1 February 2006
Brother, can you spare a twenty?

According to the old joke, it's called "take-home" pay because you can't afford to go anywhere else with it.

ACNielsen research reports that of all the people they surveyed, the Americans and the Portuguese are the most cash-strapped; twenty-two percent of their US survey respondents reported that once the bills are paid, there's nothing left.

Then again, it was 28 percent last year, so at least some folks are doing better now.

And there's this:

[O]f U.S. consumers who do have spare cash, their first priority for that money is debt repayment (42%). This number has increased nine percentage points since October 2004.

I am slowly but semi-surely whittling down that mountain of debt, though an occasional Pick 3 winner would help.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 AM to Common Cents )
Open Subchannel D

I never thought about this, but now that it's come up:

If you're recording an audiobook, how do you handle the footnotes? What if the character falls down a well? Should the your voice change? And are you true to the punctuation, breathing, pausing, lifting your voice as originally heard in the author's head? These are some of the little dilemmas facing the people who put a voice to a book.

I do know that when I'm called upon to read out loud — mercifully, these days this is for the benefit of a child or occasionally two, not for a grade which goes on my Permanent Record — I do my best to provide the inflections I think are indicated by the material, and try not to sound too much like a dork. (Exception: when I'm reading something that's supposed to be dorky.)

It's been suggested to me once or twice that I should put out some of this here drivel in book form, and I've always fended off the idea with "What would I do with the links?"

Actually, this question has already been answered. In 1997, Wired Books (then related to the magazine) put out a compilation of articles from my favorite Webzine under the title Suck: Worst Case Scenarios in Media, Culture, Advertising, and the Internet, edited by Joey Anuff (who used the Suckronym "The Duke of URL") and Ana Marie Cox (then "Ann O. Tate," more recently "Wonkette"). The articles were printed with the links highlighted; a line was drawn from the link to a sidebar, which contained the pertinent section of the linked material and its URL, in a wholly-different font so you wouldn't be confused by all this linear digression. At the time, it seemed freaking ingenious; today, it seems, well, freaking ingenious, even if you can click on a link in a PDF file these days.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:04 AM to Almost Yogurt )
176

Beck thinks it's 4897, but he lost count somewhere along the way, a feeling I know well.

Anyway, it's the 176th Carnival of the Vanities, a week's worth of high-intensity bloggage, hosted by Incite, and refreshingly free of anything from me.

Numerical trivia: Tulsa's firefighters are members of IAFF Local 176.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:11 AM to Blogorrhea )
Might as well face it

"We're addicted to oil," says George W. Bush.

Possible reasons for this statement, per Pudentilla:

  1. he's setting up another effort to drill in alaska; or
  2. he's mindless borrowing democratic rhetoric in an effort to appear thoughtful; or
  3. he knows the iran thing is about to go to hell in a handbasket, sending u.s. oil and gas prices through the roof and wants to be able to claim in retrospect that he was doing "hard work" on the energy issue before the fit hit the shan?; or
  4. something else the dark lord (f.o.a.l.*)'s working on but we can't figure out yet?

* father of a lesbian

I'm thinking one part "b," one part "d," and maybe a side of "Geez, Laura, have you seen this Texaco bill?"

And, now that I think about it, wasn't Rove supposed to be the Dark Lord?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:20 AM to Family Joules )
Foyilled again

Actually, few of us are ever Foyilled to begin with. I go through there maybe once a year just to avoid the Will Rogers Turnpike.

Foyil, Oklahoma, population 250 or thereabouts, is a little more than a wide spot in the road along Route 66 between Chelsea and Claremore, where Oklahoma 28 veers off to the east; the railroad runs parallel to 66 on the west.

Lynn has a few photos from this little town, including its terminally cute City Hall — although there is one explicable omission.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:00 PM to Soonerland )
Killed my groove, I've got to say

WESTERN UNION NO LONGER IN TELEGRAPH BUSINESS STOP COMPANY NOW BEING SPUN OFF FROM FIRST DATA SENT LAST TELEGRAMS LAST THURSDAY STOP WILL CONCENTRATE ON FUNDS TRANSFER BUSINESS STOP SAMUEL F B MORSE REPORTEDLY SPINNING IN GRAVE STOP

(Via Outside the Beltway.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:03 PM to Dyssynergy )
Narrow escape

In their previous game, the Bulls were losing to the Mavericks by 30 points; they only lost by four. So you have to figure that the Hornets' 17-point lead in the second quarter wouldn't hold up, and it didn't; Chicago managed to retake the lead with three minutes left. But the Bees, in Sean Kelley's phrase, hit the switch at the right time, winning 100-95.

Now this is dedication: Aaron Williams, just acquired from Toronto, arrived at the Ford at 6:15, less than an hour before tipoff, and suited up. What's more, Byron Scott put him in four minutes into the game. (And the sellout crowd gave Williams a standing ovation when he set foot on the court, which had to be gratifying for everyone; he responded with 8 points, matching his season high, five boards, and two blocked shots. And five fouls, but you can't have everything.)

Incidentally, Williams is wearing the same number — 34 — that he wore for the Raptors; I have no idea what number Steven Hunter, due in from Philadelphia shortly, will be wearing, since Rasual Butler already wears 45.

Five Bees in double figures tonight; Chris Paul knocked down 25 and 13 assists.

There's still the question of what the Hornets, now 23-22, will do with Kobe and the Lakers this weekend — but that will be answered soon enough.

(Addendum: Brian Hanley of the Chicago Sun-Times heads his writeup: "Hornets cast a Paul on road trip." And Hunter's been assigned number 31.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:36 PM to Net Proceeds )
2 February 2006
Strange search-engine queries (7)

Another compilation of the weird things that draw people to this very site.

hit the road jack the meaning of the song:  I think it's to be found in the phrase "And don't you come back no more, no more, no more, no more."

naked lady t shirt:  If she's naked, how is she wearing a T-shirt?

what percentage of teenagers lose their virginity on prom night?  Somewhere between 0 and 100. Beyond that, it's impossible to be sure. (I was a 0, but you knew that.)

faith hill long legs:  Yea, let us give thanks unto the Lord.

what is the nearest large city to feasterville trevose:  Define "large." Otherwise, Philadelphia.

dating someone unattractive:  I have never dated someone unattractive. This does not, however, work in reverse.

switch bodies paris hilton:  It's not her body that's annoying.

sex with weman:  You mean this guy?

playboy wax:  Airbrushing is less painful.

are republicans donkeys or elephants:  Some of them are dinosaurs.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:23 AM to You Asked For It )
No similarity otherwise

Oh, what wondrous things you find in your referral logs.

In the context of Oklahoma City, David Stanley Ford is an automobile dealership at 39th and May.

Elsewhere, David Stanley Ford is a playwright, who has written an American historical drama I'd love to see: The Interrogation of Nathan Hale, in which the man who regretted having but one life to lose for his country reveals the last secrets of that life.

Is it too much to hope that one of our local theatrical troupes might consider staging this work?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:02 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Top of the heap

The Carnivals, of course, come out weekly, and they are staggeringly popular. But inevitably, they have a short shelf life: the participants strut and fret their paragraphs on the page and are promptly forgotten in seven days.

"Or maybe not," reasoned Mister Snitch as he sought to assemble the Best Blog Posts of 2005, a megacompilation which is, I think, the closest equivalent in blogdom to the Academy Awards.

Seriously. The awards for Best Something-Or-Other Blog, while worthy in their own right, are more like Oscar's Lifetime Achievement Award: it's given for a body of work rather than for any specific individual performance. And the recipients thereof would be the last persons on earth to suggest that everything they did was on the same superlative plane.

Snitch's compilation, by contrast, looked for the best individual performances during the calendar year, the posts which, given the ephemeral nature of this medium, have managed to stand the test of time. Ultimately, he hopes to see the collection, perhaps abridged for space considerations, appear in book form.

Still, one aspect of the Carnivals carries over: I'm happy to point you to the results, and urge you to read as many of them as time permits. (I won't feel hurt if you skip this one.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:18 AM to Blogorrhea )
This is no way to make friends

Especially on the day before a heinous worm is supposed to crap all over us:

You may experience problems with updating your [antivirus] program. The error message you will receive is "Fatal Error 3". We are aware of the problem and are working to post a fix shortly. Please try the update again later. Please do not open a technical support issue related to this problem.

Not that I'm worried — if I'm reading this right, I already have a signature file to detect this little POS — but I know an awful lot of people who don't.

(Macintosh partisans: go ahead and gloat, but be sure to identify yourself as such. Not that it's hard to tell. Besides, it's not like Chairman Bill is looking out for us.)

(Update, 4:15 pm: Fixed.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:22 PM to PEBKAC )
And we were worrying about Kobe

Some day we may be worrying about this:

Epiphanny Prince of Murry Bergtraum High School [NYC] scored 113 points in a game Wednesday, breaking a girls' national prep record previously held by Hall of Famer Cheryl Miller.

Prince, a 5-foot-9 senior guard, led her team to a 137-32 victory over Brandeis High School.

Someone thought to ask the Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James what he thought of this, and he said:

It's an amazing thing when an individual does that. I don't know who she is, but maybe we'll see her in the WNBA. For that matter, the NBA.

And you know, at five-foot-nine, she's not much shorter than Speedy Claxton.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:05 PM to Net Proceeds )
I do declare

The late Charles H. Goren, reflecting on the days when he was still bidding two no trump with only 17 points, recalled asking one of the experts of the day to reveal the Secret of His Success. Said the expert, "All you have to do is sit South. Look at any bridge column or book. South always has the best hand at the table." Since then, said Goren, he has always tried to sit South.

Meanwhile, Laurence Simon, no dummy, asks:

If you play Bridge with the table on top of the North Pole, is everybody South?

(Disclosure: I have played in exactly one ACBL-sanctioned tournament, with an unrepentant Spades player as partner. We took third place.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:01 PM to Say What? )
3 February 2006
A man of constant maintenance

Since Acidman is almost pathologically truthful these days, I'll take this at face value:

I'll be 54 years old in two weeks. I've owned a total of ELEVEN different cars in my life.... I suppose that's really not very many, especially when I consider where I stand right now.

I'd say it's as close to the practical minimum as you can get — unless you happen to be, um, me. My next birthday is my 53rd; my current car is my sixth, and that includes one I hardly ever drove and gave up in the separation agreement. (Scarier: when I turned 40, I was still on the third.)

I think we can all agree, though, that car payments are an abomination unto the Lord.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:31 AM to Driver's Seat )
A Friday frolic

Which is by way of saying that I got nothin' much this morning, and feel free (without violating the usual considerations of taste and/or slander) to add something of your own.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:45 AM to Blogorrhea )
The state of things

KGOU radio (106.3 in Norman, 105.7 in the city) will rebroadcast Mayor Cornett's State of the City address on Oklahoma Voices at 11 am Sunday. A transcript of the 18 January address is here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:06 AM to City Scene )
Not a speck of cereal

Warner Bros. once sold a $2 sampler album called All Meat, implying a distinct lack of filler among the tracks therein, which, given the content of most pop albums — "singles separated by varying amounts of filler," said Dave Marsh in one of his lucid moments — should be considered a strong selling point.

Not to Ann Althouse, though:

[W]hen did "best of" collections become respectable? I remember when it was considered embarrassing to purchase your music in that form. If you haven't been following an artist, you were supposed to pick an album. You were supposed to try to figure out which is the best one, and start there, with a set of tracks in the form the artist wanted. Who cares if "best of" marketing dies?

And how many albums are actually "in the form the artist wanted," and of those, how many of them are worth a second listen? How many albums have 100% prime cuts? (How many have even 40 percent?)

In the 1940s, we had format wars: the CBS LP (then styled "Lp") and the RCA 45. The thinking behind the LP was simple enough: no more changing records every four minutes or so. A wonderful idea if you're recording Das Lied von der Erde; not quite such a great deal if you're putting out pop hits. And the Top 40 radio format, which ascended to the top of the ratings books in the 1950s, had no use for albums of any size or speed, and not much use for "genre" tags; even as late as 1967, acts as divergent as Frank Sinatra and Aretha Franklin made the Top 40 charts, and therefore made Top 40 radio. Pop music is all about the single, the hit; I don't think I play any pop album of the last 20 years all the way through anymore, with the possible exception of Jagged Little Pill.

Reasons not to reverse a vasectomy

1. It may not work.

2.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:25 PM to Table for One )
4 February 2006
Fatuous Flashback 19

When it's cold enough, the mind plays tricks on you:

From the onset of the howl to the last decaying harmonics, the sound of the 6:15 freight took about twice as long as usual this morning. I don't know whether this was a trick of the atmosphere or a problem with the track — I do know that railroad men have been working on the bed just west of the Air Depot crossing — but the call of the horn was so long and so mournful that I wondered if Junior Parker's Mystery Train, sixteen coaches long, was the train actually making the run. And given the fourfold increase in minor (and maybe not so minor) physical issues I've faced this year, I've got to wonder if next time the train is coming for me.

(Aside to Elvis: Yeah, I know, you'd have hopped that freight and dared them to take your baby away. That's why you're Elvis and the rest of us aren't.)

(From Fahrenheit 4.51, 7 February 2003. The temperature that morning was actually a balmy 14.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:31 AM to Greatest Hits )
On the south side of the river

The former Downtown Airpark will be turned into a mixed-use urban development under the direction of Grant Humphreys, last seen starting up the Block 42 project east of downtown, which is going to look something like this.

Humphreys' Urban Form LLC bid $7.2 million for the bankrupt Airpark; they plan residential, retail, possibly lodging, an office or two, but, they emphasize, no casinos.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:10 AM to City Scene )
He's here, but he's not here

Philadelphia 76ers center Steven Hunter, traded to the Hornets this week, apparently flunked his physical, putting that transaction on hold and ensuring that Hunter won't suit up for the Hornets/Lakers game tonight.

Sixers president/GM Billy King says he hopes to have the matter resolved over the weekend.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:53 AM to Net Proceeds )
The cry of the Antiwar Redneck

Personally, I think "Mr. President, Pull My Finger" is a better title than "Mr. Shrub," but from what I know about Eddie Glenn, he won't give much of a damn what I think, and that's fine with me.

Anyway, he's posted the song and its accompanying video, along with this bit of exposition:

The concept of rednecks being anti-war may seem contradictory to some folks who aren't as well-steeped in redneck culture as Eddie Glenn.

But in fact, it's no more contradictory [than] Latinos against war, or Blacks against war. War kills the poor, but benefits them very little. Plus, why send healthy young men off to shoot at people they don't even know, when there are plenty of people right here in the backwoods of Oklahoma that need shooting just as bad!

No way am I going to argue with that.

Saturday spottings (on the march)

The Lakers game was sold out approximately nine minutes after tickets went on sale, or so the story goes, so I didn't have any compelling reason to go downtown today, but compulsion isn't everything, and I wanted to look over the old Downtown Airpark, which, as noted earlier, is about to be scraped away and replaced with one of those mixed-use developments you hear so much about in the trades.

Nominally at SW 16th and Western, the Airpark extends practically to the south bank of the North Canadian Oklahoma River; the OCPD uses the north end of it for a helicopter base, and now I'm wondering if they're going to move. Western on either side of this is fairly dreary, so new stuff this close to the river might well precipitate a general facelift for a half-mile or so in either direction.

Or maybe not. The march of progress goes ever on, but one of the things about marches, and God knows I did plenty of them in my day, is that you don't look down to see what's getting stepped on. Part of the old Riverside community, centered on SW 10th and Walker — the Community Center is just east of there, Little Flower Church just to the south — is being pretty well stomped by the coming of the New Interstate 40, which is, according to the maps, going to overlay SW 8th. What the maps don't tell you is how much of 8th isn't navigable anyway — railroad tracks slice through this part of town, and too many crossings cost too much money — or how much of the area has already been swept into oblivion. Blocks with one or two houses, sometimes no houses, lots of broken glass, the occasional abandoned appliance, stagnant water from a recent water-line repair: it's obviously not Katrina, but you're excused if you think it looks like it could have been one of her smaller siblings. "Every year," says Bob Waldrop, "Oklahoma City looks more and more like a Victor Hugo novel"; all this area lacks is a sewer big enough to chase someone through.

Then back north on Walker to the site of the much-delayed — ground was finally broken in late January — Legacy Summit at Arts Central apartments, nice enough but fairly undistinguished as urban residences go, which can serve as a reminder as spring and baseball season approach: Oklahoma City has hit quite a few home runs in recent years, but the conscientious stats guy will point out that there have been plenty of bunts, rather a lot of pop-ups to shallow right, and altogether too many foul balls.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:48 PM to City Scene )
The Kobe show

Everybody talks about Kobe Bryant's bazillions of points, but it's almost just as important to the Lakers that he's second on the team in assists, and with Lamar Odom out, it fell to Kobe to feed the rest of the offense. And he certainly didn't hog the spotlight. (Well, there was that hissy fit in the third quarter that got him a technical, but he got over it.) But four minutes into the fourth, Phil Jackson pitched a fit (and got a T of his own), and pulled his starters in disgust. He thought better of it after four minutes more, but it didn't matter by then: the Hornets, who shot almost 57 percent from the floor, sent the Lakers on their way, 106-90.

Attendance was reported as 19,344, 181 over capacity. Chris Paul pulled yet another double-double — 19 points, 13 assists — and five other Hornets pulled down double figures. Rasual Butler hammered it home with a trey (he was 3 for 3 beyond the arc) with six seconds left; Desmond Mason started out strong and finished with 21 points.

Oh, and Kobe? 35 points and 5 assists. Good numbers, but this time they weren't good enough.

The Bees, now 24-22 and seventh in the Western Conference, next head for New Jersey; they'll be back at the Ford at midweek to meet the Sonics, and later the Knicks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:33 PM to Net Proceeds )
5 February 2006
Name by name, but not by nature

I've been puzzling over this one for a couple of days now:

My stepmother postulates that no one is ever entirely happy with his/her first name. Discuss.

I suppose I can provide support for this postulate, since I'm not exactly thrilled with the name I have. On the other hand, I can't really think of one I'd prefer. (Of the various noms de screen I've had over the past two decades, the single one I can say I really liked was "Harry," and that only because I'd paired it with the perfect surname: "Diehl.")

Maybe I should give this further thought.

