Archive for March 2008

How we voted

Doug Loudenback has posted the “NBA tax” election returns by precinct, so you can see how your neighbors voted on the sales-tax extension. Most notably, it wasn’t a slam dunk, as it were, citywide: the measure failed to pull a majority in at least 80 precincts.

Precinct 453, where I live, voted 435-247 for the measure. (And if there were 682 total votes, this means that 124 people came in after me during the last hour and three quarters.)

Interestingly, in what looks like a throwback to the old days of Oklahoma City politics, almost all the precincts north of the river approved the proposal, and almost all the precincts south of the river rejected it.

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Party on, kitteh

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Well, blow me down

I’ve been spending much of this weekend reacquainting myself with an old Navy friend, as it were: Popeye the Sailor, the squinty, pugnacious seaman created by E. C. Segar for his Thimble Theatre comic strip and transformed by Max and Dave Fleischer into one of the greatest of all the theatrical-cartoon series.

Getting old Popeye cartoons was usually a pain in the neck, since neither the Fleischers nor Paramount Pictures, which distributed the series until 1941 and then took over ownership of the Fleischer animation studio, bothered to keep track of copyright matters; it was left to King Features Syndicate, for whom Segar had worked, to sort all this mess out. (Apparently the original contract called for the films to be destroyed after ten years. Didn’t happen.) Eventually things were sorted out, and Time Warner, owner of Turner Entertainment, owned the theatrical shorts, and Hearst, owner of King Features, owned the made-for-TV cartoons that went into production in 1960. After negotiations that bordered on byzantine, Warner Home Video announced that they would be releasing all the cartoons, theirs and Hearst’s, on DVD in chronological order.

The first set was issued last summer: four discs containing the first sixty shorts done by the Fleischers, all in B&W, plus two of the three Technicolor two-reelers. For the most part, the restoration is very good, though there are fairly obvious edits in some of the early credit sequences, presumably due to the difficulty in finding really good negatives. Still, even the worst of the lot look pretty darn good, especially considering the miserable quality of the PD collections floating around, which tend to have ratty old TV prints and bad framing. About a quarter of the shorts have commentary tracks by film historians, one of which finally explained to me how it was that King of the Mardi Gras (1935) looked so much like Coney Island.

Still, what struck me most about these cartoons is how much Popeye reminds me of, well, me: he has no particular aspirations beyond doing his duty, he has no qualms about administering a thrashing to the Bad Guy, and even in his proudest moments there’s something he missed. (Case in point: You Gotta Be a Football Hero, from 1935, in which he gets past the entirety of Bluto’s team and heads for the goal line, but stops at the 5, thinking he’s finished.) Obviously I absorbed a lot of this stuff when I was a kid. And having done so, I felt somewhat saddened by the obligatory disclaimers at the beginning of each disc, warning of the possibility — hell, it’s an absolute certainty — of various nowadays-deemed-offensive stereotypes, inasmuch as I didn’t grow up believing any of them and I know damned few people who did. (If anyone’s stereotyped in these cartoons, clearly it’s the White Guy with a Short Temper, which describes me better than it does any of the Chronically Offended.)

The other cartoon series of this era which I took to heart was the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies output of Warner Bros. But to me, they were worlds apart: Bugs and Daffy gave me punchlines, but it was Popeye who actually packed the punch. Oddly, I never did care much for either carrot cake or spinach salad.

The next set is due out later this year: two DVDs wrapping up the 1930s.

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Going back to Jersey

When Ford assembled its Premier Auto Group in 1999, the company built a shiny new headquarters in Irvine, California to house its high-priced brands.

But that was then. Since then, Lincoln has been de-Premiered, Aston Martin has been sold off, and Land Rover and Jaguar are about to follow. That leaves Volvo all by itself to rattle around in Orange County.

No more. Volvo, which as an independent company had its US headquarters in New Jersey, and which still maintains its service depot there, will return to the Garden State, giving Ford a chance to unload the PAG building and make some badly-needed cash.

Mazda, Ford’s Asian affiliate, remains in Irvine. Then again, Mazda was never part of the Premier group.

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Haven’t been there, didn’t do that

I have yet to spend any time in a Victoria’s Secret store, and while I haven’t given much thought to the reasons why, they might be something like this:

I had to go into Victoria’s Secret in 1990. A girl I liked worked there in the mall. Would it have killed her to have worked in the food court instead? Then we could have gotten free pizza or something. No, I had to pick her up in Victoria’s Secret. I took a female friend with me to the mall for moral support.

When my friend could not understand why I was so intimidated by that place, I told her that men should not go in there. She pointed out that lots of men go in there, but my response, which I maintain to this very day is that “Men who are in Victoria’s Secret are way too happy to be in there.”

