1 December 2005
Former State Representative Bill Graves (R-Dystopia) says he'll run for the 5th District Congressional seat being vacated by Ernest Istook, who's seeking the Governor's job.
In a state where we often find ourselves trying to explain that not every conservative Christian is a loony theocrat who wants to stick Jesus in your ear and any other inconvenient orifice, we try to avoid mentioning Graves, who, though he didn't invent that stereotype, works as hard as anyone on earth to earn it.
Proximity to Graves is probably harmful to one's higher brain functions; fortunately, I don't live in his district, and he'll be term-limited into oblivion soon enough.
Also fortunately, Graves doesn't have much of a base outside of a small gaggle of witch-burners and such, and there are already three GOP candidates in the race, none of whom he's likely to be able to beat in the primary; still, now that I am in District 5, it behooves me to help keep the ballot clean of embarrassments. (I have never, for instance, voted for Istook.)
Just shut up and sign, okay?
A person went to the [Tulsa] post office and a petition was presented for he/she to sign. The top petition page was for the TABOR (Tax Payer Bill of Rights) and all indications were that was the petition being signed. HOWEVER, THE ACTUAL PETITION WAS FOR THE COUNCILOR AT LARGE PROPOSAL. That, folks, is lower in life forms than dung beetles. So, if you are asked to sign a petition, just refuse unless you read everything completely and know for a fact exactly what you are signing.
In fairness to dung beetles, they never really had a choice in the matter.
Unlike these guys:
Title 34, Oklahoma Statute 3.1, says signature collectors must be citizens of the State of Oklahoma. Violations of that statute can be fined $1000.00 plus 1 year in jail for each offense. Two of the signature gatherers were from out of state and ran away when asked to provide identification.
A TABOR petition came through here the other day; I ignored it. I'm thinking maybe I should have looked it over after all.
Voting has yet to begin in the 2005 Weblog Awards
On the other hand, Beth has proposed Badblog Awards for this year, and I suspect that the decisions to be made won't be quite so difficult.
(Disclosure: I was nominated for one of the WAs; the list of finalists has not been posted, but I have no reason to think I might have made it to the finals.)
(Found at the Cotillion Ball.)
Update, 4 December: It appears I spoke too soon.
As the GOP establishes itself as the Party of Big Government (the Democrats remain the Party of Frickin' Huge Government), the lines are starting to blur, so this makes a certain amount of sense:
I'm beginning to think perhaps we need to get rid of the label Democrat and Republican. Those terms seem to mean less and less as time moves forward.
In a sort-of "truth in advertising" policy, we would have two political parties: The "Mama-Knows-Best" party and the "Just-Cut-Your-Damn-Hair-And-Get-A-Job" party.
The MKB would wrap each voter in a loving cocoon of security and safety. Well, it must be safe and secure cause you can't see outside the cocoon to see what is going on. In the MKB-led country, you would never need to worry about having to make those painful decisions about finance and religion. Of course, it is a very expensive cocoon, but you really shouldn't worry your little plebeian head about that.
The JCYDHAGAJ party wouldn't pay for much and wants you out of the house pretty quick. Cause they're tired of your lazy ass hanging around all day while they're out working their fingers to the bone. Life can be brutal and tough in the JCYDHAGAJ-led country, but, strangely enough, the country as a whole seems to get more done than the MKB-led country.
Incidentally, these descriptions don't necessarily correspond to our existing party alignments:
The Christian Right? MKB. Most leftists and statists? MKB.
Libertarians and small government Republicans? JCYDHAGAJ. Old School Democrats (Zell Miller)? JCYDHAGAJ.
I surmise some elements of the Christian right will object to putting Mama in charge after all, that's Dad's job, isn't it? but there's plenty of time to fine-tune the titles before the bumper stickers get printed.
Oklahoma winds can blow in any direction, but the vector you're most likely to experience is the one that deposits the maximum amount of debris on your premises.
One of the Lower Superiors/Higher Peons [choose one] wandered by yesterday with a paycheck he'd spotted near the front door to the Treadmill Avenue entrance. Not one of ours, no; this bore the name of one of the big restaurant chains, and was made payable to a chap in Edmond, who apparently had scribbled something resembling his name in the usual space for endorsements.
The L. S./H. P. noted that he'd informed the local manager, and that they'd told him that it was definitely a counterfeit. I'm guessing that the chap presented it for cash somewhere down the road, and the clerk refused to accept it, probably because the signature was imprinted in the same font as the rest of the document: computerized payroll checks tend to have images of actual signatures. So the perp discarded the evidence he probably didn't literally toss it to the four winds, but they got it anyway and, one assumes, moved on.
I looked it over, and spotted one other flaw: they'd gotten the hidden watermark correct, but the obligatory reference to it on the front managed to misspell "watermark," which didn't help. And for the sheer hell of it, I sent the address of the "employee" to a USPS database, which informed me that such address did not exist.
In the grand scheme of things, this is a minor incident at best, but it's always rewarding to see the Bad Guys lose one.
Along came Jones
You might remember this:
You talk too much
You worry me to death
You talk too much
You even worry my pet
Joe Jones, born in New Orleans in 1926, once claimed to have been the first black petty officer in the Navy. I don't know about that, but after WWII, he formed his own band in the Crescent City, which lasted until B. B. King came to town and hired Jones to be part of his band and eventually assistant bandleader.
King and Jones went their separate ways about the time Jones put out his first single, "Adam Bit the Apple," a remake of an old jump blues by Big Joe Turner. Released by Capitol in 1954, it went nowhere, but Jones kept busy with session work. Sylvia Vanderpool got him a deal with Roulette, which led to "You Talk Too Much" in 1960, produced by New Orleans legend Harold Battiste. As Roulette 4304, it hit #3 on the pop charts; reportedly, there were two other versions in the can that Joe recorded for other labels, and inevitably, there was a cover version, by Frankie ("Sea Cruise") Ford.
Like many recording acts, Joe Jones made a lot of money for his label and not a lot for himself. He also made a lot of money for Jerry Leiber, Mike Stoller and George Goldner, owners of the Red Bird label, by bringing to them a New Orleans girl group called the Dixie Cups, who had several huge hits in the middle 1960s. Eventually Jones settled in Los Angeles, opened a music-publishing house, and vowed to do right by his writers; he also assisted other R&B performers who had made hits but no money, by helping them recoup the rights to their material.
Joe Jones is gone now a quadruple bypass proved too much for the man.
(Jones' other chart single, from 1961, was the original version of "California Sun", later a pounding surf hit for the Rivieras.)
2 December 2005
Empty the ashtray while you're at it
Having a radio/CD player in your car has adverse effects on fuel economy, says Diane, and upon reading the first line, I reasoned it out: well, there is that small increment of additional weight, and if you open the windows to inflict your miserable taste in music on the rest of the world, you do serious damage to your aerodynamics. (People with good musical taste don't blast it across two lanes for some reason.)
But no, it's nothing so complex:
I found myself this morning driving around the block so I could listen to the end of the song that was playing on the radio.
You know, if this gets around, it could kill off NPR's Driveway Moments altogether.