This has gone on too long

At least, Chad the Elder thinks so:

Why in this fast-paced world of I-Pods, TiVo, high-speed internet, DVRs, one-click ordering, HDTV, file-sharing, PDFs, and wireless this and wireless that, do we still insist on using legal paper (8½" x 14") for things like mortgages and loans? I understand that the law talking elite might prefer to use a legal pad for scribblin' their notes and doodling, but why must the rest of us, the folks, be forced to deal with documents designed for the shyster set?

Everything in my office at home; binders, file folders, hanging folders, file drawers, and the fireproof safe is set up to store the standard, widely-accepted and used 8" x 11" documents. So when I get handed a stack of important legal papers at the bank and wish to preserve them for posterity's sake, I'm forced to fold, bend, spindle, or mutilate them in order to get them to fit. What's the deal with that?

I can barely resist posting this explanation:

This history of legal size paper (8.5" x 14") is unclear, although most historians agree it is a descendant of "foolscap," a traditional British paper size dating back to the 16th century. About 8.5" x 13.5", foolscap was used for official documents and it is believed that the size has been retained by the legal community more for tradition than for any practical purpose.

Incidentally, "foolscap" refers to the watermark once used by a major producer of paper in this size; it is not a snide commentary on the quality of legal documents. I think.

Even more incidentally, I have an actual legal-size scanner, which has one distinct advantage, at least for me, over its smaller brothers: it can do an LP jacket (around 12½" by 12½") in two passes rather than four. (Works pretty well, too.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:17 AM to Dyssynergy )
Memorandomization

Not having anywhere nearly as much fame as James Frey, I figure I'm going to have to punch up some of the incidents in my inevitable upcoming memoir, and where punching up isn't enough, I'm just going to have to fabricate things.

Top Ten possible embellishments:

  1. Actually worked at 142nd and Treadmill
  2. Once really ticked off Chuck Norris
  3. Only wrote 100 blog posts; the next 5900 were thinly-disguised rewrites thereof
  4. Those four seasons I spent in the NFL
  5. One World Tour actually included the International Space Station, though figuring the mileage proved to be too difficult
  6. All the Vents were written as one humongous text file back in 1995; I just pull out 5k chunks as needed
  7. Sent a check to the guy who runs SiteMeter
  8. My shelf contains only two records, both by the 1910 Fruitgum Company
  9. That torrid affair with Dawn Eden Rene Russo Ann Coulter Maria from Sesame Street Maureen Dowd Aisha Tyler [oh, forget it, no one is gonna believe any of these]
  10. Originally it was "She Who Is Not To Be Clothed"

Of course, I'll have to delete this post when the book comes out.

Highly Jacksonian

Jackson, very earlyAs promised, an early picture of Jackson Marshall Hill, firmly established as Grandchild #3, and presumably not fazed by an abundance of bloodwork in his first week, motivated by suspicions of jaundice. (It did drag him back into the hospital for overnight observation, but he's out and about; this being Russ and Alicia's second child, they've learned to outfit him with generic overalls instead of paying through the nose for OshKosh, b'gosh.) He has no idea what he's in for, of course, but how many of us did at the age of 0.7 week? I've got 2700-odd weeks to my credit, and I still don't know what's waiting around the bend. (A larger version of this photo, in which he doesn't look especially yellow to me anyway, can be had by clicking on the smaller one; sensibly, he's not fond of flash.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:39 PM to Next Generation )
6 February 2006
Opening up the archives

The secret to success for a newspaper on the Web? Same as it ever was, says Doc Searls:

Charge for the news, recycle the olds. That's the same business we've always had in the daily print news business, and I think it will leverage just fine on the Web.

The only problem with that is having no live Web presence, right? So, a suggestion: take everything but breaking news off the home page (which is way too crapped up with clutter anyway). Make it clear that subscribers get to see the rest of today's news today. Make links to today's news work tomorrow, even if only subscribers see those links today.

That way the paywall for each story or column is up only for 24 hours, and down for the rest of time. That way the paper gets plenty of authority and influence from having its full archives on the Web in searchable and linkable form. News customers get to pay for what they've always paid for. And hey, maybe once the high value of fresh news gets full respect from its producers, the papers will start making customers out of its consumers.

I like this, generally, but how "full" are "full archives"? It will cost you a few coins of the realm, but you can get everything that's been in The Oklahoman since 1901, when E. K. Gaylord was only twenty-eight years old and two years away from entering the newspaper racket in Oklahoma City. I'm not prepared to tell them that they should be giving that stuff away, especially since it's not really formatted for indexing. But last week's business briefs? Hardly anyone's paying for them now, I suspect.

(Aside: Is it proper to cite a reference in Wikipedia if it's one I wrote?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 AM to Almost Yogurt )
First, sell the product

Although this seems a bit roundabout, given the nature of the product in question.

(Possibly not safe for work)

Addendum: Alternate link here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:13 AM to Almost Yogurt )
We'll always have Dolly

One of the wondrous things about Dolly Parton, I've always felt, is that she has a splendid pair of legs which are almost always on display, yet which no one has ever seen: this is magical misdirection worthy of Penn and Teller.

If you, like me, can't even imagine a world without Dolly, you might appreciate this premise:

I'm developing a new theory: that Dolly Parton is an enterprise run almost identically to that of the Dread Pirate Roberts. So when the Dolly Parton we know grows weary and decides to retire, she identifies a replacement who will seamlessly merge into the life of Dolly Parton and carry on the Dolly Parton name and brand, as if nothing had ever happened. That way, Dolly is ageless and lives forever, and people will never have to know what a dark and woeful place the world would be without her and that hair, and the breasts that unwittingly prepared a nation to cope better with Anna Nicole Smith.

No one ever so brilliantly blended art and artifice; surely there must be some way to keep her around for a few more centuries, and if ripping off a theme from The Princess Bride will do the trick, I approve.

(Warning: Link also contains a photo of Pamela Anderson, who in an emergency may be used as a flotation device.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Such an expensive legislature

Mike's view from Little Axe:

The idea of streamlining bloated state legislatures is not new. More than one person has looked at Nebraska's legislature made up of 49 legislators, total, and wondered why a state like Oklahoma needs one hundred more than that.

Of course, Nebraska has a single legislative body: the other states have two, following the pattern established in the national Constitution.

There's no reason why it couldn't be done here, though. Mike cites this Muskogee Phoenix op-ed:

My vote would be to excise representatives, but call our senators "representatives." This is to punish senators for their disdainful attitude that being a representative is an inferior position.

They actually have about the same responsibilities, but I have it from a reliable source that senators carry on as if they are better than your common representative.

Myself, I'm persuaded that the attitude is more of an annoyance than the numbers, which is why I rather like the New Hampshire layout: twenty-two senators and four hundred representatives, none of whom get paid enough to make a career of it. (Annual pay, per the state constitution, is $100, with an extra $25 for presiding officers; subsequent amendments have introduced a mileage allowance, but the pay remains what it was in 1784.) At this level, it's hard to look down your nose at anyone.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:56 AM to Soonerland )
Slower going in the Big Apple

I have admittedly not driven much in the City of New York — no more than a couple of hours at most — but when I did, I did not exceed the posted speed limits, when I could find said limits posted, though this is due more to crushing volumes of traffic than to my own dubious virtue.

That said, though, this perturbed me greatly:

On his weekly WABC-AM radio show yesterday, [Mayor Michael] Bloomberg voiced support for placing devices atop taxis and private vehicles that would light up when motorists exceed the speed limit, making speeders easy prey for cops. He mentioned seeing such alarms in Singapore.

"We all want the laws enforced. And when we have technology [that] can let us enforce the law and save us money in doing so, what's the argument against that?" Bloomberg mused.

"If I have a police officer watching to see if you're going down the street speeding, or the car reports automatically when you speed, you know, is either of those things fundamentally different in its infringement on your liberties?"

Well, the NYPD does other things besides watch for speeders; their presence on city streets can be justified quite easily. And while it could be argued that installing one of these contraptions could be added to the list of conditions for possessing a NYC taxi medallion without difficulty, I'm thinking that mandating them for everyone will run into some Fifth Amendment issues.

Besides, does Bloomberg really want to be taking his lead on civil liberties from Singapore? Migod, he'll be having smokers caned.

(Via Gawker.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:00 PM to Driver's Seat )
The State of things

Governor Henry's State of the State Address was given today, and I listened to it on the radio.

There was no mention of one of his pet projects, the state lottery, except in the most elliptical of terms:

We gave voters an opportunity, and they created the first new revenue streams for education in more than 15 years.

And he attempted to preempt ongoing GOP obsessions:

Together we rebounded from difficult times to build a vibrant economy. We permanently reduced the income tax, eliminated capital gains taxes, and even provided rebates to all Oklahoma taxpayers for the first time in history.

Together, we lowered taxes on our retirees and veterans, and we passed landmark workers' compensation reforms. Our policies have breathed new life into our economy. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that our growth in jobs and personal income now outpace the regional and national averages.

He's calling, again, for cheaper drugs:

Prescription drugs are one of the chief drivers of increased medical costs. When needy Oklahomans must choose between food and medicine while drug companies spend more than $4 billion on advertising, something has gone terribly wrong. The status quo is unacceptable.

This session, I renew my call that we work together in a bipartisan manner to help Oklahomans safely re-import lower-cost prescription drugs from other industrialized nations. We know some pharmaceutical companies will again fight this every step of the way, but the people of Oklahoma elected us to represent their interests, and not special interests.

And he's willing to spend the bucks to push the state as a research center:

Leveraged by a $180 million bond issue, we will stimulate cutting-edge research. We will invest in sensor technology at Oklahoma State University. We will invest in cancer and diabetes research at the University of Oklahoma. And, we will support private-sector research throughout the state. It is critical we equip ourselves with every tool needed to develop a research infrastructure that will fuel our long-term prosperity.

He departed substantially from his advance copy only twice: to acknowledge the absence of Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby, who was scheduled to be there but was called away on an emergency, and to add something of a homily to the closing.

Most of his new proposals are fairly non-controversial; there may be quibbling over the details, but I suspect he'll get most of what he wants. Which, if you get right down to it, sums up his first term pretty well.

Towards the end, he dropped the name of WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle, by way of one of my old favorite quotes, circa 1943:

The men of Oklahoma are drawling and soft-spoken. Something of the purity of the soil seems to be in them.... An Oklahoman is straight and direct. He is slow to criticize and hard to anger, but once he is convinced of the wrong of something, brother, watch out.

As a Midwestern transplant, I have long since learned the value of this approach.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:32 PM to Soonerland )
Gross vs. Nets

New Jersey had won ten straight at the Meadowlands, and they weren't about to let the Hornets break that string, so when the Bees took a 12-point lead at the half, the Nets poured on the pressure in the third quarter, and iced it midway through the fourth when the Hornets' offense went cold; even a pair of patented Rasual Butler treys couldn't salvage matters, and the Nets got their 11th in a row, 99-91. ("An industrial-strength tail-kicking," quipped Russ Eisenstein about that second half.)

It was the Bees' bench that provided most of the scoring: Speedy Claxton got 23, and Rasual Butler pulled down 18. Even J. R. Smith and Bostjan Nachbar were seen; Nachbar got a board and a dime, and J. R. hit both his shots, one a trey.

Fortunately, as road trips go, this is a short one: one game. The Hornets return to the Ford Wednesday to meet the Sonics.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:03 PM to Net Proceeds )
7 February 2006
You should see the questionnaire

I swiped this off a message board and cleaned up some (though by no means all) of its all-too-numerous offenses against the English language. It's, um, different:

I think since we have a registry for sex offenders and violent crooks we should have [a] registry for grotesque, desperate and unconfident singles. This would save those of us who are attractive and confident from dating those out there who are clearly losers and do not deserve dates or relationships. Just think of it the next time you are asked to go on a date with someone you look them up and find out if they're a loser or not. Then you could tell them you know they're a loser and to get lost. I know it would save us all tons of time. Besides do we really need the dateless wonders and one date wonders procreating. I think not. The only ones of us that should be procreating are those that are beautiful, confident and talented. Just think how much money we would save on welfare alone. The savings could pay off the national debt.

I really don't see what this would do that likely couldn't be accomplished by some judicious Googlage.

And if I'm reading this correctly, those who are "attractive and confident" apparently don't make these judgment calls very well, or they wouldn't need the registry to begin with. At the very least, that should shake their confidence, n'est-ce pas?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:20 AM to Table for One )
Here we go loop de loop

Usually I keep my wireless phone shut off at work, not so much to avoid the interruptions — I get relatively few calls — but because reception at that location is somewhere between suboptimal and nonexistent. Once I leave the building, I crank it back up.

And the little blip came on to tell me I had a voice message. Okay, fine, I've had these before; I dialed the usual shortcut and was connected to a tutorial on how to set up voicemail.

They've been threatening to revamp the voicemail system, I remembered: maybe they finally broke down and did it. I set the phone down and drove home.

Back at Surlywood, I fired up the browser and jumped onto their Web site, and sure enough, there were a couple of lines on the tech-support page which suggested voicemail changes. I hit the pertinent one, and was rewarded with a lovely semi-transparent screen overlay which asked me which of the 70 or 80 phones they support I actually use. I made the selection and was sent back to the tech-support page, where there were a couple of lines which suggested voicemail changes. I hit the pertinent one, and was rewarded with a lovely semi-transparent screen overlay which asked me which of the 70 or 80 phones they support I actually use. I made the selection and was sent back to the tech-support page, where there were a couple of lines which suggested voicemail changes.

You can see where this is going, and the answer is clearly Nowhere. I exited the Web site and forced myself to endure the tutorial, which, however annoying, actually got me to my voicemail.

Perhaps this is what one should expect when a firm from the Seattle area is acquired by the Germans: lackadaisical yet somehow militant.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 AM to PEBKAC )
Behind the Birdman

Marty Burns' NBA Notebook at SI.com reveals that the Players' Association is fighting the dismissal of Hornets forward Chris "Birdman" Andersen, who was suspended from the league in January for reasons which went unstated but whose penalty was consistent with severe violations of the NBA's drug policy.

The case will go to arbitration in New York Friday before Calvin Sharpe, professor of law at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

Notes Burns:

Andersen, who stands to lose more than $10 million over the next three years, is staying mum and completely out of the spotlight. Maybe he's guilty as charged and has enough respect for himself and the truth to let it go. Or maybe he's innocent but has been told to keep quiet.

That should about cover it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:10 AM to Net Proceeds )
What is hip?

That which is embraced by the hipsters, of course. And who are the hipsters? For the answer, I turn to cultural historian and/or surly crank James Lileks:

A hipster is someone who is aware of something six months before people who work primarily in the insurance industry find out about it. What they are aware of has to be fun but useless, something like "innovations in Danish halogen lighting" or "trends in indie thrash-pop ska/metal Nashville country-punk underground." I know, I know, that genre's gotten so broad it includes almost anyone. But it's still hip. [Editor's note: It was when the author wrote this yesterday, but he killed its hipness by writing about it here. We apologize.]

And if, like me, you have an occasional need to know what will be so five minutes ago ten minutes from now, these are the people whose friendship, such as it is, you must cultivate. No wonder I'm behind on all the trends. I'm not hip. I'm not even hep.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:08 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Apologising for the previous apology

And the next:

We, the British media, would like to offer our sincere apologies for any offence we may have caused by our unthinking publication of the so-called "Mafia cartoons" last week. We freely admit it was disrespectful to portray Don Vito Corleone or any of his family in un-blacked out or unpixillated form. We have received many persuasive messages from Sicilian community leaders and we understand their anger. Let's not get into a situation where their pain becomes our pain too. Freedom of speech is a good thing, but it must be used responsibly otherwise it ceases to be freedom of speech.

Some reckless libertarians might accuse us of hypocrisy. After all, haven't we mocked other business enterprises in the past? If we can poke fun at McDonald's or Microsoft, then why not the Cosa Nostra? But there is a difference between portraying Bill Gates as Satan or Ronald McDonald as Hitler and depicting Don Vito Corleone as a ruthless criminal mastermind. Or, indeed, in any way at all. We regard it as deeply racist to associate members of the Sicilian community with violent crime, especially when there is not a shred of empirical evidence to back such slurs. Freedom of speech is precious but cultural understanding must take precedence. Sicilian narratives of legality may differ from ours. Is that any reason to resort to crude, inartistic caricatures depicting members of an ethnic minority carrying machine guns in violin cases and putting horses' heads in people's beds?

Let us state unequivocally how much we respect Don Corleone and his family and how much we hope he will respect ours. Don't hurt us please!!!

Up next: Cavemen save 15 percent on their auto insurance.

Suckers wanted

Well, somebody is reading the mommy blogs:

I'm in the casting division with ABC Television and we're looking for great families and moms who love to stand out from the crowd, families who aren't afraid to be unique. We think that amazing mothers who are part of your groups would be amazing to feature on our program.

We're currently casting for ABC's hit family show, "Wife Swap!" Please don't be confused by the title — "Wife Swap" is a family show on ABC primetime. The premise is simple: two moms from two very different families get the opportunity to swap lives (but not bedrooms — everyone has their own!) for a week to experience what it's like to live a different lifestyle — and to see what they can teach each other about their own! In this case we're looking to feature interesting families with unique interests and hobbies — and all the fun that goes along with it. I would greatly appreciate you forwarding my information on to any of your family members, friends, and associates who might be interested in sharing their lives with us for a week!

And so forth.

Costa appears to be nauseated by the idea:

An online farm system for reality television. It almost makes me wish blogs had never been invented.

Remind me to pick up an extra bottle of Pepto.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:22 PM to Dyssynergy )
As others see us

Kinja bills itself as "the weblog guide". It's quirky, but then it is a Nick Denton (Gawker, Wonkette) operation, and this is their pitch:

  • keep up with favorite authors, and friends who blog
  • discover new weblogs
  • save time: scan excerpts before clicking through
  • legible excerpts, rather than a list of headlines, or a garbled search result
  • no knowledge of RSS or syndication standards required
  • no reader application to download, accessible from any computer
  • favorites page easily shared with friends and colleagues

There's a full-screen "card" for each site they list, and a summary card which appears when you search by topic.

I bring this up because someone apparently went looking for this site, and the site card includes some useful info like the site description (which is normally hidden in a META tag), popularity (two stars out of five, which seems high) and posting frequency (43 per week, which also seems high, but which is at least subject to verification; this particular post is, in fact, the 42nd since the first of the month).

Interestingly, the following major topics are listed for this site:

Summary cards for forty-seven "related" sites are attached.

