Archive for November 2006

No parking for priest-driven ambulances

Mayor Cornett, some days back, tossed out the idea of renaming a couple of city streets for Vince Gill and Charlie Christian, and maybe a back alley in Bricktown for the Flaming Lips. The Oklahoman’s Steve Lackmeyer has been getting mail on the subject, and apparently to his surprise, Lips fans worldwide have voiced their support for Flaming Lips Alley.

Lackmeyer notes:

Fans from around the world argued the alley is an appropriate honor for the band and noted The Flaming Lips’ humility and roots in the underground music scene.

They also correctly pointed out the band is intensely loyal to Oklahoma City. The Grammy-winning band’s lead singer, Wayne Coyne, still lives in Oklahoma City, and his band regularly calls attention to its Oklahoma ties.

For years, Oklahoma City has struggled to discover its place in the world — something “hip” that no other city can claim. If fans across the world are to be believed, The Flaming Lips may very well be a key to Oklahoma City expanding its image beyond cowboys, Indians and oil wells.

Wendy Castro from Sacramento, Calif., was one of dozens of fans who pledged to make “pilgrimages” to Flaming Lips Alley.

The proposed Flaming Lips Alley runs between the BNSF tracks and Central Avenue Vince Gill Avenue in Bricktown. Right now, it’s pretty much Dumpster City, though I suspect that a sudden influx of national attention might be enough to spark cleanup efforts.

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It’s my party and I’ll vote as I want to

Way back in 1997, in the blessed days of gridlock (in Vent #63, in fact), I said this:

Both the President and Congressional leadership routinely decry the other’s tactics as “partisan politics”, and call for a “bipartisan effort to solve the nation’s problems” or something comparably high-minded. At the state level or below, things are little different.

“Bipartisan” is definitely all over the place politically, which makes me uneasy about its very ubiquity. Compared to its dictionary definition, its use in these contexts is accurate; a bipartisan accord, just as you might expect, becomes such when it is agreed to by both parties. Unspoken, but certainly implied by your favorite politico, is the notion that if both Democrats and Republicans can come to this particular agreement, it must therefore be a Good Thing. And farther down in the subtext is the notion that those two particular parties somehow manage to subsume the whole of American political belief: you got your Democrats, you got your Republicans, and what’s left isn’t worth a bucket of John Nance Garner’s bodily fluids. As any registered Libertarian will tell you — in those states where the bipartisan efforts of Republicans and Democrats have somehow failed to make it impossible actually to be a registered Libertarian — this is a crock.

You might think from this that we may as well drop the damned veil and be partisan, and when we do, we’ll find that Sean Gleeson is already there:

I am one of the only partisans in America, if you take everyone at his own word.

I know partisanship is out of fashion. Conservatives and liberals disown it, pundits and candidates denounce it. If I didn’t know what ‘partisan’ meant, and had to guess at its meaning from reading modern political discourse, I would conclude it was a synonym of ‘evil.’ (For those of you who really don’t know what partisan means, it means “supporting a party.”)

Even partisans shrink from being partisans. A Google search on GOP.com turns up 3,000 results for ‘partisan’. The same search on Democrats.org finds 1,800 results. According to our two greatest partisan institutions, ‘partisan’ is always what the other party is. Our party isn’t partisan at all, you see, because we have principles.

Tomorrow [this was written on Monday], I’m going to the polls, and voting the straight Republican ticket. The whole slate of GOP candidates, even the doofuses. Not because these candidates happen to be the best individuals on the ballot, but because they happen to be the Republican candidates.

My partisanship is a result of the Democratic Party’s drift into “insanity,” as Dan Lovejoy charitably calls it. The Democrats in their current incarnation are unsuited to govern this country. While Lovejoy sees this as a reason to boycott the Democrats in Congressional races, I see it as a reason to boycott them in all races.

I’m not entirely convinced it’s a “drift”; I believe it was a deliberate move in an effort to — well, God only knows what they were thinking.

And really, Mr Gleeson’s stance is no different from that of the classic yellow-dog Democrat, except for the party affiliation; if you’re willing to complain about him, but not about them, you might want to see about having your Consistency Meter recalibrated.

What could persuade Sean Gleeson to vote for a Democrat? It would have to be a truly exceptional Democrat indeed, and even then it’s not a certainty.

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Are you ready for some turnout?