Mrs Frisby nods from the corner
[A]s a New Yorker, I know that affection for rats is an important step towards accepting the world as it is. These little guys kick ass. They're smart and they're tough and nobody wants to eat them. We should all be so lucky.
For some reason, this kicked off an earworm: "Rats in My Room," a bizarre little number made famous by Leona Anderson on Ernie Kovacs' TV show and subsequently recorded by outfits ranging from NRBQ to King Uszniewicz and His Uszniewicz-Tones.
(Actually, the reason was probably as simple as this: how often do I get to mention King Uszniewicz and His Uszniewicz-Tones?)
You need not wonder why
I marvel at bloggers who can do all this and still keep up with a seemingly endless list of blogs. They are either way smarter than I am (always a possibility!), or way more caffeinated than I am (not likely!), or they are neglecting something they shouldn't. Sleep, perhaps.
D. I have vastly greater experience with high-speed reading than I do with, say, RSS feed aggregators.
However, I don't claim to be keeping up; I'm content to keep from falling behind any further. (I would like to be able to work on the 26-hour Bajoran day, which is actually more compatible with my circadian rhythms than the 24-hour version prevailing here on Sol III, though 28 might be pushing it.)
What brought this on, anyway?
What got me started on this post was an attitude I've perceived possibly mistakenly on the part of some bloggers lately, much to the effect that if they encountered error, a particular sort of error, in the blogosphere, they were obligated in some fashion to try to correct it, or at least to respond to it.
I assure Mr Paden that he is not mistaken. (Which is, of course, why I am posting this: to try to correct it, or at least to respond to it.)
Actually, there is a smattering of folks out there just waiting with a Gotcha! the moment you do one of the following:
Sharp-eyed observers of human behavior, even some of the more myopic ones, will immediately notice that this pattern existed long before blogging, and will no doubt persist long beyond the time when they finally drain the fluid from the jar containing Glenn Reynolds' preserved brain.
But the basic question remains:
So how do you determine what things to blog about? Well, I can't speak for others, but I either blog about what's on my mind right now, or I blog on things that I think will be useful or interesting to the very small circle of readers I have. And even though it sometimes chaps my hide and frosts my soul to do so, I just don't fool with anything else. I ain't got the time.
Remind me to pick up a can of that soul frosting at the supermarket.
Actually, I think this is true of all of us. Nobody writes about everything; we have to pare it down somewhere. If there's a role model here, it's Joe Miller, who boiled his reportorial mission down to four words: "I cover the waterfront."
We're talking history here
I know zilch (well, this much) about this group, but this photo of them was apparently the first photo ever published on the World Wide Web.
And you thought I was an old-timer.
[A]ll I see are issues, issues, issues. And big feet. She portrays herself as a litmus test a good man will want her, a fool will fail to appreciate her. What she fails to address is that a good man will simply see that there are countless far better options available to him.
Of course, "big feet" can mean only one thing for a woman: larger-than-average shoes.
(And skippy wasn't exactly kind to her, either; if you're a confirmed Dowdophobe, or even if you're not, read the original post.)
Such a deal, I tell you
I usually send the junk mail to the nearest trash bag if it's a credit-card solicitation or something similar I do some physical damage to it first but this one, with "Second Request" in its own envelope window, looked like a promising prospect for mockery.
Your current mortgage of [fairly accurate estimate of amount owing] on your property located at [address redacted] may be at risk of prime rate increases that could be devastating to your bottom line.
Example: With a first mortgage of [fairly accurate estimate of amount owing] and revolving debt up to [fairly accurate estimate of amount owing], you could have one new low monthly payment of [utterly implausible figure]. This is an adjustable rate mortgage, but you don't have to worry.
That turnip truck that just rounded the corner? Someone may have fallen off of it, but not I.
We got your hypertension right here
A full house at the Ford got to witness some scary stuff tonight. At one point in the second quarter, the Hornets led the 76ers by fourteen points; at the end of the third quarter, the Sixers were up by one.
It wound up Hornets 88, Sixers 86, with Allen Iverson missing a three-pointer right before the buzzer. These Bees are going to give me a coronary, I swear. (Iverson snagged 34 points anyway.) Now 8-7, the Hornets will head out on a two-game road trip against division opponents (Dallas Saturday, Memphis on Tuesday) before returning next Wednesday to take on the Celtics.
3 December 2005
Fatuous Flashback 10
Recession? Well, it's not, polls notwithstanding, but if there were, I suppose they could try to blame me:
[T]he one person you cannot escape is the marketer. So long as you are perceived as having cash, or exploitable amounts of credit, you're a target. What you have is never good enough. You've got to keep up with the Joneses.
Personally, I always thought it would be much more fun, not to mention a lot less expensive, to drag the Joneses down to my level. Of course, they don't want to go. It flies in the face of everything they've been taught. Those who don't do their part to keep the economic machine humming are viewed as cranks or curmudgeons or communists.
(From Vent #80, 7 December 1997.)
Changes coming at the Brick
Baseball's Winter Meetings start Monday in Dallas, and lots of deals will be made, but a few things have already happened that are pertinent to the RedHawks.
For one thing, Bobby Jones, who has managed the 'Hawks for the last four years, will be joining the parent Texas Rangers as first-base coach; his replacement is Tim Ireland, who has managed the Rangers' Double-A clubs and whose teams made the playoffs seven out of twelve years.
There's also a new pitching coach at the Brick: Andy Hawkins, who pitched for ten seasons in the majors. His lifetime record is an indifferent 84-91, but he's remembered for two accomplishments, one significant, one, um, less so.
The Tigers beat the Padres 4-1 in the 1984 World Series; Hawkins, in relief, got the win for San Diego, the only Series game the Padres have ever won.
In 1990 at Comiskey, Hawkins, starting for the Yankees, pitched seven innings of no-hit ball. In the eighth, he retired the first two batters, but then things started to go to hell:
Scoreless through seven and a half, it was now White Sox 4, Yankees 0, and Hawkins still hadn't given up a hit. When the Bronx Bombers bombed out in the top of the ninth, that was the final; Hawkins got the loss despite having pitched a legitimate no-hitter. (It was later de-legitimized by a redefinition of "no-hitter" by the Gods of Baseball.)
Last year's RedHawks had the best record 80-63 in the Pacific Coast League; however, they lost in the first round of playoffs to Nashville, who in turn was beaten by Sacramento for the league championship.
More reliable than wrinkles
You know you're getting old when it's 9.30 and instead of chatting to the amazingly cute girl next to you you're thinking, "if I finish up this beer I can be in bed by ten."
And worse, the idea of being in bed with the aforementioned amazingly cute girl doesn't even occur to you.
Some assembly required
Cue Neil Young:
My life is changing in so many ways
I don't know who to trust anymore
There's a shadow running thru my days
Like a beggar going from door to door.
I was thinking that maybe I'd get a maid
There are people who to this day believe Neil Young was some sort of male chauvinist pig for writing this song, mostly because they focus on that second verse without paying any attention to the first. In context, it's clearly more sorrowful than sexist, even allowing for the fact that Neil would sound mournful singing the likes of "Walking on Sunshine," but even if a W-2 form is involved, it's still the master/servant dynamic, and therefore, in our "enlightened" age, it must be horribly wrong. (Call me when Hollywood leftists start taking out their own trash.)