Surprised that I wasn't listed under "drivel," I ran a search for same, and got 44 summary cards, including one for USAToday.com (strange) and one for Michael Moore.com (perhaps not so strange).

Also included: a tool to extract the front page from the Wayback Machine. The earliest one they had was 23 October 1999, which seems fair enough: this domain didn't exist before 1999. (Version 6.037, if you're curious, and it looks awful, even without the graphics.)

I dunno who was looking at this stuff, but the IP traces back to Los Angeles. (Thank you for your interest.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:38 PM to Blogorrhea )
8 February 2006
Unless, of course, you're binomial

At what time of the day are you the most sexually responsive?

Here's the formula:

AL / T + 10 x AG / SF x G = TOTAL / 60 = sexiest time, where:
AL = Represent units of alcohol consumed each week
AG = Your age
SF = sexual frequency per week
G = Gender ( Male - 2, Female - 1.5)
T = Sex time preference ( 1.5 - Mornings, 2 - Evenings)

Add or subtract your answer to or from 6am (e.g +11.75 means 4.45pm is the best time to hit the sack, if you scored -4, 2am is nookie time for you)

And so Samantha tried it, and this is what she got:

0/2 +10 x 30/3 x 1.5 = 150/60 = 2.5

So, since it's in the positive, I add two and a half hours to 6 am, and that means I need a visitor around 8:30 am.

I need hardly point out that if I try this, it violates a sacred rule of mathematics: the one about dividing by zero.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:16 AM to Table for One )
This will pass quickly enough

Senate Bill 1022, by Mike Morgan and Todd Hiett (as heavyweight authorship goes, you can't get much heavier), adds one new sales tax exemption to the 50 already in existence:

51. Sales of tickets made on or after September 21, 2005, for admission to a professional athletic event in which a team in the National Basketball Association or National Hockey League is a participant, which is held in a facility owned or operated by a municipality or a public trust of which a municipality is the sole beneficiary.

Which, of course, applies to the Hornets: this was part of the package deal that brought the Bees to OKC, but the legislature was out of session at the time.

(Full text here, in Rich Text Format.)

Now: slower refunds!

It's always seemed at least slightly perverse to me that the American taxpayer, by and large, prefers to overpay (via withholding) his taxes during the year and then draw a fat refund the next spring. Of course, if he had to pay the entire sum at one shot, he'd be very, very unhappy, which is one reason why it's simply not done. (Another, more subtle, is that it tends to obscure the sheer vastness of said sum.)

Earnest Pettie, the Idea Man, is undoubtedly aware that the amount of the fat refund constitutes a de facto interest-free loan from taxpayer to government; taking this into account, and noting that Americans, as a whole, don't save very much, he proposes a system to offset both these issues:

Giving Americans tax refunds on debit cards could convince us to start saving again. Imagine that the amount of the tax refund given a citizen were considered by the government to be a bond, accruing interest for the recipient for as long as the government were allowed to hold onto the money. The recipient would be allowed to spend the money in his account, and as he spends it, there is less available to accrue interest. This would represent an incentive for a recipient not to spend their entire refund, encouraging the recipient to save money, without that person having to go to any trouble (such as the effort required to open a savings account) to start saving. The people who need savings accounts most, the poor, are the ones who least can afford to open them. This could be a huge opportunity to turn those people into savers.

Seems like this would get some extra mileage out of the Earned Income Credit, too.

Who loses? All those firms (including tax-preparation firms) who make loans based upon the expectation of getting their hands on refund checks. I can't say I'd shed many tears for them.

(Via BatesLine.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:11 AM to Common Cents )
Fallback position

Yours truly, engaging in some guesswork a couple months ago:

If the Hornets return to New Orleans, as everyone involved swears they will, this is the most likely spot the Sonics will end up: team support here is running well beyond original expectations, and NBA Commissioner David Stern would much prefer to have another team move here than to deal with angry Hornets fans in Louisiana.

Stern, I suspect, has modified his position somewhat, if only because he's figured out that sending the Hornets back to New Orleans is going to cost a lot more money than any conceivable buyout. He's not crazy enough to say so, though.

With that in mind:

Clay Bennett, a prominent businessman who led a group of corporate investors that lured the displaced New Orleans Hornets to Oklahoma City, said he is watching with interest the political proceedings involving the Sonics, the Seattle City Council and the Washington State Legislature.

Bennett is keenly aware of the strife building between city officials and the club, which seeks a taxpayer-funded $200 million for renovations to KeyArena. He also read the comments from principal owner Howard Schultz, who said last week that Sonics owners would be forced to sell or move the team unless they receive public assistance.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Bennett said that he has not been in contact with anyone representing the Sonics, but "we'd be very interested in those discussions and would pursue them vigorously."

Number of NBA seasons, 2005 through 2015, in which there will be no team in Oklahoma City: 0.

Update, 10 February: Bennett and Oklahoma Professional Sports LLC, the ad hoc business consortium that backed Oklahoma City's bid to host the Hornets from 2005 through 2007, have set up a corporation to seek an NBA franchise for the city, be it the Hornets if they stay, or another team should they go. Meanwhile in Seattle, Schultz is making noises about selling out.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:50 AM to Net Proceeds )
The Gas Game (February)

Regular readers, assuming they haven't fled for places less surly, will remember that last fall I balked at paying Oklahoma Natural Gas $8.393 per dekatherm for a year, on the seemingly-reasonable basis that the price couldn't possibly stay up that high for twelve whole months.

That sound you hear is my wallet flattening. On the upside, usage was way down, what with last month being the second warmest January since 1891, and prices have actually started to slide, though they're still higher than ONG's VFP Plan. Here's my situation, how it really stands:

  • November: 2.4 used at $11.044; total price $26.51; VFP price $20.14; loss of $6.37.

  • December: 4.4 used at $11.550; total price $50.82; VFP price $36.93; loss of $13.89.

  • January: 9.7 used at $12.012; total price $116.52; VFP price $81.41; loss of $35.11.

  • February: 6.4 used at $9.589; total price $61.37; VFP price $53.72; loss of $7.65.

  • Cumulative: 22.9 used at $11.145; total price $255.22; VFP price $192.20; loss of $63.02.

O Spring, where art thou?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:03 PM to Family Joules )
Slightly faster than the speed of sound

How can you buzz when you're slow? Chris Paul got knocked out of the game in the second quarter with bruises to the ribs; Speedy Claxton suffered a mild concussion after only thirty seconds in. The remaining Bees were game, and did their best to slow down Seattle's scoring machine, led by 34 points from Rashard Lewis, who got five treys in the fourth quarter — and to the delight of the Ford Center crowd of 18,807, somehow it worked: Hornets 109, Sonics 102.

Once again, five Hornets in double figures. David West got the double-double with 26 points and 10 rebounds; so did Kirk Snyder, with 16 points and 12 assists. And P. J. Brown came this close: 21 points, 9 rebounds. But the Big Shot was yet another patented Rasual Butler trey which broke a 102-102 tie with 15 seconds left: P. J. and Desmond Mason drew Seattle fouls and calmly dropped two free throws each to ice it. (Mason had 15 points; Butler had 14; the resurgent Bostjan Nachbar played seven minutes, scored 4 and got 3 boards.)

What happens between now and Friday when the Knicks come to town is anyone's guess. We now know that Steven Hunter won't be here: the deal has been called off. And I'd bet that CP3 will be back; after all, he tried to start the third quarter tonight before discovering that he wasn't quite up to it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:37 PM to Net Proceeds )
9 February 2006
Killer shoes

5-inch stilettoOkay, they're a little bit on the high side — a five-inch heel, which not everyone can pull off with aplomb — but one Dax Moy, a British "health and fitness chief," arguably the greatest title since one of those garage inventors said his 90-mpg carburetor had been vetted by a "physics colonel," as reported about twenty years ago in Car and Driver, asserts that shoes of this sort constitute a health hazard. I'm sure they're a hazard to my health — show me these underneath a spectacular pair of legs (I have some specific ones in mind, and I'm not going to get more specific than that) and I am guaranteed a case of eyestrain — but are they really that bad?

In a word, yes, says Moy:

The forward tilting of the pelvis allows the abdominal contents to spill forward, producing that "pooch" which many women have wrongly come to think of a "fat stomach." In doing so, they compress internal organs in a condition known as visceroptosis. It doesn't stop there — neck, back, shoulder pain, stress headaches and even premature hair loss can all ensue as a result of ignoring the way your body is designed to work.

A Guardian columnist points out another issue:

Plus, of course, it makes it very difficult to shag short men, thereby foolishly cutting your chances of impregnation against a wall.

And surely we wouldn't want that, would we?

(Via Matt Rosenberg.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 AM to Rag Trade )
Speed thrills

I suspect one learns patience in a Corvette: being able to do well over the speed limit, well over twice the speed limit in some instances, and yet knowing that doing so will bring down the wrath of the gendarmes, would seem to make one a trifle cautious.

And I figure the guy behind me this morning on the southbound onramp to I-35 from I-44 east, who was keeping his distance, had already planned out his next few seconds: follow the ramp at 40-45 mph, behind that bog-slow sedan in front of him, and then dart leftwards into the I-35 traffic flow and make up the lost time. A reasonable plan, if I say so myself.

What he didn't figure is that I routinely take this ramp at 60, and while he was throttling back, I was applying what power I had, which admittedly wasn't a great deal, and tightening the curve. By the time Merge or Else came up, I'd left him five or six car-lengths behind, and what's more, I'd left him an opening more than sufficient to allow him into the flow.

Of course, I had the advantage of being in front and being able to see what was coming. But this little transaction tends to reinforce one of my cherished beliefs: it's more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slowly. And while I know better than to dice with Corvettes on the straightaways, I don't do at all badly on the twisty bits. (This, of course, is another justification for the World Tours: there's a dearth of twisty bits on the Oklahoma City waffle-iron street grid.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 AM to Driver's Seat )
177

Now this is synergy of a sort: the Carnival of the Capitalists folks — by which we mean Jay, generally — have undertaken to do this week's Carnival of the Vanities, edition #177.

I used to catch a bus every day outside 177 Meeting Street in Charleston, but that was years ago.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:45 AM to Blogorrhea )
These toes are made for whistling

And that's just what they'll do. [Video clip, preceded by short ad.]

Dick Morris was unavailable for comment.

Quote of the week

From James Joyner, on a theme I've surely mentioned before:

Not only has it never occured to me that beauty and brains are mutually exclusive — indeed, my experience has almost always been that when it rains, it pours — but I can't even imagine what one might do with a stupid woman on the second night. Well, certainly, the second week.

Suggestions, within reasonable bounds of decorum, are welcomed. (By me, not by James, who is happily spoken for.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:08 PM to QOTW , Table for One )
Baby got loopback

Winston Rand spotted this on a truck bumper in Nashville:

There's no place like 127.0.0.1

Click your heels together three times and ping.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:59 PM to PEBKAC )
10 February 2006
C-note run

Nancy Goldstein of The Raw Story asked twenty liberal bloggers the following question:

If you had $100 to invest politically, where would it go?

She explains:

[W]hen I queried folks, I told them that I, like so many disenchanted progressives, had sworn off giving money to the Democratic National Party in the wake of the Alito/judicial nominations debacle. And I asked them to consider where they'd spend their hard-earned dough with that in mind.

The results were most interesting, and not even slightly repetitive: everyone had at least one cause or one candidate or one organization to fund. I think my favorite response was Kevin Drum's:

[M]y hundred bucks goes to Nick Lampson, Democratic candidate for Congress in the 22nd congressional district of the great state of Texas.

And why?

[W]hat could possibly give me more personal satisfaction than to contribute to the defeat of the loathsome Tom DeLay, a man so arrogant that he redrew the boundaries of his own district to include more Democrats because he thought he could never lose? Hah!

Works for me.

Inasmuch as I have readers on both sides of the aisle and almost everywhere else in the building, I'd be interested in hearing where you'd spend your $100 for political purposes.

(Via Lindsay Beyerstein, a contributor to the Goldstein survey, and one of my regular reads.)

Though we really did try to make it

The Oklahoma House has watched the livestock flee, but they're going to close the barn door anyway.

House Bill 2091, by John Wright (R-Broken Arrow), would provide a tax credit equal to the 3.5-percent vehicle excise tax to buyers of General Motors vehicles built in Oklahoma — which means, vehicles produced at GM Oklahoma City Assembly, which will be idled later this month in advance of permanent closing.

Wright is hopeful:

Obviously, the plant is not yet closed, so as long as production is still taking place, there's still time for a change of heart.

Last month, Governor Henry announced an incentive package he hoped would persuade GM to keep the plant open; Treasurer Scott Meacham says that the company is scheduled to discuss the package with state officials before the production line shuts down.

Wright's bill made it out of committee at mid-week and will go before the full House.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:19 AM to Soonerland )
In sync

Watches? So three minutes, 20 seconds ago. Here's how they do it in the Land of the Big Sky:

[H]ere in Montana, there are only two or three mobile phone providers, with Verizon Wireless being the major player; most people here have Verizon service (or at least most of the folks that I work with). Invariably, if someone at work asks what time it is, several folks whip out their cell phones and report the time. Since we are all subscribed to the same service, and our phones have replaced our watches, the time is the same for all of us: no one's phone is set 5 minutes ahead so that they're not late to a meeting, and no one's phone is running slow. We are all on Verizon Time.

During the World Tours, I allow my wireless service to dictate the time, mostly so I won't have to bother with time zones, but at home I set the darn thing myself: for some reason, they always seems to be about a minute and a half off. Then again, it's a consistent minute and a half.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:01 AM to Dyssynergy )
DVDprived

If you were wondering if it's possible for a beautiful young woman to channel a grizzled old man, here's Donna in Andy Rooney mode:

Are there any other Netflix users out there? Have you also noticed the strange coincidence that your Netflix queue always hovers around the same number as your weight is in pounds? No matter how many movies I watch, the number of movies in my queue is always pretty much equal to what my scale reads in the mornings.

I think she just talked me out of Netflix: if my queue matches my weight, I won't live long enough to see all those films.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:01 PM to Almost Yogurt )
New York nix

So what's it like when Speedy Claxton starts? It's different, to be sure; with Chris Paul sidelined, the Hornets had to work yet another variation on their offense, and it didn't really start working until midway through the second quarter, at which point Slovenia's favorite son, Bostjan Nachbar, went on an 11-point rampage to finish off the half and cut the New York lead from 10 to 2; the Bees gradually pulled away in the third and after a couple of anxious moments in the fourth, put the Knicks away, 111-100.

Both sides had balanced attacks: the Knicks had seven players in double figures, the Hornets five. Two Hornets pulled double-doubles: David West (21 points/10 rebounds) and Speedy Claxton (18 points/11 assists).

The Bees are now 26-23; another one-shot out of town tomorrow night, against the Timberwolves, and back to the Ford to meet the Wizards on Monday.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:43 PM to Net Proceeds )
11 February 2006
Fatuous Flashback 20

There is junk mail, and there is mail for which "junk" is wholly inadequate as a description:

The big red envelope that arrived today was liberally festooned with "Overnite Letter" and "Priority Express", neither of which means anything to the Postal Service; the fine print, of course, revealed that it's plain old presorted first-class, the sort of thing you throw away every day. What's more, it contained, per Big Blue Arrow #2, "Urgent Information For Addressee", and Big Blue Arrow #3, partially hidden below the envelope window, proclaimed, "Notice to Recipient: Dated material requiring your immediate attention." (Before you ask: Yes, there was a Big Blue Arrow #1, but it was concealed behind a Post-It, upon which was written "This is perfect for you!", signed by one "BG", whoever that may be.)

Once opened — hey, I gave them better than they deserved — the envelope yields up the following Important Notice:

"If you have received this time sensitive notice, you only have a short time left. You have been pre-selected to receive a free cellular phone with rates as low as 6.6 cents a minute. This offer may be cancelled if you fail to respond. Please do not allow this to happen."

Well, gee, Paradigm Wireless LLC, here's how I respond: Take your cell phone and propel it at high speed into the same dark space where your head resides. I don't care if you can get me 6.6 cents per week; I don't care if you give me an entire box of free phones; I don't care if you eliminate roaming charges anywhere in the whole goddamn Alpha Quadrant. So go right ahead and cancel this offer, if you're so inclined; I wouldn't buy your service if you promised me a Lexus with a spare muffler and two weeks with Nicole Kidman at a clothing-optional resort.

(From this untitled entry, 10 February 2001.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:55 AM to Greatest Hits )
On a wild Shatterday night

Try as I may, I can't seem to get my mind around this concept:

Ceramic corsets.

Then again, what would I know about either fashion or eroticism?

That said, Oklahoma City artist Nicole Moan, in whose oven these garments come to life, is one of only 60 designers (of around 5000 applicants) who will be featured in Swatch's Alternative Fashion Week 2006 next month in London. And of course, schlepping all this wear-ware to the UK costs money, so there's a traveling show/fundraiser called "See It Before London", which will culminate next weekend with a couple of shows: Saturday at Sober Grounds Coffee House (2808 NW 31st, just east of May), and Sunday at Café Nova (4308 N. Western).

If nothing else, this hammers a few more nails into the coffin of the Sleepy Town on the Prairie reputation this town has, um, enjoyed for the last 117 years, though I don't think it's enough to win over the likes of Charles Barkley.

(With thanks to Steven "Metro" Newlon.)

Hefner's house changes hands

The Oklahoma Heritage Association, which is moving to the former Mid-Continent Life building on Classen Drive, is selling their current digs to St. Luke's United Methodist Church.

Acquisition of the 1917 mansion at 201 NW 14th, once the home of Robert A. Hefner, will give St. Luke's the entire block, 14th to 15th, Robinson to Harvey. The church will use the upstairs ballroom for its new offices; downstairs will be used for weddings and community gatherings. The OHA has been offering tours ($5) of the mansion, which will presumably be eliminated when St. Luke's takes over, probably by the end of the year, so if you've ever wanted to see the place from the inside, you'll have to do it soon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:41 AM to City Scene )
Is there a National Knifal Association?

The United Kingdom, beginning 24 May, will "allow" its subjects to turn in their knives under an "amnesty" program which is likely to yield, among other things, a substantial quantity of "scare quotes."

No, actually, they're serious:

Launching the amnesty for England and Wales, Home Secretary Charles Clarke said: "Every weapon handed in will be a weapon that cannot be used in crime.

"Anyone with a knife or other weapon that might be used to cause fear and distress on our streets should take this chance to get rid of it."

