1 July 2005
Here, have a tablet

If you're a bit baffled by those two Ten Commandments cases fielded by the Supreme Court last week, John Rosenberg proposes to invoke the wisdom of Solomon:

Since the opinions of the Supremes in this area, as in so many others, are more legislative than judicial, balancing interests and splitting fine factual hairs about the degree to which this or that display is really religious as opposed to secular, it would be much simpler for the Court to handle these 10 Commandments cases in the classic legislative manner: by splitting the difference, and allowing the posting of 5 [Commandments] (any 5 will do). That would make as much sense, and would be much easier to understand and act upon in the future, than trying to untangle the lessons of the 10 separate opinions that were just delivered in the recent case from Texas (10 Commandments stone monument O.K.) and Kentucky (framed 10 Commandments not O.K.) Why not just let Texas have five and Kentucky have five?

Which (you saw this coming, didn't you?) leads me to the next question: Which five would Texas, or Kentucky, or your state, prefer?

And if you insist on splitting them right down the middle, what happens to "Thou shalt not kill," which is #5 in Catholic and Lutheran parlance and #6 elsewhere?

(I don't think we're quite ready, or maybe just I'm not quite ready, to drop down to two Commandments, as George Carlin recommends.)

Simplicate and add lightness

There are more than a dozen zoning districts in central Oklahoma City, each of which has its own particular (and sometimes peculiar) set of rules.

That's about to change:

City planners [have] debuted a working draft of an ordinance they believe is needed to make it easier to develop in downtown Oklahoma City.

As presently written, the ordinance reduces the number of zoning districts from 15 to two in the area bordered by NW 13th St. to the north, SW 10th St. to the south, Centennial Expressway (I-235) to the east and Western Avenue.

The districts would be called the Central Business District and the Downtown Transitional District, which would wrap around the CBD and encompass areas south of the Oklahoma River.

The ordinance also establishes design criteria for the districts and creates a new seven-member Downtown Design Review Committee to review all development requests for them.

Public hearings will be scheduled for this summer; the new rules, with modifications if any, are expected to take place this fall.

This will definitely be an improvement when it comes off; the city has more than two dozen different zoning types and overlays and whatnot, and too often that array of regulations discourages redevelopment of an area that could use it.

(Spotted last night by The Downtown Guy.)

Addendum: Steve Felix would like you to know that Simplicate® is a registered trademark of Steve Felix.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:27 AM to City Scene )
We won't even mention that stretch business

Ioan Gruffudd, who plays Reed "Mr Fantastic" Richards in the upcoming Fantastic Four movie, apparently had to undergo more digital effects than had been planned:

I started out wearing a codpiece under the suit. Then memos started arriving from the studio that we needed to make it smaller and smaller until I was like Action Man.

Sue Storm was unavailable for comment.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:54 AM to Dyssynergy )
TrackBlocked

The verbose (but accidentally so) Jay says he's having trouble with TrackBacks from Movable Type blogs. (He runs Expression Engine.) I'm not sure what to think, but I'm posting this here as a potential test — at least, of MT 2.64, which I still run.

(Incidentally, he wouldn't take one from me.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:27 PM to Blogorrhea )
Under the general heading of TMI

What this is all about can be found here. Here's the procedure:

===================================================


Overview: This post is a community experiment with two broad purposes. The first is to create publicly accessible data about bloggers' personalities, which may have sociological value in addition to being just plain fun. The second is to track the propagation of this meme through blogspace.

Instructions (to join in the experiment):

  1. Take the IPIP-NEO personality test and the Political Compass quiz, if you have not done so already.

  2. Copy to the clipboard that section of this post that is between the double lines, and paste it into your blog editor. (Blogger users may wish to use 'compose' mode to preserve formatting and hyperlinks. Otherwise, be sure to add hyperlinks as necessary.)

  3. Replace the answers in the "survey" section below with your own.

  4. Add your blog information to the "track list", in the form: "Linked title - URL - optional GUID".

  5. Any additional comments should go outside of the double lines, including the (optional) nomination of bloggers you wish to pass this experimental meme on to.

  6. Post it to your blog!

[My own responses are after the jump, which is also where you'll find the second set of double lines. Delete this paragraph if you're copying from me.]

Survey:

Age: 51
Gender: Male
Location: Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Religion: Generic Christian
Occupation: Computer systems operator
Began blogging (dd/mm/yy): 06/23/00

Political Compass results:

Economic Left/Right: -2.00
Authoritarian/Libertarian: -3.90

IPIP-NEO results:

EXTRAVERSION: 6
  Friendliness: 3
  Gregariousness: 10
  Assertiveness: 42
  Activity Level: 29
  Excitement-Seeking: 12
  Cheerfulness: 8
AGREEABLENESS: 19
  Trust: 7
  Morality: 54
  Altruism: 3
  Cooperation: 7
  Modesty: 88
  Sympathy: 33
CONSCIENTIOUSNESS: 45
  Self-Efficacy: 8
  Orderliness: 59
  Dutifulness: 27
  Achievement-Striving: 48
  Self-Discipline: 61
  Cautiousness: 62
NEUROTICISM: 97
  Anxiety: 92
  Anger: 99
  Depression: 89
  Self-Consciousness: 69
  Immoderation: 85
  Vulnerability: 96
OPENNESS TO EXPERIENCE: 30
  Imagination: 60
  Artistic Interests: 33
  Emotionality: 78
  Adventurousness: 1
  Intellect: 61
  Liberalism: 18

Track List:

1. Philosophy, et cetera - pixnaps.blogspot.com - pixnaps97a2
2. Pharyngula - pharyngula.org - pharyngula3128d2f0
3. World Wide Rant - www.worldwiderant.com - wwr1004ao
4. dustbury.com - www.dustbury.com - dburyokc12

===================================================

More than you wanted to know, I'm sure.

(Snagged from Andy at WWR)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:32 PM to Screaming Memes )
2 July 2005
Did I miss something?

Pammmela, who slings lattes for the Barista of Bloomfield Avenue, observes:

In the world of dating, women of a "certain age" are faced with less than stellar prospects. Every available female over the age of 40 knows the three types of men:
  • The newly divorced male, who will only date 25-year-olds.

  • The still married male who is looking for a little fun, and will only date 25-year-olds.

  • And the male who has never had a meaningful relationship of any kind, who would date anyone.

Not that there's a thing in the world wrong with being 25 years old, but inasmuch as my daughter is about to turn 27, a fact which injects a certain amount of creepiness into the dynamic as I perceive it (cf. Steely Dan, "Hey Nineteen"), I shy away from women that age, or would if any of them showed the slightest interest, which of course they don't.

Does this qualify me for a fourth type?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:36 AM to Table for One )
And then there were two

The Four Tops got through forty-one years (forty-four if you count their pre-Tops identity as the Four Aims) without a personnel change, and when one came, there was no choice in the matter: Lawrence Payton died in the summer of 1997.

The Tops continued until lead singer Levi Stubbs suffered a stroke in 2002 and retired, at least temporarily, from touring.

Now a second Top has passed on: Renaldo "Obie" Benson, yesterday in his hometown of Detroit.

As a kid growing up on the cusp between rock and roll and R&B, I spun more Four Tops sides than any other Motown act, excepting possibly the Supremes, and while later Tops tracks tended toward All Levi, All The Time, I never forgot the harmonies. And Obie has one other distinction: he co-wrote "What's Going On," arguably Marvin Gaye's greatest record.

It's a measure of the times, and of my time in particular, that I'll certainly miss Luther Vandross, but I'm just floored by the loss of one of the Four Tops.

Fitted for the robe

With Sandra Day O'Connor retiring, and given the somewhat reasonable probability that the President will nominate someone who isn't a white male of European descent — well, how about this?

Bush should nominate Ann Coulter. She is [a] constitutional scholar with a J.D. from a respectable law school. That's more than most of our Justices have had, historically.

I'm serious.

Either they confirm her, or they raise hell. Assuming they raise hell enough to block the nomination, anyone else Bush puts up as a replacement looks moderate by comparison. Then, he can name someone in the mold of Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas, and the opposition will have to give in, since the replacement will be soooooo much better than Ann Coulter.

I have to admit, I like the sound of this. And Coulter's just into her forties, so she'd be around for a long time.

Besides, anyone who objects on the basis of frivolity — Coulter's sense of humor is spectacularly barbed — is a few years too late: Scalia's already there.

(Seen at The Professor's.)

And don't be eating that gingerbread man

I am normally not a big fan of Michelangelo Signorile — in the celebrated dustup between him and Andrew Sullivan, I tend to take Sullivan's side — but sometimes he just nails it, and this is one of those times. In conversation with Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern (R-Oklahoma City):

"There's no sex in [King and King] but what the book does is it encourages the lifestyle of homosexuality, which is against the law here in Oklahoma," Kern claims, "because we passed a state law, a constitutional amendment that says marriage is to be defined between one man and one woman. In this book two men get married and so it is going against the law in Oklahoma."

What about all of the violence in some fairy tales? What about Hansel and Gretel? Little Red Riding Hood ?

"Those stories aren't advocating that kids go out and be violent," she explains — even if they are scaring the daylights out of kids — "but the homosexual books are telling children to adopt the lifestyle." And how about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? Isn't that one a hotbed of lust and intrigue? After all, I said to Kern, Snow White kisses the Prince, and at one point the Prince isn't even human — he's a frog! "The difference there," she responded, "is that that is still in the heterosexual lifestyle."

So Cyrus Futz is off the hook, because his beloved pig was, after all, a female.

I'm not sure which of these is more perplexing: Signorile's goofy attempt at relativism, or Kern's desperate attempts to stay on message.

And anyway, State Question 712 may have outlawed same-sex marriages and comparable civil unions, but inasmuch as they weren't legal in this state to begin with, I'd hardly consider the passage of the measure some sort of watershed event, despite Kern's presumed delight.

It is irresistible to point out here that Kern's predecessor in District 84 was Bill Graves, whose greatest distinctions during his tenure (praise the Lord and pass the term limits) were a bill to mandate copies of the Ten Commandments in public buildings and a declaration that feminism caused breast cancer. I've got to assume that this sort of thing went over well with the residents of the district. (And I've got to admit that one of my criteria for househunting in 2003 was "Not in Bill Graves' district.")

And what the heck is a "lifestyle," anyway, and where can I get one?

(Found at Existential Ramble; one paragraph added since publication.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:27 PM to Soonerland )
Pattern mismatching

We get used to what we hear. From a conversation with Michele earlier this year:

MC:  (to this day I cannot hear "Heartbreaker" on the radio without thinking that "Living Loving Maid" should follow)

CH:  That's because it should. And "Ramble On" is next.

Alas, even the purist (admittedly, I'm not the purest purist, but work with me here) can be undone.

While the new recording toy was on order, I suggested to my brother that he work up a wish list, which I would then attempt to fill on a time-available basis. He came up with a goodly number of singles, but for the Beatles, he requested actual LPs. I duly fired up the hardware and bounced Meet the Beatles, Something New and Beatles '65 onto a single CD, in that order, with only minor changes. (Specifically, I dropped "Komm, Gib Mir Deine Hand," the last track on Something New, in favor of the 45 version of "A Hard Day's Night", largely because much of Something New was pulled from the soundtrack thereof.)

As is my wont, I popped this into the car today for quality-control testing — not so much that the stereo in the car is so wonderful, or that the testing environment is so flawless, but because the combination of the two somehow makes glitches seem more obvious. (I think it's a focus issue: if I'm driving, I'm paying more attention to the road and audio flaws are secondary, while if I'm at home, I'm probably doing two or three things and audio flaws drop to tertiary.)

Around 9000 North Penn, I started singing along with McCartney on "Till There Was You," and as soon as it was over I steeled myself for the shout of "Wait!" that opens "Please Mr. Postman."

Which didn't happen.

Instead, the boys launched into "Hold Me Tight," and I was forced to confront the reality of the situation: I've listened to With the Beatles, the British CD, for so long that it's actually displaced the American Meet the Beatles album in the back of my head.

You know, this might be why I seldom play that Led Zeppelin box set: it follows "Heartbreaker" with "Communication Breakdown," and that's just wrong.

3 July 2005
Press 9 to hear 852 and 1477 Hz

A few years back I disconnected the voice-mail system I had on my landline phone. I've never had it at work. And few things in life annoy me more than having to negotiate someone else's voice mail.

But my annoyance is the chirping delight of Pollyanna next to Matt's reaction:

I despise voice mail. I hate it with a passion usually reserved for terrorists and cauliflower. The beep that denotes a new voice mail creates a fire of loathing so hot, hell would seem like no more than a nice day in Hawaii. When I used to slave away for Giant Evil Corporation and would have to travel, I'd change the greeting on my voice mail to say that I would not be checking it and request that people send me an email. I'd return after two or three days, see the message light blinking and hear those hated words, "You have seventy-three new messages".

I'm no economist, but I'm pretty sure that voice mail is the number one productivity killer in business, period. In the time it takes me to listen to ten VM's, I could have gone through fifty emails, both reading and responding.

I might try that on my cell phone during the World Tour: "Please send me an email. If you don't know my email address, you don't know me and I don't want to talk to you anyway."

So long as they don't figure out that it's possible to send email to the phone, I'm okay.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:40 AM to Dyssynergy )
It's just his neurosis that oughta be curbed

Does Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols have Asperger Syndrome?

His family in Michigan certainly thinks so, and presumably it might explain why he got involved in the conspiracy in the first place.

Nichols, meanwhile, has been talking. No longer facing the possibility of a death sentence, he's opened up to, among others, the FBI.

Wes Lane, Oklahoma County District Attorney, who pushed for Nichols' state trial — Nichols had previously been convicted on federal charges — scoffs:

He has already spun his tale to multiple people. The only thing he is truly afraid of is that people will stop paying attention to him and he will be left all alone in his Colorado prison cell.

I don't know about that, but he does seem to have a knack for getting news coverage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:09 AM to Soonerland )
Big Brother as back-seat driver

This can't possibly be good:

[R]esearchers recruited 20 volunteers to drive specially modified Skoda Fabias.

Each car was fitted with a black box containing a digital road map showing the speed limits on every road in the city.

