Archive for November 2007

Hey, nice shorts

I never saw any particular need to burnish my Aging Urban Hipster credentials, on the honorable basis that I don’t actually have any. On the other hand, this evening found me (and a companion, you should know) at the tony XO Lounge downtown, watching this month’s shortsSUITE, a collection of short films assembled by those fabulous folks who bring you the deadCENTER Film Festival every summer. In fact, one item on tonight’s menu I’d actually seen at deadCENTER: Virginia Todd Burton’s lyrical Alien Rose. Some of the others I remembered seeing on screening lists. The XO itself is pretty neat, a shot of modern in the basement of the post-Victorian Colcord Hotel, and the food comes from the reliable Soleil upstairs.

The real adventure, though, came at the end, when neither of us could quite figure out how to get out of the city’s humongous Galleria parking garage. Apparently this late at night there’s exactly one attendant, and she’s about fifteen linear miles away.

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Side o’ the road

We’ve all seen it: usually it’s a little white cross with minimal inscription, sometimes accompanied by flowers. What it means is that somebody died there. I don’t focus on them, exactly, but I have been known to mouth a few words, something along the lines of “There but for the grace of God,” et cetera.

So what happens when they rebuild the road?

Many who travel [Oklahoma state highway] 199 will never forget the road’s tragic history, Including Althea Raines. She says her husband built several memorials … and Raines is wondering what will happen to them when roadwork starts.

“ODOT is going to move them over, or we are going to move them over, or are the families? What’s going to happen?”

ODOT, as it happens, isn’t going to move them:

Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials say they understand how much the memorials mean, but once roadwork begins, families will have to move them.

“We don’t have any provisions in our statutes that allow memorials to be placed on state right of way. It’s essentially one of those issues that we understand the sensitivity issue so we just overlook it.”

One can always hope that the road improvements will result in fewer memorials in years to come.

(Seen Anywhere But Here, as it were.)

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Maybe even ten thousand words

The Professor gave it one line: “You may not know it, but your digital camera produces hidden data.”

I knew some of this. When I’m running an Explorer window on my directory of digital-camera shots, the status bar dutifully reports something like this:

Dimensions: 2048 x 1360 Date Picture Taken: 7/17/07 12:04 PM Camera Model: DMC-LZ3 Type: JPEG Size: 637 KB

Until I followed this link, though, I had no idea just how much data could be read from this file. Some items of interest:

  • Lens: 6.1mm (35mm film equivalent: 38mm) (Max aperture f/2.8)
  • Exposure: Auto exposure, Program AE, 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 80
  • Flash: Auto, Did not fire
  • Focus: Auto, with image stabilizer (Mode 1)

And that’s just the beginning. It occurs to me that I should let you see this for yourself, so here’s the photo in question. (Warning: it’s huge.)

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Days off? Says who?

Lileks retreats from the fray, for the briefest of intervals:

I know, I know: it seems like I just took a quasi-semi-demi vacation. But they build up behind the scenes, and they must be used, lest they be lost forever. But there’s absolutely no reason I can’t post just because I’m on vacation. The ethos of blogging demands it. The only good excuse for not updating your blog is a coma, and even then you should be able to communicate a post in Morse Code somehow, perhaps by altering your heart rate. Look at the monitor, doctor — he’s trying to tell us something!

The guy (if guy it be, which it need not) who comes up with a front end for Movable Type that runs on an EKG gets my eternal gratitude.

Incidentally, this is the 2,695th consecutive day with some sort of post here.

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Gently down the stream

Claim: Winamp 5.5 “claims that you can stream music to anywhere that has an Internet browser, including cell phones and gaming consoles.”

Test:

[A]nticipating disappointment, I set up the server. It was a very simple install, with a basic login screen accessible from both the Winamp application and their website. I was able to set up my music folders in a matter of seconds, and was ready to attempt to connect elsewhere. The only drawback was that Winamp had to index all of my music (give or take 70 gigs). I started this at 4 pm yesterday, and as of 10:15 am this morning, I’m still missing my S-T folder.

That being a minor issue, I still went home to test this out. I turned on my Wii, launched the Opera browser, and logged into Winamp Remote. To my absolute amazement, it worked, and it worked well. You can browse your folders, play any of your playlists, skip songs, and even control the player’s volume all with the Wii remote. Winamp will do a quick speed check before your music will begin, and then you’re off. Out of the songs that I attempted, only one loaded slower than the playback.