In other news, Tamara K. reports:

[A] motion has been launched to retroactively change Richard I's sobriquet to Richard Coeur De Poulet.

[Insert fowl pun here]

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:26 PM to Dyssynergy )
Timber!

The Hornets blew hot and cold at the Target Center: after fighting back from a 14-point deficit halfway through the second quarter to an 11-point lead late in the third to five points behind midway through the fourth, they finally put Minnesota away, 100-94.

Not that the T-Wolves were any more consistent, but they owned the boards, and it's hard to argue with Kevin Garnett, who snagged 21 of those boards along with 19 points before descending into visible bitterness in the last couple of minutes.

All five starting Bees got double figures: Speedy Claxton got 28, within one of his career high, and Kirk Snyder got 28, six more than his.

The Hornets have Sunday off. The Wizards come to the Ford Center on Monday, followed by the TrailBlazers on Wednesday.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:38 PM to Net Proceeds )
12 February 2006
Yard? What yard?

The City Council of Austin, Texas has taken steps to discourage McMansions.

Under the Council's temporary rules, which will be reviewed later this week but which are legally in effect already, builders wishing to tear down and rebuild homes can choose the largest of the following:

  • 2500 square feet
  • 20 percent space increase
  • 0.4 ratio of home size to lot size

These rules are in effect for 120 days; the Council is expected to come up with permanent rules in the spring.

I'm trying to imagine my modest little wedge of land — 11,000 square feet, just over a quarter-acre — with a 4400-square foot faux château sitting on it.

(Via Daily Pundit.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:25 AM to Dyssynergy )
O brothers, where art thou?

It's true that you never go back, says Susan Crain Bakos in the New York Press:

I am sure there must be some black men who aren't good in bed. Personally, I have not experienced one who isn't. (True, I am not dating down the socioeconomic ladder, but I didn't do that when I dated white either, so the racial comparisons seem valid and fair.) They look better than white men, they touch and kiss and make love better than white men. Statistically, their penises are only a fraction of an inch bigger on average, but they seem bigger and harder.

White men over 40 have lost their waistlines and their zest for life — if they ever had it. They carry resentments, grudges and extra pounds in their basketball bellies. Perhaps a good part of that bloat is unhappiness. Even the thin ones look flabby somehow and deeply aggrieved. They nurse the smallest perceived slight longer than their double shots of Scotch. Surely our culture as much as biology turns them into softer, spongier, less-interesting versions of their youthful selves just at the point where women and black men and other minorities are emerging strong. Society overvalues the white man, leaving him angry and bitter when he realizes, around age 40, that he's not all that.

Personally, I figured out that I wasn't "all that" around the age of nine; the flab came quite a bit later. (The anger and the bitterness, well, that's another topic.)

And really, this fits with something I've been saying all along: women have a template for what they're looking for, and another one for what they're not looking for, and they wield them with micrometer precision.

Besides, this explains Barry White better than anything else I've read. (Don't believe me? Imagine any Barry White record sung by an actual white guy, and admit defeat.)

What I missed from the Bakos article is any suggestion that she's eventually going to give up the dating game and settle down with one of these gentlemen, but maybe that's just projection on my part. And I'm not going to suggest that, say, Maureen Dowd could get her groove back with a Taye Diggs type, but weirder things have happened.

(Via Michael Blowhard.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:46 AM to Table for One )
Running out of wind

Which of course we're not: blasts from the northwest are, even as I type, ripping through the countryside at a consistent 25 to 35 mph.

OG&E, however, is. From their current bill insert:

Due to the overwhelming response to the energy savings OG&E's Wind Power program provides, OG&E customers have purchased all the wind-generated electricity we have to offer. However, we're putting customer names on a waiting list to receive wind power when it becomes available.

Lower wind prices, coupled with high natural gas prices, have created significant savings to wind power subscribers — as much as 10 percent on monthly bills. Many customers signed up for 100 percent wind-generated electricity, creating demand beyond OG&E's available supply. In fact, the amount of wind energy purchased by OG&E's customers has more than doubled since the first of the year.

Emphasis added. And this is instructive: apparently as late as December, OG&E had sold less than 50 percent of their 50-megawatt capacity, but $12/dekatherm natural gas and a downward adjustment of the wind-power fee (from $2 to $0.10/kw) pushed demand to the max.

And if I needed any more persuasion, I could look at the bill I got Friday, which contains the following item: FINAL WIND OPTION COST -$8.62. That's more than I lost for the month on my gas bill.

The utility is already taking steps to increase its supply, though the new capacity won't be online until the end of 2006 at the earliest.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:12 PM to Family Joules )
The goddess from the machine

It's horribly unromantic to say so, but art depends for its very existence on artifice: things we think are wondrous tend to originate with things that are decidedly prosaic — or worse.

Alan Ayckbourn's play Comic Potential, which I saw today at the University of Central Oklahoma, is about the worse, and how its line of separation from the better becomes obscured, even erased. Chandler Tate, once a comic director who worked with the Big Names, is reduced in his later years to directing a television soap opera, one for which the expectations are so low that there is no actual cast: rather, there are "actoids," androids designed to a physical type and then programmed with their lines. This, of course, requires software, and software always has glitches, and in the very first scene, the pretentious physician is mixing up his vowel sounds. The technicians can fix that, sort of, but the nurse is actually busting out laughing on stage, and no one quite knows why.

It doesn't help when Adam Trainsmith, nephew of the network owner and (though he doesn't realize it) boy toy of a female network executive, shows up at the studio, thoroughly awed by Tate's oeuvre and fancying himself to be a writer of comedy. Tate brushes him off, of course, but there's a brief period when Adam finds himself left alone with one of the actoids — the presumably-defective Juvenile Character, Female unit who played the nurse — and discovers that somewhere in her dubious microcode there might just be a sense of comic timing.

No problem with that, until they redo the medical scene and instead of laughing, the JCF unit does a double-take worthy of James Finlayson. Tate is impressed in spite of himself, and Adam prevails upon Tate to let him work up scenes with the mechanical starlet, whom he now calls "Jacie."

And this might have come off, except that old Mr Trainsmith, sort of Rupert Murdoch without the charisma, sees Jacie as a threat and wants her sent back to the factory to be "melted down" — her accumulated memory erased and her microcode reinstalled. Adam, horrified, smuggles her out of the network facilities and into a hotel room, while he tries to figure out just how to save the poor girl, inasmuch as he's fallen in love with her and all.

Unfortunately, Jacie has problems adapting to life outside the studio: while she picks up cues quickly enough, all she knows is the thousands of lines of script she's had impressed upon her. And even more unfortunately, with all this new information having to be processed by her electronic brain, she seems to be achieving some sort of sentience.

Yeah, yeah: The Stepford Actors. But it's not so simple as that. For one thing, Adam, young and callow, has barely more concept of love than Jacie; for another, he can't bring himself to treat her like a machine, and she has no experience with anything else. And Sir Alan has no trouble blurring the lines between them: the ability to fall in love and the ability to laugh, quintessentially human characteristics, are inherently "grossly illogical," he says, and there's some question whether we handle them any more deftly than poor Jacie.

The three leads here all have difficult roles to play. Chandler Tate (Robert Keitch) drowns his depression in drink, but it never affects his critical judgment when the tape is rolling: well past his prime, he still won't compromise on the basics. Adam (David Schroeder) is so intoxicated by the sheer delight his artificial girlfriend finds in the mundane moments of life that he's willing to overlook the very real problems inherent in the relationship. (What happens when she drinks too much — never mind, I won't spoil it for you.)

None of this would work, of course, if you don't believe Jacie, and Courtney Drumm is a wonder: she absolutely nails this character, this mechanical creature being forced to respond to stimuli for which no programming exists, sometimes having to shift among various preset playbacks literally in mid-sentence; yet all the while she's fulfilling the Asimovian expectations of her species model number, she has to somehow contend with the possibility that she may be turning into something else — someone else — entirely. How could Adam not fall for her? Under the circumstances, I think I could have.

Regrets? Just one: that I caught the last performance, which means that I can't tell you to dash up to Edmond and see it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:12 PM to Almost Yogurt )
13 February 2006
Beyond Kugelmass

Kugelmass, you'll remember, appears in a 1977 Woody Allen short story; his life, especially his married life, seems drab and unappealing, and magician friend the Great Persky contrives to have him inserted into Flaubert's novel Madame Bovary, right between Emma Bovary's affairs with Leon and Rodolphe.

Last fall, I asked Kugelmass wannabes into which books of fiction they'd like to find themselves, with interesting results.

Of course, this concept can be taken in many different directions. Perhaps motivated by a vision of Atticus Finch, a fictional character I too would have liked to meet, Jennifer poses a similar question:

If you could suddenly find out that one work of fiction was actually true, what book would you hope it would be? And why?

My immediate thought was Heinlein's Time Enough for Love, but it occurred to me that Lazarus Long himself might well chastise me for the selection, simply because I was being presumptuous, something Long likely wouldn't countenance.

So I'll give it a little more thought, and I'll throw the question open to you.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:15 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Ephemeral decor

Sculptor David Hayes, who specializes in abstract outdoor art suitable for public spaces, would like to place about forty of his works around Oklahoma City on a temporary basis.

The cost of the exhibition would be a smallish $112,000. Parks and Recreation says they can't afford it outright, but if sponsors step forward ... well, you get the idea.

Actually, this is consistent with city practice: they'll go for the really massive stuff like the Land Run Monument, but smaller things with lower perceived tourist value are often overlooked.

The local arts establishment, unsurprisingly, would like to see the Hayes project come off, and so would I. And perhaps oddly, its greatest effect might come on the day after it's removed — when we start contemplating what might fill in a space that we're no longer accustomed to seeing as empty, and we realize that we've given short shrift all these years to the purely aesthetic.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:57 AM to City Scene )
Where we were

Actually, we weren't anywhere; a server went south (and given its location on the southern California coast, it would have drowned in the Pacific) about a quarter to six this morning Central time, and was restored to something resembling health an hour ago.

As we used to say back in the day, feces transpire.

Update: The official story from the host:

We've been having intermittent issues with our ns1 name server which caused some sites not to resolve properly. On top of that, an ill-timed power outage at our secondary facility in Palo Alto took out ns2 for three hours this morning. We're working on fixing ns1 and our Palo Alto facility has assured us that everything is good on their end now.

Sometimes even redundancy won't save you. (And neither will redundancy.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:15 AM to Blogorrhea )
Present accounted for

The past is, well, past, and who among us can tell the future?

This analog watch shows only the present: hours to come and hours gone by are equally obscured.

If you live for the moment, perhaps this is your timepiece.

(Via Belhoste.)

Papa's got a brand-new bag limit

Laurence Simon updates Tom Lehrer's Hunting Song for 2006. (It's the Cheney-est!)

The Kardiac Kids

The Hornets were down 17 at the half, down 19 early in the third quarter, and refused to lie down and die; a David West shot with 0.2 second left won it.

(I wrote four different versions of the opening paragraph in the last minute and a half: that's how wild this game was.)

Let it be said that Gilbert Arenas was incredible — he got 43 points — and that Washington played as hard as it's possible to play. And yet: Hornets 97, Wizards 96.

West got 19 points; all five starting Bees hit double figures, and Speedy Claxton, starting at point guard again while Chris Paul recuperates, got the double-double with 16 points and 10 assists.

And the new number-three point guard, Moochie Norris, just arrived from the Rockets in a swap for Maciej Lampe and "cash considerations," suited up and put in six minutes: he picked up a trey, a rebound, and an assist.

The last game before the All-Star break is Wednesday, against Portland. The Bees are now 28-23 overall and 16-6 since the first of the year.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:38 PM to Net Proceeds )
14 February 2006
Valentine depository

Actually, I'd have better luck putting up a tip jar, but what the hell.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Table for One )
Unfortunately, no parade

This is National Condom Week, and while the Condom Museum is still in the planning stages and therefore unable to provide you with handy mnemonic devices, you should take it upon yourself to remember the following Stretchy Facts:

  • Condom use prevents something or other, and also protects against something else, though it's not, you know, ironclad or anything.

  • While wrapping yourself in something cold on the way to something warm may seem contradictory, just tell yourself that you're practicing a form of diversity.

  • That condom you've been carrying around for a year and a half, just in case? Throw it away. It's going to leak faster than the last three Administrations combined.

  • The amount you'd save by not using condoms is insignificant compared to the amount you'd save by not actually dating.

Finally, the Playboy Advisor once took on a three-pronged question from a reader who was (1) worried about sexually-transmitted diseases, (2) suffering from premature ejaculation, and (3) dissatisfied with the size of the unit. The Advisor recommended:

  1. Wear a condom.
  2. Wear two condoms.
  3. Wear three condoms.

(Notice: This post has been scanned for Trojans.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:27 AM to Dyssynergy )
Verse for the occasion

Donna's is better, but mine is longer, so to speak.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:46 AM to Table for One )
Talk back, trembling lips

Matt Galloway, whom you may remember from such classic blogs as The Basement, has introduced Buzz-O-Phone, which permits persons with telephones (remember those?) to leave up to a two-minute rant.

"And then what?" you ask. Then this:

Your recorded diatribe or approbation will be nearly instantaneously podcast to several, maybe even dozens of interested folks around the globe.

Or you can listen to a batch of them right on the site using Buzz-O-Phone's Player.

I may have to try this out myself, once I'm outside of an environment whose background noise rivals anything you imagined in Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

Update: I recycled repurposed some of my condom remarks to try out the B-O-P. Kinda neat. Look for 14 February, 17:27:05.

Don't touch my sausage

A suspiciously-timely survey by the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation (and who knew we had one of those?) with the assistance of Domino's Pizza says that it's possible to predict a couple's compatibility by their pizza toppings:

[T]hose who prefer more non-traditional topping combinations, such as pineapple and onion, are most romantically compatible with people who prefer similar non-traditional toppings.

If you prefer traditional single-meat toppings like pepperoni, your ideal match is a person who likes a pizza loaded with meat toppings — someone who is extroverted.

The survey said those who prefer multiple vegetable toppings tend to be introverted and that people who don't like or want any toppings are a mystery.

Or perhaps they're just cheesy.

Inasmuch as Domino's is reportedly involved with this survey, I'm wondering why they didn't pose the question I'd most like answered: "Will she come in 30 minutes or less?"

(Via Fark.)

One of these things....

... is not like the others.

Quayle, Quail and Whittington

From left to right:

  1. Quayle.
  2. Quail.
  3. Whittington.

See, that wasn't so hard, was it?

(Swiped from Wonkette and enriched.)

The lure of the forbidden

The office — not my office, of course, but the one adjacent — contains surprisingly high levels of babeliciousness. (On a whim, I sent that word to Google, and it asked me if I meant "bootiliciousness"; the answer is "Not necessarily.") As one of the mainstays thereof was loading up her car for the trip home, I was bouncing some of my Standard Frivolous Ideas off of her; she was as polite as she could be without actually having to listen to me.

She started up the car, I retreated, and I discovered quickly enough that I'd been seen. "You still like her, don't you?"

My preachy side roused itself to the fore. "Once they're off the market, it's worse. Always."

It occurs to me that this bit of romantic pragmatism probably wasn't precisely the explanation she wanted to hear, but in my experience, it's almost invariably true. There's another one, same shop, 15 years or so younger, who used to be way cute. Now that she's tied the knot, she's freaking gorgeous.

And it further occurs to me that if this also works in reverse, it would help explain the lack of names on my dance card.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:30 PM to Table for One )
15 February 2006
The behinder I get

This is what I get for reading Jeff Jarvis:

Dave Sifry has some interesting thoughts on what he politely calls the magic middle of the blogosphere — Matt Cutts of Google called it the big butt (between the tiny head and the long tail).

So I read Sifry, and here's his definition of said keister:

At Technorati, we define this to be the bloggers who have from 20-1000 other people linking to them. As the chart above shows, there are about 155,000 people who fit in this group. And what is so interesting to me is how interesting, exciting, informative, and witty these blogs often are.

As of yesterday evening I had, per Technorati, 205 sites linking to me.

Geez. Now people (205 of them, anyway) will be expecting me to be interesting, exciting, informative and/or witty.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Blogorrhea )
Smaller hole, bigger donut?

This Michael Bates "side note" carries more weight than you'd think:

I was at a political event a few weeks ago and met Tom Kimball, the head of economic development for Owasso. He told me that right now, about half the population of the metro area lives within the City of Tulsa, and half without. He said that it's natural for the center city to become an even smaller proportion of the metro area, and pointed to St. Louis as an example. I thought, but didn't say, that Tulsa tripled its land area in 1966 precisely to avoid getting hemmed in by its suburbs. I forget the exact number he quoted me, but I believe he suggested that Tulsa shouldn't complain about ending up at around a quarter to a third of the metro area population.

The city of St. Louis has much less than a quarter to a third of the St. Louis Metro population: St. Louis County alone, which has been separate from the city of St. Louis for 125 years or so, has three times the population of the city. What the Census Bureau considers the St. Louis Metropolitan Statistical Area includes 2.75 million people; just over one million live in St. Louis County, and about 340,000 live in St. Louis City. This gives the city about an eighth of the metro area. More to the point, the city of St. Louis literally cannot expand: it's completely surrounded. Any population growth has to come within the original 61 square miles.

There's no particular rule of thumb for the proportion of the metro area population which lives in the central city: nearly two-thirds of the 1.6 million people in the San Antonio metro live in the city of San Antonio. (The figure in Oklahoma City is just under one-half.) Ultimately, what matters is the growth of the city relative to the growth of the suburbs. And this is a major issue in Tulsa, because the city isn't growing: the population of the city of Tulsa fell by 10,000 between 2000 and 2004. Not even St. Louis is shrinking that fast. For critics of Tulsa city government, who have suggested that the power structure is enriching Tulsa suburbs at the expense of city taxpayers, this could well constitute a call to arms.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:13 AM to Soonerland )
Twenty at random

As suggested by Jay, the first twenty songs out of the Winamp shuffle (out of 1,544):

  1. Faron Young, "Hello Walls"
  2. Johnny Horton, "North to Alaska"
  3. George Harrison, "What Is Life?"
  4. Frijid Pink, "House of the Rising Sun"
  5. Paul Simon, "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard"
  6. Aimee Mann, "Momentum" *
  7. Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Susie Q"
  8. Janis Joplin, "Mercedes Benz"
  9. Roger Miller, "Engine Engine #9"
  10. Janet Jackson, "What Have You Done for Me Lately"
  11. Doris Day, "Pillow Talk" +
  12. John Cougar Mellencamp, "Jack and Diane"
  13. Tommy Roe, "Jam Up and Jelly Tight"
  14. Herman's Hermits, "There's a Kind of Hush"
  15. Mason Williams, "Greensleeves"
  16. Wilson Pickett, "Funky Broadway"
  17. Madonna, "True Blue"
  18. Runt (Todd Rundgren), "We Gotta Get You a Woman"
  19. The Cake, "Baby That's Me"
  20. The Mindbenders, "A Groovy Kind of Love"

* From the soundtrack of Magnolia.

