Archive for July 2008

It’s not just a job, it’s indenture

Evidently it doesn’t really matter how many people or organizations Barack Obama throws under the bus; after all, he expects to have free help to clean out the undercarriage. Remember this?

[W]hen I’m President, I will set a goal for all American middle and high school students to perform 50 hours of service a year, and for all college students to perform 100 hours of service a year. This means that by the time you graduate college, you’ll have done 17 weeks of service. We’ll reach this goal in several ways. At the middle and high school level, we’ll make federal assistance conditional on school districts developing service programs, and give schools resources to offer new service opportunities.

Michael Ledeen says that there’s nothing all that new here:

I wonder how many people realize that community service for high-school students is already a requirement in many, maybe even most, urban high schools. And it is virtually a requirement for kids who are applying to college, because it is one of those things that college-admissions officers “look at” in order to distinguish among the considerable number of students with fabulous transcripts and Board scores. So our president won’t have to worry about how to compel high school students to help the needy.

Still, it seems a tad curious to me, and more so to HeatherRadish:

I’m not sure why no one on O’s staff realized this “mandatory service” crap might not resonate with the portion of the electorate who has spent their whole lives being taught that the “mandatory service” of their ancestors — real ancestors or dead people who kinda look like them, doesn’t matter — automagically makes them victims of the oppressive American system even if they never lift a finger. I can see why it never occurred to him, but his wife should have been all over it. I suppose it doesn’t matter, since that portion of the electorate is going to punch the chad for him no matter what he says or does.

Think of it as equal opportunity in action, and it makes more sense. If all are screwed, then none are screwed.

Except you, if you were hoping to get some chores out of the ungrateful little snowflakes:

I’m a fan of forced child labor, but at the direction of their parents, not the damn government. (I can’t rent my niece and nephews to hang drywall if Uncle Barack’s got them painting over gang graffiti in Omaha. Feh.)

Now that I think about it, isn’t it about time for Charlie Rangel to call for the draft to be reinstituted? It’s been almost two whole years.

(With thanks to PrestoPundit for the Obama quote.)

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Widget research continues

This little BlogList (I think that’s the name of it) gizmo I saw at But I digress… is pretty spiffy. It’s got her blogroll, yes, and it’s even sorted by freshness, but it gives not only the site link but also the link to the most recent post, and it’s festooned with favicons where appropriate. As semi-automated lists go, this rolls all over BlogRolling.

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Demonstrations at the Dome

I got my first look today (largely because I didn’t follow my usual route home) at one of the Tuesday vigils sponsored by the Peace House: a brief — one hour — antiwar demonstration beside the Gold Dome at 23rd and Classen. A couple of dozen hardy souls were braving the heat. I don’t think they got a lot of horn taps from drivers, but I can at least assure them that they were seen.

I’m not sure how long these will continue; I’ve only met Peace House director Nathaniel Batchelder once, but from everything I’ve seen, he is a man of remarkable tenacity.

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Smile, you’re on Bandit Camera

Finally, a way to justify that webcam you’ve been wanting:

Woot fan captures burglary on webcam. It seems that Joshua “Chowda” Chiarini set up his webcam to participate in Woot TV, the unofficial (but appreciated) nightly webcast produced by and for Woot fans. The next day, he came home to his apartment to find a lot of his gadgets and whatnot missing. He consulted Woot TV’s archived footage from his webcam to find that an unknown woman had burglarized his apartment. The thief was arrested the next day and almost all of the items were recovered. And just think: if Chowda wasn’t a Woot fan, his stuff would still be missing and a burglar would still be prowling Providence.

As for the burglar, I’d be happy to see her tied inside a large bag of crap. And not the good kind, either.

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A work in progress, we hope

It has been noted with varying degrees of glee around town that NBA.com has now gotten around to nba.com/oklahomacity as a usable URL. However, the site is not what I’d call ready for prime time, despite some cute positioning tricks devised by a Seattle-based design firm.

The roster of players has been reconfigured, and to be honest I don’t understand it at all: there’s no logic to the sort, and you can’t resort by name, by position, by age, by number, by anything. (Can anyone explain why Adrian Griffin is the first on the list?) At least the links seem to work.

On an impulse, I fired up this link, which brings up the old Sonics roster. It’s listed alphabetically, with Nick Collison at the top.

