Archive for April 2007

And the rocks trembled

And out from under one particularly scuzzy rock crawled the perpetrators of a Denial of Service attack on the host’s nameservers, making this site (and a few thousand others) inaccessible for about three hours this morning. (Exactly one person got through during this period, a testimonial to superior network knowledge, and yes, I know who it is, which is why I said that.)

As it happens, I didn’t notice this until later, a byproduct of not being near the computer at that hour of the morning.

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Things I learned today (11)

Some of these you may already know.

Part Twelve will appear eventually.

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A seriously long haul

File under “Boy, I couldn’t do that”: Ann Althouse drives from Austin. Texas to Madison, Wisconsin in one day.

That’s 1235 miles, half again as long as my single-day record. (Albuquerque, New Mexico to Redondo Beach, California, April 1988, 806 miles by my odometer.) And I was absolutely exhausted when it was over, thirteen hours after it had started. It is worth noting that on no day during any of the World Tours did I log more than 600 miles. At my present state of (d)evolution, I figure that even if my nerves don’t give out, my bladder will.

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Clams got sorrow

Cartoonist Johnny Hart, who created the B.C. comic strip in 1958, has died at his home in Nineveh, New York at the age of seventy-six.

Today’s strip seems somehow appropriate.

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Strange search-engine queries (62)

There are a lot of pages under this domain — ten thousand or so — which means that there is a truly prodigious amount of search-engine traffic. Inevitably, this means that there will be some requests that come across as slightly weird. In this series, we look at those for which “slightly” may not necessarily apply.

accident in oklahoma that shut down southbound I-35:  Be more specific. We get those 24/7.

what happens to salad dressing when expired:  It’s said to have “bought the ranch.”

porn star with “five inch” penis:  You’d think those guys would be, um, too short.

snow white porn:  You’d think those guys would be, um, too short.

“southern california” superficial selfish:  You say that like it’s a bad thing.

cheerios palmistry:  Much more difficult than doing it with Post Alpha-Bits.

omen hit deer in car:  You will soon meet a stranger who will identify himself as an insurance adjuster.

book value of 1975 AMC Pacer:  Almost certainly a paperback.

“Invisible Woman” makeup:  Nothing too obvious.

Dennis Hastert bikini wax:  This started with a thread on Democratic Underground; one poster remarked, “There are things that humans were not meant to know.” I have to agree.

wives doing blowjobs:  I thought they became wives so they wouldn’t have to do that.

“just friends” frustrating:  Tell me about it. Better yet, don’t.

Lortons Puppy World:  What happens when Tulsa no longer has a daily newspaper.

how to cure phlegm:  Rub it with a mixture of salt, sugar, and potassium nitrate, then store it for no more than six months.

how to put tampa into the vagina with yogurt:  I expect St. Petersburg will have something to say about that.

Finally, since I’m still getting requests for shots of Nancy Pelosi’s legs, here she is with President Assad of Syria:

Speaker Pelosi with Syrian President Assad

I refuse to speculate on whether she’s had a bikini wax.

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Gwendolyn goes to the clinic

Here’s why:

When I turn the key, the engine makes a horrible scraping noise.
Sounds like a bad solenoid. Your starter consists of two parts, the starter motor itself and the solenoid. The starter motor is just what it sounds like, a motor big enough to spin the engine and start the whole ignition process. It works by turning a small gear quickly against a large gear on the flywheel of the engine. But that small gear isn’t always engaged with the flywheel. That’s where the solenoid comes in. It basically sticks out the smaller gear to engage it with the flywheel. When it starts to go out, it doesn’t engage properly and makes the noise you’ve been hearing. And in order to protect the flywheel gear, which is much more expensive to replace, the solenoid gear is usually made of a softer metal, so it wears down. The solution is to replace the starter.

It’s been doing this for about five months now; I figure I’ve pushed my luck as far as I dare.

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Follow the thread

There are, theoretically anyway, nineteen different phases of a blog discussion before it finally peters out, and Paula Scher has illustrated the path in a New York Times “Op-Art”. Even reduced, this is fairly huge (100k), so it’s going beneath the jump for the time being. (The individual archive, of course, doesn’t have a jump.) Thanks to kottke.

Read the rest of this entry »

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If only it were that simple

The so-called Tax Freedom Day for Oklahomans comes this Thursday, 12 April, two and a half weeks before the national average (on the 30th) and 5½ weeks before the 20th of May, when the besieged residents of Connecticut finish their obligations.

The latest ever Tax Freedom Day was the 31st of December, in the former Soviet Union.

(Noticed at The Consumerist.)

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Now at fewer locations

While rumors swirl about how the domestic automakers are an endangered species, their dealership networks are definitely shrinking: last year, Detroit dropped 462 dealerships, and so far this year they’re down 480 more.