I arrived at the polling place at 4:55. No lines, really — two, maybe three people deep at the table at most — and no waiting for a booth. I cast ballot #993 for the precinct, and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the pollwatchers had side bets on when they’d hit a thousand. Elapsed time: five minutes, twenty seconds, and yes, I did both sides of the ballot. Not too shabby, if I say so myself.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Oklahoma voting system: you mark your ballot — a substantial piece of card stock — by filling in the center of an arrow pointing to the candidate or choice provided. You then take the ballot to an optical reader, which scans both sides as you slide it in, and flashes a green light if it finds no anomalies. If something’s wrong, you get a red light, they hand it back to you, and if necessary give you a new ballot. A four-digit counter ticks over once for each good ballot. When the polls close at 7:00, the reader is disconnected, and the plastic box underneath it, where all the ballots have fallen, is sent, along with the appropriate register tape, to the county election board, which in turn is responsible for getting it to the state election board. Results are posted here starting at 7 pm and updated as new boxes are received. Seldom will you hear any horror stories about Oklahoma voting: it’s fast, there’s an actual paper trail, and it’s relatively hard to screw up. In Presidential years there are longer lines, of course, but some people only come out every four years.

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Return of the Kardiac Kids

Well, the Mavericks didn’t dispatch the Warriors last night as anticipated, and Golden State wasn’t even tired when they showed up at the Ford Center: the Hornets opened up leads as wide as 15, but still found themselves behind by 1 with five minutes left. It’s probably a good thing I missed this game; I don’t know if my old heart could take this sort of thing. The Bees prevailed, 97-93, and it was a lot closer than that sounds.

Issues: the Third-Quarter Drought™ persists; the bench wasn’t quite as effective this time around. The starters, though, shone, with all five in double figures and three pulling down double-doubles: Chris Paul dropped 22 and dished up 11 assists; David West picked up 16 points and 11 rebounds; Tyson Chandler scored 10 and grabbed 14 boards.

And who would have figured that one week into the season, there’d be only two undefeated teams — and the Hornets would be one of them? Not me.

Thursday, it’s a rematch, and this time it’s on Golden State’s court.

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Ask Sam

Ward 2 Councilman Sam Bowman dropped into our Neighborhood Association meeting last night, and passed on some news of interest. Apparently they’ve shuffled a couple of jurisdictions at City Hall; used to be, Neighborhood Services could bust someone for high grass or weeds or debris in the front yard, but not for parking on the grass. This seemed like a dissipation of effort, so the Planning folks who were responsible for yard-parking complaints were moved over to Neighborhood Services, and now it’s a one-stop shop; citations for parking in the yard doubled from the same month last year. That wasn’t a major issue for me, but this is: NW 50th from Pennsylvania to May, one of the more wretched stretches of pavement in this town, will be scraped off and resurfaced in 2007.

One question that came up was the ongoing issue of city officials running for higher office while retaining their jobs. Mayor Cornett was mentioned, as was Ward 7’s Willa Johnson. Nobody had anything good to say about it, but it’s not illegal.

And I asked Bowman about Pete White’s idea for increasing the Council to ten wards. Bowman pointed out, as White had, that the existing arrangement was perhaps insufficiently diverse, and suggested that it might be possible to redraw the lines to produce something resembling a majority-Hispanic ward and take some of the sheer vastness out of Pete White’s Ward 4. There is, though, said Bowman, not much support for expanding the Council right now. If it’s going to happen, I suspect it will be in 2011, after the new Census figures come out and they have to redraw the boundaries anyway.

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The view from here

Actually, it was a pretty good day to be an Oklahoma incumbent: of the statewide officeholders, only Labor Commissioner Brenda Reneau was sent packing. More interesting is the apparent 24-24 tie in the state Senate, in which case Lt. Governor-elect Jari Askins, a Democrat, will hold the balance of power. (Senator Nancy Riley, who switched to the Democrats earlier this year, might well congratulate herself on her prescience.) The GOP still holds the House, though.

All the State Questions passed, although the only one that was never in doubt was 724, which cuts off state pay to an officeholder in jail, and which passed with better than a 7-1 margin.

I’ve seen no recount requests yet. If there are no challenges, the State Election Board will certify the results (current totals here) next Wednesday.

All in all, I can’t complain with any degree of conviction: most of the folks I voted for actually won, which is far better than my usual track record, and it looks like I can retire my Big Book of Thad Balkman Jokes.

(Oh, and my predictions? Not so close.)

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Couch change

And a lot of change it is, too: Oklahoma City Manager Jim Couch is getting a raise to $192,500 a year — which, for a person overseeing an annual budget upwards of $750 million, doesn’t strike me as an enormous sum of money.

(In case you were wondering: each member of City Council gets $12,000 a year; the Mayor is paid $24,000.)

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Tom Coburn on the election

Seen at the Instant Man’s, and excerpted here:

Although this election represents a short-term setback for Republicans, it could be an important turning point for the Republican Party and, more importantly, the country. Every incumbent was reminded that the American people, not party establishments, hold the reins of government. Throughout our history, when the American people rise up and force change our country benefits. In our system, the wisdom of many individual voters still outweighs the wisdom of a few.

Many factors contributed to these election results. The American people obviously are concerned about the conduct of the war in Iraq. Members of both parties have an obligation to work together to offer creative and constructive solutions that will help our troops accomplish their mission.