+ From the soundtrack of Pillow Talk. (Duh.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:12 AM to Screaming Memes )
The question of the ages

It's never been determined exactly how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, although a great deal of research has gone into the matter over the years.

The problem, of course, is that each person has a distinct licking style, so to speak. And if you keep losing count, well, here's the device for you. I suppose it's too much to hope that it's made in Newark, Ohio.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

Worst. Team Name. Ever. Update.

After "pressure from the Hispanic community," Houston's Major League Soccer team will be renamed to something other than "1836."

For myself, I'm surprised that they waited for said pressure: I mean, it was a crappy name to begin with.

(Previously mentioned here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:02 PM to Dyssynergy )
Minimizing the minimum wage

House Bill 2639, authored by Rep. Richard Morrissette (D-OKC), would have raised the state minimum wage to $6.15 effective in November. The House Business and Economic Development Committee killed the bill today on a party-line 5-3 vote.

The AP story contains this curious paragraph:

Opponents say raising minimum wages will increase costs for businesses. They also argue that almost all businesses in the state already pay more than the minimum wage.

Which, of course, invites the obvious question: if they're already paying more, how does this increase their costs? I can assure you that I wasn't going to get paid more if this bill had passed. Are some people being paid at a rate defined as the minimum plus X, or the minimum times X?

Yes, I understand the philosophical issues. But if this wire story accurately reflects statements by the opponents of the bill, let it be said that the state GOP is doing a fairly inept job of selling its positions: this stance, as represented, merely makes them look like dullards, and cheap dullards at that.

Now if their real objection was to the provision of HB 2639 that would establish a "living wage" for school-district staff and contractors (for districts of 30,000 students or more), which starts at $11.67 an hour and increases yearly thereafter, why didn't they say so?

(RTF text here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:41 PM to Soonerland )
On the way to the All-Star break

There seemed to be an awful lot of "Hey, we get six days off!" floating around the woodwork at the Ford Center; the play on both sides was a little bit less than inspired, but the Hornets never trailed the Blazers and finally chalked up the 29th W of the season, 102-86.

The return of Chris Paul was relatively placid: he scored only one free throw, but pulled down five boards and served up seven assists before exiting in the third quarter with the wind knocked out of him. Jackson Vroman disappeared early with a twisted ankle and did not return. But all twelve Bees on the active list (meaning everyone other than Brandon Bass and Arvydas Macijauskas) scored, and half of them scored in double figures; Aaron Williams got 14, his season high, and Kirk Snyder led all scorers with 22.

The Hornets got their fifth straight win, their 9th in the last 10. The season resumes next Tuesday with a road trip to Indianapolis to take on the Pacers.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:30 PM to Net Proceeds )
16 February 2006
The Emperor's new sedan

Donald Pittenger looks at Chrysler's Imperial concept (pictures from Autoblog here), and he doesn't like what he sees:

To me, the really ugly part is the rear. The shape of the trunk and its detailing focuses my eye on the center, making the rear seem too narrow and too tall, if the photos are any guide. I think this pinched look needs to be replaced with something that is distinctive yet will enhance the car's appearance.

The front also does not please me, because it too seems pinched — but for reason of having all the brightwork in the center. I think small, bright details of some sort are needed at the outer edges of the headlight area into order to keep the viewer's eye moving from side-to-side, giving the impression of greater width.

Me, I think they're trying too hard to make it look like the current Rolls-Royce Phantom: there's the same impression of bank-vault mass, the same haughty height, the same excess of brightwork on top of the grille — although at the Imp's presumed sub-$50k price point, you won't get anything like the Spirit of Ecstasy atop that metal slab.

Then there's this, from Automobile Magazine (March):

We fear, though, the nameplate has been dragged through the mud one too many times: it was a perennial also-ran to Lincoln and Cadillac in the '60s and '70s, a gone-in-a-minute coupe in the '80s, and a gilded K-car in the '90s.

Still, Mopar doesn't have any other high-end nomenclature in the bin, unless they want to exhume, say, "Adventurer" from the mausoleum where they stashed DeSoto, and this car simply doesn't look adventurous. Or, for that matter, imperial.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:01 AM to Driver's Seat )
Healing the lame

In one sense, anyway: MyLameSexLife.com.

At least they didn't actually mention me by name.

(Via Church Marketing Sucks. Yes, really.)

Tintinnabulationarily speaking

We're getting a bell tower along the North Canadian Oklahoma River near the I-35 bridge, courtesy of Kerr-McGee.

The 50-foot tower will play, probably through some electronic means (some of us are holding out for real bells, but that gets pricey), the classic Westminster Chime theme (E-C-D-G; G-D-E-C) on the hour, from 9 am to 9 pm daily.

The tower, designed to look like the mast of a ship, will cost about $80,000, most of which will be funded by KMG.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:00 AM to City Scene )
Floral and hearty

File this under "Why didn't I think of that?"

If any female juniors at Cypress Bay High School [Weston, FL] weren't aware of classmate Paul Kim — they know him now.

The 17-year-old junior ordered 500 red roses and had them delivered to nearly all his female classmates on Valentine's Day. A card attached to the roses said, "To all the lovely ladies of 2007, here's wishing you a Happy Valentine's Day. Affectionately, Paul Kim."

"To me, Valentine's is a special day," Kim said. "I realized that not many girls would get anything and it would be an ordinary day. I figured I'd take the initiative and put a smile on their face."

I have to agree with Samantha Burns on this:

Either this kid is going to have to schedule dates from here 'til his high school graduation or he will become the laughing stock of the entire school.

Having been the latter in my day, I hope the former befalls him.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:40 PM to Table for One )
A nod to Oklahoma's seafaring heritage

Jeffrey Loria, who owns the Florida Marlins and who used to own the Triple-A Oklahoma City 89ers, is shopping for a new location for his franchise, and Lieutenant Governor Mary Fallin reports that he's been thinking about coming back to Soonerland.

Says Fallin:

They are looking at several cities, but I think we are in the mix.... I thought, Why not Oklahoma City? We're filling the Ford Center for the Hornets and we ought to be able to convert that enthusiasm to welcome baseball, too.

Minor details:

  • We already had a facility worthy of the NBA. We don't have a ballpark suitable for MLB; the Brick is a wondrous place, as good as anything as you'll find in the minors, but it doesn't have anywhere near the capacity you'd want in a major-league park.

  • Is this town big enough to support two big-league teams? (And if you're thinking it is, what does this do to the argument that New Orleans, depleted as it is, can't handle both the NFL and the NBA?)

  • Jeff Loria almost makes George Shinn look saintly.

  • Does the phrase "too much too soon" mean anything anymore?

Fallin says she's going to be talking to the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce and whatever interested parties happen by, in an effort to draw up a preliminary pitch.

(Obviously, if this does come off, the team will have to be renamed something a bit less, um, waterborne; suggestions are welcomed.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:46 PM to Base Paths , City Scene )
Mistletoe expression

(In 2004, Senate Bill 7 designated the "Oklahoma Rose," a hybrid tea rose developed at Oklahoma State University, as the state flower; mistletoe, which had served in this capacity since 1893 — before statehood, mind you — was bumped to "official floral emblem." Tom Elmore, executive director of the North American Transportation Institute in Moore, is not happy about it, and here he explains why.)

A little insight on the Mistletoe, as related by my grandparents and others along the way:

Among the luxuries today's artificially insulated Americans have claimed is the "right" to sometimes scoff dismissively at those who went before us and the things they loved.

Life on the barren prairie was hard on those in the horse-drawn world. The hearty souls who came here, far from the frontiers of developing modern civilization, had to rely on themselves, their families, their faith and whatever comforts they could find, especially in times of tragedy. The loss of children to accidental injuries, cholera, appendicitis was common. The survivors had no choice but to deal with death and grief first hand.

Even in the depths of winter, Mistletoe was often used to decorate the windswept graves of the children. But it was more than just decoration; it seemed to be a message, a reminder that God, who made the Mistletoe to flourish improbably, defiantly amidst death and the inescapable winter desolation, now held their beloved children in His arms — and that their lives continued in a land of eternal spring.

To recognize this is to understand the love the settlers and even native tribes before them held for the lowly Mistletoe. It's also to understand why its replacement as state flower with a hothouse rose verges on blasphemy. But, then, that's about what we'd expect from the Oklahoma state legislature.

178

A Financial Revolution hosts the 178th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, the granddaddy of all weekly blogfests.

I was listening to a lot of Bach today, so I'll toss in a mention of Cantata No. 178, "Wo Gott, der Herr, nicht bei uns hält" — "If God, the Lord, is on our side," more or less — written by JSB back in 1724.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:59 PM to Blogorrhea )
17 February 2006
Inadvertent speed

I probably shouldn't admit to this, but I did my tax returns online Saturday night during the Hornets-Timberwolves game. (We won.) The following events subsequently occurred:

  • Monday: the Eternal Revenue Service informed me that they'd accepted my 1040.

  • Tuesday: the Oklahoma Tax Commission informed me that they'd accepted my 511.

  • Thursday: I had an actual check from the OTC.

I'm not sure what to think. (Well, besides "How come I forgot to check the Direct Deposit box?")

Press to play

Have you ever oscillated between "Wow, I have to have one of these" and "Geez, what was I thinking?" at faster than 10 rpm?

I must be going like sixty as I look at this. Yeah. An ironing board. But an ironing board somehow rendered Sorta Cool, as though using it would transform you into the hottie pictured therewith. And it gets better. The board, I mean, not the hottie.

Is all this worth $225? Probably not. But keep in mind, you're dealing here with a guy who just put his water bill on his Target RedCard.

(Via Lileks, who probably didn't buy one either.)

A new way to empty your checking account

Debit-card usage is on the rise, and Discover, wanting a piece of that action, has now decided to issue a Discover Debit Card, which will be available in the usual two flavors: individual and business. This will come in handy at Sam's Club and when renewing an Oklahoma auto tag.

The first actual bank to issue the Discover Debit Card, other than Discover's own bank in Delaware, will be the Central National Bank of Enid, Oklahoma, which didn't say whether the card would replace its existing Visa Check Card.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:44 AM to Common Cents , Soonerland )
Release the hounds

The Consumerist is taking votes for Worst American Company; the top vote-getters will presumably go into a runoff to pick the Worst of the Worst.

I have no dog in this particular hunt, though given the particular focus of the Consumerist site, and even though they didn't say so, I think they'd prefer to hear about firms with whom the voters have personal experience. (Just in case you were, say, going to tell all your friends at DU to write in "Halliburton".)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:19 PM to Blogorrhea )
Gut instincts

Oklahoman sportswriter Berry Tramel today characterized Charles Barkley as a "man who speaks first, thinks second and then repeats what he said the first time," which may sound like damning with faint praise but which strikes me as something almost worthy of emulation: you follow your gut, even when it's making untoward, Barkleyesque noises.

Which, as it happens, might be the best advice for most of us anyway:

''It is much better to follow your gut," said Ap Dijksterhuis, a professor of psychology at the University of Amsterdam, who led the research.

For relatively simple decisions, he said, it is better to use the rational approach. But the conscious mind can consider only a few facts at a time. And so with complex decisions, he said, the unconscious appears to do a better job of weighing the factors and arriving at a sound conclusion.

The finding, published today in the journal Science, would have practical implications if borne out by further research.

In years gone by, I'd been known to waffle on such insignificant matters as "Paper or plastic?" I can't legitimately claim to be a spur-of-the-moment kind of guy, but I have learned that the consequences of jumping into a decision need not be heinous: I spent barely fifteen minutes inside this very house before I decided that this was the one I wanted.

Then again, it was the eleventh house I'd looked at.

Matt Rosenberg would like to see this sort of speedy decision-making enforced at the governmental level:

I'm thinking mandatory cloture within 72 hours of commencement for all state and federal legislative debates, and especially federal judicial confirmation hearings, unless the legislative body can summon a five-sixths majority to extend debate another 48 hours.

I'm just shooting from the hip here, of course, but wouldn't that force these gassy buzzards we elect to actually focus their thinking?

This I couldn't say. In the case of pending legislation, it's hard enough to get them to read the damn bills; if you take away the pontification periods, you're going to wind up with, say, Joe Biden learning how to talk fast enough to do FedEx commercials, which would not be much of a gain.

Still, if someone wants to base a campaign on the theme of "Screw nuance," I'm listening.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:38 PM to Almost Yogurt )
18 February 2006
Fatuous Flashback 21

Could there ever be a single legislative package that will deal with abortion to the satisfaction of all the Interested Parties? Certainly not this one:

The United States Department of Pregnancy would be created, and its Secretary would be given Cabinet rank. The Department would assume control over all American citizens of age zero or below. The exact nature of the Department's charter is still being debated, but it is expected to combine the best features of the Selective Service System and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Upon reaching menses — typically, age 10 through 13 — a girl would register with the Department through one of its many local offices, and record the date of first menstruation. For the next forty years or so, until a physician certifies that the woman is past childbearing years or, in presumably rare instances, has suffered medical problems which required the termination of the woman's childbearing capacity, the woman will submit to the Department on Form 28 (or 30; the nomenclature has not yet been finalized) her certification that menstruation has taken place on schedule, or will advise the Department that conception has taken place instead. At this time, it is not considered necessary that the woman submit evidence of menstruation, though all Department offices will be fitted for collection and disposal of related biohazardous materials, if at the discretion of the Secretary it is necessary to do so in order to enforce the charter of the Department. (A proposal to cut costs by administering the registration process through the United States Postal Service, as has been done over the years with Selective Service, was blocked by opposition from the various postal unions, which objected to handling such materials without payment of both postage and insurance.)

Upon pregnancy certification, a woman would be required to post $20,000 bond with the local Department office. (In the case of multiple births, the bond would be increased accordingly, once it is determined that twins — or more — have been conceived.) This bond is subject to forfeiture if she miscarries, or if, in the judgment of the Department, she has not exerted "maximum effort" to bring the pregnancy to term. "Maximum effort" has not yet been fixed in the United States Code, but certain activities — drug use, too many Bud Lights, failure to avoid an automobile accident in which airbags are deployed — would presumably be considered prima facie evidence of less-than-maximum effort. The Department will provide pre-natal care as appropriate, and the cost of such care will be deducted from the face amount of the bond.

(From Vent #186, 20 February 2000.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:23 AM to Greatest Hits )
The lion sleeps a little better

From this very site, two summers ago:

Solomon Linda's bank account, alas, never saw much in the way of deposits from ["The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which he wrote as "Mbube" in 1939], and his estate — Linda died in 1962 — is now suing for royalties.

Abilene Music, the publisher of the song, has now reached a settlement with Linda's family, agreeing to pay back royalties and to cut them in on the take hereafter. The suit was originally filed against the Walt Disney Company, which had used the song in The Lion King and whose pockets were viewed as being the deepest; Disney, which has always insisted that its dealings with Abilene were upfront and auditable, is off the hook.

Terms of the settlement were not disclosed, though it's estimated that "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" has earned about $15 million over the years.

Well, this explains everything

There are still a few fans of Fidel Castro hither and yon, and if you ask them just what's the appeal of an aging Communist bully anyway, they'll point out that Cuba has free health care. Count on it. Of course, "free" stuff tends to be worth the price, but that's another matter.

In the past I've been puzzled by the American left's seeming solicitousness toward Islamic terrorists, and I've tried to explain it away as multiculturalism gone horribly wrong. Apparently, though, I missed the obvious point: Al-Qaeda has free health care. (And, apparently, paid vacations.)

Poor old Benito Mussolini. Obviously making the trains run on time wasn't enough.

Do unto me, dammit

Ace is all over this "sicko marriage contract" which specifies all manner of things which the Master of the House requires: "one matrimonial innovation after another," says Ace.

Except, as you may have guessed if you've read anything I've written in the last decade, that it's not exactly innovative; Prince Buster made a record out of this premise forty years ago. (It was not a hit in the US; then again, what would you expect from a ska record released on Philips, fercrissake?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:44 AM to Table for One )
All those farging surveys

And there's only one way to stop them:

Answer all the questions in advance.

(Steph, did I mention you're brilliant?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:22 AM to Screaming Memes )
New plastic binding

Washington Mutual, the new owner of the Providian credit-card operation, has, like other card issuers, come up with new terms to increase the monthly payments in the interest of greater debt reduction. But WaMu's tactics are different. They're not going to a percentage-plus-new charges system like rival banks, but will vary the percentage based upon the cardholder's interest rate: if you're paying a higher rate, you're also going to pay a higher minimum.

Under the new WaMu scheme, if your Weighted Average APR is less than 12 percent, your monthly minimum is 2 percent of the account balance, period. (In this case, a hundred bucks.) This APR, of course, tends to increase, since payments are applied to the balance at the lower interest rate first. Up to 18 percent, you'd pay 2.5 percent of the balance, and it goes up from there; the poor souls who are paying over 30 percent get to fork out 4 percent each month.

Depending on individual circumstances, this can be either easier or harsher on the customer: for me, it represents no change at all. And unless I'm really in a bind, I never, ever pay just the minimum if I have a balance.

Doing the math: If you owe, for example, $2000 at 14 percent and $3000 on a balance transfer at 8 percent, your Weighted Average APR is ([2000 x .14] + [3000 x .08])/5000 = 10.4 percent.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:45 PM to Common Cents )
No, you can't have this

I once got carded for buying spray paint, and while I suppose I should consider myself flattered that anyone thought I was underage — I was in my forties, fercryingoutloud — I have to assume that in the eyes of at least one store clerk I looked like someone who, somehow deprived of socially-acceptable highs, would resort to huffing Krylon for a buzz.

I haven't bought any since, so I don't know if it's now kept behind the counter along with all the semi-effective cold remedies, but I'm guessing that it's just a matter of time:

Next we'll be charging kids as felons for carrying sugar. Oh wait, did that. Yes a sixth grader had powdered sugar and was charged with a felony for possessing a "look-alike drug".

