1 January 2004
Where it all begins

Folks from 'round here will tell you that it always rains on the State Fair, and that something unpleasant will happen on Opening Night.

There's at least some truth to the former — the State Fair is scheduled in early fall, one of the wetter periods of the year — and maybe there's some to the latter as well, since Opening Night in Oklahoma City is 31 December, about the time Old Man Winter starts catching on to the fact that he's in charge again.

The rain doesn't keep people away from the Fair, though, and the downtown party that is Opening Night goes on even when the temperature is in single digits and the wind is howling from Hudson Bay and there's more ice on the sidewalks than in the drinks.

As a concept, Opening Night dates back to the Eighties, when the city and its culturemeisters observed that downtown tends to run down at sundown, and figured a New Year's Eve bash might draw some people out of the 'burbs for a change. Events were scheduled all over the place — you buy a button, you get admission to almost all of them at no extra charge — and eateries that normally closed when their business clientele went home stayed open late.

Despite spectacularly crappy weather in the early years, Opening Night did well, and when the Bricktown entertainment district began taking shape, Opening Night did even better. Forty thousand folks turned up last night and bought their buttons (six bucks); many more just came to party along the canal or in the streets. Times Square it ain't, but then we don't have to wonder if there's a picture of Dick Clark moldering away in a closet somewhere either.

Me? I came down with a bad case of the green-apple quick-step and retreated quickly. But thank you for asking.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:25 AM to City Scene )
Creatures of privilege

Down in the comments on this item, we seem to be getting into a dust-up over who is, and who isn't, "privileged, pampered and powerful," to borrow Bruce's phrase. (And it's a damned fine phrase at that; I may have to use it for something one of these days.)

Taking these considerations in reverse order:

I don't feel especially powerful, and the gastric ailment that hit me yesterday doesn't help matters. I can get things done, sometimes.

Pampered? Maybe. As the saying goes, I can do without essentials, but I must have my luxuries. It must be noted, though, that both luxuries and essentials are acquired the old-fashioned way: I earned them.

As to the question of privilege: fifteen years ago, I was broke and living out of a thirteen-year-old car. It took some resources — some from friends and relatives, some from government — to put me back on something resembling a firm footing. I feel very much privileged, in that assistance was offered, that I was able to take advantage of what was offered me, and that eventually, I was able to resume a relatively-normal existence. Some people, faced with the same situation, would not feel privileged; they would want to know what the hell happened to their entitlements.

And some of those same people, I expect, would protest that these things were offered to me because I'm that very personification of evil, a white male. Given the fact that my mother was half Mexican and half Syrian, I'm not so white as I look, but that's not going to matter to these people: I am by definition one of the oppressors, and I get no credit for ethnicity because obviously at some point I sold out. There's only one possible response to that: "And I'm damn glad somebody was buying when I did." Indeed, it's a privilege.

Notes from a cold-hearted orb

Dear whoever (if anyone) is programming 96.9 "Bob" FM:

If you're going to run a feature on Big Hits of 1972, the inclusion of the Moody Blues' "Nights in White Satin", a track which was recorded in 1967 and which you play entirely too often anyway, is prima facie evidence that you don't have a farging clue.

Yes, I know: the single (Deram 85023; I have a copy) was a colossal flop on its initial release, and didn't become a Top Ten hit until, yes, 1972. But you didn't play the single; you played the entire 7:41 album track, from opening orchestral flourishes through "Breathe deep, the gathering gloom" all the way to the final gong, which you then segued into "Layla".

Which, by the way, came out in 1971, though I'm willing to let that slide. (The '71 single release was cut to 2:43; the '72 reissue ran the full seven minutes and odd; nobody ever plays the short version.)

My name is Charles H., and I blog

I figure, any quiz that can draw both Venomous Kate and James Joyner demands my attention.

So: Are You A Blogaholic?

The average score at the moment I took this test was 42.9 out of 100; I scored, um, 64, which means:

51 through 80 percent: You are a dedicated weblogger. You post frequently because you enjoy weblogging a lot, yet you still manage to have a social life. You're the best kind of weblogger. Way to go!

Uh, what is this "social life" of which they speak?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:28 PM to Blogorrhea )
2 January 2004
Hey, hey, ho, ho, these 15 have got to go

Should anyone be curious, these are the names I have picked for the Amish Tech Support Dead Pool for 2004:

  • Olivia de Havilland
  • King Fahd
  • Valery Giscard d'Estaing
  • Michael Jackson
  • Stephen King
  • Frank Lautenberg
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Howard Metzenbaum
  • Keith Richards
  • Ariel Sharon
  • Al Sharpton
  • Edward Shevardnadze
  • Sargent Shriver
  • Anna Nicole Smith
  • Boris Yeltsin

Last year, I scored for exactly one pick: David Brinkley.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 AM to Blogorrhea )
The best of all possible worlds

The wisdom of Jay Solo:

You should always fall in love mutually with your best friend. It's a Good Thing.

Few of us are so fortunate, but a Good Thing it most assuredly is.

My congratulations to Jay and Deb. May they find every happiness along their way to eternity.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:21 AM to Table for One )
Halfway measures

A question from Alan K. Henderson:

Can anyone tell me why Austin has a 38½ Street?

The short answer: well, it's between 38th and 39th. In Austin generally, the half-streets are used in preference to dubbing one of them "Place" or "Terrace", as is done up here in Oklahoma; the highest-numbered street in Austin, if I remember correctly, is 56½ Street.

If you exit west from I-35 at 38½ Street, eventually (west of Red River Street, I believe) you will be diverted onto 38th, which in turn mutates into 35th. Visitors are perplexed; so are residents.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:55 AM to Driver's Seat )
When it's easy being green

Oklahoma sits over a huge reservoir of natural gas, there are dozens of oil rigs drilling in the state, and we even have coal mines. Still, we're going to deplete our fossil fuels eventually — the really cheap ones, anyway — so OG&E's Wind Power program, small as it is for now, justifies the amount of hype it's getting.

Of course, there's no way to guarantee that your little segment of the grid is going to be powered strictly by the Woodward turbine farm, and there's no way the utility can serve all of its customers with the 51-mW capacity available now. But if they can sell enough 100-kW units to individual customers to make a few bucks off the system — we're obviously never going to lack for wind in this state — there will be more turbines in the future, and presumably lower prices. And OG&E's nominal surcharge for wind power will largely be offset by a credit against the fuel-adjustment surcharge that's levied on the power they produce from gas or coal.

I did the math, or at least as much math as I could do based on two weeks' worth of billing at the new place, and I decided to buy six of the 100-kW units, which will cost me about $3.60 a month, save me about $2.35 in fuel adjustments at the current rate, and, says the utility, reduce emissions of Nasty Gases by four and a half tons.

It's hard to see any downside to this program. Granted, there are summer days in Oklahoma when the temperature is around 100 degrees and there isn't enough wind to motivate a tumbleweed, let alone spin a turbine, but my A/C doesn't care where the amps come from. And from my political point of view, it's still a boon: it's an environmental gesture that will actually accomplish something without a great deal of lifestyle adjustment, the Saudis don't make a dime off it, and if some passing bird is shredded over Woodward, it will annoy PETA. For a buck and a quarter a month, it's a hell of a deal.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:05 PM to Family Joules )
Welcome to Fat City

Every year, Men's Fitness magazine rates the Top 25 Fit Cities and the Top 25 Fat Cities. Given our predilections here in the Okay City — cheap smokes, rib joints, a general dislike for the Nanny State — you'd probably expect us to be in the chub group, and you'd be right.

In fact, we're movin' on up; after the ignominy of finishing 23rd last year, we've made it up to 13th this time around. What's changed in the last twelve months? Well, I moved into the city, and...um...well, I suppose I can always question the methodology.

And after Detroit, which claims Numero Uno, four of the next five are in Texas, which surely is a sign of something.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:20 PM to City Scene )
3 January 2004
Tort deform

Bruce talks about slapping a cap on damage awards in malpractice cases:

If a doctor commits a grievous error in your care you want to have the ability to receive compensation for that error. Do we really want to say that all errors are only worth $250,000 as one federal bill would have it? Think of your life and what its worth. Now think about the burdens your disability would have on your family should you lose your ability to work and care for yourself and you were only able to recoup $250,000 for that injury.

The drive for Tort Reform will not keep the insurance companies from looking for new ways to make a bigger profit. Remember that every business is a growth business. They just see paying out claims as a drag on their profitability and this rush to limit awards is a way to boost profitability at the expense of hurt people. They are punishing doctors as a way of putting pressure to get the legal action they want from politicians.

(Emphasis added.)

What we always hear about are the truly bizarre cases — Cam Edwards talked about one this week on his radio show, some woman who suffered burns after spilling her coffee and sued Starbucks — but using the man-bites-dog theory, I have to assume that these are the exception rather than the rule.

There are, indeed, too many lawsuits, and many of them are indeed frivolous; but the truly useless suits can be handled with a loser-pays system. And thinning out the docket is, I think, the most important "reform" that needs to take place.

The solution to high malpractice awards is simple: eliminate malpractice. The problem arises when you try to pin a workable definition onto the word, since medicine is at least as much art as it is science, and there's still a lot we don't know about everyday bodily functions. Sometimes all you can do is make an educated guess. I'd hate to think I could be sued for guessing wrong.

On the other hand, outside the medical realm, sometimes it's clear that bungling or malfeasance is at fault. Here's a comment from a page linked by Bruce, posted by Angry Bear, that cuts to the chase:

My first thought was, "if frivolous lawsuits are so rare...why is there such a vociferous tort-reform movement?" But then an answer suggested itself: the issue is probably not so much the awards themselves as the actions that prospective awards deter. For example, action X may not be profitable if there's a 1 in 100 chance of getting caught and having to pay $5 million. But if the cap is $250 thousand (with the same 1/100 chance of getting caught) then action X may be profitable. (X represents things like polluting or not testing for safety.)

I hadn't really thought of it this way before — that tort-reform isn't necessarily about avoiding big judgments for existing actions, but rather changing the range and extent of activities that firms can profitably undertake.

Actions, conservatives are fond of saying, have consequences, and indeed they do. There's no reason that corporate entities should be exempt from the consequences of their actions, or to have their liability artificially limited, when individual persons are granted no such exemptions. The argument is made that numerous damage awards can destroy a company; I suggest that if a firm has actually done something to justify numerous damage awards, it may well deserve to be destroyed.

Freshly pressed

There's a new weekly newspaper in town, and "in town" is the operative phrase.

The MidCity Advocate, published Thursdays, is your standard suburban community news/shopper with a twist: it's aimed, not at the suburbs, but at those of us who live in the 25 square miles of the central city. (Their coverage area runs from Portland to Kelley, Reno to 63rd.) This makes a certain amount of sense, since almost every other part of town is covered by a similar publication.

One pitch made by the Advocate is the diversity of its readership: "The MidCity area has over 65,000 residents that span the socio-economic spectrum. There is a broad mix of income levels, ethnic diversity and education." No doubt about that. The National Register of Historic Places records fifteen districts in the county, and twelve of them are in this area; there are also, alas, some neighborhoods which can charitably be described as "rough". Still, what's true of the 'burbs is also true here in the city: most of us are here because this is where we want to be.

I don't recognize any of the names on the masthead; evidently this is an entirely new bunch of folks. Sports Editor Jerry Spaeder admits to having roots in some place like Erie, Pennsylvania. I'm sort of hoping that the Advocate staff is here because this is where they want to be.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:21 PM to City Scene )
This side of parodies

Jessie Rosenberg, home from college for what used to be called the Christmas break, explains why it would be a waste of time to hold one of those affirmative-action bake sales at Bryn Mawr:

No one would understand the parody. Everyone would think that it's perfectly normal to charge different prices based on race, ethnicity, and sex.

This is not the situation for which Elvis Costello wrote, "I used to be disgusted / And now I try to be amused." But it fits.

4 January 2004
Talking Texan

The Dallas Morning News has selected George W. Bush as the Texan of the Year, which probably isn't that much of a surprise.

There was some wailing and gnashing of teeth, to be sure — the paper's blog printed a couple of reader comments that, shall we say, took exception to the selection — but it's hard to argue with the conclusion of the announcement, written by Rod Dreher:

To honor Mr. Bush as Texan of the Year is not necessarily to endorse all his policies, nor is it to approve without question his governing style. It is, however, to recognize that there was in the past 12 months no more important Texan, and that the principles informing his fateful decisions over the course of a fateful year came from the mind of a man with roots deep in the heart of Texas.

And Keven Ann Willey, editorial-page editor, noted that some of the disagreements stemmed from the fact that, well, Bush wasn't born in Texas. (Before you ask: New Haven, Connecticut.) Not that this matters:

It's tough to argue that Bush isn't Texan. No, he wasn't born in the state, but he sure exudes its spirit with every breath, mannerism and utterance. The word "native" is commonly associated with one's birthplace, but note the first definition of "native" as a noun in Webster's: "One born OR reared in a particular local" — emphasis added. Reared counts.

It's certainly fair to debate the merits of Bush's actions and policies, but debating his "Texan-ness," to my mind, is wasted energy.

The Oklahoman has yet to announce an Oklahoman of the Year, though KTOK's Cam Edwards ran a phone poll last week, in which General Tommy Franks (who, incidentally, was born in Texas) was rather convincingly beating out OU quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Jason White before the combination of my morning commute and the station's weird directional pattern dropped the program out of earshot.

Blogging in the abstract?