I suspect most of this shrinkage is in highly-competitive metropolitan areas where it’s been dog-eat-dog and beyond for years. At least with GM and Chrysler, the goal seems to be consolidating as many brands as possible on the same lot: Hudiburg, which has been selling Chevrolets here since forever, added Pontiac and GMC some years back; now they’ve moved the Buick line, once dualed with Nissan, to that same lot. (The Nissan dealership remains on I-240.) Group 1’s Smicklas Chevrolet, which absorbed the old Gandara Buick on May, has since dropped Buick altogether. Bob Moore, the last tenant of the infamous Lynn Hickey lot at I-44 and May, moved their Dodge store into their Chrysler-Jeep facility on the Northwest Distressway last year. Bob Moore also acquired the Saab franchise last year and now sells the odd Swedemobile alongside Cadillac in their humongous Broadway cluster.

The downside of multiple lines on the same lot, of course, is that it makes badge engineering distressingly apparent: when you have two or three (GM has had as many as five) variations on the same theme, people tend to snicker, especially if there’s an obvious attempt to differentiate by price. This is, I’m pretty sure, why you tend not to find Lexuses at Toyota stores. On the other hand, there’s not much overlap between Acura and Honda, or lately between Infiniti and Nissan.

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Dress rehearsal

Dr. Weevil asks:

I haven’t read all the coverage of the Iranian kidnapping of 15 British sailors and marines — no one could — but what I have read does not mention one interesting question: what happened to their uniforms? We know that they were sent home in ugly Iranian suits. Unless I’m missing something, it appears that their uniforms remain in Iranian hands. Or perhaps not. In January, Iraqi “insurgents” — in fact, war criminals — wearing American uniforms killed five American soldiers in Karbala (good summary here). Have the British uniforms stolen by Iran already been shipped to al Sadr’s men in Basra so they can try the same thing there? Why is no one asking what happened to them?

I have no idea, but it sounds like a reasonable question to me, and maybe a wider airing will elicit an answer somewhere.

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Sonics buy huge tract of land

Okay, it’s not that huge, and it’s not technically a buy yet, but still:

The Professional Basketball Club (PBC), which owns the Seattle Sonics and Storm, and Transwestern/Harvest Lakeshore, LLC, which is a joint venture between Transwestern Investment Company and Harvest Partners, the developer of The Landing, a mixed-use retail, entertainment, and residential complex on the shores of Lake Washington, have reached an agreement in principle to assign the rights to acquire 21.2 acres of land that could become the home of a new multipurpose events center. Boeing currently owns the property, which is adjacent to the site already being developed by Harvest Partners as the first phase of The Landing. Harvest Partners has the first right of refusal to buy it.

“We have been involved in extensive recent discussions and expect to have a signed definitive agreement soon,” said Eliot Barnett, Managing Partner of Harvest Partners. “We both see excellent potential for The Landing and the new events center and believe that together they would provide even greater economic, cultural and other benefits to the City of Renton, the region and the state,” said Clay Bennett, PBC Chairman.

Representatives of Harvest Partners and PBC have been discussing how the adjacent developments would complement each other and contribute to the ongoing redevelopment of Renton. Harvest Partners is on track to see its first retail tenants open for business in October of this year and the balance of the retail following in May 2008. The first residential phase would open in 2009. In addition to Sonics and Storm basketball, the new events center would host a variety of other sports, business, entertainment and cultural activities. PBC is working with business, labor, sports fans, community leaders and others for approval of state legislation that would enable the development of the multipurpose events center, which ideally would come on line for the 2010-11 NBA season.

Which is right after the KeyArena lease expires.

There are two ways to look at this: that Clay Bennett and friends are actually serious about getting a new facility in the Seattle ‘burbs, or that Clay Bennett and friends are just going through the motions so it won’t look so bad when they move the Sonics out of town. At the moment, I’m more inclined to believe the former.

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Swinging down the lane

Ja’Rena Lunsford at the Oklahoman seemed surprised at the results of a data dump by Men’s Health that gave Oklahoma City’s drivers a D, ranking 74th of 100 cities. Lunsford was especially critical of the third-place ranking given the City of New York, observing:

I’ve only been to New York a handful of times, but that was long enough to realize that city shouldn’t be getting any accolades for good driving. If I recall correctly, I had a near death experience in a cab while I was trying to get to LaGuardia International Airport.

I’ve driven very little in the Big Apple, but I think Lunsford is underestimating their mad driving skillz: the fact that traffic moves at all struck me, in the middle of it one day, as well-nigh miraculous.

Of course, like all drivers, I consider myself above average. (And at least I have one piece of evidence to back me up: no moving violations in the past quarter-century.)

