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:

workers.pawns.cogs.serfs.peons.smurfs.

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.

Finally:

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 served one term in the House. (Disclosure: I used to live in Monson's district, and voted for her twice. Not in the same election.) The law says that Monson's clock starts with the beginning of her Senate service, which means that although she was elected to a full four-year term in 2002, she will have to leave the Senate in 2005.

One other Senator may face a similar situation: Jim Maddox, a Lawton Democrat, who was in the House when his clock started in 1993 but moved to the Senate for the 1995 session. The difference, so far, is that the Attorney General has been asked to rule on Monson, not on Maddox.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:04 AM to Soonerland )
Keeping his head nearby

"I've been picking buckshot out of my rear end in some of these debates," said Howard Dean, as reported by William Saletan in Slate.

John Rosenberg begs to differ:

Dean the gun nut obviously doesn?t know the difference between buckshot and birdshot, although he most assuredly would if [he] were ever shot with both. Bird shot you can pick out, unless you were shot at close range. Buckshot, however, is a completely different story. A round of birdshot contains hundreds of tiny pellets; a 12 gauge round of #1 buckshot (it comes in different sizes), by contrast, contains twenty .30 caliber pellets and #3 buckshot contains twenty .25 caliber pellets. One tester observed that "the power of a blast of buckshot is equal to 10 rounds of 9mm bullets."

If anyone within debating distance of Dean blasted him with a load of buckshot, he would not be pulling them out of his rear end, which is apparently where he got the comment quoted above.

It's time to send Dr. Dean to one of those NRA Basic Firearm Training Courses — and then, of course, the showers.

The return of Blogshares

It's a long way from being ready for prime time — pages are served the same day, if you're lucky, and God forbid you should want a complete page of your portfolio — but at least it's back, and they returned to their most recent backup, which I'm pleased to report missed my last day of transactions, in which I lost a bundle of B$.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:27 PM to Blogorrhea )
12 December 2003
Watching the skies

After a couple of clear (but cold) mornings, we now have a mass of clouds, and it's still cold. At least the wind is relatively hushed; a howler earlier this week packed enough punch to set off a motion detector around my house.

What we're waiting for, of course, is this next storm system, which has been hotly hyped all week, and which will drop somewhere between a fraction of an inch and a tad over a foot of snow on us, depending on factors which can't be predicted worth a darn. (Computer models are wonderful things, but the real world persists in not conforming to them.)

The most amusing aspect of this, apart from watching the meteorologists doing their standard decapitated-chicken dance, is the effect on the National Weather Service's VHF radio service. Somebody got the bright idea of promoting the NWS Web site over the radio, which is sane enough; what wasn't so bright was failing to notice the fact that the computer voice had been programmed to interpret some letters as standard abbreviations. The local forecast office is located at www.srh.noaa.gov/oun, which the disembodied voice duly reported as "West West West South RH...." By this morning, the Service's code warriors had tweaked the voice programming, and the URL is now given correctly up to the slash, after which "oun" is read as a word, rhyming with "town". They'll figure it out eventually.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 AM to Weather or Not )
One beam at a time

Seven World Trade Center is coming back.

The first steel beam was raised yesterday, on the way to a height of 1776 feet.

And below the beam fluttered an American flag — crafted in Afghanistan.

You gotta love it. As Michele says:

We are moving on and rising up. We will never forget, but we will not curl up in the rubble and die, either. The New York City skyline will never be the same; none of us will ever be the same. But we can adapt and we can look at the rise of new buildings as another stage in healing.

Amen to that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Old MacDonald had a fram, EOIOE

I understand very little about TMJ dysfunction — so far as I can figure, the temporomandibular joints are a bit more complicated than, say, the constant-velocity joints on my car, and I understand them hardly at all — but I somehow doubt that treatments related to the TMJ will have any effect on dyslexia, despite this bald assertion:

Dyslexia is curable by a simple procedure that unlocks the cranial skull plates and allows the brain to rehydrate. A therapy which corrects the dehydrated brain is called Neuro Cranial Reconstruction. With this procedure, dyslexia can be [cured] in as little as one week to as long as six months.

Sounds like two parts chiropractic, one part P. T. Barnum to me.

(Muchas gracias: I Speak of Dreams.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:20 AM to Dyssynergy )
Cross purposes

Microsoft's Bookshelf Symbol 7 font, included with Office 2003, includes a couple of swastikas. The company is offering a utility to purge the font set, which, says microsoft.com, contains "unacceptable characters."

The Third Reich, you'll remember, used only one swastika variation: clockwise, rotated 45 degrees. Apparently today any swastika is now considered a Nazi artifact, even if it's religious in origin; if you use the hated symbol, it has to be because it's always been your dream to annex Austria and invade Poland. Similarly, possession of a Confederate flag implies possession of enough rope to perform a couple of lynchings, and the twelve-story illuminated cross on the Bank One Tower in downtown Oklahoma City, something we see every December, means that the bank doesn't want business from non-Christians.

All this reminds me of a dust-up from about a decade ago, when someone with too much time on his hands discovered that if you type NYC in Microsoft's Wingding font — something you'd really have no reason to do, generally — you get a skull and crossbones, a Star of David, and a thumbs-up graphic. Interpreted, of course, as an anti-Semitic statement. Penn Jillette, bless him, said at the time that it could just as easily mean "Jewish people make really good pesticides."

There is defensive, and there is demented. Used to be, there was a recognizable difference between the two.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:24 PM to PEBKAC )
13 December 2003
Writhing in a winter wonderland

The fastest way home from 42nd and Treadmill, generally, is to take the freeway loop about 165 degrees counterclockwise. It's about two miles farther than along surface streets, and the lanes are crowded, but traffic at that time of day is usually moving close to the 60-mph speed limit, so it's not as horrendous as it might be were I doing the same in Denver or Dallas.

The downside of this route is that it passes over a couple of bridges, including the infamous Belle Isle Bridge, which will freeze over with even the slightest bit of cold water thrown at it. With temperatures hovering right at the freezing point, I took off half an hour early and implemented Plan B, which is confined to surface streets, which passes over one fairly short bridge, and which has only one turn, and a right turn at that.

I probably shouldn't have bothered. The spritzing we got, part sleet, part freezing rain, part snow, and seemingly part WD-40, was causing people to dart madly off in all directions except for the actual path of the road. But if the going was treacherous, the stopping was impossible, and indeed I spent a few anxious seconds doing the slide — though I didn't veer off course in so doing, and I was able to recover control soon enough. The nine-mile run took 55 minutes, culminating with some hurried soul trying to pass me while I was starting the turn into my driveway. I figure they picked him out of the fence at the grade school later that evening.

Ultimately, about four inches of the wet and nasty stuff piled up; this is a fairly feeble amount by the standards of Buffalo or Boston, but we can just about match them for traffic paralysis.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:04 AM to Weather or Not )
End of an era

Texaco has sponsored the Saturday-afternoon radio broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera for sixty-four seasons, but this season will be the last: Texaco, now merged with Chevron, has decided to spend its money elsewhere.

Terry Teachout, writing in ArtsJournal, says that this may not be a tragedy after all:

I don't believe in sinking money into obsolete cultural ventures that have largely outlived their utility, and it occurs to me that the Met's radio broadcasts — at least as presently constituted — may well fall into that category.

The real miracle of modern technology is that it offers radically new means of bringing about profoundly traditional ends. You can use your iBook to download Dostoyevsky, or listen to vintage radio shows from the Thirties and Forties — or read a blog like this. The Metropolitan Opera needs to keep that in mind as it figures out how to stay on the air.

Streaming audio? It could work. It would still cost some serious money, though, and while the Met has picked up a grant for about half the $7 million it costs to do the radio broadcasts, there's still presumably a need for some form of sponsorship — or for direct payments by listeners. Mr Teachout, elsewhere in the article, suggests that satellite radio, which is paid for by subscribers to the tune of $150 or so a year, might be the most reasonable alternative.

