1 June 2006
Collective wisdom and other myths
I've made four attempts at trying to summarize this essay by Jaron Lanier, and I couldn't do it without quoting half of it.
Very likely this is the same problem Scott Chaffin had with it:
It's long and it's impossible for me to accurately excerpt. You're just going to have to take my word for it, and read it, if you're interested in web stuff, and what's going on online.
This much, however, I can say: if you have two people with IQs of 100, you do not necessarily have the equivalent of one person with a 200 IQ. The much-heralded "hive mind," except under very specific circumstances, is way less than the sum of its parts.
Naturally, it's being oversold.
Three deuces and a four-speed
You won't see that, nor will there be a 389. For that matter, there won't be any GTO for a couple of years. But General Motors has apparently figured out that if Pontiac has a future, it's as a purveyor of performance cars without front-wheel drive.
And without SUVs and minivans, either; the Montana SV6 has already been banished, and they'd just as soon you didn't remember the Aztek.
This plan fits into the overall repositioning of GM's "minor" labels, with Buick to be pushed as a near-luxury brand and also to be shorn of its trucks, which presumably will wind up as GMCs.
What I'd want from Pontiac, though, is something along the lines of the '59 Catalina: spacious (Wide-Track, even), not overly decorated, a family car for the faster-than-average family. It may be a while before we see this. Too much of a while, says Mickey Kaus:
If GM were a software company they'd be out of business due to a fatally slow reaction-time. Heck, if they were a blog they might be out of business.
How long have I been running this same template?
Last week marked the 193rd anniversary of the birth of composer Richard Wagner.
Wagner was a dog person, which means that even if he were still alive he might not have read Catymology, which means that he'd have missed the 193rd edition of Carnival of the Vanities, posted by a cat with occasional assistance by a resident biped.
An actual interview with Greg Gutfeld, and it's chock full of snarky goodness:
[B]estiality's a tough call, mainly because of PETA.
What would be their stance? Is it rape? Or is it reward? How can you tell if the animal really wanted it? If animals are equal to humans, as PETA believes, then animals should have power of consent. But if we say it's a crime, then we are saying that animals are incapable of making their minds up about their sex lives, which strikes me as out and out bigotry. Another thing about PETA: They never protest when ugly animals are killed. Vultures are an endangered species, because there's not enough roadkill anymore to keep them alive. PETA has been strangely silent on this issue. Why? Is it because you can't cuddle a vulture? Probably.
On celebrities, in and out of the HuffPost:
There are many pleasant, down to earth stars, but in general, it's good to steer clear. There was a study that just came out on the top 10 desires of children. Number one: to be famous. Others on the list: to get free stuff like ice cream and presents, pets that would live forever, no war. This is exactly the same list you'd get from a Hollywood celebrity.
Stars are exactly like children, in that they play all day and never buy stuff like light bulbs. And that makes them susceptible to destructive stuff like new age religions and Michael Moore movies. It's why stars give their kids such funny names. Those are EXACTLY the names you'd give your kid, if you were, say, a kid! Naming a kid, to them, is like naming a turtle. A box turtle.
On America's place in the world:
Brits go on about our bigness. Brits say we have big food, big asses, big teeth. All true. The obsession about being small makes most European countries feel small and hate us for our hugeness. It's the whole point behind the EU. It has absolutely nothing to do with what America does. It's what America is. That's why it's completely pointless to apologize for anything America does. People hate apologists.
Life is, alas, not all sweetness and light:
[In the UK], people are accustomed to seeing naked chicks in the dailies. But you won't see Maureen Dowd's yams in The New York Times. Sadly.
[insert "Times Select" joke here]
(Snarfed from Al Maviva.)
Well, somebody got a big box here
The saga of Tulsa's Eastland Mall (only slightly hinted at here) has taken some strange twists.
I have been in communication with Councilor [Dennis K.] Troyer and he told me the [rezoning] application would be withdrawn, and he even came by in person to tell me the application had been withdrawn. Then, the following day, the Tulsa World had an article (pdf) that states [Ed] Kallay realizes he doesn't need the IL zoning, but some "variances". Mr. Kallay made a point to reemphasize his initial plan. But, as Roemerman on Record states, the application has not been withdrawn, as of today. Councilor Troyer was awaiting a call to verify this.
In the meantime, the rumor mill is churning with even talk of a casino. Now, if Mr. Kallay is seeking variances, that leaves more questions. Moreover, Mr. Kallay does not actually own the mall, it still belongs to [Haywood] Whichard of NSC New Markets Real Estate, LLC. Variances are very wide ranging, and will follow the ownership of the mall.
So who's calling the shots here? Or are Kallay and Whichard in cahoots? And if they are, what's the harm in saying so? Or is there a third party, yet unnamed, tugging at both their strings?
Skullduggery, thy name is Tulsa.
Drinking out of the Tidal Basin again
If you name your nightlife district "Bricktown," you're just asking for shit like this to happen.
Now that's hitting below the Beltway.
I did like their article title, even though it will prevent me from using it myself: "Welcome to the OKC, bitch."
Then again, maybe it won't.
2 June 2006
The truth at seventy-nine
Dear Old Dad kicks off his 80th year today.
And there is reason to think it may be one of the more difficult years he's had to face, what with the general dissolution we all suffer as we get older even I'm starting to notice it, and if there's anything I hate, it's reminders of my mortality and his being tethered to that damned oxygen tank, the inevitable result of financing R. J. Reynolds' expansion, 70 mm at a time, thirty times a day.
Then again, reminders of his mortality I hate even more than reminders of my own. And I'd like to persuade myself that it's good old-fashioned self-interest: longevity does not exactly run in this family, and I'm screwy enough to believe at some way-below-consciousness level that the longer he goes on, the longer I go on. (Which obviously can't be true, since only three of the five children survive, but this is not the sort of notion that is affected by mere facts.)
