Archive for May 2008

Advice to the millions

It’s a good question: “If you knew that in five years one million people would read what you have written, what would you do with that opportunity?”

Traffic has slowed here lately, but in the last five years I have had, yes, upward of one million page views, so I am tempted to say something like “Look upon my works, ye Readers, and despair!”

But that’s too easy, and it’s not fair to Lynn, who put some serious thought into the things she’d like to say to her visitors.

So instead I’m going to harp on her second piece of advice, which goes like this:

Get to know history and “high culture” …. English is full of cultural references. If someone spoke to you of a Sisyphean task would you really understand what that means or would you just make an assumption about its meaning based on the context? A lot of things make so much more sense if you know where they came from.

Not to mention that it’s a lot easier to get through life if you don’t have to have things constantly explained to you. And if you’re anything like me, with a tendency to invoke cultural references a bit less ephemeral than the last installment of The Daily Show, it’s a lot easier to get through life if you don’t have to explain things constantly. (For an illustration of what I mean, see the first three comments to this bit of shoeblogging.) This is not, incidentally, intended as a knock on The Daily Show, which has a pretty high signal-to-noise ratio for a contemporary television series, but if Jon Stewart is over your head, I submit that you’re keeping your head too low.

And here’s another link to Lynn. Actually, it’s the same link, but if I can get you to click twice, her page views go up twice as fast. It’s the least I can do, considering that building traffic these days is like pushing a boulder uphill.

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Sorry, Sasquatch, you’ll have to walk

The only Volvo on my Will Consider Next Time list is the smallish C30, and I may have to rethink that in the light of this bit of news:

A court has ordered a Volvo dealer to pay £1,350 to a customer whose feet are too big to use the accelerator on his new car.

The judge in the German town of Wiesloch said the manufacturer should have catered for Michael Herzog’s size 12 feet. He went to court complaining the area around the accelerator of his new Volvo C70 coupe was too small to accommodate his feet.

The court ruled his feet were not abnormally large and the judge said the dealer should give the German five per cent off the price of his new car.

I assume Mr Herzog’s pedal dimensions are expressed in British terms, since the Eurostandard for ginormous clodhoppers calls for numbers in the upper 40s and beyond. That said, a British size 12 is about the same as an American size 12½, which is far from huge. (Says the guy who wears a 14.)

One question remains unanswered: didn’t he test drive his Swedish steed?

(Via Autoblog.)

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Minor adjustments

I’ve decided to give the Carnival of the Vanities its own section on the sidebar, rather than a single entry each week which (1) draws heinous amounts of spammers for some reason and (2) requires me to come up with some cutesy verbiage which exploits the individual Carnival number, which (3) Andrew Ian Dodge isn’t using anyway.

In view of this change, and the fact that not everything I do around here is exactly intuitive, consider this an open thread to post your questions about site mechanics, motivations and policies. (Besides, there’s a Woot-Off today, so I’m probably not going to write a whole lot of new stuff.)

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So you just TiVoed a tornado warning

Never fear. The Irritated Tulsan has the solution:

I think I have a solution that is a win-win for everyone. It is an exchange program between the local news and the viewer. For every minute of programming that is interrupted to tell us there is mist in the air, a cloud in the sky, the potential for dangerous storms or bowling ball sized hail, is a minute the viewer gets to interrupt the news.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Meteorologist warns us of deadly raindrops.
  2. Lost, The Office or any other great program is interrupted.
  3. The number of minutes is totaled and given back to the viewer.
  4. Each viewer can cash in their minutes and interrupt the news.

An example:

So let’s say KTUL cuts into Lost and 50,000 people were watching. Lost is on for one hour. Each viewer can now reclaim those minutes and interrupt KTUL’s news broadcast. Sixty minutes per person would total 3 million minutes owed to the viewer. That equals 273 weeks we’re allowed to interrupt the news. A little more than five years. (If we only count the 10 p.m. broadcast.)

Yeah, but what would you interrupt with?

When I redeem my minutes, I’m going to broadcast strip poker from a nursing home or shaving my back with a lid from a tuna can.

Watch out, YouTube!

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Fit to be towed

With gas pushing four bucks a gallon and maintenance prices out of sight, you, too, may have to abandon your motor vehicle, as did the owner of an early-Nineties Buick at 42nd and Treadmill Tuesday night. If this should happen to you, the following advice may be helpful:

  • Do not draw attention to your plight: pull straight into the space, within the lines if at all possible. Taking up one space is considered merely disrespectful: taking up two spaces is heinous.
  • Make arrangements to have the vehicle picked up no later than the following morning, before the actual property owners notice.
  • If your vehicle is front-wheel-drive, park with the nose out: this will simplify towing, if necessary.