A satellite positioning system told the car where it was on the map and alerted the driver, via a digital display on the dashboard, each time he entered a zone with a new speed limit.

If the driver attempted to exceed the limit, a signal was sent to the accelerator or brake pedal to intervene.

"If the driver is demanding something greater than the speed limit, that demand is ignored," said Oliver Carsten, the research leader and professor of transport safety at Leeds University. "In a 30mph zone the car will basically not accelerate above 30mph."

The justification, of course, is that it will save lives. Of course, they could save even more lives by forbidding cars altogether, but that's at least a few months away.

At least someone objects. Jeremy Clarkson, writer for the Sunday Times and cohost of the BBC's Top Gear series, issued the following complaint:

If you put speed limiters on cars so that they can only go to a certain limit you end up with terrible bunching which actually causes more accidents. Tony Blair is not going to tell me how fast to go.

The Department for Transport said there were no plans to make the devices mandatory:

It will be for the industry to take forward the technology in response to consumer demand.

Do you know anyone who would actually demand one of these things?

Aside to Vince Orza, who suggested in the Oklahoma Gazette a couple of weeks ago that PikePass should be revised to trap speeders on Oklahoma toll roads: If you had any notions of running for governor again, you just blew 'em.

(With thanks to TheNewspaper.com.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:42 AM to Driver's Seat )
No deposit

Spotted by LilRed on the Kilpatrick Turnpike, this perhaps-misleading sign:

Failure to pay toll strictly enforced

So if you throw a Sacajawea dollar into the basket, expect to be pulled over for not failing to pay the toll.

Hey, I can dig it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:16 PM to City Scene )
4 July 2005
Shoving off from the Big Desk

Things are running a little behind schedule today because of Serious Stormage — as of this writing, we've had an inch and a quarter of rain so far on the northwest side — but otherwise, it's just a matter of packing 16 days' stuff into enough luggage to hold seven. (One of Stinnett's Laws of Travel: "Take half as much clothing and twice as much money.")

First stop is Independence, Missouri, an appropriate spot for the Fourth of July, and what's more, it's my son's birthday.

WT05 begins now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:25 AM to World Tour '05 )
A fabulous Fourth

Independence, Missouri — 409.2 miles

I never quite get tired of Route 66. Oklahoma has more of the old Mother Road in drivable condition than any other state, and the stretch just east of Oklahoma City is still great fun, even if they've relocated the actual roadway a few times. And I have a certain amount of resistance to paying the OTA four bucks to shave a couple miles and a few minutes off the drive to Tulsa.

Except that it gets dreadfully dull around Sapulpa, and I dropped off 66 at Bristow to pick up the turnpike, which perked me up somewhat, but not quite as much as listening to Kimberlea Daggy on KWTU, who goes on my list of Voices to Fall in Love With.

I attribute the dullness to creeping suburbia, and it may even be true; just inside Creek County, barely east of Stroud, I spotted a sign for S. 545th W. Ave. Tulsa is spreading.

Sign at a Tulsa church: ETERNITY IS TOO LONG TO BE WRONG.

Unexpected fun stretch of pavement: Lee's Summit Road from the northern edge of Lee's Summit to the southern edge of Independence.

I am encamped at my daughter's place, where we will char the flesh of dead animals and use up a frightening quantity of incendiary devices. As those great Americans, George and Ira Gershwin, once said, "Who could ask for anything more?"

Toll report: Turner Turnpike, Bristow to Tulsa, $1.00.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:08 PM to World Tour '05 )
5 July 2005
Brief interruption

We pause in this travel narrative to bring you the following announcement:

Anyone who uses the domain www.unitedinchristchurch.org for online poker is doubly scummy and deserves to be crucified horizontally.

While rotating over a gas grill.

Can anyone recommend a marinade that attracts fire ants?

Addendum: The corksoaking iceholes struck again around noon. I am killing all pingability for anything posted prior to 3 July. If you actually link to one of the pre-WT05 stories, send me email and I'll put it in manually when I get a chance.

Another addendum: Courtesy of Fistful of Fortnights:

Comment Spam Mogul and admitted thief of blog content gets angry — when his blog suffers a spam attack.

Well then. Thanks to this fellow and his unsavory colleagues, bloggers must repeatedly scrape these barnacles from our blogs on a daily basis — if not more often. Now this poor guy expects sympathy?

I'll be happy to donate some wood for the crucifixion.

Sunshine on my shoulder

Danville, Illinois — 823.7 miles

Unfortunately, where I need it is on my knee, but driving becomes difficult if I so contrive.

In my ongoing efforts to avoid Interstate 70, I took US 24 across most of Missouri. It's a nice road, a little below average in difficulty, a little above average in scenic quality, and quite horribly paved west of about Salisbury. Since points westward are identified as part of Lewis and Clark's route, I'm assuming that they wanted to retain the original 19th-century surface.

Somewhere west of Moberly was a hand-painted sign for "Bloom'n Idiots Landscaping and Lawn Care." This does not inspire the level of confidence I might desire.

I split from 24 near Hannibal and jumped on US 36, which becomes Interstate 72, a perfectly lovely road for the most part and in really good shape in the less-busy western half of Illinois; it goes to hell right about Springfield.

Illinois being renowned/reviled (choose one) for its gun laws, I wasn't too surprised to see BurmaShave-esque signs for a group called Guns Save Life.com scattered along the roadsides.

And the flak over Jack FM has made it to Champaign/Urbana, although for reasons having to do with local history and/or the desire to avoid paying royalties, this version is called The Chief. Same shtick, though: "The Chief Plays Whatever The Chief Wants." I'm surprised anyone is wanting to play "Layla" still.

Addendum: I found this little blurb at the bottom of the left column of today's Commercial-News:

To our readers: Vending machines and store copies will contain advertising inserts when the advertiser supplies enough. To subscribe, call [number redacted].

Maybe it's just me, but I find it hard to believe that this is a problem. (For the record, I got a coupon book from Kirchner Building Centers — "Your Home Project Partner, Est. 1906" — with my vending-machine copy.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:30 PM to World Tour '05 )
6 July 2005
Think Nationally

St Clairsville, Ohio — 1206.4 miles

The National Road, as it was called, was designed to connect state capitals as it headed west from Wheeling, West Virginia, and indeed it goes through Columbus and Indianapolis, then turns southwesterly just enough to miss Springfield and Jefferson City. (It also bypasses Dayton, Ohio, but that's another matter.)

US 40 still carries "National Road" signs, but it's been largely supplanted by Interstate 70; just the same, I decided to spend as much time as I could on the old road, which is mostly still drivable in Indiana and western Ohio. East of Indianapolis, US 40 picks up a series of charming small towns, bracketed by the cities of Greenfield and Richmond; it's a serene little drive if you can handle the speed-limit changes. (There's also a Nameless Creek, or so says the sign.)

It's more problematic in Ohio, where current alignments tend to be tricky. (And in Zanesville, you face a fork in the road — in the middle of a bridge.) Still, if you hate I-70 as much as I do, this is the way to go.

These guys were running a truck called the "Semen Shuttle" about 35 miles west of Indianapolis. I didn't stop to ask.

A couple of things I noticed in Richmond: an actual Bank One sign — I guess the merger is taking longer than anticipated — and, at a brokerage office, what looks like a time/temperature sign, which actually displays the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

Ohio had a few stretches of road marked "Warranty Pavement," with an expiration date. I have a feeling some of them aren't going to make it.

Across the bottom of my receipt from a BP station in St Clairsville: THANK YOU / LIVE LONG AND PROSPER. Must be some kind of mining tradition.

(Timestamp below in EDT.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:06 PM to World Tour '05 )
Wiffle ball

Things will move even more slowly around here; my Wi-Fi card has malfunctioned, or something, and won't connect to anything without causing a big-time system crash.

Dial-up still works, and I assume a wired LAN connection will work, but for now, no wireless.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:49 PM to PEBKAC )
7 July 2005
146

In 146, Chinese emperor Han Zhidi was poisoned; he was replaced by Han Huandi. (Hard to keep track of the Han dynasty.)

Closer to home, it's the 146th Carnival of the Vanities, brought to you by Conservative Friends. (Not all my friends are conservative, although when I disclose the amount I spent on this trip, I expect to be lectured on Deficit Attention Disorder.)

I may not be playing this month, but the Carnival goes on.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:13 AM to Blogorrhea )
I'd rather be in Philadelphia

Trevose, Pennsylvania — 1566.7 miles

Okay, close enough. Then again, they're talking heavy rain between tonight and tomorrow afternoon, the remnants of Cindy. (Of course, they define "heavy rain" here as an inch or two; Oklahoma storm spotters will snicker.) And I got some fairly heavy rain yesterday on the road, enough to slow traffic to 45 mph, and almost enough to clean my car, so this doesn't distress me particularly.

I bought a replacement for my Wi-Fi card; it didn't work, but it didn't work differently, so I'm assuming I have port issues. Inasmuch as the software with the new card didn't look anything like the software for the old card, I figure the next step should be to reinstall the software for the old card, which will have to wait until I get home. (The new card was duly returned to the point of purchase.)

It's been four years since I was last on the Pennsylvania Turnpike; I note with some sorrow that while I drove 90 fewer miles this year, the toll was higher. What I wrote back then:

An "easy drive", I was told. Well, some of it is. But the first 160 or so miles could pass for a carnival ride. This road swoops and dives and curls and doubles back on itself so often you wonder if maybe you've gotten on the ramp to a Möbius strip. And that doesn't even include the opportunities to plunge literally into the side of a mountain. After four of these, I was ready to start lobbying Congress for a claustrophobia-care bill.

This year, only three tunnels, though one of them seemed to be leaking, which did nothing for my sense of well-being. On the other hand, there are now areas posted for a 65-mph limit, which I don't remember seeing before.

A shout-out to WRAW radio in Reading, who while I was in their range played nothing newer than 1968 and managed to exhume a Gary "U.S." Bonds record — and not "Quarter to Three," either.

And after I'd proffered plastic to pay for 48 hours in this hotel — well, 44, actually — the chap behind me asked for a quote for a three-hour tour. I am told that there is lodging on this very street that will oblige him.

Addendum: It's pronounced "TREE-vohs," at least by the locals. I distinctly remember an informercial placing the accent on the second syllable, but for all I know they grind those out in a converted porno studio in Van Nuys.

Toll report: Pennsylvania Turnpike, $16.25; total $17.25.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:53 PM to World Tour '05 )
I admit it

Found at Erica's:

If, as you live your life, you find yourself mentally composing blog entries about it, post this exact same sentence in your weblog.

Been there, doing that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:21 PM to Blogorrhea )
No hot licks, either

The Dan Hicks/Tulsa Zoo dustup made it to NPR this week, which means that I'm almost, but not quite, up on the matter.

The Wallace Perspective follows up:

After giving some thought to Dan Hicks' request for equal representation of his religion, the board felt adding a Creationism display did not meet the criteria of equal representation. Instead, they did an intensive study of the Ganesha statue. Here is what they found:
  1. The statue is near the elephant exhibit.

  2. The god looks an awful lot like an elephant.

So the only way to be fair would be to build a statue of Jesus next to the primate exhibit.

Wallace expects to catch flak for this remark; I figure the least I could do is to help out, especially since I thought essentially the same thing at one point. (If nothing else, this proves that I don't write up everything that comes into my head, for which all of you should be grateful.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:43 PM to Soonerland )
8 July 2005
Wandering around Philly

Still in Bensalem Feasterville Trevose

I'm sure somebody knows how to tell which is which, but I don't.

And actually, wandering will be limited somewhat early today, owing to the rain. (Maybe I'll go up to Upper Moreland and see if anyone has a cat on a leash.) There will be an earth-shattering event later, though: a pilgrimage to Donnaville.

I'm bringing extra socks, in case the first pair is knocked off.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:23 AM to World Tour '05 )
Creeping suburbia

I live in a city of six hundred square miles, in the heart of a metropolitan area of a million souls and more. So urban sprawl to me is more or less an everyday thing: while my particular neighborhood dates back nearly sixty years, I don't have to go very far to see the bulldozers at work.

While reading up on Bucks County, a place I have visited only once before, a place almost exactly the same size as Oklahoma City, I hit upon this piece, which says that Bucks is suffering mightily from sprawl issues of its own. This afternoon, I took some time to take a look for myself.

The first Levittown, of course, was on Long Island, New York; William Levitt then turned his attention to Bucks County, where, said Reader's Digest in 1952, wondrous things would happen:

Four thousand homes will be completed by the end of 1952; in the next two years 12,000 more. In ten short years it is expected to be the size of Norfolk, Va., one of the 50 largest cities in the country. Its creators, Levitt & Sons, have singlehandedly built a metropolis overnight.

Which turned out to be hype, mostly; Levitt built for a population of 70,000, and with the subsequent decline in family size and the constraints of local government — Levittown has no government of its own and is partitioned among four Bucks municipalities — the population is currently around 55,000 or so.

Both Levittowns (and a third, in New Jersey, which no longer bears the name) were derided for their lack of variety: "Little boxes," sang Malvina Reynolds, "made of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same."

Lewis Mumford's criticisms were less lyrical but no less pointed:

It is a one-class community on a great scale, too congested for effective variety and too spread out for social relationships.... Mechanically, it is admirably done. Socially, the design is backward.

Half a century later, do these criticisms still apply? Yes and no. The houses, after years of customization, don't quite look "just the same" anymore. And of course, the prices have risen from Levitt's original $10,000 price point. But fans of "diversity," presumably either ethnic or socioeconomic, will be no more pleased with the 21st-century version than they were before.

During my 50-mile trek through the southeastern half of Bucks County, I decided I wasn't going to be too alarmist about things. Yes, I'd be despondent if everything looked like Street Road, but then again I'd hate for every street back home to look like May Avenue. And while Bucks County has doubled in population since 1960, the rate of growth has slowed considerably.

Still, I'm persuaded that only part of suburban growth is due to people who are hell-bent on living in the suburbs; the trick is to get people back into the central cities if possible. And the city of Philadelphia, alas, isn't booming at all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:58 PM to World Tour '05 )
Amazon women on the move

It was six-thirty when I saw them rounding the corner: tall, fierce, formidable. I'd be outnumbered by one, but here were two, and fortunately for me, they were happy to see me.

