1 September 2003
Scrambling for the post-Nickles era
A couple of days ago, I speculated as to what might happen should Senator Don Nickles choose not to run for another term in 2004. (If Nickles does run, of course, he'll win easily.) At the time, I suggested that there might be relatively little Democratic interest in the seat, given the paucity of Democrats with statewide recognition these days. OkieDoke.com's Mike pointed out in comments that I perhaps had overlooked Attorney General Drew Edmondson, who certainly qualified as having statewide recognition; I retorted that he might want to keep a lower profile, what with some heavy litigation going on.
Now comes this piece in The Daily Oklahoman, in which Edmondson says that open Senate seats don't come along too often and he'd simply have to look at the possibilities. Advantage: Mike. :)
Brad Carson, just barely in place as Second District Congressman, is also giving the matter some thought. And surprisingly (to me anyway), Oklahoma City Mayor Kirk Humphreys (a non-partisan post, but Humphreys is a Republican in real life) is making some serious noise himself, even going so far as to rule out a run for the House before trying to move up to the Senate. That sort of slow, steady progress, he says, "is for very young, very patient people. I am neither." At least he didn't say "That's the way we do it in the O.K.C., bitch."
And most telling of all, Nickles has apparently thrown cold water on Ernest Istook, telling him that the state would be better off if Istook kept his Fifth District House seat rather than jump into a Senate race. Istook, of course, disagrees. For myself, I have always felt that the distance between Istook and the nearest clue was variable but never came close to approaching zero, and if Don Nickles, who keeps a closer watch on him than I do, is similarly persuaded and I haven't heard that Nickles gave any such advice to the other three GOP Congressmen in the state well, I might actually miss ol' Don when he goes. Whenever that may be.
Nothing to see here, move along
For some reason, this weekend has brought an inordinately high number of dubious search requests, and while most of them aren't funny enough to submit to Disturbing Search Requests, they're still a few degrees off plumb, and far be it from me to refrain from mocking them.
The one that perplexed me most was olsen twins nude free pictures, for three reasons: (1) to my knowledge, there aren't any nude pictures of the Olsen twins, not even at blogoSFERICS; (2) if there were, it's highly unlikely this guy (it's gotta be a guy) would be able to get them for free, what with the legal angles and all; (3) I was the 187th hit for this string, which meant that he went through a hell of a lot of them. The vast majority of the higher placings, of course, went to porn sites, which will tell you they have any damn thing imaginable Lithuanian choir girls, Thai farm animals, Dr. Laura's discarded sandals if they can get you to click in just once. I honestly don't know how McGehee puts up with this.
Then there was pictures of guys with Peyronie's disease, which strikes me as seriously, um, twisted. Bent, even.
(Which reminds me: Danish pianist Bent Fabricius-Bjerre, his name mercifully truncated to "Bent Fabric", won a Grammy in 1962 for his not-exactly-rollicking piano recording of "Alley Cat"; it's about time we were favored with a decent Greatest Hits compilation for the fellow. They could call it Get Bent.)
Finally, there is hillary clinton thighs, presumably a weighty subject, but not one I wish to discuss around lunchtime, if you know what I mean.
From Brussels to Yorkshire
Greg Hlatky raises Borzoi, an honorable breed from the Russian steppes, possessed of dazzling speed, singular beauty, and strength which belies its fragile appearance. Is it any wonder he's not especially fond of toy dogs?
Unlike the calm aloofness of the sighthound, the massive dignity of the working dog, the headstrong all-weather exuberance of the sporting dog ("Great day for hunting! Let's play two!"), or the intensity of the herding dog, the typical Toy is a smug little bundle of fur, teeth and attitude, yapping at the world through the undeserved prominence of his mistress's arms. Some, like the Pekingese, scarcely seem capable of locomotion at all.
I am minded of Robin Williams' description of the Pekingese: "Look! A dog! Let's hit it in the face with a shovel!"
I don't bear quite so much animus toward the animals, myself, but I have to admit, if you put a gun to my head and ordered "Today, you will go get a dog," and you further prohibited me from running down to the shelter and picking up a nice, sensible mutt, most of the toy breeds would be way down my list; it's all very nice that they've been bred to be companions to mankind and all, but the breeds that actually do things are companions just as worthy, and they have talents which extend beyond occupying lap space and defecating on the rug.
Some of my best friends have owned LFDs I even briefly dated the owner of a Maltese, and the less said about that, the better but most of my experiences with toys have struck me as really good arguments for cat ownership.
2 September 2003
It's all in his head
An editorial by Robert A. Martin in The Montgomery Independent hints that Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore might be removed from office, not for violating a direct order, but for being "mentally unable to perform his duties".
Susanna Cornett is annoyed with this notion:
[I]t appears that Moore's wrong here is believing something is right that others think is a clear violation of law. It seems to me that if all judges who did that were removed from the bench for mental incapacity as a result, courtrooms all over the country would suddenly be emptied and at least the 9th Circuit would be completely deserted.
Nice shot. If she'd left it at that, it would have rated Zinger status. Then she played the anti-religion card:
Yes, I realize that there are issues of following judicial rulings here, but I don't see Martin making that argument. Quite frankly, it seems to me that Martin is shading toward anti-religion here implying that at least part of Moore's "insanity" is belief in God.
I read the passage in question, and I didn't see that at all. I concede that she is more practiced than I at the art of ferreting out these things, but I think the average reader of the Montgomery paper, or of most papers, can distinguish between someone on some sort of quixotic crusade (such as Mr. Justice Moore) and someone who has actually gone off the deep end thinking he was doing the will of God. Mr Martin can be faulted here, I think, for relying too much on the opinions of "some court officials," but I'm not convinced he's equating (or even conflating) religion and insanity. If anything, I think he's managed to persuade himself that Roy Moore is an otherwise-okay sort of guy who happens to need treatment, an argument you'd hear more often in a courtroom where one of those fellows who has gone off the deep end is being tried which indicates that Susanna Cornett's Insanity defense? title, at least, is precisely correct.
Dr. Frank perhaps suspects the presence of Englishmen somewhere in my family tree:
I'm not sure if you'd use "emotion" for the heavy, gloomy, resigned "we're all doomed and there's no point" manner that most Brits seem to affect around 80% of the time: within every man, woman, child, banker, Queen, beggar, glamour girl, or bus conductor, there seems to lurk an inner Morrissey that doesn't have much trouble taking hold of the host organism in most circumstances. Other than that, though, the Brits have the unique ability to be embarrassed by just about everything.
"Inner Morrissey"? Now I am scared.
I suppose, though, I should find solace in the idea of an entire people with the same limited capacity for joy as I.
We push, but we don't budget
In an effort to save a few bucks, the Oklahoma Tax Commission announced that they would no longer send renewal notices for vehicle license plates (or, as state parlance calls them, "tags").
Today the Commission backpedaled, saying that they weren't saving any real money by not sending the notices. State law provides for a thirty-day grace period after the expiration of the current tag; the Commission had hoped that people, knowing they would get no reminder in the mail, might actually renew on time or even early. It didn't happen.
(I myself used to procrastinate, though I never seem to find the time anymore.)
Forbes 400, it ain't
According to something called the Global Rich List, yours truly is the 57,547,924th richest person in the world, just barely within the top 1 percent.
I question their methodology I'm sure there are people below me on the list who have a greater (or at least less negative) net worth but it does serve as a reminder that there are a rather large number of people (although probably not exactly 5,942,452,076) worse off than I.
And it also reminds me of Arlo Guthrie's rambling "The Pause of Mr Claus", which has about the same instructional value:
During these hard days and hard weeks, everybody always has it bad once in a while. You know, you have a bad time of it, and you always have a friend who says "Hey man, you ain't got it that bad. Look at that guy." And you look at that guy, and he's got it worse than you. And it makes you feel better that there's somebody that's got it worse than you.
But think of the last guy. For one minute, think of the last guy. Nobody's got it worse than that guy. Nobody in the whole world. That guy...he's so alone in the world that he doesn't even have a street to lay in for a truck to run him over.
And he probably didn't need to hit a Web site to tell him he was the last guy, either.
(Via Plum Crazy, which reminds you to subtract expenses before making any calculations.)
3 September 2003
Whose SQL is it anyway?
Visiting my site recently would show you a default Apache page. Not something of my choice. And as it appears I might have lost my entire blog let this be a lesson to you all.
Go back up your blog.
I'm serious folks, I'm facing possibly losing 4 months of my blog's contents. Don't put yourself through that sort of stress.
Very good advice, and wait a minute, there are children reading this thing?
I mean, it's a safe bet I'll never be missed if this site goes down, but I can't believe I have underage readers. (Some days, I can't believe I have readers.)
Weekday at Bernie's
Embattled WorldCom boss Bernard J. Ebbers will appear in Oklahoma County District Court today to answer the charges filed against him by Attorney General Drew Edmondson last week. For some reason, Edmondson himself will not appear.
Reid Weingarten, counsel for Ebbers, has already indicated which way he plans to go with this matter:
It is not apparent from the charging document, which contains no specific allegations of wrongdoing by Bernard Ebbers, what the local Oklahoma authorities think they have uncovered that the federal authorities have overlooked.
Edmondson has come under fire from federal prosecutors and financial analysts for taking this action, a matter to which he is utterly indifferent:
As long as they don't try to interfere, I don't really care a whole lot what they think.
Given his track record, he probably doesn't have to.
The fiftieth edition of Carnival of the Vanities is hosted by Rhetorica, which has chosen to take that first word in the title literally, much to the amusement of sinister dwarves like, well, me.
As always, the Carnival features the best bloggage of the preceding seven days, the vast majority of which is written by someone other than me. There's lots of great stuff; the best advice I can give is "Read 'em, Dano."
And half a million of the other
Back in the Pleistocene era, when there was still fresh lint in Rebecca's pocket, there was a very distinct line between the online diarist and the blogger. Over the years, at least partly due to sloppy people like me, the line has been blurred somewhat. But there are still some distinctions, as Wendy at Pound observes:
Online diarists are the drama club at your high school. They feel that what they're doing is either art or therapy.
Webloggers, on the other hand, are the yearbook staff. They feel that what they're doing is really important and also might get them into a better college.
No wonder I have so much trouble finding a definition for myself: I couldn't get into either of those groups.
Stretch a point, there's nothing to it
What the world needs now is love, sweet love; it's the only thing that there's just too little of.
While you're waiting: Madonna condoms, which cast a whole new light on the phrase "Material Girl".
I'll be sure to ask for these while I'm at the store picking up my Donner Party Trays.
(Muchas gracias: Anna at Primal Purge.)
Bernie makes bail
Defrocked WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers won't be fitted for an orange jumpsuit just yet; he entered a Not Guilty plea to the state's fifteen charges, posted $50,000 bond, and got out of town.
Should Ebbers be convicted on any one count, he faces up to ten years in Big Mac and a $10,000 fine. He is due back in the Okay City for a preliminary hearing on 30 October.
4 September 2003
Shut up, Wesley
Up at Better Living Through Blogging, Dave presents the Top One reason why he wouldn't vote for General Clark.
Interestingly and not all that surprisingly it's the same reason cited by Bill Quick.
Fuhrman finds a bloody test tube
I don't know if you'd call it a personal epiphany, but Mark Fuhrman, the detective who turned up the bloody glove in the O. J. Simpson case, has apparently turned his back on the death penalty; in Death and Justice: An Exposé of Oklahoma's Death Row Machine, Fuhrman, writing with Stephen Weeks, rakes various Oklahoma prosecutorial types, including retired Oklahoma County DA Bob Macy and disgraced forensic chemist Joyce Gilchrist, over the coals.
"Catastrophic errors," says Fuhrman, "occur in many death penalty cases because of the pressure to make a strong case and get a capital conviction." And I suppose if anyone knows about catastrophic errors, it would be Fuhrman. But to err is human; to design the evidence to fit the suspect is monstrous. And some of what went on in Oklahoma County during the Macy years is truly the work of monsters. This book goes on my Must-Read list.
(Update, 12:20 pm: The Bubba World archive of "Junk Justice" may well be of interest here.)
Checked and balanced
Bruce thinks we're being taken for fools:
You know how every week or two you get a set of checks from your credit card companies reminding you that you have money that needs to be borrowed? Occasionally they even send you a check with your name on the "Pay to the order to:" line and an amount filled out in the amount box. Now, you know that that check is not free money, that once you cash that check you will be liable for the money you borrowed.
So how is it that tax payers can get a tax rebate while we accrue debt? Aren't the latest tax cuts the federal government's lame attempt to buy us off with our own borrowed money?
Well, yes, I suppose they are. On the other hand, I'd rather I had it than they had it; I am (ever so slightly) less irresponsible with my money than they are. And I need hardly point out that if they didn't take so much in the first place, they wouldn't feel compelled to issue a rebate.
Besides, MasterCard will balk if I try to write too many of those convenience checks; Congress merely votes for an increase in the debt ceiling.
