrug and say, "Well, what can you do?" and pay the bill without complaint.

At least, that's how it looks to me.

49er exhibition

Carnival of the Vanities #49 is ready, willing, and stuffed full of bloggy goodness, waiting for you at Creative Slips, where it's an Intrepid adventure this week.

So what are you hanging around here for? Get moving.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:04 PM to Blogorrhea )
A spin on Ken Layne

Did you ever wonder what it would be like to rescue Robert Johnson from those hellhounds on his trail and drop him into the middle of a Brinsley Schwarz set? Me either, but the new Ken Layne CD, just arrived at this listening post, sets up exactly that sort of speculation: while Layne would have probably been very much at home in the lo-fi pub-rock universe, his mournful voice and weirdly-vectoring lyrics open the door to the spectre of dread at the very moments when you expect it least. It's probably not ideal driving music, if only because you shouldn't drink when you drive, but late at night with the shadows playing on the far wall — and we're having a thunderstorm right now, so I get a two-hour jump on the sunset — it's strange, affecting, essential stuff.

It's called The Analog Bootlegs. Get it. It's only nine bucks, fercrissake. The catalog number, says the liner card, is KL1517. I'd love to know the significance thereof.

Where's the Kaboom?

According to Bigwig, there was supposed to be a (not quite) earth-shattering Kaboom.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:23 PM to Dyssynergy )
28 August 2003
The truth in seventeen
Callipygian? We may wonder all we like; Margi will not say.
Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:21 AM to Blogorrhea )
Oklahoma v. WorldCom

Attorney General Drew Edmondson made it official last night: the state has filed suit against the bankrupt telecommunications firm and six of its officers, charging that The Company Formerly And Now Once Again Known As MCI faked stock and bond information, ultimately costing the state some $64 million in pension funding.

Edmondson thinks other states may follow Oklahoma's lead. Conviction on any of the 15 counts filed against each defendant could result in ten years' imprisonment and a $10,000 fine. A representative for former WorldCom CEO Bernie Ebbers pointed out that the Feds found no evidence on which they could charge Ebbers.

I think ultimately the state will reach a settlement with the company and the bankruptcy court, but for now, it's way too early to be sure.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 AM to Soonerland )
The dream, plus forty

I wasn't there when Dr King said he'd been to the mountaintop. And maybe that's just as well, since a sorta-white kid on the cusp of ten with barely a clue about what life was about would have just gotten in the way.

As the parental units started to pay out my leash, I started to notice things. And the explanations never quite sufficed. Why was my water fountain right there in the center and their water fountain over to the side? It's the same water, isn't it? "It's just the way it is." How come I always get a seat near the front of the bus? "It's just the way it is." And maybe it was, but it didn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

Then I was dispatched to this fancy-schmancy preparatory school, where the curriculum was eccentric but difficult, the surroundings were right out of a copy of Southern Living, and the headmistress was distressed at the sort of goings-on that had taken place in Washington in the summer of '63. "They won't make me integrate," she thundered. I knew the word, at least in its general form, but it took a while for me to connect it up to the fountains and the bus and the fact that every one of my classmates had always been white.

The, um, segregation academy ran up to grade eight; for the four years following, I would be in Charleston's Catholic high school. Or, more precisely, one of Charleston's two Catholic high schools; the way it was hadn't changed.

But the status quo had just about run its course. Quietly, with little notice, the diocese announced a change in student assignments: in future, all ninth-graders would be assigned to what was now called the Annex, and all the higher grades would meet at the main campus. There was some wailing, some gnashing of teeth, but the world didn't come to an end.

And up to this point, I had thought that members of the clergy had taken a vow of indifference to all things political. In the spring of 1969, an incident at the Medical College of South Carolina proved otherwise. The doctors and the medical students were all white; there were black nursing assistants and LPNs, but most of the black faces belonged to support staff. Tensions were high and growing higher; twelve black workers were sacked for trying to unionize the support staff, and finally all the support staff walked off the job.

