1 December 2003
Sort of back

Although I don't have a whole lot to say at the moment, being busy drafting a really nasty letter to a utility company.

I may reprint it here, or in a Vent, if it comes out sufficiently bitter and outraged.

All the schmooze that's fit to print

It's a new month, and as the literal New Kid on the Block, I got to go to my first Neighborhood Association meeting. It was cordial, if a bit short on actual participants, but what the heck; we had a quorum, and those who didn't show up have only themselves to blame when they discover that the annual dues have been doubled in their absence.

I just hope I remember to set the trash carts out tonight.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 PM to Surlywood )
Negative cash flow

It appears that Blogshares is dead, and with it the $630 million in funny money I'd accumulated. As of the first of November, the last time the standings were published, I was ranked 219th out of about twelve thousand players.

It was fun, and certainly worth the $15 a year, but I'm sure the creator is happy to have this particular monkey off his back; some things are more trouble than they are worth.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:41 PM to Blogorrhea )
2 December 2003
Surveying the damage

Considering I took only four days off work, I'd expect things to be, if not shipshape, at least somewhat better than flotsam and/or jetsam. Most of this morning will be devoted to seeing whether that expectation is even slightly realistic.

I am not hopeful.

Block-level information

Via Batesline.com comes word of a blog — powered by Movable Type, no less — run by a neighborhood association in Tulsa.

Our own NA has its own little site, which is pretty good for what it is, but I wouldn't mind seeing us go in this direction as a supplement to the existing site. Maybe I'll pitch the idea in January.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 AM to Blogorrhea )
50 ways to leave your hovel

Just drop off the key, Lee.

And so I did.

The last time I'll ever have to trudge all the way down 10th Street — which, by the way, is still under construction at the 7000 block.

It's the Ether Bunny!

Well, I've started to assemble something resembling broadband: I have a suitable modem for the cable system (Terayon TJ 715 series), and I've bound TCP/IP to the desktop's NIC.

Of course, I haven't a clue what I should be doing next, except that I am exceedingly wary about running the cable company's Big Disk O' Goodies, most of which are probably superfluous. Still, it's a start towards getting weaned from the dialup.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 PM to PEBKAC )
3 December 2003
Noises in the night

Forensic scientists — which, if you were to judge solely by network television, make up approximately two-thirds of all scientists in this country — have yet to issue a definitive statement on the subject, but I rather think that every building has its own distinct sound pattern, a combination of not-necessarily-random noises that, when combined correctly, identify a building as surely as its street address or its legal description. (No doubt composer John Cage was aware of this phenomenon when he came up with 4' 33", a piece where ambient sounds comprise the music.)

I'm just now learning the sounds of the new house. Of course, "new" is a relative term: the house is actually fifty-five years old. You might expect a bit of creak here and there, and indeed the wooden floors do have a recognizable jounce/rebound pattern, each room slightly different but none of them at all silent. And while the gas furnace is not particularly noisy, there is a pattern that repeats whenever the thermostat commands: a low-pitched grunt, as though the giant had been awakened from his slumber ("Fee, fi, fo, farm/Suppose this twerp would like some warm"), then a rumble as the gas valve opens, finally a snap of metallic fingers and the rush of warm air.

I have yet to distinguish, other than by location, the difference between the fridge kicking into cycle and the water heater going into full sub-boil.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 AM to Surlywood )
Oh, what a night

It's not late December, but it's #63.

Yep. It's Wednesday, so it must be time for a Carnival of the Vanities link, and Week 63 is hosted by those sterling folks at Begging to Differ.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:22 AM to Blogorrhea )
Bitter aftertaste in advance

Lynn S. was opening up a packet of tea when she noticed, down among the ingredients, a "dietary supplement" called stevia. Formally, it's Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni; it's apparently called a "dietary supplement" because the Food and Drug Administration considers it an unsafe food additive, and has apparently taken extreme measures to make sure that people avoid it.