Still: just one more year. Just one. And after that, let's hope for one more, and pray that we're not pressing our luck.
Somewhere short of obsession
I cannot believe I downloaded twelve meg of stuff, mostly from Microsoft, just so I could watch two minutes of Condi basically ignoring Wolf Blitzer.
(Well, actually I can, but I'd rather not.)
I'll sue your glass off
This is not going to be pretty. Glass artist Dale Chihuly is suing two other artists, including one who was associated with him for over a decade, for copyright infringement: says Chihuly, the rival glassmen are copying his free-flowing technique.
The defendants reply that Chihuly is trying to extend his brand name well beyond reasonable limits:
"Just because he was inspired by the sea does not mean that no one else can use the sea to make glass art," said Bryan Rubino, the former acolyte named in the suit who worked for Chihuly as a contractor or employee for 14 years. "If anything, Mother Nature should be suing Dale Chihuly."
Tulsa glass artist Sarah Diggdon says that it's inappropriate to assert ownership of a given shape:
To copyright a shape like that, it's like in pottery if you copyrighted the traditional vase. It's ridiculous.
And Rubino's attorney points out:
If the first guy who painted Madonna and Child had tried to copyright it, half of the Louvre would be empty.
"What it boils down to," says Carolyn Hill of the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, which owns a substantial Chihuly collection, "is intent." And intent is a tricky thing to prove.
Note: First paragraph reworded slightly since publication.
One new hat in the ring
Blogger, Web designer, political activist, and occasional dustbury reader J. M. Branum has announced his candidacy for the District 99 House seat being vacated by Opio Toure due to state term limits. The District covers most of the east side of the city south of NE 23rd Street, with a strip extending more or less parallel to the Broadway Extension to within a mile and a half of Edmond.
Branum is filing as an independent, but he's also seeking support from the Green Party, and he may do well in this heavily-Democratic district.
His issues include a moratorium on the death penalty while seeking support for discontinuing it altogether; a more-progressive tax system and a state minimum wage based on the "living wage" concept; support for alternative transportation; and the improvement of ballot access for non-major party candidates.
Snake on a plane
Addendum: "Norman Mineta condemned this incident of species profiling," sez See-Dubya.
The girl I used to be
The things you find in referrer logs.
Actually, this is bait for something called regender, which takes your average Web page (and mine is nothing if not average) and, well, does this:
Have you ever wondered ...
I did notice, on my first trip through, that the parser inverts the gender of pronouns, nouns where appropriate, even some proper nouns. The city of Edmond, I noticed, is rendered "Edna," which is kinda cute; I can't wait to see what they do with "Enid." Meanwhile, making an appearance are such luminaries as artist Dawn Chihuly, Senator Jill Inhofe, Governor Brandy Henrietta, composer Rita Wagner, and former President Wilma Jennifer Clinton. On the blogroll: Australian journalist Tina Blanche, crazy Canadian ranter Samuel Burns, both Susan and Phillip Gleeson, Michael Malkin, Melvin Yourish, and the ineffable Brianna J. Noggle. (Ken Layne got mutated into "Kendra Larry," which is utterly wonderful.)
On the other hand, I don't even want to mention what happened to my "Screwing for Chastity" post.
Regender might be more effective as a parlor game than as a Tool for Change, but as M. C. Escher (her friends called her Marilyn) used to say, there's nothing wrong with having your perceptions upended once in a while.
3 June 2006
And no blow-in subscription cards
It turns out that if you treat them right, magazines work fine on the web pretty much exactly the way they are. This means that we can read a magazine as a sequence of web pages, or we can browse it rapidly by viewing a section of 16 pages in a browse mode, individual web pages can be bookmarked or referenced, and we can print out a page if it particularly interests us or we want to take a recipe into the kitchen. These are natural uses for magazines and magazine articles and the web simply extends our familiarity with the magazine format.
And no, it's not a PDF; each page is an image file, but the words are indexed in a database somewhere behind the scenes and can be searched, and embedded links and such are live.
Exact Editions started in Britain with four titles this spring; they're now up to 15. Can American editions be far behind?
(Courtesy of Richard Charkin.)
The brain that wouldn't die
This is not the sequel.
(Probably not safe for work during one particular scene.)
The next voice you hear
As part of a promotion for The Da Vinci Code, a Japanese scientist was asked to determine the actual sound of the voice of the mysterious woman we know as the Mona Lisa.
The methodology is sorta neat: based on body measurements (such as we have), the dimensions of the skull and its chambers are determined, and from them, voice parameters pitch, timbre, maybe even speed of delivery are calculated.
Dr. Matsumi Suzuki originated this technique for police work, to determine possible voices for suspects; whether Leonardo (whose voice is also "sampled") gives more or fewer clues than your average perp is a question for the ages.
And assuming that Dr. Suzuki's research is extensible beyond identification to modification, would someone please do something about Gilbert Gottfried?
Somebody out there doesn't like me
Actually, I doubt it was animosity toward me specifically, but Ye Olde Web Host reports an attack of the Farging Cyber Vandals this afternoon, which prevented any and all access to this here site.
And if it was animosity toward me specifically, well, you already know what I think, and it extends equally to the horse they rode in on.
Saturday spottings (spirit of 66)
The City says that the new Route 66 Park is "Oklahoma City's newest recreational hot spot", and while it was certainly warm there today, the crowds were conspicuous by their absence. Perhaps they got lost on the way; the park's address 9901 NW 23rd Street is fairly simple, but you can't just head west on 23rd until you get to 9901: once you get past the 8600s you're in the middle of Lake Overholser. So you either come down Sara Road and turn back east, or you thread your way around the lake itself. I chose the latter, mainly because it gave me an excuse to cross the old 66 bridge north of the lake, which is now down to a 9-ton vehicle limit.