I dunno. I can’t imagine being delighted at the prospect.

While some men may find it erotic to have a well endowed saleswoman discussing the romantic possibilities of edible underthings, I just kept staring at my watch and wondering how long it can take to throw something in a box and buy it. As I said, I do not mind the end results at home, but I don’t want to go through the process of purchasing them. If the lord wanted me to get erotic lingerie in front of the world he would not have created the internet with help from Al Gore. Besides, given what a pantywaist Gore is, I am sure he is an expert about Victoria’s Secret. Tipper did say he was a great lover. He is stiff after all.

As Gore’s erstwhile boss might have said, it depends on what your definition of “stiff” is.

I see three alternatives, in decreasing order of probability:

  1. Find someone who spurns underwear from this store because “it’s too cheap” or “it’s too sleazy” or any other reason that seems to work.
  2. Find someone who spurns underwear generally.
  3. Find someone who spurns outerwear generally.

Should #3 materialize, you might want to hope that Al Gore, despite it all, might actually be right about all that “warming” stuff.

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Strange search-engine queries (110)

Because (1) it’s fun to see what people were searching for, and (2) it’s easier than providing Actual Content.

rebate check “positive id required”:  Yep, that’s a rebate check all right. I’m positive.

hot tub filter destroyed with nair:  “Get in, honey, your legs look just fine.”

staffordshire bull terrier how often do i worm n flee him:  Worm; then flee as quickly as you can, because they don’t like worming.

terse in heaven-eric clapton  Ol’ Slowhand never was all that talkative.

Why should Condi Rice run for president in 2012:  Because we’ll be sick of whoever wins in 2008 by then.

will fda not let brokers order their pwn appraisals:  It seems to me that if you’re already pwned, the FDA would just as soon stay away from you.

are cab drivers exempt from child seat laws in colorado:  If a cab driver is under four years old, he must use a child seat, unless he weighs over 40 lb.

opposite of “hit with a ton of bricks”:  Missed by an ounce of feathers?

fedex smartpost kiss my ass:  It will take a few days.

what is it with marxists and condescending tone:  Standard equipment.

windows restaurant in the sbc building:  There’s a blue screen over the salad bar.

pantyhose vs penis:  A defensive struggle. Pantyhose by six.

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This mouse won’t rat on you

What we have here is the USB Smart Privacy Mouse, which contains a trick button to bring up the work you’re supposed to be doing instead of surfing the Web. It takes a little while to set up, but once it’s done, the moment the boss wanders in you can instantly switch to the Officially Approved Screen by hitting the button.

Is it worth twenty bucks to save your goldbricking hide?

(Via Popgadget.)

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General Kern fusion

Inasmuch as a quarter of my traffic these days is Sally Kern-related, here’s a compilation of links to everything I’ve written about her.

Could she be a Greg Kihn fan? (19 June 2004)

On the King and King dustup (2 July 2005)

Restricting children’s library access (16 March 2006)

About that “biggest threat” business (8 March 2008)

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WWRW?

Suzy by RebaWhich, of course, means “What would Reba wear?” “Reba,” of course, is Oklahoma homegrown hottie Reba McEntire, who now has her own line of shoes which presumably represent what she would wear. She’s picky, though, and not for the usual reasons: “I’ve had foot problems all my life,” she says, “and [I] have to have certain types of shoes that are very comfortable. Heels can’t be too high, and I like lots of cushioning.” “Suzy,” shown here, is one of eight styles which are being sold exclusively through Dillard’s. The upper is a blend of leather and stretch fabric, the lining is pure sock material, and the heel is a lowish 2½ inches. Sixty-nine bucks will buy you Suzy; the priciest shoes in the line are only $79. (If you’re curious about Reba’s foot problems, well, she suffers from Morton’s neuroma, a condition which, when it flares up, is usually dealt with by kicking off one’s shoes, which unfortunately isn’t always an option.)

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An arrow through the head

Rep. Steve Martin (R-Bartlesville) evidently fancies himself a modern-day Robin Hood: he’s introduced a measure to siphon off a portion of sales-tax collections from larger cities and redistribute it to the smaller ones.

How Martin’s proposal is supposed to work:

The Oklahoma Tax Commission each month would take 1 percent of each city’s sales tax collections and put it in a fund. The commission then would give each city or town an amount of money based on its population in comparison to the total population of all cities and towns that had a sales tax levy of at least 1 percent.

County levies don’t count. Tulsa would have to fork over about $16 million over the next year; Oklahoma City, around $13 million.