And just what's so bad about stevia? It's a natural sweetener, generally lacking in the nasty side effects of the artificial varieties; it's tempting to conclude that the FDA bars its use as a sweetener in an effort to protect the manufacturers of the fake stuff and the politically-potent sugar lobby. Maybe. The FDA's general stance on stuff like this has been, generally, if one person in South Succotash comes down with a case of the green-apple quick-step, there ought to be an investigation. On the other hand, prescription drugs are routinely advertised on television with a list of side effects that would worry a rhinoceros, so the FDA's concern would seem to be something less than all-consuming.

The FDA, you'll remember, was quick to chime in when the Justice Department clamped down on the reimportation of drugs from Canada and other exotic lands, claiming they couldn't guarantee the safety of a pill that had been shipped from San Francisco to Saskatoon and back again. Inasmuch as technically they can't guarantee the safety of a pill I pick up from the drive-through window at Osco, I'm inclined to believe they're just repeating what they're told to repeat.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:02 AM to Worth a Fork )
Birds of a feather

Dante didn't assign a Circle for spammers and virus writers, though it's probably not hard to figure out where in the Inferno they should go, through the miracle of data interpolation: they'd slot above child molesters (as almost everyone would), but below, say, Tom DeLay.

The important thing, though, is that they stay together, especially now that there's evidence that they're working together. W32/Mimail-L is a new worm which, when installed, triggers a Denial of Service attack on the servers of antispam groups (and on Disney's Go.com, which surely means something).

The worm is packaged with an email ostensibly from a woman named Wendy who claims to be offering photos of an erotic encounter. Like I'd actually be interested in that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:36 PM to PEBKAC )
Insert Speedway joke here

The Indianapolis Police Department is running short on traffic tickets. The Marion County Superior Court apparently underestimated the number of citations that would be handed out when placing its order for the ticket forms last year.

Which is undoubtedly why the order for next year's forms, which just went in, calls for a 25-percent increase — and Indy is covering the difference with a 36-percent increase in the base traffic fine.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:56 PM to Driver's Seat )
It's full of bytes!

The cable connection seems to be delivering tonight, though there was one odd glitch which both saturated the cable modem (I'm guessing) and sidelined the secondary IDE controller (thereby killing both CD-ROM and CD-RW). Fixed by cycling the BRS.

Thanks to everyone who wrote with advice. As usual, you were all correct. :)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 PM to PEBKAC )
4 December 2003
Thereby redefining "speed freak"

One of the features this month in Automobile magazine (18 pages!) deals with rock stars and their cars.

Geez, what a waste. I can see giving some space to Sammy Hagar — after all, he can't drive 55, a feeling many of us can appreciate — but why would it matter to anyone what Nick Mason (Pink Floyd) or Wyclef Jean (Fugees) or Mark Knopfler drives?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:12 AM to Driver's Seat )
How they stack up

A poll by The Oklahoman estimates support for the various Democratic candidates for President in the Sooner State:

10 percent — Lieberman
  9 percent — Clark
  9 percent — Dean
  8 percent — Gephardt
  5 percent — Kerry
  3 percent — Edwards
  2 percent — Moseley Braun
  2 percent — Sharpton
  1 percent — Kucinich

Margin for error is 5.7 percent, but the really telling figure is the 27 percent who were undecided or declined to answer.

Inexplicably, Moseley Braun did not file to enter the Oklahoma primary.

Ambition, distraction

Dan Lovejoy admits that he voted for Carroll Fisher, and summarizes the headlines made by our beloved Insurance Commissioner over the past year and a half.

Disclosure: Even I voted for the guy. But his apparent meltdown is incredible, even by Oklahoma standards. He doesn't really have a shot at that Senate seat; there is, contrary to the dicta of the entertainment industry, such a thing as negative name recognition.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:00 PM to Soonerland )
Mr Greenspan, bring me a dream

Jay Solo, contemplating a choice of roofs over his head:

Is a crash or stall of real estate price pending soon? Are things as outrageous as I perceive them to be, or do I need to get a life (and a better income that changes my perceptions)? You think rentals will seriously go down? If they do so enough, that has implications for home sales. High rent makes a not much higher mortgage appealing. Low rent makes it another story.

I always recommend getting a life. Not that I ever follow my own advice or anything.

