1 July 2006
Applying yourself

I am not a lawyer — I don't even play one on TV — but I suspect that some aspects of this law-firm application are not entirely fictional.

(Via All Things Jennifer.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:22 AM to Say What? )
Just a sip or two

Your friendly neighborhood governmental types say you should never, ever top off your tank, and for the last few years, I have evolved something of a routine: I stop when the pump clicks off, then squeeze in enough to round the price up to the next five cents. Assuming the pumps are calibrated to stop at more or less the same place, and given the fact that a nickel won't buy much gas, I can generally assume that I've reached an acceptable degree of tankfulness, if that's a word, and my gas-mileage computations will benefit, if not from guaranteed accuracy, at least a diminished degree of inaccuracy.

I bought Gwendolyn her first tankful on Day One, observing this protocol, and subsequently watched the gauge with some concern:

I wouldn't call her a two-fisted drinker, exactly: maybe 1.3, 1.4 fists. Of course, this could just be due to some quirk in Japanese fuel-gauge mechanisms that causes them to plummet during the first half of their range and then slow down a bit as the bottom approaches.

Which was a guess, nothing more. However, I filled up last night as the gauge grazed the one-quarter mark. (The 91-octane stuff she prefers was still under three bucks, albeit by a mere tenth of a cent.)

The owner's manual claims a fuel-tank capacity of 18½ gallons or 70 liters; the online service manual at Alldata says, again, 70 liters. The conversion factor is exact enough. The precious fuelstuffs flowed in, dollar by dollar, and then: click. I stared in disbelief at the pump. This can't possibly be correct, I thought: still, the click was indisputable. I went up five cents, then ten, finally fifteen, and quit.

Apparently at the one-quarter mark, Gwendolyn had used just under 10.6 of her allotted 18.5 gallons, 57 percent rather than the expected 75, suggesting that her gas gauge is even more alarmist than I ever imagined. I started her up, and the needle climbed to pretty much where it had last time, a needle's width above the F.

And those 10.6 gallons propelled her 263.7 miles, which means that through my usual around-town driving cycle, she averaged 24.9 miles per gallon.

I don't believe it either. Late June, A/C running more or less non-stop, the odd burst of speed, and still: twenty-four point nine.

Factoring out the World Tours, Sandy's average was twenty-three point nine — and she weighed 350 lb less and had something like three-fifths the horsepower.

Okay, smaller engine works that much harder. I understand that. Still, I have to admit that when I pulled into the station, I was thinking "If I can just get 19, I'll be happy."

And I'm thinking next time I might wait until the scary orange low-fuel light comes on.

(EPA numbers are here.)

George Washington's axe

I haven't actually seen it, but I'm guessing it might be in a museum somewhere. Over the years, the blade has been replaced three times, the handle four times, and — wait a minute.

What is an axe? A blade with a handle.

And if you've changed both the blade and the handle, several times yet, does the resulting object, obviously never once touched by George Washington, still qualify as George Washington's axe?

This question is far more serious than you think. Francis W. Porretto would say that it does:

[M]etaphysically, it spotlights the nature of identity as men understand it.

The undefined abstraction we call identity is inseparable from continuity.

And he throws a counterquestion into the mix: were you to find the original blade and (less likely, wood being rather impermanent stuff) the original handle and combine them into a unit, could you legitimately call the resulting object "George Washington's axe"?

Push this into the future. Right before you die, the contents of your brain are uploaded into a computerized storage facility of some sort. Time passes, as time is wont to do; eventually someone downloads those contents into an independent and, let's say, ambulatory, or at least self-propelled, container.

Is that you there?

And does it make any difference if time hadn't passed, if the transfer from the dying body to the new vessel had been instantaneous?

The robot R. Daneel Olivaw, in Asimov's Foundation and Earth, said that over the centuries, every part of him had been replaced and/or upgraded, and that he'd used version n of his brain to design version n+1, which was then activated in place of the older one.

This question goes back as least as far as Plutarch, which tells me that it's more than just a mere museum piece.

Off the bubble, as it were

A Los Gatos, California home for a mere $350K? As always, there's a catch:

CONTRACTORS SPECIAL
Nice home with a view, bright and sunny 14 minutes to downtown Los Gatos, 17 minutes to Santa Cruz. Home appears to be intact and in good condition. Landslide on lower part of property. Large retaining walls needed. Good opportunity for contractor or investor that has experience with retaining walls and Santa Cruz county. The extent of the slide needs to be determined. Sellers want to move on with their lives and are willing to take a loss. Before landslide, home was valued at $750K. Lenders will not lend on this property now. Best cash offer gets it. No contingencies, close escrow in 10 days or less. Offers reviewed on June 26 at 5PM. Home is vacant. Come out and take a look but be careful. Enter property at your own risk.

Zillow.com still has it at $790K.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:44 PM to Dyssynergy )
Old business in New London

Those of us who grumbled about Kelo v. New London will get some small measure of satisfaction out of this:

Susette Kelo’s little pink cottage, the home that was the subject of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court case and a national symbol of the fight over eminent domain, will be spared from the wrecking ball. In a compromise between Kelo and New London, the home will be saved and moved to another location, perhaps close to where it originally stood over a century ago, near Pequot Avenue.

"I am not happy about giving up my property, but I am very glad that my home, which means so much to me, will not be demolished and I will remain living in it," said Kelo, the lead plaintiff in Kelo v. New London. "I proposed this as a compromise years ago and was turned down flat."

Kelo was one of the last two holdouts. What happened to the other?

[T]he agreement reached with the other remaining homeowner, the Cristofaros, reflects the family’s deep affiliation with the Fort Trumbull neighborhood, where they have lived for over 30 years. Although the Cristofaros will lose their current home, under the agreement, the City and the NLDC have agreed to support an application for more housing in Fort Trumbull, and the Cristofaro family has an exclusive right to purchase one of the homes at a fixed price. Moreover, a plaque will be installed in the Fort Trumbull neighborhood to commemorate the loss of family matriarch Margherita Cristofaro, who passed away while the battle against eminent domain abuse occurred in New London.

Not exactly a happy ending, but it could have been worse.

(Thanks to Todd Zywicki.)

2 July 2006
As promised

Byron Scott, two weeks ago;

If we can get a big at 12 and 15, we'll take that and then we'll take our chances in free agency as far as getting a shooter.

Well, they got bigs at 12 and 15, and they did in fact go to the free-agent market for a shooter: Pacers forward Peja Stojakovic, who will be joining the Hornets (pending a physical) on a five-year deal worth $64 million, what ESPN calls "arguably ... the boldest acquisition in club history".

The Bees are under the salary cap and can actually afford this kind of money, and no doubt it was a powerful incentive, but Stojakovic and Scott go back a long way: both of them had played in Greece, and when Stojakovic originally signed with Sacramento, Scott was an assistant coach for the Kings. And Peja hadn't been a Pacer very long: he was acquired by Indiana in January in a trade for Ron Artest.

No trades are technically official until the 12th, but this one looks like a done deal, and with the three draftees from last week, the Hornets' signed-for-this-season roster is up to 12. Mike Kahn predicts:

This translates into them allowing free agents Rasual Butler and Speedy Claxton to walk if they are so inclined, while moving fine young forward David West to sixth man or to power forward. Desmond Mason and Kirk Snyder will duke it out for the starting shooting guard spot, giving them depth they haven't had in years. More importantly, they're now stocked enough, they could maybe even orchestrate a sign-and-trade with Butler or Claxton with immature and problematic J.R. Smith if they are so inclined.

But now, they don't even have to do anything. Sure, [Hilton] Armstrong is young and raw, but will spell undersized P.J. Brown at center and even allow him to slide over to his natural power forward position occasionally. What everybody really envisions, of course, is the indefatigable Paul barreling up the floor and kicking it out to Stojakovic stroking 3-pointers all day long.

And wouldn't that be nice?

Update, 7:30 pm: The Oklahoman is reporting that Grizzlies point guard Bobby Jackson will be signed by the Hornets, which presumably would free up Speedy Claxton to seek a starting role elsewhere.

Update, 7:30 pm, 3 July: "Elsewhere" seems to be Atlanta.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:15 AM to Net Proceeds )
Any time the music carries on

My brother (four years younger) has a pretty good memory for tunage, and it's not too uncommon for him to hear something I'm spinning over here and say, "Geez, I haven't heard that in years," then pick up on the next couple lines of the lyric.

This doesn't happen too often to me, since I've gone to the trouble (and expense) of acquiring all these records in some form or another, but "all," I have to remind myself occasionally, doesn't mean "every last one of them," at least not in any meaningful sense, because there are songs that even I haven't heard in forty years or so and yet will hit me like a bolt from the blue, especially when I can remember that, hey, I used to sing along with that.

Nineteen sixty-four, from the standpoint of American Top 40 radio, was the Year of the Beatles; one week in April the Fab Four actually had the top five in Billboard. But playlists were wide enough back then that lots of non-British stuff charted, and one fellow who showed up a lot in 1964 was Major Lance, a recent arrival on the Chicago soul scene who had been signed to CBS's reactivated Okeh label. What made Lance's records work was the unfailing good taste of writer-producer Curtis Mayfield, supplemented by occasional vocal backup by Mayfield's own Impressions. An unabashed dance number, "The Monkey Time," was Lance's breakthrough hit in 1963; he hit #5 with "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um," a song for all of us who are speechless in the wake of emotion, early in '64. Smaller hits followed; I remembered, and eventually acquired, "The Matador," but after that trifecta, that was it for Major Lance.

Or so I misremembered. I hadn't heard it for 42 years, but this past week, I happened upon "Rhythm," which wasn't a huge chart hit — #24 — and which for that reason never gets played on "oldies" radio anymore, and how in the world could I have forgotten a record with as much, um, rhythm as this?

And, lack of reinforcement notwithstanding, I still knew all the words.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:41 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Yeah, press this

I still have a rotary phone around here somewhere.

(Via Rocket Jones.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:31 AM to Dyssynergy )
What's the opposite of "hype"?

"Lope"?

It is an axiom of Life In These United States (let's see if this draws in the Reader's Digest crowd) that real-estate advertising is a major contributor to the Grossest Domestic Product, which is more often abbreviated, not GDP, but BS.

I was trying to clear some space in what passes for an office around here and happened upon a printout of the actual MLS listing for this place, which I was schlepping around during the househunting days of ought-three. Let's see what they had to say:

You'll love the HUGE yard! This home is great! Beautiful Parquet Wood floors & tile in the kitchen. Lots of closets and windows w/roll out vents. Many updates have been made to this home in the past few years, to include heat & air, attic fan, sewer line, wiring, fencing.

I am less fond of the HUGE yard during periods when I have to mow it, but actually, this is pretty accurate: according to the disclosure statement, all of those updates took place between 1999 and 2003, with the exception of the A/C compressor, which is a bit older, and while "beautiful" is in the eye of the beholder, everyone who's seen the flooring since I've been here seemed to be favorably impressed.

And, well, they didn't say anything about "really weird landscaping."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:35 PM to Surlywood )
3 July 2006
Strange search-engine queries (22)

You (by which I mean "they") keep asking for this stuff, and I keep telling you (by which I mean "you") about it.

desiderata key fob:  Go placidly amid the noise and haste, for your doors are already unlocked.

my friend set me up with amazon women taller than me:  And you didn't know how to thank him, right?

do black men have bigger penises than white men:  Darker, anyway.

David Copperfield's invisible girl:  If he's got one, I've never seen her.

myers-briggs gay correlation:  Maybe, maybe not. Try this.

mazda 626 and ford contour has same engine and transmission:  Same transmission, yes, if the 626 is a four-cylinder '94 or later; they never had the same engines.

Marg Helgenberger 36B:  Well, it can't be those Willows genes.

the danube is green:  What's more, it ain't clean.

implications of getting nair on your labia:  The word OWWW! comes immediately to mind.*

opposite of nondescript:  How about "descript"? Is that couth enough?

brazilian bikini wax "main line":  I'm sure you can find them throughout the Philadelphia metro area.

fawkes news:  Incendiary and balanced.

what is rule number 6:  There is no Rule 6.

welcome to wordpress mortgage:  And I thought Movable Type was expensive.


* Yes, I did use that last week.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:57 AM to You Asked For It )
Should you kiss your asteroid goodbye?

Probably not. The burning hunk o' space junk that's due in the neighborhood today will keep its distance, and that distance is around 400,000 km, about the mileage on the average Philadelphia taxi.

This particular flying object rates a flat zero on the Torino scale, where 1 is the equivalent of being hit at 60 mph by a thirty-year-old Ford sedan.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:29 AM to Dyssynergy )
2BPL8D

Twenty-two dollars (and, says the application form, a four-month wait) gets you a vanity plate in Oklahoma. Not that you have that many options:

  • Seven characters.
  • No punctuation other than hyphen (one) and space.
  • "Any special plate request deemed to be offensive to the general public will not be issued."

I had thought up a good one for a previous car, but never got around to applying for it: DCXXVI. No doubt this is due to a certain unwillingness to be conspicuous: drawing attention to one's vehicle is usually not a good idea, unless you're up to your eyeballs in fog — and if you are, a twelve-by-six metal rectangle isn't going to be much use anyway.

Still, the Topic Jar is about depleted, so if you'd like to recommend a plate that would be suitable for a 2000 Infiniti I30 with a whale-tail spoiler of dubious utility, I'm listening.

(The Sooner State, incidentally, also offers a series of environmental and wildlife-conservation plates; one of the latter includes an image of a deer. This plate is not being considered under any circumstances.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:57 AM to Driver's Seat )
The release of Dong Resin

Mr. Resin has spent much of the past two years as editor of Screenhead, one of the least-viewed of the Nick Denton/Gawker Media bloglike items, and he's saying goodbye at the end of this month:

The fact that Gawker let this go on for twenty-two months with the low ratings I pulled in while doing it says a lot about their general approach to content: it’s pretty ballsy to be The Name Brand Blog Hub on the ever-competitive interweb and not mind loss-leading a little with some twit named after cock snot who tends to link to a chalk artist in Madrid like it means something.

He adds in comments:

I'm very bored of this sort of blogging, whatever I do next will go more along the lines of actually creating things rather than pointing to them. I never really intended to do the site for this long, perversely the shitty ratings made me want to keep doing it. If it had been a hit, I'd have left some time ago.

Personally, I think they should let Resin run Sploid when Ken Layne retires/is sacked/tells Denton to perform an anatomical impossibility.

Update, 6:15 pm: Not gonna happen: Denton's going to unload Sploid as well as Screenhead.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:11 PM to Blogorrhea )
This goes on your Permanent Record

Remember when Brittania used to rule? Now they just collect data:

Details of all 12 million children under the age of 18 in England will be recorded soon on a database called the Children's Index. Parents have yet to grasp that professional opinions on, say, their abilities as a parent, or concerns about their children's development and health could be entered by teachers, GPs and social workers — without their knowledge or consent. Nor that the Children's Index will be linked to other databases dealing with such controversial issues as a young child's potential to become a delinquent.

The Ministry of Love: because we care.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 PM to Dyssynergy )
The short arm of the law

"Now, what was that silly business about a ticket?"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:11 PM to Soonerland )
4 July 2006
Back and Fourth

Noteworthy about this year's version of Independence Day:

  • I managed to stay in bed until eight-thirty, always a blessing, and still got the flag hoisted before nine.

  • My son is twenty-five today, which means his auto insurance, instead of costing an arm and a leg, will be priced with more mundane organs.

  • The complicated financial contortions I went through last month, what with a four-digit hospital bill come due and the unplanned-for purchase of a car, went through apparently without a hitch.

  • I'm proclaiming a more-or-less open thread here.

So have at it.

Beyond Smart

Agent 86, you'll remember, had a phone in his shoe. Female agents, of course, wouldn't countenance such a thing: less room for the circuitry, and, well, sometimes it's just awkward.

Which perhaps explains this:

It utilizes a unique but very intuitive rotation scroll wheel in place of a regular keypad. It comes with a 2.0 megapixel camera for those incriminating photos that you want to take. It’s even equipped with a video recorder/player. Of course, there’s the standard MP3 player and FM radio, plus multimedia messaging, Bluetooth, and OTA (Over The Air) remote synchronization as well.

Elegantly designed with sensual leather-inspired materials, complemented with etched metal and quicksilver surfaces, you can pull the classic ploy of “checking your lipstick” while in fact reporting to Headquarters.

And never once do you have to fiddle with your Jimmy Choos.

The real Digital Divide

A letter to the editor of the Reminder Community News in East Hartford, Connecticut — they get no link because their site is insufferable — as transcribed by Jennifer:

It’s in the news. President Bush has signed “Indecency Legislation” into law, making it possible for TV and radio broadcasters to be fined up to $325,000 per incident of showing indecent nudity or broadcasting raunchy language. However, cable and satellite companies are exempt! This is discrmination against poor people. This is just absolutely unfair! Why should those who can afford cable or satellite be able to watch nudity and we poor people cannot? The Supreme Court ought to shoot this one down right now. I cannot believe this is happening in this land of the free! Only if you got the big bucks is it free!

Expect a measure to change "Land of the Free" to "Land of the Reasonably-Priced."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:26 AM to Dyssynergy )
Your musical taste sucks

And so does mine, according to this thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:15 PM to Tongue and Groove )
No, it doesn't do MP3s

I'm enough of a throwback to appreciate this: a new cassette deck from Marantz.

The SD4051 has dual transports, variable pitch in playback, and Dolby B for noise reduction, for $320ish in Japan. No word yet on whether they're going to mail any of them to the States.

(I have two cassette machines, both from Pioneer: the CT-9R, now twenty-three years old, would cost nearly its original list price, which was $700, to bring back up to speed, and I picked up a cheapie on eBay about six years ago for $36 or so. At this writing, I have about 400 tapes; my last three cars have had tape players.)

Scraping away

There are no formal screenshots from Genesis: it's all text. And there's not a whole lot of Scriptural basis for the notion of God looking at His monitor and reading "Formatting Universe, 0.000000000001% Complete," but hey, He had six whole days, while I was dumb enough to try to clean off an old PC in half of an afternoon.

And anyway, I didn't exactly scrape it down to the hull and start over. For one thing, Windows 98 support is well and truly over; while I had my original Microsoft CD at hand, I wasn't entirely sure I could locate every last patch and tweak that's come down the pike since the dawn of time, and I wasn't about to upgrade this box to XP: the only real reason for keeping it at all is to provide a way to run my old scanner, which dates back, if not to Genesis, certainly to Phil Collins' solo days.

So the first order of business was to uninstall all but a handful of apps, which was as much fun as you think, and then to reformat three of the four disk partitions. (This is a nominal 40-GB drive, so each partition is nine point something gig, and it's slow going.) At some point it dawned on me that I'd deleted my install for Adobe Reader 6 — version 7 won't run on 98 — and so I had to download that monster again.

The box has now been stripped to Windows, stuff supporting the sound card (though there are no speakers attached at the moment), a graphics app (to acquire from the scanner), and Firefox (in case the other machines go troppo). I suppose it would be useful to install software for the CD burner, but it's not a high-priority item at the moment.

And while this was going on, I ordered some RAM for the laptop, which is still in good shape but which has only 256 MB, barely sufficient to take on XP's Service Pack 2. It should run better with 512. On the other hand, its original 20-GB disk is down to about 6.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:07 PM to PEBKAC )
It's a Noggle

Congratulations to Heather and Brian W. J.