On the other hand, no one, myself included, is going to complain about this idle musing of Laura's:
[I]t's time for science to invent a robot. I'm thinking a cute guy, who looks about my age, slim, wears western attire, knows horses, is loving, warm, good in bed, knows how to listen, can cook, etc.... He would know how to snuggle, wouldn’t mind helping with housework, and doesn't ever get depressed or angry.
Then, on those days I feel the need to be alone, I could turn him off.
I'm willing to bet, though, that were I to express a desire for a girlbot of comparable complexity and capacities, I'd catch all kinds of hell.
Addendum, 4 December: I found this on a LiveJournal:
Problems usually arise when one party to union mangles definitions: when husband (lover/living partner) expect his counterpart in love / cohabitation to perform service jobs unpaid, as part of "good wife / child rearer / soulmate" character. Part of Victorian atavism: a provider husband and housekeeping wife. Again, an honest arrangement, basically a barter of skills.
Too often, however, despite realities of contemporary life, when both partners work outside of home, only one party is expected and not only in her partner's eyes to do a second shift as cleaner / cook / decorator / nanny / tutor etc. I heard someone who express her dissatisfaction with this extra unpaid work load to be called "unkind" and even "unfeminine" by her long-time partner.
Of course, different people come to different domestic arrangements; attitude-wise I find one example to be ideal: Lileks family.
When I was married, things weren't precisely egalitarian, but my cooking and accounting skills were inferior to hers, so I assumed more responsibility for cleaning and laundry, at which I was reasonably competent.
I think both of us would have appreciated some mechanical assistance.
One down, were it true
From Crawford and Cutler's Shackle Report, this possibly-apocryphal story:
With release of her book Are Men Necessary? and its companion article in The New York Times Magazine, witticist Maureen Dowd obliterated any sign of her rival, blogster Arianna Huffington, last month.
Arthur O. Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher of the Times, who answers to the name of Pinch, said, "There is, as you know, room in America for only one woman pundit at a time, and our sources, who declined to be identified due to their being me, determined that it should be our woman pundit, even though none of us want to marry her."
They said it wouldn't last
And it didn't. The Hornets scored exactly zero in the first three and a half minutes in Dallas, and while they managed to squeak to within one point in the third quarter, they never got the lead, and the Mavericks pulled away at the end, 97-88.
Dirk Nowitzki poured in 30, twenty-two in the second half, to power that fourth-quarter run. Chris Paul had a good night 25 points and six rebounds and Speedy Claxton scored 21 from off the bench, but it wasn't enough.
The Bees, now 8-8, head next for Memphis, who likely won't be any easier than the Mavs, who improved to 11-5.
4 December 2005
Scratching off Christmas
You'd think this would be innocuous enough, even secular enough for anyone at this time of year. You would, however, be wrong:
The teachers and their students came up with the theme of the gift of education money from the lottery. The teachers gathered discarded, cancelled lottery tickets from convenience stores. The kids cut ornaments from the discarded tickets and even folded and cut some of the tickets into three-dimensional mathematical shapes. They cut the top tree star out of a lottery poster. Ping pong balls with numbers carefully written to mimic the big lottery drawing balls were strung together with twine and bows to complete the decoration. After school on Wednesday, the church across the street provided vans to take the kids up to the State Capitol to decorate the tree allocated for our school.
The Capitol was abuzz with excitement as children from schools from all over the state decorated their trees as we decorated ours. The Governor and his wife went from tree to tree and posed with the students from the different schools. Our children excitedly gathered around the Governor, the Mrs. and Santa Claus to get their pictures taken. We were so proud of our tree and our creative theme.
Then not all hell, but a significant fraction thereof, broke loose:
[A radio] reporter accused us of having our children sell lottery tickets. We were accused of an inappropriate display to publicize the lottery. We were accused of a lot of heinous things. What had started out as a clever idea turned out to be a sinister plot to undermine the morality of our culture.
When our annual event was over that afternoon, I called the state representative whom the radio station (and subsequently the television station) told us had called them about the tree. I apologized to him for having caused such heart burn. I explained that we had no intention of making a political statement and would gladly remove the tree. I did not wish this nastiness to besmirch our children or embarrass our Governor who had allowed the children of our state to decorate Capitol Christmas trees. I hope our controversy will not ruin this event for all the children and schools.
I am no great fan of the lottery, and have spent the sum of $0 on tickets thus far. But I am even less enthusiastic about the idea of disillusioning fifth-graders for the sake of an irrelevant political point, and I do mean irrelevant; the lottery was voted on and passed and is now part of the law, there is no organized opposition to it and this would be one spectacularly stupid way to start one. What's next? County option?
It is an axiom of American politics that those who most loudly proclaim the need to protect the children from one thing or another are invariably those who are most willing to use those children as political pawns. And we wonder why we're raising a generation of cynics.
Addendum, 5 December: AP wire story on this incident.
Addendum, 7 December: Follow-up.
A presumption of sleaze
The Republican Party would like you to know that it, unlike its major competitor, doesn't round up felons or people from some other jurisdiction or the deceased on election day.
They would also like you to think that they, the Grand Old Party, are above such things. An example:
Attorneys for an accused conspirator in a 2002 Republican phone-jamming scandal want no suggestions made in an upcoming trial that the Republican National Committee or its U.S. Senate campaign affiliate paid for the illegal operation.
The request for special jury instructions to that effect and for deletions on certain documents was made yesterday by the RNC-paid lawyers for former RNC official James Tobin.
Which you might think is odd, since prosecutors weren't planning to suggest that:
[U.S. District Court Judge Steven J.] McAuliffe said that undisputed evidence shows a $15,600 check to pay for hundreds of hang-up calls to Democratic and union get-out-the-vote phone banks on election day morning, 2002, was drawn on the New Hampshire Republican State Committee's war chest.
Andrew Levchuck, the justice department prosecutor, said the RNC and NRSC contributed about $200,000 to the state committee prior to the election, but said he intends to present no evidence suggesting any of it was for the express purpose of funding the phone jam.
McAuliffe wanted to know why, then, Tobin's attorneys were concerned about it.
You know, it might just have something to do with the fact that the RNC has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Tobin's defense so far.
If this is taking the moral high road, I'd hate to see the back-alleys.
(Via Jay Tea.)
Update, 16 December: Tobin is convicted on two of the three charges.
Go ahead and bid, we don't care
Last month I noted that it seemed odd that Tulsa would select the same management company for its arena and convention center SMG that is used by Oklahoma City. At the time, I said that "having the four largest venues in the state under a single management strikes me as at least potentially counterproductive." An addendum, courtesy of Chris Medlock of the Tulsa City Council, suggested that productivity, at least to the Tulsa power structure, is secondary to the peddling of influence.
And Medlock was right: the bidding process was rigged, and the fix was in from the very beginning.