Rents, at least here in the Less-Than-Teeming Milieu, seem to trail housing prices by about nine months. Right now, homes in the relatively-affordable range — out here, this means sixty to eighty thousand dollars or so — are moving quickly, but the supply hasn't dried up yet because interest rates are still low enough to justify trading up. (Older homes at roughly twice this price point are going begging because the average new home costs about the same and theoretically requires less upkeep; really high-dollar houses, however, are selling well.) If interest rates rise substantially, a lot of people will choose to stay put, which leaves fewer properties on the market, which will force up prices even faster at the low end, creating a higher demand for rentals, which — well, you get the idea.

One factor which affects rents is the de facto Federal subsidy for properties which lease to Section 8 tenants; many a landlord has gotten into the business by buying an apartment complex on the cheap. In Oklahoma City specifically, this has created a two-tier system, where apartments similar to the one I just departed (two bedrooms, c. 900 square feet) rent for $400 to $500 at places that take Section 8, or $700 to $900 at places that don't. (No points for asking "Is it worth three hundred a month to avoid poor people?")

I've gone on record as stating that interest rates are probably going to rise over the next couple of years, which notion led me to buy now instead of waiting until I could supposedly afford it. I did the math, and way more than half of the extra $400 a month I'd presumably have in 2005 would go straight to an increased house payment; a point or two in the interest rate and the expected 15-20 percent increase in housing prices would easily absorb a couple hundred dollars. Jay thinks there's a bubble about to burst, and in some places I'm sure there is, but where I live, at least, we don't seem to be headed for a fall: the local economy is growing slowly, but it is growing, and it's much more diversified than it was in the days of the early-80s oil bust. I fully expect someone to offer me a third again as much as I paid for this place by 2006. Not that I'll take him up on it, unless I win the lotto or something.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:31 PM to Common Cents )
Now there's a surprise

MSN Search has me #5 for i am a schmuck.

Who knew?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:17 PM to Dyssynergy )
Rhymes with "scammy"

Michele questions the Grammy Awards:

[C]an you please explain to me how Fountains of Wayne qualifies for Best New Artist? Yes, I understand that your definition of 'new artist' is a new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist, but I am not sure what qualifies as "public identity" for this purpose. Call me crazy, but I think a band that is on its third release on a major label (Atlantic and Virgin) just doesn't get the new label.

You gotta remember, these are the people who honored Milli Vanilli.

Then again, I remember when Bent Fabric got Best Rock & Roll Record for "Alley Cat". The Grammy Awards at their best are no more meaningful than blog awards, and seldom are they at their best.

5 December 2003
Maybe you can get there from here

The Oklahoman reports that there is no construction on Interstate 35 between here and Kansas City.

Yes, that is news. I've driven this route for various reasons for twenty years or so — my descendants are clustered at the far end, you may remember — and I don't remember any time when there wasn't at least some road work going on.

Of course, if I really need to remind myself what it's like, I can always turn the other way: there is plenty of construction between here and Norman, and more heading into Texas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:10 AM to Driver's Seat )
Partially sage

Susanna Cornett was at that sold-out Simon and Garfunkel concert at Madison Square Garden last night, and she loved it:

Sometimes it was like a big singalong. Neither did much from their solo careers, which I regretted, but the overall tone was one of nostalgia and ... I have to say it ... love. I don't know how they managed it, but the concert was almost intimate. They came back for two encores, to standing ovations, and after each just stood and basked in the adoration for a while. It felt completely right that they do so.

It was simply stunning, moving beyond just the memories and pleasure of the songs themselves. It was one of those moments you always remember.

I try not to be dismissive of S or G solo: Simon threw a lot of stuff against the wall, some of which stuck, and Garfunkel's Angel Clare album still raises the hairs on the back of my neck. Still, this particular whole has always been greater than the sum of its parts, and I wish I'd been there to take part.

Of course, Susanna is one of those people who could make browsing for recycled auto parts into a memorable event, just by her sheer presence (not to be confused with her presence in something sheer), but that's another matter entirely.

