1 January 2005
All around the town
The axes are Sheridan and Santa Fe. Neither of these is exactly a major thoroughfare Sheridan runs only three and a half miles or so, and doesn't lie along a section line, while Santa Fe disappears entirely downtown but these are the avenues that determine the quadrants of Oklahoma City and its nearer suburbs.
I've lived in all four of those quadrants, which is not especially unique an experience, nor does it confer any particular wisdom upon me. But it perhaps does give me some sympathy for LilRed's defense of the southside:
I had no idea that we were seen as "southside trash" until I went to college and met kids from north OKC. And they were not at all discreet in letting me know how they felt about southsiders. I even dated a guy during college who, after introducing me to his father at a nice northside country club dinner, told me later that his dad thought I was a "great girl for a southsider."
What? That's the equivalent of saying, "Oh, she's pretty ... for a fat girl." Or, "He's a handsome black guy."
Another guy I went out with kept going on and on about how impressed he was when he went with me to my ten-year high school reunion. Well, what did he think? That just because I went to a southside high school that all of my classmates would be knuckle-draggers?
Since I never went to school here, I never got to see this particular phenomenon myself, but I suspect similar divisions exist in any town big enough to have two high schools. In fact, they can exist within the same school: I graduated from a, um, "faith-based" high school in Charleston, South Carolina, which drew most of its students from the prosperous areas east and west of downtown, while those of us who hailed from the comparatively-impoverished north side were few and far between and fairly defensive about it. (This is not, incidentally, why my romance with a westside girl was doomed, but that's yet another story.)
I am always amazed at how people talk about the "difference" between north and south Oklahoma City. Granted, there are areas south that are seedy, I get that. But there are seedy areas of north OKC as well. But somehow this seems to be overlooked.
Not by me. I live here, and I have to drive through them on a regular basis. And it's been that way for some time: Roy P. Stewart, in his legendary city history Born Grown, published way back in 1974, complained that "May Avenue, especially from Northwest Thirtieth on north, is a glaring neon alley." The neon has largely given way to plastic signage, but the glare is still there. Lincoln north of the Capitol is a wasteland. And I travel NW 10th west of I-44 only at gunpoint.
What's going to be interesting is how the City Council ward alignments shuffle after the 2010 Census. The 2000 numbers put the old southside troika Wards 3, 4, and 5 essentially out of business: Ward 3 now extends as far north as NW 36th, and Wards 6 and 7 reach as far south as SW/SE 44th. Ward 6's Ann Simank is certainly aware of spreading blight: last spring, she called for a reexamination of the city's Master Plan, saying that blight, far from an inner-city issue, was creeping southward toward I-240 and northward toward NW 63rd.
As I suggested earlier, what the southside needs is the kind of clout that near-northwest neighborhoods have developed over the last decade or so. The South Oklahoma City Council of Neighborhoods should not be the red-headed stepchild to the Neighborhood Alliance. Capitol Hill may not be Crown Heights, but it's not Calcutta either.
An insanely great deal
Could Apple talk me into an iMac if they dropped the price to $500 or so?
I think they could. It wouldn't necessarily supplant the succession of Wintel boxes that have been cluttering up my desktop, but it would give me an opportunity to play with some Mac-specific stuff for once, and it would give me some experience on yet another platform, which is always useful in case of, let us say, life-changing incidents.
Besides, a low-end Macintosh is hardly shameful; I've never owned a high-powered machine of any description, unless you were overly impressed by the Commodore 128 in 1986. (Then again, I did shoehorn 1.6 MB of RAM and 60 MB worth of hard drive into a lowly 10-MHz XT clone once upon a time.)
Saturday spottings (southern exposure)
First, a housekeeping note: The Soonerland and Spottings categories were re-merged, and things that were deemed OKC-specific were then broken out into a new category called City Scene. If you were goofy enough to bookmark any of these, consider yourself warned.
The emphasis around here lately has been on the city's southside, so that's where I started today's jaunt. Along SW 15 east of Portland, the earthmovers have started clearing the way for the new Dell Business Services Center. The empty space, occasionally interrupted by mounds of dirt, looks a lot more impressive at street level than it does from the I-44 bridge over the Oklahoma River.
I took Portland south to SW 44th, which is one of the streets I used to hit regularly when I lived out that way but haven't seen much of in the past couple of decades. From the looks of things, I haven't missed much. I did perk up when I saw that Penn 44 Lanes, my bowling alley of choice in those days, was apparently still around. And I was slightly disturbed by the (probably accurate) signage at a body-piercing place identified as "House of Pain."
I swung down Western and headed west on 74th, where a large mound of broken concrete and bent steel sat in the parking lot of what once was a Wal-Mart. The upscale center planned for this area seems an awfully long way off.
Back up Pennsylvania, and then east on 59th, which I remembered as being a traffic nightmare, especially around Blackwelder. This memory, at least, was correct. And I detoured into the residential area to see if I could find the old rock house where my younger sister had lived circa 1978. It was still there, and it looked even smaller than I remembered it; the official documents report 785 square feet, a number rather higher than I expected to find, and a recent (August) sale for $20,000. It may be uninspiring, I reminded myself, but it's somebody's home.
I returned up Walker, where starting around SW 29th the most common phrase seems to be Nosotros financiamos "We finance." Same signs that were there thirty years ago, just translated into Spanish.
And on the way home, I took Harvey through Heritage Hills, where I saw something I'd never seen before: a mother/daughter (I assume) team on a Segway, whirring along at a brisk 12 mph or so. It almost looked like fun. Not that you'll ever get me on one of those contraptions.
It's better than that; they're dead, Jim
Well, okay, they aren't yet, but if they croak off in 2005, they'll score me points in the IFOC Dead Pool.
Inasmuch as I didn't score so much as one freaking point last year, I'm sending most of the same still-undead losers back for another chance. My roster, from oldest to, um, less old:
Sargent Shriver (born 9 January 1915), former Democratic vice-presidential candidate
*Some sources say 1923.
And if you've seen this thing and wondering if it's legit, please be advised that I won a prize in the '03 pool and received it promptly.