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How we got to where we are

Two years ago, Oklahoman writers Steve Lackmeyer and Jack Money put together a book about the rebirth of Oklahoma City and the undoing of the havoc wrought by the urban-renewal plan masterminded by I. M. Pei. It was called OKC: 2nd Time Around, and Doug Loudenback can tell you all about it here. If you saw that book and thought, “Yes, that’s all very well and good, but what about the first time?” you’ve arrived at the right review.

Larry Johnson, who has been maintaining the Oklahoma Collection at the Metropolitan Library System, has assembled a collection of nearly two hundred photographs from the city’s first seventy years, currently in print as Historic Photos of Oklahoma City (Nashville: Turner Publishing, 2007). One of the most compelling shots is from Day Three — the 24th of April, 1889, two days after the Land Run — showing rows of tents (there were no permanent structures yet) seemingly knocked out of position along the sides of the rudimentary street. This was a legal matter: two different townsite companies were platting the place, and their survey lines didn’t quite match. For decades thereafter, north-south streets downtown had a noticeable “jog” at Clarke Street, later Grand Avenue, now Sheridan Avenue.

More than thirty pages are devoted to that first decade of the city, including a scary shot of a May 1896 tornado, described by the Weather Bureau as “a twisting serpent-like cloud.” This particular funnel did no damage, though a sister storm took out a house and a barn near Britton, then a separate town.

The photos inevitably vary in quality, though their reproduction on contemporary paper is just fine, and Johnson’s chapter introductions and captions capture the spirit of the time. From page 137, here’s a sentence that could just as easily apply today:

Amazingly, the city led the nation with four years of economic gain during the Depression, and four new buildings over 18 stories (including the two tallest) were built during this time.

And it’s not just pictures of buildings, either. In the center of the book is a two-page spread showing Governor Charles B. Haskell and his staff, shortly after the stealthy relocation of the state seal from Guthrie to Oklahoma City in 1910. Construction of the actual Capitol being several years away, Haskell’s office is in the Huckins Hotel downtown. The first and last photos are dated 27 May 1961, and portray a downtown civil-rights march; in one of them you can see Charlton Heston being fitted with a sandwich board proclaiming ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL.

This collection will of course be welcomed by history buffs, but it’s not intended just for them. Oklahoma City has always been a place that defied one’s expectations. Historic Photos of Oklahoma City presents the people who made it so and how they did it, in a language that speaks louder than mere words.

(Review copy furnished by Turner Publishing.)

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Odd ducks and other base canards

Sometimes you just want to scream:

I’ve lived in Oklahoma for more than a decade now. Almost everyone I meet is pretty nice. All of the Okie bloggers I read seem like nice, decent, perfectly normal people. But, of all the places I’ve lived, Oklahoma definitely has the highest percentage of people whose lives qualify them to be on the Jerry Springer show. (Full disclosure: I’ve only watched Jerry Springer once, when I was trapped in a waiting room where they had it on.)

I don’t know these people — I don’t actually know many people at all — but I often hear about them. They’re on the the local news almost every night and I hear about them from people that I do know. I have to drive past their homes and see the trash in their front yards and I have to overhear their bickering in the grocery store. This weekend a person whose identity I will not reveal was telling a story that sounded like an episode of Jerry Springer and I found myself saying (again) “What the hell is wrong with people in this state?”

I suppose I could argue that California has a higher proportion of misfits, but they don’t get on the Springer show because of language issues: either their English is not good enough, or it’s too good.

Still, just about everybody I know around here knows someone who knows someone like that, so it’s not like Lynn’s imagining things. The list of offenses:

But really, whether it’s here or somewhere else, what the hell is wrong with some people? Why do some women continue to live with unemployed boyfriends who treat them like crap? And why do some men act that way? Why do some women leave their small children with people they barely know so they can go out drinking and gambling? Why do some people have practically full scale wars with their neighbors over petty nonsense? And while we’re at it, why are there so many people who simply can’t be bothered to pick the trash up out of their front yards? I swear sometimes I just want to start grabbing people and shaking them.

I offered this as an explanation, but it’s probably too facile to serve as a proper hypothesis:

I think it’s an inevitable consequence of advancing technology: used to be, really stupid people got killed before they had an opportunity to reproduce. Now they survive, and spawn, and the cycle repeats.

Alternative explanations are herewith solicited.

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We’ll always have Chevy

At least, I think we will, but these days I’m not so sure. Get a whiff of this:

The Wall Street Journal publishes an article saying GM is considering killing some of its “damaged” brands. GM spinmeister Tony Cervone categorically denies the story. The Detroit News says nope, it’s true. And now CNNMoney reports that GM Marketing Maven Mark LaNeve sent a letter to The General’s store owners denying the denial of the denial.