When you use your public office for personal gain, you're supposed to go through the motions of making it look like you have the best interests of your constituents at heart. This is covered in the very first week of Graft 101; apparently Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune was absent that day.
I swear (ka-ching!)
McGehee is one of those people who throws a quarter in the cuss jar whenever he utters something that lands on the far side of acceptable vernacular.
McGehee, of course, is a private citizen. When the government establishes a cuss jar, it costs a lot more than twenty-five cents:
Bad words are costing Hartford (CT) Public and Bulkeley high schoolers $103 each.
Police officers assigned to the schools have fined about two dozen students for cursing in a new program to curtail unruly behavior. The joint effort by school and police officials targets students who swear while defying teachers and administrators.
When the police are involved in the day-to-day workings of your school, that's probably not a good sign.
I'm curious as to how they determined the amount of the, um, contribution, which is 412 times as much as is assessed chez McGehee, an amount I have no reason to believe is unusually low. Proportionately, the Hartford action is actually more costly than war procurement: not even Halliburton in all its splendor could get away with charging $3,708 for a nine-dollar hammer.
SMS to me
Personally, I think the Blackberry is the second-silliest handheld communication idea ever, behind only cell-phone text messaging. ("If only there was some way I could use this cell phone to get a message to my friend, who also has a cell phone." The very first text message I ever saw someone send? "Call Me." I am not kidding.)
Remember, folks: Email is only one third of the Computing Triad. Until a gizmo can also handle games and porn, it won't catch on.
The next step, I suppose, is to be able to place calls via the iPod Video. (I don't have one of those either.)
My phony phortune
It had been a week since I'd slid into BlogShares, and it took me a while to realize what had happened.
Call it "Black Friday," because that's when it took place. The Game Gods decided that with top players' war chests up in the quadrillions, there was no chance of any mere mortals ascending the heights, and besides, the Ideas Commodities were overpriced. And so it came to pass that the currency crashed and burned, and B$10,000 old became B$1 new. Existing stock holdings remained intact, but the bottom dropped out of purely-speculative ventures.
Not everyone was happy with the change, and I admit to being taken aback when I saw that my B$2 trillion had perforce dropped to B$200 million, but inasmuch as everyone got the same treatment, and if there had been clues telegraphed about it I didn't log on often enough to catch them, I'm not about to complain. Besides, it's had the salutary effect of dragging me to the site more often to try to rebuild my holdings, which may have been the whole idea in the first place.
What I find most amusing about this, apart from (1) being nominated in the first place and (2) actually getting to the finals, is the fact that N. Z. Bear tweaked the Ecosystem shortly after the Awards guys looked up all these numbers, and as a result some of the nominees in this category no longer fit into this category; in fact, of the first four I looked at besides my own, three had moved either up or down far enough to escape this range entirely.
Not that this matters, particularly. You have to have some arbitrary benchmark, and as long as it's consistently applied throughout, I have no complaint.
As always with these things, I urge you to read as many of the nominees as possible before casting your votes. (Warning: The voting system assumes you have Macromedia Flash 7 or higher.)
5 December 2005
Testing my Flux capacitor
Before I look into the future, though, I must reconcile two conflicting visions thereof, both of which emanate from legitimate visionaries. (Placement is by time posted, earlier first.)
There's this one:
Aeon Flux, starring Charlize Theron and Marton Csokas, based on the dark, chaotic animated fantasies of Peter Chung, is a great movie.
And there's this one:
If nothing else (and there won't be) Aeon Flux will have the distinction of being the worst movie this year to star two Best Actress Academy Award winners.
Theoretically, I suppose, these two possibilities need not be mutually exclusive, but in the Real World, in which Sturgeon's Law governs all sort-of-artistic endeavors, I suspect that at least one of these observations may be, if not incorrect, certainly inconsistent with my own findings.
Which I will eventually have to find, of course, if only out of an excessive fondness for Charlize Theron.
Some of us can read
Of the 69 American cities with populations of 250,000 or more, Oklahoma City is, says this survey, the 38th most literate. (Seattle is at the top; Stockton, California, the bottom.)
Components of this scale:
A fairly middling showing, except for the Net-usage level, a new consideration for this year's survey, and given some of what's on the Net, I'd wonder if that criterion should be given so much weight. Incidentally, we pulled 49th last year in Libraries, which indicates either some substantial gains or a major tweak in the methodology.
Tulsa, which made Top 15 in both Educational Level and Libraries, scored 24th overall, tied with Tampa; their worst showing, which will surprise no one who has read this, is in Newspaper Circulation 48th, tied with Wichita.
Compared with last year, Oklahoma City is up one notch, despite the poor Net showing, and Tulsa is down three.
Let there be talking points
Lately, I've been fretting over The Substance of Style's respectable but unspectacular sales (roughly 18,000 copies in hardback, now out of print, and 12,000 copies so far in paperback). One problem seems to be that, while the book has enthusiastic fans, it has gotten minimal word of mouth. Why? Professor Postrel's cheery explanation: "The people who like your stuff don't have any friends."
Maybe my friends don't read the stuff I do. I did mention the book here a couple of years ago, though as an arbiter of contemporary culture I rank somewhere below Heckle and/or Jeckle and presumably don't have a whole lot of clout in the marketplace.
Then again, it could be a simpler issue. From the very same paragraph I quoted in that 2003 post:
People have always decorated their homes. But the aesthetic quality and variety of home interiors have increased dramatically. Furnishings once reserved for rich aficionados are now the stuff of middle-class life.
Given present-day Big Media insistence that the gap between rich and poor is an ever-widening chasm, and that we're teetering on the brink of economic collapse, it's likely not in their best interest to acknowledge that the lifestyles of the nonrich and unfamous not only don't actually suck but might conceivably be improving.
Perhaps more than the turf is artificial
In NFL Week 12, the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers 26-7, and Steelers sources are claiming that the Colts amplified the crowd noise in the RCA Dome and fed it back through the Dome's PA system during Steeler possessions, making it difficult for Pittsburgh players to hear the count and contributing to a number of false-start penalties.
The Colts were pumping in noise, I can tell you that. They had extra microphones spread around the stadium and they took that noise from the fans, put it back in through the PA and that's why it was so loud.
The NFL says it has not received an official complaint; such actions would be a violation of NFL rules.
I wonder what they'd think of Loud City, in the upper reaches of the Ford Center.
(Via Ravenwood's Universe.)
No 8-tracks, though
The holiday catalog from J&R has arrived, and as always, it's crammed full of neat techie stuff that I don't really need but am always tempted to buy anyway.
Page 22 is labeled "Media," and they've got CDs and two or three flavors of recordable DVDs and tape for digital camcorders and even Sony MiniDiscs.
And in the midst of all this is a number I know well: L-750.
Migod, it's actual Beta tape! From Sony, with the Betamax logo and everything, and a $3.99 price tag. Considering the last consumer Betamax for the US market came out in 1993, this would seem incredible. (Then again, I bought my last Beta machine in 1997.) But production continued in other markets, notably Japan which matters, since Japan, like the US, uses NTSC video and the very last Betamax was produced in 2002. And I must admit that the idea that you can still get tapes for what is technically a thirty-year-old system has a certain visceral appeal; it's like finding a stash of Kaiser-Frazer parts.