The Wiimote. Is there anything it can’t do?

As an actual paying customer of Winamp, I may have to get this for my home box.

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The pot is duly melted

Not a whole lot more needs to be added to this:

When El Mariachi Supermercado opens next month, it probably will be the only place in Oklahoma where one can buy pickled cactus, pick out a piñata and visit the doctor’s office all in one stop.

The full-size grocery store and in-store clinic and pharmacy at 415 SW 59 will open Nov. 21. It will be the first of at least two Hispanic grocery stores owner Kun Won “Terry” Yu will open in Oklahoma City.

Well, I suppose I can add this: the second store is going in at 16th and Drexel.

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Lumpier than usual

I got home from work — late again, no thanks to somebody else’s malfeasance (my own malfeasance is usually quickly fixed) — and in the twilight I noticed something brown and bumpy down by the curb. A mass of unraked leaves? An item forgotten during Bulky Waste pickup? Nope: it was the metal cover to my water meter, in place but for some reason inverted, leaving the lock mechanism upright. A quick dash to a faucet revealed that no, my water hadn’t been turned off. (I’ve never been late on a city utility bill.) And there was no indication that there had been any water-line work on the street.

Perplexed, I left a message with the city’s Action Center, as this incident didn’t qualify as an after-hours water emergency. No harm done, apparently, but I figure somebody ought to know about this.

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Standards of appearance

Anyone who knows me will of course wonder what the hell I am talking about, since obviously I don’t have any standards of appearance, or at least any that require any effort to break.

What I mean, though, is the appearance of this Web site on your browser, as opposed to mine. (Some of you may well be opposed to mine, which is Firefox 2.0.0.9.) So I turned to a service called Browsershots, which will call up the front page in a selection of different browsers on different operating systems, in case I want to know how it looks in, for example, Opera 9.24 on Ubuntu 6.06. (The answer: not bad, or at least no worse than usual.) I tried thirteen different combinations, and none of them produced severe anomalies. Your mileage may vary, but since your template is probably less preposterous than mine, I’d expect Good Things.

(Suggested by the eminently-readable Belhoste.)

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Turned away

Every year around this time, it happens: traffic snarls at Northwest Distressway and Belle Isle Boulevard, and the backup quickly spreads up the offramp and onto Interstate 44 westbound. The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments conducted a study after the 2005 holiday season to see if there was anything that could be done about it, and ACOG subsequently recommended changing the phasing of traffic signals and additional lane construction.

There’s not a lot of room through there for new lanes, so it’s imperative to get better use out of the old ones. Next spring the city will start reshaping the intersections. For now, signage has been placed to direct drivers to Penn Square Mall or Belle Isle Station — which won’t necessarily be in the same direction — and barriers will be installed to prevent right turns from the westbound Distressway to Belle Isle, a significant cause of backups. (If you’re headed for Belle Isle from points east, exit Classen instead.) It will look something like this. [Warning: really huge picture.]

Background here [link goes to PDF file]. Still yet to be determined: how Penn Square will fare come the Major Holiday Crunch after giving away twenty percent of its parking space to the Elephant Bar and the Cheesecake Factory.

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Unexpected tribute

This week’s Ready Steady A Go Go podcast, devoted as always to the British beat, roughly 1962-1966 (same years, by coincidence, as the fabled Beatles “red album”), opened with a Tommy Quickly recording: “The Wild Side of Life,” issued on Pye in 1964.

This was host Michael Lynch’s nod to the late Hank Thompson, who died this week at 82, and who cut the original version of “The Wild Side of Life” way back in 1952.

I’d like to think God made one limited-edition honky-tonk angel to mark the occasion.

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What’s the new Mary Jane?

Isaac Mizrahi for Target Olive Mary JanesIn the process of denying an unhealthy interest in women’s shoes, I happened upon this fairly nifty Mary Jane by Isaac Mizrahi for Target, a pair of which Sarah snagged a few days back. Apparently the guys in her office thought they were wonderful, which doesn’t sound like any guys in my office, but then most of them are the sort who don’t stare at shoes: they look you right in the C-cup every time. Me, I side with Sarah’s co-workers: these are pretty spiffy. What’s more, the price (thirty bucks) won’t make your nose bleed, unlike some of the curious couture items I’ve mentioned before in this space.