The preceding has been brought to you as a public service.

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Local boys make good

Me, I rather enjoyed the Gazette’s take on The Lost Ogle, partly because author Rod Lott apparently talked to actual Ogles at some point, but mostly for Tony’s final point:

“I don’t think people realize how hard it is to put up good content every day. And I’m not saying we do that.”

Seldom are truer words spoken in blogdom.

Still, the piece gave short shrift — scarcely any shrift at all, in fact — to where Tony, Clark Matthews (how come he rates a surname?) and Patrick might be going with this little enterprise of theirs. With that in mind, I’d like to offer a few suggestions:

  • Find a picture of Jenni Carlson in a bikini.
  • And then don’t post it.
  • Drive Jim Traber to tears.
  • Drive Jim Traber to Saskatchewan.
  • Put together a petition to nominate Gary England for a Nobel Peace Prize.

This should secure their future for the next ten years or ten million page views, whichever comes first.

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It was fun while it lasted

“What does not kill me,” said Nietzsche, “makes me stronger.”

If you’ve been enjoying the Barack Obama blooper reels, you might want to keep this in mind:

You know, a lot of conservative sorts of political observers have had a lot of fun watching Obama make a series of gaffes and get caught up in ill-considered personal relationships.

However, as long as these things are coming out in the primaries, they’ll be old news by election time, and if Obama ends up the nominee, I think a long, bruising primary battle will have given him some inkling of what he’ll face in a real election, so he’ll be better equipped for the real election than if the Democrats had just crowned him early.

Then again, Hillary Clinton may yet boil Obama’s bunny.

Update, 12 May: In regard to that last premise, Hawthorn Mineart notes:

It’s a shame all these jackhole guys are tarnishing their chosen candidate with their behavior. I was going to be happy to vote for Obama, but now all I can think about is guys comparing Clinton to Fatal Attraction. I don’t think they understand who the villain in that movie actually was, and who was the victim.

So there.

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The lure of Number One

Once again, the Tulsa World and the Oklahoman are engaged in a pissing match, and, well, urine for it now.

The subject: that Forbes assertion that Oklahoma City was well-nigh “recession-proof.” The World dribbled forth the first round:

[O]ur neighbors at the other end of the turnpike can justifiably point with pride to the Forbes-bestowed honor as the nation’s most recession-proof city.

They just shouldn’t forget the advantage that makes that so.

What advantage is that, you ask?

A high number of safe and stable government jobs probably constitutes the best hedge against recession.

Oklahoma City is indeed the state capital, and what’s more, the huge Tinker Air Force Base complex is here. But Forbes didn’t mention government jobs at all: the rating is based entirely on private-sector investment. Otherwise, snips the Oklahoman:

Washington, D.C., would lead the list every year and the rest of the list would be all be state capitals.

And then things escalate:

The relationship between Oklahoma City and Tulsa has evolved into a big brother-little sister equation, with the sister occasionally squeaking her high-pitched frustration with the older sibling. The headline on the Tulsa World editorial was “Recession proof?” The question mark speaks volumes, marginalizing the report and challenging Oklahoma City to put up or shut up.

We choose to put up with this sniveling because we think Tulsa’s accomplishments are mighty and beneficial to the entire state. We wish Tulsa’s opinion leaders shared our sentiments instead of retreating into petty provincialism.

Finally, a nearly-QOTW-worthy punchline:

Envy is one of the seven deadly sins. In Tulsa it’s a default setting.

If only it were true. But Tulsa doesn’t want to be Oklahoma City; Tulsa wants the sort of status that once came with the “Oil Capital of the World” label, and the ability to look down their collective noses at everyone else, Oklahoma City included. So this isn’t envy, exactly: call it nostalgia for a bygone era.

Besides, the World has already given the game away:

[Oklahoma City’s] citizens’ willingness to tax themselves to radically improve their downtown — including manufacturing a now nationally recognized “river” out of a muddy trickle — really has the city rolling.

Tulsans, however, have largely seen fit to disregard the World’s calls for higher taxes, and that, I suspect, annoys the World far more than anything that might be happening down here at the other end of the Turner.

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Where the action is

Brad Neese would like to live downtown, he thinks:

For the last several years, I’ve had a growing desire to live and work downtown. There’s something novel and cool about it. Granted, I’ve never done it so I really don’t know, but it still seems like fun.