Saltier than Lot's wife
Yes, I'm aware that there are scenes of fierce eroticism in the Old Testament, but do I really want to see them in full color on a calendar?
Well, um, maybe.
(Via Sexoteric Blog; I wouldn't recommend opening up any of these links in the presence of coworkers.)
As though leaves weren't enough
The winds have changed direction almost every day since Thanksgiving, which means a wider variety of debris blowing into the yard. Most of the time, I don't really care how it got there; I pick it up, toss it into the trash, and that's the end of it.
But there has to be some sort of story about how a ClearBlue Easy Pregnancy Test stick, still in its wrapper one end was torn slightly, but not enough to remove the product wound up beside my mulberry tree.
Not that I particularly want to hear that story, mind you.
6 December 2005
You're gorgeous, we hate you
For no reason I can fathom, I got about 150 visitors yesterday looking for stuff about Harvard librarian Desiree Goodwin, whose claim to fame was filing a discrimination suit against the university. (I wrote about her a few times, first here, last here.)
While trying to figure out how she'd managed to score a few seconds of fame beyond the canonical 15 minutes, I turned up this report on a Wisconsin study which asserts that "sexy-looking females face intense office contempt and hostility if they're in management positions," and which referenced Goodwin's unsuccessful suit against Harvard.
I tend to steer clear of office politics when I can, but it seems at least possible to me that the aforementioned SLFs might face hostility even if they're not in management positions. Then again, half the human race, myself included, is below average in appearance, so maybe I'm the wrong person to take up this topic.
Addendum, 9 December: The demand increases; I respond with a photograph.
A tip of the green eyeshade
A shout-out this morning to Geitner Simmons, who, I have only recently learned, is now the Editorial Page Editor of the Omaha World-Herald, and who, as I have known for some time, is a regular reader of this very page.
Mr Simmons has a personal blog, devoted to history, regionalism and culture, called Regions of Mind. If you haven't already, give him a look; he's got an interesting piece this week on how urban sprawl is not a purely-American phenomenon.
Lord Kelvin snickers in the afterlife
Temperatures have been distinctly below normal for most of the last week, and are about to become more so; moreover, we're expecting snow not a blizzard or anything, but not a mere dusting either to drop upon us tomorrow.
Which wouldn't be a big deal, of course, except that local media are anxious to impress upon us the severity of it all, largely because it's been nine or ten months since we had any winter precipitation at all and they assume that we've totally forgotten what it's like in the interim.
Then there's this:
Snow is on the way, forecasters predict, and highs this week are expected to be in the 20s half of what they normally are.
Emphasis added. This is the first really compelling argument for the adoption of the metric system I've seen in some time: with the normal high for this time of year about 10 degrees Celsius and the expected high tomorrow about -8, nobody is going to look at those numbers and conclude that it's going to be twice as cold as usual. (Comparing to absolute zero, the only way to obtain a meaningful comparison, the difference is about six percent, regardless of whose temperature scale you use.)
And you know, I'm not even grumbling about the farging snow: we haven't had any measurable precipitation in this neck of the woods since Halloween.
Hmmm. I just spun over to Lileks, and he said this:
Note: the current temperature, as I write, is Two. In an hour it will be One. The temperature will drop fifty percent! (Note: yes, I know, as measured against Absolute Zero this is not the case. But it already feels like Absolute Zero, so spare me the emails.)
Maybe that's the proper attitude.
How I miss Poulan Weedeater
College bowl games used to have names. Now they have sponsors and naming rights and horrid mashups like this:
God forbid bloggers should become sponsors:
How long until we see a Cotton Pajamas Media Bowl?
Always first with the least
TULSA, Okla. (AP) An Oklahoma Transportation Authority engineer is hoping an odd speed limit will get the attention of drivers, and slow them down in construction zones.
Jarry Slaughter has posted speed limit signs of 17 miles per hour at three toll plazas that are under construction at Stroud, Vinita and Afton.
From the last day of World Tour '05, which would be the 19th of July:
[S]ome 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.
We now return to our usual level of humility.
No acrostics in Islamabad
The government of Pakistan is removing a poem from English-language textbooks used in state schools because the first letter of each line, in sequence, spells out PRESIDENT GEORGE W BUSH.
An official for the Ministry of Education explains:
We have decided to delete the poem from the book, published by the National Book Foundation (NBF) and prescribed for the federal board students of intermediate [English]. It will be stretching the matter too far to assert that the poem was inserted in the book deliberately to enumerate the qualities of the American president.
In other words: "We don't know if it was intentional, but we're taking no chances."
Pakistan deregulated textbook publishing in 2004, opening the market to new publishers; the anonymous poem, titled "The Leader," appeared in a text that was approved earlier this year. It goes like this:
Patient and steady with all he must bear,
Ready to accept every challenge with care,
Easy in manner, yet solid as steel,
Strong in his faith, refreshingly real,
Isn't afraid to propose what is bold,
Doesn't conform to the usual mold,
Eyes that have foresight, for hindsight won't do,
Never back down when he sees what is true,
Tells it all straight, and means it all too,
Going forward and knowing he's right,
Even when doubted for why he would fight,
Over and over he makes his case clear,
Reaching to touch the ones who won't hear,
Growing in strength, he won't be unnerved,
Ever assuring he'll stand by his word,
Wanting the world to join his firm stand,
Bracing for war, but praying for peace,
Using his power so evil will cease:
So much a leader and worthy of trust,
Here stands a man who will do what he must.
Certainly the scansion could use a little help.
An angle I hadn't considered
There is no "Maureen Dowd"; the construct is just an elaborate joke played by the Times editorial board.
Which leads to the next question: who's that playing MoDo on the talk-show circuit? I'm betting on Klinkenborg.
(One of miriam's ideas.)
Hot times in Memphis
If the Grizzlies play for the rest of the season like they did tonight, they'll win the division: they didn't do much of anything wrong.
The Hornets didn't do much of anything right, which is why they lost at Memphis, 89-73; it's the Grizzlies' sixth straight win, and the Bees' second straight loss.
The Celtics come to town tomorrow, and there should be snow to greet them.
7 December 2005
Quote of the week
Democratic National Committee Vice-Chair Susan Turnbull, asked by Neil Cavuto if Iraq, as Turnbull's boss Howard Dean suggested, was like Vietnam, responded: "How is it not like Vietnam?"
I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing average rainfall per year and the lack of good hookers.
Seems about right to me.
A pox on both your houses
The flap over Christmas and other minor skirmishes in the culture wars are basically a product of an "unholy collusion," says Eric Scheie:
There used to be a more or less secular form of God, but over the years champions of secular atheism such as the ACLU in unholy collusion with certain religious conservatives worked relentlessly to purged this workable compromise from the schools and even from the founding. This has radicalized the debate into two very shrill camps: those who scream "God" when they mean fundamentalism, and those who scream "secular!" when they mean atheism. In my view, it's increasingly hopeless.