As to said “unhealthy interest,” I attribute it to growing up (1) short and (2) depressed: if you keep your head down all the time, sooner or later you’re going to notice such things. It falls short of a fetish, however, for the simple reason that it has no role in my sex life. (Come to think of it, I have no role in my sex life.)

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Quote of the week

The source of Jay Leno’s advanced environmental awareness, from the Big Dog himself:

My thing with the green situation is: Even if you don’t believe in global warming, don’t you want to screw the oil company or gas company or utility company?

Hey, who doesn’t?

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Ritual accounting

The annual “Dear Taxpayer” letter from the County Treasurer has arrived, and it’s always of interest, since I am in fact paying taxes (boy, am I), and there’s a section that details how much of this year’s property tax is going to which governmental functions.

For the curious:

  • $32.85: Oklahoma County-Wide School Levy
  • $20.55: Oklahoma City/County Health Department
  • $41.26: Metro Library System
  • $82.20: Oklahoma County government
  • $122.58: Metro Tech
  • $126.55: City of Oklahoma City
  • $450.09: Oklahoma City Public Schools

The complete list of tax rates in this county is here, and it’s a long one.

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The last existential errand

It took longer, I suppose, but the transit of Saul of Tarsus, persecutor turned theologian, can be seen in the life of Norman Mailer, atheist turned, well, Mailerian. What this means, more or less:

In a new book, On God, a dialogue with one of his literary executors, Michael Lennon, he lays out his highly personal vision of what the universe’s higher truths might look like, if we were in a position to know them. But his theology is not theoretical to him. After eight decades, it is what he believes to be true. He expects no adherents, and does not profess to be a prophet, but he has worked to forge his beliefs into a coherent catechism.

Mailer’s deity is much like Mailer. He or she is an artist — with the stipulation that God is the greatest artist — concerned most particularly with the human soul, but with much else besides. God takes great pleasure in his creations. God is constantly experimenting, and highly fallible. God is far from all-powerful, but is learning along with us. God is in constant struggle with his own fallibility, and also with evil — with the devil — and is not certain whether good will triumph in the end. We are God’s creations, but we are not at all times part of his plan — God may not even be cognizant of all that we do. And if God needs our love, the question Mailer insists has to be answered is, Why?

Like Emerson, Mailer borrows from countless other traditions, discarding their husks, or rewrites them. (Mailer allows that Jesus may very well have been the son of God, but thinks that his crucifixion and resurrection must have been a mistake and the mistake’s crude fix.) In place of heaven (his hell seems like a celestial DMV), Mailer posits a system of reincarnation retooled from the Indian religions. Karmic factors certainly play a role, but God’s creative interests, as well as his needs in his struggle with the devil, are more important. Not only bodies, but souls, too, can be eliminated for various reasons — sometimes they’re tired, sometimes simply because they’re no longer interesting to God. Evolution is God’s studio. Some of his creations work, and some need improvement — Mailer believes in a highly modified version of Intelligent Design.

And one month after On God was published, Mr. Mailer was invited to — or disinvited from — the heaven whose existence he questions. Maybe. It is not for you or me to know his final destination.

But I’d like to think that he gets credit, his rejection of orthodoxy (or his concept thereof) notwithstanding, for coming up with a perspective that actually admits to the existence of evil, a notion highly unpopular with some and routinely mislocated by others.

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Another coat of paint

The CrappiFlats™ in which I lived for entirely too long are being sold yet again, to yet another absentee owner. The 286-unit complex brought $4.76 million, or about $16,600 per unit, a decidedly smallish price, and here’s why, according to the paper:

It was one of a three-property portfolio secured by 501(c)3 affordable-housing bonds that were foreclosed on last year. Occupancy at the time of sale was 60 percent.

Given the infrastructure over there, which is indifferent at best, and the tenant mix, which is, let us say, downscale, and not in a good way, I suggest that the community would be better served were the new owners to tear down the place and start over.

Disclosure: My use of the term “CrappiFlats™” does not take into account the fact that some of the units are not in fact flats.

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Reboxing Unbox

For no particular reason, I decided to take a look at Amazon’s Unbox video-download service. It was not a good idea.

Issue #1: The Unbox viewer (which you must install) is basically a front-end for Windows Media Player 10 with some additional DRM; what’s more, it runs on Microsoft’s .NET Framework 2.0. I need hardly point out that this means it won’t work on a Mac or on any Un*x derivative; on the other hand, this could be considered an advantage for those operating systems.