The newspaper blog is no longer a novelty. This does not necessarily portend a massive rush to commercially-operated blogs: some businesses don't really lend themselves to bloggage. (Of course, if someone does come up with, say, martysshellstation.com, please send me a link.)

There are, however, quite a few real-estate blogs. Which makes sense, in a way; while most of us do business with them fairly rarely, the business that we do is immensely complicated and incredibly expensive, so to the extent that they're reaching out to us, they're doing us something of a favor by assisting us with our research. Of course, this is just icing on the commercial cake — the motivation, first and foremost, is to build their own businesses — but I'll happily take any crumbs I'm thrown that will help me with my side of the deal.

(Inspired by The Great Team, an agency in the O.C. that both sells houses and blogs, and which admits to having read this assortment of screeds at least once.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:55 AM to Blogorrhea )
And now, the news from Cockeysville

Sinclair Broadcast Group's News Central concept has been controversial from the beginning; in fact, last summer Sinclair's VP/General Counsel Barry Faber found himself defending the operation [requires Adobe Reader] before the presumably-skeptical Senate Commerce Committee.

Well, I'd like to think I'm at least as skeptical as a Senator, so I figured the least I could do was to check out a News Central broadcast, which I did last night at 9 pm on Sinclair's KOKH-TV, the Fox affiliate in Oklahoma City.

My most immediate reaction, actually, was marveling at the ingenuity of it all: the KOKH-TV news set is essentially identical to Sinclair's News Central set in Baltimore County, Maryland, and although you never see the local anchor and the News Central anchor sitting together trading quips — given the amount of this that goes on at other local stations, I'm inclined to think this is an improvement — it's never blatantly obvious that the newscast is pasted together from separate segments. (Take away 16 minutes from the hour for commercials, and the balance between national and local segments seems to be split about 3-2.)

I have some concerns, most about weather: for instance, is the guy from AccuWeather, which provides the lion's share of News Central weather reportage, going to know about sudden storms out here in Tornado Alley fast enough to issue the appropriate warnings? Then again, none of the three big radio groups in town have any weather facilities of their own — they rely on the local TV stations to provide their forecasts and updates — so I have to assume that News Central has given the matter some thought, and next time we have spectacularly crappy weather (right now, it's merely cold), I will check.

Then there's The Point, the commentary by Sinclair's VP/corporate relations Mark Hyman. Hyman leans decidedly right, which doesn't bother me; however, he has that patented Fox News snarkier-than-thou smirk, which does. (Note to television executives: If you're gonna rip off the Fox News Channel, rip off its most appealing feature: news babes in outfits that seem scantier than they really are.) I'm not sure how well this will play in markets less conservative than Oklahoma City, which is, well, almost all of them.

Local news, as the estimable Laurence Simon reminds us, is intended as a profit center; any public-service considerations are secondary. Obviously Sinclair hopes to make its local newscasts profitable, and this is the path they've chosen. People with impeccable journalistic credentials will look at it and recoil in horror: "They've taken away the local angle!" I'm not so sure. If the "local angle" demands that three minutes be spent on interviewing the neighbor of someone who was shot by the cops — which happened last night on some other station — I'm happy to see it taken away.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:41 PM to Dyssynergy )
Madness, yet there is method

I haven't submitted anything to the BlogMadness competition, on the basis that my below-average material sucks, and my above-average material...um, sucks less.

Then again, few authors (if I may borrow the term for a moment) are the best judges of their own work, so if you happen to think that something I posted in 2003 was worthwhile, leave a comment here or in email, and if there should be anything resembling a consensus between now and the 20th, I will duly submit the recommended piece.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:15 PM to Blogorrhea )
5 January 2004
Neither do they spin

I have almost always been puzzled as to the reason why perfectly desirable women would willingly embrace the term "spinster," a word which to me has always seemed fraught with despair and desolation and all those other D words I used to toss around so frequently.

After reading this, perhaps I understand a little better. I'm reasonably certain that not everyone using the term subscribes to every single item in the list, but I think they might buy this line:

We have a right to proudly reclaim the word Spinster, to uphold and forge this brave new identity, to embrace our singleness, to live our lives fully, and to never let our human expression be characterized as a paraphrased offshoot of the male experience with words such as "bachelorette."

Heh. She said "offshoot."

Now maybe I should look for a comparable term for myself — besides "dork," of course.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Table for One )
An on-air boner

Somebody at the editing console at WFAA-TV in Dallas — well, no, that's wrong, because apparently there wasn't anybody editing that day.

You'll need Windows Media Player to see the actual video clip.

(Via Cruel Site of the Day)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:05 AM to Dyssynergy )
Bad blood

One bomb burst of the bizarre this morning. NPR's Diane Rehm Show scheduled a program about the economic outlook, and Paul Krugman (Princeton professor and columnist for The New York Times) and Grover Norquist (head of Americans for Tax Reform) were booked; Krugman apparently said that he would not appear alongside Norquist.

So Diane did the first half of the hour with Krugman, the second half with Norquist, and I'm wondering: have these guys been feuding lately? Krugman has occasionally sniped at Norquist, but I'm surprised things have gotten to such a state.

Lessons from life (one in a series)

Neighborhood Association meeting tonight, and a better turnout than last month, but "It's only a block or so, I'll walk" makes a lot more sense when the temperature is above freezing, something it hasn't been since midday Sunday and probably won't be again until Wednesday noon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:00 PM to Soonerland )
6 January 2004
Branching out

Normally, if I write something, it's here, though over the years I have contributed a few product reviews to Epinions.com — around $100 worth, in fact — and scattered occasional comments on automotive message boards.

Late last year, I was watching a DVD of a small indie film and for reasons unknown was motivated to write down my reaction and submit it to the Internet Movie Database. There is a backlog of submissions from amateur reviewers, so it's only just now that they've gotten around to mine; if you're at all curious as to how I'd respond to a "dark comedy of word games, sex, fantasy and Pop-Tarts," you're invited to visit the IMDb page for the 1999 film The Invisibles — not at all related to Grant Morrison's comic series — and stare in disbelief.

A process to condemn

Michael Bates, a couple of weeks ago, decried a plan by the University of Tulsa to, in his words, "replace another Route 66 landmark with empty space." The University's favored tool is the power of eminent domain, as wielded by the City of Tulsa on the school's behalf:

If TU had acquired all its land from willing sellers, you could make the case that we have no place telling this private institution what to do with its own land. But TU has gained so much property through the unconstitutional use of eminent domain for private benefit, the least we should expect is that TU use its land efficiently.

Meanwhile, there's an effort in Colorado to curb this sort of thing. A bill being introduced into the Colorado legislature this week by Rep. Shawn Mitchell (R-Broomfield) would bar the use of eminent domain for private projects:

If the city or the state comes to take my land, it darn well better be for the city and state's public use — a courthouse, a road, a school — not just because they'd rather see someone doing something else on my land.

The Colorado Municipal League [link requires Adobe Reader], for its part, "opposes state and federal actions interfering with municipal authority concerning land use regulations." Of course they do.

Order in the court

Judge James Alexander had had it up to here with people appearing before the Oakland County (Michigan) Circuit Court in garb more suitable for putting up drywall. The court now has a dress code and some stricter rules of conduct, and violators may be sent home or worse.

This action hasn't built any excitement in Pontiac just yet — so far, Judge Alexander has sent just one person home to change — but things should get interesting as temperatures rise and quantities of clothing diminish.

(Via Dawn at Altered Perceptions)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:43 AM to Almost Yogurt )
How cold is it?

Well, it was 7 degrees Fahrenheit this morning, the coldest it's been since 3 March 2002.

I bitched about it then, too.

They promised us 40s tomorrow. Then again, they promised us 30s Monday and Tuesday, and we didn't get those either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:37 PM to Weather or Not )
The 2.29-night stand

VibeOK, the section of NewsOK.com that's aimed at young, happenin' kids (pardon me while I hurl), is asking, in the wake of the latest Britney Spears debacle: "If you could marry a pop star for 55 hours, who would it be?"

A dozen choices (six male, six female) are offered, none of them especially inspiring, but if I had two days and change, I suppose the least annoying of the bunch would be Beyoncé Knowles, who is easy on the eyes and generally not known as a pain in the neck.

On the other hand, I could think of a dozen bloggers more worthy of my time, though I am no more likely to win their hearts than Beyoncé's.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:59 PM to Almost Yogurt )
7 January 2004
A new year of Carnival

The first Carnival of the Vanities for 2004 is hosted by American Realpolitik. This 68th edition continues the tradition of bringing you the best of the blogs for the past week, and even though I have an item in there this week, don't let that stop you from reading.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:36 AM to Blogorrhea )
Coveting thy neighbor's stylebook

Last Minute Network Ltd, a British online travel vendor, managed to irritate some Web surfers with some pseudo-King James pitches; said surfers complained to the UK's Advertising Standards Association. A sample:

And on the sixth day Mary didst flee the office for a humbly priced trip to New York. And she shopp'd til she didst hobble in her kitten heels.

Not funny, especially, and, saith the ASA, not offensive, particularly. Which makes sense, I suppose: everyone talked like that in 1611.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:59 AM to Dyssynergy )
That man behind the curtain

For those who are accustomed to thinking of Donald Rumsfeld as an egomaniac, your reality check is in the mail.

The Hill (no relation) is reporting that the SecDef had been Time's first choice for Person of the Year 2003, but he had other ideas; in November, when Time editors met with Rumsfeld at the Pentagon to talk war plans, the Secretary suggested, out of the blue, that the American soldier ought to be the magazine's choice for POTY.

Did Rumsfeld suspect something? Was he just trying to spread a meme? It's probably impossible to know for sure, but surely this is not the act of a man with a serious lust for headlines.

(Via Outside the Beltway)

Those who have gone before

There is a fair amount of dissatisfaction with the proposal for the World Trade Center Memorial, and Michele points to an example of How To Do It Right.

In my back yard, more or less.

Last year, the day before 9/11, I found myself at the Fence, where hundreds of small items left by visitors pay silent tribute to the victims of April 19. It is a genuinely moving place, perhaps the most heartbreaking (because it's the simplest) part of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, and if it should inspire someone working on the WTC project, so much the better.

But I remember when I heard the bomb go off at 9:02, and while I'm always pleased to see my hometown recognized for providing a good example, I feel compelled to point out that the Fence, like the rest of the Memorial, is not for us; it's for the 168 friends and neighbors who were taken away in that frightening collision of madness and evil. The WTC planners would do well to remember that their first job is to honor the victims of 9/11, not to produce, as Michele says, "a piece of concept art."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 PM to City Scene )
8 January 2004
But not for U

If you show up at U-Haul with a Ford Explorer, you will leave without the trailer you were planning to tow; The Detroit News is reporting that U-Haul International has forbidden its 17,000 local outlets to rent trailers to Explorer owners, citing ongoing lawsuits involving America's largest-selling sport-utility vehicle.

The ban applies to all model years, despite the fact that most of the litigation, including the Firestone debacle, involved the previous generation of the Explorer; Ford redesigned the truck for 2003 with an independent rear suspension, which enhances handling and lowers the center of gravity.

Curiously, the Mercury Mountaineer, which is basically the Explorer with a brushed-aluminum interior and the top-line powertrain, is not included in the ban.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:48 AM to Driver's Seat )
Not exactly like a prayer

Okay, 'fess up: How many of you were playing wait-and-see with Wesley Clark, holding off until he got an endorsement from Madonna?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Number, please

The Federal Communications Commission has called AT&T Wireless on the carpet for falling down on number portability; the Death Star, meanwhile, is telling customers that there may be as much as a five-day delay in moving numbers between cell carriers.

When it doesn't take six weeks, that is.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:09 PM to Dyssynergy )
Awash in schwag

We got merchandise, by gum.

Arriving through the slender slot in the door: Bigwig's ingenious campaign sticker, telling the world what he (and I) think of the Democrats' favorite son of 1972 2004.

And stuffed under the welcome mat, to the extent that a ten-inch cube can be stuffed under anything flat: Brother Dave's Better Living Through Blogging mug, in the charmingly-retro distaff version.

I feel indescribably rich, in a budget-minded sort of way.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:13 PM to Blogorrhea )
First official home repair

One of those talk-show guys is fond of saying, "If you have a home, you have home repairs." This is, of course, not something I want to think about, but if I'm to avoid being at the mercy of some guy in a battered pickup truck, I need to be able to do some of the simpler tasks myself.

Problem: Extremely loose toilet handle — requires jiggling in any position and for any function.

Solution: Replace handle/actuator lever. (Float valve was judged to be working correctly.)

Tool used: Vise-Grip™, to remove old (and somewhat grungy) apparatus.

Time to fix: 6 minutes, not counting trip to Home Depot.

Cost: $4.28.

I feel better already. Okay, this isn't exactly retrieving the Beagle 2, but frankly, I'd rather not face something incredibly serious just yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:49 PM to Surlywood )
9 January 2004
It's a two-man race

That's what Wesley Clark's campaign people are saying, citing a new poll in Oklahoma that shows the general trailing Democratic frontrunner Howard Dean by a mere three percentage points, within the predicted margin of error. (Joe Lieberman is a distant third; the others don't matter.)

The Oklahoma primary is 3 February. I've scheduled a dental appointment for that date in anticipation. Registration closes this afternoon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 AM to Soonerland )
It's been a long time

Happy 60th (!) birthday, Jimmy Page.

Let us all now veg out

Baldilocks reads the terms of the Official Salads Act:

Anyone who uses iceberg lettuce in a salad should be shot.

