1 April 2005
And it comes on a stick

Michael Bates, riffing on this item, passes on the ultimate test of whether a neighborhood has good "walkability":

Can a child safely walk from his home to the store to buy a popsicle? The absence of this kind of walkability means a loss of independence for children, the disabled, and the elderly who no longer feel confident behind the wheel of a car. It also gives us less flexibility to cope with rising fuel costs — we can't choose to walk to the corner store rather than drive to the supermarket.

The nearest place is a c-store at 5050 North May. It doesn't require any crossing of major thoroughfares, at least from the blocks adjacent to mine, but both the streets that intersect there (May and 50th) have their slightly-scary aspects.

And come to think of it, the only thing I've ever bought there is gas; I have no idea whether they stock quiescently frozen confections.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to City Scene )
Wondering Y

Guys (of whom I am one of which, to borrow a phrase) tend to be somewhat anxious when contemplating the scary prospect of dating. Women's anxieties go beyond that, as Jacqueline Passey observes:

I and almost all my female friends have been sexually assaulted at some time in our lives, ranging from the very common but minor unwanted grabbing or pinching of body parts, to the less common but unfortunately not rare drug- or alcohol-facilitated date rape, to the thankfully much rarer violent assault and forcible rape. And even despite its relative rareness, I personally have several female friends who have been brutally raped, including one fairly recent incident. Many women are also sexually abused as children, and the abusers are almost always men.

I know that this behavior is not representative of how the majority of men act. Unfortunately, though, it seems that the men who do act this way each victimize several women. So a minority of men are assaulting a majority of women, ensuring that almost all women, through either their own personal experiences or hearing about the personal experiences of their friends, have good reason to feel afraid of men.

I don't know if it's truly a "majority" of women who are thus victimized, but even one is too many.

I'm not being singled out here — if anything, I'm likely to be criticized for being insufficiently libidinous — but I do feel a certain responsibility for this situation, if only because I worry that merely behaving myself might mot be enough to reassure someone who's been beaten up, perhaps literally, in the course of her love life.

Passey suggests that men need to "do a better job of policing their gender," which seems innocuous enough, but I'm inclined to think that those of us who aren't the target of her wrath aren't likely to have much influence on those of us who are: we can snub them, editorialize against them, pull them aside and tell them to clean up their frigging act already, but some of these guys seem to be a lost cause, and all of us, women and men alike, suffer for it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:31 AM to Table for One )
Now that she's gone

I've never met Stephen "Brute Force" Friedland, previously celebrated in these pages for his Apple single "King of Fuh," a silly but delightful bit of whimsy that of course would never be allowed on the sanitary American airwaves. (You can get a taste of it here.) But I figured from that song alone that he was hardly the Brutish person his name implied.

"Terril," said Force to Dawn Eden, "is a state of consciousness in which one observes the world, is in horror of it, and yet is absolutely powerless to individually do anything about it." Along these lines, he's penned the following verse:

now that she's gone
take my heart why don't you?
primitive poli-wizards
cut out the heart of humanity
and retire to your white house,
to your gracie mansion,
to your swiss alps,
escargot up euthanasia's nose to you,
judges of life and death,
you make the fashists
look like boy scouts,
you dark magnets
pulling with your laws,
attracting with your courts,
holding hollow ikons
speaking with your mouths
full of cement
you've gotten what you want,
now leave the angels
to wrap you
in the shroud of love and
conspire for the remnants
of your shattered soul

Thanks, Brute. Some of us needed that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:04 AM to Life and/or Death )
Date exploitation

If you think it's Malkin but it's not....

(Via Cutting to the Chase.)

(Update, 2 April: This being a new date, the fun stuff has been relocated here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:27 AM to Blogorrhea )
I like "House o' Funk" myself

Express Personnel chairman Bob Funk, no stranger to downtown arenas — he owns the Oklahoma City Blazers hockey team — has been asked to bid on the naming rights for Tulsa's new arena.

Tulsa Vision Builders project director Bart Boatright confirms that Funk was offered a shot, but declined to name anyone else who might have been asked to bid; The Oklahoman called up Bank of Oklahoma, Williams Companies, and QuikTrip, three major Tulsa-based firms, none of whom, said their spokespersons, were participating.

Of course, had I a spare ten million or so — the naming rights for Oklahoma City's Ford Center went for $8.1 million a few years back — I might be inclined to hang Michael Bates' name over the door, just to see the reaction from various T-Town types.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:06 PM to Soonerland )
Fields of dreams

Local historian Pendleton Woods is doing a three-part series for the Mid-City Advocate (which, alas, won't be on their Web site) about Oklahoma City's original amusement park, the now-mostly-forgotten Delmar Garden, once characterized as "the most fabulous amusement area west of the Mississippi River."

The Garden, built in 1902, had carnival-type rides, a 3000-seat theatre (expanded from 1200), an outdoor amphitheatre, a dance hall, a swimming pool, a racetrack, a baseball park, and its own scenic railway. The 140-acre site southwest of downtown was right on the North Canadian River, which both added to its beauty and contributed to its demise: the river in those days tended to flood, and flood waters brought mosquitoes. Statehood in 1907 brought one other problem: Prohibition, which forced the closing of the Garden's tavern. The park shut down in 1910 — the railway continued for a couple more years — and the Farmers Market (now being renovated) was built on a section of the site in 1928. Today nothing remains of the original Garden except the name, which persists on a street leading from Reno into State Fair Park. But you can still see an image: the third-base entrance into SBC Bricktown Ballpark was, I am told, designed to resemble the old pavilion at Delmar. The Downtown Guy has posted some picture postcards to give you an idea of what it was like back then.

(St. Louis, you say? Well, yes, the principals in Delmar — John Sinopoulo and Joseph Marre — basically swiped the idea from what they'd seen in St Louis County, including the name. I'd like to think they improved on it.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:34 PM to City Scene )
Sort of centered

I have generally described myself as a "centrist," a word which in today's political context means something like "moderate," a word which in today's political context means absolutely nothing, according to Francis W. Porretto:

"Moderation," shorn of all context, is not only value-free but semantically empty as well. The same could be said for its linguistic opposite, "extremism."

Name a political subject; that is, name a condition, process, or hazard that might conceivably be improved by State action. Conceive of a position on that subject. How does one judge it to be moderate or immoderate? By where it fits into the range of possible positions on the subject? Or by where it stands in opinion polls? Or by how dramatic its results are likely to be?

Were I completely given over to cynicism, I would be inclined to say that, on this particular scale, the "moderate" position is the one that is least likely to work: its results will be the most dramatic (or most ignominious) failure.

Most issues are, to greater or lesser extent, binary: any intermediate positions are derived from the desire to create exceptions to a rule.

(Note: This was written on 4 December 2004, never posted, forgotten, and rediscovered during routine maintenance; I decided to put it up anyway.)

2 April 2005
The legacy of John Paul II

Or one, at least:

If we want a springtime of the human spirit, we must rediscover the foundations of hope. Above all, society must learn to embrace once more the great gift of life, to cherish it, to protect it, and to defend it against the culture of death, itself an expression of the great fear that stalks our times. One of your most noble tasks as Bishops is to stand firmly on the side of life, encouraging those who defend it and building with them a genuine culture of life.

(From his ad limina address to the bishops of California, Nevada and Hawaii, October 1998.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:36 AM to Almost Yogurt )
In other news, stovetops can get hot

The Oklahoma Tax Commission has discovered to its horror that people are trying to avoid the fourfold increase in the tobacco tax which kicked in at the first of the year.

The tax, by design, is assessed at the wholesale level, and then passed on to the consumer. The OTC has dispatched agents to check the inventories of retail outlets in northeast Oklahoma for the state stamp of approval: God forbid they could be buying smokes from (shudder) out of state. (Why the northeast? Missouri's tax per pack is a mere 17 cents, versus $1.03 in the sanitary Sooner State. Then again, all the states that border on Oklahoma have tobacco taxes lower than ours.)

And the next step is to crack down on those nasty Internet buyers. Apparently a Federal law requires online tobacco dealers to report purchase details to the individual states; the knock on the door presumably follows.

Is anyone actually surprised by this?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:25 AM to Soonerland )
Saturday spottings (the Grand tour)

W. H. Dunn was a landscape architect in Kansas City in the early 1900s, eventually becoming the Superintendent of Parks. His duties in Kansas City, however, apparently didn't prevent him from helping out other cities in need: in 1909, he developed the first official parks plan for Oklahoma City. One of the features in Dunn's plan was a boulevard to encircle the city, connecting regional parks in each quadrant. Not much happened on that front until 1930, when the boulevard was incorporated into The City Plan for Oklahoma City, and the process of acquiring rights of way began.

Grand Boulevard, as it was called, was never finished: a lot of non-contiguous sections were built, but the circle was never completed, and some of the areas intended for the circle were ultimately usurped for freeway use. Still, there's enough of it to make a day trip of it, and that's what I did, starting the circle at 12:00 and heading clockwise.

Northeast: The road begins, so to speak, at about 1500 NE 63rd Street, west of the National Cowboy Museum, heading south under Interstate 44 and then turning southeastward. The east side is largely undeveloped; the west side is residential. Grand crosses Martin Luther King Avenue at the 5400 block, where the name disappears in favor of "Remington Place," after the racetrack. On the far side of the track, on the way to the Softball Hall of Fame, Remington Place becomes NE 50th Street, and Grand slices off to the right, splitting the Lincoln Park golf courses. Past 36th, on the way to the Railway Museum and the OKNG, the road deteriorates; the last turnoff is 29th, which crosses under Interstate 35, and south of 29th it dead-ends. Grand picks up again at 23rd as a mostly-residential street on both sides of I-35; the eastern leg runs past Edwards Park and becomes the I-35 service road, ending at 10th, while the western leg veers off slightly to the west and becomes a divided road with a grassy median, which feeds into 10th and which dead-ends south of 10th, just beyond the I-35 southbound onramp.

Southeast: Grand reappears at 2800 East Reno and curves along for a couple of miles through an area largely devoted to light industry. East of the roadway is the South Grand Trail, for pedestrian and bicycle use; it jumps across the street on the way into Trosper Park as the circle turns back westward. (The Grand entrance into Trosper is no longer open to motor vehicles, perhaps to benefit trail users; motorists must enter on SE 29th.) Across I-35, Grand heads straight west to play its secondary role as 36th Street; just beyond the I-35 service road, Grand becomes a divided road again, and the trail runs down the median, where it will remain until Stiles, where the road narrows and the trail becomes essentially a sidewalk on the south side. This is an old working-class residential neighborhood: the houses are small, but most of them seem to be kept up.

Southwest: Once west of Santa Fe and into the southwest quadrant, Grand opens up into a divided road once more, and the trail returns to the median. This was a spiffy street in its time, running past Capitol Hill High School and its stadium, and it still looks pretty good today, considering its advanced age. About thirty years ago some of the street signs indicated both "SW 36th St" and "Grand Blvd"; I didn't see any of those around, and there are a couple of signs that read simply "36th St", but all the new signage says simply "Grand Blvd". At May Avenue, Grand becomes an access road into Woodson Park, which terminates at SW 33rd; the trail continues on for another mile and a half or so. Grand reappears at SW 27th on the west side of I-44 and continues northward to SW 15th, just east of the Dell campus.

Northwest: The northbound road out of State Fair Park, just east of I-44, becomes the eastern leg of Grand as it passes NW 10th Street, and it's one-way north, ending at NW 23rd. The western leg runs from Liberty Street, between 11th and 12th, to just north of 36th; it's one-way south except through Will Rogers Park. Everything is interrupted for 39th Street/Route 66. There are discontinuous segments east of the Lake Hefner Parkway between 40th and 44th, and between 45th Terrace and 46th; the road resumes at 50th and continues into the Integris Baptist Medical Center, then picks up again for a couple of blocks south of 63rd. On the west side of the Parkway, there's a stretch from 50th to Northwest Expressway. Another break, and then a single segment west of the Parkway from 65th to South Lake Hefner Drive; hang a right, and in a couple of blocks you're back on Grand, four lanes with a median, heading east. (There's a Grand Drive on the east side of the Parkway, in case you weren't confused enough.) And half a mile east of May, the Nichols Hills city limits beckon. Up to this point, the numbering system has sort of made sense, but once you pass Pennsylvania (2301 is on the corner), you're in the 6900 block heading southeast. At Woods Park the road splits, with residential strips on either side, while the main road runs down the center of the park. Single lanes return south of Sherwood Lane, and at 63rd Grand returns to Oklahoma City, crossing Western at 57th and going back to east-west numbering (that first block is the 1000s). The rest of the way parallels I-44, finally ending at Robinson Avenue.

The real question, I suppose, is "How Grand is it?" The neighborhoods vary about as widely as possible; the southside stretch is probably the closest to what the 1930 Plan called for, but the Nichols Hills segment commands by far the biggest bucks. And I'd hate to be delivering pizza on this road, at least until I'd learned every last section of it in my part of town. Still, even in its unfinishable state, it's something sort of unique, the parks fall into place where they're supposed to, and I was happy to blow three hours and a quarter-tank of gas trying to get the feel of it — especially since during those three hours, the station where I filled up at the start of the trip raised its price by six cents a gallon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:36 PM to City Scene )
The sub-nuclear option

Chris Lawrence comes up with a new Senate filibuster rule that might actually work:

[C]hange the cloture rule to require senators to vote to continue debate more than four hours; if two-fifths voted to continue debate, the debate would be extended another four hours; this procedure would repeat until either a motion to continue debate failed or the motion was withdrawn.

This proposal would properly put the onus on those senators who want to continue to debate; after all, if stopping a nomination isn't important enough for a senator to put a cot in his or her office, it probably wasn't that important in the first place.

Both sides get some of what they want: Democrats get to debate the nominations, Republicans get a vote on them. I like it.

3 April 2005
Down in the Conclave

I had just finished one year in a Catholic grade school when Pope John XXIII died, so you can be sure that we were steeped in the rules and regulations of replacing a Pontiff, at least to the extent it was possible to explain these things to someone just out of the fourth grade. And they've changed somewhat over the years — John Paul II himself made the last few alterations in 1996 — but given the Church's devotion to ritual, the basics are essentially unaltered.

One thing that's changed in the last forty years is the restriction of voting for the new Pope to cardinals under the age of 80. (Eleven of the 13 American cardinals meet this requirement.)

Father Thomas J. Reese explains the transition and election process here. Reese's prediction is interesting:

I think the next pope will be a cardinal between 62 and 72 years of age, who speaks Italian and English and reflects John Paul's positions (liberal on social justice and peace, traditional in church teaching and practice, and ecumenical but convinced the church has the truth) but has a very different personality and is a supporter of less centralization in the church and therefore probably not a curial cardinal.

The Curia is the Vatican bureaucracy, which includes nearly a quarter of the cardinals.

And it's unseemly to make side bets on the outcome of the Conclave, but if I have a favorite, it's probably Cardinal Oscar Andrés Rodriguez Maradiaga, archbishop of Tegucigalpa; he's fairly close to Father Reese's criteria (he's 62), and there is reportedly some substantial sentiment among the cardinals to pick someone outside Europe.

Charge!

Toshiba has announced a new lithium-ion battery that can recharge to 80 percent of full capacity in one minute, compared with the hour or longer it takes for present-day batteries of otherwise similar formulation.

According to the company's press release, the new cell can handle up to 1000 charge/discharge cycles with only 1 percent loss of capacity, and can operate at temperatures from -40 to +45 degrees Celsius, making it suitable for motor-vehicle use.

I just hope they remember to make one that fits in my notebook computer.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:14 PM to Family Joules )
Bovine intervention

Michele recalls Gelett Burgess:

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I'd rather see than be one.

Which reminded me of a prank once pulled by the late James S. Moran, described by Steven Phenix as "The Last PR Samurai". Phenix recalls that "to help a dairy get a cow into print, he dyed it purple," which is true, but it's only half the story. H. Allen Smith, a friend of Moran's, recounted the rest: after the paint job was complete (including metallic paint on the udder), Moran heard that Burgess was in New York. He tracked him to his hotel, led the cow into the lobby, had Burgess paged, and when the poet appeared, Moran simply pointed and yelled: "THERE!"

This happened, incidentally, well after Burgess had issued the following quartet:

Ah, yes! I wrote the Purple Cow;
I'm sorry now I wrote it!
But I can tell you anyhow,
I'll kill you if you quote it!

Oh, well, you can't have everything.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:19 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Expiration date

Those eHarmony ads on TV make a fuss about "the 29 dimensions that are most important in relationship success," which are presumably revealed in their questionnaire.

Of course, I tend to be drawn to people who give these questions the answers they deserve.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:50 PM to Table for One )
4 April 2005
First person singular

I think I might have said something like this at some point:

The ability to live without coordinating with an overly hormonal companion is, in a word, liberating. Now I'm certainly no sexist, it's just that, at this point in my life, the cost of maintaining a relationship far outweighs the benefits ... yes, those benefits. Look guys, it's all about will power. At least that's what I tell myself.

Then again, I tend to think of myself as insufficiently hormonal.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Table for One )
Getting even with the odds

The new Oklahoma lottery law earmarks 30 percent of the proceeds for education in the first two years of operation, increasing to 35 percent after that. The law also requires that at least 45 percent of the proceeds be paid out in prizes.

And that's the problem, says Tennessee lottery president Rebecca Graham Powell, consulting to Oklahoma lottery officials: most states are paying out 50 to 55 percent, which makes the Oklahoma lotto look like a comparatively bad bet. And to match that 55 percent with 35 percent still going into the education fund, costs will have to be cut to the bare minimum.

Oklahoma lottery chairman James Orbison recognizes the issue:

Just looking around at other lotteries, you just almost have to have that kind of percentage across the board. The public is amazingly savvy about which products have the best odds, and if they think they can go across the border to Texas and get a better deal, they will, I'm sure.