Funny, I could have been charged for this same thing when I was sixteen, except that it was cornstarch. I had cornstarch in a ziplock bag with me at high school for nearly two weeks. I even shared it with my friends.

Football off-season weight lifting ... and we were out of chalk. Not so bad if you were one of the weaker guys, but I was lifting over 500 pounds in the dead lift. Having your grip slip might mean torn muscles or broken bones. I figured out that cornstarch worked OK. Today I’d get thrown in jail for it.

Sugar and cornstarch go behind the counters too. As a matter of fact, if something can be abused in any way or if it even looks like something that can be abused, then someone somewhere wants it behind the counter.

So far, no one has resorted to hiding the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:25 PM to Dyssynergy )
19 February 2006
Strange search-engine queries (8)

Once again, a collection of things people actually typed into search windows. Whether it's worse that they typed them, or that typing them brought them here to this site, is left as an exercise for the student.

roommate running around naked:  And you can still type? I'm impressed.

Why are bras important to society:  They provide support for a substantial segment of the community.

how much is 17k:  Last I heard, it was 17,408.

serf hat:  You'd better doff it when His Lordship shows up, too.

is terrorism worse than communism:  And the worst of all is both of them.

what men find unattractive:  Finding themselves pilloried on a Web site.

how to pronounce nacogdoches:  It rhymes with "roaches".

earth shaking event happened last february 3, 2003:  Take your choice: the arrest of Phil Spector, or the premiere of Shanghai Knights.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:57 AM to You Asked For It )
Urban ruins

About a year and a half ago, I wrote this about a working-class neighborhood on the west side of the city:

Professional worriers, faced with a few blocks like this, would undoubtedly start screaming "Blight!" and calling for intervention. And indeed, there's room for improvement, starting with what appears to be, at first glance, a higher-than-average crime rate. But I am becoming persuaded that the kiss of death for any neighborhood comes at the exact moment when the studies and the surveys and the recommendations start coming out and the focus shifts from "How can we make this area better?" to "How can we get these people out of here?"

Dean Esmay lives near Detroit, where there are a lot more than a few blocks like this, and this is what things look like after they've had a chance to fester:

Today there are so many such buildings rotting away in Detroit that the city can't even keep up with the need to remove them, even though they're ugly, worthless, and often a hazard to children. This, by the way, is the flip side to the arguments against the controversial Kelo decision. The city needs to seize these properties and demolish them, and find something useful to do with them, including selling them to private businesses if they can.

But of course the point is moot in Detroit, since almost no business wants to set up shop there. So literally thousands of abandoned shells litter the landscape.

This doesn't strike me as a killer argument in favor of Kelo, exactly, but for many sections of Detroit, it's presumably too late to do much of anything else but bring out the dozers and start over.

And there's this:

When an area's population goes down, its economy goes down even faster. I can think of no better example of how wrong the Malthusian fallacy is than watching this terrible decay in action. As people leave an area, property values go down, and eventually, things that were once valued in the millions of dollars become so worthless they're simply discarded like trash. Office buildings, even mansions, even skyscrapers. Not necessarily because they're beyond salvage or repair, but because no one wants to be there, and with no people there is no value.

Human beings are not liabilities, they're assets. Nothing illustrates this better than watching what happens when an area rapidly depopulates.

What this might mean for New Orleans, I don't even want to imagine.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:55 AM to Dyssynergy )
Cultural mavens, all of us

Darla has identified what she calls the Fantasy of the Good Life, and it goes like this:

This mostly applies to romance novels, chick lit, and women's fiction. I haven't seen this phenomenon in any other genre. Obviously, it doesn't apply in sf/f.

It seems that an inordinate number of characters, regardless of their personalities or how they grew up, know all about:

  • fashion (a bricklayer can distinguish Armani from another designer from across a crowded room)
  • wine
  • flowers (even self-professed black thumbs know the names of every flower they encounter)
  • classical music (a woman who grew up in a slum can name a Vivaldi concerto in 6 notes or less)
  • perfume (every man and most of the women can identify a woman's brand of perfume at 20 paces)

My theory is that the authors who do this are trying to portray the characters as living The Good Life, and that these details aren't necessarily things that the authors themselves are all that familiar with, but they're things they imagine would be important to living The Good Life. It kind of goes along with the stereotype of women being into shopping and fashion, and looking for status in a mate as opposed to physical attributes (stereotype! I said stereotype!).

Which may explain why you don't see this in science fiction/fantasy, since the author's concept of The Good Life therein is likely worlds away, so to speak, of what we might aspire to in the land of Manic Mundane.

But I'd rather have the stereotyping, such as it is, than some vapid attempt to impose some sort of cultural "authenticity," itself a stereotype, on the characters: it's not useful to have someone drawl just because he grew up in Lubbock, nor to have him fighting said drawl just because he grew up in Lubbock. The object lesson for me came about 15 years ago, when I met a young black woman, maybe not incredibly gorgeous but certainly credibly gorgeous, who worked in the medical field and who was a major Elton John fan; for some reason it took me quite a while to adjust to this particular reality, as though African ancestry would somehow prevent someone from listening to "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road." I'm incoherent enough in the presence of beauty, so this bit of silliness made matters much, much worse, and I truly hope that she's forgotten my existence. (Inasmuch as we never had an actual date, I think this is likely; on the other hand, really blatant stupidity is hard to erase from the memory banks.)

On a scale of 0-10, this is how I'd estimate my expertise on the cultural indicators given:

  • fashion: 3
  • wine: 2
  • flowers: 4
  • classical music: 5
  • perfume: 1

Then again, were someone like me to appear in a romance novel or in "chick lit" (surely there ought to be a better name for it than that), he would almost certainly be the guy the heroine avoids at all cost.

Ackwards, basswise

Some of my favorite people have been brandishing an online Johari window, a tool for self-examination based upon the observations of others.

Which, I have to admit, is a nifty sort of gizmo. Unfortunately, those of us with a darker sense of self never quite seem to buy all those high-sounding descriptions; for us, there is the Nohari window, where you're allowed to berate someone properly. Feel free to contribute to mine.

(Note: There is an existing Johari window with the same name, but it is not mine.)

20 February 2006
Holy mackerel, dere

CBS-TV canceled Amos 'n' Andy, the television spinoff of the successful radio series, in 1953 after a two-year, 78-episode run. Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, two white guys who had played the roles in the radio version, produced the TV edition. It was the first network series with an all-black cast, and it was a substantial hit: in its first year on the air, it ranked 13th among network shows, drawing nearly 39 percent of the audience in its time slot (Thursday, 8:30 Eastern). CBS's syndication arm kept the show in circulation into the 1960s.

But the NAACP was never happy with Amos 'n' Andy, or, perhaps more precisely, they were never happy with the character of George "Kingfish" Stevens, a conniving character always out to make a fast buck. Stereotyping, they said. In 1963, CBS had somehow sold the show in Kenya; shortly thereafter, the Kenyan government announced a ban on it. By 1966, with Bill Cosby lined up against the series alongside the NAACP, CBS pulled it from syndication, and it's not been aired since. (Gosden and Correll got the next-to-last laugh: they redid the show as an animated cartoon called Calvin and the Colonel, which debuted on ABC in 1961 and lasted one season, with Gosden and Correll doing the same old voices with new names and species — Calvin was a slightly slow bear, the Colonel a sly fox — with Paul Frees doing the Kingfish a weasel.)

Correll died in 1972, Gosden in 1982, so they won't see the last laugh: a revival of the series on stage under the title Kingfish, Amos and Andy, now playing in Jamaica, New York. Carl Clay, director of Black Spectrum Theatre, explains why he brought these characters back to life:

In the '60s, there was nothing else to compare Amos 'n' Andy to. Today, we've had so many black sitcoms that play up black stereotypes that Amos 'n' Andy seems tame. It was a groundbreaking show that had a universal appeal.

It just so happened that it was the first TV show with an all-black cast, and because of that, well-intentioned people like Roy Wilkins of the NAACP, who loved the show on radio, and later black stars like Bill Cosby, maybe put too much weight on the shoulders of the show, asking it to be representative of an entire race.

And Amos 'n' Andy was unabashedly working-class, which might have embarrassed a few people who fancied themselves highbrow, who thought that in the best of all possible worlds, people like Amos and Andy and especially the Kingfish would no longer exist. But actor Gil T. says:

It wasn't about welfare families, dope pushers or gangbangers. It was about working- and middle-class black people in New York. One character was a lawyer, another owned a cab company, a teacher, a cop. Everybody worked, and everybody struggled.

Real life, in other words. No wonder it had to be suppressed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:57 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Bombs, bursting in air

Good advice from Baldilocks:

If you’re a professional singer and you're asked to sing the Star-Spangled Banner at the Super Bowl or the NBA All-Star Game or at one of the games in the NBA Finals, the NHL Finals or the World Series, do yourself and your audience's ears a favor: rehearse. Many times.

The temporarily-reunited Destiny’s Child sang the song at [the] NBA All-Star Game and, aside from wowing all of the male on-lookers by looking good (you go, girls), they sang a harmony-laden and excellent version of the Banner — they didn't just rely on the fact they are very good singers; it was obvious that they practiced, over and over again.

This would seem even more imperative for singers farther down on the food chain performing at smaller events, but I wonder sometimes.

The Hornets radio broadcast times its pre-tipoff features in such a way as to miss whoever is doing the National Anthem: generally, you catch the last four or six bars, after which Sean Kelley does his salute to the Armed Forces. One game this month, the timing was off somewhere, and we got to hear almost the entire anthem, and my thoughts at the time were running along the lines of "So this is what Mariah Carey would sound like if a coyote were chewing her foot off."

There are only so many notes in "The Star-Spangled Banner." Unless you know you can sing as well as Destiny's Child — and you probably can't — you probably shouldn't try to triple that number for the sake of melisma. It will not work, and people's ears will hurt.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:47 AM to Almost Yogurt )
A sign in the heavens

Cartoons, schmartoons: here's the next inflammatory image, and just let them try to destroy it.

Quote of the week

From Fametracker, and probably actually written by Wing Chun:

Hi, I'm Hany Abu-Assad, director of Paradise Now. Thank you for including, among your Foreign Language Films, works originating with The Palestinian Authority. I apologize if it means that you get deluged next year with submissions from 'countries' like 'The Sovereign Nation Of Margaret Szykowski' or 'Kensylvania.'

Not to mention the Apartment Nation of Travistan.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:01 AM to QOTW )
Bats don't wear short shorts

"Them bats is smart," said David Letterman: "they use radar."

Well, actually, they use a form of sonar called "echolocation," but apparently they also fly by feel: receptors on bats' wings, sensitive to touch, help them maintain their flight paths and detect prey.

Dr. John Zook of Ohio University tested this latter premise:

Zook removed the delicate hairs from bats' wings with a hair removal cream. Then he let them fly. The bats appeared to fly normally when following a straight path, but when they’d try to take a sharp turn, such as at the corner of a room, they would drop or even jump in altitude, sometimes erratically. When the hairs grew back, the bats resumed making turns normally.

"It was obvious they had trouble maintaining elevation on a turn," he said. "Without the hairs, the bats were increasing the curve of their wings too much or not enough."

The bats' flight behavior also changed based on the area of the wing where the hairs were removed. For example, when Zook removed hairs along the trailing edge of the wings and on the membrane between the legs, the bats were able to fly and turn effectively, but they tended to pitch forward because they couldn’t control their in-flight balance.

So if you have a pet bat — perhaps a fruitbat named Eric — you would be doing it a kindness by keeping the Nair away from its wings.

(Courtesy of Finestkind Clinic and Fish Market.)

(Gratuitous disclosure: The pre-AOL QuantumLink service once had a chat room called QFRUITBAT, which was devised by, um, me.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:15 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Fighting global warming

It's not generally known, but the Belle Isle Bridge on Oklahoma City's north side was originally designed as an environmental tool for use in the slowly-warming Arctic: once installed, it would trap ice particles and retain them as long as possible along its surface during the winter, thereby helping to keep the temperature down and the polar-bear habitat intact. When the Canadians refused to pick up their half of the development tab, the inventors abandoned the project and sold the prototype at a substantial discount to ODOT, which put it to use as a mundane transportation module.

By night they make the bars

By day they don't make the cars (actually, trucks) anymore: General Motors Oklahoma City Assembly built its last Chevy TrailBlazer today.

Sounds like a good reason to go have a drink.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:09 PM to City Scene )
21 February 2006
Asymmetrical location

It's no particular secret that Oklahoma City is undergoing a downtown renaissance of sorts, and while most of us who live around here are somewhere between pleased and thrilled, there have been a few complaints about how you'd never know it if you happened to be motoring by on the freeway: even if wondrous things are happening at street level, and they are, it's still pretty much the same old skyline.

I get a little bit unnerved by the thought of really tall structures here in the Big Breezy, even though nothing inhabited has fallen lately. (WKY radio lost its tower in a tornado in 1998.) I mean, I don't even go to Nikz, which, on the 20th floor, isn't all that high up.

Still, this is amazing, and you know it's going to dominate the Louisville skyline when it's finished four years or so from now, and I find myself thinking that maybe we ought to do something this grandiose, this breathtaking, this freaking tall out here on the prairie.

Even if I don't ever get above the 20th floor.

(Via Nobody Asked.)

Well, it is Illustrated

Thoughts on the 2006 Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue:

  • That body-painting stuff, inaugurated way back in 1999, has spread from a feature article to actual ads: assuming I have identified them correctly (a lot to assume, considering), no fewer than three advertisers feature a young woman dressed largely or only in couture by Sherwin-Williams.

  • The trend of showing half the suit on, half the suit off — this requires a two-piece, of course — has advanced to showing half the suit on and nobody knows where the other half is. There's even one shot with no suit at all: Ana Beatriz Barrios is garnished with flowers, but she's not wearing a stitch. By comparison, Heidi Klum, who wears nothing but body paint and shoes throughout this issue, isn't out of line for Casual Friday.

  • At least Rick Reilly still gets the last page. (He's dressed, I assume.)

  • In most of these shots, the facial expressions — yes, I looked at them — tend toward the blank, with a sprinkling of "Try to look like you're having fun, even though it's four in the morning."

  • Most curious photo: page 152, which features Rebecca Romijn (she's had a Stamosectomy) and Elle MacPherson with the following wearables: one bikini bottom, one latex bracelet, one toe ring. (Neither is wearing all three.)

  • The "$30 million bikini," worn by Molly Sims over four pages, wasn't enough: they also threw in a ring ($4 million) and a pendant ($3.5 million). Coverage by all this brightwork is as minimal as you could hope for.

  • Some of the pictured swimsuits are comparatively inexpensive: under $100. Still, that's about a thousand bucks a square foot.

  • Only one convincing come-hither look in the whole package: Oluchi Onweagba, on page 126. On the other hand, if I could recognize come-hither looks when I saw them, I probably wouldn't have time to blog.*

* You wish.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:03 AM to Rag Trade )
Baby, the rain must fall

Although not like this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:18 AM to Bogus History )
A book I definitely want to read

The story is here.

Yeah, I know: how could I not? (Actually, it's been on my Amazon.com wish list for about four months, but I don't do anything quickly when it's cold outside; the lack of sun saps my will to live, or something.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:52 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Air boredom

Not to be too obvious about it, but the purpose of cloud cover is to provide rain or, lower on the desirability scale, some other, more annoying forms of precipitation. Inasmuch as we're not getting any actual rain — the entire horrible weekend produced less than a quarter-inch of frozen crapola, which melts down to barely enough rain to move the dirt on one's car — the past 48 hours of clouds, which have done nothing to quench the thirst of the land and which, by dint of blocking the goddamn sun and all, have made it possible for said frozen crapola to hang around for two farging days, would be considered wholly unacceptable even if I lived in some Land of Shadows like Seattle fercrissake, which you'll note that I don't.

I blame Karl Rove. Cheap sumbitch probably outsourced the maintenance on the Weather Control Machine to Ecuador or some such place.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:28 PM to Weather or Not )
Yet another argument for a Mac

And, well, at least it wasn't a Blue Screen of Death.

(Via Fark)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:47 PM to PEBKAC )
Off the pace

The Hornets kept within striking distance of Indiana for the first twenty-four minutes, but the Pacers held the Bees to 17 points in the third quarter (and 15 in the fourth) and won it going away, 97-75.

Both teams were missing key players — Jermaine O'Neal was inactive for the Pacers, and David West was away from the Bees — but Indiana, with five players in double figures, was able to shrug off O'Neal's absence. Chris Paul had a welcome return to form with 27 points, hitting 8 of 15 including three treys, but the rest of the team shot a miserable 29 percent.

In the fourth quarter, the benches were emptied, and all the Hornets (except J. R. Smith, who was bumped to inactive) got at least six minutes of playing time; neither Jackson Vroman (who started in place of West) nor Brandon Bass scored, but each hauled down three boards.

Macas Watch: Arvydas Macijauskas played nine and a half minutes, scored four points and pulled off a steal.

Tomorrow the Jazz come to the Ford Center; Saturday the Bees fly to Salt Lake City to play the same Jazz.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:22 PM to Net Proceeds )
22 February 2006
Ashes to ashes

Well, not exactly:

The Sermon I think this Mom will never forget.... this particular Sunday sermon.... "Dear Lord," the minister began, with arms extended toward heaven and a rapturous look on his upturned face. "Without you, we are but dust."

He would have continued but at that moment my very obedient daughter (who was listening!) leaned over to me and asked quite audibly in her shrill little girl voice, "Mom, what is butt dust?"

I know I wouldn't have an answer for that.

Hem and haw

Lisa Armstrong, in the March Harper's Bazaar:

I've been searching to replicate the Perfect Dress. Partly because, in case you haven't noticed, the dress is this season's biggest news and partly because I've reached that point of self-knowledge at which all of us born between 1960 and 1980 need to arrive, preferably sooner than later: (1) Dresses don't have to be a sellout of all your (post)feminist principles or, heaven forbid, girly, and (2) there is in fact a happy path to tread between looking like an Olsen twin and looking like Marmee March from Little Women.

My immediate response was "Migod, I should hope so": one doesn't have to appear motherly to look grown-up. At least, one shouldn't. And that's a heck of a wide range, 1960 to 1980; under that strange half-your-age-plus-seven rule, I could theoretically be browsing sixty-five percent of that group.