Meanwhile, Greg Hlatky notes a certain silence by our ostensible cultural gatekeepers:

Where, in the discussions of funding for the arts, is the entertainment industry? Why is it wrong for an oil company to stop its sponsorship and not wrong for the movie, television and record companies not to step forward? To watch one of their innumerable self-congratulatory awards shows or listen to their horrified responses when someone ventures even the slightest pitty-pat criticism of their wares, you'd think that they were artists and would therefore appreciate the importance of the Met's work. And any industry that can afford to give Tom Cruise or Julia Roberts $20 million a film can surely afford $7 million a year for an institution deemed so valuable, right?

Impossible. The Met broadcasts seldom venture too far from the basic repertoire, and what Hollywood really wants for its money these days is something that represents its highest ideals: say, a rewrite of Faust with Karl Rove as Mephistopheles.

The last Chevron/Texaco broadcast, coming on the 24th of April, is Wagner's Götterdämmerung. At least they're going out with a bang.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:46 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Quote of the week

Courtesy of the Pejmeister:

I'm beyond the point of being puzzled as to why choice is supposedly a good ingredient of just about every policy initiative except for education and retirement savings.

Hmmm. "The anti-choice Democrats, who want the financing of your retirement forever tied to a single government program instead of permitting you to make your own decisions...."

Watch for this sound bite next year. Uncredited, of course.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:47 PM to QOTW )
No hard drive jokes

The upheaval that comes with a move — on the severity scale, I rate one move as roughly equivalent to 0.6 fire — inevitably means that some books at the bottom of the stack will be rotated upwards, which is how I found a 1992 Que manual called Real Men Use DOS, written by the presumed Real Man Mike Miller and the apparently Highly Unimpressed Shelley O'Hara.

Of course, the Home Improvement-like approach of this book is a bit on the silly side, which is probably why I bought it in the first place. Then again, sometimes it cuts deep. Chapter 17, written by Shelley, opens with the following assertion:

By now you should have figured out that DOS is like most men — unattractive and noncommunicative.

Hmmm. Do I have trouble communicating?

And just incidentally, eleven years after this book was written, the most avid DOS user I know is a woman; she fears no hardware known to man and sneers at dumbed-down documentation.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:29 PM to PEBKAC )
14 December 2003
A Number One idea

Longtime readers (both of you) will have noted the name of Todd Storz over in the "Inspirations" section, and whether or not you chose to click on the proffered link, it's probably time I came up with an explanation.

While all sorts of music get played in my house — I spent part of yesterday afternoon sorting through classical LPs, in fact — what dominated my formative years (up until 1969 or so) was the radio format known as Top 40, a concept which was essentially invented by Todd Storz.

Storz based his idea on two observations: first, that radio listeners really did like music on the air, at least as much as they did the dramas and comedy shows of the day, and that in eateries, a handful of songs got the majority of jukebox spins.

With this in mind, Storz, then in his early twenties, bought a daytimer in Omaha and built it into the top-rated non-network station in the entire country, by focusing on music programs and a local Top Ten list. (This is not to be confused with the Top Ten lists from the Home Office in Wahoo, Nebraska.) The Top Ten became the Top 40 in 1953 when Storz acquired a New Orleans station and counterprogrammed against a rival who had a weekly Top 20 show with a program twice as big and twice as long.

Storz went on to acquire other stations, in Kansas City, Minneapolis, Miami, St Louis and (yes!) Oklahoma City, and fine-tuned his format, which by then had spread to other group owners, most notably Gordon McLendon, who operated the fabled KLIF in Dallas. Storz died of a stroke in 1964, only thirty-nine years old; his father, who had been running the business side of the station group, took over the operation and continued to run it for the next twenty years, when the stations were finally sold.

Forty years after his death, Top 40 has mutated into something called Contemporary (often "Contemptible") Hit Radio, and it's time, I think, to give Todd Storz his due. Radio historian Richard Fatherley, who worked at the two Storz stations in Missouri, has proposed that the United States Postal Service honor Storz with a postage stamp. What denomination? Why, 40 cents, of course.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:23 AM to Overmodulation )
The Ace of Spades falls

I mean, who but Saddam would hide out in a farmhouse with $750,000 in cash?

His babies have already been thrown out with the Baath water, putting the "die" back into "dynasty". And there's nothing quite so enjoyable as finishing the job.

The Professor, in the meantime, has some thoughts on what to do with Saddam, at least one of which involves a plastic-shredding device.

Insufficient danger

The Cabinet Man, guest-blogging at WeckUpToThees!, recounts his experience with trying to get a concealed-carry permit from the state of Maryland, and there's something seriously wrong with this picture:

[My] CCW application was rejected due to "insufficient reason". In other words, I haven't been threatened, mugged, robbed, raped, etc.... In Maryland's twisted "cart before the horse" laws concerning CCW, the state — not me — is the one to determine "apprehended danger". In other, other words, if the state thinks I'm safe, then I don't get a permit. No matter that I could be assaulted ten minutes after leaving the state police barracks. After that, I could probably get a permit. Maybe....

This is truly insane. You have to prove you're likely to be attacked to get a carry permit? This makes as much sense as requiring you to have cavities before you can buy dental insurance. Maybe even less.

Packing.org has seen this before:

In MD it is almost impossible for a non-resident to get a permit. For that matter most MD residents can't either.

Then again, Maryland doesn't think much of the right to keep and bear arms, anyway. Here's an opinion from the Attorney General [requires Adobe Acrobat Reader] on one of the state's multitudinous gun-control laws:

House Bill 1283 would unquestionably prevent some individuals from obtaining firearms that they may lawfully obtain under current law. The only significant issue of facial constitutionality is whether the bill violates the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution or Article 28 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights. We conclude that it does not.

The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution provides as follows: "A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." A threshold question about the Second Amendment is whether it is applicable to the states. Because it is not, the Second Amendment is irrelevant to House Bill 1283.

Legal cite offered: Onderdonk v. Handgun Permit Review Board, 44 Md. App. 132, 407 A.2d 763 (1979).

Despite that declared irrelevance, Maryland contends:

In Maryland, the militia is "well regulated" by Article 65 of the Code. As part of this regulatory scheme, arms needed for the militia are to be "deposited in the armory ...." The General Assembly thus has made the manifestly reasonable judgment that the needs of the militia can be met with State-owned firearms housed in secure locations.

No tenable argument can be made that the needs of the State militia can only be met by affording private citizens access to the kinds of firearms that would be restricted under House Bill 1283.

Given Maryland's crime rate, I suspect that eventually everyone in the state will qualify for concealed-carry — but why should they have to wait that long?

At least if you can get a Maryland permit, it will be honored while you visit Oklahoma.

15 December 2003
To borrow a phrase...

...it's an honor just to be nominated.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:55 AM to Blogorrhea )
Maybe it's my breath

The house next door to me is being offered on a lease-purchase deal — because, it's been suggested, the price the owner wanted on a straight sale was too high — and now, the house across the street (more or less) is being sold. In this case, since it's bearing a For Sale By Owner sign and a phone number in the next county, I think this is a refurbished rent house that the owner would like to get rid of. (And judging by the succession of trucks I've seen in the driveway, a lot of refurbishers were called in.)

Interestingly, this latter place is offered for about two percent more than my digs, though the house is nominally twenty percent larger. Of course, there's a certain elasticity in these measurements.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:12 AM to Surlywood )
Albatross!

John Cleese, who wouldn't become a Freemason now if you went down on your lousy stinking knees and begged him, is contemplating running for Mayor of Santa Barbara, California.

It would be worth it just to see him open a Council meeting with "And now for something completely different."

There is, so far as I can tell, no truth to the rumor that Mayor Marty Blum responded to this news with "Well, he's scarcely a bloody replacement, is he?"

(Via Fark)

Splendor in the crass

Michael Wolff argues that media have become rude because the sight (or hearing, in the case of talk radio) of it strikes a chord deep within us, a desire to be just as overbearing as we've never been allowed to be in a Polite Society.

Kevin Holtsberry takes exception to this idea, complaining that "it makes a vice into a virtue."