Pat Robertson types and ACLU types have done more for each other than they have for the country. The fact that enemies often obtain leverage from their enemies is a simple enough concept that I suppose an economist or mathematician could reduce it to a formula.
It's a perfect setup: each demonizes the other and requests funding to sustain the fight, and the cycle repeats indefinitely. The only way to break the cycle is for the general public to tell one side or the other (or, preferably in my view, both sides) to go to hell, or the secular equivalent thereof.
In pinball we call this "tilt"
Assuming you actually have an Xbox 360, you might be well advised to leave it in one place:
If you couldn't resist the lure of Microsoft's new Xbox 360 game console, do yourself a favor and don't move it while it's on. Even though a selling point of the new console is that it can be oriented either horizontally or vertically, turning it from one position to the other while it is on will cause the game disc inside to be gouged. Big scratches on your new $60 game and the smell of burnt plastic.
It's nice to know that Microsoft, having mastered the art of cantankerous, less-than-robust software, is now applying that expertise to its hardware.
Maybe someone set him up
More police officers mean more arrests mean a higher crime rate.
This guy is turning into the Marion Barry of the Midwest. (Well, I suppose we'll have to catch him buying crack first.)
I haven't blogged for ::gulp:: four days??
How is it that I don't blog and my stats are up through the roof?
Zen master Mister Snitch! sees it this way:
The secret of blogging is not to blog at all.
For those of us already entangled in the web, perhaps the most rational approach is to keep one finger on the Delete button.
Of course, for my current 168 fix, I go to the 168th Carnival of the Vanities, hosted by Denali Flavors, with just that subtle hint of moose.
Rush to trash
Everyone was in a complete uproar about this; so I went from place to place and calmed and rebuked everyone from freaking out. It was just about this time that I made morning announcements and during our state mandated moment of silence (and yes I really do love that time each morning because I do take the opportunity to pray ... and you can imagine what I was praying about this morning), things seemed to kind of turn around. We quit thinking about the mess and just got right on with business; and our business is about teaching the kids how to read, write, and problem solve.
The fifth grade teachers began to use all these events to teach their students about the political process. They read and talked about the lottery legislation. They were able to give tangible evidence how perspective is everything in a story and how we all had a different perspective. The teachers were able to take this disappointing event and make a lasting contribution to the children's understanding of point of view. We harbored no ill will. We did not "sell" the lottery or even support it; we simply taught about the legislation and the proposed effect on public education in Oklahoma. We let the negativity go.
If nothing else, there's a new entry on the kids' vocabulary list: Grandstanding. As products of the Oklahoma Legislature go, it's second in volume, ranking just above Bad Bills but below Desperate Pleas for Attention. (Remember this for Social Studies, if they still teach Social Studies anywhere on earth.)
(Previous coverage here.)
Could I borrow some bandwidth?
You know, this could work:
Speakeasy has a program where you can share your connection with your neighbors. They handle the billing, you handle the admin headaches. You get your bill reduced. So you can go get that $120 1.5 megabit connection, split it 4 ways and be spending 30 bucks a month for high speed goodness. Admittedly during peak time you might be splitting bandwidth, but that's no big deal, and that is the same as a cable modem in any case.
And besides, you've already learned how much admin sucketh by installing your own wireless network; how much worse can it get just adding on a few more users?
White flags from the Blue Oval
Dear Bill Ford:
Sixty-four years, post-infamy
Most of us who grew up in the 1950s, didn't know our parents were The Greatest Generation. We just wished they'd quit harping about growing up in the Depression. ("When I was your age, we walked ten miles to school in the snow...")
Those two subjects, The War and The Depression, gave our parents enormous moral authority, as well as a boundless supply of instructive stories at the dinner table.
We didn't appreciate it much at the time. Now that so many of the old folks are going or gone, we do.
I'm a few years younger than Doc just a few but I know just what he means.
As a member of the Largest Generation, I didn't have as much riding on my shoulders, but I have the satisfaction of knowing I put forth some effort of my own.
(Revised a couple of times.)
Pretending to be handy
It occurs to me that the optimum time for replacing a toilet flapper is not the day when the incoming water is at its coldest.
(Yes, I did shut off the valve. It's still cold inside that tank.)
Bossed from Bosstown
Not quite a sellout, but almost 18,753 officially despite weather which can be charitably described as "uncomfortable." Still, this game is played indoors, which doesn't explain why the Hornets' shooting was so cold tonight. The Celtics trounced the Bees, 101-87, leaving both teams at 8-10 and putting an end to a three-game winning streak at the Ford. David West led all scorers with 29, but it takes five guys to play this game.
This is definitely a rough month. Coming up: another West Coast tour, starting with Portland on Friday night.
8 December 2005
Which means, more or less, "armchair of love," and this is it, even if, as Sean Thomas writes, it looks like "a commode for an incontinent Chinese warlord."
Edward VII apparently had a contraption like this designed for use with threesomes and moresomes, which I suppose is further evidence that it's good to be the king. Me, I can't imagine either the logistics or the trigonometry.
MoDo made over
The New York Times has apparently replaced Maureen Dowd's old headshot with a new one. Does it make any difference? Gawker opines:
The old one, with its dark background and pursed lips, said, "I'm mysterious and witty." And the new one, with a white background and tousled hair? Just one thing: "Marry me!"
I don't know. The new photo might be good for Casual Friday, but I'm not convinced she's comfy when she's casual.
What the Chamber has in mind
Last night, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce held its annual banquet, and Chairman Fred Hall announced that one thing he wants for the new year is a new, or at least revised, county government.
After the abolition of the Oklahoma County Budget Board last January, a move widely viewed as payback for the county's addition of sexual orientation to its nondiscrimination rules, power in the county was essentially consolidated in a bloc of two Commissioners. Rep. Mike Shelton (D-OKC) subsequently offered a bill to let the state's two largest counties operate under home rule rather than under the state's county model; it didn't go anywhere. The Chamber, said Hall, will push for similar legislation in 2006.
Also on the agenda, initiatives more typical of a Chamber of Commerce: "branding" the city, expanding health-science and aerospace, tort reform, and elimination of the state income tax. (What would replace it? Who knows?)
Books of Chronicles
La Shawn Barber, usually seen in her Corner, has put together Fantasy Fiction for Christians, just in time for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; there will also be Harry Potter discussions, and whatever else happens to fit into the format.
Double-nickel: still dead
Better transportation is faster, safer and cheaper.
Ten years ago today, we took a step toward the first two of those goals by repealing the national 55-mph speed limit inflicted upon us in the 1970s. For more than two decades this example of government meddling at its most fatuous stifled traffic, ostensibly in the name of saving fuel as a result of OPEC's oil embargo; when the embargo was lifted, the speed limit remained, justified this time as a safety measure. And the government was serious: they even mandated that speedometers in motor vehicles give special prominence to 55, and that no readings over 85 mph be permitted. (Which, of course, in yet another example of the inexorable Law of Unintended Consequences, led to a lot of people speeding over 85 just to see what would happen.)
Ten years after repeal, traffic is moving faster, to the extent that higher traffic levels permit it to move faster, and the death rate continues to decline. It's arguable whether we're saving any money with the higher limits time is worth something, I contend but as Loaf's Law says, two out of three ain't bad.
