1 May 2005
You were who again?

Paul "Deacon" Mirengoff, on a gap between Real Life and Blog Life:

It's fun to introduce oneself as a blogger for Power Line at events like this. In the various "day jobs" I've held, the reaction when I introduce and identify myself is pretty uniform — a reasonably respectful acknowledgment. As a blogger, by contrast, I almost invariably receive one of two reactions, glowing praise or a look of total incomprehension.

Myself, I'm working on somehow fusing the two.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:50 AM to Blogorrhea )
We do it differently

The fall of Saigon propelled thousands of Vietnamese out of their homeland and into the States as refugees, and quite a few found themselves in and around Oklahoma City, sponsored by local citizens or by area charities. And once here, they went to work, partly because the sponsors gave them encouragement, but mostly because, well, that's what they do.

At least, that's what I've always believed. The Oklahoman has been running stories on the Vietnamese in Oklahoma for the past few days, and from this Friday article, something jumped out at me:

Refugees themselves bragged about their quick path to self-sufficiency. On the 10th anniversary of the fall of Saigon, the Vietnamese American Association of Oklahoma City reported that only 15.6 percent of Indochinese refugees in Oklahoma remained dependent on public assistance after 18 months here. The comparable rate in California at the time was about 80 percent.

Were the refugees in California somehow different from the refugees in Oklahoma? I don't have any reason to think so. Which means that the reason the Oklahoma refugees did so much better, most likely, was the relatively low level of benefits — present-day progressives would presumably call it "stingy" — provided at that time in Oklahoma.

Last summer I wrote about Oklahoma City's Asian District, and quoted local real-estate magnate Tom Waken, whose offices are in the District, as follows:

The Asian business people staked out Classen Blvd. in 1975.... they are responsible for bringing Classen from a dying area to a place where business is thriving and property owners and business owners are paying more taxes into the city's treasury than they were previously.

Which is the sort of thing that works, even in California.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:35 AM to Soonerland )
Loud but never square

I'm not exactly a dedicated follower of fashion, but I like to think of myself as being at least more au courant than, say, the Courant.

Still, my mind drew a blank upon encountering the phrase "ear threads", even though its meaning should be sort of obvious.

So much for my delusions of fashionista-hood.

(Via the beauteous and more-heavily-pseudonymous-of-late Page, played by Rebecca Romijn.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:06 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Ten out of ten for style

With the singular exception of I Capture the Castle, no motion picture has ever caused me more apprehension than has The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and recent fanboy condemnation hadn't made me feel any better about it.

So I betook myself to Tinseltown this afternoon for the first showing of what I refuse to call H2G2, and I'm pleased to report that it stands up pretty well. I didn't want a straight transcription of the book, or of the radio series, which is where I learned all this stuff; what I wanted was about two hours of visuals that did justice to Douglas Adams' wordplay, and mostly that's what I got, though a few catchphrases I might have liked to have heard once more were conspicuous by their absence. The film departs from Adams' original premise in a couple of small ways and in one large one: the character of Trillian, relatively insignificant before, has been redeveloped into someone sufficiently real to provide some sort of motivation for the otherwise-phlegmatic Arthur Dent. By holy Zarquon's singing fish, he might actually be in love with her, and Zooey Deschanel makes it believable, even as she makes you wonder what, other than a source of entertainment, she ever saw in Zaphod Beeblebrox. Trufans, of course, are supposed to hate this sort of sentimental rubbish.

And there are a few disappointments: the clash between Arthur and the bulldozers isn't as frenetic as I might have hoped, and the Magratheans are given relatively short shrift. But I was quite thrilled with Slartibartfast's factory tour, and Vogon poetry is every bit as bad as I remembered it. If you can think of fifty things that you loved about any earlier version of Hitchhiker's, this new film will deliver on 42 of them.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:36 PM to Almost Yogurt )
2 May 2005
Does two make a trend?

Earlier this year, I wrote about the Green-walled Garden Club of Frederick, Maryland, which issued a cookbook as a fundraiser in which the recipe sections were set off by photographs of club members, 55 and up, in "varying degrees of undress." (It's still available here.)

Now a California group is doing likewise. Making It with the Canyon Ladies is a fundraiser for the Colman Museum in Centerville, outside Chico. Each of the Canyon Ladies, ranging from fortysomething to eightysomething, poses with an artifact from the Museum.

Did Calendar Girls really start all this? And, more important, do I need another cookbook?

It wasn't even in the catalog

Two buyout firms — Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus LLC — will acquire the Dallas-based Neiman Marcus department-store chain for $100 a share, about $5.1 billion.

Neiman operates 37 full-line stores, 35 under its own name; the firm also owns two Bergdorf Goodman stores in New York (who knew Bergdorf's was still around?), the Last Call clearance outlets, and mail-order house The Horchow Collection.

The success of Neiman Marcus, say analysts, is due to its continued emphasis on high-end products: there is no push to expand to the "near-luxury" market. Neiman's average customer is a woman 45 to 65 with a median annual income of $285,000.

Neiman Marcus operates (of course) zero stores in Oklahoma.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 AM to Common Cents )
Not that this helps me, particularly

According to this essay on craigslist, there are fifteen reasons why geeky and/or nerdish guys make great boyfriends. One of these, apparently, is fidelity of a sort:

You won't have to worry much about your geek guy getting his "groove" on with club hotties because, frankly, he'll be too busy rooting around under his computer wondering where that spare cable went. You won't have to worry about him flirting with other women because, 9 out of 10 times, he'll zip right by them in a perfect b-line towards the nearest electronics store.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go run Defrag.

(Via the eminently-sane Chris Lawrence.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:16 AM to Table for One )
Not the Web server

I truly love stuff like this:

[A] record written by a white Englishman imitating Native Americans as portrayed by white Americans and made famous by a Dane with a vaguely Hawaiian sound, arranged by a Canadian, became the biggest record in black New York.

Not to mention a British B-side that overtook its flip to sell a million, and the influence of this tune on American surf music.

And that's just the first half-century of Jerry Lordan's "Apache," recorded by everyone from the Ventures to Stan "Hot Butter" Free, lately a source of hip-hop beats. Even the third-worst musician in the world — I have reference to me — once recorded a version, circa 1976, with my stolid yet fumbling organ work overlaying Free's rhythm bed from four years earlier. (The tape box containing the stereo mixdown of the four-track original has been hermetically sealed and abandoned on Funk and Wagnalls' porch.)

The same article is up at soul sides, complete with sources. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some records to spin.

(Via Jesse Walker at Hit and Run.)

Am I down with G.O.P.?

Well, partially:

I am:
58%
Republican.
"Congratulations, you're a swing voter. When they say 'Nascar Dad', they mean you. Every Republican ad on the TV set was made just for your viewing pleasure. Don't you feel special?"

Are You A Republican?

Hmmm. Actually, no, I don't feel particularly special, but thank you for asking.

(Via She Who Will Be Obeyed!)

3 May 2005
It takes three hands to handle

A fifteen-pound hamburger? In Clearfield, Pennsylvania, you betcha:

Denny's Beer Barrel Pub, which lost its crown as the home of the world's biggest burger earlier this year, is now offering a new burger that weighs a whopping 15 pounds.

Dubbed the Beer Barrel Belly Buster, the burger comes with 10.5 pounds of ground beef, 25 slices of cheese, a head of lettuce, three tomatoes, two onions, a cup-and-a-half each of mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, mustard and banana peppers — and a bun.

It costs $30.

Um, hold the mayo.

There may have been a time when I might have tried to polish off one of those. But there's never been a time when I would have succeeded; I might go through 10½ pounds of ground beef in a month, maybe.

(Via Vinny Ferrari, who also isn't buying.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:28 AM to Worth a Fork )
Sauna aesthetics

Paul Musgrave is amused, or nauseated, or something, by the thought of these people with their clothes off:

Brussels being Brussels, a 10-point directive on the proper use of the [European Commission office's] sauna was sent to the assorted Eurocrats, the Telegraph wrote: "Nudity is de rigueur, according to the commission's infrastructure office, but bravado is not. 'Reckless competition about who stands heat best is out of the question. Leave your clothes in the dressing room — nakedness is natural,' the code tells its 18 male and seven female commissioners." The facility is mixed, but limited to commissioners, heads of cabinet and VVIPs.

I am, of course, a NVIPAA (Not Very Important Person At All), but I'm thinking that wardrobe considerations in a sauna are just about enough to peg the Futility Meter; it's rather disheartening to see allegedly-sophisticated Europeans (who, after all, aren't Americans and therefore are supposed to have cultural values that extend beyond McDonald's and the Hummer) having to be told to doff their duds at 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

And, as Ford Prefect reminds us, it's useful to know where your towel is.

Entrance, stage left

It's rather a long distance — 22 miles — between the west end of the Turner Turnpike at I-35 in north Oklahoma City and the next gate, in Wellston.

Construction will begin next year on a new gate that splits the distance, to be built on Hogback Road, which passes under the Turner east of the Indian Meridian south of NE 164th Street.

Still undetermined is the amount of toll to be charged; for passenger cars, the 22-mile stretch to Wellston costs a buck, minus a nickel if you use PikePass.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:12 AM to City Scene )
Pajamas in Walden

The Blog of Henry David Thoreau turns out to be fragments of Thoreau's actual journal, ordered by date if not necessarily by year.

Of course, I had to see this to see if it was running Movable Forts and Magazines v.1.0.

(Via Reflections in d minor, and I'm sure Thoreau didn't wear pajamas, but bear with me here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:26 AM to Blogorrhea )
Springing forward to the fallback position

It occurred to me at some point this afternoon that I had put up two consecutive posts containing the same phrase: "Now if you'll excuse me..."

Which, now that I think about it, I've used three times before just since the MT installation in 2002, by which time I'd already accumulated six years' worth of clichés on this site.

Heh. I'm beginning to think I need one of those "unoriginal response" jars.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:56 PM to Blogorrhea )
4 May 2005
A handful of woolyboogers

Based on the events of the last week or so, I have to conclude that Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin thinks the quickest road to the Governor's Mansion is to paint the Senate as a bunch of do-nothings.

Which, most of the time, they are. The Democrats' powder-taking, reminiscent of the way their Texas counterparts fled quorum calls during the redistricting dust-up in Austin, might be characterized as a tad juvenile. The spectacle of the Republicans doing the same was comparably silly. But the Democrats do have one thing on their side: they can point to Mary Fallin and say "Well, she started it." The state GOP is asking the state Supreme Court just what power Fallin actually has; they could have saved themselves a trip by asking Mike Morgan.

Oh, the pertinent Constitutional passage?

The Senate shall, at the beginning of each regular session and at such other times as may be necessary, elect one of its members President pro tempore, who shall preside over its deliberations in the absence or place of the Lieutenant Governor; and the Senate shall provide for all its standing committees and, by a majority vote, elect the members thereof.

Not the most precise wording, to be sure, but if the writers of the Constitution had intended that the Lieutenant Governor should always preside when present, it's reasonable to assume that they would have said so, rather than go through the trouble of requiring the Senate to elect a President pro tempore in the first place.

And frankly, I'm inclined to distrust anyone's bill when its proponents insist that it should pass without going through a conference committee, even though it didn't get out of committee in the house in which it was introduced.

Anyone for a nuclear option?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Soonerland )
So long, Tony

The war in Iraq is not appreciably more popular in the United Kingdom than it is in the United States, and it's proving to be a worrisome issue for Prime Minister Tony Blair.

What's worse:

Tony is getting savaged over there over the war. And guess who has turned up to help him out in his election, to help him be re-elected over the objections of those who thought they were lied to?

The very same team that was helping to get John Kerry elected, muttering the whole time that Bush lied to get the country into a war.

That's right. The whole bunch of them: Bob Shrum, Stan Greenberg et al. The Democrats' A-Team.

So here they were in the U.S. saying Bush lied, but now there they are in Britain saying Tony didn't lie.

Of course, no one expects anything different from political consultants. And we know what to expect from Bob Shrum:

Shrum, you may remember, is the political consultant who quit the Carter campaign in 1976 because it wasn't enough like the McGovern campaign, which he had helped lose in 1972. Shrum went on to help Ted Kennedy lose in 1980. Then Dukakis in 1988. Then Al Gore in 2000.

And, in case you'd forgotten, John Kerry in 2004.

Expect the moving vans at Number 10.

(Via McGehee.)

The Treasury vacancy is filled

Governor Henry has appointed State Finance Director Scott Meacham to the State Treasurer slot, replacing Robert Butkin, who is leaving at the end of this month to become dean of the University of Tulsa law school. Butkin's term would otherwise have ended in 2006, at which time Meacham says he'll run for the office.

Budget Division Director Claudia San Pedro will take over as Finance Director.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:35 AM to Soonerland )
High in WTF Factor

Cornell University President Jeffrey Lehman, at the school's Mosaic Conference last weekend:

Integration today does not mean assimilation. Rather, it means a recognition of the value of a pluralistic society in which ideals are shared at the same time that different identities are values. They involve a recognition of the fact that integration does not describe the static demographic mix but rather involves a dynamic process of dialogue. This is a powerful and, to my mind, vital contribution to our society's understanding of diversity and I want to endorse it wholeheartedly.

Never mind "our society's understanding of diversity"; what happened to our society's understanding of English? I've read this paragraph three times and the most I can get out of it is "I like the pretty colors." Nothing wrong with that, particularly, but this guy writes like he's being paid by the buzzword.

Criminy. I got accepted at this place, back in the Jurassic period. Maybe I should consider myself fortunate to have wound up elsewhere.

(Via John Rosenberg, who can't make heads or tails of it either.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:27 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
137

Which is, of course, the square of the charge of the electron divided by the speed of light times Planck's constant.

And also the number of weeks we've had the Carnival of the Vanities, the 137th version of which is hosted by Fresh Politics. A week's worth of superior bloggage, just in case you missed it the first time around.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:53 PM to Blogorrhea )
Halfway measures

Telephone numbers that ten years ago were rendered as something like 555-2368 are now occasionally appearing with a dot instead of the dash: 555.2368. (This is even weirder-looking when the area code is included: 405.555.2368.) It's not a problem, though, since you don't dial the punctuation anyway.

Now comes a new wrinkle. A local property-management company is rendering in-between addresses in decimal form: they have, for instance, a 1-bedroom apartment, not at 221½ NW 36th Street (not its real street), but at 221.5. This could be troublesome, especially since the Postal Service has what it calls a "standard format" for just about every address to which it delivers, and the standard for this isn't 221.5, or even 221½, but "221 1/2". (Most of your automation systems don't support the ½ character, and the Postal Service loves automation systems: they make junk mail third-class mail profitable.)

When I lived in Charleston, South Carolina, there was a dealer in antiques at the east end of St. Michael's Alley, on the other side of 2. They duly reported their address as 0. The USPS can handle that, at least.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:30 PM to City Scene )
5 May 2005
Striking fear into the Fourteenth Floor

Kirk Kerkorian, last seen in Detroit complaining about the Daimler-Benz/Chrysler merger and how it had cost him mucho dollars, is now seeking to buy up to 9 percent of GM.

What are the chances that Kerkorian will sit back and clip coupons? Next to nil. I mean, this is the man who bought Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1969, sold it in 1986 (to Ted Turner), bought it back before the year was out, sold it again in 1990, bought it back once more in 1996, and finally unloaded it on Sony this year. Obviously GM is far larger than MGM ever was, but Kerkorian is not at all cowed by the General's sheer size. Rick Wagoner, GM chairman, must be wondering what he did to deserve this.

That E Pluribus stuff really works

Where Susanna Cornett grew up isn't all that different:

Eastern Kentucky, like everywhere else, has its lazy good-for-nothings. It has criminals and unsophisticated unskilled workers and people who've never been more than 30 miles from home. But I've lived in Florida and New Jersey and Tennessee and Alabama. I've spent quite a bit of time in Manhattan. I've visited friends in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Texas, California, Arizona and Indiana. I've been to pretty much every state east of the Mississippi and a lot west of it. Everywhere I've gone, there's the same array of folks. Manhattan is pretty different from Pine Lick, but someone who's never been outside of New York City can be just as parochial as someone who's never left their home county in Kentucky. It's not so much what your experience is, but the narrowness of it and the mindset that accompanies it that results in the Boss Hoggs of this world. And from what I've seen, there's more than a few Boss Hoggs in the Upper East Side.