Viewed as a work in progress, though, Route 66 Park is seriously spiffy. There's a three-story observation tower, which unfortunately was locked when I got there; it's named for Cyrus Avery, acknowledged today as the Father of Route 66. On the plaza west of the tower is a "stamped map" call it a horizontal mural which depicts the path of the Mother Road from Chicago to the Pacific; Oklahoma, geographically and stylistically, is right in the middle. The park also boasts what the city says is its largest playground, which wasn't getting any noticeable use today, though cyclists were out and about all around. No fishing in the ponds yet: they have yet to be fully stocked. (There was plenty of fishing going on around the lake, but a marked absence of boaters; Overholser, in this regard, is the anti-Hefner.)
Elsewhere, I saw something I'd never seen before: a garage sale in Nichols Hills. It looked pretty much like any other garage sale, except that it seemed to be much, much bigger. And there was one sort-of-ingenious aspect to it: for signage, they'd hijacked a couple of political signs, stapling their sale notice right over the candidate's name. I think this qualifies as a mixed blessing.
Dear God, what have I done?
Actually, what I've done is jump over a few intervening releases (like almost three years' worth) and installed MovableType 3.2.
There may be some anomalies during the first few days as I discover all the things I did wrong during this two-hour adventure, and comments will be accepted but probably will not immediately appear, as I am trying to establish a baseline for, um, Trusted Commenters. (I am trying to avoid having to send everyone to TypePad if I can help it, but the default comment process in 3.2 is convoluted in the extreme.)
I figure, though, if I moved over an 18-megabyte database with over 6600 posts, and nothing crashed right away, I have some sort of angel looking over my shoulder, and not that dimwit from Capital One either.
Addendum: It's everywhere. Terra Extraneus is going to first-comment moderation to ward off the dirtballs.
4 June 2006
The morning after the night before
Well, I think we can avoid the vagaries of TypePad. I've found a plugin called EmailWhitelister which checks an incoming email address against a list and automagically approves comments from persons appearing thereupon.
The downside is that for some unrelated reason I'm not getting my usual email notification of comments, which means a possibly-longer wait for those who aren't on the list, which is rather a lot, inasmuch as I tried to do these from memory at one-thirty in the morning, a time when normally I'm hard-pressed to tell you which side of the floor the pillows fell on.
TrackBacks are on again, at least for items within the last eight days, though all of them will go into the holding tank pending inspection.
Weekend in New Mexico
For now, it's imaging as "Barry 99": KXPZ-FM in Las Cruces, New Mexico is playing all Barry Manilow, all the time.
I assume that this is a stunt to attract attention, and that the real format, whatever it may be, will show up later this week.
On the other hand, it's hard not to buy this simulated scenario from Nick Gillespie:
Las Cruces is less than 50 miles from the border with Mexico. This is part of a psy-ops designed to circumvent concerns over building a physical fence between down there and up here: Instead build a series of Manilow-only stations across the Southwest, creating a sonic barrier every bit as punishing as the feds bombarding the Branch Davidians with repeated playings of "Achy-Breaky Heart" (where's the ACLU when you really need them?). Here's hoping that the all-Manilow station doesn't end in a fiery conflagration and the murder of children. But if it does, will it really surprise anyone?
Then again, somehow I doubt the Feds are ready to take a chance again.
You must be this smart to shop here
The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City is Utah's biggest outdoor retail center; it's the sort of integrated mixed-use community that we're only just starting to see take shape in this neck of the woods.
You'd think that retailers would be queueing up to get space in this place, and, well, some of them are. On the other hand:
Two national stores planning to come here changed their minds when they learned how few Utah residents have college degrees. In fact, the numbers have taken such a downward turn, even state leaders are taking action.
The Gateway was supposed to be a new home for store Crate and Barrel and restaurant The Cheesecake Factory.
The reason in this case is eye opening. These businesses prefer areas where at least 35-percent of the population has college degrees. Everyone assumed Utah would clear. To the dismay of even Gateway developers, we didn't come close, with just 28 percent.
Considering that Oklahomans got out of the fourth grade only after two tries and only just recently got indoor plumbing, or so the stereotype says, I've got to wonder if maybe the Utahns are being handed a line; the Cheesecake Factory is building a location on an outlot at Penn Square, even as we speak. (Well, okay, it's Sunday, they may have the day off.) We don't, however, have a Crate and Barrel. Yet.
Naturally, all of these one-bed dealios are in the outer boroughs; Manhattan probably has its share (especially counting rent controls), but they tend to not stay vacant long enough to get listed. And bear in mind, what counts is location, not dimensions:
For $1,125 per month, with a month's rent free, everything was brand-new just really small. The bedroom measured about 10 feet by 12 feet, and the whole apartment was only 350 square feet.
My garage is 290 square feet.
Yeah, I know: "location, not dimensions." I suspect New York real estate exists in some inchoate fourth dimension where there are actually people who can afford to write checks this big for quarters this small. And I have no doubt that it's a wondrous place. Then again, if property taxes are routinely being expressed in scientific notation, it had darned well better be.
5 June 2006
Strange search-engine queries (18)
In a week's time, six thousand people visit this site; a lot of them are just looking for something, and some of them are looking for something peculiar. Examples:
nude beach security clearance: You must be cleared for at least Topless Secret.
emily's pantyhose: They're in the second drawer, left side.
instrumental batman: If I remember correctly, it wasn't an instrumental; there was one word.
blowjobs in connecticut: I'm sure they exist, but you're asking the wrong person.
Lesley Gore wearing sandals: You would smile, too, if she wore them for you.
how much r134a is in a 2002 dodge caravan: Probably none in yours, or you wouldn't be asking.
Ann Coulter's nude: I can neither confirm nor deny at this time.
what happens if you eat expired pillsbury biscuits: Same thing that killed off the Doughgirl: a yeast infection.
big political scandal called something-gate: For the last thirty-odd years, that would be almost all of them.
Farts Penalty: All your friends move away.