(Note: Rewritten slightly after the fact in a desperate attempt to conceal a blatant misreading of her original text; see the comments thereupon.)

A lot of this going around

It's not easy being a Democrat sometimes, as Jeff Lawson notes:

President Bush has a lock on Texas in the next election, so it's not like I'm going to lose much sleep trying to decide who to vote for in a year. But I'd still like to throw my support behind one of the Democratic candidates merely for the sake of argument. The problem is, of the nine candidates, there's only three left now that I'd be willing to vote for: Lieberman, Gephardt, and Edwards. No front-runners there.

Much the same situation prevails north of the Red River; the only question is whether W. will beat the spread. And those of us who are persuaded that Dr. Dean should go back to Montpelier and contemplate the extent of media concentration and metrosexuality in the Soviet Union are not at all heartened by his front-runner status. I mean, if we really wanted someone in the White House who fumbles when he goes off-message — well, we already have that, don't we?

In 2000, I found Al Gore so unpalatable that I marked the box for Harry Browne. (This was obviously before Browne decided that 9/11 was our fault, so save the sneers, Bucky.) I have no idea what I'm going to do in 2004, but, like Jeff, I don't plan to lose much sleep over it.

And it speeds up as it approaches

Taito says it will produce a run of ten thousand coin-operated Space Invaders machines for the US market, to commemorate the game's twenty-fifth anniversary.

The consoles, which will be manufactured and distributed by Namco — Taito no longer has its own facilities for this sort of thing — will be essentially identical to Taito's 1978 machines, with one notable exception: it will cost two quarters to play.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:50 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
Cramming it

Consumer Reports has an occasional feature called "Claim Check," in which they attempt to duplicate a stunt performed for an advertisement to see if it's at all credible. Example: for the January '04 issue, they bounced a six-pound bowling ball onto a couple sheets of Bounty stretched over an embroidery hoop. What's more, they were wet sheets. Did the paper towels hold? They did.

Something like this spirit motivated me to try out this CD rack; the idea of a single piece of furniture that does not take over a room and yet can hold a thousand Compact Discs is almost mind-boggling, at least to my dain-bramaged mind. The assembly was relatively simple, once I figured out that actually reading the printed-in-Taiwan documentation was more of a boondoggle than a boon, but what I wanted to know was the Big Question: "How much does this thing hold? Really?"

I had, in fact, asked this of the dealer via email the night before Thanksgiving, and threw in what I thought was the catch: "Does this capacity figure include the standard jewel boxes?" He responded the next day that yes, it did, and the mere fact that he actually answered on Turkey Day was enough to cinch the sale. And I'm here to tell you that yes, if you install all 36 shelves at the optimum height, and you leave no space between the jewel boxes on each shelf, this contraption does indeed hold 1040 CDs as advertised. Being the sort of person who doesn't cram everything into the smallest available space, I will probably realize a capacity of about 1000 or so; this is still quite satisfactory, and I hereby pronounce this claim checked and verified.

6 December 2003
Whither Gorf?

Robb Hibbard at Tropiary, in linking to the Taito/Space Invaders story below (5 December), wants to know:

Who owns the rights to GORF, and will a similar release be planned for that particular game come 2006?

I assume that's up to Midway, the Bally subsidiary which produced the arcade game — with one minor caveat: when Gorf was ported to home game systems, the third mission (of five) had to be substantially reworked because it was entirely too close to Galaxian to suit Namco's lawyers (though Midway had licensed Galaxian as an arcade title).

Still, with the current interest in retrogaming in general, I think a Gorf revival is well within the realm of possibility.

Signal-to-noise ratio

Syaffolee complains about one cultural manifestation I admit I hadn't really noticed:

[I'm] tired of meeting so many young Asian women who think they are being individual by being angry and foul-mouthed. There are already many people in the world who are angry and foul-mouthed and I find it neither interesting nor unique. Perhaps they think it's a way of rebelling against the stereotypes of meek and accommodating or strung-out overachiever, but in fact, they're just creating another stereotype for themselves. And I don't think the much blogged about comedienne who makes money using this attitude is helping matters much.