I started scribbling on this topic, and it got longer and longer and still I didn't come up with a reasonable conclusion, so I killed the post.

And then, thinking that maybe I'm not the only one who is of two minds on this subject — I mean, I greatly enjoy heaping invective upon the deserving, but there are times when it's counterproductive — I reposted it as a Vent with the same title. (Of course, I hate to waste a good title.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:46 PM to Almost Yogurt )
16 December 2003
Hence the name

We weren't exactly buried in dust yesterday, but the sepia-toned low clouds gave an indication of just how much soil from west Texas and eastern New Mexico wound up being deposited here.

The winds were fairly fierce: when the front came through around 5 pm, the prevailing southwest winds at around 20 mph switched to the north at around 30, the result of a fast-moving cold front. And during all this wind-swapping, a storm system moved through and dropped what it had, which wasn't moisture this time, but good old-fashioned dust.

We're sort of used to this, but things always look just a bit unearthly when it happens.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:33 AM to Weather or Not )
Saddam shame

The Arab street is not happy these days, which doesn't necessarily explain why the Minneapolis Star Tribune felt compelled to put in an inquiry to Ahmed Samatar, dean of international studies at Macalester College. Dr. Samatar explained that many of the Muslims he knows were disgusted by the Department of Defense video of the captured Saddam Hussein, not so much because they sympathize with Saddam or excuse his behavior, but because, reported the Strib, "Islamic culture places great emphasis on respecting the dignity of all human beings, even a defeated enemy, perhaps especially a defeated enemy."

Were this true, I would have to wonder why it is that the keepers of the Islamic cultural flame haven't taken steps to expel, or at least chastise, the ostensible Palestinians, whose respect for dignity continues to be conspicuous by its absence.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:51 AM to Dyssynergy )
Available in monotheist and stereotyped

Kelley wants to know, and really, so do I:

Why is it that on the occasion during which Bush mentions G-d, the media springs like an attack dog, quick to point out what a Bible-thumper he is. Yet here we have a full-fledged Reverend running for President, a legitimate candidate who participates in the debates, etc., and nobody's said a word about Rev. Sharpton and his relationship with G-d. Is it because he's a Democrat? Democrats are allowed to have religion, but Republicans aren't to be trusted with it?

Quit laughing at "legitimate candidate" and answer the question, dammit.

From the Silver Lining Department

About seven months ago, I complained that check printers now give you 150 to the box instead of the formerly-canonical 200, and at pretty much the same price too.

I have since found some tiny upside to this, um, resizing: it now takes about twenty-five percent less time to shred a box of checks to be discarded. Given the limitations of my shredder — it would take weeks to dispose of Steve Buscemi with this cheap contraption — this is a noticeable difference.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:55 AM to Common Cents )
It's only words on a screen

A brief review of the statistics for this blog reveals that the single most popular post ever was the one with the dubious message on a CNN screenshot.

Ever since then, I've wondered if that flub was simply a fluke. Following this research by James Ridgeway's Mondo Washington column in The Village Voice (sidebar by Jennifer Snow), I am inclined to believe that it is not.

To wit:
Who's been screwing with this thing?

Sheesh. (Found at Fark)

(3:30 pm: Tweaked the credits slightly.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:20 PM to Say What? )
17 December 2003
The plane truth

It's official: Boeing will build the new 7E7 jet in Everett, Washington, snubbing a bid from Tulsa.

Michael Bates is still wondering about the incentives Tulsa offered:

State officials are still refusing to tell us what incentives they offered Boeing in our name and with our tax dollars. Even the total value of the package has been kept secret.

Tulsa officials, says Bates, are in "full spin mode." Meanwhile, I keep thinking of the United Airlines maintenance facility for which we were competing, which finally ended up in Indianapolis, only to be shut down when United went into Chapter 11, and I don't feel quite so bad.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:18 AM to Soonerland )
It's the pits

Ottumwa, Iowa, a picturesque town on the Des Moines River, does not like pit bull terriers: they are classified as a "dangerous animal" and are banned within the city limits.

This is not, in itself, particularly unusual. What's weird here is that the city seems to be extending the very definition of the breed. The promotional material for the Southeastern Iowa Kennel Club's February shows, to be held in Ottumwa, reprints what is represented as the pertinent city ordinance [requires Adobe Acrobat Reader], and this is what Ottumwa apparently considers to be a "pit bull":

An American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed of dog; a mixed breed of dog which contains as an element of its breeding the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier or American Staffordshire Terrier as to be identifiable as partially of the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier; or, a dog which has the appearance and characteristics of being an American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Bull Terrier breed or mixed breed of dog which contains as an element of its breeding the breed of American Pit Bull Terrier, Staffordshire Bull Terrier, or American Staffordshire Terrier.

As far as the American Kennel Club is concerned, these are three separate breeds of dog. (The AKC does not register American Pit Bull Terriers.) More to the point, "Heinz 57" mutts are banned if they have any ancestors among these breeds, whether or not any breed characteristics can be discerned in an individual dog. The dog shows in Ottumwa will not accept any entries for any of these breeds.

In late summer, a lawsuit was filed against the city challenging the ordinance.

Terriers, by nature, have a certain amount of attitude: they do tend to push their envelope just a bit. This is part of what makes them terriers, and indeed a meek dog is likely to be marked down by a terrier judge at a show. But attitude does not equal viciousness, and ordinances such as Ottumwa's, I think, ignore the fact that any animal can become vicious if it is ill-treated, and this is is the fault, not of the dog, but of the dog's owner. I've known too many sweet-tempered Rottweilers to believe anything else.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:27 AM to Dyssynergy )
Carnival '65

Not at all ready for retirement, the Carnival of the Vanities turns 65 this week at Drumwaster's Rants, and as always, it's the pick of the litter, the cream of the crop, the best of the blogs for the preceding seven days, made more so by the fact that there's no submission from yours truly.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:07 AM to Blogorrhea )
A Saab story

There is reason to be suspicious of the upcoming Saab 9-7X, not least because it's basically the same platform that General Motors has been selling as the Chevrolet TrailBlazer (not to mention GMC, Buick and, for the next few months anyway, Oldsmobile versions) and sneaking out the back door to Isuzu stores as the Ascender. Whatever Saab might require in its hour of need, it wouldn't seem to be Yet Another Generic Sport-Utility Vehicle.

On the other hand, so long as Saab sales are in the doldrums and SUVs continue to move, it's hard to blame GM, which has yet to make any money from its purchase of Saab's automotive business, for wanting to get some return on its investment, and if this artist's conception is at all accurate, there will be a fair number of buyers lined up at the Saab store who will have no idea that the sturdy Swedish steed before them was bred from purely American stock.

No comment from me on the Subaru-based 9-2. Yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:08 PM to Driver's Seat )
Schisms and other shiznit

Paul Emmons of West Chester University, on the split in Anglicanism following the ordination of a homosexual bishop:

The consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of the New Hampshire Diocese of the Episcopal Church is an affront to Christians everywhere.

I am just thankful that the church's founder, Henry VIII, and his wife Catherine of Aragon, and his wife Anne Boleyn, and his wife Jane Seymour, and his wife Anne of Cleves, and his wife Katherine Howard, and his wife Catherine Parr are no longer here to suffer through this assault on traditional Christian marriage.

(This was apparently floating around about a month ago, but this is the first I've seen of it; I caught it in Phil Proctor's column in Funny Times, January '04.)

By the yarbles

What to do with Saddam Hussein? Robb Hibbard (Wednesday, 2:16 pm) suggests the Ludovico Technique, as described in A Clockwork Orange:

Ideally, Saddam would undergo the treatment received by the droog Alex in Anthony Burgess' best-known work. The bezoomy old veck's glazzies would be pried open real dobby as he viddied the veshch he created.

Not that we're trying to rehabilitate the merzky prestoopnik, mind you:

I couldn't care less about the philosophizing. If ever someone merited some horrorshow tolchocking, it's Saddam.