The overriding theme of this election, however, is that voters are more interested in changing the culture in Washington than changing course in Washington, D.C. This election was not a rejection of conservative principles per se, but a rejection of corrupt, complacent and incompetent government.

I’ll buy some of this, but not all of it. Clearly some voters, and not just in Blue-On-Blueland, have had it up to here with “conservative principles,” and there’s no point in denying it. On the other hand, it’s equally clear that the GOP brought this on themselves — while they had no monopoly on either corruption or incompetence, they set the pace for both, and their complacency was utterly mind-boggling — and if it doesn’t prove to be a learning experience for them, you can expect more Republicans to be turned out of office in 2008.

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Note to a brain-dead customer

When you close your checking account, you cannot continue to use the debit card associated with it.

I realize that this is a difficult concept for you, but focus.

(And next time, go to the farging 7-Eleven and buy a money order, fercrissake.)

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Keep these out of your garage

After a few weeks of balloting, The Truth About Cars readers have selected the Ten Worst Automobiles Today, and the entire sorry lot is what Stuff magazine would characterize as “douche-y.”

The truly horripilating aspect of this, of course, is that eight of these monstrosities bear domestic nameplates; the ninth is an import brand that’s owned outright by a domestic manufacturer. Only the malignant Subaru B9 Tribeca has foreign origins — and even the Sube is built in the States.

You want to know why Detroit is in trouble? They approved 90 percent of these crapmobiles.

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Now this is bipartisan

Right out of the paper, simply because I like the way this sounds:

Both [Senate Democratic Leader Mike] Morgan and Republican leader Glenn Coffee said it’s too early to say how things will be done in the wake of Tuesday’s election, which resulted in Republicans and Democrats each having 24 members in the Senate.

Morgan, D-Stillwater, said, “I’m going to continue dialogue so we can find a way to make this work.”

He said he and Coffee get along well. That was proven Wednesday when Morgan gave reporters a glimpse of his office where Coffee had pulled a practical joke.

A strip of tape was placed in the middle of Morgan’s desk, with a note designating one side of the desk as “Glenn’s” and the other as “Mike’s.”

“Glenn gets the refrigerator, and I get the couch,” Morgan said.

You want to know why I voted for Jari Askins for Lieutenant Governor and Tie-Breaker? Because Todd Hiett wouldn’t have thought this was so damn funny.

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Voice your second choice

From 2005, Michael Bates explains Instant Runoff Voting:

Under IRV, voting is simple. Voters rank the candidates in order: I mark a 1 next to my favorite, then mark a 2 next to the name of the candidate who would be the my choice if my favorite weren’t in the race, and so on down the list.

It’s called instant runoff voting because it’s equivalent to having a series of runoff elections, eliminating the low vote-getter each pass and choosing among the remaining candidates. The advantage of IRV over a series of runoff elections is that you only have to open the polls once. IRV is used to elect the President of Ireland, members of Parliament in Australia, and here in Tulsa it was used at the 1st District Republican Conventions of 2000 and 2004 to elect delegates and alternates to the Republican National Convention. I first experienced IRV in college — we used it in our fraternity to elect officers.

At the very least, Tulsa needs a runoff in special elections, but it would be better still to use IRV in all elections. As a charter city, Tulsa could choose to do that.

This week, voters in Minneapolis chose to use IRV in municipal elections, the result of a campaign by a “grassroots coalition of political parties, social justice and environmental groups, religious institutions, and others.” (List here.) Admittedly, on the red/blue continuum, Minneapolis is just this side of indigo, but I have to believe that some of the handful of conservatives in town liked the idea. (If nothing else, there’s the appeal to taxpayers: it saves the cost of runoffs when one candidate fails to win a majority. Maybe Lileks will weigh in one of these days.)

It would admittedly be tricky to adopt IRV to the Oklahoma optical-scan voting system, but surely it’s not impossible.

(Via Swirlspice.)

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Maybe they can sell them as “Plus Iron”

Perrigo Company, which makes store-brand equivalents of name-brand over-the-counter drugs, some of which I use, is recalling 11 million bottles of 500-mg acetaminophen caplets after discovering metal fragments in about 200 individual pills.

The company blames premature wear of its pill-stamping equipment. No injuries have so far been reported, and no severe injuries are expected.

Acetaminophen is the generic form of the drug sold as Tylenol®. No Tylenol-branded products are affected by the recall. The affected batches are listed here.

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Governors recalled

Evidently I repeat myself on a cycle. From this week in 2004:

American drivers of a certain age will remember the Joan Claybrook Memorial Speedometer, inflicted on motor vehicles sold in the States around 1980: not only did it top out at a mundane 85 mph, but automakers were required to give special prominence to the national 55-mph speed limit. This was every bit as stupid as you think it was, and was eventually abandoned, as was the double-nickel itself. The thinking, and I use the term loosely, was that if the speedo only reads 85, everyone will assume that this is the maximum speed of the car and no one will drive faster than that. The far more common response, of course, was “Hmmm. Wonder what happens if I peg this baby?” The Law of Unintended Consequences at its finest.