Septembers in Oklahoma have been known to be heinously hot, but this one is starting out beautifully, if you can overlook the morning fog, which of late has been almost tactile; you want to reach out of the window, grab a handful, and shove it out of your way. But it burns off by nine, and this evening, with twilight shading itself into the background, Domenico Modugno crooning from the center console (ah, mono), and still air just warm enough to justify the reach to the A/C button, it was a lovely drive down good old 62.
Unfortunately, the reason I was on good old 62 at a quarter past eight was because I'd just gotten off work; the elements which normally cooperate perfunctorily at best didn't bother to go through the motions today, and my 13-hour-plus day, horrid as it was, was still shorter than the sentences served by a couple of other poor souls.
Still, with just that faintest hint of the day that was, accompanied by a song both down-to-earth and otherworldly (I know very little Italian that isn't in some way pasta-related), it was a sweet end to a day that otherwise went on too long.
And such lovely colors, too
Without surgery, yet.
5 September 2003
Breathe deep, the gathering gloom
The Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America has issued its list of Allergy Capitals, the places among the top-50 metropolitan areas where persons with "seasonal allergies" are likely to suffer the worst, and the Oklahoma City metro ranks seventh for fall sneezing and wheezing: we're up to here in ragweed and various pollens, and will be until the first fall freeze.
It's slightly better in the spring, when we check in at number 21. The worst of all? Louisville, Kentucky, which is #1 in the spring and #3 in the fall.
You're censoring me!
A reminder from Doonesbury's Garry Trudeau:
Technically, the exclusion of my strip from a newspaper is not censorship. It's called editing. Newspaper editors have a right and responsibility to control the content of their papers. They're public stewards and have to make dozens of calls every day on what meets the standards of their particular community. I don't always admire the rationale for dropping a strip...but I see no reason why I should expect to be in every one of 700 papers every day.
You'd be surprised how many people haven't figured this out yet. Or maybe you wouldn't.
One good thing about our local classical station: while they're conservative to a fault during most of the broadcast schedule, the 9-10 am block, known as the Birthday Hour, occasionally tosses that caution to the wind.
John Cage was born on this date in 1912. A number of composers share this birthday, but not only did the station find room for Cage, they played his Atlas Eclipticalis, a string of uncompromising galactic emissions that doesn't even approach the usual definition of "accessible." It is, of course, endlessly fascinating, but with classical stations pitching themselves as upscale background music these days well, how do you shove John Cage into the background?
Yeah, I know: they could have spared the delicate sensibilities of some listeners by playing 4' 33", or filling the space with a second piece by Mrs. H. H. A. Beach. But the fact that they didn't strikes me as a welcome sign of life in a format too often just barely this side of moribund.
Depart, O cursed clue!
I'm not sure if I'm being trolled, or if I've simply been visited by someone who shouldn't be allowed into cyberspace for safety reasons.
Here's the comment in question, unedited for content or anything else:
dear sir, i am not able to find anything specific information which i alway's try to get to no about indian school's and soem other kind of information by using google..it's a nice surf but it alway's has information which relates mainly on american and other developed countries and nothing specific about ther underdeveloped countries.....so i would like to conclude if you can include the specicfic information i tihnk it's your job as you run this net ..well waiting to her from you sir.... honesty is the best policy.
This comment was attached to an April article on credit cards, which is obviously a topic far removed from this individual's interests.
The visitor's IP address traces back to Jaipur, which perhaps explains the "indian school's" bit.
Still: "you run this net"? I run this net? I may run this domain, but my influence over the rest of the Internet is somewhere between infinitesimal and nil and declining all the time.
An expansion joint on Voucher Road
My worry is simple, a government funded voucher program will eventually be followed by government regulation. It will start very reasonably by requiring teachers to have a certain level of education (though one wonders why parents would ever send their kids to a school with subpar teachers if given a choice, making the regulation unneccesary). So there is a chance that this voucher system will, in fact, end up hurting private schools as they will have to eventually deal with burdensome regulations.
A regulation that is unnecessary is a regulation still. Not being in the Ed Biz, I'm enough of a naïf to think that the imprimatur of the regional accreditation organization would be sufficient, but then I'm not sitting at a big desk in Washington trying to think up a way to expand the reach of my department either.
Private schools could opt out, though, couldn't they?
But what happens when they end up having a large number of their students being part of the voucher program and therefore would take a large hit if they withdraw from the program? What is likely to happen is that they will feel forced to accept the new regulations bit by bit until there is little difference between them and public schools. I mean is it really that unfathomable that the teachers unions pressure Congress to push private schools to unionize making the teaching quality in the public schools and private schools more or less the same?
A new slant on the slippery slope. I don't like the sound of this, but dammit, he might just be right.
6 September 2003
Not going back to Denver
The Federal trials of Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were held, not in Oklahoma City, but in Denver. Nichols, now facing state charges, has asked that the state trial be moved out of Oklahoma; Judge Steven Taylor has rejected that request, though he said that if the court cannot find enough impartial jurors, the case will be dismissed.
The trial location is expected to be announced Monday; the trial itself begins on the first of March.
So I'm listening to Car Talk this morning, and the young woman from the East Village is describing the no-start issues with her car, and either Click or Clack asks: "Is this a Honda?"
And of course it's not: "It's an Acura Integra."
Either an unprecedented level of restraint or the miracle of post-production editing prevented them from responding "It's still a Honda."
I wonder how many Lexus owners realize they're driving Toyotas.
Rare and well-done
Rod Dreher at NRO's The Corner picked up on this letter to the editors of Crisis magazine by George W. Rutler, a clergyman from New York City. It's a gem from start to finish, and it provides, um, food for thought:
Taste is one thing; it is another thing to condemn meat eating as "evil" and permissible only "in rare and unfortunate circumstances." [Danel] Paden disagrees with no less an authority than God, Who forbids us to call any edible unworthy (Mark 7: 18-19), and Who enjoins St Peter to eat pork chops and lobster in one of my favorite revelations (Acts 10: 9-16). Does the Catholic Vegetarian Society [of which Paden is the director] think that our Lord was wrong to have served up fish to the 5,000, or should He have refrained from eating the Passover Lamb? When He rose from the dead and appeared in the Upper Room, He did not ask for a bowl of Cheerios, nor did He whip up a meatless omelette on the shore of Galilee.
Man was made to eat flesh (Genesis 1:26-31; 9:1-6), with the exception of human flesh. I stand on record against cannibalism, whether it be inflicted upon the Mbuti Pygmies by the Congolese Army or on larger people by a maniac in Milwaukee. But I am also grateful that the benevolent father in the parable did not welcome his prodigal son home with a bowl of radishes.
For the moment, I am enjoying a visual of PETA's sainted Ingrid Newkirk slow-roasting at 300 degrees for eternity, her own sanctimony for marinade with just a dash of Lea & Perrins.
(Muchas gracias: The American Way!?)
Breezing through work
I have lived nearly thirty years in central Oklahoma. During that time, I have delivered newspapers, and I have driven a car while unclothed.
It never occurred to me, however, to do both at once.
Mr Henry goes to Jerusalem
If there's anything to that "governing best = governing least" stuff, Governor Henry may already be on his way into the history books. Cam Edwards has already twitted the Guv for his extensive vacation schedule, and now the OkiePundit has uncovered yet another bowlful of junket:
According to sources in the Jewish Federation of Oklahoma Governor Henry will be slipping out of the state on Sunday for an all-expenses paid (by Israel and the Federation) 8-day trip to Israel. They do this for every governor. It's a perfect opportunity for Israel to sell their story to American political leaders like Henry. You can bet Governor Henry won't be hearing the "Palestinian viewpoint" while in Israel.
Actually, one can hear the Palestinian viewpoint pretty well while in Oklahoma City. Basically, if you've seen one suicide bomber (and if you've watched the news for more than twenty minutes this year, you have), you've seen them all, and with them you've seen the Palestinian viewpoint in its entirety: anything else they may say is just window-dressing, and not good window-dressing at that.
Not that you should expect any other reaction from someone who was physically rattled by the Oklahoma City bombing, and who was utterly disgusted by the spectacle of Palestinians cheering in the streets after 9/11.
7 September 2003
The return of American iron
Peter M. DeLorenzo, the original Autoextremist, has his hopes up:
After the domestic manufacturers succeeded in brainwashing the American public over the last 25 years that front-wheel-drive offered superior traction and handling and that we'd all die without it (even though it was simply a convenient engineering packaging decision for getting larger interiors into "downsized" cars), the mavericks at DaimlerChrysler have basically decided to "Go Big or Go Home" and build substantial, roomy cars, with Hemi V8 power and rear-wheel drive offering the kind of balanced handling and overall performance that Europeans have been selling here in BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes for years. A lot of people in the business view the move as being a huge risk, because it may alienate drivers in the Northeast part of the U.S. and in other snowbelt states. But I happen to believe that people will be clamoring for something different, and a lot of people even in the snowbelt states will embrace these new cars for what they are: Big, bold, American statement cars with power, performance and style (even though they share some underpinnings with the previous generation E Class Mercedes). Sometimes in this business, you have to just go for it, and the Chrysler Group, by going in directions that the other car companies can't or won't will have a couple of big-time hits on their hands by next spring.
I don't have a problem with the Benz bits; Chrysler didn't have any suitable (which is to say, "non-truck") RWD platform of its own, and really, if you're going to dip into someone's parts bin, the Mercedes parts bin is generally a pretty nice place to rummage around.
I've seen photos of these cars, and while the Dodge Magnum, which will be issued first as a wagon, looks too much like an armored vehicle for Middle East arms dealers, the Chrysler 300C comes off as a solid, traditional American sedan, with all of that legendary genre's virtues (incredible amounts of room, the ability to consume vast numbers of highway miles in short periods) and vices (gawd, but that's a lot of brightwork in its mouth). Considering what we've been getting in the way of American sedans have you looked at Ford lately? the prospects for these Mopars look good, and I've tentatively added the 300C to my short list of Vehicles To Consider next time around. For me, this is a sea change, since normally I shop for a modicum of performance within the context of minimum visibility, but as the man says, sometimes you have to go big or go home.
A group known as PsychoPhobia has apparently hacked into Cam Edwards' Web site and replaced his index page with the usual modest braggadocio. His archives are apparently still intact I was able to reach this page which I had previously linked, and all the items within a day or so of its posting but they've snagged the top of the directory.
(Update, 7:15 pm: He's back up and running.)
And here's to you, Mrs Such-and-such
With the laundry done, I settled back in my chair to perform two concurrent tasks, one sort of painful, one more like hopeful: I grabbed this week's accumulated bills and logged onto the bank site to pay them, and I popped open this week's newest musical acquisitions to play them.
Tucked inside the envelope with the phone bill was a pitch for the telco's own online-payment service, illustrated with an overhead shot of a woman at a notebook presumably using said service. Now Net-based services are no less likely to fall back on Sex Sells than any other commercial endeavor, but the telco's bill-paying model isn't the usual barely-legal refugee from a Skechers ad; you can't see her face, but her slightly-streaked, vaguely-unkempt coif, the slight thickness around her upper arms, the prominent striations on the backs of her hands as she types all these things indicate that we're looking at, not some twentysomething babe, but her fortyish (fiftyish?) mother. And that's a good thing: not all of us are youngsters anymore, and when we were, we didn't particularly want to be reminded of things like phone bills. Besides, I was pleased to note, Mom had a nice pair of gams.
And precisely at that moment, Fountains of Wayne launched into "Stacy's Mom", a song about a guy who doesn't mind hanging with a classmate, but:
Stacy, can't you see, you're just not the girl for me
I know it might be wrong but I'm in love with Stacy's mom
I pulled the booklet from the CD case to verify that yep, that's what I heard.
The law is an asshat
The Recording Industry Association of America has had mixed results in its efforts to clamp down on file-sharing, and Congress hasn't been asking "How high?" when the RIAA insists that they jump, so the industry's latest attempt to kill off peer-to-peer networking is disguised as an antiporn measure, which naturally attracts dimbulbs like Rep. John Sullivan (R-OK).
The amusing aspect of this bill, of course, is that it mandates the use of a software flag that's supposed to prevent a P2P client from being installed without "verification of majority" or "verifiable parental consent." Where is this flag? According to the bill, the FTC is supposed to manufacture a specification for it over the next year, at which time software developers are supposed to fall all over themselves to adopt it.
Nothing like using something that doesn't even exist to enforce the law of the land. Might as well give the job to the underpants gnomes.
The last thing we need is Congress in proximity to anyone's underpants unless, of course, they and their "friends" plan to dine upon same.
8 September 2003
Something you'd just love to burn
One of these days I'm going to put together a mix CD called Songs in the Key of No Life, and when I do, I'm going to be inspired by Lindsay's selections.
(Depending on where you work, link may be somewhat less than safe.)
The suburban blight Cul-de-Sac is up for another Monday round, and once again, something from this particular dead-end was deemed worthy of inclusion. (Thank you, Kelley.) All sorts of neat stuff turned up this week, a lot of which I (and presumably you) really need to read.
Mr Bad Example
The announcement came last year, and the last album followed, but while I believed the album, I didn't believe the announcement: somehow, some way, Warren Zevon would pull through.