Choodesny, O my droogies, to viddy such in the gazetta.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:42 PM to Almost Yogurt )
18 December 2003
Tweaking the tax freeze

In 1996, the state Constitution was amended to block property-tax increases for persons 65 and over with incomes of $25,000 or less. (Technically, the law blocks increasing the assessed valuation of the property, on which the tax is based; it does not actually freeze the tax rate, which is generally set by voter election.)

There is now a proposal in the works, backed by members of the County Government Legislative Council, to amend this amendment by allowing the income threshold to float upward to the median income in each county, which even in the state's poorest county (Pushmataha) is today over $30,000. In my neck of the woods, the cutoff would be $51,100.

Roy Bishop, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, announced that the group would oppose any move that might conceivably take any money out of school coffers. In 2002, nearly $3 of every $5 collected by Oklahoma County went to public schools.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 AM to Soonerland )
A face that she keeps on a disk in the drawer

I never did look at the JenniCam; while I'm at least as much of a perv as the next guy, I have about 0.00005 percent more of a conscience, and I really couldn't bring myself to peeking at the poor girl, even if there was an off-chance of catching her in her birthday suit.

That said, though, I was one of the mourners when Jenni announced the closing of the site, if only because it had become an institution and, well, you don't just shrug when you lose an institution. At least I don't.

I wish, though, I'd have been able to mourn as eloquently as Norman Madden, who, with a little help from Sir Paul McCartney, put together this tribute to the First Woman of Cybervoyeurism.

Ah, look at all the lonely people Ah, look at all the lonely people

Jennifer Ringley shows off her life in the frame that a webcam can send.
Life is a stream.
Watches her webcam, opens her place with a lock like a knock on her door.
What is it for?

(Chorus)
All the lonely people
Why do they all click here
All the lonely people
Why do they all click here

Faraway crazies watching the words of a woman that no one will hear.
No one comes near.
Look at her working. Darning her socks in the light when there's nobody there.
What does she care?

(Repeat chorus)

Jennifer's webcam died on the net and was buried 'long side her domain.
PayPal's to blame.
Paypal and crazies digging up dirt on her cam just to save.
It was the cam's grave.

(Repeat chorus)

Say goodnight, Jenni.

Quick, hide the yearbook!

If you're thinking that one of the drawbacks to home schooling is the utter lack of memorabilia and/or schwag, think again. Jostens, a name familiar to an awful lot of students approaching baccalaureate, has brought out a line of graduation products, including announcements, diplomas, caps and gowns, and (yes!) class rings — everything the kids at More Science High get, without having to stand in line.

(Muchas gracias: Kimberly Swygert.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:40 PM to Almost Yogurt )
19 December 2003
'Tis the season, and so forth

I note with some bemusement a tripling of the volume of Christmas cards received this year, which I attribute largely to the fact that a lot of people now have the new address who never actually had, or perhaps had forgotten, the old address.

And I must also note that the vast majority of these cards are, in fact, Christmas cards, rather than the vague, generic, "Season's Greetings" sort of things which strive to be inoffensive and wind up being annoying. I understand why these are done; still, I'm inclined to believe that anyone who does take offense does so out of a sincere desire to be a pain in the ass. Or, as it was put at Bleeding Brain:

What kind of a sour, bulging-eyed frantic loser would a person have to be when lodging a complaint regarding the displays of faith of other people?

Uh, this kind?

ISPs need not squeal

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has overturned a trial judge's ruling that Verizon must reveal the names of subscribers involved in file-swapping to the Recording Industry Association of America.

The idea that Verizon shares responsibility for the trading of files because at some point it may take place over their network, said the court, "borders on the silly."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:08 AM to Fileophile )
Quote of the week

Tina Brown, for The Washington Post, in a piece called Tough Times for Democrats:

American myths of masculinity draw on the strong, silent archetype — John Wayne and Gary Cooper, later Charles Bronson and Charlton Heston, and more recently the subarticulate comic book action heroes like Sylvester Stallone and, yes, Ahnuld. American portraits of maleness have always favored instinct over intellect, action over reason. Rhett over Ashley. Patton over Marshall. Kirk over Spock. In this context, Bush's frat-boy past and Arnold's "playful" girl groping (never mind that it looks like creepy power-mongering when you really examine it) qualify as youthful expressions of the same testosterone that makes for grown-up action heroes. By comparison, Howard Dean's choleric outbursts look like Elmer Fudd spluttering, and the aristocratic let-us-reason-together authority of John Kerry comes across as lack of muscle tone.

This could almost be an argument for Dick Gephardt — or perhaps Joe Lieberman, if he didn't sound so much like Dr Zoidberg on the late, lamented Futurama.

(Suggested by Stephen Green.)

Addendum, 1:50 pm: At Pyrojection, Lummox JR says:

America was built by men who could think deep thoughts and plan for the future, shoot bears and burglars, raise decent children, treat women with respect, and be loved by their families and communities. These men are aliens to Tina Brown — it makes me wonder, sadly, if her father was any great shakes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:53 AM to QOTW )
Hartford becomes the Little Easy

According to an NPR report, Bill Curry, who lost to John G. Rowland in the 2002 race for governor of Connecticut, says that the Rowland administration's seemingly-endless stream of ethics violations has turned the Nutmeg State into "Louisiana with foliage."

Now there's a visual.

Ask for it by name

Uzi Gal, who invented the submachine gun that bears his name, died last year, and now, after nearly fifty years, the IDF is replacing its stock of Uzis with more modern weaponry. One potential replacement is the Corner Shot, which, as its name suggests, can actually fire around a corner.

While Israel may not be using the Uzi, they will continue to manufacture it for export. Meanwhile, Costa at The Critical 'I' reminds us that we can still get AK-47s — for now, anyway.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:11 PM to Almost Yogurt )
20 December 2003
Too close for comfort

HUD has informed nineteen of its Oklahoma City staffers that they will not be forced to work in the new downtown Federal Building, a block from the Oklahoma City National Memorial that stands on the site of the old downtown Federal Building, destroyed by bombers in 1995. Thirty-five people working for HUD were among the 169 killed.

The HUD staff will telecommute two days a week, and an alternative office location to be determined will be open three days a week. HUD facilities that had not been housed in the Murrah Building will presumably not be affected.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:31 AM to City Scene )
Too much too soon

Joanne Jacobs turned up this report by the Davidson Institute for Talent Development, which gives its collective thumbs up to the acceleration of gifted students.

This quote jumped out at me:

Research has found no evidence to support the notion that social or emotional problems arise through well-planned and monitored acceleration programs. (Southern & Jones, 1991)

Perhaps I should believe that my own acceleration was neither well-planned nor monitored, inasmuch as my 8.5-year trek through the twelve canonical grades was fraught with emotional issues and social retardation of the sort I wouldn't wish on anyone.

Of course, it might be just me. I always figured that my nearly-off-the-scale test scores were bogus anyway: if I'm so damned smart, why do I feel so incredibly stupid so often? There are some things you can't pick up from books, and I apparently didn't find an alternate source.

Joanne's comments on her entry include reports from a fair number of success stories, and I'm happy for them, but if I knew then what I know now, I would have insisted on taking all twelve years. Maybe thirteen.

You're never too old to yearn

Acidman, damn his hide, has come up with yet another post that provokes too much thought. "What makes the RIGHT ONE?" he asks, and takes a couple of stabs at it:

How do you know when you meet the RIGHT ONE? Beats me. Maybe it's someone who likes to eat the same food that you like, drink the same wine that you like and go to the same places that you like. Maybe it's someone who doesn't like ANY of that shit but purely enjoys being with YOU because it's a different experience.

You don't have to mesh like a set of gears. Sparks are good sometimes.

Maybe it's someone who disagrees with every opinion you hold, but respects your ability to argue those opinions. Maybe it's someone who doesn't believe that you are as attractive as Fabio, but still wants to sleep with YOU at night. Maybe it's someone who accepts all your flaws and loves [you] FOR them, instead of in spite of them.

I'd avoid the gears comparison: my synchros are shot.