Donna and her sister Lisa greeted me in downtown Newtown, and we promptly descended upon Isaac Newton's and discoursed on dozens of situations of varying gravity.

Lisa disappeared for a moment and returned with Master Beauregard Duke Bebop W. Le Moko, a charming young fellow who was anxious to make friends. (Bobo also got in a few licks at one Harry, a West Highland White Terrier who was heading in the other direction, or so he thought.) A splendid time was had by all, although one question continues to nag at me: Why aren't the guys lined up at her door yea deep? Did beautiful, smart and funny suddenly become disqualifiers?

For those who demand photographic evidence, be assured that it exists, as surely as the Cake Batter ice cream at the Zebra-Striped Whale.

And just as sweet.

9 July 2005
Has this ever been tried?

This, I mean.

And, were someone truly not interested, would it be treated as spam?

(Via Jacqueline Passey.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:16 AM to Table for One )
Twice blessed, twice

North Bergen, New Jersey — 1828.5 miles

After last night's Major Babe Encounter, it seems almost churlish to mention today's lunch date with Janis and Randye, two friends of long standing who were at the center of the gatherings in Jamesburg, mentioned in previous Tour reports, but hey, I have no fear of being a churl.

(Incidentally, both of them are thinner than they were in '03, for which I offer my congratulations and an only-slightly-muted wolf whistle.)

It actually took me longer to get from off the turnpike to the hotel than it did to drive the turnpike, but this is due to my unerring choice of wrong turns when available — or maybe the mind was clouded by all this sudden babeliciousness, something to which I am not even slightly acclimated.

And it continues. Tonight I am granted a rare privilege: access to the Dawn Eden archives, overseen by the erstwhile Petite Powerhouse herself.

Toll report: New Jersey Turnpike, $4.10; total $21.35.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:22 PM to World Tour '05 )
Spelunking on the second floor

As mentioned previously, I got a peek at the fabled Dawn Eden Archives this evening, and while it's certainly true that I'd have paid her the visit even if all she had was a copy of Sgt. Pepper's, and I mean the soundtrack fercryingoutloud, hanging around Dawn's apartment is one of the best ways I know of to complete your graduate degree in Pop Ephemera. (I, of course, got my sheepskin picture sleeve years ago, magna cum loudest.)

What's more, as I had already learned, she's a first-class dinner companion, which comes in handy if you're going to have a first-class dinner, which we did. (Allow me to recommend the chicken Milanese.) Was it worth two scary cab rides through streets clogged to Bombay standards? You betcha.

Addenda: Dawn has posted an actual photo of the event.

Someone asked me once what she was like. I have now amended my answer to include the following:

"You know someone is knowledgeable about pop music when you find a Dave Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick and Tich LP sleeve on the wall.

"Dawn has two of them."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:19 PM to World Tour '05 )
10 July 2005
It was funnier than Pawtucket

Woonsocket, Rhode Island — 2075.4 miles

But let us not make fun of Woonsocket. It is an old, established Native American name that means "You might as well be in Massa-freaking-chusetts already." And really, I can't tell you too much about it, since the hotel is something like three-quarters of a block inside the corporate limits and therefore I haven't seen much of anything other than the faux-aluminum diner on an outlot.

(Addendum: I got out a couple of hours later and saw the town. It's bigger than I thought — 45,000 people or so — and, as in most cities that go back this far, it helps to have lived here thirty years to be able to find stuff. I suspect things would be different in Woonsocket, South Dakota.)

The escape from New Jersey was supposed to have been up US 1/9, which eventually drops one onto the George Washington Bridge, but radio traffic warnings and sudden recollections persuaded me otherwise. So I threaded up the east end of Bergen County, saluted the town of Tenafly, where Lesley Gore grew up, and crossed into New York state.

Yes, I know, I missed NYC again. But there are 19 million New Yorkers, and 11 million of them don't live in NYC, so I don't think I got such a bad deal. Besides, US 6 through New York is quite lovely, if inevitably loaded with traffic.

Seen on 6 near Mahopac: Mr. A's Ice Cream and Chicken. I assume they have both white and dark chocolate.

Priciest gas of the Tour so far was purchased in Southington, Connecticut, for $2.379. Not that I'm complaining, really: this was 15 to 25 cents cheaper than anything I saw in New York. Of course, if I'd waited until I'd had lunch (Wendy's on Queen Street), I'd have found it for two cents less, but life is like that. (In this lifetime, I have yet to buy any gas in New Jersey, despite the obvious novelty value of full service.)

Sublime/Ridiculous Department: A shout-out to Mike West on WDRC-FM in Hartford, a man who has the courage of his request line, a man who followed "Surfin' Bird" with "American City Suite." My initial reaction, per my voice recorder, was "My God, he's got guts."

A pizza place near the Connecticut/Rhode Island line is called "Kikapoo," a name which seems both familiar and slightly deranged. I assume it is not related to either the tribe or to that other fine New England product, Kickapoo Joy Juice Indian Oil.

Toll report: Bear Mountain Bridge, $1.00; total $22.35.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:49 PM to World Tour '05 )
Say something nice, Janet

"Hey, I know! Let's take the kids to see Rocky Horror!"

Oh, lucky them.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:20 PM to Next Generation )
11 July 2005
Deliberately terse

Had a nice little yak (no, not the Tibetan sort) last night with Jay of Accidental Verbosity fame, with Deb and Sadie in the background and Sadie not particularly interested in staying in the background. Seems to me there ought to be a New England Blogger Bash one of these days. (And, well, if the timing is right....)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:31 AM to World Tour '05 )
York, Bath and beyond

Augusta, Maine — 2322.9 miles

Downtown Providence is a hoot. You (or at least I) wouldn't have thought you could have shoved so much stuff into such a small space, but then I live in what some people think of as the Sprawl Capital of the World. And there are limited-access thoroughfares with low speed limits which are apparently routinely ignored; drivers on a stretch of US 6 posted 35 were doing an easy 60. Still, I had to take a look at it: once upon a time, one of those online quizzes — a serious one, unlike the usual blog fodder — told me that Providence was where I ought to live. And, well, I'm sure I could do worse.

One sign I hadn't seen before cropped up right inside Massachusetts: CAUTION / REDUCED SALT AREA. This being July, when road salt is irrelevant, I conclude that either (1) they're too busy to cover up or take down the signs or (2) this is unrelated to traffic and is actually a mandate from the Food Police.

An antique shop in Brookline: "A Room With A Vieux." Really.

And yes, I went into downtown Boston, partially because of sheer insanity, but mostly because I used to hang out there on weekends when I was a grunt stationed at the former Fort Devens and I wanted to see if I recognized anything. The answer is "Not much." Then again, back in those days I took the T; the view is much different from behind a taxi.

On I-93 near Medford I saw a Nissan Altima with a "Kennedy/Johnson" bumper sticker, and that was just the first of half a dozen. I have to assume this is not referring to JFK/LBJ, but with Massachusetts Democrats, I probably shouldn't assume anything.

Near Yarmouth, Maine I saw the smallest freestanding McDonald's I've ever seen. I mean, it could have been a little bank branch, were it not for the fact that it was sitting next to, um, a little branch bank.

And one last sign: "Welcome to Kennebunk, the only village in the world so named." That's even fewer than Woonsocket(s).

Toll report: I-95 through New Hampshire, $1.00; Maine Turnpike, $1.80; total $25.15.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:16 PM to World Tour '05 )
Oh, those crazy Caucasians

Erica was waxing lyrical about the WNBA All-Star Game, and then this happened:

Commentator Mike Jones: "Remember 'Swin' [as in Cash] is short for "Swintayla" which means 'amazing woman' in African." I'm sorry, what language is "African"?

Most of these media types know only one fragment of "African": the chorus of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight."

Apropos of nothing, but because it sorta fits here, hottie singer/actress (and lately serious evangelist) Lola Falana was doing the Tonight Show one evening and Johnny Carson was speaking the name as she pronounced it to him, trippingly on the tongue. "Lo-la fa-LA-na," he intoned. "What is the origin of that name, anyway?"

With a perfectly straight face, she said, "It's Swahili for 'Debbie'."

The Great Carsoni nearly fell over. (I did fall over.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:12 PM to Almost Yogurt )
12 July 2005
The very ends of the earth

Yeah, I know, spheroid, no actual "ends," yadda, yadda. On the other hand, things that sit on top of the Big Blue Marble do have defined, if occasionally ill-patrolled, boundaries, and as far east as you can get in these United States, assuming we don't annex Iraq or anything, is latitude 44° 48.9' north, longitude 66° 57.1' west.

And that's where I went today, on the basis that if you've seen one charming fishing village with local color, you've seen them all.

Lighthouse at West Quoddy HeadWhat's there is this: a smallish state park with hiking trails and a lighthouse dating to 1858, which replaced one built 50 years earlier under orders from Thomas Jefferson. The lighthouse was automated in the 1980s but is still functioning, and rather a lot of people have been photographed beside it over the years. I asked the volunteers at the Visitors Center, and they allowed that they'd had guests from 48 states. (Alaska? Idaho? Get with it already.) The careful reader will note that this is West Quoddy Head; there's an East Quoddy Head, but it's in New Brunswick, which, last I looked, was in Canada.)

Of course, getting there is half the fun, to the extent that dicing for road room with (other) tourists is fun. One novelty was seeing a prank come to life: in 2003, a radio station in Ottawa mocked the nascent Jack FM format with something called "Frank FM," and today there's an actual Frank FM along the Mid-Coast. (Mostly, I was flipping between WBACH and a little community station in Blue Hill.)

Along US 1 near Machias are two obvious competitors: Cranberry Motors, which sells a variety of GM cars, and Blueberry Ford. How they wound up next door to each other is no doubt the stuff of legend.

Maine 182 from Franklin to Cherryfield is a 12-mile thrill ride, posted 50 when it's not posted 45, and possessed of rapid successions of 30-mph curves. I tried my best to keep it at a solid 60.

And in Lubec, which is the town nearest to West Quoddy Head, I saw not one but two banners promoting University of Connecticut sports. Sounds like it's time to drive back to the Constitution State. (After all, there's no point in going any farther east.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:31 PM to World Tour '05 )
One out of nine

Of course, should Chief Justice Rehnquist decide to hang up his robes after all, there will be two slots to fill on the Supreme Court, but this set of pointed questions from Darleen will be just as pertinent for Rehnquist's replacement as they are for Sandra Day O'Connor's.

(Found at this week's Cotillion.)

13 July 2005
How to bag a Republican babe

After all, it's in the Weekly World News, so it must be true, right?

(Courtesy of Meryl Yourish, upon whom I would not dare try even one of these lines.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:14 AM to Table for One )
It's just illusions, I can't recall

The recall of two Tulsa City Councilors has fallen flat, and considering the lengths to which the opposition went to get the meager results they got — well, they had this coming.

(In Tulsa, it's now Bloggers 2, Old World Order 0. The rest of you, be you in Walla Walla or Woonsocket, should take note.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:41 AM to Soonerland )
Too early for harvest

Southington, Connecticut — 2985.0 miles

(I had to. This town gets such a strong response whenever I mention it.)

Today was a day to explore more of US 202, parts of which I discovered in earlier Tours and which still strikes me as a genuinely spiffy sort of road, even when it passes through New Jersey. I picked it up west of Augusta and followed it all the way to near Ludlow, Massachusetts; of the segments involved, all were new to me except the stretch from Concord to Peterborough, New Hampshire.

The Rent-a-Wreck in Manchester, Maine is advertising: TRY OUR BRAND NEW HYUNDAIS. Does J. D. Power know about this?

I spotted an eatery in eastern New Hampshire boasting RADICAL VEGAN FOOD. I didn't quite have the nerve to drop in and ask for a menu, perhaps because I suspect they could have determined I'd had a steak two nights before.

A T-shirt shop east of Concord makes the following pitch: PREVENT NUDITY. BUY SHIRTS. I think it might also require pants, you know?

And speaking of Concord, one reason I went back through there today was because I remembered its downtown as being a reasonable model for the remaking of Oklahoma City: Main Street is four lanes, there is parking on either side, and pedestrians are accorded the right-of-way. It was blocked off at Park Street, and as I approached I could see why: a small antiwar demonstration — "small" meaning "fewer than ten," at least when I was nearby, which was about 1 pm — taking place. This being New Hampshire, it was a polite demonstration: no bizarre-looking individuals, no signage bordering on the pathological, no screaming unto the heavens. As I detoured around the state offices, I noticed a minivan parked in the space reserved for the Governor. (John Lynch drives a minivan? Who knew?)

And next month there's a chili cookoff in Winchendon, Massachusetts. Admittedly, I don't think first of Massachusetts when I think "chili," but life is full of surprises, none of which were waiting for me at the I-84/I-91 stack in downtown Hartford, which was its usual horrid self.

Toll report: MassPike, 25 cents (one whole exit); total $25.40.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:01 PM to World Tour '05 )
147

I see that and I think of 1:147, which was our local FidoNet network back in the day.

You, however, should think of the 147th Carnival of the Vanities, presented for your reading and clicking pleasure by Wallo World, and occasionally garnished by Famous Movie Quotes, in case you hadn't heard any lately.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:17 PM to Blogorrhea )
14 July 2005
Quote of the week

Just about any paragraph in this piece by Jen, though at the moment, for perhaps obvious reasons, I liked this one best:

The meaning of life is not in always being sure of where you're going, but rather in never failing to appreciate the journey.

If you're not going somewhere, have your vital signs checked. You have a journey, even when you have no clue as to the destination.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:33 AM to QOTW )
Far below Cayuga's waters

Corning, New York — 3273.2 miles

Once upon a time — well, actually, it was 1969 — I applied to Cornell, and was accepted. Sometimes I wonder how things might have happened differently had I contrived to attend (back then, applying to four schools didn't cost a season's worth of gas for the truck), but if I had, certainly this wouldn't be my first trip to the Finger Lakes region.

Up into the Catskills on New York 17, which occasionally flashes "Future Interstate 86" signs. Judging by the number of intersections at grade, it's a far future indeed. But it's a nice drive, especially where it skirts the park, and patrolling seems to be limited to some very specific We Mean It zones.