Is Taye Diggs Gaye? Actually, I think they cast Jesse L. Martin as Marvin Gaye.
windows 98 screen blue screen show fetal error: Moral: Unborn children should not use Windows.
the rockstar Bono's illuminati contacts: See your local Fnord dealer for details.
Hear ye, hear ye
All the rest of you, presumably, are tied for third.
(Second? That would be, um, me.)
Evolving toward the land shark
Evidently the take from the Nigerian email scam wasn't enough, so the scammers are now escalating: they're sending actual mail.
From the standpoint of economics, this makes no damned sense at all:
[E]mail's cheap, postage isn't. You can send out a million emails for pennies; on the other hand, the number of letters you'd have to send out to make this scam work would soak up any profit you'd make off of the lone sucker. What’s next? Singing candygram?
Then again, it takes only one finger to push the Delete key; you've got to use both hands to tear up a letter. (Unless you're unusually gifted, dexterity-wise, in which case ... um, never mind.)
Peru rejects Chavism, sort of
Hugo Chavez perhaps doesn't have as much influence outside Venezuela as he might have thought; he strongly supported Ollanta Humala for president of Peru, but Peruvian voters, 5 to 4, spurned him in favor of Alan Garcia, who will return to the presidency after an 11-year absence.
Not that Garcia is expected to be all that wonderful. During his previous term, 1985-1990, inflation spiraled out of control and the nation's Gross Domestic Product actually dropped by a fifth. Deficit spending and Garcia's indifference to debt left Lima broke and poverty rampant. Alberto Fujimori, who succeeded Garcia as president, was able to reverse some of these trends, but only by repeated use of the iron fist.
And this sounds entirely too familiar:
In their desperation to gain an advantage, Peru's two candidates left a climate of distrust and confusion in a country where voting is compulsory. Many Peruvians said they would not vote for either man and would destroy their ballot papers.
Even more said neither candidate appealed and they would have to decide which of the pair was the lesser of two evils.
Mr Garcia evidently isn't going to start out with enormous reserves of political capital. Still, rejection of a Chavist will probably sit well with Washington, which is not at the moment exactly enamored of Hugo Chavez' Castro Lite regime in Caracas.
"I'm not dead yet!"
About four weeks ago, I lost a tree, and I did not take it well. Oh, I was not at all remiss about having the remains removed, and much of what was left of it was eventually ground down into a fine, inedible paste, but still: of all the trees I have, this is one of the ones I would have most hated to lose. So I'm quite possibly overreacting to the presence of this ... this branch suddenly pushing itself up from the ground at the intersection of grass and wood chips, and I'm trying not to see it as, say, a reenactment of the last few frames of Carrie. But I know this branch-in-the-making on sight I'd trimmed quite a few of them off that tree, and some more off its sister to the east and if I didn't know better, and let's face it, I don't, I'd swear the tree was trying to come back. And I'm thinking I may as well let it. (Click the picture and it grows, so to speak.)
6 June 2006
Play that dead man's song
"We play what the audience wants." And if too often it seems that what the audience wants is the same old thing, it's partly because the present-day marketplace doesn't make it easy to seek out the new and unheard but it's also partly because some people, having heard it, don't particularly want to hear it again.
One such person is Miriam:
[T]he best composers of classical music are dead. I used to attend lots of concerts, living in New Jersey, in close proximity to New York. We heard the best musicians in the world. But every once in a while, these same musicians would perform work by modern composers. I can only guess that they went to Juilliard with these composers, or had borrowed money from them. There was absolutely no esthetic reason for these compositions to be given air time. Nine out of ten no, make that 99 out of 100 were earscreechingly awful. If the program notes revealed that these works were to be performed after the intermission, most of the audience had departed before the concert resumed.
Seriously, I suppose these musicians are trying conscientiously to introduce modern works to a wider audience in the hope that we will learn to appreciate them. But I don't attend concerts to be administered acoustic cod-liver oil. It may be good for me but I don't want it.
One possible explanation:
Actually, I've always suspected that there is one underlying theme in all of this dry, academic, uncompelling stuff: the urge to produce the sort of music which induces foundations and other benefactors to write checks.
And this, of course, becomes a self-replicating phenomenon in no time at all. If somebody comes up with a piece for three violas and a cello that sounds like Webern on Quaaludes and manages to get a sizable grant, you can expect half a dozen more such works to be premiered to yawning audiences in the next few years.
Which suggests a return to solid Marxist principles:
Groucho: What do you get an hour?
Chico: For playing, we get-a ten dollars an hour.
Groucho: I see. What do you get for not playing?
Chico: Twelve dollars an hour. Now for rehearsing we make special rates. That's-a fifteen dollars an hour.
Groucho: And what do you get for not rehearsing?
Chico: You couldn't afford it. You see, if we don't rehearse, and if we don't-a play, that runs into money.
Not the most unheard-of thing I ever heard of, by any means.
So far, so good. I've tweaked the spam settings and the WhiteList, and most of the regulars who have reported in are getting through without tripping the moderation alarm. So far, no actual trash comments have appeared; six TrackBacks of dubious origin showed up in the Junk box, three at a time, but never made it to the site. I pronounce this upgrade a success, and to further push my luck, I've deleted the four hundred or so IP addresses I had on my ban list, which may speed up the site a few milliseconds here and there. (Actually, since at least half of the items on that list were not individual IPs, but ranges of IPs, I may have had millions of addresses banned, which of course means nothing in the context of spam.)
MT 3.3 beta is out; I don't think I want to be a guinea pig just now.
One minor functionality change: under 2.64, if you provided an email address but not a URL in your comment header, the comment would appear with the email address linked to the commenter's name. Under this implementation of 3.2, while you still need to provide an email address to get through the WhiteLister, it's no longer linked anywhere; the commenter name, if there's no URL, is provided as bare text only. Next time there's a site rebuild (something I resist greatly), this should apply to all entries, old and new.
Update, 10 pm: The WhiteLister is apparently no longer working. See this.