Why haven't I come across this phenomenon myself? I suppose it's because I'm well removed from academia, which means that the most likely places for me to see young Asian women of any description will be at cultural events, where I seldom hear them talking at all, or in a retail context, where there are recognizable advantages to not being rude.

As for the comedienne in question, I've caught some of her shtick on television, and, well, I have to wonder if she'd have attracted any attention at all if she bore a surname like Jones. Of course, this is just me being angry and foul-mouthed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:27 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Concession stand

If you pay any attention to the Academy Awards at all, you've probably noticed that the presenters no longer begin their announcements with "And the winner is...." I assume that this revision was done to assuage the feelings of the 80 percent or so of nominees to whom the Oscar® does not go, the folks who shrug, fake a smile, and say "It's an honor just to be nominated."

The 2003 Weblog Awards, presented at Wizbang!, are a far cry from that Hollywood stuff, and the ratio of losers to winners is going to be a lot higher than 4:1. Still, the dynamics are much the same.

I must point out here that there are at least seventeen blogs nominated in the Large Mammal category which are better than mine, and as a person of conscience, I must urge you to vote for one of them. (The others, I haven't read.) And when I finish with something like two votes out of ten thousand, I plan to shrug, fake a smile, and announce: "It's an honor just to be nominated."

Because, well, it is.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:15 PM to Blogorrhea )
From the WTF files

I think we can now safely say that John Kerry is effing desperate.

How now, frown noun?

Bruce has been hitting the thesaurus again:


To which I say:

Hey! What about us drones?

(I just looked at that string again, and for one fleeting moment I thought I was looking at a Usenet newsgroup name. Look for the debut of alt.workers.pawns.cogs.serfs.peons.smurfs, coming to a server near you.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:07 PM to Blogorrhea )
7 December 2003
Scaled up

The Albertson's supermarket chain has relocated one of its stores by a whole couple of blocks, and inasmuch as I used to shop at one of their eastside stores out by the Ghastly Hovel, I figured I might as well take a peek at this new location.

Of course, the layout is utterly unfamiliar, so it took an inordinate amount of time to locate the usual items on my list, even on the second visit, and there is the requisite number of contemporary improvements — wheelchair accessibility in most aisles, an optional Self-Check which ostensibly will get you out of the store faster, and actual rest rooms labeled as such — but two things struck me as really, really different from what I'm used to.

The first is the vastly-expanded selection of kosher foods, including kosher frozen foods. (Yes, there are Jews in Oklahoma City.) I'm thinking that perhaps all their stores carry a small, corporate-mandated selection of Standard Ethnic Items, and local managers may expand this if the demand in their area warrants; there are probably a lot more Jewish customers on this side of town than where I used to dwell.

The second is what appears to be a much higher degree of personal interaction among shoppers. Back at the old eastside store, most people trudged down the aisles, dropped items into the basket, and moved on, scarcely saying a word. Now I'm seeing (and occasionally hearing, acoustics being what they are) conversations on seemingly every corner. Do all these people know each other? Or are these presumably more upscale suburbanites simply more inclined to talk to one another? I haven't figured this one out yet. Maybe I'll explore further, should it ever happen that I have something to say. (Or blurt out, inasmuch as one shopper I spotted yesterday was almost a dead ringer for She Who Is Not To Be Named.)

Prices, incidentally, are identical to those on the, um, poor side of town, though the city sales-tax rate is a fraction of a point higher, so mingling with the owners of Benzes and Lexi and 'Slades isn't adding substantially to my grocery bill.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:13 AM to City Scene )
A round of Benzes for the lawyers

So what are you going to do with your $12.60 (which, I suspect, won't be a check, but some sort of voucher) from the record industry's price-fixing class-action lawsuit?

Sole sustenance

Mark Pierce takes a dim view of cosmetic surgery for the feet:

I know I'm only a guy and therefore could not possibly understand such things. But does anyone else think that cutting into the foot for cosmetic reasons is just not the brightest thing in the world? Again, maybe it's just me... and admittedly beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the foot is not exactly the sexiest part of the body anyway. Is it?