Still, Orbison isn't running scared:

In a way, it's almost kind of good. I like the idea of having to be creative on costs. That's one good thing about having these strict parameters — it forces you to do the best you can.

The first scratch-off cards are expected this fall, with online games and multi-state games to follow over the next year.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 AM to Soonerland )
The San Francisco threat

The Board of Supervisors in Baghdad-by-the-Bay is contemplating a new city ordinance which would require local bloggers to register with the city Ethics Commission and report all blog-related costs over $1000. The actual ordinance [link requires Adobe Reader] doesn't mention blogs specifically, but its definition of "communications" includes everything transmitted openly over the Internet.

You can imagine what Daily Pundit Bill Quick thinks about this:

My City is known for nutball politicos, but this bit of business ought to be completely beyond the pale. The naked infringement on the First Amendment (not that the Board of Supervisors necessarily considers itself running a city that is actually a part of the United States of America — or one governed by the U.S. Constitution, for that matter) is just another bit of fallout from the unconscionable McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform act, which was upheld by the Supreme Court as being constitutional. If the courts then see the necessity of ordering the FEC to regulate the internet, why should not every tinpot city council and board of supervisors do likewise? After all, it serves the cause of campaign finance reform, doesn't it?

And, of course, a blog doesn't have to be in San Francisco to be read in San Francisco, which means that theoretically anyone from Oakland to Oklahoma City to the Okefenokee could fall under the provisions of this bill.

All the more reason, then, to make fun of it now.

(Update, 4:20 pm: Bill Quick spoke with a staffer in the office of one of the Supervisors, and said staffer says that blogs are "specifically exempt." Mr Quick was happy to point out that blogs are not, in fact, mentioned in the text. The vote is tomorrow; he says he'll be there, and I thank him for keeping an eye on the Supervisors.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:14 AM to Blogorrhea )
You are what you drive

Politically, anyway, reports John Tierney in The New York Times:

[B]uyers of American cars tend to be Republican — except, for some reason, those who buy Pontiacs, who tend to be Democrats. Foreign-brand compact cars are usually bought by Democrats — but not Mini Coopers, which are bought by almost equal numbers of Democrats and Republicans. And Volvos may not actually represent quite what you think.

In this latter case, think Subaru, says Mickey Kaus:

Subaru is the new Volvo — that is, it is what Volvos used to be: trusty, rugged, inexpensive, unpretentious, performs well, maybe a bit ugly. You don't buy it because you want to show you have money; you buy it because you have college-professor values.

SUVs split where you might think: big rock-crushers go to the GOP, cute utes are bought by Democrats. Then again, Democrats tend to prefer smaller vehicles anyway:

Besides having fewer children, Democrats tend to be younger, less affluent and more likely to live in cities where small cars are easier to park.

None of this does anything to pin me down: I drive a Japanese-branded car from a marque controlled from Detroit that was built by a UAW crew in Michigan.

And if you were wondering about DaimlerChrysler's Smart cars, which presumably would come with their own stereotypes, well, forget them: DCX will not be importing them any time soon.

(Via Jalopnik.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:46 PM to Driver's Seat )
Perhaps the last Desiree Goodwin update

The Harvard librarian who charged that she'd been a victim of discrimination lost her lawsuit against the university today.

"The odds are stacked against minorities," said Desiree Goodwin, who is a minority and who is definitely stacked. (Sorry, that just slipped out.)

She has no immediate plans to leave Harvard, and she says she's gotten "a few love letters from far-flung places" as a result.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:22 PM to Dyssynergy )
5 April 2005
Nudging the Vatican

By and large, John Paul II's hard line against various "modernizations" of the church is just fine with The Glittering Eye:

[W]hile the Church may change various different practices and accidental features of Church teaching, essential doctrinal issues won't change. The Church simply isn't in the business of conforming to the prevailing beliefs (whatever those might be) of the contemporary world. On the contrary the job of the Church is to urge people out of conformity with the contemporary world and into greater conformity to the will of God.

Although there's one area, says the Eye, which needs further study:

I've always been skeptical of the position on birth control that Paul VI promulgated in his encyclical Humanae Vitae. I hurry to mention that I understand the Church's position and I accept it. Eppur si muove.

I do believe that this teaching puts the Church in something of a pickle. There is an incontestable relationship between fertility and poverty. By and large the very poorest countries also have the highest fertility rates. I won't bother to cite statistics — you can look it up for yourself. But here's the pickle. Either the Church is advocating poverty and misery (which is inconceivable), or the Church needs to moderate its stance on birth control (which I believe can be done without doctrinal trauma), or the Church needs to advocate other policies (like the education of women) which are closely correlated with reduced fertility.

While I agree with the Eye here, I think there's a greater risk of "doctrinal trauma"; I reread Humanae Vitae last night, and it's what you might call inflexible and adamantine. From section 23:

We are fully aware of the difficulties confronting the public authorities in this matter, especially in the developing countries. In fact, We had in mind the justifiable anxieties which weigh upon them when We published Our encyclical letter Populorum Progressio. But now We join Our voice to that of Our predecessor John XXIII of venerable memory, and We make Our own his words: "No statement of the problem and no solution to it is acceptable which does violence to man's essential dignity; those who propose such solutions base them on an utterly materialistic conception of man himself and his life. The only possible solution to this question is one which envisages the social and economic progress both of individuals and of the whole of human society, and which respects and promotes true human values."

But from Populorum Progressio, a year earlier:

There is no denying that the accelerated rate of population growth brings many added difficulties to the problems of development where the size of the population grows more rapidly than the quantity of available resources to such a degree that things seem to have reached an impasse. In such circumstances people are inclined to apply drastic remedies to reduce the birth rate.

There is no doubt that public authorities can intervene in this matter, within the bounds of their competence. They can instruct citizens on this subject and adopt appropriate measures, so long as these are in conformity with the dictates of the moral law and the rightful freedom of married couples is preserved completely intact. When the inalienable right of marriage and of procreation is taken away, so is human dignity.

Finally, it is for parents to take a thorough look at the matter and decide upon the number of their children. This is an obligation they take upon themselves, before their children already born, and before the community to which they belong — following the dictates of their own consciences informed by God's law authentically interpreted, and bolstered by their trust in Him.

There's a fair amount of wiggle room in that last sentence, perhaps.

And it should be remembered that the fact that the Church hasn't changed doesn't invariably mean that it won't. I don't expect any changes in the female-ordination policy, for instance, or in the opposition to abortion, but the contraception restriction, as the Vatican surely knows, is more honored in the breach. Still, there will be no changes without a fight: while Paul VI didn't say so in so many words, there is still a belief that Humanae Vitae qualifies as ex cathedra and thus infallible.

Out of second thoughts

The bill to repeal the Oklahoma Municipal Employees Collective Bargaining Act, which permits employees of cities over 35,000 population to organize, previously passed in the House, has died in committee in the Senate.

While the Act remains in force, it continues to be tested in the courts following challenges to its constitutionality.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:29 AM to Soonerland )
Carnival 133

It's the 133rd Carnival of the Vanities, brought to you this week by Incite, and what's more, brought to you early.

Your weekly compendium of bloggy goodness awaits.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:06 AM to Blogorrhea )
It's two! Two! Two searches in one!

Have you ever said to yourself, "Self, wouldn't it be freaking cool to pull both Yahoo! and Google search results at the same time and throw them up on a split screen?"

Enter Yagoohoogle. Use it now before it's litigated out of existence.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Kick that enthusiasm to the curb

A reasonable question from Eric Siegmund: "Will there eventually be a Pulitzer Prize for blogging?"

Yes, there will. As with the dead-tree version, it will usually go to the wrong person.

And if there is online voting, expect tremendous amounts of fraud.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:40 PM to Blogorrhea )
Random shots

Greg Hlatky on Ace's retirement:

Proof, if more proof was needed, that prolific blogging is the enemy of the good.

I've been proving this for years.

Meanwhile in 11D, Laura wonders where the thrill comes from:

There's no money or glory in blogging, so bloggers must be fueled by something else. Like the gotcha moments when they snag major media in errors or bias.

I don't need to do that; I can make my own errors and exhibit my own bias.

And Farrah wants to know:

Wonder where teens got the idea that oral sex really isn't sex?

Um, word of mouth?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:15 PM to Blogorrhea )
6 April 2005
Gentle benzos

I looked down at the prescription, and remembered the warnings I'd read about benzodiazepines. "So basically I'm a junkie now?" I said sarcastically.

"This isn't addictive," the doctor replied. "This is habit-forming. There's a difference."

"Which I'll find out if I ever try to quit these things?"

"Would you rather go back to the way you were?"

I had no answer for that one. As pills go, this one looks fairly innocuous: smallish, white, tasteless, a regular Al Franken of a drug, and one has gone down the chute, so to speak, almost every day for five years now. I suppose the habit has now been formed.

Actually, I know it has, since I missed one day and was rewarded for my lack of diligence with a nice case of night sweats.

Still: "Would you rather go back to the way you were?"

I'm not sure. On the one hand, I resent like hell having to rely on artificial sources of equilibrium. But limping about with a cane is presumably better than going nowhere at all.

So I take as low a dose of this stuff as I can, and hope that the placebo effect is even stronger than the actual drug.

(Prompted by Aldahlia.)

Two tales of turnout

A mere 1,543 people turned out for the runoff for the District 2 seat on the Oklahoma City school board yesterday, in which Gail Vines defeated Gary Walker. At my precinct, evidently they had side bets on how many bodies would show up at the polls; somebody was saying "Well, we got our sixty" as I was leaving. (I was #58.)

Meanwhile, 3,430 people (more than ever before) showed up at this Web site yesterday, the vast majority of which were reading this page from the fall of 2003, presumably because the story contained therein ended this week.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:09 AM to Blogorrhea , City Scene )
Is it time yet?

File this under "I'm not really surprised, and yet..."

Sean Gleeson (may his tribe increase, but not right this minute) has worked up a Fertility Wizard for use in natural family planning, formerly known as the "rhythm method," occasionally known as "Vatican roulette" by those who presumably couldn't get it to work.

Gleeson says that the methodology used is 95 percent accurate, should your cycle run between 26 and 32 days. (If it doesn't, you should not use the Wizard.) There are more effective gauges of one's fertility, but they require equipment that doesn't interface particularly well with a Web browser.

Apart from its, um, religious implications, there is one distinct advantage to this technique: a notable lack of side effects, especially when compared to stuff like The Pill.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:41 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Coffeehouses of the holy

Dave talks about Delocator:

The mission of this site/service, in as simple terms as I can manage, is: don't buy from Starbucks, or any other business that (a) doesn't adhere to bohemian ideals, (b) doesn't serve free-range coffee or other cruelty-free products; (c) does encourage all staff members to sport tattoos and pierced tongues and so-very-hip eyewear. In fact, according to Delocator, the "Starbucks-ization" of coffeehouses is very bad.

I've never so much as set foot in a Starbucks, so I'm not inclined to award them Tool of the Antichrist status myself, but occasionally my smugness rouses itself to the fore, so I now announce a new and utterly worthless meme.

Based on Jason Kottke's Starbucks Density premise, the Bratsucks ("Starbucks" spelled sideways) Index is determined by going to Delocator and entering your ZIP code, then dividing the number of non-Starbucks locations listed by the number of Starbucks locations listed. (For 73112, where I live, the BI is 1.5.)

If this catches on — but never mind, why should it?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:02 PM to Almost Yogurt )
The hand that mocked them

I don't know why, but I dearly love stuff like this: Shelley's Ozymandias as a quasi-Seussian rap.

And if that's not enough, try it in list format.

(Latter link via Michael Blowhard.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:18 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Out of practice

I think I'd rather herd cats than to try to keep track of all the Congressional ethics rules. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has been given until the end of September to close down his medical practice in Muskogee; the Senate Select Committee on Ethics has decided that it's an unacceptable conflict of interest, citing Senate rules from the last couple of decades that basically forbid the practice of outside professions in general.

Coburn ran into no such less onerous difficulties when he served in the House, which has a different set of rules governing outside income. He's vowed to fight back; in the meantime, he has said that he will continue to treat his existing patients through the end of the year, but will not accept payments from them after the 30 September deadline. (He stopped taking new patients after assuming his Senate seat.)

James Joyner offers a suggestion:

[Bill] Frist is within the rules because he practices medicine only abroad and does not collect money. Coburn says that he only accepts enough to pay for malpractice insurance and other necessary expenses, making no profit. There has to be some way for him to practice, pro bono, as part of a hospital or other medical office in Oklahoma, keeping in touch with his constituents, keeping his pledge, and yet staying within ethics guidelines.

I think this would be a reasonable solution, if it could be arranged to the satisfaction of the Select Committee on Ethics. Perhaps at a teaching hospital?

(Updated as per comments.)

7 April 2005
Anyone seen John Doe?

JunkYardBlog has a startler: the oft-rumored link between the 1995 Oklahoma City bombers and Islamist terrorists may have been located.

In the months preceding the bombing, Terry Nichols paid a visit to the Philippines. At the time he was there, 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef was operating an al-Qaeda affiliate called Abu Sayyaf. What better way for Nichols to learn a trade than by becoming an apprentice?

What's more, last week a cache of weapons was found at Nichols' former home in Kansas. (He currently is a member of Club Fed.) Information reportedly obtained from another prisoner suggests that the cache might have been intended for use on the 19th of this month, the tenth anniversary of the Murrah Building bombing.

This is getting extremely creepy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 AM to Soonerland )
Delocator has location issues

Plastic Noodle takes exception to the methodology at Delocator, as mentioned here yesterday:

Instead of relying on an address check, it's looking for zip codes which are numerically near by. This doesn't work, at least in Atlanta. I was getting results for Alpharetta, GA (30022) in Duluth, GA (30030), nearly 30 miles away. For future reference, zip codes are added to areas as they grow larger, and don't necessarily indicate proximity. In fact, in large metro areas, zip codes almost never are close together. I'd say that's a bigger problem than any chilling effect.

Naturally, I had to try this out for myself, and so I keyed 73026, a ZIP in east Norman. Delocator coughed up no Norman locations, but did manage to snag Java Dave's in downtown Edmond (73034), two Starbucks in Edmond, and one in the Super Target at NW 140th and Pennsylvania.

So a tip of the cup (careful, don't spill it) to Plastic Noodle, and take anything you derive from Delocator with a grain of, um, non-dairy creamer.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The over/under

La Shawn Barber obviously isn't afraid of stirring the stew:

1. Who are the top 10 5 overrated bloggers/blogs?

2. Who are the top 10 5 underrated bloggers/blogs?

I could fill up the "overrated" column just with Nick Denton-related stuff, although I must acknowledge that I read most of it on a daily basis, and I retain a residual fondness for the weirdness that is Wonkette, even though her contributions to the national dialogue are, um, dubious at best. (Besides, she has G. Beato spelling her these days, and G. Beato is a genius, even in this context, and despite the fact that I seldom agree with him on anything.) I might make an exception for Defamer, since The Blogger Previously Known As Bunsen sets exactly the right tone for a Hollywood scandal sheet.

Oh, and throw in Andrew Sullivan. He's turned into a one-trick pony, and he doesn't even bother to argue the point coherently anymore.

Of the blogs I think ought to get a lot more traffic than they do (the very definition of "underrated"), I think among the most deserving is Population Statistic, or will be when CT comes back from spring break, or wherever he's been the last week.

Also up-and-coming and, to me at least, consistently interesting: New World Man and Jacqueline Passey.

Feel free to make your own nominations in Comments. Keep in mind that any rating I might receive is overrated by definition.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:29 AM to Blogorrhea )
Perhaps they'd take Cleveland

The thousand or so members of the Ottawa Tribe of Oklahoma have claimed a 350-acre section of North Bass Island, on Lake Erie north of Port Clinton, Ohio, a tract currently owned by Ohio state government.

The tribe contends that it has hunting and fishing rights to the island under an 1805 treaty, and has announced plans to set up a fishing fleet. Some in Ohio, including Attorney General Jim Petro, dispute the claim, and inasmuch as the Ottawa are also seeking a casino in Ohio, it's been suggested that the claim is essentially a ploy to extract a casino concession from the state.

In addition to the 350 acres, the Ottawa are seeking to collect damages for being deprived of its use during the intervening years.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:51 PM to Soonerland )
Great with brushness

As distinguished from "brush with greatness," something I've never actually had, though when Dawn Eden wins her National Book Award, I plan to mention that I knew her when (though seldom her where). Something similar will follow when old pal Brian A. Hopkins nabs a Nebula Award. (He was a finalist in '99, and has won four Bram Stoker Awards.)

Beyond them, though, I've never been even in the shadow of celebrity, unless you want to count that time in the Galleria in Sherman Oaks where I thought I caught a glimpse of Shelley Long from here down, and I don't, particularly. Nothing in my life lends itself to that sort of thing, although I did once get an email from Roger Ebert. There were those two local television appearances, one horrible, the other slightly less horrible, but those don't count for much.

Officially, I'm quite content with my anonymity. (I draw some inspiration from Conan O'Brien, who, in his first press conference after being named the host of Late Night, responded to the question "Why would NBC entrust this show to a relative unknown?" with a brisk "Sir, I am a complete unknown.") And I have no desire for the trappings of celebrity; I don't need a black Amex card, a lodge in Gstaad, an S-class Benz. Still, before they bang me on the forehead with a plastic Fisher-Price mallet and pronounce me Deader Than Usual, I'd like to feel, just once, that something I did or said actually affected someone both positively and substantially. But I bet I'll hit the lotto first.

(Requested by Dwayne.)