Issue #2: The gizmo insinuates itself into the system tray and will not leave.

Issue #3: If you do succeed in removing the gizmo from the system tray (as I did), your uninstall will collapse in a whole screenful of Fail.

I can see owning this if you have a hungry TiVo to feed, but if I’m going to wrestle with DRM, I’d just as soon it be Apple’s.

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The road more traveled

Late last year I happened upon a writeup of a new film from India, and the pitch went something like this:

I See You is the film in question that has a unique storyline of a man falling in love with a woman who can be seen only by him. While Arjun plays the male lead, Vipasha is the newcomer heroine who plays a beautiful young ‘n’ charming lady opposite him. A feel good popcorn entertainer that is going to get a smile on your lips and an occasional tear in the eye, I See You marks the directorial debut of Vivek Agrawal.

I filed this away for future reference, and then forgot about it.

Some months later, I was talking up doomed romances at work — that is, while at work I was talking up doomed romances, not some other way around — and Trini suggested Just Like Heaven, starring long-standing crush object Reese Witherspoon. I saw it and pronounced it good; what’s more, I sought out, and eventually obtained, a copy of its source material, a novel by Marc Levy called If Only It Were True. (My kind of title, you have to admit.)

Earlier today, I spotted I See You on Amazon.com (no, not one of those damn downloads), and the first of two reviewers pointed out distinct similarities between this film and Just Like Heaven.

The second reviewer was a distinctly-unhappy Marc Levy:

Vivek Agrawal has completely stole the story from [my book]. It’s really amazing that not only he stole the story, dialogues of the book (even the name of the dog in the movie is the same than in the book) and still put his name in the credit as a writer!

Levy, at least, got paid for Just Like Heaven. I have no idea if he got paid for an earlier Bollywood film based on the same story, titled Vismayathumbathu.

(Adapted from this post at a sister site.)

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After 1804

Rep. Shane Jett (R-Tecumseh) was one of only a handful of Republican opponents to House Bill 1804, the state’s attempt to curb illegal immigration — not because he’s in favor of illegal immigration, exactly, but because he says he fears the economic consequences when a couple hundred thousand folks suddenly disappear into Texas or California or North Carolina.

Jett says he’s working on supplemental legislation to mitigate those consequences. What he wants, apparently, is a state-operated guest-worker program that will identify migrants and then earmark the taxes paid by them to cover the cost of state services to them.

I’m not quite sure how this could be made to work in the context of HB 1804, which closes as many doors as the Legislature thought possible at the time, but it will be interesting to see what Jett comes up with next spring.

(Jett abstained from the vote on 1804, which passed the House 88-9, perhaps out of conflict-of-interest concerns: his wife, Ana Carolina, is a Brazilian immigrant.)

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The making of a veteran

The last day of basic training, we were milling around the company area, waiting for the arrival of someone from Rumor Control, someone who never did arrive, so before we returned to the barracks to pack up our scant belongings, we were all at least somewhat scared. We all knew where we were heading for advanced individual training: those orders had already been handed out. But what then? The story had sprung up some time during the last week and grew stronger, if no more accurate, with every telling. The gist of it: a percentage of each BCT company had been allocated to the actual war zone in order to meet replacement levels, and the contribution from Delta company would be determined by running down the list alphabetically, starting with the As, until the quota was reached. The fact that this made no sense until we’d finished AIT, at which time we’d all be scattered across the country anyway, never occurred to us: we just wanted to know where the cutoff was, and Gonzales, perhaps understandably, was more concerned than Rupkiewicz.

I don’t know how this all turned out: after AIT and a Stateside tour, I was packed off to the Middle East, which was a bit more peaceful in those days, if surprisingly chilly at times. Still, I think about those guys now and then, and we did achieve a distinction of sorts during our stint in basic: we’d apparently had nobody “recycled” — sent through the course a second time after failing the first — a highly uncommon occurrence in the spring of ’72. (This belief was reinforced when I saw the steps they were willing to take to get us all through.)

We were eighteen then. I can’t tell you the exact day we quit being boys and started being men, but I’m pretty sure the uniform had something to do with it.

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Reducing overhead

Target is determined to get your attention, even if they have to use nobody to do it:

Target adds a new dimension to fashion with the Target Model-less Fashion Show, transforming Grand Central Terminal’s Vanderbilt Hall into the site of the world’s first virtual fashion show. State-of-the-art technology will produce High Definition holograms allowing Target clothes to strut down a virtual runway — models not included. Audiences can expect a theatrical show in which Target clothes and accessories are the stars and the laws of physics no longer apply.

