Archive for October 2008

Call it “mixed emotions”

That’s really the only way I can respond to this startling revelation:

Susan Sarandon has posed semi-naked for a new book.

The 62-year-old actress is pictured lying on her back wearing only fishnet tights and a feather boa in Hollywood Pinups, by Timothy White.

Far be it from me to complain about a Major Babe, even in her sixties, taking her clothes off, but I never did get the hang of fishnets.

Still, I’ll give her props for this observation:

I actually look forward to getting older — it is certainly better than the alternative — when looks should become less of an issue, and when who you are is the point.

Besides, I’m getting to the point where I’m reading Playboy for the articles.

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Glass-jawed menagerie

Dr Weevil suggests a bit of debate strategery:

Once they’re both on stage with nowhere to hide, McCain can work on goading Obama into revealing himself as a stuttering weasel, haughty porcupine, deer in the headlights, or all three. The big prize: inciting him to stalk off-stage and refuse to continue. A ‘No Mas’ ending would not be entirely out of character for a man like Obama. He walked away after only eight questions at a press conference a few months ago, and it’s conceivable that he would do the same with much higher stakes.

Waffles. There ought to be waffles.

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The ostrich theory of investing

By coincidence, this is exactly how I’m handling my 401(k) at the moment. Megan McArdle explains the theory:

Don’t look. Seriously, don’t look. I have no idea what’s going on with any of my equity investments, because that is not short term money that I need to keep my eye on.

If you look you will get upset, and you will be tempted to do something stupid. I can’t guarantee that the market won’t drop further and you won’t regret having held on. But as a general rule, selling into a massive liquidity crisis is a pretty bad idea. Selling in a panic because your assets just dropped 30% is almost certainly a bad idea.

I am fairly decently hedged; I doubt I’ve lost that much. (At the end of the year they will send me a statement and I will know for sure, but I’m not going to spend my odd hours on their Web site getting up-to-the-minute bad news.)

Besides:

The good news is that while the stock market can take a long time to recover, it historically doesn’t actually go down for more than a couple of years.

Yeah, that’s not very good news. But unless you’re planning to retire right now, my advice remains the same: don’t look.

I’m at least seven years away, and by “seven” I mean “twelve,” assuming what’s left of Social Security doesn’t diddle further with the rules.

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The return of “It is written”

You may have noticed that the random quotes are popping up again on the sidebar, though this implementation is different from the one I used in MT: it’s written in PHP — and not much of it, being only about 800 bytes, half of which is comment — and it pulls a new item from the file every time the page is loaded. (This, incidentally, should theoretically tell you if you’re getting a cached page, since it’s not likely you’d pull the same item twice in a row.)

The author of Witty Text says:

This is probably the simplest WordPress plugin there is in existence. I could be wrong, of course. This simple plugin will fetch a random quote from a text file and display it pretty much anywhere on your WordPress site.

It is remarkably uncomplicated, which is why it’s here. Most competing plugins and/or widgets want to build a database with quotes, authors, and whathaveyou; this one asks only for a text file, and as it happens, I had a 125k text file at hand. (It’s now grown to nearly 130k.)

Someone who remembers the old BBS days asked me if I still had my old tagline file from when I was running BlueWave. I did and do. It was in fact 152K, which means it contains more items than my current quotes file, and what’s more, taglines in those days were limited to a mere 74 characters.

Old BW taglines I probably should add to the current file:

  • If Bill Gates = you then let Length_Of_Pier < Your_Walk
  • “Chief O’Brien, beam @FN@* into deep space, wide dispersion.”
  • what’sthebigkeyatthebottomfor?
  • All my .BATs are in D:\BELFRY.

That last, incidentally, was true until 2006, when I bought a new desktop and didn’t bother to repartition the drive.

* Inserts First Name of person being replied to. I have no idea how to implement that.

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A Normal occurrence

The American auto industry was in trouble before fuel prices spiked, and there are some folks out there who place the entire blame upon the United Auto Workers and their ongoing pigheaded recalcitrance, or some such verbiage. I usually ask them which union officials approved the Pontiac Aztek and then wait for the crickets.

That said, the UAW isn’t exactly known for being either foresighted or conciliatory. But life is full of surprises:

Mitsubishi Motors Corp.’s union workers in Illinois agreed to accept lower wages and pay more for health care to secure jobs under a new four-year contract at the Japanese automaker’s sole U.S. plant.