On a possibly-related note, some months back, Car and Driver put out some research of their own, in an effort to determine which states were most driver-friendly. I duly downloaded their 800k spreadsheet worth of data, and discovered Oklahoma right near the middle: 22nd place. (Alaska, a wide-open space indeed, took first; the District of Columbia was dead last.) The Sooner State picked up points for relatively low levels of traffic and for higher-than-average speed limits, and lost points for very high truck traffic and for below-average pavement quality (which, as Tom Elmore reminds us, is a direct result of very high truck traffic). And C/D editor Csaba Csere has a very Lunsford-like response to one of his data points:

Driving is safer than it’s ever been, but there are still substantial differences among the states. In Mississippi, the highway death rate was 2.28 fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles driven. In Massachusetts, it was barely a third of that, at 0.87. I suspect this says more about the higher willingness of Massachusetts drivers to buckle up than it does about their inherent driving talent, which was not obvious when I went to college in that state three decades ago.

Boston drivers in the Men’s Health report placed 34th, scoring B-minus. Last time I drove through Boston, I remember thinking I’d rather be in New York.

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Eat here and get gas

Well, not anymore: the gas stations along the Turner Turnpike will shut down on the 23rd, leaving the two “service plazas” with a place to eat, but no actual motor fuel.

A spokesman for the turnpike said that the station operator declined to renew the lease on the two stations.

It is possible to exit at Bristow — I’ve done this — and gas up, then return to the turnpike; presumably it’s possible at Wellston. There is no apparent rush to sign up a new operator for the stations.

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Something here doesn’t quite register

Mike Duncan
Republican National Committee
310 First Street SE
Washington, DC 20003

Dear Mr. Duncan:

Thank you for your kind letter and invitation to participate in your “GOP Census.” I must point out, however, that inasmuch as I am not a registered Republican, the “Dear Fellow Republican” salutation notwithstanding, it might be inappropriate for me to respond positively at this time.

Sincerely,

CGHill

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Back and forth

The first quarter was something to behold: the lead changed hands half a dozen times in those twelve minutes, and it ended with both teams shooting .500, a mere three fouls in aggregate, and the Hornets up 26-25. By comparison, the second quarter was horrific: the Clippers continued to shoot .500, while the Bees apparently had doused themselves with Rim Repellent (Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.) at some point, managing a mere 15 points and retreating to the locker room down 11.

Then the third, and Devin Brown rolled out 14 points in the first six minutes, and the Hornets outscored L.A. 29-14, taking a four-point lead going into the fourth. And with 20 seconds left, they still led, albeit only by two, and the Clippers had the ball; ten seconds and one dunk later, it was tied at 87. Jason Hart fouled Chris Paul, who sank two free throws; Eldon Brand got a last-second bucket to tie it at 89 with one second left, and overtime duly ensued. As we all know, the Hornets don’t lose in overtime: Bobby Jackson dropped in two free throws with 33 seconds left to put the Bees up by seven; Corey Maggette shot a 3-pointer in response; with 11 seconds left, Chris Paul managed to miss two free throws; Jason Hart hit a bucket to pull within two; David West hit one of two from the line, Maggette got the ball — and threw it to Devin Brown. Hornets 103, Clippers 100, and the playoff race isn’t quite dead yet.

Both teams, depleted by injuries, played only eight men. (Well, James Singleton officially played one second for Los Angeles.) D-West got seven of the Hornets’ 14 points in the overtime, and finished with 33. Devin Brown tied his personal best with 25, and Chris Paul added 17 with 10 assists.

The Clippers, however, outrebounded the Bees, 50-42, and both Chris Kaman and Eldon Brand recorded double-doubles, Kaman with 10 points and 12 boards, Brand with 37 points and 10 boards. Corey Maggette, who hit two of the Clippers’ four treys, wound up with 24.

So Golden State, which had the night off, occupies eighth place in the West at 38-40; the Clippers, 37-40, are half a game back; the Hornets, 37-41, trail the Clippers by half a game. (The Warriors, however, own the tiebreaker over the Bees.) I’m thinking we need more overtime: in games going beyond regulation this season, the Hornets are 7-0.

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OMG UGTBK

Someone texts Rita, and then some:

I just got this interesting text message “Think of me tonight” on my phone, with a photo attached … of a young man wearing nothing but a strategically placed towel & a smile. Which made me crack up laughing because I have no idea who this young man is, except he’s someone who obviously had the wrong number.

Another reason, I suppose, to hold on to my photo-unready phone for another few years.

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Altogether now

Black’s Beach, near San Diego, is perhaps the largest stretch of clothing-optional (or clothing-nonexistent) beach in the States; it is difficult to get to, but staggeringly popular. Dave Cole of the Black’s Beach Bares group passed out a questionnaire to women visiting the beach last summer; the results have now been published (no illustrations, ya perv), and some of the findings caught my eye:

  • Age range: 17 to 66. (Average: 34.7.)
  • 90 of 98 respondents described their beach visit that day in positive terms.
  • One of the more common negative responses: creepy guys, possibly with cameras.
  • While most of the women were from Southern California, there were visitors from as far away as Atlanta and New York.
  • “My cell phone got drenched by the tide.”