Surprisingly, this isn’t the worst idea Martin’s come up with:

Martin has spent the past couple of years looking at a method in which shoppers would give their home city’s tax code. But that would require businesses to install equipment and to train employees, not to mention informing shoppers how the process would work.

Even if the complicated, costly proposal could be implemented, shoppers perhaps would have to present some identification so that the correct city would be credited with the sales tax on the purchase, Martin said.

What is needed, but so far not forthcoming, is some way to make Oklahoma municipalities less dependent upon sales tax for revenue. [Link goes to Word document.] We’ll have to wait for some other wild and crazy guy to solve that one.

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Sprucing up the place

We’re not putting in spruce, technically, but Brian Dougherty of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation dropped by our Neighborhood Association meeting tonight to hand us a check: we’d qualified for a grant from the Margaret Annis Boys Trust to help rework our little stretch of park along May Avenue. There’s a fair amount of sweat equity involved, inevitably, but it helps to have the nursery bills paid before you start planting, and we picked up just over $8500 to support new trees and the watering thereof.

Here’s a brief bio of our benefactor. She would have been 99 this year.

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Steamroller on side streets

News Item: New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer has apologized amid allegations of involvement in a prostitution ring. The married father-of-three said he had acted in a way that violated his obligations to his family.

Top Ten Eliot Spitzer Excuses:

  1. “I was just trying to get her a driver’s license.”
  2. “I had a hunch she’d lead me to the rest of the Gambino family.”
  3. “Did you know that hookers engage in price-fixing?”
  4. “I was following up on Dick Grasso’s expense-account file.”
  5. “Don’t screw with me. I’m a Superdelegate.”
  6. “Nobody would have said a word if that goober Pataki had done anything like this.”
  7. “That fink Joe Bruno is behind this, isn’t he?”
  8. “There’s got to be some way to blame this on the record industry.”
  9. “It’s okay, my dad paid for it.”
  10. “Do you know how boring it gets in Albany?”

If anyone cares, Governor Spitzer is a Democrat.

Addendum: David Letterman did a similar list later that night. We overlap, maybe, on one item.

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Great heaping googobs of fail

John Hawkins of Right Wing News dished up a list of the Top 10 reasons bloggers don’t succeed. It might have carried more weight if he’d come up with a concrete, or at least non-aerosol, definition of “success,” but right now, let’s see how we’re doing:

  1. They’re just not very good.
  2. They don’t cover interesting material.
  3. They’re not unique enough.
  4. They don’t network.
  5. They don’t promote their work.
  6. They’re not consistent enough. They take days off.
  7. Doing their initial promos too early.
  8. They don’t link out enough.
  9. They don’t post enough each day.
  10. They don’t hang around long enough.

Certainly I’ve hung around long enough, and I suspect I probably post enough. My last day off was some time in the summer of 2000, so that’s not an issue. On the other hand, I really don’t promote this stuff, mostly because I can’t think of any reason why I should: if it’s any good, and once in a blue moon it is, word will get around, and if it’s not any good, word will get around just as fast. Maybe faster.

Then again, unlike Mr Hawkins, I’m not trying to make a living off Web writing. I think it’s marvelous that some people can; but I have no illusions that I can be one of them. Perhaps I’m just not “unique enough,” whatever that’s supposed to mean.

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The “diabetic dress”

When you’re a five-year-old diagnosed with Type 1 (formerly “juvenile”) diabetes, schlepping around the little insulin pump is a decided inconvenience, as the big sister (she’s 11) of one such five-year-old explains:

They have a little belt with a pack on them that you can wear with skirts and pants, but when you try and wear them with a dress it makes a bulge and it doesn’t feel very comfortable and you still have to lift your dress up to give yourself insulin.

What to do? Big sister designs a dress:

It’s a dress with a pocket in it that has a flap on it that you stick the tube through the flap and then you twist the tube back onto the patch and then you stick your pump in there without lifting your dress up.

Kailey Caldwell, a straight-A student from Ammon, Idaho, took this idea to the Invention Convention in Boise, where it placed third; she’s thinking about applying for a patent. Sister Whitlee just loves it.

(Via Fark.)

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Cap busted

Really, hasn’t everyone in retail or services, at one time or another, wanted to shoot a customer in the backside?

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More all-American Bimmers

BMW will be building more vehicles in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and apparently fewer in Germany. The official reason: exchange rates, making it cheaper to build in the States than it does in der Vaterland.

Stuff like this doesn’t faze me. The Mazda 626 I used to drive was the first import-branded car to qualify as a “domestic” based on parts origin, and what’s more, it was actually built by UAW members in Flat Rock, Michigan. And rather a lot of Volkswagens seem to get here through Mexico.