2 January 2005
We also like pork rinds
The Los Angeles Times looks ahead to the Orange Bowl, and explains how it is that football is such a passion in this state:
The devotion reaches 75 years back to the Dust Bowl, dark winds that ravaged much of the state, desperate images etched into the popular conscience by John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Not long after that historic drought ended, the rains coming in 1939, Bud Wilkinson arrived as coach of the Sooners. Over the next two decades, his teams won three national championships and, during one stretch, went undefeated for nearly four seasons.
If you read that with a straight face, you'd almost think that Bud had been hiding out in Minnesota, where he'd played college ball, and waited for the weather to improve before he'd show up in Norman.
But Los Angeles, given its position at the far end of Route 66, still believes itself to be the Promised Land, and God help us poor, benighted sons of Tom Joad. As Chase McInerney grumbles:
According to the L.A. Times, even Oklahoma's gung-ho love for college football has its roots in the destitute hellhole of the Dust Bowl and its era of toothless, gangly, bug-eyed, backwoods, mattress-strapped to-the-top-of-the-jalopy Okies.
How often do you think a newspaper or magazine story about Dallas, Texas, dredges up the Kennedy assassination? How often do articles about modern-day California delve into the 1906 San Francisco earthquake? When will mainstream media be able to mention Oklahoma without a reflex nod to the Dust Bowl?
Actually, there are surprisingly many grassy-knoll references in East Coast coverage of Dallas, and for pretty much the same reason the Times harps on Steinbeck's version of Oklahoma: they don't know anything else about the damn place. It's convenient shorthand, and it fills up column space, and their local audiences, having heard exactly the same stereotypes all their lives, sit back and nod, "Yes, that's true."
Not that we've never been complicit in these stereotypes: longtime OU President George Lynn Cross once quipped to a legislative budget committee that "I would like to build a university of which the football team can be proud," a statement intended to reflect Cross' frustration with the appropriations process, but one which has gone into the record books implying more regard for pigskins than for sheepskins.
Besides, "Boomer Sooner," despite being basically the same song as Yale's "Boola Boola," is a lot more creative.
You are ----> here
A sound: loudest at first, then softer, then softer still, then finally gone. In technical terms, the wave diminishes in amplitude until eventually it's lost, faded into the background noise, indistinguishable from any other random quantity of air.
My father has always believed, perhaps with a nod to Zeno, that "finally gone" is never finally achieved, that under the right set of circumstances, or with the right set of tools, that sound can be reclaimed, amplified, restored to its original loudness: it never really went away to begin with.
I live in what the city calls an Urban Conservation District: there exists a zoning overlay which prescribes that changes to properties must be consonant with the character of the district, if not necessarily the actual building materials, that existed when it was built. Ideally, you should be able to turn off the main road and fall right into post-World War II America.
All this is by way of saying that the past never goes away. We have a path, a timeline, from which we do not deviate, but so does everything else. What we see as the present is simply the intersection of all those timelines: our own, those of our friends and families, the homes in which we live, the forests that were supplanted by the cities that now contain most of those homes. I'm not saying it's possible to walk up my street and suddenly jump back into 1948 the first Honda or Toyota you see would likely catch you in mid-jump and send you back where you came from but I am saying that an awful lot of 1948 remains, even in 2005.
The idea that different planes of time can co-exist is something talked about in science fiction novels, but taken seriously by very few. I don't know anything about quantum physics. I can understand very little of the mechanics of theories put forth on this subject. For me, it's not a matter of equations and calculations. It's just feeling. It's the knowing that something existed long before you did and lived and breathed on the very spot you are standing on now. Who is to say it is that January 2, 1894, 1900 or 1776 does not still linger there? Perhaps reaching those dates from 2005 is a scientific impossibility, but that doesn't mean they aren't here, unfolding right on top of us, unseen.
And, in the other direction, that something will exist long after we do: when our own timeline is terminated, interrupted, rerouted, whatever, the world goes on. Two thousand five will still exist in 2525, if man is still alive, if woman can survive.
We may not think of ourselves as time travelers, yet truly we are, even though we seem to be limited to a single route at a specified speed (one day equals, well, one day). And the fact that we are moving means that each present, each intersection with all those other timelines, is necessarily different. It's this very multiplicity of intersections that makes it impossible, so far as we know, to alter the past, but it's that same multiplicity that makes it possible, in fact necessary, to alter the future.
I've fretted before about the sad state of Heritage Park Mall, on East Reno west of Air Depot. The humongous Simon Property Group, which also owns Penn Square and two Tulsa malls, seemingly had lost interest in the place, and the number of tenants kept dwindling.
Simon has now officially bailed out. Dillard's and Sears will retain their equity in their respective stores, and the vacant Montgomery Ward store was spun off separately. I know nothing about Dan Dill's DDDD Corporation, which bought the mall for the fire-sale price of $4.1 million, except that it recently sold two Tuneup Masters locations in the city for $900,000, and that it's set up a limited-liability company to own the mall. Leasing will be handled by Sperry-Van Ness of Irvine, California, which opened an office in downtown Oklahoma City in 2004.
Logically, the first step will be a facelift, probably with a new logo. For the city of Midwest City, which has been spending big bucks to improve its facilities about $20 million went into the Atkinson Plaza replacement project this has to be some sort of good news.
3 January 2005
A case for doing without
"Your modern girl," wrote columnist Cynthia Heimel, "is often pondering the perils of birth control. As well she should be, since each and every method sucks."
This observation of hers dates from the early 1980s, but after looking at the Consumer Reports "Guide to Contraception" (February 2005; you'll have to be a subscriber to read it online), I'm inclined to agree: there is indeed a high level of suckage inherent in the process.
The highlight of the piece is bannered "Your comparative guide to contraceptives": it's one of those trusty CR charts, just like the one you look at when you're buying a used car. "Between the polar opposites of contraception, abstinence (0 percent failure rate) and doing nothing to prevent pregnancy (85 percent failure rate), there are myriad choices." Indeed there are. And to make it interesting, where there is the possibility of variability, two failure rates are cited for a method: one for when used "perfectly," another for when used "typically." Some of the users, I conclude, you really have to wonder about.