8 April 2005
Tremendous overhead

Now he tells me:

[P]eople are using ARMs to buy houses they can't otherwise afford. That's a bad idea in the first place, since any increase in rates means that the home you can barely afford becomes the home you can't afford. As a general rule, I think people in our society are far too heavily leveraged for their own good. People don't understand the simple fact that you cannot live in an instant gratification lifestyle forever. You shouldn't be living one paycheck away from poverty. You shouldn't be buying a home that you can't hope to afford, and if you are looking at homes out of your price range, you should shop for cheaper home prices, not game the interest rate market and increase your leverage with an ARM.

Actually, I'm almost two and a quarter paychecks away from poverty.

Seriously, I never gave any thought to an adjustable-rate mortgage when I was house-shopping; I figured that if the standard rates, as advertised, were near "historic lows," then there's only one place an adjustable rate can go, and that's up. Better to bite the bullet now and lock in something that will stay locked.

And so I did. By standards I consider reasonable, my home was actually just slightly out of my price range (though the bank was willing to finance almost 20 percent more), but I figured that inside of two years I'd have my car paid off and I'd have a little breathing room, and in the meantime I'd have something I actually wanted, as distinguished from something I could tolerate.

I still think I'm far too leveraged for my own good, but then I have this love-hate relationship with debt.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:28 AM to Almost Yogurt )
And then there was one

I ran out of Bextra a couple weeks ago, and began looking for a replacement anti-inflammatory, on the reasonable basis that (1) the chemically-similar Vioxx had already been withdrawn from the market and (2) the third of the COX-2 inhibitors in general use, Celebrex, never did much for me.

Now Bextra is being pulled off the shelves as well, leaving Celebrex alone to carry on the product class. And buyers of Celebrex, and lots of other NSAIDs*, will be faced with a bevy of new product warnings.

Meanwhile, after unsuccessful trials with Relafen, I am in the process of switching to Mobic. It, too, will get the industrial-strength warnings. I do hope my prescription plan is amenable to the new stuff; they really hated Bextra, demanding a note from the prescribing physician in addition to the actual prescription itself, and then tacking an extra 50 percent onto the copayment.


*Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Dyssynergy )
The Rick strikes back

Captain Ed comments on General Motors' decision to stop advertising in the Los Angeles Times:

The final straw appears to have been a column specifically regarding General Motors and its marketing strategy about its brand management. Dan Neil called for the GM board to get rid of Rick Wagoner, the chairman and CEO. Needless to say, that didn't make Wagoner a fan of the LAT, but it's doubtful that a single column — by Dan Neil, of all people — would cause GM to stop advertising in the only newspaper available throughout the entirety of the greater Los Angeles area. Instead, it seems as though Neil's column probably underscored the complaints that GM had received from its customers regarding the poor performance of the Los Angeles Times.

I'd like to believe the Captain here, inasmuch as the Times' malingering is amply documented, but I'm inclined to think it is a knee-jerk reaction by the Fourteenth Floor. There is plenty of precedent for it: for instance, this year Car and Driver reprinted a particularly nasty review (from February 1968, I think) of an Opel Kadett Wagon, which their unnamed-at-the-time critic described as "a never-ending stream of the third-rate and the underdone, a rolling potpourri of mediocrity." When it first appeared, General Motors responded by canceling its ads, not only in C/D, but in every magazine owned by its parent company, and for every product, automotive or otherwise. (At that time GM, for some inscrutable reason, owned Frigidaire.)

This was, of course, well before the Rick Wagoner era, but if any American corporation believes in sticking to the tried and true, it's General Motors.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:45 PM to Driver's Seat )
Trumpet involuntary

Fridays are always hectic for me, and when this one proved to be slightly less so than average, I decided I'd mow the front lawn, which, as always, is a dispiriting sort of activity, inasmuch as at this time of year actual grass makes up maybe twenty-five percent of the stuff that's too tall. (Mental note: Call landscape architect, prepare for huge bills.)

And when this tedious task was over and I'd put the equipment away, I went out back and sprawled under a sweetgum tree, and let the memories of work slide off into nowhere. Background music, as always, was provided by the rest of the world: the dull rumble of traffic at a distance, occasionally sharpened by the sound of a car on my block; the hundred billion or so insects that live near my back door; dozens of birds playing call-and-response in every key of the scale and a few that fall somewhere in between. I looked up through the still-sort-of-bare branches and noted the color of the sky, and thought, "This would be a really good blue for a sea, you know?"

As if on cue, somebody in his first week of learning trumpet from an old fake book (I'm guessing) broke into the first three bars of "Anchors Aweigh," and that's about as far as he got before delivering a sour note. The birds went into "What the hell?" mode and clammed up. He tried again, and flubbed a different note this time, then presumably turned the page and went on to something either less difficult and unrecognizable or more difficult and unrecognizable.

He'll get better. (Even I, the world's third-worst pianist, can occasionally render some semblance of a tune.) And really, I was grateful for the interruption: it was definitely an improvement over thinking about yard work yet undone.

9 April 2005
Pease porridge in the pot

Nine years old.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:00 AM to Blogorrhea )
Watts in store

Political consultant and former Congressman J. C. Watts has hinted that he might run for governor against Brad Henry in 2006. Watts, now living in the Washington metro, still comes back to Oklahoma on occasion, still owns a house near Lake Eufaula, and surely misses one aspect of life here in the slow lane: he'd take, he quipped, any job "that would get me in Oklahoma and get me a driver." After once around the Beltway, I can't say as I blame him.

Rep. Tom Cole, who occupies Watts' old House seat, says there's still time for J. C. to make up his mind, and suggests that Mary Fallin, the three-term Lieutenant Governor, is also contemplating a run for the Mansion. Can either of them beat Brad Henry? Too early to say at this point, but while Henry is popular, he's not all that popular.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:31 AM to Soonerland )
Squint city

The Big Bank that bought the Not-So-Big Bank where I keep my pennies is being slowly (and, from the looks of things, painfully) absorbed by a Bigger Bank, and the results so far have been mixed.

An example: this month's statement, which contains the following announcement:

GOOD NEWS! WE'VE MADE YOUR STATEMENT EASIER TO READ!

Well, yes and no. The format is better-organized than before — for instance, withdrawals are now grouped by type (checks, ATM, online payments, others) — but except for the headings, the whole thing is rendered in some approximation of Avant Garde Gothic Extra Light that's so narrow it barely manages to make it onto the page, making it difficult for geezers like me to read.

And one other thing: my original six-digit (!) account number, which previously sprouted three leading zeroes to fit it into a nine-digit matrix, has now been stretched all the way to fifteen digits: nine zeroes and the original six digits. I suppose, though, it could be worse; at least I can remember this, assuming I don't lose count somewhere in that string of ciphers.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Common Cents )
The ten habits of highly irritating bloggers

According to La Shawn Barber, anyway:

1.  Bloggers who trackback to a post on this blog but fail to link to this blog in their post.

I'm usually pretty good about this, though I've noticed that the blogs using HaloScan are basically immune to MT's "auto-discovery" technique, which is something less than infallible in itself. What chaps my hips is a series of multiple TBs on the same post, especially if I, in my blinkered ignorance, sent them myself.

2.  Online news sites that don't link to blogs mentioned in a story.

3.  High-traffic bloggers who forget to link to my blog or mistakenly link to a different blog in a post where my blog is the subject.

#2 I agree with; on #3, I have to wonder if she'd object so strenuously were it a low-traffic blogger committing these sins of omission.

4.  Bloggers who write long posts about why they have no time to blog.

5.  Bloggers who write about their latest illness, right down to the details of an infection and physical description of a rash.

Um, guilty as charged, especially with regard to #5. (Of course, I'm doing this exercise because I have no time to write anything.)

6.  Commenters who respond to a post without actually reading the whole post, or if they have read it, their comment doesn't reflect it.

7.  People who leave off-topic comments on a post to tell me they just e-mailed me.

8.  Bloggers whose posts are mainly complaints against other bloggers.

I think I generally avoid these particular peccadillos ("peccadilli"?).

9.  Bloggers who don't include any biographical information about themselves. Even if blogging anonymously, you can still supply basic, non-identifying information.

10.  Bloggers who either don't list contact information or make it difficult to find.

Were I any easier to find, I'd probably be on your porch.

I conclude that, at least by LSB's standards, I am moderately irritating at best worst.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:06 PM to Blogorrhea )
Saturday spottings (northwest-oriented)

Because, you know, sometimes things happen in my neck of the woods.

One of those things is the upgrading of the Target store at May and Northwest Distressway to Super status, for which the entrance has been moved to the southern end of the store. (The Office Depot store that used to occupy the north end of the building has relocated around the corner.) Next time I'm due for some Targeting — and it has to be fairly soon, because I have a 10-percent-off coupon I have to use sometime this month — I'll see what the inside looks like.

Speaking of the Distressway, Dub Richardson seems to have moved his Toyota store out of the little patch of Warr Acres that sticks up that far north and into newer quarters west of Council Road, fairly far out but not so far as Steve Bailey's Honda dealership. Commercial development beyond County Line Road hasn't happened yet, but it's bound to sooner or later.

And much work is being done on the northernmost stretch of Western Avenue in the city (between Memorial and 199th), suggesting that this is going to be the Next Big Corridor, and further blurring the lines between Oklahoma City and Edmond. The right-of-way is lined with massive tubes for utility use, and the road itself is being made over and in some places widened. The stretch of Western that runs through Edmond (north to about 220th/Coffee Creek) is still fairly rural-ish, but on the OKC side there's lots of housing, including what looked like half a dozen gated communities.

Sign at a cigar store on May: NICE ASHTON, BABY. Is this going to sell any actual cigars?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 PM to City Scene )
10 April 2005
Growing up on the Hill

John Hendrickson, last heard from here back in February, favors us with another tale from the south side of the city:

A very fond memory of growing up in Capitol Hill was the amount of places a 'kid' could go on Friday &/or Saturday to dance. Capitol Hill Jr. High would have sock-hops following a few basketball games which were held on the basketball court. No street shoes allowed! Socks only, thus sock-hops. Mt. Saint Mary's did not have its own gym so it played basketball and held dances in the Sacred Heart School Gym. I don't think I ever attended a dance at CHHS. I am sure dances were held there but I do not know where or when.

For a young person growing-up in the 1960's love was found and lost near Robinson St. Just south of Grand Ave (36th street) on Robinson is the Capitol Hill Lions Center. At 7:00 p.m. the weekly dance in the bldg began. Why 7:00? At that time families had meals together at or near the same time each day. Home cooked from scratch meals. The first dances were held using a record player to play records we kids brought from home. Later on a jukebox played most of the new stuff and some of the earlier music. Might I add that there was no cost, all you had to do was make a selection and it played. Boys scanned girls and girls scanned boys. The idea I think was to locate the person to dance with through the night. You knew whether or not the person felt the same during slow dances. When you are in the 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th grade to dance with a girl so close that a piece of paper could not come between you and her head is resting on your shoulder while your cheek lays across her open cheek it is love. The events ended I believe by 9:30 or 10:00. Often you and your "find" went to different schools and you may never meet again so you savor in the smell of her perfume on your hand and shirt. Her hairspray lingers. But next Friday a new love might just be waiting.

Saturday night was for the IOOF Hall west of Robinson and on the south side of Commerce Street. To me and my family and friends Commerce was just called 25th St. The Hall was much the same as the Lions Club dances. The difference was that the females were strangers and you would probably never see them again.

WKY Channel 4 carried a local program fashioned after American Bandstand. The show was called the "Scene" hosted by media personality Ronnie Kaye. An old movie theater at SW 28th and Agnew (Yes! That is part of Capitol Hill also) had the seats removed and on the stage local bands would play and with an admission charge you could go in and dance your butt off. On some nights there would be a battle of the bands. Groups set up some times in different areas and take turns playing sets. Of all the dance halls this one I think lasted the longest.

Another point I would like to make is that only the IOOF was near home. Yet we walked to and from these places 99% of the time. We only asked for a ride if there was a downpour.

Electile dysfunction

Don Danz isn't much concerned about low voter turnout:

I'm perfectly alright with half the nation or more not regularly voting. This is because I don't believe one should vote if they are not knowledgeable about the issues. Nor should one vote if they have completely screwed up lives. Think about it; imagine someone who has, at every opportunity, made the wrong decision — they are uneducated, unskilled, unemployed/underemployed, gone from one dysfunctional relationship to another and for unknown reasons the first intelligent thing they have ever done is register to vote. Do you really trust that person to make two brilliant decisions in [a] row?

Some people evidently do, as he discovered last week at the polls:

Me:  Hi. (smiling)

Poll Worker 1:  Last name? (smiling)

Me:  Danz...Don Danz. (now with dead serious expression and tone) But, I'm not really him. And, you can't do anything about it because you can't ask for my ID. (I sign my name...or at least my alias for that precinct)

Poll Worker 2:  We don't care. (hands me my ballots)

Poll Worker 3:  The state of Oklahoma doesn't care. (everyone exchanges knowing smiles and small chuckles as it's obvious I'm making a point with which the workers agree)

Me:  (after having voted) Well I'm off to go vote in a few more precincts.

Poll Worker 2:  Good luck.

You'd almost get the feeling from this conversation that the State Election Board had ordered no IDs ever be checked, lest someone be upset by having to prove his vote was, you know, legal.

The Election Board sends out a card, to the address given, with the voter's name, party registration, county, precinct number and location. A person who has this card and doesn't know where he's supposed to vote is, prima facie, probably too stupid to exercise the franchise.

At the very least, every voter should be required to present the card to the election official with the signature book. (If everyone has to, it can't possibly be considered discriminatory no matter what kind of "cultural" bushwah is proffered by the beneficiaries of vote fraud.)

Michael Bates notes:

Oklahoma election officials are justly proud of our optical ballot readers, which gives us the ability to obtain quick and accurate results while still having a paper record of each vote, preserving the option of a manual count. But a ballot reader is like any other computer — Garbage In, Garbage Out — and it can't detect a ballot cast fraudulently. We've had too many close elections that could have been swayed by even a tiny amount of fraud: House District 78 in 2004 was decided by less than 30 votes; the 2002 Governor's race was decided by less than three votes per precinct.

And if we learned anything from 2004, it's that vote fraud is a growth industry.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:58 AM to Soonerland )
Blessed are the pessimists

For they hath made backups.

(Don't ask.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:00 PM to PEBKAC )
If we build it, they will... something

A "Concerned Native Tulsan" added this comment to a Michael Bates article on downtown Tulsa:

[W]e are quickly trying to convince the folks that a NEW landmark, an architecturally unique arena will help revive folks' momentum to return to Tulsa. Then, placing that arena in a blighted area of downtown, that is known to be a chancy area to enter at anytime of day or night. Many folks feel that developing the arena along the river would have been a better choice ... but, who knew that Tulsa citizens would foot the bill for the arena, but, have no input as to where it would be built. Something is obviously not going right, when there are a select few that are dictating and controlling all issues within the city. And these few are very wealthy and with each decision, likely to become wealthier!

For some reason, this reminded me of a recent episode of The Simpsons, in which the Springfield city fathers are persuaded that what they need to bring their town up to speed, or at least up to Shelbyville standards, is a brand-new performing-arts center designed by Frank Gehry. (Gehry does his own voice.) The building is constructed, and when the townspeople discover that a performing-arts center is going to house, well, performing arts, they stay away in droves, and finally Mr Burns takes it over and turns it into a prison.

Now the likelihood of the new Tulsa arena becoming a correctional facility is of course nil. But there's still the matter of getting people downtown in the first place.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:06 PM to Soonerland )
11 April 2005
I wind up owing

This surprises me not a whit:

A study by economists Daniel Hamermesh and Jeff Biddle uses survey data to examine the impact that appearance has on a person's earnings. In each survey, the interviewer who asked the questions also rated the respondents' physical appearance. Respondents were classified into one of the following groups: below average, average and above average.

Hamermesh and Biddle found that the "plainness penalty" is 9 percent and that the "beauty premium" is 5 percent after controlling for other variables, such as education and experience. In other words, a person with below-average looks tended to earn 9 percent less per hour, and an above-average person tended to earn 5 percent more per hour than an average-looking person. For the median male in 1996 working full-time, the respective penalty and premium amounted to approximately $2,600 and $1,400 annually. The corresponding penalty and premium for the median female worker are $2,000 and $1,100.

One might think that for certain professions, appearance is more important. Indeed, occupations that require more interpersonal contact have higher percentages of above-average-looking employees. However, Hamermesh and Biddle showed that the plainness penalty and the beauty premium exist across all occupations.

Some possible rationales:

While appearance might seem unrelated to job performance, some explanations behind these wage differentials are based on unmeasured productivity. Certain characteristics, such as appearance, might affect productivity in ways that are not as easily measured (or as obvious) as are other characteristics, like education or experience. Appearance, for example, can affect confidence and communication, thereby influencing productivity. A study by economists Markus Mobius and Tanya Rosenblat estimates that confidence accounts for approximately 20 percent of the beauty premium. Further, employers might believe that customers or co-workers want to interact with more-attractive people. Biddle and Hamermesh found support for this view based on a higher beauty premium in the private sector since private attorneys need to attract and keep clients. [They ran a separate survey for lawyers.]

On the other hand, I can't imagine a group of seriously unattractive people filing a class-action suit in this matter: for one thing, they'd never get any television coverage.

(Via Steph Mineart.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Dyssynergy )
Testier than thou

The Oklahoman's self-described "Anti-News Editor" Sally Allen has had it up to here with the squabbling in Oklahoma County government:

Since taking office in January, commissioners [Brent] Rinehart and [Stan] Inman have spent numerous man-hours publicly criticizing current county officials, disseminating memos of mass destruction, and otherwise displaying the political tact of Jane Fonda wielding a communist anti-aircraft gun.