I don’t know if I could do this, though this is at least partly due to the fact that it’s a hard climb down to the actual beach, and I don’t do climbs (in either direction) especially well.

(Via Elendil.)

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And if not, Salon is hiring

Venomous Kate contemplates a career change:

I’ve decided that I want the weatherman’s job: it’s the only one I know of — besides, perhaps, being a federal judge — where one can remain gainfully employed despite getting things wrong day after day after day.

God forbid that the judicial system should have anything to say about weather.

Oh, wait…

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Where’s the remote sledgehammer?

Maybe it’s just me, but I persist in my old-fashioned belief that when a vendor presents you with a product for testing in your work environment, it is that vendor’s responsibility for providing some semblance of documentation for said product, especially if it’s a product of a type you’ve never used before and even more especially if it has an interface somewhere between unintuitive and haphazard.

Oh, and he was late, too, but that’s a different issue.

(While we’re on the subject: Would it be so hard for the manufacturers to post a copy of the operator’s manual on their Web site?)

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Runaway mouse!

Well, this is weird. At bootup, the cursor darts upward regardless of mouse position and keeps doing so until the Alt key is pressed. I assumed at first it was a bad mouse, but the same thing happens with both PS/2 and USB meece. Spyware scan (because I’m paranoid) produced nothing, and of course Microsloth has no new drivers for any of these critters. Any suggestions? (“Get a Mac” is already chalked on the board for Future Reference.)

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Overheard in Mayfair

The Mayfair Market still stands, for now, on the southwest corner of NW 50th and May, though its days are clearly numbered. (“We might make it to the end of the month,” a checkout person told me.) Everything other than tobacco products gets discounted 20 percent at the register; the post office has closed up, and things which turn over quickly — produce, fresh meats, bakery stuff — are in short supply. They did have, I noted, one box of actual unfrosted blueberry Pop-Tarts, which I duly snapped up.

Is it too much to hope that the CVS store being shoehorned onto this lot actually ends up looking like it belongs there? Probably.

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Cut and paste and paste again

Just in case you thought Ben Domenech or Kaavya Viswanathan or the CBS Evening News staff invented the concept:

Readers let us know that [a story in the March 1973 issue] was taken almost word for word from a feature that appeared in a Harvey comic book. Unfortunately, [it] isn’t an isolated incident. We have an entire file of letters from girls who noticed that a contributor’s “original” story was stolen from another source.

As you can tell, plagiarism is a major problem here. We’re trying to stop it, but with little luck. For example, we ran an article in the August ’72 issue of AG asking you to stop taking other people’s works and submitting them as your own. The result: two girls got plagiarized stories printed in the January ’73 and March ’73 issues. We’ve done all that we can … the rest is up to you!

Toni Lorenz, then a fifteen-year-old intern, wrote that for the May 1973 issue of American Girl.

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At least they didn’t charge extra

Best Buy is being sued by a San Gabriel Valley woman and her mother. It seems that the woman had ordered an in-home repair from Best Buy’s Geek Squad unit; when the tech arrived, he was directed to the hardware, while the customer went off to take a shower. When she emerged from her ablutions, she found an unfamiliar cell phone in the bathroom, set to record video.

The woman’s younger sister came up with the idea of swiping the chip from the phone. They took it to a retailer and had it installed in another phone, where they discovered the recording of the shower scene. According to the suit, the tech tried to get the chip back from her, offering discounted services as an incentive.

A couple of things bother me about this:

  1. Since when does anyone ever get any kind of service discount from Best Buy?
  2. I’ve been a small-g geek long enough to know that when you’re working on something important, you don’t get distracted by — wow, who’s that?

(Via the Consumerist.)

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I do not think it means what you think it means

And neither did she, apparently:

Bike for sale

(Spotted at Boondoggled.)

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Das Woot

Woot is spreading.

Earlier this month, I made note of a Turkish knockoff of America’s most deranged e-commerce site. Today, Trini spotted a German variation on the theme.

Cyberport.24, unlike Woot, does two items over two days, but otherwise they’re working the same turf: electronics and gadgets, probably manufacturers’ overruns, at prices that simply invite disbelief. If nothing else, this proves that you can’t keep a good marketing shtick down.

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Five rules for a great box set

Courtesy of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons Enthusiasts and Historical Society of the United Kingdom:

  1. A great set should have all the hits.
  2. A great set should have value added for fans who have earlier collections.
  3. A great set should represent the full spectrum of a group’s styles and the complete range of its experimentation.
  4. A great set should cover a group’s entire career.
  5. A great set should have great liner notes.