Still, I have some ideas about the Perfect Dress: it might be, though it doesn't have to be, black; its hemline is neither too high nor too low; and it has the curious property of imparting to its wearer the feeling of being Helen, hell on wheels. (Any explanation beyond "Because it makes me look incredible" is superfluous.) If you own one such, I hope some day to see you in it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:16 AM to Rag Trade )
179

It's the 179th consecutive week of the Carnival of the Vanities, and A DC Birding Blog, which is, I understand, a birding blog based in DC, has assumed the responsibility for hosting this week. "At its best," says John, who runs the place, the Carnival "showcases great blog writing from a variety of different subjects and across the ideological spectrum." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Numeric factoid: Section 179 of the Internal Revenue Code permits a sole proprietor, partnership or corporation to fully expense some tangible property in the year it is purchased, rather than subject it to the usual depreciation schedule.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:01 AM to Blogorrhea )
Veni, vidi, veto

The President has threatened to veto any legislation which would block the sale of half a dozen US port-operation facilities to a company owned by the United Arab Emirates.

Yeah, right, says McGehee:

If you'll recall, he also pledged to veto any campaign-finance reform bill that didn't meet a very specific set of requirements. You may also recall that the bill he was sent didn't even try to meet his requirements. And in case you need reminding, he signed it anyway.

Anyway, George W. Bush vetoing a bill is about as plausible as, say, Paris Hilton trying to stay out of the spotlight:

Mr. President, you can't call yourself a gunslinger if you can't ever bring yourself to sling a gun. Five years into your presidency you haven't vetoed a goddamned thing, despite having been sent platters of garbage that even Jimmy the Idiot Boy would have known better than to sign. So far you have preferred to eat it [rather] than send it back to the kitchen. Don't expect anybody to believe your veto threat now.

You think maybe he brought a knife to this gunfight?

Addendum: Rachel points out:

It seems there's only one American company that can run our ports. Do you think the newly security conscious Dems would prefer that alternative?

I suspect that if putting up with a subsidiary of BushCo is the price for sticking it to Bush, they'll sign on willingly.

Further addendum: E. M. Zanotti favors the deal, so long as the UAE keeps Michael Jackson.

On Her Majesty's Transmission Service

You'd think that if anyone could drive a stick shift, it would be Bond. James Bond.

All that Jazz

And the Jazz, after a pathetic 12-point first quarter, demonstrated that they were, if not all that, certainly most of that, coming back to dispatch the depleted Hornets, 82-76.

Come to think of it, depleted doesn't even begin to describe things: Speedy Claxton was out with a sprain; Jackson Vroman, starting in place of David West, broke his forearm on a two-handed dunk in the third quarter; a minute or so later, Desmond Mason retreated to the locker room with a bruised tailbone.

Bright spots: Aaron Williams pulled down 13 boards, his season high, and Bostjan Nachbar dropped in three treys and two from the line for 11 points, one short of his season high.

Still, there's not so much depth in the ol' depth chart, and there's only one more day of trading.

The Bees start a four-game West Coast trip with a rematch with the Jazz on Saturday, followed by the Blazers, the Sonics and the Clippers. Under the circumstances, they should consider none of these games easy wins.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:32 PM to Net Proceeds )
23 February 2006
Barflier than thou

Have you ever looked at a film and wonder "Who the hell came up with this title?"

Me too. And so has Anne Billson:

The Quay brothers have called their new film The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes. Big mistake. It may well be a masterpiece but I'm sorry, that title is pretentious and whimsical and goes straight into my sin bin, next to The Legend of the Pianist on the Ocean and The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants.

Let there be simplicity:

My ideal title is short, sharp and memorable. You know where you are with Jaws and The Godfather, while Barfly works unexpectedly well as an adverb. But my current favourite is a Samuel L. Jackson thriller, now in post-production, called Snakes on a Plane. How's that for a title! Let us just pray it doesn't turn out to be a metaphor.

Would Samuel L. Jackson lead you astray? Snakes on a Plane, believe it, is about a plane. With snakes on it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Latex review

Conrad Spencer finds this statistic buried in the "State of the State's Health" report:

About 50 percent of our high school students are sexually active, about the same level of activity as the nation. Our high teen birth rate relates in part to the fact that 63 percent of sexually active students nationally regularly use condoms, compared to only 33 percent in Oklahoma.

Concerned, he went looking for examples of Oklahoma sex-ed curricula, but apparently these aren't waiting for stray Googlers.

The pertinent statute would seem to be 70 O.S. §11-103.3, which requires students to receive instruction on AIDS prevention education at least once during grades 5-6, 7-9, and 10-12. Instruction about STDs or pregnancy prevention is apparently not required by this statute.

Then there's this:

All curriculum and materials including supplementary materials which will be used to teach or will be used for or in connection with a sex education class or program which is designed for the exclusive purpose of discussing sexual behavior or attitudes, or any test, survey or questionnaire whose primary purpose is to elicit responses on sexual behavior or attitudes shall be available through the superintendent or a designee of the school district for inspection by parents and guardians of the student who will be involved with the class, program or test, survey or questionnaire. Such curriculum, materials, classes, programs, tests, surveys or questionnaires shall have as one of its primary purposes the teaching of or informing students about the practice of abstinence. The superintendent or a designee of the school district shall provide prior written notification to the parents or guardians of the students involved of their right to inspect the curriculum and material and of their obligation to notify the school in writing if they do not want their child to participate in the class, program, test, survey or questionnaire. Each local board of education shall determine the means of providing written notification to the parents and guardian which will ensure effective notice in an efficient and appropriate manner. No student shall be required to participate in a sex education class or program which discusses sexual behavior or attitudes if a parent or guardian of the student objects in writing to such participation. If the type of program referred to in this section is a part of or is taught during a credit course, a student may be required to enroll in the course but shall not be required to receive instruction in or participate in the program if a parent or guardian objects in writing.

I think it might be reasonable to conclude that (1) they aren't teaching much and (2) they aren't teaching it to many.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:52 AM to Soonerland )
Random Thursday observation

It's a darn good thing there weren't any cartoons in that mosque: someone could've gotten hurt.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:16 PM to Dyssynergy )
Boki is packing

Well, here's a surprise: the Hornets are swapping Bostjan Nachbar to the New Jersey Nets for center Marc Jackson and forward Linton Johnson, a deal presumably at least partially motivated by the Nets' desire to clear some salary-cap space, and one which addresses the Bees' most immediate need: another big man in the middle.

Nachbar, injured in the fall, has been fighting his way back to the second string; he played 25 minutes in last night's debacle with the Jazz, and was the only Hornet to hit anything from beyond the arc.

Johnson will presumably slot in behind Rasual Butler in the small-forward position; Jackson will back up P. J. Brown at center, replacing Jackson Vroman, who is out for the season with a broken wrist.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:40 PM to Net Proceeds )
It's all in how you turn the page

I'm sure somebody needed to know this.

Fairchild's DNR magazine has put out a list of, it says here, the "magazines most likely to attract gay male readers," and for the inevitable counterpoint, the magazines with the straightest readership. (I shudder to imagine the questionnaire they used.)

For the record, I take four of the gayest and one of the straightest. (Are there any numbers on how many straight people read Out?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:24 PM to Almost Yogurt )
24 February 2006
Life could be a dream

If your immediate response was "Sh-boom, sh-boom," this is for you.

It's Right Around Now, and you've turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open, and there it is: a real live record store from 1971, all the stock still in the racks, all the picture sleeves on display, Billboard and Cash Box on the counter, Pink Floyd on Tower fercryingoutloud, and except for a thin layer of dust, nothing has changed in thirty-five years.

Austin Record Convention mentor Doug Hanners wrote about it in the March Discoveries (not yet on their Web site, alas), and it's some story. The store was in Miamisburg, Ohio, and had been passed down to a second generation of the Kondoff family, who opened it in the late 1940s. Son Chris closed the store finally in 1971.

Enter a Scotsman by the name of John Anderson, who happened to be in the Dayton area in 1972. He saw the store, went up to the door, got no response, asked around, and eventually met up with Chris Kondoff. Anderson, like any proper vinyl fiend, asked if any of the stock was for sale. Kondoff said it wasn't. Repeat every year until 1980 or so.

Then in 2005, he made one last trip to Dayton, and got hold of another Kondoff brother. George said that Chris had retired, and the store and its inventory would be sold, and would you like to be notified when it happens?

And that's how John Anderson and Doug Hanners wound up turning the key in that very lock and finding themselves back at the very beginning of the Seventies. (They cleaned out the place and dealt the LPs to Craig Moerer's Records by Mail; they kept the mags and the posters and the 45s.) I know some people for whom this would be the third-sweetest thing this side of heaven.

Recharge at any Tim Hortons

Well, why not? It's a Segway Police Interceptor:

The i180 Police maximizes a police officer's visibility, as well as his or her ability to be seen by others. Raising an officer an additional eight inches off the ground, it places an officer a clear head above the crowd. That means that an officer will be seen when they need their presence felt. Segway HT riders have superior sight lines for traffic management, crowd control, and community policing. The Segway HT i180 Police allows officers to become more approachable, and to respond more quickly to emerging situations.

But does it have a cop motor, a 440 cubic-inch plant, cop tires, cop suspension, cop shocks?

(Via View from the Porch.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:35 AM to Driver's Seat )
Taxation without respiration

Oklahoma House Speaker Todd Hiett has pointed out, reasonably enough, that "Oklahoma has an outdated tax system that prevents us from being competitive."

Okay, fine. I can go along with that. And it might be easier to swallow were it not for Hiett's tendency to harp on the same things over and over and over again.

House Bill 3125, which got out of committee this week, is Hiett's latest shot against the state estate tax; should the bill pass in its present form, the tax would be eliminated entirely.

Now I'm not one to scoff at a tax cut, even one which won't affect me in the least — the existing estate tax has a $1 million exemption, which exceeds the amount of my estate by, um, rather a lot — but this quote from Hiett bugs me slightly:

We want to fully eliminate the death tax for two key reasons. One, it's just clearly wrong to make death a taxable event and, two, we won't be able to attract capital, wealth and industry until we do it.

It is an article of faith among Oklahoma Republicans that every business between here and International Falls is champing at the bit to relocate at the drop of a tax provision, and we're missing out because we don't [fill in item from GOP agenda]. Once in a great while this might even be true, but mostly it's bluster. Remember when right-to-work was supposed to break down the walls? Do you know of any jobs that were created thereby?

Neither does Todd Hiett. But you have to admit, he does a good job of sticking to the script. And while there's nothing in the world wrong with attracting "capital, wealth and industry," I fear you'll wait a long time for House Republicans to come up with any ideas to build some of it here instead of trying to import it from somewhere else. No wonder this state seems to have an inferiority complex.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:06 AM to Soonerland )
Phat chance

Damon Wayans wants to sell you (well, maybe you; definitely not me) some urban wear with his own streetwise style and his own trademarked logo.

Except that the US Patent and Trademark Office has declined to issue Wayans a trademark for the brand-name [redacted, but it rhymes with "Trigga"].

In an unrelated story, Nabisco doesn't seem to have any problem selling Premium® Saltines as "crackers"; Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) was unavailable for comment either way.

(Via Defamer.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:46 PM to Say What? )
In lieu of actual content

Because, you know, it's Friday and all:

  • It is never a good sign when you see a news truck parked in the median near a busy intersection.

  • That person who called Customer Service today with a credit card that wasn't going to get a bank approval no matter how many times she changed the expiration date: untrustworthy, maybe; overextended, definitely; but "retarded" is probably a bit much.

  • Those "Illinois calls" from area code 773 from "Miss Flowers" and "Jacob Weinstein": look, you nimrods, unless you tell me up front what the hell it is you want in the message you leave, there isn't the slightest chance that I'm ever going to return your call. Contrary to your stated belief, I decide whether you "need to hear" from me. ("Flowers" claims to be at 800-685-1536; I mention this strictly for the sake of search-engine users.) *

  • It is probably not a good idea to pop an expectorant and a decongestant within 90 minutes of one another.

  • To the guy in the Accord who diced with me through that traffic bottleneck: Well fought, good fellow. (It's simple physics: you increase your speed to get through those narrower openings.)

  • Note to self: The cherubic face and devilish curvature notwithstanding, you have towels older than that. Acknowledge the attention with a smile, and drop it there.

Welcome to the weekend. Geez, I'm beat.

* Addendum: Lynn has a lot more to say to people who abuse her answering machine.

25 February 2006
Fatuous Flashback 22

Child of the Sixties? The calendar says yes, but the reality says no:

[W]e traded one form of conformity for another: you can't tell me that a tie-dyed T-shirt is qualitatively any different from, say, a late-Eighties power tie. My connection to the counterculture, such as it was, turned out to be tenuous at best. The sort of sexual freedom espoused by the likes of Stephen Stills never came within a hundred miles of me. I paid no more than lip service to the era's unfettered (and largely unreasoning) leftishness. And "All you need is love" was never more than a Beatles single to me — and not as good a single as "Lady Madonna", either.

Part of this disjuncture was a matter of personal chronology. There was some questionable belief that I was some sort of smart kid, a notion I hadn't done anything to dispel by finishing six years of grade school in three years. Bad mistake. And, of course, it could only get worse. Being on the younger end of this particular cohort anyway, I was permanently out of step with my ostensible peer group, and they had better things to do than to waste time trying to bring me up to speed. After a few years of this, the dull olive drab of the Army didn't look so bad, and at least I would fit in, however clumsily.

So perhaps I am not a true child of the Sixties. There are no faded posters from the Fillmore on the wall, no sheets of blotter acid hidden in the desk, no vague memories of the rear compartment of a VW Microbus. (I learned to drive in a Microbus, but I was sitting in the front at the time.) Still, I didn't come away emptyhanded. I continue to believe in questioning authority, especially if there's a possibility that authority is going to question me. I continue to listen to the music of the Sixties, the one artifact of the Sixties with demonstrable staying power. (Probably because it was the first to sell out to the Establishment, I suspect.)

(From Vent #281, 15 February 2002.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Greatest Hits )
Do something, even if it's wrong

About eleventeen-bazillion bills get introduced into the State Legislature every session, and I suspect not even the lobbyists can keep track of all of them. House Bill 2743, by Ryan Kiesel (D-Seminole), got through committee mostly unnoticed; Tom Elmore dropped me a line about it, and I decided I'd give it a read.

A. For the purposes of creating a free-flow of traffic and the promotion of public safety, certain motor vehicles shall be permitted to bypass a required stop pursuant to subsection B of this section.

B. Any motor vehicle required to stop at a weigh station located on the highways of this state, pursuant to the size, weight and load provisions under Section 14-101 et seq. of Title 47 of the Oklahoma Statutes, shall be allowed to bypass such weigh station when the station is at full occupancy. Full occupancy shall be determined by a painted line and sign at a designated location on the exit lane that allows access to the weigh station. When a motor vehicle comes to a stop behind the other motor vehicles on the exit lane for the weigh station and any part of that motor vehicle is on or over the designated line, then the station is at full occupancy. The designation of the line shall be determined by the Department of Public Safety and an agreement for the placement of any sign shall be made with the Department of Transportation.

I have to admire the simplicity of this bill: "Weigh station too crowded? Just speed on by!" Kiesel's press release contains this explanation:

"[E]ven if the legislature appropriates the money for the renovation of our weigh stations, it could still be more than a decade before the safety concerns caused by congestion are remedied and House Bill 2743 gives us the opportunity to address this situation now."

"Safety concerns"?

Kiesel drafted the legislation in response to fatal traffic accidents in which semi-trucks waiting at weigh stations backed up into interstate traffic and were then struck from behind by passenger vehicles.

Oh. I see. Because we have inattentive drivers in cars, we must occasionally waive the laws for truckers.

Obvious question: if the problem is inadequate weigh stations, why are we not spending the money to upgrade them?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:09 AM to Soonerland )
Sittin' on the dock of Dubai

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) has decided to back the President on the matter of transfer of control of various US port operations to Dubai World Ports.

This shouldn't surprise anyone, says Lindsay Beyerstein:

The port deal is really just a side issue for McCain who's touring to promote his new immigration policy proposal which includes a guest worker program.

It makes sense that McCain is siding with the president on the port issue. There's an inherent tension between the Republicans' economic arguments for more open borders and their national security arguments. McCain is squarely on the side of economics when it comes to cheap labor and lucrative shipping contracts.

As is Bush, it would seem.

(Title swiped from Kathryn Jean Lopez.)

On the street where you live

I've never driven on Psycho Path in Traverse City, Michigan, but I have to admit, it is definitely a wacky street name.

Some of the ones I've encountered over the years:

  • Wasbee Range, Charleston, SC: A little cul-de-sac off Ashley Avenue south of Calhoun; legend has it that the streetlet was originally called Bee Range, but the name was changed after confusion with nowhere-nearby Bee Street.

  • East 38½ Street, Austin, TX: Exactly where you think it is, between 38th and 39th. Austin has quite a few "half" streets, but this is the only one which rates an exit off Interstate 35.

  • Edbillellis Road, North Charleston, SC: Presumably named for Ed and Bill Ellis.

  • Intersection of Antonio Parkway and Avenida de las Banderas, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA: I just like the idea of the corner of "Antonio" and "Banderas."

  • Triple XXX Road, Oklahoma City, OK: That's what the signs say, though everyone calls it "Triple X". It's a mile east of the Indian Meridian, which may or may not have something to do with its name. (Previously discussed here.)

  • Charles Hill Road, Orinda, CA: Not named for me. There's also a Circle. (I plan to snag photos on a future World Tour.)

A few other streets around town:

  • Federal Court: A cul-de-sac a couple blocks east of 5100 S. Sunnylane on Lunow Drive.

  • Rohan Road and Lorien Way: In the Rivendell subdivision between SW 119th and SW 134th east of May.

  • W. P. Bill Atkinson Quail Something-or-Other Parkway: Near 14700 N. Pennsylvania; the street sign gives up after the Q.

  • Buffalo Wallow Avenue: Off Highway 105, east of the Guthrie Golf and Country Club.

  • ITIO Boulevard: Acronym for "Indian Territory Illuminating Oil" Company, which started in 1901 in Osage country; owner H. V. Foster was the first to drill successfully in the Oklahoma City oil patch southeast of downtown. (The legendary Wild Mary Sudik was one of ITIO's wells.) ITIO eventually disappeared by merger into something called Cities Service, but that's another story.