That was the 19th of March. On the 31st, Rev. Ralph David Abernathy preached to a crowd of 1500 downtown. He would return in April to organize a march; Andrew Young and Coretta Scott King would be there too. Governor McNair mobilized the National Guard and set a 9 pm to 5 am curfew. The picket lines kept growing, and if you looked carefully, you'd see the occasional priest, even a nun or two.

Came the 11th of May. Mother's Day. Five thousand people, including much of our faculty and five members of Congress, joined the march. The state would not be moved. It would be late June before the University gave in on most of the workers' demands. And about this time, I left Charleston; the family moved to Oklahoma, and I went off to school in Texas.

So I missed most of the unwinding of this particular story, but the details stuck with me, and as the years passed, I felt growing revulsion for the way it was, and for myself for not doing enough to stop it. I still kick myself now and then for trying to stay out of the line of fire. Okay, I was a sorta-white kid on the cusp of sixteen with barely a clue about what life was about, and I probably would have just gotten in the way, but I made a promise to myself, a promise which proved difficult to keep but which would always remain in the back of my mind: Never again will I try to defend something, or try to overlook something, that is just plain damned wrong.

And in the Eighties, courtesy of some historical documentary, I got to hear Dr King's speech in full. To this day, it gives me goosebumps. I hope it always will.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:30 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Received wisdom (one in a series)

And once again, said wisdom emanates from Donnaville, now in spiffy new MT digs.

[H]aving observed 100s of couples, I noticed that most men have what appears to be an innate need to pick their girlfriend up and spin her around. Because I stand 6 feet in height, the likelihood of a man being able to pick me up and spin me around (without my feet dragging on the ground) is not very good. This immediately nixes me as a potential mate.

Then again, according to six-foot-six Penn Jillette, one of the sweetest sounds on earth is "Oh, I could wear heels with you."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:09 PM to Almost Yogurt )
29 August 2003
What ails the BBC

The Register has some idea:

The BBC now exists in an entirely different world to the one it was created in, yet it has changed surprisingly little.

The fact that is funded by every household in the UK paying a government-decided TV "tax" of £116 every year puts it in a unique position. On the one hand it is free from all the rigours of advertisers and commercialism, but on the other hand it needs to justify what it spends the money on.

And what it spends the money on, evidently, is mechanisms to defend itself from the Real World:

The problem is that the BBC of today is an incredibly arrogant organisation — and that gets people's backs up. As the BBC has grown more and more out of touch with the world around it, it has desperately clung to its culture. And that refusal to change has seen it faced with frustration and anger, which in turn has seen it tighten up in indignation.

The National Union of Journalists recently revealed that the BBC was the worst media organisation in the UK for bullying. Numerous examples of blame culture have emerged in recent years. People from outside the organisation have been appalled by the politics and cliques within the BBC. Tales abound of petulant, unpleasant, even sadistic, producers and middle-managers lashing out to disguise their all-too-real fear of discovery.

Where's Romenesko when you need him?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Dyssynergy )
Obligatory Lileks quote

It occurs to me that it would be possible to do one of these five days a week — he's that quotable — but while all Lileks lines are wonderful, some are more wonderful than others. This (his links are bumfuzzled, but this is from 29 August) is one of the latter:

The decline in American corporate savvy began the day some school offered a degree in Marketing.

Truer words were ne'er spoken.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:29 AM to Blogorrhea )
As the worm turns

The Feds are coming down hard on Jeffrey Lee "teekid" Parson, who allegedly has admitted to rewriting the Blaster worm and turning loose his handiwork on an insufficiently-suspecting world.

What to do with a bratling like this? Michele mocks him far better than I, but the solution I like the best comes from one of her commenters, a chap named Morpheus:

[T]his little boil on the backside of the nation has caused something like tens or hundreds of millions of dollars of damage (if not billions), so a simple (or even complex) spanking is not really a suitable punishment. A nice, long, horsewhipping, followed by a few weeks in the stocks somewhere on Wall Street, followed by a 100% garnishment of his wages above, say $10k/year for life might begin to cover it.

Cracking: it's not just a job, it's indenture.

30 August 2003
Feast or famine

It's almost as though someone looked over the climatology reports and said, "Holy desiccation, Batman, we're way down on our rainfall this year!"