(Photo here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:03 PM to Next Generation )
5 July 2006
Whatever floats your bloat

Vaspers the Grate discovers Sturgeon's Law:

The blogosphere has indeed become the "bloatosphere". There are way too many irrelevant, myopic blogs. And 90% or more are pure boring nonsense, trivial chump buckets of slop.

As the blogosphere fills up with more and more worthless blogs, the overall quality and reliability of the blogosphere as a whole declines. I'll credit Seth Godin with advancing this concept about a year or more ago.

Like what happened with FM radio and TV, 55 channels of garbage or mindless mediocrity, the same old sitcoms, the same 30 songs played over and over ad nauseum.

However, I do champion the rise of individual voice against the MSM information hegemony.

Too many blogs? Yes. But I am happy to see even the boring drivel blogs keep at it, ppl expressing whatever, and the public moving more and more to the internet, with some quality, unfiltered, unedited journalism and creative writing.

Some of us glory in our slopbucketedness.

And while the rule around here is to dock five points for saying "hegemony" with a straight face, it's hard to argue with his premise, especially since elsewhere in the piece he describes MySpace as a "foul toilet."

Still, most of us who read this stuff developed filters early on: we've learned to eschew the bad and seek out the good, or at least the less bad.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:55 AM to Blogorrhea )
Timing the washout carefully

The rumblings began around 5 pm, and I decided I'd bring in the flag; the rain kicked in a few minutes later.

It didn't last all that long, but it had a dampening effect, so to speak, on the Fireworks of Dubious Legality in the neighborhood. (Technically, it's not dubious at all, as the city has banned all that stuff except for licensed operators, but it sounds funnier this way.) I heard fewer than twenty actual firecrackers during the evening, the equivalent of maybe 1.5 North Korean missiles. Then again, this area is short on actual kids, the primary audience for noisemakers and such — not that their absence has helped my lawn any.

Still, hey, a Fourth of July is a Fourth of July, even if it's on a Tuesday.

Weasels we have heard on high

Make sure you must always buy. A particularly-heinous example:

I cancelled my AOL account over the weekend. The CSR was polite enough, although he got quite defensive when I said I wanted to make sure the account was actually cancelled, rather than just put on a suspended billing list for a while.

He told me that after I cancelled, I could still sign on via AOL's Web interface to check mail on that account. He then said that he would be sending an e-mail cancellation notice to that address, and specifically urged me to sign on to make sure I got the notice. I told him that I didn't want the e-mail address to remain active, because I wanted to make sure that my less-attentive friends who sent mail to that address got a bounce. He seemed sort of nonplussed, but admitted that the address wouldn't actually be activated until I signed on for the first time. He also said that I'd get a paper copy of the cancellation notice snail-mailed within a couple of weeks.

Then he transferred me to the boilerplate-bot, which told me that if I signed on to check my "free" e-mail I would be reactivating my AOL account and authorizing monthly billing.

So they tell you that it's free, urge you to sign in to make sure you've been "cancelled," and if you don't listen carefully to the disclaimer at the end of the call you wind up back in AOL's clutches. Verily, these are some wacky guys.

Not even Karl Rove in all his majesty was as devious as this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:26 AM to Dyssynergy )
198

Back in '73, Dr Gene Sharp put out a three-volume set called The Politics of Nonviolent Action: in the second volume, The Methods of Nonviolent Action, he listed 198 such methods.

Speaking of 198, this is the 198th week of Carnival of the Vanities, this week hosted by The Business of America is Business. A week's worth of bloggage in a single page of links: now that's business.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:41 AM to Blogorrhea )
Damned withholding

There's very little I can add to this:

English economists reckon having more sex can be as beneficial to lifelong happiness as an extra $50,000 in the pocket.

The study, done by no-sex-please-we're-British economists and titled Money, Sex and Happiness: an Empirical Study, said that increasing the frequency of sex from once a month to once a week caused the same amount of happiness as getting a $50,000-a-year pay rise.

Researched by Dartmouth College economics professor David Blanchflower, along with Warwick University's Andrew Oswald, the study took 1990s American data of about 16,000 people and generalised the results for males and females of all ages.

"The most interesting thing this study shows is that money buys happiness, but not as much as you would think," Blanchflower said in his summary.

I have my doubts, mostly because at that rate — $50k for a fourfold increase — I'd be looking at $6 million, and I think I could be bought off by the Knights of Chastity for a bit less than that. (Send offers to the usual address.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:20 PM to Dyssynergy )
Let there be trends

The Oklahoman's Don Mecoy plays with Google Trends, and discovers:

It's little surprise that no one in America is more curious about tornadoes, pickups and okra than Okies. Perhaps more unexpected is our fascination with dirt, academics and Britney.

Not so much, really. We have lots of dirt, lots of Britney wannabes, and more state colleges than you can shake a stick at.

Or a bankrupt flea.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:42 PM to Soonerland )
No sweat

It's called SolarVenti, and it's a solar-powered dehumidifier that mounts on a wall facing south. And it works just like you think it would:

Warm dry air absorbs much more moisture than cold air. After a cool night all of the atmospheric moisture is lying on the ground as dew, or frost in the winter, leaving a very dry but cool atmosphere. SolarVenti takes in this cold dry air and warms it before pumping it into your house where it sucks out moisture from the fabric of your property and replaces the colder damper atmosphere.

Except, of course, that it adds zero to your electric bill.

(Via Treehugger.)

6 July 2006
The greed for speed

The new desktop machine, with the OEM software provided — a slightly-stripped version of Nero — offers three speeds at which to burn CDs: 32x, 16x, and a lowly 8x.

Now I've always believed that the slower one burns an audio CD, the more likely it is to play flawlessly on whatever players one has. The old box burned at 4x or 8x, and it took me a while to work up the nerve to use 8x.

I have noticed, though, that the hyperexpensive stereo in my current car is a bit more sensitive than the more generic unit in my previous car: it doesn't notice bumps or anything, but once in a while it jumps slightly on a CD-R, and the newer it is — meaning, in effect, the more likely I burned it at a higher speed — the more likely it is to come up with audio problems.

As an experiment, I have taken a disc I burned at 8x and made a copy of it at 4x, using that old computer I'd cleaned off during the holiday. (If anyone cares, it's this.) We shall see.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:22 AM to PEBKAC )
Are the big deals finished?

The Oklahoman's main hoops guy, Darnell Mayberry, thinks so: he's already predicting the starting five for next season's Hornets, and really, it's hard to argue with this placement:

  1. Chris Paul, point guard
  2. Peja Stojakovic, shooting guard
  3. Desmond Mason, small forward
  4. David West, power forward
  5. Tyson Chandler, center

Still to come: the departure of Rasual Butler (probably) and Arvydas Macijauskas (almost definitely).

And I'd like to wish P. J. Brown well as he moves to Chicago for what may be his last season: if the NBA has an Elder Statesman, it's P. J.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:55 AM to Net Proceeds )
Ken Lay lives!

Well, maybe not.

Then again:

I hate to sound coldly skeptical, but this thing looks fishy from the get-go. There’s been no hint of ill health from Lay during the unfolding Enron scandal and his subsequent trial. Now, when he’s been convicted and awaiting final sentencing in October, he checks out? Not to mention that such death announcements typically aren’t made public until much later than the actual passing — often as much as a day later.

Too, too convenient?

Update, 11:40 am: Then there's this Gawker headline: Ken Lay Dead Getting Approximately Same Amount of Respect As Ken Lay Alive.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:29 AM to Dyssynergy )
Welcome to Cob County

Myself, I'm a lathe, not a typewriter.

(I am not persuaded that this has any connection to the presence, or absence, of the Y chromosome.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:08 PM to Worth a Fork )
And lo, they sacrificed unto the Capitol

The Oklahoma auto buyer, some time within the first thirty days after the buy, must submit to the ritual known as "Tag, Title and Tax," in which he exchanges a large check for a small metal plate and a handful of documents.

It is not necessary to visit an actual state office to do this sort of thing: the Tax Commission has farmed this task out to various private enterprises under the general name "tag agency," and just about every county has one. (Oklahoma County, with a fifth of the state's population, has three dozen or so.) This is not to say that it's less expensive: while the actual tax has been cut slightly in recent years, it's still pretty stiff.

This paragraph from the Tax Commission could be scary:

Most vehicles are assessed excise tax on the basis of their purchase price, provided that purchase price is within 20% of the average retail value for that specific model vehicle. If the purchase price provided is not within that 20% range, a taxable value within that range is established for excise tax assessment purposes.

This is presumably to keep you from selling your Cadillac to your brother-in-law for $200. And after thirty-odd years here, I'm persuaded that the gum-chewing (I think it's required) girl at the tag agency knows at least as much about the retail value of a vehicle as the Kelley Blue Book.

To the tax, add the price of the title ($11, generally), the price of the registration (under $100, but not much under $100), and pretty soon you're looking at real money. My own participation in the ritual cost $486.50, all of which was duly itemized on a handwritten slip.

And no, I didn't order a vanity tag. Under Oklahoma law, the plate stays with the car, not with the owner, when the car is sold; I decided I was too lazy to (1) take out two bolts and (2) learn a new number, and unless there's a warrant for the previous owner's arrest for skipping out of parking tickets in Kansas City, I figure I'm fine.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:23 PM to Soonerland )
7 July 2006
Marilyn Monroe's ghost flies free

It's a whole new kind of profiling:

I am here to tell you that I have seen the future, and it is looking up your dress.

The new [airport] screening machine is a thing that looks like the kind of wind-tunnel isolation booth they used to put game show contestants in and then blow around money, which the contestants would try and grab.

But that's not what's going to be happening to you in the isolation booth.

What's going to happen is that the Department of Homeland Security is going to blow hot air up your dress and analyze it.

I'm not even kidding. This machine, which has no name on it so I'm going to go ahead and call it the Gyno-2000, shoots a VERY STRONG BURST OF WIND directly up your dress, if you happen to be so unlucky as to be wearing one at the time. It has a mechanical voice that warns you (sort of, but not really) when it says "Prepare for air blast!"

Of course, for some time now DHS has been blowing smoke up ... um, never mind.

Has anyone else encountered this thing? It sounds like yet another good argument for driving everywhere.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 AM to Dyssynergy )
Checkered Flag of Death

Do people attend auto races, or watch them on television, in the hopes of seeing a crash?

The most reasonable answer, I suppose, is that some of us do, but most of us probably don't.

Of course, we're generally watching NASCAR here in the States; the dynamics may well be different in, say, Formula 1.

And, while we're on the subject of crashing, the official supplier of engine-control systems for the 2008 F1 season will be ... Microsoft.

Now they'll be able to crash without ever leaving the starting line.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 AM to Driver's Seat , PEBKAC )
The things that are César's

Tulsans know about César Pelli: he designed the BOK Center.

This morning, Lileks has some thoughts on the man:

I have the greatest respect for Pelli. We owe him. He gave us our own RCA building in the form of the Norwest Tower, one of his finest buildings of the 80s. He's also a gentleman — when he came to Minneapolis to preside over the unveiling of the Norwest design, he took time to have breakfast with a stupid young "architecture critic" from the college paper, and answer all his questions. He was courtly and merry and decent, and declined the opportunity to rip on the Multifoods Tower, where we happened to be having breakfast. He's not a starchitect, he's not a Brash Genius, he's not a Brilliant Rethinker; he's a classic architect who builds classic buildings.

And his new library bores me to sighs. It's not bad; the big giant overhang that connects the two wings and ties Nicollet and Hennepin together, supposedly, has its moments. It could be much much worse, believe me: it's not a showy building, and its façade will age well. (By which I mean it's not the latest-greatest idea, but a rather timeless and humane arrangement of stone and glass.)

If you're looking for the Norwest Tower, it's now the Wells Fargo Center. Go figure.

And really, "timeless and humane" is all we can ask of our architecture, right?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:06 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The women of Dustbury

Improbable as that may seem, at least to me, this is the premise (well, a premise) of an actual podcast. (Approximately 27 minutes, and presumably not approved by "Mad Eddie" Finkelstein.)

Update, 9 July: The second edition is up; this link should cover them all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:12 AM to Blogorrhea )
Fat farging chance

Integris Health ran an ad on the op-ed page of The Oklahoman this morning, and it contains this whopper:

A person is considered obese with a weight that is 20% or more of their ideal body weight. At that point, the extra weight becomes a health risk.

So if the charts say you should weigh, oh, 130 or so, you're considered a porker at — wait for it — twenty-six pounds. This is below Nicole Richie territory; this is right down there with Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.

I hope they read their instruments better than they read their proof copy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:33 PM to Say What? )
8 July 2006
Flash!

The sleepy 'burbs of The Village and Nichols Hills have been awakened by a visiting perv who apparently has been making the rounds for quite some time.

Typical incident:

A woman in the 1100 block of Sherwood Lane in Nichols Hills told police a man followed her to a parking area about 9 p.m. [Thursday], then exposed himself and began masturbating when she got out of her car. He wore only socks and tennis shoes.

I suggest that if you encounter this guy, you point and laugh; it should kill whatever groove he thinks he's in.

(And if you ever see me wearing only socks and tennis shoes, you'll see a lawn mower in front of me, and I'll wonder what you're doing peeking into my back yard.)

Sapling alert

Treelet

Well, we're not there yet, but the Tree To Be has now topped the two-foot mark on its way to the sky. Sweetgum-haters like McGehee will point out that it's still mowable at this point, which is true; I've chopped down dandelions at this height before, and they've got a heck of a lot more infrastructure. (About a quarter-century ago, I had a dandelion staring me in the face, but that's another story, and it required more substantial hardware to remove.) On the other hand, if I ever get around to expanding this actual house — don't count on it any time soon — both sweetgums and the shed will become expendable, and I'll probably have to go away for a month just so I don't witness the carnage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:31 AM to Surlywood )
A thirty-thousand-dollar child

Gwendolyn (you met her here) is my first-ever Infiniti, and while there's plenty of data, some of it actually verifiable, floating around on the Net, she is, after all, six years old, more than a generation in automotive terms, and I decided I'd like to find some data from the time she was born, just for historical perspective.

By way of eBay, I snagged the October 1999 issue of Car and Driver, which I'd read as a subscription copy when it was new and subsequently sent to the shredder. The issue contains a one-page "minitest" of the 2000 I30 and a six-page ad by Infiniti to promote the car. The ad, of course, is just this side of hilarious:

If you were designing a new luxury car, how would you make it stand apart from the crowd? Would you give it the most powerful V6 engine in its class? Would you create the most spacious cabin in its class? Maybe you'd offer luxury touches and a level of ingenuity that you couldn't find anywhere else. Surely, laying claim to any one of these achievements would set you apart from today's crowd of luxury automobiles. Imagine how special you'd be if you could claim all of them.

As noted, I don't call her Shirley. The Infiniti tag from those days — "Own one and you'll understand" — is reminiscent of the old Packard boast "Ask the man who owns one," but not particularly precise; whatever you might think of Mazda's "Zoom Zoom" business, at least you knew what they were selling you.

The C/D testers gave the car a mixed review "in its class": "When considered against its competitors, the I30 has a fine combination of style, luxury, and adequate performance." Of course, these guys are hotshoes by trade — 8.3 seconds from zero to sixty seems like an eternity to them — and they seemed disappointed that the 2000 version, wholly new, didn't represent a quantum leap in performance over the previous generation. (They got seven seconds out of a Maxima with the same engine, but it had a stick shift.) And they complained about the forest of petroboard:

The faux wood panels on the doors bend and curve in a way that's implausible for real wood to bend, clearly revealing their unnatural origins.

I turned back to the ad, and the interior shot revealed the Awful Truth: the previous owner had actually ordered extra fake wood. In the photo, synthoplanking appears only on the doors and the console; Gwendolyn's wearing the stuff all the way up to her air vents.

I will not allow myself to be perturbed by this; I learned, many years before, that you never, ever tell a woman she's wearing too much makeup, unless you're convinced she's doing Kabuki on the side. (What happens, of course, is that she leaves it all off one day, and you look at her stupidly and say "What did you do to yourself?") Besides, there's a road to watch.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:01 PM to Driver's Seat )
Saturday spottings (structural proficiency)

I hadn't paid too much attention to the auto-parts store going in at 3217 North May; another concrete fortress would scarcely be noticed on this stretch of May, especially with that new Lowe's just south of 39th pretty much finished.

Until I got this letter from a reader:

When did this happen? Maybe while I was out of town, I would have noticed right away as that was built as a Kip's Big Boy restaurant — the first in Oklahoma City. I have many fond memories of picking up the Big Boy comic book and sitting in there eating a piece of pie or having one of their thick chocolate shakes. Another building with great memories is gone. Ugh. Change ... sometimes I just hate it.

Kip'sThe most recent occupant of this space, the Classic Rock Café/Bora Bora, has since relocated to Walker just north of 23rd. There are still Big Boy restaurants in ten states; Kip's, which had the Texas and Oklahoma franchise, seems to have vanished altogether. (I remember eating at a Big Boy restaurant within the last few years; it was probably in Danville, Illinois.) This photo, of the sign at a Dallas location that was torn down last year, was taken for this Web site, specializing in "the super-cool modern coffee shop architecture of the 1950s and 1960s"; the writer also devotes a page to savaging so-called "Dallas-style" homes, rather a lot of which are being built these days in central Oklahoma.

33 Northeast 7th StreetSpeaking of homes, in previous editions of Spottings, I waxed lyrical about a new house being built at NE 7th and Oklahoma; the last time out, I said something to the effect that "had I a whole lot more money than I do, I'd like to live in something that doesn't look like anything else." Well, clearly it looks like something, and it's not like it doesn't fit in with the rest of the neighborhood, because there's nothing else around: most of this area was cleared off for the construction of the Centennial Expressway. And after all, it was conceived as a residence with studio, so it's going to be at least somewhat utilitarian. I still think it's neat.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:38 PM to City Scene )
Shootout at Gender Gap

The title of this New York Times piece is "At Colleges, Women Are Leaving Men in the Dust," and while I have no particular reason to question this assertion generally, writer Tamar Lewin backs it up rather peculiarly:

At Harvard, 55 percent of the women graduated with honors this spring, compared with barely half the men.

Spoons notes:

The author doesn't explain exactly what "barely half" means, but gosh, this must mean a disparity of at least 3 or 4 percent!

Whether there's also some grade inflation at work here is left as an exercise for the (non-Harvard) student.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 PM to Say What? )
9 July 2006
Yes, we have no such title

This spring, I suggested you all run out and get a copy of Slow Road Home: a Blue Ridge Book of Days by Fred First, and now it's showed up at Barnes & Noble, for preorder, "available on August 28."

There's just one hitch: Fred published this himself, and he has made no arrangements to sell the book through bn.com, on August 28 or any other date.

Putting the most favorable spin possible on this, B&N presumably has noted that the book is in print and has a proper ISBN number (0-977-93950-2), and expects that the publisher will make it available to them in time.

On the other hand, for now this is clearly a case of, as Fred says, "selling what you ain't got."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:04 AM to Dyssynergy )
Soft and Zillowy

In the four months since I put up a small post about Zillow.com, I've kept watch over the one property I know best — mine — and inexplicably, the Zestimated price has risen by nine grand during that period. I attribute this to strong sales elsewhere in the neighborhood.

On the other hand, I can't come up with any explanation for this:

After checking out our present house and feeling relieved that its value hasn't totally tanked since we bought it, I decided to type in the address of the house I grew up in in New Jersey, the sale of which nearly shattered me two years ago. I longed to see it again, even a fuzzy birds-eye satellite shot.

Zillow responded: There is no house at this address.