Having hit 84 briefly during this morning’s commute, I am still not impressed by 85 mph, but I have a certain respect for 130: everything I’ve read says that the 2000 Infiniti I30’s top speed is limited to 130 mph, and Gwendolyn is whipping around town on H-rated tires, which are good to, yes, 130 mph, and it’s never occurred to me to see what happens at 131.

Which means that I’ll likely never catch up to Automobile’s Jean Jennings, who, in the December 2006 issue, notes that according to Mazda, the pocket-rocket Mazdaspeed 3 runs into an electronic dead end at 155 mph. The following hilarity subsequently ensued on the A95 on the way to Munich:

I have to say that, in between watching the road ahead for errant Trabants and occasionally glancing at the speedo for the magic 250 kph (155 mph), I don’t notice what I’m passing or what’s moving out of my way, but I do notice that the Audi [A8] that was clamped on my ass has receded in the rearview mirror. Just as I spy the 120 circled in red on the sign ahead, I hit the 250 mark and then poke the brakes a good one, bringing us down to the speed limit. Yes! 155 mph.

I had two more good 250-kph runs before it occurred to me that I’d never felt a limiter. Well, I did what you would have done. I got back on it until I ran out of peripheral vision, I ran out of margin for error, and I hit 260 kph — 162 mph. No speed limiter. Those liars.

Hmmm. Maybe it’s time I got some serious lead back into my foot.

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216

Back in the Pleistocene era, when I put up this goofy little Web site, rather a lot of people were insistent on using only “browser-safe” colors, of which there were 216.

And while we’re on the subject, there have been 216 editions of the Carnival of the Vanities, each a week later than the last, and most of which have links from me whether I have anything to offer or not.

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Broken on the fast break

“What cruelty is this?” I thought. “A West Coast game on a school night?” So I cranked up the radio, made it through the first quarter, noted with dismay that somehow the Hornets had managed to duplicate their infamous Third-Quarter Drought™ halfway through the second quarter, and pulled a blanket over my head.

As it turns out, it was just as well; the Bees were indeed outscored in both the second and third, and a late rally fell short as Golden State got its revenge for Tuesday night at the Ford. Final: Warriors 121, Hornets 116.

You might expect from those numbers that there was a lot of shooting, and there was: both teams shot over 50 percent from the floor, and 3-balls filled the air. The Warriors knocked down thirteen of them, four by Mickael Pietrus alone. But the big story was ex-Hornet guard Baron Davis versus current Hornet guard Chris Paul, and the two of them put on quite a show: by the time I drifted away, both of them were in double digits and running at top speed. Davis wound up with 36 points and dished up 9 assists; Paul scored 34 (a career high) with ten dimes.

All the Hornet starters scored double figures except Tyson Chandler, and he got 11 boards; Bobby Jackson added 12 off the bench. David West, still hovering around the 20-per-game mark, picked up 21. But ultimately what sealed the Bees’ doom, it appears, was the dreaded turnover: 19 of them, while the Warriors gave up only ten.

Still, 4-1 is probably a game or two better than anyone expected at this point. The West Coast action continues at Portland tonight, where the Blazers aren’t anywhere nearly as hapless as they were last year.

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Meanwhile, Job waits for his rebate check

Under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, he who provides a “full warranty” (anything less is a “limited warranty”) must include all of the following:

  • must, as a minimum, remedy the consumer product within a reasonable time and without charge;
  • may not impose any limitation on the duration of any implied warranty on the product;
  • may not exclude or limit consequential damages for a breach of any written or implied warranty on the product, unless the exclusion or limitation conspicuously appears on the face of the warranty; and
  • if the product, or a component part, contains a defect or malfunction, must permit the consumer to elect either a refund or replacement without charge, after a reasonable number of repair attempts.

I’m sure Frank Moss and Warren Magnuson, way back in 1975, never envisioned this:

The word “tithe” is derived from the Hebrew word ma’aser and it literally means a tenth. Ten percent of everything belongs to the Lord. In Malachi 3:10-11, God says, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse that there may be food in my house.” The ‘storehouse’ is the Old Testament picture of the New Testament church. So as New Testament believers, we worship the Lord with the tithe; or the ten percent.

But giving away 10% of your income can be a big — and often frightening — commitment! That’s why we created the Three-Month Tithing Challenge: a money-back guarantee of sorts. Essentially, it’s a contract based on the promises of God in Malachi 3:10-11. We commit to you that if you tithe for three months and God doesn’t hold true to His promises of blessings, we will refund 100% of your tithe. No questions asked.

“Good afternoon, One Brimstone Place.” The voice was unusually dark.