The Gas Game (December)
In case you missed the introduction, this is an effort to see if I was either prescient or stupid when I opted not to take advantage of Oklahoma Natural Gas's Voluntary Fixed Price rate of $8.393 per dekatherm.
Right now, I'm running closer to the latter:
The really disturbing statistic is the fact that the meter for the December bill was read on the last day of November, before the beginning of the current cold snap.
Still got ten months to take up the slack, though.
9 December 2005
What were once vices are now habits
About two years ago, Lyric Theatre, having done mainstream musicals since the dawn of time, put a tentative toe into some different waters. The "Second Stage" project, as it was known then, was dedicated to the possibility that the alleged archconservative theatrical audience of Oklahoma City was neither all that conservative nor particularly arch.
Accordingly, Second Stage put on Pageant: The Musical Comedy Beauty Contest, a wickedly funny and deeply bitchy send-up of all such competitions, featuring six beautiful women and, yes, an all-male cast. (I saw that production, and wrote about it here.) Pageant was a definite hit, and it was just a matter of time before they brought it back.
Not that Lyric is giving up on the likes of Beauty and the Beast, of course. But clearly someone on 16th Street realizes that you can get an audience without having to show them corn as high as an elephant's eye.
God and the UFCW
Here's the script:
Our faith teaches us "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
If these are our values, then ask yourself: should people of faith shop at Wal-Mart this holiday season?
When Wal-Mart repeatedly broke child labor laws, is being sued by 1.5 million women for discrimination, and over 600,000 Wal-Mart workers and their families have no company health care?
If these are Wal-Mart's values should people of faith shop at Wal-Mart?
This spot is running in six states, including Oklahoma.
I'm guessing I was absent the day they covered the Biblical requirement for health insurance, but that's a minor issue compared to this:
"Out of our religious heritage comes the recognition that we are not allowed to deprive people of their God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. In this respect the Wal-Mart form of business represents plantation capitalism; the few become very wealthy and the many become poorer," stated Reverend James Lawson of Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles, CA.
They're depriving people of life, liberty and so forth? Is something going on at Associates meetings that I don't know about?
I admit to being a bit perplexed by this "Where would Jesus shop?" premise. I think we can safely conclude that JC opposed commerce in the Temple, but beyond that, it's hard to be sure.
On the other hand, Paul lectured the Thessalonians thusly (New KJV):
For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you; nor did we eat anyone's bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, not because we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.
For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.
And we're awash in busybodies these days, says Dan Fogelman of Wal-Mart:
Truly, many Americans are deeply offended that union leadership would use religion as just another tactic in the negative attack campaign against a company that donates more money to good works than any other company in America.
"Deeply offended?" I'm not. Then again, I rather strongly suspect that if the United Food and Commercial Workers had negotiated a contract with Bentonville that gave Wal-Mart Associates exactly what they're getting now, we wouldn't be seeing any of this.
Virtue is its own punishment
Man nurtures the suspicion that God, at the end of the day, takes something away from his life, that God is a competitor who limits our freedom and that we will be fully human only when we will have set him aside.
There emerges in us the suspicion that the person who doesn't sin at all is basically a boring person, that something is lacking in his life, the dramatic dimension of being autonomous, that the freedom to say 'no' belongs to real human beings.
I must point out here that occasional sin hasn't made me any less boring.
Besides, as E. M. Zanotti notes, "There is only so much debauchery you can take."
And, well, most of the time I wouldn't even recognize a bauch.
Pictured here is Desiree Goodwin, fortysomething Harvard librarian, who sued the university charging discrimination: I titled my first post about her "I'm too sexy for my desk". Inasmuch as this is a hot story on job-finding Web sites this week I've had over 900 hits so far from people looking for, if not her story, certainly her picture the least I can do is oblige. (Oh, what we won't go through for more traffic.)
Addendum: Pertinent quote from her LISNews interview:
I think that the perception that librarians are conservative, homogeneous, and out of touch will be ultimately harmful to us, and if [we] don't change that image we will be left behind as society evolves.
I'm guessing that she means "conservative" as in "mossback," not in its contemporary political context; the American Library Association tends to veer somewhat leftward.
Cavalcade of Trolls
We've all seen them: exemplars of moral twerpitude who clutter up your comment sections (though usually not mine, for some inscrutable reason) with drivel ranging from arguable to "Arrrgghhh!"
Well, okay, we haven't seen them in the literal sense only their residue.
But Julie R. Neidlinger, who sees more than most of us, unmasks the miscreants once and for all.
Your DA wants deadbeats
One major revenue source for local prosecutors in this state is collecting on bad checks, which typically bring in $140 or so per item. So it's no surprise that Cleveland County DA Tim Kuykendall was unhappy to hear that Wal-Mart may start turning over bad checks to collection agencies rather than to district attorneys.
Kuykendall says that his office brings in about $1.5 million per year, half of which comes from bad-check charges; half of those come from Wal-Mart, about $384,000 worth in 2004.
No bed of roses
Definitely a nailbiter at Portland tonight: with two seconds left the Blazers tied it up at 89 and sent it into overtime, then won it in the extra five minutes while the Hornets failed to drop a single field goal until the final buzzer. The final was 98-95, the fourth loss in a row for the Bees.
Sunday to Sacramento, then Monday at Phoenix. Like I said, a rough month.
10 December 2005
Fatuous Flashback 11
In the midst of the second-coldest December on record:
This morning about a quarter to seven, I stood outside and tried to pay attention.
It was 45 minutes before dawn. Traffic was conspicuous by its absence schools were closed for a second day and a blanket of white covered everything in sight. It was eerily quiet; even the ubiquitous Oklahoma wind was taking it easy for once. Shapes too familiar to notice at other times had acquired seemingly-random new contours.
And I thought about a similar time, almost a quarter-century ago, a time when the snow was piled up past my heart, and I didn't care because I'd just given it away for what I had thought would be eternity.
And I thought about how hope dissolves into failure, how the pure white of snow disappears under the dirty grey of our tires and our shoes and our disappointment.
And then, of course, I went inside and complained about this damn winter.
(From this untitled entry, 14 December 2000.)
You will be assimilated
Resistance will be overcome with large quantities of cash.
The Chesapeake Energy campus in Oklahoma City continues to grow; last week the company bought two office buildings along the south side of NW 63rd near Shartel. At the present rate of expansion, they should hit the Broadway Extension some time in early 2011.
Here's a guy who provides his own motive force for acceleration.
Monday, Monday, so good to me
Well, certainly not to me, personally, but you get the idea.
The city utility bill just arrived, and with it a copy of City News, a single-sheet handout that usually doesn't have anything I feel like discussing here. The operative word, of course, is "usually."
Oklahoma City offices, says City News, will be closed on the following days:
For five points, on which of those days, if any, will the city pick up trash?
Today in disconcert
I've seen a lot of strange things through a windshield before, but never this: guys actually working on the mechanism of an automated car wash, while someone (yes, 'twas I) was in said car wash with the sprayers and whatnot going full tilt.