Which reminds me: I have to start planning World Tour '05.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:26 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Receding tempest

Leaders of the Oklahoma Senate have, for now, buried the hatchet: everyone showed up for a quorum call, Mary Fallin got one more chance with the gavel, and the stalled GOP workers'-comp bill was given one last reading, but wound up in the dustbin on a 26-22 vote against suspending the rules to give it further consideration. (By coincidence, the Democrat/Republican ratio in the Senate is 26:22.)

With this out of the way, perhaps the remaining bills on the subject can be turned into something resembling legislation. As for that hatchet, it may be buried, but you know they remember where they buried it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:52 AM to Soonerland )
They're no angels, either

Xrlq (rhymes with "strlq") notes that an Assemblyman from Orange County has introduced a bill to require a disclaimer by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to the effect that, well, they're not actually in Los Angeles, which is exactly the sort of consequence that logically follows from the adoption of the second-dumbest team name in recent history.

Which, of course, leads to the obvious question: What happens to "Bears Football presented by Bank One", now that JP Morgan Chase has acquired Bank One?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:38 PM to Dyssynergy )
Undropped trou

I am reasonably certain that 42nd and Treadmill will not be participating — and will not be at all happy if I'm participating — in No Pants Day tomorrow.

I don't think it will help if I send them this OU Daily editorial, either.

6 May 2005
Fowl play

Did you miss International Respect for Chickens Day? Yeah, me too. I thought at first it might have something to do with Americans for Chicken Safety, but no.

Anyway, the day in question was Wednesday, on which I had (gasp!) fried chicken as the main course at dinnertime. And while I thought I was properly respectful — I have learned, for instance, that it is advisable to at least wear something during the frying process — I suspect that the proponents would have objected to this entrée no matter what steps I took.

Oh, well. I said all that to say all this: Matt Rosenberg wants your chicken recipes. He's already gotten one from me. Keep them simple and, if at all possible, respectful. If there are enough entries, there might even be a prize.

Meanwhile, this being the Friday before Mother's Day, I think I'll work up my mom's stock Friday offering: fish sticks, French fries, and Brussels sprouts.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:02 AM to Worth a Fork )
At least there's only ten

The ten questions asked by James Lipton on Inside the Actors Studio, originally compiled by Bernard Pivot, have now made it as far as A Small Victory, and, well, if Michele can do these, so can I.

  1. What is your favorite word?
    "Wander"

  2. What is your least favorite word?
    "Hegemony"

  3. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
    The willingness to break beyond the superficial.

  4. What turns you off?
    Preconceived notions.

  5. What is your favorite curse word?
    Apart from the F-bomb, I tend to fall back on the Modified Savior (as in, say, "Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ!")

  6. What sound or noise do you love?
    First rustle of birds an hour before sunrise.

  7. What sound or noise do you hate?
    Squealing brakes.

  8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
    Teaching.

  9. What profession would you not like to do?
    Anything that requires me to deal with self-proclaimed "sportsmen" and that doesn't involve firearms.

  10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
    "I had a lot fewer doubts than you did, but you know that now."

Pass it on, as they say.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:13 AM to Screaming Memes )
Is this even legal?

Somebody with more than $21,000 to spare is going to buy a Dream Date with Carmen Electra on eBay.

Well, someone 15 to 20 years old, anyway. (The lovely Ms Electra is thirty-three.) And, of course, 17-and-unders can't bid on eBay, but that's another issue entirely.

Meanwhile, I continue to fixate upon [fill in name of female blogger], whose price is far above rubies, let alone Carmen's.

(Via Lawren.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:50 AM to Table for One )
Meanwhile, we get the Lincoln Zephyr

I don't know which of these is the most upsetting:

  1. The fact that Ford of Australia has come up with a reincarnation of the Ranchero;

  2. The fact that it's called the F6 Tornado, making light of the very Fujita scale that controls our springs and falls here in the Wind Zone;

  3. The fact that they're not going to bring any of them over here.

(Via Jalopnik.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:00 PM to Driver's Seat )
Product placement

A chap on one of the message boards I read describes himself as a "card-carrying nudist."

Nothing wrong with that, but I really don't want to know where he carries the card.

7 May 2005
Because it sort of fits

Today being May 7th, it seems like a good time to exhume "5.7.0.5." by City Boy, a #27 hit in the late summer of '78 that sounds a little like ELO, a little like Queen, and more than a little like Mutt Lange had his hands on it, which he did.

(As always, MP3s evaporate before you know it.)

Down on the farm

One of the more reasonable objections to power production by wind turbine is "What if you get enough wind to blow down a turbine?"

Well, there wasn't that much wind yesterday — 12 mph or so — but a tower at an FPL Energy wind farm near Weatherford snapped: two-thirds of the structure came crashing to the ground. The turbine had been operating for only a week when it broke; officials are at a loss to explain how it happened. Power delivery was unaffected.

(Addendum, 9 May, 1 pm: The Faulking Truth reports from the field — hat tip to JMBranum.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:11 AM to Soonerland )
It's only a number

Doc Searls introduces the premise:

A friend of mine, a Ph.D. with specialties in psychology and statistics, once sat on a plane next to an older woman who had achieved a great deal — and spoke proudly of her five grown children, who were all achievers on their own, holding advanced degrees and honored positions in their professions. The woman credited their success to home schooling.

My friend challenged her on that, saying that heredity must also have something to do with their success. "Yes," the woman replied. "It would if they hadn't all been adopted."

We expect so much from "intelligence," despite the fact that our very definitions of it are inconsistent, and even though the tools we have to "measure" it are questionable at best.

[M]ost people are born smart and ... we use the likes of IQ tests to pound populations of uniquely gifted individuals into bell curves.

IQ is a head trip. There's something misleading, even delusional, about it.

No doubt those who score well are smart. But average or low IQ scores are often meaningless, except to the degree that they fortify our belief that intelligence is a fixed value, like height or weight, and as easy to measure. The whole culture we've built around IQ tests serves to legitimize a creepy form of elitism. Worse, it substantiates our need to treat individuals always as members of populations. As typicalities. Nowhere is this more apparent, and obsolete, than in corporate org charts. Yes, hierachies are useful. But so are human beings that like working, and advancing, in companies that value their unique gifts.

And, of course, fitting people into those corporate org charts was the primary motivation for this sort of number-crunching in the first place: find suitably-elevated positions for the ostensibly "gifted," and provide subtle discouragement for those who didn't test well and whose dreams would inevitably be crushed.

This is not any kind of an argument for the abandonment of testing: in an era where no child is supposed to be left behind, there exists a perfectly-legitimate need for the evaluation of students. What we don't need: the compulsion to express those evaluations on a single scale, and the blithe assumption that the scale itself is anything more than a statistical abstraction.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:03 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The crankiest guy in movies

Somewhere in the distant past (well, here, actually), McGehee proposed Paul Giamatti as the person who, in Blogosphere: The Movie, should play me.

Giamatti shows up answering 20 Questions in Playboy this month — the same issue in which I am proven, once again, to have predicted the Playmate of the Year wrongly — and he sounds a little bit like me on some of these:

When I got that part [in Sideways] I thought, Who's going to believe Virginia Madsen would fall for me? But it was great that my looks weren't used as a gag, gimmick or joke. Hey, I could probably lose some weight and get my teeth fixed, but I don't want to.

Whom would you switch bodies and faces with?
I honest to God think it would be interesting to be Paris Hilton or Cameron Diaz, just to see what it's like to be one of those hottie glamour women. Or Jessica Simpson or Britney Spears. It sounds strange and warped, but I think it would be fascinating. What would it be like to walk down the street and be that person? The world must literally look different. I'd definitely sign up for that.

What's your biggest concession to vanity?
Keeping my nose hairs trimmed, although I think I'm sporting a few right now. I don't make many moves to assuage my vanity. There's certainly a lot I don't like about myself physically, but I don't do anything about it.

Growing up, were you an irritable, misanthropic little kid?
I wasn't out there on the pep squad, but I wasn't a strange, miserable, pulling-wings-off-flies type or somebody who threw small furry animals into barrels of acid.

I demur only on the "hottie glamour women": while I can imagine being Cameron Diaz for a day, a weekend, or whatever, I'm not so sure about Jessica Simpson (the loss of 60 IQ points), Paris Hilton (the possibility of spending long afternoons at the clinic) or Britney Spears (the thought of having to spend time with Kevin Federline).

Still, while obviously I don't have Giamatti's charm, his not-entirely-inexplicable appeal to the babes, or any discernible talent, we seem to be walking in similar shoes. And I definitely liked this bit:

I've done plenty of crud. I'm fine doing crud, but it's nice to be in some noncrud now.

Although noncrud, they tell me, is much, much preferable.

Let me roll it

I have no idea how long my blogroll is, and I'm not going to count all the entries thereupon to check. (BlogShares lists 181 under "All Outgoing Links," but this includes items that were linked in entries on the front page the last time they spidered the place.) I have no idea how many other blogs have me on their rolls, though I would guess somewhere around, oh, 181 or so.

And no, I don't use Blogrolling or any of those other aggravation aggregation tools: it's strictly manual. The heading on the roll reads "Blogs I read when I can," which means exactly what it says it does: these are blogs I visit on something resembling a regular basis. I am loath to drop anyone simply because of extended silence, so there are a few entries marked "on hiatus," and there is one (Steven Den Beste) who is not coming back but whom I can't bring myself to delink, who is marked "emeritus."

Which is by way of saying that I run this roll, not to score Brownie points with Technorati or to suck up to N. Z. Bear, but simply as a convenience to me. It contains some A-list names, yes, but it also contains a lot of blogs that don't have A-level audiences — yet.

Aldahlia notes that some people find the very concept of blogrolls hurtful, and gives this notion the sort of scorn I think it deserves:

[I]f you honestly think that perma-linking other blogs "hurts" the blog-o-sphere, I can only assume that you are the Athena of the blogging Universe. That you popped out of some server's head, fully-formed, with a worshipping audience ready to comment on your brilliance. Aren't you just special?

The rest of us, however, have to build an audience. And, links are how you do that. And, when I find something new and promising, or someone that I can't believe I missed all this time, or just something cool in general, I'm gonna link them. Because they deserve it.

And, I don't think this call for the withdrawal of blogrolls has anything to do with preventing psychic pain in the world-o-bloggers.

It sounds a whole lot more like, "Well, if I can't play the Pirate Captain, then I'm gonna take my toys and go home. The rest of y'all can just walk the plank."

Why in the world would anyone think something like that?

The general theory is that "I'm not being taken seriously."

"I only have 500, 1000, 2500, etc, hits a day, and that guy gets 50,000 a day for posting material that isn't even any good or fresh or anything, and it's not fair."

God forbid there should be a Committee for Fairness to Bloggers. (Why, someone would put up a Blogspot blog just to fisk its findings.)

This is the second time in recent weeks I've had an excuse to link to Joan Baez's "Time Rag", a semi-hilarious rap (yes!) she did in the late Seventies. (The first was here.) What she said:

I never made the January issue of TIME
And just before I run out of words that rhyme
I really should tell you that deep in my heart
I don't give a damn where I stand on the charts
Not as long as the sun sinks into the west
And that's going to be a pretty serious test.....of time

And yes, my audience has grown, from 6400 over the first three years to about 6400 a week today, but it's not because I've been embraced by the A-list (I haven't) or because I've worked diligently to promote the site (I haven't): it's simply that I turn out rather a lot of words, and sooner or later somebody reads them and finds them somewhat worthy. In other words, there's some truth to that possibly-apocryphal Woody Allen quote about how half/80 percent/90 percent (choose one) of life is just showing up. It's not like I'm anything special, but dammit, I'm here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:09 PM to Blogorrhea )
8 May 2005
First past the post

What do South Belfast and northeast Tulsa have in common? Michael Bates explains:

In Thursday's [UK] vote, unionist parties received 51.1% of the vote, while nationalist parties received 41.3% — the rest of the votes went to three minor parties which are neither unionist nor nationalist. Even though a majority of voters supported unionists, the winning candidate was a nationalist. Most of the nationalist votes went to the SDLP [Social Democratic and Labour Party] candidate, who took 32.3% of the vote, while the DUP [Democratic Unionist Party] and UUP [Ulster Unionist Party] candidates split the unionist vote almost down the middle — 28.4% and 22.7% respectively. If there were a runoff, the DUP candidate would almost certainly have won, but there isn't going to be a runoff — just a "winner" who had two-thirds of the voters against him.

And this relates to Tulsa how?

Tulsa's upcoming City Council special election — no primary, no runoff, no majority required — has the same flaw, only to a greater degree.

And in Bates' worst-case scenario, the two reform-minded candidates will wind up in a virtual tie for second place while a representative of Business As Usual waltzes into District 5 with a minority of the votes but enough to finish first.

In Oklahoma City, this is the sort of situation that produces a runoff, but not in Tulsa. I have to wonder if this isn't the sort of divide-and-conquer business that's kept the Tulsa power structure in power all along.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:18 AM to Soonerland )
The unexciting life

A warning from Paul Musgrave:

If bloggers are ever to replace the role of big media institutions as responsible purveyors of information, they're going to have to cover some truly boring stuff, like drainage boards and ethics commissions.

I dunno. I don't seem to have any problems writing about truly boring stuff.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:32 AM to Blogorrhea )
What the traffic will bear

And some days, the bear eats you. From OKCBusiness:

Despite being one of the three cities considered for the nation's seventh largest convention — the American Legion National Convention — Oklahoma City lost the bid this week to host the event because of the room charges of its downtown hotels.

David Kellerman, the director of the American Legion's operations in Oklahoma, and Christine Wise, the marketing director of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau, confirmed the city was told it lost the [2010] convention for one reason only.

So the Legionnaires will go to Milwaukee, because:

Kellerman said Milwaukee's average hotel rate was $99.

He said he advised Oklahoma City officials that the city's proposal needed to ensure the downtown hotels — specifically the Sheraton, the Courtyard by Marriott and the Renaissance — didn't include room rates above $107. However, the hotels refused to budge from rates ranging between $124 to $154 a night, he said and Wise confirmed.

Hotels in the Reno/Meridian area were more competitive, but they're five to seven miles from the convention center.

We can argue that okay, we're new at competing for top-tier events, we haven't figured out the fine points yet. But we can only play that card once.

(Via The Downtown Guy.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:44 AM to City Scene )
A Busch-league proposition

As far back as I can remember, which is farther than I'd care to remember sometimes, the St Louis Cardinals were on KMOX radio (1120); I used to pick up the games in Charleston back in the 1960s.

Apparently a blowtorch station that reaches about half the states in the Union isn't good enough for the Birds anymore, though:

The Cardinals' contract with KMOX (1120 AM) expires after this season, and team officials have talked with KTRS (550 AM) owners about buying that station and moving the broadcasts there.

KTRS, once KSD (I think), is a 5,000 watt regional station that has fairly decent reach but nowhere near the coverage of KMOX, especially at night when the directional pattern kicks in.

I understand the team's wanting to control the product, and the radio market has changed radically in recent years, but this still seems wrong, and Brian J. Noggle knows why:

Building the brand through a consolidated marketing plan by putting the broadcasts on a small radio station that most Cardinals fans cannot hear? The MBAs love it!

And when the fans in Iowa, Kansas, Tennessee, and Indiana can't get the broadcast on KMOX, don't spend money for satellite radio [XM carries MLB games], and eventually stop making the pilgrimage to Busch stadium, the MBAs won't understand how the loss of tradition in a longstanding sport franchise ultimately hurts more than it makes hip.

I expect to have no trouble getting Cards games here in Oklahoma City, but it won't be the same without KMOX.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:30 PM to Overmodulation )
9 May 2005
Newbie syndrome

Over the weekend I mentioned the failure of the city to land the American Legion convention in 2010 at least partially because some people — specifically, the downtown hotel operators — refused to yield on their room rates.

If this Capital of the New Century stuff is going to catch on, the powers that be are going to have to realize that they're still babes in the woods at this level of competition. Mistakes will be made. There's one hard lesson to learn, and everyone who's in the business of promoting this city is going to have to learn it: you can't have everything your way.

A professional street-skating exhibition planned for the Mat Hoffman Action Sports Park down on the river may be moving to Edmond instead because Oklahoma City insists on enforcing a helmet rule on the pros, despite the markedly-lower risk presented by the style of skating involved.

Repeat after me, Parks Commission: you can't have everything your way. Nobody is going to believe that this town has anything to offer if everything that is offered comes with strings attached.

What will we miss out on next?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:13 AM to City Scene )
One pill makes you larger

And one pill makes you small.

And sometimes I get the feeling that the pharmaceutical industry is counting on me to take both of them. Constant drug advertising, coupled with the tagline "Ask your doctor if Suchandsuchium is right for you." Instant demand, whether it's "right for you" or not.