Croutons and bacon bits are masks for a salad prepared by a lazy salad-maker. If your ingredients are good, fresh and varied, you don't need that caca.

No yellow, orange or white dressings should be used. Hey, if you want to hide the taste of your salad, just tear up some iceberg, chop up a big, fat tomato and pour Thousand Island all over it. Blech.

Thousand Island has always struck me as overwrought, though it's difficult to find variations in the range of, say, 350 to 600 Island.

Other than that, I think I'd be fortunate to score higher than a D-plus on this admittedly strict set of requirements. And that's a shame, because:

If you think salads are boring, you're missing out on one of the great pleasures of eating. Time, attention and varied ingredients are all that are required. Don?t forget to make it beautiful as well. Eating is almost as much about the eye as it is about the tongue.

Mental note: This is probably not the ideal day to hit the drive-thru at Whataburger.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:23 AM to Worth a Fork )
Dennis gazes skyward

NEW ROME, OH (WATSO*): Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich today lashed out at the Bush administration's space-exploration proposals, calling them "ill-advised" and "unnecessarily bellicose."

"The very idea of going to Mars," said the former Ohio Congressman, "encapsulates everything that's wrong with George Bush. In the first place, it's a red planet. This is yet another example of the Bush administration's schemes to reward its friends and punish its enemies. There is no evidence that Karl Rove, or any of Bush's advisers, made the slightest effort to locate a blue planet for exploration."

Another problem, said Kucinich, is the nature of Mars itself. "It's the planet of war. How many times must we go through this? War, war, war. It's the only thing George Bush knows."

The Kucinich campaign has yet to release formally any alternative plan for space exploration, but the candidate hinted at some of the ideas he'd like to see in such a plan. "We're looking towards Venus, which is, after all, a planet of women, who have been cruelly underrepresented in the space program up to now, and then, perhaps in our second term, Vulcan, where war and hatred have been replaced by reason and logic. As Americans, we deserve no less."

*With apologies to Scott Ott

Riding that drain

First city utility bill has arrived, and it's a monster: $135.71, though about $76 of it seems to be refundable deposits of various sorts, and there's $20 for a service initiation fee. This suggests that until Heavy Lawn Watering begins, I'm looking at $40ish water/garbage/sewage bills every month, which isn't exactly horrendous.

Once I recovered my composure, I noticed something marked "Drainage Fee — Fee Due To Unfunded EPA Mandate." Needless to say, I had to track this down, and here's the scoop:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now enforces strict storm water drainage regulations.

The monthly "drainage fee" is to pay for work we must do to meet these new EPA drainage standards and requirements. The regulations are the result of a federal mandate to clean up pollution from storm water which drains into rivers, lakes and streams.

Washington did not provide any money to pay for meeting the requirements. Every large city in the United States must spend local money — millions of dollars — to avoid crippling fines.

Of course, "unfunded mandate," if you say it loudly enough, becomes a buzzword. And it's said quite a bit, now that the Feds seem comfortable with handing out regulations without regard to cost. Still, absent evidence to the contrary, I am going to assume that this particular mandate is something that needs to be, or at least ought to be, done, and will pay my $3.82 (up from $2.73, unless this is prorated in some strange manner) with a smile and only slightly clenched teeth.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:29 PM to Surlywood )
10 January 2004
The Brattleboro catechism

Rod Dreher, on The Dallas Morning News blog (scroll down to 9 January, 4:49 pm), sees some inconsistencies in Howard Dean's sudden spirituality:

He said that President Bush had no business making a stem-cell policy decision based in part on religious belief — even though Dean said just the other day that his religious faith guided his decision to approve civil unions for gays.

Here's the Dean Doctrine: The Lord Your God permits you to make faith in Him a factor in policy decisions, but only if the outcome is politically liberal.

There are times when I suspect the only book of Scripture Dr. Dean has read is Numbers.

Just fading away

Alfred Pugh has died in Bay Pines, Florida. According to the Veterans Administration, he was the oldest American veteran who had been wounded in combat.

Pugh, who spoke both French and English, served in World War I as an infantryman who doubled as interpreter, and was taken out by a mustard-gas blast in the Argonne. "We didn't get gas masks," he said, "until the day after it happened." The French subsequently elected him to the Légion d'Honneur with rank of Chevalier.

The VA says about three hundred American WWI veterans are still alive.

Al Pugh survived the mustard gas, but it was something else that got to his lungs that killed him: pneumonia. He was a week and a half short of his 109th birthday.

I thank him, as I thank all our troops.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:06 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Fuel for the sole

Jennifer Alfano, in the February Harper's Bazaar:

The following statistic will either make you laugh with guilt-tinged understanding or cause you to think I am a victim of mass consumption. $23,159. It is not the sum left on my mortgage; it is the amount I have spent on shoes in the past eight years — not including sneakers, flip-flops (except one Hermès pair) or the dozens of shoes I've tired of and parted with.

Quite apart from the fact that twenty-three K would make a huge hole in my mountain of debt, this is a fairly startling number, if only because I don't think I've spent that much on all items of clothing combined in the thirty-two years I've had to buy my own.

Then again, sixteen pages away in the same issue, "Shoes of the Season" features six pair one supposedly must have, and having them will cost a total of $3510. What's worse, none of them, at least to my eyes, seem all that compelling; the best of the bunch, a rounded-throat pump from Prada, earns that status merely by having no blatantly hideous faults. (Manolo Blahnik is conspicuous in this group by his absence, and I didn't see any flip-flops, from Hermès or anyone else.)

This is, I suppose, one of those things I'm not supposed to understand, like the item I found today in the supermarket labeled "Free Range Chicken Broth". How the hell did they get it into the can?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:39 PM to Rag Trade )
The quiz you've all been waiting for

And this time, you get to see the, um, inner workings, because it doesn't do the math for you.

Ready?

Which Democratic primary candidate are you — in bed?

(Not suitable for all ages or workplaces; via Doc Searls.)

What's that? Oh, me? I'm an intriguing (or possibly nauseating) mix of Joe Lieberman and Carol Moseley-Braun.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:29 PM to Dyssynergy )
11 January 2004
Girl on film

Aldahlia says she's "an honest to God movie snob of massive proportions," and maybe it's true:

I pick movies apart with a rabidity I've never seen in anyone else, ever. I watch movies in a way that's so obnoxious, I've had friends bring strangers over, so that they can witness just how obscene and disturbing my type of movie consumption really is.

You don't want to watch a movie with me, trust me. I can ruin just about any cinematic experience.

As for justifying it, I really can't. It's something I do compulsively. Mine is not to wonder why. Mine is to point out even the most minute flaws. Mine is to read things into fairly generic flicks that I should never have thought to begin with.

Having once castigated a radio station for playing a hacked-together edit of Tommy James' "Crimson and Clover" instead of the proper single version or even (heaven help us) that absurd quasi-psychedelic LP mix, I suspect I am in no position to grumble here. And besides, if everything (and everyone) were perfect, we'd be bored out of our skulls.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:53 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Sweet silver angel

With an assist from Dawn Eden, I have learned that Rhino's Handmade division has reissued the two albums by the late Judee Sill, the first of which has been a valued part of my collection for over thirty years.

Judee Sill was the very first LP issued under David Geffen's Asylum imprint, then distributed by Atlantic. Her earlier songs listed a copyright by Blimp Music, the Turtles' publishing unit; indeed, the Turtles had cut a version of her "Lady-O" in late 1969, which charted at #78. But nothing here is truly Flo-and-Eddie-esque; Sill's songs are sort of what you might get if you replaced Joni Mitchell's frustrated eroticism (see For the Roses, Mitchell's first release for Asylum) with a spirituality that's part Sixties cosmic, part traditional Christian, and if that seems perhaps contradictory, here's the chorus of "My Man on Love":

One star remains in the false darkness
Have you met my man on love?
One truth survives death's silent starkness
Have you met my man on love?

Most of the songs center on Sill's voice and guitar, but "Jesus Was a Cross Maker", the intended single (and produced, unlike the rest of the LP, by Graham Nash), borrows the gospel-piano style to stirring effect. It did not chart, and the album was a relative stiff; two years later, Heart Food went largely unnoticed.

A friend of hers once quoted Judee Sill as saying that she would become famous and die before she was forty. She made it to thirty-five before the drugs took their toll; "famous," of course, is open to discussion. Certainly she's remembered here and there, and I'm not above dropping her name when the circumstances permit. (And, of course, I'm grateful to Dawn for providing some circumstances.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:03 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Second (Amendment) thoughts

Ravenwood reports that Cleveland's daily newspaper isn't taking Ohio's new concealed-carry law lightly: The Plain Dealer plans to print the names of all Ohioans receiving permits under the new law.

Once they do, vow the operators of the Web site Keep and Bear Arms, they will print the names of all Ohioans who work for The Plain Dealer. Ravenwood, in the spirit of this response, has opened the volley with the details on the newspaper's editor, who lives in one of those spiffy neighborhoods practically right on the lake.

Meanwhile, The Columbus Dispatch is very unhappy that the state won't be releasing the names of permit-holders to the general public; of course, what really disturbs the Dispatch is that permits will be issued in the first place.

Most state concealed-carry laws are what is called "shall-issue" laws; that is, it is not left to the discretion of local authorities to decide whether to issue a permit. Unless there is some specific legal reason to disqualify an applicant, his permit is to be approved. Most states, including Ohio once their law goes into effect in April, do have prerequisites which must be met, but in a shall-issue state, if those prerequisites are met, the permit is issued, and that's that.

This fact itself annoys a lot of people, among them the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which annually hands out usually-failing report cards to the individual states and this year gave Oklahoma a D-minus [link requires Adobe Reader] for, among other things, having a "shall-issue" law. Only they put it this way:

Oklahoma also forces police to let people carry hidden handguns in public.

Imagine that. Police are forced to let people carry guns. "Why, when I was younger, the police didn't have to let you do a damn thing; they could pull you over for any reason they wanted, and we liked it." Yeah, sure.

When the grandchildren ask me "What made you join the National Rifle Association, anyway?" I'll give them that White Album nonsense about being the all-American bullet-headed Saxon mother's son, and then I'll probably just let them read this post.

(Update, 13 January, 1:15 pm: Xrlq [20 points in Scrabble®] disposes of the Dispatch.)

Paths that cross yet again

Last time I was in Oklahoma City's Full Circle Bookstore, I spent rather a lot of the time swapping stories with an old friend.

Now that I've moved into the middle of town, the store is only a mile from me, so I figured the least I could do was reacquaint myself with its combination of virtues and quirks (it's the last independent bookseller in the state with anything resembling an extensive inventory; the books are shelved literally up to the ceiling, which means either eyestrain or summoning a staff member more often than you would in one of the chains; its owner is running for Mayor).

This afternoon, I did have to have one book procured for me, though this was due to my failure to comprehend the filing system — who would have thought that a personal memoir might be filed under "Biography"? — and I spent rather a lot of the time swapping stories with an old friend.

Kurt "Captain And" Lochner, like me (and like author Brian A. Hopkins and occasional reader/commenter/philosopher W. Terkish Payne) a member of the old Lair Security, Inc. BBS Überclique back in the day, caught me just south of the north entrance. Neither one of us believed it at first. We traded information on where the others had gone — unsurprisingly, he'd kept closer tabs than had I — and made fun of losers. It was quite an experience, especially since both of us seemed to look better than we used to. (Take that, entropy!)

Now I wonder who will pop up next time I'm in the store.

The Perl of the Clark campaign

Wesley Clark's campaign staff have developed, or commissioned, or otherwise come up with, a ClarkBot, which scans Feedster's RSS search engine every day looking for references to the General and then posts them to a section of the campaign blog. It's picked up pretty much everything I've ever said about the man, and if you're blogging and have an RSS feed, likely everything you've ever said about him either. The bot doesn't attempt to pass judgment on whether the comment is favorable or not; it simply reproduces the item and posts a link.

At the bottom of the page is this useful advice:

Please use this as a resource for rapid response to attacks on Clark, and leave some encouraging comments at bloggers who support Clark. As always, be civil even to those critics of the General who are not civil themselves.

Seems reasonable to me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:33 PM to Blogorrhea )
12 January 2004
And the days go by

I note in passing that I got married twenty-six years ago today, in the middle of a blizzard.

Today: sunshine and 58, and I suspect both of us are happier four hundred miles apart.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to Table for One )
Seven inches every time

Dear Michele:

No matter where you go, you'll find that it's the finest folks who have preserved their 45s for posterity.

Of course, posterity doesn't always appreciate our gifts, but so what else is new?

Joe talks taxes

Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman came to Tulsa today, pitching his tax plan, which he says will cut taxes for 98 percent of the middle class, whoever they may be these days, while raising taxes on the top few and somehow balancing the budget. I'm not entirely convinced there are enough taxpayers among those top few to make up the deficit — if you took every dime from Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, you'd leave them broke and you'd still have $250 billion or so to collect and next year's deficit would remain untouched — but at least he's offering, beyond the usual platitudes, some actual numbers to play with.

Now how much would you pay?

If you've got a spare $10,130 burning a hole in your pocket, you can come live next door to me for a year.

I've been avoiding asking the owner just how much he wanted to rent the place, but someone pulled one too many information sheets out of the little plastic tube, and the extra one was found lodged just this side of my flower bed, and thus informed, I pass the details on to you.

What you get: Three bedrooms, two bathrooms, central heat and air, washer/dryer connections, 1550 square feet of space by whatever arcane mathematics they use to determine such things, decently huge back yard, the dubious privilege of living next door to me.

What you don't get: A garage (this one has been converted to actual living space), much of a view.