And for some reason, seeing these mountains and all that greenery, or something, propelled me into some sort of a funk; I'm thinking that I'm on the return leg, after all, and roads become a lot less scenic west of Bristow or so. But maybe it was something else after all, because it took me two spins of "Surfin' Bird," the definitive road-trip song (it's impossible to ignore, yet you can't focus on the lyrics), to get me out of it.

There are signs all along 17 for a store called "Memories," which made me think it might be some sort of Jewish Wall Drug. It's not. It is, however, an interesting little antique store, bits and pieces of other people's lives for sale by the side of the road. (Hmmm. Maybe this is what set me off; is my existence ultimately to be boiled down to a handful of tchotchkes?)

South of there is a Mobil station styling itself "Wally-Mart." Paging the lawyers....

And just off the exit in Corning, where the road really is Interstate 86, is a futuristic glass building. This is not the Corning Museum of Glass: that's in the next block. This is just the Parking Pavilion, and a shuttle runs the 1500 feet or so between the Pavilion and the Museum door. There's tons of stuff in there, including enough glass paperweights to hold down the Federal Register, but the big show lately is a tripartite exhibition of Czech glass works that I found incredibly compelling.

In the Museum — specifically, in the GlassMarket gift shop — was a character I recognized from a dream a couple of nights ago. I'm reserving further comment pending additional revelations.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:00 PM to World Tour '05 )
The stiffest upper lips

The BBC has a roundup of some London blog reaction to the terrorist attacks of 7/7, and some of them are indeed choice. This LiveJournal entry works wonderfully:

We've known for ages that something was going to happen; now it has, and it was conventional, and fairly lame. They did their worst, and they managed to disrupt our transport network and get fatalities in the low double figures. That happens on a fairly regular basis anyway, you twits. What's your next trick — a fiendish weather control device which makes it rain on a bank holiday weekend?

Emphasis in the original. I think Britain is recovering quite nicely, thank you very much.

(Via Jacqueline Passey.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:00 PM to Blogorrhea )
15 July 2005
Half a loaf

A quotation from this very site, at the beginning of last summer:

Route 66 is more an historical artifact than an actual highway these days. Part of its allure, I have always believed, was that it cut an odd swath across the country: south across Illinois, turning southwest at St Louis, finally heading straight west at Oklahoma City. There are, however, still-extant US routes that cut even stranger diagonals than that: 52, which drops from the very top of North Dakota to midtown Charleston, South Carolina, and 62, which runs from El Paso to Niagara Falls. I hope to drive both in their entirety while they're still around.

I was looking down the map, and New York 17 intersects with US 62 (yes!) near Jamestown, which suggests the route for the rest of the way home.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:29 AM to World Tour '05 )
Then again, maybe not

Alliance, Ohio — 3573.8 miles

I knew the US 62 idea was toast the moment I got within a hundred miles of Jamestown and NY 17/I-86 turned into a goat path, and not a good goat path at that. (It's beyond patching; they're actually starting to rip out the old road.) On the basis that suspension repairs on this car are bloody expensive, I ducked down NY 16 into the city of Olean, which was sort of neat in the way of a well-kept Rust Belt town.

Once into Pennsylvania, 16 becomes 646, and suddenly becomes one of those shaded, endlessly-curving country roads of which I'm inordinately fond, although the buzz lasts only about two minutes (three minutes if you're following the signs religiously) before you're propelled into a municipality which presumably takes a dim view of this sort of driving.

With the radio set to Bradford's WBFD (and why not?), I slid around the Allegheny National Forest for a couple of hours, passing through Lewis Run, billed as "the smallest industrial borough in the United States," and eventually landing on Pennsylvania 66, where the fun resumed on an irregular basis, and where I saw a house with a US Route 66 sign, which struck me as amusing in its own right.

In the town of Kane is the Ronald McDonald II Funeral Home, which leads to the obvious question: "II?"

Near Clarion, a dealer in trailers manufactured homes is boasting "Amish Quality." Write your own joke.

At Emlenton, off I-80, a truck plaza is offering, per their sign, "America's Worst Apple Pie." I assume this is sub-Amish quality. I didn't try it, for fear it might actually be good.

Besides, this is the fabled Oil Region of Pennsylvania — you don't see people putting Utahzoil or Magnolia State in their engines, do you? — which draws about 50,000 annually to the Oil Heritage Festival. It occurs to me that Oklahoma is far too embarrassed about its own oil patch, that we'd like to think we're so over that. The people who shriek that "It's all about the OIL!" won't like it, but then again, they won't like the 112 (or so) gallons of unleaded I've burned up to bring you these reports.

And I would appreciate it if someone would say something nice about Youngstown, Ohio, parts of which I drove through in an effort to synchronize myself with US 62. What I saw was uniformly dispiriting, and underpinned with remarkably bad streets to boot. Surely something is good about the place besides a live performance, as advertised on the radio (Y-103), of the Huckin' Fillbillies.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 PM to World Tour '05 )
16 July 2005
With the rain in my shoe

Louisville, Kentucky — 3916.1 miles

Well, actually, the shoes held up pretty well, but intermittent blasts of that cold Kentucky rain made the approach into Louisville more interesting than it needed to be; I was rather hoping for a placid, uneventful sort of day, or at least as placid as one can be after passing by a place called "Toxic Heat," which appears to be an Internet café just east of Canton, Ohio.

Electronic traffic sign seen on US 30 in East Union Township: WATCH 4 STOPPED TRAFFIC. OMG, text talk has reached 2 ODOT.

Seen at a church east of Wooster: GOD FORGETS THE PAST. IMITATE HIM. Does this mean I have to start working six-day weeks too?

This is what's stenciled on the bumpers of the patrol cars in Ashland County, Ohio: http://www.ashlandcounty.org/sheriff/.

Down toward Cincinnati, I spotted a sign for Ohio 126, which is styled the "Ronald Reagan Highway," one of a bazillion things named after Captain Ron. (On an impulse, I sent my first and last name to Google, and I'm now the #2 entry for this name, which is actually impressive considering how common the name is and how inconsiderable my accomplishments are.)

This is the first time I've been to Louisville since the consolidation of city and county government, making this modest burg, they say, the 16th-largest city in the nation. The 2004 Census estimates actually put it 26th, with a population of 556,332, ahead of Washington but behind Denver. (Oklahoma City is now 31st, at 528,042, down two slots from 2000, owing to the Louisville consolidation and the rapid upsurge in Las Vegas; Tulsa has also dropped two slots, to 45th.) The city claims 699,017, behind Columbus but ahead of Austin. I assume the 140,000 or so missing souls are stuck somewhere on I-264 or I-265.

The rain is starting again.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:46 PM to World Tour '05 )
Ancient Chinese secret

The Downtown Guy has a wonderful (and gloriously long) piece about the oft-rumored Chinese "underground," a network of tunnels under downtown Oklahoma City used by immigrants from China during the first half of the 20th century.

It's apparently not just a rumor after all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:41 PM to City Scene )
Guess you better slow your Mustang down

Orwell's Animal Farm was nothing at all like this.

Thank heaven.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 PM to Dyssynergy )
And Claude Rains as "The Source"

Brian J. Noggle casts the inevitable Valerie Plame biopic.

(No passes during this limited engagement.)

17 July 2005
Why bother?

This is why Matt bothers:

After three plus years of doing this, I've come to the conclusion that I'm not much of a writer. My average traffic makes that fairly clear. It's okay, though. I genuinely enjoy it. It's a great outlet to talk about things that my friends and/or wife really aren't interested in. I post on the days when I'm motivated, and could care less about the blog when Iím not.

If writing quality were the major criterion, Andrea Harris would be outdrawing Ana Marie Cox.

But I figure Matt's reasons are as good as anyone's, though I do wish he could drag the Mrs. back to the keyboard on a regular basis.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:28 AM to Blogorrhea )
Man and Superman

Metropolis, Illinois — 4256.7 miles

Back on Central time at last.

The rain started coming down again a few minutes before I hit Elizabethtown; I had the absurd idea that I'd be safer in a small town than on the big, nasty highway. Well, E-town isn't that small — 23,000 people or so — and after hiding out at a bank drive-thru for a few minutes (well, it was a branch of my bank, and I did use the ATM in the process), I pressed ahead through the storm, which let up after about an hour or so.

One thing I did notice: all the church parking lots were full, storm or no storm, for the next 50 or 60 miles.

US 62 near Rosine, Kentucky, birthplace of Bill Monroe, is marked "Blue Moon of Kentucky Highway," which seems only reasonable. Farther west, in Central City, the road is labeled "Everly Brothers Boulevard," for the same sort of reason. I pulled into Central City for lunch, and chatted up a trio of soldiers, probably Reservists doing their one weekend a month (which would explain the mind-jarring combination of sneakers and camo on one of them). They were in a plenty jaunty mood; I mentioned my own years in fatigues, and one of them said, "It's a pleasure to serve." Gotta love those Kentucky boys. (And the girls, too: while billboards near Paducah offered possible counterevidence, what I see makes me believe that there are no unattractive women anywhere in Kentucky. Must be a state law or something. West of Beaver Dam I spotted a mailbox with the name "Cornett"; I didn't stop to ask, but you never know, or at least I don't.)

Sign at Tradewater Taxidermy: THE BUCK STOPS HERE. Cute.

When I was in Pennsylvania however many days ago, I crossed a bridge from West Trenton Avenue in Morrisville to Calhoun Street in Trenton, New Jersey. The bridge is one of those narrow jobs with lanes about this wide and no actual pavement: it's all steel plates, and they play hell with my nerves. US 45 has something similar between Paducah, Kentucky and Brookport, Illinois, with one minor exception: the Ohio River is about three times as wide as the Delaware, so my synapses endured roughly 27 times as much jangling.

I am just under 600 miles from home at this point; were this the beginning of the trip, I'd try to do it in one day, but right now I'm suffering from Kryptonite poisoning or something.

Actually, I did pay a visit to the Super Museum in downtown Metropolis, across from the actual statue of the Man of Steel Bronze, where I was reminded that Lois Lane and Supergirl were plenty hot. According to local lore, the Chamber of Commerce used to hand out Kryptonite samples to visiting children, but DC put a stop to that, and I assume it's not because they assumed the kids would be visiting planets with different-colored suns.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:03 PM to World Tour '05 )
18 July 2005
An endless stream of Fockers

If you remember Meet the Fockers — and why should you? — you'll recall that the Ben Stiller and Teri Polo characters wed and were expecting.

Hollywood, already out of ideas, is hot for Meet the Little Focker, which would focus on (I'm guessing) a whole new generation of Fockers.

I think I speak for many of us, or at least for Lawren, when I say that we've had enough Fockers to last a lifetime.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:35 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Missouri loves company

Springfield, Missouri — 4567.0 miles

They say "Nature always bats last," which is probably an understatement; Nature can appear anywhere in the order, including cleanup. Certainly the current route of the Missisippi River indicates top-of-the-order hitting: the most expedient way out of southern Illinois today was to cross the Ohio into Kentucky, thread through three counties, jump back over the Ohio into Illinois again, and only then cross the Mississippi.

Eventually this put me into Sikeston, Missouri, which is interesting because US 60, 61 and 62 all intersect there, but also because they have an eatery where the rolls are literally thrown at you. Fortunately, I have a large strike zone.

US 60 thereafter alternates between drab and dandy, and I must thank the young ladies in the black Cutlass Supreme convertible somewhere near Cabool for providing cross-lane entertainment, even if that wasn't their intention. (Four girls on a road trip? This is the stuff of Cinemax at half past midnight.)

Springfield, Missouri, of course, is nothing like The Simpsons' Springfield. For one thing, nobody boasts about the wonders of Capital Jefferson City. And, at a population around 150,000, it's probably too big. But it has its charms: I picked up on a Fargo-esque vibe, a sort of surprise that the town has grown as much as it has. It helps, I think, not to remind yourself that Branson is half an hour away.

More relevant to my existence, as it happens, is the fact that Springfield is the home base for John Q. Hammons, a leading builder of upscale hotels who is developing properties in my neck of the woods. (John Q. owns the Renaissance hotels in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and the Courtyard by Marriott in Oklahoma City; he has a Residence Inn and an Embassy Suites planned for near Bricktown.) None of these is likely to cater to the budget traveler, so I decided to check into his Holiday Inn Express (one of five John Q. hotels in Springfield) to see what he offers at a (barely) sub-$100 price point. Quite a lot, as it turns out; this is a new property, and like the best hotels, how it looks outside is good enough but how it looks inside is marvelous. And in the drawer next to the Yellow Pages, where you might expect Gideon to have left a Bible, you'll find a 2002 biography of John Q., which might be overdoing it a tad. Still, the staff speak of him with reverence, so I wonder how they're taking the merger of Hammons Hotels with an investor group.

Tomorrow wraps it up.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:00 PM to World Tour '05 )
Contrast and compare

First, Jeff:

[I]dentity-based cultural philosophies that encourage or coerce one identity group to speak of another only on its own terms... leads to the kind of PC nonsense that prevents us from clearly identifying and articulating a specific problem, should it happen that that problem falls within the protected space of the Other.

Remember that the next time you hear someone extoling the virtues of the "diversity" movement here in the states — a movement whose very essence undermines appeals to individualism in favor of a shallow, often strictly cosmetic appeal to group identity.

Now, Bruce:

[I]n order to protect ourselves from terror/Islam we need to rid "our" culture of all diverse elements. As a multicultural society we accept a wide mix of different cultures. Renouncing that means reverting to a monoculture. You can guess what kind of culture the assholes at Townhall think we should have — white, christian and republican. All others should be cleansed from society for "our" own protection.

I will say only this: I am under no obligation, from God or from anyone else, to accept any culture which wants me dead, and I will resist any suggestion to the contrary.

(Update: Bruce responds.)

Okay, I'm slow

Summer of 1972. I've wangled a day away from Fort Leonard Wood, and a trio of us have descended on St Louis, where we've planned a period of drinking and debauchery.

Well, we didn't drink much, and if any debauching was done, I missed it. But I got my first taste of Steak n Shake (It's a Meal), and I said to myself that I should definitely do this again sometime.