The problem I have with the answer is basically the problem I have with the question: I don't actually believe that there actually exists any sort of one-to-one correspondence, or even a close approximation. "Love is all around," said the Troggs, but that doesn't mean it's evenly distributed; some people, for whatever reason, find that their cups runneth over, while others sigh and shake the coal dust out of their stockings.

This isn't, however, anything like an argument for blowing off the RIGHT ONE in favor of something RIGHT NOW; while I can almost — barely — work up some sort of rationalization for a quickie affair, I would hate to think that it's the best I could do. Especially if it is.

What I'd really like to do is to proclaim that Biology Is Destiny, that I've done my part already by passing on the family DNA to the next generation, and that I don't have to think about such things anymore. If I could say that with a straight face — but never mind, it's not going to happen. What is going to happen is that I will continue to encounter, on a not-especially-regular basis, women I can only dream about, and then not dream about them. At this level, the brain and the heart work together on exactly one thing: self-preservation.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:03 PM to Table for One )
21 December 2003
Fixed orbits

Part of the standard operating procedure for moving to a new address is adjusting one's local buying habits, which includes things like transferring prescriptions to a different branch of the pharmacy chain, observing the gas stations and guesstimating their price patterns, and finding a new batch of out-of-the-way eateries.

In my case, it does not include finding someone new to do my hair, such as it is; the same person, or a member of her staff if she's busy, has performed the tender ministrations upon my dying follicles for more than a decade now, and I am not inclined to go look for someone else to take over the job. (Had I moved 150 miles away, instead of 15, this would be a different story entirely.)

I decided not to spend any time checking out how the 'hood had changed, and it's probably just as well, though I did note that the traffic pattern on 10th Street had been altered again, this time to close a different set of lanes. Inasmuch as there will be lots of utility work in my new neighborhood over the next few months, I limited my response to a sigh and a grumble of "Criminy, aren't they through with this yet?" Of course, where I live, it's just routine replacement of old water lines; down 10th, it's extending services to an area that last year was wholly uninhabited, a far more complicated process.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:17 AM to Surlywood )
The Don and John Show

Chris Casteel of The Oklahoman's Washington bureau passes on the rumor that retiring Senators Don Nickles and John Breaux will set up their own lobbying firm after leaving office, a premise that Nickles, for now anyway, is unwilling to confirm.

Amusingly, a small band of unrepentant Trotskyites described Breaux's retirement as "part of a protracted political process, which amounts to the voluntary surrender of power by the Democratic Party." Were I a Democratic operative, I'd want to slap down this notion, but I probably wouldn't be able to because it would involve being unkind to socialists.

Prehistoric karaoke

Test records, as a rule, don't get a whole lot of play. I know that I trot out one or two to adjust settings on the ancient stereo system I own (receiver and speakers turn 30 next year), mostly speaker phasing and such, and then back they go onto the shelf to be ignored for the next few years.

I was reshelving records today when I found something identified as a Radio Shack Disc-O-Mat, which I remembered to be a 11.75-inch foam circle one plants on the turntable platter in a desperate attempt to bleed off static charges. I hadn't seen one in a while, but I knew it wasn't supposed to have a mid-Sixties Capitol rainbow label, visible through cutouts in the sleeve, so I popped out the disc to see what was there.

What was there was a strange little 1966 issue (T 2504) titled Sing the Top-40 Hits, billed as "instrumental re-creations of the original backgrounds." Today, of course, you can find CDs full of stuff like this to feed your karaoke machine, but I don't remember there being any demand for this sort of thing back in the Sixties, though Capitol did turn out an LP called Stack-O-Tracks which consisted of Beach Boys backing tracks minus (most of) the vocals.

And it boggles the mind, even today, to imagine someone singing "Walkin' My Cat Named Dog" (miscredited to Norman Tanega on the label) along with this uncredited slightly-above-garage-band backing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:34 PM to Tongue and Groove )
In lieu of double-secret probation

Emperor Misha graciously translates the most recent Ridge-O-Gram:

As of today, we've decided to raise the terror alert level to Banana Fudge Sundae with Nuts and an Extra Cherry.

We've decided to do this because of unspecified chatter that we don't entirely know what's all about, but it might be dangerous. We urge you to stay extra-super-duper alert with a cherry on top in the coming days, though we can't tell you what you're supposed to stay alert for, nor do we have the faintest clue as to where in the Empire you should stay alert, if at all necessary.

We don't mean to freak you out, we just want you to know that we may or may not have heard something that may or may not be a threat that may or may not turn into an attack somewhere on the planet. Or not.

Oh, and happy holidays.

Says it all, or at least all that anyone is willing to say.

To be a rock, and not to roll

A hundred years from now, will any of the popular music of the late 20th century have graduated to "classical" status?

The historical record suggests that yes, some will, and no, it probably won't be the works you think most obviously deserve to be so enshrined.

Not necessarily with that in mind, Joe Wolfe presents The Stairway Suite, orchestral variations upon an air by Plant & Page, and, well, you'll need something that plays MP3s.

(Via The Sound and Fury)

22 December 2003
Don't they know it's the end of the world?

Call it Y2k04.

PTC, manufacturer of product lifecycle management software for business, has run into a lifecycle issue of its own. Their products' internal clock for computing dates maxes out at two billion seconds since 1970, a date chosen to match the introduction of Unix, and a date common in Unix-based applications.

The two-billionth second, however, will arrive on 10 January 2004, at which time PTC's products will grind to a halt. Software updates are in the pipeline, and no serious downtime is likely to result, but anyone who was thinking that Y2k-like problems were gone for the next thousand years or so should probably think again.

(Via CNet News.com)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to PEBKAC )
Pass the tenterhooks

Donna's buying a new home, and once she found the place she wanted, what happened next was that strange distortion of the space-time continuum that besets every buyer: the time between putting in your bid and getting a response from the seller seems like approximately 2.3 days for every 24 hours you have to wait. I just hope she slept through it. I know I didn't.

Of course, once that's finished, things seem to happen in a big hurry, though I suppose it's probably still too early to try to wangle an invitation.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:17 AM to Common Cents )
14 minutes and counting

But in the meantime, I got a small plug from the neighborhood association newsletter, which inexplicably characterizes this here "blog" (complete with scare quotes) as "pretty darned entertaining."

If you've come here from reading said newsletter and are wondering just where the entertainment value is, you're not the only one.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 PM to Blogorrhea )
Our Lady of 46th and Miller

And while we're on the subject of neighborhood associations, Vincent Ferrari links to a story about a Florida woman who was asked (which is to say, ordered) to remove a statue of the Virgin Mary from her front yard because it was deemed to be a violation of the rules of the homeowners' association of which she was a member. Mr Ferrari asks, "Is this micromanagement of a person's private property a legally defensible action?"

The ordinance for the Urban Conservation District in which I live doesn't make any specific references to statuary; there is, however, a catchall phrase about "that which creates a disorderly appearance," which conceivably might be brought to bear. As a practical matter, though, someone would have to complain, and I suspect it might take more than a single religious statue to produce enough disorder to warrant a complaint.

Please note that I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:55 PM to Surlywood )
23 December 2003
A muted "ka-ching"

The income-tax law in Oklahoma has an interesting quirk: if the State Equalization Board, after reviewing budgets and projections and such, certifies that the state's revenues will increase for the next calendar year, the tax rate must be cut to compensate.

The Board has so certified for 2004, so next year's tax rate will be reduced; the top rate, now 7 percent, will drop to 6.65 percent. Lower brackets are not affected, but considering how fast those brackets go by — a single person reaches the top rate with a taxable income of $10,000 — this really isn't the sop to the rich that you might think. (The Bureau of the Census guesstimates the per capita income for 2002, the latest figures I found, to be $25,575.) Still, it would seem fairer to reduce all the brackets.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:47 AM to Soonerland )
San Andreas, call your agent

So when are California Democrats going to petition the US Geological Survey to rename the tectonic discontinuity that spawned yesterday's earthquake on the Central Coast to "George W. Bush's Fault"?

Cringing in a corner of the garage

If you have a local band, music fan and self-described RockSnob DragonAttack would like you to know that your Web site sucks.