County commission meetings, which formerly required massive doses of caffeine, now regularly consist of heated arguments over extremely important budgetary matters, such as whether or not to create the "Commission to Decide on the Anatomically Correct Definition of 'Sexual Orientation'."

Meanwhile, longtime county officials have reacted to commissioners' criticism with the patience and wisdom of seasoned public servants, similar to the way Indiana Pacers react to potentially lethal plastic cups.

Allen's proffered solution is also anatomically correct:

I'd like to suggest a worry-free way in which REAL MEN resolve their power struggles without further burdening the taxpayers. This simple, inexpensive solution requires only two things — a locker room and a tape measure. I'll donate the tape measure.

Bring a micrometer and a pair of Don Alverso's tweezers while you're at it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 AM to City Scene )
Ford has a bitter idea

The House that Henry Built has shaved $900 million from its earnings estimate for the year, citing rising costs, including worker health-care costs, and slumping sales.

And there just may be a reason for the latter:

I noticed this evening that I just rolled over 60,000 miles in my 2002 F-150, and I'd love nothing more than to go buy a new one. But I'll be damned if I'm going to pay the exorbitant price they want for a newish copy of the same model 3 years later. There ain't nothing on it worth $10,000 more. I don't need no damn DVD player, side-impact airbags, GPS navigation system, or 36" spinner rims on a damn pickup. They started adding geegaws for urban yoots, hausfraus, and dashing young bankers from Upper Booho, and completely forgot about the dude who has to haul things around on occasion.

And dealers don't stock the strippers except as occasional traffic-builders.

It doesn't help, either, that the newest F150 has put on a lot of extra poundage, not all from bling: it's mostly due to the new frame design, which is substantially more resistant to flexing and bending, at a cost of about 600 lb and don't even ask how much gasoline. At least the stiffer structure benefits the dude who has to haul things around on occasion.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:14 AM to Driver's Seat )
The Good (e)Book

Tom Lehrer, when he proposed "The Vatican Rag" as a means of making the Church more "commercial," was kidding. I think.

Meanwhile in England, the Norfolk County Council is revising the syllabus for religious education, and one of their revisions calls for the abandonment of the name "Old Testament" for the first thirty-nine books of Scripture; says the council, it makes this part of the Bible seem out of date.

Of course, the New Testament isn't all that new either, come to think of it, and if you ask me, there's only one way to resolve this issue: with a contest.

Your assignment, should you decide to accept it, is to come up with new names for both Old Testament and New Testament that will pass muster with the likes of the Council without being excessively irreverent or irrelevant. Feel free to request the assistance of the Holy Ghost Spirit. Entries will be taken in Comments through Friday evening.

(Suggested by this Tongue Tied item.)

Do it again, just a little bit slower

A 21-year-old Taco Bell employee in the Salt Lake City 'burbs has drawn a six-month jail term plus probation for double-swiping credit cards of customers.

Which, of course, invites the question: Taco Bell takes credit cards?

To paraphrase George Carlin, "No one should be paying the bank 18 percent interest on a Burrito Supreme."

(Via Michelle Malkin.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:41 PM to Dyssynergy )
The Italian job

A reader sent a link to an Irish site taking bets on the next Pope. As of this writing, Francis Arinze (Nigeria) is the favorite, at 3-1; Oscar Andrés Rodríguez Maradiaga (Honduras) and Dionigi Testamanzi (Italy) are at 9-2, with Joseph Ratzinger (Germany) at 6-1. The American accorded the best chance is Sean Patrick O'Malley, Archbishop of Boston, at 33-1, which strikes me as overly generous.

They're also taking bets on the Pontiff's name; the favorite right now is Benedict XVIII (3-1), followed by John Paul III (7-2) and John XXIV (5-1). Peter II is a 20-1 shot, though I can't imagine anyone taking that name.

I will, of course, burn in hell for suggesting that Arinze be elected, becoming the first black Pope of modern times, and that he take the name "Urban IX."

12 April 2005
Freeze, Mister

In fact, this would freeze anything this side of Hades.

Or, for that matter, the other side.

(Via Kyriosity.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Dyssynergy )
The new curiosity shop

In a bleak area in Chatham, Kent, on England's southeastern coast, work is starting on Dickens World, a tourist trap theme park based on the life and times and characters of Charles Dickens, featuring appropriate Victorian architecture and (probably) slightly anachronistic rides.

There is, so far as I can tell, no truth to the rumor that the on-site Uriah Heep character will be played by Senator John Kerry (D-MA).

(Via Chase McInerney.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:16 AM to Almost Yogurt )
A tale of two city wards

Two new faces on the City Council starting today — well, actually, Pete White has been here once before, in the 1980s — and their constituencies couldn't be more different.

White's Ward 4 occupies the southeastern corner of the city. In the nearer areas, where industrial and residential development often took place side by side, an artifact of the old oil patch, neither the businesses nor the homes are doing particularly well. Farther east, you get into traditionally rural areas which are having to adjust, not always happily, to being inside city limits. And there's Lake Stanley Draper, which someday might be a destination but right now is mostly just a reservoir.

Way out northwest is Patrick Ryan's Ward 8, which includes some fairly upscale areas and some former farmland that's being converted into suburbia. The major problems out here are twofold: bad section-line roads in the outlying areas and horrendous traffic in the developed areas.

City Council of late has not had a reputation for internecine warfare, and I don't expect one to develop with the arrival of the new guys; I suspect the limiting factor in bringing improvements to these wards will be, not Council opposition, but budgetary constraints.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:04 AM to City Scene )
Aorta watch it

Now here's something I hadn't thought about:

The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

The French eat a lot of fat and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

The Japanese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

The Italians drink excessive amounts of red wine and also suffer fewer heart attacks than the British or Americans.

There is only one logical conclusion.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:31 AM to Dyssynergy )
The old Same place

According to legend, everyone has a twin. Somewhere out there, there's someone who looks exactly like me (shudder) or like you.

I have never quite believed this sort of thing, since it relies almost entirely on anecdotal evidence, the sum total of which simply cannot be equated to actual data.

And then I stepped into the dentist's office and there was one of the 42nd and Treadmill Office Babes — except, of course, that it wasn't.

Now I've been through this sort of thing before, and I have concluded that it's better to say nothing and look a fool rather than to speak up and look even more of a fool. So I scoped her out as best I could without actually going into Stare Mode.

And, well, it was the same face, the same hair (with the same indifferent 'do), the same general curvature. She even crossed her legs at about the same angle, which, once she switched to the other side, enabled me to determine for certain that it wasn't the O.B. (Tattoo, or in this case the lack thereof.)

After about five minutes, another young woman popped through the door to the inner sanctum and the two of them went out together: friends from high school, I guessed.

The O.B. wasn't here today, so I didn't pass on this story to her, and frankly I don't know whether she'd be creeped out by the thought or amused by the idea that it's possible to see her while looking at a girl of eighteen. I'm vaguely creeped out by the thought that I gave it that much thought in the first place.

Just a slob like one of us

DCSOB's list of Washington's Most Loathsome manages to include one person from this neck of the woods:

13. Rep. Ernest Istook (R-Okla.): Since I announced the creation of this list, people have told me that I have a very, very long list of people in Congress from which to draw, assuming that they count as Washingtonians. While the vast majority of Congresspeople don't care much for the District and jet to fundraisers back home as soon as possible, the metro area has drawn the attention of this guy, so he will stand in as pure concentrated liquid douchebaggery for the rest of the asshats in Congress who think we're too dumb to vote.

You may recall that it was Istook who tried to block funding any transit agency (such as WMATA) that runs ads from groups seeking to change drug laws. It was such a naked violation of the constitution that even the speaking-in-tongues Ashcroft Justice Department said it didn't have a leg to stand on. Just like a shy flower waiting for a chance to bloom ... getting accosted by Black Israelites on the way out of the Metro Center Station, sometimes attention isn't a good thing.

I'm looking forward to an Anybody But Ernest campaign in 2006.

And actually, in terms of sheer loathsomeness, even Istook, in DCSOB's estimation, takes a back seat to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), at #2.

(Via Wonkette, who was #3.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:01 PM to Soonerland )
Number 700,000

At 4:16 and a fraction this afternoon, from a RoadRunner IP in Kansas City (65.26.88.93). Referring page was blocked; whoever it was read three pages in 43 seconds (not bad) and split.

Whoever you are, thank you.

(This means 100,000 visitors since the 23rd of December.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:24 PM to Blogorrhea )
13 April 2005
There's a place

I've been in Oklahoma for thirty years, but for most of that time I never felt quite anchored to the red clay at my feet; I was dissatisfied with my lot, and while I accepted most of the blame, I persisted in thinking that being Somewhere Else could only help matters.

In a society that seems to pride itself on its mobility, it's easy to forget the importance of having a place of your own, a place that you call home, a place that you'll defend, if not necessarily to your last breath, certainly into the next few paragraphs. It's a place that's a part of you, just as much as you're a part of it.

Susanna Cornett, on the hills of eastern Kentucky:

It wasn't until I was older that I realized every building, every piece of property I could see from my house was owned by someone I was related to. But that's less land than you might think. The hills close tightly against those loamy bottomlands, and the view doesn't go very far. It's a place where you can feel protected and safe or bound up and smothered. I suspect most people who stay there very long alternate between the two, sometimes during the same day. In a way, in those eastern Kentucky hills, the landscape echoes the relationships, or maybe it's the other way around. Because the hills are low and almost of a human scale, so close you can't avoid living and working and playing on them, they become as much a part of your internal landscape as they are a part of the external one.

She understands. So does Julie Neidlinger, in a North Dakota that seems to be disappearing before her eyes:

[M]aybe I'm not loyal to North Dakota. I'm loyal to where I'm from. I'm from more than a chunk of land with geopolitical boundaries, a page in Rand McNally's atlas. I'm from here, this house, this farm not even a mile east of where my grandfather grew up, and just across the graveled township road from where my father grew up. I'm from a place where I can run my hand over the wood in the granary and see where my grandfather carved his initials as young man, right next to the initials of the hired help. It's the same place where his father used tally marks to count the bushels and planted a chokecherry tree next to the house. This is where I am from.

I am learning. Slowly, you can be sure; but just the same, I am learning.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Debuting with a splash

Water Taxi of Oklahoma will start its river-transit service in the summer of 2006 with four 50-foot catamarans, which will carry passengers between the Reno-Meridian area and downtown. Unlike the seasonal Bricktown Canal service, these boats are expected to run 12 months a year.

Longtime residents will remember when the most plausible vehicle for negotiating the river was a lawn tractor.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to City Scene )
This is not Britney Spears

I repeat: This is not Britney Spears.

At least, not yet.

Keep this on your shelf next to your Miami Transvestite Barbie.

(Via Lawren.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:50 AM to Almost Yogurt )
We're up to 134

Dr Zen presents the 134th Carnival of the Vanities at yeah whatever, which is a handy phrase for those of us who have had to write basically this same post a hundred and some odd times over.

Anyway, it's a week's worth of superior bloggage in a single handy package, yadda^3, you know the drill. You can skip over this one item from me.

(Update: Some people are less than pleased about it.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:57 PM to Blogorrhea )
Hardware lust

Cadillac's STS is a pretty nice big boat, as big boats go, but the STS SAE 100, a one-off for the Society of Automotive Engineers World Congress, integrates some spiffy new toys, a fair number of which should drift down to regular production lines sooner or later.

Perhaps the most frivolous, until you think about it, is the disappearance of the gas cap. Push a dashboard button and an electronic gizmo spins open the spout; it shuts itself once you've filled up and removed the nozzle. Anyone who's ever cursed himself for losing a gas cap, or who's failed to count the clicks and wound up with a glaring Malfunction Indicator Light, should appreciate this. (I qualify on the former, once, or was it twice?)

An oil-condition sensor reports to the engine computer, and thence to the dash, the level of dino juice and how long you have left before it bakes into a nasty sludge, which should serve as a nice reality check to those folks who get the oil changed every 3 years or 36,000 miles, whether it needs it or not.

The nav system is 3D, and displays actual satellite photos; there's a reasonable chance that the road ahead will look something like the screen.

With neat stuff like this, you'd think the powertrain would be something of an afterthought, but the General has bestowed a supercharged LS2 mill on this Caddy, with 505 ponies from its six liters of displacement, and a six-speed manumatic to keep them in line.

For the time being, I will keep telling myself that this sort of thing won't fit in my garage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:48 PM to Driver's Seat )
14 April 2005
Head games

Do we want our robots to look, well, robotic? Last year, Dallas inventor David Hanson, founder of Human Emulation Robotics LLC, said no:

Most people doing social robots believe that human faces will turn people off and will disturb them. I think that's ridiculous. The human face is perhaps the most natural paradigm for us to interact with.

I have yet to make up my own mind here, but I have to admit, I can see myself getting into a conversation with Hanson's "Eva," whom you can see here [link requires QuickTime and, at 17.2 mb, much patience] for yourself. At least there's a chance she wouldn't glare at me like those real girls.

A solid black dot

Matt Deatherage takes Consumer Reports to task:

[I]n the modern era, Consumer Reports has a history of incompetent product ratings by pretending one category of product is really another and rating it on that basis. I know that the group has a First Amendment right to do that, but that doesn't make their analysis correct, or even pass the laugh test. I know that when they nail a popular product, they use that for years to milk money from decent people who, as likely as not, are scared that a product may hurt them or just scared of looking like a fool for having purchased one.

If Consumer Reports had been founded in 1986 instead of 1936, there's no way it would have a reputation for being a "straight shooter" or a "trusted name in product recommendations." They're wrong, they're loud, they're mean about it, and they preach First Amendment rights while using copyright and lawsuits to silence their critics.

The specific wrongness under discussion is their verdict on the Ionic Breeze air gizmo, but plenty of other examples exist.

The magazine likes to brag about how it accepts no advertising, with the implication that it is fiercely independent and evaluates products (and, lately, "services") without even the slightest hint of bias. Mostly, this comes off as an attempt to exploit widespread consumer cynicism; historically, the automotive-enthusiast magazines, whenever they published favorable reviews, have gotten (and often printed) snitty letters from detractors observing that the check from [fill in name of manufacturer] must have cleared.

Consumers Union, by thinking itself above that sort of thing, has left itself wide open for another charge: blatant elitism. And it's not hard to find in any random issue a piece where they've dumbed-down some technical aspect of a product, perhaps because those non-technical types who actually read the magazine couldn't possibly understand all the fine points. Besides, they keep changing their standards: used to be, a car was Recommended if it tested well and had at least average reliability. Now they've factored dubious crash-test results into the equation. (Is there a "standard crash"? In the laboratory, sure. On the highway, not even close.)

The best thing in Consumer Reports is the list of repair records for various classes of products, largely because the results are supplied by actual readers. (Consumers Union does ask the questions, and sometimes the questions are open to interpretation, but by and large they don't muck around with these.) But, as a typical member of Big Media, they're anxious to impress you with their level of expertise — whether it's deserved or not.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:05 AM to Dyssynergy )
Silence is golden

As late as this morning, I was contemplating the idea of adding audio clips to this site as an Additional Gee-Whiz Feature, because, after all, I am a guy and I take Gee-Whiz (well, Whiz anyway) very, very seriously.

Andrea Harris shot down that idea, probably for good:

I, and I am sure a lot if not most of the bloggers out there, have a face for radio and a voice for print. I can't stand to hear my own voice on a recording device — I sound like Kermit the Frog with a sinus infection. I held out for years before buying a fucking answering machine. I'm fifty pounds overweight. Why the hell would I think anyone would want to hear or see me?

But the other, and more important (to me anyway) thing is that print is a faster and more efficient way of getting a message across than voice or video. Think about how long it takes to sit and listen to or watch a monologue, and then go read a passage of text containing about the same amount of words. Which was faster? Also, which didn't have someone (say this was an amateur, inexperienced monologist) punctuating his or her speech with pauses and silences of varying length, stutters, stammers, the involuntary "ahs," "ems," and "uh....s" that all but the most experienced public speakers can't entirely eliminate from their conversation.

Mrs. du Toit was good at this. She didn't have her speech interrupted by random noises or unexpected silences; her delivery was smooth, and it didn't at all hurt that she has a voice that will melt zinc. Still, she's the exception: the rest of us (and I sound like Andy Devine's horse trying to do an impression of Rochester) establish the rule.

A certain amount of gratitude (I think she prefers cash) would seem to be in order.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:18 AM to Blogorrhea )
The Danube is green

What's more, it ain't clean;
It's green like a bean;
It ain't (not) serene.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:19 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Heart and soul

A little something from Vent #226:

This was the first time anyone had actually used the word "stillbirth", and we were absolutely horrified. "We're still not getting any readings," they said, pointing to the fetal-monitoring apparatus. How could this be? "Sometimes they strangle themselves on the cord." Fighting back the tears, we resolved to get on with the delivery; there would be time enough for mental anguish later.

This was, as it happens, a few hours before the birth, and the alarms proved false.

But suppose they tell you something comparably horrible halfway through the pregnancy? What do you do then? Amanda Witt tells a story of two couples who took what today is probably the road less traveled:

[T]heir actions were, according to most of our country, insane. Carry an irrevocably damaged baby to term? Whatever for? Why not abort the thing, clear your womb, make room for another pregnancy, a healthy baby.

Fortunately for them, abortion was only suggested, not forced. But the days when it will be required are, I suspect, coming. Already we read about HMOs paying to abort babies with cystic fibrosis, while refusing to cover medical care for them after birth; we read about civilized countries killing disabled infants after birth, even babies whose defects are not terminal or even painful, but simply inconvenient. Already doctors talk about "futile care," stopping therapy, removing feeding tubes, "euthanizing" the aged, the disabled, the ill, the injured, the senile; expanding the categories of uselessness wherever difficulties, suffering, or complications encroach upon our simple "right" to unencumbered happiness.