That "sometime" turned out to be today, a mere 33 years later. Admittedly, the company didn't expand into Oklahoma until recently. Still, it's not like I managed to avoid their territory for a third of a century; my daughter lives within three miles of one, and, well, there are all those World Tours.

It didn't hurt that this particular location dates back to the days of Route 66 and was within walking distance of my hotel. Given the sheer caloric count, I surely needed the walk. I should definitely do this again sometime, preferably before I turn 84.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 PM to Worth a Fork )
19 July 2005
"Let's not fight," said von Doom

The advantage of Sue Storm, according to Lileks' beloved Gnat:

[S]he is great fighter because she can turn invisible and sneak up and punch them in the butt.

Grasping the Zeitgeist is never going to be a problem for this young lady.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to Almost Yogurt )
It all ends here

Dustbury, Oklahoma — 4915.3 miles

The real question, of course, is "What has changed since I left?" The answer, of course, is "Not much," although I shudder to imagine my electric bill, even with the A/C set on a thrifty 82 degrees in my absence.

Oh, and some Roads Scholar working the exits up in the northeast has come up with a new wrinkle: the speed limit just beyond the Afton/Vinita exit from the Will Rogers Turnpike is 17 mph. I guess this is as fast as you can go and still get the attention of Baron von Tollbooth.

Coming into Afton, the sign at the bridge at Horse Creek shares a pole with this one: RADAR ENFORCED. How they intend to enforce a creek is beyond me. (There are no speed-limit signs for at least 500 feet in either direction.)

Something I didn't know existed, but found on US 60 west of Vinita: Belgian Blue beef. It's billed as low-fat and organic, both of which seem to be worthy goals.

Some things I thought I'd see, but didn't:

  • Kids in Bristol, Pennsylvania, which means I am unable to vouch personally for their sharpness.
  • The George Washington Bridge, mostly out of the sort of fear inspired by WCBS traffic reports.
  • Any official trace of the former village of New Rome, Ohio, which I drove through at somewhere around 40 mph. A couple of businesses on Broad Street make reference to New Rome, but otherwise it's disappeared from the face of the earth.

Final toll report: Will Rogers Turnpike, $1.25; total $26.65.

I did not in fact blow my budget this year: in expectation of even worse gas prices than I saw, I allowed for $2800, and spent $2175. The usual statistics:

Total amount of fuel used, in gallons: 160.1
Fuel consumption, in miles per gallon: 30.7
Worst tank, in mpg: 28.4
Best tank, in mpg: 34.0
Fastest speed attained, in miles per hour: 87
Number of emails accumulated: 1,621
Number of which I actually had some reason to read: 247

The least-pricey tankful was bought at a Kum & Go (!) in Springfield, Missouri for $2.099.

Acknowledgments: Your Humble Narrator would like to thank:

Personal to She Who Is Not To Be Named: Have a wonderful summer.

This concludes the text entries for World Tour '05. I return to the Big Desk, having a Coke and wearing a smile. Thank you for your support.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:05 PM to World Tour '05 )
While I wasn't looking

Things that happened during my absence that will affect me in some small way financially:

  1. The Anything Points program at eBay is being discontinued, which means the thousand or so points (worth about $10) I earned on this year's World Tour will have to be spent on something in the next twelve months.

  2. I got $8 from the settlement of a class-action suit against PayPal (which, I note in passing, is owned by eBay).

Minor things, of course, but it's in my best interest to pay attention to this sort of stuff.

20 July 2005
Tanenbaum to register "The" as trademark

Okay, that's a fib. But Richard Tanenbaum, having succeeded with The Montgomery and currently working on The Classen, has come up with yet another project which will be pitched as "the" place to live.

The Lincoln at Central Park, says a Tanenbaum official, "a wonderful multifamily residential community nestled in a beautiful wooded area and offers a great alternative to the long drive from our competitors located on the outskirts of the city." It's a nice area, topographically speaking, north of NE 50th and west of Lincoln Boulevard, and it's a short hop to major attractions in the city. (And an even shorter hop to the late, lamented Sleepy Hollow restaurant, which never got much drive-by traffic after Route 66 was realigned.)

If this works out, and with Tanenbaum you have to assume that it will, there will eventually be nearly 800 apartments available at The Lincoln; there will be 276 in the first phase.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:10 AM to City Scene )
148

Usually I can come up with some sort of story to go with this number every week, but 148 is more resistant to this kind of treatment: at best, I can point you toward Montana's medical-marijuana initiative, which appeared on the Big Sky State's ballot last November as I-148 and which passed nearly two to one.

Of course, what you should be reading is Carnival of the Vanities #148, compiled by New World Man and sponsored by the Supreme Court of the United States, a week's worth of good bloggage in a handy package.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:59 AM to Blogorrhea )
At least I try to finish last

I read this over two or three times to make sure it didn't apply to me:

[G]uys who attribute their dating failures to niceness per se are often being self-serving. It's comforting to attribute to excessive niceness what might be better explained by shyness, awkwardness, or other less flattering interpretations. (I'm equally suspicious when Maureen Dowd complains that she can't get a date because she's too intimidating. Frankly, there are more parsimonious explanations.)

Often, the self-proclaimed nice guy wants special credit for just for being nice. It's as if he wants you to exclaim, "Oh, you poor fellow. What a burden it must be to treat women as you'd like to be treated. Above and beyond, old chap. Above and beyond!" I'm all for niceness, but I consider it a basic moral requirement for all humans, not a special bonus feature.

With certain notable exceptions, nice guys don't feel compelled to tell you how nice they are. In my experience, most of the men who explicitly attribute their romantic failures to their own niceness are playing some sort of unendearing head game. Note, I'm not talking about acting nice, considering oneself to be nice, or valuing niceness in others. I'm talking about guys who tell you how nice they are and go on to complain about how women (read: you and your friends) don't appreciate nice guys (read: me). The subtext is that if women (you) weren't so stupid and hypocritical you'd appreciate nice guys (beg to blow me).

She's definitely got a point. As for a "less flattering interpretation" that might apply to me, some mix of "old," "decrepit," "argumentative," "mercurial," "fugly" and "difficulty with forest-spotting due to tree quantity" could approximate it.

(Swiped from Caren.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:47 AM to Table for One )
Let your acolyte shine

A reasonable query from Bill Quick:

Assuming that [Chief Justice] Rehnquist stays on into the next term, and that [John G.] Roberts is confirmed, we will have the situation of a man sitting as a Supreme Court justice who is also the former law clerk of another Supreme Court justice. How often does something like that happen? Does it have any effect on relationships?

I don't think it's happened before, and I don't think it has any bearing on the conduct of the Court, but then I have no particular insight into the way the Supremes operate beyond what's actually in the opinions written.

I did, once upon a time, work under a former assistant, though technically I had never been on a level actually above her on the org chart. (So far as I know, I occupy one of the bottom rungs.) I don't think it made any difference, and anyway she hated the job and left it shortly thereafter.

The Vegas idea

I don't know whether the location was her decision or not — I'd bet it was, just on general principles — but longtime dustbury.com commenter, occasional gadfly, and faithful friend "wamprat" is tying the knot tonight in the City of Lost Wages at this one special spot.

Of course, I wish her and Bill the best, and if they hit the casinos, I hope they clean up bigtime.

After bathing at the Baxter Building

I already had been warned about the Fantastic Four film by Mister Snitch, who announced a couple months ago that "The FF's original self-mocking, pulp sci-fi wit and sweeping scale were lost on its cast, who treated the project as just another gig."

The reviews have not been particularly kind, either; Roger Ebert complained in his Chicago Sun-Times review that it was "all setup and demonstration," and Doug Bentin sniffed in the Oklahoma Gazette that "you will come away from the theater feeling like you've just spent a couple of hours reading circa 1965 comic books."

Bentin is right, but that's exactly what I wanted from Fantastic Four: by 1965 I'd been reading FF for four years, and I still read it today, five hundred or so issues later. It's not hard to see why, either: while I could relate to Reed Richards' single-minded pursuit of answers at the expense of everything else — "difficulty with forest-spotting due to tree quantity," to borrow a phrase — I had a certain empathy with perennial misfit and occasional grouch Benjamin J. Grimm. (And I was hopelessly in love with Sue Storm, but that's a different matter entirely.)

No, it's not deep, and yes, some of the jokes are a bit too obvious. In today's Ironic At Any Cost context, this might be considered a drawback, but the same was true of the Stan Lee/Jack Kirby originals; we didn't care then, and I don't care now. As a 2005 visualization of a 1965 concept, Fantastic Four works better than it deserves to, and while it won't make anyone's list of Best Pictures, it didn't bore me for a second. Besides, there's still Sue, and — well, let's not go there.

Addendum: Lileks has issues with the casting:

Jessica Alba as Sue Storm, while Charlize Theron lives and breathes? Do they not realize that Tim Robbins would be the perfect Reed Richards?

Tim looks the part, but I don't think he could bring out his Inner Dork in the manner required. And Charlize — well, do I really want to see her become invisible? (What am I saying?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:21 PM to Almost Yogurt )
21 July 2005
The last nail in "kinder, gentler"

Andrea Harris wields the hammer:

I hope that [Supreme Court nominee John G.] Roberts has absolutely zero sympathy, never mind empathy, for people who think that the goverment exists to micromanage the personal situations of every single citizen in this country. I dream of frosty, remote, unapproachable mandarins in black robes to counter the current fashion we have for turning every single branch of government over to Spongebob Squarepants.

This suggests a plan for W.: sack Darth Rove for his participation, however innocuous, in l'affaire Plame, and then post him to a Court of Appeals somewhere. People would actually TiVo C-Span just to see the hearings on his nomination.

And speaking of Mister Roberts

Lindsay Beyerstein writes:

Republicans are trying to encourage the misconception that a nominee's views are irrelevant. As convenient as that assumption is for the side that picks the nominees, it's still wrong. The standard line is that what matters is the soundness of the nominee's legal reasoning, not his substantive conclusions. The logical rejoinder is that nominations are political decisions within a system of checks and balances.

"Egregious" is in the mind of the beholder, of course, but I don't think the GOP is officially claiming that a nominee's views are irrelevant. They might, of course, actually believe so, but they'd be wrong.

Besides, the Republican definition of "sound" legal reasoning differs from the definition you'd get from the Democrats, so you can't keep politics out of the matter even if you wanted to.

Like most jobs, [the] number of minimally qualified applicants for the Supreme Court vastly exceed the number of vacancies. Obviously, it would be wrong to nominate or confirm a candidate for political reasons if they were unqualified, but let's assume we're not dealing with anyone in that category. There's no other position where minimal qualification guarantees you the job. Other considerations always come into play in the final selection process.

Senators are entitled to ask the same questions that the President asks in choosing the nominee in the first place: Where does he stand on the issues I care about? Would his legacy be positive or negative?

Indeed, they would be remiss if they didn't ask those questions. I just hope (perhaps vainly) that they don't go off the deep end in search of isolated phrases that can be turned into sound bites.

Automatic theft machines

Campus police at UT Austin have called attention to a spiffy but nonetheless heinous means of ripping off a bank's ATM customers.

Two gadgets are affixed to the machine: a replacement for the card reader (which just snaps over the standard slot), and a leaflet holder which carries a surreptitious video camera. You stick in your card, the bogus reader picks up the information, and the camera records you keying in your PIN; after that, you can kiss your money goodbye.

I haven't seen anything like this up here. At least, I don't think I have.

(Via McGehee.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:45 PM to Common Cents )
How about "proactive search criteria"?

In response to the recurrence of transit bombings in London, the City of New York will perform perfunctory random checks of passenger bags on subways, a move characterized by Outside the Beltway's James Joyner as "overreaction".

More troubling, perhaps, is Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly's promise that officers would not engage in racial profiling, which prompted this response from Dawn Eden:

Practically speaking, this means that if I — a blonde woman who totes a couple of bags — am sitting on one side of you on the subway and a Muslim-looking man with a backpack is sitting on your other side, the cop will make it a point to search only me.

Do you feel safer?

I'd feel safer if I could be certain Commissioner Kelly was merely providing a sound bite full of empty words to mollify the diversity-at-any-cost crowd.

Update: Dawn adds the following:

Word is that the searches will be at turnstiles, and will be according to the number of people passing through — e.g. every fifth or tenth or 15th person will be searched, but again, with no attention to their race or other characteristics that might cause police to be accused of discrimination.

Oh, that's much better.

How to run an honest campaign

I find this approach most admirable. From the front page of PhilandDrew.com:

Please take a few minutes of your bosses time and log onto Okgazette.com and vote Phil, Drew and Kaci too for Best Radio Show and PhilandDrew.com for Best Blog. We know Jack and Ron will probably win their 6th straight award but that doesn't mean we can't try. Plus if we win we get invited to the winners party with free beer and BBQ! In the end that's all we really want!

In today's complex society, there is nothing more important than having your priorities in order, and it is refreshing to see that these guys do.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:00 PM to Blogorrhea )
I don't think that I can take it

Someone left a cake out in the rain.

And by "someone," I mean Fred.

Who says life doesn't imitate art?

Speaking through the wind

The last surviving World War II Comanche code talker has died at a Tulsa nursing home.

Charles Chibitty was one of about twenty Comanches assigned to the Army's Signal Corps who served the Allied cause by using their native language to transmit messages to and from the front, a language that the Germans could not translate.

Other tribes participated as well; most code talkers in the Pacific theater were Navajo. The practice began during World War I, when the Choctaws provided code talkers. (Read more about them here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:00 PM to Soonerland )
22 July 2005
These aren't the voting machines you're looking for

Seemingly everyone thinks highly of Oklahoma's optical-scan voting system: it's uniform statewide, it produces no hanging chads or other perplexing anomalies, and it produces results quickly.

So naturally, it's got to go.

The Feds are handing out money for "improvements" to voting systems, and God forbid we should ever have to turn down money from the Feds — never mind where it came from in the first place — so Oklahoma will be buying a bunch of touch-screen devices at $3500 to $5000 a shot.

There's one defensible aspect to this: the new machines will theoretically improve the voting experience for the disabled and the blind, who presumably won't have to request assistance from a poll worker. And the existing pool of optical-scan machines is getting old, and replacements for them run four grand or so.