He didn't, of course I'd like to think that he was actually beating the Reaper when suddenly that son of a bitch Van Owen, angry over Zevon's narrative, burst in and gave him the Roland treatment but everyone from Flo and Eddie to Ken Layne owes him big time, and they know it.
Now he sleeps. I'll drink a piña colada in his memory; his songs were perfect.
Regrets? I'll have a few
Following the lead of the extraordinarily gutsy Susanna Cornett, I'm throwing the comments on this topic open to whatever questions you may have about me, the site, whether I trade nude photos of the Olsen twins with McGehee (by the way, the answer to this one is "No"), or anything else that strikes your fancy.
But be reasonable. Some things should not be discussed in polite society; some things shouldn't even be discussed in bloggage. And if it's a question that's answered elsewhere on the site, be prepared to be pointed in that direction.
The cutoff time is 8 pm Central (9 pm Eastern).
(Update: The word is "gutsy". No way am I going to tell you what the typo was.)
For a moment there, I thought no one was going to weigh in with a question, and I was going to go into a prolonged sulk. And then, of course, it occurred to me that this very site meets the definition of a prolonged sulk, so obviously I had nowhere to go.
Anyway, here's what I got, and here's what you get:
Embarrassingly enough, I didn't know, and had to de-pants and then re-pants myself to ascertain the answer, which is: both functions begin on the right side.
Boxers or briefs?
I've wavered over the years, but I've settled fairly firmly into the boxers column over the last decade or so. (There are times, sometimes having to do with being unable to face a mountain of laundry, when I do without, but this is probably fewer than 120 days a year.)
Crunchy or smooth?
My palate prefers crunchy; my teeth, alas, prefer smooth.
Do you get me, sweetheart?
Not as often as I'd like, but I suspect no one else does, either.
Eggs can come? Damn. I learn something every day out here.
I'm not even sure how many blogs there are. BlogStreet reported 145,330 this evening; Technorati claims to be tracking 922,327. I suspect, though, that the single biggest week for blog startups, at least in this country, was the week right after 11 September 2001, for fairly obvious reasons, and about a third of the blogs I read during that period were subsequently abandoned.
There are many reasons why a blogger might give up: frustration with the tools, lack of time, or simply running out of things to say. Still, I've seen more than a few blogs that were left to lie fallow for a few months and then brought back to life.
One factor contributing to longevity, I think, is specialization: a blog that covers a relatively narrow range of topics may draw fewer readers, but those readers tend to be very loyal. All-over-the-place stuff like I do is in general decline, though truly exceptional blogs will always have an audience regardless of focus or lack thereof.
I lived by the beach for about ten years and hardly ever went some people should not be allowed in a swimsuit, and I'm one of them so that's not a major draw. On the other hand, if I lived in the mountains, I probably wouldn't be quite so fond of them.
The more I think about it, the more I like the area a few klicks either side of the Mason-Dixon line: southern Pennsylvania, northern Maryland, and a few snippets of Delaware. It's close enough to anything (as distinguished from anybody) I might want to see on the spur of the moment, and it's not smack-dab in the middle of a Major Metropolitan Area (though the eastern end of it is highly Philadelphia-oriented). I won't consider this, though, unless I've gotten to the point where I don't have to work and I can just bang the drum all day. (The chances of this, alas, are fairly slim.)
(If you missed out on this little exercise, it will be repeated at some point, probably when I'm desperately scratching around for a topic.)
9 September 2003
Tulsa thinks big
For years and years, Tulsa has thought of itself as Oklahoma's Dallas, and that other city down 66 was Fort Worth, nothing more. Tulsa has had better convention facilities, a spiffier downtown, more hotel rooms and today none of it matters, as a refurbished Oklahoma City shoots for the big time and Tulsa descends into tedious Lubbockhood.
Today, voters will pass judgment on a package of expensive civic improvements and industrial incentives intended to restore Tulsa's edge. The operative word here is "expensive": Vision 2025, as it's called, will cost nearly a billion dollars and will be financed by an extra penny of sales tax over a 13-year period.
There are some objections to the package a downtown stadium? but I think it will pass, if only because Oklahoma's number two city hates to be, well, number two. Still, it's not as visionary, if that's the word, as the MAPS projects in Oklahoma City, and there are legitimate reasons to question whether Tulsans will get any kind of return on their investment.
Right now, though, the one question is "What will the voters say?" That, at least, will be answered today.
A view from a fan
This was up on the front page at RockSnobs, and it's good enough to warrant repeating:
While I still don't have the fire in the belly to give Warren Zevon the proper tribute he deserves, I cannot let his death go unmentioned. The fact that he was given three months and stayed for a year makes me smile. That Warren Zevon, always doing his own thing. Of course it is bothering me that he never really got much press until he was dying. I mean, I just saw Kurt Loder on the freaking MTV talking about him. And I know from record store experience that people are rushing out and buying his music, just like when John Entwistle died. But maybe, just maybe, thanks to all the coverage, some kids will discover a great and underrated artist, and that is never a bad thing.
A clarification of sorts
I did, I must point out, retain my Nike sport sandals.
You might think you had the right to open your own damn garage door.
(Muchas gracias: Hanah at Quare.)
No drugs for you
The Justice Department has ordered Tulsa's Rx Depot, which operates 85 pharmacies in six states, to shut down by Thursday or face the Wrath of Ashcroft. The chain does a thriving business on the side importing prescription drugs from Canada, and following a warning from DOJ this past spring, actually expanded its activities. Further, the Food and Drug Administration says it bought an antidepressant from Rx Depot at Canadian prices which proved to be a counterfeit.
Rx Depot's Carl Moore continues to insist that he will not yield to government pressure, and that he will not sign the DOJ's consent decree.
O most wretched anniversary
I wasn't there on the morning of the 11th; I was doing the same old workaday stuff that I always do. But the radio was on, I was half-listening, and suddenly the voices got higher and more agitated and eventually it sunk in that the world had changed right then and there.
There are many stories from that day. Some of the best of them are collected at Voices: Stories From 9/11 And Beyond, which surely you've read by now. And as of this afternoon, I'd thought it over, and decided I had nothing to add to the discussion, nothing to say I was willing to call my own.
And then the floodgates opened and the words followed in rapid succession.
It was written on the night of the 9th, but it's dated September 11th, and it's up now as Vent #356. I'm not sure if it's the best thing I've ever written, or the worst. Probably it's somewhere in between. One thing for sure: it's an object lesson in what happens when you try to retain too much composure for too long a time.
(I owe this one to Michele; the strength she's shown in collecting and compiling the stories and in putting the fools in their proper place has been truly inspirational.)
10 September 2003
Tulsa thinks even bigger
In the end, it wasn't even close: all four of Tulsa's Vision 2025 proposals passed, drawing 60 percent approval from the 40 percent of registered voters who turned out for Tuesday's election.
"It is the beginning of Tulsa's future," exulted Mayor Bill LaFortune.
Well, maybe. I'm not convinced waving $350 million at Boeing will encourage them to build the 7E7 in Tulsa; on the other hand, $22 million to help shore up sagging American Airlines, which wants to close one of its three maintenance facilities, one of which is in Tulsa, might do some good.
And there's the question of whether some Tulsans felt they were being railroaded into supporting Vision 2025. Michael Bates, a leader of the opposition forces, reports:
I have spoken to and received e-mail from hundreds of Tulsa County residents who deliver the same basic message: "I'm against this tax, and I appreciate what the opposition is doing, but because of my job, I cannot come out publicly against it." People are afraid to display yard signs, to sign petitions. Employees, public and private, are afraid of losing their jobs. Politicians are afraid of angering donors and being targeted for defeat (with good reason). Businessmen are afraid of regulatory harassment from city or county agencies, afraid of losing business from the big companies backing this package, afraid of being turned down for loans. I heard that workers at one downtown company were told by an angry CEO that they'd lose their jobs if they opposed the package. American Airlines mechanics were taken off the line to assemble "YES" signs.
A lot of this goes on in most elections of this sort, I suspect.
Now comes the hard part: trying to get the maximum bang for Tulsa County's extra cent per buck.
Today I went to the Fence.
The Fence defines a boundary of the Oklahoma City National Memorial; if you're eastbound on Northwest 5th Street going downtown, you head right toward it. Which I was, and which I did.
The Fence was installed as a routine security item. But its appearance is anything but routine: threaded through its metal links, you'll find the stuff of memories, items left by mourners, something personal to offset the starkness of the empty chairs.
The Fence is familiar to us all; we've seen it a thousand times, reduced to the size of our living rooms. But that familiarity still doesn't prepare us for the sight of the real thing.
Tomorrow there will be an observance at Ground Zero. I'm afraid that were I there, I would find the experience completely overwhelming; even now, after eight years, I find I am still affected by the Fence.
Which is worse: zealots who fly passenger planes into symbols of wealth and power, or wealth and power using this prostitute Republican administration to declare war on the biosphere on all life on earth?
While I can understand the idea of letting the letters section lapse into lunacy occasionally to give the semblance of an open forum, I'm astonished that the Providence Journal would run this letter on September 10.
Moonbat Central in California has opened a branch office, maybe?
11 September 2003
In your dreams, pal
The first blast came at 5:14, and I sleepily did the math: yes, it's the 11th of September, and yes, I'm within five miles of Tinker Air Force Base, and yes, if they take out Tinker, there's a good chance I'm going with it.
A second eruption, the lights flickered, and finally it dawned on me that this was not any kind of military operation at all; it was nothing more than a very loud but otherwise unremarkable Oklahoma thunderstorm.
A bit of paranoia, I think, is probably hard-coded into the genome as a survival enhancement.
Incidentally, this site was hit with a Denial of Service attack last evening. (Well, not just this site everything on the host was being hit but there are relatively few blogs on this host, so you might not have noticed it elsewhere.) The attack was brought under control after about twenty-five minutes, but it's yet another reminder that we all have our little vulnerabilities.
One square at a time
Carolyne Duncan teaches literature at Haskell Middle School in Broken Arrow. Sometimes she teaches something more.
Last year, her seventh-graders read Paul Fleischman's Seedfolks and constructed two quilts, which ultimately wound up at Comfort Quilts. What is Comfort Quilts?
September 11, 2001 was a day of tragedy for all Americans, especially for the children who lost a parent in such a disaster. Comfort Quilts was created in order to help relieve some of the pain and assist in the healing process by providing handmade Comfort Quilts to those children who lost a parent that day. It gives them something they can hold on to, find peace with, and be comforted knowing we all care and are here to provide strength to help them through their loss and sorrows.
Cody Taylor, a student who participated in the project last year:
I think about those people who had something taken away from them and we were able to give them back something. I think that's pretty cool.
There's no feeling on earth quite like it.
Playing solitaire 'til dawn
That's the only excuse I can think of for failing to post the link to Carnival of the Vanities #51, hosted by Admiral Quixote and guaranteed to be shipshape.
Now hear this: get over there and read.
T plus 730 days
The amazing Bill Whittle sums up the state of the nation:
For those too blind to see the magnitude of this victory, let them whine and seethe all they want. We are still here. We are still here, and far better off, then we were two years ago today, when entire countries were vast terror camps, and children's cemeteries.
(In case you missed it, here's my take on where we were and where we should be going.)
T plus 730 days, WWII
The ever-inventive Greg Hlatky takes a look at the situation on December 7, 1943. Among other things, Kwajalein and Nauru are under assault by the Navy's Task Force 50, a Canadian soldier is killed in fighting near the Moro River in Italy, and FDR, Churchill and Turkish President Ismet Inonu are meeting in Cairo. Two years into that war, and Hlatky notes:
No one spoke of a quagmire, or suggested turning things over [to] the League of Nations.
As punchlines go, that's the punchiest one of the day.
12 September 2003
The man in black
Last night I was playing American IV: The Man Comes Around again I keep it at my desk rather than on the CD shelves and while much has been made of Cash's incredible eclecticism (Depeche Mode? Nine Inch Nails?), what continues to strike me most about this series is the sound of his voice, the subtle fusion of weariness and triumph that can only belong to a man who has seen it all, yet knows that there is still more to see on the other side.
CMT.com has a good overview of Cash's life and career, but there's no better way to know the man than to listen to the music he made. And it will always be available in some form or another; any overview of American music of the last half of the 20th century is incomplete without Johnny Cash.
"I keep a close watch on this heart of mine...."
Lockdown at the Oklahoma County Jail, but it's not because of the possibility of escaping inmates; it's the annoying certainty of escaping sewage, which flooded the basement and the ground floor yesterday.
The plumbing was fixed quickly enough, but it will take time to clean up the mess. And apparently it's the fault of the inmates, says Major Russell Dear:
When they get angry at us, they stuff [the lines] with sheets and bedding, because they know it's all got to flow down to where the administration is on the first floor...and we have to suffer with it.
Sheriff John Whetsel may get his new jail yet.
Where's my ethanol subsidy?
Bruce suggests a new drinking game: take a shot every time the President "uses 9-11 to justify his policy du jour."
I wonder if all these booze bottles are recyclable....
All right, who wants to see David's cod piece?