I find it rather hard to characterize a country which jacks up its infant-mortality rate for the sake of convenience as "civilized," but maybe that's just me.

No, neither of those poor damaged children lasted too long in this world. Reason enough, I think, to hope for a world to follow.

And the young lady in the opening who was supposed to have strangled on the cord? She'll be twenty-seven years old this summer, and has a child of her own.

(By way of Francis W. Porretto. The link, I mean.)

(Update, 8:30 pm: Would you believe — "wrongful-birth" lawsuits?)

15 April 2005
Sand in low places

Lilly Valley, a naturist club in Fort Erie, Ontario, has announced its new single-day ground-fee schedule, and you can read all manner of things into the numbers:

$35.00 per day. Couples and Family.
$30.00 per day. Single Males.
$25.00 per day. Single Women.
$25.00 per day. Teen Couples (16-19)
$20.00 per day. Teen Males (16-19)
$10.00 per day. Teen Women (16-19)

I am not particularly surprised that single males over 19 pay a higher rate — a disproportionate number of them, I am told, behave badly under the circumstances — but I am a bit surprised at the deep discounts being offered teenagers. (Students 20 and up get a $5 break off the adult rate.)

Or maybe I'm not so surprised. One thing that the reputable clubs have in common is strict supervision, and sexual activity is very much frowned upon. For all I know, the teens may be better off dancing in the buff than going off drinking after the prom. (No, I haven't asked my own children what they think: for one thing, they're out of their teens, thank you very much; for another, they'd probably be horrified that anyone does this sort of thing.)

And if the message boards I've seen that are devoted to this topic are any indication, clubs of this sort are largely populated with people even older than I am, in which case some new blood is probably long overdue.

Who wants to know?

Well, well, more questions. Why not?

1. Have you ever felt left out or gotten your feelings hurt by another blogger? For example ... (PURELY HYPOTHETICALLY) Say a person asks you and four other people the same question, which you all answer in different ways. Then you run across a totally different blog, and that author has linked to every person's answer except yours.

No difference to me; I don't always work in every last possible link, nor do I expect the rest of the 'sphere to do so.

2. Do you become (even slightly) emotionally involved with your posts?

The good ones, yes. Fortunately, they are a minority.

3. Knowing that a blog is NOT the sum total of the author's parts ... tell me if you would agree or disagree (and WHY you agree or disagree) with the following statement:

Regardless of the material posted, aspects of the author's personality inevitably bleed through, unless every post they make is plagiarized.

How could they not? I figure someone could write a frighteningly detailed, spectacularly slow-selling book about me based solely upon the archives here.

And finally... 4. If you eat pasta together with anti-pasta ... will you feel as though you haven't eaten?

Hardly. You're simply transported to another world, known familiarly as the calzone.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 AM to Screaming Memes )
Final option

Michele caught a lot of flak, generally undeserved, during l'affaire Schiavo, and she's issued a statement that isn't a manifesto, but could be:

I would like to see laws enacted that would allow, with specifications and limits, a person to choose death over instances where they may be dying, in pain and agony, for a long time. It's about dying with dignity. Dying without protracted, prolonged pain. About choosing the option to go quietly and peacefully rather than lingering in a vegetative state for years. My option. My choice. Again, within specific guidelines and limitations. I don't think someone should be able to say "I lost my job, my wife left me, let me check myself into a hospital and have them kill me legally."

Of course, things like this will never happen, because the Slippery Slopists will be there to say, IF...THEN. If you give a mouse a cookie, he'll eventually want your whole house. And if you give a person the right to die with dignity, eventually you'll be killing everyone who's not blonde haired and blue eyed. And those who aren't screaming about Hitler will yell about God. It's God's choice when you die. It's God's will when you die. Only God can choose when a life should end.

I am, of course, somewhat bemused by the notion that by asking for that one last shot, I am somehow thwarting the will of God.

I do worry about that slope, because there are people — not many, but enough to mention — who would happily bring us a few steps closer to the Soylent Greening of America, who for whatever reason feel that caring for the infirm is somehow an affront to their sensibilities or to their future affluence. But advocating the right to die for oneself does not inevitably translate into advocacy of a full-fledged euthanasia program: were I in straits that dire, I might want my plug pulled, or I might not — lately, I'm thinking the latter — but I would never be able to try to talk someone else into it, and I resist the idea that there should be any policy beyond "It is a matter solely up to the individual."

Life is precious. One does not choose to give it up except under the most extreme circumstances. Should your choice be irrevocable and indisputable, I believe you should be allowed to do so — and absent either of these criteria, life must be preserved.

Although I might make an exception for people who routinely scream about Hitler.

Yippie-ki-yay, distinguished colleagues

Matt Rosenberg, with an assist from the French (!), makes a case for Senator Bruce Willis.

(And if Willis runs, does McGehee have to change his blog again?)

Ripped from the very pages

If you asked me to make a list of Things I Will Never Be, probably at the very top would be "fantasy figure"; I can't imagine anyone wasting their time on such a forlorn figment of imagination.

On the other hand, I couldn't imagine myself as a character in fan fiction, even a relatively unimportant one, and yet:

I unfolded a piece of paper I'd retrieved from my pants pocket and tried the first set of numbers on the list: 11-29-98. "Nope. Wrong, Karl." I tried the second: 5-29-74. Nothing. "Too bad, Ken." Then I tried the last combination on the list: A simple: 1-4-5. Again, nothing. "Sorry Karl. Maybe you shoulda used that computer." I thought for a second, pulled out my cell phone, and rang-up a number Karl had given me: "Hello, Mr. Dustbury? How's that wind? Still sweepin' down the plain? Ha, ha! . . . . It isn't? Oh . . . Mr. Dustbury, this is Frank. . . . Francis. . . . Francis Farquhar. . . The Farquhars of Pauls Valley? No. . . I don't think so. . . I'm here at the Command Center. . . Yes, Karl asked me. . . . anyway. . ."

No, it's not Karl Malone or Karl Malden.

(Incidentally, our heroine, contrary to the impression given in the story, is darn near five-foot-two.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:37 PM to Blogorrhea )
16 April 2005
Deuced coupes

I'm westbound from what used to be the Classen Circle, and out of four cars in the left-turn lane, three of them are '32 Fords with paint deeper than the Marianas Trench.

Which can mean only one of one thing: it's a National Street Rod Association event, specifically the Southwest Street Rod Nationals, this weekend in the Okay City. And registration was at the Courtyard by Marriott, just west of the ex-Circle.

The rodders are invariably well-behaved, say local officials, but locals apparently use the arrival of the classic cars to engage in such antisocial activities as "cruising" and street racing.

What makes the street racing particularly heinous is that it's along Meridian between Reno and SW 29th, an extremely busy stretch of road. The police are increasing their presence in the area, just in case.

Kermac, Icahn strike a deal

Details of the settlement between Kerr-McGee and Carl Icahn have begun to pour out.

The Icahn group is getting most of what it wants: KMG is spinning off the chemical division (a plan which was already on the table), buying back up to $4 billion worth of common stock, and selling off about $2 billion of oil and gas assets which the company classifies as "non-core."

What KMG gets is to be left alone — Icahn is withdrawing all of his proxy solicitations and his board nominations — and some assurance that the company will remain in Oklahoma City.

This isn't exactly what I predicted, but it's close.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:27 AM to Soonerland )
Against the grain

Only in America, and only some of America at that, would "white bread" be considered a pejorative.

And this is worse.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Chimney-sweep sparrow

This blog stuff may be the most visible section of dustbury.com, but there's lots of other material here that doesn't demand daily updates.

Except when it does. Single File, my ongoing compendium of maybe-forgotten 45s, at any given moment has two or three projects under way, and one of them was a piece about "Judy In Disguise (With Glasses)," the out-of-left-field hit by Southern rockers John Fred and His Playboy Band in early 1968.

Then came word that John Fred had died at Tulane University Hospital in New Orleans this week, from complications from a kidney transplant, and I knew I had to tie up the strings on Judy's kite.

And while we're on the subject, here's a quote from Fred himself which explains, among other things, why I write all that music-related stuff:

I can get real emotional on some songs. Like "For Your Precious Love," by Jerry Butler, every time I hear that song, something hits me. It's other songs, too. Little Willie John and Chuck Willis and those type of artists, you don't hear their songs on the radio anymore, but they were so instrumental in my life and other people's lives.

John Fred Gourrier lived sixty-three years, every one with a song in his heart.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:10 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Branches to the heavens

If I mention in passing that this neighborhood, like so many others, has a fair number of American elm trees, many people will ask right off: "How are they doing?"

"Not great, but well enough," is what I usually say, and then we remonstrate for a few moments about the miserable blight that so easily fells these magnificent trees.

Some of them, anyway.

The nineteenth of April, 1995, a few minutes past nine. What used to be the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, between NW 4th and NW 5th, is now two parts shell, one part rubble. At this point, nobody knows how many people were lost. And nobody notices the American elm tree across 5th, its bark blackened by the blast, its trunk full of glass shards and splashed with asphalt at its base, its branches weighed down by the flying chunks of metal they caught. Its few remaining leaves, though, are still green.

And they stayed that way through a hot Oklahoma summer. As plans for the National Memorial began to take shape, the tree still stood. People came to the bombing site with cans of water for the tree. The plans were redrawn to include the old elm. Someone — no one knows for sure who — named it the Survivor Tree.

Came the spring of 1996. A few green leaves, then a few more. Mark Bays, an urban forester from the state Department of Agriculture, came up with a plan to remove the concrete from the area around the tree's base. A tree service reconditioned the soil, pruned damaged limbs, collected seeds. Over the next four years, a support system for the tree was developed.

Nobody knows for sure how long the Survivor Tree will, well, survive. It's been given the best of care, including treatments to repel the blight, and it's an integral part of today's National Memorial, insuring that it won't be forgotten. But this mute witness to the terrible tragedy of the nineteenth of April has brothers and sisters and cousins all over the city, and I believe that the strength of one, by some genetic anomaly, by the grace of God, by something, somehow resides in them all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:53 PM to City Scene )
Things I learned today (6)

After all, one should never run out of things to do and learn.

I haven't done one of these for, like, months.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 PM to Blogorrhea )
17 April 2005
Where's the front of the horse?

TrackBack spammers: can't live with them, can't have them hunted down and killed. (Yet.)

I went through a spate of attacks by these grit-eating, scum-sucking, pencil-neck geeks myself, though I never got fifty at a shot the way Michael Bates did this weekend, or the mass quantities that have befallen cut on the bias and other Blogfodder sites.

Not necessarily apropos of which, Susanna said this earlier:

We're talking about corrections this week in class, and one of the things I always emphasize is that to be rehabilitated, you have to be habilitated in the first place. Supposedly rehabilitation programs are targeted at returning someone to a law-abiding and somewhat societally-functional behavior. The problem is, for a sizeable portion of the prison population, they've never had a law-abiding and societally-functional life to begin with so there's nothing to return to.

I submit that spammers, regardless of the technology used, are emotionally wedded to the concept of getting something for nothing, of riding roughshod over the rights and the property of others; trying to turn them from worthless parasites into useful citizens is likely to be a complete waste of time.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:53 AM to Blogorrhea )
Mah-na mah-na

Or, as it reads on the label of the 45 (Ariel 500): MÁH-NÁ-MAH-NÁ.

Questionable accents aigu aside, Donna is tickled to note that this tune, popularized by various Muppets, originated as part of the soundtrack to a "Swedish porno." Well, it's kind of soft-core, or so I'm told, but there's still some amusement value in the repurposing, as it were, of the material; it's not quite like, say, Disney coming up with a cartoon version of Lady Chatterley's Lover (imagine, if you will, Donald Duck sputtering about John Thomas), but it's still giggle-worthy.

For a recording that made only #55 in Billboard, this is one wildly-popular tune, and I went through the charts looking for other songs peaking at #55 that might have had similar, or any, impact. To my surprise, I found quite a few worth mentioning:

"Goldfinger," Billy Strange and His Orchestra (GNP Crescendo 334, 1965)
"Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl," The Barbarians (Laurie 3308, 1965)
"Solitary Man," Neil Diamond (Bang 519, 1966) *
"You're Gonna Miss Me," The 13th Floor Elevators (International Artists 107, 1966)
"Let's Spend the Night Together," The Rolling Stones (London 904, 1967) **
"Foggy Mountain Breakdown," Flatt & Scruggs (Columbia 44380/Mercury 72739, 1968) ***
"Someday Soon," Judy Collins (Elektra 45649, 1969)
"Oh Well," Fleetwood Mac (Reprise 0883, 1970)
"Cinnamon Girl," Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Reprise 0911, 1970)
"She Don't Use Jelly," The Flaming Lips (Warner Bros. 41102, 1994)

Surely there's a lesson to be learned from this.

* Reissued and slightly reedited in 1970, charted at #21.

** B-side of "Ruby Tuesday," which made #1.

*** The Columbia version was a remake, done for the film Bonnie and Clyde; the Mercury release was a reissue of the 1949 original.

Double vision

Tim Blair's commentary at timblair.net will be supplemented, for the time being, by the writings of Tim Dunlop. (Although, in fairness, I'd rather deal with Tim & Tim than, say, Ed, Edd n Eddy.)

Lest you think this is some sort of guy thing, while Steph Mineart's in the hospital, A Commonplace Book will be presided o'er by Stephanie K.

Now if I see another Yahmdallah, then I'm going to worry.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:11 AM to Blogorrhea )
Smile, you're on Traffic Camera

Delaware has installed a couple of those red-light cameras, with more to come, and Fritz Schranck says Delaware's implementation is more defensible than those in some other states:

[T]he yellow phase signal timing ... by law cannot be shorter than what is set by the Department's Traffic Section, using the Delaware edition of the Uniform Manual on Traffic Control Devices.

Which means they can't, or at least they say they won't, speed up the yellow-to-red transition to maximize revenues.

I still have some qualms about this sort of thing, but at least Delaware seems intent on using the cameras as an actual safety measure instead of as a cash cow, and in what strikes me as a spiffy enhancement, they'll show you the actual footage of your violation online, which may be sufficiently discouraging to save you the $30 or so it will cost to appeal the $75 ticket and lose.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:09 PM to Driver's Seat )
Wilson mode: ON

If I'm working in the front yard, neighbors will usually say hello, and I'll occasionally get a wave from people walking through the area, which is a definite change from the days in the old CrappiFlat™, where people kept to themselves if they possibly could.

In the back yard, I'm not generally visible, and there's a fence surrounding the area that's as tall as I am, further shrouding the premises, so no one acknowledges my presence out back, and given my particular predilections, this is probably a Good Thing.

Then today: "Hello!"

I figured it probably wasn't for me anyway, and ignored it.

On the third "Hello!" I dragged myself over to the fence, and there was your basic Sweet Little Old Lady, apparently a dweller in the apartments on the adjacent block. Given the topography of the area, which slopes down from the west side of my house, she was basically staring me in the navel, or could have been had it not been for the fence and the trees on its far side.

And it was a tree she wanted to talk about. "This apricot tree hangs over on your side," she said.

I pointed out that I kept the more blatant intrusions trimmed back, and had in fact pruned a few branches this morning. "It's not time yet, but when they're ripe, would you mind terribly if I gathered them from your yard?"

"It didn't produce much of anything last year," I noted.

She apparently remembered the previous owners, didn't recognize me, and figured that she'd renew an existing arrangement. Which was fine with me. "Just come around to the gate." No harm done; I wasn't planning to pick them, and I was happy not to have provoked a discussion of my attire.

And then: "You're working on getting a tan?"

Um, yes, I was. "It's good for me."

Apparently it was good enough for her, too. "Thank you." And she disappeared into the mysterious wilderness next door.

Maybe I won't trim too narrowly this year, although any branches that protrude through the fence are going to be gone the moment I see them.

Try new Life Savers® Testa-Mint

A while back, I asked for updated nomenclature for the two main sections of Scripture, for the benefit of those desperately-trendy types who thought "Old Testament" sounded, well, old.

Lots of neat responses, but I'm inclined to give the nod to Matt Barr for both ingenuity and prosody: Commandments and Amendments.

Thanks to all who participated.

18 April 2005
Salami tactics

You cut a little here, you cut a little there, and sooner or later what's left won't hold together.

The Passing Parade applies this meatmanship to the Papacy:

The problem the Sandinistas had with the Pope was that he was not some mush minded gringo dolt who couldnt get past his romantic notions and the Sandinista propaganda about the glories of the Revolution; he was a man who saw the Sandinistas for what they were: Communist totalitarians out to turn the Nicaraguan church into an arm of their regime. And the Pope was having none of it. The Pope lived through the Soviet occupation of Central Europe and knew the tactics the Russians used to get their way in such countries as Hungary and Czechoslovakia, the salami tactics, as people called those tactics back in the day. The tactics are relatively simple to understand: the Communists would make a series of non-negotiable demands and threaten civil disorder if they didnt get their way. Once in the government they would demand control of certain ministries, especially those controlling national security and the police, and then would use that power to systematically destroy their political rivals. Hence, slice by slice, like cutting up a salami, the ability of the government to resist the Communists would weaken with every concession until the Communists, with the help of the occupying Red Army, could overthrow the government.

And this experience was put to use in John Paul's spiritual leadership as well:

If the Pope resisted even so-called minor reforms in the Church, I think he did it because he questioned the ultimate motives of those making the demands for change, knowing that if he backed down on one item then the pressure to back down on other items would be all the greater, for having made one concession would only convince the detractors that [they] could have their way.

There's no way to know for sure, but this makes sense to me: what would they ask for next?