I blinked, thinking, there must be some mistake. I typed in the address of our old across-the-street neighbors, just one digit away from our address. It showed up right away. I zoomed in on their house. Their driveway was directly across from ours. I zoomed in and zoomed in. I saw trees with skinny, bare branches. I saw the house that used to be next to ours. I spotted all the neighbors' houses: the Kiesselbach's, the Wubbes', the Schleichers'. But it was true. Where my house used to stand was an empty lot. It was a gray-green scrabble of nothingness.

My house is gone. I'm typing through tears.

And where did it go? Nowhere:

So, I spent the weekend crying over the little green house. Gone, gone, gone. But first I emailed my best high school friend, and asked her to check it out, to make sure it was really gone.

I immediately started planning a massive writing project, in which I would meticulously record every memory of every square inch of that property, from the circular driveway to the mulch pile in the back yard, to the enclosed porch and the laundry room.

When we got home, an email from my friend Cathy. With a photo, taken from her car. "Relax," she wrote. "It's still there — no worries."

If there's a lesson here, it's this: Put not all thy faith in a single database.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:37 AM to Dyssynergy )
Burned by the source

Note to potential pro-life polemicists:

If you want to dramatize your point with quotations from supporters of abortion rights, you might not want to gather those quotations from The Onion.

Just saying.

(Via Caterwauling.)

Just imagine the security check

One of the more amusing aspects of life in Oklahoma City is nodding your head at visitors and saying, "Yes, we did name our two largest airports after guys who died in a plane crash." You wait just long enough for the furrows to appear on their brows, and then you say, "What's more, it was the same crash."

On the other hand, we can't top this: Ulan Bator, capital of Mongolia, is renaming its airport for Genghis Khan.

I wonder if Norm Mineta is looking for work.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:14 PM to Dyssynergy )
From our Road Scholars

The Mutt-Man has suggested I give Gwendolyn a proper break-in on this road in Bolivia. It would be simpler just to push her onto the BNSF tracks and run like hell.

Meanwhile in the Philippines, it's the Blessing of the Police Vehicles, which appear to be the Altis variant of the Toyota Corolla, more closely akin to the North American version of the Corolla than to the standard Asian car. (The Philippine National Police apparently just acquired these vehicles under a mandate from the President to step up the war on local insurgents.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 PM to Driver's Seat )
10 July 2006
Strange search-engine queries (23)

Yes, ladies and germs, it's yet another installment of the tedious little series in which I copy search strings that led people to this very site, stack them in a single entry, and lovingly festoon them with snark.

Richard Carpenter cried when Karen sang it in the studio:  "What is 'Anarchy in the U.K.'?"

breast augmentation gone wrong, too high on the collar bone:  Look at the bright side: it will take that much longer to sag to waist level.

brazilians are superstitious amoral idiots:  With incredibly-clean genitalia.

I'm kept awake at night by the sounds of anthracite screaming:  Try bituminous. It's softer and quieter.

10 Things Your Lender Won't Tell You:  "7. You can't afford this. What were you thinking?"

what females have to say about erect penis:  "About damn time."

Lucia di Lammermoor by three stooges:  They sang the Sextet (well, half of it) in Micro-Phonies.

"cthulhu lives" dallas:  You were expecting maybe Farmers Branch?

searching for redhead I met at Henry Hudson's:  The bay or the pub?

Where can I find someone to give me one million dollars:  Start small. But not with a paper clip: that's been done.

amanda congdon cup size bra:  Zooming a little zoom, are we?

webcam force "take her clothes off":  That's got to be one hell of a powerful webcam.

decent farts:  Silent but nondeadly?

1000 days without sex:  Piece of cake. Not a very tasty cake, though.

sending fecal matter through the U.S. mail:  Don't we get enough crap already?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:02 AM to You Asked For It )
Mottless crew

The Hornets, Ron Hitley says, were "long overdue for a mysterious resignation," and sure enough, team president Paul Mott is out after 14 months on the job.

What this portends is unclear, to say the least. And it's not like owner George Shinn has never done anything inexplicable before. Perhaps the identity of Mott's replacement, when the time comes, will provide a clue.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:36 AM to Net Proceeds )
Bau wau

John Owen Butler didn't much like this house:

Bauhaus? In Oklahoma? As my 19 year old daughter would say, ewwwh.

So he really won't like this one:

In the International Style

In Crown Heights, at 40th and Shartel. (Not my photo; this came with the draft report on Oklahoma City's Historic Preservation efforts, circa 2002. Except for tree growth and such, it looks about the same today.) And you know, I like pointy Tudor revivals as much as the next guy, but we're awash in the darn things.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:02 AM to City Scene )
She approves this message

See what you think of this:

My Left Wing does not now, nor will it ever, accept paid advertising by individual politicians, be they campaigning or sitting. Any ads you see for such individuals is advertising freely offered by me, Maryscott O'Connor, as the proprietor of this blog, as a campaign donation.

In case it needs further clarification: I do not ever, EVER want to be in the position of having accepted advertising revenue from a candidate whom I might later be in the position to criticise — because I may not have the fortitude to follow through with the criticism, if the politician in question is a source of INCOME for me.

I am NOT saying that other blogs should follow suit; it is an individual decision, more easily made because it's not a sacrifice for me at this point in time. By issuing this policy in public now, before I ever have the choice, should it EVER arise, I hope to have crystallised it in writing so there really IS no choice. I simply cannot trust myself to accept money from people whom I might later want to criticise, but whose financial contributions to me may proscribe, however informally, doing so, lest I lose that financial support.

So I hereby remove the dilemma completely. I reserve the right to criticise or praise any political candidate on the basis of my opinion and any facts at my disposal, absent any influence or appearance of influence by financial gain or loss on my part.

(Emphasis as in the original.)

I am generally a firm believer in biting the hand that feeds me, but at first glance this strikes me as an admirable attempt to avoid the possibility of conflict of interest. (Which, of course, makes me wonder if I'm missing something somewhere, cynic that I am.)

I won't be doing likewise myself, but this is because I sell no ad space anyway, political or otherwise, and therefore the issue really doesn't exist for me. (If, however, at some time I begin taking ads, I will have to give this serious consideration.) Will others follow Ms O'Connor's lead?

Fundraiser in the buff rebuffed

The ban on "commercial or recreational activities" at Kansas' Lake Edun nudist facility apparently includes political fundraising: the state Libertarian Party was blocked from holding a three-day gathering at Lake Edun last weekend and had to move elsewhere on short notice.

The event was billed as Return to Edun, Return to Liberty, and this was part of the party's pitch:

The unregulated use of private property is one of the least divisive issues among Libertarians; and since the convoluted 2005 Kelo decision by the Supreme Court, Libertarians have been solidly on the forefront of the movement to protect the rights of property owners to use, retain, and dispose of their land as they wsh, as long as they do not harm others.

For nearly a decade, the government of Shawnee County has attempted to restrict the activities of peaceful citizens on the private property southwest of Topeka known as Lake Edun. In doing so, they apply a standard of commercial activity not enforced anywhere else in the county.

Under the court order, Lake Edun must get a permit for any proscribed activities, but the county has so far refused to issue any permits, perhaps hoping that the couple who owns the property — ownership of the resort is vested in a foundation — will give up and move away. They haven't.

(Via Fark.)

Snakes on a truck

Sources deep within 42nd and Treadmill report that El Jefe found one of these motherfarging reptiles pretending to be a suspension component.

Samuel L. Jackson was not available for comment.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:33 PM to City Scene )
The Gas Game (July)

Last fall, Oklahoma Natural Gas introduced a Voluntary Fixed Price program, which, if you signed on the dotted line, would get you 12 months of gas at $8.393 per dekatherm. (A dekatherm is about how much my water heater uses up in four weeks.) Inasmuch as the price at the time was in the seven-buck range, I decided to pass on this deal, and it's cost me every single month since then — until now.

Where things 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.

  • May: 2.0 used at $8.781; total price $17.56; VFP price $16.79; loss of $0.77.

  • June: 1.2 used at $8.486; total price $10.19; VFP price $10.07; loss of $0.12.

  • July: 1.1 used at $7.520; total price $8.55; VFP price $9.53; gain of $0.98.

  • Cumulative: 39.4 used at $10.031; total price $395.61; VFP price $330.09; loss of $64.63.

This fall? I haven't decided. Why do you ask?

(Note: In July ONG began quoting usage figures to three decimal places, making rounding errors easier than ever. This is especially neat because meter readings are rendered in integers.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:45 PM to Family Joules )
11 July 2006
Thanks for the memory

Whether Service Pack 2 actually slows down a PC running Windows XP is a matter of debate; however, I'm quite certain that no one is arguing that SP2 speeds up a machine.

My notebook, a five-year-old Toshiba Satellite, seemed to be a bit draggy of late, though I wasn't sure whether this might be simply a question of perspective, inasmuch as it's no longer competitive wth contemporary hardware: an 1100-MHz Celeron, it was about as fast as my AMD Duron 850 desktop, acquired about the same time, but it's a snail compared to the new 'puter. And while I suppose I could dig myself deeper into debt and snag a nice Pentium 4 dual-core luggable, I reasoned that the path of least resistance lay in boosting the Toshiba's RAM beyond 256 MB, and by 256 I mean 240: sixteen megs are sucked away by the integrated video subsystem.

Fortunately, Toshiba considers this a simple process. From the manual:

If the computer is on, begin at step 1, otherwise, skip to step 3.
  1. If the computer is on, click Start, Turn Off Computer. The Turn off computer window appears.
  2. Click Turn off. The operating system turns off the computer.
  3. Unplug and remove any cables connected to the computer.

And so forth. These guys would write instructions for toothpaste beginning "1. Remove cap."

There are, in fact, 16 steps, the last three of which involve opening Control Panel/System to verify the amount of RAM installed, which is now 512 496 MB.

Yes, the machine does run faster. Is it fast enough to override my desire for a new machine? Ask me in a couple of weeks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:09 AM to PEBKAC )
Linger on the sidewalks

Oklahoma City has big plans for making downtown the Next Residential Destination, and Tulsa has ideas of its own. Neither of them, however, have allowed for this:

Nationwide, developers clamber to cash in on this movement, building swanky apartments in the shadow of the skyline, city leaders discuss shopping centers and fancy hotels, hoping to satisfy these folk’s craving for culture in an urban landscape.

Well, I got news for you, all you Planning Committees and Downtown Developers. Culture don’t just come from the top tax brackets. Poor, young folks are the ones that make all that artsy fartsy stuff work. And looking at the various proposals for downtown, it don’t look like we’re gonna make much room for them in our sleek, high-dollar downtown.

The number of new residential units planned downtown seems to grow every day. 166, 350, 500, 700. I haven’t seen the study that specifically calls for the attraction of the upper middle class to downtown Tulsa, and I know it costs a pretty penny to renovate decrepit old buildings into livable space, but somewhere in all that unused space within the inner dispersal loop, there’s gotta be a place where a girl can get a 1bdrm for less than $500/month.

The new arrivals in downtown OKC have been generally an upscale bunch; whatever amenities they can't find downtown are just a drive away. If all this is going to work, though, there's got to be some stuff downtown that you don't have to drive to: grocery, laundry facilities, an actual drug store fercryingoutloud. Otherwise you're blocking out people who might be able to afford living in the middle of things if they don't simultaneously have to support a secondhand Subaru.

I caught this ad in the Oklahoman:

Large, cozy studios near Bricktown, 116 NW 15th, $450 all bills paid, [telephone number redacted].

This isn't at all bad, but:

  1. It's at least a mile from Bricktown, the far fringe of "near";
  2. The nearest place to buy foodstuffs is the Earthgrains/Rainbo bargain store on Broadway, and, well, man does not live by bread alone.

It is, however, within a couple of blocks of Metro Transit, which runs along 13th, and it's in the Heritage Hills East district, which means the city pays a little more attention to building condition than it might in lesser areas.

I haven't been too perturbed with the perceived lack of urban character of the Legacy Summit apartment development between the Museum of Art and Midtown: if the cookie-cutter design, borrowed from other Legacy communities in the 'burbs, saves a few bucks on rent, it's fine with me. Purists will howl; then again, purists tend to make more than $500 a week.

(Found at BatesLine.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:09 AM to Soonerland )
Own your own floor (2)

Last fall you might have read about office condos at 125 Park Avenue downtown; each floor of the five-story building was for sale.

And they're being bought: a local attorney has closed on the first of them, and three more are under contract. The upper floors sold for $400,000; the ground floor went for $300,000.

The building's Web site hasn't changed much lately.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:03 AM to City Scene )
They didn't Planet that way

I'm sure Dave isn't the only one who wants to know:

How come nobody noticed that Clark [Kent] and Superman both were gone for five years, returned within days of each other, and yet failed to make any connection between the events?

This seems to be a variation on what Roger Ebert called the "Idiot Plot", which is:

Any plot containing problems which would be solved instantly if all of the characters were not idiots.

And I don't think you're allowed to make a Major Motion Picture these days without including at least an Idiot Subplot.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:37 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Quote of the week

Some of you perhaps have wondered about the criteria for QOTW, since they seem to come from all over the place, and since there are plenty of weeks when there is no QOTW at all. And I must confess, the qualifications are somewhat murky. But in general, a paragraph (or whatever) that gets put in this slot is either something I wish I'd said, or sounds like something I have said.

"Sounds like," needless to say, is highly arguable. But the present QOTW, after I stopped roaring at it, called to mind my 2004 denunciation of an email spam: "[It] isn't worth a pint of marmoset urine."

Contrariwise, the QOTW constitutes praise. I think. Sam Smith got to drive an Audi RS4 for Automobile (August '06), and, he says, this is what happens when you hit the little S button on the dash:

What was a subdued, guttural thrumming suddenly becomes a glorious crescendo. It sounds like an angry, drunken bear being shot from a cannon.

Neither I nor Mr Smith are in the habit of getting bears drunk, let alone propelling them skyward with explosives, but I understood this better than perhaps I ought to admit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:04 PM to QOTW )
12 July 2006
Trading up

The contemporary archetype is Kyle McDonald, who started out with one red paperclip and wound up with a house in Saskatchewan.

Suitably motivated, Kehaar seeks to swap a tube of silicone sealant for a beach house, something the men of Silflay Hraka have sought for nearly four years.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 AM to TANSTAAFL )
You will watch what you're told to watch

Much of the media coverage of yesterday's court ruling against various firms which "sanitize" Hollywood pictures and distribute the bowdlerized versions to their customers has been almost gleeful in its portrayal of those customers as the dumb hicks they obviously must be.

I carry no particular brief for dumb hicks, and I like my violence uncut and my nudity gratuitous, but I find this decision annoying. Nick Gillespie explains:

I'm squarely on the side of the easily offended CleanFlicks customers. They are doing precisely what technology is there for: to create the sort of art, music, video, and text that an individual or group of individuals wants to consume.

By all accounts, the CleanFlicks-type outfits weren't ripping off Hollywood in any way, shape, or form — they were paying full fees for content — and they weren't fooling anyone into thinking their versions were the originals; the whole selling point of CleanFlicks' Titanic is that it spared audiences the original movie's brief moment of full-frontal Winslet. CleanFlicks was simply part of a great and liberatory trend in which audiences are empowered to consume culture on their own terms — not the producers'. Big content providers may have prevailed in this specific case, but the sooner they understand and adapt to a much larger and more powerful cultural dynamic, the better they'll be at serving the audiences who are increasingly in control of what they watch, listen to, and read.

This isn't a censorship issue: it's a control issue. I, for one, am loath to permit The Industry to assert any power over any content I've paid for. My reaction would be the same if Visual Artist X complained that some people weren't hanging his paintings exactly in the center of the wall, or if Influential Band Y demanded that listeners play their entire CD through every time.

Culture isn't top-down anymore. Get used to it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Another chapter in the Octagon soap

We got your globalization right here, pal: the latest incarnation of the classic British sports car will be built by the Chinese in Oklahoma.

Nanjing Automobile Group, which wound up owning the MG brand after the collapse of UK-based MG Rover, has announced plans to assemble MG TF coupes at a new plant to be built in Ardmore next year. Nanjing will also reactivate a British factory to build the roadster version of the TF, and will build home-market cars in China. Production is expect to begin in the fall of 2008.

Duke T. Hale has been appointed president and CEO of MG North America/Europe, which will be based in Oklahoma City. I'd say he's got his work cut out for him.

TF, incidentally, is a series name from MG's past: the original TF, a repository of 1930s technology, was built from 1953 through 1955, when it was replaced by the shockingly-modern MGA. The new TF will look like this.

199

Perhaps the bloodiest battle in human history was the Battle of Stalingrad, in which the Soviet Union crushed an invasion by the German Reich, with massive casualties on both sides: estimates range as high as two million. The battle raged on for 199 days, from the summer of 1942 into February 1943.

The Carnival of the Vanities, meanwhile, has raged on for 199 weeks, and The Bull Speaks hosts the newest edition of the original blog carnival. No casualties to report.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:52 AM to Blogorrhea )
Kan't buy a Klue

A couple of days ago, someone wandered into this site with the search string kevin calvey, KKK. Calvey is a state legislator running for Congress; the KKK needs no introduction. Nothing I'd said connected the two — they happened to be on the same archive page, and the archives around here tend to be huge — but I decided I'd read down the list of results, and turned up something else entirely: an actual page run by the Bayou Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, based in that traditional bayou town, Shawnee, Oklahoma. (I am disinclined to give them a link, partly on general principle, partly because they insist on running a bunch of annoying Java applets; you can find them easily enough if you're interested, since they have their own domain.)

And Rep. Calvey is indeed mentioned thereupon: he had voted against the African-American Centennial Plaza to be built at the Capitol grounds, and the Klan's Webmaster apparently lifted Calvey's press release intact, leaving in all the personal pronouns and stuff:

I voted NO on this item, as I think Oklahoma history should not be balkanized into different ethnic groups.

More amusing was the disclaimer: "We are not what you have been told by your media."

And from the Department of Unconscious Irony: the page sports a black background.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:43 PM to Soonerland )
Assuming it isn't 403

Text messaging is a tedious business at best, which explains the plethora of abbrev + spl diff.

It won't always fit the circumstances, but often your response can be expressed in a server response code:

200 = OK
The client’s request was successful, and the server’s response contains the requested data.

[FRIEND] hows the sushi ovr there?
[YOU] 200

Of course, if [YOU] were I, you could expect a lot of 500s.

(Via Lifehacker.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:24 PM to PEBKAC )
13 July 2006
A schmuck-free zone

The Fish City Grill is opening an eatery in Edmond (1389 East 15th in Spring Creek Village), and they bought a 1/8-page ad in this week's Gazette to announce the opening and to solicit job applications for "all positions." The next-to-last line, right above the inevitable URL, was "No Schmucks Please."

I figured this was just the usual desperate jockeying for eyeballs that routinely goes on in the Gazette; one place (was it Rococo?) once put up a shot of one wall of its wine cellar with the caption "Nice Rack." But apparently Fish City is serious:

As Neighborhood Ventures, Inc. began to grow, we looked around and realized that there were a lot of great people who believed in us and wanted to see us succeed. There were new people coming into our lives as well. Some of these new people have turned into valuable relationships that we work hard to maintain. Others were simply looking to make a quick buck. What started as kind of a joke has turned into one of the company standards.

This standard is known as our "No Schmucks Policy."