So he took last weekend’s Downtown Living Tour, and he’s posting his findings. (This is the first installment; others have followed.) It doesn’t hurt that he’s working downtown now, which means that he could live a lot closer to his workplace and pour fewer dollars into the gas tank. (Then again, I used to live within six minutes of 42nd and Treadmill, and you couldn’t pay me to move back into that neighborhood.) And let’s face it, there’s a lot to be said for “novel and cool,” especially if it can be attained without having to deal with pesky drivers.

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Quote of the week

Matt Welch, on the remains of the Clintonistas:

When mincing little twerps like Paul Begala posit this rancid crew of Beltway power-mongers as the too-legit-to-quit anti-“egghead” faction representing the vast non-latte-drinking values of Real America, it’s almost enough to make a guy pine for the authenticity of John Edwards.

Warning: If you follow that New York Times link in the quote, you will have to wait for literally hundreds of comments to load up.

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Okay, you program this

The struggling CW network will turn over its Sunday prime-time programming to Media Rights Capital, which will produce two new dramas (presumably at 8 and 9 Eastern) and two comedies (presumably at 7 and 7:30).

MRC is run by Mordecai Wiczyk and Asif Satchu: they financed, among other things, the 2007 remake of Sleuth, which was released through Sony Pictures Classics, and the upcoming Sacha Baron Cohen project, which may or may not be called Brüno: Delicious Journeys Through America for the Purpose of Making Heterosexual Males Visibly Uncomfortable in the Presence of a Gay Foreigner in a Mesh T-Shirt.

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Whom’s on first?

Legalese and English are often at odds, or so it seems to me, and sometimes we have to sacrifice the language to plug the loopholes.

This is not one of those times. Last month former Sonics owner Howard Schultz filed suit against the current Sonics owners, hoping to get the sale voided.

With this in mind, Wiley L. Williams, assistant municipal counselor in Oklahoma City, shot off a nine-page letter to Schultz’s legal team [link goes to PDF file] informing them that whoever owns the team is legally bound by the new Oklahoma City leases. Key (so to speak) phrase (page four):

While we have no expectations whether the Plaintiffs in the above referenced litigation will or will not be successful, there is an expectation by City leadership and citizens that the owners of the Team, whomever they may be, will honor all of the Team’s contractual obligations with the City — including the contractual obligation to relocate to Oklahoma City and to play home games at the Ford Center for the duration of the term of the lease.

This grates on the ears in several places, although “whomever they may be” is, I contend, the worst, and the least excusable.

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Underdrawn at the food bank

From the 12th of May, last year:

[A]bout 9:15 … I finally forced myself out of bed, mostly because I had to leave a bag of food for the postman. Local letter carriers were helping in a food drive for the Regional Food Bank; the usual person on this route comes by on Saturday between 9:30 and 10, and given the number of strays that wander about at night, I wasn’t about to put it out the night before, even though very few cats carry can openers and such.

The carrier dropped off an empty bag last night, plainly marked “Leave out by 8 am.” Not a chance. And today’s weather forecast looked highly unfavorable: thunderstorms before noon, then a break, then thunderstorms in the afternoon. As of 9:45, there was still a smidgen of sunshine, so I went out to do yard work, and when I saw the postal vehicle rounding the corner, I went back inside and retrieved my Bag O’ Stuff. She showed up shortly after ten, and I handed it over in exchange for a great heaping wad of bills to pay.

I’m still trying to figure out the ramifications of this block’s participation rate, which was 30 percent. As a regular donor, I might have hoped for much more, but I have a feeling this was probably a tick or two above average for the city as a whole.

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Foiling the bag-jackers

There’s a scene in Untitled: A Love Story wherein the Invisible Girl is given a trade-paperback copy of L’Etranger, which promptly vanishes, binding to edge. Visible Boy is visibly perplexed, so she explains: she’s dropped the book into her bag, and the bag counts as part of the outfit, and since you can’t see what she wears as long as she’s wearing it, you can’t see her bag as long as she’s carrying it.

Actual invisible bags, it seems, could be useful in thwarting purse-snatchers. Until such time as they go into production, here’s the next best thing: a bag with a GPS tracking device built in.

All handbags have internal Agar™ lights and a sensor switch — if you touch the top of the switch, the light will be activated and it has a 22-second timeout. This unit is only for people, lost and found or locating purses and luggage if stolen or lost. The device can also has an override feature that will find the unit or person even if off, (only with pre-authorization from owner). It has a continual beacon that is on a low frequency band that picks up the signal if on or off as long as battery is intact. We provide a lifetime warranty on the Agar light system as well as a 30-day warranty on the bag itself.

These bags are serious technology; they even possess heat technology that senses your hand’s heat, triggering the lights. There is also a rocker on and off switch, along with a sensor switch.