What they want: Twelve-month lease, $650 deposit, $790 a month.

What they don't want: Smokers, pet owners, Section 8.

I haven't been inside, but the outside is pretty decent, and it's a block and a half to the grade school, if that matters to you.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:20 PM to Surlywood )
13 January 2004
There go the carbs

Marietta, Oklahoma is known for basically one thing: cookies.

This week, no cookies: Bake-Line Group, the national baking conglomerate founded by former Keebler officers, Marietta's largest employer, has closed all seven of its bakeries and announced plans to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

About 300 people out of Marietta's population of 2300 worked for Bake-Line.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 AM to Soonerland )
Who says we can't?

Emperor Misha can give you lots of reasons why the President's it's-not-really-amnesty plan is something less than wonderful, but the argument that truly knots the Imperial BVDs is the one that goes like this:

"But we CAN'T deport 8 million illegals, that's just IMPOSSIBLE!"

Oh, yeah?

The word "impossible" is, quite possibly, the most un-American word that I've ever heard, it's the very embodiment of what has turned Europe into the bilge of the civilized word.

And that's just ONE argument.

It's just as idiotic as saying that it's simply "impossible" to abolish highway robbery federal pork programs financed by payroll taxes. Or saying that since we've got millions of burglaries every year, it would be simply "impossible" to continue enforcing laws against it. Let's legalize burglary, why don't we? We can't prevent it, after all, so let's just bring down the statistics by making it legal.

And Spoons attacks the same premise from a different angle entirely:

Once you accept that income taxes should be at least 50%, then your spectrum of tax policy options shrinks mightily. Once you accept that the Constitution requires Affirmative Action, then your spectrum of policy options shrinks mightily. Of course, if you don't accept these things....

The President is buying a dubious premise: we can't really do anything about the however many million illegals we already have, so let's do something with that all-important "feel-good" quality, preferably before the election. His options, shall we say, have shrunk mightily. Nothing particularly unusual about this motivation, but it's still disheartening to see it.

Besides, the word that counts here isn't the word that's said, which is "can't", but the word that's meant, which is "won't".

If we're going to take this war-on-terror stuff seriously, we have to have control of our borders, not because Mexico is sending us terrorists — they aren't — but because any weak point can and will be exploited by terrorists. So long as the borders remain porous, so long as there is little or no fear of deportation, Homeland Security is nothing more than a guy in a suit with a bunch of paint chips.

Degrees of insanity

Is it just me, or is Mike suffering brain freeze?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:26 PM to Soonerland )
Potrzebie party

Mad #438 (February) is hyping its fake letter from Michael Jackson, but the spread you have to see is a six-page satire by Jeff Kruse called "The League of Rejected Superheroes". It's decent enough, but what makes it work is that Mad somehow managed to snag some Big-Name Artists. (Yeah, I know, Mad is a corporate cousin to DC Comics, but still, there's some sort of Wall of Separation between them.)

Frank Miller introduces you to Inebrion, a superhero who has had one or two or a quadrillion too many.

J. Scott Campbell shows you Scantily-Clad Woman, for whom "wonderbra" is more than a mere brand name.

Dave Gibbons presents the Entomologist, who apparently was bitten by a radioactive tortoise at the zoo while he was trying to get the attention of some of the spiffier bugs. (No relation to Dr. Weevil.)

John Byrne illustrates Mediocre Man, so far the only superhero who acquired his powers through a Sally Struthers home-study course.

John Romita, Jr. gives us Sloggtor of Globbzorr, who is apparently fortysomething and divorced.

Michael Allred delineates Vocabulon, to whom sesquipedalianism is just the beginning.

Arthur Adams found time to draw Apathenia, Queen of Not Giving a Damn, who first appeared in BFD Comics back in 1993.

And finally, from the pen of Jim Lee, The Incredible Infringement Man, who...what's that? Any more and I'll have to pay royalties?

(Actually, I just wanted to get something up on this before Four Color Hell found out.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:09 PM to Almost Yogurt )
14 January 2004
None so fine as 69

This was as clean a slogan as we could come up with for my high-school graduating class, which was, indeed, the class of '69.

In the meantime, I'm happy to exhume the phrase for Carnival of the Vanities #69, brought to you nine minutes at a time by Snooze Button Dreams, incorporating the Best of the Blogs, plus something of mine to level the playing field.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:36 AM to Blogorrhea )
Et tu, Subaru?

The pavement-inhaling WRX aside, Subaru, perhaps more than any other automotive marque, gets respect from the Greener Than Thou crowd, inasmuch as it makes generally sensibly-sized vehicles which eschew the more egregious frills one finds on other brands; Fuji Heavy Industries, the manufacturer, is viewed as the Anti-Detroit. (The fact that General Motors owns a small chunk of Fuji is either overlooked or ignored.)

So there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth when word gets around that there will be just enough modifications made to the 2005 edition of Subaru's popular Outback wagon and sedan to qualify them under Federal regulations as light trucks, subject to a less-stringent fuel-economy standard. The reason for this is blindingly simple: there's a horsepower race on, and Subaru doesn't want to be left behind. The wagon, at least, might pass for a truck, given the proliferation of crossover quasi-SUVs, but the sedan?

One wail has already been heard. The Sierra Club's Daniel Becker, seeing shades of 1984 in these 2005 models, pronounced: "This is a new low for the auto industry and it would make George Orwell proud." I would remind Mr Becker that when you have stupid rules (and Corporate Average Fuel Economy is the poster child for stupid rules), you can expect stupid stratagems to get around them.

(Via Autoextremist.com)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:54 AM to Driver's Seat )
Snooze-a-lanche?

Carnival #69 from Snooze Button Dreams is sending a fairly huge number of people to this site, startling in view of the lame attempt at humor I submitted for inclusion this week.

If you've just arrived here and the offending item has scrolled away, this is the drone you're looking for.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:09 PM to Blogorrhea )
It's in the paper, it must be true

A filler item in The Oklahoman read like this:

Area Social Security recipients are being advised to log on to the correct Internet site when seeking information about their Social Security benefits or Medicare services.

Larry Jones, public affairs specialist with Social Security in Oklahoma City, said residents may be misled by private firms that advertise on the Internet that they can provide replacement Social Security cards or other services for a fee.

There should be no charge for those services, Jones said. He advised residents to log on to the official site at www.socialsecurity.org for information and free services.

As noted by yours truly back in March 1998, www.socialsecurity.org is the Cato Institute's privatization page.

I would advise area Social Security recipients to log on to the correct Internet site when seeking information about their Social Security benefits or Medicare services.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:42 PM to Dyssynergy )
Get thee behind me, Chase

Back in October, commenting on a big bank merger, I said this:

If there's a bank you'd like to see bought out, write to their credit-card department and have them send me an application.

Needless to say, this was before J. P. Morgan Chase put up $58 billion for Bank One.

That bit about not putting all your eggs in one basket doesn't at all anticipate that the baskets might want them there.

(About that title: Back in the pre-Morgan days, Chase had a brief advertising campaign to the effect of "Put The Chase behind you," usually with someone who isn't really a businessman but who plays one on TV saying something like "When I need to expand, I put The Chase behind me." One of our language pundits, probably either Edwin Newman or William Safire, pointed out that putting something behind you had an entirely different meaning to some people: "Thank God, I never have to bank there again!")

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:25 PM to Common Cents )
A completely unique experience

Well, okay, it wasn't that unique, but Rammer and I bent a couple of brewskis and bemoaned the sad state of Damn Near Everything this evening, which meant that we had to do some rather speedy bemoaning.

I don't think he quite grasps the Oklahoma Zeitgeist just yet, but then hardly do I, and I've been here thirty years or so. Still, it was good to see the guy, and being a long way from home, he may well have thought it was good to be seen.

We'll have to do this again sometime.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:29 PM to Blogorrhea )
15 January 2004
Hizzoner to be

Four men will be on next month's ballot to select a Mayor for Oklahoma City, to fill the last two years of the term vacated by Kirk Humphreys.

The presumed front-runner, at least for now, is Ward 1 Councilman Mick Cornett ("one of the rich Cornetts," Susanna might say); challenging are former Ward 1 Councilman F. O. "Frosty" Peak, bookstore owner Jim Tolbert, and Marcus Hayes, director of social services of a local senior center.

The ballot is nonpartisan; a runoff if needed will be held in April.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to City Scene )
Jacket fluff

Erica is irked by the ubiquitous term "bestseller":

Is it just me, or is every book a "bestseller" for at least five minutes? Hearing that a book is a bestseller doesn't really make it that much more interesting for me. "Bestseller" tells me "it's a really good seller like all those other books."

And possibly "We shipped so many of these books that it's got to be a hit, and by the time they're remaindered, nobody will remember what we said anyway."

Besides, book quality and book sales have a tangential relationship at best.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:41 AM to Almost Yogurt )
It's just a little prick

A bill to legalize tattooing in South Carolina has passed the state Senate, and a longtime opponent in the House has apparently dropped his opposition, pending the adoption of his recommended amendment.

Should the Palmetto State make body art legal, it will be the 49th state to do so. I need hardly point out who's holding out.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:20 AM to Dyssynergy )
Let the machine get it

What's the worst possible telephone number you can imagine?

If the first thing you come up with is 867-5309, you might want to check with these folks.

(Courtesy of my infamous old pal Dull N. Boring. No credit for knowing what the N is for.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:22 PM to Dyssynergy )
16 January 2004
Side, meet thorn

These days, it is an article of faith — one might even call it a faith-based article — that academics of a conservative bent are this close to being on the Endangered Species List, and that the leftists in charge would be gleeful at the possibility of their extinction.

As with most stereotypes, there's a kernel of truth somewhere within, and the example I know best comes from right here in Soonerland, where Professor David Deming of the University of Oklahoma, who has run afoul of the Forces of Political Correctness before, claimed on KWTV this week that his academic career has been stymied by higher-ups who object to his manifest conservatism. (There is, at least temporarily, a RealPlayer video clip at NewsOK.com.)

Dr Deming last galvanized the opposition against him in 2000, when a Yale Daily News piece by student Joni Kletter was reprinted locally. Kletter argued that "easy access to a handgun allows everyone in this country...to quickly and easily kill as many random people as they want." Deming sent a letter to the Oklahoma Daily, suggesting that similarly, women in general and Kletter in particular have the capacity, because of "easy access" to sexual equipment, to have sex with random people — and that he hoped Kletter was "as responsible with her equipment as most gun owners are with theirs."

Not the most subtle of analogies, but Deming made his point, and was duly punished for it. A couple of dozen complaints were filed with the University's Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action. The University, seeing it as a First Amendment issue, dismissed the complaints. The complainants appealed the dismissal, and the University scheduled a hearing; under pressure from local media and from the Center for Individual Rights, which was preparing to sue the University on Deming's behalf, the charges were dropped once again. It seems reasonable to believe, though, that there are still people seething over the fact that Deming is still teaching at OU.

Dr John Dean, then dean of the College of Geophysics, had written Deming over the Kletter affair, to this effect:

In the future, when you enter into public discussion on controversial social issues, I ask that you weigh fully the non-trivial costs and consequences to the individuals with whom you work and the institutions which provide you a professional home.

Dr Dean is still Deming's boss.

(Update, 18 January, 8 pm: Deming says he has lost a class and has been banished to a basement office.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:43 AM to Soonerland )
First things first

Alison Jane's Frolic and Detour reminds us of the purpose — and the limitations — of that "freedom of speech" business:

Nobody invented the First Amendment to make sure that no matter what you thought, or said, or said about what you thought, nothing would happen to you. The federal constitution was not written so that no one would call you on your bullshit. It doesn't mean there aren't costs. Think free verse, not free beer.

In fact, if everyone lived this way — cowering from conflict and argument, afraid to say no, afraid to thwart anyone's id or step on their buzz or imply that what they just said was the stupidest thing we ever heard, or that we will never listen again to a radio station or read a newspaper that would continue to employ them — it would destroy, not serve, the spirit of the First Amendment. You're supposed to participate. You're supposed to get in there and argue, and sometimes, when it really matters, you're supposed to make it expensive or unpleasant or uncomfortable to be wrong. That's why the government doesn't do it. The guys in the wigs expected the rest of us to deal with you. The entire notion of the First Amendment is that in the marketplace of ideas, the morons will go broke. If you insist on buying from them out of some twisted notion of equity or community or "judge not, lest ye be judged," you are failing the system.

Emphasis added.

I figure most of you already knew this, but it bears repeating.

After Rowland, what?

The California Yankee is not inclined to cut Connecticut Governor John G. Rowland any slack:

It is truly amazing how little support there is for Rowland at the moment. No one I know has a kind word to say for him. The press, tasting blood, is extremely persistent. I can't imagine how Rowland can distract them.

Well, I did find one kind word, from Mike Alissi, publisher of Reason, who offers a modest defense of the governor:

I've always liked Rowland for one reason: The guy has maintained a relatively low media profile over the years. That's a decent indication he hasn't been too active meddling in our lives (notwithstanding his recent signature on a bill to ban smoking in all bars). This is in sharp contrast to do-gooder politicians like, say, Bill Bennett's preachy pal, Sen. Joe Lieberman, and even more so to Dick Blumenthal (Lieberman's successor as Attorney General) who will sue anybody to get in front of a camera.

The gov's media profile is, um, a bit higher now. But this is bad press that fuels the public's contempt for politicians who abuse power. That's a positive thing. I just hope people save some skepticism for the next elected governor (who very well may be Dick Blumenthal) and they remember that shiny clean do-gooder politicians can abuse power as much as corrupt ones, only in different ways.