Of the boxes I have, the one that hews closest to this particular line is Phil Spector’s Back to Mono 1958-1969 box, issued by Abkco back in the Pleistocene era (okay, 1991) for an appalling $80 list and now widely available for about a quarter of that. (Disclosure: I paid $65 for mine.) Departures from perfection: the essays by David Hinckley and Tom Wolfe (yes!) are seriously readable, but while they capture Phil, they give the actual music semi-short shrift — and would it have been so hard to toss in just one of the infamous throwaway B-sides like “Tedesco and Pitman”?

Oh, and the sound is kinda fuzzy, and, as per the title, mono only. (Then again, Spector’s bounce-and-keep-bouncing recording technique doesn’t lend itself particularly well to stereo mixing, though most of the hits did appear somewhere in stereo at one time or another.) And yes, Spector made records throughout the Seventies, but they were either (1) remarkably unsuccessful for some reason or (2) done on behalf of various Beatles and therefore not available for a compilation.

Nominations for Great Box Sets will of course be happily accepted.

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238

Road buffs revile Interstate 238, a two-mile stretch of freeway in the East Bay area near San Francisco, because of its nonstandard numbering: by rights, it ought to connect somewhere to Interstate 38, and there is no Interstate 38, not in California, not anywhere.

On the other hand, there’s a good reason for this week’s Carnival of the Vanities to be numbered 238: there have been, well, two hundred thirty-eight of them so far.

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Because Hooters was too, um, classy

The ever-annoying Joe Francis has announced plans to open a chain of “Girls Gone Wild” theme restaurants.

A word of advice if you’re calling for reservations: don’t order the crabs.

(Seen at Modestly Yours.)

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We got crazy flipper fingers

And oh, occasionally they didn’t see us fall:

It just pains me that pinball is dead. Oh, I’ll find machines here and there, but they’re always damaged or dark, shrines for a cult religion. There’s one at Chuck E. Cheese’s — Rollercoaster Tycoon, of all things — and I’ve put it in its place a few times. It’s the only machine in the joint that gives you a free play. Everything else expects another coin. Even if you do well, it expects another coin. At some point people were trained to expect their excellence to be repaid with nothing more than the opportunity to enter their initials.

Or, in my case, usually the rubric B F D.

Somebody else’s excellence, of course, always managed to eclipse mine:

I was a good pinball player. I wasn’t the best, but I was good enough. I could transfer the ball from one flipper to the next; I could wiggle a ball from the drain, nudge the table enough to move the ball from the B to the A slot, make those life-changing flipper saves that require split-second coordination. I was in the B leagues, though. I was always trying to convince the machine, which is a sign of an B-leaguer. The A-leaguers dominated the machines. [The C-leaguers begged it and fought it.]

It’s been five years since last I played, and be it noted, I did score that freebie. Perhaps I should wander into Chuck E.’s myself one of these days. (What a friend we have in Cheese’s, eh?)

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Quote of the week

(Note: This week you get the two-for-one special.)

The problem with that Imus remark, I’ve suggested (for instance, here), is that it simply wasn’t funny.

But at the heart of the matter may be something much worse:

[I]t isn’t so much the mindless racist language that Imus used in making his “observation” that bothered me, but the reason that he considers the Rutgers women worthy of verbal denigration. In the minds of some men — men like Imus and not a few rappers — the Rutgers women committed a cardinal “sin”: not being physically attractive to that man personally. And, in spite of all the personal accomplishments of such women, this makes them fair game for scorn, whether couched in racist language or not. And, for that alone, Imus deserves the shunning of the magnitude that he is receiving.

Me, I’m checking my eyeballs for planks, just in case. (Thank you, Juliette.)

Meanwhile, reporting from outside Victim Central:

If black Americans in 2007 are this delicate and overreact to the slightest insults with this much unrighteous indignation, it’s pretty safe to say black people are not made the way they used to be, of stronger stuff, able to withstand truly demeaning and criminal treatment at the hands of true oppressors. It’s sad to know that the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of people who faced actual oppression are so much weaker, much less discerning, and much more undignified.

And thank you, La Shawn.

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Or maybe it was someone else

Lynn, on the subject of being wrong:

Almost everyone hates being wrong. Even when we have been shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we are wrong, most of us still resist. I’m no different; I certainly hate being wrong. (Not that I’m admitting I’m ever wrong, mind you.) I have no doubt that there are situations in which even Adam Savage would hate being wrong. But his typical, genuinely happy, reaction to being wrong on Mythbusters started me thinking.

Discovering that you have been wrong means that you have learned something new, that you are a little bit less ignorant than you were before discovering that you were wrong. That’s something to be happy about. Discoveries are not always pleasant, of course. Sometimes they force us to make huge, and uncomfortable, mental adjustments. That, along with the feeling of shame about being wrong, is why we hate to be wrong.