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Back to work

The shuttered General Motors Assembly plant on I-240 is about to be repurposed: Oklahoma County Commissioners plan to ask for voter approval of a bond issue to buy the plant, which will then be leased back to Tinker Air Force Base, just to its north.

The plant will cost $55 million; it will be just one of several projects on the Commissioners’ shopping list, which comes to over $80 million. The bond election would be held on 13 May.

In some ways, this is a disappointment, since some of us had hoped to lure another automaker (Hyundai? Volkswagen?) to the plant; still, at least it’s going to be doing something other than just sitting there. And certainly General Motors could use an extra $55 million these days.

Update, 19 March: Mike Solowiow quips at TTAC: “Let’s hope for my own safety, the Ghosts of GM Past have left the building so Tinker doesn’t rebuild my jet to TrailBlazer levels of quality.” Solowiow, in Real Life, travels about in one of these.

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No woman, no ratings

Rich Appel’s Hz So Good newsletter contains the following tidbit of Scary Information:

Emmis [is] launching a third Rock FM in the Apple. I believe the last time that occurred, the third Rock FM was “The Apple.” Two words here, and you faithful pains should already know what they are: Marley Curse. I’m watching this one closely, because if ‘RXP fails, it will be the 4th NYC radio station in the past nine-or-so years to do so which, during its tenure, was the only NYC radio station to play Bob Marley. The Buzz played him, they’re gone. Blink? Gone. Jack? Gone. I tell you, Marley is bad luck. If I were running a commercial FM, I’d — ahem — dread playing him. Apparently Legend was meant to be enjoyed privately. Don’t ask me why.

I’m wondering if perhaps this explains the general stability of the Oklahoma City radio market: you couldn’t get these guys to play a reggae record if Jamaica became the 52nd state.

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What are we conserving, exactly?

I’ve mentioned before that the palatial Surlywood estate is part of one of Oklahoma City’s Urban Conservation Districts, and that while the UCD designation preceded (by a whole month) my arrival, I supported its aims. And with some folks in Tulsa completely spooked by the idea, I figure this would be a good time to explain just what those aims are.

The following was scissored out of Oklahoma City Municipal Code, §59-13650, paragraph 1:

The Urban Conservation Districts (UC Districts) are intended to promote the health, safety, economic, cultural, and general welfare of the public by encouraging the conservation and enhancement of the urban environment. The purposes of the UC District are:

  1. To identify physical, social and economic resources within the urban environment worthy of conservation.
  2. To maintain neighborhood character and integrity by focusing special attention on the maintenance of the physical environment, the enhancement of physical, social and economic resources, and the accommodation of desirable change.
  3. To prevent economic obsolescence and promote reinvestment by fostering stable property values and a high level of economic activity, by maintaining essential urban services, and focusing financial assistance and other economic development programs.
  4. To promote the efficient use of urban lands, including the encouragement of compatible infill development on vacant and passed-over parcels.
  5. To encourage and support rehabilitation of the physical environment, and programs for the conservation and revitalization of urban areas.
  6. To foster the harmonious, orderly and efficient growth, development and redevelopment of Oklahoma City.

Scary, isn’t it?

Where it gets frightful, I suppose, is that bit about “desirable change,” which implies that some change is not desirable, and hints that changes that are not desirable are not to be accommodated. In practice, I don’t see much of that happening around here; the only time I’ve had to consult the UCD ordinance at all was when I was looking for a new number plate for the house, and discovered that the maximum size permissible is four square feet. (The one I got is 4×19 inches, well within the limits and easily visible from the street.)

There are restrictions, yes: you can’t park on the grass, you can’t have a chain-link fence — I have a fairly ordinary six-foot stockade fence — and perhaps most important, if you plan to tear down a house, you can’t replace it with a structure three times its size.

So basically, we’re conserving a look and a feel; we’re trying to maintain the character of a neighborhood that doesn’t quite meet the standards for “historic.” (All of Oklahoma City’s historic districts date to well before World War II.) Just because we paid less doesn’t mean we think less of it.

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It’s Jenny on line two

Now this takes nerve:

Some people getting late night and early morning telemarketing calls in the Wilmington [Delaware] area have been doing a double take when they see the number on their caller ID: 867-5309.

Actually, what makes it heinous is not the Tommy Tutone reference, but this:

At least two other people have told the [Wilmington] News-Journal about similar calls, and others have reported the calls in online forums, with more than five dozen complaints logged Tuesday at CallerComplaints.com.

They haven’t been able to call back to protest, because there is no 867-5309 in Delaware’s 302 area code.

