1 April 2006
Fatuous Flashback 27

Sometimes an error message is just an error message:

It is, I think, a measure of the cynicism extant in IT departments that when our Big Blue Box (it's black, actually, but that's beside the point) signaled that it was in distress, the sysadmin thought it could conceivably be a prank woven into IBM's microcode, set to trigger on the first of April. Instead, it turned out to be a disk drive gone troppo. We lost nothing datawise, but there will be extra laundry this week.

(From this untitled entry, 1 April 2002.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:34 AM to Greatest Hits )
Speedy to the Knicks?

Knicks coach Larry Brown says he's going to look for a point guard in the off-season, and Stephon Marbury, injured last night against the Sixers at the Garden, won't be it.

One possibility:

Hornets free agent Speedy Claxton, who played for Brown in Philadelphia, is on the coach's wish list. Claxton is a good defender, ball-handler and looks first to set up others. The former Hofstra star is behind Rookie of the Year shoo-in Chris Paul.

Claxton could be available for the $5 million mid-level exception, the only avenue other than a sign-and-trade in which the Knicks can obtain a decent free agent.

Speedy is pulling down $3.6 million in the last year of his contract with the Hornets.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:12 AM to Net Proceeds )
Blind squirrel, nut, you know the drill

On the first of January, I made a number of predictions, some rash, some less so.

These two, however, seem to have been fairly close to the mark:

Oklahoma City Blazers (2005-06): 36-24-4 (third in CHL Northwest)
Oklahoma City Blazers attendance (2005-06): 253,000 (average 7,900; 1st in CHL)

The Blazers finished 35-24-5, third in the Northwest division, and drew 275,493 paying customers, averaging 8,609, first in the Central Hockey League.

The attendance figure was skewed slightly by last Saturday's game at the Ford Center (which Amarillo won, 4-3): the first 10,000 adults through the gate got a Powerball ticket, and paid attendance was reported as 17,826.

If nothing else, this demonstrates pretty convincingly that the presence of an NBA team has no adverse effect on the hockey crowds: the Blazers averaged 8,245 per game last year while finishing third in their division. I had thought it might cost at most three or four percentage points.

A voice from the past

Her name was Brittney, she was fourteen years old, and the last time I saw her was at a user-group meeting in the middle 1980s.

Not that I ever forgot the sassy little blonde. For one thing, she was a sassy little blonde, a subspecies that tends to stick in the mind, or at least in my mind anyway; for another, she had already climbed to a level of cynicism that it took me until almost seventeen to reach.

Which doesn't explain how we met in the first place, but this does: I was a somewhere-above-minor player on the local bulletin-board stage, and she was an avid reader and poster (and, briefly, assistant sysop) who seemed to be quite often in sync with my perceived world-weariness, and though obviously she wasn't old enough to be truly world-weary — I was thirtysomething and I don't think I was — we had enough in common to justify occasional social contacts offline. In the company of others in the context of user gatherings and such, I hasten to add, lest you suspect something else might have been going on.

As usual with ad hoc communities of this sort, people drifted in and out all the time, and when she disappeared, rumors flew that she had irritated the parental units once too often and had been packed off to a boarding school / a convent / the French Foreign Legion [choose one]. I put in a perfunctory query or two, but not wishing to appear as though I had some prurient interest in the young lady, I didn't pursue matters much.

That would have been the end of the story, except that last month, she dropped me a line from just across town; she'd been reading this here bloggage, thought the style, such as it is, seemed vaguely familiar, and eventually she put two and two together and came up with me. We traded incredulous emails, and finally decided to meet on neutral territory.

And that was today. My memory for faces is none too good, but I spotted her from forty feet away: she's a little taller, maybe, but I'm pleased to report that "sassy" and "blonde" remain intact. Of course, she's spoken for: her better half reminds me somewhat of me, on those days when I'm more amiable than irascible. But what impressed me most, I think, is the fact that she's made the transition from young wisenheimer to, well, somewhat less young wisenheimer, without losing any of the qualities that made her interesting in the first place, and I'm happy to count her in that section of the world where "readers" and "friends" intersect.

Incidentally, "Brittney" wasn't her real name, nor was she fourteen at the time. Then again, I'm hardly in a position to complain about people putting out disinformation.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:00 PM to Blogorrhea )
Render unto seizure

So what's an "ideas shower"?

"Ideas shower" is in fact the new term for what was previously known as a "brainstorm". Brainstorm was ditched because it upset people with epilepsy. Or at least, it upset people who spend their time worrying about what might or might not upset epileptics.

Speaking as an epileptic myself, I never really thought of the term as offensive. That's because I've always interpreted it as a reference to an open-ended ideas meeting, not a derogatory reference to my unfortunate neurological condition.

Of course, the modern method is to co-opt the word for yourself or your group:

In fact, now I come to think of it, I quite like the idea that my seizures might be referred to as brainstorms. It makes them sound cooler and more dramatic. Like the sort of thing a Marvel comic character might practise in order to summon up his superhuman powers. I can imagine myself alerting onlookers to the onset of an epileptic episode by bellowing: "Behold the might of my magnificent Brainstorm!" — then passing out on the floor and twitching about for five minutes.

Certainly, brainstorm is a more agreeable way of referring to such incidents than, say, "'mongs", "moodies" or "spaz outs".

Which latter is what I did when, while driving through southeast Pennsylvania, I passed by the facilities of Spaz Beverage Company.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:04 PM to Say What? )
2 April 2006
Strange search-engine queries (10)

As the phrase goes, all you gotta do is ask, and these people did.

how much is a tire rotation?  360 degrees.

real estate appraisal song:  How about Graham Nash? "Our house / Is a very, very, very fine house ...."

what's coming to 56th & pendleton pike:  Probably Starbucks. God knows they're everywhere else.

dating less educated men:  If this actually happened, I wouldn't be home now.

donnaville height:  528 feet above sea level, not counting Donna herself.

dan blocker nudist:  Fercrissake, Hoss, put some pants on!

ford creates vehicle that runs on urine:  This would be the Excretion SUV, which should reach showrooms in the fall of 2009.

photos of exaggerated breast augmentation:  If they're augmented, aren't they exaggerated by definition?

no emails to find women in oklahoma city:  If you really want to find them, it's going to take more than just email.

doug funny and party mayonnaise:  I'm having a whole lot of trouble with this idea of "party mayonnaise." Is that like Silly String?

what's a grecian urn:  Now that the drachma is obsolete, about 17,600 euros.

condi rice has nice legs!  Yeah, so?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:10 AM to You Asked For It )
No C.O.D.s to coyotes

Anyone who ever sat through Warner Bros.' Looney Tunes and/or Merrie Melodies will appreciate this: from the catalog of Sears, Roebuck and Company, circa 1900-1910, you could order anvils.

Acme brand anvils.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:52 PM to Entirely Too Cool )
1-0 in T.O.

According to Byron Scott, it was the whim of the Schedule Gods that the Hornets hadn't played the Raptors even once in the first 71 games; whatever the explanation, this would be the Bees' only trip to Toronto this year. (The Raptors will visit the Ford Center this coming Friday.)

The Hornets piled up an 18-point lead in the third quarter, but Toronto refused to roll over and die, and with two minutes left, the Raptors, cashing in on three consecutive turnovers, regained the lead. The fourth quarter ended with a 95-95 tie.

The first overtime was full of sound and fury, but signified nothing; each team managed five points in five minutes. In the second overtime, the Bees struck early and made it stick, coming out on top 120-113. (I am, I suppose, slightly disturbed that the Bees scored 20 points in five minutes, considering they only scored 15 points in the 12 minutes of the fourth quarter.)

With 58 minutes of play time, you might think there were a lot of shots taken, and you would be correct: the Hornets took 99 shots and made 45 (45.5 percent), while the Raptors hit 45 of 113 (39.8 percent). Toronto hit 12 of 31 three-balls; the Bees, 4 of 14.

For the first time this season, there's a triple-double for the Hornets: Chris Paul scored 24 points, grabbed 12 boards and served up 12 assists, the first time he's pulled off this feat, and he didn't need the overtime to reach the threshold, either. David West, back in the saddle, scored 23; Rasual Butler dropped in 17, Marc Jackson 16, Aaron Williams 13, Speedy Claxton 10 (and 12 dimes, for a double-double) and J. R. Smith 10. It appears that when Linton Johnson starts, he scores a lot and provides a fair amount of defense, or he scores very little and provides a whole lot of defense. It was the latter tonight, with three points, two blocked shots and 8 boards, including some clutch play towards the end. And Brandon Bass, who played about 10 minutes, snagged 4 points and 7 rebounds.

But what I wonder is how is this Toronto team only 26-47? They seem to be a lot better than that, and they didn't even have the services of Chris Bosh tonight; what's more, their ace rookie Charlie Villanueva scored 25 points and hauled in 18 boards.

To Auburn Hills on Tuesday, where the Pistons will be waiting — and presumably without Rasheed Wallace, who got his 16th technical foul of the season today and is subject to a one-game suspension.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:10 PM to Net Proceeds )
3 April 2006
I bought what?

From Verging on Pertinence by way of the Fire Ant Gazette, a chance for delicious self-immolation:

Top Five Truly Important Teenaged Years Songs that I now view as Truly Idiotic, or ... the What Was I Thinking Song List.

I tend to think of my teenaged years as ending in 1969, but I actually turned twenty in 1973, so I figure I can allow for stuff up through 1972 in the compilation of this list.

In order of release:

  • Simon and Garfunkel, "Mrs. Robinson" (1968)
    This was so irresistibly catchy that I didn't notice it was getting played seemingly every freaking hour on the radio, and of course I would have been delighted to have been seduced by one particular neighborhood Older Woman, had I had any idea what that might have entailed; now it just makes me lunge for the tuning knob. Not even the return of Joltin' Joe can change the way I feel.

  • Carpenters, "(They Long to Be) Close to You" (1970)
    Karen Carpenter sang this so beautifully, and the arrangement was so subtle, that it took me years to realize how annoying the song's extended similes truly were.

  • Bread, "Make It with You" (1970)
    This was a year when even the slightest attention from a girl drew a lost-puppy look from me, and I was laboring under the delusion that this sort of greeting-card sexuality might actually work. Wrong.

  • Don McLean, "American Pie" (1971)
    Another case of horrid overexposure: I swear that they play this on the radio more now than they do when it was new. And by now, due to overanalysis, this song has no secrets to give up anymore; it's an instant button-push before "Long, long time ago" is over.

  • Chuck Berry, "My Ding-A-Ling" (1972)
    I justified this because (1) it was Chuck Berry, fercrissake and (2) it spoke at my own level of barely-post-adolescent smuttiness. Eventually I grew up.

Deep, dark secrets: I bought all five of these, and they all made #1 in Billboard.

Disturbing of Slumber Time

Generally I yield to Lileks, since (1) he can outwrite me with one hand tied behind his back and a Child™ whispering in his ear and (2) he has a week's seniority over me in this wacky Inter-Nettery stuff.

But after having to drive to work in pitch darkness again, I cannot let this go by without complaint:

There are those who do not like Daylight Savings Time — it's false time, a patent lie; why not say the sun sets at midnight? You can believe these things if you like, but do not bring them up in my presence. By my lights, setting the clocks back is the unnatural part. As a night owl, I treasure the longer evenings, and few things put a lilt in this grey hard lump of anthracite I call a heart than stepping outside at eight and seeing the world has not been cast back in the black pit. I love Daylight Savings Time. For that matter I'm used to its conclusion; it's actually become part of the rhythm of the year for me. When the clocks go back the day seems to contract; when they leap ahead — in a single bound, as though they?ve been straining at the leash — the day expands and exhales. It's a wonderful thing. People who oppose it are ugly and stupid and un-American and wrong and evil and anti-life.

"Expands and exhales." As Bart Simpson might have said, "I didn't think it was physically possible, but this both sucks and blows."

I realize Daylight Savings Time is an artificial construct. (Like the 60-minute hour, for example.) And I ... don't ... care. If nothing else, I like resetting all the clocks. The average American has more clocks than a 15th century Pope could dream of owning. And next year it starts the second week of March! Suicides in the Northern tier states will drop, I tell you.

If it's that wonderful, why don't we have it all year?

Oh, yeah: sunrise in January at a quarter to nine.

My VCR, at least, has automatic adjustment for DST: instead of blinking 12:00 constantly, it now blinks 1:00 constantly. Maybe I should get a TiVo.

Addendum: Lynn likes DST.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 AM to Dyssynergy )
Lasers on a sunny afternoon

On the World Tours, I am accompanied by three electronic gadgets: my notebook, my cell phone and my digital voice recorder. Compared to some of you, I'm probably just this side of a Luddite. But if I had more gizmos, I'd start wondering about how I'd provide regular battery juice.

Enter the solar-powered bag, which draws enough skyborne voltage to keep up (we hope) with the demands of the hardware. The form factor is sufficiently compact, in fact, that it's possible to produce backpacks, even jackets, with a solar array.

Not that you'll get me into a jacket in the middle of July, but I'm still impressed.

Memo to a dillhole

If you're going to call up our CS people and loudly demand that they research a charge on your credit card from way the hell back in October, the very least you can do is come up with the correct card number.

Of course, if you're going to make an error this fundamental, it's no farging wonder your books don't balance.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:10 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
All the good ones are taken

Another one of my alone-again-naturally whines? Nope. This is from a pragmatist, Dennis Forbes of Pragmatic Software Development, and here's the sad story:

Now you just need to find the perfect domain name ... at (and, in true new-economy fashion, you'll base your corporate name upon whatever available domain name you find ... PILLAGEANDPLUNDR Corporation).

You pull up GoDaddy and start punching in clever names, along with their many variations, only to find that they're all seemingly taken.

"This can't be!" you cry. "Has every possibility already been registered?"

Just about, says Forbes:

Given that there are approximately 50 million .COM domains registered, it is indeed true that the low-hanging fruit domain names are overwhelmingly taken, and your chances of lucking upon an unnoticed available three-letter acronym (TLA) are close to zero, and your only recourse would be to haggle with domain speculators.

Of course, if you're willing to go for a long and inscrutable domain name, you're allowed up to 63 characters, as reflected by, um, DIDYOUKNOWTHATYOUCANONLYHAVESIXTY-
THREECHARACTERSINADOMAIN-NAME.com.

Disclosure: I own four domains, three .COM and one .NET.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:21 AM to PEBKAC )
I'm assuming I was #102

ThePhoenix.com presents: The 100 Unsexiest Men in the World (and Al Franken is #40).

Yeah, yeah: beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Some eyes can behold only so much, you know?

(Via Fark)

How logo can you go-go?

Those semi-wacky Austrians at Monochrom conducted an interesting little experiment: they asked a sample of their countrymen to draw a selection of corporate logos from memory.

Draw whatever conclusions you like. I'll suggest only that the Lacoste alligator comes off quite a bit better than the Peugeot lion.

(Via Jeffrey Zeldman.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 PM to Dyssynergy )
Say goodnight, Tom

I assume that he's actually bowing out of the race and that this is not, you should pardon the expression, some DeLaying tactic.

We wish him well as a private citizen, but boy, are we glad to see him leave the House.

4 April 2006
Excentrifugal forz

So I'm taking the ess-curve on May at Wilshire in this thing, and half a dozen bags of assorted groceries take the path of least resistance — directly into my lap.

Even at 40 mpg, I think I'll have to pass, thank you very much.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:21 AM to Driver's Seat )
Reclaim the name

The Glittering Eye says it's time to bring back socialism — as a word:

I don't consider myself a member of "The Left" (nor "The Right", for that matter) but I don't have any particular allergy to the word socialism. It's a perfectly good word and it has a reasonably accepted meaning. It's useful for communicating meaning and expressing intent.

Whereas "progressive," by contrast, really doesn't mean much:

It's like saying virtuism or goodnessism. Who doesn't want progress? We just don't all agree on what it means.

Well, there's National Review, whose marching orders were set out by William F. Buckley Jr. in Volume 1, Number 1: "It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it."

As an old reactionary myself, I can understand Buckley's complaint about what passes for progress — but that's really another issue.

As I say, I'm not allergic to the word socialism. Nous sommes tous socialistes. Only the most doctrinaire completely reject redistribution. It's a pragmatic necessity. We tax the rich for the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks: it's where the money is. It's a matter of degree.

So I'm completely in favor of those who are calling themselves liberals or progressives or the netroots or whatever they're calling themselves these days calling themselves socialists. Using a word that actually has a definition and you can really sink your teeth into would have a number of beneficial effects:

  • they'd know what they stood for
  • the rest of us would know what they stood for
  • maybe a couple of decent political parties would emerge from the wreckage that would ensue

A conflagration devoutly to be wished. And besides, actual Marxists don't return your phone calls.

A damn dirty ape call

Dr. Zaius predicts the American League East.

(Via Deadspin.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Base Paths )
Rate hikes in the pipeline

Oklahoma City's water rates have been rising at 3 percent a year; City Council is pushing it to 3.75 percent for the next four years.

Over the four-year period, the expected revenue increase would be just under $17 million; the city says that it's needed to keep pace with repairs and upgrades to the city's water system.

The current rate structure is here. It is not clear whether sewer rates will be increased commensurately; city trash service (which, on my bill at least, costs more than water and sewer) is not affected.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:10 AM to City Scene )
Needling the players

Someone asked me once if it was possible to be way over the bounds of acceptability and still be funny.

Well, of course. For instance: a fan lobbed a syringe at Barry Bonds last night in San Diego.

Now, throwing anything on the field is indefensible and not to be encouraged under any circumstances. Bonds, properly, handled the matter with the utmost disdain. Still, the punchline will not be denied.

A better one, though, was a sign in the stands that read simply "*".