The downside: 24/7 monitoring of the GPS signal, which will cost you $15 a month after the first 60 days. Maybe GM can be persuaded to add this to OnStar.

(Via Shiny Shiny.)

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An endearing eyesore

There exists a shed in my back yard, made of the lowest-grade pre-corroded steel-like substance; its sliding doors have long since ceased to do so, and I store nothing of note behind where those doors used to be. (Right now, it contains a section of kitchen cabinet that was scissored out to make room for a larger fridge, and half a bag of potting soil.) And when the rain is heavy enough, you can hear Beelzebub practicing the harpsichord.

That said, I’d never dream of removing it, and the reason for this is amazingly simple: it is perfectly placed to intercept the majority of tree limbs that could fall across my electrical connection. It caught one during the December ice storm, and it caught one today, the result of the sort of wind you get when a cold front crashes into a mass of Gulf moisture. (There’s a tornado watch to the east of here.) Supported by the roof of the shed, the limb, a good nine feet long, managed to deflect the line by only an inch or two, well within the capacity of its strain relief. Wielding a plastic snow shovel I keep handy for just such occasions — hey, it beats the hell out of actually shoveling snow — I had no problems moving the Big Wooden Thing away from the line, whereupon it dropped to the ground with an ignominious thudlet.

So the shed remains, which means that in terms of shed count, I remain even with contemporary composer Arthur Jackson, despite his nickname.

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Can’t get them out of my head

Has there ever been a band so staggeringly popular and simultaneously so roundly despised as the Electric Light Orchestra?

To this day, I haven’t been able to figure out if Randy Newman’s “The Story of a Rock and Roll Band” is intended as affectionate tribute or cruel mockery, and it’s been out for almost thirty years. And speaking of this day, today Entertainment Weekly hit the mailbox, and here’s Diablo Cody:

The soundtrack to my life is pure fondue: cheesy, gooey, prone to accidental seepage. Venture within 20 yards of my house and you risk exposure to high levels of ELO.

I was an ELO fan the hard way: I started out listening to the Move, whose last three members (Jeff Lynne, Roy Wood, Bev Bevan) were the nucleus of ELO, though Wood departed after the first album. I still play their stuff. If you’re within twenty yards of my house, be warned.

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The making of a ghost town

An AP story from this morning:

When the lead and zinc mines all around closed, many folks told themselves and promised their kids that Picher could go on and even be the same. There would always be church, high school football and the Dairy Queen.

But that was nearly 40 years ago, and all the praying and wishful thinking can’t undo what’s happened.

People are leaving, escaping the reality of life in one of the worst environmental nightmares in the country. A voluntary federal buyout is hastening the exodus.

This is a town’s last stand.

Now this:

A tornado that tore through Picher has left at least six dead, according to preliminary reports given to the state medical examiner’s office.

Kevin Rowland, chief investigator for the medical examiner, said none of his staff are on the scene yet, but the Oklahoma Highway Patrol confirmed five dead.

The south end of the city has been completely destroyed. At least a dozen ambulances have been seen leaving the area, and authorities have shut off access to the town. Utility poles have been snapped in half in the area and car windshields are blown out.

“If the lead don’t get you, the winds will.”

There once were 20,000 people in Picher. Now there might be eight hundred.

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April follow-ups

Herewith, updates to two April items.

On the 9th, I put up a list of the QAM channels then available on Cox non-Digital Cable. Most of the items on the list still worked, but curiously, the HD channels had dropped out of my channel scan. A fresh scan revealed that they’d all been moved.

Two days later, I posted something about Crocs’ new Cyprus line, which is genuinely plasticky but otherwise unCroclike. In a comment to that post, the estimable Dr. Jan announced that she was ordering some, and I came back with “Send me a picture, if you dare.” Well, she dare. I’m not going to post it here, but I will say this: they don’t look half bad in black. And apparently they run large for the size, so go small if you’re buying.

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A text message to the universe

A few days ago Lynn put out a list of Things She’d Like To Say to a million visitors to her site, and it’s a very good list, worth the multiple paragraphs.

But suppose you don’t have the time or the space to come up with multiple paragraphs. What’s left is this meme from Broadcasting Brain:

The name of this meme is “the one thing that I MUST say to the entire world.”

It’s very simple: you have up to 150 characters to say a message to the world.

In other words, you have to boil down a whole lot of philosophy to the size of a text message. For those of us for whom text bloat is an ongoing reality, this could prove to be exceedingly difficult. Besides which, I’m assuming spaces between words count against the total.

Still:

The mind begins to perish at the exact moment its owner becomes incurious: no matter how much you think you know, you will always have more to learn.