Spoofing Caller ID numbers isn’t illegal — yet. But if you’re using a fake number to call me, I consider it prima facie evidence that you’re dishonest and therefore unworthy of my business or anyone else’s.

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In case the name fooled you

Megan McArdle reports that Manwich sauce (!) qualifies as vegan, and it’s therefore possible to make a sloppy joe without any fleshy stuff at all:

Mixed with Boca ground “meat” (textured vegetable protein), it makes a pretty good sandwich, which is nearly indistinguishable from a ground beef sloppy joe — and much tastier than one made with ground turkey. I suppose it is not entirely surprising that a sauce as strongly flavored as that pretty much overrides the taste of whatever you dunk in it. Anyway, it’s even faster and easier than using ground meat (you just open the pouch and heat in the microwave for a few minutes) and it’s basically all protein with a tiny bit of sugar.

I am surprised to report that I am not all that surprised: I find myself remembering that for one brief, shining moment we had a more-or-less serious vegetarian working for us at the shop, and one day she brought up some truly excellent egg rolls which she insisted didn’t actually contain the shrimp they seemed to contain. Inasmuch as she was hardly ever wrong about anything, I believed her. Then again, being hardly ever wrong about anything made her overqualified and then some, and she moved on rather quickly.

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Makes just as much sense to me

In case you hadn’t noticed, I am not a fan of Daylight Saving Time, nor am I alone in my disdain for it.

Still, this seems to be the definitive word on the topic:

My wife’s grandfather (an Illinois farmer) once wrote me a letter suggesting, if setting our clocks forward in the summer is a good idea, then a better idea would be to set our thermometers higher in the winter. That way we’d have fewer days of freezing temperatures.

Hey, we’re already turning up the thermostats, so this wouldn’t be much of a change, would it?

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Now that’s mission creep

The only Italian I understand is “Monica Bellucci,” and that not particularly well, so I’m not going to attempt to decipher this very-1996-looking page from L’Osservatore Romano, but I will point you toward what appears to be a Vatican attempt to expand the existing list of sins:

Fresh off the red telephone with Providence, a senior member of the Vatican is upgrading a handful of lesser celestial bugaboos into what now will effectively destroy the grace of God within the heart of the sinner.

The Vatican’s newspaper L’Osservatore Romano interviewed senior cleric Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary (basically, the bureau of sin and absolution), who listed drug trafficking, pollution, social injustice and genetic manipulation as the new bleeding edge of mortal sins.

“If yesterday, sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has a weight, a resonance, that’s especially social, rather than individual,” the Associated Press translates from Girotti.

Um, no, it doesn’t. Gail explains, under a better title than mine:

The man is a theological idiot, and I sincerely hope Benedict smacks him down very smartly. The idea that sin is no longer an “individual” matter but a “social” one undermines the entire foundation of the Christian concept of salvation, namely the uniqueness of each immortal soul and its absolute primacy in all moral considerations. He’s one step away from utilitarianism, and that’s a slippery theological slope.

I believe the rule here is “Do whatever steps you want if / You have cleared them with the Pontiff.” Somehow I have my doubts that Girotti has Benedict’s blessing on this matter.

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Aren’t you glad they use dial?

Actually, no, I’m not.

Yesterday’s item about telemarketers contained, in the quoted material, a mention of a Web site called CallerComplaints.com, with which I was otherwise not familiar. The operator of the site, noticing the reference, suggested that I might want to take a look at what’s there, and so I did.

There is, of course, a database of numbers, broken down by area code — including nonexistent area codes, under “Spoofed,” which is nice — and a handful of articles about the scuzzbuckets who keep calling you. Perhaps the most interesting deals with how toll-free numbers are assigned (it’s not pretty) and how to complain to the assigners.

But what I really wanted to mention is the motivation, from their About Us page. Yes, they’re building a database, but there’s another purpose:

Public Humiliation. Sure, this may not stop the calls right away… but you’ll probably feel better after you vent. ;) Plus, once a company “Googles” their name and sees hundreds of complaints come up… they’ll think twice about calling you again!

I’m not so sure about that — thinking twice, after all, requires thinking once to begin with — but I’m definitely in favor of public humiliation.

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274

The soothsayer warned Caesar, “Beware the Ides of March,” but Andrew Ian Dodge has no fear: he’s posted a Carnival of the Vanities to the Ides, and hang the consequences, a spirit worthy of the revered Scotsman Robert Roy MacGregor, usually known simply as “Rob Roy.” who passed from the scene 274 years ago.