Okay, one Connecticut resident on Rowland's side. Sort of.

17 January 2004
Going their separate ways

In 1977, the two Cincinnati daily newspapers, Gannett's Enquirer and E. W. Scripps' Post, entered a Joint Operating Agreement, under which they would maintain separate news operations but pool their advertising and circulation functions. The agreement was for ten years, and would be automatically renewed unless one of the two parties opted out with three years' notice. The Department of Justice approved the deal in 1979.

Gannett has now officially informed Scripps that they are opting out, that the JOA will end at the end of 2007.

Evening papers in general have been in decline; Post circulation today is one-quarter what it was when the deal with the Enquirer was struck.

What may save the Post is its strength south of the Ohio River, where a separate Kentucky Post edition is circulated for readers in northern Kentucky.

The next two JOAs up for renewal are in Birmingham, Alabama and Tucson, Arizona: both expire in 2015.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:48 AM to Almost Yogurt )
PL8S that GR8

From Miscellaneous, Etc., a Friday Five item engages the Rage Reflex:

If I had vanity plates on my car, they would read, "SUCKBAD", because I hate vanity plates so much that I think I might piss myself right now.

It's not that I hate the people who have vanity plates, it's just that I don't understand what they're thinking when they get them. Either they're so compressed that they make highschool yearbook entries seem lucid by comparison, or else they're so self-aggrandizing that you wish you could just ram them right there on the road.

Yes, you people with "RICHGUY" or "HOTCHIK" or "KIKASS" on your sports cars or luxury vehicles, I'm talking to you. From the make and model of your car, I was already able to figure out that you had a lot of money — and I didn't even have to put on my detective's eyes! Are you really so concerned that I might miss the fact that you're wealthy that you have to advertise it on your own license plate? Is it such an issue that you need to put it right out there in public? Are you so bereft of communication channels that this is all that's left to you?

Of course, here in Oklahoma, we're more interested in suing over license plates than in agonizing over them, but maybe it's because they cost so much here to begin with that we're disinclined to spend the extra $25 or so.

For the record, I briefly entertained the idea of a vanity plate — "DCXXVI", if you're curious — but decided I would likely get rear-ended by some fool on the Belle Isle Bridge trying to decipher the damned thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:58 PM to Dyssynergy )
Are the Democrats doomed?

Mike Taibbi, in the New York Press, asserts that "voters are repulsed by weakness," and, by extension, the Democrats as we know them:

[T]he Party, as currently constructed, will never be able to get around this problem. Why? Because weakness is inherent in the party?s ideology.

There are only two ways to appear strong. One is to stand for something. The other is to kick ass. Today?s Democrats most emphatically are not equipped to do either.

On the standing-for-something front, that question was settled long ago. Nothing can be more obvious than that the current Democratic leadership considers actual principle a laughable electoral weakness. This was demonstrated most forcefully a few weeks ago when Hillary Clinton joked about Mohatma Gandhi having worked in a St. Louis gas station. If Gandhi were running in this race, the Democratic Leadership Council — bet on it — would be warning of a McGovern-like landslide defeat. Democrats consider strength to be the skillful capture of swing votes via the tactically precise execution of a fuzzy policy of standing for nothing at all, as in the case of Bill Clinton.

Okay, they don't stand for anything. Can they kick ass?

As it stands, the Republicans are tougher than the Democrats because they will not hesitate to bomb the hell out of anyone, provided that the target cannot meaningfully fight back. But here's the thing: The Republicans are not interested in ruling other countries, any more than they are interested in ruling the United States. All they really want to do is make money. They only use military force insofar as it is necessary to a) extract another country's resources, and b) ensure that these countries become and remain markets for American products. Beyond these parameters, they're amazingly squeamish about using the military.

This may explain why there's been only the faintest rattling of sabres in the general direction of Pyongyang: North Korea, absent its smallish collection of fungible nukes, can't afford so much as a Brown Bag Special at Sonic.

What to do? Taibbi suggests that an upcoming Democratic administration, assuming there will be an upcoming Democratic administration within any of our lifetimes, leverage what perceived advantage they may have in domestic affairs — the GOP owns foreign policy — and simply annex the rest of the world, thereby making everything effectively (or, knowing the Democrats, ineffectively) domestic. Pax americana, here we come.

18 January 2004
In the right place

The rental next door is still vacant, but across the street and one down, there's a sale. After the owner sank some serious dollars into refurbishing the place and then sat by the phone for a month of FSBOing, he finally bit the bullet and called in an Expert, who promptly sold the place in half a week.

As everyone knows, the three major guiding principles of real estate are location, location, and location, perhaps in that very order. But in my case, at least, to make the deal work, it also took research, elbow grease, and good ol' dumb luck. I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear the same story from the new folks on the block when they get here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:44 AM to Surlywood )
Words to blog by

Christy at Digital Nirvana follows, she says, the Bushido Way of the Blogger:

Mental discipline (heck, love is a mental discipline by the way). Blog everyday. Be one with the written word. Honor and respect other blogger's ideas. Self-control. Truth and sincerity. Karma. I didn't name this blog Digital Nirvana without those precepts in mind.

My ultimate goal as a blogger is not to get as many hits as possible, be linked to a million weblogs out there or God forbid, ram my ideas down people's throats. My primary motivation is self-enlightenment and introspection. I believe the words that I write reflect my essence and my soul and many times I've faltered by going down to my lesser, baser instincts. I can just diss other weblogs and be a self-righteous blogger and I'll have instant material on my blog. But then, the creation of blogging has a higher purpose. That is to test one's truths and dogma in a marketplace of ideas. It is bloody exercise wherein you face the gritty realism of being rejected for your views, beliefs, and/or lack of wit or style. It's a cruel blog jungle out there. Other people will just cut you off if you don't fit their idea of a perfect world. Now you see your link now you don't. The old cliche still holds. You can never please everybody not even in blogosphere.

I don't know. Sometimes exercising one's lesser, baser instincts can be good fun, good catharsis, and even good blogging, though I don't think anyone this side of [fill in name of your personal bête noire in blogdom] can pull it off on a regular basis.

It is, however, true that this very situation was anticipated thirty-odd years ago. In the words of the late Eric Hilliard Nelson: "You can't please everyone, so you got to please yourself." I'm not about to claim that every last one of the three hundred thousand or so words I've tossed up on screen is a keeper, but I'd like to think that they were a reasonable approximation of what I was thinking at the time they were written. To that extent, I suppose, I'm pleased with the results of these ninety-three months.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:48 AM to Blogorrhea )
Insert pMachine joke here

Something called BlogSex is looking for participants.

They're advertising on some sites. I spotted them at BlogShares and at BlogChalking, where they're making the following pitch:

Whether you are practicing abstinence or are experiencing nymphomania BlogSex.com is the perfect activity for you.

I submit that if you're experiencing nymphomania, you're not going to get a hell of a lot of typing done.

With a minor amount of Googlage, I was able to turn up the following:

BlogTV™ announces the BlogSex™ network. And no it is not a porn site. The coming BlogSex™ entertainment portal is a hip, sexy Web community offering an online meeting place for both bloggers and non-bloggers alike looking to meet and/or hook up with members of the same and/or opposite sex.

The upcoming BlogSex™ portal will integrate the intimacy of blogs, racy authors, curious readers, and personal ads into a unique community unlike any other service available today.

Members will be able to participate in ménage blogs (group blogs) on diverse topics. From ChristianBlogs.com to QueerBlogs.com the BlogSex™ network will offer a fresh, risqué online service to the diverse blogosphere.

BlogSex.com, a premium BlogTV™ channel, will launch one week before Valentines Day.

Given the flurry of blog weddings in recent months, I'm really not convinced we need this thing; I mean, if you're putting your heart on the screen already, what's the point of doing it again somewhere else?

And right before Valentine's Day? Talk about your cruel and unusual punishments.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:39 AM to Blogorrhea )
Let her dance

One piece you simply must read today: Dean Esmay pays tribute — beautifully — to the very first woman in his life.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:11 AM to Blogorrhea )
Smack dab in the middle

Bruce and I don't agree on too many things, but I definitely buy this observation:

I went all the way out to [Borders] at 21st and the Broken Arrow Exp. (64/51) and felt pretty silly about making the trek just to look at a few magazines and drink a cup of coffee. But you see, it's not like I can do that in BA, because there just isn't much out here. You shouldn't have to drive half an hour to find a suitable place to "hang out". Right?

Right. One of my justifications for moving into the city was to have fewer excuses to pass up an event because it was "too far to drive." And while my after-hours life isn't exactly scintillating these days, it's no longer nonexistent, which surely is worth something.

(There are only four Borders stores in the whole state, and it probably would have taken just as long to get to 81st and Yale; the Oklahoma City store is only about 1.4 miles from me, but Full Circle is closer, and it's locally owned, which I tend to view as a plus.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:24 PM to City Scene )
19 January 2004
The dream remembered

We do love a parade on the Lone Prairie. Last year, over 40,000 turned out to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday; only Houston's MLK parade drew a bigger crowd. And while there's a certain irony in the fact that the parade route doesn't actually come within a mile of the street that bears King's name, holding the festivities downtown serves as a reminder that while Dr King was indisputably a black man, the values he preached were values for all of us, race and color nothwithstanding.

In the morning, before all the hoopla, there will be a silent march through northeast Oklahoma City to commemorate the marches led by Dr King in the Sixties. It will begin at the Ralph Ellison Library at 23rd and (yes!) MLK Avenue, and end at the Oklahoma Historical building at 22nd and Lincoln, where a bell will be rung to break the silence.

I've got to work — 42nd and Treadmill waits for no one — but at least one Oklahoma blogger will be in the parade: JMBranum of JMBZine will be marching with the local branch of the Green Party.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Soonerland )
The tribal council that matters

In 1999, the Cherokee Nation held a constitutional convention, the tribe's first since 1976. That was the easy part.

For the next three years, a translator worked to port the resulting document from English into the Cherokee language.

Now comes the task of getting the constitution approved by the President of the United States, or by the Bureau of Indian Affairs on his behalf, as required by the previous Cherokee constitution. The tribe has passed an amendment to delete the Federal vetting requirement, but the BIA is balking.

Eventually, I suspect, the BIA will come around. And one of the provisions of the constitution allows the Cherokee Nation to send a non-voting delegate to Congress, which should be interesting.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:10 AM to Soonerland )
A Sac from out of the blue

Kelley's been so incredibly busy lately that it seems almost impossible she could squeeze anything more complicated than going to the bathroom into her schedule.

Still, impossible things do happen, and here's an impromptu Cul de Sac for a Monday afternoon, full of fresh bloggy goodness and, yes, twice as absorbent as the cheaper stuff.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:24 PM to Blogorrhea )
On the other side of the line

This turned out to be one of those days when I had a lot of writing to do, none of which involved bloggage.

If you're bound and determined to see what it was, there's a new Vent, regarding the Iowa caucuses and why they elicit yawns — from me, anyway — and a review of Befour, the last album by Brian Auger and the Trinity.

Mondays are like that, sometimes.

Can you get Febreze by the barrel?

It's called the Cabin Fever Cluster, and it's a four-day weekend of dog shows in Muncie, Indiana.

Except this year. The Horizon Convention Center decided that they couldn't risk hosting the shows because of their new carpeted floor, and the clubs involved weren't about to put down plastic sheeting and watch a thousand dogs slip and slide all over the place.

I wonder if Greg Hlatky was planning to bring any Borzoi to Muncie.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:24 PM to Dyssynergy )
20 January 2004
Slowing the revolving door

House Bill 1888, introduced into the Oklahoma legislature by Rep. John Trebilcock (R-Broken Arrow), would impose a two-year waiting period on outgoing lawmakers wishing to become Capitol lobbyists, and would forbid them to accept "anything of value" during those two years.

I doubt this will go anywhere, especially with a number of lawmakers facing term limits and having to get real jobs, but Trebilcock, a first-termer who previously taught high school history and government, points out: "A lot of [legislators] go to the Capitol wanting to change things and they think they have to play the game. Or they become cynical. Eventually they forget why they went there."

And the occasional reminder never hurts.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to Soonerland )
Mayberry, B. F. D.

The resurgence of John Edwards, who finished a strong second in Iowa, does not impress McGehee:

[F]at cat ambulance chasers wealthy trial lawyers are not among Southerners' favorite people. Edwards comes across as the anti-Matlock — which in most of the South isn't a good thing.

I think his surprisingly good finish in Iowa is more a reaction to all the other candidates' negativity — and Edwards's own more positive tone — than to anything of substance about Edwards himself. He will not be the nominee. He will not be on the ticket.

I still think Edwards deserves points for being Anyone But Dean, but that's hardly a unique distinction.

The Axis of Sleazy

About a month ago, I described Hartford, Connecticut, where Governor John G. Rowland is somewhere between this close and this close to impeachment, as the Little Easy, quoting political rival Bill Curry's remark that Rowland had turned Connecticut into "Louisiana with foliage."

Well, Louisiana may be considered the Big Time in political corruption, but according to this report by Corporate Crime Reporter, America's Sweatbox is only the third most corrupt of the fifty states, trailing Mississippi and North Dakota. (North Dakota?)

Criterion for ranking: number of public corruption convictions in the state over a ten-year period (1993-2002) per 100,000 population. Connecticut, on this scale, comes in at a relatively-virtuous thirty-first; Oklahoma ranks twenty-second, and the sanitary state of Nebraska is the cleanest of them all. (The District of Columbia is not rated because, well, it would go clear off the scale.)