Anyone for an F?
A school has changed the names of its primary one classes after complaints that they left some children feeling inferior, BBC Scotland has learned.
Bonnyrigg Primary School had called its classes 1a and 1b but some parents of children in 1b said it left the youngsters feeling second best.
The classes will now be known as 1ar and 1ap, incorporating teachers' surnames in the new titles.
In reality, the a and b divisions were based on age, but apparently one's self-esteem takes precedence over one's date of birth.
I wonder when someone's going to notice that B classes in American Kennel Club performance events are actually more advanced than A classes.
(Via Girl on the Right.)
Down in the tubes
The City is asking for bids for the renovation of the pedestrian tunnels beneath downtown, and has issued bonds to cover the expense.
The estimated cost, says City Manager Jim Couch, is $1,627,179. [Link requires Adobe Reader.] The renovation will include new carpet, wall paint, lighting, portals, panels, signage, sound system, and upgrades of the electrical and HVAC systems. Also planned: sixteen above-ground kiosks.
Bids will be opened on the 27th of June. DowntownOKC's Dave Lopez is predicting completion by February 2007.
See how they run
The State Election Board is posting to the Web a regularly-updated list of candidates during this filing period (hat tip: BatesLine), and a few things jumped out at me, as things occasionally do:
The filing period ends tomorrow.
So much for that idea
Well, the Whitelister is no longer working; I suspect that it was causing some major server load for the host and they simply blocked it. Until I come up with some alternative, everyone (myself included) will have to wait for the agony of moderation.
7 June 2006
You are not expected to know this
For many years I lived in a crummy Berkeley neighborhood which had a lot of low income, Section 8 apartment buildings, drive-by shootings, that sort of thing. There was a Safeway a few blocks away and a local liquor store and "convenience" store which sold groceries at prices I thought laughable. It never ceased to amaze me how able bodied adults would prefer to spend a lot more money on groceries at ripoff prices rather than walk an extra two blocks to Safeway. They weren't being ripped off, though. They were paying more for the convenience. I never felt sorry for them at all, as I considered them fully capable of making choices.
Others used to tell me that the corner store was "taking advantage" of "the poor." Were they? What advantage was being taken? If I were wiped out financially and had to get by on food stamps or something, I'd buy rice, beans, powdered milk and tortillas for whatever were the lowest prices I could find, and I'd have food for the month. If someone else wants to buy grape soda and cheese puffs at $4.95 a bag, why is he being taken advantage of any more than I am? Don't we both have the same ability to select which items to buy? Unless the person is mentally retarded or something, I've never understood the "taking advantage" argument. Sounds like "exploitation" (another meaningless word). Or insisting that "the poor" have a "right" to live in Manhattan at an "affordable rent."
Then there's "economic apartheid." This ill-defined concept (dreamed up by Harvard Ph.Ds who specialize in undefined undefinables) involves things like "forcing" poor people to things like use check cashing centers instead of banks, and furniture rental stores instead of thrift stores. I mean, really, if you can't afford a new couch or a TV, there are plenty of used ones for sale cheap. Why would anyone pay more to rent a new item for one month than it costs to buy it used?
It's not quite that cut and dried evidence suggests that lenders are neither perfectly infallible nor particularly color-blind, at least when mortgages are at stake but some people don't do the math, and when they see that they can get a computer, and not some off-brand clunker but an actual Dell, for a mere $18.99 a week (I actually saw this on an ad yesterday, it doesn't occur to them to look at the tiny print on the bottom of the screen to see how many weeks it will take. (In a year, it's up to $987; you can buy a heck of a lot of hardware for quite a bit less than that.) Besides, they're not just selling (or renting) goods, they're selling convenience:
[W]e have a great selection of name brand home furnishings, appliances and electronics that can be yours with no hassles and no big down payment.
For some people, that may be worth the extra cost. (This survey of "unbanked" individuals, who rely on check-cashing services and such, suggests some reasons why.) I think the key is in the phrase "no hassles": if you expect to be ill-treated by guys in suits, you might well prefer the guys in the strip mall, even if they're going to charge you out the wazoo.
Ultimately it still comes down to consumer choices, and inevitably some of those choices are going to be better than others. Quantitatively, what's the difference between paying a buck at the 7-Eleven for a 20-ounce soda because it's close by and paying a buck at Whole Foods for a 20-ounce soda because you get that warm feeling from shopping there? You can't legislate thrift unless, of course, you want to force everyone to shop at Wal-Mart.
Panic in the seats
To whom it may concern:
If you slide this far into the abyss when I'm not here for one hour, what are you going to do when I'm not here for three weeks?
No need to reply.
I seem to have misplaced my Dentyne
Lileks is talking Busby Berkeley this morning, and in the midst of a discussion of Footlight Parade, he tosses up a larger version of this particular picture, along with the following exposition:
The second number, "By a Waterfall," concerns a young woman who meets her boyfriend by the aforementioned water feature. He falls asleep, and she enters a fantasy world wherein she takes all her clothes off and joins several dozen equally unclad women in a waterfall of their own. Well of Loneliness, indeed: it's standing room only. When you see it now, you have to peel back 70 years to grasp the power of this particular image. That's the lass en route to the waterfall. The upper-floor nudity is implied, of course. But the impact in part comes from the scale. These legs projected on a big screen were probably enough to make half the people in the audience swallow their gum.
Not that I'd like to see a return to the old Production Code, necessarily, but today, with unclad bodies on the big screen nearly as common as strategically-placed Pepsi-Cola cans, and having just about as much impact, we've pretty much killed this kind of scene, and we didn't even get paid for the hit. (And yes, this may seem odd coming from a person with a tendency to spurn clothing, but then I'm not in the habit, as it were, of putting myself on display, except in the form of text.)
And we grumble about George Shinn
The mismanagement of the New York Knicks is about more than just basketball. James Dolan is a spoiled brat with zero business acumen. His legacy will consist of botched deals, frivolous spending, and PR nightmares. This man is in no way fit to run the Knicks.