Lads with fads

Doug Giles lists the telltale signs that you might just be a metrosexual:

  • You use more than three words when ordering your Starbuck's,
  • You're still into rollerblading,
  • You put on cologne to go to the gym,
  • You have an Armani Exchange or Banana Republic credit card,
  • You Tivo Sex in the City and/or Will and Grace,
  • You watch Friends with a note pad,
  • You have panic attacks (look, either have a real heart attack or cut the crap. That feeling you're feeling is not death; it's called responsibility and most everybody feels it. So ... suck it up, drink a Guinness and get a life),
  • You shave any part of your body except your face or skull,
  • You buy your shampoo at a salon instead of a grocery store,
  • You take more than two, that's two, minutes to fix your hair,
  • You think Ben Affleck, Colin Farrell, and Orlando Bloom are really, really good actors,
  • You think you have a feminine side to get in touch with, and/or
  • You must have Evian and only Evian for hydration.

I might qualify on two of these, maybe. On the other hand, my cutoff point for hair care is a mere forty-five seconds.

The mention of one of those two — one I haven't done lately, but no matter about that — drew a mild rebuke from Francis W. Porretto:

Mr. Giles, for all his points, must remember something about the "Marlboro Man" persona whose return he celebrates: He does what he damned well pleases. So fewer instructions about where to ply the razor — and by implication, where not to — would be in order.

At this point, we're bumping right up against the edge of Too Much Information.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:44 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Hemmed in

My stature as a skirt-watcher has never been questioned. (Come to think of it, it's scarcely been mentioned.)

That said, though, I'm not sure I buy the notion that it's necessary to show off a little for a woman to get a job:

[T]hey might be perceived as less than professional and even lose a job offer if they wear a pantsuit to an interview instead of a skirtsuit. And that they can rarely go wrong by reaching for the highest standard of traditional dress — especially in such conservative fields as banking, investments, and law.

I've never considered trying to worm my way into the so-called Human Resources field, but had I done so, and were I to get to the point where I'm trying to gauge someone's professionalism by whether I can see her shins or not, I'd start thinking it was probably time to consider some other line of work.

Of course, I'm not the person hiring. Otherwise, you wouldn't hear things like this:

Most certainly I don't want to play into the stupid sexist bullshit that I need to let someone look at my legs to size my credentials up, and yet I really don't want to be at a disadvantage at the interview.

On the other hand, Sean Gleeson points out, quite reasonably:

Clothing is a social convention, and one must wear specific sorts of clothing to "fit in" with, or conform to, specific societies, and it has ever been thus.

I think we've identified an actual instance of "male privilege": were a man to apply for such a job, he'd don a suit and tie, and that's that. Simplifies the task immensely. (And God knows no one wants to look at my legs.)

Still, when the chips are down, I think looking one's best might actually trump looking like everyone else in the office. And is it just my imagination, or is the Ann Coulter Time cover cunningly designed to flatter its subject as little as possible?

(Update, 1 pm: Drudge reports that Coulter doesn't like the photo at all: "My own mother would not recognize me!" So much for the royal Timese machine.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:20 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Seek mode

Does this sound vaguely familiar?

With more than 30 million registered text users sending more than 30 billion text messages each month, it's clear that romance seekers ... will not be without a date for long. More than 50,000 people are registered for SMS (short messaging service) in Missouri, with 8,800 in the St. Louis area alone, suggesting that many people are beginning to realize that their cell phone can also be the key to a successful dating life.

Brian J. Noggle can trace this sort of thing back to 1820 or so. And forward, even.

("Shopping, sex and shopping for sex propel all new technology." — Penn Jillette)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:33 PM to Table for One )
19 April 2005
April 19

Ten years have passed since the bombing.

For me, there was disbelief; then there was cynicism.

Perhaps now there is understanding. I hope.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:20 AM to City Scene )
A season of possibilities

On a less-somber note, the Festival of the Arts begins today in downtown Oklahoma City. Between now and Sunday, about 700,000 people will pour into the streets to see the sights, hear the sounds, and chow down on entirely too much food. Admission to the spectacle is free, though last year's excursion, including parking, noshing, and an actual art purchase, inflicted a $150 hit upon my wallet. Your mileage (and millage, I suppose) may vary.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:16 AM to City Scene )
The right to remain silent

This won't do Syaffolee any good, but it's still promising: the city of Shawnee has rewritten its loud-music ordinance to make audibility beyond 50 feet a ticketable offense, with fines ranging up to $500.

Of course, if they really wanted to make a dent in this problem, they'd have written in a provision for confiscation of equipment after repeat offenses.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:39 AM to Soonerland )
An April 19 roundup

Some of what's being said about today and what it meant to those who said it.

See-Dubya, Patterico's Pontifications:

They murdered 168 good people ten years ago today. And they disrupted the innocence of a fine old town that had nothing to do with the twisted politics of the terrorists. Oklahoma City and those people's lives were nothing but stage dressing in their ugly little fantasy ideology. OKC wasn't even my hometown, nor a favorite city — just a place I had lived near and come to recognize as an outpost of decency and civilization, of faith and honesty and hard work. It was the sort of sprawling all-American flyover town my classmates out on the East Coast didn't have much regard for, but for which I was desperately homesick.

Robyn, Shutterblog.com:

It's incredibly hard to believe that ten years have now passed. Seeing the footage and faces on television makes every raw emotion and nerve come flooding back once more. This wasn't something planned and plotted on foreign soil. This was something we did to ourselves. And it was the first time our midwestern — and American — innocence was truly shattered in the blink of an eye.

Frederick Ochsenhirt, A Bluegrass Blog:

I didn't have kids then, as our first was still four years away, but even then I understood that Oklahoma City was nightmare-inducing for those who did. The day care center was supposed to be a safe haven, a place of comfort during the time the kids had to be separated from the parents. Then on an April morning, it became a place of pain and suffering and death. Four and a half years later, when it was time for our little one to go to a day care center of his own, half a continent away in a place that seemed more secure, I still thought about Oklahoma City, but took comfort that I was in a different place, in a different time. Terrorists could never attack Washington, DC, right?

Chase McInerney, Cutting to the Chase:

Sometime that afternoon, rain began to fall. The nearby Civic Center had been transformed into a briefing area for media. It was there I joined other reporters converging upon then-Governor Frank Keating. And it led to a strange epiphany; I had considered myself a cynical and anti-authority contrarian up to that time, but I was almost flat-out ecstatic to see the governor of the state — as if it really meant something. For the first time in my life, I understood the impressive calming effect of leadership, and for the first time that day, I almost felt safe.

Don Danz, Danz Family:

Ten years ago today at 9:02 am I was sitting in my office in Oklahoma City when I heard an explosion that literally shook my desk. I was on the twelfth floor of a twelve-story building and my first thought was that a boiler had exploded on the roof or possibly a tanker truck had exploded at street level immediately in front of my building. I would have doubted the explosion could have come from a block away and thought it impossible that it had happened four blocks away.

I got up from my desk and walked out of my office where I met a coworker who had just left his office. I had been with the firm for just five weeks and asked my coworker jokingly, "Does this happen often here?" He smiled and responded that it did not.

Mike, Mike's Noise:

We had another staff meeting that afternoon. My boss was a little less sure of himself this time. He gave us a less-than-effective pep talk on the purpose of terrorism being disruption, and that we could defeat the plans of the terrorists by continuing to do our jobs and focusing on the work we had to do instead of being distracted by the confusion around us. One of my coworkers wanted to go donate blood. "No, we need you here," was the reply. In truth it would have been a pointless excursion. By Wednesday afternoon, lines of blood donors at the Red Cross were out the door. By that evening, they were turning people away.

What I said last year:

Spring in Oklahoma often brings us disasters. On this very date in 1970, the Chikaskia River, after three days of rain, rose three to six feet from its banks and washed away much of the town of Jefferson. In May 1999, tornadoes pushing the limits of the Fujita scale rolled through the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. The response is always the same: we take care of business, we mourn, we clean up, and we go on, because — well, because that's what we do.

If you have a blog post about the Oklahoma City bombing and its aftermath, feel free to TrackBack to this post.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:20 AM to City Scene )
Urbi et orbi et Andy

It occurs to me, now that the ballots have been burned, that the really interesting bet would not have been who was elected Pope or what name he would take, but how long it would take Andrew Sullivan to complain about him.

It's not simply a continuation of John Paul II. It's a full-scale attack on the reformist wing of the church. The swiftness of the decision and the polarizing nature of this selection foretell a coming civil war within Catholicism. The space for dissidence, previously tiny, is now extinct. And the attack on individual political freedom is just beginning.

In other news, the sky is falling.

(Update, 3:35 pm: "I thought only teenage girls could swoon so dramatically," says McGehee.)

How broke is GM?

First-quarter net loss for the largest American automaker was $1.1 billion, but how much is that really?

This much:

The wealthy Arab emirate of Dubai could bail out GM in a single bank transfer. Or, if every Catholic or every follower of Islam in the world contributed just ONE dollar to GM, this American icon would be in the clear. Perhaps they could work out a cars-for-debt scheme.

Just about every scheme I've had for getting cars involved debt.

It doesn't help that the General had to pay Fiat $2 billion just to go away.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:20 PM to Driver's Seat )
20 April 2005
What they said

A sampling of quotes from yesterday's memorial service downtown:

"I was struck by the words of one survivor who said, 'We can never forget. We don't even want to forget.' That's the spirit of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and it so perfectly reflects the character of the United States." — Vice President Dick Cheney

"Let us also honor those victims by looking to the future. Let us honor them by living lives of joy, of meaning, of love and fulfillment — the lives that they would want us to lead." — Governor Brad Henry

"Trees are good symbols for what you did. You can't forget the past of a tree. It's in the roots, and if you lose the roots, you lose the tree. But the nature of a tree is to always reach for tomorrow — and to always find regenerative power from season to season." — Former President Bill Clinton

"We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity." — Mission statement of the Oklahoma City National Memorial

And the National Memorial presented its first Reflections of Hope Award to the Voice of Afghan Women radio station in Kabul. The awards were created to honor "a living person or group whose extraordinary work has significantly impacted a community, state or nation" and "exemplifies that hope not only survives but also thrives in the wake of political violence." The station (at 91.6 MHz) first signed on in March 2003. The award includes a cash prize of $10,000.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:31 AM to City Scene )
And the ursines remain on the sylvan glades

Is the Pope Catholic? Yes, and this simple fact seems to have upset the Usual Suspects.

Lileks' take is instructive:

The selection of Ratzinger was initially heartening, simply because he made the right people apoplectic. I'm still astonished that some can see a conservative elevated to the papacy and think: a man of tradition? As Pope? How could this be? As if ... this was some golden moment that would usher in the age of married priests who shuttle between blessing third-trimester abortions and giving last rites to someone who's about to have the chemical pillow put over his face. At the risk of sounding sacrilegious: it's the Catholic Church, for Christ's sake! You're not going to get someone who wants to strip off all the Baroque ornamentation of St. Peter's and replace them with IKEA wine racks, okay?

Too facile, you think?

Yes, yes, easy for me to say, it's not my church. New age of oppression and intolerance, and all that. Write me when hot-eyed Jesuits walk into a mosque in Qom with ten pounds of Semtex strapped to their chest.

Naw. He's got them dead to rights.

Note to those of you in the cafeteria line: The Church owes you nothing. It was here first.

What bank is this?

Dan Lovejoy has something to ask:

[W]hat, in the name of all that is good in branding, would cause Coppermark bank to go through two name changes in the last two years?

First, they were Guaranty Bank. Meh. Nothing flashy, but a good, solid, banky name. Then they were Americrest — which sounds like patriotic toothpaste, for about five minutes. Now they are Coppermark — which is the mark a coppersmith puts on his work. And they're advertising that they've NOT been sold.

"At Coppermark Bank, we're still the same bank. The same branches — the same people — the same owners."

This question has been previously answered, by, of all people, me:

Americrest Bank, previously known as Guaranty Bank, is rebranding itself again, this time as Coppermark Bank. The "Americrest" name was coined when Guaranty planned to move into the Dallas-Fort Worth market, where a Guaranty Bank already existed; however, they ran afoul of trademark issues, and had to come up with yet another name. The name change was announced in November, but permanent signage is just now going up.

Satanic toothpaste, of course, is the AntiCrest. (Fedora reangling: Lileks.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:52 AM to City Scene )
Carnival #135

The 135th weekly edition of Carnival of the Vanities is up and running at Conservative Dialysis; so far, there are no signs of a counter-Carnival.

Sixty-one items from last week's best bloggage (plus one from me), ready for your inspection.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:31 AM to Blogorrhea )
A grunt of approval

A franchisee of the Piggly Wiggly grocery chain, which has eased into eastern Oklahoma in recent years, has acquired its first Oklahoma City-area store location.

The store, once a Snyder's IGA and most recently an Eagle Crest supermarket, is at Memorial and Bryant. It's owned by Green Country Food Markets of Tulsa, which owns the Tulsa-area stores and which is looking for other locations around Oklahoma City.

This will be the first rhyming trochee seen on a supermarket sign in the area since the demise of Humpty Dumpty.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:00 PM to Soonerland )
The 700 club

R. Alex turned up this list of average credit ratings in the top 20 US cities, and he's scratching around for a reason why Minneapolis debtors score 50 points higher than their counterparts in Dallas. "Late payments," says an Experian analyst, but why would there be such a substantial difference in payment history at the opposite ends of I-35? The bottom three — Dallas, Houston, and Phoenix — have lots of Latinos, not all of whom are here legally, but surely that isn't the primary factor.

(No, I haven't looked at my score since I bought the house, and I don't remember what it was then, although I'm sure it wasn't over 700.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:34 PM to Common Cents )
21 April 2005
We give you the bird

If you have a browser of a certain age and level of sophistication, at the very left of the URL space in the address bar you'll find a tiny image (16 x 16 pixels) which turns out to be the head of the goldfinch used as part of this site's logo. This is a file called favicon.ico which is dropped into the root directory and which the browser is trained to find. (If you've bookmarked this site — and if you have, what's wrong with you? — you may see the same icon on the bookmark itself.)

Generally, if you see one of these on a site that's not running on Typepad or some similar all-blogs-all-the-time service, it's because the site operator went to a certain amount of trouble to set it up for you.

This is, however, not the case with Progressive Reaction. Says David Fleck:

I want to make it perfectly clear that the weird little icon that is now being displayed next to "Progressive Reaction" in the URL bar, bookmarks, and tabs is being foisted upon us by our hosting company, and that we would never intentionally put such a wussy little — thing on our blog.

So noted.

Maybe Fleck (or Moira Breen) should swipe Jane Galt's icon, which has the virtue of simplicity.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Blogorrhea )
Spotty performance

So where are all the Blogspot blogs? They started disappearing yesterday, and I haven't seen one since.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 AM to Blogorrhea )
Down the middle of downtown

ODOT says the rerouted Crosstown Expressway section of I-40, assuming Congress passes the necessary funding, will open in the fall of 2008, and the movers and shakers are pondering what's going to happen when downtown is no longer bisected by the Interstate.

Which, if you ask me, is a little silly, since they're not removing the old road, only downgrading it to a boulevard. The things they could have done south of the Crosstown, they could have done earlier; the change in the freeway route merely makes them easier to contemplate.

And I'm still vexed about the destruction of the Union Station railyard, which insures that if they ever do decide to build a passenger-rail system in the city, it will cost a whole lot more, since they will have to recreate all that infrastructure from scratch. There are philosophical reasons to dismiss rail transit — mainly, almost all such systems built recently are heavily subsidized because they don't earn back their costs in fares — but you could scrap the bus system for the same reasons, and nobody (well, maybe your friendly neighborhood hard-core libertarian) is arguing for discontinuing the buses. (Chris? Jacqueline?)

On the upside, this further enhances the reputation of downtown Oklahoma City as a place where things are happening, which is a few steps up from its immediate post-Pei Plan status as the Land of the Living Dead.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:51 AM to City Scene )
Fiddling about

I normally don't plug musical events up here, especially musical events a day's drive away, but this one, I think, deserves a mention.

David LaFlamme and his reconstituted It's a Beautiful Day will be appearing at the Swallow Hill Music Association in Denver on Saturday, 28 May.

Twenty-four bucks in advance, twenty-seven on the show date, but there's a good reason to show up a day early besides saving $3: one of LaFlamme's vintage violins from the Sixties will be offered at a silent auction in the Association's Daniels Hall starting that Friday, with the proceeds donated to the Swallow Hill Music School. David describes the instrument as "German made in excellent condition, with bow & case." If you're trying to work up those "White Bird" licks, it just might help to have a genuine period instrument.

Finally, a Colonel of sense

Kentucky Fried Chicken, in some locations anyway, is becoming ... Kentucky Fried Chicken.

And about time, I say. This "KFC" stuff did nothing to build the brand or expand the business; it was just a sop to people who consider the word "fried" obscene, and those people weren't buying any buckets in the first place.

Much that is great comes from Kentucky — bourbon, Corvettes, Susanna Cornett — and it's about time the yutzim at Yum! understood what that means.

Make mine Original, please.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:08 PM to Worth a Fork )
22 April 2005
Quotes of the week

Couldn't decide between them, so you get them both.

First, from Aldahlia:

Jewel — Too old to be totally unaware that the irony is now wearing her.

And also first, from Brian J. Noggle:

I bought a pair of Levi's 404 jeans, but now I can't find them.

There is, in fact, some truth to that LOL business.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:31 AM to Blogorrhea )
They built this city

McGehee was on this a couple weeks ago, and at the time it just seemed amazing to me: the city of Sandy Springs, Georgia, population 85,000 or thereabouts, thirty years a-borning, was finally about to emerge, and the underlords of Fulton County demanded its abortion — because, they said, with Sandy Springs incorporated, there would be less tax money available for the other end of Fulton.