That said, or unsaid, I’m thinking that GM should try to sell Saab and Hummer, preferably as a package — sorry, you want one, you gotta take them both — and then send Buick, GMC, Pontiac and Saturn, not necessarily in that order, into the Phantom Zone, where at least General Zod will appreciate the Yukon Denali.

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A “Save Our Sonics” song

And a pretty good one at that, if you ask me. It’s billed as a “sad song about love and loss,” but it’s got a wry sense of humor to it, and at least the guy can sing.

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Consider this a warning

If you’ve been waiting patiently for the new Journey to the Center of the Earth, you may be in for a serious letdown:

There is a character on the IMDB page for this movie known only as “gum-chewing girl.” That in itself tells me I do not want to see this movie.

Quite apart from the fact that Brendan Fraser is in it, and worse, playing a character named Trevor. I’m sorry, but Brendan Fraser is not and will never be a Trevor.

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Old profession, new incentive

A Nevada brothel is trying to drum up business by offering gas cards to customers:

Clients of the Shady Lady Ranch will get a $50 gas voucher if they fork out $300 — worth about one hour’s worth of services — at the brothel in Beatty, Nevada, 130 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Owner James Davis said he already has had to order another $1,000 set of gas vouchers because the first $1,000 were spent in one week.

Let’s see. Two hundred sixty miles (round trip from Las Vegas, where places of this sort are banned) divided by 25 miles per gallon (worst-case highway miles in my car) times $4.469 per gallon (current price for premium in Las Vegas) = $46.48.

I pronounce this a Pretty Reasonable Deal, if you happen to require this particular set of, um, services.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

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Grip to be gotten

You remember this, don’t you?

“If you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you, it’s yours forever. If it doesn’t, then it was never meant to be.”

Well, it’s a load of crap:

It might make people feel better after a break-up (and I certainly can’t fault them for that), or find a way to categorize plain, old being dumped into something Shakespearean, but that’s about it. Really, it only works perfectly well in a wildlife catch-and-release program sense.

Instead, I find the concept a way of giving passive people the excuse for doing nothing difficult. It leaves everything up to fate, including blame and responsibility. It’s a form of pride, too, which chooses to let things fall to the wayside rather than fight for them and perhaps eat an apology or two in order to hang on.

I like my apologies overstewed, thank you very much.

The problem I have with extending this principle to my own existence lies in the fact that I don’t really see anything as “mine,” with the exception of some comparatively mundane personal possessions, which may outlive me but which won’t matter in the slightest if they do. Or, for that matter, if they don’t.

How much of this is covered by “You can’t dump me! You never even picked me up in the first place!” remains to be seen.

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One out of three

The Orlando Summer League runs for five days, with each of six teams playing five games; so far the Oklahoma City Slickers are 1-2, beating the hometown Magic while losing to the Nets and the Pacers. (The Heat and the Bulls will be the next opponents.) The real advantage of these contests — they aren’t exhibitions, technically, since there are no paying crowds — is that the draft picks get to show their stuff. The Draft Express guy seems impressed by Russell Westbrook, drafted #4; this quote is, shall we say, encouraging:

His athleticism is just a marvel to take in in person, and there are very few people you’ll find in this gym that aren’t almost completely in love with his skill-set at this point.

This was, of course, before he took a fall in the match against the Nets.

There were those who were inclined to second-guess GM Sam Presti on this pick. I consider myself duly chastened.

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A new benchmark

Well, this sounds familiar:

The [Jacksonville] Jaguars had no immediate comment Wednesday night on a Philadelphia Daily News report that team owner Wayne Weaver is negotiating to sell the team to billionaire C. Dean Metropoulos, who could move the team to Los Angeles.

First thought: How long before a commenter mentions the Seattle/Oklahoma City dustup?

Answer: Three hours, thirty minutes, which, now that I think about it, seems a little high.

(Via Deadspin.)

Update: Weaver denies he’s trying to sell the team, though he does say he’s looking for minority investors.

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I want my DTV

That’s the assumption, anyway. Today I got a flyer from Rep. Mary Fallin, bannered “Are you ready for the DTV conversion?” Inasmuch as all the district-specific information is on the front page, I’m guessing that this same material has been sent out by the 434 other House members, suitably modified. Page Two is a non-technical explanation of why your television is going away in February; pages Three and Four are an application for a converter box.