(Via the Crank.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:03 PM to Base Paths )
Sliced and McDyessed

Any illusions the Hornets might have had about sneaking this one away from the Pistons were utterly shattered by Antonio McDyess, who came off the bench in the absence of Rasheed Wallace to score 26 points (and 14 rebounds). The Bees were game, maybe a little beyond that, but Detroit had lost only three games at the Palace this year, and they were in no mood for a fourth: Pistons 101, Hornets 93.

The Hornet mainstays stayed with it all game: both Chris Paul and David West picked up 24 points, and the team shot a respectable 48 percent. But when the Pistons are hitting on all cylinders, they don't lose, and this was their 60th win of the season.

A long flight back to OKC, and Golden State will be waiting at the Ford Center for a Wednesday-night contest.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:59 PM to Net Proceeds )
5 April 2006
People moving out, people moving in

A house up the street (mentioned here three weeks ago) sold last week; two more around the corner and northward went up for sale about the same time or slightly afterwards, and one of them already has a contract.

I don't know what the neighborhood record is — the house that became Surlywood was listed on a Tuesday evening and I put in a bid the following Saturday, which is fairly quick — but obviously there's some serious demand over here.

Still, if the one that remains for sale (it's a "Dream Starter"!) brings the $114k asked, I'll be somewhere between delighted and flabbergasted.

Update, 16 April: They've cut the Dream Starter to $107,000.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:08 AM to Surlywood )
Tulsa boots Bill

Incumbent Tulsa Mayor Bill LaFortune was turned out of office yesterday in favor of former Secretary of Commerce Kathy Taylor.

More than 75,000 votes were cast. (By comparison, the rather sleepy election in Oklahoma City, in which incumbent Mick Cornett pulled about 87 percent of the vote, drew less than 15,000.)

What can we expect? Michael Bates once characterized Kathy Taylor as the second coming of Susan Savage, and suggested that Tulsa could look forward to More Of The Same upon her election. Taylor, like Savage, is a dealmaker rather than a policy wonk, and if there's one thing Tulsa has in abundance, it's people anxious to make deals.

What fascinates me about this election is that the Tulsa power structure, more or less en masse, decided that Bill LaFortune had become a liability and threw its support to a challenger. The result is cognitive dissonance on a grand scale: the ostensible agent for change turns out to be a Good Old Boy in a dress.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Soonerland )
Booze in space!

Well, no such luck: it's methanol, not ethanol, which means that it's not drinkable unless you have access to Ted Kennedy's liver.

Still, the idea of organic molecules of this sort floating around in the universe has a certain appeal, if only because it vaguely supports the notion that We Are Not Alone.

(Via Play One on TV.)

Reality intrudes

"Hello, American Airlines? Can I bring snakes on a plane?"

(Via CBS News Blogophile, which inexplicably also linked to this.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:05 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Through the eyes of love

Singer Gene Pitney died in his hotel room in Cardiff today after singing up a storm on his UK tour.

Pitney was a songwriter first — "Hello Mary Lou" and "He's a Rebel" are his — and while he'd cut some singles with Ginny Arnell as "Jamie and Jane" and released a handful of solo 45s, some as "Billy Bryan," his recording career seemingly started by accident: he sent up a one-man (he played everything but the bassoon) demo to publisher Aaron Schroeder, who liked it enough to start a record company (Musicor) and to release it as the first single. "(I Wanna) Love My Life Away" eased into the lower reaches of the Top 40 in 1961, and suddenly Gene was a big-name singer. He cut a version of the title theme from the film Town Without Pity, and sang it at the Academy Awards; "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," written for the film of that name but not used in it, also clicked.

Pitney went on to chart twenty-nine singles for Musicor, plus a duet with George Jones; he recorded country songs, songs in Italian ("Nessuno Mi Puo' Giudicare" — "Nobody Can Judge Me" — even bubbled under the US Hot 100), and all manner of pop artifacts. (On this very site, Dawn Eden reviews "Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa". Short version: loved him, hated the song.)

Not a lot of Pitney gets played on the radio these days. In an era which respects attitude more than altitude, Pitney's soaring voice is way out of place, and some of his hits seem scandalous today, though not in the sense you'd expect: "Mecca," a metaphor for the brownstone house where his baby lives, is almost forgotten these days. (You can hear what he sounded like here.) In 2002, at the age of 61, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And he'll always have a place on my record shelf.

Addendum: The aforementioned Dawn Eden shares personal recollections of Gene.

Do or die time

Somewhere in the third period, the Hornets snapped: first David West, then Chris Paul. The crowd was appalled. Technicals were assessed. Frustration was rampant.

And with two seconds left, it was 103-103. West uncorked one of his patented last-second shots; it refused to drop in.

So the Warriors and the Hornets, one point apart in their last meeting, went into overtime, and Golden State's last shot wound up in the arms of Chris Paul. Bees 114, Warriors 109.

Every Hornet starter made double figures: Rasual Butler had a double-double (11 points, 11 rebounds), and Chris Paul got his second triple-double (17 points, 16 assists, 11 rebounds). But Speedy Claxton, off the bench, outscored them all, picking up 21, and Kirk Snyder, after many days glued to that bench, hit five of six (including a trey) for 11.

Unfortunately, the Kings surprised the Spurs in San Antonio, so the Bees remain two games back in the race for that last playoff spot. But at least they're still in the race.

The Raptors drop in Friday, followed by a quick trip to (shudder) Dallas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:53 PM to Net Proceeds )
6 April 2006
Coyne of the realm

It's a Flaming Lips week around here. Last week I bought Jim DeRogatis' Staring at Sound: The True Story of Oklahoma's Fabulous Flaming Lips, and finished it up Tuesday; Wednesday Preston Jones had a review in the Oklahoma Gazette.

Jones talked to DeRogatis, and this interesting quote emerged:

There was a year and a half or so, after I panned the boom box tour, where Wayne [Coyne] was actively not speaking to me — if I'd seen him the night he first read that review, he (probably) would have punched me in the face. I think that's only made the relationship stronger, because they know I've been critical, so when I say I like something they've done, I mean it.

And it's not like Jim lives in fear: the last book of his I snagged was Kill Your Idols: A New Generation of Rock Writers Reconsiders the Classics, in which he and his cohort of snarkmeisters dismember all the records I own, which was great fun. Staring at Sound isn't quite as gleeful, but there's plenty of stuff I didn't know about the Lips, and while DeRogatis suffers from occasional fits of Not From Around Here — no one in this part of the world refers to the Interstate west of town as "Route 40" — he's obviously gone to a lot of trouble to take a look at this band in the context of where they came from, and if you have any interest whatever in the Lips, you really need to take a look at this book.

Wayne Coyne, incidentally, shows up in Stuff (May '06), and offers the following wisdom about Gwen Stefani:

I never intended ["It Overtakes Me"] to be written for her. It's a silly exercise where you think, "If Gwen Stefani was thinking this, what would she do?" Not like the Flaming Lips would ever do what she would do, but it frees you up.

He also endorses the Deep Fork Grill:

A dear friend of mine runs [DFG]. He is cool, young and gracious. An intense and imaginative master chef creates the food. I get treated like a rock star even though I don't expect it.

Well, he is a rock star, even if a reluctant one.

The first ten years

(Bumped up from Sunday)

Sunday, this Web site will be ten years old. To give you an idea of the time frame involved, this actual interchange occurred on PBS in 1996:

STEVEN LEVY: This year I think was the first year where pretty much anyone you meet in business was supposed to have an e-mail address. It asked them, what's your e-mail address, instead of asking, do you have an E-mail address?

PAUL SOLMAN: And e-mail is what for those of us who don't know, or those people who don't know?

STEVEN LEVY: It's simply an address in some sort of vaguely obscure computer code which enables you to accept and send out messages electronically. You know, it's actually a very effective and efficient way to communicate with each other.

Or would be, if 90 percent of it wasn't touting worthless penny stocks or drugs of dubious provenance or perversions beyond Kinsey's imagination.

But neither Levy nor Solman anticipated spam; they were busy being amazed at how much things had changed in just a short time, and trying to imagine what might happen in subsequent years. And certainly neither of them paid any attention to what I had begun scribbling over here in an obscure corner of cyberspace, at a time when the Dow was still around 5500, the Ramones were still playing, and The Onion was still just a satirical newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin.

With the official Tenth Anniversary in the offing, I'm soliciting reactions: to the site, to individual writings, to perceived philosophy, to whatever you might think is pertinent. And atypically, I'm not taking them as comments: I don't want the tenth one received, for example, to be affected by the preceding nine. This will be email only, and a representative selection of the reactions received will be posted here next week. Use this link if possible; if you don't want your name used, say so.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 AM to Blogorrhea )
Press Alt-F4 for higher access

Belhoste points to this MeFi thread, and a lot of these seem awfully familiar:

"My first modem was a screamin'-fast SupraModem 2400 I bought for the low, low price of $150. I got PC Pursuit at some point and started calling around the country. I remember spending a good amount of time on a couple BBSs in Philadelphia. At my first job I ended up setting up a ProLine BBS for my employer and later helped set up a network of NovaServer BBSs (dubbed theLINQ) for schools. Somewhere in there I also became a forum assistant on GEnie, mostly so I could enjoy free access to the service, which cost $6 an hour for 1200 bps access."

"I was 14 years old. I lived at home with my family. We had one phone line. We used this phone line mainly to talk to family and friends. I had just posted the number for this phone line as a 'Hot New BBS' on all the local BBSes. Like many 14-year-olds, I didn't think through the consequences of my actions. I guess I just thought that the computer would answer the phone when another computer dialed it. It was an experiment I hadn't done. And, y'know, it was ok for the first few hours, while my folks were out of the house. The phone rang, the computer answered, the local BBSers got to see my BBS. But then my parents came home."

"Apple II+, Hayes Micromodem. 213 AC. It was called Dragon's Lair — one of several Dragon's Lairs, turns out. A useless but fun BBS. Useless for everyone else, fun for this 11 yo SYSOP, until we moved to Saudi Arabia & it died."

And many more. As a relic of this period myself — though I was already thirtysomething years old — I can relate to a lot of this.

Belhoste continues:

In my opinion, blogs do foster relationships and can help revive old ones (I have briefly gone off on this tangent before here and here). I also noticed a link to BBSmates that I will have to check out when I get a chance.

Could it be that the BBSers of old have just found a new voice?

I wouldn't doubt it for a moment.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:45 AM to PEBKAC )
Title of the week

Defamer says "New Bond making major adjustments for the role", which is good, but the magazine spread they're showing is better.

(Safety for work is debatable.)

Why I still keep a dialup

The cable over here is deader than Francisco Franco, and with fewer notifications, too.

I assume it has something to do with these 50-mph winds that nearly blew me off my feet in front of a gas pump this afternoon. (Gotta be the wind; the price increase since yesterday was four cents, which is off-putting but generally not the sort of thing which induces vertigo.)

Maybe I should just go stand outside and let myself be sandblasted. Exfoliation is such a bore.

7 April 2006
Top 40, large

Wouldn't it be neat to have, say, a 1963 WMCA Good Guy T-shirt?

Until Mr. Peabody gets the WABAC machine working, this will have to do: fresh CafePress knockoffs, researched by the major radio fiends at RadioLogoLand, who have imaging from lots of classic pop radio stations — though nothing yet from Oklahoma City's KOMA or WKY. (They do have KAKC stuff, for the Tulsans among us.)

I suggest you grab one of these before the Gods of Intellectual Property take umbrage and request injuctions.

That "fake news" stuff

This Raw Story report on so-called Video News Releases has been getting plenty of airing, and deservedly so. Noting that a prime offender was KOKH-TV in Oklahoma City, Matt Deatherage said: "KOKH doesn't seem to know that there's supposed to be a line between news and advertising."

But if none of these prepackaged propaganda pieces is news, neither is the Center for Media and Democracy study referenced by Raw Story: VNRs have been oozing into newsrooms for two decades. Medialink Worldwide is reported (by themselves, anyway) to have invented the VNR way back in 1986; TV Guide did features on VNRs, which they described as "fake news," in 1992 and 1993. The G. W. Bush administration was caught issuing such things on its own two years ago.

None of this excuses the current batch, of course. But we shouldn't see this as a new and insidious attempt to influence the public; it's an old and insidious attempt to influence the public.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to Dyssynergy )
Paper cuts

Gayle cleans out the old billfold, and look what happens:

I was cleaning out my wallet at work and had all these useless business cards I was dumping out on the table along with receipts and other built up wallet junk. The woman I am working with this night says "I bet all those cards came from men". "Yeah, looks like most of them are, why?" I ask.

"Well", she continues, "I know two things in this life for sure. One. Never trust people that say 'trust me'. And two, men give out business cards to women they want to sleep with".

"As if!" I reply. I'm sure that's not what these men intended. I mean most of them were handed to me in a professional business setting. "Well", she continues, "it's a subtle way to maybe get lucky, and ask youself what other purpose the card really serves in each of the cases you got one".

I looked over all the cards. I tried visualizing the context I was given each one. At the time they all seemed professionally appropriate or at least not socially perverted. But in all these cases there was also really no good purpose to give me their card.

Two observations. First, this from Costa:

Maybe it's an old boys' network tradition, going hand-in-hand with the two-martini lunch. Personally, I had no overt intentions along these lines. I really just wanted to generate some low-impact publicity for the blog, and my own self. I'm wondering now if the women to whom I doled out cards thought I was on the make.... I probably was, but I didn't want to make it this obvious.

And from me: It has never, ever occurred to me that it might be worthwhile to have a batch of business cards printed up. And the card does have the ability to pass on one's phone number.

[Cut to Dean Friedman's "Ariel," collecting for the Friends of 'BAI in Paramus Park, who writes her number on the back of his hand.]

Sometimes even my grasp of the obvious is tenuous and insecure.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:15 AM to Table for One )
Paper! Get yer paper!

The Muskogee Daily Phoenix is up for sale: Gannett Co. has transferred control of the paper to its foundation. The sale, which should take place about a month from now, ultimately serves two purposes: as it pares down the corporation's list of properties, it replenishes the foundation's coffers.

There are buyers waiting: five, says Phoenix publisher Larry Corvi. The Phoenix sells about 17,000 copies daily.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:29 PM to Soonerland )
Rhymes with "politician"

Somebody (I'm almost sure it was Lynn, but I haven't found the original post yet) once pointed out that the random-letter captcha used on Blogger and some other services occasionally generates something that ought to be an actual word. (Under what those of us who never took anything beyond Statistics 202 think of as the Law of Averages, this occurrence would seem to be almost inevitable.)

Pician?

I have yet to get anything I can play on a Scrabble board, but what I have here is awfully close — if you think of Taiwan as close.

Addendum: It was Lynn, and here's her original post.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:15 PM to Say What? )
2-0 against T.O.

Last time we saw the Raptors, I said something to the effect that they were better than their record suggested; they are indeed a persistent bunch. Tonight they made thirteen treys (out of 35 tries, which was almost the same as their percentage from inside the arc) and came back twice from major deficits to scare the Hornets. Fortunately, the Bees tend to play better when fear is staring them in the face, and they prevailed, 95-89.

Seven of those Toronto treys were sunk by Mike James, who scored 36 in all. It still amazes me that this team has lost 50 games.

Desmond Mason and P. J. Brown saw some action tonight from the bench; it was good to see them back on the court. David West scored 19, Chris Paul 16, and Linton Johnson 13; Speedy Claxton dropped in 11 from off the bench.

Saturday night in Dallas, where the Mavericks always seem to have the Bees' number; after that, the final homestand, against Cleveland, Seattle and Utah.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:31 PM to Net Proceeds )
8 April 2006
Meanwhile across town

The RedHawks opened a four-day homestand against the Memphis Redbirds on Thursday night, and while it would be clichéd and overdramatic to say that the feathers flew — well, the 'Hawks won the first two, though it took 13 innings to take the first, 5-4, and in the second, a late-inning rally gave Oklahoma a 9-5 win.

Attendance at the home opener was 8,366; last night, with nastier weather and the Hornets playing at the Ford, 5,972 showed up.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:49 AM to Base Paths )
The case for being committed

Colorado psychiatrist Dr. Doreen Orion, herself a stalker victim, has written a book about it: I Know You Really Love Me: A Psychiatrist's Journal of Erotomania, Stalking and Obsessive Love.

Cruel.com reports that one particular Amazon.com review of the book disappeared into the bit bucket, and after reading it, I can see why it could have:

The only difference between stalkers and anybody is else is that unlike other people, these people don't waver indecisively from person to person, and are more motivated. They've found somebody who matches their ideals — they can't imagine a better fit, a more perfect match — and they suffer from this incredibly. Who can it hurt if they observe from a distance the one person who taught them the meaning of the word "alive"? Be thankful if you're one to socially jump from one person to the next uncaringly that you may be spared the all-consuming intensity of real love. I wish upon no one the pain of watching the person you'd give anything for, who you know like the back of your hand — from their needs and desires to the fears and moral qualms that wrack their concious [sic] — stay in some deadend relationship regardless of any hoops you jump through — regardless how you look, what you'd say, give, do — nothing.

As expressions of self-justification go, this rivals anything you're likely to see in the political arena.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:15 AM to Table for One )
The Wikipedia birthday meme

As swiped from Phoebe Gleeson:

1. Type in your birthday (minus the year) in the search bar at Wikipedia.org
2. List three interesting facts, two births, and one death that happened on your birthday.

"Interesting," of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but here goes:

1491 - The siege of Granada, last Moorish stronghold in Spain, begins.

1863 - American Civil War: At Missionary Ridge in Tennessee, Union forces led by General Ulysses S. Grant break the Siege of Chattanooga by routing Confederate troops under General Braxton Bragg.

1950 - The "Storm of the Century", a violent snowstorm, paralyzes the northeastern United States and the Appalachians, bringing winds up to 100 mph and sub-zero temperatures. Pickens, West Virginia records 57 inches of snow. 323 people die due to the storm.