Everyone that we deal with, from our General Managers to our dishwashers, from our fish vendors to our construction contractors to our franchisees all are great people. These are people that we are proud to be associated with and who are proud of their relationship with us. They are usually not the least expensive or the fastest but they are people who take great pride in their work, have strong morals and ethics and who always choose to do the right thing. We believe very firmly that if we want to be a company based on quality that we must begin with the quality of our relationships.

I can think of a lot of enterprises, not necessarily serving food, that could benefit from this sort of thinking.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:24 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Paging Andrew Betts

You gotta love this:

The New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets announced [yesterday] that they have acquired forward Peja Stojakovic and cash considerations from the Indiana Pacers in exchange for the draft rights to Andrew Betts.

So it's become a sign-and-trade transaction, and I'm sure they had their reasons. (Most likely: the Pacers pick up a trade exception which they can use anytime during the season, probably $7.5 million or so, which far exceeds any amount of cash they forked over to the Hornets.)

Which leaves one question: Who the hell is Andrew Betts?

The Hornets drafted him 50th in 1998 out of Long Beach State; he never played in the NBA during the regular season, but took off for Europe, where he spent five seasons among three Euroleague teams, the last of which was Spain's Tau Ceramica, for whom he averaged 6.8 points per game. (By some weird coincidence, one of Betts' teammates that year — 2004-05 — was Arvydas Macijauskas, whom the Hornets waived yesterday and who will return to the Continent.)

And Betts comes back into the picture in this year's Vegas Summer League, playing for the Hornets. Will the Pacers pick him up for a minimum contract? Maybe he's hoping for exactly that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 AM to Net Proceeds )
A matter of taste

Actually, I suspect that mere flavor is a minor factor.

[Possibly NSFW]

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:12 AM to Table for One )
Warm dipstick

Working on one's car in the altogether, as did some goofball in Broken Arrow, is not advisable, says Mike:

With the constant threat of pinch points, any decent mechanic takes measures to protect his digits.

Then again, if he'd been decent — but never mind. You'll recall that a motor vehicle depends on hot and nasty fluids, which you don't want to encounter under uncontrolled conditions.

And I need hardly point out that doing this sort of thing in the front yard is going to attract attention, generally of the sort one does not want. (Unless, of course, you're the Fridayland flasher, in which case you have more problems than I care to discuss.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:07 AM to Birthday Suitable )
The change, they are a-timin'

Valvoline asked a bunch of ASE-certified auto techs when they thought you should have your oil changed, and the majority of them said every 3000 miles, exactly what you'd expect them to say.

On one level, this is no more persuasive than, say, the Chick-fil-A cows asking you to "eat mor chikin"; on the other hand, erring on the side of caution, while it has its price, is perhaps less likely to lead to grief than erring on the side of "Maybe later."

Me, I drive about 10,000 miles a year, and generally get three oil changes during that year:

  1. Right before the World Tour (2750 miles).
  2. Right after the World Tour (7250 miles).
  3. Halfway between World Yours (10,000 miles).

In practice, this means one in June, one in July, and one in December or January. This has worked rather well for me for several years. Infiniti recommends 3750 miles for Gwendolyn, which works out to three in 11,250 miles, which is, I think, sufficiently close to my own regimen. (On the other hand, I think leaving spark plugs, even platinum-tipped spark plugs, in an engine for 105,000 miles is insane.)

I might also mention that motor oil is a hot, nasty fluid, which means that it might be advisable to dress before removing the drain plug.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:54 PM to Driver's Seat )
A dime's worth of difference

That ten cents, said George Wallace, exceeds the amount by which the nation's two major parties differ.

The Oklahoma Libertarian Party sent a nine-question survey out to all the candidates for the state legislature. They've posted the results, and given the limitations of the survey and the paucity of responses — only 46 surveys were returned — ol' George may have been on to something. Of the Democrats responding, the average score (on a 30-to-100 scale) was 74; the Republicans averaged 73. (Independents, some of whom may be LP members, averaged 84.)

I note with some amusement that J. M. Branum, a Green running as an Independent, scored higher than GOP stalwart Thad Balkman.

And the OKLP had the gumption to publish the comments of the respondents, which are worth reading even if surveys make your eyes glaze over.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 PM to Soonerland )
14 July 2006
Deputy Dan, though, has no friends

It's called Dodgeball, and Melina explains:

[It] helps lazy urban people find their friends on a Saturday night by pinging them with text messages on their cell phones whenever they are within 10 blocks of each other. It's actually sort of brilliant.

Beats walking around with a Geiger counter, I suppose. And there's this:

Dodgeball is all about bringing people together ... we'll tell your friends where you are, we'll let you know if friends-of-friends are nearby, but what about that cute girl or guy that you have nothing in common with? How are we going to hook you up?

Simple ... crush lists. Whenever you check-in, we'll check to see if any of your crushes are nearby. If so, we'll send a message to your phone letting you know that someone on your crush list (we won't tell you who!) is somewhere within 10 blocks (we won't tell you where!).

At the same time we'll ping them with a message letting your crush know where you are ... and if they have a camera phone, we'll send your picture along too. Who knows — if they think you're cute, maybe your crush will stop by.

I hasten to point out that (1) this service is not yet available in Oklahoma City and (2) the likelihood of my being on someone's crush list is somewhere between infinitesimal and nonexistent. That said, though, I'm impressed with the methodology.

And with this:

Oh yeah, 5 crushes per person please. This isn't a brothel.

Although I have no doubt that the technology could be adapted for exactly that, which would cast a new light on the old term "call girl."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:20 AM to Table for One )
That darned old county line

The amiable Dr. Chris Lawrence has adopted a more modest return address:

I’ve decided to list my return address on job applications as "St. Louis" rather than "Clayton," since the USPS says either is acceptable, and the six people who know the difference might think I was some sort of rich snob otherwise.

The USPS here seems to be wanting to get people to use "Nichols Hills" rather than "Oklahoma City" where appropriate; I keyed three addresses known to be inside Nichols Hills city limits, and all three of them came back standardized to NH — even the one in 73120 rather than 73116. (Not all suburbs get this kind of treatment.)

On a whim, I typed "10 N. Bemiston, Clayton, MO" into the USPS search screen. It duly came back:

10 N BEMISTON AVE
SAINT LOUIS MO 63105-3304

Which, if you're keeping score, is the Clayton City Hall.

I suspect, though, that if you had the nine-digit ZIP correct, you could put "Saint Louis," "St Louis," "Clayton," or for all I know "Timbuktu" in there, and your mail would (eventually) get to the right place.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:06 AM to Dyssynergy )
They broke the mold

And apparently allowed it to spread throughout the building:

Major fixer with mold problem. No open houses or broker's open. Viewers required to wear respirator mask & sign hold harmless statement. Sellers say tear it down. Contractor report will be available by 7/9. The good news is that the location is convenient & in one of Marin's best school districts. Charming neighborhood of interesting homes. You can make this one fun too!

I'm not even sure I should post this, if only because I don't relish search traffic for "fun with respirator mask".

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:41 AM to Dyssynergy )
Looking for Space

Meet CarSpace, which is, well, just about what you think it is: an automotive variation on the MySpace theme, produced by the Edmunds folks.

I should ask them if everyone gets Tom Magliozzi as first friend.

(Disclosure: I have a page at CarSpace, though I've done nothing with it. Yet.)

A sudden pain in the templates

I wandered over to Miss Cellania this morning, and this thing bounced into the middle of the page:

Vague, inchoate threat

"Mad," indeed. Apparently this is what they're talking about.

Update, 16 July: It's been fixed, or something.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:50 PM to Blogorrhea )
Turning up the guilt reflex

A thread at Apartment Therapy suddenly turns into a tract or two:

One of the reasons I visit AT on a daily basis and recommend it to all of my renting friends is that at one point AT was focused on making living in crappy apartments more pleasurable through clever ideas, good design, sharing with others and a bit of DIY. As of late AT has drifted from what I believe to be the original thrust: "changing the world, one apartment at a time".

I love ultra high-end design, DWR, Eames objects of desire and super-slick architecture as much as the next guy and if I wanted that I could get it EVERYWHERE else. I love(d) AT because it addressed the rest of us who work on a budget, RENT our places and generally exist in the liminal zone of compromise.

It's a bit disappointing to load the site and constantly see half-million dollar homes, $5000 couches, $600 a gallon paint and a slow but steady drift to a high-design blog.

This I can understand; I used to cruise Nichols Hills for gardening ideas, and gave it up after a few months because I knew I'd never be able to come close on my own — not while actually holding down a job, anyway.

On the other hand, this later comment seems a bit much, and not just for the (lack of) capitalization:

i hate the fact that economic class structures exist in this country (and worldwide). i hate the fact that we can sit here talking about how a $700,000 home is "a bargain", and designer furniture is "an accesible splurge", while people all over the world starve. or to bring it on topic, while most americans rent nondescript white boxes and shop at walmart, of necessity.

i will disparage the well-off on all counts. most of all, though, for employing transparent and banal status-symbol decorating gimmicks. i mean, if you have the money and want to reward yourself for your hard work, fine. but if what that means is putting a huge flatscreen TV over the fireplace in the formal parlor you never use in your 4-story brownstone you occupy alone, i'm sorry, but that's wasteful, offensive, and bordering on immoral. and i'm going to call that as i see it.

I mean, what kind of ninny puts a flat-screen TV over the fireplace? Heat rises, fercrissake.

(With thanks to Tatyana.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:41 PM to Almost Yogurt )
15 July 2006
Option package D

I have yet to figure out every last button on Gwendolyn's instrument panel, so naturally I'd think that this is a question to ponder:

In addition to more and more horsepower, automobile manufacturers are seemingly locked in a desperate struggle to load their vehicles up with more and more, well, stuff. Supposedly to help you drive better. After all, modern supercars are essentially porky Le Mans racers with power windows. But which feature is the most oversold, the most useless? Which does nothing but fill promotional material and empty your wallet?

I'm pretty sure that you can make some kind of case for just about any automotive feature whatever, but this comment, I think, speaks volumes:

Most useless feature in a car? Based on my experience driving in Massachusetts, I would say that it’s the lever mounted on the steering column that makes a clicking sound when you press it down or up. It also causes a light to blink on and off. No one ever uses it.

It's occasionally used in Oklahoma, though I suspect mostly for its decorative value.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:10 AM to Driver's Seat )
Let's go buy some drugs!

CFI Care (not its real initials) farms out its prescription coverage to third parties, and this year's third party has done something I hadn't seen before: not only did they issue the usual list of this year's drug buys with the usual tut-tutting about ways to cut the expense, but they disclosed, not only how much I paid in copays, but how much they forked over to Sav-on. (Which sums, incidentally, are almost identical; I paid out $705.69, they paid out $705.04.)

Unwarranted conclusions I am reaching from the data provided:

  • The stuff I take for my blood pressure has dropped markedly in price: it used to be $103 a month and is now $57.

  • With the withdrawal of Vioxx from the market, prescription NSAIDs seem to have gone up a bit: the one I take now is up over $4 a tab. (I know these prices because under a previous third-party regime, we had to pay out the full amount at the register and then wait for a reimbursement check.)

  • On the one generic drug I take regularly (it's a tranq), the flat $10 copay represents 76 percent of the retail price. On the two brand-name items above, I pay 53 and 27 percent respectively.

  • However, the differences aren't always so marked: the ten bucks for a one-shot generic I had filled last year represented only 26 percent of retail.

The standard pitch is made for mail-order service, which they say will save me about $190 a year. (How much it saves them, they don't say.) I'm not averse to this, exactly, but I've heard just enough horror stories to stay my hand from dialing the 800 number.

Imagine there's no monarch

And just when I thought English Lit had gone unlit more or less permanently, here's a blast from the past: a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, the centerpiece of an anonymous pamphlet, has been found by a bookseller after having gone unseen, if not entirely unnoted, for 195 years.

Shelley, in disguise as "A Gentleman of the University of Oxford," wrote the piece as a gesture of support (and, at two shillings per copy, a fundraiser) for Peter Finnerty, an early example of an "embedded" journalist. Finnerty's story:

In 1809 the controversial naval officer Sir Home Popham invited Peter Finnerty, a radical Irish journalist and supporter of the United Irishmen, to join him on the British expedition to the Scheldt: its object was to attack Antwerp, then held by the French. Although Flushing fell, a large number of troops succumbed to a form of malaria on the island of Walcheren and the expedition ended in disaster with the deaths of around 4,000 men. Finnerty’s reports on these events in the Morning Chronicle led to his arrest and transportation back to England. In January 1810 he accused his "ancient enemy" Lord Castlereagh of trying to silence him and compounded the offence by repeating accusations against the politician about the abuse of United Irish prisoners in 1798. Finnerty was tried for libel in February 1811 and sentenced to eighteen months in Lincoln Gaol.

The poem itself is dedicated to "HARRIET W-B-K", undoubtedly Harriet Westbrook, Shelley's fiancée. (They eloped in August 1811.) While Finnerty's plight is mentioned early on, the poem has larger ambitions: to expose the evils of war in general. Two couplets:

Millions to fight compell’d, to fight or die
In mangled heaps on War’s red altar lie ...
When legal murders swell the lists of pride;
When glory’s views the titled idiot guide.

Shelley concluded that ridding the world of monarchy, of these "titled idiots," is the way to "peace, love and concord." I have my doubts. We definitely have fewer monarchs these days; King Farouk of Egypt famously quipped in 1948 that eventually there would be only five kings left — of Hearts, of Diamonds, of Spades, of Clubs, and of England. On the other hand, there is no shortage of idiots with titles.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:45 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Gwendolyn's birth certificate

I have now found Gwendolyn's Monroney sticker, which explains rather a lot, actually.

I had previously determined (via Alldata) that there was a midyear update to the 2000 I30, in which side air bags (mounted in the front seats) were made standard; based on the VIN, I assumed that this car was late enough to include this update, and the sticker confirms. The base price remained unchanged from early-year advertising: $29,465 plus $525 destination charge = $29,990.

Options: splash guards ($109), heated seats and heated outside mirrors ($420). The total was therefore $30,519. However, this does not include the rear spoiler and the gold pinstriping, which presumably were installed by the dealer — whoever that was. (The sticker indicates one dealership, the [original] title another, which is no big deal; my previous car was originally shipped to the Dallas 'burbs before it was actually purchased from an Oklahoma dealer.)

Oh, and there was a note from a fellow at Quality Assurance at Oppama, explaining that they'd put seven miles on the car for testing purposes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:02 PM to Driver's Seat )
It's your song

There has been no shortage of "personalized" songs over the years; think "greeting card with audio" and you'll get the idea.

Now think beyond that. Starting Wednesday, 500 different versions of Jessica Simpson's "A Public Affair" will be available for download, and if your name isn't one of the five hundred listed, you can still request it, and a custom version will be prepared. (Allow a couple of weeks.)

As noted elsewhere, this should break the old record for most variations of a single, um, single, held by Tommy Facenda's 1959 "High School USA," recorded in 30 different versions, 29 of them name-checking a different area's high schools. (Yes, there was one for Oklahoma.)

Disclosure: I own one Jessica Simpson record: "I Wanna Love You Forever," her debut single from 1999. It is, shall we say, Not Awful.

16 July 2006
Cue the Mop Brigade

It's said that the one scary aspect of owning your own house is waiting for something to fail, especially over a weekend.

Water pouring onto the kitchen floor, fortunately, is usually easy to trace, and in this case, it's coming from the single oldest component in the kitchen: the garbage disposer, which is leaking enough to make me wonder if I'm going to get a nasty letter from Valerie Plame.

It could, of course, be worse, and eventually it will, but this is a comparatively-simple (if not especially cheap) fix.

(Update, 5 pm: New In-Sink-Erator purchased, despite some delightful distractions.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:59 AM to Surlywood )
E85, where are you?

A lot of people are talking up ethanol as a sort of Gasoline Helper in these troubled times, and most contemporary engines can deal with mixing 10 percent ethanol into the mix; I gave Sandy a tankful last time I was in western Minnesota, and she handled it like any other fuelstuff.

Beyond that, there are vehicles already on the road that can handle an 85-percent mix. There are some downsides — lower energy density, hence fewer MPG, is the one most commonly reported — but this one is the one that sticks in my mind:

The grain required to fill a 25-gallon SUV gas tank with ethanol will feed one person for a year. The grain to fill the tank every two weeks over a year will feed 26 people.

Points off for the gratuitous mention of the hated letters "SUV" — the equation is no less true for any vehicle with a 25-gallon tank — but this is a heck of a lot of corn we'd be committing.

Still, there's one compelling factor in its favor: there's no Organization of Biomass Exporting Countries.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:24 AM to Family Joules )
Ha, ha, only serious

From the It Could Happen To You files, a bald assertion by the not-bald Brian J. Noggle:

Why did a hottie take up with a down-on-his-English-degree printing press operator like me?

Because chicks dig sardonic humor and classical allusions, apparently.

Remember, Googlers, when you're trying to figure out how to attract hot women, the answer is read more Shakespeare.

Given the amount of success I've had with this approach, which is none, I suppose I might as well give up on that Titus Andronicus cookbook.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:33 PM to Table for One )
Rules for using other people's Wi-Fi

1. Express gratitude.

After that, you hardly need a 2.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:23 PM to PEBKAC )
Redneck haiku

Found at Miss Cellania:

Remorse
A painful sadness
Can’t fit big screen TV through
Double-wide’s front door

Alone
Seeking solitude
Carl’s ex-wife Tammy files for
Restraining order

Gathering
In early morning mist
Mama searches Circle K for
Moon Pies and Red Man

Touching, sort of.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 PM to Almost Yogurt )
17 July 2006
Strange search-engine queries (24)

Could there possibly be more of these things sitting in the referrer logs? What do you think?

creative gift lottery tickets:  You betcha. What could possibly be more creative than something that has a 90-plus-percent chance of being worth nothing?

ethereal sniff aol chat fink:   Some of the finks you get a whiff of in AOL chat are hardly what you'd call "ethereal."

mr t cereal:  I pity the fool who doesn't make this a part of his nutritious breakfast.

where can I find the Malfunction indicator light on a 1999 Mazda 626 ES:  Be grateful. If you can't find it, it's not on.

is "geezer" offensive:  Shut up, whippersnapper.

good reliable indication of aspirin:  Open an aspirin bottle. If you see tablets therein, there's a good chance you're seeing aspirin.

search log barry manilow anal lettuce:  Insert "butterhead" joke here.

how to figure tag title tax:  (1) Buy a car. (2) Do you have any money left? (3a) If yes, write a check for $1000. (3b) If not, write a check for $1000.

is sunbathing nude in your own back yard privacy fence oklahoma:  It's Oklahoma. It's probably illegal to go nude in your own bathtub.

my knee sounds like rice krispies:  At least the "crackle" isn't too big an issue.

hydrochlorothiazide marijuana:  Oh, great, pot that makes you go to the bathroom more often.

windows on the womb:  Watch out for the Blue Screen of Birth.

secret ways to avoid schuylkill expressway:  Stay in Jersey.

meaning of who gives a rats ass:  Yeah, like I care.

what are christianity's view on autofellatio:  I suspect they think it sucks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:16 AM to You Asked For It )
Quote of the week

Brian Jackson, Republican candidate for Oklahoma House District 68 (no Democrats are running), in The Oklahoman's Voter's Guide:

I am running for this office because my current representative would not return my calls.

District 68 is presently represented by Chris Benge.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to QOTW )
Crazy from the heat

After a while, it addles the brain:

My son-in-law and my daughter live in the Central Valley. He doesn't believe in God, or air conditioning. Their houses are often 110 degrees in the daytime. Their answer to my vociferous complaints (not about God, but the heat) goes like this: "We don't need air conditioning. It's always cool at night." Great! I sweat until I'm as wet as a swamp critter, then at night the sweat dries and I get hypothermia.