She didn't say whether it sucks as badly as your posters.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:19 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Terror level raised to "ketchup"

Kelly Jane Torrance of the Center for Consumer Freedom, attending the American Public Health Association conclave in (of course) San Francisco, picked up this quote from Robert Ross, chief executive officer of the California Endowment:

[T]he most prolific weapons of mass destruction in this country are a cheeseburger and a soda.

Guess which finger I'm holding up.

Now supersize it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:42 PM to Worth a Fork )
On the waggin'

From the official breed standard for the Brittany, as published by the American Brittany Club:

Tail: Tailless to approximately four inches, natural or docked. The tail not to be so long as to affect the over-all balance of the dog. Set on high, actually an extension of the spine at about the same level. Any tail substantially more than four inches shall be severely penalized.

Jon Hammer, a New York City lawyer who wasn't getting any show points for his Brittany because her tail was ten inches long, sued the breed club and the American Kennel Club, arguing that docking the tail constituted a form of animal cruelty, barred under New York law.

This week, the state Court of Appeals, by a 6-0 vote, told him to get his tail out of the courtroom.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:17 PM to Dyssynergy )
24 December 2003
Bruce!

Cam Edwards' post about Lenny Bruce receiving a posthumous pardon from New York Governor George Pataki for some reason reminded me of my favorite Bruce story, and how often do I pass up the chance to tell a favorite story?

It was 1963 and Camelot was still in full swing. JFK had stared the Soviets in the eye, and they blinked; Jackie had remade fashion in her own image; a comedian named Vaughn Meader who did a note-perfect Kennedy impression sold zillions of copies of an LP called The First Family and was readying Volume 2; and all, we thought, was right with the world.

Then came November and that terrible day in Dallas and nothing was ever going to be the same. The national funny bone disappeared, with no sign it might ever be tickled again. A week passed, and Lenny Bruce was booked into a theatre on the Lower East Side, and the audience was more than usually anxious: what would he say? How can he say anything at a time like this?

And Lenny Bruce came out and stared at the audience. He unscrewed the mike and walked away from the spotlight. He stared at the audience, paced up and down the stage, and stared at the audience again. And what he said was this:

"Vaughn Meader is screwed."

Which, as it turned out, was true.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Cell roaming

Kevin Wyckoff, newly arrived at the state correctional facility in Lexington, was found dead in his cell, a noose around his neck. The family was notified and a funeral was held for the deceased prisoner.

Who then called home from the facility.

Officials are still scrambling to assemble the story, but it appears that Wyckoff and prisoner Steven Howe swapped cells at Lexington's reception center, and it was apparently Howe who hanged himself. The two men reputedly looked enough alike that no one noticed the switch, though it seems implausible that Wyckoff's family wouldn't have caught the error at the services.

Corrections staff are now seeking a court order to exhume whoever it was got buried in Wyckoff's plot.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:24 AM to Soonerland )
Three wise men and then some

Winds of Change hosts the new edition of Carnival of the Vanities, and the Christmas spirit hath descended upon it from on high.

This week, get your blogging kicks from Carnival #66.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:06 AM to Blogorrhea )
Doing a slow burn

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is seeking public comment on revising the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. The most obvious comment, I think, is "What does fuel economy have to do with traffic safety?" Apart from the obvious laws-of-physics considerations — all else being equal, the heavier vehicle, while it uses more fuel, tends to come out better in a crash — the answer would seem to be "Not much."

The real problem for the government here is that they can't very well come out in favor of greater vehicle weight, because the Greener Than Thou folks who begrudge any use of fuel that doesn't strike their fancy will pitch the hissiest of fits, and if NHTSA should choose to embrace economy above all else, there will be hell to pay from the auto industry, which fears consumer rejection if they simplify and add lightness, and from the insurance industry, which fears anything that might cost them a dollar somewhere down the road.

The answer is hidden in their request for comments, but they don't really recognize it as an answer:

[W]e intend to preserve the ability of consumers to obtain vehicles that meet their needs, while providing competitive equity among vehicle manufacturers, improving vehicle safety, and enhancing fuel economy.

The simplest way to do this is to dump the entire concept of CAFE, which so far has produced far more pages of regulation than gallons of gas. If it is necessary to, um, persuade consumers to buy fuel-efficient vehicles, a proposition rather difficult to defend without falling back on "Because we said so," the most direct approach is to increase the tax on fuel. This puts the decision into the hands of the individual, where it rightfully belongs. If J. Random Driver still wants a Ford Excrescence or whatever that will cost him $100 every fillup, that should be his issue — not yours, not mine, not Washington's, and not the Sierra Club's.

25 December 2003
Ho

Can't even manage the triplet today: for some reason I'm dead tired, and the battery backup on Ye Olde Desktop Clunker is deader than I am, which is going some.

Anyway, if you're bored enough to be reading this morning, thank you for coming, have a decently merry sort of day, and remember: King Herod was something of a schmuck, but he, too, had a role to play.

Out of sync

There's a place called North Pole City on Oklahoma City's south side, and while they do sell some non-Christmas stuff, I suspect passersby might be taken aback by the sight of the place as they zip down I-44 in the middle of June.

It's a sort of low-level cognitive dissonance that Patti, for instance, has noted:

Sometimes I wonder what it's like, being part of the Christmas industry — singing Christmas carols in May, or making ornaments months in advance, or all year, even. It would seriously disjoint my own sense of time, but one has to assume that such an industry exists.

That has to be an alternate dimension! Contemporary physics has nothing on real life!

I have to admit, I have enough trouble getting into Holiday Mode in December; I'd hate to have to try to do it in the spring.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:34 AM to City Scene )
Did someone mention spirit?

Tomorrow Mike of Fly Over Country is heading to Beirut; he and his wife will be doing some missionary work in Lebanon, and then stopping off in Paris for a couple of days. "Two hostile environments," he quips.

Does the Orange Alert faze him in any way? "What's my faith worth," he says, "if I'm scared?"

Heh. Indeed.™

Godspeed, good fellow.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:10 PM to Almost Yogurt )
A blanket you wear

Kimberly Swygert got one of these as a gift, and she says it's "the least erotic item of women's clothing that I've ever seen."

I dunno. I'm pretty sure it's at least a couple of head-turns more interesting than the traditional burqa, especially if it's draped over a Major Babe like Dr. Swygert.

But even clothing at the other extreme has its limitations, as James Lileks once noted:

Let us be frank about the purpose of lingerie.... It is not normal clothing. It exists for one purpose: to be, eventually, visible for a very short time. If it is visible for a very long time — and I am trying to be delicate about this — then it is not doing its job.

Beyond this, deponent saith not.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:38 PM to Rag Trade )
An inedible simulation

The Uptowne (yeah, right) Square apartments, north of the Oklahoma City University campus, have been spammed in a low-tech sort of way: some weasels planted imitation parking tickets on every open windshield, advertising a firm which supposedly would cover real parking tickets, and asking for $3.95 for information about said firm.

The Square is occupied mostly by foreign-born students, and many of them were quite perplexed, wondering how they'd managed to violate some arcane city parking policy all of a sudden.

I don't believe the city has a rule about fake parking tickets — the ordinance about impersonating a police officer wouldn't seem to apply — but it would be nice to be able to hang these weasels for something, even if it's only littering.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:00 PM to City Scene )
26 December 2003
Inexplicable laxity

I haven't badmouthed any spammers lately, for which I apologize.

In the meantime, feel free to mock Charles Gibson, PO Box 19180, Denver, Colorado 80219, who operates something called discount-phentermine.biz (not to mention viagra-pills.info); somebody attempted to run willy-nilly through the comments section here to promote his tawdry wares using an Australian IP. (If you care, it was 203.164.91.66.)

In recent years, American pharmaceutical companies have been pitching a fit because their products are being sneaked back across the border from Canada and Mexico, and claiming they were acting in our best interests. If they were really anxious to do us a favor, they'd pitch a fit because their products are being sneaked out of retail channels and into the hands of people like Gibson.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:58 AM to Scams and Spams )
And no crazed heiresses, either

Oklahoma State University, like many schools, offers a degree in hotel and restaurant administration. Unlike many schools, O-State has its own hotel.