Born 1920 - Noel Neill, American actress

Born 1944 - Ben Stein, American actor, game show host, and political consultant

Died 1920 - Gaston Chevrolet, Swiss-born race car driver and automobile pioneer (b. 1892)

Now let's try it for the 9th of April, the birthday, as it were, of this Web site:

1413 - Henry V is crowned King of England.

1865 - American Civil War: Robert E. Lee surrenders the Army of Northern Virginia (26,765 troops) to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, effectively ending the war.

1959 - NASA announces the selection of the United States' first seven astronauts which the news media quickly dub the "Mercury Seven".

Born 1926 - Hugh Hefner, American editor and publisher

Born 1928 - Tom Lehrer, American musician and mathematician

Died 1997 - Laura Nyro, American singer and songwriter (b. 1947)

Feel free to expropriate.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:10 AM to Screaming Memes )
Tentative steps

Bullet bitten: I have finally gotten around to installing a proper router, which supports four wired devices and however many wireless ones I can persuade to work. At the moment, I consider it miraculous enough that I have one wireless device working — Toshi, my faithful old Road Warrior, which has had problems with Wi-Fi in years gone by.

Things will no doubt get more interesting as time goes by. Right now, I'm just buzzed by being able to blog from the kitchen.

Hounded out of downtown

According to this thread at OKCTalk.com, Gardner Tanenbaum Group will attempt to buy the Union Bus Station at Sheridan and Walker. The plan is to build a new bus depot elsewhere and convert the existing 1941 building to retail or restaurant use.

The kicker here, of course, is "elsewhere." At the very least, I'd think an intercity bus facility ought to be located near local transit, which effectively means MetroTransit's Downtown Transit Center, on NW 5th between Walker and Hudson. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a location close by that would fit the requirements for a bus station. And if they move it south, to the Phantom Zone between the old and new I-40 alignments, it will be even farther away.

Maybe they're going to put Union Station to work as a bus terminal, since they can't bring themselves to use it for rail, as God and the Santa Fe intended.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:09 PM to City Scene )
Dallas aforethought

During the preceding three years in New Orleans, one thing the Hornets didn't do was beat the Dallas Mavericks; the last time they put the hurt on the Mavs, they were still the Charlotte Hornets, fercryingoutloud. Thirteen consecutive losses to Mark Cuban and company.

The relocation to Oklahoma City made absolutely no difference. The Bees played the Mavericks four times this season, and Dallas won all four of them, the only team to sweep four from the Hornets this year. The score — 101-77 — is almost irrelevant.

It's not like the Bees were bad, particularly: they shot 44 percent from the floor, fairly typical. But they gave up 18 turnovers, including 8 steals, and the Mavs owned the boards, getting 48 rebounds to the Hornets' 30.

Rasual Butler led the Hornets with 14 points. P. J. Brown, off the bench, picked up 12, and that was it for double figures.

Six games left, and now two below .500. It's still theoretically possible to make the playoffs — but it's going to be that much more difficult.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:53 PM to Net Proceeds )
9 April 2006
And I don't even have a hagiograph

I had actually already attended one ad hoc class on Web pages (let's not call it "design") in the spring of 1996 when I got the ridiculous idea that I ought to have a site of my own, inasmuch as I knew a handful of tags and my ISP of the moment was willing to allow me a whole megabyte of space. In a matter of hours, I ground out half a dozen pages and an index linking to them all, plus some homemade graphics which made them look, well, so 1996. Add to this a semi-cute counter, and suddenly I had a Web Presence.

A decade later, I've piled up 171 megabytes of stuff, the counter has gone into seven digits, and said Web Presence has had a wholly-unexpected effect: it's picked up regular readers. Last week I asked those readers to come up with some thoughts on the matter, and here's some of what I got.

Mike Pechar writes:

There is a scene in one of the early James Bond movies(I forget which one) where James is facing death on a platform which is slowly being lowered into a pond full of alligators. It's a drawn-out anxious moment accompanied by suspenseful music as the platform inches downward into the water. Bond, always the hero, extricates himself by racing to safety on the backs of the alligators. Each step touches a different alligator just long enough to move forward. It's a surprising and amusing scene and no alligators get hurt.

That's Dustbury — racing on the backs of alligators and, by the way, older than Google.

As an old fan of Activision's Pitfall, I know from dancing across alligators, or maybe it was crocodiles. (And it was Live and Let Die.)

Winston Rand notes:

Just when I think I've got you figgered out, you prove me wrong. To this day, I would not know whether to tag you as liberal, progressive, conservative, whatever ... so I don't.

[The site is] nice and clean. I like it. Wish I was enough of an html jockey to do mine as well. One thing that does not detract by its absence, but might enhance if present — use an occasional graphic, photo, or whatever, to break up the text. The bird gets boring after a while, but also provides a comfort level of stability, a benchmark, and a "yeah, I know where I am now" response.

[The Vent] may be unique with you. I have not seen it anywhere else. Tremendous idea. I vowed that I would read all of them.

So far as I know, two people have read all of them. I really ought to redo the interface so that you can go through them sequentially, but that's 480 pages to recode, each one manually. (No templates, folks; remember, this started in '96.)

I've had some sort of bird on the front page almost since Day One; I have about a dozen versions in the archives, and a few more I've played with but never actually used. Once I had a bird button made up to identify myself to a visiting reader who had just flown into town. Worked stunningly well.

Jennifer sent this:

What impresses me the most is the finesse and balance you bring to bear, day in and day out. Your posts are always so well-written. Your humor alternates flawlessly between the appropriately wry and the bone dry, and you offer little glimmers of insight into your personality in nearly every entry. You manage to educate and edify without patronizing, which is a rare talent indeed.

I, for one, appreciate the investment you make in sharing your well-trained eye for sussing out the genuine golden nuggets: from the educational and informative to the mundane and interesting, touching every inch of the spectrum in between along the way.

I figure, if I can find something interesting in the mundane (or, 24 hours later, the tuesdane), maybe it's not as mundane as I thought it was in the first place. Few of us find our lives to be one breathtaking thrill after another; if I wrote only about things that really, truly excited me, I might never have filled up that original megabyte.

And Michael Bates contends:

Dustbury is the epitome of a blog — links to an eclectic mix of web content, each accompanied by a well-selected excerpt that entices the reader to click through, followed by a pithy observation, and topped with a clever play on words. Even the category names are inspired. By comparison, other blogs are mere shadows on the wall of a cave.

I am, of course, grateful for the kind words, and somewhat surprised that they were as kind as they are: at the very least, I expected at least a smattering of "I will eat dirt rather than bookmark this," from my original Feedback Form.

There is one new feature for the new decade. You've seen its ancestor before: a "linkblog" which collects items that aren't going to be given a whole post. 3WC imposes a new structure on the linkblog: it provides, for each news item or whatever, a three-word comment and no more. (Hence the name.) These will accumulate on the left side of the index page at indefinite intervals.

To all of you, thanks for coming, and remember: if you don't like what you read, your next visit is free.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:00 AM to Blogorrhea )
Far from the comfy chair

Dawn Eden, approaching Catholicism, is facing her first Confession, and things don't seem to be quite the way I remember them from the Pleistocene era. The Archdiocese of New York recommends:

When finished examining his conscience, [the penitent] should make a mental list of all the mortal sins he committed, noting how and how many times he committed them, as far as he can remember. He can also add any venial sins he remembers.

This is "not helpful," says Dawn:

How exactly does one confess all one's sins from birth onward? I have some vague idea of going down the list of the Ten Commandments and highlighting anything particularly egregious.

Back when I carried around a Baltimore Catechism, I once used exactly this tack for the Sacrament of Penance Reconciliation, and was lectured by the priest for being too concerned with the details, possibly at the expense of the actual repentance.

Besides, we have all sinned. God knows that; the priest hearing the confession knows that. What matters, I think, is that you recognize the more serious lapses, take note of the pattern if there seems to be an awful lot of them, and work diligently to do better next time. The first confession is scary, but it's the second one from which you measure your progress.

Wait 'til we get our Heinz on you

Richard Armour explained it this way:

Shake and shake
The ketchup bottle;
None will come,
And then a lot'll.

But it doesn't have to be that way at all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:00 PM to Worth a Fork )
The Vitamin D test

The idea this afternoon was to drag the notebook outside and test for the feasibility of backyard blogging/sunbathing.

Positives:

  • The Wi-Fi signal reaches just about anywhere in the back yard with at least 11 Mbit/sec. I didn't test out front, but since the house is pretty much in the center of the lot, I'd expect similar results in the front yard.

  • Surprisingly high novelty value, at least at first.

  • All the usual advantages of soaking up the sun.

Negatives:

  • The more sun you have, the harder it is to read the screen.

  • All the usual disadvantages of soaking up the sun.

Call it a qualified success for now.

All over the place (3)

Yet another collection of Found Links. How I found them is anybody's guess.

More to come when they get here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:00 PM to Blogorrhea )
10 April 2006
Filling the gaps

In January 2000, the FCC approved a new class of low-power FM radio station. But what the Feds giveth, the Feds taketh away: three months later, the charmingly-named "Preservation of Radio Act" amended the rules just enough to eliminate most of the potential slots on the dial.

Oversimplified: FM stations in the US are allocated to channels 0.2 MHz apart. The new LPFM rules would have allowed new stations at the second-adjacent position, a distance of 0.4 MHz — from, say, the KATT, which operates on 100.5 MHz, this would mean 100.1 or 100.9. The "Preservation" Act changed this to third-adjacent, 0.6 MHz away: 99.9 or 101.1. By no coincidence, the largest radio markets have most or all of their major stations 0.8 MHz apart; there are second-adjacent positions between them, but no third-adjacent positions.

In the Oklahoma City market in particular, move-ins by rim-shooters have positioned commercial stations at second-adjacent positions: KQOB (Bob) at 96.9 and KOJK (Jack) at 97.3; WWLS-FM (The Sports Animal) at 104.9, KINB (La Indomable) at 105.3 and KROU (sister to KGOU) at 105.7. It's true that the transmitters are scattered across the area to meet spacing requirements; nonetheless, these transmitters (except maybe Jack's) run a lot more power than microradio stations.

Which, incidentally, is the term they prefer to "pirate":

We are a "Micro-Station" We are here to provide the OKC area with Commercial Free programming and give our listeners what they want! We are not here to cause havoc or anything of that sort! We support our local police and if you listen you would hear us at 2am telling our listeners NOT to drink and drive. We are Radio Edited, We DO NOT broadcast 24/7. We are not hiding from anyone so there for [we] ARE NOT A PIRATE! We offer a various format of Dance, Trance, Hip-Hop, Comedy etc that you don't get from the Corporate Stations. We made SURE our equipment DOES NOT drift.

And, perhaps more to the point:

We are not the ONLY underground station in this City however we are the ONLY one I know of who does respect the law, we just disagree with some policies set by the FCC. Maybe if the FCC deregulated some of the channels this "Pirate Radio Movement" would slow down. We are not the first one here, And I KNOW we will not be the last.

Incidentally, they're on a third-adjacent to the nearest commercial station.

I'm a firm believer in following the rules. However, I'm also a firm believer in the idea that the rules ought to make sense. As media writer Jesse Walker notes, "There is clearly room for more stations on the local airwaves than current FCC regulations allow — otherwise there wouldn't be so many operations able to broadcast without causing real interference. Public policy should aim to accommodate as many of these voices as possible, not snuff them out."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 AM to Overmodulation )
Not including taxes

A Malaysian man has been billed $218 trillion for final charges on a disconnected phone line.

According to the New Straits Times, Yahaya Wahab ordered his late father's telephone service turned off in January and sent in $23 to pay the final bill; he wasn't aware of any additional charges until he received the nastygram from Telekom Malaysia's collection agent.

Telekom Malaysia Bhd is connected to the Malaysian government, which suggests some form of bureaucratic bungling. Here in the States, it would never, ever occur to Verizon or AT&T to bill any residential subscriber for more than $50 billion.

(Heard this morning on NPR's Morning Edition.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:31 AM to Dyssynergy )
Someone to watch over me

A poll by RSA Security reports that more than 90 percent of American bank customers would like those banks to scrutinize incoming transactions for potential fraud, and 60 percent would like to be notified when something looks suspicious.

For what it's worth, I spoke to a MasterCard issuer this weekend, after they reported they'd spotted what they considered to be anomalies. They thought it was odd that someone would be paying for two ISPs; I explained my belt-and-suspenders approach to keeping myself online. And they found a transaction for $1 with the wrong expiration date, about which I knew nothing, and which they had duly declined. The bank suggested that, if I had concerns, they would cancel the account and send me a new card; after being assured that my reward points would remain intact, I agreed.

This is the second time I've canceled a card for security reasons. The first was five years ago, in connection with a hacking incident at the Web host I was using at the time.

I admit to a certain amount of "What do you care what I spend my money on?" But under the circumstances, I think the bank did the Right Thing in bringing their concerns to my attention, and I suspect the respondents to RSA's poll would agree.

(Via The Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:00 AM to Common Cents )
Present at the creation

It's a whole new fiction genre: the Charismatic Russo-Nigerian Serial Epistolary Novel, which we pick up in section 4:19:

I am Mr. Felix Ogorika, the Personal Lawyer of late Mr. Petrovich Nazarova, a Russian Businessman that lived in my Country Nigeria for 22 years before he died in the plane crash last year. He was a very good Christian, he is so dedicated to God but he was not married nor had any child till He died, may His soul rest in peace, Amen. Throughout His stay in my country, he acquired a lot of properties like lands, house properties, etc.

As his legal adviser, before his death, Mr. Petrovich Nazarova, instructed me to write his WILL, because he had no child, he dedicated his wealth to God. According to the WILL, the properties have to be sold and the money be given out to a ministry or individual for the work of God. As his legal adviser, all the documents for the properties were in my care. He gave me the authority to sell the properties and give out the fund to a Ministry or individual for the work of God.

Brother Felix is of course awaiting a favorable response.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:39 AM to Scams and Spams )
Welcome to Hovel Heights

Dwayne, way back here, was startled that houses in my neck of the woods were topping $65 a square foot. Now it's more like $80.

I shudder to think what he'd have to say about $925 per square foot.

(Via Steph Mineart.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:59 PM to Dyssynergy )
Cavalier treatment

Just how bad is the Third-Quarter Drought™? The Hornets scored 37 in the second quarter tonight and twelve in the third. The Cavaliers, meanwhile, picked up 29 in each, so the Bees' 11-point halftime lead turned into a six-point deficit going into the fourth.

The Hornets almost redeemed themselves in the last quarter, but the operative word is "almost": with half a second left, LeBron James picked up his 13th field goal of the night (for 32 points) and put Cleveland in front, 103-101.

It wasn't all LeBron, either; Flip Murray sank three treys and scored 25, and Donyell Marshall, off the bench, picked up 16 with four treys.

Chris Paul led the Bees with 22 points; Speedy Claxton had 14, as did David West, who departed with an ankle injury midway through the fourth. Three other Hornets scored in double figures.

Meanwhile, playoff hopes are, as Sean Kelley said, "on the ropes." And what kind of game is it when an official leaves with an injury?

The Sonics will be here Wednesday, the Jazz on Friday, and the season ends with three games on the road.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:44 PM to Net Proceeds )
11 April 2006
The Gas Game (April)

April is the coolest month, if you ask me: too warm to run the furnace much, not quite warm enough to crank the A/C to the max. Unfortunately, March's gas usage is billed in April, and that means another shot to the wallet, especially because, as you'll remember, I didn't lock in a fixed price of $8.393 last fall and it's been costing me ever since. What's more, the floating price has floated a few cents higher since the previous billing.

The numbers as they stand:

  • 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.

  • March: 7.6 used at $8.455; total price $64.26; VFP price $63.79; loss of $0.47.

  • April: 4.6 used at $8.660; total price $39.83; VFP price $38.61; loss of $1.22.

  • Cumulative: 35.1 used at $10.237; total price $359.31; VFP price $294.60; loss of $64.71.

It's things like this that make you wish for May.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:11 AM to Family Joules )
Generic post

Though not as generic as this.

(Via the distinctive Jacqueline Passey.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:28 AM to Blogorrhea )
Code comfort

All your major credit cards carry a Card Security Code, which is usually three digits tucked away on the back. (American Express, always different, has four digits on the front.) Last year our friendly Web host explained why they weren't much good:

The problem is, about 99.9% of all stolen credit cards used for purchasing things (like say, Web Hosting!) online are gleaned through the use of "phishing" scams. Those spams you get that claim to be from Paypal or Ebay or Wells Fargo or Bank of America. And, the Nigerians and Vietnamese not being total buffoons, they ask for the CSC code for your credit card too! So basically, anybody signing up for stuff online with a stolen credit card is either going to have the physical card (and therefore the CSC code), or will have the CSC code (and therefore have the CSC code).

In theory, using the CSC codes will stop that oh-so-popular case of credit card fraud where somebody goes searching through a trash can for receipts with people?s credit card numbers on it. Except, in practice these days just about all stores mark out the first 12 digits of your credit card number on their receipts.

In theory, using the CSC codes will stop that even-more-so-popular case of credit card fraud where somebody "hacks" into a merchant's database of stored credit card numbers and compromises a bajillion cards all at once. Despite this being a very infrequent event compared to phishing scams, even when this does CSC codes don't help at all.

Why not? Well, think about it. Why is a merchant keeping all these bajillion cards in the first place? The only good reason is to be able to automatically rebill your credit card without you re-entering it every time. And that implies that they either don't need to use your CSC code to charge your card (which is true ... they're optional), or else they also have to store your CSC code ... so it'll get stolen too!