Hey, don’t go hating on those laws of physics. Besides, it takes some technotrickery to pull this off:

Powered by hologram innovator Musion Systems Limited, the presentation will employ an illusionary technique that uses Eyeliner™ foil to give two dimensional images the illusion of depth. The installations are recorded, played back and projected in true High Definition giving the holograms unprecedented quality and clarity.

Which, of course, disappears the moment you put it on YouTube:

Still, if nothing else, if I ever find myself with an invisible girlfriend — I should be so lucky — I now know how I want her to dress.

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The 2009 Crescent Roller

News Item: The Malaysian carmaker Proton has announced plans to develop an “Islamic car”, designed for Muslim motorists. Proton is planning on teaming up with manufacturers in Iran and Turkey to create the unique vehicle. The car could boast special features like a compass pointing to Mecca and a dedicated space to keep a copy of the Koran and a headscarf.

Top Ten Other Features of Proton’s New “Islamic Car”:

  1. Infidel-resistant fenders
  2. Sensor warns if car is about to enter drive-through at Taco Bell
  3. Extra-long seat belt to accommodate burqa
  4. Horn plays two bars of Scheherazade
  5. A feature patterned after OnStar calls CAIR and The New York Times in case of emergency
  6. Special Saudi model keeps women in back seat
  7. Warranted for six years/72 virgins
  8. Will not start during Ramadan
  9. Absolutely no plans for a hybrid
  10. Self-destructs upon entering Jewish neighborhoods

See your dealer today. (Suggested by LGF.)

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OMGDTWPB&J

Yet another reason to avoid flying is airport food — with one possible exception:

I usually fly through Detroit, because Northwest is cheap, and I’ve discovered what may be the most genius business I’ve ever seen: The PB&J stand at the airport.

This would be totally stupid anywhere *except* an airport terminal, because who would pay for something they can make for 30 cents at home? But think about it for a bit. When I’m in an airport, every food option looks overpriced and disgusting. I’m not usually starved, but it’s my last opportunity to get some food for another 3 hours, and I’m going to take that. There are the sit-down places, which have no need to try for repeat customers. There are sub shops selling a sandwich for $8 that you KNOW you buy for 3.50 at work. There’s cookies and caffeine at the coffee places, but you’ve been eating crap for the last 48 hours, and even cookies can get old.

What you really want — what you’d make for yourself at home — is some little thing. A few crackers, maybe, or, or…

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Which is just about all they do at this one stand:

The PB&J place only makes nut butter and jelly sandwiches — peanut or cashew (!) butter, 4 or 5 jelly options, a few different breads. Marshmallow fluff, chocolate, and banana are extra. Then there were beverages (including soy and cow milk, which I consider necessary to my PB&J experience), and chips, I think. That’s it.

And apparently it’s called simply PB&J; it’s near Gate A1 in the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

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Strange search-engine queries (93)

Once again it’s time to upend the referrer logs, shake, and see if anything amusing falls out.

minimum penis size you would marry:  Are penises allowed to marry? (Can you even have one for a roommate?)

sagittarius girl rejected marriage proposal:  Maybe she just wasn’t interested in a Virgo.

bill clinton does not drink:  In his younger days, he could drink you under the table. And, as long as you’re under the table….

percent of women with midget fetish:  Undoubtedly a small percentage.

chocolateless brownie recipe:  Then wash it down with a near-beer.

why are nuts so expensive:  It’s a plot by Shell to control squirrels.

where are streetwalkers in Tulsa?  Have you tried, um, the street?

anti-lick brakes:  Not that rotors taste so good.

Are Crocs shoes edible:  I’d sooner eat a brake rotor.

is there an oven used to make crack cocaine:  You’re looking for the Easy-Flake Oven™.

what do women think about men wearing anal plugs:  Their first thought is probably “What a bunch of assholes.”

Condoleezza Rice wears pantyhose:  So?

How to approach a girl you have never met before if youre an intj:  The true INTJ spends no time wondering about such things: if she has anything to recommend her, she’ll introduce herself.

“charles g. hill” french:  I don’t think I’ve ever been frenched.

yogurt sam houston parkway:  Of course, being Texas yogurt, it contains jalapeños.

all the candidates suck:  I’m pretty sure Hillary won’t.