Bruce expands:

There's no denying that some really good, useful drugs have been developed to deal with some really horrible illnesses. But we are playing with fire when we allow pharmaceutical companies to do direct marketing of their products. A few years ago when we (who?) decided that it might be ok for drug companies to start advertising on TV you just had to know it would come down to what we have now, with wall to wall ads for erectile dysfunction drugs and smiley happy little clouds bouncing along in a cheery haze from a chemical concoction.

Got some sniffles? Ask your doctor for this pill.

Feeling kinda sore? Ask your doctor for this pill.

Feeling a little blue and sad? Ask your doctor for this pill.

And of course, the cost of all this puffery is rolled into the cost of the drug.

Perhaps I was better off with the ones Mother gave me. They didn't do anything at all, but they didn't cost me (or her) a thousand dollars a year either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:45 AM to Dyssynergy )
Google: the great equalizer

According to the old small-p proverb, "The words you speak today should be soft and tender...for tomorrow you may have to eat them."

With the rise of the Net, you may not even have to wait for tomorrow, and someone will be more than happy to shove them back down your throat.

Scenario: North Dakota high-school senior bashes the yearbook faculty advisor on some Xanga site. Said advisor's daughter discovers the post and reproduces it on her blog, with, um, recommendations to the student.

Just one brief passage:

I'm still so impressed by your assertiveness and your take-charge take-this-spoon-and-shove-it attitude. You'll enjoy your career of supersizing meals for customers.

In a different world, this kid would be painting "Romani ite domum" on the walls of the city. For now, he's just going to be screaming for a sitz bath.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:54 AM to Blogorrhea )
Moving the pickpocket to the front

Rep. John N. Hostettler (R-IN) sent this out [link is to a Microsoft Word document] last month in an effort to line up sponsors for an unusual piece of legislation:

Dear Colleague:

I ask you to join me in opening our constituents' eyes by repealing the federal government's ability to withhold taxes from the paychecks of our hard-working constituents. The Federal Tax Withholding Repeal Act of 2005 would repeal the 62-year-old law allowing the federal government to withhold federal income taxes and social security taxes. Instead, this bill would implement a system in which employees would make quarterly payments to the federal government.

When this blindfold is lifted from the eyes of the taxpayer and they realize the staggering amount of money the federal government takes from their paycheck, taxpayers will demand a smaller and more efficient government. This is an important act to help taxpayers understand the magnitude the federal government plays in their financial lives.

Actually, I know how much Washington takes from me, and cutting them a check for a couple thousand dollars every three months is far more reminder than I need, but "staggering" is still the right word.

Withholding, you'll remember, was originally implemented as an emergency wartime measure — during World War II. And this isn't the first attempt to get rid of it: Rep. Ron Paul proposed switching to monthly tax payments in 2001.

I doubt that Hostettler's bill will be any more successful than Paul's was, but I'd like to propose an alternative in its absence: require the Feds to pay interest on the tax money withheld. After all, they're preventing the owners of the money from getting any return on it.

(Via Kim du Toit.)

Welcome to the last level

It's called the Unified Theory of Career Nervousness, and Sgt. Mom explains it thusly:

Given that complete and total dickheads ought to be pretty evenly distributed throughout the ranks, I tried to account for the disproportionate accumulation of them at the rank of Technical Sergeant [E-6] or Major with eighteen to nineteen years of service. I believe that Sgt. Mom's Unified Theory of Career Nervousness accounts for this phenomenon.

My theory is predicated upon the fact that a career military member can retire with a somewhat adequate pension at twenty years, but that most enlisted members want very much to retire as an E-7, and that officers want very much to retire as a Colonel. At those ranks, you can stay on past the twenty year mark, but if you have not … oh well. As they say in Moscow, "Tuff shitski, comrade." An E-6, or a major with just a year to two to go before that twenty-year cut off, and facing the prospect that making it to the next rank is problematical to impossible … well, that person is very often either sour and embittered or afraid that the least little mark against will screw up the chance they do have of making it to that next magical promotion. The sour and embittered, or the terribly ambitious are not nice people to work for. Three guesses as to whom they will take it out on, and the first two guesses do not count.

I've never been terribly ambitious, though I'll admit to "sour and embittered." As it happens, though, I never made E-6. (Then again, I was only on the rolls for six years, not eighteen or nineteen, and one doesn't pile up stripes as an inactive reservist, which I was at the end.)

And a commenter to the original post said that insufferability, in his experience, peaked at the E-7 level: "Having received that coveted promotion, they concluded that they were perfect and proceeded to act accordingly."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:06 PM to Dyssynergy )
Blame it on Rio

Apparently this is Orgasm Day in Esperantina, a town in northeastern Brazil.

I assume it comes only once a year.

(Via Cutting to the Chase.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:43 PM to Table for One )
10 May 2005
Fresh angles in the public square

After the kerfuffle over last December's Lakehoma School musical in Mustang, it was clear something was going to be done, and the something begins this way:

Public schools may neither instill nor inhibit religion. They must be places where religion and religious conviction are treated with fairness and respect. Mustang Public Schools uphold the First Amendment by protecting the religious liberty rights of students of all faiths or no faith.

It remains to be seen whether this new policy, adopted by the Mustang school board last night, will be enough to keep everybody happy, but the opening words, at least, seem scrupulously fair. (The full document hasn't been posted yet.)

Put another nickel in

You don't remember Carlton Cole Magee, but you almost certainly have seen his invention (U.S. Patent #2,118,318, granted in May 1938).

Some years earlier, Carl Magee had wound up on the traffic committee of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, and one of the problems on his plate was the tendency of people who worked downtown to use up the available parking spaces, leaving few or none for retail customers.

Magee's solution was both elegantly simple and incredibly annoying, at least at first: the city would install meters of his design alongside the streets, which would collect a small fee in exchange for a short period of time. The very first parking meter went into service on 16 July 1935; Park-O-Meter, a firm partly owned by Magee, started up shortly thereafter.

There's no doubt that Magee understood the revenue potential of his little box on a pole: his patent application specifies that the device is for "measuring the ... use of parking or other space, for the use of which it is desirous an incidental charge be made upon a time basis."

Oklahoma City is currently upgrading its downtown parking meters, which gives The Downtown Guy an idea:

[W]hy not re-install either the original parking meter or a duplicate of it where the world's first parking meter stood — at Park and Robinson. Install it, charge the original rates for this meter and this one only, and put up a sign next to it explaining that the world's first parking meter was invented and installed here. I know, we're not supposed to like these gadgets, but they're a fact of life and why not give tourists and visitors a whimsical chuckle and picture spot while they are here?

Works for me. I suspect that people's irritation with meters will subside, at least temporarily, when they see that very first meter in action.

Incidentally, POM Incorporated, descended from the original Park-O-Meter company, still makes parking meters — in Russellville, Arkansas.

(Ronald B. Luttrell II, who died in 2000, was working on a book about the history of the parking meter; I have borrowed liberally from his notes, some of which are collected at The Parking Meter Page. A few minor changes have been made since the original post.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:01 AM to City Scene )
How can people be so heartless?

I've only glanced at The Huffington Post, and while I can't say for certain that it's full of crap, I suspect that it's a real dog.

And after reading this post last night from Andrea Harris, perhaps three of them.

[insert "seven separate fools" joke here]

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:10 PM to Blogorrhea )
Bi-curiosities

I am generally distrustful of things that are pitched as "bipartisan," largely because they're so, well, binary: you got your Democrats, you got your Republicans, and what's left isn't worth a bucket of John Nance Garner's bodily fluids.

The parties in question don't even agree on what "bipartisan" means, as R. Alex explains:

A Republican believes that something is bi-partisan so long as it has the vote of a couple of Democrats, even if 95% of the Democrats voted against it. Democrats, on the other hand, believe that bi-partisanship is Republicans coming around in their thinking and agreeing with the eminently reasonable and thoughtful Democrat policies and when Republicans don't (because they are Republicans for a reason), Democrats get into a huff and complain about how partisan the Republicans are.

Whether this has anything to do with the GOP's transformation into the Party of Big Government (the Democrats, of course, are the Party of Enormously Huge Frickin' Government), I leave to the pundits. But when donkey and elephant agree these days, I tend to look around for snakes.

Correcting the oversupply

One of the graffiti at the Old Economists' Home says: "If you want less of something, tax it."

Jeff Jarvis offers some suggestions:

[L]et's tax checkered flannel shirts, polyester suits, car alarms that make 20 obnoxious sounds and never turn off, Dr. Phil, mullets, Britney Spears CDs, bare-midriff tops over size 6, Speedos in any size, magnetic ribbons on the backs of cars in any color, Starbucks orders of more than four words, pop-up ads, tofu, PowerPoint, and gum.

A few of those, I contend, are at least somewhat arguable.

(A blog tax, you say? Bosh.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:06 PM to Almost Yogurt )
11 May 2005
It stays with you

Saw this on the woefully-underused Oklahoma City craigslist:

I miss snow cones, Robertsons' beef jerky, REAL barbecue, thunderstorms, crickets, 23rd street piercing studio, Gary England's tornado alerts, Garfield's perfect margaritas, Sonic (oh my god! to have a blue coconut slush and some onion rings right now!!!), sweet tea, skinny dipping in shawnee lake, the okc zoo, funnel cakes, Henry Hudson's...

And all my friends and family!!!!

I am somewhat surprised to hear that Sonic hasn't made it to Portland, Oregon yet. And no doubt some people are surprised that it's possible to miss a place like this, especially if you're twenty-four years old; their reaction is closer to this.

On the other hand, I expect some people to be surprised that Oklahoma City has a craigslist, even though I told you back in February, and I was hardly the first to notice it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:31 AM to City Scene )
Fighting poverty one house at a time

Not too long after LBJ declared War on Poverty, bumper stickers began to appear: I FIGHT POVERTY. I WORK.

Too simple a solution for the policy wonks of the day, and certainly too simple a solution for today, when everything is somebody else's fault.

Today, Walter Williams weighs in with this:

Avoiding long-term poverty is not rocket science. First, graduate from high school. Second, get married before you have children, and stay married. Third, work at any kind of job, even one that starts out paying the minimum wage. And, finally, avoid engaging in criminal behavior.

None of these four provisions, you'll note, contains any racial references whatsoever. And if you were thinking of finding some between the lines, La Shawn Barber advises otherwise:

"Racism" is so inconsequential to black people's lives in 2005 as to be laughably negligible. Given the extent of social pathology in certain "black" communities, I can’t tell you how embarrassing it is to hear black men in expensive suits blaming immoral behavior on "racism." It's archaic, tired, shameful and unimaginative. It bores me to tears as they prattle on about "racism," as if white people have that kind of power over blacks. We're teaching our children that if they fail, blame the white man.

I don't know if I'd characterize its negligibility as "laughable" — where it does exist, it's not all that damn funny — but for the most part, Jim Crow has flown the coop, and nobody this side of Trent Lott misses the miserable bird. There are entirely too many people who resent the idea that life requires effort, and the ethnicity of that group, whatever it may be, is stunningly insignificant in comparison to its self-destructive mindset.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:44 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Postponed until Boys' Night Out

Defamer reports that the soon-to-be-DVDed Director's Cut of Alexander is eight minutes shorter than the theatrical release.

Why would they do such a thing? To, um, straighten it up, perhaps?

Is Warner Bros. trying to de-gay Alexander for the home video market? We'd really hate to lose some of the interesting moments which explored the young conqueror’s fluid sexuality. Without Anthony Hopkins' revealing voiceover that, "It is said that Alexander was never defeated — except by Hephaiston's thighs, and occasionally by the huge, glistening cock that dangled between them," or the scene where the two fast friends are chased out of the Academy by rock-wielding bullies taunting them as "toga-biters," all [Oliver] Stone really has left is Jared Leto in eyeliner, a couple of elephants, and Rosario Dawson's unexpectedly huge rack. Maybe they think that'll play better in Oklahoma.

Gee, thanks for the cultural stereotype, Bunsen.

Actually, you had us at Rosario Dawson's rack.

138

Which is twice sixty-nine, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Meanwhile, the 138th Carnival of the Vanities can be seen and enjoyed at Cynical Nation.

In other 138 news, onethirtyeight.com is devoted to the Glenn Danzig era of The Misfits, a fact which deserves an explanation.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:12 PM to Blogorrhea )
Hold your tongues, knaves

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that members of the public who address the Board of Supervisors are expected to adhere to the highest standards of political correctness. Declared Board President Aaron Deskin:

[D]iscrimination and harassment on the basis of race, religion, color, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, weight, height or place of birth will not be tolerated in San Francisco city government.

Farging biped.

(Via Tongue Tied.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:18 PM to Wastes of Oxygen )
12 May 2005
Brad on a roll

SurveyUSA ranks the nation's governors by approval/disapproval ratings, and Brad Henry should probably be smiling: he's doing better than 40 of them.

As of Tuesday, based on data gathered over the previous weekend, 59 percent of the Oklahomans surveyed think the Guv is doing just fine; 30 percent think quite the opposite.

The average is 48/41; bringing up the rear are some people with serious problems, Ohio's Bob Taft being the worst off by a considerable margin. There doesn't seem to be any party preference: Republicans hold the top two and the bottom three slots. Of course, none of this is guaranteed to last.

(Filched from Paul Musgrave.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Soonerland )
Back to the Forward Look

Lileks in Camryland:

Today we went through many web pages looking at many cars, and it was depressing; most mid-priced sedans were designed by graduates of the International Institute of Boring Your Ass Off, and have the same dull front and the same dull back and the same dull middle. I repeat my earlier contention: bring back a car that would have looked at home in 1957 and they would sell a kajillion units. Something that leaned into the wind, had boobie headlights and forty-nine tons of chrome, two colors, poke-your-eye-out fins and a hood ornament in the shape of a rocket or a nuclear weapon. But no: we get the same old same old, over and over.

The closest thing we have to an iconic American automobile these days is the Chrysler 300, a massive, roaring rear-wheel-drive sled that, in its 300C guise, carries a big honking Hemi V8. It's perfect for 1957: why, they actually had a 300C then, a massive, roaring rear-wheel-drive sled that carried a big honking Hemi V8. The 21st-century C, alas, has been shorn of its fins, but it's selling kajillions of units: it's one of the few Detroit nontrucks moving without rebates.

I can't imagine Lileks being bored by one of these. On the other hand, I can't imagine him peeling off thirty-odd large for one of them either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:31 AM to Driver's Seat )
The city as amusement park

San Francisco, says Joel Kotkin, is an ephemeral place, a city devoted to "stylish living" above all else:

The ephemeral city differs dramatically from traditional urban centers. No longer populated mainly by middle class families and a diverse set of industries, it is dominated by a wealthy elite, part-time sojourners, hordes of tourists and those that serve them.

And its political climate, says Kotkin, runs "from left-liberal to left-lunatic," which would ordinarily suggest a great deal of wailing and gnashing of teeth over job losses — 13 percent in the last five years — and recent declines in "diversity," because urban ethnics can no longer afford to live there. Instead, San Francisco worries about shopping bags and the possibility that a person addressing the Board of Supervisors might commit a verbal faux pas.

For some inscrutable reason, this sort of circus is being held up as a role model for the rest of us. Kotkin reports:

San Francisco is not alone in building an ephemeral economy. Montreal, Berlin, Boston and Portland, Ore., all display signs of constructing an urbanity based on hipness, art and culture. Like San Francisco, these cities attract large numbers of young, educated people with their notable street life, entertainments and nice architecture.

Less reasonable are the attempts of other, less favored cities — places like Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, Manchester, Vt., and Oklahoma City, even Aarhus in Denmark — to peg their futures on becoming hip cultural centers. Some, adopting popular development guru Richard Florida's notions that having lots of gays is key to making your city successful, have decided that they, too, need to get more gay.

Will this strategy succeed in the boondocks? When a reporter from Oklahoma City tells me of the city fathers' dream of attracting hip, cool people, including a large contingent of gay people, to create a Sooner State Castro district, I can answer with one New York word — fuggedaboutit.

You might think, or I might, that if Oklahoma City really wanted to attract gay people, the city would have mounted a campaign against State Question 711 last year. And besides, however popular Dr Florida's notions may be these days, they seldom translate into actual economic success.

Some of our "emerging professionals" bewail the fact that Oklahoma City doesn't seem to be transitioning into a vacationland for lawyers in love. Right now, I'm more interested in whether they can keep the sewer lines from backing up.