Except that "optional" is no longer an option:

The reason we're now requiring CSC codes on all credit card transactions on our site is actually pretty simple ... Discover required us to!

And I suspect the Other Guys will follow in short order.

Does this mean they'll invent a new code, perhaps on the edge of the card?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:10 AM to Common Cents )
Title of the week

Fark links to this Fox News story this way:

Rallies across U.S. call for illegal immigrant rights. Rallies for burglar rights, tax evader rights, and drunk driver rights to follow

Oh, and there's an ASININE tag.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:39 AM to Blogorrhea )
Can you stop at ten?

Human Events Online has issued its list of the 10 Most Harmful Government Programs, and even if you're way over on the conservative side, you might find it more than slightly arguable. Tied for fifth, for instance, is "contraception funding," with the ominous notation that "Planned Parenthood, a major recipient of Title X funding, is also a major abortion provider." Which is true, but which doesn't have any particular bearing on Title X itself, unless you see contraception and abortion as merely two aspects of the same process, which strikes me as something of an oversimplification. I suspect the social conservatives rated this as highly heinous, the fiscal conservatives blew it off, and it wound up in the middle by default.

More startling than the inclusions, though, are some of the exclusions. Farm subsidies are mentioned, but farm subsidies are only a small subset of corporate welfare generally. And there's no reference at all to the way-beyond-futile Drug War.

The best thing about the list, I think, is the fact that they actually asked the offices in charge of the programs to cite their Constitutional authority. Some of them didn't even try.

(Spotted at Reason's Hit & Run.)

Separated at birth?

Oklahoma State mascot Pistol Pete and Mexican president Vicente Fox?

Pistol Pete and Vicente Fox

You make the call. And there's more where that came from.

(Via Deadspin.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:56 PM to Dyssynergy , Soonerland )
Sex, Yellow Dye #5, and rock 'n roll

It's even timely, sort of: Great Moments In Rock And Roll History (As Reenacted by Marshmallow Peeps®).

(Purloined from E. M. Zanotti.)

12 April 2006
All these questions

You don't have to ask: Monty has heard them all before, and it's starting to get her goat (which, incidentally, is on the pole):

"When will you..."
"How do you..."
"What can you..."

...I don't know
...I DON'T KNOW
...I DON'T KNOW IDONTKNOWIDONTKNOW

The Goat Getting is so much worse when it is my own mind betraying me by asking those awful, awful Questions.

Somedays the I Don't Know is so strong that I want to cry in frustration.
Scream.
Pound things.
I want to turn in my SuperMom tights and cape because
I CAN NOT COPE
NOT
ONE
MORE
SECOND.

How do I get past it?

I.Don't.Know.

And "third base" won't suffice as an answer. Not this time.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:10 AM to Next Generation )
Cambridge face with the Oxford booty

Everything is quantifiable, apparently. Here's the formula for feminine keisterrificness:

(S+C) x (B+F)/T = V is the formula that describes the "ideal female ass" in shape, bounce, firmness and symmetry, according to psychology lecturer David Holmes of Manchester Metropolitan University in England:

S is the overall shape or droopiness of the bottom, C represents how spherical the buttocks are, B measures muscular wobble or bounce, while F records the firmness. V is the hip to waist ratio, or symmetry of the bottom, and T measures the skin texture and presence of cellulite.

"Honey, does this make my butt look big?"

"I dunno. Let me go find the calculator."

Sir Mix-A-Lot was not available for comment.

(Via Belhoste.)

Addendum, 13 April: Terry notes: "In my humble opinion, the true perfect ass is not the one being evaluated but the one doing the study."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:19 AM to Dyssynergy )
186

Free Money Finance, which has held successful Carnivals in the past, returns with the 186th edition of Carnival of the Vanities. (They're also giving away books.)

Intel's 80186 processor never quite caught on as a PC CPU, which perhaps explains why it was almost never abbreviated in popular parlance to "186." In subsequent years, you'll remember, we would have 286, 386 and 486 chips; when Intel's rivals started issuing "586" chips, Intel conjured up the five-ish-sounding word "Pentium."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 AM to Blogorrhea )
A subtler immigration proposal

Mr. Mustard slices the Gordian knot:

[H]ere's what I would propose if I were an enterprising politician who wanted to capture as many votes as possible:

(1) Create a fairly generous legalization provision for all illegals currently in the US at this moment (for instance, similar to the McCain-Kennedy amnesty) (2) which will go into actual effect only after the completion of an effective fence along the southern border.

Making the second half contingent on the first half would blunt the ridiculous sophistry of those who wail "You can't just deport millions of people!", while avoiding the pitfalls of abandoning promised enforcement once legalization has happened. It will also hopefully provide enough credibility so that anti-illegal diehards could sign on without the sense of just being screwed once again.

If the perfect compromise is one in which everybody gets something and nobody gets everything, I'll give this one an 8, maybe a 9. (If ever I start handing out 10s, you should probably have me institutionalized.)

The post-Brendan era

The new editor of Out, reports Andrew Sullivan, is straight:

Money quote from the hetero:

"The gay community has always been at the forefront of defining pop culture and fashion, and never more so than today. While magazines like Details are gay only when it suits them, we are unequivocally gay and forward-looking."

What you mean "we", white man? Seriously, I think it's great that a straight guy is now heading up a gay magazine. Integration is now the baseline from which many of us operate. Good for Out for being unafraid to pick talent over identity.

Me, I buy it for the travel guide, and occasionally to wonder about the relative dearth of lesbian fashion coverage.

Update, 4:30 pm, 13 April: Sullivan recants.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:31 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Sonic euthanasia

We could have used a couple dozen more of these. No Third-Quarter Drought™; two double-doubles (Marc Jackson and Desmond Mason); another clutch bucket by CP3; nobody even close to foul trouble all night. But Seattle declined to roll over and die: Ray Allen dropped in 36 points, and the Hornets escaped with a 104-99 victory over the Sonics, taking the season series 3-1.

Then again, maybe we couldn't. Aaron Williams took a pop to the knee after the fifth minute; David West, still with ankle trouble, didn't play at all.

Chris Paul led the Bees' scoring with 21; both Jackson and Mason scored 17; Speedy Claxton and Kirk Snyder dropped in 10 each; rookie Brandon Bass, making his earliest appearance ever, got a career high of 9 plus four boards in 23 minutes.

The last regular-season game at the Ford is Friday, against the Jazz.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:37 PM to Net Proceeds )
13 April 2006
NAFTA, schmafta

Wild Bill suggests a proactive immigration solution:

I figure if you can't beat em, join em! Hell we don't really have borders anymore, we are just one big nation. We can call our new nation Amerexanada.

Six syllables? This doesn't play well on the world stage. I suspect that Czechoslovakia split in two just to avoid having to pronounce all those phonemes.

Then again, I live in Oklahoma City.

Bill also has a Pledge:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of Amerexanada
And to our nation
For which we capitulated
Three nations, joined together
Moving closer to socialism for all.

Oh, here's that flag.

MSN with those Google Yahoos

A Purpose-Driven Post, by Julie R. Neidlinger, and, well, let her explain it:

If Rick Warren can drag American churches into a feel-good standstill covered in a rich coating of "Pick-and-Choose Every Bible Translation Known To Man But Mostly The Message" surrounding a softened purpose center, I can drag this blog to a Google-standstill by creating a post filled solely with the last 13 search terms used to bring people to this site. I mean, they're coming here looking for that.

No higher praise can I give than this: "I wish I'd thought of that."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:11 AM to Blogorrhea )
Let us slouch together

A few months back I raved about Salvador Litvak's When Do We Eat?, a tale of the World's Fastest Seder and how it didn't stay that way.

Apparently this idea has occurred to others. Michael Rubiner has scripted a Two-Minute Haggadah, billed as "a Passover service for the impatient." The Passover story boils down to this:

It's a long time ago. We're slaves in Egypt. Pharaoh is a nightmare. We cry out for help. God brings plagues upon the Egyptians. We escape, bake some matzoh. God parts the Red Sea. We make it through; the Egyptians aren't so lucky. We wander 40 years in the desert, eat manna, get the Torah, wind up in Israel, get a new temple, enjoy several years without being persecuted again. (Let brisket cool now.)

As Tevye might not have said, "Tradish!"

(Via Tinkerty Tonk.)

Coming soon, as it were

Brokeback Mountain 2: The Fur Traders.

(Recommended by Michael Blowhard.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:51 AM to Bogus History )
The Seattle shuffle

The Sonics moving to Oklahoma City? It's news to Mayor Cornett:

Although the Seattle SuperSonics said in their Board of Governors statement last week that they have had "numerous inquiries" from potential buyers, Oklahoma City is not among the cities that have called, Mayor Mick Cornett said.

Cornett also said the Sonics have not called him or the ownership group put together to acquire an NBA franchise on the city?s behalf in an effort to gauge their interest in acquiring the Sonics.

Sonics CEO Wally Walker attended Wednesday?s game, but he declined to be interviewed for this story. He said his presence in Oklahoma City has nothing to do with the Sonics' recent decision to announce they would sell. He said he was traveling on personal business and stopped to catch the road game.

On the other hand, Walker would be remiss in his duties to the Sonics if he didn't check out all the possibilities, however unlikely.

And certainly The Mick thinks it's unlikely:

"Professional sports these days seems to come down to the venue and the lease," Cornett said. "The Sonics are one of four franchises that has been identified as a potential long-term tenant for this arena. There are numerous scenarios for Oklahoma City, and in all of those scenarios we wind up with a team. In one of these scenarios, we wind up with Seattle. But I think it is a long shot. I really think Seattle at the end of the day will find a way to keep them."

The elephant — um, the insect — in the room will not, of course, be discussed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:06 PM to Net Proceeds )
McCain: Republican in name only?

Not according to this screenshot.

14 April 2006
Who do I have to **** to get a link?

Harvey is asking: "Does it do any good to email high-traffic bloggers?"

In his experience, it's a definite maybe. He wrote to thirty of the Higher Beings with this question:

Someone recently remarked to me that bloggers with high-traffic sites don't read e-mails from — or link to — anyone except other high traffic bloggers. I don't think that's true. I think it's more a matter of having a tactful approach, and I wrote a post saying as much:

http://badexample.mu.nu/archives/166595.php

Now, I'm sure you have other subjects to write about, and if you have no interest in this topic, I understand completely, so there's no need to act on this e-mail at all if you don't want to.

However, it occurs to me that you probably get dozens of annoying "please link this" e-mails every day. Discussing my post would give you a perfect excuse to school your readers on the art of sending you short, on-topic, useful e-mails instead of rambling junk — a topic that would normally be off-theme for your blog.

A reasonable request, I think, and eleven of thirty (a slightly higher percentage than I would have predicted) gave him some kind of response.

It perhaps is presumptuous for me to have anything to say on this subject, since I'm far from a brand name in blogdom — as of yesterday, N. Z. Bear has dropped me back among the possums and such — but I do try to read everything I get that gets through my spam filters, and historically, about half the material that was sent me has ended up in a post of some sort. (This does not include the dizzying variety of mailing lists I seem to be on, a substantial proportion of which I don't remember ever requesting.)

Myself, I seldom suggest topics; I've sent occasional background material to a few of the Major Players, and once in a while one of them has responded. I see this as a useful vector: from smaller to larger. After all, nobody, not even Reynolds and his phalanx of nanobots, can cover everything.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 AM to Blogorrhea )
Apocalypse (real soon) now

Jon Bon Jovi is topping the country charts.

Even I, who can't tell Brooks from Dunn, know that this is just wrong somehow.

Back in the Seventies, Lynn Anderson was putting out some slickly-produced country-crossover tunes on Columbia — Joe South's "I Never Promised You a Rose Garden" was probably the best-known — which prompted the late Noel Coppage, then reviewing for Stereo Review, to comment: "If country fans can be sold this, they can be sold Percy Faith."

Coppage's prescription for Lynn: "Visit a honky-tonk, or take a dip in Webb Pierce's guitar-shaped pool."

Number of slickly-produced Lynn Anderson Columbia LPs on my shelf: two.

(Suggested by The Fat Guy.)

Hear the buzz better

One of the weirdest shapes this side of Jabba the Hutt is KTOK's nighttime directional pattern. Here in the middle of town, it's no big deal, but directly east or west, you're out of luck.

So I can't say I'm surprised to hear that Clear Channel is contemplating simulcasting next year's Hornets games on FM, perhaps on The Twister. This has been the practice in New Orleans, where WODT is backed up by WRNO-FM.

And even if you're not a Bees fan, listening to Sean and Gerry V riffing off one another is a genuine treat.

Update, 28 April: The Hornets broadcasts next year will move to Clear Channel's KHBZ 94.7, an alt-rock station known as — wait for it — "The Buzz."

1-800-LOSERS

Friday, 42nd and Treadmill closes at 4:30 pm. (I seldom get to leave that early, but that's another matter.) And at closing time today, our old phone system will be unceremoniously ripped from the wall and replaced with a shiny new (and, surprisingly, even larger) box. How old was it? The voicemail test message is "Mr. Watson — come here!"

What's going to happen, though, is that about 4:29:30, the phones will be ringing in earnest, and we'll get desperate calls from annoying people who evidently have no one else to talk to, as happens pretty much every Friday, right on schedule, and they'll bend the ears of our poor staffers as long as they're permitted. I hope that the cutover time is graven in stone, and that the miserable scuzzbuckets are cut off in mid-sentence. In mid-syllable, if possible.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:13 PM to Wastes of Oxygen )
Paging Dr. Payne

Once in a very blue moon, someone ends up in exactly the right job.

There was an ad calling attention to this campaign in Harper's, with a modestly clever tagline:

If you shoot wolves to save moose and then you shoot the moose, you're either out of your mind — or in Alaska.

What struck me, though, was not the boycott of the Last Frontier per se, but the identity of the contact person at Friends of Animals, organizer of the boycott: President Priscilla Feral.

I will be so crushed if it turns out she was originally Priscilla Farrell, and changed the spelling to match the cause.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:46 PM to Dyssynergy )
And that was that

Sean Kelley was calling for Rolaids in the second half, and I can't blame him: this game churned from start to finish. With 27 seconds left, the Hornets led the Jazz, 104-103; Deron Williams drew a foul and sank two free throws at the 18-second mark, putting Utah in front, and that was the season. (Oh, yeah, there are those three West Coast games, but we won't talk about those right now.)

All five Jazz starters scored in double figures, but the greatest damage came from the front court, where Andrei Kirilenko and Carlos Boozer combined for 48 points and 17 rebounds; Kirilenko blocked seven shots.

David West, though, was stellar: he had 31 points and 12 boards, and four other Bees picked up double figures.

So now the Hornets, at 38-41, are two games out of ninth — three games out of the eighth playoff slot — with three games to play. They are not mathematically eliminated, technically, but don't hold your breath waiting for them to win all three while the Jazz and the Kings go 0-3 next week.

Still, did anyone imagine this team would win even 38 games? Recall the words of one particularly-uninformed commentator:

I'm inclined to think that finishing 31-51 would qualify as a moral victory. (I'm expecting more like 25-57.)

At New Year's, I guesstimated 34-48. At the time, they were 12-17.

I close with the words of Ron Hitley of Hornets247.com, before the season began:

Early indications are that OKC can sustain a major league franchise, but will the support for the Hornets last?

The novelty might start to wear off when the Hornets stumble into the new year with single digits in the win column. If the people of Oklahoma City want to keep the team for at least another season, or prove themselves prime candidates for an expansion team, that can't happen.

And, well, it didn't. The last game of the season at the Ford, like the first, was a sellout.

Addendum, Saturday night: Sacramento 100, Denver 82. The door is officially closed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:56 PM to Net Proceeds )
15 April 2006
You can go your own way

While Oklahoma wrestles with school consolidation, Omaha city schools are breaking apart:

In a move decried by some as state-sponsored segregation, the Legislature voted Thursday to divide the Omaha school system into three districts: one mostly black, one predominantly white and one largely Hispanic.

Supporters said the plan would give minorities control over their own school board and ensure that their children are not shortchanged in favor of white youngsters. Republican Gov. Dave Heineman signed the measure into law.

Attorney General Jon Bruning sent a letter to one of the measure's opponents saying that the bill could be in violation of the Constitution's equal-protection clause and that lawsuits almost certainly will be filed.

But its backers said that at the very least, its passage will force policymakers to negotiate seriously about the future of schools in the Omaha area.

The breakup would not occur until July 2008, leaving time for lawmakers to come up with another idea.

This goes beyond thinking outside the box; this is thinking that there is no box.

But Omaha Senator Ernie Chambers, the Nebraska legislature's only black member, defends the measure:

He argued that the district is already segregated, because it no longer buses students for integration and instead requires them to attend their neighborhood school.

Chambers said the schools attended largely by minorities lack the resources and quality teachers provided others in the district. He said the black students he represents in north Omaha would receive a better education if they had more control over their district.

I'd love to know what outgoing Oklahoma City Public Schools superintendent Bob Moore thinks about this idea.

(Via McGehee.)

Send queries to Pax Vobiscum

Author Jasper Fforde has been polling visitors to his Web site, and they pronounce Moby Dick the most boring classic.

Ivanhoe was tenth, which I expect Joe Goodwin to dispute.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:45 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Not from around here, are you?

Yet another disadvantage of Humongous Monolithic Bankage Corporation (Member FDIC), as discovered by CT:

So yesterday, I dropped into a Bank of America branch to deposit a check. I filled out the deposit slip, waited in line, and then handed the teller the slip and the check.

The snag: I didn't use the right type of deposit slip. I had to use the out-of-state accounts deposit slip.

But, I pointed out: The address on my account is in New York.

Doesn't matter, she said. The account was opened in Florida, and as such, it?s tagged as a Florida account now and forevermore, regardless of the accountholder's current residency. You could always close an account and open a new one in your new state of residence, but she said it really wasn't worth the hassle.