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This should end early

The Lost Ogle’s ongoing whatever-it-is continues, and today it’s the Midwest Region, Lower Bracket, in which yours truly (#11 seed) is being thoroughly trounced by a Broadcast Face (#5). I am, of course, appalled that I got any votes at all, but apparently my equilibrium is more easily upset these days. Perhaps I need to get out more.

Voting in this bracket continues through midnight CDT, after which I won’t have to worry about it again. (Bless you, O God of Single Elimination.)

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De-hybridization

Something about this just tickles me no end: a Honda Insight with its hybrid stuff replaced by the K20A mill from a Civic Type-R.

Really. It looks like it just bolted in. With at least 200 hp and a six-speed manual, it’s, if not wicked fast, at least capable of some speedy peccadillos, and it’s still getting 45-50 mpg.

And that may be the whole point of this exercise:

While automakers spend billions in a technological arms race to develop ever more complex drivetrains, these guys have proven that simple, small, aerodynamically efficient cars can be fun, fast and frugal. Who knew?

Everybody except Congress, I suspect.

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Bears breathe a little easier

One month after floating the idea of a black bear hunt, the author of the enabling legislation has had second thoughts:

[Rep. Joe] Dorman’s bill would have created a new licensing procedure within the Department of Wildlife Conservation for hunting black bears. Conservation officials have said the bears’ numbers have rebounded in southeastern Oklahoma and that they are becoming a nuisance in some areas. But Dorman said re-examination of the black-bear population indicates that there are too few in the state to sustain an annual hunt.

Fair enough. At least they looked at the numbers, as promised.

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Being for the benefit of Mr Wenner

You’ll occasionally hear the term “critical darling” applied to a performer who gets rave reviews yet no attention from the audience as a whole. This is, suggests Mark Edwards in the Sunday Times, due to a basic difference in philosophy:

[I]n the unlikely event that someone, one day, bets you a large amount of money that you won’t be able to identify which person in a crowd of strangers is a music journalist — without asking them directly what they do for a living — here’s how you win the bet. Go up to each person in turn and ask them to name their favourite Beatles track. The music journalist is the one who chooses “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

You can be sure of two things. First, nobody who doesn’t listen to music for a living will choose the final track on Revolver. An early pop gem such as “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” perhaps, or a psychedelic masterpiece such as “Strawberry Fields Forever,” or a late-period sing-along such as “Hey Jude,” but not “Tomorrow Never Knows.” Second, the music critic has to say “Tomorrow Never Knows.” It’s the law. If they choose “Penny Lane” or “Let It Be,” they’ll be drummed out of the union.

There follows a list of critically-adored albums which the public shuns, and then a list of big hits which the critics abhor. In defense of the public taste, I insist that when Genesis titled an album We Can’t Dance, they were merely being truthful.

Add to “to-do” list: Ask Dawn Eden about her favorite Beatles song.

Update: She’s answered, and it’s “There’s a Place.”

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Wrong bounce

Way back in 2004, before the Hornets left Charlotte — never mind that unfortunate business that temporarily drove them out of New Orleans — researchers conducted a study of NBA viability in several cities, some with teams, some without. Ted Strueli of the Journal Record picked up on it, with the observation: “They didn’t give Oklahoma City much of a shot at success.”

Indeed they didn’t. The Big Breezy, said the researchers, might draw an average of 11,400 or so, producing revenue on the wrong side of $35 million a year.

It was at that point that Doug Loudenback started laughing. For one thing, the Hornets, during their two-year tenure here, averaged close to 18,000. What’s more, a good basketball town like, say, Seattle, they said might average over 19,700 per game. Inasmuch as KeyArena holds 17,098 bodies, this would be a trifle difficult. No wonder Sonics owner Clay Bennett was screaming for a new arena.

Furthermore, a potential Memphis team — the Grizzlies had not yet arrived from Vancouver — would, say the researchers, seriously outdraw the Dallas Mavericks, which didn’t even come close to happening. And inasmuch as both the Clippers and the Lakers are based at Los Angeles’ Staples Center, the report projects identical attendance and revenues for the two teams. Given the sheer number of variables involved … but never mind, you get the idea. As Yogi Berra never said, “Prediction is hard, especially about the future.” (Robert Storm Petersen apparently did.)

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Can you change a five?

Obviously we can, but Sean Hackbarth doesn’t like the new fin:

Our currency continues to get uglier and uglier. The new and “improved” five dollar bill is now in circulation. “Enhanced security features” fail to give the bill any elegance.

The same is true of any US airport, I submit.

But I can appreciate this after-the-fact comment:

I’m even opposed to the sans-serif font used on that purple “5.” A serif font gives the bill more dignity and seriousness. If I want fun money I’ll go to Toys R Us.

(Via Little Miss Attila.)