And now the county will appeal to the Feds, claiming that the incorporation of Sandy Springs is somehow — get this — an illegal attempt to hurt minority voters, as though Sandy Springs were some all-white enclave trying to stick it to everyone else. (Last I looked, the population was 27 percent nonwhite.)

The Feds, most likely, will tell Fulton to go pound sand, and Sandy Springs, following a vote this summer, will be a full-fledged city, the seventh largest in Georgia in fact. High time, I say.

3... 2... 1... budget!

The Legislature has come to a budget agreement which calls for $5.9 billion in spending, a ramped-up increase in road construction (and reconstruction), a few more bucks for education, a $2 million subsidy for the Heartland Flyer passenger train, and $58 million in to-be-determined tax cuts.

House and Senate leadership have provided the outline: now the subcommittees must dot every I and cross every T. (I, of course, worry about the Fs.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Soonerland )
The womanly art of self-defense

You want to "Take Back the Night"? Jacqueline has a recommendation:

If feminists are serious about empowering women against violence and sexual assault, their time and money would be far better spent organizing (and advertising widely!) subsidized defensive handgun classes for women than putting on hostile, exclusionary marches. Unfortunately it appears that the feminist movement is too wedded to the political left — the main group pushing gun control — to consider that seriously as a primary strategy.

Given my own position on gun control — I'll control mine, you control yours — I'm thinking this is (1) an excellent idea and (2) therefore not likely to be considered by the blah-blah sisterhood.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:47 AM to Table for One )
Engineered by Dick Hertz

Dr. Weevil suspects this record review might be a fake:

[Charles-Louis] Hanon is to piano methods as the "Moonlight" Sonata or "Heart and Soul" are to piano literature. Piano students are assigned Hanon from day one, and usually hate it. At first I feared that hearing just one Hanon exercise might trigger a Pavlovian response that causes innocent listeners to slam down the piano lid and refuse to practice ever again. On the other hand, 18-year-old Cambodian pianist Hu F'long Dong's amazingly even, accent-free, and rock steady finger work should inspire lapsed keyboard practitioners to give the piano another shot.

"Hu F'long Dong"?

[insert vague reference to Emanuel Ax/Yo-Yo Ma duet here]

23 April 2005
Side by side

The 22nd of April went unmentioned at this outpost, not because I wanted to minimize its significance — it was on that date in 1889, which, contrary to popular belief, was 116 years ago, when the Land Run which created Oklahoma City took place — but because, well, it's not exactly news, you know?

Then I happened upon this piece, in which Louis Gray, head of the Tulsa Indian Coalition Against Racism, makes a reasonable case against re-enactments of the Run in schools — right up there with a victory parade in Custer's home town, he says — and indeed it does seem rather churlish for the winners to rub it in, as it were.

George Milburn wrote in the Yale Review in 1946:

A hundred years ago Oklahoma was turned into a vast concentration camp for Red Indians, because it was such worthless land. Fifty years ago, white people from every State in the Union swarmed in to dispossess the banished Indians, because Oklahoma was such valuable land.

I think, though, that the complaint about the Land Run is not so much for what it did to the tribes, which in reality was not all that much — the area defined for the Run was not part of any of the existing reservations and was largely unoccupied, and the Seminoles and Creeks, who had claims to the territory, were bought out by the US government — as for what it stands for: the entire westward movement, the whole history of the frontier, the arrival of white settlers and the displacement of the natives, boiled down to a single day in the spring of 1889. A natural focal point, if you have grievances, and certainly the tribes had.

By default or by design, the Land Run Monument and the American Indian Cultural Center will be more or less cheek-by-jowl east of downtown Oklahoma City. The juxtaposition, from a historical standpoint, makes perfect sense.

(Submitted to Wizbang's Carnival of the Trackbacks.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:12 AM to Soonerland )
Conspicuous non-consumption

Cost-vs.-benefit ratio, from Undercaffeinated:

Honda Accord LX V-6 - $23,950; average MPG - 25

Honda Accord Hybrid V6 - $30,140; average MPG - 33

If you put 15,000 miles on your car a year, and gas costs about $2 a gallon, the hybrid saves you $300/yr.

It would take over 20 years to make the difference back.

Which is true, though there are other considerations: the Accord Hybrid does have some standard features which are optional on the LX, which narrows the price difference, and unlike Honda's implementation on the Civic, the Accord Hybrid actually offers a performance improvement.

But the numbers speak for themselves, which is why I think the ultimate beneficiary of hybrids will be — turn the Irony knob up to at least 9 — sport-utility vehicles: pushing 12 mpg up to 20 is a lot more of an improvement to one's pocketbook than pushing 25 up to 33. (Over 600 miles, this theoretical hybrid SUV saves 20 gallons of gas; the Accord saves a little less than six.)

Still, if your primary need is to feel clean and green, there's no substitute for the Toyota Prius, which screams "I CARE!" at every gas station it passes, and whose factory FM radio has never been tuned away from NPR.

Thoroughly frosted

Since they started collecting data in the 1890s, the coldest it's ever been in the city on the 24th of April has been 35 degrees Fahrenheit, which happened in 1995. We're supposed to break that tomorrow morning. It will, of course, be even colder in the northern reaches of the state.

This won't bother me much, but I really feel for the folks who have to roll out for the Memorial Marathon some time before sunrise. Geez, you'd think it wasn't even March yet, let alone April.

"Twenty-six miles through OKC,
February frostbite is waiting for me,
February frostbite, it goes right through
Your pants, your pants, your pants, your pants...."

(With apologies to at least two of the Four Preps.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:46 PM to Weather or Not )
Saturday spottings (largely random)

How successful is the Festival of the Arts? People were willingly parking half a mile to the west, despite this area's reputation as Scary Person Central. (The $3 tab instead of the usual $5 didn't hurt either.) Brisk winds didn't discourage anyone either, from the looks of things.

I escaped from downtown up Broadway, mostly to see if they'd installed Chase signage at Bank One (they had) and if they'd started work on the restoration of the Skirvin (they had). Broadway was closed at NW 4th — I'd forgotten that this was the terminus for the Marathon — so I ducked back down Dean A. McGee, which between Broadway and Robinson now seems to be an empty concrete gulch, just about the last one remaining downtown.

Back up Walker to see the roundabout at Plaza Court, which is now open, and well, it seems awfully small. Then again, it's not supposed to have multiple lanes; you can't just barrel your way in if there's traffic. It was probably wise to put a stop sign at 9th and Walker, forcing drivers to slow down and look at the darn thing.

The First Commercial Bank building in the Asian District, with its vaguely pagoda-esque architecture, is just about finished, and it teeters right on the edge of self-parody. (And therefore it fits perfectly with the Milk Bottle, the Gold Dome, and other close-at-hand examples from the WTF? School.)

And I came home up May, where the Bank One branch just north of 36th was getting a fresh Chase sign. On a Saturday afternoon, yet. I get the distinct impression that the locals (so to speak) are looking forward to the imminent arrival of their New York overlords.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:16 PM to City Scene )
24 April 2005
Cry wolf, and let slip the BS of yore

What's disturbing about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's revelation that they'd overstated the effect of overweight on the death rate by a factor of 14 is the fact that the CDC doesn't plan to change its official stance:

CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding said because of the uncertainty in calculating the health effects of being overweight, the CDC is not going to use the brand-new figures ... in its public awareness campaigns and is not going to scale back its fight against obesity.

"There's absolutely no question that obesity is a major public health concern of this country," she said. Gerberding said the CDC will work to improve methods for calculating the consequences of obesity.

Translation: "We're going to keep beating this dead horse despite the fact that everyone knows it's really a marmoset."

The end result, of course, is that no one will believe the CDC on anything anymore; I'd sooner believe that, oh, Susan Estrich is petitioning the Vatican to push aside Benedict XVI and install a woman in his place.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:24 AM to Almost Yogurt )
True D'oh

Apparently what I do here is a laughing matter.

(Um, thanks, Sean.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:38 AM to Blogorrhea )
Another sub-nuclear option

(A previous sub-nuclear option here.)

How about a declining vote requirement for cloture? Right now, it takes 60 votes to cut off a Senate filibuster. Under this plan, should it fail on the first vote, subsequent votes would require fewer votes: say, 57, then 54. Finally, on the fourth vote, a simple majority — 51 votes — would be sufficient to end the debate.

I didn't invent this; Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) did, back in 1995.

(Via John Rosenberg.)

Eschewing obfuscation

Thirty-five articles from last week were up on the front page (plus the usual sidebar detritus) when I sent it through this Readability Test, and these are the results:

Total sentences:  1,201
Total words:  8,408
Average words per Sentence:  7.00
Words with 1 Syllable:  5,521
Words with 2 Syllables:  1,659
Words with 3 Syllables:  941
Words with 4 or more Syllables:  287
Percentage of words with three or more syllables:  14.61%
Average Syllables per Word:  1.52
Gunning Fog Index:  8.64
Flesch Reading Ease:  70.84
Flesch-Kincaid Grade:  5.12

Robert Gunning's Fog Index is an estimate of educational accomplishment necessary to wade through this stuff: 8.64 suggests someone in the second semester of 9th grade might be able to decipher it.

The two Flesch scores are derived similarly. The Reading Ease number falls on a descending scale of 100 to 1, where 100 is down below "One state, two state, red state, blue state" and 1 is beyond even an automatic Chomsky generator. The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is a conversion of the Reading Ease figure to US grade-school levels; apparently Flesch and/or Kincaid have faith that the sixth-graders can handle this material, even though Gunning thinks it's almost out of middle-school range.

Sudden fear: that a middle-school teacher will actually assign this drivel.

Note: Two years ago, Oscar Jr. applied Flesch-Kincaid to a different set of articles and came up with a Grade Level of 9.6 for this site.

(By way of the highly-readable Acidman.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:05 PM to Blogorrhea )
Hydroplane and fancy

Thoughts on driving in the rain, from Syaffolee:

Something about driving in the rain raises my hackles. More people than usual seem to have a death wish on the road, driving fast and reckless. They tailgate, even when I reach five miles over the speed limit. The slick grayness and the churning clouds overhead — is this what dares people to tread that line between here and oblivion? Is it because unlike their dull jobs and boring home lives, this is the only moment that they feel alive?

For myself, I offer the following explanation: It's dangerous out there, what with wet roads, which reduce your traction, and idiot drivers, which reduce your patience. So I tend to speed up, if only to reduce the time I have to spend in this hazardous environment.

On the other hand, I have enough sense not to overdrive either my tires or my vision. If it's coming down so hard that I can't see two feet in front of my car, I'm off to the shoulder, and there I will sit.

And from there, I can watch the curious beauty of it all:

I must admit there's a certain beauty about rainy traffic. A car is not just a car — but a mechanical mermaid rising out of a silver mist — as the hind wheels kick up water. The roads are dark things curling intimately around dripping hills and buildings and budding trees. Perhaps the other drivers feel this too and subconsciously desire that morbid thought of running aground, skin upon cold wet pavement.

Less the wet stuff, this is about how I feel about driving at night. Unfortunately, I don't see as well as I'd like.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:11 PM to Driver's Seat )
25 April 2005
Time is on my side

Yes, it is.

Everyone knows some intervals of time besides the standard units. For instance, if you need x number of seconds, you can start reciting "One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi...." up to x Mississippi, or the point at which you start dropping syllables, whichever comes first. Play the Minute Waltz three times, and you've just timed a three-minute egg, assuming you wanted a three-minute egg.

The following intervals are less useful, but they do seem to come up a lot in my life.

2 seconds:  How long it takes the guy behind me to blow his horn in the left-turn lane at May and Britton when the light turns green.

45 seconds:  How long it takes to fix my hair in the morning.

2 minutes:  How long it takes to open all the mail on a weekday, put aside the important stuff, and throw away the other 75 percent.

24 hours:  How long it takes the bank to draw on my checking account using their online bill-paying service.

48 hours:  How long it takes the bank actually to pay the bill.

8 days:  How long the back yard can usually go without mowing in summer.

9 days:  How long the front yard can usually go without mowing in summer.

17 days:  How long I spend on the road in the summer, away from the mower.

140 days:  How long it takes to polish off a 5-lb can of those Danish butter cookies.

365 days:  How long it takes to write 48 Vents.

Next: the 8-track DVD

Not just recycling, but repurposing: getting new uses from the same old stuff. Detractors will note that roughly half the posts here follow this model, but they're just being sniffy.

Besides, even when it's impractical — sometimes especially when it's impractical — it can be a great deal of fun.

With that in mind, here's a 1957 rotary phone updated for wireless use. Not only does it work, sort of, but it doesn't require you to peer into a screen the size of a commemorative postage stamp or punch buttons one-eighth the size of your finger; you just dial, dammit.

What? No, of course it doesn't do text messages. Sheesh.

(Via the Fire Ant Gazette.)

Seedier clouds than usual

Rick Santorum's proposal to curb the National Weather Service for the benefit of private weather providers gets appropriate sneers from Bruce:

Let's extend that logic. Any free service that the government, business or individual provides that might compete with a commercial enterprise that seeks to sell that same service would be rendered unlawful.

So how long until we have to shut down the public schools? Would we have to disband the police because of private security firms? How about the Fire Department? Would we have to stop building roads if some business decides to get into the pay-road business?

Let's take a look at charities ... food pantries, free shelters, free legal advice, tax preparation, credit counseling ... and the list goes on. All deemed a threat to free markets if we subscribe to this zero-sum line of reasoning.

And here in Oklahoma, we know that the notion that the NWS somehow impedes commercial services is manifestly absurd. Let there be even the slightest blip on the radar, and the three biggest television stations in Oklahoma City or Tulsa shift into high gear to present every possible storm scenario, the diameter and location of every hailstone, and how many minutes you have until the storm passes over your porch. You don't hear them complaining about the National Weather Service.

There's nothing particularly unusual about a Senator pitching something to benefit an operation in his district at the expense of everything else, but who's going to believe that Santorum's proposal is anything but that? This little road apple of his will never be a Fabergé egg no matter how much spray paint he sloshes over it.

Poverty, schmoverty

I will reread this Jane Galt classic while I whine about the bills tomorrow night:

By the standards of, say, 1920, every single one of us, even welfare mothers, is rich. Every single one of us has enough food that we never need to go to bed with our stomachs crying out to be filled. Every single one of us has running water — running hot water — and bathtubs and indoor toilets to put the water into. We have stoves that do not need to be carefully tended to keep the fire going. We have central heat. We have cars or public transportation to take us wherever we want to go for a trivial sum. Almost every poor person in America has a color television, offering free entertainment 24 hours a day, and most of them can afford to buy cable to go along with it. We are so wealthy that even a welfare mother can afford to let her children stay in school until they graduate — indeed, so wealthy that a once-ubiquitous dramatic scene, the child vowing to drop out of school in order to help the family out, has entirely dropped out of the literary canon. The average middle-class man of 1920 would have regarded all but the most hopelessly drug addled or mentally ill street people as wealthy beyond dreams of avarice.

Not that I'm giving up my dreams of avarice, of course.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:06 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Jim Barker yields the floor

Former Oklahoma House Speaker Jim Barker has died from a stroke in Oklahoma City.

Barker, a Democrat, represented a Muskogee-area district in the House from 1969 to 1970 and again from 1976 to 1990; he was chosen as Speaker in 1983, succeeding Dan Draper, who was convicted of taking part in a vote-fraud scheme. In 1989, dissident House members of both parties ousted Barker, and he did not seek reelection the following year.

Barker was 69.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:44 PM to Soonerland )
26 April 2005
A vinyl solution

Recording one's LPs to CD is not inordinately difficult, but it's not a particularly intuitive task either, and, well, not everyone still has a turntable these days.

Enter TEAC with the GF-350 shelf system, which incorporates a three-speed turntable, an AM-FM tuner, and a Compact Disc recorder smart enough to detect the space between LP tracks (unless it's a really noisy record) and increment the CD track accordingly. The GF-350 records on both CD-R and CD-RW discs, with the usual caveats about rewritables. And there's a pair of RCA jacks for plugging in another audio component — a tape deck, perhaps. (Interestingly, the GF-350 will apparently not record off its own radio tuner.)

I'm pretty handy at doing this the hard way, so I probably don't need this cute little box, but I'll bet it's exactly what someone is looking for.

Maybe it can't happen here

During the winter I speculated as to the possibility of some of the excess talk-radio hours in this market being given over to Air America Radio. At the time, I said I thought it was a "definite maybe"; now I'm not so sure.

Radio Equalizer Brian Maloney has the numbers for the Winter '05 books in two markets where you'd expect a leftish station to do well — New York and Los Angeles — and those numbers are not encouraging. WLIB is pulling a mediocre 1.2 share in the Apple; KTLK is struggling with an almost-invisible 0.3 in the Orange. (I suspect that the National Weather Service's VHF radio service at around 162 MHz might pull that much.) No station in the Oklahoma City market is suffering so badly that numbers like these would look like a major improvement.

(A doffing of the sombrero to Michelle Malkin.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 AM to Overmodulation )
Very trolley yours

The Neighborhood Association at Gatewood has adopted a little wedge of frontage on Classen south of NW 18th, where they will build a small memorial to the Oklahoma City streetcar.

Before statehood, there was a trolley stop at this intersection; the new Interurban Park, named for the trolley line, will incorporate simulated tracks, a silhouette of a vintage streetcar, and a marker to explain the importance of all this to people who've never seen a trolley car before, or who think it's a retro-designed bus.

And who knows? This might conceivably be the first step toward the return of some sort of rail transit: reminding people that this city grew up with trolley lines.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:35 AM to City Scene )
Honey, the marsupials are marauding

Eric Siegmund bids farewell to the TTLB Ecosystem, finding its priorities and his no longer in sync.

Perhaps the Ethel the Frog Ecosystem might provide a closer approximation to what he's looking for — and it's a lot faster than Technorati.