“You’re answering your own phone now?”

“It’s hard to get good help these days. Was there something You wanted?”

The Lord God read the paragraphs above. “What do you think? I’m tempted to send a plague of toads.”

The Prince of Darkness whistled. “That’s some slick guarantee there. Maybe You should just sue them or something.”

“Oh, right. Where am I supposed to find a lawyer?

“Hey, I’m just doing my job,” Satan complained. “There’s always Google. I hear they’re trying not to be evil these days.”

“Thank you, Lucifer, you’ve been as much help as ever.”

Click.

(Via Church Marketing Sucks.)

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A pox upon them

I am normally not one to wish ill will upon an energy company — I live in the shadow of the oil patch, after all, and anything collected in Oklahoma Gross Production Tax is a sum the state won’t ask me to pay — but after twenty-seven spams touting the over-the-counter stock of Cana Petroleum (symbol: CNPM), I can only hope that these people end up with dry holes, and not in a good way, either.

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Needle alert

I generally don’t go poring over the legal notices in the newspapers; they’re legitimate news, but hardly ever good news, and each and every five-pound notice is packed with ten pounds of Officially Mandated Boilerplate, which is not what makes for encouraging reading. To get my attention, a legal notice has to have something I’ve never seen before.

Something like this one, found in the Mid-City Advocate:

OKLAHOMA STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
NOTICE OF INTENTION TO APPLY FOR TATTOO ESTABLISHMENT LICENSE

In accordance with state laws and regulations, [name and address redacted], a corporation, hereby publishes notice of its intent to apply within sixty days from this date to the Oklahoma State Department of Health for a Tattoo Establishment License, under authority of and in compliance with state laws and regulations: That it intends, if granted such license, to operate as a tattoo and piercing studio with business premises located at [address redacted], in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, under the business name of [name redacted].

Dated this 31st day of October, 2006.

Signature follows. I suppose that either this is nothing new where you live, or you can’t believe that the state actually regulates such things. But I’ve been here more than three decades (not all of it consecutive), and to me, this is news, and not bad news either.

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Because it’s the thought that counts

This will definitely make your Camaro more bitchin’:

Skymaul catalog page

(Via Treehugger.)

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Zacked

The Hornets were feeling pretty good in Portland. They were up a startling 38-13 after the first quarter, and Zack Randolph hadn’t even made a shot yet.

Then things started to unravel. By the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Bees were up by four, 71-67, and even that lead wouldn’t last. Tyson Chandler was gone — ejected in the third quarter after a particularly exasperating T — and Randolph owned the court. With four seconds left, Peja dropped a trey to tie it at 91, and with two seconds left, David West fouled out and sent Randolph to the line. Zack missed one of the two free throws, but it didn’t matter: the Blazers won it, 92-91.

Randolph wound up with 31 points and 12 rebounds, all in the last 30 minutes of the game. None of the Hornets came close, though Desmond Mason and Peja Stojakovic were hovering around the 20-point mark and Bobby Jackson, the one bright spot on the bench the last couple of games, tossed in 15. David West, rebounding in Chandler’s absence, pulled down a dozen boards to go with his 17 points.

Now off to Los Angeles, for a rare afternoon game against the Clippers on Sunday. The Hornets will return to the Ford Center on Tuesday to play Charlotte.

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When “eat my shorts” is insufficient

It’s a matched pair: candy bra and G-string.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to eat Necco wafers again.

And if you must wear that, you might not want to wear this with it. Cognitive dissonance, doncha know.

(Both via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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Taking cuts

I’m starting to think Sarah is fed up:

Everyone tries to one-up each other, usually by professional sabotage. For some reason, making other people look bad is a way to make yourself look good. Projects are mismanaged; mistakes are blamed on coworkers. And Those In Power seem to be either ignorant of (or, even worse, going along with) the whole charade. The very worst of employees continue to get away with staggering incompetence. Meanwhile, more conscientious employees have to fix their mistakes, and are rewarded only by having even more work dumped on them because they’re the only ones able to do it correctly.

If it wasn’t for the prospect of a three-day weekend, I would be perilously close to slashing my wrists with the edge of a blank sheet of 8½ X 11 MultiPurpose Office Paper. A slow, painful death by paper cuts seems somehow poetic right now.

Trust me on this. You want to open a vein? Get one of these, feed something to it, and then try to clean up the debris. It’s the next-best thing to adjusting a lawn-mower blade while it’s running.

(My vantage point at the bottom of 42nd and Treadmill’s org chart gives me, I think, a unique perspective on these matters.)

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One among many

I was standing on a mountaintop at the Edge of Nowhere, or so it seemed, staring into the face of the enemy, and I knew he was staring back.