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Candida: we could make it together

Some fungi who plasters worthless TrackBacks all over blogdom dropped in here yesterday with a link reading as follows: “Sex during diflucan.”

As the phrase goes, I do not think that word means what he thinks it means. And if it does, well, the further from here, girl, the better.

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MT promises

And, in my experience, MT delivers. Mostly. But Jesum Crow, it’s a pain in the neck sometimes, and the reason WordPress is eating its lunch might be as simple as this:

Probably the single biggest reason for WP’s success is the one-click install and one-click upgrade offered by Dreamhost and other web host companies. I can literally setup a WP blog for anyone in less than 3 minutes. Most of that time is post-install customization, as well. The plugin ecosystem is far more vibrant on the WP side than MT, and the proliferation of styles and themes means that the end user need only choose from a bounty of available options if they don’t want to tinker on their own — but tinkering is also very, very easy since the various files can be edited directly from within the online administration pages.

And re-tinkering is very, very common; I’ve set up three WP blogs, two for myself, one for somebody else, using exactly that DH one-click install, and about every other version, something they’ve done breaks all the customization I’ve done and I have to redo, or at least recopy, a fistful of templates. Meanwhile, what you see here is basically a slightly-souped-up Movable Type 2.21 template that has worked through all of my 3.x installs, though the powers that be Six Apart are careful to note that comment popups are “deprecated,” the current euphemism for “We don’t support that anymore.” I can’t prove it, but I suspect this was motivated by the ongoing penchant for popup blockers.

Still, I have a certain fondness for WordPress, and indeed I once recommended to management down at the shop that (1) they should start up a corporate blog and (2) they should run it on WP. After the “ZOMG PHP!” grousing subsided, the proposal was tabled, and the table was then folded up into a FedEx box and shipped to Lower Elbonia.

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Are you a good lease or a bad lease?

Seattle SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett and NBA Commissioner David Stern are in apparent agreement over what constitutes a bad lease, and if you ask either of them, they’ll point in the general direction of KeyArena. Inevitably, you have to wonder: what would they consider a good lease?

The Letter of Intent sent by Bennett to Mayor Cornett [link goes to PDF file] gives a hint. The Sonics are looking for a 15-year lease, to begin “no sooner than the 2008-09 NBA season and no later than the 2010-11 NBA season.” I doubt seriously that it will begin as soon as this fall, but we shall see. The lease would be extensible in 3-year increments up to an additional 15 years.

The Sonics will pay rent of $40,000 per game, 70 percent of which is identified as “game-day expenses” based upon an expected performance standard, and all of which is subject to CPI adjustments after years 5 and 10. For a 41-game season, this comes to $1.64 million; exhibitions and playoff games are extra. In addition, the team will pay $100,000 a year for rent on the practice facility and will assume responsibility for routine maintenance, repairs, utilities and insurance on that facility.

The city will be expected to renegotiate the naming rights for the Ford Center with the team and the Oklahoma Ford Dealers. The team will pay the city the amount of the current agreement — $409,000 a year — and will receive the proceeds from any new agreement, less any expenses incurred by the city in changing signage and stationery and such.

And in a move I didn’t expect, but perhaps could have predicted, the team and the city will attempt to wangle state incentives under the Quality Jobs Act.

There’s a lot more, but all of it is subject to negotiation before the signatures are affixed. City Manager Jim Couch, at least, thinks it’s a fair deal. No word yet from David Stern.

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Aim high, as it were

Briefly, we flash back to 2001:

Everybody plays the fool sometimes, as Cuba Gooding, Sr. used to say, but it was Woody Allen who played the Fool in Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex, and who, faced with a directive from his father’s ghost to seek sexual favors from Her Majesty the Queen, sputtered, “I can’t screw above my station!”

While I’ve always believed in this sort of conjugal caste system, not everyone is prepared to accept things as they are. A long-running advertisement from the Rosetta Stone language-instruction service contains a photo of a young fellow and the following description: “He was a hardworking farm boy. She was an Italian supermodel. He knew he would have just one chance to impress her.” (You can see it here.)

Rosetta Stone’s chosen audience for this advertisement starts at proudly middlebrow and heads upward from there. Does this sort of pitch work down in beer-commercial land? From Maxim this month:

Your girlfriend is highly educated, well-traveled, and values good taste; you once vomited on the teacup ride during a class trip to Disney World. To distract her from your woeful lack of refinement, buy her something that would look equally at home on the desk of a college professor or a comic book supervillain: a classic black globe.

Both these pitches, unfortunately, have essentially the same thinking behind them: you can somehow buy your way into her heart. But if you take the language instruction, you’ll stand a better chance of being able to comprehend Donizetti; if you buy the globe, well, at least you’ll be able to point to Greenland.