(Via some blog which will probably be deleted by tomorrow anyway.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:31 PM to Blogorrhea )
Actual fame

Erica debuts on the Minneapolis Metroblog.

(14:59 to go.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:22 PM to Blogorrhea )
27 April 2005
He had a better idea

Alexander Trotman, the last man not named Ford to serve as chairman of Ford, has died in England at seventy-one.

Trotman assumed the top spot in 1993 and moved to implement a plan to integrate Ford's North American and European operations, ultimately saving the company $5 billion. He retired at the end of 1998, and his heir apparent, Jac Nasser, was given only the CEO title, with William Clay Ford Jr. assuming the chairmanship.

The one thing I remember most vividly about Alex Trotman was his appearance on Michael Moore's TV Nation series, in which Moore, as part of his ongoing CEO Corporate Challenge, dared Trotman to change the oil in a Ford truck on camera. Trotman, never one to fear getting his hands dirty, did exactly that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 AM to Driver's Seat )
Down and dirty

The city is getting ready to open up the Crosstimbers Motorized Off-Road Vehicle Facility on a square-mile section west of Lake Stanley Draper.

The facility sits between SE 119th and SE 134th, east of Midwest Blvd. and west of Douglas Blvd. Draper Concessions (near the marina, 799-0870) will handle day permits. An area for non-motorized off-road vehicles has been set aside east of SE 89th and Post Road.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 AM to City Scene )
Zoned out

City zoning regulations grow ever more abstruse, yet cities never quite become the utopias decreed by the planning committees.

Or, as Michael Bates puts it:

After eighty years of experimenting with zoning, it's apparent that zoning doesn't produce the kinds of neighborhoods and cities that are interesting and pleasant places to live. Decades of ham-handed regulation and government-driven redevelopment have created dead downtowns and suburbs with beautiful sidewalks that lead nowhere interesting. The traditional urban neighborhood has been outlawed. The automobile has gone from being a convenience to an absolute necessity for survival, and we've stranded the young, the old, and the handicapped.

(Aside: Suburbs have sidewalks?)

Miami, Florida has some of the most arcane zoning rules on earth, and has gotten little for it beyond very thick city-ordinance books. Miami 21 will, they say, toss out the books in favor of a "form-based" plan.

To see what this means in practice, I took a look at Plan Baton Rouge; the Louisiana capital is transitioning to just such a plan.

The existing Zoning Map makes use of eleven zoning categories for the Downtown. These zoning techniques, derived from postwar suburban practice, do not serve well the traditional urban fabric of the Downtown.

Over the years, the existing code has become increasingly complicated. It now requires simplification if development is to be easy and predictable; two very real incentives for developers.

The proposed Code consists of four documents: (1) The Regulating Plan, which is a map allocating the new zoning categories. (2) The Urban Regulations which are the central set of instructions keyed to the Regulating Plan. The Urban Regulations refer to the (3) Use Standards, Parking Strategy, and Frontage Standards and the (4) Architectural Standards. There are also a set of Management Standards that should be applied to new buildings and retroactively to all.

The Urban Regulations are here. This is the one I found most interesting:

[Definition of] A and B Grid: A zoning system by triage which assigns frontages of superior and inferior pedestrian character to alternating thoroughfares. This system assumes that certain building types intrinsically create inferior pedestrian experiences (drive-throughs, convenience parking, service stations). Rather than ban them altogether, the A and B street grid segregates them to different thoroughfares. This strategy, which emulates a street and alley system, maintains selected streetscapes at a high standard rather than compromise all the streetscapes somewhat. "A" streets must meet the provisions of this code. "B" streets are exempt from the frontage, parking locus and architectural syntax standards.

I can think of parts of Tulsa where this very process could have come into play very recently.

It will be interesting to see how this all turns out. My postwar neighborhood is some sort of midtown/suburban hybrid, and has some mysterious zoning rules of its own; I'm curious to see how it could have been done differently under the Baton Rouge/Miami plans.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:33 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Return to Busted Flush Estates

(First trip is here.)

The Forbes list of the most expensive ZIP codes in the country, to no one's surprise, is heavily loaded with New York and California locations. (94027 — Atherton, California — is at the very top; the median home price in Atherton in 2004 was a startling $2,496,553.)

I did run down the entire list of 150 in the hopes of finding something starting with a 7, and found one: 72201, in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. Little Rock? I might have believed Bentonville, full of Wal-Lords, maybe, but Little Rock? Yet there it is, with a median home price of $801,500, good for 148th place. [The preceding has been, um, rendered inoperative; see Comments.] (Where are the Texans, fercryingoutloud?)

And if you want to live around my neck of the woods, the price of entry runs a modest $96,226.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:16 PM to Dyssynergy )
One hundred thirty-six

For the 136th time, it's the Carnival of the Vanities, this week under the direction of John C. A. Bambenek, and every week your first choice for better bloggage, especially this week since I didn't submit anything.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:34 PM to Blogorrhea )
28 April 2005
Approved by 1352 guitar pickers

Your average oldies station has pared its library down to two songs by the Lovin' Spoonful: "Do You Believe in Magic" and "Summer in the City." (God help you if you have a below-average oldies station.) Inspired by Donna, who has become a Joe Butler fan, I'd like to call your attention to three lesser-known Spoonful tunes, only one of which has a John Sebastian lead.

"Full Measure" was thrown away as the B-side of "Nashville Cats," but still got enough airplay to scrape into the bottom 20 of Billboard's Hot 100. This is a weirdly-instrumented semi-classical sort of thing with a sweet Joe Butler lead and a lyric that goes in about six different directions at once.

"Lonely (Amy's Theme)" is an instrumental from the soundtrack of You're a Big Boy Now, a Francis Ford Coppola film from 1966 to which the Spoonful contributed songs. Karen Black plays Amy. This was a major earworm for me for many years.

"Darling Be Home Soon" is your basic song about going on the road, except that it's told from the point of view of the person who has to stay behind. Sebastian is at his most evocative, almost pressing into Jimmy Webb territory. The stereo mix of this record is genuinely crummy, which is why you should prefer it in mono.

(MP3s were provided, as the phrase goes, For A Limited Time Only.)

Curiously, posted on Thursday

I read Robert A. Heinlein's Friday when it first appeared. The tale of an Artificial Person in a not-quite-post-apocalyptic world is generally not considered among RAH's best, but it's such a breezy read (despite a below-par ending) that I go back to it now and again, and, as always with Heinlein's strongest characters, I've gotten a pretty good mental picture of what Friday herself might be like.

And now that Jacqueline is describing her blog as "[t]he bildungsroman of an aspiring Heinlein heroine," I haven't had to revise that picture in the slightest.

Oh, well. I only threw that in so I could mention this particular passage, which seems to be sticking in my mind these days:

"[A] dying culture invariably exhibits personal rudeness. Bad manners. Lack of consideration for others in minor matters. A loss of politeness, of gentle manners, is more significant than is a riot."

"Really?"

"Pfui. I should have forced you to dig it out yourself; then you would know it. This symptom is especially serious in that an individual displaying it never thinks of it as a sign of ill health but as proof of his/her strength."

I wouldn't be surprised to see that FWP has something to say about that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Brother, can you spare a fiver?

The Downtown Guy wonders if the new "aggressive panhandling" ordinance is making any difference:

A friend told me he was downtown the other day, and was hit by four different transients in two hours. One made remarks about how nice this person's car was before asking for money, making him nervous about whether it would remain safe if the request was turned down. Another panhandler made a long pitch about needing money for medical help, while two others started walking at this person's side, trying to strike up conversations before making their plea.

At least two of these instances occured after dark. Police were nowhere to be seen. The downtown security ambassadors were nowhere to be seen. The new ordinance, therefore, was of little comfort to this visitor.

What's "aggressive"? This is the legal definition (§30-430, Oklahoma City Municipal Code):

(1)  Approaching or speaking to a person, or following a person before, during or after soliciting if that conduct is intended or is likely to cause a reasonable person to fear bodily harm to oneself or to another, or damage to or loss of property or otherwise to be intimidated into giving money or other thing of value;

(2)  Continuing to solicit from a person after the person has given a negative response to such soliciting;

(3)  Intentionally touching or causing physical contact with another person without that person's consent in the course of soliciting;

(4)  Intentionally blocking or interfering with the safe or free passage of a pedestrian or vehicle by any means, including unreasonably causing a pedestrian or vehicle operator to take evasive action to avoid physical contact;

(5)  Using violent or threatening language and/or gestures toward a person solicited which are likely to provoke an immediate violent reaction from the person being solicited;

(6)  Following the person being solicited, with the intent of asking that person for money or other things of value;

(7)  Speaking in a volume unreasonably loud under the circumstances;

(8)  Soliciting money from anyone who is waiting in line for tickets, for entry to a building or for any other purpose;

(9)  Soliciting in a manner with conduct, words or gestures intended or likely to cause a reasonable person to fear immediate bodily harm, danger or damage to or loss of property or otherwise be intimidated into giving money or any other thing of value;

(10)  Begging in a group of two or more persons in an intimidating fashion;

(11)  Soliciting any person within 20 feet of any outdoor seating area of any cafe, restaurant or other business, automated teller machine, mass transportation stop, public toilet or pay telephone;

(12)  Soliciting any person in public after dark, which shall mean the time from one-half hour before sunset to one-half hour after sunrise.

At least we're not proposing to license beggars.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:13 AM to City Scene )
Let's live for today

Two items in snailmail today, and both of them highlight the same word.

Addressed to "the weed puller":

GrassRoots®
Oklahoma's Largest Lawn Care Company — Since 1977
Offering more FREE services than any other lawn care company.

And, addressed to my actual name:

You have been selected to represent Oklahoma City, OK in the 2005 Grassroots Survey of Democratic Leaders. Survey documents registered in your name are enclosed.

Assuming there's something to this synchronicity business, I slapped on a Grass Roots compilation and tossed both items. (The Democratic survey, to its credit, seemed less doctrinaire than some I've seen; there are actually three options on some questions instead of two.)

All together now:

We were never meant to worry, the way that people do,
And I don't need to hurry, as long as I'm with you....

29 April 2005
Speed kills

Punctilious recalls some dates:

1776 Declaration of Independence
1783 Treaty of Paris Signed
1787 Constitutional Convention
1788 George Washington Elected

The NYT has given them nearly three months and the Iraqis still have not gone from liberation to fully functioning democracy. Must be a quagmire.

Yup. Waist-deep in the Big Sandy.

(Oh, and George Washington, or, as his friends called him, George W., was actually first elected in 1789, which fact actually amplifies the point.)

It pays to read the fine print

This little pearl of wisdom is tucked away on Andrea Harris' sidebar:

Increase/decrease text:
Firefox users: Ctrl +/-
Internet Explorer users: download Firefox

Can't argue with that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:15 AM to Blogorrhea )
Meet Judge So-and-so

If you're nominated for a Federal judicial position, it is considered unseemly actually to campaign for the slot.

Or is it? John J. Miller at NRO's The Corner thinks otherwise:

I've never understood why people nominated for a Senate-confirmed job all of a sudden have to shut up and not say anything publicly. Well, actually, I do know: This is an ancient D.C. protocol that's meant to show respect for the world's greatest deliberative body, or some such nonsense. Yet a nominee like Judge [Janice Rogers] Brown is her own best advocate. She ought to be going on Larry King and a few other shows to talk about her background — born in the South, attended segregated schools, remembers Brown v. Board decision coming down, etc. Americans will like her. But right now they've never met her. And they won't ever meet her as long as she's bottled up by Democratic senators, to whom the administration continues to pay fealty by observing a set of outdated and counterproductive rules.

Given the shrillness of Democratic rhetoric in such matters, I'm inclined to think that it might be wise for the Bush administration to put all its "controversial" nominees on the talk-show circuit, if only to demonstrate that they don't actually have two heads and enslave children and eat ivory-billed woodpeckers for breakfast.

And of course it would outrage the likes of Barbara Boxer, but that's merely a fringe benefit.

Blogosphere: The Movie

I'm sure this sort of thing has been around once or twice before, but in this specific instance, I'm swiping it from The Daily Bitch:

If you were to make a movie of your favorite blog author (based on what you read there), what actor/actress would you choose to play that author? (you may choose more than one if you like)

Have at it, and keep it at least reasonably clean, 'kay?

Addendum: Syaffolee has some reservations about this exercise:

I mean, a blogger is so individual and representing them with someone who can only pretend to be them seems so insipid.

(Updated at 9:15, 30 April.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:25 AM to Blogorrhea )
A Great Truth discovered

Saint Paul explains:

Reading the ticket, the consequences for pleading GUILTY and WAIVING MY RIGHTS to a trial (do they really have to phrase everything is such Constitutionally apocalyptic terms?), is an ice cold 120 bones for going 11-14 MPH over the posted limit. Interesting to note, the penalty for 15-20 MPH in excess is $130. A mere 8% increase in penalty for a 31% increase in speed. Kids, the broader lessoned learned from this is to never travel 76 MPH in a 65 zone when 85 will do.

This wisdom, applied to Oklahoma City:

speeding up to 10 mph over limit — 161.00
speeding 11-19 mph over limit — 192.00
speeding 20 mph over limit — 202.00

Assuming a 65-mph speed limit (say, the Lake Hefner Parkway), you have to be doing at least 77.5 to break even, and on Saturday afternoon, you probably are.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:23 PM to Driver's Seat )
30 April 2005
Don't even think of parking here

Monday, the county's new Metro II parking garage opens at Hudson and Dean A. McGee. Eight stories tall, it holds about 1000 vehicles.

But not yours or mine. Every space in Metro II is reserved, either by local firms buying blocks, or by individuals paying $90 a month. (You can still park at the older garage, one block south; in fact, there's actually some space open now.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:42 AM to City Scene )
You could call it "anti-choice"

Dr David Gelernter explains in the Los Angeles Times why Democrats have such a hard time with vouchers for education:

Vouchers let you decide where to spend tax money to educate your children. You give the voucher to any public or private school; it's your call. But Democrats worry that (among other things) too many parents will spend their vouchers at a local Obedience School for Little Nazis or the neighborhood Witchcraft Academy. That's what they think of their fellow citizens. That's what they think of you!

Now some readers will say, hold on, be fair! Democrats only oppose vouchers because the teachers unions ordered them to. Agreed, teachers unions are a big factor in every major decision a good Democrat makes, starting with what cereal to have for breakfast. But Democrats also oppose vouchers out of honest conviction. They are honestly convinced that ordinary Americans don't have the brains to choose a school for their own kids.

Actually, I think they might go for the Witchcraft Academy. But the K-6 program at the First Church of the Gooey Death and Discount House of Worship, no freaking way.

Now vouchers for anything else, not a problem (cf. Section 8). But schools? "A brazen piece of deceit." Go figure.

(Via Joanne Jacobs.)

Sighs matter

Kim du Toit offers a brief glimpse at The Artist Formerly Known As Tula Ellice Finklea.

(Too brief? Try here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:04 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Finishing off the Sixties

Mid-60s Mania, Volume 3Decades do not necessarily conform to the calendar; neither are they required to last ten years. For me, the Sixties run from November 1963, a month marked by both JFK's death in Dallas and the first time I got to use double digits in my age, to May 1969, when I ran out of classes to take in high school. This is not a particularly intuitive definition, unless you happen to be me, which you don't, so when I started doing Sixties mix tapes (of which there are sixteen, currently halfway through conversion to CD, by which is meant that I did Volume 8 last night instead of getting a reasonable amount of sleep), I branded them with the curious tag "Mid-60s Mania," perhaps more accurate despite its divergence from my actual intentions, though I'd be hard-pressed to explain otherwise how the spring of 1969 is close to halfway through even the chronological decade.

Had there been iPods in 1980, this is what would have been on Michele's; I've gone back through the 1969 charts to see what I would have been listening to most avidly on the radio (since I had no tape gear then) or buying on vinyl. In approximate order of release date, allowing for the usual delays to get on the air, this is what I was listening to right before gown-and-tassel time:

22 March:
Cream: "Badge"
Donovan: "Atlantis"
The Friends of Distinction: "Grazing in the Grass"
The Guess Who: "These Eyes"
The Neon Philharmonic: "Morning Girl"
The Who: "Pinball Wizard"

29 March:
The Grass Roots: "The River Is Wide"
Mercy: "Love (Can Make You Happy)"
The Meters: "Cissy Strut"
Simon and Garfunkel: "The Boxer"
Sly and the Family Stone: "Stand!"
Tammy Wynette: "Singing My Song"

5 April:
The Hollies: "Sorry Suzanne"
Mary Hopkin: "Goodbye"

12 April:
Marvin Gaye: "Too Busy Thinking About My Baby"
The Edwin Hawkins Singers: "Oh Happy Day"
Mason Williams: "Greensleeves"

19 April:
Creedence Clearwater Revival: "Bad Moon Rising"
Elvis Presley: "In the Ghetto"
Three Dog Night: "One"

26 April:
The Beatles: "Get Back"
The Brooklyn Bridge: "Welcome Me Love"
Sonny Charles and the Checkmates Ltd.: "Black Pearl"
1910 Fruitgum Company: "Special Delivery"

At the top of the charts for much of this period was the 5th Dimension's Hair medley, "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In," which I didn't much like. Of course, that summer someone spun Led Zeppelin for me, which opened up some new musical horizons, but by then the whole world had changed anyway.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:35 PM to Tongue and Groove )
For every formula, a form

I am legitimately something of a math geek — I didn't score 800 on the math portion of the SAT, but I came close, and the second BASIC program I wrote (after a variation of Hello World) was a Fibonacci number generator — and once upon a time I worked for H&R Block. So I'm bound to appreciate something like this: If the IRS had discovered the quadratic formula. [Link requires Adobe Reader.]

(Found at Hatless in Hattiesburg.)

The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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