Not that anything scary was about to happen. There was a rather large body of water between us, and even on the clearest of days I couldn’t see him and he couldn’t see me. Still, I knew he was there, and I assumed he knew I was there, and a few dozen other guys were making a list and checking it twice and delivering it to the commanding officer. They were doing their job, and I was doing mine.

And a few months later, that particular job came to an end; I left this post, a little older, maybe a little wiser, an unexpected medal added to my uniform, and after a few days of R&R — well, maybe some R, but not a whole lot of R, if you know what I mean — I reported back Stateside and was assigned to the Reserves for three more years.

This was before “Be all that you can be,” and I’ve never been sure I was all that I could have been. But we had a mission, and I was part of it, and I’d like to think that I had something to do with the fact that the enemy no longer exists.

That enemy, anyway.

On this day of remembrance, there are millions more with their own stories to tell. You’ve already heard mine.

(Originally posted 11/11/2004.)

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Finally, a truly universal law

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch engages in serious contemplation:

A 26 percent increase in Missouri’s minimum wage to $6.50 an hour will hit urban and rural workers hardest because some may lose their jobs or not be hired as businesses adjust to hold down costs, some business owners and analysts say.

Got that? “Urban and rural workers” will be hit hardest.

That leaves — um, who else is there? The guys on the International Space Station?

(Via the presumably-urban Brian J. Noggle.)

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Our man in Ankara

They buried Bülent Ecevit today, and after a couple of minutes, I remembered where I’d heard that name before.

Ecevit was the Prime Minister of Turkey when I arrived there for a twelve-month tour of duty in the spring of 1974. He was a staunch secularist in this mostly-Muslim nation, and was generally considered friendly toward the US.

Things began to fall apart that year. In July, Archbishop Makarios, president of Cyprus, was deposed in a coup apparently sponsored by Greece; Turkey was opposed to the new Nikos Sampson regime, and Ecevit flew to London to enlist the help of the British, who had controlled the island before a treaty of independence was signed in 1959. The British declined to get involved, but the US, perhaps fearful for the future of NATO bases in Turkey, dispatched an envoy (Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Joseph J. Sisco) to the scene. Negotiations went nowhere, and Turkey invaded Cyprus, eventually gaining control over the northeastern third of the island. The US, upset, suspended arms shipments to Turkey; the Turks responded by curtailing US activities in Turkey that weren’t specifically authorized by NATO. Our own base was covered by the NATO agreement, but some restrictions fell upon us anyway: we were barred from originating our own programming from our on-post radio station, and it seemed to take much longer to get approvals for surveillance flights. Ecevit suffered substantial political fallout from the invasion, and he was replaced as Prime Minister in November by Sadi Irmak.

Bülent Ecevit eventually returned to power, and in 1978 (I was long gone) Congress lifted the arms embargo. In 1979 he resigned again; following a coup in 1980 by the military, most political parties, including Ecevit’s center-left Republican People’s Party, were banned, and Ecevit was briefly imprisoned. In 1987, a referendum rescinded the ban, though Ecevit, then sixty-two, would never again have the influence he had had before.

Getting a grip on Ecevit’s politics required a steady hand. While he favored greater participation in Western alliances and cultures, and firmly believed in the secular Turkey founded by Atatürk, his domestic policies tended toward the semi-socialist, occasionally perplexing Americans who were looking to open up Turkish markets. Some of us who were stationed in his country in those days tended to think rather highly of him, partly because he seemed to think rather highly of us, but perhaps also because we were overwhelmed by this utterly foreign yet somehow familiar land — the Turkish language, while obviously influenced by Arabic and Persian, is written, per Atatürk’s instructions, in a Western-style alphabet — and we were inclined to cut everyone some slack.

Güle güle, sir.

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Dreamy eyes

Gwendolyn, as befitting her status as Sort of Luxoboat, has these high-zoot headlights with just a hint of upward slant to the sides and sheetmetal to match, which you could argue is a sign of her Japanese heritage but which I have always figured was an homage to/a ripoff of [choose one] the middle-1990s Mercedes-Benz S-class lamps. (See for yourself.)

Plastic lenses, alas, tend to accumulate crud, which manifests itself as an off-white to almost-yellow haze, which is not attractive and which obstructs the very purpose of the lights. I noticed this in the dealer’s lot, but assumed it would respond to standard cleaning techniques. It does not. I let it go for awhile, decided it was not going to get better (duh), and resolved to take action: I addressed myself to a nearby auto-parts outlet which, in classic ethnic-joke fashion, was staffed by a black guy, a white guy, and a Mexican guy. I figured I couldn’t go wrong with this combination, and I was right.

And this is how it came to pass that I applied Meguiar’s Mirror Glaze Plastic Polish #10 with an old dish towel (meets all your daily terrycloth requirements), and six years of discoloration vanished in something less than six minutes. Try that with Visine. There was even substantial change from my $10 bill. Add this to the list of Products I Swear By, and prepare yourself for Gwendolyn’s steely stare while you sit there in the fast lane at 53 mph.