Obviously I have learned nothing
Earlier this week, I threw caution to the winds normally, this being Oklahoma, the winds would throw it back, but fall makes for some odd weather patterns around here and fielded questions from readers. It went fairly well, all things considered, although there was some grumbling about the narrow window of opportunity.
So here we are again with version 2.0, which differs from the previous version in one substantive manner: you get more time. Thirty-six hours, in fact. Between now and 9 am Central on Sunday, you may post your questions as comments to this article; at that time, comments will be closed and I will make my best attempt at coming up with answers.
Them's the rules. Go for it.
13 September 2003
Gorillas in the midst
By most accounts, men outnumber women in the talk-radio audience, and according to Martin Kaplan, director of the Norman Lear Center at USC's Annenberg School of Communications, there's a reason for it:
[W]hen you listen to one of these shows, it's all about screaming and chest thumping sort of like what you see in those studies of the great apes. Think of the host as the silverback: He screams and thumps his chest, and the listeners call in to emulate him.
(Found by John Rosenberg, who comments: "I wonder what Kaplan would say if he weren't such a non-partisan, objective scholar.")
What do you do when you're branded?
Why, you try to convince everyone on earth that you've got the Hottest Brand Going.
Even if what you're selling is nothing more than air.
Stars and Bars forever
Or at least once more, anyway.
On 17 April 2004, more than a century after the end of the Civil War Between The States For Southern Independence, or whatever you want to call it, the last Confederate war dead will be laid to rest in Magnolia Cemetery in Charleston, S.C.
The crew of the submarine CSS Hunley, lost when the sub sank in February 1864 the vessel was pulled off the ocean floor in 2000 will be buried with full military honors, and both submarine buffs and members of reenactment societies are likely to turn out in full force.
And maybe some picketers, too; there's an online petition to ask the Hunley Commission, which has arranged for the ceremony, to bar the appearance of the US flag on the premises, and there are hints of local protests as well. Why? Well, of course, this was the Union flag (albeit with a different number of stars), and the Union, for those sailors, was the enemy.
Hunley Commission chair Glenn McConnell finds this incomprehensible. He's a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and "at the beginning of every meeting, we pledge allegiance to the US flag."
I'm not quite sure what I think of this just yet.
Escape from New York
You're behind the counter at the auto-rental facility at the Philadelphia train station on 12 September 2001. You point to the form and you tell your customer, "Miss, I need your employer, work address and work phone number."
And for a work address, she tells you, "Number 2 World Trade Center, 59th Floor, New York, New York, 10014."
Your jaw, of course, hits the linoleum.
As for the customer, how she got out of the WTC and to Philly and beyond is the stuff of nightmares, even today.
14 September 2003
Inquiring minds, and so forth
Well, I asked for it. Thank you for playing Let's Bend This Guy's Mind.
If you were crazed enough to post questions in response to this call, your answers are just beyond the MORE link.
Susanna Cornett wants to know:
I am surrounded by stuff, and lots of it, but most of it is fairly ephemeral and to at least some extent replaceable; even the overpriced wall hangings and the rare recordings can probably be found with a little bit of effort.
So this narrows the field down to things I can't replace, and ultimately I identified three, which are listed below:
3. A brass tie bar, approximately the width of the widest tie I own. This was given to me in 1967 by the kid sister of my best bud at the time; she apparently was not fond of my tendency to fasten down my tie with a paper clip. (Yes, Virginia, we wore uniforms in those days.) It is a measure of something, I suppose, that it was nearly thirty-five years later that it first occurred to me that she might have had another motive.
2. My high-school class ring, dated 1969, which I gave away once. (It was returned after a couple of weeks due to parental pressure. Both sets of parents, in fact.)
1. A replica of a goldfinch, circa 1976. During my mother's last days, she tried to keep as busy as she could; at some point, she dabbled in arts and crafts, and one day she found this 3½-inch model of a bird, painted it, and showed it off. Somehow I wound up with it, and the little bird has followed me around ever since; today, its little wire-frame legs long since twisted away and lost and the paint on its beak beginning to chip, it's perched (via some of that sticky stuff you use to hang posters) on the corner of my computer monitor, watching me type.
For all three items:
Joe Goodwin asks:
All my cars have had names, and usually it took a couple of drives before that name became apparent. Susannah (with an H), my first car (she was a '66 Chevy II Nova with the 250 straight six and Powerglide), scored her nomenclature the first time I got behind the wheel; on the other hand, Dymphna, the '75 Toyota Celica I got in the separation agreement (though I had been driving her for some time), took a while to make herself identifiable.
I have never driven any Hyundai, but a coworker owns an Accent sedan, in refrigerator white, and somehow it looks kind of Darla-ish.
Alan Sullivan came up with:
I live alone in a small, untidy flat surrounded by tar and cement; there's scarcely any reason for me to own a hose at all, let alone to take it out.
However, when I was married and lived in a house and there was an actual garden to tend, I always made sure to put it away neatly after use.
Requested by McGehee:
I wasn't especially impressed with any of the songs mentioned; the best of the bunch is probably Carol Mosely Braun's pick, Des'ree's "You Gotta Be", which manages to be both catchy and soulful. Joe Lieberman gets a raspberry for mentioning Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop", a song which was boring at its release and became annoying when it was adopted by the Clintonoids.
And for Dennis Kucinich, a variation on a theme:
Three questions, from the triumvirate at Blog o'RAM:
I don't think I've ever really invented anything, though I have been known to jerry-rig quick and dirty stuff when necessity (who, as the saying goes, is a mother) demands; so far as I know, I am one of only a handful of people on earth who has made duct tape work on an automotive exhaust.
If an elephant's eye is the standard what do you use as a point of reference in Oklahoma? (punctilious)
Ten yards. If there's one thing you learn early in Oklahoma, it's how far you need to go for a first down.
If you are again passing through Northern Ohio may I buy you a beer? (rammer)
And it, in turn, will pass through me with dire speed, but you're on.
Paulsmos tosses in a heavy-duty query:
Excluding people with whom I've already broken bread...well, there are too many fictional characters I'd want to inquire about, so I'll confine myself to eight persons who actually existed, some of whom are still around:
Richard I, known as "Coeur de Lion", king of England: It is possible, I discovered, to trace his descendants all the way to the one girl I dated in high school, and, well, I'd love to see if there's any resemblance.
H. Allen Smith, writer/humorist: I'm apparently not ripping off his style effectively enough.
Barry "Dr. Demento" Hansen, musicologist and radio host: One of two people in the music industry I genuinely revere.
Stan Cornyn, former VP of Warner Bros. Records: The other one.
Clara Luper, civil-rights leader: She led the first widely-publicized "sit-in" in 1958, right here in the Okay City.
Dodie Smith, British author: She wrote I Capture the Castle, my favorite novel for decades now.
Deborah Gibson, singer/composer/actress: A test of my longstanding fanboy adoration.
Catherine Marie Charlton, composer/pianist/acoustical engineer: Just to see if she's as brilliant in person as she comes off on her CDs.
I've been at this a long time, though not that long; obviously I've never fisked a Spiro Agnew speech, never fact-checked Edward R. Murrow's ass. And it would never occur to me to give advice on how to do it, since I'm not persuaded that I do it all that well.
Fortunately for the newbies of the world, Saint Paul has no qualms about leaping into this particular breach, and his advice, generally, is quite good: both "asshat" and "idiotarian" are so two years ago, I'd agree, and, well, how can you argue with this?
Devote lots of posts to shameless boasting about your own accomplishments and meaningful experiences. If necessary, feel free to exaggerate, misrepresent, and outright lie. You're the expert on you and it's very hard to get Fisked based on a post about the gourmet dinner you prepared last night for your drop dead gorgeous girlfriend. Don't be afraid of appearing arrogant. Readers want to be associated with the best and brightest. Who do you think they'd rather tell their friends is their favorite blogger, some guy who can analyze Howard Dean's position on health care reform, or some guy who can analyze Howard Dean's position on health care reform AND is the undisputed master of the pan flute?
"So far as I can tell, he wants Dick Cheney to pay everyone's medical bills," Zamfir sniffed, and under the table, Sophia kicked me in the shins for inviting the guy in the first place on a night when she was hoping for something more, um, one on one, if you know what I mean.
This, incidentally, is the specific blogger Saint Paul sought to instruct.
Just when I thought the book had been closed on the University of Mississippi's Colonel Reb, up pops a new chapter.
[I]t's a rallying point for idiots who care more about symbols than people and long for the past instead of contributing to the future.
On the other side, Patrick Carver, blogging as The Ole Miss Conservative, says his objections to the change aren't rooted in tradition, per se:
[M]y main reason for opposing the whole change is that Athletic Director Pete Boone took it upon himself to change the mascot without asking the students and alumni whether they wanted a change or not. That just rubs me the wrong way.
Lawrence, in an updated post, pointed out that this is basically the way the Ole Miss administration works on almost every issue.
After that CSS Hunley story I posted yesterday, and in view of some comments I've seen around blogdom in the past, I'm beginning to wonder just how much anti-Southern sentiment there is not against the region itself, but against its trappings, its mores, its differences from those parts of the country which by dint of sheer media concentration dominate the culture, and whether some of that sentiment has actually penetrated below the Mason-Dixon line. It's not an organized movement, to be sure, but I have a gut feeling that some of our cultural arbiters have decided that some things are, well, just too Southern, and I suspect some Southerners are thinking that Reconstruction is still going on.
And I have to wonder, as people bail out of Boswash because it's too expensive and out of California because it's totally farging insane, if the newly-empowered South will bear a grudge.
(4:40 pm: Rewritten slightly to discourage conspiracy theorists.)
The kiss of death
Rumor has it that General Wesley Clark may be ready to enter the Presidential race.
What's the quickest way to torpedo any prospective Clark support among bloggers?
You got it: an endorsement from Michael Moore.
15 September 2003
All day and all of the blight
The one thing you can count on every Monday morning (well, apart from an inability to drag oneself out of bed) is a fresh batch of bloggery from Kelley's suburban blight Cul-de-Sac. I honestly don't know how she has the patience to sort through all this stuff, but I'm glad she does.
Yasser, that's my baby
When, exactly, did Yasser Arafat, derided by blogdom as "The World's Oldest Terrorist", ascend to the status of a Head of State? The more I think about this, the more baffling I find it; it's like Al Capone being given an honorary governorship.
Early in his Presidency, George W. Bush made it clear that he wasn't keen on dealing with Arafat, but for some inscrutable reason the State Department seems to want to keep Arafat, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, in business long enough to make their vaunted "roadmap" work. Well, the map is folded and then some it's ragged and dog-eared and barely even recognizable anymore and yet State still seems to want to keep Arafat around.
The Israelis, for their part, are still talking about sending Arafat into exile, and more than one minister has suggested that they might as well kill him. I'm not sure either of these is such a great idea: exile will merely give Arafat an opportunity to regroup his forces elsewhere, and killing him well, the Arab world loves its martyrs, and loves to avenge their deaths. The solution, I think, is going to have to be a Latin American-style "disappearance", after which which no one will know for sure whether he's alive or dead. It might be worth it to hire some al-Jazeera technicians to fake up some regular TV appearances by Arafat during his, um, absence hey, they do a bang-up job of keeping Osama bin Laden "alive" and preserve the mystique. Under this plan, everybody wins: the Israelis get plausible deniability, the Palestinians get the leadership they deserve (and they say nature hates a vacuum), and Colin Powell gets someone to clean out his garage once a week.
And anyway, if we have to have a World's Oldest Terrorist, Fidel Castro is three years older than Yasser Arafat, and never mind how he got to be a Head of State.
If we must have exile...
...why can't we exile Gray Davis?
"In assessing the public interest," said the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, "the balance falls heavily in favor of postponing the election for a few months." And when the six offending counties fail to get their new voting systems in place on time?
Now here's a particularly sickening scenario: the Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal of this decision, but not until the beginning of the Court's regular session.
Which begins on the 6th of October, one day before the scheduled recall election.
What is it going to take to rid ourselves of Gray Davis? Are we going to have to call in Israeli security?
Dewey? You bet we do
S. Y. Affolee proposes the classification of blogs for archival purposes, using the Dewey Decimal System.
There are, of course, arguments for and against this particular usage:
I can see this appealing to people who want a sense of order in the hodgepodge that is the web. In a way, searching a blog by number is a lot more civilized than googling random terms. But the question is, do I really want to be a number? I think it's okay for uber-organizers to use this to manage links but I would not want the sidebar of my blog to read "041.920" like the bookspines in a real library.
A quarter of my traffic comes from those "random terms", but I'm inclined to like this idea, assuming the classification system beyond the decimal point is sufficiently flexible to allow for enough variables though I don't want to see nine or ten decimal places if it's at all avoidable.
(Before you ask: The series 040-049 is not in use in the current version of the Dewey; news media and publishing presently occupy the 070s, though I suspect some of the occupants will object to sharing that space with bloggers.)
Thou shalt not be late
A little 4 x 6 card arrived in the mail today with dozens of lines of 6-point (maybe) type, and after going into Heavy Squint Mode, I finally got the gist of it.