The agreement ratified Oct. 4 by about 1,260 United Auto Workers members at the Normal, Illinois, factory trims production employees’ hourly wage to $24, a drop of $4.75, and to $28.50 for the maintenance staff, a $4.79 cut, according to details e-mailed by the Tokyo-based company. The union also approved making higher payments for medical benefits.

This will keep the plant open at least through 2012. What Mitsu really needs, of course, is a new Galant; the current version has been around since 2004 (the concept version appeared in 2000) and is sadly dated. (Believe me, I know what it means to be sadly dated.)

Edward Niedermeyer at TTAC notes:

Incidentally, this story explains with the utmost clarity why Detroit and the UAW joined forces to make a run on the federal piggybank. Otherwise they would have had to face the music and make an unpleasant but ultimately sustainable compromise like this one.

I’m just gratified that reality checks occasionally do clear.

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Dots connected

Mike McCarville’s big story this week has been a list of connections between Jim Roth at the Corporation Commission and Chesapeake Energy chair Aubrey McClendon. Some of this stuff I knew, most of it I didn’t.

Observations from this corner:

  • Chesapeake is always spending money, be it for real estate or for access. I keep wondering what I have to do to get a check from McClendon.
  • Roth probably should have abstained from voting on the Red Rock power plant project, though the remaining members of the Corp Comm would have been left in a 1-1 tie.
  • So far as I know, Roth’s general-election opponent, Dana Murphy, hasn’t weighed in on this yet. [Linked to sub-page to avoid annoying embedded sound file.]

As October Surprises go, this is fairly mild, but it’s clearly not good for a Commissioner to appear to be in someone’s back pocket.

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Cocoa Puffs don’t count

Really, I ought to be overjoyed at this discovery:

For chocolate lovers out there, your options just tripled.

Scientists have discovered that there are actually 10 genetic types of cacao, the plant from which chocolate is made, rather than the mere three that were thought to exist.

A team of researchers did a genetic analysis of the Theobroma l. cacao species, statistically comparing the frequency of snippets of DNA spaced regularly through the cacao genome, and found that 10 different genetic types of the species exist.

I’d like to think “New, disease-resistant hybrids!” and/or “New flavor combinations!” But mostly, I think that producers of chocolate products don’t care about genomes as much as they care about price, and so I’m not expecting anything wonderful to come from this discovery.

Which is a shame, because I’d like to have an excuse to eat more chocolate. (I know, I know … if I need an excuse, what’s the point?)

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Continuing education

Something I hadn’t really thought of before, pithily explained by Tam:

[C]an anyone guess why barbed wire points inward almost everywhere these days, including the Amtrak facility? Class? That’s right. Lawyers. Because when Seth & Jared go to climb the fence so they can spray paint “Jared luvs Tifani 4evar” on the dining car, and the barbed wire is pointing out, if they try to climb over, they fall, break something, and then Mommy and Daddy sue the crap out of Amtrak, the fence maker, and whoever poured the concrete for the sidewalk. Whereas if it points inwards, they usually just give it up for a bad idea and climb back down, or get their Abercrombie & Fitch baggy drawers all snarled up in the barbed wire until the mall ninjas come out in the golf cart to help them down and call the police.

As anyone who’s ever driven past a real jail or prison or maximum security site knows, nobody uses three strands of barbed wire if they’re serious about keeping people out anyway. They use razor wire a la concertina.

I’m guessing this also applies to being serious about keeping people in.

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The fine art of self-selection

Those of us who prefer not to blow our own horns have been quietly pointing this out for a hell of a long time:

Narcissists like to be in charge, so it stands to reason that a new study shows individuals who are overconfident about their abilities are most likely to step in as leaders, be they politicians or power brokers. However, their initiative doesn’t mean they are the best leaders. The study also found narcissists don’t outperform others in leadership roles.

Narcissists tend to be egotistical types who exaggerate their talents and abilities, and lack empathy for others. The researchers stress that narcissism is not the same as high self-esteem. “A person with high self-esteem is confident and charming, but they also have a caring component and they want to develop intimacy with others,” said lead researcher Amy Brunell, a psychologist at Ohio State University at Newark. “Narcissists have an inflated view of their talents and abilities and are all about themselves. They don’t care as much about others. … It’s not surprising that narcissists become leaders. They like power, they are egotistical, and they are usually charming and extraverted. But the problem is, they don’t necessarily make better leaders.”