And after a year of renovations and upgrades, the hotel, originally built in the 1950s, is ready to resume its status as the "Waldorf of the West." (Be prepared to pay extra on weekends when the Pokes have a home football game.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:57 AM to Soonerland )
Make way for spring break

Bob Moos, in DMN Daily (the blog of The Dallas Morning News), wonders if maybe we're going through these holidays at the wrong speed or something:

As sure as there's a Santa Claus, some holiday-weary Dallas residents will have their Christmas trees on the curb, ready for garbage pickup, by noon today. What is it with these people? Can't we savor the season just a little while longer — say, to New Year's Day? Maybe they're so eager to get on with things because they're the ones who started celebrating Christmas the day after Halloween.

DallasNews.com not being fond of permalinks, just scroll down to It's 10 O'clock — Do You Know Where Your Tree Is? (26 December, 8:15 am).

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:05 PM to Almost Yogurt )
All-time records

Rack, n. An instrument of torture; a cause of anguish or pain. (Webster's New Collegiate, 8th Edition)

I finished loading the Rack today.

The Rack is metal, and not especially attractive metal at that; it is six feet by four and a half, and it contains nine shelves, each of which holds about 130 12-inch phonograph records.

In its previous incarnation at the Hovel, the Rack was eight feet wide and contained eleven shelves, but there was no way to integrate it into the existing design scheme ("design scheme," he says) at that size, so it was cut down to fit a specific wall in the new house.

At its capacity of approximately 1170 LPs, the Rack now contains those records which are pop, as distinguished from classical; single-artist, as distinguished from various-artist compilations; and not soundtracks, original-cast recordings, or humongous box sets. They are arranged by artist, from Abba to Zombies. The arrangement was done by sleeve, so it is conceivable that some things which may have been mis-sleeved at some point are out of position, but this is not something I plan to worry about.

This task, incidentally, was almost completed last weekend, but when the Rack was loaded to two-thirds capacity, it listed dangerously to starboard, and I deemed it necessary to remove the contents, rework all the fasteners, and restart the process.

The filing system is not as intuitive as it could be — all the Mothers of Invention material, for instance, is shelved under Z for Zappa — but at least things are more or less findable when needed.

And the act taking up the greatest amount of shelf space? I think I'll save that for another time.

Meanwhile, I have to find storage options for the classical LPs (about 400), the show tunes (60 or 70), the compilations (a couple of hundred), and the 45s (a thousand or so).

27 December 2003
Large and in charge

An unheard-of 60 degrees this morning, and the sun won't rise for another two and a half hours. I was carrying a trash bag outside (Big Blue and his brother, per city ordinance, reside behind my fence except on pickup days), and in the dim light cast by street lights to the west and north of me, it dawned on me that damn, this is a pretty big yard, and weirdest of all, it's mine.

And then it dawned on me that it was Saturday, a day when I habitually don't get dressed until 7:30 or 8, and I probably shouldn't spend a whole lot of time outside before that time. Especially with the winds blowing at twenty.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:20 AM to Surlywood )
An industry at steak

Maybe it's just me, but I tend to think that a lot of the whimpering about the discovery of one whole case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (aka "mad-cow disease") in the entire US comes from one panicked subset of the population: the people who think we shouldn't be eating anything more complicated than walnuts in the first place.

Meanwhile, here in the Land of the Thousand-Dollar Grill, while there's some reasonable amount of uncertainty at the production end of the business, actual sales are steady so far. I don't eat quite as much of the stuff as I used to — in truth, I don't eat quite as much of anything as I used to — but it's going to take a lot more than one case of BSE to get me to give up on it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:02 AM to Dyssynergy )
When I fall in love

Well, when Pejman falls in love, anyway:

When I eventually meet, am lovestruck by, woo and win the lovely, kind, gracious, brilliant, angelically compassionate and devilishly sexy PejmanWife, I'm not going to look at other women. This isn't nobility. It isn't a sign that I have suddenly evolved into an extraordinary gentleman. It simply reflects the fact that I wouldn't want to look at other women. They wouldn't interest me. They wouldn't excite me. You could try to entice me with visions of striptease artists of the first rank coming to my bachelor party and doing all the things the profession is famed and honored for, and my reaction would be "Meh. Give me a day of golf, some fine cigars, a few drinks, touch football, chess, and movies with my friends, and I'm a happy man. I'll save the sexy stuff for me and my future wife, thank you."

In fact, if my reaction were anything indicating strong interest in the striptease filled bachelor party, I'd get the feeling that I'm marrying the wrong woman. She'd have to be the only one who could have any kind of hold on my emotions. No one else could exist. No one.

I'm going to have to file this under "Wish I'd said that", I think.

Not that there's anyone meeting that description for me, of course.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:27 PM to Table for One )
Gimme that old-time cynicism

John Rosenberg explains Howard Dean's sudden embrace of Christianity:

Dean doesn't really know any Southerners, and he actually believes the region to be a wasteland of Bible-thumping Jesus freaks. None of his friends will hold him responsible for what he says there. On the other hand, no one he knows, from whom he extrapolates the nature of the America he believes the country to be, goes to church or believes in any serious way in a serious God. They would laugh him right back into second or third place if [he] tried talking to them about Jesus.

And it's not going to work, either — at least in my neck of the woods. The Bible is thumped as loudly in Oklahoma as it is anywhere in the nation, and the folks making this, um, joyful noise aren't about to be taken in by Dr. Dean's "I'm really one of you" pitch; they will consider it to be part of the same scam he ran when he said he wanted to be the candidate of guys with Confederate flags on their pickup trucks.

Still, it will be amusing to watch this play out, just to see what quantity of backpedaling Dean winds up doing; I'm guessing that it will be sufficient to get him forever enshrined as the Anti-Lance Armstrong.

28 December 2003
Bracket creep

Oklahoma state tax brackets, except for the very top, have not been adjusted for twenty years. Senate Bill 859, introduced by Randy Brogdon, an Owasso Republican, would provide an inflation adjustment for those brackets equal to the increase in the Consumer Price Index.

Brogdon describes the bill as a "baby step", suggesting he has other ideas to patch up the tax code. If he hasn't already thought about it, I'd like to propose that he do something about the standard deduction, which has never kept up with the federal standard deduction, let alone the rate of inflation: it's 15 percent of adjusted gross income, with a minimum of $1000 and a maximum of $2000. (I hasten to point out that I will not personally benefit from this change, inasmuch as I will be itemizing deductions beginning in tax year 2004.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:48 AM to Soonerland )
Howard be thy name

The regular reader (you know who you are) will no doubt have spotted what appears to be a certain animus toward Vermont governor (and, of late, Presidential candidate) Howard Dean, who has always struck me as what you'd get if you could teach George McGovern how to clean a rifle.

It's not that I have anything against Dean personally, although some of his supporters drive me up the wall, and the claim that he can actually beat George W. Bush in November will be even more annoying should it by some fluke turn out to be true.

Not everyone is convinced that Dean will be the next President, or will in losing blaze a trail for a Democratic comeback in 2008. Francis W. Porretto predicts:

Howard Dean will not be a Democratic Barry Goldwater, but a Democratic Alf Landon or an ideologically less consistent reprise of George McGovern. After his defeat, the party will wander in the wilderness until it dissolves under sectarian tensions or recreates itself in a form more palatable to Americans of the era of omnipresent opportunities and shadowy threats we call the twenty-first century.

I rather hope it's the latter, if only because I don't feel up to changing my registration should it be the former. And while people in blue states seem to be enthusiastic, nothing happening in Oklahoma, a state where even the soil is red, would lead me to believe that Howard Dean is going to win the Democratic primary here, let alone pick up our seven electoral votes.

Meanwhile, rival Democratic candidate Michael Cooper has gotten a jump on the competition by revealing the new Dean campaign logo, which, says Cooper, addresses Dean's two favorite activities in a single graphic. Curiously, backpedaling, as suggested by me, is not one of them.