Observations:

  • They actually printed a link to a list of qualifying boxes, which makes this piece somewhat more useful.
  • I’m assuming the same photo of the elderly couple at one end of a love seat (isn’t that sweet?) is being used on all these flyers. (And I noticed that apparently he’s wielding the remote.)
  • The piece was addressed to someone who hasn’t lived here in twelve years. I blame the state Republicans, who really need to clean up their database.
  • Aren’t we due for a fresher picture of Mary Fallin? Being a governmental hottie entails certain obligations to the viewing public.

I’m still somewhat perplexed by the fact that NewsChannel 4 will be on channel 27, but the TV will inform me that it’s still channel 4.

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Quote of the week

Something that should be obvious, but isn’t, courtesy of Ric Locke:

You cannot “get the money out of politics” because politics is all about money. Nostalgia for a time when that wasn’t so is merely recalling a time when it hadn’t been monetized, and was therefore done on a barter system.

The problem is not that the goal isn’t desirable. The problem is that it cannot be implemented. You might as well try to write a law exempting nursing mothers from the law of gravity, except that it’s worse because the side effects of the attempts to “solve” the problem are worse than the original problem was.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t obvious to John McCain.

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It is to laugh

I was doing the early-morning material schlep, and an Odd Couple from the No-Tell Motel on the other side of Treadmill approached, requesting transport to the Renaissance Hotel downtown, and offering a substantial sum in the form of a gift card. I was going to point out that the sum was more than sufficient to cover a 5.5-mile cab ride, and furthermore, that Metro Transit would be along any minute now, but of course the bus won’t take gift cards, there’s no guarantee the cabbie would, and anyway what’s the point of arguing logic with someone who really desperately wants to cover his tracks in a big hurry?

Subsequently he (apparently she came along just for her ability to yell “Hey!”) hit up a couple of other staffers with slightly different stories. Come on, people. There are exactly two reasons to drop in at the No-Tell, neither of which get the seal of approval of the OCPD. Absolutely the kindest interpretation of this story is that the guy’s attending some sort of convention, was overcome by Great Need, and sought out either Reason 1 or Reason 2 on the seedier side of town. God forbid, though, he should actually say so.

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Mouse of the beholder, or something

For some inscrutable reason, Playboy is taking votes for “the Web’s hottest blogger.” While I have no particular quarrel with the nominees, and indeed I predicted something similar two and a half years ago, this strikes me as unnecessarily one-dimensional.

I’m not taking any kind of moral position here. I like to look as much as the next guy, unless the next guy happens to be Benedict XVI; I just prefer to keep gawking and reading in two separate sections of the brain. Makes life so much easier. And besides, I have no grasp of the Hefnerian Zeitgeist, despite having paid actual money for the magazine for twenty-five years.

(Found in the comments section of The Breda Fallacy; Breda wants you to know that if you ever nominate her for such a thing, she will hurt you. Bad.)

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Inner Disperal loopy

We know how much Oklahoma City is going to spend on street repair: in addition to the few millions in the annual budget, there’s about half a billion in bond money, which did not, the city assures us, cause our property taxes to go up.

Figuring the cost in Tulsa is a little more complicated:

  1. Take the proposed budget and double it.
  2. To cover inevitable lawsuits, divide that number by 25 percent and add it to the total cost.
  3. Eventually, the new road will be torn open to fix a broken water line. Add $17 per square inch of broken water line you predict will be replaced.
  4. Double your prediction and add it to the total.
  5. Add another ten percent to cover city workers’ Post Traumatic Street Stress Disorder.
  6. Increase the total cost by 20 percent if you’re in North, East or West Tulsa. If you’re in South Tulsa, lower the cost by 20 percent. If you’re rich and live in the Utica Square area, stop now. This will not affect you because you’ve found loopholes to avoid paying taxes. If you haven’t found loopholes, fire your accountant. Everyone else continue.
  7. Find the total population of Tulsa and subtract Utica Square residents.
  8. Take the total cost from step six and divide by the remaining Tulsa residents.
  9. Divide by 12. This will give you an exact monthly total.
  10. Finally, multiply the final number by the coefficient of monkey.

I yield to Ed with regard to determining the exact coefficient of monkey.

Meanwhile, what gives this formula the ring of truth is item #2, in which you divide by 25 percent to cover the cost of litigation. If you remember your math, or even if you don’t, dividing by 0.25 is the equivalent of multiplying by four.

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And they say TV networks don’t care

Behold the kindness:

Obama will be giving his acceptance speech in the evening on August 28, 2008. That same evening 26 NFL teams will be playing their final exhibition game in preparation for the season starting the first week of September. Nearly all the games are set for 7:00 or 7:30 starts, and most teams have local television packages that will broadcast the games.