Each method, apart from the two listed in the banner, is listed with a failure rate or two, price, usage notes, "how it works," advantages and disadvantages. For most methods, the list of disadvantages is longer than the list of advantages, and when there are two failure rates, the variance is striking: the diaphragm, for instance, fails six percent of the time when used according to instructions, and 16 percent of the time in Real Life. These are not wonderful odds, yet this is one of the methods with the fewest drawbacks.
When I was married, we went through a number of these concoctions and contraptions, and didn't much like any of them: the Pill made her ill, various IUDs were rejected as too intrusive, and marketing efforts notwithstanding, no one, I submit, actually likes condoms. With the second child on the way, we decided on sterilization, and of the two possible paths, one was clearly easier.
While this has worked out well enough, I suppose, it's still a fairly drastic step. Then again, any of these methods should be considered drastic: having children is presumably not everyone's goal in life, but whether we like it or not, the biological reason we have the sexual drive we do is to produce those very children, and biology doesn't take being thwarted lying down, so to speak.
Oh, yes, they did mention abortion in a sidebar. It was, I think, a reasonable assessment of the actual process, though I'd question their definition of "fatality risk."
We don't need no stinkin' feedback
The Tulsa Tribune had a feature called "Call the Editor," where readers got to call, if not necessarily the Editor, certainly the Editor's answering machine, and a sampling of what they had to say was published in a subsequent edition. When the Tribune was killed off in 1992, the Tulsa World picked up the feature, which ran through 2004. It was an archaic system, I suppose, in this age of email and blogging, but it was open to everyone.
The World has now discontinued "Call the Editor," and their announcement to that effect [link requires Adobe Reader] is available in an annotated version by Michael Bates, as follows (Bates' notes in italics):
Since 1992, when The Tulsa Tribune ceased publication, Call the Editor has been a mainstay on A-2 of the Tulsa World.
We believe that it is time to take a more positive approach to commentary in our community. [We are sick and tired of all of you telling us how rotten the paper is.] Despite careful editing [censorship], we believe and many of you have told us that Call the Editor has become extremely negative and divisive within our communities. [Our feelings are wounded. Get the iodine.] Call the Sports Editor, which appeared in the Sports section, also has been discontinued.
We still want to hear from you and give you an opportunity to express your views on everything from the Tulsa World to the world at large. However, we ask that you write your comments to our Opinion section. [That way we can sit on them for three weeks until no one can remember the article to which you responded.]
There, you'll be given the opportunity to put your name with your comments and stand up for your point of view. [If we agree with it.] Editorial Pages Editor Ken Neal plans to run more of your letters [through the shredder], and we look forward to carrying on Call the Editor's history of commentary in those letters.
The Oklahoman, incidentally, will take letters through their Web site: click on Opinions, then use the tab for "Send Letter."
Do the Geneva Conventions apply?
Well, I started physical therapy today, and had I any secrets to tell, I'd have talked. In fact, I'd have yelled.
Actually, it wasn't as horrible as it could have been, considering. But, as any woman will testify, men have a low threshold of pain, and mine is lower than usual these days.
The big issue is range of knee movement. I'm managing around 95 degrees, which isn't particularly awful, but what they'd like to see is more like 130, and as a practical matter, the last increment of performance is always the hardest to achieve. (The other knee does 125 and up with relative ease.) So now I have a series of exercises to perform which should improve the range, and indeed at the end of the session I tested out at around 102.
Of necessity, deep-knee bends are going to be rather shallow for a while, but if I can do all these repetitions on schedule, things should gradually improve, though not to the extent that I'm going to be looking forward to a 10k run.
Instructions to the novice
I've already posted a template explaining how to post like me.
If your aspirations are higher than that and if they aren't, what's wrong with you? here's a really efficient template from Beautiful Atrocities.
4 January 2005
We wuz screwed
The Oklahoma Supreme Court has a Chief Justice and a Vice Chief Justice, who serve two years in these titles. After the two-year term expires, the Chief Justice drops back to the bottom of the list, and everyone else moves up, the Vice Chief Justice becoming Chief.
At least, that was the rule until last fall, when the Court changed its rule to allow the Chief Justice to serve a second consecutive term as Chief. Marion Opala, the Vice Chief Justice, has filed suit against Chief Justice Joseph Watt and the other Supremes, charging that the rule change was intentionally discriminatory and based largely on Opala's age he's 83.
According to the suit, "defendants participated in, condoned and ratified the denial of equal protection toward plaintiff," and what's more, "as [a] result of the rule change, plaintiff has been deprived of the opportunity to earn additional income and to achieve the prestige of the position of chief justice."
Senate Bill 1075, passed last year, set the annual salary of a Supreme Court Justice at $113,571, with an additional $4000 going to the Chief Justice, effective July 2005.
We're sending our love down a well
It began in 1984 with the godawful caterwauling of "Do They Know It's Christmas," a project by erstwhile Boomtown Rat Bob Geldof to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia. Geldof's heart was in the right place, but the actual record, credited to "Band Aid," written by Geldof and Ultravox's Midge Ure, produced by Ure and Trevor Horn, split the difference between naïve and nauseating. "There won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime," indeed.
The most telling thing about the Band Aid project, though, is that it immediately spawned an imitator. "We Are the World", credited to "USA for Africa," managed levels of insipidness Bob Geldof never dreamed of, the result of having assembled an all-star cast and giving them not much to work with although it's a whole lot better than most of Michael Jackson's or Lionel Richie's later material.
So I view the possibility of a Tsunami Relief recording and/or concert with a certain amount of cynicism, though probably not as much as Michele admits to:
Any moment now Bruce Springsteen will hold a press conference, with Bono on one side and Sting on the other. They'll announce a huge show at some vast stadium, maybe two stadiums one in the U.S. and one in the U.K. Bob Geldof will come out of obscurity to smile for the cameras and remind people that he was at the forefront of the pop-star-as-philanthropist movement. Tickets will be $50 and up. There will be t-shirts, water and food for sale at the show, as well as frisbees and beach balls imprinted with the TsunamiAid logo, which will be copyrighted and trademarked and perhaps drawn by a famous artist. The shows will be simulcast on Pay-per-View. The second the concert is over and the now broke fans have gone home, the DVD and CD will be for sale. Millions and millions of dollars will be raised. By the fans of these stars. Yet the stars will get the credit for raising the money.