(Via Matt Rosenberg in not-always-delusional Seattle.)

Well, what do you know?

Finally, something is somebody else's fault.

I got my auto-insurance bill for the next six months, and the premium has risen by $36.80 this time around. Since I've had no unfortunate encounters with the law, I immediately pulled out the previous bill and compared notes.

  • Bodily injury liability: no change.
  • Property damage liability: no change.
  • Comprehensive: no change.
  • Collision: no change.
  • Uninsured motorist: up $36.80.

Thanks to all of you deadbeats out there who can't, or won't, scrape up the bucks. Please feel free to pass away from high levels of coprophagia.

13 May 2005
Truly decadent

Is there no decade VH1 doesn't love?

Of course not.

Prepare yourself for I Love the 30s. [Requires QuickTime.]

(Via Screenhead.)

Them hicks

One recurring complaint about Oklahoma in some local circles is that while its population is actually predominantly urban these days, its politics are still fundamentally rural (read "backward"). This is a questionable assumption at best — both houses of the Legislature reflect the population shift to the cities and the suburbs — but the knack of some small-town legislators for seizing the spotlight (think Senator Frank Shurden, D-Henryetta) causes consternation in those folks who think that if only we could shake off this hillbilly stuff we could have the next Dallas, or at least the next Fort Worth.

This notion basically ignores history: there has always been an urban/rural divide in this state, and it's hardly unique to Oklahoma. Julie Neidlinger reports from North Dakota:

I remember after 9/11, a friend and I were talking. She made the comment that she was glad there were farmers and people living out in the country and that everyone wasn't in the cities because it was nice to know there were people out there watching, knowing what was going on across the land. I hadn't thought of that, ever, until she mentioned it.

Cities need rural people, and not just for the obvious "we need farmers so we have food" connection. You need people out on the land, watching and aware of what is going on. Just because you live in a place of pavement doesn't mean you don't have a connection to what is going on in the country. You need people out there. Stuff happens out in the country, from weed or pest outbreaks to weather to crime to you-name-it that needs to be noticed for the good of everyone.

And you need people in the rural areas because they are a different kind of people than city dwellers. Rural people have a different work ethic and attitude, different priorities and concerns, a different outlook ... that kind of thing. It isn't better, it's just different. We need that. Think about it. Why are the students of North Dakota so eagerly snapped up by other states? What is it that makes this state unusual as compared to, say, California? The ruralness of the state produces a different kind of person. If everyone were urban, it would be unfortunate.

Much of what we think of as the Oklahoma character originated out in the countryside. On the farm we learned the basics of fatalism, that a few hours of horrible weather can take out a season's crop; in the small towns we learned that for every person who is content with his lot, there's another who wants out.

The rural population in most states is declining, as people pack up and look for jobs in the cities. But I can't imagine everyone moving: those who remain behind, I suspect, become even more firmly attached to the land. The Oklahoma Panhandle may seem like a vast, empty place, but twenty thousand people live there, and fifty years from now, I'm betting there will still be twenty thousand people living there.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:52 AM to Soonerland )
Waters less BRACish

Apparently Oklahoma will lose no military bases under the current Pentagon plan, and will in fact gain nearly 4,000 personnel.

Some local reserve centers will be closed, but the major facilities will remain.

(DefenseLink has the complete list here; you'll need Adobe Reader.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:13 AM to Soonerland )
Workout, Stevie, workout

Scott Johnson has a nice tribute to Stevie Wonder, who turns fifty-five (is that even possible?) today, and whose catalog of recordings is as bright and brilliant as anyone's: the light that never made it through his eyes obviously penetrated deep into his soul.

In the middle Seventies, Motown issued a series of double and triple LPs encapsulating the careers of some of their top-line acts, under the umbrella title Anthology. Stevie balked. It's not that he objected to these glorified greatest-hits albums; it's simply that he thought Anthology suggested some sort of closure, that it represented a statement that his best work was behind him. After some discussion at the highest level (which is to say, with Berry Gordy Jr. himself), the album was eventually issued as Looking Back. By then, of course, Stevie had already made enough great records to fill up three more LPs.

Everybody say "Yeah!"

14 May 2005
Don't go changing

The Lee Enterprises group has agreed to purchase Pulitzer and its St. Louis Post-Dispatch for $1.46 billion, and one provision of the purchase agreement specifies that Lee will retain the Post-Dispatch's reliably-leftward slant for a minimum of five years, a clause I have to assume was inserted at the request of anguished Pulitzer officials who couldn't bear to see any changes in their beloved paper.

Not that they had to worry, particularly — none of Lee's existing papers have any reputation for rampant conservatism, and Lee doesn't have a habit of dictating editorial policy from the home office — but obviously this was a concern, or Lee wouldn't have bothered to make this assurance in the contract.

I have to wonder if Pulitzer would have fretted so had Lee's headquarters been located in a liberal stronghold like New York or San Francisco, instead of in Davenport, Iowa.

(Via McGehee.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:20 AM to Almost Yogurt )
A little less service

A couple of weeks ago, a local auction house put up a banner at Harper's Sinclair station at NW 63rd and May, announcing that the property would be sold in June.

What I didn't notice was that Harper was no longer posting gasoline prices, which at the self-service pumps had been consistently one cent below those of the Shell station across the street. Turns out that Harper's was no longer selling gas; the service bays, which are still open five days a week, will close before Memorial Day.

Jim Harper has been running this station since 1957; once it's out of his hands, he and his wife are going to hit the road in an RV.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:25 AM to City Scene )
Applied mixology

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was working on converting my Sixties mix tapes to CD, a process which involves a great deal more than hooking up the cassette deck to the sound card and pressing the appropriate buttons. On the off-chance that some of you might be curious as to How I Do It, here's what I went through this morning for Mid-60s Mania Volume 9 (cover art not yet determined):

1.  Review the track list and edit as necessary.
Which, of course, is always necessary in this project, since the tapes were crammed to within a few seconds of their 90-minute nominal capacity and sometimes beyond. The original tape here contained thirty-five songs; six were ruthlessly excised, and one very short one was added at the last minute because (1) it was short and (2) where it was placed made sense.

2.  Select the source material.
About half of these selections were dubbed from CDs I own, although I do own source material for every single one of them. Most of them appear on more than one CD, which means I have to pick the one I think is better. Sometimes it's easy: with "Kind of a Drag," I took the one from Sundazed's Buckinghams compilation, which is the only stereo mix in which the horns don't overwhelm the rest of the instruments during the break. On the other hand, the two CD versions of "Time Won't Let Me," both stereo, were unsatisfactory: the one on the Capitol (later Collectibles) Outsiders compilation has some studio talk, which can be fixed, and a weak remix, which can't, and the version on one of those ubiquitous Time-Life discs (I have three more-or-less-complete series) has the opening drumroll sliced off. Rather than splice the two together, I opted for the 45 version in mono.

3.  Determine the sequence.
In this case, I made no changes except for the deletions (and the one addition). This is not always the case, since I did those tapes to maximize tape utilization, which, given my penchant for auto-reverse units, means a very long Side 1 and a slightly-shorter Side 2. CDs have no such considerations, fortunately.

4.  Apply corrections.
Nero (version 5, anyway) defaults to two-second track breaks; I cut them in half. Two tracks ran much longer than their 45 versions and were trimmed back somewhat; two tracks (including, perversely enough, a Phil Spector production) were remixed for narrower stereo. I toyed with taming the hiss monster on "White Rabbit," but decided otherwise.

5.  Burn away.
This is, of course, the easy part, and it was done (at 8x) in about 10:45.

Artwork comes later, after I audition the final product. Time elapsed from printing the original track list to pulling the CD-R out of the drive: 78 minutes, which is coincidentally almost the playing time of the disc.

Update, October: It took long enough, but you can see the artwork and the complete track listing here.

Genitally speaking

Rocket Jones has evinced a vaguely-unhealthy interest in a 1977 movie called Chatterbox, which, I must report, I have actually seen. (Worse, I once owned a copy, on one of those old RCA CED NeedleVision videodiscs.)

Actually, it's not as horrid as the synopsis suggests, although the premise is extremely silly. The young lady in question discovers her, um, gift at the conclusion of an indifferent bout of lovemaking: she is grateful to her geekish (and not in a good way) boyfriend, but the Box claims lack of satisfaction. Despairing, she rushes to a shrink, who sees her and Virginia, to give the Box a proper name, as his ticket out of this dead-end profession and into the Big Time.

It's really not all that bad, but it's impossible to describe with any degree of discretion, as demonstrated quite clearly above. The 1988 German film Ich un ErMe and Him in its English release — is a variation on this theme, with Mark Linn-Baker, for some reason, playing a real prick.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:37 PM to Almost Yogurt )
You dare to criticize us?

Blogger Christophe Grébert is not at all appreciated by the power structure in his home city of Puteaux, France: last year he was arrested for his commentary, but subsequently released, and now he is being sued by the mayor.

He's taking donations via PayPal to help with his legal woes. Somehow, the sheer joy of annoying French officialdom was enough to coax ten euros out of my wallet.

(Via Doc Searls.)

(Update, 10 am, 15 May: M. Grébert wrote to his donors — seventy-eight so far — to thank them for their participation, which gives him great confidence as he faces his showdown with the mayor, scheduled for the 21st of June. At least, that's what I got out of it with my just-above-menu-level French.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:20 PM to Blogorrhea )
15 May 2005
Spanned out

NewsOK.com has a map of substandard bridges in the state, and there are plenty of them; every county has at least four or more.

The one nearest to Surlywood (there are three within a mile or so) is the May Avenue overpass above Northwest Distressway, which dates to 1952 and carries about 5000 vehicles a day, occasionally including mine. The deck has been downgraded to Critical; the superstructure is Poor, while the substructure holds on to Fair. Redoing this bridge will cost $4.89 million.

It doesn't take a lot of these to get into some serious money. Unfortunately, we do have a lot of these — nearly 7500, in fact — and ODOT's Gary Ridley says the tab for fixing all of them will run $3 billion or so.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:47 AM to Soonerland )
He said/she said

This AP wire story about a support group for young transsexuals has apparently gotten under Cole Porter's skin:

[T]he news organization quotes a girl named Dai as a boy named David, and a boy named Josh is quoted as a girl named Jessi — because respect for transexual youth's self-esteem apparently trumps the facts in the Associated Press's 2005 stylebook.

Having once been a girl named Jessi, at least for online public consumption, I really can't see what horrible crime against language is being committed here.

Welcome to Louavul

It's time for another of Steph Mineart's Big Things trips, where she turns her camera on, well, things that are big.

This time she's in Louisville, a place full of fascination, and plenty of it big. I wish I had some kind of eye for this sort of thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:27 PM to Blogorrhea )
So much for my adoring audience

My brother got a look at my infamous mid-February television interview today, and he found it, um, highly suggestive of irregularity.

So far, this is one of the kinder reviews.

16 May 2005
Wrevenge of the wrens

Somebody apparently thought it would be a really cool idea to pry out all the birds' nests under the eaves at 42nd and Treadmill. It didn't occur to that somebody to remove all the nesting material from the premises, though, so while the War Council gathers in the cottonwood trees to the south, one nest has been rebuilt and a second is under reconstruction.

I don't think it's advisable to park over there today: those birds are pissed.

(Update, 1 pm: Three nests are now operational, and sentinels have been posted. They're not yielding this territory without a fight.)

Well, I never!

Make of these what you will.

I have never:

  • Eaten oysters.
  • Visited the Pacific Northwest.
  • Dated a redhead.
  • Owned a pickup truck.
  • Seen Titanic.
  • Ordered a Big Mac.
  • Desecrated a Koran.
  • Attended an NFL game.
  • Gone skiing.
  • Looked good on television.

(Via Accidental Verbosity.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:11 AM to Screaming Memes )
Not including shelves

Two weeks from tomorrow, Oklahoma City will auction off the old Downtown Library building at 131 Dean A. McGee. The city has set a minimum bid of $950,000, and The Downtown Guy thinks they'll get it:

Will the city get $950,000? You bet. The question will be what will happen to this property under private ownership. I could see the property being renovated into lofts. But its historic credentials are flimsy at best. It’s a rather forgettable 1950s-era piece of architecture, an Eisenhower mentality where function was more important than design (though certainly that thinking didn’t prevent other stunning examples of Atomic and pop-Americana design during that same period).

So, if it were to be torn down, especially if you could get it consolidated with the old bank drive through next door, you could end up with a pretty great project in the heart of downtown. What would I build? Retail/housing for sure.

I think I'd miss the old Fidelity (now Bank of Oklahoma) drive-in: when it was built half a century ago, it was a model for the way these things ought to be done, and it still looks pretty good today. On the other hand, there's a real question of whether you can put up a big-enough structure on the existing library lots: the library itself was only about 64,000 square feet, which wouldn't allow for much in the way of residences (since you'd presumably need an adjacent parking facility), and while downtown retail is certainly something to be desired, the 100 block of Dean A. McGee (or the 400 block of Robinson) is not going to be the first place anyone looks for it.

One thing's for sure, though: we don't need any more office space downtown, at least right this minute.

Update: One bid received, below the reserve price: the city will now try to sell the building outright.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:02 AM to City Scene )
A word to the sufficient is wise

Frighteningly, this makes perfect sense:

I talk to a lot of consultants, freelancers, and small businesses who do web work, and I used to be a freelancer myself, so sometimes I get asked for advice on how to price one's goods and services.

I think I came up with my best suggestion today, and it involves only two simple steps:

   1. Slap the client in [the] face.

   2. Tell the client your hourly rate.

If the person looked more shocked, horrified, offended, hurt, saddened, or wounded by the slap in the face, then you are still pricing yourself too low.

Geez, I'm even cheaper than I imagined.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:54 PM to Dyssynergy )
A window closes

Last fall, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit by surviving victims of the 1921 Tulsa race riot, citing the statute of limitations. The plaintiffs had argued that the countdown should begin with the release of the report of the State Commission which investigated the riot, which was published on 28 February 2001, four days less than two years before the suit was filed.

Today the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the 10th Circuit's decision, effectively putting an end to the suit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:24 PM to Soonerland )
Ze said

We linguistic mossbacks are apparently standing athwart the path of a grammatical and/or sexual revolution:

For those who are not familiar with ze/hir, it is used rather than she/her or he/him/his for some people who identify outside of a man/woman dichotomy. Like he and she, ze has several forms that are not particularly easy for the average person to classify grammatically (he, she, ze; his, her, hir; him, her, hir; his, hers, hirs; himself, herself, hirself), but anyone who can use she and he is capable of integrating ze. Listening to individuals who respect self-identification and pronoun preference makes this quite clear, as they form sentences like "ze knows that's hir job," "that book is hirs," and so on. There is a pattern that is consistent and easy to produce.

I suppose it's better than "it," but I submit that persons who "identify outside of a man/woman dichotomy" have issues far beyond mere pronoun usage. Even transsexuals, as I understand them, are binary: they are A and seek B-ness, or vice versa. While I must assume it's possible to live Somewhere In Between, I really have to wonder if this is good for one's — um, hir — social life: does the pool of putative datables increase markedly, or does it shrink to the dimensions of Newspeak?

(Swiped from Joanne Jacobs.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:16 PM to Almost Yogurt )
17 May 2005
The Church of the Triglycerides

We have a "sick fascination" with weight and health, says Deb, and maybe it's an inevitable by-product of our increasingly-secular age:

I may not be a churchgoer, but I think there's something very healthy about a strong faith in a force that's beyond human control.

I think this is the sickness that we're suffering from, and it becomes worse and worse as we take our faith away from God or fate or whatever you want to call that power and transfer it to humanity: we believe that we can control everything. And I think this is what leads to the viciousness of the current moralizing, which continues to get more and more overwrought the more secular our society becomes.

Emphasis added. We can, I believe, control more than we think we can, but anyone who thinks my first priority for the rest of my life has to be shedding these few extra pounds deserves a pie in the face — not that I'm going to waste a perfectly good pie on some shmendrick's face.

Deb continues:

And oddly enough, this belief has taken on the character of a sort of superstition, and now instead of praying that we'll be blessed with a long life, or making an offering to a goddess or a saint, we diet and run and lift weights and count on that to protect us. Sadly, there is something in the human animal that wants to demand that others must share the same belief system or forever be other, open to demonization.

And that demand remains constant, even as the evidence for it dwindles.

Why, yes, I will have fries with that, thank you.

(Update: Deb follows up here.)

This is a test

Tulsa's MeeCiteeWurkor wonders if his TrackBack function is working.