Each state having its own banking laws, I think it's a safe bet that most of your megabanks, which were generally assembled by the purchase of smaller banks along the way, will have similarly preposterous rules lurking behind the glass. (My Oklahoma account in a New York bank which is probably incorporated in Delaware anyway is apparently, judging by its statement, serviced from Baton Rouge.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:00 AM to Common Cents )
The yard report

The weeds, of course, returned to greenitude before most of the actual grass, so I hauled out the mower this morning to knock down the areas of most blatant growth.

Nothing seems to have died over the winter, which, since it wasn't that much of a winter — half the usual snowfall, and one of the warmer Januarys on record — isn't much of a surprise. There's a new shrub north-by-northeast, which last fall wasn't much to look at: today it's bound for treehood, which might be a Good Thing if it doesn't play hell with the fence it approaches.

Irises: front box, one, white, in bloom: four in waiting. None in back yard yet; I am hoping to get some to grow under the elm.

Roses: front box, four, three red, one baby pink. (Shades of "Lipstick on Your Collar"!) Huge backyard bush, seven, very, very deep red. Still smallish in diameter.

Trees: Greening slowly, except cottonwood, which is past its Q-Tip stage. Brace of chaste trees slow to warm up, so to speak.

Ground texture: Seemingly lumpier than usual.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:26 PM to Surlywood )
UCO goes to Full Breeze Mode

I've mentioned before at mind-numbing length the fact that I'm buying juice from OG&E's wind farm out near Woodward, and at current rates it's a tad cheaper than the amps from the utility's gas-fired or coal-burning plants.

In 2004, the University of Central Oklahoma, the largest single customer of Edmond Electric, struck a deal to buy a fraction of its power from Edmond's connection to the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority's wind farm; this month, the University has switched entirely to wind.

UCO executive vice-president Steve Kreidler:

Initially, our goal was to get to using around 50 percent wind or other environmentally friendly power sources. But with the current cost of fuel and the money we can save, and the fact that we're helping to protect Oklahoma's environment, we just think it's the right thing to do.

The school expects to save about $260,000 in energy expenses this year. (I expect to save around $125 myself.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:22 PM to Family Joules )
We got crowds

I noted here that I didn't predict the Hornets' eventual won-lost record particularly well.

On the other hand, I did a bang-up job on attendance:

And, just for giggles, let me mention that about this many people can be counted on to show up downtown each April at the Festival of the Arts.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:25 PM to Net Proceeds )
16 April 2006
No pesky dust-jacket photos, either

MissPenName (not her real name) has picked up the blogging bug:

I began this blog with only books in mind. At the time (a whole 6 months ago) I only read book blogs daily such as Maud Newton and Bookslut. I'm a freelance writer and thought having a blog would motivate me to write every day (because you can tell yourself it's ok to procrastinate, but a possible audience wouldn't be as forgiving) and help me get into the online literary community — the cool kids table at which I so wanted to sit.

But the door opened wider than she had anticipated:

Along the way I've found that the world of books and the rest of the societal fodder for blogs are not that far apart. Book blogs covered free speech cases for journalists. Political blogs can't resist talking about new books written by the left or right. Books, their existence, their ideas, their creators blend into every single facet of life, even if no one realizes it. The Feminine Mystique added fuel to the women's movement (some say kicked it off), which changed everything from a women on the Supreme Court to latch-key kids. The Da Vinci Code has gotten people more interested in religion that 2000 years of church going ever did. Recently Melvin Bragg published a list in the Guardian of the 12 most important books in British history, all of them nonfiction that directly changed society. Because of these books, by Darwin and Wollstonecraft, for instance, the way people lived their everyday lives changed. Books still do, and they're being joined by blogs.

I am a humble blogger. An unknown. I am less than a flee on the blogosphere dog. I know this. But I'm still doing it. I'm still writing. I'm still discovering more about the world, and myself, everytime I log on. I can't separate my devotion to books from my need to know about what happens around me in the world. And for all of this, I just want to be heard. I just want to blog.

I do know this: if I take a day off from here, I'll hear about it. (I even hear about it if the site is temporarily unreachable due to some bizarre twist in network topology.)

And while not all of us have the wherewithal to stock up on new books every single day, we can find new blogstuff every single hour, should we be so inclined. The real danger is that we'll spend so much time reading the blogs that we forget about the stuff we were supposed to be doing in the first place.

But don't let me scare any of you off. Welcome to MissPenName, and may she make a name for herself on many screens for months to come.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:15 AM to Blogorrhea )
Drill bits

There's scarcely a hole I dig without wondering how long it would take me to get all the way to China. (And given the slowness with which I dig, I wonder how I'm supposed to live that long in the first place.)

The problem with this, of course, is that there's apparently no place in the US from which you can dig a hole straight through the earth and come out in Chinese territory. If I'm doing the math correctly here, from my perch here at 35.52 north latitude, 97.56 west longitude, the hole should emerge at 54.48 south, 82.44 east, which is a few hundred kilometers southeast of Heard and McDonald Islands, an Australian territory in the Southern Ocean that's a bit too close to Antarctica to suit your average tourist. (I really ought to go there some year, just for the sheer hell of it — not that there's a lot to do.)

Beijing's Tiananmen Square is at 39.56 north, 116.20 east, so its opposite number would be at 50.44 south, 63.80 west, in the Atlantic east of Rio Grande, on the Argentinian side of Tierra del Fuego.

What prompted all this? A visit to DigHoles.com, as suggested by Venomous Kate.

House of the rising gorge

I was headed east on Wilshire from May yesterday afternoon when I spotted a vacant lot: a teardown. One of the more modest homes on the western edge of Nichols Hills was gone, presumably to be replaced with something, well, less modest. It seemed unlikely to me, though, that one of the faux châteaux you see in newer suburban communities would be appearing on top of this lot. While houses along this stretch varied substantially in size, their setbacks were more or less identical; I assume that Nichols Hills regulates this sort of thing rather tightly, and there simply isn't room to plop a McMansion on a lot this size and still have the prescribed amount of front yard. (In fact, where I live, there is a setback ordinance, part of the Urban Conservation District zoning rules, which does exactly that.)

James Joyner doesn't object to zoning rules of this sort, but he wonders about their motivation:

While I understand the desire to preserve the historic character of truly old neighborhoods, as well as the interest of homeowners in not having multi-family or much lower value properties built in their neighborhood, I can?t see why anyone would be opposed to nicer homes.

My wife and I live in a subdivision that was once part of George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. The homes were built in the early and mid-1960s and have what for this area are considered large yards. Slowly, the older, smaller, less attractive homes are being bought by developers and replaced by much nicer, more expensive new homes. We're delighted, as it not only improves the aesthetic quality of the area but increases our own property value. It also encourages others, including those like us who plan to stay put, to invest money in renovating their own homes since the fear that they will not be able to recoup the investment on resale because of the value of other homes in the community is diminished. This strikes me as a win all the way around.

Not having seen Dr Joyner's neighborhood, I can't address this idea directly, but at least around my part of the world, suburban homes built in the early 1960s tend to be something less than distinctive unless they're seriously high-buck; this was an era of cookie-cutter architecture. (I owned one such circa 1980, and it was fairly indistinguishable from the rest of the block.) I don't think it's a property-value issue so much as an aesthetic one: your own car looks older when your neighbor shows up with a brand-new one. And in the estimation of some of our cultural arbiters, the McMansion is to a house what a sport-utility vehicle is to a car: the very idea is an affront to their sensibilities.

Molly is an art/architectural historian, and she has her own qualms:

[W]hile I would always support reasonable efforts to preserve historical structures, I am troubled by efforts like those in Arlington County, VA to dictate how people build anew ("... limits on home sizes ... in most cases ... [mean] a house alone can occupy just 30 percent of a lot"). And I think that the distinction between these two plans rests on a question of motives. We should preserve because we value evidence of our past, not because we find it beautiful. For if we saved (and built) only that which someone defined as beautiful, we would miss many works of great value; beauty and value are not the same thing.

[This CNN] article also raises bogus arguments against McMansions, like that they destroy community. Green spaces and quirky homes don't make friends; the people who live there do. While I am a huge believer in the power of architecture, there's a lot more to a loss of community over a much longer period of time than the growth of new suburban neighborhoods.

This quote from the CNN piece struck me:

"Most of these new houses are more internally organized. You see the driveway and garage doors from the street, not people," said Adrian Fine of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "We're losing mixed-income neighborhoods because the prices are going up so much that it becomes one class."

Then again, in some places "the prices are going up so much" even without teardowns and rebuilds.

And this brings up another issue, says Dr Joyner:

Then again, I have never quite grasped the argument against "gentrification," whereby blighted slums are torn down and replaced by decent housing. I understand, and sympathize with, the desire to ensure that the working poor can afford a place to live. But the antipathy toward gentrification and mini-mansions has always struck me as visceral — a reaction against an upper middle class lifestyle — than about concern for the poor.

The dynamic of envy. Some of us used to suffer greatly from that.

While the individual blocks tend to be more homogenous, the ratio between the most-expensive and least-expensive houses in my neighborhood is about 2.0: you can buy in at the low-priced end, or you can pay up to twice as much. I don't know if this meets anyone's definition of "mixed income," but it certainly doesn't seem to have restricted the diversity of the neighborhood, in any sense of the word.

And ultimately, it boils down to this:

Owner Michael Hamilton said the choice belongs only to the homeowner. He argues that evolution has saved plenty of Austin neighborhoods — including the eclectic Hyde Park near the University of Texas — and that neighbors who are resistant to change are forgetting that "when they built all those old houses, they were new then, too."

"Somebody could paint their house purple across the street, and I really wouldn't like it," said Mr. Hamilton, who has lived in Austin for 33 years. "But I don't have the right to tell them they can't have a purple house."

My house, by the way, is sort of puce.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:30 AM to Almost Yogurt , Surlywood )
Disexcitementarianism

If schools are to prepare students for real life, say British teachers, those students must be presented with boring material:

Pupils needed to get used to the idea that life wasn't a constant "Disney ride", said delegates at the Association of Teachers and Lecturers annual conference yesterday. "I don't have the energy to do all-singing all-dancing lessons every day, five-days-a-week, each term," supply maths teacher Zoe Fail explained, to loud cheers. "Children are not bored enough. They are over stimulated. Being bored encourages thinking skills and imaginative play."

Teacher after teacher said that they believed their students to be incapable of handling the mundane aspects of everyday life beyond the television screen or interactive whiteboard.

Obviously, with a name like that, Ms Fail was born to teach. And besides, she's right: the youngsters are going to be disillusioned, even despondent, when they get past their O-levels and discover that life isn't going to maintain the sort of frenetic pace they've enjoyed so far. This is not to say that things never happen quickly in the Land of the Grownups, but they don't happen at conveniently-frequent intervals. Boredom is part of maturity, as Barry Williams points out:

"When they say to me: 'Mr Williams, that girl is looking out of the window staring at a tree,' I say: 'Do they not recognise the advanced stages of Zen Buddhism which I have brought into my lessons?' I am in fact producing adults who will be able to watch party political broadcasts."

They might even be able to read blogs.

(Via Joanne Jacobs.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:48 PM to Almost Yogurt )
For funsies

The Hornets were out of the playoffs, and they weren't likely to dislodge the Kings, so Byron Scott apparently decided to let everyone on the active list play and let it all hang out. The results were not particularly lovely on either side, though the Kings' Mike Bibby gave the Hornets fits, scoring 23 including five 3-balls, and Sacramento did post the W they needed to clinch a seed, winning 96-79.

Just to make it semi-interesting, the Bees canceled the Third-Quarter Drought™, actually outscoring the Kings 28-24. Marcus Fizer made his first appearance, scoring two points and grabbing two rebounds. The top Hornet rebounder was Brandon Bass, who got six, along with eight points. (Chris Paul scored 12; everyone except J. R. Smith got at least two.)

Two to go: tomorrow night in Phoenix against the Suns, and Wednesday in L.A. against the Lakers.

Side glance: The Bees' 38-42 record would still be in playoff contention — barely — were they in the Eastern Conference.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:22 PM to Net Proceeds )
17 April 2006
Strange search-engine queries (11)

This staggeringly-popular feature (by which I mean that hardly anyone closes the browser immediately upon seeing it) contains actual search strings which led people to pages on this very site.

why gilligan kept messing up all the rescues from the island:  It's what kept the show going; otherwise, it would have been canceled after about six episodes (a three-hour tour).

a man shouldn't act under desperation:  You've just eliminated two dozen romantic comedies under development in Hollywood.

here comes peter cottontail heavy metal mp3:  Another poor soul led astray on the Bunny Trail.

what does malfunction indicator light mean on mazda 626:  It, um, indicates a malfunction.

shitty gas mileage for 99 ford explorer sport:  And you're surprised why, exactly?

stephanie zimbalist sneezing bouts:  Remington Steele made her sick.

give me a five hundred word essay on why someone shoplifted:  As George Carlin said, dishonesty is the second-best policy.

wants me to wear pantyhose:  Who does? And did anyone notice it's 89 degrees out?

dating women who like to go barefoot:  Who doesn't? And did anyone notice it's 89 degrees out?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:05 AM to You Asked For It )
Cluttering up the desktop

Later this week I'll take delivery of one of these, though I had enough extra stuff crammed into it to make that $499 price seem like a distant dream.

Okay, not that distant. It was $849, not counting the little 1GB USB flash drive I bought. And I didn't buy a new screen, reasoning that my ViewSonic 19-incher wasn't quite obsolete just yet.

Formerly the sticks

Judy Gibbs has a piece in The Oklahoman today about the steep growth curve in and around Piedmont, a municipality west of Edmond and north of Yukon. A resident is quoted as saying that yes, the 40-minute commute to downtown Oklahoma City is a drawback, but otherwise, everything is wonderful.

For the first half of the decade, Piedmont was the fastest-growing community in the state, says the Bureau of the Census. I've been saying all along that growth in the Oklahoma City metro is right in the middle and around the edges, but not much in between, and this fits the pattern.

Opponents of urban sprawl no doubt are appalled by this sort of thing, and point fingers at American practices that seem to encourage it. Yet sprawl exists worldwide; London has been expanding outward for centuries. Witold Rybczynski writes:

Sprawl is and always has been inherent to urbanization. It is driven less by the regulations of legislators, the actions of developers, and the theories of city planners, than by the decisions of millions of individuals — Adam Smith's "invisible hand." This makes altering it very complicated, indeed.

Especially since "altering it" would involve having to explain to happy Piedmont residents why they should give up what they consider a slice of the good life for the sake of [fill in name of dubious collectivist goal].

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:05 AM to City Scene )
Gyring at Gimbels

'Twas brillig, and the slender legs (and some a tad less slender) walk up the sidewalks, and the sun catches a bit of bling: the ever-popular ankle bracelet.

And it occurs to me that sometimes they're on the left, sometimes they're on the right, and once in a while somebody's wearing two of them. Unable as I am to detect any particular pattern, I'm asking: is there a protocol to wearing these things? Does one side mean this, the other side that? (Perfunctory Googlage on the matter tends to turn up pages about a different, and less decorative, sort of bracelet altogether.)

No, I'm not trying to get a fix on any one person; I seek only Pure Knowledge, the sort that induces mimsiness out in the borogoves.

Home of the sorta brave

Bits from an Oklahoma Daily columnist, courtesy of Okiedoke:

Oklahoma has plenty of problems, and there is nothing wrong with cracking some jokes about them. But it's different to poke fun at your homeland or current state than it is to appear removed from and superior to it.

I periodically hear a lone Oklahoman in the company of outsiders dogging the Sooner State. The sellout Oklahoman will get exasperated and say, "You all are so fortunate to live in civilization. I live in Oklahoma." (At which point they roll their eyes.) "I would kill to live in a place with culture and literati."

What's really being said is this: "I am an insecure person. In order to appear sophisticated and astute, I will draw a distinction between myself and all the people I assume you look down upon. By removing and elevating myself, you can realize that I, too, am intelligent, and accept me. Please, please accept me."

For my part, I'm quite unapologetic about who I am and where I'm from, and I'm sorry if you can't deal with it. While it is indeed true that there is no single place in the Sooner State from which you can swing a dead cat and hit restaurants of twenty-seven different ethnicities, and that there is no surplus of waifish Goth girls with art-history degrees, not everyone — not even everyone of college age — aspires to live inside a Bertolucci film.

Some people indubitably would be happier somewhere else, and I urge them to follow their dreams. And a year from now, when they're on craigslist musing about how much they miss the Steak Sandwich Supreme from Del Rancho, I promise not to mock them.

Much.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:52 PM to Soonerland )
Set by the Suns

The second consecutive "let's see what the bench can do" game, inasmuch as the Hornets aren't going anywhere in the postseason, and it was even quirkier than last night's game: Brandon Bass started, for the first time ever, and by gum, Arvydas Macijauskas put in some minutes and picked up seven points. Marcus Fizer made his second appearance, scoring nine; Linton Johnson scored four and snagged seven boards. Me, I was just hoping Sean Kelley would have to deal with both Arvydas Macijauskas and Phoenix forward Nikoloz Tskitishvili, which he did.

Oh, the score? Suns 115, Hornets 78.

Byron Scott has been making noises about half the team coming back next year, which means, of course, that half of them won't. The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry predicted who'd stay and who'd go this morning, and I'm inclined to agree with most of his choices, though I think Linton Johnson has a better chance of making next year's squad than Mayberry thinks. (We can both remonstrate in silence this fall when the new lineup is announced.)

One more exercise, against the Lakers Wednesday, and the mighty Hornets machine, such as it is, goes back into drydock.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:12 PM to Net Proceeds )
18 April 2006
That new box

It's taking a spectacularly long time to set up, largely because I have something like 240,000 files to move. I haven't even started the F: drive (9.5 GB) yet. On the other hand, email and the browser are working properly, and some of the more essential applications (Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPro, Winamp, WinZip) have been installed.