Mike Clingman at the Election Board is making noises about slapping a touch-screen interface on the current optical-scan technology, a prospect which should scare anyone who's ever tried to install Windows XP Service Pack 2 or to uninstall any version of RealPlayer.

To borrow a phrase, I have a bad feeling about this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:53 AM to Soonerland )
Coming soon: Final Fanta Z®

"Good name for it," says Lynn about Coca-Cola Zero:

This one is sweetened with aspartame just like old Diet Coke so it has the same diet taste but, like Diet Coke with Splenda, it has no kick — absolutely none, not even a tiny, sleepy baby kick, like the name says: Zero. This is Diet Coke for people who can't handle Diet Coke.

Yes, yes, I know: this is about getting more shelf space in stores, and the actual product is incidental. But the more Coca-Cola keeps screwing around, the more likely I am to say the hell with them and go pick up a case of Dr Pepper or RC.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:02 AM to Dyssynergy )
You, too, can live here

Well, not here, exactly, but in the next block over.

It's a 1½-story, four-bedroom, 2½-bath home with 2250 square feet (splitting the difference between the listing and the County Assessor's records) and a single attached garage, newly remodeled in 2004 but still looking, as required by the rules of the Urban Conservation District, like a product of 1948, at least on the outside. They're asking $164,900; the agent's listing is here.

(Yeah, that's almost twice what my house would bring. Then again, this one is twice as big.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:49 PM to Surlywood )
Like the sands of time, and so on

You think this site is old? Kramer Wetzel's Fishing Guide to the Stars has celebrated its tenth birthday.

(Here's the very first entry.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:40 PM to Blogorrhea )
The sensitivity stops here

Just because, I give you this piece from The Spectator:

Rather than attempt to legislate against Muslim fundamentalists, let us ridicule them, just as we do nutty Christian sects. Let us laugh at their beards, scorn their belief that martyrs will be attended by 72 virgins in heaven (and why has no television comedy yet depicted this ludicrous scene?), treat them as what they are: absurd figures who belong back in mediæval times.

And God knows "nutty Christian sects" get plenty of ridicule, although it must be said that not everyone takes care to separate them from the non-nutty ones.

On the other hand, blogdom has had no trouble mocking the "72 virgins" bit.

We will know that we are winning the war against Islamic terrorism when the cinemas of Bradford are full of smiling faces queuing up to watch Monty Python's Life of Mohammed.

Will the People's Front of Judea Judean People's Front provide a crack suicide squad?

(Pilfered from Lemuel Kolkava.)

23 July 2005
Stinking badges

Robert Farago at The Truth About Cars has been running a series called GM Death Watch, and one recurring theme throughout has been the bloated number of brand names the General is trying to support. Oldsmobile, of course, is gone, and Buick and Pontiac are being stripped back to niche levels — neither will offer a full top-to-bottom line of vehicles — but, says Farago, this isn't enough:

[T]here is no way on God's green earth that GM can make eight — count 'em: eight — carmaking divisions fire on all cylinders all at the same time. Even if one or two members of GM's portfolio suddenly become wildly successful — a fair proposition given the law of averages — the others will take the resources generated and piss them away. There will always be a crisis somewhere in The General's ranks. It's a no-win situation.

Need proof? Look overseas. GM's European operations posted a $37m profit. It's not great, but a profit beats a loss every time. So why is GM Europe floating while its US parent flounders? European labor costs are worse than America's, and governmental taxation and regulation is on the far side of burdensome. But GM Europe doesn't sell eight different brands. Vauxhall [UK] is a single strong brand with a coherent message and worthy products. Ditto Opel on the Continent. These companies have focus.

There is no question that GM needs, for instance, the upcoming Solstice. But it's a waste of time and effort to sell it as a Pontiac, in light of the fact that they're also going to try to move a version of it at Saturn stores. Assuming there's a market for, say, a quarter-million of these little darbs per year, it makes no financial sense to build 150,000 with one badge and 100,000 with a different badge unless they're absolutely identical otherwise (cf. Dodge/Plymouth Neon); the money it takes to differentiate one from the other cuts severely into the take.

Not that Ford is doing so hot either, but Ford only has to support three domestic brands, and while Mercury is otherwise hard to justify, I suspect not many dealers could survive on Lincoln alone, especially since Lincoln has ceded the top of the domestic market to Cadillac.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Driver's Seat )
Carpet maintenance

Found at Dr Pants' place:

I can't compete with the girls in Playboy ... because they have full-time pube stylists.

Obviously, you thought I was going with how tan and skinny and well-endowed they are. And they are, no doubt, but this isn't what bothers me. Most men can look around them and see that, in fact, most of the women they work with and see on the streets and in the mall are not gorgeously bronzed size 2s with triple D cups and a bedroom stare. I think they know that Playboy bodies are hardly a dime a dozen.

But you generally don't see the pelvic region on your coworkers, unless you work for said publication or turn tricks on 11th [presumably in Tulsa].

It is for that reason that I am deeply concerned that a generation of men is going to grow up thinking that women are supposed to have a nice, tawny, thin little landing stip of fuzz over their better parts. Let me tell you, it ain't like that. These guys are going to be in for quite a shock when they disrobe to find a veritable Cookie Monster between the legs of their amor.

Well, at least it isn't Chewbacca or Cousin Itt.

For myself, I have not made up my mind what I think about all this — insufficient data, you know — but I will report that once, and only once, I was faced, so to speak, with a freshly-waxed surface, and the circumstances of this are sufficiently bizarre amusing capable of filling up space to warrant recounting here.

The night before, after all, I had sneezed, which is the sort of thing that breaks the mood. She reasoned that maybe something had tickled my nose, and in the proper scientific frame of mind, set about to remove one possible variable from the equation.

And, well, I loved it, though I couldn't tell you, twenty years after the fact, if this was due to actual delight or sheer novelty value. At the very least, it motivated me to do my own brush-clearing exercise, which persisted until we finally broke up.

Although I must confess that I wouldn't recognize a "bedroom stare" even if it came to me from the bedroom.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:42 AM to Table for One )
Long John and sweet Gene

Eugene Record was the founder and leader of the Chi-Lites, formed in 1959 in Chicago (hence the name), who had two of the loveliest hit records of the early-Seventies soul boom: "Oh Girl" and "Have You Seen Her".

Long John Baldry was one of the founders of British R&B-influenced rock and roll, playing with seemingly everyone in the late Fifties and early to middle Sixties, including Rod Stewart (in Steampacket) and Reg Dwight (in Bluesology; Dwight would later rename himself in honor of Baldry and bandmate Elton Dean).

Nothing in common, other than that they both died yesterday at 64, and that they will be missed.

52 hours

Which is a personal best.

Unfortunately, I have to go to the grocery store.

Five seeking fabness

OPUBCO's LOOK@OKC has taken on five bloggers, which, if you look at the links, are numbered 2, 3, 5, 6 and 7. I'm not even going to speculate as to what happened to 1 and 4, but I will post some of the things I saw on the surviving pages.

First, from Joel:

I was at Wal-Mart yesterday again. I go in there whenever I am feeling a bit down about myself. Wal-Mart is the best therapeutic device on Earth. Feeling overweight? Walk around Wal-Mart until you see someone so fat they have to use a machine designed specifically for the physically disabled to get around on. Feeling alone? Go to Wal-Mart until you see that strung out meth couple wearing matching, sleeveless, Harley-Davidson shirts and matching flag dew rags. If a toothless, strung out, meth head can find someone, so can you. Feeling inadequate as a parent? Go to Wal-Mart and wait for someone to give their kid good a really good verbal beating.

From Alicia:

I miss groups like Boyz II Men who sang about tenderness, sensuality and satisfaction. I miss soft melodies of romance that taught us that a soul-connection is important. Instead, I hear a man singing (in a very persuasive voice, might I add) about what he wants. He sings about his needs, about his likes, about his satisfaction. He sees; he likes. He likes; he wants. The woman, sadly, is reduced to an object, a conquest, a night of fulfilling his desires.

I like the skin you're in, he sings. Let your panties hit the floor. In a very girl-you-should-feel-so-special-because-I-want-to-sleep-with-you way, the man tells the woman what to do, how to meet his needs with just the movements of her body. Mind and soul are absent.

Sarah and Dwight, married seven years, write The Two-Headed Blog:

Beale Street is a fun place to hang out. Lots of bars, live music, gift shops, and public intoxication. It is what it is. But, it's certainly NOT the Beale Street of W. C. Handy, Memphis Minnie, or Muddy Waters. At best, it's a crossroads of musical history that has been gussied up to be palatable for the masses ... but which also happens to be a pretty cool place to hang out for the night.

Michelle wrote this:

The cool thing about being a parent of more than one kid is that you can see how different your children are. You know that they were born by the same parents and raised the same way, yet their personalities are so different. They have different likes and dislikes. They have different quirks.

And then there's this, from Double Talkin' Jive:

What's a DTR you ask? Come on ... I know you've had one, bet you just don't know it...

DTR = Defining The Relationship.

Most men don't like to have them, most women do. "Let's Talk"... At some point in the duration of a relationship you have to have one. No if's, and's or but's...it's just non avoidable. Has been for me at least.

I had one tonight. It went smoother than expected. I feared it for a while, with her, but overcame it quickly. Now I'm glad I had it. I think things might go smoother in our transition, because of the DTR tonight. Hallelujah!!

I'll keep an eye on these and see what follows. Curiously, only Joel seems to have TrackBacks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:52 PM to Blogorrhea )
24 July 2005
Architectural diversity

It's a good thing, says the Downtown Guy, that we have multiple developers working on downtown residences:

I hate driving through neighborhoods built these days, where all of the homes are "McMansions" — tributes to the safe but bland Dallas style design. In 50 years, people will still love driving through Heritage Hills. I doubt there will be much interest in driving through Gaillardia.

I love the variety. I love the clash of visions. I love the buffet of artistic urban murals.

I know the feeling. There are eleven houses on my block — four on the north side, seven on the south, as if that weren't weird enough — and no two of them look alike. Head eastward and turn north on Miller and the variety is mindboggling. (Another reason why I'm here and not somewhere else, despite the higher-than-anticipated hit to the pocketbook.)

There's more to making a neighborhood interesting than three basic floor plans with two optional elevations.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:08 AM to City Scene )
Have you seen these jeans?

From the ad copy in the Gazette:

After seeing Neves denim at Fashion Week in Los Angeles, Women's Wear Daily hailed the brand as one of the next hot denim lines. That's pretty cool considering they were created by the designers at Blue Seven, right here in Oklahoma City.

Not being inclined to peel off nine hundred bucks for an online subscription to WWD, I'm going to have to rely on the kindness of readers to tell me their reactions to these presumably-pricey-but-what-the-heck jeans, which on their disembodied print model do seem to look pretty good.

Neves' most visible product, up to now, has been the Tie Watch, which deserves some sort of recognition as a simple, effective accessory with a high WTF factor. And of course, I'd like to drum up support for local producers of merch, especially those just around the corner from me, on general principle.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:09 AM to City Scene )
Instapundit sells out!

Well, no, not really.

On the other hand, if you've got $145 million to spare, drop him a line.

(Hmmm. Using the same formula, I should be able to get $785,000 for this place. Obviously something's askew somewhere.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:12 AM to Blogorrhea )
Little moviehouse on the prairie

I don't live in El Reno, but if I did, I rather suspect I'd get really annoyed if I had to drive twenty or thirty miles just to watch a first-run movie.

Acting on the reasonable assumption that there are a lot of such people in Canadian County, the Missouri-based B&B theater chain has opened up the Reno Cinema 8 multiplex on El Reno's southwest side, on Country Club Drive south of I-40. B&B has similar 8-plexes in Sapulpa and Claremore, and a two-screener in Ponca City.

Sensibly, they didn't spend a whole lot of money on exterior decor. The actual screening rooms and the concession stand, though, are up to contemporary standards; at least four of the eight rooms are set up for DTS digital sound, and the seating, at least where I was, was comfortable and well-placed.

I have no doubt that the Reno 8 is going to be a hit: before the inevitable trailers, there were lots of ads for local businesses. For all I know, they may make more money off the ads than off tickets, at least during the first week of a film's release. And the staff was uniformly friendly, if perhaps still on the learning curve. I may have to go out there more often, just to shake off the big-city tinsel.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:54 PM to Soonerland )
1164 and all that

I put it off as long as I could, but seeing Bewitched was inevitable: few Sixties artifacts affected me quite as much as the original ABC television series. (A woman who can do just about anything falls for an ordinary doofus? How could I not pay attention to something like this?) But I am wary when archetypes are rejiggered, especially when they're my archetypes.

Nor was I reassured when I read that the plot would be complicated by setting the film on the set of a TV remake of Bewitched, a bit of self-referential meta-silliness that didn't work any better two decades earlier with The French Lieutenant's Woman, but what really worried me, of course, was whether the film would step all over my dreams.

For the most part, it doesn't, although you can see the creaky wheels of any Nora Ephron vehicle without having to look offscreen, and while Will Ferrell plays both kinds of doofus — endearing and annoying — equally well, he doesn't transition between them convincingly. It didn't matter. Nicole Kidman walked away with this one, sensible shoes and all: she was so sweet and so perplexed and so determined that I wanted to take her by the hand and say "Let me take you away from all this." She would, of course, have had someone from the studio dope-slap me for my effrontery, but life is like that for us doofuses.

(If you don't get the title, try this.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:09 PM to Almost Yogurt )
25 July 2005
Heavy reading

Yes, I spent $100 at the comic-book shop last week.

This is why.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Just slightly apprehensive

Three weeks away from 42nd and Treadmill, and things are of course in disarray upon my return, though it's impossible to determine just yet whether this is just a hell of a mess or full tsunami-level carnage.

If I've learned anything over the years, though, it's not to be particularly hopeful about things.

Truly buzzworthy

It's called the Charcoal Companion Amazing Bug Zapper, which is probably a bit of rhetorical overkill, but with pesky insects, overkill is exactly the level of kill desired.