Actually, he's kind of hoping it isn't, because if it is, it means he's not writing anything worth linking, or so he thinks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:27 AM to Blogorrhea )
O horrible Hummer, evil Expedition

The headline here is instructive:

Police search for SUV driver after accident hurts 2 in city

Not just any driver, but an "SUV driver." The story:

Police are searching for the driver of a sport utility vehicle who walked away from a collision that seriously injured a taxicab driver and a passenger.

The SUV apparently crossed the centerline about 9 a.m. Saturday, colliding head-on with a taxicab in the 7800 block of S Western Avenue, Sgt. Gary Knight said. The names of both drivers and the passenger in the taxi were not released.

Knight said the driver and passenger in the taxi were taken to an area hospital in critical condition. The other driver fled the scene on foot, he said.

Wouldn't he be just as culpable had he been in a sedan?

The ongoing demonization of the sport-utility vehicle continues, as Kathleen Parker observes:

I don't expect to clip many news stories that begin: "Hybrid runs down elderly, blind woman."

(Incidentally, this very same Kathleen Parker column was carried in the Sunday Oklahoman; I'm wondering if maybe the staff doesn't read their own paper.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:12 AM to Driver's Seat )
Make mine an aisle seat

Might as well give it away in the first couple of paragraphs:

Some United Airlines employees at risk of losing their shirt are taking it all off instead.

A group of five flight attendants who are at risk of having their pension plans terminated decided to show some skin in a 2006 calendar titled "Stewardesses Stripped (Of Their Pension?)" to publicize their plight.

At the moment, StewsStripped.com isn't is working.

Queen of Sky notes:

[N]o, these women are not risking their jobs, since United flight attendants have a union to protect them.

And no, Q of S herself wouldn't pose for such a thing. I think.

(Updated with a proper Q of S link.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:54 AM to Birthday Suitable )
That's it, I quit, I'm movin' on

How far can you get into a book before you decide, well, you're really not into this book? Syaffolee says:

[M]y "cut-off point" (in quotations because I don't stop reading) is approximately 100 to 150 pages in. If I'm not completely hooked by then, the book is not getting my recommendation.

I'm not quite so forgiving: it takes about 60 pages for me to decide whether a book should not be put aside, but thrown with great force. And I've hurled a few, though only a few.

Of course, if I wrote the book, I'll never make it past the Foreword. (I have written no books, and, Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, I never will.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:11 PM to Almost Yogurt )
18 May 2005
Scripture rescripted

I spent enough time in Catholic schools to become familiar with what was called the Douay Bible, and most of the verses I committed to memory were taken from versions thereof. (I took three years of high-school Latin, which threw me into the Vulgate, but that's another matter.) Still, the text I found most appealing was one from a different tradition entirely: the Authorized, aka King James, Version, which, to me at least, always stood out for its lyric quality, as though it were written to be performed in public. It is, of course, no coincidence that this was about the same time I was immersing myself in Shakespeare.

A more recent text has emerged, called the English Standard Version, and it looks promising:

The ESV is an "essentially literal" translation that seeks as far as possible to capture the precise wording of the original text and the personal style of each Bible writer. As such, its emphasis is on "word-for-word" correspondence, at the same time taking into account differences of grammar, syntax, and idiom between current literary English and the original languages. Thus it seeks to be transparent to the original text, letting the reader see as directly as possible the structure and meaning of the original.

Which latter, alas, wasn't the KJV's strong point. And this is the clincher:

Every translation is at many points a trade-off between literal precision and readability, between "formal equivalence" in expression and "functional equivalence" in communication, and the ESV is no exception. Within this framework we have sought to be "as literal as possible" while maintaining clarity of expression and literary excellence.

Susan B. posted the ESV Psalm 91, and, to these eyes anyway, it has all of the lyricism of the King James version, without the necessity of translation from Elizabethan English into something more contemporary, and with the sort of balance between spirit and letter I generally don't see in more "modern" (read: "less literal") renderings.

The entire text is available online, but I'm thinking of ordering one of these for myself anyway.

Dustbury à la française

The most interesting thing about this, I thought, was how it rendered the blogroll. La Patrouille d'Aube and Une Petite Victoire have their charms, but I suspect the one I'm going to remember is Ce Blog Est Plein de la Merde.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:00 AM to Blogorrhea )
Speaking of horrid books

And I was, wasn't I?

Anyway, Aldahlia reads Left Behind so you don't have to.

And believe me, you don't have to.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:39 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Get dressed, dammit

Rusty Pearl's Captain Plectrum lists some laws regulating nudity which fall under the general heading of "At the time, it seemed like the logical thing to do."

Mike at Okiedoke homed in on this one:

Oklahoma women may not gamble in the nude, or lingerie, or whilst wearing a towel.

The Captain speculates that it's to curb the advantage they might otherwise enjoy, but Mike sees another angle:

So, only men can "lose their shirt" gambling?

Me, I wonder if this law is extensible to, say, strip Scrabble®.

139

It's the single most dangerous port on a computer connected to the Internet.

On the other hand, there's no danger involved in reading Carnival of the Vanities #139, presented this week by Commonwealth Conservative, and as always highlighting the best of seven days' worth of bloggage — unless, of course, you find the possibility of opening minds to be potentially hazardous.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:25 AM to Blogorrhea )
Icing, and an actual cake

Matt's got an idea, and it's a beaut:

[I]t would restore excitement and a following to the season itself, promoting regional rivalries (no more Edmonton-Nashville epics), giving the most passionate fans the best shot at the Cup (by the way, to decide your three or two Stanley seeds, you would of course have your own tournament from among the top XX teams), and spare casual watchers the startling incongruity of a Calgary-Tampa Bay final.

You'll have to read the whole thing, of course, to see how this happy conclusion is reached. (Hint: it involves a Canada/US split.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:52 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Abort, retry, fall?

No way I am getting into an elevator with a farging DOS prompt.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:07 PM to PEBKAC )
Under cover of darkness

Downsize DC reports that the Senate Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on the USA PATRIOT Act tomorrow — with no notice to the rest of the world, with an eye towards extending it indefinitely.

Regardless of what you may think of the Act itself, holding secret, off-record hearings (who's being heard?) is an unconscionable mixture of the ridiculous and the reprehensible, and should be discouraged. I've already dropped a note to the two Senators from Oklahoma, though neither is actually on the Intelligence Committee. (Write your own joke.) Who knows what sort of mischief sixteen Senators can concoct? I'd just as soon not find out.

19 May 2005
Changes afoot

I was briefly entertaining the idea of calling in someone with landscape experience to reshape the western side of the lot, which has a rather ragged slope and all manner of bare spots.

It's probably a good thing that I didn't, since Oklahoma City is replacing a sewer line that runs parallel to the fenceline, and they'll do quite a lot of reshaping themselves, though not necessarily the sort I might actually want. They left a note on the door yesterday afternoon explaining in the vaguest possible terms just what it is they're doing.

As always with easements, it's a mixed blessing:

Upside: Presumably an end to the sporadic hydrogen-sulfide stench in the front yard near the regular access point; about five percent less back yard to mow.

Downside: Trees are coming down, and so is the fence (a temporary chain-link fence is already in place); no discernible privacy for the rest of the summer; no access through the gate.

More as things begin to happen.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:31 AM to Surlywood )
Lessons from life (one in a series)

When the sticker on the pill bottle says "Take with food," it doesn't necessarily mean "Wash down with a Coca-Cola and a couple of Ding Dongs."

Radio for people who used to like radio

Way back in the waning days of World Tour '02, I gave a shout-out to what sounded like some superior radio:

[A] salute to WDRV ("The Drive") in Chicago, the only station I've ever heard with the gumption to play both Don Henley's "Dirty Laundry" and the McCoys' "Hang On Sloopy" — and the latter in its 3:45 stereo mix, at that.

The major ailment of Oklahoma City radio — the Incredible Shrinking Playlist — apparently hasn't infected Chicago radio to the same extent. Witness, as Jeff Brokaw has, the new Nine FM:

[T]heir tagline is "we play anything". And so they do.

Recently I've heard, in a span of 15 minutes, sets of music containing both R.E.M. and Donna Summer. Bad Company and Wild Cherry. Beck, Bee Gees, and James Brown.

If any of the professional risk-avoiders who run Oklahoma City radio had the temerity to try something like this, the world would surely judder on its axis.

WRZA, not to be confused with the guy from Wu-Tang, is at 99.9 in Park Forest, Illinois; it has two translators farther north. Pray that they get a Webcast.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:03 AM to Overmodulation )
Let's drop the big one

Spoons argues for the "nuclear option":

[E]ven if you view ideology as a proper basis for Senate rejection of a judge, there's a world of difference from doing so on a majority basis, and letting judges be blocked by any 41 Senators. In an evenly divided country, it'll be rare that any party will ever have 60 votes. As such, an unprincipled minority will have massive power to obstruct any judges they dislike. This is anti-Constitutional and dangerous. Presidential elections have consequences, and one of them is that Presidents will determine, within reasonable limits, who gets appointed to the judiciary. When a minority party demonstrates, however, that they wont confirm people who don't share their view of abortion, or affirmative action, federalism, and when that minority party openly tries to block rising stars who commit the sin of being both ethnic minorities and judicially conservative, then we've gone way past any reasonable restriction on Presidential power. More importantly, we've gone past any conceivable constitutional restriction on such power.

"Advise and consent" at some point actually implies consent; nowhere does the Constitution authorize "advise and obstruct."

And there should be a $1000 fine for any Senator who uses the word "mainstream": it's been bled of any conceivable meaning.

Sewer update

And doesn't that sound yummy?

Well, they're not dawdling, at least not yet; the rest of the fence was ruthlessly excised today, lengths of pipe were stacked up at the north end, and the parking lot to the west was partially blocked off.

I have two trees of my own on the periphery — a small evergreen and an adolescent cottonwood — and both are still standing for now. The chain-link temporary fence is almost flush against the rosebush, which suggests some possible amusements down the way.

The meter readers (gas and electric) will be totally blocked, which should make for some bizarre billing in weeks to come.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:52 PM to Surlywood )
20 May 2005
That new abortion package

Today Governor Henry is expected to sign House Bill 1686, which requires parental notification before an abortion can be performed on a minor, criminalizes the killing of a fetus in the process of killing the mother, and mandates "informed consent," which means basically that the service provider must hand out a state-approved packet of information regarding the procedure and its, um, consequences.

Meanwhile, Reproductive Services of Tulsa has filed a legal challenge to the bill, saying that the parental-notification measure lacks guidelines for waivers. New York attorney Bebe Anderson, representing the clinic, stated:

Our client, Reproductive Services, already strongly encourages all of its young patients to involve a parent before having an abortion, and in fact, most of them do. But it's the minors who have the most difficult family situations or who have no family situation ... those minors have to be able to go to court, and they've got to be sure they can do that and have it done quickly.

The Legislature in Oklahoma failed to include any time frame in which the court must act on a petition or for any appeals.

Oklahoma Republicans are busy taking credit for the bill, despite the fact that its House and Senate authors are both Democrats.

Oh, those media dollars

Wired is saying we spend an average of $240 a month on media, including both content and delivery. CT at Population Statistic, more wired than Wired, spends half again as much.

Which, of course, led me to break out the calculator:

  • Basic cable and broadband: $80
  • Landline: $53
  • Back-up dial-up service: $22
  • Wireless: $23
  • AOL (for my chat fix): $15
  • Newspapers: $7
  • Online subscriptions: $6
  • Website maintenance: $27
  • Traditional magazine subscriptions: $62

(The last figure does not include Stuff, which has started appearing in my mailbox despite the fact that I don't remember ever ordering it.)

Which brings me to $295, a tad ahead of your median Wired reader, but somewhat behind CT. I do, however, agree with his conclusion:

It's damned expensive to be fully plugged-in today. But on the plus side, you’re in on practically all the jokes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Wally World shrinks a bit

Just in case you were starting to think that Wal-Mart was some sort of invincible juggernaut:

Wal-Mart has departed the online DVD rental business after less than two years, doing a deal with Netflix in which Wal-Mart will sent online movie renters to Netflix and Netflix will promote Wal-Mart for disc purchases.

Back when Wal-Mart launched its service, there were plenty of predictions that it would spell serious trouble for Netflix. But the retailing giant's online service never took off — back in February, Business 2.0 reported that Netflix had 2.6 million customers while Wal-Mart's service had a piddling 50,000. In retrospect, this isn't surprising: When a Web-only company has invented a business that makes sense, it's proven practically impossible to unseat it as the market leader.

(From PC World's Techlog.)

You can say, "Yeah, they couldn't be number one, so they took their ball and went home," but they weren't even close to being number two; Blockbuster has about half a million customers for its DVD rentals online.

At least Wal-Mart didn't abandon their customers, something we've seen a lot of from failed retail ventures in recent years.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:38 AM to Dyssynergy )
We got your mainstream right here

Wendy Long at NRO, picking up quotes from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA):

Boxer declared that Justice [Priscilla] Owen has ruled on "a series of issues where she's hostile to the people." What Justice [Janice Rogers] Brown "wants to do to our lives and other peoples' lives" is "frightening," she said. To "use these two women nominees to say that the Republicans care about women, you know, is like saying that Clarence Thomas has ruled in favor of African Americans, when in fact he has been the leader on the opposite side."

Well, okay, but then there's this:

In her last election, Boxer was supported by 58% of the voters in California; California's other Senator, Diane Feinstein, won only 56% of the vote. Justice Brown was supported by 76% of Californians in her reelection to the California Supreme Court, and 84% of Texans voted in the last election for Justice Owen.

I should be so hostile.

What? Oh, that? Do I look like a Senator? (Don't answer that.)

Can you dig it, baby?

Apparently they can. The city's crew demonstrated that shovelry isn't dead after all: since yesterday they've managed to open up nearly 30 percent of the trench, about 50 feet, no small accomplishment on a day which topped out at 97 degrees, three above the previous record. Large piles of rust-red dirt — this is Oklahoma, after all — are heaped on the western edge, and the ubiquitous yellow tape is looped around the weird elm/mulberry hybrid on the far side of the driveway; since they've already dug past it, I have to assume it will be spared. They haven't reached the backyard trees yet, though.

Next report, I presume, will be Monday evening, for those of you who are utterly transfixed by the very idea of sewerblogging.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:02 PM to Surlywood )
21 May 2005
Patches, I'm depending on you

Tuesday night at the City Council meeting, City Manager Jim Couch will report on the Pothole Posse, which has been working overtime since spring to repair some of the more egregious gaps in local pavement.

This statement in the original press release perturbed me somewhat:

Crews can repair up to 400 potholes a day and will pour 30 to 40 tons of asphalt each day.

Four hundred potholes require forty tons of asphalt? It takes 200 pounds of I Can't Believe It's Not Tar!™ to fill just one of the four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire along 50th between Penn and May?

Here's what the City Manager's report says:

Since the initiation of the Pothole Posse, crews have completed 1,402 work orders by patching 12,845 potholes with 1,274 tons of asphalt.

Which is, by gum, 198 lb 5 oz per hole.

Evidently I don't know my asphalt from a hole in the road.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:49 AM to City Scene )
"Live-blogging" doesn't quite fit

Now this is genuinely creepy: a murder victim blogged the arrival of his killer, his sister's ex-boyfriend, who subsequently hung around and killed the sister as well.

Here's the last entry.

The perp, confronted with the entry, confessed.

(Via Doc Searls.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:23 AM to Blogorrhea )
Roommate wanted, no clothing

I learned a long time ago that I wasn't going to be anyone's ideal roommate; I'm way too cranky and possessed of some odd quirks. [Aren't all quirks odd by definition? Shut up.]

Then again, if I had a Tribeca penthouse to share, I might be tempted to be this picky myself:

Next, do you (the potential roommate) have to be a nudist? Yes, being a nudist is a “lifestyle” for lack of a better term. Although there is always the initial cheep thrill, I enjoy the freedom of running around naked and so should you. Does this mean I do this in public. Not usually but I may visit the occasional nudist beach (you do not have to come).

Do you have to be a goddess. No but I am not looking for the usual nudist eye pollution either. You do not have to be a model or look like you stepped off a mens magazine but you should be in shape, well groomed (not a hippy all natural type) and have a great smile.

Well, if you gotta dream, dream big. And anyway, in New York, he'll have no trouble filling this position, unless all the nudist women are also spelling freaks. (If this latter describes you, write me. Please.)

(Via Joey McKeown.)