Take out “charming” and you’ve described the higher reaches of every org chart I’ve ever been on.

And speaking of “higher reaches”:

“Many people have observed that it takes a narcissistic person to run for president of the United States,” Brunell said. “I would be surprised if any of the candidates who have run weren’t higher than average in narcissism.”

If we scraped every last narcissist off the ballot this fall, we’d be hard-pressed to fill any positions higher than dogcatcher.

And then how would we deal with these folks?

Wall Street traders could also have a high dose of narcissism, she suggested. “There have been a lot of studies that have found narcissistic leaders tend to have volatile and risky decision-making performance and can be ineffective and potentially destructive leaders.”

Still, they do a bang-up job of looking out for Numero Uno.

Brunell does hedge though, saying that not all troubles in Washington and Wall Street can be blamed on narcissists, and of course, you can’t boil everything down to personalities.

Unless, of course, personality is all you have. Not that this is a problem in contemporary society, which enthusiastically puts the “cult” in “culture.”

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Get on the stick

I learned to drive in a VW Microbus, which means I came away from the experience with two specialized skills: patience (we’re talking a meager 48 hp, after all) and the ability to operate a stick shift.

I’m not sure you can teach the former, but we’re not making any effort to teach the latter:

I’ve felt for years that driver’s education courses are useless when manual trannys come into play. It’s a “let them out and learn on their own” scenario. Turn ’em loose on the motoring public — it’s the finest in on the job training. What the hell, if you don’t want to drive one, you don’t have to and if you are lucky, you never will.

But you are not a skilled motor vehicle operator if you cannot operate a manual transmission. What if someone you love has a major medical problem and it falls upon you, the auto tranny fan, to get them to the emergency room to save their life? Ain’t gonna happen.

I suppose that eventually this won’t matter so much, since so few new cars — at least in this country — offer the option to stir your own gears nowadays. And VW won’t sell you a Microbus anymore: instead, they’ll point you to a thinly-disguised Chrysler Town & Country with a six-speed slushbox.

This doesn’t mean you have to have ten forward gears and a Georgia overdrive at your beck and call. But I believe you can’t pass yourself off as a serious driver unless you can work three pedals when you have to. (Rather a lot of people on the road can’t seem to manage two pedals, but that’s another matter entirely.)

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Thunder over Montana

“No, I don’t think I’ll ever be over Montana.” And since the Timberwolves had handily disposed of the Bucks a couple of nights before, I wasn’t too hopeful, especially since the first quarter in beautiful downtown Billings ended with Minnesota up 24-13.

The Thunder would not go away quietly. A 17-2 run started the second quarter, and the half ended with OKC up 41-40. The teams traded runs in the third and stayed close through most of the fourth, but the Wolves finally put it away, 88-82.

There are some things to celebrate. For one thing, the Thunder seem to have some actual depth: the bench outscored the starters, 45-37. (Damien Wilkins outscored everyone; he picked up 19. Chris Wilcox led the starters with 17.) What they don’t do, apparently, is shoot from beyond the arc: the Thunder attempted only five treys and made just one. The Wolves put up twenty-four of them, seven of which made, which compensated for their indifferent 37-percent shooting. (The Thunder managed 41.7 percent.)

From the Something to Prove Department: Center Chris Alexander, never drafted by anyone and added at the last minute to the Thunder training-camp roster, got six minutes during that second-quarter run, scoring five points and hauling in four boards. And Johan Petro, newly de-dreadlocked, pulled in seven boards, making his bid for the middle, what with Swift and Sene still walking wounded.

All in all, not a bad show, except for that one nagging detail. The youngsters obviously still need a little seasoning: Russell Westbrook, running the point behind Earl Watson, snagged 13 points, but turned the ball over five times. On the upside, no one got close to foul trouble, and the closest thing to a gaffe was a technical which appeared to be called on coach P. J. Carlesimo for something unprintable, but turned out to be a simple delay-of-game call.

And they did hold the Wolves to 88 points, after the Bucks gave up 117 on Monday. There’s something to be said for defense.

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Heavy petting

Well, something is going on here:

Pro Plan?