Still to do: Agent, most of the music files, install printer and scanner.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:01 AM to PEBKAC )
We want our bubble

By my count, there have been five home sales on my block in the past 2½ years, and four of them brought in 100 percent of the asking price or more. None of this is exactly secret, which perhaps explains why the owners of the house across the street, who posted their FOR SALE sign over the weekend, have listed the place for $99,900.

It's not out of line, really; this block has already broken the $100k barrier. Twice. (On the same house, which was sold one winter and resold the next.) Still, it makes me wonder. Maybe it's the heat (98 degrees yesterday, way above the previous record for the date).

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:21 AM to Surlywood )
Stan was the man

Yours truly, July 1999:

It may be too early to dub Stan Tiner the White Knight of the Black Tower. Eddie Gaylord, even though he's off playing Nashville mogul — the Opryland properties are owned by Gaylord Entertainment, an Oklahoman offshoot that eventually went public — could theoretically come back at any time and turn back the clock.

"At any time" turned out to be the end of that very year. How has Tiner fared since then? Matt Deatherage reports:

Tiner, who said the loss of his job was "devastating" but refused to comment, went back to his native Alabama. In May 2000, he took the executive editor position of the Biloxi, MS, Sun-Herald.

On Monday, the Sun-Herald shared the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service with the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Who knows what heights the Oklahoman might have reached, had Stan Tiner been allowed to do things his way?

(Prompted by Okiedoke.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:12 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Only six?

Jan requests half a dozen "weird facts/things/habits", and asking me this is something like asking a porcupine to scratch your back, but what the heck. (Besides, I've already gone public with more than four dozen such things, but since you didn't read them, or anyway she didn't read them, I'm engaging in the oft-debased art of repurposing content.)

  • The Army originally planned to make a chaplain's assistant of me.
  • I put on the left sock, then the left shoe, then the right sock, then the right shoe.
  • I have every issue of Entertainment Weekly.
  • I have been known to dun creditors for failing to bill me on time.
  • Some people can play music but can't read it; I can read it, sort of, but can't play.
  • I have worn the same watch (a cheap Casio electronic) since 1980.

And she wants half a dozen other people tagged with this, but I demur: the world's going to end next month anyway and we'll all have to kiss Andrea's, um, ring.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:48 PM to Screaming Memes )
All or nothing at all

I just filled out the annual Consumer Reports questionnaire and ballot, and they've changed the way their Board of Directors is selected.

In days gone by, twelve nominees were on the ballot, and you picked six of them; the top six ascended to the Board. This time around, there is a slate of six, and you vote for all six or against all six.

I don't think this is an improvement.

On the upside, I did my part to see that the car I drive gets as many red dots as possible.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:34 PM to Dyssynergy )
19 April 2006
Those snotty young whippersnappers

The Dover Post ran a feature article on Delaware blogs, a couple of which were familiar to me. This comment about Fritz Schranck's Sneaking Suspicions jumped out at me:

Moderate, reasonable tone throughout that betrays the age of the author.

Inasmuch as said author's age is within twenty-four (or so) hours of my own, it seems to me that it might be in my best interest to do something to avoid appearing moderate and/or reasonable.

Accordingly, here is a list of rude interjections:

  • Goldarnit
  • Crud
  • Dagnabbit
  • Nerts to you
  • Pshaw

Eat 'em and weep.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:58 AM to Blogorrhea )
Yeah, it's got a hyphen

Lileks objects to the term "anal-retentive":

A person has an utterly reasonable desire for a certain amount of order, and they're slapped with a term that makes it sound like they've been using yogic powers to keep their bowels blocked for decades.

Not a constipation devoutly to be wish'd.

Freud blamed this phenomenon on toilet training, but then every source he found for everything lay along a semicircle from navel to coin slot, which suggests he had issues of his own.

Is there a better term that could possibly supplant "anal-retentive"? "Control freak" doesn't seem to capture it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:36 AM to Dyssynergy )
A moment of silence

Like the tree, we say nothing, but we bear witness.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:02 AM to City Scene )
A kinder, gentler siege

Simple: you stake out an empty house.

And think of the ammo you'll save.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:00 AM to City Scene )
I dnt nd ths sht

The following text message came in today on Ye Olde (well, almost five years olde) Cellular Phone:

Jarvis@vanzwamcs.com / bye for now / Budget Waste Inc

It's certainly a waste of my text-message budget.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:16 PM to Wastes of Oxygen )
Thoroughly scrubbed

Basketbawful defines "scrub game" as follows:

A game in which a team's bench players (the "scrubs") either start or play most of the game. This is typically done near the end of the season when the team's playoff seeding has been determined and the coach decides to rest the starters.

This is not what happened at the Staples Center. The Lakers, were they to lose, would have dropped to eighth and would have had to play San Antonio in the opening round of the playoffs; seventh would have pitted them against Phoenix, a presumably-easier opponent. The Hornets, after two games of experimentation, went back to their regular lineup in the hope of going out on a positive note.

It didn't happen. With about three minutes left in the third, Desmond Mason bopped Kobe Bryant on the head, a foul deemed Type-1 Flagrant. Kobe made both free throws and then followed with a bucket. It is a measure of how things went for the Bees that the four-point play went almost unnoticed. The final: Lakers 115, Hornets 95.

P. J. Brown led the Bees with 16 points; Marc Jackson, playing in David West's forward position, picked up a double-double (15 points, 13 boards). Moochie Norris, spelling Chris Paul in the absence of Speedy Claxton, scored 13 and didn't miss a shot all night.

Oh, and Kobe? Thirty-five, about his average, in twenty-nine minutes.

Macas Watch: Arvydas Macijauskas came on in the fourth and scored four.

So that's the season: 38-44. You can look at it as sub-.500 ball; or you can look at last year, when the Hornets played sub-.220 ball. I have to figure that winning more than twice as many games is a step in the right direction.

Preseason begins in October.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:49 PM to Net Proceeds )
20 April 2006
Quote of the week

A White House staff shuffle gets this evaluation from Chase McInerney:

Scott McClellan is stepping down after three years as spokesman for the White House, a job roughly equivalent to being Rob Schneider's drama coach.

At this writing, McClellan's replacement has not yet been named; I think that a good case could be made for hiring Hans Schultz, who sports both a military background and a style of information dissemination that's demonstrably compatible with the Bush administration.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 AM to QOTW )
The feel of the familiar

When you buy a new computer, the tricky part is getting it to act just like your old one — only better and faster. So while the recently-arrived Big Black Box (well, it is) came with a new keyboard and a new mouse, the first thing I did was attach my old keyboard and my old mouse. The mouse isn't that old — last year — but the keyboard, built by IBM in 1990 (!), is truly an industrial-strength device: large, clicky, devoid of screwy WTF? keys along the fringes, and unaffected by anything this side of a full-on nuclear attack, including Dr Pepper and Grape-Nuts.

I mean, if I wanted something new and unfamiliar, I could have ordered something with no key inscriptions. For that matter, I could have ordered something with no actual keys.

(With thanks to Lynn, who is also in New 'Puter Mode.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 AM to PEBKAC )
Picas pique

Sometimes headlines are funny because someone cares to make them so, and sometimes it just works out that way.

This AP item is one of the latter:

Supreme Court Considers Insanity Standard

To borrow a phrase from the person who sent this in, "And all this time, we thought it was optional."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:32 AM to Say What? )
Delta is toast

And here's the crust:

[T]he nation's No. 3 airline is asking some 50,000 employees to volunteer to clean aircraft at night on their own time. Their reward: a free T-shirt, reward points good for merchandise and a chance to show their pride in the airline.

Employees will pull four- and eight-hour shifts to clean interior windows and walls, "scrape stuff from tray tables and floors ... if there's gum on the floor," said spokesman Anthony Black. Cleaning lavatories is part of the drill, too.

They may be No. 3, but this sounds like No. 2 to me. Wal-Mart must be wondering why they didn't think of this. (They didn't, did they?)

(Via The Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:27 PM to Dyssynergy )
What's nex

Dr Weevil finds some dubious Latin at kausfiles:

Mickey Kaus writes (April 19th, 5:20 pm):

. . . why should the L.A. Times probe into Burkle's various nexes with prominent Democratic politicos?

"Nexes"? Eeeew! The plural of Latin nexus is nexus. No, the two forms are not identical: the singular has a short U and rhymes with "wuss" and "puss", while the plural has a long U and rhymes with "goose" and "moose". Of course, "various nexus" would look and sound terrible in English, and "nexuses" would be even worse. As with mongooses and octopuses (or octopodes), it's probably best to avoid the plural entirely.

Fourth declension, I guess.

Then there was the (probably apocryphal) zoo employee who sent the following request: "Dear Sir: Please send me a mongoose. While you're at it, please send me another one."

As for the plural of Lexus, heck, I can't afford even a single Lexus. (I drive Mazdae.)

And in defense of Kaus, at least he didn't say "nexi".

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 PM to Say What? )
21 April 2006
O ye without shame

By which, of course, I mean me.

I've had XP on the notebook for four years and more, and not once did I hit Regedit to screw around with the Evil Farging Registry*. Give me four days with XP on the desktop, and suddenly I'm trying to do Registry hacks.

Actually, this situation is born of frustration. The old patterns-plus-wallpaper from Windows of old has been replaced in XP with a simple Background app in Control Panel; my wallpaper-switcher of choice, in the W98SE days, would swap out the photograph every 19 minutes and leave the pattern in place. In XP, there is no spoon pattern; the switcher works just fine, but the pattern, which I used to use as a framing device, does not appear.

So far I have tried writing a Pattern description directly to the Registry and running the old W98 Control Panel Desk app. Neither has been successful — or my current color scheme is so somber that I can't see the darn thing. (I swear by the Windows Classic "Rainy Day" theme.)

I'm sure this proves something, though I'm not sure what.

* "Evil Farging Registry" is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved to Bill G.

Update, 7:30 pm: Problem solved with (1) Registry hack and (2) mondo tweakage to monitor settings.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:14 AM to PEBKAC )
Senior varsity

A sports bar is no place for actual sports, says Joe Goodwin:

Sports bars seem to have a decorating budget that rivals most major league baseball clubs, but it doesn't hide the fact that a "sports bar" is one of the most un-athletic places on the planet. You can have all the accoutrements that money can buy — big screen televisions, subscriptions to ESPN Sport Paks, sports memorabilia and equipment signed by successful athletes, and a wall festooned with baseball caps and football helmets. But this won't change the fact that if the average sports bar put its clientele onto a soccer field, 90% of them would be dead of heart attacks within the first ten minutes. The other 10% would be on the bench breaking into the beer keg.

With the NBA on the scene, Hornet spotting became a popular pastime around town. (Even Spur spotting became popular, inasmuch as Spurs guard Tony Parker was usually seen with not-so-desperate Eva Longoria in tow.) And it occurs to me that not once were any of these luminaries spotted in an actual sports bar.

Those who can, do; those who can't, pop a brewski and watch others do.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Stopping short of full condomnation

Carlo Cardinal Martini has asserted that, should one member of a married couple be suffering from HIV/AIDS, the use of condoms, otherwise forbidden by the Vatican, is "a lesser evil".

Cardinal Martini (not this one) made this statement in an interview with the Italian magazine l'Espresso, saying that the fight against AIDS must be pursued by all available means. There has been no comment from the Vatican as yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:39 AM to Life and/or Death )
Worst. Commute. Ever.

Three hundred seventy miles round-trip: from home in Mariposa, California, to work in San Jose, and back again. For those of you who work in New York City, this is the equivalent of living in Providence, Rhode Island. In terms of distance, I mean.

The Census Bureau considers anything over an hour and a half to be "extreme". [Link requires Adobe Reader.] I'd hate to see how they'd characterize a trip more than four times that long.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:07 PM to Dyssynergy )
The Nazgul going NASCAR

You can be a hobbit and still be a redneck. Possible indications:

  • You've got a bow rack on the back of your haywain.
  • The trailer park where you live is situated in the Dead Marshes.
  • Saruman refused to use you as breeding stock.
  • You're the wiseguy who sneaked out in the dead of night to affix the bumpersticker that reads "I Brake for Balrogs" on the back of Gandalf's cart.
  • You use the mirror of Galadriel as a spittoon.
  • You ask the singing Elves at Rivendell if they know any Merle Haggard.
  • An Ent tried to stomp you even AFTER he heard you talking.

This will no doubt get me barred from the Shire.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:15 PM to Bogus History )
22 April 2006
Getting somewhere

"Call me a late-bloomer," says writer Mary Stella, forty-eight:

I was in my 40s when I finally sold my first book. I also have a day job that's the best one I've ever worked and every day there makes me feel that I've really come into my own. That sort of satisfaction more than makes up for the fact that, due to our non-profit status, I make a third of what I would elsewhere. I wouldn't be half as happy, I bet.

At this age, I'm self-reliant, more confident and have a positive outlook on life. I have a terrific circle of friends who are all amazing women and men.

All it took was getting older. And to think we fear aging and complain about it so much.

Mostly, I put this here as a reminder to me. I was a wreck at 48; I started to emerge from the wreckage at 50; I'm actually sort of functional at 52.

And is it aging we fear, or what happens when we're through aging?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:01 AM to Almost Yogurt )
A tale told by an idiot

Never underestimate my capacity for screwing up a computer.

I spent way too many minutes in Safe Mode this morning before getting back to a reasonable Restore Point. I have no idea what happened after the last post, about midnight, but this morning brought all sorts of boot issues.

Given last night's activities, which were unusual only to the extent that Trillian was up most of the evening, I'm not quite sure what to think. I am reasonably certain it had nothing to do with this, however.

Update, 1:45 6:15 pm: The Tech Guys have declared that the hard drive is fan and video card are wonky, and will replace it them with one presumably less so.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:47 AM to PEBKAC )
Not exactly just up the street

"The Grand Manor," they're calling it this year, this year being the thirty-third in which the Oklahoma City Orchestra League is presenting a Designers Show House. The 2006 edition, like many of its predecessors, is in Nichols Hills; you'll find it at 1504 Huntington Avenue, east of Pennsylvania, overlooking Kite Park.

The house was built in 1935 and expanded over the years from about 4500 to (per the County Assessor) 10,775 square feet. (I mention this latter figure, partly because it's astounding, but also because my entire wedge of land is just over 11,000 square feet. Then again, the Show House, unlike my yard, is two stories.)

The Show House opens next Monday. I enjoy stuff like this because (1) occasionally I can pilfer a decorating idea, since I am apparently unable to come up with any on my own, and (2) I get to give thanks that I don't have to clean all of it. Besides, proceeds (admission is $15, $12 in advance) benefit the Orchestra League and ultimately the Philharmonic, which can always use the bucks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:20 AM to City Scene )
That infernal nonsense Turtle Bay

Dr Sanity, with a pretty taste for paradox, drops Kofi Annan into Gilbert and Sullivan, with delightful results.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:42 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
Saturday spottings (shiny)

Gloria Berkey has died.

You remember Gloria. She and her husband Jim operated the Trust House Jewelers, first in French Market Mall, later at Wilshire and May. For thirty-five years Jim and Gloria ran the store, and during most of that time they did their own TV spots, always formulaic, always ignored, and obviously not forgotten. Mitchener & Farrand, the store which now occupies the old Trust House space at 2844 West Wilshire, was thoughtful enough to remember Gloria on their sign today.

Farther south, the old KFC just north of 50th, near the Quasi-Super Target, is being redeveloped into something else, though what that something else might be is unclear just now.

Meanwhile, construction on the new Laredo's at Belle Isle reportedly has ground to a halt:

According to a subcontractor of VanHoose Construction, the owner lost a good portion of his backing and was unable to meet his obligation to the general contractor on the job.

The jobsite has been fenced off and construction has ceased.

After the general contractor files suit on the owner, what will most likely follow is foreclosure at which point the property will be up for grabs.

Possible explanation here.

Finally, I met up with Michael Bates today. He was in town for some Republican meetup, and he informed me that Tom Daxon will be taking over the chair of the state GOP, replacing Gary Jones. (Jones, says Bates, may run for State Auditor, a position Daxon held from 1979 to 1983.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 PM to City Scene )
187

It's a common police code for "homicide," and I have to assume that whoever it was who was supposed to run the 187th edition of Carnival of the Vanities must have been killed; I can't think of any other good excuses.

In the meantime, Zeuswood and Stingflower, keepers of the Carnival, have kindly put up a Rescue Edition, to insure the continuity of blogdom's oldest weekly compendium.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:41 PM to Blogorrhea )
23 April 2006
Maybe seedy

Steven Wright once asked this typically Steven Wright-eous question:

"Why is the alphabet in that order? Is it because of that song?"

He should have asked MetaFilter.

Meanwhile, Curly ("violent" is the word for him) and friends contend:

Which, you know, is hard to argue with.

(Referenced at Swirlspice.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:25 AM to Say What? )
May be harmful if swallowed

That's my idea of the appropriate warning label for Alberto Gonzales' fatuous belief that the Department of Justice can regulate online smut out of existence.

Matt Barr is even less complimentary than I:

I can't remember the last time I accidentally encountered a pornographic image while looking for something else. But you're Computer Boy, you've been on the Internet for 12 years. You have blogs and domain names! What about people who haven't got the foggiest idea what they're doing on the Internet? Their eyes! Shut the hell up. We don't make cars all go 10 MPH with big flashy neon signs that say "DON'T LET THIS HIT YOU" because there might be pedestrians who are unfamiliar with how traffic works. We expect people to be rudimentarily aware of how to be safe walking along a road if they're going to walk along a road. The carnage and genocide this has caused has so far escaped major media attention.