(Muchas gracias: Brock Sides, Signifying Nothing. Of the two authors of this blog, Mr Sides is the one who doesn't live in Mississippi — though Memphis is awfully close.)

Channeling the banshee

The universe of rock and soul contains some truly memorable screams, from James Brown's opening shout in "I Got You (I Feel Good)" to Roger Daltrey's anguished shriek right before "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" in "Won't Get Fooled Again".

Howard Dean's uncontrolled emission in Iowa, the sound of a man choking on his second Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster, doesn't quite match this lofty standard, but apparently, unlike these examples, it works with a number of different songs, and, well, there's a lot to be said for versatility.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:38 PM to Almost Yogurt )
21 January 2004
From the days when TG&Y issued licenses

I'm pretty sure the Dwight David Eisenhower National Defense Interstate Highway System and Cobalt Testing Range, or whatever the hell it's officially called, was never intended for commuters; the very word "Interstate" would seem to make that clear. Still, if a road is there, you tend to use it, and I don't have any particular qualms about using it for the bulk of my newly-tripled commute.

On the other hand, I've got to wonder about that character in the purple Dodge with no license plate (he had a cardboard placard in the rear window indicating the number of the plate he presumably had lost) this morning. It was bad enough that he was in the right lane of the Northwest Distressway signaling left; eventually he figured out that he was wearing out his blinker and followed the lane up the approach to the Belle Isle Bridge and I-44, a ramp cutting the tightest possible curve to match the curvature of the bridge itself. Once in place on the freeway, he promptly exited at Western Avenue, having driven barely half a mile on I-44. Why did he bother? Admittedly, surface streets in this area border on the incomprehensible, but we're talking a few blocks at most. This can't be what General Eisenhower had in mind.

As counterpoint, the stereo burst into that fake bluegrass ditty about rotting roadkill — you know the one — and as the song began to fade, the scent of eau de polecat made its presence known.

C'mon, stink!

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:38 AM to Soonerland )
A gutsy position

You should not count Andrea Harris among the undecided:

I've already made up my mind to vote for Bush, and unless he is found pulling the entrails out of live babies to appease his Dark Masters I doubt there will be anything to make me change my mind.

This seems unlikely, unless baby entrails can be classified as a commodity and futures can be bought and sold on the Chicago Board of Trade. On the other hand, this would certainly simplify No Child Left Behind.

The price of spam

In Denmark, it's seventeen bucks.

The Danish National Consumer Agency brought spamming charges against Aircom Erhverv ApS; the firm was fined four hundred thousand crowns (about $68,000) for sending out approximately 1500 unsolicited emails.

Under the law enacted in Denmark, the minimum fine for spamming is 10,000 crowns ($1700); each and every email beyond the first hundred draws a fine of 100 crowns ($17). This is the second case won by the Danish government against a spammer.

As penalties go, this is fairly stiff, though I suspect some senders will require stronger treatment.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:36 PM to Scams and Spams )
I never Metamucil I didn't like

What determines the exact point of entry into geezerhood?

I'm pretty sure I've gone through it at least once, or at least danced around the threshold, and I don't believe it had anything to do with consumption of antacids.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go yell at those damn kids in my yard.

An enterprising Carnival

This week's Carnival of the Vanities, edition #70, is presented by PoliBlog with an eye toward providing infinite diversity in, well, a whole lot of combinations. (Dammit, Steven, I'm a blogger, not a flack.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:16 PM to Blogorrhea )
22 January 2004
The return of Ken Layne

Technically, it isn't a live album, but Fought Down (Scrub Jay SJ 395), the latest from Ken Layne and the Corvids, sounds like it could be live; there's none of the studious studio sterility that mars so many other contemporary recordings. And that's a boon, since the Corvids might be the best bar band you ever heard, except for the minor details that (1) they probably play better and (2) in your listening room you're probably not surrounded by a bunch of people half in the bag.

Then there's Ken Layne's voice, sort of what you'd get if you transposed Neil Young down a fifth and purged his every last whining overtone, then overlaid him with Tom Waits-level world-weariness. Fought Down tells stories of people who've probably downed a few fifths of their own, and it's a measure of Layne's skill that it's almost impossible to hear these tales without wondering if Layne himself might have left Sacramento on an eastbound freight, or wound up in some broad's Lincoln Town Car, or heard angry voices that not even a case of Two-Buck Chuck can silence. Lesser hands would have taken these raw materials and forged a few minutes of bathos; Ken Layne makes you think, "Hey, I know that poor son of a bitch."

If there's a set of marching orders here, it's in the first verse of "Glitter On":

innovation's so expensive
let's do this the hard way
we can't afford to fake it up right
guess we'll have to mean it

Every one of the ten tracks on Fought Down means it.

But are we having funnels yet?

The AP wire this morning reported no tornado activity in Oklahoma yesterday, the same thing it's reported since 17 May 2003.

Which means that we've gone 250 days without a single tornado, something that hasn't happened even once before in the 53 years for which records are available.

Despite this relative quiet, 2003 was actually a banner year for tornadoes; the state recorded 78 funnels last year, 44 percent above average, and 59 of them occurred in those first days of May, including an F4 storm.

Me? I'm not complaining.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to Weather or Not )
Gee, thanks

Some poor soul waded through five dozen links proffered by Yahoo! Search for the keywords desperate unattractive dating before landing here.

Whether the individual in question is desperately seeking a date despite being unattractive, or desperately seeks to date someone unattractive, or finds dating out of desperation unattractive, is impossible to determine from the search string.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:56 AM to Table for One )
The scorch passes

It's a new year, and once again we have a new health-insurance carrier at 42nd and Treadmill; CFI Care (not its real initials) is out and the Mrs Grace L. Ferguson Preferred Provider Network and Storm Door Company (not its real name) is in.

A quick look at the copays: doctor's office visit, up $5; my usual generic drugs, up $4; my usual name-brand drugs, down $2. The details, of course, determine the location of the devil. But I'm pretty sure FergNet won't have a coverage manual where the addendum pages nearly outnumber the original pages.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:21 PM to Dyssynergy )
High-intensity scamming

The ever-popular "PayPal Limited Account Access" scam has arrived at my mailbox, and its execution was a bit more amateurish than usual.

For one thing, the bogus email was sent to an address which has no PayPal account, which is pretty easy to spot. And the spoofed URLs were prodigiously lame: I mean, poypail.com? Sheesh.

The ostensible tech/billing contact for this domain is one James Matlick, 10 Oak Lane, Scarsdale, New York 10583. I do hope he enjoys the publicity.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:28 PM to Scams and Spams )
23 January 2004
What's wrong with this picture?

America Online would like me (and probably you) to try its car-shopping service. After looking at this promotional piece, I think I'll pass.

3 easy steps

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Say What? )
A little less Local

The parent company of Local Oklahoma Bank, a former S&L which ranks as the state's seventh-biggest bank, will be acquired by Texas-based International Bancshares Corp. for $385 million. This is IBC's first acquisition outside Texas; the bank, headquartered in Laredo, seeks to build a presence along the I-35 corridor. (Is Wichita next?)

The deal should close by summer; the signs will presumably be changed shortly thereafter.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 AM to Soonerland )
Vacancy at the Treasure House

Bob Keeshan, creator and star of the long-running children's TV series Captain Kangaroo, has died at the age of 76.

Keeshan, who made his TV debut on NBC's The Howdy Doody Show as the silent clown Clarabell, signed with CBS in 1955 and demonstrated for the next thirty years how he thought a kids' show ought to be done: gentle, occasional lessons, low commercial load.

Cue up Edward G. White's "Puffin' Billy," a track from an old British production library which became the Captain's first theme song, and watch the ceiling for ping-pong balls.

(Muchas gracias: Laurence Simon, Amish Tech Support.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:41 AM to Almost Yogurt )
What would Samuel Adams do?

Spirulina? Flavonoids? Do I want stuff like this in my beer?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: Hell, no.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:52 PM to Almost Yogurt )
No sale

The contract for the house across the street and one over has apparently come undone; the For Sale sign was back on the curb this afternoon, and there was a card in the mail from the owner's agent with a picture of the very place — and the price, which has somehow gone up $9000 since December, when the owner was trying to unload it himself. Needless to say, this fellow would like to sell my house, too, inasmuch as he needs "well maintained 3-4 bed homes" in the area.

Not that I'm willing to cash in my seventy-nine bucks of actual accumulated equity, of course, but I'd be very happy to see someone pay that much for a house on my block, for reasons of personal avarice.

(Donna, dearest, pay no attention to this. It is not going to happen to you — not this close to your closing date.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:48 PM to Surlywood )
Your wise men don't know how it feels

Former Jethro Tull keyboard player David Palmer would like to inform you that following successful sexual-reassignment surgery, she wishes to be known as Dee.

This presumably kills any chance of a Songs from the Wood reunion tour.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:08 PM to Dyssynergy )
24 January 2004
The welcome mat is out

Expansion Management magazine offers this none-too-startling prediction:

Many cities will reap the benefits of business expansions if 2004 is the year that the U.S. economy resumes robust growth. But cities that enjoyed an outstanding 2003, when the economy was still lagging, have set themselves up for an even better '04.

For many months, those cities have focused on shedding the effects of a sluggish economy. Last year, their efforts paid off.

And what cities are those? The magazine's sixth annual list of the 50 hottest cities for corporate expansion or relocation, based on their survey of major site-evaluation consultants, has a distinctly Southern flavor to it: Atlanta is at the top, followed by Nashville and Jacksonville. And Oklahoma's two biggest cities are no slouches either; Oklahoma City took the #9 position, and Tulsa came in 15th.

A ranking, of course, is just a number, or is it? Magazine editor Bill King, quoted in The Oklahoman, explains where it fits into the scheme:

The perception corporate executives have of various communities is extremely important. It won't ever replace such bottom-line factors as tax rates, work force quality and availability, transportation infrastructure, or real estate lease or construction costs, but it will help communities make "cut lists" they might not otherwise make.

And Tulsa, in particular, would like to make a few more lists these days; it's nice to be highly regarded, but it's even nicer to have something to show for it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:35 AM to Soonerland )
Child of the Mother Road

In 1925, a 748-foot steel bridge was constructed on a road north of Oklahoma City's Lake Overholser, just in time for the official designation of US Route 66 the following year.

Old 66, while not exactly gone, isn't what it used to be; the bridge remains, carrying traffic between the two sides of the Overholser recreation area, now dubbed "Route 66 Park". And the state's Historical Preservation Office has now nominated the bridge for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, citing its unusual construction — there are only three other bridges of this design in the state — and its association with Route 66.

I think there's at least a reasonable chance the nomination will win approval; the Register already includes one section of Route 66 at the opposite end of the county (near Arcadia), and there's a lot to be said for symmetry.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:07 AM to City Scene )
Howard you like that?

Mike over at OkieDoke has the latest poll numbers for the Oklahoma primary (week after New Hampshire, in case you'd forgotten), and Wesley Clark, last seen a close second to Howard Dean, is now out in front of the pack with a nine-point lead over...John Edwards?

Meanwhile, the Dean Machine is sputtering in fourth place, barely above Joe Lieberman. (Dear Howard: The time to peak is on election day, not ten months before.) I simply can't bring myself to get on the Clark bandwagon — basically, he strikes me as Hillary Clinton with nicer legs — which means that with a week and a half to go, I am still officially Undecided.

I did notice today, though, an actual Kucinich sticker, the first I've seen hereabouts. Yard signs will probably not start to blossom until Wednesday, after the New Hampshire results are known.

The poll was taken by SurveyUSA on the 21st and 22nd. Quoted margin of error is 4.3 percent. (The complete poll results, linked above, require Adobe Reader.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:00 PM to Soonerland )
Light, meet bushel

The vision of the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools is "to become the top-performing school district in the nation."

Posting the honor roll apparently conflicts with this vision, or at least with the vision of the district's lawyers: Tennessee's privacy laws, they say, forbid releasing any academic information unless prior permission is given for each item disclosed.

At least one Nashville principal seems happy with the restriction: Dr Steven Baum of Julia Green Elementary School, "a school for Thought and Thoughtfulness" which serves comparatively upscale students, says that "if there are some children that always make it and others that always don't make it, there is a very subtle message that was sent."

(Via Joanne Jacobs, who suggests that the motivation is the fear of lawsuits by the parents of mediocre students.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:21 PM to Dyssynergy )
25 January 2004
A new tort recipe

This editorial in The Oklahoman sums up the more rational calls for tort reform thusly:

A tort system that is out of balance in favor of defendants is not the goal of reformers. The right to pursue a legal remedy is cherished and would remain intact. Yet a system that encourages frivolous litigation, diminishes personal responsibility, enables bogus class-action settlements and favors expensive court battles over mediation is not a system that equalizes the interests of both sides in legal disputes.

Tort litigation has become an industry, not a path to justice but a path to transferring wealth from producers to litigators. The annual cost of this industry is estimated at $180 billion to $200 billion a year, of which about one-fifth goes directly to plaintiff attorneys and an untold amount to defense attorneys.

Tort reform is about putting the brakes on this industry's growth.

Some folks proclaiming themselves to be "pro-business" would argue that there shouldn't be any lawsuits permitted at all, that everything should automatically go to arbitration — and they get to pick the arbiters, of course. This is more than just unsatisfactory; it is insulting.

But we can't go on like this, with every conceivable mishap being litigated regardless of merit. Much is made of enormous awards made by juries, but they are the exception, not the rule, and they are a symptom, not the disease; even when a plaintiff loses, the cost of litigation equals an increase in the cost of living.