Not to worry, old chum; Mother Nature will catch up. And, this being Oklahoma, she'll try to catch up in the briefest period of time possible.

Making up that nine-inch deficit will be difficult, but the clouds managed to cough up an inch and a third before sunrise (not that there's any sun or anything), and this pattern isn't supposed to break for at least 24 to 36 hours, so a few suburban lawns may yet be saved. In the process, a couple of rivers will likely sneak out of their banks, but that's not exactly surprising either; almost the entire state is under a flood watch, and some flooding is already being reported southwest of Tulsa.

And at least the seemingly-endless stretch of 100-degree days (plus or minus three) has ground to a halt, which I reckon is a Good Thing even if I did leave my umbrella out in the car.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:24 AM to Weather or Not )
Is this it for Don Nickles?

In 1980, Don Nickles opined that term limits would be useful, and certainly no one should serve more than two terms — twelve years — in the US Senate. Voters may or may not have agreed with this particular premise, but enough of them embraced Nickles to propel him to a win in that year's Senate race, and a repeat win in 1986.

And then, apparently forgetting what he'd said, he ran again in 1992 and 1998. He won easily, so it must be assumed that the electorate either didn't remember or didn't hold it against him. Recently departed Congressman J. C. Watts reneged on a similar pledge and still was reelected, which suggests the latter.

Now comes the 2004 election, and rumors are floating that Nickles may step down. I'm not sure what I think about this: he's not my favorite Oklahoma politician by any stretch of the imagination, but Don Nickles is a veritable Renaissance Man next to his junior counterpart, the venal and insipid Jim Inhofe, and I'd hate to see him go if he's going to be replaced by the likes of Tom Cole or (gag) Ernest Istook.

Which brings up the next question: Will J. C. Watts come out of retirement? The Bush administration seems fond of the fellow.

Oh, the Democrats? Yeah, they'll nominate some sacrificial lamb to go through the motions. As OkieDoke's Mike points out:

In addition to a sluggish economy, the Dems will need a strong presidential candidate to give the needed push for any shot at the Senate seat.

I don't expect the economy to be in great shape next year — the sheer weight of federal borrowing to cover the nearly half-trillion-dollar deficit will see to that — but it won't be Hooverville either, and somehow it's hard to imagine any of the current crop of Democratic presidential candidates making the slightest bit of impact on the Oklahoma electorate.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:02 AM to Soonerland )
Does blog advertising work?

I dunno. I don't carry any.

But I did follow a Blogspot ad (it was at Bleeding Brain, if you're curious) this morning to the official site of one of the 128,597 people running for governor of California, a chap named Garrett Gruener, venture capitalist and founder of Ask Jeeves.

Interestingly, Gruener has a TypePad blog, which I suppose he'd rather you read from a popup from his main site than from that link, but at least there's more to it than "Vote for me, I'll set you free."

I guess Gruener's ad worked. Sort of.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:30 AM to Blogorrhea )
Look at me, I'm not Sandra Dee

Michael Blowhard notes that scoping the babes isn't quite what it used to be:

[T]he girls and women remind me of the chic new architecture: a matter of ever-shifting translucent panes, of alluring surfaces twinkling one right behind another, all of them beguiling the eye while moving forward and back, in and out. Some people find this kind of thing to be bliss. I find it to be like an endless diet of whirling TV graphics. Walking around the city these days, I have to do my deliberate best not to walk into lampposts. Casual girlwatching used to be an easy-to-manage thing, something I could do semi-consciously. Now the pressure is so high and the attractions are so loud that it's almost impossible not to girlwatch.

Given my own history in this realm — yes, I look, and yes, I feel just a tad embarrassed for doing so, and yes, I would feel about 0.7 centimeters tall should the object of my gaze raise an objection — I can understand what he's going through, even though women on the Lone Prairie tend to be just a bit more conservative in their garb. It's almost an argument for shopping at the local flea market, where at least there's the theoretical expectation that no one's there to show off, though I'm not inclined to test this hypothesis personally.