I got this from Writer Chick. Feel free to pass it on.

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Not even street-legal

Ford Racing is vending a hotted-up, trimmed-down Mustang to Serious Racers Only. It comes with all the pertinent safety gear (six-point restraint, roll cage, fire-suppression system) and none of the usual amenities (radio, A/C, floor mats). It costs 75 large, which is a ton of money, but it’s a turnkey machine: “everything you need to go racing,” says the window sticker.

(Aside: Can you really call it “turnkey” when there’s no actual key? There’s an ignition switch, but it’s not operated with a key: you toggle the switch and press the Start button.)

Said window sticker, incidentally, is hilarious. Here’s the “fuel-economy” information:

Green flag: gulps fuel
Yellow flag: sips fuel
Red flag: uses no fuel at all

And the warranty — well, you’ll have to read it for yourself. Mike Monroney is hitting redline in his grave.

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The hall turned inside out

John M. Johansen’s design for Oklahoma City’s Mummers Theater — now Stage Center — has had nearly forty years to grow on us, and the passage of time notwithstanding, you’d have to combine the WTF factors of the Milk Bottle, the Gold Dome and the missile gantry to come close to the uneasiness Stage Center still manages to cause some folks.

“It’s noncompositional,” Johansen explains. “You throw everything away that the modern movement believed in. It [modern architecture] was organized in a controlled way. This was an explosion. This was absolutely new…”

Robert Hughes’ 1971 description in Time:

At first sight, it does not look like a theater at all. Johansen designed it in terms of distinct units — blocks of raw concrete with brightly painted steel cladding, connected by tubes and catwalks. Nothing could be more remote from the idiom of the theater as temple — massive portico and formidable foyer suggesting, in the manner of Lincoln Center, that the audience is going to be vouchsafed a peek at the altar of some crushing god named High Culture. The Mummers Theater, by contrast, with its simple materials and modest scale, does not try to stimulate the audience’s sense of self-importance; it is entirely directed toward the events onstage. It is literally a playhouse — open, light, improvisatory, gamelike. The design amounts to a proposition that boxing all the functions of a building into one articulated mass is not the only way to order, and that the legacy of the Beaux-Arts tradition, which Johansen scornfully calls “the tasteful arrangement of compositional elements,” is dead because it cannot provoke fresh responses.

And oh, the responses that were provoked. Stanley Draper, head of the local Chamber of Commerce, actually started a campaign to raise money for enough landscaping to conceal the structure.

Johansen is now ninety-two, and still has ideas that dazzle:

Johansen’s latest pursuit is molecular engineering. Architecture students led by Hans Butzer (designer of the Oklahoma City National Memorial) sat in stunned silence in the Stage Center theater as Johansen told them of a future where a building will literally “transform itself” from offices during the day to a living space at night.

“Dematerialization is what’s going on: lighter and lighter, thinner and stronger,” Johansen said. “Molecular engineering — that’s the future.”

Far out as that may seem, it’s consistent with Johansen’s vision of the theater: it’s a workspace to be used, not a palace to be admired at a distance. And it makes a heck of a backdrop for the annual Festival of the Arts — or a striking book cover.

Suggestion to Carpenter Square Theatre, the current major tenant of Stage Center: When the building comes up for its 40th anniversary in 2012, you might consider a revival of the first play that was ever staged there: Robert Bolt’s A Man for All Seasons.

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Montana out of her jersey

Up to now, I have to admit, I hadn’t given this a whole lot of thought:

I can’t help but wonder if some of the hubbub about the aesthetically-lovely (though taken in questionable taste) portrait of Miley Cyrus is because of grown men finding the picture (or rather, the picture’s subject) sexually arousing.

Maybe it is, though I have to admit, the picture didn’t do a thing for me. And it’s not just because my brain is equipped with an Automatic Jailbait Filter to process incoming image material, either: it’s because it appeared in Vanity Fair, a publication whose sole raison d’être these days is to remind people how utterly lovely it is to be rich. Besides, Cyrus is fifteen and a half, precisely the age at which I decided that pajamas were superfluous, so the idea of a teenager lacking same is not going to put ideas into my head.

At best, or at worst, the Cyrus incident is just one more manifestation of the wrongheaded cultural notion that our youngsters, especially our girls, ought to be sexed up, that they may be adequately prepared for the fiercely erotic Real World out there — although such preparation is intended, I submit, not for their benefit, but for the benefit of those who would use them. Like, for instance, Vanity Fair.