There should be a special circle in hell reserved for people who market porn by making sure searches for Barbie dolls or Teletubbies get people to click through to their sites. But you know what? Maybe the kid searching for Teletubbies on the Internet shouldn't be waddling along in the middle of the road by himself. Huh, Mom?

Besides, how would the Official Gonzales Ratings be implemented?

Where will this warning go, above or below the gigantic graphic image? What will it say? Don't look! Your eyes! And we know exactly where this is going. When warning labels are ineffective, surprising a total of six people, all in Washington, the next Attorney General will require little pop-up warnings before the formerly warning labelled page comes up. "You have requested a possibly off-color page. Are you sure? How old are you? Who'd you vote for?" Pop up blockers will be outlawed because they suppress the new warnings. Soon, the warning label will have to be tattooed on the inside of your eyelid.

And keep in mind the amazing success all levels of government have had with stamping out spam. It's been, oh, almost sixteen minutes since someone sent me a stock tout claiming it was a "Strong" — actually, "Str#ng" — "Buy," and no one's tried to sell me fake Rolexes since quarter past two.

Almost all such government proposals are predicated on the notion that We the People in aggregate are dumber than a box of rocks. And to the extent that we voted for these schmucks, they may well have a point. Then again, if the good Lord had intended us to vote, He would have given us candidates.

The Force has been notified

Fan fiction is tolerated, barely, by the copyright owners. And God (or George Lucas) forbid that it should get out into the open, where the lawyers will have a field day.

Exhibit A: this self-published, unlicensed Star Wars book.

John Scalzi provides a pertinent excerpt from the "Author's Interview":

Q. I find myself wondering if there was any concern on your part regarding copyrights?

A. No, because I wrote this book for myself. This is a self-published story and is not a commercial book. Yes, it is for sale on Amazon, but only my family, friends and acquaintances know it's there.

And, well, a couple of hundred of you and however many thousands read Scalzi's Whatever column or link to it.

Besides, notes Scalzi, it's offered at bn.com and Powells.

The author, I fear, is about to meet Darth Maul. In a three-piece suit.

(Via skippy the bush kangaroo.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:14 AM to Say What? )
Language barrier

Some things need no translation. The synthesized-calliope version of "Pop Goes the Weasel," heading across the block as I write this, inevitably heralds the arrival of the Ice Cream Man, and no words need be spoken until you hand over too much of your allowance in exchange for something that, given the 90-degree heat today, will melt down your wrist.

On the other hand, this passage at the bottom of a spam (titled "Babes inside your city") is mystifying:

This subject matter was broadcast to you because your-person asked for to be imparted of knowledge of offers from either us or one of our-person collaborators, if your-person do not need to encounter extends from ourselves once again please interact with us at this cursor.

So far as I can tell, this is the standard (and usually futile) opt-out clause fed through Babelfish a couple of dozen times.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:04 PM to Scams and Spams )
More people I am not speaking to

Something from 571-522-1332 dialed up here shortly after dinner, mumbled something about the state military (?), paused, and then rang off with "This is a public survey call. We may call back later."

Apparently it's these guys, who seem to have been doing a lot of "public survey calls" for various GOP causes and such.

Political haranguing, of course, is exempt from the Federal Do Not Call regulations.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 PM to Wastes of Oxygen )
24 April 2006
Strange search-engine queries (12)

Because you — well, not you you — asked for them!

is a "36C bra" big for a 15-year-old?  Depends on the 15-year-old, wouldn't you think?

dali's motivation for the lobster phone:  I always figured it was a veiled attack on society's shellfishness.

nude vacations:  At least you don't have to pack a whole lot.

meredith vieira pantyhose:  I suspect this is the sort of person who wears out the Pause button on his VCR remote.

playmates past pubic preference:  Oh, I don't think they ever get past that.

I am not being objective:  Admitting it is the first step.

vanishing cream that makes you invisible:  I think we can rule out Pond's.

what is a dillhole:  If you have to ask, he's not.

should I be a writer:  If you have to ask, you should not.

profile description shy romantic paranoic:  You're soaking in it.

lobal warming hoax:  Who wants cold lobes?

gasoline price vs cheese price:  The latter is set by OPEC (Organization of Provolone-Exporting Countries).

fourteen year old nudist girl:  This is probably a good way to find 45-year-old guys.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:08 AM to You Asked For It )
And she didn't know it

Erica T. Carter is a highly-respected contemporary poet, working primarily in blank verse.

At least, I have high respect for her, given the fact that she's not a person at all, but an aesthetic language generation system. (The name comes from "Electronic Text Composition," bestowed upon the system by its creator, Penn lecturer Jim Carpenter.)

Miss Carter, if you will, exhibits obvious strengths and severe limitations. Erin O'Connor elaborates:

Erica can't write sonnets or other strongly metered poetic forms, but she writes free verse with speed, ease, and, if her editors at poetry magazines are to be believed, great sensitivity. As such, she seems to me to be at once a remarkable testament to the artistic potential of code as well as a damning comment on the artistic pretensions of much contemporary verse.

Needless to say, I had to sample her wares. Offering up six words as seed values, I requested eight lines with the following criteria: abstraction, 65/100; lyric, 40/100; active verb use, 40/100; structure, frame; minimum one line in form of question. In about one minute per line she rendered this:

She is people.
Enshrouds surrounding, repeating on turnover.

She is the town.

Ghostlike piano after op plays.
Turnover under other as capacity now gets to stagger, closing.
Hides to his day, as good as labor.
Sunset is great.
What is the yellow sunset of life?

I've seen worse. Indeed, I've written worse.

Spreading the buzz

Marketing whiz and bloggish type Matt Galloway was interviewed this morning on KGOU, and the centerpiece of the interview was a sampling from Galloway's Buzz-o-phone, the "drive-by shooting of the marketing world".

It came off well, I think, and Buzz-o-phone will no doubt get a few more calls as a result. KGOU has a link to a paragraph about the piece, which I expect will be updated with actual audio once it's uploaded.

The new litmus test

Allen boils it down to one question:

I think perhaps every Democratic candidate should be asked, when announcing that they are running for president, a simple, single yes/no question. "Would you have dropped the atomic bombs on Japan during World War 2?"

If the answer is yes, they are a member of the old-school (Truman) Democratic Party. If they take a poll first to see what the public thinks the response should be, they are a member of the political calculus (Clinton) Democratic Party. And if they look aghast at the mere thought of asking the question and ponderously answer with a 3-page policy paper as to why, in a multi-cultural world that should embrace, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah ... They are a member of the modern Democratic Party.

Allen, it appears, comes from the Old School; I know I do.

And while we're seriously outnumbered these days, we're not entertaining any ideas of jumping to the GOP, which has some rather severe schisms of its own.

We got your Hot Air right here

Michelle Malkin's new multimedia venture is called Hot Air, perhaps chosen for its comparative lack of parody potential.

And while I'm always happy to see MM on screen, and while I'm aware that you can't copyright a title, I do wish she'd come up with a name for the video segments other than Vent, which is just so 1996.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:47 PM to Blogorrhea )
A moderately major mogul

Record producer/executive Phil Walden has died at his Georgia home at the age of 66.

Walden graduated from Mercer in 1962, and set up shop as a booking agent, finding some success with Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers. Jenkins was a guitar man; vocals were handled by a young fellow named Otis Redding. When Jenkins' demo session at Stax didn't produce anything noteworthy and there was still half an hour to go, Otis stepped forward and cut two sides, which were released on Stax' nascent Volt label when Jim Stewart was assured of getting half the publishing.

But Volt 103, "Hey Hey Baby," didn't go anywhere, and wouldn't until John Richbourg at Nashville's WLAC — the legendary John R — flipped it over and found "These Arms of Mine." Otis had a hit, albeit a small one, and he returned to Stax, emboldened by his success and now managed by Phil Walden, who had turned his booking agency over to his brother Alan. Walden continued to oversee Redding's affairs until that awful plane crash in 1967.

In 1969, Walden, with the help of Atlantic's Jerry Wexler, set up Capricorn Records as an Atlantic custom label. The first Capricorn release to chart was "Revival," a track from Idlewild South by another Walden client, the Allman Brothers Band. It was not a big hit — #92 in Billboard — but Walden persevered, and the Allmans broke through with the double-LP Live at Fillmore East. Shortly thereafter, Capricorn switched its distribution to Warner Bros., where it would remain for most of the Seventies; with the demise of Southern rock in general, Capricorn went broke in 1980, and Walden retreated long enough to dry out and straighten up. By 1991, Capricorn had been revived in Nashville; in 1996, Walden sold half the company to Polygram, who already owned the masters from the label's first incarnation. Consolidation at Polygram, which was merging with Universal, spelled the end of Capricorn; in 2001, Walden and his family were setting up a new label in Atlanta, called Velocette.

Walden was always at least somewhat controversial. A white man managing a black man didn't always go over well in Otis' home town of Macon; there were rumors at one time that Walden had some sort of Mob connections; there were many lawsuits during the various unravelings Capricorn endured. But scarcely anyone will dispute this: Phil Walden was one of the last of the great Record Men, and if a firm grip on the brass ring always seemed just slightly out of his reach, the records he oversaw still speak more clearly than the stories he inspired.

25 April 2006
Becoming testy

What does it take to make sure that No Child gets Left Behind? Apparently this, says Dr Jan:

A couple of weeks ago, I got a message from PRE (planning, research, and evaluation) to send in my DIBELS data on my Kindergarten through third grade students. DIBELS (or Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills) is individually administered and takes quite a long time for a teacher to administer to an entire class; but we did it. Then, for the past two weeks, we have been administering the state criterion referenced tests ... it was very time consuming, and the school pretty much shut down while we got everyone in the third through fifth grades tested. Then, I got a message from the office of Language and Cultural Services that we had to administer the WIDA (a new test for students to determine language proficiency) to our English Language Learners (over two-thirds of our school qualify); so tomorrow we will begin on this test that is administered as a group and then individually. This should take us another two weeks. Then, I got a message from my immediate supervisor that we needed to administer the Gates MacGinitie to all of our students in Kindergarten through fifth grade.

All of these assessments are on top of the assessments that teachers do in their classrooms to measure student progress. And what are we going to do with all this data? Well, to be frank ... at this point, it will not guide our teaching practices ... it will merely stamp our practice this year as effective or not. And, we will lose at least a month of instruction to do all this testing.

Some say we're on our way to year-round schooling; I suspect it's because it takes three months just to get through all the tests.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:05 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Spendophobia

I've been through some of this:

As usual whenever I purchase something that actually has use as well as a certain value (as opposed to all the other frivolous doodads I'm always spending too much money on), I feel as if I've taken out a third mortgage or something. It would be nice to, not be fabulously wealthy, but to just be well-off enough that I didn't feel pangs of unease and guilt every time I spent money on something I'd been saving for for ages. I wonder if I'll ever have the courage to buy a house, or even a car ...

I know from this. People in general and my daughter in particular were nagging me to get out of the CrappiFlat™ and into something I could actually own, and I always fought it off with "I can't afford it, at least until the car's paid off." And I was able to sustain this attitude until water started coming through the ceiling and it occurred to me that I lived on the ground floor.

There's a variant which I call Charger's Remorse. I got a hit of it after pulling out the Visa to pay for a new PC. It's not like I maxed out the darn thing — as of this morning, before I post this month's payment, I have available credit of $8,500 on this card — but while I was looking over the bills last night, I went through a brief period of "Oh, dear God, what have I done?" And what's amazing is that the PC purchase hasn't even been billed yet; this is anticipatory grief.

That said, I won't even bat an eye blowing three grand on this summer's World Tour, probably because it's in forty- or fifty- or hundred-dollar increments rather than one ginormous transaction.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to Common Cents )
Art, for Pete's sake

And Pete, along with 750,000 or so other folks, will be turning up at the Festival of the Arts, which opens today in downtown Oklahoma City and runs through Sunday.

The formula is familiar: 150 or so artists and their wares, a couple of hundred stage acts, and way too much food. But it's always fun, even when the weather is threatening, and the price of admission is right: zip. (Parking, of course, is another matter.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to City Scene )
It's new, unimproved UltraSpam!

Once a month I vacuum out the Deleted Items folder in my mail client, at which point I have usually accumulated 3,000, maybe 4,000 such.

This used to strike me as a lot, but not anymore.

On the other hand, most of my Deleted Items came from without.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:29 AM to PEBKAC )
Red is the new platinum

Target already has a Red card which kicks in a percentage of your spending to a school of your choice.

Now American Express is getting into the Red act, with a card that donates a portion of your spending to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

This qualfies as a Good Cause, and Amex deserves a cheer and a half, maybe two, for coming up with this program. Why not three cheers? This is why:

Every credit card offer has some kind of deal where you get free things or money back, and a good way to choose a credit card is to calculate the exact percentage cash back that you are getting. For example, if you get one Air Mile for every dollar you spend, and it costs 25,000 Air Miles to buy a domestic flight in the United States (say, $400-500 max), then you're effectively getting between 1.6% and 2.0% off of your purchases. ($400/$25000)

In my experience, most credit cards offer effective discounts of 2-3%. The RED card gives 1-1.25% of your purchase value to the Global Fund, and there are no other discounts. Two things are eminently clear: (1) American Express is not hurting at all from this, as they are offering a lower implicit discount than that on their other cards; and (2) Your donation is real, since that 1% going to the Global Fund would eventually be cash in your pocket if you used any other card.

You are making a donation to the Global Fund every time you use the RED card. So why don't you get a receipt for a tax deductible charitable donation? Because American Express is getting it. Which makes the RED card little more than a way for American Express to get money out of you, foolish consumer.

Which is no surprise, really: whatever my old high school gets from my Target card isn't deductible either. And if you don't itemize deductions, this probably doesn't matter. Still, if you're wanting to get maximum value for your dollar, you should donate directly to the Global Fund — and charge that donation to Amex RED.

(Via The Consumerist, more cynical than I.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:15 PM to Common Cents )
Which still doesn't justify "Celebrity Eurosport"

One of the most durable urban legends is the notion that Chevrolet's Nova sedan sold poorly in Mexico because "no va" means "it does not go" in Spanish. This tale has been thoroughly debunked over the years, including once by Snopes, but apparently it's persistent enough, even today, to warrant an official denial from General Motors.

On the other hand, American Motors is long gone, chewed up by Renault and then digested by Chrysler, but I'd love to hear them explain the AMC Matador, inasmuch as "matador" means killer — and not just of bulls, either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:13 PM to Driver's Seat )
Maybe he can build a dresser

I realize I have no room to talk about this guy, but:

Oakland, Calif., cops arrested a carpenter who likes to practice his craft as nature intended after a client returned home early and busted the craftsman building bookcases in his birthday suit.

Percy Honniball was charged with misdemeanor indecent exposure for the incident, the Associated Press reports.

But Honniball insists his penchant for working in the nude isn't for pleasure. He says that when he's building things in the buff he has a greater range of motion — and it prevents him from soiling his clothes.

One word, Perce: splinters.

(Via Tinkerty Tonk.)

26 April 2006
First, Inspector Gadget

At least we'll be able to measure the slippery slope as we slide:

[G]ay marriage and polygamy are only the beginning, because the dark road that begins with equal rights leads inexorably to the next terrifying step: legalized, state-sponsored robot sex!

Since the dawn of time marriage has been defined as a union between one man and one woman who are not also complex electronic devices — and once you abandon one part of this ancient formula you abandon it all! Oh sure, today you may think it's harmless for gays and lesbians to get married, but take away the precious protection of state-sponsored homophobia and tomorrow you'll have men marrying machines, unhinged threeways between two lesbians and a minidisc player, crowds of deranged mechanophiliacs humping household appliances in an orgy of animatronic man-on-android action! And the children! Within a decade America will be raising a morally deformed generation of depraved mutant human-toaster hybrids brainwashed to bang half-robot potato-peeler people by our cyborg-sympathist media elites! And not only will this destroy the sanctity of marriage, it will destroy Western civilization itself, as our superintelligent sex computers rise up against their human masters to make bottoms of us all!

I can say only that I don't know any lesbians who own MiniDisc players.

(By way of Joanna at Fey Accompli.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:21 AM to Dyssynergy )
Local zoning be damned

Now this is slick. Big, bad municipal commission not giving you what you want? Put the District Court in charge of appeals.

This passed the House by a wide margin, meaning it had substantial Republican support, meaning that the old conservative dictum about settling matters as low in the governmental hierarchy as possible — state rather than Federal, city or county rather than state, and for God's sake, keep it out of the courts — is apparently now as passé as leisure suits.

On the other hand, trial lawyers, who routinely get a lot of grief from the GOP, are surely snickering in the hallways at being handed this opportunity for new business.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Soonerland )
Sum verse

Tired: Haiku.

Wired: Fibonacci poetry, in which the number of syllables per line follows the Fibonacci series, where each term is the sum of the preceding two terms.

I bet they could teach Erica T. Carter to write these.

(Via A Sweet, Familiar Dissonance.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:20 AM to Almost Yogurt )
188

Rule 188 is one of the elementary cellular automaton rules introduced by Stephen Wolfram in 1983 (Wolfram 1983, 2002). It specifies the next color in a cell, depending on its color and its immediate neighbors. This rule is illustrated ...

What?

Oh, yeah. Right. Laurence Simon brings you Episode 188 of the continuing drama Carnival of the Vanities at the always-genteel IMAO outpost. Don't miss it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:49 AM to Blogorrhea )
Second curse, same as the first

You might have seen this story before; I know I have. From Vent #182, back in January 2000:

Wednesday afternoon, I was ambling back to the office when I felt a familiar twinge in the upper torso. I cut my speed down to the bare minimum, but kept going. So did the pain. I got back to my desk and popped an aspirin, and then another. Eventually it stopped, but when it did, it was replaced by a dull numbness that kept moving up and down my right side as though it was looking for a place to park. I was on the phone to the doctor's office, and coworkers gathered around me waiting for the show to begin.