Of course, gawking gets to be an ethical handful when the gawkee is underage, something some of us are more easily able to overlook than others, and the trends being what they are — well, let Michael finish the thought:

How much farther can it go? 14-year-old girls who will probably be my bosses in 14 more years are growing up in a world that takes Britney, Cristina and online porn for granted; they'll soon be pushing the boundaries a little farther. But once the waistline has sunk down to the pubic hairline, how can it go any lower? I have visions of waistlines continuing to sink and hemlines continuing to rise, and of a day when the two of them cross paths.

And if it does, all the pressure will be off. Few areas, I suspect, are quite as sexless as your average nude beach, partly because the proponents want it that way — keeps the complaints from politicians down, doncha know — but mostly because the reality is never (well, almost never) quite as wonderful as the fantasy.

Not that I care that Cameron Diaz gets an occasional zit.

Pay up, Prufrock

Do I dare to eat a peach? I just read over today's grocery tape, and apparently I paid $3.24 for three of them. Okay, they're on the big side, and not what you'd call squishy either, but at more than a buck apiece, I'm thinking about having them bronzed rather than sliced.

I do love my summer fruits, but geez.

31 August 2003
The gully is duly washed

We're about halfway through this particular wet spell, although how long it lasts is at least partially dependent upon how long it takes tropical storm Grace to fall apart over Texas. Right now, it looks like the last of the rain from this batch will show up tonight; remnants of Grace will begin affecting the area on Monday and Tuesday.

So far, a smidgen over two inches at the airport, "which is stupid," said George Carlin's hippy-dippy weatherman Al Sleet, "'cause I don't know anybody who lives at the airport." Not nearly enough to erase the overall deficit for the year, but it helps, and there's more on the way. Based on past performance, I should be thoroughly sick of it by Thursday or so, but the Weather Guys are sort of confident that it will all be over long before then.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:22 AM to Weather or Not )
Foiled again

Apparently I am farther behind the times than I had realized.

It's been an article of faith in these parts that lining one's hat with aluminum is the surest way to ward off the sort of mind-control beams that are routinely used against us by enemies both terrestrial and extraterrestrial. But time and technologies wait for no one, and, at least with regard to certain classes of extraterrestrials, a more effective screen is made with 3M's Velostat™ electroconductive shielding material.

3M, needless to say, makes no such representations with regard to its product, but of course it can't.

(Via Cruel Site of the Day)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:36 PM to Dyssynergy )
Bill Gates and the Templates of Doom

A couple of weeks ago, Microsoft lost a civil suit filed by Eolas Technologies, charging patent infringement. Damages of over $500 million were assessed.

The World Wide Web Consortium convened a meeting the next week to see how this verdict would impact the Web and its future development. Microsoft, a W3C member, indicated that Internet Explorer would be revised, presumably to remove the offending code.

The Register suggests that one motivation for the Microsoft move would be to avoid paying future royalties to Eolas. (As the Bill Gates character said in an episode of The Simpsons, "I didn't get rich by writing a lot of checks.") The financial aspects mean very little to you or to me, but inasmuch as a rather large portion of us test our Web stuff on some version of IE, we may be in for some rewriting somewhere down the line. Not that we aren't constantly tweaking and editing and rewriting already, of course.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:12 PM to PEBKAC )
Ten o'clock shadows

Irwin Chusid, WFMU radio host and chronicler of "outsider music":

99.99999997% of all sentient life on the planet could not listen to three Jandek tunes all the way through.

Evidently I qualify for that odd 0.00000003 percent, having now listened to three Jandek tunes all the way through. And survived.

What sort of stuff is this? Chusid quips:

Did someone say "rock and roll"? Jandek's neither "rock" nor "roll." He's not even "and."

Damned if I know what he is, either. But if there's a word that combines "compelling" and "repellent" — a word other than "Jandek", that is — that's the word I'm looking for.

(For the curious: "They Told Me I Was a Fool", from Ready for the House, thoughtfully included by Chusid on the companion CD to his book Songs in the Key of Z, and "European Jewel" and "Unconditional Surrender", from Chair Beside a Window.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:40 PM to Tongue and Groove )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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