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Strange search-engine queries (119)

Yes, buoys and gulls, it’s time for another romp through the Site Meter detritus to find search strings that make you go “Hmmm.” Hmmm….

bank of america employees wear pantyhose:  Probably just the women, and who cares anyway?

men wearing male undergarments:  Possibly even at Bank of America.

natureal mail inhansment:  From those wonderful folks who brought you V14gr@.

sunday drive oklahoma:  Generally great fun, but watch out for those Sunday drivers.

eine kleine nachtmusik i can’t get no satisfaction:  Perhaps Tagesmusik might be more satisfying?

revolver ocelot wtf seriously:  Everybody run, the damn lolcat’s got a gun.

how to sunbath nude without getting burned:  Yes, children, there are parts of this world where sunblock is unknown.

i need a girl for a amc matador eagle sedan:  I don’t think so. I’ve seen lots of people driving AMC sedans and none of them ever have girls.

Why Does Conventional Wisdom Persist:  It saves you the trouble of doing your own research.

Poptarts Destroying a City:  Geez, they’ll say anything to get a health-care bill passed.

lot less fake ass chinese oreo wafers:  Yeah, but have they ever destroyed a city, like Pop Tarts?

too much crap to clean up:  True enough. Back next week with more of these.

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Will Old Navy take up the slack?

No more couture for Hillary Clinton, reports the Times:

“She no longer buys from us,” an insider at Donna Karan told me sadly. “I think somewhere along the line, someone’s advised her that she can’t be seen wearing anything expensive. We’re a puritanical nation — what can I tell you?”

I’ll believe this when I see John Edwards at Supercuts.

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Your food’s no good here

Trini reports that no, she did not donate to the food drive this past weekend, because apparently all the notifications sent to her neighborhood were in Spanish, which may have simplified matters for the letter carriers but didn’t do a thing for actual speakers of English in the neighborhood.

Not that they’re going to send them out in German for her or anything, but still, she was a bit vexed at being left out of the process, and at the assumption that because she lives at such-and-such an address (she’s on the south side, between 44th and 59th) she must be Hispanic. Jaime Crow is supposed to be dead, guys.

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More goofy than plutocrat

Seen at Coyote Blog:

Kevin Drum is discussing a book by Larry Bartels that argues the bottom third of the US population (as measured by income) are disenfranchised, as their preferences seem to have no discernible effect on legislative votes. I have not read the book, but I find this an astounding assertion on its face, particularly given that the US government is nearly entirely paid for by the other 2/3. We exploiters don’t seem to be doing a very good job of taking advantage of our oligarchy. (By the way, if “oppressed” is defined as having one’s preferences have no impact on Congressmen, then add us libertarians into the oppressed.)

I haven’t read Bartels’ book either, but he’s discussing it at TPMCafe, and he brings up this point:

There are big differences in policies between Democratic and Republican elected officials, even when they represent exactly the same constituents. Political scientists have an elegant theory explaining why this shouldn’t happen: if voters choose the candidate closest to their own policy positions, Democrats and Republicans alike must move to the center in order to get elected. The only problem is, they don’t. A figure in the book compares the behavior of Democratic and Republican senators representing liberal and conservative states. The difference in behavior between a Democrat and a Republican representing the same constituents turns out to be much greater than the difference in behavior between a Democrat representing the most liberal state in the country and a Democrat representing the most conservative state in the country. Party and ideology dominate constituents’ preferences in shaping legislators’ roll call votes.

Not to mention our friends on K Street.

Still, there’s something askew here, and I think it’s this: the theory, says Bartels, insists that “Democrats and Republicans alike must move to the center in order to get elected,” which more often than not turns out to be true, but once they’re elected they tend to slide sideways, Democrats leftward, Republicans to the right. This suggests that if anyone is being disenfranchised, it’s those in the political center. Then again, the exact location of the center itself is arguable.

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Never lacking for material

Not for a long time, I suspect: ThingsYoungerThanMcCain.com includes, among other things, Helvetica, FM radio, and Keith Richards.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

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Those county bond issues

There are five of them, and four of them look pretty good.

Propositions II through V inclusive would pay for courthouse renovation ($10.5 million), improvement of record-retention facilities ($5.75 million), a new facility for the OSU Extension Service ($7.25 million), and flood control ($6 million).

This leaves Proposition I ($55 million), to fund the acquisition of the General Motors assembly plant on Oklahoma City’s southeast side, which would then be leased to Tinker Air Force Base. The most obvious beneficiary of this move is General Motors, who could close the books on the facility and, perhaps more important, quit writing annual checks to the county for property tax. Does Tinker need the extra space? And what’s with this bit in the ballot language about “including but not limited to the acquisition of the land and building currently owned by General Motors”? Something about this doesn’t quite pass the smell test. The $15 a year certainly won’t break me, though.