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Why the mortgage industry is in trouble

Two words: dubious math.

I am advised by the folks who hold my note — yes, George Kaiser, I’m looking at you — that my “account has gone through an escrow analysis cycle” and their projected expenditures for the upcoming twelve months will deplete the funds in escrow by a total of eight cents. To compensate for this deficiency, they are raising my monthly payment by $1.80.

In actuality, I think they’ve slightly underestimated my property taxes for the year, so I’m not going to send off one of my famed Letters of Protest. Still, there remains annoyance at slightly above vestigial levels, due to the fact that they’re getting 0.3x, where x equals the actual principal-plus-interest payment, to screw around with for several months before they actually cut checks to the county and the insurance agent.

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Lonesome 7-7203

Unless you’re Hawkshaw Hawkins, you probably don’t want an LCD display in the rear backlight with your phone number on it, unless you’re stuck in traffic and you’re really desperate for attention.

Then again, if you are Hawkshaw Hawkins, you’ve been dead for forty-five years. (Hawkins, Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas, on the way back to Nashville from Kansas City, were killed in a plane crash near Camden, Tennessee in March 1963; Hawkins got his only #1 country hit — it just missed the bottom of the pop chart — with a song about that very telephone number, released shortly after his death.)

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The big house

Every Saturday, the real-estate section in the Oklahoman has a list of building permits issued in Oklahoma City, and usually I give it only a perfunctory glance. But once in a while there’s something startling in there, and today I managed to stare in disbelief for a couple of moments.

At the very top of the list was a permit issued to Prestige Custom Homes to build a residence at 15532 Laguna Drive. Estimated cost was listed as $1,800,000. No other residences in the list (conveniently ordered by decreasing cost) were even a third as much.

Now you don’t see a lot of homes at this price point around here — a check at Realtor.com of houses in 73013 (far north OKC and south side of Edmond) turned up only four houses over $1.5 million. None of them were in Esperanza, a gated subdivision around NW 157th and May, so I’m guessing this must be one of the new “estate” lots therein, which are described as follows:

The Estate lots are entered from our grand boulevard off May Avenue through their own private gates. A quiet cul-de-sac street serves only these ten lots, which range in size from three-quarters acre to one and one-half acres. These estates are nestled on and off the water on the northern shore of the lake. Owners of these beautiful, larger home-sites will enjoy lake privileges. Your children and grandchildren will treasure the time spent fishing with you in our bass-stocked lake. Our estates will offer you the peace and serenity of country living, while being surprisingly “hidden” at one of the most convenient locations in Northwest Oklahoma City.

Their “grand boulevard,” not to be confused with Grand Boulevard, is called “Via Esperanza,” in case you were worried about the possibility that pretentiousness might be entering a period of short supply.

Still, you have to figure that if there weren’t buyers, nobody would be building these things, and hey, we’re due for an influx of allegedly-overpaid athletes any day now.

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The new GM vapor-control system

Mike Solowiow gets a surprise at State Fair Park:

Rocking-up at the Oklahoma City International (?) Auto Show, I asked a GM spokesperson about the upcoming electric gas plug-in Chevrolet Volt. “We have been instructed to not discuss the Volt too much, but to steer people interested in it to the newly released hybrids because we want them to focus on those released products, and not on the concept that might not make it to production soon.”

“Pay no attention to the car behind the curtain!”

The so-called “two-mode” hybrid in the Tahoe might be a game-changer — getting 20 mpg out of a big, hulking truck has to be considered a major improvement — but a lot of people, even in Oklahoma, are looking for something other than big, hulking trucks, and GM’s other hybrids come up short on performance and panache.

The Volt is supposedly going to be available in 2010.

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Bring two pieces of ID

One of the functions of our State Treasurer is described by current officeholder Scott Meacham thusly:

Oklahoma businesses bring unclaimed cash, rebates, paychecks, royalties, stock[s] and bonds to my office and it’s my job to return the money to the owners and heirs.

To this end, there’s a Web search form; in addition, at regular intervals the Treasurer puts out a newspaper supplement listing the names of owners, which is now up to 128 pages.

I usually give this document a perfunctory glance at best: I check to see if there’s anything for me, which there never is, and maybe flip a couple of pages to see if anything jumps out at me. Today’s edition, for instance, had four items for the long-since-superseded Boatmen’s Bank downtown. I’m not quite sure how these would be claimed. There’s something for Michael Bates, though not this Michael Bates. However, I’d definitely like to be around if Jack Mehoff (reported to be at 708 NE 31st, Oklahoma City) shows up.

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