Which is followed by a list of Dolan's putative transgressions and misdeeds.
Dolan, you may be sure, is not pleased.
Fallout from the Albertson's buyout
The new owners of Albertson's supermarkets in this area will close five Oklahoma stores: two in Tulsa, two in Broken Arrow, and one in Edmond. A total of 30 locations in the 188-store Dallas-Fort Worth Division, which includes Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma, are being shuttered.
Dan Lovejoy once noted that the Edmond location was "nothing special."
Mere death is no impediment
There is customer retention, and there is well, this:
Her father passed away recently, and she had to cancel or close all of his various accounts. When she called to cancel his AOL account, they asked her why she was cancelling the account. “It was my father’s account, and he died.” “Is that the only reason?” was their reply. She was dumbfounded. They did cancel the account, incidentally.
Occasionally dead people (their estates, anyway) are taxed; in some parts of the country, dead people vote; there's no obvious reason why dead people couldn't use AOL. Besides, they never call for tech support.
8 June 2006
Scariest news of the week
Meanwhile, Vince Orza snarks in the Gazette:
Political logic disproves the theory of "intelligent design." If [Ernest] Istook had any sense, he'd run for re-election instead of governor, [Mary] Fallin would remain lieutenant governor, and they'd save all of us a lot of grief.
I think it proves merely that some designs are more intelligent than others. And I derive no grief whatever from the knowledge that I can go to the polls this fall and vote, as I always do, for Anyone But Istook, and be assured that this time, Anyone But Istook will actually win.
Oh, and is anyone besides me hoping that Mary Fallin smacks down Mick Cornett in the GOP primary? Geez, Mickey, you're so fine you blow my mind, but dammit, you're getting too big for your britches too fast.
Five by five
That's twenty-five, isn't it?
5 things in my fridge:
5 things in my closet:
5 things in my briefcase:
5 things in my car:
5 people I want to torture with this meme:
(Imported through Rocket Jones.)
Some strange sense of entitlement
Late last year, various cities and towns in Georgia filed suit against eighteen travel-booking sites, claiming that the sites' booking of discounted hotel rooms en masse was cutting into tax revenues. The defendants filed for dismissal; in May, a judge ordered that the suits could proceed.
Let's say you make your reservation directly with the hotel for a hundred dollars. You'll pay a 6 percent hotel/motel tax of $6. The hotel gets the $100 and pays the city $6. If you book your reservation through a travel website, you'll still pay a hundred dollars and a 6 percent hotel/motel tax. But since the website bought the room at a discounted rate, say $60, it only pays the city 6 percent of that, or $3.60.
My first reaction, of course, is "You can get hotel reservations in Savannah for $100?"
The assumption here is that demand is completely inelastic, that if those rooms hadn't been booked at $60, every last one of them would inevitably have been booked at $100. The idea that someone might pass up a hundred-dollar room entirely and stay in some less-expensive lodging or some less-expensive location never quite occurs to them. (When I went to Charleston during World Tour '01, I stayed, not in the high-zoot South Of Broad district, but in decidedly-unhip North Charleston. Didn't affect my ability to see the sights in the slightest.)
Were you to extend this premise logically, eventually retail stores would not be allowed to put items on sale: the lower price inevitably means lower sales tax being remitted.
Allow me to express this in the form of a metalaw:
No one is ever obliged to arrange his affairs to maximize his taxes.
Governments should keep this in mind. Not that they will.
(Suggested by Fark.com.)
It's been a long time
You know what's the most poignant thing about seeing those Cadillac commercials set to Led Zeppelin's "Rock And Roll"?
Knowing that Cadillac's demographic hasn't changed; it's Zeppelin's that has.
In a related story, each individual rung to the Stairway to Heaven is now available as a time-share.
The Gas Game (June)
For those of you just joining us, Oklahoma Natural Gas pitched a fixed price for 12 months of $8.393 per dekatherm last fall, which I declined on the basis that surely it can't get that high for any length of time. This exhibition shows (sort of) precisely how wrong I was.
After this many months, rounding errors start to creep in, though they should still be well below two cents. And obviously I'm not going to come out even two cents ahead this year.
9 June 2006
Some of that Weston swing
I’m sorry Paul Weston, a great joker, passed on before he had a chance to do anything with an idea I gave him: having Jonathan and Darlene [Edwards] do an album of minor tunes made more upbeat by changing all the chords and melodies to major. "Moanin'," "Saint Louis Blues," "Alone Together," "Comes Love," and "Gloomy Sunday" all sound much more cheerful when played and sung this way.
And I did not know this at all:
Years ago, when Johnny Mercer first started Capitol Records, Paul did some country and western records for the label featuring a guy he called "Shug Fisher," who stuttered while he sang, adding extra beats of guitar strumming during the stuttered sections of the lyrics, and putting the meter deliriously out of whack.
Most days I get at least some Ann Coulter-related search-engine traffic, mostly due to this and this and this and even this, but it's picked up considerably this week, no doubt due to the arrival of her new book and the inevitable hypefest that accompanied it.
Yesterday was something of a peak. People were asking for her shoe size (I have no idea), her height (Andrea Harris once assured me that Ann's not as tall as I thought), nude photos (got none), and even fake nude photos (got none, and I can't see hauling out Photoshop Elements to do one).
This, too, shall pass; in the meantime, I may as well try to snag a reader or two.
United Nations General Assembly Resolution No. 194, passed near the end of the Arab-Israeli War in 1948, attempted to deal with the situation by establishing a Conciliation Commission and setting forth a list of desiderata.