The worst of both worlds

Today's spam, from islurp.biz (that doesn't even sound good), offers something called Porn Sharing Software.

Keep in mind that I am fifty years old, and the stuff I grew up to think of as smutty is now rated PG-13; I can't even imagine what it takes to qualify as pornographic these days.

Well, actually, I can, but I'd rather not. And if I could, I certainly wouldn't be sharing it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:24 PM to Scams and Spams )
29 December 2003
Start your Christmas shopping early

If you've ever wanted your very own aircraft carrier, now's your chance.

(Reader Steve passed this along; he says he wants two.)

Here's the beef

Cam Edwards was talking about BSE and Howard Dean on his radio show this morning, and it was inevitable that the two threads would cross.

"The cow," Dean might say, "has a right to be mad."

Cam was kidding. I think.

The wrappings of misconception

Dawn Eden is not impressed by this campaign by the American Foundation for AIDS Research:

To imply that women who do not carry condoms are failing to protect themselves from AIDS — which is what amfAR's Web site explicitly states as it refers to the ad's "shocking statistics" — is an insult to me personally and to every responsible, non-condom-toting woman I know.

The true message of the amfAR ad is that everybody's doing it, and those who don't "protect" themselves are just plain irresponsible. This is a valid message if one's target audience consists of B-girls, bags, bawds, bimbos, blowers, broads, call girls, camp followers, cats, chickens, chippies, concubines, courtesans, fallen womans, floozies, harlots, hookers, hostesses, hustlers, loose women, molls, nymphomaniacs, painted women, party girls, pickups, pink pants, pros, scarlet women, sluts, streetwalkers, strumpets, tarts, tomatoes, tramps, trollops, white slaves, whores, and working girls.

It is not a valid message if one is targeting ordinary single women.

(I break in here to note that I don't know anyone meeting the above description, and if I did — well, never mind, you know the joke.)

If amfAR truly wished its ads to be "arresting," it would go against the pop-culture stream and take a stand in favor of sexual restraint. But scientists will find a cure for AIDS long before that organization dares to profess that people should be "responsible" for anything other than "protecting" themselves from the effects of their own irresponsibility.

Myself, I don't claim that my ongoing extended period of celibacy is any kind of moral statement. On the other hand, it is quite clearly effective in warding off HIV, not to mention substantially less expensive than other techniques. (Condoms cost money; dates cost even more money.) And while I have had my own doubts about abstinence-only programs, it's clear that at least some of them work, and I'm not inclined to sneer at the results they get: the age groups at which these programs are directed really should not be sexually active, for reasons which go beyond the simple Thou Shalt Not.

Then there's this:

I still have urges to do things that would require what amfAR so delicately calls "protection." But I know that even if such protection were 100% effective against HIV, it would still be 0% effective against a much more certain disease arising from sex without love: heartsickness. Loveless sex is a very poor Band-Aid against loneliness, and it ultimately keeps the wound from healing.

Twenty years ago, I probably would have scoffed. Not today.

Don't you give up, baby

You know the words:

The mountain's high and the valley's so deep
Can't get across to the other side

Richard St. John Gosting, the first half of Dick and DeeDee, died this past weekend in Westwood, California after a fall from a stepladder. He was sixty-three.

Gosting and Mary Sperling teamed up in the Fifties, and in 1960 were signed to L.A.-based Liberty Records, where Mary was renamed "DeeDee", and where they scored a #2 hit in the summer of 1961 with "The Mountain's High", written by Dick, now more or less officially "Dick St. John"; it was the first big hit recorded in Armin Steiner's homebrew studio. Moving to Warner Bros. in 1963, they continued to score pop hits: "Young and in Love", another St. John composition, and "Thou Shalt Not Steal", a bit of useful advice written by John D. Loudermilk.

After nine chart entries and a cover of the Stones' "Blue Turns to Grey", Dick and DeeDee faded; DeeDee retired, and Dick's wife Sandy continued in her stead.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have some records to spin.

30 December 2003
Quote of the week

Cam Edwards, contemplating the Democratic front-runner:

I look at Howard Dean and see a guy who's going to invade Mexico because Taco Bell got his order wrong.

Now that's anger management.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:13 AM to QOTW )
This way to the horizon

I just bought the next year's worth of bandwidth, so barring unexpected events (like getting a life), you can probably expect more of the same in 2004.

Incidentally, site traffic for 2003 is up 70 percent from 2002 — about 170,000 visitors so far this year — and should this pattern hold next year (and should I receive the same amount of inattention from, say, The Professor), I shouldn't have to shell out any additional bucks along the way.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Blogorrhea )
Bueler? Bueler?

This would be Tim Bueler, seventeen, a junior at Rancho Cotate High School in Rohnert Park, California, and the administration has suggested he take a couple of days off from class until the heat dies down.

Bueler, it seems, is the founder of the Conservative Club, a student organization with about 50 members (out of a student body of just over 2000), and after he wrote a piece for the club's newsletter which called for a crackdown on illegal immigration, he started receiving threats from Latino students. (The school is approximately one-seventh Latino.) "Liberals," said Bueler in the presumably-offending article, "welcome every Muhammad, Jamul and Jose who wishes to leave his Third World state and come to America." Which, if nothing else, is consistent with the Conservative Club's motto, which is "Protecting our borders, language and culture."

What did the faculty do about it? Said one teacher, "When you say things like that, you've got to expect that things like this are going to happen." Another dismissed the club as "a bunch of bigots."

Bueler isn't exactly an angel — the club's faculty advisor quit after Bueler refused to submit the article for review before publication, and he subsequently apologized for the tone of that "Muhammad" business — but I think it's a safe bet that had he written something critical of, say, dead white Europeans, he'd probably be getting extra credit instead of involuntary vacation days.

(Via Tongue Tied)

31 December 2003
Backing up

What a year this has been.

I could have predicted turning 50 — it's a simple matter of doing the math — but pretty much everything else has been something of a surprise.

I mean, I certainly wasn't planning on moving this year. And I definitely was shocked at the death of my younger sister.

There is perhaps less surprise in my perceived shift to the right; I think it's less a change in me than it is an increasing unwillingness to put up with people like this. The Sixties taught me to question authority; with the leftish notions of the day now enshrined as "mainstream," it seems only logical that I should question them as well. This is not to say that I'm willing to buy every last idea floated by the minions of Shrub Industries; I have learned, however, that very often the merit of a proposal can be determined simply by looking at the opposition, and said opposition, when it comes from my fellow Democrats, is too often shrill when it needs to be sharp.

But that's just politics, just one aspect of Life in the Teeming Milieu. What matters now is keeping up with the changes, and I find it sort of ironic that the changes are accelerating at precisely the time when I, older and greyer, am slowing down. Of course, it was always thus, and always will be. And the world isn't going to stop for me to opt out — something else which it's taken me a long time to learn.

At fifty, I am arguably old. It will be noted that I didn't die before I got this way. Eventually, of course, I will; at the moment, though, it seems like a waste of time to think about it.

And that, too, is a change.

(Update, 2:20 pm, 4 January: In an effort to rid myself of multiple troll comments, I accidentally deleted this entire post. I have restored it from a backup copy and have reposted the original comments, though their time stamps won't match the originals.)

Speaking of moving

Now you know why.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:38 AM to Surlywood )
The last Carnival of the year

Carnival of the Vanities #67 is hosted this week by Hypocrisy and Hypotheses, and it's just the thing to read while you wait for that damn ball to drop.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:26 AM to Blogorrhea )
Cringing in Connecticut

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT) says he wouldn't go to Times Square tonight "for anything".

Says Shays, "I wouldn't go into places when you're packed and where if there was panic, a lot of injuries would take place."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pointing out that former POW Shoshana Johnson would be part of the New Year's celebration, suggested that Shays give her a call and "learn a little bit about courage."

As bombast and bluster goes, this is all very well and good, but what I want to know is this: does Shays smoke? If so, he's probably not going to want to go to New York under any circumstances.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:06 PM to Dyssynergy )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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