I doubt these thoughts will make being wrong any easier — for me or anyone else — but maybe it’s something we should remind ourselves of on those occasions when we are forced to face up to being wrong.

Which is why I strive never to be wrong at work, and confine my questionable ideas and fuzzy thinking to this space. (Lynn, of course, is right about this. I think.)

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Beijing loves those controllers

If you’re in China, you’re under 18, and you spend more than three hours at a time gaming online, the Chinese government is about to screw with you:

Chinese gaming firms such as NetEase and Shanda Interactive Entertainment have until 15 July to install software which will halve the number of points gamers can score if they play for more than three hours. Determined gamers who play for more than five hours will get no points at all and face an on-screen warning that they are entering “unhealthy game time”.

In order to verify their age, gamers will be required to register for games using their real names and identity card number.

Reportedly, 13 percent of Chinese youth under 18 are considered “addicted” to online games.

Next: Beijing tries to fix the exchange rate between the yuan and the Linden dollar.

(Via Hit & Run.)

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And don’t come back, now, y’heah?

Not that I have any particular reason to want to go to Renton, Washington, but if I had, it’s gone now:

Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, said those who criticized the [Sonics’ new arena] plan because it does not provide assurances that the team will not pull up stakes ten years from now are underestimating the strength of the region.

“Why would anybody leave here and go to Oklahoma City? Have you ever been to Oklahoma City? I have,” Prentice said.

No more lamb fries for you, darlin’.

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Last stand

The RedHawks were rained out, and I couldn’t bring myself to watch the Hornets’ last game in the Ford Center, knowing it was the last game in the Ford Center.

Which it almost certainly is. They jumped out to a 13-point lead after the first quarter, watched Denver’s big guns narrow it to three at the half, to one with two minutes left. Finally, with half a minute to go, the Nuggets took a three-point lead, and made it stand up: final, 107-105. Unless the Warriors go totally troppo for the rest of the season, this is it.

The story wasn’t just ‘Melo and A.I., either; yes, they combined for 54 points, but the real killer was center Marcus Camby, who blocked nine shots while rolling up a double-double, 15 points and 11 boards. And let’s not overlook guard Steve Blake, who scored ten and served up ten assists.

The Bees had plenty of attack, with 16 offensive rebounds to the Nuggets’ ten, and David West came up with 31 points and 13 boards. Marc Jackson also had 13 rebounds, and 13 points to boot. But a cold spell came late in the fourth, and seemingly nothing would warm it up again.

Tomorrow, the first day of the Bataan Death March season-ending road trip, at Houston. The Rockets, who are 0-3 against the Hornets this year, will presumably be looking for payback.

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The Grey Lady’s green machine

Plug-in hybrid research continues apace, and it’s reached The New York Times, which has added to its fleet a Dodge Sprinter van with an experimental powertrain using lithium-ion batteries, a small five-cylinder diesel engine for backup, and a 220-volt power cord.

A similar van has been tested in Paris by FedEx [link to PDF file] with a gasoline engine; it’s been averaging 25.4 mpg, not bad at all for a delivery vehicle which travels essentially no highway miles. The batteries can run the van for up to twenty miles before the engine kicks in. There’s also a bus version, which is currently under trial by the Kansas City Area Transit Authority.

The Times experiment is co-sponsored by Con Ed, the New York Power Authority, the Electric Power Research Institute and DaimlerChrysler.

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Trust company

Horton Hears a Whom Department: In 1956, CBS debuted a quiz show on Tuesday nights with the provocative title Do You Trust Your Wife? If this sounds vaguely sexist, well, maybe it was: host Edgar Bergen (yes, that Edgar Bergen) presented the list of categories to the married-couple contestants, and then the husband would decide whether he or the Mrs. would take those questions. Neither the jackpot ($5200, paid in $100 installments weekly) nor the looming presence of Mortimer Snerd endeared the show to many viewers, and in the fall of 1957 ABC picked up the show, turned it into a daytimer, installed Johnny Carson (yes, that Johnny Carson) as the host, and streamlined the title to the shorter but less grammatical Who Do You Trust?

Carson (and his announcer, one Ed McMahon) departed in 1962 to take over some obscure NBC show; Woody Woodbury succeeded him, but Who Do You Trust? finally died in late 1963 and stayed dead — until now:

CBS has tapped conservative MSNBC pundit and famed bow-tie aficionado Tucker Carlson to host its game show pilot Who Do You Trust?

In the project, strangers wager how much they trust each other as they develop a relationship via gameplay. The concept is loosely based on the classic game-theory experiment “prisoner’s dilemma,” where players weigh cooperation vs. betrayal for differing levels of reward and punishment.