A bank whose Visa card I use has offered to settle a class-action lawsuit which alleged that it failed to credit some cardholder payments on the day received (which, if true, is tacky) and failed to include in the Minimum Payment Due on some statements an amount sufficient for cardholders to avoid an overlimit fee (which, if true, suggests that some people can't figure this out on their own). The bank, of course, denies any wrongdoing, and is basically paying the lawyers to go away.
The following Serious Changes are being made in the bank's M.O.:
Now I don't know how heinous their crimes are I've never been late with a payment to this bank, and as far as I'm concerned their service has been first-rate so far but inasmuch as the lawyers are getting a third of the loot, I have to assume that this is essentially a shakedown.
And to further support this assumption, there's this sentence about what I, as a member of the class, can expect:
The average cash recovery is estimated to be less than $10.00.
Considering that the average late fee is about three times that, this isn't much of a settlement unless, of course, you're counsel for the plaintiffs. I am seriously tempted to write a letter to the Court to opt out of the settlement, just because it will likely cause at least $10 worth of paperwork.
16 September 2003
Off the shelf
I'm in favor of the basic idea, though I wonder whether the DDS would be the most appropriate classification system for such an endeavor; a system specifically tailored to blogs might be more useful. I also think the much more natural unit of classification would be the post, not the blog; witness the increasing number of blogs that provide topical access to their archives alongside the more traditional date-based method.
Or, as Movable Type has it, "categories", some of which are easy to, um, categorize. I think pretty much everyone has figured out that Overmodulation here contains radio-related items, though Almost Yogurt and Dyssynergy are decidedly murky, and deliberately so.
One argument in favor of Dewey is that its use automagically elevates the blog to the status of a Classifiable Resource though inevitably some such resources will be more easily classifiable, and likely more useful, than others. The correlation between "classifiable" and "useful" is undetermined as yet.
Spitbull also has a kind word or two for this site, noting that the OAQ File "rivals Episode 17 of Ulysses in its catechetical exhaustiveness," which might even be true, though I recall no instance of dining without having removed my hat.
Want some seafood, mama?
Not anymore. And it's all Natalie's fault.
Are we all bozos on this bus?
"No public speech will be allowed on the bus, which may include but is not necessarily limited to religion, politics, economics or finances."
This used to be the policy in Broken Arrow, which operates one bus. The American Center for Law and Justice filed suit against the city on behalf of two local women. At the time, the city had contracted out its bus service to a private firm; the city began providing the service itself on the first of September, dropped the policy, and settled the ACLJ suit.
The new policy permits any discussion so long as it does not disturb the passengers or the driver.
A feeble attempt at thunder theft
The Professor notes that he has received 25 million page views and is about to receive his twenty-millionth visitor, which is of course cause for celebration.
I mention this because at 1.25 page views per visit, he's trailing me; for the period 3/22/99 to ten minutes ago, I'm averaging 1.52.
Yeah, I know, pathetic, but there aren't too many brass rings dangling this low.
And it almost worked
Jesse Youngblood, you've just pulled off a bank heist, and you've gotten away with a cool thousand. What are you going to do now?
You say you're going to deposit some of the loot in your account at the same bank?
I drove all through Delaware this summer and never saw a single field of marshmallows, though Fritz Schranck has a perfectly reasonable explanation:
The vines are...planted in secluded fields, surrounded by taller, quick-growing crops such as corn. Hiding the marshmallow plants is vitally important. That's because early in the growing season, the crop is a prime candidate for poaching, at least while the delicate young marshmallows remain small enough to carry.
The leading cash crop in Oklahoma is also hidden from public view, albeit for different reasons entirely.
I wonder how well Rice Krispies sell in Delaware.
17 September 2003
The Carnival of the Vanities has come full circle: for its first anniversary, it's back in the hands of its inventor.
So get ye to Silflay Hraka and see what Bigwig hath wrought.
It's Bash the RIAA Day
As it is on every day that has a D in it.
At Cybergrass, Banjo Bob suggests a model for the music industry, and guess what? It's just down the street:
Why doesn't the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) suffer from the same problems? Maybe it's their management style.
Here is where it gets interesting. The cost to go to a movie is around $8 today. IMAX productions only cost about $12 for prime seating. By the time you add the cost of your popcorn, candy and drink, you're spending about $20. The cost to purchase the DVD of the movie at discount centers may be around $10 to $15.
Now, compare that to the cost to go to a concert. Tickets can run $35 to $100. Refreshments can easily add $5 to $15 more per person. The cost to purchase a 40 minute average length CD is $15 to $24.
I'm seldom inclined to defend Jack Valenti's MPAA, but his business model does seem to be less insane.
Purple people everywhere mourn
In Erick, Oklahoma, there's an intersection: Sheb Wooley Avenue and Roger Miller Boulevard.
Roger Miller died in 1992, dang him, and now Sheb Wooley's gone too leukemia, at age 82.
Wooley's biggest hit under his own name was the 1958 novelty "Purple People Eater", reportedly the answer to a kid's riddle; later, he penned the theme to Hee Haw, and released a number of wacky (and ostensibly inebriated) country-music parodies under the name "Ben Colder". A fulsome Colder couplet:
I shot a DJ up in Reno who wouldn't play my song Now all the DJs round the country, they play me loud and long
And Wooley sustained an acting career as well; he was Pete Nolan in the Fifties western Rawhide, which also featured a young fellow named Clint Eastwood.
Still, most people who remember Sheb will remember the one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater who wanted to get a job in a rock and roll band, and I bet that was just fine with him.
Saint Paul, last mentioned here giving advice to blogging newbies, has expanded on his theme of outmoded terms of contumely; as I observed, "asshat" and "idiotarian" are so two years ago.
Not that they aren't still useful words, but being on the cutting edge demands fresh insults, and Saint Paul wants them:
I'd like to hear YOUR suggestions for the next great zinger of the blogosphere. A concise combination of words that encapsulate everything that's wrong with the Left, while at the same time being highly insulting, vicious, and mildly obscene. Since that's the tone of the emails I typically get anyway, I predict no shortage of great suggestions.
Write him at saintpaul at earthlink.net, and tell him dustbury.com sent you.
If not us, who?
Europe no longer appears the torchbearer of the Rights of Man, but the peevish advocate of the rights of rulers and of the status quo. At the beginning of our new era, a project for European civilisation is nowhere to be found, so much so that the newcomers from Central Europe and the Anglo-Saxon north are beginning to ask themselves: does the European Union have anything to do with the century we live in?
The UN is faring even worse. Long paralysed by the Cold War, the United Nations is now paralysed by its very nature. The Anglo-American snub in the Security Council over the control of Iraqi weapons did not cause but simply revealed the yawning gap between the UN Charter and its ambitions. This Council, the legacy of the 1945 peace accords, no longer represents what the world has since become: the absence of Brazil, Japan, Germany, South Africa and India means it cannot be considered a legitimate global board of directors. Until this is rectified, it is vain to expect good world governance.
The situation is just as chaotic in the general assembly; its make-up is based on the assumption that every nation is a genuine one and that all leaders enjoy equal legitimacy. Since the majority of these states are kleptocracies at best and tyrannies at worst, it is obvious that the Charter of the United Nations can no longer be considered the basis of any kind of world order. This obsolete text ignores unprecedented situations like Afghanistan or Kosovo; de facto states will multiply, in Central Asia and Africa, as de jure states vanish.
In the meantime, who would exercise global governance if not the Americans, with a few Europeans to make up the numbers? Who would replace them in emergencies? Criticism which is indispensable of this first American empire would be more legitimate if it were associated with a project for the complete overhaul of the UN. Since nobody is proposing one and the tyrants a majority would not want it, the UN, the Red Cross Mark Two, will be confined to humanitarian work. It remains to be seen how it will acquit itself.
And this was published in France, mind you. Admittedly, Le Figaro isn't the biggest name in French publishing think of it as the Gallic version of The Washington Times without the Korean cash flow but you can be certain that a copy of this landed on Jacques Chirac's desk.
18 September 2003
The seal of the city of Edmond, Oklahoma, designed by local resident Frances Bryan, was adopted in 1965. In 1992, Rev. Wayne Robinson asked that the cross at three o'clock be removed, claiming that it showed government endorsement of religion; the city declined. Lawsuits ensued, the city lost, and to this day, the seal is displayed with the cross area blanked out.
Now comes a similar story, across the state in McAlester. At the 26 August city council meeting, firefighter Steven Belcher registered a complaint about the city seal, which contains an image of a church topped by a cross, though the complaint didn't seem to be about the cross so much as it was about the city's alleged behavior:
"I feel that the seal would lead citizens to believe that their officials would act in a Christian way," Mr. Belcher said over the weekend. "I think that's misleading after seeing some of the things our officials do. City officials have lied. They've stolen."
There has been no further statement from Belcher, and no formal request to remove the symbol has been filed, but McAlester city officials are busy working up Plan B, just in case; the current estimate for removing the ostensibly-offending symbol is $156,000.
Generally, I tend to want to keep the church and the state at arm's length, both from each other and from me. On the other hand, the blithe assumption that the Wall of Separation requires every last symbol of faith be expunged from public view is becoming increasingly annoying, and the argument that the appearance of an icon represents an endorsement strikes me as specious. The Edmond seal contains a covered wagon, which commemorates the 1889 Land Run; are native Americans going to sue the city on the basis that the city endorses white settlements on native lands? Will environmentalists condemn the McAlester seal, which includes an image of a coal miner's hat, for promoting fossil-fuel use?
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Lynn remembers a simpler time:
In my day band names were both catchy and sensible. You know, names like "Three Dog Night," "Pink Floyd" and "Bread."
Nowadays, you can't tell the bands from the blogs.
Advice for the loveworn
Jay Solo has been there:
[B]ecoming particularly interested in someone stresses me out so severely that a few years ago I made myself stop getting in that situation. Obsessing but being incapable of acting was so self-destructive I had to make it stop. I simply avoid getting interested, truncating anything more than the observation "she's cute."
A path I should follow, except that I've discovered that trying to become uninterested in someone stresses me out severely which means that I tend to hang on until, you should pardon the phrase, a change of heart.
But damn, she's cute.
We want your linkage, badly
Over at Mutated Monkeys, Beth is grumbling about some strange email excrescence:
"I am contacting you about cross linking. I am interested in mutatedmonkeys.com because it looks like it's relevant to a site that I am the link manager for. The site is about downloadable ringtones, logos and games for mobile phones."
The letter came from Link Builder, which apparently combs through potential websites that rank high in search engines for certain keywords that their clients' sites are focused on. Then they send out emails, offering to 'trade links'.
I think this is hilarious. Both because I've been posting so much about my saga of choosing a mobile phone that I'm getting offers from commercial sites, who are suffering under the misconception I'm important enough to bother with. And because someone out there has the job title of Link Manager.
To me, it looks like one of those indiscriminate let's-throw-something-against-the-wall-and-see-if-anything-sticks plans that is only the tiniest hemidemisemiquaver more respectable than pure spam. The only way this could be more ridiculous is if this "link manager" from Link Builder went after, say, Dog Snot Diaries, claiming to represent a site interested in canine health.
Oh, wait, she did.
19 September 2003
Faint light, heavy bushel
For about twelve hours this year, I had an extra sidebar item called "Testimonials", which included quotes from actual readers of this site, most of them at least somewhat favorable. During the brief period "Testimonials" was active, the comments posted to the blog by other actual readers underwent a sea change: somehow the Surly knob got turned up to 11. Wondering if the brief braggadocio had somehow contributed to the attitude shift, I pulled it off the site, and sure enough, things calmed down.
Now I'm wondering if maybe I should put it back, just to see what happens.
Who cares what picture we see?
Oklahoma City's downtown movie houses closed years ago; with the exception of an occasional screening at the new Oklahoma City Museum of Art, films have migrated to the suburbs.
Now the Arizona-based Harkins Theatres chain has received a permit to build a 16-screen movie house on the south edge of Bricktown, adding yet another venue to the city's entertainment district. I hope they have room for an occasional non-blockbuster.
Where the bucks are
For some reason, an inordinate number of clueless Googlers are coming here looking for the current (2003 edition) Forbes 400.
They should be looking at Forbes.com specifically, here.
Writhing at Wally World
It started with an observation by J Bowen at No Watermelons Allowed. Noting that Playboy was planning a "Women of Wal-Mart" pictorial, Bowen asserted that "Playboy has really run out of ideas."
I tossed some similar schemes they'd worked up over the years into his comments section, and I figured that would be the end of that until this popped into my email today:
I myself am a Wal-Mart employee. I don't see why we couldn't do Playboy. I have wanted to pose for this artful magazine for years, Wal-Mart or not, I would do it. I am the mother of three wonderful sons who they themselves would be proud to say [their] mother did a Playboy shoot. We have discussed it more than once. I don't know if you have any ideas on how to contact them so they could come to Texas and have a little fun, but I would love to find that information myself. Not everyone who models for Playboy is a slut, and not everyone that works for Wal-Mart is against this idea. I myself think it would be an exciting experience and my husband thought the very same thing!! Enjoy your day, and pass this on to Playboy, if you so choose: or have the balls.