Update: The county batted .600 this time around: I, II and V passed, III and IV failed.

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Damage report, Lt. Rice

Condoleezza Rice as Lt. Uhura

Dash it all, Princess Sparkle Pony, why must you put these images into my head?

Still, Sean Gleeson’s imagination is way better than mine.

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Gearing up and/or down

Seen at Autoblog:

As we reported last month, it appears BMW and Audi, following the lead of Lexus, will begin to offer eight-speed automatic transmissions in their flagship models.

And seen at Autoblog, an hour and a half later:

When the second quarter of 2010 rolls along, 1,400 workers at General Motors’ Windsor [Ontario] transmission factory will be out of work. The plant, which currently produces four-speed gearboxes for GM, will be phased out at the turn of the decade, with no plans to retool the facility to produce any other components.

To recap: The Japanese are already doing 8-speed automatics, and the Germans will follow; the Americans are just now getting around to disposing of 4-speed automatics.

This isn’t entirely fair to the General — Toyota still sells econoboxes in the States with only four cogs — but this doesn’t help Detroit’s image as technological laggards.

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Turning on the Tap

Forget those old-fashioned gas pumps. These are better:

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to 4.99. Look, right across the board, 4.99, 4.99, 4.99 and…
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most pumps go up to 3.99?
Nigel: Exactly.
Marty: Does that mean it’s more expensive? Is it any more expensive?
Nigel: Well, it’s one dollar more, isn’t it? It’s not 3.99. You see, most blokes, you know, will be pumping at 3.99. You’re on 3.99 here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you’re on 3.99 on your credit card. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty: I don’t know.
Nigel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty: Put it up to 4.99.
Nigel: 4.99. Exactly. One dollar.
Marty: Why don’t you just make 3.99 the highest and make 3.99 be the top number?
Nigel: [pause] These go to 4.99.

Geez. Imagine the delight when they go to 11.

(Thanks, Ash.)

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At least the count will be quick

My ballot at 5:55 pm was the 206th to be cast in my precinct, which suggests that turnout will be something less than huge: in fact, I got all the way home before I realized Oh, crap, there’s an election today and set out for the polling place, and I’m pretty sure a lot of people have memories at least as short as mine.

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Yeah, you’re dead, but look how much you saved

Dear Mail-Order Pharmacy:

I placed a refill order from your Web site — which means, I shouldn’t have to point out, that you’ve filled this prescription at least once already — and paid for it with a Visa card, which means you’re not waiting on your money.

Did it occur to you that calling me on the phone half an hour after the order was placed to try to talk me into some cheaper drug was incredibly frakking stupid? It certainly occurred to me. “How I can save up to $500 a year,” my ass. I paid your absurd five-times-the-price-of-generic copay because this stuff works and there are no generics. Simple as that. Ninety days from now, I’ll be happily paying six times the price, just so I don’t get any more phone calls from you addlepated schmucks.

In the meantime, three words you should learn: “dispense as written.”

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Where the drugs are

Speaking of drugs, I’m coming through the intersection at 50th and May, something I’ve done, oh, a thousand times before, and there’s a new sign up at Walgreen’s: WE ARE NOW A COMPOUNDING PHARMACY.

And sure enough, across the intersection was the embryonic form of another pharmacy. Eventually, assuming nothing happens to interfere, there will be nothing but pharmacies for two or three blocks.

Oh, and the pool hall. They’re not going anywhere.

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Fark blurb of the week

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When David gets all Goliath-y

I’ve suggested that the ongoing Seattle vs. Oklahoma City wars might be good theater, if nothing else; it hadn’t occurred to me that what we’re seeing might simply be a deeply dysfunctional business plan, and we’re the enablers:

[T]he only way [NBA Commissioner David] Stern could continue to pursue a faulty business model was through a Ponzi scheme of pitting one city against another — exactly the situation he has aided in creating here.

Playing off the feelings of inadequacy in Oklahoma City (and that is not intended [as] an insult at all; it is clear from their language that they want the NBA so they might be elevated to a “major league city”), Stern has managed to create a sense of urgency in both cities, to the point where a total approaching half a billion dollars is being proposed to reconstruct existing arenas.

When I wrote about this last year, my argument was that the whole debate was upside-down, and that rather than having the cities chase the NBA, it should be the NBA chasing the cities. Let’s face it, the NBA needs markets more than the markets need the NBA.

After all, do you think people in Las Vegas or St. Louis woke up this morning and cursed themselves for not having an NBA team? Do you believe residents of Memphis are patting themselves on the back with glee that they don’t live in a hellhole like San Diego, a city barren of NBA basketball?