The project, executive produced by Phil Gurin (Weakest Link), is shooting this month.

I’m waiting for Bill O’Reilly’s version of Truth and/or Consequences.

(Via E. M. Zanotti.)

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Saturday spottings (organized for once)

This is the last day of Architecture Week, as proclaimed by the Central Oklahoma chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and for the fifth consecutive year they’ve held a Tour of Notable Buildings or something like that. So I set out on this cold February April day to see what they had to offer. In the order visited:

1) 614 West Sheridan Avenue
This newly-remodeled building along Film Row west of downtown is the home of Raffiné Interiors and Tietsort Design. The building itself goes back to 1950; this is the first major redevelopment in the area, and it serves as showroom for both Gus Tietsort and Raffiné’s Phillip Matthews, who provided enough input into the design to get credit alongside the architects themselves in the program, and, I think, deservedly so.

2) 719 North Francis Avenue
The Okasian House, as it is officially known, was designed by Brian Fitzsimmons last year to serve as home, office and workshop. It’s a fascinating admixture of classic minimalism and urban industrial grit: the north entrance takes you up a few steps and onto what looks like a length of rail surrounded by old railroad ties, a couple of feet above the courtyard, which is defined by a brick wall to the west and a stand of bamboo to the north. There’s also bamboo inside the house: it’s used for flooring, and it looks fabulous. Fitzsimmons built much of the furniture himself, and I have no doubt he could make a living at it if this architecture thing ever dries up. The kitchen is perhaps the least-cluttered I’ve ever seen, despite its wealth of equipment. A shot from the southeast corner reveals a tower of brick, metal and glass:

Okasian House

I talked with TiTi Nguyen, who shares the home with Fitzsimmons, about energy consumption, and she pointed out a number of features, none of them really huge, but in aggregate making a serious dent in the utility bills. (Sample: The larger windows are on the north and east sides, where they catch more daylight; on the south and west, where heat builds up in the summer, there is a smaller glass area plus louvers to ward off the sun.) What the home seems to lack in conventionality, it makes up for in sheer function; there’s even a secluded rooftop deck for watching the stars, as recommended by the Drifters.

3) 33 Northeast 7th Street
I’ve talked about this place before, even posted a photograph, so 33:7, as it’s apparently going to be known hereafter, should be familiar to regular readers. It’s a different take altogether on the industrial look: the living areas are darker-colored and seemingly warmer, while the studio in the north wing is light and airy. There’s also a marked lack of clutter, though owner Jason Blankenship hinted that out in the garage — well, think Fibber McGee’s closet. No one’s yet built in the next block, perhaps because no one knows quite how to top this. Here’s an unused shot from a previous visit:

33 NE 7th St

4) 301 Northeast 4th Street
This is the development known as Block 42, and it’s still under construction: visitors were duly issued hard hats. The ground was covered in wood splinters, which, it turns out, were ground down from waste building materials; given the recent heavy rains, I was grateful not to have to trudge through the mud. Developer Grant Humphreys told me that they’d already presold half the units, though they won’t be finished until October, and that he thinks that the green approach — Block 42 is seeking LEED certification for the entire project — is a major selling point. It may well be. One of the contractors told me that waste brick and such will be turned into subfill for the landscaping, which is an improvement on having it dumped somewhere else. Oh, and why “42”? I made some Douglas Adams reference, but no: on an early plat of Oklahoma City, this area is indeed described as Block 42, and the complex contains (of course) 42 units.

4) 1209 North Harvey Avenue
This 1935 building in Midtown, once a dormitory for Wesley Hospital staff, spent much of its later years boarded up: in 2006 it was subdivided and renamed Harvey Lofts. Seventeen units, 650 to 1300 square feet, were created; already twelve have been sold. One aesthetic issue with refurbishments like this is the question of how much of the original structure should be allowed to remain on display. Architect Brad Black decided to leave the original columns and the top few inches of the walls intact, a sensible and stylish approach. I suggested that I could see my daughter living in something like this; I was told that with one exception, all the buyers so far had in fact been under-30 professionals. One question asked by other folks on the tour: wouldn’t it be nice to have a freight elevator to assist in the moving process? (There’s a passenger elevator, but its capacity is less than half a ton.) On the other hand, most under-30 professionals I know (admittedly not a lot) tend to have relatively light furniture. Here’s a drawing of an overhead view (swiped from their Web site) which, at least from ground level, looked pretty accurate:

Harvey Lofts

5) 3100 Northwest 149th Street
This 2004 office was built for Howard-Fairbairn Site Design, which specializes in landscape design, and the first thing that struck me about it was the abundance of natural light, even on an overcast afternoon. (Of course, I work in a place where windows are even rarer than brainstorms.) Even the cubicles appear pleasant — low walls, presumably low levels of claustrophobia — and there’s the Best Break Room Ever, off to one side and opening to the outdoors.