I have no influence in fact, I arguably have negative influence with The House That Hef Built, but Playboy is convinced that Wal-Mart is just jam-packed with "pent-up passion," and who am I to disagree?
Besides, it goes against the grain for me to suggest that a woman keep her clothes on, so if this reader or any other employee of the Bentonville Bastille wishes to see what Playboy has to say, or wants to volunteer for the periodical, the very least I can do is tell her to click here.
Ball count: two.
20 September 2003
Jersey torn and frayed
Susanna Cornett explains why she's moving back down South first chance she gets:
I'm a southerner, a country girl, and a Yankee metropolis is no place for me to be. I want to drink ice tea on the porch without hearing a car alarm, I want to be able to say "sir" and "ma'am" without people thinking I'm mocking them, I want to be around people who don't think "grits" is something you do with your teeth when you're mad.
Seems reasonable to me. Of course, that Long Island iced tea will make you ignore car alarms, and probably everything else, but I think it's a fairly safe bet she's referring to something less lethal.
Besides, Alabama, her chosen destination, has charms of its own, although she's going to have to reset her Weather Pixie.
How to tell you're in Hell
The person living directly over you has both a taste for hip-hop and a subwoofer.
Taking a shellacking
If you pop open the new Discoveries (#185, October), right there on page five is a picture of the Holy Grail.
A stark photo of a 78-rpm disc: Jubilee 5104 (1952), The Five Sharps, "Stormy Weather" b/w "Sleepy Cowboy", complete with stock Jubilee sleeve.
Good Rockin' Tonight says this:
Only one uncracked example of "Stormy Weather" is known to exist. It was purchased in 1977 by Collectors Universe owners Gordon Wrubel and David Hall for a then mind-boggling $3,866. Hall and Wrubel recently turned down a $25,000 offer from record dealer extraordinaire John Tefteller.
Collectors Universe owns GRT, so I suspect they know what they're talking about. This is a 78; there are persistent rumors that a 45-rpm version exists, but no one has ever seen one.
And there's one line of text at the bottom of the ad:
To be sold on eBay, October 2003
Truly, these are the times that try men's MasterCard limits.
Clean for Dean
Usually when I see tidy young people clustered at an intersection, I assume they're conducting a charity car wash. This made no sense at the northwest corner of Pennsylvania and the Northwest Distressway today, since (1) there's already a car wash there, on the southwest corner, and (2) even slowing down through this intersection is a good way to get killed.
Fortunately, I can read fairly quickly, and the signs this bunch was carrying didn't offer to scrub the crud off my car; they were trying to drum up support for Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean. Inasmuch as the 2004 primary in this state is fairly early 3 February, the week after New Hampshire I suppose that it's not too early for this sort of thing, but I question their location: just east of this intersection are the two swankiest (by Oklahoma City standards, anyway) enclosed retail compounds in town, the sort of place where you'd think there'd be little support for a rustic Vermonter, especially a leftish rustic Vermonter. Then again, the Democratic party tends to rely more on high-dollar donors than does the GOP.
Call me? Irresponsible!
This week, there appeared a long and thoughtful piece by Fusilier Pundit (WeckUpToThees!) on the dodgy subject of telemarketing. He spurns the governmental no-call list, and explains what needs to be done:
Generally, the gummint needs to legislate in a way that allows edge-implemented solutions to emerge, instead of requiring centrally-implemented ones. Start by making sure that carriers deliver the full value of my $4.95 per month for caller ID, meaning that I want phone companies to pass that data, even be required by law to pass that data, if the called party is paying to receive it. For those telemarketers using banks of pitchmen offshore, from switches or premises equipment that doesn't generate a caller ID, you're not exempted. At the point where your banks interface to the United States PSTN, you can be required to identify yourselves.
If a telemarketer places calls from a residential line, or a line that's identified as if it were residential (yes, we get them too) maybe the gummint can get involved here, though that will be trickier from a First Amendment standpoint. Caller ID is worthless if the very people who prompted me to order it can duck it.
I reported on my own experience back in the spring of '96:
I installed a Caller ID box and a low-end voice-mail system, and basically just quit answering the telephone entirely.
And eventually I got rid of the voice-mail system, which makes me about as inaccessible as possible without actually ripping the wires from the walls. I don't pick up anything without a number attached. As is the practice chez Fûz, OUT OF AREA sends up a red flag:
We want a telephone that can be programmed not to ring if a caller is unidentified. The overwhelming majority of callers we don't want to talk to mask their caller ID.
I'd pay a few extra bucks for that myself. The telco here offers some sort of challenge/response system, but I suspect it will discourage legitimate callers (of which I have two or three) just as much as it will Verbal Spammers.
And just because I'm listed in the directory doesn't mean I consent to having my bell rung at odd hours.
(Note: Minor imprecisions of phrasing were changed approximately 20 minutes after the original posting, and the title was unsubtly altered.)
21 September 2003
Ban won't wear off
It's fairly uncommon for me to block an IP from this site; in fact, last night marks only the third time I've had to do such a thing.
The IP in question - 220.127.116.11 - belongs to a DSL customer of SBC in Tulsa. He took grave offense at my suggestion that the individual accused of shooting up Sallisaw last fall might not have been the most, um, trustworthy and inoffensive of folks, and posted two comments of approximately middle-school invective level, each with a different (and presumably fabricated) email address.
Were I really bothered, I'd take it up with SBC, though "I hope you burn in hell," one of the kinder things he said, really doesn't constitute a threat. Instead, I have excised the comments and posted this summary for the benefit of all.
And just incidentally, this happened within two hours of reinstating the Testimonials section on the sidebar, though there's no reason to think the offender actually saw it.
I knew you were going to say that
It's just not a World Wide Rant without Andy going ballistic over what he perceives as the perversities of theists, and usually he's quite entertaining in the process.
I think, though, he's a couple degrees off plumb this time. For one thing, he insists on defining "eternity", following the lead of the Raving Atheist, as an "infinite number [of] years." I have just enough background in mathematics to point out that the notion of an "infinite number" is meaningless: if there is any number at all, it's not technically infinite. There are transfinite numbers if you're so inclined, aleph-null is the total number of integers but they aren't particularly useful in measuring time, which doesn't have an irreducibly-small integral unit to count. (On the other hand, the counter at Wendy's World has already hit aleph-null.)
More serious is his revival of the classic conflict between free will (do we have it?) and divine omniscience (does your friendly neighborhood deity have it?), which was analyzed in terms of game theory by physicist William Newcomb. Newcomb's Paradox presents the following situation:
A highly superior being from another part of the galaxy presents you with two boxes, one open and one closed. In the open box there is a thousand-dollar bill. In the closed box there is either one million dollars or there is nothing. You are to choose between taking both boxes or taking the closed box only. But there's a catch.
The being claims that he is able to predict what any human being will decide to do. If he predicted you would take only the closed box, then he placed a million dollars in it. But if he predicted you would take both boxes, he left the closed box empty. Furthermore, he has run this experiment with 999 people before, and has been right every time.
What do you do?
On the one hand, the evidence is fairly obvious that if you choose to take only the closed box you will get one million dollars, whereas if you take both boxes you get only a measly thousand. You'd be stupid to take both boxes.
On the other hand, at the time you make your decision, the closed box already is empty or else contains a million dollars. Either way, if you take both boxes you get a thousand dollars more than if you take the closed box only.
(Thanks to Franz Kiekeben.)
The most sensible reconciliation between free will and divine omniscience I've seen was written up by theologian Dr William Lane Craig, and it's based on Newcomb with apparently just a dash of C.S. Lewis. Dr Craig's conclusion:
It is I by my freely chosen actions who supply the truth conditions for the future contingent propositions known by God. The semantic relation between a true proposition and the corresponding state of affairs is not only non-causal, but asymmetric; the proposition depends for its truth on which state of affairs obtains, not vice versa. Were I to choose otherwise than I shall, different propositions would have been true than are, and God's knowledge would have been different than it is. Given that God foreknows what I shall choose, it only follows that I shall not choose otherwise, not that I could not. The fact that I cannot actualize worlds in which God's prediction errs is no infringement on my freedom, since all this means is that I am not free to actualize worlds in which I both perform some action a and do not perform a.
If you change your mind, God's knowledge changes right along with it.
Okay, not the easiest concept to swallow. But it's easier, at least for me, than a completely predestined world with all the options foreordained.
(Note: Minor changes in the last sentence for purposes of optic beam removal.)
And how big is yours?
40 gigabytes, which, according to the drive manufacturer (Seagate), is forty billion bytes.
Computer manufacturers have duly copied claims like this into their advertising, complete with an explanation in tiny type, and now four chaps from L.A. have filed suit against the big brand names, charging that the practice is deceptive, that a gigabyte is not in fact one billion bytes but 1,073,741,824 (two to the thirtieth power). A "40-gigabyte drive" like mine in practice will store only 37.25 gb.
Just wait until they see how much is left after installing Windows XP.
22 September 2003
Your carry-on Blight Bag
Every week, I wonder: "Will Kelley pick something of mine for the Cul-de-Sac?"
And then, when I get my answer, I wonder: "How come she picked that?"
Oh, well. One should never sneer at a link freely given, and I'm not about to start here.
Big Five to shrink by one
The original idea was for Time Warner's Warner Music Group to acquire EMI's music business.
But that was three years ago. Today, Time Warner is actually contemplating selling Warner Music to a strengthened EMI, bypassing a bid by Germany's Bertlesmann.
Either way, if this deal comes off, the former Big Six, then Big Five, record companies will be down to four: Universal, the Warner-EMI combine, Sony and Bertlesmann.
If nothing else, it's another nail in the coffin of the so-called "synergy" business model adopted by the corporation formerly known as AOL Time Warner, which presumed that every operation could be cross-promoted for the benefit of all.
Life in these United States
He'd hate like hell for me to say so, I suspect, but no one grasps the Zeitgeist quite as expertly as Lileks:
I took Gnat to another church fair. I had to laugh; well, of course this is why the Saudis hate us. Look at this: a beer garden, games of chance, rock music, hot dogs, teen girls with bare midriffs, purple hair, exposed bra straps and you-go-Jesus! baseball caps and it's a Catholic Church Fair. Of course, this is why I love us.
Of course, this is why we love Lileks.
Choice of colors
This meme started floating around a few days ago, and I hadn't given it much thought, mostly due to doubts as to the extent of my qualifications, given the vectors of some of the branches on my family tree. Still, in a nation where racism is off the front burner but still very much a reality, surely it's worth the effort.
In the meantime: What does it mean to be white? Aldahlia answers:
It means that I come from a line of heroes, and assholes, and mothers, and drifters, and the the combination just happened to result in pale skin with freckles and visible veins. And, in a society like ours, white means that I have a duty to refute the idea that white is "normal" and everthing else is "ethnic," I have a duty to point out the harm of ingrained assumptions, and, above all, I have a duty always [to] know that if I'm looking for a world of equality, the first thing to understand, to hold to rigorous standards, and to ultimately change, is myself.
I am almost entirely freckleless, and occasionally entirely feckless, but mostly I'm on the same page here, and of course she's right; being white is not the default, so to speak, and given the current trends in births and immigration, it eventually won't be the majority. (In some areas, it's already happened.) I do have concerns about hyphenates, at least in terms of terminology; those who define themselves as Something-Or-Other-American, inevitably, if perhaps inadvertently, are putting the "American" aspect of themselves last, and I have trouble thinking of that as a Good Thing.
Still, whether you buy the old melting-pot metaphor or the more contemporary salad-bar concept, it's important to remember that we're all in this together, and the lamentations of a few extremists notwithstanding, we're gradually getting closer. And at this point indeed, at any point the labels matter less than the lives.
All I do is complain
Or so I've been told, anyway.
If you wonder what my complaints in Real Life are like, you're invited to read a letter I am just now mailing to a bank whose credit card I have decided to cancel. The crux of this particular biscuit:
Not to knock your service, which has been just this side of exemplary. However, to justify this kind of expense, "exemplary" isn't enough; for this kind of money, I'd expect this card to press my trousers and wash my dishes.
Okay, maybe I do complain a lot.
23 September 2003
Once again, the horns of a dilemma.
I'd like to get out of this semi-shabby hovel once and for all my lease is up in December but I don't want to go looking for another flat, or even a house, that I'll have to vacate at some unspecified time.
The alternative, therefore, is to go buy something. Unfortunately, I can't really afford something, except at the very bottom of the desirability scale, and buying a place I'm going to dislike intensely simply doesn't strike me as useful.
The alternative to the alternative is to wait two years, when my debt load will be roughly halved and I will presumably have far greater flexibility. The downside: well, it's two whole years, and who knows what will have happened to interest rates by then?
Too often, my response to a question of this sort is to do nothing. I suspect it will happen this time too.
We all look alike
Somewhere in a comment last night, I made the following observation:
[T]he Europeans have long seen Americans as a mass of undifferentiated, uncultured louts.
Andrea Harris extends the notion and amplifies it, with the sarcasm control turned up to the max:
[W]hen Americans find out that they don't know enough about something out in the wide world (say, about Muslims and what they really think) they hit the bookstores and libraries like earnest students trying to make up for a failing grade. Foreigners, on the other hand, tend to show a marked disinterest in actually finding out what Americans are really like, preferring instead the notions they formed after watching American movies and teevee shows which as we all know are all documentaries.