The wonderful world of financial minutiae

Requirements of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act are viewed as onerous by some corporate officers, and, says CT, that's just too bad:

I find it amusing to hear all the grousing over a law that requires nothing more than simple accountability. That the extra work drives CFOs to distraction (and in the case of Outback Steakhouse's Bob Merritt, resignation from his job) elicits no sympathy from me at all. These companies are more than happy to reap the rewards of being a public company — huge cash reserves, leveraged borrowing, etc. — but ask them to pay for those advantages by lifting the veil from their financial books, and they have a fit.

I have my own issues with Sarbanes-Oxley, mostly philosophical: as Mindles H. Dreck points out, the regulatory trend is toward "giving up on the idea of strict prescriptive guidelines of behavior in favor of both subjective guidelines and creating a paper trail for litigators," and while paper trails have their value, subjective guidelines are worrisome.

Still, this doesn't mean that there should be no regulations at all. Corporations are synthetic constructs chartered by the states, and the states, at least, seldom make any unreasonable demands on them. Wall Street complains that a few bad apples brought this upon them, which merely shows how out of touch they are with apple-pickers, who know that the bad ones can show up in any section of the bushel at any time.

And if it's so bloody necessary to keep pesky investors and such out of your books, then take the company private and shut the hell up.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:21 AM to Dyssynergy )
Fraud alert, it says

This phishing attempt is just so much fun:

eBay Fraud Mediation Request
Date: Thu, 21 May 2005

You have recieved this email because you or someone had used your account to make fake bids at eBay. For security purposes, we are required to open an investigation into this matter.

Well, let's see. Somebody at eBay would likely know (1) how to spell "received" and (2) that the 21st of May wasn't a Thursday.

THE FRAUD ALERT ID CODE CONTAINED IN THIS MESSAGE WILL BE ATTACHED IN OUR FRAUD MEDIATION REQUEST FORM, IN ORDER TO VERIFY YOUR EBAY ACCOUNT REGISTRATION INFORMATIONS.

Fraud Alert ID CODE: 00937614
(Please save this Fraud Alert ID Code for your reference.)

To help speed up this process please click here:
http://secure.acces-ebay.com/mrtg/.aw-cgi/ebayISAPI.dll/

I need hardly point out that "acces-ebay.com" is not a real eBay domain. And if this were a secure server, it just might specify https: in front of the URL.

This was actually sent from 70.84.130.228. Geolocation, which is not particularly reliable, puts it in Dallas.

I mention all this mostly for the benefit of Googlers and similar searchers, since it's highly unlikely I'm the only person who's ever going to get this. And I continue to urge that phishers, once caught, be filleted on national television.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:42 PM to Scams and Spams )
Saturday spottings (trippingly on the tongue)

I haven't done a lot of Spottings lately, mostly due to the pressures of what we laughingly call Other Things, but there's still plenty going on. Bricktown traffic was unusually heinous for a hot Saturday afternoon; judging by the parking distribution, I'm guessing the major contributor was Sith happening at Harkins.

There was a blurb in the Mid-City Advocate this week about the new bank branch in the Asian District — yes, it does have a multilingual staff — which got me to thinking about the possibility of ghettoization: are we boxing our ethnic communities into neat little zones?

But perhaps I needn't have worried. A couple of weeks ago, the Walgreens at 50th and May put up some signage in Vietnamese; today I saw Spanish signs at a laundromat on NW 23rd in the south end of Bethany. Whatever boundaries we might imagine, they don't actually exist.

There was a little clothing store on 23rd east of May, which has recently relocated to a space just west of Portland. Their old marquee, however, remains, and it still asks: DO U LISTEN?

And while we're speaking of May, there's a new restaurant going in, replacing the short-lived Uschina buffet, to be named for its location at the light at 57th. Technically, this is half-true: it's at a light, and it's north of 56th, but the intersection is actually United Founders Boulevard. (And it's just as well; were it at 59th, a truly hellish crossover, nobody would ever get into the place.)

(Update, 1 am: At least part of the crunch in Bricktown was the Redhawks game, for which over 10,000 tickets were sold. The Birds lost to Salt Lake, 9-1.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 PM to City Scene )
22 May 2005
But it's, y'know, organic

Which may or may not mean much of anything:

In the United States ... the rules that define organic products are, literally, nonsensical, in that organic standards are process-based and have little to do with the actual characteristics of the product. Certifiers attest to the ability of organic operations to follow a set of production standards and practices that meet the requirements of highly arbitrary regulations. Paradoxically, the presence of a detectable residue of a banned chemical alone does not constitute a violation of these regulations, as long as an organic operation has not used excluded methods. That's rather like saying that as long as your barber uses certain prescribed tools and lotions, your haircut is automatically of high quality.

Moreover, because organic farming is far less efficient than conventional farming, organic food costs more (to say nothing of requiring more and poorer- quality land put into farming), and the hype from markets like Whole Foods puts pressure on the less affluent to buy more expensive fruit and vegetables that may actually be of lower quality.

So says Lord Taverne of Pimlico, more familiarly Dick Taverne, author of The March of Unreason, which goes immediately on my list of Stuff To Read.

I do want to point out, though, that my experience with organic lettuce has been uniformly positive: it doesn't taste any better — I mean, we're talking lettuce here — but the two-dollar amorphous organic head inevitably lasts longer in the vegetable crisper than the 99-cent spheroid with the big brand name, and less of it winds up being thrown away for excess wilt.

(Via Matt Rosenberg.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:49 AM to Worth a Fork )
The new OG&E rate case

There's some interesting stuff in the $89 million rate increase sought by OG&E. From the statement filed by CFO James R. Hatfield [requires Adobe Reader]:

Small business drives Oklahoma's economic growth, and it is clear that they have been paying more than their fair share for electricity for far too long.

So they get a rate cut, about seven percent. Not so lucky this bunch:

Large industrial and residential customers have enjoyed artificially low rates for several years, and it is time to bring them in line with what they should be paying.

And Tinker gets a break because it's, well, Tinker:

We are recommending that Tinker Air Force Base receive a special military base tariff that will result in cost savings. We hope this will contribute to efforts to better position Tinker as a critical military installation over the long term.

Take that, BRAC.

Down among the nuts and bolts, Roger Walkingstick, in charge of pricing and revenue analysis, notes the following with regard to the classes of service who are being hardest hit by the proposed new rates:

The existing subsidies among customer classes should be minimized, new rates should reflect a rate design consistent with marginal costs, and additional customer rate options should be offered to our customers.

Since [Residential and Large Power and Light] represent almost 60% of all energy sales in the Oklahoma jurisdiction, this presents a significant problem in rate design. Ideally, both classes should be moved to the average Oklahoma jurisdictional ROR [rate of return] and that is what I am proposing for the LPL class. However, the revenue impact of completely eliminating the subsidy for the Residential class would impose an unacceptable level of customer impact. This group of customers has limited ability to modify their consumption so as to mitigate increases and no way to pass those cost increases on to others.

So customers in the Residential class will still be subsidized, albeit at a lower level.

There's a lot of regulatory jargon in the proposal, of course, but there's a definite trend toward demand-based pricing, with higher rates in the summer (of course). The biggest change? Right now, you pay one rate for the first 600 kWh you use and a lower rate for usage over 600 kWh, except in the summer, when all usage is billed at the same rate. Under the new plan, the rate for summer usage will actually increase at the 1400-kWh point. There is also a new subsidy: customers qualifying under the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program will be exempted from the flat $6.50 customer charge that is included in the standard Residential rate during the four-month summer rate period. The net increase to Residential customers, they say, will be about 3.5 percent, around $3 a month.

Those of us who buy OG&E's wind-farm watts, however, get a break. Last month I paid $12 for my 600-kW package, offset by $7.55 in fuel adjustments I didn't have to pay. Under the new rates, if I'm reading this correctly, I wouldn't have any of the fuel adjustments — the new base for computing them would be higher than actual numbers for the month — but the cost of the package itself would drop from $12 to 60 cents, a $3.95 savings overall.

I can't imagine the Corporation Commission raising much of a fuss about this proposal; I expect it will be approved with minor changes at most.

Their gal in cyberspace

Good Thing: Dawn Eden's column for the New York Daily News contains actual URLs to stories of note.

Not-So-Good Thing: The Daily News online editor apparently has yet to figure out how to turn those URLs into actual, clickable links.

Still, it's a step ahead for good ol' dead-tree media, and unlike those other New York papers, the Daily News has yet to make its online readers jump through absurd registration hoops.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:47 AM to Blogorrhea )
Surreality check

Donna goes to a Dali exhibition, and it's so, so serious:

When I think of Dali, I think of a man who had a sense of humor. This was not in evidence in the audio tour or any of the written pieces within the exhibition. It was simply surreal how seriously they handled his surrealism. "In this piece, the young poet is depicted with a lobster on his head, which offers us Freudian insight into Dali's own juxtapositioning of...." C'mon guys, there's a freakin' lobster on this kid's head... now that is FUNNY!

Of course he had a sense of humor. This is a man who once did an advertisement for a hosiery company featuring a dandelion with nice legs.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:03 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Theola

"The Love of My Man" was the sole major hit (#21 in Billboard in 1963) by Theola Kilgore, a gospel singer from Oakland, California — she had been born in Shreveport, Louisiana — who died last Sunday at the age of 79. Written and produced by Ed Townsend, "The Love of My Man," issued on Al Sears' short-lived Serock label, distributed by Scepter/Wand, was one of the classic instances of gospel chords turned to more earthly concerns. Producer/archivist Mick Patrick once summed it up this way:

A gold-plated example of how fluid and accommodating the pop charts of the early 1960s were, the record was as close to black church music as a hit could get without mentioning the "G" word.

Bowing to the inevitable

When's the last time you schlepped along a book full of traveler's checks?

Right. Same here. So American Express, which used to make a ton of money off them, has come up with Plan B: the Travelers Cheque Card, a reloadable debit card that's available in multiple currencies (dollars, euros, sterling) and has the traditional Amex within-24-hours replaceability. The initial load is $300 ($14.95 fee); you can store up to $2750 on the Card, and reloading ($100 minimum, $5 fee) can be done through a standard Amex card or a debit Visa or MasterCard over the phone. And if it is stolen, the thief won't have any access to your bank or credit-card accounts, a distinct advantage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:30 PM to Common Cents )
23 May 2005
Hey, read this, will you?

I don't get that many emails from people wanting to call attention to their latest and greatest blog posts, largely because I don't get that much traffic in the first place — currently around 6000 a week, which sounds impressive only if you're getting 600 or 60 or, God forbid, 6 — and I can't imagine someone lying awake at night hoping against hope for an actual, um, Dustalanche.

I do read the ones I get, though, and I probably wind up linking the majority of them, if only because each one I do link is one less item I have to come up with on my own. (And you thought I was prolific! Ha!)

I'm pretty sure, though, I won't get one from Lana at live from the guillotine:

I cannot bring myself to do this. It feels too much like bragging or begging and I do neither. I've emailed exactly two people with a post. The first time it was a solicited type thing, as in email a funny story which tops this, and of course I couldn't resist. The second was an issue I really wanted to address and I emailed it to several people who had more influence than I did so that I could get the message out. That seems modest enough to me; 2 years of blogging and 2 emailed posts.

I think I've sent out five or six myself since the discovery of fire, two of which actually went to the Blogfather himself. (I still wince at this term, since I started before he did; nonetheless, I know my place in the pecking order.) Once or twice I started to write an official Policy on Emailed Links, but I decided it was more trouble than it was worth, and I continue to think so.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:33 AM to Blogorrhea )
Whirled without end

Here in Oklahoma City, Oklahoman-bashing has been a popular pastime for years; with the death of Edward L. Gaylord, the paper's longtime conservatism has evolved, if that's the word, from blind to bland, but sniping at Fourth and Broadway remains a major topic of conversation, even though the paper hasn't actually occupied that corner for ages.

With the perceived mellowing of the Oklahoman, there's now an opening for Most Hated Newspaper in Oklahoma, though the position might already be filled:

I believe that most democratic peoples of the world are quite capable of creatively dealing with the problems they face if they have access to both sides of the argument through mainstream media sources. This is not the case in the City of Tulsa where our City's only daily newspaper, the Tulsa World, uses the power of its editorial page and slanted news coverage to secretly promote the financial interests of its publisher. From its undisclosed interests in Great Plains Airlines to stifling free and honest Council debate, this paper suppresses democracy and attempts to profit from our City's government. An informed public can make good decisions, but one manipulated for the benefit of the Tulsa World's owners is going to make poor decisions based on inaccurate information. The biggest lie in the World is that this newspaper represents the interests of the citizens of Tulsa.

At least the Oklahoman was (occasionally) open about promoting the financial interests of its publisher.

(Via Steven Roemerman.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:43 AM to Soonerland )
Four-out-of-hand

Wearing a tie, report legions of guys, is uncomfortable: women should appreciate their pain, they argue, since it's very much like wearing pantyhose.

LilRed gives this the "Yeah, right" treatment:

When wearing a necktie in the scorching summer heat gives you a yeast infection, then I'll believe that a tie is just as uncomfortable as pantyhose.

So there.

Then again, I can think of no instance in my life where the presence of a tie has elicited a "Nice neck" response from women.

Oh, well. Pass the Windsorstat-7.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:47 AM to Rag Trade )
Getting a grip on health care

Bruce White sits on the City Council of Kent, Washington; he's running for Mayor, and he's proposing a new approach to how the city provides health insurance to its employees:

My proposal is to cut the current $1200 per month per employee expenditure in half. Instead of providing a traditional health care plan the city would instead offer a combination of high deductible catastrophic insurance and health savings accounts. A catastrophic plan with a $1500 per year deductible costs about twice a person's age per month for the premium. So, I'll use myself as an example — the city will give me a $600 per month medical benefit. $78 of that will go to pay the monthly premium for the catastrophic plan and the remaining $522 will go into my city-managed health account. Now that's $6264 per year going into MY account that I can use to pay my day-to-day medical expenses.

And what if I don't spend it all throughout the year? I as the employee decide what to do with it. I could keep the money in the account and increase my catastrophic deductible to say, $3000 per year, decreasing the amount of the monthly premium leaving more money per month for my savings account. Or maybe I'd prefer to take $3000 out as a self-awarded Christmas bonus. The employee is able to take total ownership of the cost and benefit level that they feel comfortable with.

$14,400 a year seems a bit high, even for metropolitan Seattle, for comprehensive health insurance, but if they're indeed paying this much in Kent, the White plan would most certainly cut it in half, and it would give individuals a great deal more control over their health-care spending. I expect there will be some opposition, mostly from the sort of folks who would rather cede that control to someone else in exchange for not having to think about it.

The downside, of course, comes if you're one of those people whose regular recurring expenditures exceed the amount of the benefit. Still, it's impossible to come up with an insurance plan that doesn't eventually stick it to someone. (A government-run single-payer plan, of course, ultimately sticks it to everyone.)

(Via Jacqueline Passey.)

Trenchant

A cooler day (merely the low 90s) than it's been, and the sewer-line crew have made substantial progress: they've now dug 100 feet, maybe a little more. (I estimate 160 total for this segment.) While some of the vines and such around the cottonwood have been excised, the tree itself and the evergreen to its south apparently will be spared entirely, perhaps because they're so close to the gas line that runs nearby. (Of course, if ONG ever has to replace that line, I can kiss those trees goodbye, and well, I draw the line at hugging them.)

So far, no reason to complain, other than the fact that complaining is what I do best.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:26 PM to Surlywood )
Down by the deli-side

Some songs are associated with various dates: Bruce Springsteen's "Sandy" (which is officially titled "Fourth of July, Asbury Park"), Bobbie Gentry's "Ode to Billie Joe" (the third of June), the Bee Gees' "First of May" (duh).

Then there's this:

When you go to the delicatessen store
Don't buy the liverwurst
Don't buy the liverwurst
Don't buy the liverwurst
I repeat what I just said before
Don't buy the liverwurst
Don't buy the liverwurst

Oh, buy the corned beef if you must
The pickled herring you can trust
And the lox puts you in orbit A-OK
But that big hunk of liverwurst
Has been there since October first
And today is the 23rd of May

So when you go to the delicatessen store
Don't buy the liverwurst
Don't buy the liverwurst
Don't buy the liverwurst
It'll make your insides awful sore
Don't buy the liverwurst
Don't buy the liverwurst

The very last segment of Allan Sherman's "Shticks of One and Half a Dozen of the Other," the last track on My Son, the Celebrity, ostensibly "recorded live at Allan Sherman's birthday party (November 30, 1962)," and the only song I can think of that actually mentions the 23rd of May.