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We got too much at stake

Seen today in the supermarket parking lot: a red Chevy with the vanity plate NIHIL.

Simultaneous with the sighting, the song starting up from Gwendolyn’s stereo: the Blues Magoos’ “(We Ain’t Got) Nothin’ Yet.”

Anyone for weird Jungian (as distinguished from Stingian) synchronicity?

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Sanitized for your protection

“Women must not show their femininity in their social interactions.”
       — Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlullah, as quoted here

To further this goal, Snoopy the Goon unveils (so to speak) a true Pan-Islamic Gown. It provides the proper protections against that which is seductive, yet it is remarkably inexpensive.

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You know the drill

Best definition I’ve ever heard:

HACKSAW:  One of a family of cutting tools built on the Ouija board principle. It transforms human energy into a crooked, unpredictable motion and the more you attempt to influence its course, the more dismal your future becomes.

I can also vouch for this one:

VISE-GRIPS:  Next generation Pliers. Also used to round off bolt heads. If nothing else is available, they can also be used to transfer intense welding heat to the palm of your hand.

A whole boxful of tools here.

(Via Tam.)

Update, 4 pm: pdb traces this list to the nonpareil Peter Egan.

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So this is where they all went

Floppy handbagSeen at Popgadget, the ideal gift for the geek girl in your life: a big, floppy bag made from real floppies. A dozen of them, in fact, mounted on a black vinyl liner, which contains various pockets on the inside and a removable magnetic latch on top. For those who read hangtags, here’s what this one says: CARRY YOUR STUFF IN GEEK-CHIC STYLE WITH A PURSE MADE FROM TWELVE (12) GENUINE 1.44 MB COMPUTER DISKETTES. ALLOCATE INTERIOR POCKETS TO MANAGE INTERNAL FRAGMENTATION. TOTAL AVAILABLE MEMORY: 17.28 MB. Now all I need is a geek girl. [sigh]

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Quote of the week

Hornets power forward David West, on the parsimony of backup Brandon Bass:

[T]he young guy’s pretty bad about that. He was a second round pick, so he always uses that as an excuse when it comes to picking up the tab. And guys are always on him, you know, maybe he’ll take care of one sooner or later. But I’m hoping this year he steps up his game at the dinner table.

Bass will earn $664,209 this season (the league minimum for a second-year player), up from $398,762 last year.

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Completely road-tripped

Three games on the West Coast, three losses. It’s not like this has never happened before, but still it stings a bit.

The Hornets played better against the Clippers, but not well enough to win. No Third-Quarter Drought™ this time — the Bees actually outscored L.A. in the third, 22-15, to pull within four — but a truly craptacular fourth quarter (only twelve points) assured the Clippers of a near-blowout victory, 92-76.

And when they weren’t missing shots, the Hornets were losing the ball; they had ten turnovers in the first quarter and 23 overall. They still can’t hit free throws, missing seven of 19. And of 13 3-balls, only two found their way through the net. The Clippers, meanwhile, presented a reasonably-balanced attack, and while they didn’t shoot especially well, they got lots of second and even third looks.

Numbers: Chris Paul got 20 points (and five fouls); Bobby Jackson had twelve; the rest were 11 or less. (Cedric Simmons, off the bench, pulled down 8, a record for the rookie.) Tyson Chandler was effective on the boards, pulling down 13 rebounds and scoring 8. The only double-double to be seen, though, belonged to L.A.’s Elton Brand, who scored 22 points and got 10 rebounds.

The Bobcats will come to the Ford Center Tuesday, and then two more road games: Wednesday at Detroit, then Saturday at Minnesota.

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We built this Citi

The Baseball Crank is okay with “CitiField” as the name for the Mets’ new digs:

You get a new stadium, you get a new name. Let’s have none of this “New Shea”/”Old Shea” nonsense. Shea Stadium is a place with its own identity and its own place in the history of the game and the hearts of Mets fans. You tear it down to build a new stadium, you get a new name.

Which the Chicago White Sox should have done with the “new” Comiskey, now the stirringly unresonant “U. S. Cellular Field.” Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with corporate names:

I don’t, in principle, have a problem with corporate stadium names (ballparks have been named after companies, egomaniacal owners, or some combination of the two — see “Wrigley Field” and “Turner Field” for examples — as long as there have been ballparks). $20 million a year can make the Mets more competitive, and that is a good thing.

So long as the name stays put, anyway:

[W]ere I negotiating a stadium deal, I would add in a substantial premium and an escape clause for renaming rights. That’s my big issue with naming stadiums after banks and phone companies, as well as new and unstable companies (see: “Enron Field”). But the First National City Bank of New York has been known as “City Bank” or Citibank for decades, and given its size and brand equity, should be for the forseeable future.

Southwestern Bell SBC AT&T Bricktown Ballpark please note.