After all, they're so concerned and this is such an important issue and nobody would realize how important it is if it weren't for them.
And best of all, they get to bask in the glow without having to write big checks of their own:
I think, instead of spending time getting all these people together, renting a studio, writing a song, recording the song, putting the album in stores, waiting for the constant airplay to kick in and, in essence, begging their public to send money to whatever they are singing about why don't they all just reach into their pockets and donate a cool million each? Sondra did it. Leonardo did it. It seems a hell of lot more sensible, logistically and monetarily, to just cut a check and get the money where it's going. But, no. Rather than donate out of their own bank accounts, they'd rather reach out to you you who buys their albums and t-shirts, you who probably has $24 in your bank account at the moment and no gas in your car to put the dollars in the coffer because, hey, they are donating their time, man. They are donating their talents. And that should be enough. Right?
Call me if Sharon Stone puts on a telethon for varicose veins. Until then, I will continue to base my charitable donations on something other than the whims of the entertainment industry.
He's bad, he's nationwide
When I read that notorious Nick Coleman blast at the Power Line guys, I caught one line that gave me pause:
Time magazine's "Blog of the Year" is not run by Boy Scouts. It is the spear of a campaign aimed at making Minnesota into a state most of us won't recognize. Unless you came from Alabama with a keyboard on your knee.
"Nick, my man," said I, "when Susanna sees that, she's gonna tear you a new one."
The ripping starts here.
Look away, already
In 1971 Mickey Newbury put together a track he called "An American Trilogy," which, as advertised, incorporated three songs which qualified as quintessentially American: "All My Trials," "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "Dixie." Issued on Newbury's Frisco Mabel Joy album, it became a Top 30 hit and prompted a cover version by a quintessential American in his own right, Elvis Presley.
At the Wisconsin Senate inaugural yesterday, the Richland Center High School band played "An American Trilogy," which disturbed Senator Spencer Coggs. Coggs wrote to Dale Schultz, the Senate's Majority Leader (who, incidentally, is from Richland Center), expressing his dismay:
In the future a list of songs should be submitted prior to a performance and the list should be reviewed for its appropriateness.
What's disturbing about "An American Trilogy"? That "Dixie" business. Reminds people of slavery, doncha know.
Um, Senator Coggs? That line about "old times there are not forgotten," like the rest of the song, was written by Dan Emmett. A white guy from Ohio. In 1859, fercrissake.
I expect your next legislative action to be a statewide ban on cotton products.
(Via Tongue Tied.)
The new digital age
5 January 2005
Things I never said
However much I might think I'd fancy the description, I am not, and likely never will be, hell on wheels.
Then there was this fellow named Don Alfonso Cabeza de Vaca y Leighton, Carvajal y Are, Conde de la Mejorada, Marquis de Portago. If anyone qualified as hell on wheels, surely it was Portago, and this is what he had said to Ken W. Purdy (Car and Driver, August 1957) about Life, The Universe, And Everything:
You know, people say that racing drivers are daredevils, who don't care whether they live or not, and you've seen stories about me and my flirting with death and all that. Nonsense, all nonsense. I want to live to be 105, and I mean to. I'm enchanted with life. But no matter how long I live, I still won't have time for all the things I want to do. I won't hear all the music I want to hear, I won't be able to read all the books I want to read. I won't have all the women I want to have. I won't be able to do a twentieth of the things I want to do. And besides just the doing, I insist on getting something out of what I do. For example, I wouldn't race unless I were sure I could be champion of the world.
He never quite got to be champion of the world, nor did he get to be 105. Teammate Edmund Nelson once said that "I know he says he'll live forever, but I say he won't live to be 30." And on the way to Brescia in the 1957 Mille Miglia, the Ferrari he was driving blew a tire, somewhere upward of 125 mph, and crashed spectacularly, killing Portago, Nelson, and nearly a dozen spectators. The Italian government, horrified, ordered an end to the annual "thousand-mile" race. Nelson was right: Portago was all of twenty-eight when the end came.
Die young, stay pretty? Not even. Portago may have done some foolhardy things, but he was no fool: he understood the risks, and he pressed on regardless. "Had he been cautious," said Purdy, "we would never have heard of him." And I, halfway to 105, wonder if anyone would ever have heard of me if I hadn't been so cautious.
Are you wired for 120?
Edition #120 of Carnival of the Vanities is now playing at Vessel of Honour, dozens of the best blog posts of the last week in one handy compendium.
He's just not into looking at you
Feminism, says Laura Kipnis, was supposed to obliterate a culture of female inadequacy. But look what happened:
Yet for all feminism's social achievements, what it never managed to accomplish was the eradication of the heterosexual beauty culture, meaning the time-consuming and expensive potions and procedures the pedicures, highlights, wax jobs on sensitive areas, "aesthetic surgery," and so on. For some reason, the majority of women simply would not give up the pursuit of beautification, even those armed with feminist theory. (And even those clearly destined to fail.)
Note that Kipnis can't just say feminism failed to extinguish the human love of beauty. It's not beauty, it's a beauty culture that is the problem, and a heterosexual one at that. There's some sort of crushing patriarchy imposing something on women, something unnatural, involving "expensive potions and procedures." The assumption actually quite incredible is that empowered women would not care how things looked. I think it's more likely that empowered women would demand that males meet a higher standard of beauty.
Or, as Andrew Sullivan once noted, "If women weren't so damn forgiving of slobbiness, if they weren't prepared to look for the diamond buried in the rough of a man's beer-belly, men might have to shape up a little."
And just to keep things interesting, a link to Dawn Eden's response thereto, which refutes the notion that the phenomenon bewailed by Kipnis is somehow heterosexual.
As your Standard Unattractive Guy, I just sit here and watch the (faux) fur fly.
Fame and/or fortune
[A] small-fry like me who's only been in operation for about eight months probably gets as much traffic as Glenn [Reynolds] did after his first eight months of operation. That's certainly more than I expected to get when I started out. As far as traffic goes I've already achieved the small goals I set for myself when I began.
Which sounds really neat even to us frustrated damned-to-the-D-list types.
Then there's this:
Blogs are the perfect Horatio Alger universe. If you have the ability and you work hard enough you can achieve your heart's desire.