Given the Griz’ attendance, I’m sure there are residents of Memphis who think, “What? We have an NBA team?”

I do like the idea of an inverted perspective, but David Stern still has scarcity on his side: artificially created to be sure, but still scarcity. And if playing one town against another turns out to work, it’s prudent to assume he’ll keep doing it until such time as it stops working.

I can’t speak for anyone else in the local Sonics Thunderbirds Barons fan base, but I think things would have gone much more easily if Clay Bennett had written a check to the NBA and Stern had decreed, “For a new team shall be yours, and we shall add another one to the East for balance.” As though the East would ever be balanced. And the Sonics? They’d be in Seattle, as they’d been for four decades.

Meanwhile, if anyone comes up with an explanation of why David Stern is so resistant to expansion, I’d like to hear it.

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Shake it and see if there’s any change

News Item: Republicans will counter the Democratic push for change from the years of the Bush administration with their own pledge to deliver, drum roll please, “the change you deserve.”

Top Ten political slogans rejected by the Republican Party before deciding on “the change you deserve”:

  1. “Staff white people like”
  2. “We pick our losing candidates early
  3. “Wingnut > Moonbat”
  4. “We put the ‘Old’ in ‘Grand Old Party'”
  5. “Rule 6: No Clintons”
  6. “You deserve a tax break today”
  7. “Our babes are hotter than their babes”
  8. “Now 100% Berkeley-Free”
  9. “2 Centuries 1 Idea”
  10. “We’re good bad, but we’re not evil

(Suggested by Michelle Malkin.)

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Flies didn’t drop this fast

First it was the bloody dismemberment of CompUSA. Now comes the liquidation of PC Club, in comparably-dramatic fashion:

PC Club, a California personal computer retailing chain, filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy and shuttered 37 stores nationwide … as well as its online ClubIT.com store on Tuesday.

Background:

2 years ago, the owner/founder (Jackson Lan) passed away after a long battle with cancer. Now it seems his dream passed with him. He had an outlook for PCC that never would have ended in this manner.

His brother took over the company, and shortly thereafter ~15 store were abruptly closed citing reasons of ineffectiveness. Of course many of these stores had yet to be open for 2-3 years. Those stores were in Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, etc.

Roughly about a month ago, maybe a little more — the current president, the vice-president, and a couple of regional mgrs were “separated” from the company. Then came a massive reorganization in which HQ was restructured from the top down. It seemed as if the company was consolidating and preparing an effort to return to the old days of focusing on the “brick and mortar” business that it was founded on. In the weeks following, cost cutting measures were implemented and more staff rearranged and removed … including the heads of accounting and HR. Still, we were all reassured that this was being done for the good of the company.

Then come the inventory issues. All stores in the company are running short of product and the distribution center has no inventory on hand. We are told this is because new purchase accounts are being established and the lull is only temporary. District managers are plainly telling store managers as recent as yesterday that inventory problems should be taken care of soon and that we may just have to deal with it for a couple of more weeks. In the mean time, customers continues to ask if we’re going out of business — resellers are openly pissed about not being able to get product.

Then there’s today. And all of you already know what happened. Senior management disappeared and were unreachable by the company attorney during the “meeting of doom”. We closed the store, made final deposits, got our stuff, and left.

PC Club built me a machine a few years back. (How few? It was recent enough to have Service Pack 2 for XP in place.) Apart from blowing up a video card on day two, which they fixed in a couple of hours, it’s been pretty reliable.

(Via SEKOconcepts.)

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First steps

I’m not sure if I’m even going to be able to make much of a trip this year, but I have finally gotten around to setting aside the vacation time.

And it’s not in July, for once.

More as things develop.

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The last claim

Apparently there exist policies which insure against the failure of the market system:

It would take a cataclysm — around a third of the leading investment-grade corporations in Europe or half those in North America going bankrupt and defaulting on their debt — for the insurance to be paid out.

I asked one investment banker what might cause half of North America’s top corporations to default. No ordinary economic recession or natural disaster short of an asteroid strike could do it: no hurricane, for example, and not even “the big one,” a catastrophic earthquake devastating California. All he could think of was “a revolutionary Marxist government in Washington.”

This would seem unlikely — even the leftiest of incoming Democrats are run-of-the-mill Marxists at best — but just the same, the premium has increased of late:

Normally one can buy $10 million of end-of-the-world insurance for between two and three thousand dollars a year. By early last November, the prices quoted were between twenty and thirty thousand, and even then it was difficult to buy in quantity — at least, said the banker, “not from anyone you trusted.”

(Via Jesse Walker at Hit & Run.)

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