Cosmetic surgery in general is perhaps not the brightest thing in the world, though I'd be the last person in the world to tell the Sixpacks (Joe and Susan, not necessarily including their 2.3 kids) that they shouldn't go spending their money (their insurance likely won't cover it) on trying to look better: if it buys you some peace of mind or an occasional wolf whistle, it may be worth the risk that comes with any medical procedure more complicated than popping a couple of Advil.

Still, the foot is a fiendishly-complicated arrangement of hard-to-fix parts, and there's a lot to be said for "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." And is it sexy? Certainly it can be. (Bless you, Jimmy and Manolo and Michelle.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 PM to Almost Yogurt )
8 December 2003
Elastic measurements

Depending on whom you want to believe, the New Digs contain 1053, 1057 or 1060 square feet of living space. (The most recent appraisal says 1053, so that's the figure I give out to those who ask.) Not huge, but not so tiny as my former hovel out on Shabby Road.

When The Expert and I first saw this house, she commented, "This seems bigger than they say it is."

My brother did a walk-through yesterday, and he said that it was at least as big as his house, which he described as having 1400 square feet.

Good floor plan? Or just sloppy measuring techniques?

I suppose it's time to pull out the tape measure for myself.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to Surlywood )
Starting all over again

The new Federal Building in Oklahoma City opens today, eight years after the last one was reduced to rubble by a truck bomb, one city block from where it happened.

The Small Business Administration has already started moving in. Some staff from the Department of Housing and Urban Development say they want nothing to do with the new building, claiming its proximity to the National Memorial (on the site of the old building) will bring back all the pain and sorrow from that horrible day in 1995; Washington has yet to decide what to do about them.

I admit to some puzzlement here. Surely someone must have invoked the "out of sight, out of mind" principle during the planning stages. Downtown space is admittedly limited and becoming more so; still, I think it might have been kinder, even if more expensive, to put this facility somewhere else.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:53 AM to City Scene )
Don't be stupid, be a smarty

Much has been said in blogdom about the January Vanity Fair and its Vicky Ward profile, with pictures, of Joseph C. Wilson and his wife, identified as "C.I.A. operative Valerie Plame," and not much of it has been favorable.

But Wilson and Plame aside, there's plenty to dislike in this issue of V.F., and the most dislikable bit is the opening letter from editor Graydon Carter, which closes with this startling statement:

[E]ven though British prime minister Tony Blair may have a schoolboy crush on our current president, the English themselves can't stand him. When it comes to the deceptions leading up to the invasion of Iraq, they consider Bush and Blair the Bialystock and Bloom of global politics.

Hello, Graydon? Did you even see The Producers? However questionable Max and Leo's motivations — well, Max's, anyway — what they created was a hit, a sensation, a work of staggering popularity: "This could run for years!" exults one member of the audience. And yes, they oversold it by about 25,000 percent, for which a price will undoubtedly be exacted some day, but Springtime for Baghdad, so to speak, is clearly an example of the general public being way out in front of the critics and pundits.

Not to mention the occasional editor.

Breakfast ain't what it used to be

This was emailed to me, and I reprint it without comment:

Many times when marriage is brought up in a discussion between men, the statement is made: "There's no reason to buy the cow when you can get the milk for free."

For all those men who believe that, you may want to keep the following in mind: nowadays, 80% of women are against marriage, as they have wised up to the fact that for 6 ounces of sausage it's not worth buying the entire pig.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 PM to Table for One )
9 December 2003
Sloppy seconds

I mentioned the new announcement for the Academy Awards ("And the Oscar® goes to...." instead of "And the winner is....") in this post, mostly in an effort to deflect attention from my lowly position in the 2003 Weblog Awards.

Now the Proprietor at Coffee Grounds has decided to see how well this no-losers philosophy extends to, among others, professional athletes:

In the NFL coaches and players have repeatedly over the years stated their feeling that, unless you go all the way and win the Big Ring, you have had a disappointing season. Hey, Oakland Raiders, don't fret, in 2003 you are simply the non-Super Bowlee! Ask former Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer what happens when the Bombers make it to the World Series but come up two games short. (And this is a 70-year old guy who still came off the bench to help out in a brawl.) Hey, Pinstripers, you are nothing less than the 2003 non-World Series-ee! Hey, Al Gore...