He inherited this air-conditioning denial syndrome from his father, who told me, "We don't have air-conditioning. You don't need it." The father lives in Solvang, where the sidewalks melt in summer. If anyone in the world ever needed AC, it is the inhabitants of Solvang.

So the younger couple are building a house, an expensive one, on a very expensive piece of land. The driveway alone will cost more than my entire net worth. No air conditioning. Why? "We won't need it."

There are, of course, things you can do to improve the energy efficiency of a home — just ask Bob Waldrop. And, in defense of Dad, the Santa Ynez valley, heated up during the day, loses much of that heat at night: highs near 100 and lows in the 50s are common this time of year. Still, were I sinking seven figures into a home, you better believe it would have some means of cooling itself off besides waiting twelve hours.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:24 AM to Dyssynergy )
Higher-quality distractions

DaimlerChrysler is planning this for in-dash entertainment:

Its features include an AM/FM radio, CD/DVD player, embedded Sirius satellite radio with real-time traffic info, [a] 20GB HD, a USB jack, line-in jack, two audio outputs, Bluetooth hands-free calling and a 6.5-inch touchscreen with voice control.

The 20GB HD itself hold[s] all of the navigation software, which precludes the need for a dedicated DVD drive like most nav systems use. It also stores about a 1GB of system software (think operating system) and what's called a Gracenote lookup engine. Since you'll be able to rip CDs into the car's hard drive right on the spot, the Gracenote software is what will generate the artist, title and track information from a database of over 4 million CDs. Aside from ripping CDs directly, there's also a USB on the lower left side of the head unit that allows music and pictures to be transferred from a USB flash drive. There's room for around 1,600 songs to be uploaded depending on their file size.

And which Mercedes-Benz will be getting this package first?

You are wrong, gullwing breath. This system will be offered in the middle-market Chrysler Sebring, perhaps as early as this fall.

This scream may be monitored

Okay, don't scream at them, but don't force yourself into a bland monotone either, and here's why:

The next time you call a credit card issuer to complain about something you might want to turn up the heat with a bit more emotion. A new technology enables a call monitoring system to issue an alert to call center managers when the customer's voice hits a certain decibel level, uses harsh or foul language, or the name of a competitor. NICE Systems' "Emotion Detection" technology digitizes and stores angry calls on a server, where it can be batched with other angry calls, searched by keyword and emailed as a sound file among company managers.

No comment as yet from Vincent Ferrari.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:31 PM to Dyssynergy )
18 July 2006
Welcome to Heck

(Because, you know, "Welcome to Hell" ought to be reserved for more serious matters.)

The story begins at 5:30 pm yesterday, when the garage-door opener didn't.

5:31: Enter house through front door. Inside temperature: 80. Outside temperature: 104.

5:32: Note that security system is running on battery backup.

5:33: Struggle with OG&E's automated outage-reporting system. (It's actually not that difficult, but unless you happen to know your account number, they trace you by your phone number, and they've kept track of every phone number of every accountholder they've had since Alexander Graham Bell, so by the time they get to you, you'll punch buttons at random just to shut them up.)

5:40: Go outside, commiserate with neighbors.

5:50: Run up to west side of Edmond for errand of dubious importance.

6:20: Return home, no improvement. Inside temperature: 81.

6:22: Commiserate with different group of neighbors.

6:35: Drive to Arby's for dinner, since obviously I'm not cooking.

7:10: Return home, no improvement. Inside temperature: 83.

7:20: Boot up notebook, attempt to update Web site through dial-up I retain for just such an occasion. Not reachable.

7:30: Discover that Web host is having major issues.

8:00: Attempt to read. Complete The Week, start US News and World Report.

8:20: Available light insufficient to read. Inside temperature: 84. Outside temperature: 101.

8:30: Call nearest hotel. No rooms.

8:32: Call next-nearest hotel. No rooms.

8:34: Call third-nearest hotel. No rooms. "But we have the third-floor suite open, at a higher price." Visa is proffered and suite is reserved.

8:36: Pack.

8:46: Check into hotel. Boot up laptop. Site still unavailable.

6:30: Check out of hotel, drive home. Garage door actually opens. Power restored apparently about 4:30 am.

6:45: Leave for work.

I do hope I don't have to repeat this any time soon — say, within the next 100 years.

Fine tuning

Remember when Nigel Tufnel boasted that "these go to 11"? These go to 1600.

(Probably NSFW.)

Kinda squishy

Okay, we all know that George W. Bush didn't describe the actions of Hezbollah as Shinola, exactly, over that unexpectedly-live microphone.

There is precedent of a sort:

Things were a little tamer with the Washington Post before the Internet — when Harry Truman was stopping bucks in the White House. In response to Washington Post Music Critic Paul Hume’s harsh December 6, 1950, review of Margaret Truman’s singing performance at Constitution Hall, President Truman wrote: "you write such poppy-cock."

Which word itself deserves some annotation:

The OED is silent on its origin, but most modern dictionaries know well where it comes from: the Dutch word pappekak for "soft faeces." The word was presumably taken to the USA by Dutch settlers; the scatological associations were lost when the word moved into the English-language community.

I'd just bet Harry Truman knew what it meant originally.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:32 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Canadian burqan

It's all a matter of aesthetics, says Kevin Williamson in the Calgary Sun:

Far be it from me to tell anyone to put their clothes on, but there’s a reason we have laws against public nudity.

Hygiene? Morality? Hardly.

It’s because if you broke open the fleshy floodgates and gave the greenlight for everyone to disrobe whenever they pleased, you’d be exposed to every manner of rubbery, shriveled protuberances — ghastly things better left behind the closed doors of doctor’s offices and dark, dark bedrooms.

Why?

Because the first people to bare all would be the same people who should, God willing, remain swathed in fabric for the rest of their lives. Minimum three layers. Preferably black.

Wait until he finds out that fifty percent of the population is below-average in appearance.

(Link contains possibly-NSFW picture; article found at Fleshbot, which is never safe for work unless you're the sysadmin and sometimes even then.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:23 PM to Birthday Suitable )
The door revolves

Yours truly, December 2005:

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

And again, February 2006:

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

Berry Tramel, The Oklahoman, just now:

An Oklahoma City investor group led by Clay Bennett has reached agreement to purchase the Seattle SuperSonics for a reported $350 million, according to multiple sources. Sources in Seattle confirmed a Tuesday afternoon press conference to announce the sale, and the Seattle Times and the Fox Sports Northwest both reported the purchase.

The Seattle Times story is here.

Now if I could just predict the farging stock market.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:55 PM to Net Proceeds )
The official Sonics announcement

As seen on NBA.com:

The Basketball Club of Seattle (BCOS) announced today that it has signed a purchase agreement to sell its NBA Seattle SuperSonics and WNBA Seattle Storm for $350 million. The teams are being purchased by the Professional Basketball Club LLC, an Oklahoma City, Oklahoma based investment group led by Clayton I. Bennett, chairman of Dorchester Capital, a private investment company. Additional members of the group include Aubrey K. McClendon, Chairman and CEO, Chesapeake Energy Corporation; G. Jeffrey Records, Chairman of the Board and CEO, MidFirst Bank; Tom L. Ward, Chairman and CEO, Riata Energy, Inc., and G. Edward Evans, chairman, Syniverse Holding, Inc. The transaction is expected to close by the end of October of 2006.

“We have enjoyed the opportunity to own and operate the Sonics and the Storm for the past five seasons and are proud of what we’ve achieved both on and off the court,” said Howard Schultz, chairman of the Basketball Club of Seattle. “Since the majority of the Basketball Club of Seattle’s investors live and work in the Seattle community, it was extremely difficult for us to decide to sell the teams. As you may know, over the past two years, we have worked with local and state officials to seek a solution to the arena issues. However, it became more apparent that a new ownership group may be more successful in achieving the remaining goals of the Sonics and Storm.”

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to combine our passion for professional basketball and our abilities to build successful business enterprises,” said Bennett. “We thank the BCOS. They love this city and the Sonics and Storm. We appreciate the opportunity to lead a professional sports organization that has achieved the pinnacle of success within both the NBA and WNBA.

“The Sonics and the Storm are synonymous with Seattle, and it is our desire to have the Sonics and the Storm build upon their great legacies in the Greater Seattle area,” added Bennett. “We believe with the right dynamics on the court, the right community support, the right business model and a financially committed ownership group that recognizes and respects Seattle, we can succeed here for decades to come.”

“We decided that if we had to sell the team, our first preference was to identify a local buyer who resides in the Northwest, and we were committed to taking a lower price if a local buyer came forward,” continued Schultz. “Unfortunately, we searched for a local buyer, but were unsuccessful. However, we are pleased that the ownership of the Sonics and the Storm will transition to the Professional Basketball Club, which is a stellar management team, with a history of proven success.”

“The Basketball Club of Seattle offers a sincere thank you to our players, our coaches and all of our front office employees for their hard work and dedication over the past five years,” said Wally Walker, president and CEO of the Seattle Sonics & Storm. “We also want to thank Sonics and Storm fans and business partners for their passionate support. Our employees and basketball fans around the Northwest should remain very proud of the 40-year legacy of the Sonics and the success the Storm have experienced in their seven seasons. I’m committed to working with the new owners to keep our teams in Seattle and I’m excited about the energy they will bring to the organization.”

Former Seattle Seahawks great Steve Largent, who is from Oklahoma originally and knows personally several members of the new ownership group commented, “They are well-respected and successful business professionals who are sports fans. I know they truly would like to keep the Sonics and the Storm in Seattle. On a personal note, I hope they are successful.”

The Basketball Club of Seattle purchased the teams in April 2001 from The Ackerley Group. During the five years of BCOS ownership, the Sonics recorded a winning percentage of 51 percent, made two playoff appearances and won the 2005 Northwest Division title. The Storm have made three playoff appearances and won the 2004 WNBA Championship — the first major professional sports championship for Seattle since the Sonics won the 1979 NBA Championship.

In addition to achievements on the court, the teams remain active in the community. The Sonics & Storm Foundation and its players donate more than $1 million per year to the region’s communities.

SuperSonics.com has a Sale FAQ posted.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:32 PM to Net Proceeds )
The unofficial Hornets announcement

On the Seattle sonicscentral.com blog:

According to SonicsCentral sources, coinciding with the Seattle Supersonics petition to the league regarding the sale, New Orleans Hornets ownership, headed by George Shinn, has applied to the league to permanently stay in Oklahoma City.

The Hornets had previous[ly] maintained that they would return to New Orleans as soon as repairs and conditions made it possible.

This is unconfirmed at the moment, but you know, it sounds Shinn-ical.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:43 PM to Net Proceeds )
19 July 2006
For the first time anywhere

I grumbled at some point that I'd never gotten a Victoria's Secret catalog in the mail, though I can't say I was horribly put out by this particular act of deprivation.

Inexplicably, one showed up yesterday in the mail, using a variation of the name I don't normally use for commerce — but have used for blog comments.

Or do they routinely address these to two initials, last name? I've never gotten one before now, so I'm not up on their procedures.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:13 AM to Rag Trade )
Good morning, Mr Leech

Have you had a busy day? Then tuck into some of these yummy white chocolate maggots. They make that "gummi" stuff look like candy.

Somewhere on the label: "Does not contain real maggots." Not every foodstuff can make such a guarantee.

(Via Belhoste, who just about now should be hitting the Pepto-Bismol.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:12 AM to Worth a Fork )
Post-modern Art

Art Thiel of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer dumps on Howard Schultz:

At least three times publicly Tuesday, Howard Schultz, the soon-to-be-former Sonics owner, lamented that government officials showed him and his fellow buccaneers "no respect."

Honest, he really said it. Not Gary Payton, the self-absorbed player Schultz couldn't stand, and instead traded. It was Schultz who adopted Payton's schoolyard rap with his pout over the city's reluctance to subsidize his team's playpen.

Then Schultz, along with president and fellow owner Wally Walker, had the jewels to claim that some silly cowboys from Oklahoma will have more success than the homeys did in keeping the Sonics in Seattle.

My definition of "no respect": Assuming one's listeners are total morons.

Or, perhaps, "silly cowboys."

Incidentally, NewsOK.com has reprinted the Thiel piece, which ends with this fatuous blast at Oklahoma City:

Alert to basketball fans in Oklahoma City: As of Tuesday, your arena is already on the fast track to becoming a crap can, your owner is a wild-eyed venture capitalist and your team next year will pay maybe $50 million to a pimply teenager who doesn't know a drop step from a drop kick.

At least it's not the Dust Bowl. But the taste is recognizable.

Remind me to ask him how he likes his crow.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:36 AM to Net Proceeds )
It's hotter than you think

The guy on the NPR station keeps announcing the predicted high for today as "middle to high 100s," which comes off, at least to me, as scary: I hear that, and it sounds like somewhere between 150 and 199, despite the fact that not even in Al Gore's most fervid fantasies has it ever been as high as 140. (The current world record is more like 136.)

The National Weather Service says today's high will be 106.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:44 AM to Weather or Not )
Let the grass die

The weather being what it is, you might have wanted to save what's left of your lawn. Well, forget it: the City Manager has ordered a ban on outdoor watering through midnight Friday, and is asking for voluntary limits on water use through the following week.

The city is building a new main parallel to the old 72-inch line from the Draper water plant. The old line seems to have become fragile of late: this is the third break in three months.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:05 PM to City Scene )
Two hundred

The first (and still the oldest) of the blog carnivals has made it to 200 weeks, a statistic so startling I don't feel compelled to start this post off with an irrelevancy about the number itself.

Carnival of the Vanities #200 is hosted this week by Accidental Verbosity, and there's a special feature: a memorial to the late Rob "Acidman" Smith, who departed this world in June after compressing 200 years of life, maybe more, into an all-too-short fifty-four.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:41 PM to Blogorrhea )
20 July 2006
Words on a keychain

Franklin, who made a zillion spellcheckers the size of checkbooks back in the Pleistocene era of computing, has now dropped an entire dictionary onto a USB flash drive.

Licensed from Merriam-Webster®, the dictionary contains 300,000 words; Franklin has tossed in a thesaurus with 500,000 entries, a Grammar Guide, and a hint machine for crosswords. At fifty bucks, it's cheaper than the Third New International Unabridged, and certainly a lot easier to schlep around.

(Via Popgadget.)

Everything's a tradeoff

The thing about this brand of air-conditioning unit, I am told, is that their coil design provides for good airflow even with small accumulations of the inevitable crud.

The downside, of course, is that you tend to postpone cleaning until the accumulations of the inevitable crud are no longer so small, and when the time comes, you start wondering if maybe it wouldn't be easier to reroute a river through it, since the very design that makes them somewhat resistant to crud also makes them more than somewhat difficult to clean.

So now you know how my morning went. My participation in the actual activity was limited to asking stupid questions and then writing a large check, but life, they say, is for learning.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:12 AM to Surlywood )
Little things mean a lot

Not even the rainbow is safe anymore:

The rainbow-colored steps on the 500 block of Castro Street have long been a magnet for tourists. Countless visitors to the city's gay neighborhood have sat down on them to snap a visual remembrance of their San Francisco trip. Locals are also drawn to them, using them as a backdrop for pictures that later end up in online profiles or slipped into cards sent home to family and friends.

In fact, they're sufficiently iconic that even breeders like myself have heard of them.

So naturally they've got to go:

But the wide steps that lead up to the building's two storefronts and entrances to two apartments will soon be altered to make way for new doorways to the shops that are handicap accessible.

"The code requires the Patio Cafe building and the adjoining building [the buildings are merged] to be ADA compliant and it is necessary to remove most of the stairs at the street level," [says owner Les Natali].

But a reduced rainbow will eventually return:

"Some stairs to the upper level will remain, and they will be painted in the rainbow colors."

Assuming, of course, that said colors aren't some day ruled to be discriminatory against persons with color blindness.

(Via Bill Quick's San Francisco Real Estate Blog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:17 PM to Dyssynergy )
Must be a pants shortage or something

First, there was the Broken Arrow nimrod who worked on his car in the front yard wearing nothing but a thin coating of greasy sweat (and/or sweaty grease).

Now here's a pantsless dork shopping at the Shawnee Mall Sears.

As a person who avoids clothing as much as circumstances and the weather permit, I must decry this sort of stupidity, if only because it puts me in a bad light. (Actually, any light in which you can see me is a bad light, but let that pass.) It's not "striking a blow for body freedom" or anything high-flown like that; it's simply making oneself look ridiculous.

A word to the wise: if anyone really wanted to see your genitalia, you'd have an actual date.

Actual Democrat sighting

Joe Hartman, last seen commenting on this site in his capacity as campaign manager for John Morgan's run for House District 87 in 2004 — Morgan lost, but not by much — is now running for the seat himself, and he dropped by Surlywood today to say hello and pass out literature.

Hartman will face Dana Orwig (who doesn't have a campaign Web site as of this writing) in the Democratic primary Tuesday; the winner meets Trebor Worthen in the general election.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:14 PM to Soonerland )
Paging Claudette Rains

If you're a female, the Taliban would just as soon you kept yourself out of sight:

Women's faces are being painted out of billboards across the city of Peshawar in northern Pakistan after local government officials threatened to take action against advertisers.

The depiction of uncovered women is considered un-Islamic by the Taliban, whose influence is growing in the North West Frontier province.

Similar edicts were issued and posters defaced in 2003. "These multinational companies want to promote obscenity, lewdness and vulgarity," said a furious religious leader, Shehzada Babar.

And what could possibly be more obscene than a woman enjoying a biscuit with her tea?

These people need a healthy dose of Britney Spears in her birthday suit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:50 PM to Dyssynergy )
Shoe math

No, it doesn't have anything to do with the Brannock Device. Let's say she says you've got, oh, eight inches on her:

Listen. The first time I was standing next to you, it was evening, so I was wearing dressy shoes. All my going-out shoes have about a 3 inch heel. Except my formal shoes, which are higher, but I wouldn't have been wearing any of those. And you were wearing normal inoffensive contemporary men's shoes, which would have had about a 1 inch heel, or we probably wouldn't even be speaking right now. So comparably, that nets me two additional inches. That aren't really mine. And even with the two inches, I probably only came up to the bottom of your nose. Bottom of the nose to the top of the head, probably about half a foot, plus the two inches I shouldn't have had. Eight inches. Give or take.

At least as accurate as the tape measure in my toolbox, and without making that bendy-metal SSPROING! noise either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:05 PM to Table for One )
21 July 2006
Jersey watch

So far, I have done a fairly lousy job of anticipating the numbers to be worn by this year's new Hornets, a situation made more difficult by the fact that ex-Bulls center Tyson Chandler had worn number 3, a number already claimed by Chris Paul; Chandler, vowing at a press conference to be "twice as good" as he was in Chicago during his tenure as a Hornet, will wear number 6 instead. Conveniently, 6 has been vacated by Arvydas Macijauskas, long gone for Europe.

Interestingly, Hilton Armstrong, drafted 12th, will wear number 12; Cedric Simmons, drafted 15th, will wear — number 22. Aw, shucks.

Still to be determined: Bobby Jackson and Marcus Vinicius, who haven't formally signed the papers yet. Jackson wore #24 in Memphis, which will clash with Desmond Mason. And Peja? He was #16 for the Kings, #16 for the Pacers, and he'll be #16 for the Hornets.