But of course. It's right there on the screen; it must therefore be true. This is precisely how the late Osama bin Laden gets away with continuing to make videos.
This, however, is the money quote:
Europeans just hate it when it is pointed out to them that their viewpoint is just as parochial, if not more so, than that of the average housewife in Iowa.
I would say something here about "the average housewife in Iowa works more than 35 hours a week and has air conditioning," but that would be piling on, don't you think?
Gone to a quieter place
Actor Gordon Jump, most recently the lonely Maytag repairman but perhaps best remembered as Arthur Carlson, manager of the fictional radio station on the TV series WKRP in Cincinnati, has died in Orange County, California at the age of 71.
No turkeys were involved.
The top of the navigation bar at Chaotic Not Random contains the following item: Involuntary Celibacy Watch.
As of this writing, it's at 242 days. (And it got a chuckle from Ravenwood, for reasons I don't even want to think about.)
I have no plans to post a similar counter here, mainly because well, just because, okay?
24 September 2003
Fall into the Carnival
The equinox may pass unnoticed, but the Carnival of the Vanities rolls into its second year with lots of goodies, this week courtesy of Pathetic Earthlings.
Fifty-three weeks! And the juggernaut shows no sign of slowing down, either.
Edwards blows through
Yesterday Senator John Edwards dropped into McAlester on a campaign trip, which is noteworthy mostly because McAlester, while the largest city in southeast Oklahoma, is still pretty much a small town wrapped around a prison. Still, the southeastern quarter is one of the few places in the state where Democrats still dominate, so there's good reason for Edwards to be here.
He didn't say much he hadn't said before; he reiterated his opposition to the wholesale closing of military bases which plays well in McAlester, home of the Army Ammunition Depot and played up his blue-collar origins: "I believe in an America where the son of a mill worker can beat the son of a president."
O brave new Rio Grande Valley
The South Texas Independent School District has decided not to drop Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger in a Strange Land or Aldous Huxley's Brave New World from the tenth-grade Advanced Placement curriculum at the district's Science Academy.
A handful of parents had objected strenuously to the books; the district has responded by requiring principals to offer alternatives upon parental request.
I liked this statement by Beverley Becker, associate director of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom, sponsor of Banned Books Week:
It is not only the right of parents, but their responsibility to be involved in what their kids are reading. But there's a line that they cross when they ask that in addition to their kid, that nobody else have access to that book.
Amen to that.
So much for "do not call"
The Feds do not have the authority to set up a so-called "do not call" list to block telemarketing; Judge Lee R. West has ruled that the Federal Trade Commission, which established the list, exceeded its authority in so doing.
A suit filed in Oklahoma City, a town where call centers seemingly outnumber taverns but trail churches, had challenged the FTC. Plaintiffs included a number of telemarketers and the Direct Marketing Association.
(Advantage: Fusilier Pundit, who anticipated legal issues with the list.)
In the meantime, I'm not home.
A couple of falls ago
I remembered posting this in '01, and it seems to fit the current climate.
In many ways, autumn is the most bearable of the eleven or twelve seasons that descend upon Soonerland in an average year, which is probably why it's the shortest: three or four weeks, if we're lucky, before we have to face the triple threat of Pre-Winter, Dead Of Winter, and Christ, When's It Gonna Warm Up Already. In the meantime, though, we get temperatures that are actually temperate, the occasional shower, and foliage that stubbornly holds on to as much green as it can, surrounded by the merest hint of orange. And it's one of the few times of the year when the tourism-industry ads aren't greeted by residents with hearty guffaws.
If you're planning to visit Oklahoma, you've still got a few days left.
25 September 2003
Out in the streets
The saga of former WSJ staffer turned free-lancer turned sort-of-homeless person Les Gapay has gotten some play in blogdom. I didn't pay much attention to it for reasons which can literally be summed up as "been there, done that": like many others, I moved to California in the late Eighties, and things went bust rather quickly, prompting me, after a period of living out of my car, to do a reverse Tom Joad, rationalizing that if I'm gonna be broke, it's less painful, or at least less expensive, to be broke in Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, Wylie is shedding no tears for Les:
[H]e seemed stuck on hanging around the California job market. Now, if you're fishing, you like to be where the fish are. When you're looking for work, it's good to be where the jobs are. Due to wildly profligate spending of the quasi-socialists in the California legislature, a mild recession has plunged the California economy straight into the crapper.
"Plunged" and "crapper" do seem to go together well, I must admit.
I didn't do especially well upon my return to Oklahoma sporadic temp work at best, and it was many months before I got a regular roof over my head but things did eventually become, if not wonderful, at least less heinous.
Gapay also didn't connect with faith-based institutions, which draws another Wylie swipe:
The church, especially the Catholic Church, has historically been very supportive of those who are temporarily "down on their luck", providing temporary food and shelter to help them get "back on their feet", but Mr. Gapay says he "never went to a shelter". I don't know exactly what he expected these "churches he attended" to do for him give him money perhaps but I know that at least in my experience you get out of anything about what you put into it.
I spent a few nights in shelters. Most of what I felt was gratitude, with traces of embarrassment here and there; certainly I didn't feel as though any of the sponsoring organizations owed me anything.
Wylie sums up Gapay's story this way:
"The terrible economy put me out of work, and the Nanny State didn't take good enough care of me."
And as Nanny States go, few of them are more intrusive or more profligate than California.
Oklahoma is a small state, at least in terms of population, but it's big enough for things to happen under the radar, and I had no idea that this was going on until The Daily Oklahoman had editorial praise for it this morning.
Under a pilot program in the state's two largest counties, prescription drugs which go unused in area nursing homes, which ordinarily would be destroyed after one week, are sent to the county, which then distributes them to the needy.
The program covers 25 specific medications supplied in point-of-care packaging (individual dosages, not bulk). Nursing homes normally don't stock them in surplus quantities, but prescriptions can and do change, and patients eventually pass away, so it's not uncommon for there to be leftover drugs, and before this program was instituted, the drugs were simply thrown away. The Food and Drug Administration doesn't object to the recycling so long as adequate controls are maintained and the original point-of-care packaging is retained.
Waste not, want not: it's on page one of the Oklahoma catalog of virtues. I'm rather pleased that the legislature came up with something like this.
Take a shot of malaria
I really haven't given a whole lot of thought to the John Birch Society (not to be confused with the Birch John Society, dedicated to the restoration of wooden toilet seats to their original well-varnished glory) lately; at best, it's seemed to me to be nothing more than a punchline waiting for a desperate Fox network to launch That 50s Show.
Then I turned a corner off 62 today, and there was an actual Bircher billboard, with the classic Bircher slogan: Get US out! of the United Nations! Of course, now it refers you, not to the nearest American Opinion bookstore, but to a Web site. And given the generally low regard in which the UN is held in some circles these days, it's probably as good a time as any for the Birchers to jump-start their organization. There are, to be sure, a lot fewer card-carrying Communists these days, and they tend to hang out, conveniently, in countries starting with C (China, Cuba, the northern half of Corea), but it's not like we're running short of people who are threatening, in the classic Khrushchev style, to bury us.
And besides, if there's room in the twenty-first century for the Flat Earth Society, there simply has to be a place for the followers of John Birch.
And still there are two
The Joint Operating Agreement between The Seattle Times and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is still on.
Under the provisions of the twenty-year-old JOA, the Seattle Times Company handles advertising, production and circulation for both papers, and the profits are split 60-40. (It was originally 68-32, but the agreement was amended in 1999 to compensate for the Times' move to morning publication.) The Times sought to end the JOA this year, citing three consecutive years of losses; Hearst, the owner of the P-I, filed suit to block the Times. Today a King County Superior Court judge sided with Hearst and its claim that the losses suffered by both papers in 2000 were an extraordinary event, brought on by a seven-week strike; the JOA makes specific allowance for such events.
Hearst insists that the P-I cannot go it alone; Times management claims Hearst is trying to bleed them dry and then buy them out. (A separate agreement between the papers gives Hearst first crack at buying the Times.)
JOAs generally are in decline; fewer than half of the agreements set up since the passage of the Newspaper Preservation Act in 1970 are still in force. The Tulsa World used to be in a JOA with the rival Tulsa Tribune, but the Trib closed in 1992. Daniel Gross, writing in Slate, says the concept has overstayed its welcome:
It's easy to get that toasty First Amendment feeling when reading the Newspaper Preservation Act. But that's not what JOAs are about. Instead, JOAs seem to function like another government obstacle to free enterprise: protective tariffs. Like protective tariffs, JOAs insulate politically connected and favored industries from the competition that would cause them to change business models or innovate, and permit them to collect diminishing profits while doing nothing to ensure long-term viability.
And if the P-I subsequently goes under, at least one blogger won't miss it. Says the Timekeeper:
The P-I's circulation is dwindling because they are simply not as good as their competition. They are reflexively liberal on almost every issue, which should go over well in a city such as Seattle, but they don't have the talent the Times can draw upon, and Hearst doesn't seem willing to make the investment in the paper that would be needed to keep it competitive. The idea of having two independent newspapers is a nice one, but if only one can survive, I'd prefer the Times over the P-I any day.
The Seattle JOA provides that should the P-I fold, Hearst can go on collecting 32 percent of the profits from the Times for the next 80 years. Maybe they can use some of that gelt to improve the product at the Chronicle. (Which Chronicle San Francisco's or Houston's doesn't matter at this point.)
Turn your head and coif
(Yeah, I know: I'm just jealous because they have hair, and it's probably not a whiter shade of pale either. And no, I will not speculate as to the condition of their legs, either.)
Thin end of the wedge
Two years from now, a question on Trivial Pursuit.
The scary part? I think she's being generous.
26 September 2003
Return of the barter economy
It's inevitable; within two or three years, the majority of ATMs will be running Windows.
I wonder if Popeye's takes PayPal?
(Muchas gracias: Combustible Boy.)
Let there be beaming
The CrabAppleLane Blog in Bush, Louisiana has selected this humble site as its Blog of the Day, which answers the question "Do I actually have any readers in Louisiana?"
As always, I'm grateful for any participation at all.
It takes every kinda people
"The man was more," she says, "than a video star with catchy riffs." Which he was, and you might as well face it.
Taken for a ride
The Segway has now truly arrived as an American transportation device: it's being recalled. Apparently when it gives you the Low Battery warning, it's not kidding, and sudden changes in power demand after the warning can cause the machine to buck or stall, a situation which has reportedly caused three falls.
The solution, says Segway, is a free software upgrade. Maybe. You'll still never get me on one of those things.
The measure of a man
"Of course," she mused, "I can always take matters into my own hands."
(Via Cruel Site of the Day)
27 September 2003
A state of one-newspaper towns
A couple of days ago I posted a bit about the squabbling between the two Seattle dailies and the Joint Operating Agreement that, for now anyway, binds them together. Incorporated therein was a reference to the JOA between the Tulsa World and the now-departed Tulsa Tribune, about which I wrote in Vent #317.
Tribune fan Michael Bates remembers the Tulsa JOA and its unraveling in the early 90s, and given the Tribune's penchant for innovation, he wonders if the paper might have survived without actual, well, paper:
Just a few years after the Tribune was closed, and about the time the JOA was set to expire, the World Wide Web came into being and London's Daily Telegraph began publishing an electronic version. I have often wondered whether the Tribune might have soldiered on as a web-based newspaper. They were always the first to try something new, and I think they would have beaten the Whirled onto the web and could have made a successful venture out of it.
And probably without charging $45 a year for everything but the classifieds and the static displays, as tulsaworld.com does now.
Oklahoma City was never affected by the Newspaper Preservation Act; by the Fifties, the surviving OKC papers The Daily Oklahoman and the Oklahoma City Times were both owned by the Oklahoma Publishing Company. In 1964, Midwest City founder W. P. Bill Atkinson, always at odds with OPUBCO's E. K. Gaylord, started a rival morning paper, The Oklahoma Journal, and positioned it as Fair and Balanced; the Journal's slogan was "The Paper That Tells Both Sides".
The Journal seldom outsold the Times and never came close to the Oklahoman, but it held on until 1980 Atkinson had sold out a couple of years earlier and its death was noted tersely by the Oklahoman on the last page of Section A, under the headline "Midwest City paper folds". And the Times, like many afternoon papers, was eventually absorbed into its morning counterpart.
While there is little local newspaper competition, the national players USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times are happy to play at this level, and The Dallas Morning News has a substantial presence here. Suburban papers like the Norman Transcript and the Edmond Sun are staying alive. But head-to-head competition in a single market, even outside Oklahoma, is all but dead; only a dozen or so JOAs remain, and even fewer cities have newspaper rivals who don't pool their resources.
I suppose I can take comfort in the fact that we're technically no worse off than most of the rest of the country, but still I lament the death of direct competition: it's what keeps a news organization on its toes.
A lesson CNN, for one, is only just now starting to learn.
Screwing for virginity
"We had to destroy the village in order to save it."