McCain will be giving his acceptance speech in the evening on September 4. That happens to be the same day the NFL kicks-off its regular season with a nationally televised game between the Redskins and the Giants, starting at 7:00.

If I’m going to have to listen to a bunch of platitudes mouthed with only the slightest bit of conviction, I may as well hear them from Dick Enberg, right?

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Can we dig it?

Light rail, heavy rail, commuter rail: meh. What we need is a subway:

We will cut down on road rage. Most of the existing rail lines in Oklahoma City run through streets, meaning that every 15-30 minutes all the cars will have to stop and wait at the railroad crossing. If you have ever driven in Oklahoma City you know that every minute an Oklahoman spends idling, is a minute where his blood pressure is rising.

If you don’t like that angle, try this one:

Instant Tornado Shelters! What are you gonna do when you are driving your light rail system through Oklahoma City and the F2 tornado hits. You better hold on to your seat while your light rail cart is being thrown around like a toy. But in your subway car, you can drive around all day while the F5 above you goes buck-wild.

Trini points out that if you’re going to treat your subway car like a freaking mobile home, you’re likely to attract tornadoes, so this isn’t quite the unalloyed joy it might seem.

Still, what the hell. If we can spend a billion bucks on four miles of road…

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One heck of a shopping list

After looking over the food budget for the Sedgwick County Zoo, I have just one question: “Where do I get hold of this Omnivore Chow, and is it any better than this?”

What? That’s two questions? Sheesh. You can’t please anyone these days.

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Not suited up

Seems like the whole city is on tenterhooks waiting for the newly-arrived NBA franchise to get a name. Sports Illustrated’s Ian Thomsen, however, is not:

This is a ridiculous exercise in lawyering and marketing and all of the things that traditional fans hate about sports today. I personally have no interest in this topic. All of the good names are already taken. When you start giving teams names like “Devil Rays” and “Thrashers” and “Blue Jackets” — not to mention naming teams after concepts like the “Wild” or “Magic,” or giving them schizophrenic identities like the “Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim” — it means there are too many teams.

Indeed. Here are the Top Ten rejected names for the Oklahoma City NBA franchise:

  1. Tenterhooks
  2. Junebugs
  3. Aprilbugs
  4. Bisontennials
  5. Times
  6. Refugees
  7. D-Tractors
  8. Archvillains
  9. Potholers
  10. Bennettroids

There’s still time to pick “Scissortails,” guys.

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Saturday spottings (motorvated)

I was westbound on Britton, heading toward Lake Hefner, and I was behind some sort of ultra-low-slung sports car, which makes sense: any reasonable sports car would inevitably be in front of me and pulling away. I never did see any badging on this thing, which bore a state vanity plate and Ferrari-esque taillights. A kit car, maybe? Perhaps. At least it moved out with Ferrari-esque alacrity.

Which was nothing compared to the shock I got at the grocery store, where I spied a swoopy grey coupe with a badge that said, I thought, Tuscan. Holy ironmongery, a TVR? It can’t be. TVR has somewhere around zero dealers in the States. Somebody, I decided, had spent money for TVR indicia and pasted them on a Hyundai or something. When I got home, I determined that I was half-right: the badge in fact read Tuscani, which is the Korean domestic-market version of the workaday Hyundai Tiburon. There is also, apparently, a Tuscani package for the Tiburon in Canada. Now I’m starting to wonder about that quasi-Ferrari.

(Speaking of badge-engineering, this is not a Hyundai.)

One gas station I occasionally visit for reasons of cheapness has had for several years a sticker on its pumps to the effect that they’d added the infamous petroleum derivative MTBE to the go-juice, acknowledging that yes, it’s a groundwater hazard if it leaks. Several states have moved to ban or limit MTBE use; Oklahoma is not one of them. I dropped by this station today for one specific reason: as of the first of July, stations that sell gasoline blended with ethanol are required to have statements to that effect at the pump. (Stations that don’t have ethanol blends tend to shout it from the housetops.) So I was curious to see if an ethanol sticker had replaced the MTBE sticker. Nope: MTBE sticker is where it’s always been, and an ethanol sticker is right above it. I filled up anyway, since this was the first time in a while I’d seen anything resembling premium at under $4, if you consider $3.999 to be “under $4.” Truth be told, I think I’d rather have the MTBE, and save the ethanol for some more worthwhile purpose.