Somehow this reminds me of the old Cold War-era joke about the auto race between an American Chevrolet and a Soviet-built Moskvich. The Chevy won. Pravda duly reported that the Moskvich placed second, while the filthy American capitalistmobile came in next to last.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:41 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Striking back

Robert Braver in Norman has been fighting unsolicited crapola for a long time. On his Web site, in fact, he characterizes telemarketers and senders of junk fax as "a form of organized crime," and he's happy to take on this mob in the courts.

So it's no surprise to see Braver suing spammers (NewsOK.com registration required: email cgh at windowphobe.com, pw carlotta) under the Oklahoma law which went into effect last month. The statute outlaws fake routing information or bogus email addresses, and specifies a format for unsolicited email which must be followed explicitly. Said Braver:

Americans and American businesses are fed up with the greedy sociopaths and criminals who are destroying e-mail as a viable communications medium.

Personally, I'd rather see them crucified, but whatever works, right?

The price of accommodation

Relapsed Catholic reports (8 December) on this most vivid example of the Law of Unintended Consequences in action:

The historic Uptown movie theatre here in Toronto is being torn down. Why? Well, because one guy in a wheelchair (my friend worked for him in the government) complained that it wasn't accessible. Anyone who's ever been inside the Uptown knows that's an understatement. The Uptown couldn't afford to accomodate Mr. Busybody, so they're tearing the building down. One of the last movie theatres on Yonge Street. Thanks for nothing.

But wait, there's more: just now a whole section of the under-demolition building collapsed. One report says four children are trapped in the rubble.

Of course, persons in wheelchairs are de facto saints, and their actions are not subject to criticism by those of us who can (more or less) walk. That said, I think it's a safe bet that Mr. Busybody is utterly indifferent to the plight of the victims of the collapse.

(Muchas gracias: Christopher Johnson.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:01 AM to Dyssynergy )
Well, this is fun

Record high temperature for the date yesterday, so naturally we're waiting for the snow to start.

And we may as well wait, because we've had no power at 42nd and Treadmill for an hour and a half.

(Update, 3:30 pm: Which stretched into two hours and fifty-five minutes before the juice was restored.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:05 PM to Soonerland )
Diebold with a vengeance

A number of people are distrustful of Diebold because (1) they make voting machines and (2) their management is staunchly Republican.

My gripe with them, on the other hand, is that they're building Windows XP-based automatic teller machines, that a small fraction of them were actually infected with the Nachi/Welchia worm this summer, and that they're only just now admitting to it.

Could Diebold's voting machines be similarly infected? Probably not; they run Windows CE, which lacks some of the obvious holes in other versions of Windows, and they're usually not operated on a network.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:35 PM to PEBKAC )
10 December 2003
Lightly frosted

Now this is the kind of snowfall to have: enough to decorate the yards, but nothing actually clogging up the roads. The official total at the airport ("Which is stupid, 'cause I don't know anyone who lives at the airport," says Al Sleet) was a mere 0.2 inches.

Of course, even a fifth of an inch is impressive when it comes at you sideways at 40 mph.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 AM to Weather or Not )
Egalitarian blues

Bruce calls his blog This Is Class Warfare, and this item (8 December), as well as any, explains what he means:

Capitalism is a system based on a core prejudice. The more money you have the more desirable you become. To gain or maintain that preferred status you will take advantage of other prejudices. Racism persists in part because it helps maintain class separation. Your hope of escaping from the depths of the impoverished class stems from taking advantage of whatever prejudices work in your favor, so it is no small surprise that this confers a sense of legitimacy for those that use them to rise to the top.

Well, yes, money does enhance one's desirability, but I wouldn't characterize it as a "prejudice"; it's simply a part of the definition of capitalism as we know it. On the other hand, people who manage to work the system well enough to climb a rung or two on the ladder tend to be among the system's most ardent defenders, which would seem to confirm the "sense of legitimacy" statement.