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But clean the locker room anyway

Five days after I patiently explained why you shouldn’t start standing in line for Sonics tickets in Oklahoma City just yet, the Oklahoman’s Mr. Monday provides a counterargument:

Let’s try this exercise:

Mr. Monday: The Sonics are going to leave.

Leafy-Green Seattleite: Wait, but what about …

Mr. Monday: No, really, the Sonics are going to leave and come to Oklahoma City.

Solar-powered, ex-Ralph Nader delegate: But you guys have a small TV market and poorly planned bicycle routes.

Mr. Monday: Our dudes own the team. You are making them upset.

Hybrid-driving, carpooling mountain climber: Ugh, capitalism.

Mr. Monday: Scoreboard, ya hippie.

My objections to this line of thought are twofold:

  • Actual NBA fans are somewhat less likely to conform to this particular stereotype;
  • What the hell is so “poorly planned” about our bicycle routes, other than the fact that we could use more of them?

Point, counterpoint. Cue the other shoe.

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Quantum sox

Featuring Planck’s constant.

Actually, since there’s a bar over the h, this perhaps should be read as Planck’s reduced constant, also known as Dirac’s constant: the difference between the two is a factor of 2π.

Not that you care as you pull on your socks, right?

(Found at Fillyjonk’s.)

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From the realty-based community

Prudential Alliance Realty puts out a little magazine every month called Home Scene, which I grab at the supermarket because it gives me a chance to look at some of what’s out there for sale, and the price (zero) is right.

This month they have a listing for what is described as a Sensational Mammoth Home, which is probably as close as I’m ever going to see to the term “McMansion” in this publication. And it’s big enough: a smidgen under 4000 square feet, on a lot that looks barely big enough to hold it.

Fannie Mae owns the Sensational Mammoth, which tells me that the first buyer was in way over his head. It’s probably a good thing he was here in the Big Breezy, where it’s still possible to buy something this huge for under half a million.

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Not exactly Spartacus

Rosabel by Coach

This is “Rosabel,” a gladiator sandal from Coach (now apparently retired for the season) that sells for around $150. I honestly don’t understand the appeal of these things — they seem kind of bulky to me — though I have to admit, they look pretty nice here on Hayden Panettiere. This is apparently one of those times when I must yield to a higher authority, so Venessa Estrellado of Divavillage.com explains how to work these shoes:

Flat gladiator sandals are just as decorative as high heeled stilettos, and they offer more steady comfort. You can work the sandals as a proxy to dress shoes for an evening wardrobe; just make sure they’re attire appropriate looking. [S]hift, baby doll, trapeze and a-line dresses look the best with gladiator sandals.

Possible drawback:

Gladiator sandals are harsh on the feet if you’re flat footed or have super conscious of having long feet (even though we think big feet are beautiful!). If that’s the case with you, try gladiator inspired heels instead. You’ll have the gist of the style, but with footwear that actually works fashionably. But if you’re proud of your foot size, then we urge you to sport flat gladiator sandals proudly!

I have no idea what size Hayden Panettiere (isn’t this Italian for “Baker” or something?) wears, but since she’s on the short side, I have to assume she’s probably not being harshed by these shoes.

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Dr Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band

To hear my mom tell it, the only reason you could buy Dr Pepper in the Carolina Lowcountry in 1962 was because she’d spent the last half of 1961 haranguing bottlers and grocers.

And what’s more, they didn’t have blogs back then, so she couldn’t have done something like this.

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Wii’re all out

Lileks sends a note to Nintendo:

[E]ither make lots more Wiis or shut up about them. Please. My child wants one, and it looks like there’s no chance on this planet, or any parallel versions of it I might access through some sort of quantum portal, that I will get one. I could order one from one of Amazon’s Preferred Hoarders, but I will be switched and hoss-whipped down Lyndale Avenue before I pay someone 200 dollars over the sticker price. At least you could rename it. It’s not the Wii. It’s the Themm. Wii don’t have one.

“Didn’t we go through this last year?” I thought, and dialed up Lileks’ semi-beloved Target, where they have five pages of Wii accessories but not one actual Wii.

Anyway, if you have an extra Wii lying around, feel free to send it to James Lileks, Star Tribune, 425 Portland Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55488.