But there's one more component, which Alger always mentions but which none of the folks who invoke his name ever seem to remember: luck. (There's a whole series of Alger novels under the umbrella title Luck and Pluck.) Keeping your nose to the grindstone is admirable enough, but in an Alger universe, unless the Fates lend a hand, all you're likely to wind up with is a very sharp nose.
That was the temperature (Fahrenheit) when I got home today.
Not to be confused with 30 degrees, which is the angle of the driveway it took me three tries to climb, no thanks to today's ice storm.
(Or with 9 degrees, which is the expected low tonight.)
6 January 2005
Are we there yet?
It's a nice little page, this Driving Directions page for Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport, but what's with the photograph? So far as I can tell, it was taken on the south side of Somerset, Pennsylvania, which has no particular relevance to Will Rogers.
No dice, son, you gotta stay here
Intercountry adoption is about finding parents for orphaned or abandoned children in another country. When this happens, the child's links with his/her biological family are completely severed.
UNICEF recognizes that intercountry adoptions may sometimes be necessary. However, UNICEF believes that appropriate domestic solutions can usually be found for children who might otherwise be considered as needing intercountry adoptions. UNICEF therefore focuses its efforts on facilitating solutions for the child to remain in his/her family, community or country of origin.
Intercountry adoption should take place in the following circumstances: a) Every effort has been made to keep the child in the family and community; b) When necessary, every effort has been made to successfully trace the parents of the child. This is particularly true in situations of emergency; c) When it complies with existing international instruments such as the CRC (particularly article 21), and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption; d) All parties involved have given their informed consent; e) It is in the best interest of the child.
The Hague Convention sets down some fairly strict rules of its own, and there are lots of other hoops a family wishing to adopt an overseas child must jump through.
Still, the demand is there, and I've always looked at adoption as a win-win situation: the parents have a child of their own, and the child doesn't wind up in an institution, or something worse. And there's apparently lots of interest in adopting young tsunami victims; Dawn Eden reports that ten percent of her traffic has been search queries for "tsunami victims adoption." It is the apparent policy of non-governmental organizations, however, to make this as difficult as possible, and recent statements to the effect that "children are best left where they are in environments that are familiar to them," as Australian UNICEF boss Carolyn Hardy has said, might be true under the best conditions, but hardly the best conditions prevail in the wake of the killer wave: it's not an environment familiar to anyone.
You might conclude that UNICEF and other NGOs have an agenda beyond the welfare of children. Dawn Eden spells it out:
Nobody not UNICEF, and, as of yet, not the mainstream media wants to admit that the U.N. is holding back these children from adoption because it fears antagonizing the children's Islamic home countries, which shudder at the thought of Allah's people being raised by infidels.
But of course. Better a thousand children should be warehoused, better a hundred should perish, than a single imam be outraged. Thank you, O Religion of Peace.
Blowing hot and cold
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is the fellow who turned back the GOP's new ethics rules well, some of those rules, anyway which were widely seen as a Republican effort to preserve his job should he have been indicted.
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is the fellow who, at the Congressional Prayer Service this week, after a number of prayers on behalf of tsunami victims, decided this would be the perfect time to quote Matthew 7:
Everyone who listens to these words of mine, and acts on them, will be like a wise man, who built his house on a rock:
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, but it did not collapse; it has been set solidly on rock.
And everyone who listens to these words of mine, but does not act on them, will be like a fool who built his house on sand:
The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew, and buffeted the house, and it collapsed and was completely ruined.
"Shrewd" and "shortsighted" are evidently not mutually exclusive.
Slightly less tubby
Men's Fitness magazine has once again issued its list of 25 Fattest Cities, and both Oklahoma City and Tulsa still rank, but not quite so high: this year, OKC is 21st and Tulsa 22nd. (Last year OKC was 13th and Tulsa 19th.) As a practical matter, I refuse to believe that my own 30-lb weight loss last year was any kind of a factor in the ratings.
Houston rules as Fat City this year, followed by Philadelphia and Detroit. The magazine also rates fittest cities, which are topped by Seattle, Honolulu and Colorado Springs.
(The magazine's methodology is here.)
Dead horse beaten; film at 11
Inasmuch as Nick Coleman works for a Minnesota paper and has bashed only one other state recently, there's always the question of why I, down here in Oklahoma City, should care.
Actually, it's a New Year's resolution: to enjoy more Schadenfreude. And besides, the Net has seen to it that no one is purely local anymore; this morning I received a letter from a Twin Cities reader pointing me to a correction run by the Strib regarding that infamous Coleman outburst. (Power Line, of course, has much more to say about it.) "It seems," said my correspondent, "he was so busy blustering he didn't get his facts straight concerning the history of his own newspaper."
Of course, this cuts both ways: if I screw up, the first person to tell me about it probably won't be someone living down the street.
Like many organizations, the Green-Walled Garden Club (one of the Whittier names I've heard lately) of Frederick, Maryland has issued a cookbook as a fundraising tool.
Unlike many organizations, the Club has chosen to, um, spice up its cookbook: in addition to the recipes, there are a dozen photos of club members, aged 55 to 70, in varying degrees of undress. "Everyone does a cookbook," says member Marianne Coss. "We needed a gimmick."
It will be a while before I've sampled more than a handful of the 800-odd recipes in the book this Pork with Red Plum Sauce (page 177) looks interesting but I doubt I'll be able to convince anyone I bought this purely for prandial purposes.
7 January 2005
When things start to SAG
He's (well, I suppose it doesn't have to be a he, but there you go) called The Hollywood Elitist, a term of opprobrium by right-wingers, perhaps of irony by leftists. Which perhaps explains why I am not surprised to find the actual Elitist located somewhere in between:
See, I think that I am a conservative. I like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights just fine. I like the freedom of speech and religion and the press. I like the right to own firearms. I like the right to drink alcohol. I like the right to vote. Is that pinko hippie liberal Hollywood talk? I think not.
Who is the Elitist? I have no idea although I do know that the Elitist has a Bacon Number of 3, which narrows it down to a mere 421,696 or so people. A star that never was, parking cars and pumping gas? Maybe, maybe not. Let's see how this unfolds.
Six Apart, producer of Movable Type, is buying LiveJournal, and I don't quite see the fit.