Ultimately, what we need is the realization by business that improving products and services is less expensive in the long run than trying to squeeze costs and quality, and an acknowledgment by consumers that sometimes it's our own damn fault. I don't think you can achieve either of these by legislation.

We're waiting for a silent O'Reilly

Can't get enough of Howling Howard Dean? Connecticut-based HeroBuilders.com is introducing a 12-inch Dean doll in two flavors: one which pontificates on matters like, say, guys in pickups with Confederate-flag decals, and one which replicates the famous (and now ubiquitous) Yeeeagh! Either one of these characters will set you back $35.95 — a version without the voice saves you $11 — and they'll ship the last week of February; dejected fans of Richard Gephardt should note that these Deanette sets are made right here in the good old USA.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:21 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Watching the gatekeeper squirm

Bruce notes that the television-network policy on so-called "advocacy ads" is inconsistent at best:

For years Adbusters has been trying to buy airtime on the major networks to promote their campaign for Buy Nothing Day, advocating a refrain from shopping on the day after Thanksgiving. They are consistently turned down because the networks say they don't run advocacy ads. Which is odd, because they do. Recently CBS announced that they would reject ads from both Moveon.org and PETA because they don't run controversial ads.

Tina Fey, at the SNL Weekend Update anchor desk, snickers:

CBS announced that it will not air Moveon.org's winning anti-Bush ad during the Super Bowl, saying they don't air so-called Issue Ads. Unless the issue is that girls are sluts for beer.

I'd say that this premise is at least as debatable as, say, the ongoing haranguing by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, and apparently so would Bruce:

[D]uring the Super Bowl we will see three advocacy ads. One that points out the dangers of tobacco use, one that advocates the responsible use of alcohol and one that warns of of the dangers of marijuana abuse. That these ads are NOT considered controversial is a matter of debate. That these are issue ads is incontrovertible. The way in which CBS draws the line is disturbing.

If it's all about the money — and when, in network television, is it not all about the money? — the solution is simple: sell the ad slots to the highest bidder and be done with it. All advertising advocates something or other; that's the whole idea. CBS does no one a service by pretending that they're above political controversy.

It's a clean machine

What made the Beatles so, well, Beatlesque was their willingness to try just about anything and make it work; they may not have many items filed under their names in the Rock and Roll Patent Office, but you'd be hard-pressed to find another band that made so many different sounds and yet was so readily recognizable in so doing. No doubt this is why most of your Beatles tribute bands stick to the existing canon; a few acts have attempted to synthesize Fab Four-ness from bits and pieces, with varying degrees of success.

Then there are the Vinyl Kings, seven Nashville pros with impeccable credentials — these guys have played at the highest level with some of the biggest acts — who dearly loved this band and wanted to pay them back with interest. After honing their sound around Music City for a while, occasionally billed as the Del Beatles (!), they committed themselves to an actual album. A Little Trip, issued on their own label, comprises thirteen songs simultaneously syncretic and idiosyncratic, the sort of thing John, Paul, George and Ringo used to do every few months.

And how does this differ from, say, the Rutles? Neil Innes was trying to pull our chains; the Vinyl Kings are aiming for our hearts. A lower level of snark, a higher probability of sneaking this into the CD changer and passing it off as an unreleased Beatles album. If you've ever sighed in mid-conversation, "Man, you should have seen them kicking Edgar Allan Poe," you've probably already bought this disc.

26 January 2004
Now this

Catherine Bosley, the Ohio newsanchor who took off her clothes [link highly unsafe for work] during her Key West vacation and gave up her job after the photos were circulated on the Net, is defended by Mike Pechar:

Although high profile media people customarily have morals clauses in their contracts, her behavior in Key West was not necessarily immoral. She took her clothes off at a regularly planned event in a location where the behavior is considered acceptable.

A pornographic film actress just recently was on the ballot for the governorship of California and the morality of her behavior didn't disqualify her. By comparison, Catherine Bosley's behavior seems tame.

I'd agree with Mike that her behavior wasn't immoral — there are times when it's darn hard to keep clothes on me [visual not safe for anyone] — but I can see how the station management might have panicked: anything that might cost a tenth of a ratings point is to be avoided no matter what.

I had originally written something here about how difficult it might be to take Bosley seriously as a newscaster if all the guys are imagining what she looks like in her birthday suit, but it occurred to me about mid-sentence that guys probably do this routinely anyway.

The demand side of the curve

Across the street and one down, there was an Open House yesterday from 2 to 4 pm. At least, those were the posted hours: at least three prospects showed up before two. The agent had gotten there half an hour early, and he was more than happy to honor the Sooner tradition.

Meanwhile, I concentrated on my yard work, perhaps with the thought that it might influence someone to think that this block was tidy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 AM to Surlywood )
Looming larger

When Toyota pulled ahead of DaimlerChrysler to become the world's third-largest automaker, there were rumblings in Detroit. There will no doubt be more of the same now that Toyota has passed Ford to take over the number-two slot.

For calendar year 2003, Toyota sold 6.78 million vehicles worldwide, a hair above Ford's 6.72 million — though the Ford total does not include approximately one million Mazdas. (Ford owns 33.4 percent of Mazda, enough to give it corporate control under Japanese law.)

Toyota is shooting for 15 percent of the world market, which would be sufficient to displace General Motors at the top; GM currently holds a 14.7-percent market share worldwide.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:55 AM to Driver's Seat )
Torked off

There's a tendency to expect our heroes to have feet of clay — we are a cynical species at times, which I believe to be a survival mechanism — but seldom do we envision that said clay might go past the ankles, past the belt-line, all the way to the scalp.

Which may or may not have something to do with how Donna finds her fondness for the Monkees more shaken than stirred.

(Addendum, 2:15 pm: Speaking of Donna, she's pulled her picture off her front page; if you're going through withdrawal symptoms as a result, you might take a peek at the logo at Wonkette.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:06 PM to Dyssynergy )
Worst. Wheels. Ever. (2.)

New poll at Forbes.com: The Worst Cars of All Time.

The nominees seem plausible enough — at least there's a Trabant — though I have some problems with the Edsel listing, inasmuch as (1) it's not a Ford (it was based on a Ford, except for the top two trim lines in Edsel's first year, which were built off a larger Mercury platform) and (2) the model years in question were not 1957-59, but 1958-60.

In Vent #260, I held up the Chevrolet Vega as an example of the Law of Unintended Consequences:

David E. Davis, Jr., last seen as the Editor Emeritus of Automobile magazine, worked on the ill-fated Chevrolet Vega project alongside the late GM stalwart Frank Winchell, and after the car was sent to the junkyard of history, Winchell told Davis: "That was the best bunch of guys I ever worked with, some of the brightest people I knew, and that still turned out to be the worst car we ever built. Not once do I remember any one of those individuals coming into the room yelling, 'Hey, you guys! I got it! Here's what we're gonna do! We're gonna build a really shitty little car!'"

The best-laid plans, and all that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:21 PM to Driver's Seat )
27 January 2004
It's a flood, I tell you

Yesterday's gratuitous mention of an unclad anchorperson garnered four hundred or so hits via Blogdex, pushing the daily total to 1,020, almost twice the daily average around here and the third-highest total ever.

Undoubtedly there's a lesson to be learned here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:35 AM to Blogorrhea )
Book 'em

Georgie Rasco of the Oklahoma City Literacy Council tosses up this startling statistic:

A publishing industry study showed that from April 1999 to March 2001, six out of 10 U.S. households did not buy a single book. "Unfortunately, reading may therefore someday be engaged in by a small minority of people who are regarded as eccentrics by their fellow citizens," states the American Booksellers Association.

Given the vast quantities of books being purchased in this country, obviously some of us are taking up the slack — but the sixty percent who don't buy books aren't benefiting in any substantial way from the forty percent who do.

I try to avoid getting worried about this Great Divide, lest I come up with some bizarre notions that involve, say, the government conspiring with the pharmaceutical companies to keep us dumb and drugged.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Well, I never been to Spain

Said the straight man to the late man,
"Where have you been?"
"I've been here and I've been there
And I've been in between."

— Pete Sinfield, "I Talk to the Wind" (music by Ian McDonald)
from In the Court of the Crimson King: An Observation by King Crimson

I've been to the red states, anyway

Visited States by Douwe Osinga

A boy named...well, it isn't Sue

Part of the joy of collecting music is the detective work.

Of course, sometimes you get caught seriously off-guard.

(You'll have to read through the comments for the whole story, or as much of it as is actually available.)

Look, a talking school!

One of the evergreen pieces from Frosty Troy's The Oklahoma Observer is the "I Am Your Public School" essay. While the Observer has no Web presence, the essay can be read at the site of the Oklahoma Education Association.

Yesterday, Cam Edwards opined that "I Am Your Public School", in his words, is "due a good fisking."

Chris O'Donnell obliges.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:29 PM to Almost Yogurt )
28 January 2004
A little less spongeworthy

His real name, we are told, is Todd Clem, but the world — or at least the world which listens to shock-jock radio — knows him as Bubba the Love Sponge, and his zany antics/vulgar emissions (choose one) are going to cost his employer three-quarters of a million dollars.

I've never heard Bubba — obviously this isn't the sort of thing that is going to penetrate Oklahoma airwaves (we don't get Howard Stern either) — but I don't think my life is any poorer because of this lack.

Clear Channel Radio CEO John Hogan issued the following statement:

We work hard every day to entertain, not offend our listeners. None of us defend or encourage indecent content — it's simply not part of our corporate culture.

On one level, I'm inclined to believe Hogan; Top 40 radio and its fragmented successors have always been somewhat conservative, if only because the desire to reach the maximum number of listeners demands programming to encourage a minimum number of tune-outs. Clearly Bubba's audience sticks by him. Still, it's not like Bubba's never been in trouble before, and should the management decide he's more trouble than he's worth, they'll leave him on the shore soaking up unemployment benefits.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 AM to Overmodulation )
Quick, get me rewrite

Actor and "semiotician" (okay, if you say so) Erik Todd Dellums has a major problem with Anthony Mingella's film of Charles Frazier's novel Cold Mountain: it's not about slavery. It's set during the Civil War Between The States For Southern Independence; therefore, reasons Dellums, it should be telling the story of the plight of black Americans. Never mind that this isn't the story Mingella — or, for that matter, Frazier — was trying to tell. We're talking big-H History here:

Could you imagine The Pianist or Schindler's List ever being made with but a few seconds of the reality of the Holocaust? Of course not. A film with such a gross misrepresentation would never make it past page one of a screenplay!

Come to think of it, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre really should have contained scenes critical of logging, and there isn't one mention of gas chambers anywhere in The Producers.

Dellums' current project is Camp D.O.A., for which the casting call requested, among other standard-issue characters, a "Caucasian male, 18-25, hip-hop type." How dare they have some white guy stick his nose into black culture?

(Via Ravenwood's Universe)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:27 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The king of spayed

That would be State Senator Sam Helton, a Lawton Democrat, who has proposed a bill (Senate Bill 1130, for those keeping score) dubbed the "Dog and Cat Ownership Responsibility Act," which intends to make sure you have your pets neutered by charging you if you don't.

Under SB 1130, if you expect to own an intact male of either species aged six months or older — or an intact female four months or older — you must have a license from the State Department of Health, which will cost you $100 per animal, per annum. Should you be so unfortunate as to have an actual whelping on site, you'll need a Noncommercial Breeder's License at the same price, with a maximum of three critters. If you deliberately breed these animals, as a hobby or to earn your daily bread, the state will charge you $1000 a year.

I have no doubt that this sort of thing would cut down on the number of strays and such which wind up in animal shelters. On the other hand, so would drowning all puppies and kittens at birth, which no one is recommending. Yet.

The American Kennel Club, for its part, is having a cow.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:04 PM to Soonerland )
A three-finger salute

David Bradley, the IBM tech who devised the Ctrl-Alt-Delete key combination for freeing up a frozen PC, is retiring after twenty-eight years with Big Blue.

He is modest about his accomplishment: "I may have invented it, but Bill [Gates] made it famous."

[Pause while Macintosh owners snicker.]

(Muchas gracias: Eugene Volokh.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:53 PM to PEBKAC )
Carnival seventy-one

Seventy-one, you'll remember, is sixty-nine with two...uh, never mind. Forget I said it. Instead, go read this week's Carnival of the Vanities, hosted by Sean Hackbarth's The American Mind, the original (and still the greatest) weekly roundup of bloggy goodness, made even greater this week by a total absence of stuff by me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:12 PM to Blogorrhea )
29 January 2004
Ed Anger buys the farm

Eddie Clontz, once (and maybe future — who knows?) editor of the Weekly World News, has died in Salt Springs, Florida.

In 1979, the National Enquirer went legit, so to speak, and ponied up the bucks for color presses and whatnot; the owners wanted to get their money's worth out of the old gear, though, so the Weekly World News was created as a drain for stories not considered good enough for the Enquirer. Clontz, previously a staffer at the St. Petersburg Times, was hired in 1981 to spruce up the old clunker, and he hit upon the notion of printing stuff that no one could possibly believe. (Just in case you thought this was a New York Times innovation.)

The WWN, by any conventional standard, is an anti-newspaper, and Clontz, by all accounts, had a splendid time keeping it that way. His tiny staff of mostly non-journalists — for instance, staff writer R. Neale Lind is perhaps better known for writing a gorgeously sappy love song back in the Sixties — created a series of bogus bylines and recurring characters that moved half a million copies every seven days. And they got paid well for doing it, too: Clontz once observed that "we have to pay them a lot, because we are, in effect, asking them to end their careers. We're the French Foreign Legion of journalism."