6) 14900 Wilson Road
Tucked away behind a gate near 150th and Western, this 1965 beauty knocked me out before I ever got to the entrance: there’s a walled garden at the front, just about the entire width of the house. And width there is in abundance; once you open that entrance, you come upon a 95-foot gallery (with a travertine floor, yet) which connects all the major rooms. Only modest concessions, mostly in lighting and such, have been made to contemporary modernity: this is pure Sixties luxe, simpler than the occasionally-overwrought Fifties but far more livable than the abominations passed off as taste in the Seventies. I swear, I dreamed about this place once, and I’d never seen it before. It’s too big and too pricey for the likes of me — per Christie’s Great Estates, the house and its 2.3 acres can be had for a modest $698,766 — but there’s always Powerball.

7) 2532 Pembroke Terrace
George Seminoff, just out of OSU’s School of Architecture, designed this house in 1957, and it’s just undergone a golden-anniversary facelift. A classic ranch, roughly 2700 square feet, this house shows that Seminoff was a major Frank Lloyd Wright fan but open to a wide range of influences. The rooms aren’t the least bit square: 30- and 60-degree angles are everywhere. There’s what was described as the True In-Law plan: a wing with a bedroom, a bath, and an actual kitchenette (since removed). One place we dared not venture was into the library, which has cork wallpaper (!) and a leather floor (!!). Look up in the living room, and there are redwood beams; the cabinetry is ash. The walls are Venetian plaster and utterly gorgeous. And for fans of sunshine, as I am, there are new floor-to-ceiling Arcadia glass windows along the back of the house (a great view of the pool), the work of Gus Tietsort, whom you’ll remember from the first stop, and now we’ve completed the circle.

The tour itself was self-paced; I completed it in a Gilligan-standard three hours. (Five were allowed.) The $12 fee included a $2.40 donation to Calm Waters. A good way to spend a day, I think.

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The end of another streak

The Rockets hadn’t beaten the Hornets since March of ’06, so their 123-112 win was probably a tad more satisfying than usual. It didn’t hurt that Houston shot a better-than-respectable 58 percent from the floor, or that Yao Ming dropped in 30 points, or that Rafer Alston knocked down five treys en route to a double-double (21 points, 13 assists), or that Tracy McGrady was, well, Tracy McGrady, pulling down 21 points and serving up 10 dimes.

The Bees were never really out of it, but then they were never really in it either; they’d pull to within a possession or two, and the Rockets would run up four or six quick points to put some distance between them. Still, David West had 33 points, giving him 97 in the last three games; Devin Brown was hot in the first half and scored 21; Marc Jackson was hot in the second half and scored 22; Chris Paul not only pulled the double-double (20 points, 15 assists), but he outrebounded everyone, grabbing eight boards. A decent offensive showing — 54-percent shooting — but simply not enough tonight.

Two last West Coast games, against the Kings (Monday) and the Clippers (Wednesday); if they split 1-1, the Hornets will finish 38-44, exactly where they did last season.

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MSM3k

After this week’s mouse incident, which seemed to have been solved by the ever-popular System Restore function — and what in the name of Douglas Engelbart did I install Tuesday, anyway? — I noticed that the Logitech optical I’d been using had suffered greatly by being dragged back and forth across my hardwoods-from-the-forest-primeval desktop, and while I had spares on hand, they had been stocked mostly by virtue of cheapness: they worked well enough, but they lacked heft.

(Aside: Geez, that was one sentence?)

So yesterday I spent a Jackson for Microsoft’s Comfort Optical Mouse 3000, which comes with a CD full of toolishness. It also has one button I hadn’t seen before, which brings up a magnifier window. What’s more, the infamous scroll wheel not only goes up and down, but left and right. It trails the old Logitech — and, for that matter, the older MS mouse I use at work — in fluidity of motion, but it’s still pretty decent, and inexplicably, it’s not particularly overpriced. They, um, “recommend” you use a USB port — if you have no USB port open, they tell you “Consider purchasing a USB hub” — but they throw in a PS/2 adapter anyway.

And oh, yes, it’s supposed to work with a Mac.

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Is this just fantasy?

Apparently this is the real life, in Britain anyway:

Fairtrade ice-cream pioneers Ben & Jerry’s have just brought out a new flavour, the brilliantly named Bohemian Raspberry. This mouth-watering new flavour is a vanilla based ice-cream with fudge brownie and raspberry swirls, and the name’s closeness to a certain Queen song is no coincidence.

Each time you purchase a tub you’ll be making a donation to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, which is dedicated to fighting AIDS worldwide.

No word on whether Bohemian Raspberry will be offered Stateside.

(Via DollyMix.)

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