By now I was functionally, if not literally, brain-dead, and a brace of staffers herded me into the van (does it really count as herding if there's only one herdee?) and hauled me off to the hospital, where the first disturbing vision came right away — a sign reading "Triage". Now I know the dictionary definition doesn't insist upon it, but I couldn't help imagining some ghastly post-disaster scenario where a handful of Red Cross volunteers are trying to sort out the victims with the best chance for survival. As it happens, cardiac patients get high priority in Triage, and it was less than half an hour before I found myself flat on my back in the E.R. and wired, if not for sound, certainly for telemetry.

The verdict came quickly: I would be admitted for further examination. That was the good news. The bad news was that the admission was more or less tentative, since the hospital did not, in fact, have any available beds. I shuddered at the thought of spending an entire night on a gurney, surrounded by enforced sterility and subjected to the regular-as-clockwork torment of the automated blood-pressure cuff. By 10 pm, they had somehow found some beds, and some poor soul had to wheel me up two floors and into the farthest corner of the building. I do hope he got a raise.

What was different this time, other than the fact that I'm six years older:

  1. I can't take aspirin anymore.

  2. I insisted on driving myself to the E.R. In fact, I parked at the farthest corner of the lot, on the arguable basis that if the walk didn't kill me, I wasn't going to die tonight.

  3. About 9:30 pm, they cut me loose and sent me home.

But lying there, tubes running hither and yon, not truly immobile but not far from it either, I thought about how terrible it would be just to keep lying there until the lights go out forever.

Maybe I should take up skydiving.

27 April 2006
Looking for recommendations

With the move to speedier equipment comes, inevitably, a desire for spiffier software.

Historically, I have done quick-and-dirty graphics work in Irfanview and (yes, it is true) Microsoft Paint, with the more industrial-strength stuff in Adobe's PhotoDeluxe. But PhotoDeluxe is positively ancient, and I've pretty much decided to upgrade to Photoshop Elements, which will read the old PD files and do most of the things I expect to need to do.

That decision, at least, is made. I'm still wavering on what to do for CD and DVD authoring, and for DVD viewing and (I hope) screen-capturing. The machine came equipped with trial versions of Cyberlink PowerDVD, which seems okay, and the current incarnation of Nero, which is sufficiently unlike previous versions (I was using 5.5 happily) to put me off. If you have preferences for applications of this sort that run on the hated Wintel platform, I'd like to hear them.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:36 AM to PEBKAC )
Busy, busy

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission reports that 41,400 jobs have been added in the year since March 2005.

This includes an increase of 3600 jobs in manufacturing, despite the idling of General Motors' Oklahoma City Assembly plant; most of the gains, however, came from services and government.

The state unemployment rate is 4.2 percent; Oklahoma City reports 4.1 percent, Tulsa 4.0, and Lawton 4.6.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:56 AM to Soonerland )
Meet Jeanne Doe

Deer use your landscaping as a salad bar only in blue states, says Farmer Flick:

Generally, in the South you don't get deer eating your landscaping. Because when there's an overpopulation of whitetail, the PETA folks don't protest while the rest of us buy a hunting license and demonstrate a little darwinism on 'em.

I should point out (although it's likely unnecessary to do so) that the last time I saw Bambi, I was rooting for Godzilla.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:59 AM to Dyssynergy )
Hardly Davidson

"So where were you all last week?"

"I was knitting a motorcycle."

Backwards ran sentences until reeled the mind

According to Munuvian God Pixy Misa, there is a Law of Conservation of Blogging: "For every blogger, there is an equal and opposite anti-blogger."

I just wonder who's running the Bizarro World version of dustbury.com. (Keep in mind that this bit of Pixy's is a year old, so the Anti-Me presumably is a lot more up-to-date.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:12 PM to Blogorrhea )
28 April 2006
Standing tall

Seagate is readying a 750 GB external hard drive that connects via FireWire or USB and ships with backup software for both Windows and Mac.

The drive is due out next month for $559. Remind me to put one on my Wish List.

Mimi screams, or so I hear

Romance writer Dee Tenorio is looking for synonyms:

"Have you ever screamed in pleasure?"

Not your typical question and I had to really think about it. I don't think I have. I don't think anyone has, outside of films. To me, a scream is a full-throated belting out of sound and air. If I'm in that much pleasure, I have to say ... I've got better things to do than scream.

This isn't to claim that a heroine can't get noisy. By all means, share your joy with the world, but isn't there a better word to use for it? Isn't "screaming with pleasure" just another kind of wandering body part, a phrase we use for shortcut instead of creating real prose and working for our heroine's good time?

I'm afraid I'm going to be no help here, since the reaction with which I am most familiar is "stared in disbelief," and not in a good way, either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:39 AM to Table for One )
Five times the filth

Perhaps George Carlin's most famous observation is that there are seven words you can never say on television.

In the 34 years since Carlin did this bit, television has changed somewhat; you might be able to get away with some of them on basic cable, maybe even on broadcast channels.

But not on your cell phone. Cingular, for instance, says that there are thirty-five words you can never use in a ringtone.

(Neither of these links should be considered safe for work.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:04 AM to Say What? )
Such a deal, someplace

During May, your ticket to the museum is on Bank of America, maybe. Ground rules:

  • All the participating museums are located in nine Northeastern states;

  • You must present your B of A or MBNA (now a B of A subsidiary) credit card and a photo ID;

  • Individual museums may exclude special events, and fundraisers are not included.

Except for the minor detail that I won't be in the Northeast during May, or probably any time in 2006, I'd definitely be up to taking advantage of this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:39 AM to Common Cents )
Being retired, as it were

Rumors are flying that Bridgestone/Firestone is about to announce the closing of the Dayton Tire plant on Oklahoma City's southwest side.

And apparently bling is a factor: the trend to bigger, bigger, farging humongous wheels is presumably working against Dayton, which builds no tire larger than 15 inches at this facility.

Dayton workers are represented by the United Steelworkers; their current contract, which was approved last June after two years on a day-to-day basis, expires this summer. The plant employs about 2000.

3:30 pm: Governor Henry says it's likely, but not absolutely graven in stone. [Video clip, preceded by brief ad.]

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:58 PM to City Scene )
Total recall

Here's a lovely review of Montage, the first major post-Left Banke project by songwriter-keyboardist Michael Brown. It wasn't a hit, but I remember it well; in fact, I remember writing exactly this same review four years ago.

29 April 2006
At a safe distance

The irresistible (or so I imagine) E. M. Zanotti came up with this:

We live our lives in a world where we value impersonal contacts, where we hardly see each other, would rather post a comment on MySpace than take time out to find a person, rely on email more even than the telephone (by which I am all but unreachable), where technology, and every little isolationist temperment it fosters take precedence over human contact, toward a goal of efficiency, speed, and for the purpose of the Almighty Multitask.

What we're really seeking, however, is exactly what we've tried to eradicate from our lives: those messy emotional moments where we find comfort in the arms or words of humans. We are naturally social creatures, despite our desperate attempts to the converse. We've always needed each other for those basic carnal purposes, for misery that needs company, and for those deep, honest, superliminal connections that form eternal bonds. We've become so desperate for these things that we'll turn to nearly anybody with a willing ear and a welcoming smile: all humans ever want is a little bit of love.

This last sentence seems a bit pseudo-Harvey-Fiersteinish, and I'm not convinced we're all "naturally social" — you and I, or at least one of us, knows a misanthrope who positively revels in the role.

My own isolationist temperament, for what it's worth, is not motivated by speed or efficiency: it's simply a desire to keep everything, and everyone, at arm's length until the presumably far-off time when I can handle closer proximity. Since I'm not particularly good at that, I tend to give off mixed signals; and since I'm not particularly good at reading signals, I often can't tell whether I'm remarkably obscure or ridiculously transparent. Fortunately, it doesn't matter much either way.

More breeze from OG&E

OG&E's wind farm really isn't theirs: the 50-MW facility near Woodward is owned and operated by FPL Energy. (The farm actually produces 100 MW, but the other half is contracted to the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority.)

For the next phase of expansion, OG&E will build its own wind farm, a 120-MW facility in Harper County, north of the existing turbine array. The Corporation Commission gave its official blessing Friday.

The new farm, which should be online by the end of the year, will bring Oklahoma's wind production to nearly 600 MW, fifth highest among the states.

Yes sir, yes sir, two tanks full

Dan Lovejoy is not enjoying this latest doofus proposal from the Stupid Party:

Now our idiot Republican congress wants to just spit $100 per person back to us to help with gas purchases. Bill Frist needs to learn that you can't run for president and run the Senate at the same time. This is a stupid, stupid idea. Unless the Republicans are going to cut spending to equal the rebate, pass higher CAFE standards, open up ANWAR, and encourage other conservation, this is just a stupid, irresponsible stunt.

Which, I fear, shoves me right into Andy Rooney mode: "Did you ever notice that when the GOP calls for tax cuts, they never call for cuts in the taxes nobody notices? The Feds take 18.4 cents on every single gallon of gas, and God knows how much on your phone bill, but you're paying it, and the Republicans are intent on making sure you continue to pay it so they can call for the sort of cuts that will get them headlines — or votes."

They're not getting Dan's, apparently:

I'm seriously thinking of voting Democratic this November. Seriously.

Note to RNC Chair Ken Mehlman: All your base are going to bolt.

Tearing down the Hellmouth

Once upon a time (let's say 1910) there was an Episcopal church near Belle Isle. After a few years, it was literally picked up and wheeled down Classen to just north of 30th Street. (Maybe "wheeled" isn't the right word; it was actually placed on logs, and rolled as they rolled.)

Half a century passed. The congregation made plans for a new building, a couple of miles to the west. Legend has it that a member of the church's clerical staff hanged himself in the sanctuary.

In the 1970s, the building became a theme restaurant; given its Gothic architecture, you can well imagine the theme. Eventually it mutated into a nightclub with otherworldly names like Infinity and Babylon. Finally, as Club Purgatory, it was turned into a death-metal (of course) venue, allegedly owned by a madman. Needless to say, it's believed to be haunted.

Ward 2 Councilman Sam Bowman never has been particularly fond of this building. "The place has been an on-and-off nightclub — and nightmare — for years," he said to the Mid-City Advocate.

And now the bulldozers are coming. Eventually there will be a little strip of small shops presumably more suitable for the city's Asian District. As of this writing, there has been no indication of a Demon Alert.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:28 PM to City Scene )
By the banks of the river Charles

One of the songs I dearly loved as a kid — still have a Capitol 45 of it, in fact — is the Kingston Trio's "M.T.A.", recorded in 1959, about, well, this:

Well, let me tell you of the story
Of a man named Charlie
On a tragic and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket,
Kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTA

Chorus:
Well, did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearned
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.

Charlie handed in his dime
At the Kendall Square Station
And he changed for Jamaica Plain
When he got there the conductor told him,
"One more nickel."
Charlie couldn't get off of that train.

When I first set foot in Boston myself, in the summer of '72, I made a point of riding the MTA, which had since mutated into the MBTA and was referred to as "the T," and it cost quite a bit more than a dime, but that didn't shock me. What did shake me up was this: "M.T.A." was apparently poorly-received by The Powers That Be in the Hub, and according to the locals, not even the oldies station (WROR, then at 98.5) would ever play it. I wondered, though not out loud, what they might have thought about the Standells' "Dirty Water"; I certainly don't remember meeting any frustrated women, and I left Massachusetts in the spring of '74 somewhat perplexed by the matter.

Apparently the T isn't perturbed by Charlie these days; they're offering prepaid "CharlieCards" and monthly "CharlieTickets" which apparently save a nickel, adjusted for inflation, per trip.

(This was actually suggested by Jay Tea, though he was working a different angle entirely. Then again, he lives in New England.)

30 April 2006
Upgrade updates

I have ordered Photoshop Elements 4.0, boxed with Premiere Elements 2.0, direct from Adobe. The price was about the same as it was at local retailers; there had been a rebate at one time, but apparently it's expired.

The trial version of Nero does indeed have the one feature of the old version I was using that I missed: the wave-file editor. However, attempting to bring it up outside the regular Nero interface brings chastisement for not having paid the long dollar for the full package. I think, though, I can learn to work Audacity at least as well, and though it doesn't interface directly with Nero, that's a small price to pay for not having a large price to pay.

I have postponed my search for a new scanner, inasmuch as a legal-size flatbed now sells for upward of $300. My old one still works, but it's connected through the parallel port, and as such is slower than Christmas to a four-year-old, with the added annoyance of having to daisy-chain it off the printer cable like some sort of Commodore 64 device.

And I'm getting used to CyberLink, which does decent screen captures but which has what I consider somewhat wacky controls. I suppose the next step is to try to figure out the difference between DVD-R and DVD+R.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:03 AM to PEBKAC )
Number 33

Something in Steve Lackmeyer's Oklahoman piece on downtown residency today struck a chord around here, and after poking around the archives for thirty or forty seconds I turned up this, which contained a quote from Downtown OKC's Skyline Snapshot:

Located at NE 7th Street and Oklahoma Avenue this 2150 square foot urban loft residence lies amidst a definitively resurging area. With the convenience of downtown accessibility and the proximity to Automobile Alley, Deep Deuce and Bricktown, this modern designed home embodies urban living while capitalizing on the Oklahoma City skyline views. The clarity and openness of its plan, flexible spatial organization, balanced proportions and outdoor living spaces truly exemplify the client's desire for a dwelling/studio concept. The easily adaptable, functionally flexible home is site specific with directionally framed views always providing a connection to the outdoors.

Status: Designed by J3 Architecture, this private residence is currently under construction with completion expected in March 2006.

March has come and gone, and more or less so has April, but here's the situation, as described by Lackmeyer:

Designer David Wanzer found their spot at NE 7 and Oklahoma, a stretch of mostly vacant properties that was the Maywood neighborhood until it was cleared for construction of the Centennial Expressway. The lot was filled with brush and debris. Mosquitoes buzzed around abandoned tires.

The couple bought the lot just in time. As they closed on their property, Anthony McDermid, Bert Belanger and Pat Garrett were announcing they had bought and assembled dozens of nearby lots for development of a mixed-use town center.

The Blankenships paid about $3 a square foot for their lot, not cheap but less than the $15 to $20 a square foot now asked for land across the street.

The home, with its modern design, is still under construction, and the couple routinely entertain inquiries from passersby who want to know more about what they?re looking at.

"They can?t believe it's a house," Becky Blankenship said. "Others get excited, because they've seen this style done elsewhere, but not here."

At the time, which was around the end of December, I said this:

So I drove to 33 NE 7th to see what was up, and while evidence of that definitive resurging is presently conspicuous by its absence, I am prepared to assert that even in its unfinished state, this is one cool-looking house, and I am prepared to envy the client who is undoubtedly paying big bucks for it.

In a good way, of course. And the current Skyline Snapshot predicts a May completion.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:11 AM to City Scene )
Features from Floyd

I've been to Floyd County, Virginia only once: on World Tour '03, at the behest of Fred First himself, and the place left me more or less speechless. In one (well, maybe two) of those less-speechless moments, I took this photo from right off Fred's porch, and said this:

[I]f you haven't seen Floyd, as 99 point something percent of you haven't, you're missing something: on the edge of the Blue Ridge, Floyd looks like all your best dreams of getting away from it all, rolled into one.

There's still no substitute for seeing it yourself, but Fred First has made the next best thing possible: Slow Road Home: a Blue Ridge Book of Days, 232 pages of Fred's own wise words and occasional examples of spectacular photography. I've already ordered mine.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
The Chairman speaks for me

This got from LilRed to Jan and then all the way to Michael Bates, and for some reason there seems to be a desire to see it here.

Anyway, answering the questions for me today, Mr. Francis Albert Sinatra.

Are you male or female? "I Forget to Remember" (Reprise, 1969)

Describe yourself. "I've Got the World on a String" (Capitol, 1953)

How do some people feel about you? "It Never Entered My Mind" (Columbia, 1947)

How do you feel about yourself? "I Fall in Love Too Easily" (Columbia, 1944)

Describe your ex: "I Should Care" (Columbia, 1945)

Describe your current significant other: "The One I Love (Belongs to Somebody Else)" (Capitol, 1959, not released until 1973)

Describe where you want to be: "This Town" (Reprise, 1967)

Describe how you live: "My Way" (Reprise, 1969)

Describe how you love: "Strangers in the Night" (Reprise, 1966)

What would you ask for if you had just one wish? "The Nearness of You" (Columbia, 1947)

Share a few words of wisdom: "(How Little It Matters) How Little We Know" (Capitol, 1956)

Now say goodbye: "Don't Like Goodbyes" (Capitol, 1957)

I trust this meets the requirements of the meme, and if not, well, that's life.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:25 AM to Screaming Memes )
Preaching to the perverted

Once in a while, I surf over to the local craigslist, mostly to see if the personals have caught up in depravity with those in the bigger cities. (Short answer: Not quite, but give them time.)

Historically, the "casual encounters" page has come with the sort of disclaimer you'd expect, but now there's something extra:

please note the following, and choose safe sex for you and your partner:
  • anonymous sex with multiple partners greatly increases your risk of contracting STDs, including HIV

  • gay, bi & ts/tg men please check out this health alert (new)

  • ask your own questions in the safer sex forum, moderated by the folks from SF city clinic

Apparently this is being phased in on other editions of craigslist as well. Reasonable advice, I'd say, though (1) presumably everyone knows these things already and (2) compliance levels are likely to fall well short of 100 percent. Besides, rather a lot of these ads appear to be ill-disguised, if not un-disguised, spam.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:31 PM to Dyssynergy )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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