Don't expect me to post "Ode to Billie Joe" next Friday. (And actually, I don't have to: Francis W. Porretto has already blogged the story of what happened in and around the Tallahatchie Bridge.)

The primary remains closed

Well, so much for Clingman v. Beaver.

From the 6-3 majority opinion [link requires Adobe Reader], written by Justice Thomas:

The [Libertarian Party of Oklahoma] is free to canvass the electorate, enroll or exclude potential members, nominate the candidate of its choice, and engage in the same electoral activities as every other political party in Oklahoma. Oklahoma merely prohibits the LPO from leaving the selection of its candidates to people who are members of another political party. Nothing in §1-104 prevents members of other parties from switching their registration to the LPO or to Independent status. The question is whether the Constitution requires that voters who are registered in other parties be allowed to vote in the LPO's primary.

The Court declined to consider whether Oklahoma's unusually-difficult ballot access made any difference in the LPO's ability actually to do any of these things.

(Update, 24 May, 11:15 am: The Libertarian Party of Oklahoma responds.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:17 PM to Soonerland )
24 May 2005
Further evidence that American culture rules

A Slovenian surf band, fercrissake.

The GOP locks up the invertebrate vote

Call them the Axis of Feeble.

In other news, the National Football League has announced a rule change: teams with losing records will now only have to gain eight yards for a first down.

The color of your cards

From the "I did not know that" department: A New York survey firm has found that Latino and African-American households tend to carry more credit-card debt than their white counterparts, and the gap is slowly widening.

Are there cultural factors at work here, or is it simply a reflection of relative wealth? (Keep in mind that I'm doing my part for egalitarianism by carrying a debt load that would frighten two or three families of any ethnicity.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:03 AM to Common Cents )
The implications of term limits

Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), when he was in the House, said he would serve three terms at most, served three terms, and did not run for reelection. Now 57, he suggested to the Heritage Foundation that two terms in the Senate would be enough for him:

Why would you want to be up here when you're 68 years of age? If you have any type of life, this is the last place you’d want to be.

I note in passing that Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) is 87. Then again, as Coburn observes:

There are a lot of people who are in the Congress that would never achieve in the private sector anywhere close to the remuneration they receive as a member of Congress.

That's gonna leave a mark.

(Via Wonkette.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:14 AM to Soonerland )
Herbicide: fully loaded

ConocoPhillips has been running a billboard (I saw it on I-44 eastbound just west of I-35) with the catchy phrase EXFOLIATE YOUR PISTONS.

I have to assume that this isn't exactly what they had in mind.

(Via Jalopnik.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:08 PM to Driver's Seat )
All your bass were belong to him

A moment of silence, if you please, for the late Thurl Arthur Ravenscroft, a tall skinny guy with a big, big voice, a member of the R&B group the Mellomen, whose records inexplicably came out under the name Big John and the Buzzards, and for fifty-three years the voice of Tony the Tiger, spokescritter for Kellogg's [Sugar] Frosted Flakes.

Oh, yes: "You're a mean one, Mister Grinch." That, too.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:42 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Slash and burn

Okay, nothing was burned today, except maybe some exposed skin (not mine), and some phone customers up the street: the sewer guys dug all the way to the back fence, and at the last minute sliced through some telephone cable. When I got home, SBC was busy patching up the repair; one of the crew allowed that given the sheer number of sewer repairs, they wound up doing fewer such splice jobs than I might expect.

Still, decent progress, and no change to the status of the trees.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:22 PM to Surlywood )
What goes around

I guess, if you're Judge Greer, all those Schiavos look alike.

(Via AKA Mike Horshead.)

And every tent shall have a camel's nose

You may as well read the whole thing:

Whereas believers of all religions, including the Abrahamic faiths of Christianity, Judaism and Islam, should be treated with respect and dignity;

Whereas the word Islam comes from the Arabic root word meaning “peace” and “submission”;

Whereas there are an estimated 7,000,000 Muslims in America, from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds, forming an integral part of the social fabric of America;

Whereas the Quran is the holy book for Muslims who recite passages from it in prayer and learn valuable lessons about peace, humanity and spirituality;

Whereas it should never be official policy of the United States Government to disparage the Quran, Islam, or any religion in any way, shape, or form;

Whereas mistreatment of prisoners and disrespect toward the holy book of any religion is unacceptable and against civilized humanity;

Whereas the infringement of an individual’s right to freedom of religion violates the Constitution and laws of the United States: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives–

(1) condemns bigotry, acts of violence, and intolerance against any religious group, including our friends, neighbors, and citizens of the Islamic faith;

(2) declares that the civil rights and civil liberties of all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith, should be protected;

(3) recognizes that the Quran, the holy book of Islam, as any other holy book of any religion, should be treated with dignity and respect; and

(4) calls upon local, State, and Federal authorities to work to prevent bias-motivated crimes and acts against all individuals, including those of the Islamic faith.

And we're doing this — why, exactly? It surely isn't reciprocity.

(Found at LGF.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:30 PM to Dyssynergy )
25 May 2005
In the air tonight

A new survey by Stanford researchers indicates that there are enough sustainable Class 3 winds (15 mph) worldwide to produce as much as 72 terawatts of electricity, assuming most efficient placement of the appropriate hardware. Total worldwide electricity use in 2000 was a bit less than 2 terawatts.

Don't expect things to happen too quickly, at least at first: coastal regions (think ocean breezes) have a higher potential for producing power than areas farther inland, but people who actually live on the coast might be expected to object to this sort of thing. Here's the map of potential locations, coded by measured wind speeds.

(Via the Alternative Energy Blog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:43 AM to Family Joules )
Waiting for the break of day

So I roll out of bed at, it says, 6:00, and it's awfully dark, and what's more, the automated voice on the National Weather Service VHF radio service is giving 3 am readings.

After a few minutes of wondering what sort of quantum trickery had taken place, I finally figured it out: the alarm clock was displaying the time for which the alarm was set, rather than the actual time. No problem: just push the slide switch for the correct display.

Which didn't work. The "time" display was stuck at 3:34 am (which, for you music buffs, is about 25 or 6 to 4) and wouldn't budge unless you actually took the wheel and spun it, and even then it wouldn't advance any further.

Curiously, the box was still keeping time. I woke about 5:56, and four minutes later the theme from Morning Edition burst forth. The display still read 3:34.

Oh, well. A $40 alarm clock that lasts for eleven years has presumably earned its eternal rest.

Needles for your balloons

The DVD release of Fearless Freaks, Bradley Beesley's Flaming Lips documentary, elicits some fascinating memories of the band by Lips fan Chase McInerney.

I'll just throw out one paragraph to whet your interest:

It was a great night for non-instruments. [Eugene] Chadbourne played an electrified rake — that's right, a rake — but the Flaming Lips topped him by rolling a motorcycle out on stage and proceeding to rev it repeatedly, over and over, attempting to merge it into their music. Mainly, all it did was fill the cramped dive of a place with exhaust fumes.

Not that this was particularly unusual or anything.

Recycled meme

Dear LilRed:

I've already answered this survey.

Updates in the four months since then:

Total volume: 12 GB

Last CD bought: The Originals, Susan and the SurfTones

Last song heard: "Wingding," Thurl Ravenscroft (courtesy of Lileks)

But thanks for asking.

It's a beautiful day in the Naboo 'hood

Under the general heading of Love Stories I've Heard Entirely Too Much Of These Days, you'll find the Anakin Skywalker/Padmé Amidala romance, which is of course doomed, and the Kenny Chesney/Renée Zellweger match, which isn't. Yet.

It takes Fametracker, though, to fuse these into a single concept: The Billboard Country Music Top Ten If Kenny Chesney Were Anakin Skywalker and Renée Zellweger Were Padmé Amidala.

Grateful they didn't mention Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, I am.

140

Maison 140 is a boutique hotel (43 rooms) on Lasky (as in Jesse) Drive in Beverly Hills (90212).

Not quite so deluxe, but probably a lot more edifying, is Carnival of the Vanities #140, brought to you this week by Karol at Alarming News, and stuffed to the very walls (or whatever) with bloggy goodness.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:16 PM to Blogorrhea )
The less-than big dig

It rained today, but not enough to keep the sewer crew away, and I suspect that in a day or two they'll be ready to start flattening out the mounds of dirt. The south end already looks like they've kicked down a sand castle or two.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 PM to Surlywood )
26 May 2005
Qwertyer than thou

I type about 55 wpm with four to seven fingers, but I have to glance down at the keys every once in a while to make sure I haven't migrated so far off the home row that I'm inadvertently creating manual cryptography.

Of course, if this catches on, there's an obvious idea for product placement — have the Fantastic Four's Invisible Woman use one of these on her computer — but I, as a typist, am doomed.

(Via Brian J. Noggle, who isn't buying one either.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to PEBKAC )
In the middle of things

The schedule is up for this year's deadCENTER Film Festival, which kicks off Thursday, 9 June. It's the fifth year for deadCENTER, and over 100 films have been selected for inclusion.

What? You didn't know we had a film festival? Sheesh.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to City Scene )
It's part of the business plan

Susanna Cornett talks to PC technical support for a firm whose name rhymes with "hell":

When all was said and done, she concluded the exchange by giving me a link to a Microsoft self-help page. My goodness! Nothing I could have done for myself! She said if that didn't work I could contact another tech for additional help. Of course, after such a great experience, I'm likely to do that, ohhhhh, sometime in the next millenium. But perhaps that is their goal. If their tech help absolutely sucks, then it stands to reason no one will use it and thus they will cut costs. You like to deal with a company like that.

Packard Bell? Um, no.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:47 AM to PEBKAC )
But with a whimper

NPR has put George Voinovich's crying jag into heavy rotation, and the more I hear it, the less I think of it. If I wanted to hear something simultaneously weepy and defiant, I could walk down to the grade school and insult nine-year-old girls.

Now I'm a firm believer in civility and all that. But there's a difference between being civil and being deferential, and being deferential to the UN, as Voinovich evidently so deeply desires, is the practical equivalent of handing over your milk money to a band of schoolyard thugs.

Maybe he'd prefer Michael Bolton at the UN.

Rained out

At least long enough this morning to decide "Well, we're not going to get anything done here," even though the afternoon was bright and sunny.

Not so bright was the tailgater I drew on I-44 westbound; it took not one but two exhibitions of "Geez, that guy must be insane" to shake her. The more interesting of the two was the left-lane exit at Classen Circle, the curve of which is most safely managed at 30 mph or so, and which I took somewhere in the lower 50s, about 10 over my usual. I really don't like doing this sort of thing — at some level, I'm aware that I'm just asking for a local version of the Darwin Awards — but it did tell me that I can probably go ahead with World Tour '05 without having to buy a set of tires first. (Zoom Zoom means nothing if you can't hold the road.)

Tomorrow: who knows? The city's official completion date is still listed as the 18th of September.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:37 PM to Surlywood )
A set for summer

Speak the Language is a three-piece band from Mahopac Falls, New York, and their self-released CD Summer Set has just arrived at my listening post.

It's hard to categorize StL, really: on first hearing, they'd seem to qualify for the dreamy side of power-pop, but their instrumental arrangements work in all manner of textures over and above the guitar-bass-drums basics — "Cool New Mind," for instance, is accented by what sounds like a cross between an ocarina and a theremin — and the woe-is-me stuff that occasionally creeps into lyrics in this genre is conspicuous by its absence. There's a sense of longing here and there, yes, but it never descends into self-pity or nihilism. (Meaning, of course, that I couldn't have written any of these songs.) There's no obvious single here, though "I Found You," the opener, could fill the bill nicely; Summer Set isn't meant to reach out and grab you, but to insinuate itself into your CD changer and stay there as long as possible. Definitely worth your time.

27 May 2005
A bigger tent than you thought

So I looked in the mirror, and what did I see? Matt Rosenberg:

I will define whether I am a Republican or not; and I am one. Some party hack isn't going to tell me I don't make the team because I'm not outraged over federal funding for stem-cell research, because I'm pro-choice, or because I don't lie up nights plotting Arlen Specter's demise. I think Republicans need to reach out to those who simply call themselves "conservatives," and be ready to talk to self-declared, unaffiliated "moderates" as well. "Leaving The Left" doesn't necessarily mean Embracing The Right.

And just to emphasize the point:

Republicans, with whom I am allied on many issues — including strong suppport for President Bush, the war in Iraq and the war against terrorists, and hostility to "identity politics" and "victim politics" — nonetheless need to understand that their own "litmus tests" are a form of political correctness, no less odious than much of the thought-policing that comes from The Left.

Keep this in mind next time you read my stuff and wonder "How in the hell does he get away with calling himself a Democrat?"

Bumps? We got some

Urban thoroughfares in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area are the 10th worst in the nation, says The Road Information Program. Tulsa's are a smidgen less horrible, at 18th; the absolute worst, says TRIP, are in Kansas City.

The complete report is here [link requires Adobe Reader].

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:08 AM to City Scene )
Dehorning a dilemma

As of the first of May, I was the 392nd-ranked player on BlogShares, with a net worth in the vicinity of B$26 billion. Not too shabby for what began a year and a half ago with a B$500 stake, but not keeping up with the Joneses either; I had reached as high as 102nd, but newer players with newer techniques were passing me by. And I'd been almost smug about it: not for me the artefacts with the cutesy names, the hostile takeovers, any of that stuff. I'd done it all the old-fashioned way: I'd bought low and sold high.

So when one of the high-ranked players wished to unburden himself of his quadrillion or so pseudodollars, I hesitated. For a $5 donation to a charity he specified, he would hand over B$1 trillion. I could certainly use the extra scrip to learn the new high-rolling tricks, but did I really want to learn them? Wasn't I content with what I had built already?

In the end, I rationalized this as "at least it's for a good cause" and forked over ten dollars. The player duly dropped B$2 trillion on me, which moves me up a couple hundred rungs in the standings. But I suspect that for a while, anyway, I'm going to wish that my Total Worth figure had the sort of asterisk that had been attached to Roger Maris' home-run record all those years.

Injunctions in lieu of burning

Last year, a Marion County, Indiana judge ordered that a divorced couple who are both practicing Wiccans may not expose their nine-year-old son to any of the trappings of their belief system, which he complains is "non-mainstream."

The county's Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau apparently advised the judge on this matter, noting that the boy is currently attending a Catholic school.

The boy's father is appealing the pertinent section of the divorce decree. I figure the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment ought to make this a slam-dunk, even in Indiana.

(Via Ed Brayton at In the Agora.)

(Update, 10 am, 28 May: Steph Mineart observes: "I guess getting a divorce in Indiana entitles the courts to dictate how to live your life.)

28 May 2005
We tilt this city

The rumblings began, I think, with Bass Pro.

The sweetheart deal that the city struck with Bass Pro Shops to locate a store on the edge of Lower Bricktown came in for some criticism, which largely subsided after a while and the store started producing revenue close to projections. Still, it's Bass Pro, which caters to guys in flannel shirts who might own rifles and think sitting in the middle of the lake with a line over the side is fun, and this just irks the sort of young trendy types who believe that Bricktown ought to be their own private preserve, a row of bars, upscale shops and more bars, who aspire to have Bricktown become the local equivalent of Dallas' West End or Deep Ellum and worry that any development of which they do not approve is a sign of creeping Lubbockization. The last, or at least next-to-last, straw was the hint that John Q. Hammons Hotels was contemplating dropping its plan for an Embassy Suites in Bricktown and replacing it with a presumably less-prestigious Residence Inn. Good God, this is the sort of thing they do in the (gasp!) suburbs!

Not that this mindset is limited to this part of the world, as Andrea Harris knows perfectly well:

I know, because I tried to be like that: I'd go see boring indy bands in gay bars play sub-par pub rock and try to hide the fact from myself that the cover band at the suburban dance bar I and my friends used to go to in the early 80s was at least as talented, if not more so, than the indy band; I'd go to the tiny room behind the railroad tracks where the art crowd gathered to watch foreign films, and tried to ignore the fact that a soap opera isn't any more interesting or original when done in black and white, spoken in Czech and spiced up with exposed breasts; I'd go eat at the French restaurant and pretend that snails in garlic-flavored oil and fungus dug up by pigs were not foods inherited from a poverty-stricken, starving peasantry, and that the salad I'd just finished consisting of a plate of warm lettuce was just fine; I'd go to old warehouses converted into "alternative" art museums to look at displays of cardboard boxes containing battered dolls with knitting needles stuck through their eyes and red paint poured all over them and tried to squelch the memory of my sister and I doing the very same things to our dolls just for fun before throwing them in the garbage.