Jump inside LJ culture. People who use LJ talk about their LJs, not their blogs. They mock bloggers who want to be pundits, journalists, experts. In essence, they mock the culture of bloggers that use Six Apart's tools. During interviews with LJ/Xanga folks, I've been told that MovableType is for people with no friends, people who just talk to be heard, people who are trying too hard.
Um... okay. But that's not where the merger will founder:
Movable Type is a product; LiveJournal is a community. Six Apart is seen as a community that provides tools, not culture. I suspect that if LJ goes to SA, there will be discontent from LJ users even though the media and blogosphere will hail it as an exceptionally [insert business rhetoric here] deal. Even if Six Apart doesn't change a damn thing, I suspect that LJers will feel wary, unloved and co-opted by The Man. I can't imagine them going anywhere fast but I can't see them being happy either, nor can I see them continuing to contribute economically.
Sort of like being acquired by Microsoft. Maybe we should ask the FoxPro team.
The line between journal and blog has always been slightly squiggly; LJ and MT, in their own ways, have been widening the gap, straightening the line. And I'm not sure anyone outside the actual financial players benefits therefrom.
A closed Ramada Plaza Hotel east of downtown Edmond will be refurbished and leased to the University of Central Oklahoma, which is in dire need of additional student housing.
UCO will pay about $350,000 a year for the 148-room structure, which presumably will house 296 students. The University had sought to acquire the hotel on its own, but was unable to come to terms with the seller.
The facility at 930 East Second Street is a block east of the southeastern corner of the campus.
A few more rings
I have never quite understood Saturn; as an experiment with Really Good Customer Service, it has to be considered a success Saturn customer loyalty is right up there with the high-priced brands, maybe higher but the cars have been, you should pardon the expression, rather pedestrian.
What to do? If your answer is this:
I, for one, would first get down on my knees and thank the Maker for the finest retail network in the industry. Then, I would set to work replenishing the product portfolio.
Then you're on the same page as General Motors Vice-Chairman for Product Development Bob Lutz.
Which would be this page here.
Forever and ever, amen
Eternity is a concept I find particularly troubling, if only because it seems to go on for so long. And while death is a scary prospect, one I'm not exactly anticipating with glee, I really don't think I want to live forever either, and I can give you lots of reasons. The top 10 follow:
10. Could single-handedly bankrupt Social Security
9. Methuselah, by age 969, had to endure over fifty thousand Mondays
8. Not looking forward to CSI: Bakersfield
7. Just imagine a metric ton of Metamucil
6. Might want to vote in King County, Washington some day
5. The oldies stations will have quit playing the Beatles
4. Things have just gone to hell since Lindsay Lohan retired as Chief Justice
3. We finally get flying cars and I'm too old to drive
2. New Reform Democrats bitching about the 2288 election
1. Deleting ten-trillionth comment spam
8 January 2005
Five years ago, I proposed a Federal Department of Pregnancy to deal with the thorny question of abortion. One paragraph began this way:
Upon pregnancy certification, a woman would be required to post $20,000 bond with the local Department office. (In the case of multiple births, the bond would be increased accordingly, once it is determined that twins or more have been conceived.) This bond is subject to forfeiture if she miscarries, or if, in the judgment of the Department, she has not exerted "maximum effort" to bring the pregnancy to term.
This was, I hasten to add, intended as satire. On the other hand, this isn't:
When a fetal death occurs without medical attendance, it shall be the woman's responsibility to report the death to the law-enforcement agency in the jurisdiction of which the delivery occurs within 12 hours after the delivery. A violation of this section shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor.
"Sorry, honey, no time to mourn. You have to report this to the police."
At least there's no law requiring her to report the pregnancy. Yet.
(Swiped from Democracy for Virginia.)
Why vinyl still sells
Six times as much area for true art.
And, yes, maybe less than true art as well.
(Via Rocket Jones.)
Saturday spottings (easterly)
For the second day in a row, the promised sunshine failed to materialize, which was probably as good a reason as any for heading out to Heritage Park Mall in Midwest City, a shopping center that's had a Joe Btsfplk-ish cloud following it around for what seems like years now.
There's no sign of the regime change just yet: somewhere around a third of the spaces are vacant, and at the entrance to the old Wards store, the local blood bank was taking donations. The side of the mall facing Reno Avenue is not too badly deteriorated, but the back, having lain fallow for so long, is a couple of ticks beyond grungy. People I talked to seemed hopeful, but when your third largest retail store is a Hallmark shop, you've got a long way to go.
Then down Air Depot Boulevard, where a widening project between SE 15th and SE 29th is doing its part for auto-suspension shops. I suspect that the few remaining residences along Air Depot will eventually be removed; some are already gone, and what appears to be the new curb line is perilously close to the front doors of those which still remain. There was a scaffolding up at the old Sound Warehouse/Wherehouse Music store in the 2300 block, where it looked like new window treatments were being installed, so maybe someone's actually going to take over this building.
East on 29th, it's still a bit offputting to see nothing along the north side of the street: the steakhouse that was west of the old Atkinson Plaza remains, and the Firestone store that anchored Atkinson's east end is still in business, but everything in between is gone. Midwest City, understandably, would like to see some of this 90-acre patch of dirt filled up, and there are earth-movers on the scene near the eastern edge of it. And farther down, the old Powers Nissan lot is closed; there are cars parked in the old used-car lot in the back, but the place is otherwise shuttered. I assume they've shut down entirely, since the old Powers Web site now forwards to NissanUSA.com.
And yes, Dave, El Chico was serving, though they weren't too busy at 1:30 when I arrived.
He was the one
I suppose I should say something about Elvis, this being his seventieth and all, but by now there aren't any new insights about Elvis; everything you can imagine and way too many things you can't imagine, you can find already in an Elvis article somewhere.
Fortunately, what matters is the music, and with that in mind, I point you to The Big Trunk's astutely-chosen selection of ten Elvis greats, astute because (1) fully half of them are from the Sun sessions and (2) chart considerations are not a criterion for inclusion (although "Suspicious Minds" was a #1 hit, Elvis' last). I suspect that had Elvis never recorded anything beyond these ten tracks, he'd still be a legend.