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Strange search-engine queries (41)

Yes, it’s yet another sifting through the referrer logs, in the hopes of finding actual search strings to which I can make snarky responses after the fact.

what do men find unattractive about naked women:  When they’re out of visual range.

are there “Benefits of Media Consolidation”:  For the media, maybe; for the audience, maybe not.

what does a transmission cooler do?  Surprisingly, it cools the transmission, or at least its fluid.

What kind of organ did John Lennon have?  (1) A Hammond. (2) Uncircumcised. (Next time, be more specific.)

“size 0 is too big”:  Have a sandwich already. Sheesh.

chaz i love you:  Obviously a case of mistaken identity.

crown market west hartford kosher antibiotics:  Try the rugelachomycin.

fortytwo hours cybered mom:  Was dad out of town?

Puns for Argon:  Sorry, all the chemical-element puns argon; someone staged a radon the storage box, and anyway it’s none of your bismuth.

how long is a quarter of an hour:  Too short, according to your girlfriend.

infamous Hollywood pseudonym employed by movie directors who wish to have their credit removed from a below-par film:  “Michael Moore”.

The impact of hissy fits in Primary Care:  Reduces waiting time by 10 to 20 percent.

stockings feel weird:  Be grateful she lets you feel them at all.

how do you burn hydrocarbons:  Turn the key and press down with the right foot.

Joe Garagiola used a cuss word:  Who gives a shit?

new jersey turnpike wee wee hours:  The service centers are open 24 hours a day.

amy mcree pictures:  I get this just about every freaking week. (McRee is a news anchor for KWTV.) For the benefit of the less-curious, this goes below the fold.

Read the rest of this entry »

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The sign of true luxury

Toyota’s Scion division sells relatively low-end vehicles aimed at younger drivers. How well this is working is unclear — most of the refrigerator-like xB models I see seem to be driven by soccer moms — but Toyota, anxious to maintain buzz, will limit sales next year to only 150,000, about a 20-percent drop from this year’s numbers. (Automakers that are actually profitable can do this sort of thing, I guess.)

And while I may have my doubts about Scion marketing, Toyota doesn’t; they have a MySpace page, fercryingoutloud, and they’ve opened a virtual showroom in Second Life. Obviously they’re not expecting to lure Buick drivers.

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Forecast for today: blue

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We want our mommy

Swiped from Better Living Through Blogging:

Contessa Brewer of MSNBC did a short profile on the number of women elected to statehouses and Congress, and was interviewing the communications director of Emily’s List, which she described as the “largest grass-roots internet site devoted to electing Democrats.” The conversation turned to motherhood, and Brewer mentioned that Nancy Pelosi has five children and Claire McCaskill is a single mother, which she then turned into one of the most ridiculous questions ever posed on cable news:

“So how does motherhood translate into nurturing the country?”

Sheesh. Do you think that anyone has ever asked how fatherhood translates into nurturing a country, or how fatherhood translates into … what, teaching a country how to catch a baseball?

Of course not. Men, after all, are expendable, and they have no lessons to teach today; the important thing today is to minimize their baleful influence, which has perpetrated such blights on the landscape as NASCAR, Promise Keepers, and, um, Western civilization.

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Getting a green Peterbilt

Hybrid-vehicle owners have already figured out that they get better mileage in town, when the electrickery is working harder, than they do out on the highway. You might think, therefore, that there’s no market for eighteen-wheeler hybrids, and so far there isn’t.

On the other hand, local haulers and municipal works with smaller big rigs might find this useful:

Peterbilt, a division of PACCAR, will display a production-representative, hybrid-electric medium-duty truck — outfitted with a fully integrated bucket lift body — at the Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF) National Meeting in San Diego next week.

The hybrid Model 335 is targeted for municipal and utility applications and will be in limited production in 2007.

The neatest thing about the 335 is that the power takeoff is integrated with the rest of the electrics; at full charge, the PTO can run on batteries alone for up to 25 minutes before restarting the diesel engine.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of these snatching Big Blue up off the curb in the near future.

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Ever-increasingly complicated

I’m not sure it should technically be called a door ding: it’s a teensy bit of pigment gap on the little plastic strip which is supposed to intercept door dings by sacrificing itself. Still, I didn’t earn my reputation for being anal-retentive — which, by the way, has a hyphen — by ignoring little things like this, so I betook myself to the Infiniti store and asked for a tube of touch-up paint.

Not so fast, Bunky. There are two tubes. (For some reason I want to hear Jean-Luc Picard scream that at the top of his lungs: “THERE ARE TWO TUBES!”) Number One (no, not you, Riker) contains the actual white stuff; Number Two is a clear coat. At fourteen bucks, this isn’t exactly expensive, but I did have a brief period of yearning for the days when you could open the hood of a car, point to any part, and identify it correctly on the first try.

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