A screen as big as all outdoors
Well, okay, not that big, but:
Inflatable home theater screen and your own projector let you create a "drive-in" experience right in your own backyard. Big, weatherproof 8-ft. screen inflates in just 4 minutes with the powered air pump. Connect the two weatherized outdoor amplified speakers with full range sound and you're ready to watch a movie or the big game with your family or friends. Screen secures to the ground for steady viewing. Theater deflates for easy storage. Screen is durable, weatherproof PVC. Two nylon rope screen tie-downs keep it stable. Amplified speakers are weatherized for outdoor use. Theater works with most projectors (not included). 8-ft. l x 7-ft. h.
I see one possible downside. If you think looking for a missing remote in the living room is a pain, imagine the joy of trying to find one in the grass late at night.
And, of course, free ice cream
News item: The federal government should guarantee that all Americans have basic health insurance coverage, says a committee set up by Congress to find out what people want when it comes to health care.
"Report doesn't say who would pay for such a plan, or its cost"
Hey, Sparky, why don't you go ask these same 23,000 people if they're in favor of paying an additional $1k/yr in taxes? Think the response will be similarly overwhelming? People are always in favor of free stuff. The headline couldn't be any dumber if it read "Americans in favor of gold houses, rocket cars."
Meanwhile in Hades, polls report steady support for ice water and new pitchfork-control measures.
Come in, John Doe #2
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) will lead a Congressional investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, saying that "we need to answer some very serious questions in order to have confidence that the truth of this monstrous crime is fully known.
The McCurtain Daily Gazette in Idabel, Oklahoma reports that Rohrabacher had asked House International Relations Committee chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) for authority to conduct the probe, and that he was looking for evidence connecting convicted bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols to Arab terrorists and/or to Andreas Carl Strassmeier, a German national who was head of security at Elohim City in Adair County near the Arkansas border.
An excerpt from Rohrabacher's letter to Hyde:
It is highly likely that the Arab connection and/or the Strassmeir connection played a significant role in the planning and execution of the murderous bombing of the OKC federal building. In both possible scenarios, the official investigation fell short and further investigation has been discouraged ever since.
(The complete Daily Gazette story has been reprinted here.)
I'm not much of a conspiracy theorist by nature, but I do believe in getting to the bottom of things, especially when there's a nagging suspicion that those who wrote the Official Story penciled a false floor into the blueprints.
More at Wild Bill's.
10 June 2006
Once there was a Roadmaster
Now here's a story:
In 1906 automobiles were still in their infancy and an unproven mode of transportation. Early in that year a representative from BUICK MOTOR CARS came to Quincy [Illinois] to find someone to market their automobile, Henry A. Geise Sr. was the person they chose. At the time Henry was already a well known Quincy businessman who operated a sporting goods store that sold hunting and fishing supplies as well as bicycles and motorcycles. Henry agreed to show the new Buick and was soon taking orders. Henry realized he had found a life long business. Later as Henry married and had sons Henry Jr. and Robert he realized the posibility of passing on the business to them. Today the tradition is continuing into the third generation of Geises with the latest Buicks and Pontiacs.
Geise Buick Pontiac at 930 Maine the oldest Buick dealership in the nation is selling its assets to Poage Auto Plaza and will be closing after a century of service.
The dealership has been a downtown Quincy institution since Henry Geise Sr. launched the business in 1906. His sons, Henry Geise Jr. and the late Robert Geise, along with grandson Henry Geise III, continued to keep the Buick dealership going after the elder Geise retired in 1953.
"By the end of the year, Geise Buick will be a thing of the past," said Henry Geise Jr.
Geise, 83, said the time seemed right to bring an end to the family-owned business where he first started working for his father in 1939.
"It's still a profitable business, but it's much more competitive than it used to be," he said. "At my age, I just felt I'd be better off to try to sit back and relax and take it easy."
In 1906, when the Geise dealership was organized, Buick had been selling cars for a total of three years, and founder David Dunbar Buick, inventor of the OHV engine, had already been squeezed out of the company. Tough business, then and now.
A treat for the Census
I sorta hope this catches on:
At the call center ... I am required to ask the following question of a number of candidates who are applying for any of a number of jobs with any of a number of potential employer. Response is voluntary and does not affect the outcome of the application:
Which of the following racial categories best describes you?
One respondent considered for several seconds and then: "I don't know, I'm from Arkansas."
My favorite response to "Race?" is "Mile relay."
All the things you are
It takes more to do drag than just putting on a dress. (Don't even ask.) And while the exact ratio of attitude to cosmetics is debatable, it's always seemed pretty clear to me that if you're going to do this sort of thing, you need a name that will stick in people's minds.
Disclosure #1: Only some of these are fictitious.
Disclosure #2: In my early online days, one of the nyms I used was "Patty O'Furniture." I claim no credit for its invention.
(Via Steph Mineart.)
The music is reversible
But time is not, and in days gone by, if you wanted to play a record backwards, your options were decidedly limited.
A stereo four-track open-reel recorder used tracks 1 and 3 in the forward direction, and 4 and 2 in reverse, either by way of a complicated autoreverse mechanism or by the lower-tech expedient of switching the reels at the end of the tape. When quadraphonics came along, the four-track machine was adapted to do all four tracks in the same direction; however, two-track stereo tapes were handled the same way as before, which meant that if you were desperately searching for those secret backwards messages, all you had to do was record forward on tracks 2 and 4 and then swap the reels.
Computers, of course, simplified this task immensely, but the purists, even today, spurn digital trickery. For them, there's the Record Reverser [includes 5-minute video clip], a device that clamps your disc above the turntable platter. You can then rebalance your tone arm to exert tracking force upwards instead of downwards; this will only work, of course, if you have a cartridge mount that permits you to reverse the orientation of the cartridge.
Were this picked up from Fark, there would probably be a caption to the effect that "All other problems having been solved...." I'm not quite so snide; I believe everything can be improved. And if you don't believe me, ask Penn Jillette, who patented a hot tub which directs the water jet into the naughty bits of a female user instead of to random areas around the periphery. There may be nothing new under the sun, but there's never any shortage of brightness.
Which way will he go?
