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.
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.
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?
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.
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.)
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.
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.)
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.)
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?
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.
The sub-nuclear option
[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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Perhaps the last Desiree Goodwin update
"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.
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.
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.
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.
Kick that enthusiasm to the curb
A reasonable question from Eric Siegmund: "Will there eventually be a Pulitzer Prize for blogging?"
And if there is online voting, expect tremendous amounts of fraud.
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?
6 April 2005
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.
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.
Coffeehouses of the holy
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?
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.)
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
[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.
Delocator has location issues
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.
La Shawn Barber obviously isn't afraid of stirring the stew:
1. Who are the top
2. Who are the top
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.
Feel free to make your own nominations in Comments. Keep in mind that any rating I might receive is overrated by definition.
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.
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
[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.
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.
The Rick strikes back
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.)
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.
Blessed are the pessimists
For they hath made backups.
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.
11 April 2005
I wind up owing
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