The “is with Her” bit looks slightly out of place; I hope and pray someone demonstrates this to be Photoshopped, purely for the sake of my mental state.

(From Virtual Memories via American Digest.)

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A man of constant borrow

Might as well face it, says the Consumerist, you’re addicted to debt:

The headlines are screaming that America is more addicted to debt than crack. Then there are people out there who actually have a psychophysical need to spend spend spend. Are you one of them? Is your partner or friend?

I denounce my own spending habits as a matter of course, but on their list of 12 Warning Signs — seven is the point at which you start to worry — I qualify on three or four, maybe.

Although I seem to share this one with most of the financial-services industry:

1. HOPING THAT A WHITE KNIGHT IS JUST GOING TO SWOOP IN AND SAVE YOUR BROKE ASS

A feeling or hope that someone will take care of you if necessary, so that you won’t really get into serious financial trouble, that there will always be someone you can turn to.

Hank: Call me.

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Another huge download coming

Though I won’t object to it too strenuously, I suspect. Version 3 of OpenOffice.org draws ever closer, and the list of new features looks fairly impressive:

  • OOo 3.0 includes native support for OS X
  • Support for Office 2007 documents
  • New multi-page view in Writer
  • Multiple users can edit spreadsheets simultaneously
  • Ability to add MS Access databases to Writer

I’ve been mostly happy with OOo, though I’ve found a few (mostly outsized) Excel spreadsheets it doesn’t render properly. And Trini, newly baptized into the Reformed Church of Macintosh, will no doubt want to snag this for her MacBook.

Still, “OOo” is the one three-letter combination in all of electronics that looks funnier than “Wii.”

(Via Adam Gurri.)

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As not seen on TV

Dammit, Ted, you’re not sticking to The Narrative:

I’m not in financial trouble. I’ve gotten steady salary increases for the last several years. My home isn’t in danger of being foreclosed. I’m not panicking over my retirement investments because I won’t touch them for many years, and there’s plenty of time to recover (and the market always recovers). Food and gas costs are up, but we had some cushion built in between income and outgo. Enough to be doing ok, and to be able to afford adding insulation to my attic to reduce energy bills.

Taking an informal poll where I work, there are at least fifty people just like me, all riding along more or less unfazed by this rough spot in the economic cycle.

This sort of disobedience will not be tolerated.

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The expurgated versions

Arnold Zwicky of Language Log finds an oddity:

From Ben Smith’s blog on the 2008 presidential campaign (from 6 October):

An Obama supporter, who canvassed for the candidate in the working-class, white Philadelphia neighborhood of Fishtown recently, sends over an account that, in various forms, I’ve heard a lot in recent weeks.

“What’s crazy is this,” he writes. “I was blown away by the outright racism, but these folks are f***ing undecided. They would call him a n----r and mention how they don’t know what to do because of the economy.”

The notable feature here is the use of two different avoidance characters: asterisks in “f***ing”, hyphens in “n----r”. I don’t recall having seen this sort of typographical differentiation before.

My immediate response was “Who gives a $#!+?” But Mr Zwicky has the situation covered:

My guess is that the hyphens serve to distance the writer from the words used by the people he spoke to.

And the N-word, we may presume, merits (or perhaps de-merits) a greater distance than the F-word.

(Via American Digest.)

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303

For decades, the standard military cartridge in the British Commonwealth — it was eventually superseded as a result of a NATO standardization agreement — was the round still known as .303 British.

Andrew Ian Dodge isn’t British, but he is delivering the 303rd edition of Carnival of the Vanities, which is dubbed “Banking on CoTV,” reasonable enough given the difficulty of banking on actual banks these days.

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We who are about to rock

If you happened to notice that the University of Central Oklahoma was opening an Academy of Contemporary Music, you might be inclined to think that they’re ripping off the original ACM in Britain.

And you would be, as I was, mistaken:

ACM today announced the creation of ACM@UCO in partnership with The University of Central Oklahoma.

ACM@UCO is scheduled to open its doors to its first wave of aspiring musicians, producers and industry professionals in September 2009. The school is planned to open in The Oklahoma Hardware building, on Flaming Lips Alley in the heart of Oklahoma City’s vibrant Bricktown area. ACM@UCO will include special features integral to ACM’s distinctive style of education and success. The curriculum is focused on structuring courses that work hand-in-hand with fulfilling the needs of the music industry, ensuring that students are fully equipped to secure jobs in the sector.