(Retired numbers: 7, for Pete Maravich of LSU — he never played for the Hornets, but he remains a towering figure in Louisiana sports history, and he did play for the Jazz when they were in New Orleans — and 13, for Bobby Phills, a Hornets guard killed in an auto accident halfway through the 1999-2000 season.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:07 AM to Net Proceeds )
Meanwhile in the Emerald City

Nick Licata, who presides over the Seattle City Council, has an idea what to do with a Sonic-less KeyArena:

It would be an opportunity for a real public-private partnership of a different sort than, say, professional sports. We could convert KeyArena to a new type of facility that would reflect new 21st century technology. In Las Vegas, 15,000 show up for a national gaming conference. Why not have those people come to Seattle?

Why not, indeed?

Licata drew flak earlier for suggesting that the value of professional sports was "on a cultural basis, close to zero." Asked about this and other issues by a Sonics fan, he sent an explanation, attached as a comment to this thread:

I have been saying for months that I would like to see the Sonics stay in Seattle, but not at a cost of over $200 million. As I stated several months ago, there is no doubt about it, my glib, foolish remark on the relative unimportance of professional basketball in Seattle was smug and wrong. In my clumsy way I was trying to point out that Seattle is a world-class city for a variety of reasons, not just because of the Sonics. Public leaders need to ask the right questions, and then listen to the answers instead of providing good press copy. As an elected official, it is my job to weigh competing interests and decide what is the best use of taxpayer dollars. Let me give you some background on this issue. In 1995, after a City Council vote, the former Coliseum was rebuilt into KeyArena at the request of the Sonics. That same year, the voters of King County narrowly voted down a baseball stadium. The State Legislature and the King County Council overturned that decision. In 1997, state voters narrowly passed a measure for a football stadium. Partly as a result of voter anger at the baseball stadium vote being overturned, state voters then passed a series of anti-tax initiatives that constrained the ability of local governments to pay for basic services. This forced cuts in services, and has had a lasting impact. Some governments, such as King County, have had to eliminate entire lines of business, such as providing swimming pools and park construction. Right now the Seattle City Council is considering a tax levy proposal from Mayor Greg Nickels to provide funding for road and bridge maintenance. This is needed because a principal funding source for this basic, core service was removed by an anti-tax measure. One goal of anti-tax measures was to force local governments to put measures on the ballot for voters to decide what they want government to do, so this is in line with the intent expressed by the voters. That is why I believe it is fair for the City Council to insist on a public vote for any tax proposal for a new basketball arena. These initiatives have forced elected officials to carefully choose what items to fund. For this reason, the Council crafted a set of reasonable conditions for negotiations, and the Mayor's office began discussions with the Sonics' former ownership.

The economic model for professional basketball includes a reliance on public subsidies. The level of subsidy required for a NBA franchise has increased considerably in recent years. The Sonics consider the 1995 version of KeyArena obsolete, only 11 years after its construction. This is not an isolated case: Memphis built a new arena in 1991, and then again in 2004. The economic lifespan of NBA arenas is decreasing and the amount of public subsidy — formerly a small portion — is now expected to be the overwhelming majority. This is the economic model of the NBA nowadays. Keep in mind, the bonds used to finance construction of KeyArena will not be paid off until 2014, four years after the Sonics lease expires. The current business model of the NBA depends not only on public subsidies, but on generating revenues from arenas that are much larger than KeyArena, in order to generate revenue from restaurants and shops. They want all the revenue the arena can generate, including from concerts, which are more profitable than Sonics games. NBA arenas are becoming as much malls as sports arenas. That is why KeyArena is considered obsolete, not because of any structural defects, or lack of good sightlines, for example. As the KeyArena business plan notes, it was rated "Best Venue in the NBA" in 2004, and has won Facilities and Event Management's "Prime Site" award three times since opening. The question is, how much is enough? The proposal for a $220 million KeyArena remodel, when including the remaining debt, and financed at 6% interest, would cost an annual $40 million tax subsidy for 15 years. I developed a proposal that would have provided $8-10 million in new annual revenues for the Sonics. The Mayor of Seattle proposed three options to the Sonics. One of the options would have provided a $20 million annual increase in revenues for the Sonics. The Sonics' former owners did not respond to any of the offers, and instead sold for $350 million the business they purchased 5 years ago for $200 million. This was their business choice; they chose to take their profits by selling the team, rather than accepting one of our offers and submitting it to the public for a vote.

(Originally presented as a single paragraph, divided here for reasons of appearance.)

It won't necessarily happen exactly that way in Oklahoma City, the Home of Creative Financing, but down the road, we're going to have to deal with these issues.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:43 AM to Net Proceeds )
They barely missed him

The suspected Fridayland Flasher, also believed to have engaged in similar displays in the Tulsa area, was spotted in Broken Arrow yesterday, according to KWTV's morning Webcast; the B.A. cops pulled him over, he turned over his license, and then he drove off. Presumably he was dressed at the time.

Previous eyewitness reports that the perp was driving a grey or silver car were apparently accurate; "Steven Brazeal," the name on the license, was behind the wheel of a silver Chrysler Sebring.

Update, 22 July, 11:30 am: Brazeal apparently lives in the tiny town of Foyil on Route 66 east of Claremore; he is an actual doctor-type person, but the state of Tennessee has pulled his license to practice medicine there. It appears he's also been putting on a show in Texas. Tulsa County is filing charges against Brazeal, and Oklahoma County may follow.

Tugging on Supergirl's cape

Some women aspire to the life, or at least the attitude, of the superheroine; I always sorta hoped that one might someday look my way, if only to cancel out my own distressing deficiency of super-ness and possibly offset some of the numbers on the wrong side of the graph. I need hardly point out that it didn't happen, and won't.

Besides, those who are Super, according to legend, aren't supposed to have issues. Stan Lee started the process of demythologizing them; The Incredibles should have finished it off. But just to hammer home the point, Ivan Reitman brings us My Super Ex-Girlfriend, a tale of woe in which an ordinary shlub (Luke Wilson) finds delight, and then despair, with a woman (Uma Thurman) who can melt him with her eyes — literally.

The problems start long before he's clued in about all that Super business: she's neurotic, she's jealous, and she's suspicious, and he decides that he'd best break it off, before she breaks it off for him, so to speak. I might have bought this story if these characters had had any actual chemistry, but I can spot a "no one else will have us, so why not?" setup a mile away, and everything unfolds within the expected bounds of predictability. There are some good lines, and Wanda Sykes is amusing as a bureaucrat constantly watching for signs of sexual harassment, but you can always see the wheels turning behind the scenes.

Too bad, too, since I could definitely use a fantasy figure like Uma's G-Girl; okay, she's insane, but probably no more so than I.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:15 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Give in and take in

Well, why not? Sex advice from Objectivists:

Q. What can Ayn Rand teach us about sex?

A. That it's not just a meeting of bodies, but also of minds. Find someone you can admire personally as well as physically. The sex will be sexier and you'll feel better in the morning.

Hank Rearden, asked to comment, said, "Can you do that?"

Update, 22 July, 11:11 am: Jennifer at Ravings of a Feral Genius notes: "It's not often that you hear 'Ayn Rand' and 'healthy sex life' in the same non-ironic phrase."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:28 PM to Table for One )
22 July 2006
As old as you feel?

It's true, says Sage, and it varies moment to moment:

In conversations with my guy, we're often the same age, but other times we waver back and forth. Sometimes he's younger and playful, and I'm the older one reeling him in. Other times he's the old one, wise and reasonable trying to calm my childish tantrums.

Playful, goofy sex makes me 20. Warm, passionate sex is more 40-ish. A back rub that soothes my aching body leaves me a relaxed and well-cared-for 80-year-old.

Stealing big rocks from a construction site at night (loaded in my baby carriage no less), I'm 12. Carefully positioning them in my garden in the morning with a cup of tea nearby, I'm at least 60.

When my knees and ankles crack going downstairs in the morning, I'm about 70. When I'm not done dancing at two a.m., I'm 17.

Generally, in the mornings I'm the worst of the aged, cantankerous, with few words of wisdom. In the afternoons, I'm a middle-aged worker getting stuff done. In the early evening, I'm a young mother caring for my kids. But once night falls, I'm a teenager ready to play.

And every single time I ride my bike, I'm 10 years old, in a bathing suit with bare feet, off to get a 5-cent freezie from the store.

No fair trying to compute the average.

I got up this morning as a weary retiree: I expect to get back some of those years later today. And I might take a nap this afternoon, though I don't know whether to score that as 72 years or seven months.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:21 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Pour it on

How do you get your miserable Site Meter (or whatever) moving? Content, content, content, says James Joyner:

Unless you’re doing Lileks- or Wretchard-length essays, it’s almost impossible to get steady traffic without posting 40-50 items a week at minimum. There are just too many sites competing for eyeballs for large numbers of people to make your site a daily stop unless you’re giving them something to read when they get there.

People who write quickly, prolifically, and about interesting things at least have a chance of breaking out of the pack. It’s not coincidental that most of the top bloggers are college professors, journalists, or self-employed. Unless you have the ability to blog during the day (or the discipline to get up early [and] crank out several posts before going to work a la Ed Morrissey) you’re at a distinct disadvantage.

I'm running close to 40 these days; I think it's fair to say that I write quickly and prolifically. ("Interesting," of course, is in the eye of the beholder.) It helps that I can keep two or three post ideas on the brain's back burner more or less indefinitely, and then pop one to the front when I figure out something to say about it, or there's something in the news which it might fit.

And I do often have new posts up before I go to work, but those are usually written the night before and then given a final once-over before publishing the next morning.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:24 AM to Blogorrhea )
Saturday spottings (the spread)

While researching this week's strange search-engine queries, I stumbled upon this one: places to eat in the 4000 block of East Reno Ave. in Oklahoma City. Not having a handy wiseass remark for this, other than to note that the 4000 block of East Reno is actually within Del City limits, I duly drove to the scene and determined that unless you can cadge a meal from one of the residents on the south side of the street — there are petroleum storage tanks on the north side — there is, in fact, no place to eat from 3900 through 4100 East Reno.

17 SW 171st StThis was opening day for the Southwest Showcase of Homes, a joint venture by the South OKC and Moore Homebuilders Associations, with 56 houses on display for the next eight days or so. As real-estate events go, this one has considerable longevity; I remember seeing a couple of these in the 1970s. The difference, of course, is that the new subdivisions are farther out than ever; you're looking at a house just west of Santa Fe on SW 171st Street. (This is an Aaron Tatum home; Tatum built one of the two Project Homes in the Showcase this year. Tatum also has background music on his Web site, so be warned.) The next section-line road south is Indian Hills Road, where Santa Fe turns into 48th Avenue NW, so this is practically in Norman. This particular subdivision is called Talavera, and it's not especially pricey as these things go; you can buy this house for $224,900. (I should point out that this house is not part of the Showcase, though there is a Showcase home on the next block north, and it's about $25k less.)

As always, I'm of two minds about these things. While Oklahoma City is reviled in some circles for its sheer sprawl, I'm happy to see people actually buying within the city limits instead of automatically opting for the suburbs. ("I take comfort in the fact that they're still in the city, no matter what their return address may say: we're all in this together, whether we live on 9th Street, 99th Street, or 199th Street.") On the other hand, you've got to be making a heck of a lot more money than I am to be able to afford one of these pointy boxes, and I'm quite certain that if I could afford one, I'd buy something smaller anyway. Then again, it's just me here; had I teenagers afoot, I might well want them as far away as possible without going outside the property line.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:59 PM to City Scene )
23 July 2006
The Pacific Northwest shakeout

Brian Berger of Sports Business Radio passes on this possible scenario:

  • [The] Blazers and the Rose Garden will be sold to Hollywood Video founder Mark Wattles. Wattles was born and raised in Portland and if at all possible, the NBA would like to see the team purchased by an owner with local ties.

  • Seattle will move to OK City at the start of the 2007-08 season.

  • Paul Allen will purchase the New Orleans Hornets from George Shinn and move them to Seattle. This makes sense for a number of reasons, including the fact that Shinn does not want to return to New Orleans and NBA basketball does not make sense in that market. Ticket prices are way too high and people there are just trying to get back on their feet. NBA basketball is not a winning proposition in New Orleans, no matter how much the NBA would like to see a team succeed there. The other thing the Hornets move to Seattle accomplishes, is it returns the NBA to a long-time NBA city. David Stern has a track record of returning a team to cities that have lost a franchise — the NBA returned to Charlotte after only 2 years . . . and he'll reward OK City with the Sonics once the Hornets deal with OK City expires at the end of this season. Then he can move the Hornets to Seattle. As my high level source told me [Wednesday], Stern would be choosing the "lesser of two evils" by having Paul Allen own the Hornets instead of George Shinn. Plus, Allen has tremendous clout in Seattle — with government officials, the fans and corporate sponsors. His Seahawks have been very successful and there is no reason to think that he wouldn't be successful with an NBA team in Seattle. And by the way, he has a nice parcel of land to build a new arena right next to Qwest Field.

This seems as plausible as anything else I've heard lately, and they could finish it off nicely by having Paul Allen and Clay Bennett swap their properties, or at least the names of those properties, leaving the Sonics in Seattle, the Hornets in Oklahoma City, and George Shinn looking for a day job. I'm not quite so convinced that the NBA is a losing proposition in New Orleans, but I'm not the guy who crunches the numbers either.

(Via TrueHoop.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:31 AM to Net Proceeds )
Post-unpacking delight

When you move, you hope you're going to a far, far better place than the one you're vacating. I know I did. And Wendy seems pleased with her new digs:

Here is a list of totally mundane things we have in our new place that I did not have the pleasure of experiencing in my old building, and, in a few cases, my entire adult life thus far:
  • Garage space.
  • A bathroom exhaust fan.
  • An open-air back porch.
  • One of those sprayer thingies in the kitchen sink.
  • Three-prong receptacles in every outlet.
  • Water pressure. No, really.
  • Enough room to comfortably walk around the bed.
  • Basement storage that is clean and dry and well-lit and does not appear to have been dug out by Jame Gumb.
  • A laundry room that can be reached without having to go outside and through the alley.
  • Lights in the (get this!) CLOSETS.

See how easy to please I am? I know this might sound totally absurd to those of you who live in suburban areas and/or newer buildings, where everyone has central air, and remote-control windows, and wet bars in every cathedral-ceilinged walk-in-closet. But for the city, and for an older building, what we have is pretty good.

"The city," in her case, is Chicago, and it does sound pretty good. (I don't have a bathroom exhaust fan, probably because of the dearth of electrical lines in the bath; there's not even an outlet to charge my Sonicare.)

And I remember going through this, too:

Right now, we’re at the point where almost everything with a power cord is plugged in where it needs to be, and all the electronic displays are sentient and unblinking. However we keep buying power strips, which baffles me. I mean, X is the number of things we need to plug in and Y is the number of available wall outlets, and in the course of changing apartments, X remains constant, at least for now, and Y, thank God, has increased, AND YET, this means that Z, the number of power strips we need, somehow increases as well. I mean, first the logic was: if X > Y, then Z, right? So why is it now X ≤ Y+Z = EVEN MORE FUCKING Z?

It must be related to the way coat hangers multiply in the closet — unless, of course, you actually need more of them.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:18 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Coming soon, maybe

This looks promising:

Notes from Underland is an original musical about 24 hours in an unemployed actor's life as he chases a movie starlet through New York City, trying to get to an audition for a famous director. Though inspired by Alice in Wonderland, After Hours, Singin' in the Rain and many other influences, Notes from Underland is the first original movie musical in decades.

Not the most modest of claims, but heck, this is cinema, after all. And I do have faith in this production company: they've done one film which rather impressed me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:00 PM to Almost Yogurt )
See that gun? Now jump it

CafePress is already selling "Oklahoma City Sonics" gear.

The following notation accompanying the women's tank top is instructive:

Get the latest in basketball fashion while those pretentious latte sipping Seattlites continue to badmouth OK.

By the way, they're about halfway finished with that new Starbucks at May and Grand.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:37 PM to Net Proceeds )
24 July 2006
Strange search-engine queries (25 or 6 to 4)

So named because I get frequent requests for the meaning of that particular Chicago title. (The answer is here.) Meanwhile, the following have been accumulating in the referrer logs:

mbna and chase are the same:  Um, no, they're not. MBNA and Bank of America are the same. The determination of individual degrees of suckage is left as an exercise for the student.

"mary fallin" topless:  I assume both point to the right.

"you have breasts" traduction:  "Haminahamina" works in most Western languages.

do men really expect women to get a bikini wax:  I don't even expect them to call.

does mitsubishi galant have problems with racket pin steering:  If it's making a racket, you've got problems.

"deborah gibson" was reported to receive playboy:  Wasn't it enough that they paid her to pose?

nice ASCII:  Er, uh, thanks.

wolverine urine:  Keeps squirrels and similar pests away. (Frighteningly, I am #1 in this search.)

penis monologue:  Little prick never would shut up.

george steinbrenner darth vader:  Steinbrenner is the one who doesn't sound like James Earl Jones.

monorchidism hitler:  Himmler is somewhat similar.

rosario dawson's cans:  Kept on a tidy shelf.

what did noah do with the woodpeckers:  Regrettably, he didn't feed them the mosquitoes.

"mr. right" "how soon do you know":  Usually when it's too late.

gorgeous tall women unclothed:  If I knew any, I wouldn't have time to post this, would I?

positive id required ok to deposit rebate check in the atm:  Absolutely. Hold up your driver's license to the glass.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:35 AM to You Asked For It )
If only these lots were emptier

In my usual perfunctory scan of the real-estate ads, I spotted what seemed to be an awfully high price on a house at 1701 Windsor Place, near the southern edge of Nichols Hills — very few 1440-square-foot homes are worth $1.3 million — but then I got down to the fine print:

Price includes 6415 and 6417 North Penn and 1900 Huntington. Architects plans for luxury condos available for serious buyers.

Near 1701 Windsor PlaceSo they're going to tear down these four houses and replace them with condos. Okay, fine. Why sell the entire set of four parcels as a unit? (And is this price for after the condos are built? Zillow.com's estimated prices for all four, combined, come to only about $620,000.)

I drive past this block about three or four times a month; maybe I'm going to have to start watching this story unfold.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:06 AM to City Scene )
Charge and recharge

This month's electric bill at Surlywood — $116 — was the highest it's ever been, which I attribute to two factors:

  1. It was summer, which means a lot of A/C;
  2. And I was here for almost all of it, which is unusual for me.

Of course, it could be worse. At least I'm not in an area powered by Southern California Edison:

[T]he utility will raise rates Aug. 1 by up to 55 percent.

And the increase is retroactive to January, though Edison, which serves the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, will spread that pain over a year rather than billing a lump sum, spokesman Gil Alexander said Friday.

The rate increase, the third this year, was approved Thursday by the state Public Utilities Commission.

"Retroactive to January"? Must be nice. I ought to ask for a raise retroactive to January. If nothing else, it should pin the laugh meter in the conference room.

I looked at the rate schedule, and it's (presumably) unintentionally hilarious: seven different factors go into the calculation, and there's a bump up at 130 percent of "baseline" usage, another at 200 percent. (Compared to the OG&E rate schedule, which has a summer rate, a winter rate, and a rate for in between, the Edison plan looks like something out of Terry Gilliam's Brazil.)

And it's not so nice, of course, if you're one of the lucky ones who gets to pay it:

Here we are years after the rolling blackouts, and California still hasn't increased electricity production so that there's plenty to go around at reasonable prices. I'm a fourth-generation Californian, but leaving the state looks better all the time. . . .