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Possibly even electrifying

Automobile this month tossed some questions at George Barris, King of Kustom Kars — the Batmobile helped assure his place in the throne room — and I wasn’t quite prepared for one of the answers:

We’re in the 2000s now. Are you going to stay with a ’50 Mercury? Or are you going to jump into a hybrid Toyota?

Wait a minute. George Barris has jazzed up a Prius?

It’s nice, but it looks like a turtle. I put eighteen-inch wheels on it instead of those little fourteens; we put a spoiler on the back. We brightened it up, gave it a free, flowing look.

And you know what? They did.

I don’t know if this particular incarnation is really that much of an improvement, but I must say I like the idea.

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Big rigs, smaller thirst

Navistar’s International division, after successful trials, is ramping up production on diesel hybrid commercial trucks. Says their press release:

The International DuraStar Hybrid diesel hybrid electric truck has the proven capability to provide dramatic fuel savings from 30-40 percent on standard in-city pickup and delivery applications. The fuel efficiency can increase to more than 60 percent in utility-type applications when the engine can be shut off, but electric power still operates the vehicle. Diesel emissions are completely eliminated when the hybrid truck operates equipment (like overhead utility booms) solely on the truck’s battery power, instead of allowing the engine to idle.

The Hybrid Truck Users Forum, says Navistar, calculates that annual fuel consumption for one of these vehicles will be as much as 1000 gallons less than conventional trucks of this size class. (We’re not up to 18-wheelers yet with this technology, but International is working on that too.)

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The return of Samantha Stephens

I don’t know whether to cry, to laugh, or to cry again: the British entertainment site Digital Spy is reporting that the 1960s American sitcom Bewitched will be “reinvented” by the BBC.

Now if you were to rank all the women who influenced my formative years, Samantha Stephens comes in somewhere among the Top Ten, and the last time this story was remade it didn’t quite jell, but I definitely want to catch a glimpse of how it works out as a Britcom — though I draw the line at Rowan Atkinson as Uncle Arthur.

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This is a test

Let’s see here:

Excellent Source of Whole Grain & Fiber

Not bad. What’s this in the fine print?

Diets rich in whole grain foods and low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Now here’s an “Enlarged to Show Texture” and the infamous “Serving Suggestion.” On the side in really narrow print, the actual ingredients: whole grain wheat flour, wheat flour (presumably only partial-grain), malted barley flour, salt, dried yeast …

Oh, the hell with it. It’s true. I’d rather read The McGehee Zone.

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It’s seafood, technically

I don’t think I can ever criticize anyone for serving calamari (known to us non-foodie types as “squid”) again after seeing this.

Perhaps surprisingly, it’s not packed in a #2 can.

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A skyscraper, it isn’t

CCTV Beijing

Maybe a skysander, or God’s Own Miter Box. This is what they’re building in Beijing for the new headquarters of China Central Television, and while it’s perhaps too much to hope that this $600-million non-box will bury once and for all the brutal barracks of socialist realism, entirely too many examples of which get built in capitalist countries, I’m just fascinated by the sheer effrontery of the shape: it’s as though M. C. Escher decided he needed a parking garage.

Some particulars:

The CCTV building has a nine-storey base, three-storey basement, two leaning towers that slope at 6° in each direction, and a nine- to 13-storey “Overhang”, which is suspended 36 storeys in the air. The building forms an asymmetrical arch, through which will be seen the adjacent Television Cultural Centre (TVCC). Together these two buildings will form the focal point of Beijing’s new Central Business District (CBD).

And the TVCC has some perverse charms of its own:

Design for the Television Cultural Centre Hotel is to include a random stack of rooms, inspired by the form of a termite’s nest.

What’s really fun about this, of course, is that Beijing is riven with fault lines, so not only do these structures have to look amazing, they have to put up serious resistance to major seismic activity. Let’s hope they can keep the lead paint out of them.

(Via Fraters Libertas.)

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Eating escrow

One unexpected beneficiary of the housing downturn: shrinks.

Seriously:

In the 37 years William Horstman has been practicing in San Francisco as a therapist, he’s never seen patients spend more time worrying about their home values — and their personal sense of wealth — than they do today. That includes the years after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that devastated the housing market.

“The market has risen dramatically in the past 10 years and, in San Francisco, that remains true today. But people don’t feel it,” said Horstman, who estimates that 10 to 15 percent of his clients’ therapy time is spent on the housing market.