ACM Founder and Director Phil Brookes said, “We are delighted to be working with UCO, to bring ACM’s unique brand of music industry education to America. The people involved with UCO are some of the most creative and forward thinking individuals we have had the pleasure of meeting. Everyone at ACM is looking forward to a great partnership and future with UCO, training tomorrow’s musicians, producers and music business leaders.”

Speaking of the Lips, manager Scott Booker will be the executive director of the new Academy.

UCO’s Jazz Lab will of course be continuing.

(Found here.)

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The mind wanders

So does the eye, eventually:

Sarah Palin and John McCain

And let’s face it, if you had to sit there and listen to Sean Hannity, your mind would wander too.

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Someone to look up to

In our age of Feigned Egalitarianism, some people might take umbrage at this attitude:

My short friends, all of who only date men who are taller than they are, spend a lot of time trying to convince me that height doesn’t matter, that I should have an open mind about dating men shorter than I am. To which I say: You just try flirting when what you really want to do is pat him on the head and coo “awww, you’re so little.” Better yet, try convincing a guy to maintain eye contact when his eyes are chest level. I’ve tried to date shorter guys, but the primitive, possibly socialized, urge to find a mate who makes me feel a little more sheltered and feminine remains.

[Insert apocryphal story about Harlan Ellison here, and continue.]

On this note, I can sympathize with the 5’11″ Michelle Obama. She must have been so excited when she met Barack to have found a cute guy taller than she is. Tall enough that she can even wear heels if she wants.

That I can believe. Penn Jillette, six-foot-six, once said something to the effect that the most beautiful sound on earth was a cooing “Ooh, I could wear heels with you.”

At my current five-foot-twelve, I’m not considered “shorter” by most of the fairer sex, but I did once discuss this matter in person with a startlingly-lovely six-footer, and she said much the same thing: she’s dabbled in the Realm of the Average, but what she really wanted was someone taller than she is. And given my own slightly-askew preferences, I can’t possibly fault her for that.

Besides, getting turned down for being too short strikes me as something less than offensive, if only because there isn’t a blessed thing I can do about my height, or perceived lack thereof, and therefore I don’t feel as though I have to take the rejection personally. I concede, though, that I might see things at a different angle were I six inches shorter.

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Quote of the week

Andrea Harris takes aim at whiny members of the dextrosphere:

“Wa-aaah! Obama’s gonna win and we’re all gonna end up in a Gulag run by Bill Ayers and the faculty of the University of Chicago!” Never mind that what’s actually more likely is that, should the election turn out that way, I give it less than a day before his constituency, led by the eternally faithless crew that runs the mainstream media, turns on him like sharks turning on a bucket of fresh chum. You know why? Because they’ll realize that the world did not immediately turn into a utopia filled with puppies, rainbows, and rivers made of caramel syrup. You want to know how I know this? Because I was witness to the 24-hour-old Failed Clinton Presidency (thus branded by Dave Barry after the post-inauguration hangover set in and everyone in the news media woke up and realized they still had to work for a living despite the fact that the Dems were in control).

Two comments from me:

  • Life is a cabaret.
  • Old chum.

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The extra $ is for support

The old belt-and-suspenders approach is useful for things like weapons systems and backup routines. It does not lend itself to women’s shoes:

Lily Allen from here down

Heather of Go Fug Yourself is at least as appalled as I am:

Wedges AND a separate heel? Isn’t that a freakish bit of overkill? It makes me think of the hotly rumored — but probably not actual — six-fingered hand of Anne Boleyn, where she allegedly had an extra pinky or at least some kind of nubbin growing out of her fifth finger (dramatic, sure, but it’s not like she killed Inigo Montoya’s father or anything — now THAT would be a story).

Of course, that thing on Lily’s shoes is more than a nubbin. It’s a full-on bonus prong. At first I thought maybe Lily added the wedge later for effect — and arch support — but that’s not possible, because the heel itself naturally extends far enough down that you can tell these were always intended to look like this. By someone who clearly hates shoes. I mean, they’re just ugly. They kind of remind me of cloven hooves.

Still, how many of us ever get to lay claim to a full-on bonus prong?