Meanwhile, on the East Coast:

[W]here I live, the electric company just received approval for a 30% rate hike this year and each of two years after that, which borders on insane not to mention prohibitive. My favorite trick of our G&E company, with charges among the highest in the country, is when they tack on a cute little non-specific charge they call an "access fee". Last summer (anything significant there?), the access fee was three times the bill.

I'm beginning to think that the allegedly roll-over-and-play-dead Oklahoma Corporation Commission isn't quite as feckless as we've come to believe.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:02 AM to Family Joules )
Sort of noticed

The dating site OkCupid is probably better known for its battery of tests than for its success at getting couples together. Back in the spring of '04, I took one of said tests; for the sheer hell of it, I filled out a perfunctory profile, and then mostly forgot about it. Last summer, I said something to this effect:

I have never placed a personal ad. (Okay, I filled in a profile at OkCupid, but this was so I could get a look at some of their funkier personality tests.) The major reason, surpassing even "What if I got a response?" (which is scary enough), is "What in the world would I say?"

I am compelled to note that someone actually read said profile today and presumably did not run screaming into the woods. From her own words, I suspect she's looking for whatever equivalent of a drinking buddy exists among people who don't actually drink. I was sufficiently surprised by this event to rewrite the profile extensively; whether it's now more appealing — or less so — will become apparent in the years to come. (And I figure, if it takes 27 months to get one response, "years" is the minimum time frame involved.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:56 PM to Table for One )
Adventures in iTunes (4)

I think it's safe to say that I haven't gone totally berserk in the iTunes Music Store; total number of tracks purchased is now a modest thirteen. (If you're curious, the most recent was a spoken-word thing by Henry Rollins.)

Which means that by and large, iTunes is serving mostly as my conduit for podcasts, six of which are on my subscription list. One is a quickie, about 50 seconds every day; three come out weekly and run half an hour or thereabouts; two are on irregular schedules. I really don't know if I can accommodate too many more of these, since it's now up to about two hours a week, longer than I spend watching TV. Then again, I never envisioned this much time in blogdom either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:40 PM to Fileophile )
25 July 2006
New Jersey on the prairie

Oh, yeah, we catch a lot of flak from Texans, and in the last couple of weeks we've heard some rumblings from the Puget Sound area, but in the main, nobody bashes Oklahoma quite like Oklahomans: the state's inferiority complex, reinforced by years as a national punchline, is, well, downright superior.

In this morning's Oklahoman, Steve Lackmeyer thinks we're getting over it:

Back in the late 1980s, civic boosters such as Ray Ackerman and Lee Allan Smith spent much of their time thinking up ways to build up hometown pride. Oklahomans back then were worse than Texans when it came to criticizing the Sooner State.

But over the past few years, I've seen that low self-esteem disappear. Sometimes we even sound like Texans, bragging about ourselves whenever we're put down by out-of-state rivals.

This does not mean, of course, that Bud Light is going to put out a radio spot celebrating "Mr. Way Too Proud of Oklahoma Guy" any time soon, but I get the impression that a lot of the state's detractors would be unhappy no matter where they were.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:55 AM to Soonerland )
Thanks for listening to WUSS-FM

Blender picks the 25 biggest wusses — musical, that is — and, well, it's hard to disagree, especially since a sidebar offers the Ultimate Wuss Mix Tape, which I reproduce here:

Side A:
  1. Debby Boone, "You Light Up My Life"
  2. Michael Jackson, "She’s Out of My Life"
  3. Dan Hill, "Sometimes When We Touch"
  4. James Blunt, "You’re Beautiful"
  5. Bread, "If"
  6. Chicago, "You’re the Inspiration"
  7. Dan Fogelberg, "Longer"
  8. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, "Our House"

Side B:

  1. Lionel Richie, "Hello"
  2. Loggins & Messina, "Danny’s Song"
  3. ’N SYNC, "God Must Have Spent a Little More Time on You"
  4. Captain & Tennille, "Muskrat Love"
  5. Stevie Wonder, "I Just Called to Say I Love You"
  6. Taylor Hicks, "Do I Make You Proud"
  7. Air Supply, "All Out of Love"
  8. Simon & Garfunkel, "Scarborough Fair"

Disclosure: I own nine of the sixteen songs listed. And in fairness, Debby Boone once did a decent version of "Oh No Not My Baby," the old Maxine Brown soul hit; there's no indication that she actually understood the words or anything, but the end result was eminently listenable.

(Spotted at Lip Schtick.)

Gauging the turnout

I was in no mood to bestir myself at seven this morning to run to the polls, but I did manage to make it by ten, by which time 168 ballots were already in the Big Black Tub. Traffic at the precinct was light but consistent. This being a primary, there's not a lot for the Independents to do — a district judge, maybe — so the person behind the table managing the Republican voters also worked the Independent book. (Did they flip a coin for this, or is this supposed to be a reflection of the actual electorate, which has a small Democratic plurality, in this precinct?)

The News Guys are saying 30 percent or so of registered voters will turn out for this election; I'm guessing it might be a hair higher. I'm not about to project any winners, though.

The reflex

OkCupid (last mentioned here) has a profile-area menu function called Woo, which splits the difference between an IM (not so intrusive) and a private message (not so restrained). Amusingly, if you have your own profile on screen, the menu item for this changes to CAN'T WOO YOURSELF, which unsurprisingly gave me the idea that this premise has potential as a "Get lost" kind of response: "Oh, go woo yourself!" Of course, both grammatical and anatomical precedents exist.

(Note to those who are wondering why I am suddenly paying attention to this sort of thing: it was either this or MySpace.)

Addendum, 2 August: OkCupid user Altara complains: "As a narcissist I feel like I'm being discriminated against."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:49 PM to Table for One )
Another reason to buy American

The Singapore-based carrier Cougar Ace, bound for North America, is taking on water 200 miles south of the Aleutians and is listing about eighty degrees, standing slightly less upright than Foster Brooks.

The crew, says Jalopnik, has been picked up by air and flown to safety, but the 4800 motor vehicles on board will likely be plunged into the sea, never to be seen again, unless SpongeBob SquarePants either gets his driver's license or becomes a seller on eBay Motors, in which case watch for sudden deals on Mazdas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:36 PM to Driver's Seat )
A pink hotel, a boutique, and a swinging hot spot

News Item: Monopoly® money will be phased out in a new version of the game in a bid to keep up with the times. Instead players will use mock Visa debit cards to keep track of how much money they are winning or losing. An electronic machine is provided, which allows the banker to transfer money from players and record their earnings and payments.

Top Ten Other Unnecessary Enhancements to Monopoly®:

  1. "Free Parking" now costs $20
  2. St. Charles Place and St. James Place changed to "Charles Place" and "James Place" so as to avoid offending non-Christians
  3. Boardwalk must now be developed with actual boards
  4. Players forced to Go To Jail must pay for their meals
  5. Quadruple rent on Electric Company (California edition only)
  6. Short Line to be lengthened
  7. $200 for passing Go expires after ten turns unless renewed
  8. New "Section 8" Community Chest card cuts rent on Ventnor and Marvin Gardens to $8
  9. Banker gets three extra Get Out of Jail Free cards
  10. Luxury Tax replaced by Gas-Guzzler Tax

That sound you hear is the synchronized spinning of the Parker Brothers.

Many [blank] returns

Thoughts upon today's primary election:

  • Both lieutenant-governor runoffs are going to be extremely nasty; I will be most distraught if this ends up with E. Z. Million looking like the normal person.

  • At least Frank Shurden is going to have to find a real job.

  • Bert Smith still suffers from Bert Who? Syndrome. On the other hand, I refuse to believe that the 5th Congressional District is a lock for the GOP; it is indeed true that Republicans outnumber Democrats in Oklahoma County, but it's not by that much, and the 5th now includes Seminole and Pottawatomie Counties. Keith Gaddie once noted, "Take away the average nine-point incumbency advantage, and the district shows signs of competitive life. Throw $2 million in Democratic money into the mix, and you’ve got a potential political fight. Maybe." And while the DNC wouldn't throw $2 million at Bert Smith running against an incumbent, they might be able to scrounge it up for David Hunter running for an open seat.

  • As expected, the rematch in House District 48 went to Johnson.

  • David Dank and Chip Keating? At this level, you could run Henry Bellmon's hat and still make the runoff.

  • With nominally all 15 precincts in, Dana Orwig beat Joe Hartman in District 87 by a whole 46 votes.

I think I'm going to have to sleep this one off. And apparently turnout was no better than they said it would be, no matter what I said.

26 July 2006
Grout expectations

Is anyone truly prepared for this?

My kitchen contractor called me at 8 am today to talk about grout. I can count the number of times I've thought about grout colors on two fingers. Three if you include that I'm telling you about it now. John's a very tactful, laid back guy, so our conversations usually go like this:

J: "I'm going to grout the kitchen floor today. Have you given any thought to the grout color."

That clues me in to the fact that I probably should have considered the matter prior to this morning.

Without looking, I can tell you that the Betty Crocker Frosting White tile in Surlywood's kitchen is surrounded by a nice charcoal grey; the red stuff in the bathroom was set up with a neutral color that ultimately didn't remain so.

And (let us pray) I'm not going to do any floor replacements anytime soon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:33 AM to Dyssynergy )
Is TABOR tabled?

Do you think somebody lost count? Proponents of the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights collected 299,029 signatures; Oklahoma Supreme Court referee Greg Albert says the verified count is 218,223, just slightly shy of the constitutional specification (219,564) for going onto the ballot as a State Question. It is, of course, standard practice to get as many signatures as possible, with the expectation that some of them will be invalidated, but having more than twenty percent of them scratched indicates, at the very least, sloppy work. Of the 80,806 signatures invalidated, 56,940 were collected by persons legally unqualified to accept them. Pertinent constitutional language:

It shall be unlawful for any person other than a qualified elector of the State of Oklahoma to circulate any initiative or referendum petition to amend, add to, delete, strike or otherwise change in any way the Constitution or laws of the State of Oklahoma, or of any subdivision of the State of Oklahoma. Every person convicted of a violation of this section shall be punished by a fine of not to exceed One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or by imprisonment in the county jail for not to exceed one (1) year, or by both said fine and imprisonment.

Albert's report notes that the state's definition of "qualified elector" requires "bona fide" residency, which a number of circulators were not able to establish: an address at the EconoLodge on I-40 West, for instance, does not make you a resident.

The Court may overrule Albert, and indeed has done so in the past on other matters, but this is not a good sign for TABOR fans.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:02 AM to Soonerland )
Sir Charles contemplates Montgomery

Charles Barkley, governor of Alabama? Looks like he's considering a run:

Barkley said his first order of business is getting his 17-year-old daughter through high school and into college, then he will turn his full attention to deciding on his future.

"I'm serious," Barkley said. "I've got to get people to realize that the government is full of it. Republicans and Democrats want to argue over stuff that's not important, like gay marriage or the war in Iraq or illegal immigration. They push those issues because they play well on TV and because they deceive people. When I run — if I run — we're going to talk about real issues like improving our schools, cleaning up our neighborhoods of drugs and crime and making Alabama a better place for all people."

Barkley, a Democrat, has been making noises like this for years, but the time may be coming soon:

"I really believe I was put on Earth to do more than play basketball and stockpile money," he said. "I really want to help people improve their lives, and what's left is for me to decide how best to do that."

With this year's candidates already in place, the earliest Barkley could make a gubernatorial run is 2010.

201

The area code (or, more precisely, the NPA) for parts of northern New Jersey is 201; there's a magazine called (201) published in Bergen County.

A long way from New Jersey, Cait, who presides over Siempre, Cait, has put together the 201st edition of the Carnival of the Vanities, and I suppose you could have fries with that if you asked really really nicely.

And paid for them, of course.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:25 AM to Blogorrhea )
You're nobody 'til Photoshop loves you

Cathryn Michon, Grrl Genius, is drop-dead gorgeous, and it's all an illusion, she says:

Yes, that is a picture of me but it is a professional retouched picture of me. A professional retouched picture is an actual picture of a person the way a package of uncooked chicken is a delicious meal of crispy golden fried chicken. I mean, sure, it's CHICKEN, but it's not fried chicken.

In the above picture (photo by the brilliant Grrl Genius Susan Maljan, shameless plug) I had both my hair and makeup professionally done (Geniuses Kim Ayers and Chanda Hutton, another plug) and the makeup was thick enough that if you saw it in real life you would have sworn that I had just arrived from an evening of performing kabuki theater. The previous day my hairdresser Bill Belshya of Jonathon Salon in West Hollywood (true Enlightened Male, final shameless plug) had cut and colored my hair so that not even twenty-four hours would elapse between highlighting and photographing. I'm lit with (approximately) a thousand billion gigawatts of imperfection removing light and I'm wearing some kind of vacuum sealed, fat sucking body stocking under that dress, as well as a gravity defying underwire bra.

All that is before the SWAT team of retouchers came in and made me look younger than I would in a pre-natal sonogram.

It may take a village to raise a child but apparently it takes a small Latin American country to take a photo of me.

Those of you who saw the Britney Spears Harper's Bazaar cover may well have thought, "Geez, I know pregnant women are supposed to glow and all that, but she looks like she's been dipped in Nu Vinyl or something." With that thought in mind, here's a Grrl Genius-recommended demonstration: a representation of a typical magazine cover which, with a few well-placed clicks, gives up the secrets of What's Real and What's Been Fixed.

I learned two things from this:

  1. You look better than you think you do;
  2. I'm not as proficient at retouching as I'd like to think.

Oh, and save the Armor All for the car.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:42 PM to Dyssynergy )
Best yard signs ever

If you've had to go down the eastern end of Northwest Distressway lately, you've seen literally (and litter-ly) hundreds of political yard signs, some of them so close together they're practically on top of one another and you can't read any of them.

A fellow at the Democrats of Oklahoma Community Forum spotted this one amidst the clutter one night:

These Signs Are Illegal

Unfortunately, it apparently disappeared an hour later. And a possibility presents itself: for the last few months, some local signmaker has been advertising on signs exactly like these, offering quantities of 200 or thereabouts. What if there are 199 more of these to come?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 PM to City Scene )
27 July 2006
The Finley Bridge

It's named for Dr. G. E. Finley, who practiced medicine in Deep Deuce for over half a century, near the north end of it; two years ago, when it was still the Walnut Avenue Bridge, I made some reference to its closing.

Now that it's been restored and reopened, The Old Downtown Guy reveals the story of the tug-of-war between city officials, looking to save money, and preservationists, looking to save as much of the original bridge as possible.

Worst-case scenario? Ripping the bridge out entirely:

There had been about $1.2M in funds from a 1989 bond election set aside for a new bridge, but for some reason, Bricktown developer Jim Brewer was promoting the idea of replacing the bridge with a street, and had persuaded then-Public Works Director Paul Brum to support the idea. They insisted that the railroads were going to abandon the tracks and that there was no need for the grade separated crossing that the bridge provided. In fact, there had been no discussions with the railroads regarding future plans for the tracks in question.

Railroad matters, by law, must go before the Corporation Commission, and they flatly rejected the plan: the grade separation would have to be maintained. (This is the second time in a week I've had to say something positive about the Corp Comm. Hmmm.)

Incidentally, if you exit I-235 southbound at 6th Street, the offramp becomes Walnut Avenue: it's a straight shot right into Bricktown. The bridge has three lanes, two northbound, one southbound. Life just got a whole lot simpler for the folks buying into those new planned developments west of 235.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 AM to City Scene )
Shakedown cruise

For the first time ever, I actually had to Shell out more than three bucks a gallon; admittedly, Gwendolyn prefers the high-test stuff, which is about twenty cents more than regular, but I was hoping I could still find something below the $3 threshold, inasmuch as $2.96 or thereabouts was the going rate for it this past weekend.

And later today, she'll polish off rather a lot of it, as we're headed up to Kansas City to make up the much-delayed last leg of WT06, which will be spent visiting my children and their children. I trust you will all behave yourselves in my absence.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:06 AM to World Tour '06 )
Without incident

Independence, Missouri — 379.5 miles

There are darn few back roads between OKC and KC that I haven't tried, and besides, this is just a quickie jaunt, so I took I-35 north, which becomes the Kansas Turnpike once over the state line. (Easy to spot, too: the road improves by an order of magnitude.) The usual practice is to exit at Emporia (mile 127), where 35 veers away from the Turnpike, and it occurred to me a few miles short of there that I've always done that, so today I stayed on the Turnpike, thinking that most of the big trucks will have already gotten off.

Which was true, at least through Topeka, where the Turnpike joins up with I-70, which by all accounts is twice as bad as I-35. It was today, anyway, but this was due to a combination of extensive construction work and (dare I say it?) rain. If nothing else, I learned something about Gwendolyn's aerodynamics: her front end is spotless, while there's gunk all around her trunk.

And whatever the airflow, it seemed to help, since I made it on a single tank without the Dreaded Orange Light coming on. I'll figure MPG some other time. Right now, I need to shake off the effects of driving for six and a half hours.

Oh, and Toll Report: Kansas Turnpike, $8.75. Note that if I'd driven straight through, instead of taking a couple of side trips (Wichita and Emporia, the latter for lunch), I might have saved a quarter or two.

Addendum: Or I might not. It is indeed $1.75 to Wichita East (Kellogg Avenue) and then $3.50 to Emporia, which is $5.25, instead of $5 for the whole 127 miles; however, they hit me for only $3.50 for the Emporia-to-KC leg, bringing the total to the proper $8.75.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:24 PM to World Tour '06 )
Making a total of fifty-five

The breakdown follows:

TEN pairs of socks in regular rotation.

NINE years' worth of email archives.

EIGHT steak knives.

SEVEN CDs by Debbie Deborah Gibson.

SIX trees and/or shrubs in the front yard.

FIVE ice trays, should the icemaker in the fridge fail.

FOUR windows in the garage door.

THREE grandchildren.

TWO children.

ONE life to live.

ZERO girlfriends.

(Swiped from Eric "Fire Ant" Siegmund.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:38 PM to Screaming Memes )
Recommended noises

So I figure the least I can do is plug my son's band, right?

Band poster

Warning: Link is sorta loud.

28 July 2006
One minor detail

"My friends," said my daughter, "are trying to talk me into one of those online-dating services."

There are a number of reasons why this might not work, but this one stands out:

She has no computer and no Net access.

I would consider these major obstacles, but then, I'm just the parental unit.

Tech bleg

Weird problem at NGM HQ. The lad has a DSL-cum-gateway with which he connects to the Net; it provides a wired link for the desktop and a wireless link for a notebook. What he'd like to do is swap files between the two. Unfortunately, while the notebook has Net access, it won't share files no matter what settings are in place, in the (gag) Windows Firewall or anywhere else. Most galling, my notebook connected right up first time.

I'm thinking he should delete the connection altogether and start over. Does this make sense?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:30 AM to PEBKAC )
Give me down to there

Hair today, gone tomorrow? Leila Cohoon just laughs. She knows better. And she'll tell you the story of an archaeological find: a mummy from ancient Egypt, dug up with its hair — its hair style, even — still in place after all these years.

Leila's Hair Museum, and that is the name of it, is located on a busy boulevard in Independence, Missouri, and it's about the only place on earth devoted to the fine art of hairwork: wreaths, decorative items, jewelry, made partially or completely with human hair, sometimes wound about the thinnest of wire.

This practice sounds somewhat, well, colonial, and indeed it was fairly common in the days of the American Revolution, persisting for a century afterwards and then falling into desuetude. But forming hair into objets d'art goes back as far as the Renaissance, maybe before; the oldest documented piece in the Museum, a brooch with a strand of hair inside a crystalline case, was made in Sweden and dates to 1680.