To continue:

There are two levels of commitment to making the world a better, more equal and livable place. One level that means paying lip service to fundamental root problems by giving toys to poor kids, or holding fancy dinners to give a few coins back to the serfs. And another level where you would be willing to accept a loss of power, influence and privilege in exchange for a better world. For there is no rich without poor. No benefit to wealth if it doesn't confer to you the ability to make others spend a large amount of time catering to your needs and not their own.

I'm pretty good at lip service, myself.

"There is no rich without poor," he says, and mathematically that's certainly true: if some people have above-average incomes, some others will fall below average. And while wealth is no doubt handy, I see it more as a tool for me to do what I want rather than a tool to compel others to do what I want. If I ever acquire any, I'll let you know how it works out.


You either think inequality is a good thing or you don't.

You can say "I am against inequality," but you can just as easily say "I am against tidal waves" with exactly the same results. Inequality clearly exists. Further, I think it always will exist; there's simply no way to eliminate it so long as people are people and not just theoretical constructs. As a nation, we are dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal; what happens after that is anybody's guess.

Will you still need it?

Will you still feed it?

'Cause it's sixty-four.

That's right, buoys and gulls, it's the 64th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, hosted this week by Signal + Noise, and it's proof positive that the Carnival, even today, still has legs.

Six of them, in fact.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:57 AM to Blogorrhea )
Inconspicuous consumption

I never did quite understand why DaimlerChrysler felt the need to exhume the name and the nameplate of Wilhelm and Karl Maybach to sell a new ultra-luxe sedan with a price tag that looks more like a real-estate deal; wasn't Mercedes-Benz supposed to be "Das Beste oder Nichts"?

Whatever they might have been thinking, the child of this German brain trust, the putative vehicle of choice for NBA stars, rappers, and other people with more money than taste, is moving in numbers which can be charitably described as "limited": Autoextremist.com reports that Maybach sold all of eight cars last month, bringing the yearly total to a startling 59. At three hundred K per copy (for the short-wheelbase 57; add fifty K for the 62, half a meter longer), that's still a fair chunk of change, but it's not the sort of volume with which one can challenge Rolls-Royce.

Except maybe this year. BMW, owner of the Rolls-Royce name and tradition, has issued something called the Phantom, which in its own way is as over the top as the Maybach. Eight of them crawled out of showrooms in November, making 79 for the year.

Still, you probably shouldn't venture into your local dealership expecting rebates.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:34 PM to Driver's Seat )
Maybe it's all in the framing

Once upon a time, I came up with this:

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

Donna was quick to back up Mrs. Parker. Personally, I'm not at all persuaded that Donna is as spinsterish as she claims; for one thing, she's too darn funny, and for another, she's too darn pretty.

Now comes the lovely April Joy, and she, too, buys into Parker's Law:

I think I can hide better behind glasses. Unless glasses are your thing it's [more] likely that you’d look at someone without glasses than with.

I don't believe her, either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:25 PM to Table for One )
11 December 2003
A heart upon a wall

You know the words:

And when I see the sign that points one way
The lot we used to pass by every day
Just walk away, Renee
You won't see me follow you back home
The empty sidewalks on my block are not the same
You're not to blame

I knew that Michael Brown's unrequited love was a real person — a real person named Renee, no less — but it never occurred to me that he was also thinking of a real sign that points one way.

It's at the intersection of Falmouth Street and Hampton Avenue in Brooklyn.

I owe Dawn Eden, the legendary Petite Powerhouse, big time for this one.

(Yeah, I know: I'm still no good for you.)

A matter of timing

Oklahoma's term-limits law, enacted as State Question 632 in 1990, allows a legislator a maximum of twelve years, whether in the state House, the state Senate, or both. The law specified that legislators serving as of January 1991 would be allowed to complete their current term before their 12-year clock would be started.

Which means that individuals who were serving in the subsequent legislature — 1993-94 — are now about to be squeezed out, and the first squeezee looks like Senator Angela Z. Monson, Oklahoma City Democrat, who began her career in the Senate in 1993 but who previously ser