Entertainment like this almost makes up for the dismal gas-mileage result (22.0 mpg) from the previous tank, which I blame on the single-digit weather of midweek.
(Got down to 3 Fahrenheit, yet here Thursday morning after a Wednesday that never made it out of the teens, and yes, there was some of that white stuff too. The real thrill, though, was Wednesday afternoon, when I was giving a coworker a ride home, and the windshield froze over. On the inside. As Billy Crystal was wont to say, "I hate when that happens.")
The chronicles of Smarmia
[T]here is no truth to the rumor that I am writing a retrospective on the Bill Clinton / Hillary Clinton / Monica Lewinsky scandal entitled The Lyin', The Bitch And The Wardrobe.
Further comment from me would obviously be superfluous.
And it's deep, too
A moment of, well, laughter, because he would have insisted: Richard Pryor has died at sixty-five, and who among us ever would have imagined that he'd live to sixty-five? The man was so much larger than life you just knew that life wouldn't put up with that sort of insolence for long.
And the best thing is, it wasn't that damned multiple sclerosis that got him: it was a good old-fashioned heart attack. (Which puts him ahead of George Carlin, four to three.)
For when pink just won't do
Now there's Code Red: Women For The Troops.
(Warning: Lots of voices when you arrive.)
11 December 2005
Why city schools matter
Tom Lindley's column in this morning's Oklahoman takes a look at Wilson School, north of downtown, and how it's coming back from the brink:
Since 1997, test scores at the school have risen from below the 45th percentile-range in reading and math to 84 percent and 88 percent, respectively, with the help of a curriculum that uses visual arts, drama and music to teach reading and math skills.
Teachers volunteered to work an extra half-hour each day so there is time to tailor the curriculum for each level of learning.
The volunteers include parents, alumni and neighborhood friends whose latest fund-raising effort is ambitious. The goal is to raise almost $700,000 to ensure enough classroom space to support the arts-based curriculum in Wilson's $3.6 million MAPS for Kids makeover, which will get under way next year.
The hope is that if the formula works at Wilson, where some kids go home to mansions and others to homeless shelters and where almost all the ethnic groups in Oklahoma City intersect, maybe it can hasten the return of the middle class to other neighborhoods.
The important thing here is that the good stuff at Wilson started happening before the facelifts and such. New facilities are wonderful (and, in the case of Wilson, long overdue) to have, but a prettier shell doesn't in and of itself necessarily indicate a better egg.
Still, MAPS for Kids was a vote of confidence by city taxpayers, and that confidence is showing up in test scores and in the Academic Performance Index; city schools know they're just one sector of the education marketplace, and they have responded, not by grumbling about the competition or by pointing to dark forces that presumably seek to undermine them, but by actually competing.
However, the fight for urban public education is not solely about finding a way to increase public school enrollment and economic diversity.
It also is about returning inner-city schools to a level of excellence they enjoyed decades ago, and it is about using diversity as a building block, not a wedge.
After all, when they dubbed the program "MAPS for Kids," they didn't specify colors.
XXVIII through XXX
The New World Man suggests three Constitutional amendments:
1. I would repeal the 22nd Amendment's term limits for the President. I would provide for more candidates each year by requiring the Senate to nominate one of its members, and governors to nominate one of their number, for President, then letting the political parties nominate others, including the incumbent if they want. I would get minor parties in the door by providing for six debates by law, with participation open to any candidate who gets a certain number of signatures on a nationwide petition. I would require any participant in these debates to be on the ballot for President in every state.
I would provide that candidates for President could only take donations from persons, and must publicize the names and amounts as soon as the check is cashed. There would be no limit to the amount of a donation, but everyone (including the candidate's opponents, who would make sure the public knew) would know exactly where it came from. Finally, I would expand the number of electors to three times the number of Congressmen and Senators a state is entitled to and award electors proportionately to the popular vote in the state no more winner take all.
While my state has unusually difficult ballot access, I don't think I want the Federal government in charge of regulating something that has always been considered a proper state function. And I'm guessing that the tripling of electors is an attempt to avoid fractions when the proportional electoral votes are doled out, an idea about which I have my doubts.
As to the question of repealing the 22nd itself, I'd rather not have spite (in this case, originally directed at FDR) enshrined in the law of the land. If we're going to have term limits on a national level, let them be on the Congress, where a small percentage of lame ducks every second year will scarcely be noticed.
2. I would keep direct election of Senators, on the theory that I don't want to contract the franchise in the Constitution. But I would provide that a Senator could be recalled by vote of the state legislature and replaced by the sitting governor of the state. Hopefully, this would accomplish a couple things. It would make Senators more interested in doing what their constituents elected them to do; but the recall power would not be abused if the sitting governor had to take his/her place and a special election for governor had to ensue.
I looked askance at this, but he explains further:
I want to be able to recall Senators because they're awfully difficult to unseat themselves. I don't like the 17th Amendment, but as I say, I like the idea of amending the constitution to give people less power to vote even less. The idea isn't to get rid of underperforming Senators, though that's a feature, it's to keep their feet to the fire and incentivize them to represent their states. Does Sen. Ted Stevens act so intractable in the face of significant opposition in his own state to his "bridge to nowhere" if Alaska's legislature can recall him, for example?
This would work in Oklahoma only if someone were able to clone Brad Henry.
Inasmuch as state voters do vote for their governor and legislators, I don't think that repealing the 17th would actually give people "less power to vote."
3. I would provide that Congress' power to enforce the 14th Amendment includes the exclusive right to determine whether a state law violates it, and that no federal court may strike down, nullify or substantially revise a state law as violative of that amendment.
Of these three, this is the one I like best, and were I to make a wish list of my own, this one would be on it. (Besides, it's consonant with the text of the 14th: "Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.") Congress, unlike the federal courts, is answerable to the electorate. And you'd scarcely hear another whimper about "activist judges" and such.
The last word in OETA: Authority
Commercial radio and television have a huge (and problematic) split between customers (advertisers) and consumers (viewers and listeners). Yet, for some dumb reason (too many staffers coming over from the growing labor pool of laid-off commercial broadcast marketers?), public broadcasting has looked to commercial broadcasting as an ideal model. Rather than make it easier than ever for its consumers to become customers, and for its customers to become more involved with the stations, public broadcasting whored itself to underwriters and other "sponsors."
Maybe that's an unkind characterization, but there's a follow-the-money effect at work here. As dependence on federal money shrinks, commercial sponsors take up the slack. There is a natural drift of energy toward pleasing those advertisers (which is what they are), and away from customers that really matter: paying listeners and viewers. In other words, public broadcasting has been doing its best to behave like commercial broadcasting. Not helpful.
Regarding our own (so to speak) PBS facilities, Matt Deatherage notes:
OETA is rich because it turns the purpose of public broadcasting as upside-down as it can and still call itself "public broadcasting." OETA is rich because it made sure it wouldn't run programs giving progressive Oklahomans a voice if what they said might annoy people with deep pockets.
Of course, the most grievous problem with OETA is that it's an entity of the state, subject to legislative oversight, and l