What they do feel, evidently, is insecure:

Indeed, therapists and financial planners say what local homeowners are feeling is a financial insecurity that touches their work lives, their relationships and their sense of financial and personal worth.

“As your equity goes down, your psychological sense of worth can go down,” said Jan Edl Stein, a marriage and family therapist who practices in San Francisco and Marin.

I assure you that I have no such feelings regarding the palatial estate at Surlywood, which is worth $89,356, up $229 from last month.

(Via Burbed.)

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0 and whatever

John Rohde came up with this curious assertion in the Oklahoman:

With Sonics ownership and the city of Seattle in a testy lawsuit over the existing lease at KeyArena, perhaps having the league’s worst team will soften Seattle’s hardheaded stance against the Sonics leaving town two years early.

If the Sonics’ woes continue — and there’s little reason to think they won’t — perhaps the dire circumstances will persuade Seattle mayor Greg Nickels to finally relent and say, “Aw, hell. Take ’em.”

Oh, so that’s the ticket. Losing teams deserve no loyalty, because, well, they’re losers.

I can just imagine the response when, say, Sonics Central gets hold of this.

Update: It’s something like this.

Further update: They’ve killed that particular thread. See Comments.

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File under “Damned if you do”

Scott Fruin at USC’s Keck School of Medicine reports that a third or more of a person’s daily exposure to ultra-fine diesel particulates occurs while driving to and from work:

“If you have otherwise healthy habits and don’t smoke, driving to work is probably the most unhealthy part of your day. Urban dwellers with long commutes are probably getting most of their exposure [to diesel and ultra-fine particles] while driving.”

Which seems a reasonable conclusion, given the massive number of big diesel trucks on the road. It’s probably not quite so bad for me personally, since my commute, at around 18 minutes each way, is much shorter than the 45-minute average used to produce Dr Fruin’s data. But this perplexed me:

Hard acceleration, on both surface streets and in freeway driving, produced the greatest exposure to diesel pollution.

“The extent that [diesel trucks] dominated the highest concentration conditions on freeways was unexpected,” Fruin says. “Shortening your commute and spending less time in the car will significantly reduce your total body burden of harmful pollutants.”

Why the heck do you think I’m doing all that hard acceleration? I’m trying to shorten my commute, fercrissake.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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I guess it was nice while it lasted

You may remember this from way back in the summer of ’04:

The community of Warr Acres, an enclave within Oklahoma City’s northwest quadrant, has one claim to fame: its 6.5-percent sales tax rate (2 for Warr Acres, 4.5 for the state of Oklahoma), the lowest in the metro area. (Neighboring Bethany collects 8.5 percent; Oklahoma City, 8.375 percent.) Signs posted on the way out of town contain the ominous message “Warning: Higher Taxes Ahead.”

Unfortunately, there may be higher taxes ahead for shoppers in Warr Acres.

And there were: in 2005, voters in Warr Acres opted to raise the two-cent city tax to three cents, bringing the total to 7.5 percent, still lower than its neighbors.

No more. Tuesday, 521 of 999 voters (population of Warr Acres is around 9500) approved an increase to four cents; the additional penny will be split between police and fire operations. The total will be 8.5 percent when the new rate goes into effect.

So now who gets to claim “Lowest Sales Tax in Metro Area”? Norman, Luther and Valley Brook are at 7.5 percent; Edmond at 7.75; Midwest City at 7.8; most everyone else is 8 and up. (Lake Aluma is officially 7.25 percent, though I don’t remember seeing any actual retail there; this is the state’s fourth-quarter list in PDF format.)

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The perfect quinceañera gift

What she really wants is a gift card:

Retailers are seeing an increase in the cash value of gift cards received by Hispanics.

According to Comdata Stored Value Solutions (CSVS) fifth annual gift card survey, Hispanics received gift cards with the highest average value among ethnic groups at an average balance of $71, compared to $41 for Caucasians and $60 for African-Americans. The Hispanic total was a $33 increase over last year.

The study also revealed that 26 percent of Hispanics surveyed report giving gift cards to children as a budgeting tool or to use as an allowance.

The higher-value cards don’t mean they’re stinting on their own contributions, either:

Hispanics are most likely to spend more than the value on their cards, adding their own money to increase their purchasing power. 69 percent of those surveyed indicate they often or always spend more than the amount of the card, compared to 52 percent of Caucasians and 44 percent of African-Americans.

And you probably won’t see any of them trying desperately to use up exactly the value of a card, either.

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