9 January 2005
It occurs to me that despite some of the highest levels of thread drift this side of Usenet, there's never been an actual open-comment thread here.
There is now, and you're soaking in it. I request only that you try to avoid embarrassing yourself (or, well, me), and any truly heinous comments will be expunged with great vigor.
Maybe 3.5 flags, max
When you're talking theme parks, the Six Flags chain occupies a level of awareness right up there beside Disney; it's a huge operation, justly famed.
Which makes it even odder that Six Flags, which is based in Oklahoma City (which is odd in itself), has done so little with its hometown park, says OKCPulse:
Frontier City has a theme that is unique. It takes leaders with a strong vision to take the park far beyond what it is today, but those people obviously are not there. Frontier City will never see itself on the Travel Channel, because the park has nothing significant to leave out-of-state visitors impressed. Many park visitors feel they do not get the quality out of the admission they pay, which is $27.99 for adults as of 2004. The park [has] not done the surrounding area much good. Look at the businesses along the I-35 service road, they are failing alongside a string of dilapidated properties, and that is a bad impression.
Despite fairly-indifferent financial performance [link requires Adobe Reader] last year, Six Flags is going ahead with some improvements to some of its parks, says Chairman Kieran E. Burke:
Our 2005 capital plan encompasses new attractions in 13 of our 18 domestic theme parks, a major new ride in our park in Mexico City and a children's area in our Montreal park. We will be adding both teen and family attractions. Our largest initiatives will be concentrated in our major markets. We will be debuting a new water park at our Chicago park for 2005. At our New Jersey park, we will be creating a dramatic new jungle themed 11 acre entertainment section, anchored by a world-record setting roller coaster, and including a new stadium for unique tiger shows and exhibits and an expansive new children's area. Our San Francisco park will receive a new section including a dolphin cove and other interactive animal attractions. We will also continue to invest against in-park revenue growth; we have seen strong year over year in-park spending growth over the last several seasons. In all, we expect our capital program to entail an expenditure of $130-135 million. We believe that this capital program, when combined with our breakthrough marketing campaign, should yield solid attendance and revenue growth next year and set the stage for significant growth the next several years as we restore park performance to average historic levels.
Emphasis added by me. "Average historic levels," generally, means "before 9/11." I suspect there will be a few more lean years before there are any substantial upgrades to Frontier City.
Still: twenty-eight bucks? Universal Studios Orlando (neither a Disney nor a Six Flags property) will set you back $59.75.
Another fine meth
Last April, Oklahoma imposed limits on over-the-counter tablets containing pseudoephedrine, limiting the amount any one buyer can purchase to nine grams in thirty days and requiring pharmacies (the only legal outlets in the state for them) to obtain photo IDs and signatures. The idea, of course, was to put a dent in the state's methamphetamine production pseudoephedrine is the primary ingredient in meth and by all accounts it has worked fairly well.
"Yeah," you say, "they'll just drive out of state to get the stuff." And they're doing exactly that, leading other states in the region to ponder whether they should adopt similar restrictions. Governor Henry, of course, thinks they should:
Nationwide success in stopping the methamphetamine epidemic will come from a combined effort of states limiting access to key ingredients. That is why laws similar to Oklahoma's hold such tremendous potential in stamping out this scourge.
A second path suggests itself: replacing the tablets with liquids and gelcaps, from which pseudoephedrine is not so easily isolated. The Oklahoma statute, in fact, does not mandate the same restrictions on liquids and gels, though pharmacies might reasonably impose the restrictions themselves, as a matter of simplifying inventory control, or as a means of avoiding customer confusion: "How come you have Sudafed gelcaps on the shelf, but I have to sign for the tablets?" Some of us who have certain reservations about the War On [some] Drugs might find this approach a bit more palatable than shoving the entire class of products onto Schedule V.
Not a kid, nor does he rock
This is, I think, the definitive response to the Kid Rock "controversy":
Conservatives will be truly conservative again, at least in the sense of preserving some sort of aesthetic order, when they start demanding Kid Rock be removed from the inauguration festivities not because he uses dirty words, but because he sucks. Oh, I'm not saying he isn't a fine and decent human being; I'm just doubting his entertainment value. And please, someone remind Michelle Malkin that the last time pop music entertainers used clean language and were deemed family-friendly, it resulted in some jackass giving them a variety show, and the world suffered a lot more from that than it could ever suffer from Kid Rock.
And of course, there's this: at least it isn't Fred Durst.
10 January 2005
From the Unnecessary Expense Department: I got on the Kilpatrick Turnpike, duly stopped at the toll-basket, reached into my pocket, and did not find thirty cents. There was a Sacajawea dollar, though, so I grat my teeth and pitched the buckette into the basket.
This was not one of the toll stations with an actual bill changer, so I sat there. A truck pulled up behind me. I pondered running the toll light and sitting there waiting for the gendarmes, but decided this would be even more expensive. The occupants of the truck began to fidget.
Finally I flicked a second Sacajawea, my last, into the basket, and this time was granted admission.
Yeah, I suppose this is a good argument for a PikePass. Truth be told, I was holding out until they came up with some measure of compatibility with the East Coast E-Z Pass systems, into which I pour a lot of coin during (some of) the World Tours. On the other hand, if I'm running a regular risk of spending $2 for a thirty-cent fare, the transponder will justify itself rather quickly.
HP overlay zoning can only be applied to residential areas commercial buildings can't be covered. If a property owner wants to demolish an HP-zoned home, the most the City can do is delay demolition for four months, in hopes that the owner can be persuaded to sell it to someone who will keep the building standing.
Oklahoma City, conversely, applies the pertinent zoning overlay to an entire district, including both commercial and residential buildings within that district, and there are various gradations of overlay, from Historical Landmark (the most stringent) on down.
The point of an HP ordinance is to preserve the investment of homeowners who restore and improve their homes. When you demolish three historic homes to build a parking lot, you not only lose a part of a neighborhood, but homes that once were buffered from commercial development and major streets are now exposed, and they lose some of their value in the process. This can trigger a gradual erosion of the neighborhood from the outside in.
The criteria for demolition are stricter here also. (The Oklahoma City Municipal Code is kept in database form and can be searched.)