More or less this-a-way, sorta counterclockwise, subject, as always, to change without notice.
U Can't Stand This
Just for the heck of it, I decided to sample AOL Radio tonight. (Yes, I have an AOL account. I've had it for seven years. No, I will not tell you why.) One of the channels being offered was a countdown of the 111 Worst Songs Ever, which of course I had to check out.
The very first thing I heard was Terry Jacks' "Seasons in the Sun," which to me has never been more than slightly annoying, but which a lot of people, including some readers of this very site, absolutely abhor.
AOL doesn't give out the entire list, but this guy does, and I have to admit, there's some pretty freaking terrible stuff on there. (And yes, there is a handful of tracks I like.)
11 June 2006
Can you relate to the blues if you're, well, not all that blue? Manitoba's Mutt-Man contemplates the matter:
As much as I like harmonica and electric guitar, I am finding it difficult to really take in the full Blues experience. My problem is ... no problem. How do you relate to the pain and sorrow of a Blues artist when your life is actually pretty good? Should I take up smoking? I have considered causing myself pain while listening, by, say, squeezing the flesh between my thumb and forefinger with pliers, but this seems rather superficial compared to the heartfelt angst of someone like Etta James.
I'm just cynical enough to say "Just you wait, Bunky," but as Darcey explains in a comment:
[T]he key to the blues is that there is always someone else who feels worse than you do, hence you feel better. The blues is about joy over sorrow.
And even the most minor sorrows demand some sort of response, as Martin Mull demonstrated in "Ukulele Blues":
I woke up this morning
Saw both cars were gone
I said I woke up this morning
I saw both cars were gone
I felt so low down deep inside
I threw my drink across the lawn
It's not something you have to be from the Delta to understand.
Bombing outside the Bronx
Former New York Mayor and perennial Yankees fan Rudy Giuliani is seeking to become an owner of the Chicago Cubs.
Possible comparisons, in terms of sheer incongruity:
More to the point: Is the nation ready for a Republican presidential candidate with "baseball club owner" on his CV?
(Via Plum Crazy, where Jon notes, "At least it's not the Boston Red Sox.")
Istook in the mud
When Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) starts his investigation into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, apparently he won't get much support from the city's own Representative.
Said Congressman Ernest Istook:
I'm afraid we have to get used to this. Every few years someone wants to revisit the Kennedy assassination, and every few years someone will want to revisit the Murrah Building bombing. I feel for the families who have to relive tragic memories every time this happens.
"Avert your eyes, and let us never speak of this again." Remember, feelings trump truth.
I'm waiting for someone to pop up a link to the effect that "Istook" is actually an old Sanskrit word for "ostrich."
It's just like tattoo removal
It's been a while since I looked at any television at all, so I'm sure I'm coming late to this: KAUT, channel 43, which is losing its network affiliation this fall when UPN is merged into the CW, has scraped the UPN logo off its local-program bug, though the station is still promoting UPN43.com as its Web site.
Most observers, myself included, had thought that KAUT would pick up the CW; however, Sinclair, which had been snubbing the new network, had a change of heart last month, and agreed to switch its WB affliates to CW.
I don't know if Fox's My Network TV (a name there's still time to change) has come calling yet.
Well, blow me down
Sometimes the suits eventually get it right.
Hearst's King Features Syndicate and Warner Home Video have finally come to terms, and 231 classic Popeye cartoons originally distributed to theaters by Paramount will be available on DVD.
The package also includes some made-for-TV cartoons, but what you care about here are the originals, produced from 1933 to 1942 by the Fleischer Studios and from then until 1957 (using some of the same animators) by Paramount's own Famous Studios.
A few of these shorts notably, three two-reelers done by Fleischer in Technicolor have drifted into the public domain and onto video releases of varying quality, but the vast majority of them have been locked away for ages.
Here's hoping that Warners' restoration job packs a punch, and that the first DVDs, due out next year, are strong to the, um, finich.
12 June 2006
Strange search-engine queries (19)
Once again, we are proud/embarrassed [choose one] to present Actual Search Strings that brought people to this very site, as recorded by this very site's meter.
Yogi Bear You'll have a gay old time Mister Ranger, Sir! (Actually, this line comes from the theme to The Flintstones.)
men scared of smart women: They don't scare me; usually they don't hang around long enough to instill fear.
gonad tattoo shop: I believe I speak for everyone here when I say "Ow!"
Hornets Staying in OKC: David Stern begs to differ.
what percentage of men have a nine inch penis? Are we letting them do their own measuring?
cities with the best female to male ratio: Depends on what you're looking for.
your log saw something that night: Wasn't my log, I assure you.
taco bell allows 2% human flesh in meat: They have meat at Taco Bell?
gingerbread man and marriage: They're sweet, but no good for the long haul.
mary rode joseph's ass all the way to bethlehem: It was one of those pregnancy things. Cut her some slack already.
number of sexual partners in a year: Um, which year?
Teenager nude around the house: Not until he finishes his damn homework.
pictures of Britney Spears in a bikini that isn't showing her privates or blocked by McAfee Privacy Service: Now there's someone who really knows what he wants. Such people should be rewarded, although not with much.
For lo, it beginneth
Oil changed and tires rotated? Check.
Then that's that. The next post will be from Texas or Arkansas, depending on which side of the road the hotel is on.
Update, 6 pm: Well, actually, it wasn't.
Abort, something else here, fail
Coalgate, Oklahoma 114.5 miles
6:16 am: In the words of Don Martin, "SPROING KZIT KZIT." As the button scurries across the wooden floor, I shrug. It's just pants, fercrissake. So I carry one fewer pair than I'd planned. It's no big deal.
8:15 am: Out the door.
10:00 am: I did remember to pack my Dopp kit, didn't I?
10:15 am: Well, this is settling into a nice, easy OMGWTF!!?!
Upside: Knocked her all the way to the opposite shoulder, clear of traffic.