What it is, in fact, is a fly swatter with an oversized face, rather like a tennis racket, and a grid of electrified wires that will finish off any fly that actually survives the impact of having this thing come down on its little buzzy behind.

Yeah, you can get classic fly swatters down at the dollar store in enormous quantities, but they don't offer the same level of grim satisfaction that comes with the $12.99 Zapper.

Batteries are included, your first set anyway. (It takes two AAs.)

(Via Jacqueline Passey.)

Toad away

Top Ten new opportunities for ousted WB mascot Michigan J. Frog:

10.  A cinch to win on American Idol

  9.  Spokesamphibian for Nair®

  8.  Editing the newest Gawker Media blog

  7.  Ambassador to France (pending confirmation)

  6.  Kicking the asses of those damn Budweiser frogs

  5.  Could actually do Old Navy ads without having to wear the garb advertised

  4.  Mayor of San Diego

  3.  Summer replacement for N. Z. Bear

  2.  Kermit's special friend

  1.  Chairman, Democratic National Committee

So get specific already

In one of my infamous Vents, I made reference to a "$90k ... automotive toy," which prompted Mike to pick one of his own and perhaps suggest between the lines that I ought to do the same.

Criteria:

The stipulation being that you must use the vehicle for at least five years, and you forfeit any balance of the $90K not used to purchase the car.

Fair enough.

Let's contemplate, say, a Mercedes-Benz CLS500, base price $64,900. Add the following gewgaws:

  • 321 AMG Sport Package — $4,950
  • 326 Premium Package — $3,650
  • 219 Distronic Active Cruise Control — $3,130
  • 317 Comfort Package — $1,500
  • 530 DVD COMAND Navigation — $1,240
  • 319 Lighting Package (w/cornering fog lights) — $1,220
  • 022 Sirius Satellite Radio — $699
  • 819 6-Disc CD Changer — $430
  • R66 Mercedes Extended Run Flat Tires — $200

Add $775 destination charge and $1300 Federal gas-guzzler tax and we're looking, before tag, title and whatever, at $83,994.

I might also point out that $17,019, the total price of the optional equipment on this particular Benz, exceeds the price I paid for my current car, which is, um, five years old.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 PM to Driver's Seat )
26 July 2005
And some really swingin' physicists

Latest from the ever-clueless People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals: Chris Martin of Coldplay has been declared to be the world's sexiest vegetarian.

Now technically, this isn't an oxymoron, and I acknowledge the existence of people who qualify for other jarring juxtapositions — there are, for instance, economics babes, sweet and sassy oilfield grunts, even the occasional dreamy psychometrician — but I have to admit to a certain amount of sympathy for Dave's position:

The words "sexy" and "vegetarian" (of any type) are mutually exclusive.

Even though I have, yes, actually known one such.

(Poached from Lawren.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Is Tulsa just Jenksed?

On the lack of riverfront development in T-town, from Urban Tulsa:

Bob Workman, chairman, BSW International, an engineering and architectural company based in Tulsa, answers it this way: "It takes a vision big enough to overcome the inertia of the comfortable."

"When was the last time," asks Workman, "you saw an article on the Jenks city council such as those that have become commonplace in Tulsa? Tulsa seems to enjoy taking the role of the example of what not to do."

And one of those things that Tulsa didn't do, as mentioned, was the aquarium — a place that drew 500,000 last year to Jenks, or the equivalent of 27 sell-outs at the yet-to-be-built arena in downtown Tulsa.

Think about the projects that Tulsa has planned — the arena, convention center expansion, and The American — compared with those here, and you can see the difference in philosophy. Tulsa is trying to attract tourists, Jenks is trying to attract residents.

I reprint this here lest we in Oklahoma City start to get smug.

And because Jamie, who delivers Urban Tulsa, said this.

(Spotted by way of Meeciteewurkor.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:22 AM to Soonerland )
Getting what you pay for

The Bush administration is making noises about abolishing the General Schedule pay system and implementing merit-pay evaluations.

Clay Johnson III, of the Office and Management and Budget:

The federal government, as a rule, is pretty bad about managing people. We tend to treat people and manage our people as if they are bureaucrats. "They are all the same, let's treat them all the same." The goal is to treat them, and to think of them, as professional public servants, not as bureaucrats.... Until we can tie some small portion of pay to it, it will never happen.

Government-employee unions responded exactly the way you think they would. Brian DeWyngaert, chief of staff to AFGE president John Gage:

[This proposal] is meant to erode federal pay and future retirement security for middle-class federal workers over time. They have no data whatsoever to indicate that this will improve organizational performance.

Asked if there had been any studies on whether summer is warmer than winter, an AFGE spokesman declined comment.

(From And Rightly So!, by way of the Cotillion.)

Popeil's Pocket Googlebomber

The Downtown Guy is fed up with his search-engine traffic:

If I were to take it all to heart, I'd have to conclude the majority of you are either looking for prostitutes in OKC, or are into deviant sex in downtown settings, or are disturbingly obsessed with Star Wars, don't even speak English, still assume Bill Clinton himself ordered the bombing of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building (and then there's the question of people googling the word "jerking" and somehow ending up here).

I can relate. But then he comes up with this:

For all you looking for the stuff mentioned at the top of this post, quit coming here. What you're really looking for is www.dustbury.com. (also my pick for the Oklahoma Gazette's best blog)

Well, I never. I mean, do I look like I'm disturbingly obsessed with Star Wars?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:21 AM to Blogorrhea )
A shock to the system

It didn't occur to me right away, but it's true:

The AFL-CIO didn't even last as long as I did.

(Via the forever-young Bill Quick.)

Fuzzbox, and we're gonna use it

Missouri Governor Matt Blunt has signed Senate Bill 280, which shuffles the Show-Me State's rules for cosmetologists and mandates that parental consent be obtained before minors can get a bikini wax.

This latter provision puzzles me to some extent — why make it difficult for an underage girl to look like, well, an underage girl? — but I admit, I had no idea there was so much demand that the government would feel compelled to interdict the supply.

Not to worry. As Aldahlia says, "Just get a Bic. Duh."

(This is kind of scary: two posts on this topic in less than 72 hours. Where is my mind?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:19 PM to Dyssynergy )
27 July 2005
You see one, you've seen 'em both

If you live here, it's pointless to write your Senators, says LiteraryTech:

[B]oth of them are utterly intractable and one of them has proven himself, in correspondence to me, an insufferably arrogant pedant.

I've got to assume that the latter is Coburn, since it's impossible to imagine Inhofe having enough knowledge at his command to be pedantic.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:59 AM to Soonerland )
149

The month I joined the Army, March 1972, Mad magazine published issue #149. (Actually, this is not precisely accurate: the issue is dated March '72, but the Mad publishing schedule back then — every forty-five days, 8 issues per year — was cunningly designed to insure that no issue ever appeared on newsstands during the month printed on its cover.)

Not that you care in 2005, because Carnival of the Vanities #149 is appearing right on time, hosted this week by Pratie Place, and, as always, jam-packed with lots of bloggy goodness. What, you worry?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:20 AM to Blogorrhea )
Michael Bates: The Interview

I like the sound of that.

Anyway, old friend (well, he's not that old, but he's certainly a friend) Michael Bates, proprietor of BatesLine, the state's most influential blog, is the subject of this week's cover story in the Urban Tulsa weekly, and I recommend it highly.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:48 AM to Blogorrhea )
Shrinking to a larger size

In about ten weeks, TV Guide will be shorn of its channel-by-channel listings, which supposedly everyone reads on their cable channel or on the Web anyway, and will resurface as a full-sized, glossy-paper competitor to Entertainment Weekly and similar magazines.

I can understand why they'd want to do this — putting out over a hundred regional editions has to cost them a bundle — but frankly, I think I'd be more likely to renew my subscription (which expires in May) if they kept the magazine at digest size, where it's at least distinguishable from the two dozen other mags that wander into my mailbox every month.

At least, that's what I think now. We shall see when that first oversized issue shows up in mid-October. Meanwhile, the company has told The Oklahoman that the 237 TV Guide staffers in Tulsa will not be affected by the change.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:48 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Endangered subspecies

All other problems in Britain having been solved, Her Majesty's Government is now going about the task of abolishing the terms "bachelor" and "spinster", in connection with the Civil Partnership Act which goes into effect in England and Wales in December; individuals qualifying as such will now simply be described as "single."

The Registrar General's office will presumably pressure the Church of England to drop the words, which still appear in the reading of banns of marriage. The Church has indicated that it will resist: "We are quite open to the way language is evolving," said a Church representative, "but we do not see any improvement being made here."

Indeed. "Bachelor" and especially "spinster" may have acquired unfortunate connotations along the way, but connotations are temporary at best, and some of us might even embrace the terms, especially if the proffered alternative is likely to be some sort of euphemistic verbal workaround.

(Via Tinkerty Tonk.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:52 PM to Table for One )
Flashes from the road

Nick with StickThese two pictures (there were others, but I liked these two) were taken on the Fourth of July at my daughter's house in Independence, Missouri, the first night of the World Tour. In the first shot, Nicholas (my daughter's son) wields a sparkler with as much élan as is humanly possible for a child of five and a half, mainly because he's already been informed that the bottle rockets are off limits, thank you very much. (He accepted this judgment with only minor complaint, which tells me that either he's actually maturing a bit, or he didn't hear it all.)

Laney without StickMeanwhile, Laney (my son's daughter) is only two and isn't allowed such scary devices; she'd like you to know that she missed out by this much. And if she had ever been fearful of loud noises before, which I kind of doubt — her father plays the drums, fercryingoutloud — this experience surely cured her of the phobia.

28 July 2005
Their condition is listed as "stable"

I griped last year that unfrosted blueberry Pop-Tarts® were hard to come by. And things have not improved, so on the rare occasion when I see them, I grab an extra box.

There was one box left in the pantry today, and there was one box on the shelf at the grocery, so I bought that one box, schlepped it home, pulled out the old box and moved it to the front — rotating the ol' stock, doncha know — and looked at the date: 26 February 2006. Well, these'll be gone long before that, I thought.

And then, pivoting the new box into position, I looked at the date: 26 February 2006.

Kellogg's, evidently, only produces a batch of these when they darn well feel like it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:20 AM to Worth a Fork )
Fewer strings

With two of the three Corporation Commissioners already on board, price controls on SBC's Oklahoma telephone services will be lifted at the Commission's meeting today.

SBC competitors are not happy, and Cox Communications regional manager Dave Bialis complained:

It basically gives a company with dominant market power free reign to do what they want without oversight.

I assume this is the same Cox Communications who tacked an extra $2.05 onto my cable bill starting last month.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:27 AM to Soonerland )
You can't use that

Sean Gleeson once tried to explain to me the manifest benefits of b2evolution and why it wasn't anywhere nearly as sucky as [fill in name of CMS software used by someone else].

Apparently this same explanation is lost on his Web host, which seems to have shut him down until he switches to something else. I don't know enough about b2evolution to say what the problem is, though I suspect that heavy database usage is what cheesed off the host.

On an impulse, I looked at my own database results at my host. Over the last 30 days, I've had 22,064 connections and 863,048 queries. The rule of thumb at DH is:

The ratio column gives you the number of queries divided by 25 times the number of connects, and is an indicator of whether you're using a disproportionate number of database connections.

A value of 1 is ideal (meaning 1 connect for every 25 queries). Ratios less than one mean you're using less than 25 queries per connection, an indication of either poor connection management or a particularly simple database.

For the thirty days just ended, I have a ratio of 1.565, about 39 queries per connection. I assume I'm still in their good graces for now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:03 AM to Blogorrhea , PEBKAC )
Total number of excuses: 0

There is no justification for suicide bombers, says Tony Blair:

"Let us expose the obscenity of these people saying it is concern for Iraq that drives them to terrorism. If it is concern for Iraq then why are they driving a car bomb into the middle of a group of children and killing them?

"We are not going to deal with this problem, with the roots as deep as they are, until we confront these people at every single level — and not just their methods but their ideas."

In a 75 minute media conference Mr Blair said there was no justification for suicide bombing whether in Israel or in "Palestine, Iraq, in London, in Egypt, in Turkey, anywhere. In the United States of America, there is no justification for it. Period".

William Squire would like to know what I think.

I think I agree with Mr Blair, and I suspect that Mr Noggle would do likewise.

Low wattage

This new energy bill has something for everyone, except for those poor deluded souls who thought that the Congress might pass something that, you know, actually did something to improve energy supplies.

With the possible exception of the new subsidies for nuclear power, which presumably won't pay off for many years, given the Sisyphean task of actually trying to get a new nuclear power plant approved, let alone built, most of the dollars are being spent on More of the Same, and not necessarily well-spent either: do we really need drilling subsidies when oil is pushing $60 a barrel? Is there any point to pouring more money into the black hole of the ethanol-as-fuel business? And why, pray tell, do we need yet another farging hour of Daylight Savings Time?

"We didn't get into this overnight," points out Scott McClellan, "and we're not going to get out of it overnight." Nothing in this bill makes me think we're going to get out of it at all.

Your salary cap is backwards

This is now a "free-agent nation," says Reason Online's Tim Cavanaugh:

If there's a model for labor negotiations in the future, it's the model of the Major League Baseball Player's Association, which works out very bare-bones collective agreements featuring salary basements and basic work rules and benefits, but doesn't punish high achievers for the good of the benchwarmers. Unions have been grotesquely slow to learn the benefits of flexibility in the workplace. A strategy for the lumpenproletariat has no future in a country where even the fattest of fat slobs like to think of themselves as all-stars.

My slob credentials are unquestioned, but now I wonder if I'm going to be traded — and if so, for what? (Best guess: a color laser printer and a masochist to be named later.)

OKC wants you to buy a house

Since much of the focus in the press (and occasionally on this site) has been on high-buck urban living, I figure it's about time to mention some local residences that can actually be purchased by mere mortals. Last December I wrote about one of the city's efforts to create some affordable housing; the specific instance was a group of six new houses along NE 5th Terrace between Washington Park and the Health Center area.