But the key to the issue, says Michael Bates:
[T]he Council should be working on improving our zoning code so that it recognizes the difference between 15th & Utica and 71st & Memorial. What works in one type of neighborhood may be destructive to another.
As we learned, more or less the hard way.
Selection of the month, so to speak
A joint venture between Columbia House and Playboy will be selling adult video under the name Hush.
The idea here, apparently, is to marry (temporarily, of course) Columbia House's famed distribution system to Playboy's extensive mailing list; Hush will apparently not be offered to existing Columbia House members unless they're also on Playboy's roster.
If nothing else, this should simplify matters for some consumers: instead of getting suspicious-looking plain brown mailing envelopes from the San Fernando Valley, they'll presumably be getting innocuous plain brown mailing envelopes from Terre Haute, Indiana.
(Via Dash Riprock.)
BBC News' Have Your Say, in the wake of the tsunami, asked for reader comment on this issue:
Should debt be cancelled? What more should governments do? How will the affected countries rebuild communities, livelihoods and economies?
Which moved Shawn Hampton of Colorado Springs to respond this way:
All debt should be cancelled for developing countries, and it is high time that we do away with the concept to rich and poor and strive for world-wide economic parody.
Meanwhile, tonight on The Money Programme, we're going to look at money.
License to pave
If you've occasionally wondered if maybe Oklahoma doesn't know its asphalt from a hole in the road, you might be pleased to hear that Rep. Jim Newport (R-Ponca City) has an idea to raise some bucks to patch our low-quality highways.
Newport's House Bill 1218 would change the distribution of license-tag receipts in this state. Right now, 45 percent of tag proceeds go into the state's General Revenue Fund; HB 1218, beginning in fiscal year 2006, would allocate the first $5 million in receipts each month to the Highway Construction and Maintenance Fund. In FY '07, the figure would be increased to $10 million per month; in FY '08 and afterwards, $15 million.
The General Revenue Fund allocates some money to ODOT, says Newport, but that's not enough:
[F]or years legislators seem to have had the misconception that, since the state Department of Transportation receives so much federal funding, they don't need too much in state funds. Therefore, ODOT has not been able to finance all of the projects in its budget.
I expect the argument to be made that since this proposal is technically revenue-neutral, something's going to have to be cut elsewhere. Well, duh.
Aside: Speaking of "revenue-neutral," P. J. O'Rourke, discussing the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 in the January/February Atlantic Monthly, disposes of this phrase for all time, thusly:
The House-Senate Joint Committee on Taxation produced a sheaf of charts showing that the bill's $8.678 billion in costs from 2005 to 2009 will be balanced by the bill's $8.679 billion in savings from 2010 to 2014. By this logic a Friday-night drunk too severe to prevent Saturday-afternoon mall shopping gives me revenue-neutral alcoholism.
Proof enough (80, maybe 86) for me.
11 January 2005
Waste is a terrible thing to mind
At last night's Neighborhood Association meeting, we discussed, among other things, the time frame during which Big Blue, the Oklahoma City trash cart, is allowed on the curb. For the record, there's a 25-hour window: 7 pm the night before pickup to 8 pm after pickup. On my block, the collectors usually arrive a few minutes before 7 am; separate runs are made for Big Blue and the teensy square recyclable-items bucket, which of course is called "Little Blue." I suppose theoretically one could be fined for exceeding the 25-hour period, but I've never seen it happen.
Meanwhile, in Reddish, Lancashire, England, there is a decidedly narrower window of opportunity: a woman was fined £50 for putting her trash out the night before.
A spokesperson for the council insisted that notice had been given to all area residents, and a copy was placed on display on the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard," or something like that.
A hint of bloggadocio
They came for the Communists, and I didn't object for I wasn't a Communist;
They came for the Socialists, and I didn't object for I wasn't a Socialist;
They came for the labor leaders, and I didn't object for I wasn't a labor leader;
They came for the Jews, and I didn't object for I wasn't a Jew;
Then they came for the bloggers, and we kicked their ass.
After fact-checking it, of course.
Visions of dollar signs
The place three doors down closed for a startling $101,000.
I have never before lived on a block where a house actually sold for six figures. Geez, what must my humble little doll house be worth?
(No, I'm not moving. Don't even think that.)
Call it a "safety issue"
Last week I brought up the "Guide to Contraception" in the February 2005 issue of Consumer Reports, and noted that you'd have to be a subscriber to read it online, as has been the practice at ConsumerReports.org for some time now.
I have since learned that this is not so. For some reason, this section has been put on the site for free, which I find surprising, and which Annie at After Abortion finds appalling:
Looks like CR has sold out, with an apparent hidden agenda, wanting to propagate their personal ideology and gross misinformation free of charge to the unsuspecting, trusting public. I am incensed.
At the very least, they seem to consider this topic to be at least as important as product recalls, which are generally offered for free on the site.
Eric Scheie of Classical Values drove through these parts yesterday, and squeezed off a couple of good shots from the older (and more interesting) part of Sapulpa, plus one nicely-evocative sunrise composition west of Oklahoma City.
I do wish he'd had time to sit and gab, but, well, life is like that sometimes.
12 January 2005
Greener than thou
In 1999, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power came up with a program called Green Power, whose purpose was "to help us move from polluting power plants to energy generated in a cleaner way by using sources such as the sun, wind, and water."
Not that there's anything wrong with that. But participation has stagnated: at one time the DWP reported 100,000 Green Power users, who pay $3 a month to import renewable energy into the city grid, but apparently 60,000 of them were low-income DWP customers who were arbitrarily assigned to Green Power and weren't paying the monthly fee.
Currently, 27,000 of the DWP's 1.4 million electric-power customers are Green.
Meanwhile, out here in flyover country, 9,000 of OG&E's 730,000 customers have signed up for power from the Woodward wind farm, and while this is not quite as high a green percentage as the DWP can boast 1.2 versus 1.9 percent after only fifteen months of operation the company is already soliciting proposals for 80 megawatts of wind power to supplement the 50 it already controls. Obviously OG&E thinks it can sell renewable energy, even if the city of Los Angeles and its high-powered PR flacks can't.
(Armstrong Williams Disclosure: I am a voluntary participant in the OG&E Wind Power program; I receive no money from OG&E to promote it.)