Today is the day that downtown loses some one-way streets: Robinson, Harvey and Hudson are now two-way between 6th and 13th, 5th is two-way from Walker to Western, and 6th is two-way from Oklahoma to Western. On the sensible basis that I didn’t want to witness the carnage caused by the inevitable confusion, I stayed the hell out of there.

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The geometry of it all

Emilio Pucci sandal

The late Emilio Pucci was fond of bright colors and geometric shapes, and while this shoe isn’t exactly bright-colored — there’s also a version in black — it’s neutral enough to go with all manner of colors, and the triangular cutout in the T-strap certainly qualifies as geometric; heck, it’s darn near isosceles. The stacked heel is three inches high and has a vaguely-retro look to it. Officially it’s a dress sandal, and it’s priced like one ($495, though lately it’s half off), but I’ll take Style Spy’s word that it “will go with everything — dresses, jeans, whatever.” Me, I can’t help but wonder how these would go with some of Pucci’s legendary Braniff uniforms — not that flight attendants are in the habit of showing their toes or anything.

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Things I learned today (21)

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We have our priorities

In today’s Oklahoman:

Death of Tony Snow: page twelve.

Death of Bobby Murcer: page one.

Speaking of Tony Snow, when he was here last spring, he compared John McCain to Yosemite Sam, temperament-wise, a trait also noted by Mark Steyn.

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Extra lean

Food prices, we are constantly told, are spiraling out of sight. Last year, I paid $2.78 a pound for middling ground beef (80/20 or thereabouts). This year, it’s — $2.78.

The explanation, courtesy of Scott Dewald, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association:

“The good news for consumers is the significant rise of grain, transportation and other costs have yet to be translated into significantly higher prices for beef on a national level.”

[Dewald] said there is no doubt the rising cost of grain, fertilizer and transportation have a direct negative impact on producer profits. But he said while some industries are able to pass on higher costs to consumers, the beef industry, particularly at the rancher level, is largely unable to do so.

Instead, what happens is this:

The abnormally high input costs coupled with drought in some areas and other production issues have resulted in more and more producers selling off all or part of their herd. This results in large supplies and therefore low consumer prices.

Eventually, this will result in smaller herds, which inevitably produce fewer calves, which means that supplies will tighten and prices will head upwards again. For now, though, I think I’ll grill a couple of burgers.

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Undertaxachusetts?

Sometimes bureaucratic inertia works to one’s advantage. If you owned an exotic motor vehicle in the last decade or so and registered it with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, you probably escaped most of the excise tax:

[The Registry of Motor Vehicles] failed to assess some 131,000 super-costly vehicles properly from perhaps the late 1990s until 2007.

During that period, the RMV used National Auto Dealers Association car values to calculate tax bills on vehicles registered in Massachusetts. However, NADA’s database excludes high-end cars, big trucks and other unusual vehicles, including some Massachusetts-registered models that auditors found were worth $1.5 million.

A special RMV unit once calculated such vehicles’ values by hand, but gradually stopped doing so as staffing levels dropped. Instead, Registry workers either left cars’ valuations blank — meaning owners never got tax bills — or wrote in “$17,000” regardless of vehicles’ actual values.

I’d love to have a $17,000 Maserati.

The Bay State missed out, they estimate, on $32 million in revenue every year, but doesn’t expect to collect much of it: apparently they can’t arbitrarily alter a valuation once it’s in the system, and they certainly can’t pursue a vehicle owner if he’s moved away.

Just for the sake of argument, let’s posit a 2008 Porsche 911 Turbo (list price: $127,060). The annual tax bill on this car would be $2858.85 in the first year, dropping to $1905.90 in the second year, bottoming out in year 5 at $317.65.

And while we’re at it, let’s compare these numbers to what you’d pay in Oklahoma, which soaks you the first year but backs off considerably after that. Excise tax on the Porsche, paid at first registration, would be $4129.45, not including the registration fee; in subsequent years, however, you would pay only the registration fee, which decreases gradually from $91 to $21. (I mention this in case we have any NBA players wanting to buy cars here.)