This is apparently going well enough to justify further investments. The city has teamed up with MidFirst Bank, which provided a line of credit for those first houses, to help move old housing stock in the central city (NW/NE 50th to SW/SE 59th, Portland to Bryant) through a combination of two loans to buyers, one from MidFirst to buy and one from the city to rehabilitate, and here's the punchline: the loan from the city does not have to be repaid so long as the buyer owns and lives in the house. Participants in the program can earn no more than 80 percent of the local median and will have to meet MidFirst's credit standards, and the city will assume the hook for a maximum of $33,500.

Other programs are being developed. At the last meeting, City Council approved a contract with Mustard Seed Development Corporation, a faith-based organization in the Old Britton area, for construction of three new homes west of NW 88th and Walker, and a couple of houses owned by the city were turned over to Habitat for Humanity.

In 2000, 59 percent of houses in Oklahoma City were occupied by their owners, a touch below the national average of 66 percent. The city evidently thinks that it's worth the effort to bring up that percentage, and I'm inclined to agree.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:44 PM to City Scene )
29 July 2005
Trippingly on the dung

Ordinance #22778 in the city of Oklahoma City (which passed 5-4, in case you were curious) requires "the removal of animal solid waste on public or private property" and "possession of waste removal equipment" for said materials.

So it's just a matter of time before we get something like this.

(With grateful appreciation to Debbie Galant and Dawn Eden.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:20 AM to Dyssynergy )
That's some utility belt

Although I'd probably giggle (and then turn beet red) if I used the word "dropcloth" around him.

Oh, and he's hiring, too.

It figures

The United States Postal Service has an online store, which sells more than just stamps 'n stuff.

And Bruce asked, logically enough, "If you buy a CD from the US Postal Service, do you still have to pay shipping?"

He did some checking, and yes, you do.

On the other hand, it's a safe bet they're not going to send anything UPS Ground.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 AM to Dyssynergy )
Oops, he wore it again

Joel over at LOOK@OKC makes this earnest plea to someone downtown:

If you are a straight man over forty (not a thirteen year old girl or a gay man), please don't wear a t-shirt with Britney Spears on it. Please. You might not know it but you've crossed that invisible line that lies between "guy in a t-shirt" and "guy people are afraid to let their children near." For the good of society please don't wear that shirt again.

I don't think it's quite as dramatic as all that — the guy with Mrs Federline's visage under his double chin could hardly look as frightening as these folks — but I must agree that it is the responsibility of all of us to avoid scaring children this way.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:22 AM to Rag Trade )
Nothing venturi'd, nothing gained

There has been no small amount of mockery of Dan McKay's 2005 Bulwer-Lytton prize winner, which goes like this:

As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire, highly functional yet pleasingly formed, perched prominently on top of the intake manifold, aching for experienced hands, the small knurled caps of the oil dampeners begging to be inspected and adjusted as described in chapter seven of the shop manual.

Some would argue that this comparison is inapt. I demur. Women and carburetors (or carburettors, in the British manner) have much in common:

  • You always wonder if (and, if so, why) the original specifications have been changed.

  • It's possible to upset them if you toss them from side to side.

  • Some people insist that the amount you can get them to swallow is of primary importance.

  • When they don't flow, you should worry.

  • Replacing them with newer models will not necessarily get you better performance.

[Insert "fuel injection" joke here]

(Suggested by Dan Lovejoy; submitted to Wizbang's Carnival of the Trackbacks.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
I can't type another freaking word

Burnt out on blogging?

Don't be.

(Via Gawker.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:36 PM to Blogorrhea )
Can we pay them not to play something?

Lindsay Beyerstein has some fresh objections to payola:

Today's consumers have a variety of sources of music and a variety of media to store and play it.

Nevertheless, payola undermines consumer choice. Consumer choice isn't just about selecting a station whose programming you tend to like. The consumer should also be free to make an informed choice about the different services offered in the radio market.

The station that runs on payola is offering a fundamentally different service than a station whose DJs have creative control. An independent DJ is offering her expertise and aesthetic judgment. It's her job to listen to choose good stuff and to play it in aesthetically pleasing sequences.

As a consumer, I want independence from my DJ. In a payola system, I have no idea who's independent and who isn't. As a listener in a payola system, you don't know whether your DJ is taking bribes, or whose bribes she's taking.

I'm inclined to applaud this line of thinking, mostly because I like the idea of differentiating between stations which are completely ruled by the dollar and stations which are only partially so; but as a practical matter, so few DJs actually do have creative control — even stations which refuse payola often have consultants and marketroids who set the playlists based on their "research" — that they will stand out for their sheer rarity as much as for their presumably-good programming judgment.

Dave Marsh once said that the payola of the 1950s had scant effect, that any record that became a hit in those days probably would have become a hit even if no one had slipped anyone a few bills under the table, and while I think this might have been true back then, I'd find it hard to believe that the present-day pay-for-play system is similarly ineffective: for one thing, playlists have been shrinking steadily, Jack FM and its brothers notwithstanding, and the fewer the songs, the greater the impact of slightly-heavier-than-normal rotation.

Then again, I listen mostly to public radio, for which I write checks in the fall.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:20 PM to Overmodulation )
And a cup of skim Worcestershire sauce

After that vegetarian thread, I'm almost afraid to post this, but what the hell: it's Dave's idea, let him sweat for coming up with steak-flavored Cheerios.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:29 PM to Worth a Fork )
30 July 2005
He's a real somewhere man

Nat Weiss probably never imagined that the door to his home office was worth $51,858.

What brought in the big bucks at auction, surely, was the large number of inscriptions by various pop stars, including three of the Beatles. (Weiss, after all, was Brian Epstein's business partner, and was instrumental in the incorporation of the Apple Corps.) The Harrison inscription is interesting:

[T]he door was signed by a visiting George Harrison with a brown felt tip marker. He has inscribed "To Nat the King and Queen of FUH love from" before his signature, and the date, "30/11/68." FUH, of course, was a reference to the newly signed Apple artist known as the King of Fuh or the Fuh King. The Harrison signature measures 6" long by 1¼" high.

The "newly signed Apple artist" himself, Brute Force, who actually wrote a song called "King of Fuh," read this and quipped: "Maybe this is the closest I've ever been to The Doors."

Which invites the question: "What is the distance between Fuh King and Lizard King?"

Fluff and stuff

Not every post here tackles a Big Issue, and not every blogger aspires to (or even admits to aspiring to) shaping the national dialogue.

This does not, however, imply that some, or most, of our efforts are wasted, as Francis W. Porretto points out:

A thesis may be self-evident once it's been articulated and considered, but articulation is the necessary first step. Someone must say it where others can hear.

The seeming ephemerality of our time strikes your Curmudgeon as largely illusory, at least in the intellectual sphere. Ideas are being generated, refined, discussed and discarded as never before in human history. Much chaff is blown away at each stage, but the grain that remains has nutritional value of the kind that endures — and endure it will.

To participate in this cycle is an opportunity a thinking man should not eschew. Indeed, it approaches being a duty.

I will, of course, continue to come up with my quota of discardable ideas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:01 AM to Blogorrhea )
More than pocket change

Terry Neese, founder of the staffing agency that bears her name, will be going to Washington: President Bush has nominated her for the position of Director of the Mint at Treasury, replacing Henrietta Fore, who is moving to State.

Neese is a Republican, but she has friends on both sides of the aisle; she is a founder of the bipartisan organization Women Impacting Public Policy. Senate confirmation should be a breeze.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:38 AM to Soonerland )
Zoning restrictions

In the past 4700 posts (about three years), I have used the term "war zone" seven times, although three of them were quotations from elsewhere and three of them were references to zones where there is actual war.

This leaves only one gratuitous use of "war zone," which is probably one too many for Three & Eight:

I'd like to get through a single year without someone talking about something looking like a war zone. Only folks who have BEEN in war zones, to me, have the moral authority to make such a statement.

Alternatives, please?

It looked like a...
  • teenager's bedroom zone
  • dog vomit zone
  • tornado zone — 'cause it WAS
  • school cafeteria after a food fight zone
  • girl's bathroom on prom night zone
  • moldy refrigerator detritus zone
  • time zone
  • booger zone
  • place Detective Monk would never go zone
  • college town trailer park zone

Some of those are downright scary.

In my defense, I must note that I was talking about a tornado.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:55 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Lessons from life (one in a series)

When the instructions say "Assembly time: 30-60 minutes," it means only that some people will take twice as long as others.

(This is the item in question.)

Saturday spottings (short version)

I'm not quite back into my full Spottings groove yet, but here are three items I thought noteworthy.

There's a lovely "Historic Capitol Hill" sign at 25th and Shields; if it has any sisters in the neighborhood, I didn't see them. As for 25th itself, it was incredibly busy, with all the diagonal parking spaces filled, a couple of fellows handing out handbills for a show, and lots of pedestrian traffic. I think we shouldn't have to worry about the area becoming a ghost town. (On the other hand, Robinson Avenue through this section, a particular bête noire of The Downtown Guy, is still pretty scuzzy.)

In case you were wondering, the street address of the Gold Dome is 1112 NW 23rd. There's new signage to tell you this, with slots available to identify future tenants.

And for some reason, half the houses in the 700 block of NW 22nd — between Lee and Shartel, at the far north end of the Mesta Park neighborhood — are for sale. I'm almost afraid to ask why.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:55 PM to City Scene )
31 July 2005
File under: mysterious ways

Dawn Eden pays a visit to the "Winking Jesus" in Hoboken, and reports:

I didn't see anything out of the ordinary — but the statue does look eerie.

I prayed silently as I would in a church and tried to discern what, if anything, was going on, beyond people praying — most of them Hispanic women — and [statue owner Julio] Dones standing by exhorting onlookers to prayer. He had made a hand-lettered sign which said something like, "If this gives you hope, pray for the needy and yourself." He also said to anyone who would listen that he was not asking for money, only that people should pray and turn to God.

I didn't feel that anything was terribly wrong — other than the discomfiting sense that Dones's peaceful shrine could easily turn into a carnival if the forces of greed were allowed to take hold. But that was just my fear. The scene itself was prayerful and moving. It was as though the entrance to Hoboken's projects — the dividing line that separates the city's $400,000-plus condominiums from its crime and poverty-ridden ghetto — suddenly had an angel's foot wedged in the door.

I don't claim to have any explanation for this sort of miracle, if miracle it be; indeed, were there an explanation, the miraculousness of it all might dissolve in a glass of bitter cynicism. For some people, that's just fine.

But I think that what matters in these incidents is not so much the mechanics but the response: people believe, and when people believe, unexpected things can — and apparently do — happen.

Spaced out

It's a perfectly legitimate question of economics: how to allocate your consumption of a finite non-durable good over an infinite period of time.

And Glen Whitman means "infinite," too:

If you were a Muslim, and you died and went to the Muslim heaven, how would you space out your enjoyment of the 72 virgins? Suppose that you actually find virginity desirable, and suppose that the virgins' maidenheads are not magically restored periodically. If the afterlife has infinite duration, then no matter how long you wait to deflower your 72nd virgin, youíll still be looking at an infinitely long virgin-less future thereafter.

And this could be troublesome, especially if your primary motivation is the anticipation of the six dozen:

If the joy of looking forward to taking a virgin were the primary source of your satisfaction from doing so, then your optimal plan would require always having one virgin ahead of you. Every period, you would have the choice of taking the virgin now or taking her tomorrow, and taking her tomorrow would always generate a greater sum of instantaneous utility and anticipatory utility (if we maintain the assumption of no time-discounting). But in that case, you would never actually take the last virgin — in which case your anticipation would be unjustified.

Read the whole thing for the complete analysis.

As for me, my experience with defloration is decidedly limited, and I believe it is in the best interests of everyone if I keep it that way.

(Uncovered by Lemuel Kolkava.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:50 AM to Dyssynergy )
Yet they laugh at Bowlegs and Slapout

If you think I go through some odd locations on my road trips, consider the township of Germfask, Michigan, way up in the Upper Peninsula, about which Matt Rosenberg writes:

How does a place get named Germfask? The question has been weighing heavily on my mind. Thanks to this new-fangled InterWeb thingmabob, I now have an answer, from ePodunk: "The community was named for the last initials of the eight founders: Grant, Edge, Robinson, Mead, French, Ackley, Shepard and Knaggs."

I guess if the founders had been named Smith, Harper, Ingle, Thomas, Horton, O'Connor, Lewis and Elbert, the namers woulda had to come up with some other brilliant approach, huh?

They could have called it something like "Shoehilt" or "His Hotel".

"Germfask," conversely, could have been "Farm Kegs," which I heartily approve.

Historical note: During World War II, conscientious objectors who were subject to the military draft were given either noncombat duties in the armed services or, less often, duties in Civilian Public Service, a joint venture of the government and churches historically tied to nonviolence, such as the Society of Friends.

But not all the CPS camps had religious connections. One that did not was in Germfask, where about 100 COs were sent, and they were not inclined to shut up and push brooms, judging by this paragraph from their ad hoc newsletter [link requires Adobe Reader]:

A fair degree of public and pacifist attention has recently been focused on Germfask because of "something" that is taking place here. Press representatives, Selective Service officials, and private citizens have variously reported to the public that the men here are saboteurs, sex perverts, irreligious, intellectuals with crackpot theories, drunkards, and communists, who are lacking in humility, crazy, rejecting all discipline, threatening violence, and practicing vandalism. Local citizens reportedly fear for the chastity of their daughters, and that our pernicious ideas will corrupt their youth.

Sounds like my old basic-training company, now that I think about it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:12 PM to Almost Yogurt )
One hand slaps the other

I didn't see it when I was up there last year, but there is now a fancy lighted "Welcome to Great Falls" sign on US 87, which cost around $100,000 to build and landscape.

And which the Montana Department of Transportation hit with a green sticker warning that the sign was unauthorized and would have to be removed unless the proper permits were obtained.

Feathers were ruffled, phone calls made, and anxieties eventually quelled, but geez, it's hard to avoid the impression that someone in Helena needed something to do.

I can't wait to hear Dave's take on this.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:23 PM to Dyssynergy )
Before skyboxes and designated hitters

You gotta love this: a reenactment of 70s baseball.

That would be the 1870s.

"Gloves? What gloves?"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:59 PM to Base Paths , Soonerland )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

Click the Permalink on an individual entry to read comments and TrackBacks if any