The pieces I found most interesting were the family wreaths: often in the overall shape of a horseshoe (for easy updating), hair from family members was twisted into flowers or leaves, attached to the framework, name and dates affixed, and the process repeated for subsequent generations. (Example here.) This was slow, painstaking work: one young girl spent two years assembling a wreath. Another wreath consists entirely of one woman's hair; her mother began the construction at her birth, and continued to collect samples for the next forty-five years.

The jewelry is remarkable in its own right. Sometimes the hair is a structural component; sometimes it's ground to a powder and used as a pigment. Those of us who have grumbled about split ends will shake our heads in disbelief, but it's true: hair, treated well, is darn near indestructible. (Leila's hint: Quit using those shampoos with the same pH as drain cleaner, fercryingoutloud.) More than 2000 individual pieces of jewelry — watch fobs, bracelets, rings, brooches — are presently in the collection. I was fascinated by the "funeral rings," built upon a lock of the decedent's hair, sent to relatives far away who could not attend the burial services. They are simple and unadorned, but they speak volumes.

It's probably not too hard to understand why hairwork of this sort died out: it's labor-intensive and then some. Still, there are a handful of hardy practitioners still out there. (Here's a contemporary birthstone wreath by Melanie Mead.) And Leila Cohoon, seventy-five, her own hair of course impeccable — she also runs the Independence College of Cosmetology and must therefore set a proper example — is the true keeper of the flame, or at least the flame-colored tresses. (I did not think it proper to suggest that there seemed to be a lot fewer blondes in the 19th century.)

Leila's Hair Museum is at 1333 South Noland Road in Independence, a block and a half south of 23rd Street. It's open 9 to 4 Tuesday through Saturday, and admission is a mere $5, or about a third of what I pay for a haircut. Photography is not permitted, though the Lawrence Journal-World has a small gallery of photos from the museum, taken last fall. And you know, any museum in which both Daniel Webster and Phyllis Diller are represented simply demands your attention.

An idea we should steal

You know what was playing at the Englewood tonight?

The Wizard of Oz. Munchkins and all.

Not going to happen at home, though: the chain operators in Oklahoma City fear that someone might actually miss out on a chance to see You, Me and Dupree.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:38 PM to World Tour '06 )
29 July 2006
Heading back

Even a two-day trip is good for you, and I do believe I needed this one. (No comment from Gwendolyn, though I noticed she'd delivered 27.5 mpg on the outbound half of the route.) I should be back at the old stand around dinnertime, if not before.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:21 AM to World Tour '06 )
And that was the end of that

Dustbury, Oklahoma — 808.2 miles

Okay, not much by World Tour standards, even if you add in the 114-plus miles before The Incident, but it's still a pretty fair drive, and today the skies were fair and some of the scenery was pretty. I took US 71 south from Kansas City, and much of it is being rebuilt to accommodate the bazillion-percent traffic increase that tends to accompany flight to the burbs. In fact, the Missouri Department of Transportation appears to be in full-tilt construction mode. I found this posted at a rest area, and some of it is a tad incomprehensible:

MoDOT poster

I think — I hope — they don't have the proofreaders out there operating heavy machinery.

Kansas City now has a Jack FM — KCJK, 105.1 — and it's definitely a different mix from the one vended under Jack's name here; the Oklahoma City station would never, ever play "Funkytown."

Speaking of radio, I sampled "The Sound," KTSO 94.1 in Tulsa, and you know, I think I might have believed the "family-friendly" claim made for their mostly-Seventies playlist had they not thrown in both Rod Stewart's "Tonight's the Night," a song about defloration, and Stephen Stills' "Love the One You're With," a song about opportunistic infidelity. (No, I will not bash "Imagine" here, even though they played that too.)

For no particularly good reason, I took a side turn in Davenport to get the feel of their infamous Brick Broadway, from 6th Street down to the railroad tracks. The brickworks ceased operation some time in the 1920s, and I detected the presence of some non-brick material filling up an occasional hole. Still, it's a whole lotta bricks, and 20 mph is about all you can stand on it, especially with the dips at each intersection. Gwendolyn actually complained about one of them, and it's not like her to kvetch. They're promoting this with signs along old 66; I still think the biggest attraction in town is Dan's Bar-B-Q.

There was a letter in The Kansas City Star yesterday wanting to know how come the spread between grades of gasoline, a dime for so long, had suddenly surged to 15 cents. That I don't know, but it was still a dime the last time I filled up, in Bristow. (Still 27 mpg.)

Toll report: Will Rogers Turnpike (state line to Vinita), $1.50; Turner Turnpike (Tulsa to Bristow), $1.00; total $2.50; grand total $11.25.

We now return you to your regularly-scheduled tedium.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:34 PM to World Tour '06 )
Quote of the week

Don McLean is tired of talking about "American Pie," but he doesn't mind if you make fun of it:

It's supposed to be vague. That's part of the poetry I was attempting. To go in and specify what the song is would dumb it down.

I don't pay any attention to interpretations of the song. It's supposed to be in flux all the time, so any particular interpretation is pointless as far as I can see. What interests me is some of the parodies like The Wall Street Journal's "The Day the NASDAQ Died." They've been pretty good.

(In Discoveries magazine, August '06. I'm reasonably certain McLean would not endorse this.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 PM to QOTW )
Don't mention if it's your birthday

Saturday, 9 September, there will be a reunion for employees of Molly Murphy's House of Fine Repute, the legendary Oklahoma City restaurant owned by Bob Tayar, who died last year after an auto accident in California.

"Lotsa tail to you
Until we meet again...."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:53 PM to City Scene )
30 July 2006
Oklahoma political advertising 101

An overview by Lynn:

I can't say for certain if Oklahoma politicians are actually nastier than politicians anywhere else but it certainly seems like it — nastier and more childish. The worst insult of all is "Liberal!" Politicians around here assault each other's character in every imaginable way but when they want to bring out the big gun it's always, "[My opponent] is a liberal," with the word "Liberal" spoken in the most distasteful tone possible, as if the word itself were almost too vile to say out loud. They're like kids on the playground shouting insults at each other. It doesn't even matter whether the insult makes sense or not, just that it is as vile as possible.

One of the things that has kept me in the Democratic fold all these years, despite a personal turn to the right — or is it that the Democratic organization has veered to the left? — is the persistent Republican "more conservative than thou" posturing: if that's all they have to say, they don't really have much to say, do they?

A hole in the middle

Janny Scott's article in last Sunday's New York Times, about the "vanishing middle class" in American cities, got some play in blogdom, by no means all of it weepy wails for government intervention.

But the last paragraph bothers me no end:

"This trend toward living and interacting with people who are like you is intensifying a lot," said Professor [Joseph] Gyourko [of Wharton], who lives in the affluent suburb of Swarthmore, Pa. "I do not meet the full range of incomes and social classes within my neighborhood. Well, think about what happens if metropolitan areas like New York, San Francisco and the like turn into my suburb. You’ll have even less interaction. The most interesting and potentially foreboding implication of this sorting is that it changes the way we view life."

Well, if it's such a tragedy that you don't get to "meet the full range of incomes and social classes within my neighborhood," Dr Gyourko, why the hell don't you move?

It has long been an American practice to move to get away from certain segments of society and cut down on such "interaction." Today, of course, our professional classes teach us that doing so is just so wrong: how are the drug dealers and the layabouts and the common pond scum supposed to thrive without ordinary citizens to exploit?

And the good Professor misses another point:

In the San Francisco Bay Area, the percentage of households earning more than $100,000 a year rose to over 30 percent in 2000 from approximately 7 percent in 1970, [said Gyourko]. "Is that area worse off?" he asked. "At least so far, there’s a lot of evidence that economically they’re better off. Land prices are really high, lots of people want to move there."

Supply and demand, right? Nothing wrong with that. But then there's this:

Thanks to inflation, $100,000 in 1970 is not the same as $100,000 in 2000. So the fact that there are many more people making that amount compared to 30 years ago does nothing to help illuminate the issue. Once again, we're seeing the results of a writer who skipped taking math in college.

If there's a lesson here, it's simply this: Reporters for The New York Times should quit when they're ahead, if by chance they're ever ahead.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:33 AM to Dyssynergy )
She's real fine, my 409

Oh, wait. That's not a 409. It's a 403.

And it's not mine, either, now that I think about it. (I do have a screwy 404 page, though.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:32 PM to Blogorrhea )
Tetched by Teh Gay

The Oklahoman this morning had a story on House District 88 winner Al McAffrey, and titled it Gay legislator not expected to push agenda.

My first thought was "Who are they kidding? Every legislator has an agenda, and ...."

Oh. Right. That agenda. What was I thinking? (And how come everyone else has a "platform" or a "values statement," but gay candidates have an "agenda"?)

Meanwhile, Chuck Wolfe of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which assisted McAffrey's campaign, asks rhetorically:

Have you ever heard of anyone running as a straight candidate?

Sssh. Don't give Thad Balkman any ideas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:48 PM to Soonerland )
Adjustment period

I've had six weeks (and 1750 miles) to get acquainted with Gwendolyn, and while she's certainly worthy, there are a few things I miss about her predecessor:

  • The infamous oscillating center air vents, which, while perhaps goofy-looking, will blow for hours without actually turning your right arm into gelato.
  • The two-stage console box: you can stuff small things in the lid, or bigger things below it.
  • The one-swipe wiper position, which does a single pass and then shuts off. Very useful if a truck passes you during a period of drizzle.

But mostly, I miss Sandy's rambunctiousness: she wasn't all that fast, and she had more body roll than H.M.S. Pinafore, but she never, ever gave off the impression that she couldn't do something, even if the laws of physics guaranteed that she couldn't.

That said, there are some things that Gwendolyn does better:

  • Gets out of her own way. (We're talking a three-second difference from zero to sixty.)
  • Smaller blind spots. The sightlines on this car are superb.
  • Surprisingly, a tighter turning circle.

Still to be compared: relative grip. I think, though, this will have to wait until the next set of tires, as Sandy's Dunlops were way stickier than Gwendolyn's current BFGs. The local Infiniti store recommends Bridgestone's top-line Turanzas, but I think I may buy the Dunlops anyway, since they're (1) a known quantity and (2) about $125 less for a set of four.

And there's a vestige of Impostor Syndrome, the feeling that I, a full-fledged plebe, don't have any business wheeling around town in a luxoboat, even one that's six years old. I can report that the children were way too impressed with these wheels; I had to remind them that after all, it's a freaking Nissan, and it's not like I'm suddenly movin' on up or anything. (They, in turn, will be happy to point out that there were plenty of hotel rooms in the area that didn't cost a hundred bucks a night.)

But there are no regrets, really. I don't tear up when I see a 626 on the road. I just wish it hadn't had to end the way it did.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:12 PM to Driver's Seat )
31 July 2006
Strange search-engine queries (26)

You know, this could all come to a halt if people didn't actually ask for this stuff. But so long as they do, I can keep grinding these out once a week.

are you a neoconservative:  Nope. Bloodthirsty warmonger, maybe, but not strictly a neocon.

put fake parking ticket under windshield to prevent parking ticket:  Good luck with that. So far as I know, there's nothing that prevents you from getting multiple tickets.

north dakota backwards hicks:  Since when? Heck, they've got an Applebee's in Jamestown.

pantsless nude guys in summer:  I assume that if they're nude, they must also be pantsless.

i bought a new mercury outboard motor porn:  How Evinrude of you. (Now put your Johnson away.)

dakota fanning nude photoshop fakes:  Put yours away too, ya perv.

who likes g.w.bush less, most educated or less educated?  Probably both, if you believe the polls.

What is the diameter of Tulsa BOK center?  Twice the radius.

how to know when a woman wants you:  If you have to think about it, she doesn't.

puns what will delaware?  Her new jersey, of course.

disinterest in sex and tourette's syndrome:  "Get your ******* hands off me, you ************* *******!"

any snakes reported in Oklahoma City subdivisions?  See them on the big screen this summer in Snakes on a Plain.

Also, a surprisingly large number of people have been searching for some place called "Dustbury, Oklahoma"; I blame these girls.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:57 AM to You Asked For It )
All together now: "Duh"

If you read a profile at OkCupid, the upper-right corner displays "VITAL STATS". These, they say, are mine:

compared to other guys
  • He's less kinky
  • He's more introverted
  • He's more mathematical
  • He's less sex-driven

Um, okay. If you say so.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:21 AM to Table for One )
Exports from Squaresville

Amanda Marcotte cranks up the girl groups, something I've been known to do on a regular basis, and comes to some conclusions, some valid, some perhaps less so. Let's listen in:

[B]efore she lost her mind, Dawn [Eden] was a music writer of sorts, and believe it or not, she and I have pretty similar taste in music, particularly with our shared affection for the sweet pop music of the 60s.... I remember once before (probably in a certain Gawker interview that we tease her with that’s been taken down) she said that she was infatuated with the simple optimism of the music. I remember thinking at the time that struck me as kind of weird because the truth is that there’s plenty of songs of heartbreak, but I suppose if you really think about it, there were a few things going on lyrically that make sense. First of all, the songs are ridiculous in the level of praise for the love objects (the song on right now has lyrics about someone being your pride and joy and wanting to get married and how all the other girls are all jealous) and second of all, the lyrics, if you read them pretty literally, have very little sex in them.

I suppose a very literal reading of this music might lead one to conclude that things were better in a more “innocent” time, and Dawn in particular would probably find the fantasy of these songs where you fall in love, perhaps even with a “bad” boy, and after much mutual admiration and a little chaste hand-holding and kissing, you got married and lived happily ever after.

Effusive praise for the love object, of course, is hardly limited to the Brill Building era — cf. Browning, Elizabeth Barrett, Sonnets from the Portuguese, circa 1850.

How much sex you heard in the lyrics depends, I think, on where you lived at the time. I spent the Sixties in Charleston, South Carolina, which inevitably means that my particular musical exposure had a larger percentage of R&B in the mix. And while Southern radio stations were inarguably fearful about aggravating the Negro Problem, or whatever the current term was, they also wanted to sell ad space, and rather a lot of their customers were black, so the Top 40 was integrated more easily (and more quickly) than some other cultural barometers of the day. Rhythm and blues back then was quite a bit more open about its intentions; the Little Richard oeuvre is a virtual Katalog of Kink. And while things are alleged to have cooled off as the Fifties faded and the Sixties ascended, the crossover between white and black was simultaneously accelerating. Exhibit A, of course, is "Will You Love Me Tomorrow," a song written by a white couple (Carole King and Gerry Goffin), recorded by a black quartet (the Shirelles), released on a label owned by a white woman (Florence Greenberg) who ceded a piece of the action to a black producer (Luther Dixon) to get these records made. And its sexuality isn't hidden in the least. Lest you think that this was a one-shot fluke, I offer another Goffin-King opus, recorded by many but most vividly by Aretha Franklin, whose title is its chorus: "(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman," quite clearly a song about finally, after many tries and possibly many partners, finding someone who can bring the singer to orgasm.

Those who insist that white acts would never get to this level are invited to listen to the entirety of the Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, a chronicle of a love affair from optimistic beginnings to mournful breakup, interrupted by "Sloop John B" because the record company insisted that there be some sort of hit single on the album. Yes, they were yammering about waiting until they got married in that first track ("Wouldn't It Be Nice"); no, they didn't actually refrain.

Amanda continues:

The thing is, the world’s never been “innocent”. What’s changed isn’t so much how people are but how honest society is about it. Hell, the world where sweet-voiced virgins spend all their time swooning over boys was so illusionary in the 60s that it’s almost kind of a trope now to note that a lot of those songs were written by men (and had not inconsequential sexual tension in them). Oh yeah, and Lesley Gore is a lesbian. They were a fantasy even then, which says a lot about the unlikelihood of making them reality to me.

The real coming-out story of the Sixties, I suggest, is not Lesley Gore's, but Janis Ian's. First, Ian wrote pretty much all her own stuff, something Gore really didn't get into until the Seventies. More startling is the idea that "Society's Child," a rueful yet still angry song about an interracial romance broken up by the parental units, might have been purely metaphorical, Ian substituting the scary premise of miscegenation for a premise some found even scarier: "I can't see you anymore, baby" is spoken, not to the black boy in the lyrics, but to a girl of unspecified (and irrelevant) ethnicity.

But give Lesley Gore credit for understanding that sometimes you carry the banner and sometimes you play along with the rest of the world: "You Don't Own Me" was followed up by "That's the Way Boys Are," the feminist anthem blending into a vaguely-sexist apologia. And while it's true that men wrote both these tunes, it is equally true that they weren't writing them to be sung by men.

So: are today's lyrics more "honest"? They're certainly more blatant. The biggest change between Then and Now, though, is the fact that except in country music and in musical theatre, professional songwriters have been basically out of the picture since the British Invasion; if anyone writes a song for a contemporary pop star, it's likely to be that star's producer. There is a tendency, therefore, to assume that what comes out in the song today is more likely to represent the "true" feelings of the singer. This might be true — see Ian, supra — but conclusive evidence to support this proposition, however, seems pretty scant. And while I'm not inclined to pull rank on Amanda, who is at least one generation removed from having Been There — otherwise I'd have to knock any post-18th century commentary on Mozart — I'd remind her that illusion is at the very heart of romance: otherwise we'd all be having our relationships prearranged by efficient, omniscient, disinterested third parties, and where's the fun, the joy, the feeling of accomplishment in that?

Disclosure: Dawn and I are old friends — we've had a couple of meetings and at least one dinner — and I read her dismissal of Marcotte's piece first. I do not think that this sequence of events in any way affected my own conclusions. (I have, however, reworded this paragraph since original publication.)

A couple of grandkid shots

Two out of three grandchildren

At left, Nicholas is given the Tickle Torture by his mom; meanwhile, Laney assumes the position at dance recital.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:06 PM to Next Generation )
Honey, we're moving

And we don't have to pack anything, either:

A Kansas couple woke up Monday to the sound of falling rocks hitting their windows and quickly realized their apartment was falling into an abandoned mine shaft.

Galena, KS, city officials confirmed occupants were living in an apartment located in the rear of the Green Parrot Bar when it began to fall piece by piece into the sinkhole around 7 a.m.

"When they checked out the noise, they realized the building was falling in," said Meredith Shetley, assistant city clerk.

"Fortunately, there were no injuries," said David Black, Galena Police administrative assistant. "Workers spent the morning shutting off gas and telephone lines."

And I thought I used to live in a dump.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:30 PM to Dyssynergy )
The way we do the things we do

One of the reasons this site switched from manual coding to Movable Type four years ago was this:

The commenting system has been hiccuping lately, and while I don't get quite as exercised about these outages as others might, I decided it might be a really good time to archive all the June and July comments, lest they be lost for all eternity. If you posted one, it's now on the same page as the archived log entry, indented slightly to reduce illegibility.

Because, you know, my readers have come to expect a consistent level of service, as it were.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:41 PM to Blogorrhea )
The kind he likes to meet

File this under "Cultural Advantages of New York City":

Today, I’m marveling at how many pretty women I’m encountering on the streets of New York.

From the demurely attractive thin girl with sandy-brown hair on the train this morning, to the exotic-looking model type with close-cropped black hair and long dangling earrings strutting down 7th Avenue this evening, I’ve seen one knockout after another. And don’t think I’m not appreciative.

I certainly wouldn't think that. But what are they thinking?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:57 PM to Table for One )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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