Reportedly, this was the rationale given by an American officer for torching a Vietnamese village to keep it from becoming a Vietcong sanctuary.
Rather unexpectedly, I was reminded of this today, in a wholly-different context. In a piece on law.com, Douglas Laycock, writing on the University of Michigan affirmative-action cases, declares:
[Grutter v. Bollinger] found a compelling interest in ensuring that higher education, as the path to leadership in the next generation, be visibly open to applicants of all races and ethnicities.
John Rosenberg translates:
Not just open, but "visibly" open. Thus the irony: in order to highlight the fact that they do not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity, universities are empowered ... to discriminate on the basis of race and ethnicity.
Where's my old "Kill for Peace" button?
Try to see it my way
Hardly anyone has actually come out in favor of telemarketing this week, which should surprise no one.
Just the same, The Oklahoman this morning had a piece about one of the plaintiffs in the suit that alleged the FTC had no authority to administer the national do-not-call list. Rick Ratliff, who runs a local security-systems company, stands by his position:
I understand the popularity, but what's legal and what's right is something else. I don't like my mailbox inundated with junk mail every day that I go to it. I don't like seeing some of the billboards that I pass on I-40 that are objectionable to me. Yet I understand that those people have a First Amendment right of free speech.
I've driven down I-40 rather more often than I'd like, and I don't remember ever having to interrupt that driving to look at a billboard, but maybe that's just me.
And standard (formerly "third-class") mail (the Postal Service gets livid when you call it "junk") in effect subsidizes the classes that you actually want, so perhaps the solution is for telemarketers to pay my phone bill.
The late-night guy at the oldies station was spinning out a spiel, and suddenly he came up with something like this:
The music that's fun for you, and safe for your kids.
It was after midnight and I was somewhere on the cusp of drowsiness, but this bugged me for some reason. Admittedly, their playlist doesn't include any of the pimp material that rules elsewhere on the dial and even that crap is somewhat sanitized before being allowed on the air but "safe"? Has anyone listened to "Will You Love Me Tomorrow" lately? "So tell me now, and I won't ask again"? This is seriously adult stuff, even if it was being pitched to teenagers forty-two years ago.
But it's a slogan, and one does not get a good night's sleep worrying about radio station slogans, so I shrugged it off (and if you've never seen a horizontal shrug, you haven't missed much) and let it go.
Until this afternoon, when I'm snarled in traffic north of the ever-scary Northwest Distressway, and Diana Ross comes crooning out of the speakers:
No I can't bear to live my life alone
I grow impatient for a love to call my own
But when I feel that I, I can't go on
These precious words keep me hangin' on
I remember mama said
You can't hurry love
No, you just have to wait
She said love don't come easy
It's a game of give and take
And of course, I've started singing along, and I'm weeping profusely before she ever gets to "precious words". God knows what the people in the next lane thought.
"Safe for your kids"? This stuff isn't even safe for me.
Long live Cosmo Brown
As a clumsy, oafish non-dancer, I couldn't relate so easily to Kelly, and I never could decide whether it was more useful to fixate on the seemingly-accessible Debbie Reynolds or the ethereal, unreachable Cyd Charisse, so O'Connor held this rambling wreck of a film together for me, and I'm glad he did even if he did wind up in the hospital for a couple of days after the mayhem of "Make 'em Laugh".
"Thanks, R.F. At last I can stop suffering and write that symphony."
28 September 2003
A VeriStupid move
Two weeks ago, the Internet registrar VeriSign began redirecting lookups for misspelled and nonexistent .com and .net domains to its own Site Finder page in a blatant attempt to snag some advertising revenue. Critics pointed out at the time that VeriSign was breaking some antispam services which checked for invalid domains: if a domain was reported as invalid, the email was marked as spam, and Site Finder doesn't report the same way.
The Register says that VeriSign's Site Finder revenue expectations are unrealistic, even if the service isn't eventually shut down by legal action and/or technical workarounds. For individual Webmasters, this whole affair will probably be seen as yet another reason not to trust VeriSign as a domain registrar.
(Disclosure: I own two domains, one of which is registered through VeriSign's Network Solutions subsidiary.)
Tear it up
As band names go, "The Rock 'n' Roll Trio" is simultaneously humbly generic and spit-in-the-eye arrogant, which makes it a very fine name indeed.
The Trio Paul Burlison and brothers Johnny and Dorsey Burnette coalesced in Memphis in the early Fifties. Their wild rockabilly sound might have been ideal for Sam Phillips' Sun Records, but they chose to try their luck on Ted Mack's Amateur Hour, and the New York exposure got them a contract with Coral Records, where they waxed a couple of dozen sides whose influence far outstripped their sales.
The most influential of those tracks was their reworking of a jump blues by Tiny Bradshaw. "The Train Kept A-Rollin'", issued on Coral 61719 in 1956, was fast and furious, and Paul Burlison's guitar produced some of the most amazing distortion products in the history of fuzztone. It was an accident, of course: he'd dropped the amplifier while setting up, one of the tubes wound up loose in its socket, and he liked the sound so much that thereafter he'd tweak the tubes beforehand just to make sure they were loose.
The Trio didn't last the Burnette brothers sustained middling solo careers afterwards, and Burlison got a, um, real job but during the British Invasion, it seemed that every guitar player had memorized Burlison's licks, with the quintessential tribute being the Yardbirds' damned-near-as-wild cover of "The Train Kept A-Rollin'".
Casting a glance askance
Of course, in some segments of the culture they never went away, but this fall they're just this side of ubiquitous; they've even shown up in an American Express print ad, fergoshsakes, and you can't get much more mainstream than Amex.
I may be quite alone among the world's skelophiles in this regard, but I have never, ever grasped the appeal of fishnets. I have been fortunate enough over the years to have met a small number of women with incredible legs, and not once have I found myself thinking, "Gee, I wonder what she'd look like if you overlaid a pattern of polygons upon her."
(Aside: This is probably the only context in which I'll ever be able to use the term "overlaid".)
Maybe someone else can explain this phenomenon to me.
29 September 2003
By the dawn's early Blight
So proudly we hail Kelley's Monday-morning Cul de Sac, which once again proves that there's no limit to what you can do if you can get by with no actual sleep on a Sunday night.
I don't know how she does it, I really don't.
Here come the dozers
Fox Lake covers about ten acres on Edmond's east side, and about two hundred upscale homes have been built in its general vicinity. The area is near Interstate 35, and a ridge separates the highway from the home sites.
In late July, homeowners were alarmed when a part of that ridge was cleared off to make room for a new neighbor: a Wal-Mart Supercenter.
Not that anyone objects to Wal-Mart in principle, of course; they just don't want it so close at hand. Clearing off the rest of the site, they fear, will cause erosion and the eventual destruction of the lake.
Edmond's rules for development are among the toughest in the state, but Fox Lake residents fear that the city is ignoring those rules in pursuit of sales-tax revenue.
Wal-Mart's proposal includes a heavily-wooded 100-foot-wide buffer to insulate the site from the Fox Lake development and substantial measures to preserve the lake. But ultimately this isn't about Wal-Mart, but about the likelihood that other commercial properties will follow them into the I-35 corridor, increasing traffic and stretching the perceived sprawl of Oklahoma City miles to the north.
Watching the watchers
No one will ever accuse The Daily Oklahoman of being a great metropolitan newspaper; the kindest thing I can say about it, generally, is that it sticks to its editorial guns.
Then again, it's never occurred to me that the Oklahoman would necessarily benefit from a "readers' representative", an ombudsman, someone whose job it is to critique the paper's coverage and practices; if readers object to the way the paper is doing its job, they can quit paying for it (or, in the case of some of us, kvetch in public about it).
Matt Welch takes a dim view of ombudsmen (ombudspersons?) himself:
Ombudsmen tend to have a startlingly uniform view of how news organizations and their employees should act and think of themselves. Crime coverage and screaming headlines bad. Four-part, 17,500-word series on race relations in a sleepy Southern town good. They typically see their position, the newsroom, and the paper itself to be exalted above the readers they are allegedly paid to represent.
If a paper exercises poor editorial judgment, payback, in the marketplace and elsewhere in the press and, lately, in the Blogosphere is swift and ferocious. And it's unclear how the new "public editor" at The New York Times could have done anything to alleviate, say, the Jayson Blair situation. Every organization should have one person whose function is to point out things that are going wrong, but it's not necessary to invest that person with the trappings of a Representative of the Public; it is only necessary to pay attention to what is said.
World Tour 1903
No, I didn't do this one; it was fifty years before I was born, fercryingoutloud.
And in 1903, the idea of a cross-country motor trip was simply unheard of. This was long before Interstates there were few roads as we know them, and no pavement to speak of and long before mass-produced motor vehicles. In fact, it was before you could even get auto parts; Henry Leland was only just then assuming command at Cadillac, and had yet to introduce the startling concept of standardized, mass-produced, interchangeable parts, a notion which would win Cadillac a Dewar Trophy in 1908.
In the Age of Teddy Roosevelt, though, a sense of adventure was still something in good supply, and in 1903, a Vermont physician, Dr Horatio Nelson Jackson, having bet $50 (a tidy sum in those days) that he could cross the country in a car in 90 days or less, put his motor where his mouth was, and set off from San Francisco with the hope of getting to New York in one piece.
This is the sort of period Americana that almost cries out for a Ken Burns-type documentary, and as good fortune would have it, Horatio's Drive, a documentary directed by, yes, Ken Burns, will premiere in October on PBS. Once again, Burns' partner is Dayton Duncan, who worked with him on Lewis and Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery (1997).
(Muchas gracias: Syaffolee.)
Weapons of mass consumption
It's been said before, many times, many ways, but it always bears repeating, especially when it's said as well as it is by Tobacco Road Fogey:
Western popular culture is probably the most successful weapon we've ever had against totalitarianism in the last half-century or so. Our music, our films, and our television programs demonstrate the freedoms we take for granted, and utterly baffle those who have known only the dead hand of government-controlled media. They marvel at things in our culture that we find so commonplace as to be trivial fast food, well-stocked stores of all shapes and sizes, people on television openly criticizing all of our institutions. These things, and myriad others that escape our notice, leap off the TV or movie screen when viewed by someone who's never known the freedom we were born into.
I would add only that these things also seem to baffle some of our own residents, who can't understand why anyone would willingly embrace Burger King or Costco or Fox News when there's a more enlightened path theirs to follow. Nor can they understand why no one seems to be joining them along said path.
Hold the mayo on that Whopper, please.
30 September 2003
Quote of the week (tie)
I want a country that offers tax breaks for oral sex, not jail time.
What I don't want is to see the inevitable IRS paperwork (Form 69?) one uses to apply for said breaks.
Quote of the week (tie)
The Warrior Monk, dismissing a theme from the first movement of Symphony No. 9 by Dmitri Shostakovich:
[I]t sounds like a chorus of lobotomites attempting to whistle the theme song from Hogan's Heroes.
Of course, as the Monk is keenly aware, given the Soviet requirement that composers be guided by the principles of Socialist Realism, it could hardly sound like anything else.
(Update, 3 pm: The Monk would like you, or at least me, to know that it was not his intention to sound dismissive.)
Scents and sensibility
Smell being a very idiosyncratic and subjective observation at best, I'll tell you that to me, walnut smells astringent and medicinal...blending the faint aroma of iodine, a hint of freshly opened Band-aid with an underlying foundation of varnish. Trust me. Walnut is the smell of cool weather itself.
In terms of sheer poesy, this perhaps surpasses even Lileks' description of Belvedere vodka last month:
It's a lovely marriage of velvet and freon.
Half of the writers in the world, I presume, are below average; reading these guys always makes me feel like I belong with that half.
The filter that never falters
Discover, the Walt Disney science magazine nowhere nearly as scholarly as Scientific American, but less inclined to go off on political tangents has redesigned its Web site to be less irritating.
But you're still going to have to wait a while for the November dead-tree issue to be reproduced thereupon, so I'll give you part of a paragraph from the Emerging Technology column by Steven Johnson, in which he discusses the miracle of Technorati:
It's...an ongoing exchange between the top-down approach of traditional journalism and the bottom-up approach of the Web: Professional writers and editors generate the stories, and the Web's vast audience decides which ones deserve our attention. And this approach may well result in the best of all possible journalistic worlds.
Once in a while, a piece by a non-professional (in the sense of "not getting paid for this") rises to the top of the Technorati stack, but for most people most non-bloggers, anyway Technorati's major virtue is its huge capacity for effective filtration, something the untouched-by-human-hands Google News doesn't do quite so well.
I don't think this particular article, all by itself, is going to break Technorati, or blogging in general, into the Media Big Time, but if I pick up a visitor or two from among Discover's 900,000 readers, I'm not about to complain.
At least it isn't Klingon
File this under I for Inevitable:
That's the last time I whine about XML.
(Dankegon: Dave at Better Living Through Blogging, who speaks it like a native.)
Carnival 54, where are you?
This time around, it's at Dodgeblogium (atomic weight 18.104.22.168, or thereabouts), and as always, it's the weekly compendium of the finest examples of the bloggers' craft, with an occasional sprinkling of Lovecraft.
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