  • Lois Lane: There are actually two of these, one a rural road off 15100 SW 59th, and another (designated East Lois Lane on my map) which sits between SE 29th and I-40 west of Post Road.

  • Abbey Road: Non-continuous residential street in The Village; once considered for my househunting. (Previously discussed here.)

And this will have to do for a Spottings for today; I'm sneezing so much I wouldn't be able to see through the windshield.

Forget Wednesday

On second thought, don't; in that game, the Hornets led for three quarters and fell to the Jazz in the fourth. And it almost happened again tonight, but the Bees held on and dropped four clutch free throws in the waning seconds to win it, 100-95.

David West was back, and delivered 20 points and 8 rebounds; Chris Paul picked up 23 points and served up 8 assists. And the two new guys not only got minutes, they got results: backup center Marc Jackson scored 4 points and snagged 4 boards, and third-string forward Linton Johnson, pressed into service when Desmond Mason didn't start and Rasual Butler got into foul trouble, turned in his best performance ever, with 17 points (two treys) and 11 rebounds.

At least there was actual scoring tonight: both teams shot fairly well from the floor, though the Jazz blew 12 free throws. Mehmet Okur led all scorers, pulling down 26 points.

The West Coast trip continues tomorrow at Portland, then to Seattle on Tuesday. The Bees are now 30-25 and back in the #6 playoff slot.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:38 PM to Net Proceeds )
26 February 2006
"Potent Potables" for $1000, Alex

Travel writer Martin Martin visited the western islands of Scotland in the 1690s, and subsequently described his experience with "usquebaugh-baul", the quadruple-distilled single-malt whisky then produced on the island of Islay:

The first taste affects all the members of the body: two spoonfuls of this last liquor is a sufficient dose; and if any man should exceed this, it would presently stop his breath, and endanger his life.

Quite a recommendation indeed. Now the Bruichladdich distillers on Islay have announced that they will produce a limited run of the stuff according to the old recipe.

The alcoholic content, needless to say, is formidable: 92 to 94 percent, though it will drop by about one percent per year as it matures. Quipped Bruichladdich managing director Mark Reynier, "To be honest I'm just hoping the distillery doesn't explode."

I surmise there should be plenty of demand for this whisky once it's aged properly, despite its storied physical effects: after all, absinthe makes the parts go yonder, and it still sells.

(Via Fark)

Boosting your shelf-esteem

Mary Stella complains to a store:

[I]f you're going to post shelf signs that say, "Artists arranged alphabetically", please occasionally send someone over to put CDs in their proper places. ZZ Top does not belong in the Cs. Artists should really be alphabetized by their last names, not their first.

The crucial question, as always, arises with Bat out of Hell: do you file it under M (for Meat) or L (for Loaf)?

Then there's Brinsley Schwarz, which was both the name of a band and the name of a band member. Do they go under B, or under S? (You never had this problem with Manfred Mann, and eventually Alice Cooper went solo; he goes under C.)

Shelving the classical stuff isn't necessarily any easier. My default is to shelve by composer, which works most of the time. Then I hit a disc like Telarc CD-80124, which offers pianist Jon Kimura Parker and the Royal Philharmonic, André Previn conducting, in two major piano concerti: Tchaikovsky's First and Prokofiev's Third. Do I file this with Tchaikovsky, since it's the better-known (and longer) work, and the first listed on the box? Or do I send it off to the Compilations under P for Parker? Or can I get away with filing it with Prokofiev, since it's the composition for which I bought the disc in the first place?

Maybe I'll go put ZZ Top under T, just for spite.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:26 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Every hundredth song

Dr. Weevil, acting on that blogdom-wide urge to make sense of one's iTunes collection, has hit on the idea of sorting the titles alphabetically and then listing the last track for each letter.

Why I haven't done the same: I sort my music files by performer, which isn't as useful as you might think, since if the act works as a single, the sort is by first name.

That said, though, I went through the 2489 files on my F: drive (there are others, but this is the core of the collection) and picked out the first, the last, and every 100th file in between. Make of this what you will.

  1. 10cc: "Donna"
  2. Art and Dottie Todd: "Chanson d'amour"
  3. Bee Gees: "Jumbo"
  4. Bob Rivers: "Walking 'Round in Women's Underwear" *
  5. Bull Moose Jackson: "Big Ten-Inch Record"
  6. Clint Holmes: "Playground in My Mind"
  7. Dead Kennedys: "I Fought the Law"
  8. Donovan: "Mellow Yellow"
  9. The Emanons: "Blue Moon"
  10. The Four Tops: "Still Water (Love)"
  11. Glen Campbell: "Brenda"
  12. Honey Cone: "One Monkey Don't Stop No Show"
  13. Jefferson: "Baby Take Me in Your Arms"
  14. Johnny Tillotson: "Jimmy's Girl"
  15. Lenny Dee: "Plantation Boogie"
  16. Manfred Mann's Earth Band: "Blinded by the Light"
  17. Moon Mullican: "I'll Sail My Ship Alone"
  18. Oosik Music Company: "The Cheese Boogie Deluxe"
  19. The Pointer Sisters: "Fire"
  20. Ringo Starr: "It Don't Come Easy"
  21. The Sanzini Brothers: "The Tibetan Memory Trick" **
  22. Stephen Lynch: "Jim Henson's Dead"
  23. The Temptations: "Don't Look Back"
  24. Toni Basil: "Shopping from A to Z"
  25. Warren Zevon: "Excitable Boy"
  26. ZZ Top: "Tush"

* A "Twisted Tune".

** This is actually Flo and Eddie, aka Howard Kaylan and Mark Volman, ex-Turtles.

Nothing so cruel as the truth

From Deadspin:

NBA: Knicks 89, Wizards 110. Gilbert Arenas had 46. So did the Knicks' starting five.

It's true.

From the Silver Lining Department: "Hey, the Knicks got 43 points from the bench!"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:50 PM to Net Proceeds )
They don't give up

Persistence characterizes these Blazers; despite shooting even worse from the line than from the floor, they stayed with, or just ahead of, the Hornets for 41 minutes before the Bees finally broke free and scored the win over Portland, 88-75.

You can characterize this as a balanced attack: David West got 22 points, Chris Paul 19, and Rasual Butler, whose three-point mojo returned after too long an absence, dropped in 13. The new arrivals, Marc Jackson and Linton Johnson, combined for 8 points and 13 boards.

Off to Seattle on Tuesday, then to Los Angeles to meet this year's seriously-tough Clippers on Wednesday.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:26 PM to Net Proceeds )
27 February 2006
But we're making a statement

Honda makes hybrid versions of its popular Civic and Accord sedans, and given Honda's engineering priorities, it should surprise no one that the hybridized cars are very much like their conventionally-engineered brethren; there are differences in weight and quickness, but they're nothing special on the outside.

Which is why they're being outsold by Toyota's Prius, which doesn't have a nonhybrid cousin: everyone knows the Prius on sight, and everyone knows it's a hybrid. Enter the selling point:

"The Prius is a fashion statement," said Art Spinella, a consultant with CNW Marketing Research who surveys car-buying trends. "It looks different. Other people know the driver is driving a hybrid vehicle. It clearly makes a bigger statement about the person than does the Civic, which basically looks like a Civic."

Forget the fact that for the money you spend on a Prius, you could get Toyota's own five-speed Scion xB, with just about the same real-world gas mileage, twice the cargo space, and seven thousand dollars' worth of something else you might have wanted. But the Scion doesn't make a statement, unless "I'm willing to drive something that looks like a refrigerator" counts as a statement.

You might conclude from this that I probably won't be embracing Rod Dreher's "crunchy conservative" shtick, and you would be correct; while much of the movement's manifesto appeals to me, it's simply not that important to me to be making a big-S Statement with my purchases or my appearance or my "lifestyle," whatever the hell that is. Part of this is age and/or crankiness, both of which I have in abundance; but most of it is simple indifference. It doesn't matter to me if you grind your own peanut butter and throw your own earthenware jars to store it; it doesn't matter to me if you buy trans fats from Frito-Lay's back door and inject them directly into an artery; and I can't understand why anyone would give a flying fish whether I do either of these things, or neither of them. Maybe it's just me, but I refuse to check the Official Guidebook before I do something more complex than popping something into the oven.

On the other hand, it's not generally useful to be doctrinaire about this sort of thing, so here's the obligatory joke:

Q. How many Crunchy Cons does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A. By asking the question, the asker shows he doesn't understand what Crunchy Conservatism teaches us about community. The emphasis on the number of individuals is misplaced. We should be asking whether the light bulb is made by the most environmentally friendly process available, sold by a store that is involved in the local community, and casts light on an area that truly needs illumination, not someplace traditionally left dark. Quantifying and categorizing people as mere light-bulb changers is characteristic of a modernistic, big-business/big-government worldview, not crunchy conservatism.

I've switched, where conditions permit, to compact fluorescents. Fewer bulb changes; then again, more difficult disposal. Everything in life involves tradeoffs of some sort, another reason to avoid getting caught up in Movements that expect you to make Statements.

(Suggested, perhaps to his dismay, by Sean Gleeson.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
You're watching the Histamine Channel

This year's collection of traveling viruses has been a lot nastier than usual, at least from my point of [a-CHOO!] view: the first one caught me in the waning days of January, and one or another has been tormenting me ever since. Of course, I'm hardly the only one affected, which means that 42nd and Treadmill is just reeking of microorganisms and whatnot, which means that we're all basically swimming our way across a veritable Petri dish of germs (or, as they say in Brooklyn, "joims").

The frustration sets in when you realize that nothing can be done about it; even if you quarantined every last one of us, those opportunistic little nanobastards would still find their way in and wreak their various forms of havoc.

Besides, no one will throw beads

Now here's a shirt I could wear, even out here in Vanilla City.

The whisper of the Fife

Don Knotts had more impact on American Culture than we think, or so suggests Danny Carlton:

[D]uring the seventies, when the 60s generation moved into positions of influence and power, we saw the rise of the perfect people. Movies and television shows reflected the new mind set that reality was whatever you defined it as, and regardless how many ugly, clumsy people there were out there, as long as we filled the airwaves with beautiful, witty people, we could simply believe that that's the way things really were.

And thus the real Americans, the Don Knotts, were quietly pushed to out of view and the incestuous bubble of the Hollywood culture took on a life of its own, and began redefining who we are.

When Don Knotts was cast as Ralph Furley in Three's Company, he became the same character, but was portrayed as someone to avoid, to shun, to laugh at when he wasn't looking. The reality that Don Knotts still portrayed the average American was truth the Hollywood glitterati didn't want to face, and we went along with them. We still do to this day.

And now Barney is gone. The man we loved so much because in him we saw a glimpse of ourselves, but would never dare mention that to anyone. In him we saw the truth that one could like, admire and enjoy someone regardless of their flaws, simply because of who they were down deep. Don Knotts gave us hope that no matter how we felt we were the Barney Fifes of the world, there was always an Andy Taylor or two there to like us and stand by us, even though those same Andy Taylors more likely than not saw themselves as Barney Fifes as well. Hollywood may have tossed him aside as a relic of an age they wanted to forget, but I'm thankful for what he gave us, and will continue to give us in the reruns we can watch. Maybe one day we'll return to the honesty that Don Knotts portrayed and represented.

The mention of Andy Taylor is not at all gratuitous: while Andy was clearly the alpha male in this pack, he was as dependent on Barney as Barney was on Andy. This sort of thing isn't allowed in contemporary stories unless there's some sort of pseudo-ironic overlay, or there's some sort of overt race-baiting (this goes back at least as far as Lethal Weapon), or they're trying to make Brokeback Mayberry.

Then again, we've developed a tendency to celebrate our failings, rather than keep them under wraps. Probably why Don Knotts' TV repairman in Pleasantville was inclined to snap at Tobey and Reese: he knew what was coming.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:30 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Plenty of dough, anyway

About twenty-five years ago, I was working on something that they assured us was not really an assembly line, despite the conveyor belt and all. It was a good place to hone one's snark, and I put quite the edge on mine.

There was one officious type from two or three levels up who appeared to have jumped out of a can of biscuits once upon a time; he was good for at least one visit to the premises each day, and for four days one week he showed up in a blue suit. And not just any blue, either: we're talking Ice Blue Secret blue, strong enough for a man, if that man is Bruce Vilanich on a bender.

I kept my mouth shut.

Friday he showed up in a brown — let's call it "Valvoline after 6,000 miles" — suit.

"I see you dyed the blue suit," I said.

A guy like that wears a scent like this.

Refloration

I am normally not one to grumble about plastic surgery — hey, it's your body — but this seems a trifle weird:

Women have resorted to backstreet hymen repair for centuries in religions and cultures in which marrying as a virgin is sacred and losing your "maidenhead" before matrimony can mean shame, or even being put to death. But an increasing number of women ... are now electing to be "revirginised" using modern techniques as a purely cosmetic or lifestyle choice, to "put the sparkle" back into their marriage or give their husband a surprise on the second honeymoon.

They usually opt also to have one of the new "designer vagina" procedures, such as tightening up of the vaginal canal slackened by childbirth, or the cosmetic trimming of enlarged labia.

Even if I didn't live in a place where tattoo shops are illegal, I might think this was a bit much. Then again, I own no such, um, plumbing, so perhaps it's not for me to say.

Of course, if a monologue should ensue, I reserve the right to dismiss it as so much twaddle.

(Via McGehee, who also resisted the obvious "cherry" jokes.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:15 PM to Table for One )
28 February 2006
No stripper wells, either

So tell me, Iowahawk, what do you think of Maureen Dowd?

Actually, if you squint really hard, you can theoretically imagine MoDo being sexually attractive to a drunk oil platform worker on a twenty minute shore leave. But only after you first wheeled her to the taxidermist for a makeover.

Hmm. Usually he's a bit more forthright than that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:22 AM to Warn Mode Due )
Curb your enthusiasm already

There's something vaguely — actually, not so vaguely — creepy about this search-engine search:

And I thought I had inexplicable fixations.

(Yes, it's true: on 23 February 2012, Dakota Fanning will be eighteen years old.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:07 AM to Say What? )
A Dickless future

E. M. Zanotti expects Dick Cheney to go to an undisclosed location and stay there:

Cheney isn't an asset at this point: he will likely face some scrutiny in the Libby trial, though it's highly unlikely that Cheney has done anything untoward. Public opinion is a harsher court than justice, and for the Administration, ousting the VP could be a wise public relations move, as would be placing a high-level administration official or Republican party favorite in as the VP for the latter half, or lame-duck half of the Bush Presidency. There is virtually no stronghold for the Republicans in 2008, clouding a future victory in the mists of partisan scuffling. Having a pre-made candidate who isn't John McCain would be ideal, and it would prevent unnecessary pancake breakfasts in New Hampshire while there's still work to be done.

There are, of course, drawbacks:

That said, replacing the VP after the mid-terms seems risky. If Bush is still low in the opinion polls, they may dump DC well before then: perhaps at the end of the summer, when there isn't enough time for the Dems to readjust strategies, and pick up some strong support in the polls with undecideds, convinced that the Administration or Republican party is making changes the Democrats aren't. A strong political figure with Presidential aspirations and a solid base would work well, probably a governor more so than any legislator.

Did you have anyone in mind?

Mitt Romney. Governor of a decidedly blue state, he appeals to right, right-of-center and moderate lefties (the majority of voters aren't on the fringe) and is strong on the social conservative issues, without being "neo-con" strong. He's Mormon, yes, but governors make better Presidents (something about the running stuff thing), and his efficient run at the Salt Lake games can't harm him. He has a good face, a good record, and he's certainly a contender.

Romney's LDS affiliation doesn't bother me personally, but I can see it becoming a campaign problem: that particular faith intersects more traditional Christian denominations at odd angles, and odd angles are a major source of wedge issues.

But from the Bush administration's point of view, the best thing about Mitt Romney is the fact that he's not John McCain; this isn't much of a selling point, since with one exception, all the potential Republican contenders are not John McCain. And if it's all that important to get McCain out of the way, Dick Cheney should take him on a hunting trip.

Blinded by the white

Were there an Organization of Paper-Exporting Countries to control the price of paper, 42nd and Treadmill would truly be reamed: we go through tons of the stuff.

In one year we use more than two tons of copy paper alone. We'd been buying it, half a dozen 10-ream cases a time, maybe more, from one of the Big Names; it was decidedly ordinary stuff, rated at 84 brightness, which I always understood to mean that 84 percent of the light at a wavelength of 457 nm is reflected by the paper surface.

Aside: That wavelength is in the blue range, but the eyes see it as an enhancement of white; this is the principle behind Cheer's Blue-Magic Whitener, which once motivated Allan Sherman to ask: "What does that Blue-Magic Whitener do? Does it make blue things white, or make white things blue?"

Another vendor got into the picture and offered us paper at 92 brightness, a difference easily visible even to my old eyes. I have no idea if we were paying extra for it. Some months later I was told that we were going back to the old vendor; I popped a box open, and what do I see? A claim of 104 brightness.

Now 104 is theoretically possible, if you dump some fluorescent material into your paper mix. But that wasn't the case here: this was simply a switch to a different rating scale, and the new 104 stuff was, I judged, mostly indistinguishable from the old 92 stuff. I have no idea if we're paying extra for it.

Because it can, evidently

Weather conditions

Ten days ago, the high was 22°F (-6°C).

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:00 PM to Weather or Not )
Sweepless in Seattle

The Sonics were a lot closer to Super tonight than they've been lately, shooting 60 percent most of the night. Then again, the Hornets were woefully short of sting, especially in the third quarter, in which they were outscored 29-18, and in which a frustrated Desmond Mason vented his frustration just loudly enough to get a technical. Unfortunately, it was his second T, and that was all for D-Mase.

And yet the Bees refused to go gently into that good Seattle night, cutting the 22-point deficit to a mere three before the Sonics caught on and finally finished them off, 114-104.

Best effort? Perhaps Rasual Butler, who got 23 points, a season high, including 15 from the three-line in that fierce fourth quarter. Or maybe Marc Jackson, who scored 19 off the bench. And yet another double-double for Chris Paul, with 25 points, 14 assists — and seven boards.

But Ray Allen pulled down 33 for the Sonics, including five treys, and if Butler hadn't tied him up during the fourth quarter, it could have been a lot more than that.

So 2-1 on the road trip, and the Clippers await tomorrow.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:31 PM to Net Proceeds )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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