Eddie Clontz was fifty-six years old, not quite the same age as Elvis Presley at his passing. (Elvis, according to the WWN, died on 14 May 1993, in Nashville, of complications from diabetes.) His paper, of course, will go on forever, or at least so long as people wonder about Bat Boy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Dumping Dubya

It's the Democrats' fondest dream, even ahead of confiscating all the guns in the country and using them to shoot holes in all the sport-utility vehicles. The reliably right-wing Spoons, however, thinks the Republicans are the ones who really need to focus on replacing George W. Bush:

Clinton is pretty much the perfect example of why conservatives need to defeat George Bush this year. Remember, that immediately following Clinton's 8 years of relatively conservative Democrat-ish-ness, the Democrats put up a candidate that was virtually a carbon copy. Now, imagine yourself as a liberal Democrat in 1996, upset with Clinton's rightward drift. You could have argued (correctly, as history would judge), that electing a "conservative Democrat" like Clinton would only postpone the day when you'd have a chance at true liberal government. You would point out that, if Clinton were re-elected, the party would surely run another just like him in 2000. That person would either win, or would be defeated by an awful Republican. Either way, (your argument would go), a vote for Clinton in '96 would be a vote for, at a minimum, 8 more years of "conservative" government. From your perspective, then, wouldn't it have been better to see Bob Dole elected in '96, so the liberal wing of the party could rebel and put up a Howard Dean or a John Kerry in 2000?

The same is true for conservatives, now. Elect Bush in '04, and we've got a liberal Republican for four more years. Worse, we're almost assured of getting a similarly liberal candidate in '08 (as Republicans are not going to run against the record of a successful two-term predecessor from the same party). Accordingly, if Bush wins in '04, then '08 will be a contest between another liberal Republican, and a Democrat. Either way, a Bush victory means no conservative presence in the White House until 2012, at the earliest, and perhaps not until 2016 (which is really too far ahead to think about).

Conversely, if we elect Kerry now, for example, then the Republicans will spend the next four years being a conservative resistance. This will have the effect of keeping the Democrat President from governing too far to the left. It will also mean a decent shot of electing a reasonably conservative President in '08. That's why I won't be voting for Bush in '04, and that's why I think conservatives, as a whole, will be better off if Bush loses.

This actually makes a certain amount of sense, though it's not clear whether Machiavelli or Rube Goldberg is the primary influence. It depends on two premises: that Bush isn't all that conservative, which is pretty much true, and that the Democrat to be named who is supposed to defeat Bush won't be substantially worse, which is, I think, highly arguable.

Still, there is a lot of rumbling to Bush's right: social conservatives tend to think of him as insufficiently motivated, and fiscal conservatives are appalled at his profligate spending. I don't believe, though, that most of them are disgusted enough to pull the lever for a Democrat; third parties, notably the Libertarians, should pick up a fair number of protest votes, but I can't imagine any of this year's Democrats, who range from leftist to really leftist, getting any kind of boost from the right wing.

I have to admit, though, that the Spoons plan is ingenious, and surely it will appeal to some folks on the right: after all, what could be more conservative than delayed gratification?

Just sign the papers, young lady

Right about now, right around Philadelphia, Donna is handing over most of her life savings in exchange for a stack of papers this high, a set of keys, and a mortgage that looks for all the world like the federal deficit.

Remember that old shtick about "This is the first day of the rest of your life"? When I did this back in November, the very moment I turned the key for the first time, I knew that's where I was: square one on a whole new path. I have a feeling she's going to see it much the same way.

Buyer's remorse? Barring actual structural catastrophe — say, the roof deciding to come down and pay the floor a visit — it ain't gonna happen.

Now to wangle an invitation.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:48 AM to Common Cents )
Out of area

This is what shows up on Caller ID when somebody is trying to sell you something.

Or anyway, what used to show up; the new Federal rules governing telemarketing require, as of today, that an actual phone number be sent, and, if their telephone-service provider is so equipped, the name of the firm calling in.

Three calls today to my landline, as follows:

11:59 am: No name given, but an 800 number. (I was subsequently able to identify the number as coming from Fleet's credit-card operation.)

1:20 pm: Local number, identified as The Oklahoma Publishing Company, presumably selling subscriptions to The Oklahoman. (Calls from OPUBCO have been consistently identified as such since I got this number in early December.)

5:23 pm: Listed as "Anonymous Call", presumably using a block.

About once a week, I get a call from a "local" number with a 555 prefix. (Yes, I know, but that's what it says.) I once tried calling it back, and was told by the intercept operator that the call could not be completed. I will shed no tears if this practice has been outlawed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:51 PM to Dyssynergy )
30 January 2004
A little sugar on it

Nothing defines "guilty pleasure" quite so, well, definitively as a taste for that much-mocked genre of mutant pop known derisively as "bubblegum", and while I suppose I ought to feel a twinge of embarrassment even mentioning this stuff while next door Lynn is talking about Mozart's vocal works, I'm a firm believer in pressing ahead.

Besides, the difference between the forgotten Joey Levine and the renowned Joey Ramone isn't as pronounced as you might think. Crank up a compilation of Buddah bubblegum tunes and follow it with some Nick Lowe-esque pure pop for people ten years later, and you'll hear much the same thing: voices just serviceable enough to get the tune out, drums mixed way up, and your basic three-chords-no-waiting rock and roll.

A lot of this stuff goes ignored these days, partly because of the demands of political correctness — don't expect to hear "Indian Giver" by the 1910 Fruitgum Company ever again — and partly because of baby boomers' tendency to rewrite their memories in a desperate effort to preserve some measure of mystique; you'd almost think the people would have had enough of silly love songs, fercryingoutloud. But remember that rock and roll is founded upon noises like "Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom", and if you insist that your particular musical tastes demand something a little more artistic, a little more timeless, I'm going to assume that you spend your spare time listening to Mozart vocal works. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Measured response

If I didn't know better, I'd swear that Jodie Allen of US News and World Report, part of the panel this morning on The Diane Rehm Show, said that the WMD intelligence obtained by the US before the invasion of Iraq was "overexaggerated."

And if I'd been paying closer attention to the show, I might have fired off an email asking how much exaggeration was considered appropriate.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:07 AM to Dyssynergy )
A load of crap

Hardly the first time you've seen that here, eh?

But this time I speak literally. Wild at Bleeding Brain, back from his trip to Africa, describes a rather distasteful practice of thuglings in an unnamed city (from the context, I assume Nairobi):

My old man seemed nervous and excited to have his first son back. He sat in the front seat of the car pointing out landmarks in the city as we sped past.

He warned me to keep the windows of the car up because of a popular blackmailing technique used by street urchins.

As a person sat at an intersection, the thieves would lean into the car holding a mass of feces. The occupant of the car would be advised to surrender a wallet and watch. Failure to do so would result in the feces being mashed into the occupant's face.

Now that's an incentive program.

Two parts of Wild's report from Africa have been posted, and I hope there's more to come, not so much because I want to hear about methods of street crime in Kenya, but because the country — indeed, the whole of Africa — seems as remote to me as Neptune, and more often than not the viewpoints filtering through Big Media strike me as tightly canned and loaded down with axes to be ground.

By contrast, Kim Du Toit's tales of South Africa are always compelling, even when they venture into the scary stuff, and I think Wild's stories will be just as worthwhile.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:29 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Working the room on the Lone Prairie

For a state that will almost certainly cast its electoral votes for George W. Bush, Oklahoma is getting a pretty substantial amount of attention from the Democratic challengers.

Not that we care, particularly; these guys are not only from out of town, they're from off the wall. John Edwards claims a "great cultural connection" with the Sooner state, apparently because some of it is still rural. Wesley Clark, it appears, can quote Scripture. And Joe Lieberman implored us to pay no attention to those Iowa and New Hampshire things. Believe me, Joe, I tried my best.

(Via Wonkette)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:07 PM to Soonerland )
31 January 2004
The reptiles of redistricting

A reader (name not supplied) sent this to The Dallas Morning News, where it appeared in the editorial blog (30 January, 11:53 am):

[T]he software used by the merry mapmakers to draw up these districts, urban and otherwise, is so incredibly exacting, to the nth degree, that urban districts are drawn down to literally the very block, the very house needed to create the desired outcome in an election. The software knows who voted in which primary at each parcel of land, whether the block or residence in question went repub or dem last time, whether it is owned or rental, single-family or multi, etc, etc, etc.

The suspense, the fun, the anticipation of election day has by and large gone the way of the 10 cent cup of coffee. Only the few states that do redistricting via a non-partisan commission still have competitive congressional races.

Interestingly, the Founding Fathers envisioned the Senate being stable and the House being much more in flux (thus the six year term vs. two year term). What has happened in our modern world through partisan gerrymandering has actually flipped that notion. A House district is now often a ticket to permanence while a full statewide Senate race can be much more volatile.

Yea, verily. Although, to coin a phrase, there may be an ethnic minority hiding in this particular woodpile: as the nation becomes increasingly urbanized, more and more House districts will be comprised of more-or-less-adjacent city neighborhoods — and city neighborhoods change a lot faster than do rural areas.

Final curtain

The life of the Redskin Theater on Oklahoma City's south side was neither remarkably long nor especially happy. Shortly after it opened in 1941, there were fights in the parking lot, reputedly instigated by union men from downtown movie houses who objected to competition in the suburbs. Things picked up after World War II, and the Redskin did a fairly steady business for the next couple of decades, fading as attention shifted to the suburban multiplexes. The theater was sold in 1978, and sustained itself for a while by catering to the soiled-raincoat crowd, but by the early 90s it was dead.

And now it's gone; while the Redskin likely did meet the general specifications for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, it was in a neighborhood which the city tends to ignore, so no one paid a whole lot of attention when the building was razed this week to make room for yet another used-car lot. Of half a dozen old southside theaters, only the Knob Hill, later the home of the Oklahoma Opry, and the Winchester Drive-In remain.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:20 AM to City Scene )
In a mellow mood

The regulars among you will perhaps recognize the name of composer/pianist Vicki Logan, of whose first CD I said this back in November '01:

There used to be a radio format called "beautiful music" which somehow managed to find the blandest orchestral recordings possible. Chasing Dreams would never fit in; it is neither orchestral nor bland. Quiet, yes; soothing, maybe; but there's an intensity here that simply won't retreat into the background. I don't think David Lanz needs to be looking over his shoulder or anything, but if your listening environment can accommodate contemporary piano music that breathes, rather than merely exhales, clear a space for Vicki Logan.

Some space was evidently cleared; her second collection, Finding My Way, peaked at #19 on New Age Reporter's airplay chart in 2003 and finished #82 for the entire year, an impressive showing by a relative newcomer, and one track therefrom, "Enchanted Winds", spent five months on top of the request list at The Service Formerly Known As Spinner.

She sent me a note with her third disc, The Ride:

I'm still going strong and I think getting better as I continue.

I'll never be "rich and famous" but that's okay with me. Being able to do what I love, pay a few bills and find great friends is what success is all about to me.

Can't argue with that in the least.

In the meantime, The Ride is a little more experimental, a little more colorful, in some places even a little more danceable, a mix which very much fits into my idea of what this genre (I once called it "scenic") should be: gentle, but never soporific. Perhaps the most interesting track here is "An Engagement with Time", with dueling sax and guitar over the backbeat, evoking the spirit of Perry Mason in a Town Without Pity; I'd love to hear this behind the 36-hour forecast on The Weather Channel, just to perk up the parade of digits.

"Persistence and patience, hard work and desire," says Vicki Logan. "I guess that's what it takes."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:12 PM to Tongue and Groove )
Right before "secondary"

This week's Oklahoma Gazette has brief writeups of the Democratic contenders in Tuesday's primary, and the last line of each is an official campaign phone number, which prompted a little bit of research from this desk, which in turn prompted a raised eyebrow or two, for the following reasons:

  • Three of the candidates don't have local phone numbers, because, so far as I can determine from their official Web sites, they don't have campaign offices in this state. Sharpton and LaRouche I can understand — budgetary limitations and all — but John Kerry? And at least Al and Lyndon will pick up the tab if you call them on their toll-free lines; Kaptain Ketchup gives a number in D.C. that will probably cost you.

  • Two of the candidates — Dean and Kucinich — have offices in the same building (NE 40th and Lincoln Blvd.) that houses the state Democratic Party. How did they wangle that deal?

  • Clark and Lieberman have downtown offices in the general vicinity of Automobile Alley. I have no idea where Edwards' command post is, though I give him props for having what appears to be voice-over-IP phone service, thereby saving a few bucks if he needs to call, say, John Kerry's D.C. office.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:15 PM to Soonerland )
Paging Greg Focker

The lovely and talented Weetabix addresses this open letter to a guy with a Green Bay vanity plate on his truck:

I realize that "PACKER" was probably already taken when you went to the DMV and maybe you panicked, standing there at the counter with the million mouth breathers waiting in line behind you, but did you realize that by putting "PCKER" on your license plate, everyone is calling you Pecker?

I'm surprised the pckerheads in Wisconsin actually issued a plate with this particular combination of letters; a lot of states would bar anything that even vaguely suggested something phallic. (My own plate, which is three letters, three digits, no big deal, provoked Big Laffs in the sanitary state of New Jersey; evidently they've learned to read between the lines even when nothing is there.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:07 PM to Say What? )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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