I bring this up because this is the opening day of the Paseo Arts Festival, and while this is a quintessential "urban" event, it's worth remembering that the Paseo, now an established artists' district, started out as a shopping center back in 1929.

Cities don't always grow and develop in the directions we'd like. Stores close here and open there; neighborhoods rise and fall. Official proclamations have little or no effect: there's nothing to stop someone from opening a Mexican restaurant in the Asian District. If your biggest fear is that you'll take a date to an upscale club in Bricktown and you'll run into a bunch of tourists from Woodward on their way to Toby Keith's, perhaps you need to rethink your definition of fear.

(Update, 10:45 pm: The Downtown Guy reprints this screed, and notes: "Everything I've heard about the Embassy Suites ... that is being downsized to a Residence Inn [is] because John Q. Hammons couldn't get a deal to build a garage across the street." I can believe that.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:43 AM to City Scene )
Vintage cool

You know, it might be kind of neat to get one of these for the house.

The appliance, I mean.

Payments from here to eternity

Winston at nobody asked... gets an email comeon for a "Christian mortgage," and certain questions just naturally come up:

  1. Most importantly, does claiming to be a Christian give an applicant a lower price or rate?

  2. What kind of documentation is required to prove that claim?

  3. Are all brands of Christianity treated equally? Do Catholics get a better shake than Baptists?

  4. Are these products also available to non-Christians? Religious discrimination?

  5. If I get one of these mortgages and later convert to, let's say, Judaism, am I required to forfeit?

  6. If I am late with a payment, am I treated with compassion and tolerance?

I wouldn't bet on #6.

I figure the concept is probably legit — I mean, they have, for instance, financial services for Lutherans — but the use of spam techniques automatically lowers one's credibility by 99-point-something percent.

Derailed

Well, this is depressing: the monorail at State Fair Park is being dismantled.

Apparently maintenance costs are soaring, ridership has been decreasing, and the train will just get in the way of the scheduled renovations of the park. The train itself is supposed to be auctioned off next week.

Then again, Matt Deatherage noted last year:

They told us last year was the Monorail's last year, that the track was going to be taken down, but it was there again this year. I felt betrayed.

The monorail was built in 1964 for the city's 75th anniversary, more or less simultaneously with the development of Fourteen Flags Plaza.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:12 PM to City Scene )
Xyzzy (mumble)

Can't make heads or tails of Lost? Think of it as simply a new version of Zork.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:23 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Pattern mismatch

Women, we are told, love spontaneity. Which means, of course, that I am doomed: I pulled up today at a chicken-takeout joint in the Village, and by the time I got to the register, they'd already pulled and bagged my order. I am so predictable. (And I hadn't been there in two weeks, either.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:11 PM to Table for One )
Now that's an open house

File this under Things I Never Would Have Guessed but Perhaps Should Have:

Last year, her first in the business working with Classic Realty Group in Hollywood [Florida], she sold a small home to a young family of nudists for slightly less than $400,000, a preconstruction condominium to a single nudist man for $369,000 and an older unit on the Intracoastal Waterway to a nudist couple from New Jersey for $250,000.

Those people were ''in their early 40s, very cool, very nice,'' she said.

Nudists in general are a Realtor's dream, demographically speaking.

''They tend to be a little older, probably a little more settled, at a stage in life where they're looking to buy a home,'' Roberts said. "And, of course, they like sunshine and the beach.''

It was sorta cloudy today, wasn't it?

Another drop-in

Ada's KAKO (91.3 MHz) isn't even on the air yet, and already they're asking to move their transmitter site to just south of Tecumseh, thereby enabling them to reach eastern areas of Oklahoma City.

This station is owned by the American Family Association, Donald Wildmon's bunch; it's perhaps a little disheartening — if not in the least surprising — to see an ostensibly Christian organization pulling the same stunts as commercial radio operators to pick up a few extra listeners at the expense of the people who live in the town to which the station is licensed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:01 PM to Overmodulation )
29 May 2005
The blessings of technology

"The machines," I said to a supermarket checkout clerk yesterday, "are out to get us," and she smiled: "You got that right."

Well, actually, I didn't. I mean, yes, these contraptions are less than 100-percent reliable, but what invention of man isn't? Still, I retain a healthy respect for our technological experts, and their track record is pretty good, all things considered:

God made the world in seven days, but it was a fairly bleak and hopeless place full of volcanoes and sharks. On the eighth day, however, man got cracking and as home improvements go, did a monumentally good job. He created light, warmth, the potato crisp and the dishwasher. And every single one of these things — everything that makes your life pleasant, comfortable, safe and exciting — is down to engineering.

Environmentalists make out that the planet is some kind of wondrous, self-sustaining entity and engineering has ruined it. They look at the gun, the car and the jet engine as instruments of Satan, but the mosquito has killed more than all three put together.

Then again, Pringles haven't really done much to advance the technology of the potato crisp (a British term for what we call "potato chips" that Procter & Gamble apparently adopted for no apparent reason), unless you think stackability is paramount. (And, well, if you're going to put the damned things in a can, perhaps it is.)

I don't have a dishwasher either.

(Via This Blog Will Be Deleted By Tomorrow.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:30 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Return of the neighbor

I was in the driveway this morning, trimming mulberry branches that were hanging low and might scrape someone's car roof, when the sweet little old lady from this article waved at me from what used to be across the fence. We talked about trees, the previous residents, Decoration Day — those "younger folk" don't seem to understand what it all means, we agreed — and the inconveniences of the ongoing sewer-line work.

Fortunately, we didn't discuss wardrobe issues.

Buckle up or else

Midwest City police set up a checkpoint on NE 10th between Sooner and Air Depot yesterday, looking for those hardened criminals who don't fasten their seat belts. About six hundred vehicles were pulled over, and 175 tickets were written, mostly for this heinous offense, but sixteen were busted for driving with suspended licenses (real smart, guys) and one actual DWI was picked up. Eleven cars were impounded in the process.

My compliance with the seat-belt law is, and has been for some time, 100 percent. But I am not persuaded that failure to comply with a safety measure is something that ought to be considered an actual crime; people who fall asleep behind the wheel represent a far greater threat to traffic safety, and you don't see any checkpoints looking for them.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:57 PM to Driver's Seat )
30 May 2005
The value of things

I'm pulling out my wallet to pay for this trip to the spa, and to my horror, I discover that half my cash has mutated into some sort of department-store scrip, and that my credit cards have started to disintegrate and will have to be reassembled, practically digit by digit, in the hopes that one of them can actually be swiped through a card reader. I am escorted to the back, where my befuddlement won't be witnessed by the real customers, and at some point my internal clock reminds me that I've overslept by about four hours and should get up already.

Out of bed, I remembered that this was Memorial Day, and I was thoroughly embarrassed: so many, over the years, have given so much, and here I am, worked into a frenzy over a minor contretemps that didn't even happen.

I wish I could just go to the medicine cabinet, pop open a bottle marked "Perspective," and drink deeply therefrom. But I think it will be more useful to pick some flowers and place them where they'll matter.

Random hiss levels

It's "so much noise," says Jeff Brokaw as he folds his tent and steals away into the night:

Bloggers themselves, for the most part, have gotten boring. A good blogger needs at least one of these two things: kick-ass writing talent, or voluminous content. Most bloggers, sad to say, are just not that interesting as writers, or, not that voluminous as content providers. Think about it. If they were, you would only need to read three or four bloggers every day instead of 15 or 20. There are rare exceptions to this, of course. Hog on Ice. Ace of Spades. Orrin Judd. Tony Woodlief, Lileks and American Digest. A few others. But mostly, it's a part time gig, and it shows. Which is OK, I guess, since people do have lives to lead and mortgages to pay. But I really think we are kidding ourselves if we think most of this bilge amounts to anything important, that will stand the test of time.

For some reason, this made me think of American composer Charles Ives, who earned his keep by selling insurance and writing music in his spare time. His "part time gig" won him a Pulitzer Prize in 1947.

I don't think for a moment that anything I've written is much more than pop ephemera, nor do I envision that I could make a living with these words of mine. If anything, I lean toward Thoreau's thinking:

I too had woven a kind of basket of a delicate texture, but I had not made it worth any one's while to buy them. Yet not the less, in my case, did I think it worth my while to weave them, and instead of studying how to make it worth men's while to buy my baskets, I studied rather how to avoid the necessity of selling them. The life which men praise and regard as successful is but one kind. Why should we exaggerate any one kind at the expense of the others?

And I don't pretend that I'm in the same league with the favored few: I'll never be as funny as Steve, either as hard-hitting or as whimsical as Lileks, as pointed as Ace. (I am, however, probably as fat as The Fat Guy.)

Still, my lack of accomplishment hasn't driven me out of blogdom yet. In a more orderly world, perhaps it would have. I think Jeff and I just disagree on the actual threshold. And it's been quite a long time since I could get through a day with reading only 15 or 20 blogs.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:20 AM to Blogorrhea )
Both doctor and undertaker

I am starting to think that Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, sees his job as clearing a path for the eventual dismantling of the CPB. A couple of weeks ago, Tomlinson showed up on NPR's Diane Rehm Show to pitch his ideas for putting "balance" back into public broadcasting, and he kept trotting out Bill Moyers and NOW as exemplars of "liberal advocacy journalism," though at no time did he establish to my satisfaction, let alone Rehm's, that NOW was typical of PBS fare, nor did he explain particularly well why he, or CPB, thought The Journal Editorial Report, which he did allow might be "conservative advocacy journalism," was necessary to offset NOW.

I don't watch PBS anymore — I hardly watch any television anymore — but I am persuaded that NPR tilts somewhat leftward. I am also persuaded that I don't care; if it's obvious enough for me to spot, it's easy enough for me to filter out. The idea that CPB, which covers maybe one cent out of every dollar of NPR revenues, needs not one but two ombudsmen to counteract this sort of thing, strikes me as absurd: if there were widespread objections to NPR's editorial judgment, the listeners, who kick in most of those dollars, would be hitting them in the pocketbook, hard. Surely Tomlinson knows this, which makes me think that the appointment of those ombudsmen is mere windowdressing while the Administration works up an argument to eliminate CPB entirely.

Which wouldn't bother me that much either; the dissolution of CPB would mean that a few conservatives would get to slap themselves on the back, and that Diane Rehm would get to tell Kenneth Tomlinson to go to hell. Given the way that show went, I'm surprised she didn't.

31 May 2005
Above all, don't get sick

What's the motor driving the health-insurance machine? Jonathan Wallace has some thoughts:

I am gambling that a more remote contingency will occur: something will happen, or go so badly wrong, that I will require much more than $6,000 [the cost under COBRA of his health coverage] in medical care, this year.

What kind of an event would this be? It's probably not going to be a car accident, as my medical bills would be paid for by the other guy's auto insurance, or, if he doesn't have any, by my own. It's probably not going to be a workplace injury, as that would be covered by workers' comp. So I am really betting on two kinds of events. The first is the possibility I will be shot or stabbed by an impecunious felon who cannot afford to pay the bills resulting from his actions. The second is the possibility that I will get cancer, heart disease or some other very serious ailment.

The crime rate has dropped, and the possibility that I will be badly injured in an assault is quite small. On the other hand, the odds are quite good that I will get cancer or heart disease one day; after all, these are two of the leading causes of death in our world. However, the insurance company is not really betting that I will never get ill. It is simply betting that I will come down with a serious ailment so late in my life that I will no longer be covered by medical insurance. The company really doesn't care how sick I get as long as the taxpayers are footing the bill (via Medicare), rather than the insurance company itself.

And the libertarians, he says, are no help:

To a nonlibertarian, American business history seems full of examples of monopolies and price fixing which occurred in the absence of any government intervention. Just as we could capture any number of oil-producing countries without necessarily seeing a decrease in the price of gasoline, it is hard to see what free market influences will bring about a decrease in the price of medical services. I understand the theory, which says that doctors, chasing market share, will cut prices; but this never actually happens on the ground.

Don't say "never" just yet. In 1998, laser eye surgery cost more than $2200 per eye; today it's about half that, though it's not covered by insurance plans or by Medicare. Or maybe because it's not covered by insurance plans or by Medicare, which have their own ideas about what medical procedures should cost.

Does this mean that health-insurance plans should just stop covering stuff? I don't know. Laser eye surgery is, of course, just one procedure, and an optional one at that. I do know this, though: for the same amount of money I would pay for dental insurance (about $350 a year), I can get three cleanings, and a set of X-rays every other year besides. The policy itself seems almost redundant.

Behind the screens

One of the ongoing projects around here was to clean up the 1800 or so posts which were constructed in such a matter as to take advantage of various Internet Explorer quirks but which looked like hell, or at least like heck, in Firefox and other browsers which hew more closely to the W3C standards book. To my amazement, this is now actually mostly done; anything else that looks like hell is due to my own clumsiness, and not Microsoft's.

While reviewing all these posts, I shuffled some of them into different categories, so if you're wondering why the category counts have been way inconsistent of late, this is why.

And I revised the archives a bit: TrackBacks are now displayed inline, instead of in a pop-up box, on individual-archive pages. (Neither comments nor TrackBacks are displayed on category or monthly archives, which will be taken care of One Of These Days.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 AM to Blogorrhea )
Remind me to pick up some Oreos

"Boycotts," some girl once said, "are etymologically sexist."

I wouldn't know about that, but it's been a long time since I felt compelled to take part in one: it's not so much a consistent policy of refusing to take part so much as it is a nagging suspicion that most of them are intended, not to get an organization to alter its plans, but to get publicity for the group engaging in the boycott.

And this suspicion grows closer to certainty whenever the American Family Association, Donald Wildmon's Mississippi-based activist group, is involved: they will boycott anyone at any level for anything they don't like. Certainly they have a right to do so, but I'm getting to the point where I'd actually support things they can't stand, just because they can't stand them.

Well, some things, anyway. The AFA bombarded Kraft Foods with complaints after word got out that the company was providing some sponsorship money for the seventh Gay Games, to be held in Chicago in 2006. Kraft is apparently not going to back out, and corporate counsel Marc Firestone sent a letter to Kraft employees explaining why:

It can be difficult when we are criticized. It's easy to say you support a concept or a principle when nobody objects. The real test of commitment is how one reacts when there are those who disagree. I hope you share my view that our company has taken the right stand on diversity, including its contribution to the 2006 Gay Games in Chicago.

Which, as Jill at Brilliant at Breakfast says, "is more courage than Steve Ballmer had."

Now if Kraft starts kicking in funding for embryonic stem-cell research or something, I'll complain. But I'm not taking part in this ongoing Everything Gay Is Evil campaign. Period. Pass the Cheez Whiz.

(Suggested by Aldahlia.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:10 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Just don't call it a Carnival

First, the nomenclature:

A cotillion or debutante ball is a formal presentation of young ladies, debutantes, to polite society.

Debutantes are usually recommended by a distinguished committee or sponsored by an established member of society.

Which, you have to admit, sounds traditional. Conservative, even.

Hence The Cotillion, which turns out to be a collection of blog posts by conservative womenfolk. It's genuinely interesting this time around, and what's more, there isn't anything by the likes of me in it.

I assume this will be a weekly event, unless they have to send out engraved invitations or something, and I suspect it will catch on pretty quickly.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:30 AM to Blogorrhea )
Just a little bit better

Something tells me Brian J. Noggle is into something good:

I'm Hillary '08, I am
Hillary '08 I am, I am
I got married to the fellow named Bill
He's been president, now I'm on the Hill.

And so forth. Second verse? Plan for the worst.

Hilton heads in a new direction

Paris Hilton, airhead though she be, never bothered me that much; she just seems to bumble through life, which is a lot easier to do when you have a famous name, a reasonably nice bod, and a few bazillion dollars in the bank. It probably never occurred to her that her car-washing technique is not so great, and in that notorious sex video, she comes across, so to speak, as more dutiful than deranged.

So I'm not inclined to snipe at her: I wish her well on her impending marriage to a guy named Paris, no matter how narcissistic it sounds, I hope they find themselves a lovely townhouse in Paris — what's one more dim bulb in the City of Lights? — and I hope they have lots of little Parisites together.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:23 PM to Almost Yogurt )
By the time I found the Kleenex

... he was crying.

(Via NRO's The Corner.)

Don't play that song

The San Francisco Chronicle was asking for songs "you'd love to never hear again."

Of course, were I to go into any sort of detail about my own musical bêtes noires, we'd be here all week.

In the meantime, what one recording is absolutely guaranteed to make you hit the button, the on/off switch, or the roof?

The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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