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Strange search-engine queries (128)

Seven bits, or maybe more, of weird Google action, from the logs of this very Web site, collected and annotated for your amusement.

nude maids on home web cam while working:  When did we start getting Penthouse Forum letters in here?

masturbating in car on highway:  Like this, for instance.

smoking meth and wearing pantyhose:  Or this.

where does condoleezza rice throw her hosiery away?  Not to mention this.

gillete razors suck:  Well, technically, they scrape.

cost of wheel barren for an 2002 acura 3.2 tl:  Either you meant “bearing,” or you’re expecting an awful lot from a mere wheel.

what are you supposed to wear on your legs when hosiery is out of style:  I hate to say this, but have you considered pants?

the price of my og&e bill has doubled:  Must be July or something.

what yogurt helps you get rid of belly fat:  The one you refuse to eat.

whos the most wonderful and prettiest girl today?  The one who just hung up on you for the third time today.

piercing schmuck:  Gilbert Gottfried comes immediately to mind.

praise him when your nuts on fire:  Now that’s true devotion.

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Meanwhile, just down the road

This is not actually the sign at the No-Tell Motel cited last Friday.

Motel fail

Although it might as well be.

(The original is here.)

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The flying blue Visa

I’ve only seen this once, and I never want to see it again.

Drive-up ATMs in this town tend to be surrounded by thick concrete pillars, which do indeed discourage people from running into them, but which make life difficult for me, inasmuch as I have a fairly large automobile and only average reach. One of them, in fact, I won’t even attempt to drive through; if I’m going there, I park and walk up to it.

This wasn’t that machine. The unit in question has given me issues, though not these issues, in the past, but it was on the way to somewhere else I was going, so I went there again. At the conclusion of the transaction, it spit out my card; I got two fingers on it, and it went flying across the car.

Worst case: it went out the window on the other side.

Second-worst case: it went into the black hole under the passenger seat.

I pulled into the outlot, stopped the car, and started the search. Turned out to be in the car, on the passenger side, but not quite under the seat. My blood pressure began to subside. Still, I may have to add this machine to the Pedestrian Use Only list.

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Want List update

Last week I mentioned that we were going to need some local NBA bloggage, unaffiliated with the team, the media, or for that matter with me.

Let’s see how Oklahoma City BBall works out. I have to give Joe T. credit for this team-name observation:

TORNADOES, or something like that
Ehhh, they are scary as heck. But I just never got naming your team after something that kills your fans.

This also eliminates PLAGUE, in case anyone was so minded.

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A few words on That Cartoon

You know the one. It’s on the cover of The New Yorker for the 21st. Outside the Beltway has rather a lot of commentary about it.

Me, I shrug. “Tasteless” and “offensive” are (1) in the eye of the beholder and (2) protected by the First Amendment. This ain’t Canada, you know.

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The behinder they get

The Sprint Center in Kansas City, says the official Web site, seats “(depending on configuration) approximately 18,000+”.

It would help if some of those eighteen thousand-plus were supermodels:

It turns out that one-fourth of the Sprint Center’s seats are narrower than seats installed in many other arenas built in the past decade.

Just like Americans, seats have been getting larger in new stadiums, arenas, movie theaters and even cars. After all, middle-age spread is no longer confined to middle age.

But limited space for the downtown arena forced designers to make about 25 percent of the seats, especially in the corners, only 18 inches wide, a Sprint Center spokeswoman said. The rest in the bowl are 19 and 21 inches wide.

Why would they do such a thing? They only had so much space to work with:

[T]he Sprint Center had to be built on only 8½ acres, and that put space constraints on designers.

By comparison, Ford Center seats run 19 to 22 inches wide.

This is not a good sign, says Costa:

Subtract 4,500 — i.e., the cited one-fourth that are sub-width — and that leaves 13,500. Even if you squeeze back in a few more via creative spacing, and make them of sufficient width, the Sprint Center’s still probably got a capacity of around 16,000, tops. Granted, arena operators play loose with “official” capacity (the oldest and easiest trick in the book when it comes to hiding facility revenue streams), but still, this comes off like a shoehorning effort.

It’s sounding more and more like KC is a complete dead end for any hoops or pucks team looking for a new home, or for expansion purposes. If it’s too tight a fit for unfit patrons now, how’s it going to cope with the widening of the Midwestern ass over the next 20 years? Built-in arena obsolescence — by the seat of the pants.

On the upside, it’s still better than freaking Kemper Arena.

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Cruelty, thy name is Hoops Fan

I’m not quite sure when “harsh” turned into a verb — my old Webster’s New Collegiate, circa 1981, considers it strictly an adjective — but either way it definitely fits these two bits (thanks to PHSports) of online contumely.

First, the Wikipedia entry for Raef LaFrentz:

Raef Andrew LaFrentz (born May 29, 1976, in Hampton, Iowa) is an American professional basketball player currently with the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers.

LaFrentz is a power forward and occasionally plays at center. He is mostly known for his expiring contract, his perimeter skills and his shot blocking ability. He wears number 9.

Emphasis added. Somebody figures LaFrentz isn’t worth the $12.7 million he’s getting this year.

And then there’s HeyLarryHughesPleaseStopTakingSoManyBadShots.com. No further explanation is needed, or even possible.

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Mr Ponzi, your students are here

And they did fairly well for themselves, for awhile:

A Tulsa County district court [Monday] ordered an Oklahoma energy company to stop selling oil and gas assets after several investors claimed the business defrauded more than 2,000 Asian investors of more than $30 million over the past four years.

Powder River Petroleum International Inc. promised investors they would earn 9 percent annually on every dollar they invested in the Tulsa company, according to court documents. The company is a penny stock that trades on the over-the-counter Bulletin Board.

Sapulpa Attorney David Widdoes said the company’s claims were vastly exaggerated, and that money from later investors was used to pay off earlier investors in a classic Ponzi scheme. As much as $45 million may have been obtained from “unsophisticated foreign investors” in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia. “At least $33 million is due back to investors,” he said. “The only way to pay back any investors was through later investors because they have historically never, ever made a profit.”

This stock traded for around a quarter a share last autumn, but began falling off toward the first of the year and is now below three cents.

The Oklahoma Department of Securities will be investigating further.

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Just keep it to yourself

LGF ran this internal New York Times memo without comment, except perhaps in the title; as might be expected, the lizardoids had a field day with it.

Here’s the crux of the biscuit:

Journalists have no place on the playing fields of politics. Staff members are entitled to vote, but they must do nothing that might raise questions about their professional neutrality or that of The Times. In particular, they may not campaign for, demonstrate for, or endorse candidates, ballot causes or efforts to enact legislation. They may not wear campaign buttons or themselves display any other insignia of partisan politics. They should recognize that a bumper sticker on the family car or a campaign sign on the lawn may be misread as theirs, no matter who in their household actually placed the sticker or the sign.

Staff members may not themselves give money to, or raise money for, any political candidate or election cause. Given the ease of Internet access to public records of campaign contributors, any political giving by a Times staff member would carry a great risk of feeding a false impression that the paper is taking sides.

The snark practically writes itself: “The Times taking sides? What’s next? Water at the bottom of the ocean?”

But just the same, this decree troubles me. I can appreciate that the Times wishes to appear “neutral,” to the extent that the Times understands the term “neutral,” but I don’t believe maintaining that appearance is somehow contingent upon suppressing the rights of its staffers to participate in the political sphere, and were I working for the Times, I can’t imagine that I’d be happy with this set of restrictions. And the likelihood that a similar set of rules is hanging in every other newsroom from Spokane to Sarasota makes no difference.

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A three-hour bore

I think somebody slipped the mayonnaise to McGehee:

Horrible dream the other night. In the spirit of The Brady Bunch, Bewitched and a whole mess of other recent movies, Hollywood had decided to do a movie remake of Gilligan’s Island.

They had cast Tobey Maguire as Gilligan, and Bruce Campbell — fresh off another season as Sam Axe on Burn Notice — as the Skipper. The Howells were James Spader and Reese Witherspoon. They were negotiating with Miley Cyrus to play Ginger.

That’s when I woke up screaming, so I don’t know who was going to play the Professor and Mary Ann.

I dunno. Reese is lovey, but she isn’t, you know, Lovey.

Still, this has potential as an exercise. Cast your own dream version of Gilligan’s Island. I’m seeing Selma Blair as Mary Ann.

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Krautwerk

Volkswagen comes to Chattanooga:

Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. announced today that it will build a U.S. automotive production facility in Chattanooga, Tenn., where it will produce a car designed specifically for the North American consumer and invest $1 billion in the economy. The announcement is an important element of the company’s overall U.S. strategy of connecting with its customers, increasing its competitiveness and tripling its U.S. customer base in the next decade.

Not to mention the fact that with the dollar tanking, it’s cheaper to build here than in Europe, and VW’s Mexican facilities are busy producing Jettas and New Beetles.

VW has been Stateside before, having built Rabbits and such in Pennsylvania from 1978 to 1988. There remains the lingering question of how well VW reads the US marketplace: they would never have done the New Beetle were it not for tremendous demand engendered by a concept version shown in Detroit.

And speaking of Detroit, Michigan had hoped to land this plant, but apparently Vee-Dub would rather deal with water issues than with the UAW.

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