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Attack of the Killer 3s

This seems to be the pattern, and not one to be encouraged: give up a couple of clutch 3-balls midway through the fourth quarter and fumble the rest of the way. It happened in Billings against the T-Wolves, and it happened in Sacramento against the Kings, who never trailed in 48 minutes and got their first preseason win at the expense of the Thunder. The final was 94-85, although OKC actually pulled to within one, 78-77, halfway through the fourth. Then Spencer Hawes and Bobby Brown, who had 43 points between them, airmailed treys over Thunder heads, and that was that.

Prized rookie Russell Westbrook continues to perplex. He missed all nine shots from the floor; he did, however, knock down eight of 10 from the charity stripe, compared to the rest of the team’s eight for 18. Jeff Green, however, brought his A game, to the tune of 19 points and seven rebounds. Once again, the Thunder ruled on the offensive boards, but they couldn’t drop through those second-chance shots. (Too often, in fact, they couldn’t get the first- chance shots.) Chris Wilcox was not happy: he missed all four free throws and fouled out after playing 18½ minutes. Damien Wilkins started in place of the resting Kevin Durant and pulled down 14 points. This was our first look at Derrick Byars, who played 22 minutes and scored 8, including two of three beyond the arc; he’s an energetic soul, but he needs a little more discipline. Both centers got 8 points, but Johan Petro managed 10 rebounds to Nick Collison’s six. (Yes, yes, I know, Collison is technically a power forward. If he ever gets to play at the four, I’ll say so.)

Tomorrow night at Golden State, who won 48 games last year and still missed the playoffs, and who used to employ OKC coach P. J. Carlesimo.

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By any other name

This is gonna cost a whole lot of money for stationery if it comes off:

However easily “Hail to Oklahoma Christian” may roll off the tongue, students of Oklahoma Christian University may be singing new lyrics for their alma mater in the not so distant future, as there appears to be another potential name change on the horizon.

The university has seen its share of names throughout its 58 year history. Originally Central Christian College in Bartlesville, the name changed to Oklahoma Christian College upon relocation to Oklahoma City. In 1990, the school reached university status and changed to its current name.

Mike O’Neal, president of the university, says the possibility of changing the university’s name again has been in discussion for several years now.

“Since early in 2002, I have often heard from alumni and friends that our name is frequently confused with all the other ‘O’s’ and ‘C’s’ around Oklahoma City,” O’Neal said. “In addition, there have been suggestions that our current name does not adequately reflect our broadening geographic constituency and tends to regionalize and limit the university’s influence.”

Perhaps their constituency is, um, something more than merely geographic. And what would they change it to, anyway?

There are a variety of names being considered, none including “Oklahoma” and few including “Christian.”

Some of the proposed names include Benson University or Benson Christian University, (Benson was an Oklahoman, the first chancellor of Oklahoma Christian and the most influential person in Christian higher education in the 20th century in the fellowship of the churches of Christ), Eagle University, Global Christian University, Libertas University, Noble University and some including the names of substantial benefactors.

This would be George S. Benson, born in Dewey County in 1898. (There’s a Benson Road on the east end of the campus.) Before Dr Benson took over as chancellor at OC, he was president of Harding College (now Harding University) in Searcy, Arkansas, whose name includes neither “Arkansas” nor “Christian,” which tells me that maybe it’s not such a big issue after all.

Disclosure: Once upon a time I got married to a Freed-Hardeman girl, which is why I know some of this stuff.

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How we do things Out Here

We’re not exactly Eerie, Indiana around here — heck, we’re not even Normal, Illinois — but we do have our stories to tell, and one of the weirdest, at least in terms of the quantity of jaw-dropping it induces in the listeners, is the tale of the Great Skyscraper Race of 1930.

Local historian Doug Loudenback wrote up the history of the Great Race a couple of months back. The First National Bank of Oklahoma City announced their new 32-story headquarters in April 1930; the announcement of the 31-story Ramsey Tower came in August. It wasn’t really intended to be a race, but considering the proximity of the two buildings — FNB was at 120 North Robinson, just south of what is now Couch Drive, and Ramsey was at 204, practically across the street — that’s what it became. Further compounding the issue: both buildings eventually topped out at 33 stories. Ramsey was completed first, in early October 1931.

And I’m not sure what’s going on at the First National Center these days, but Ramsey, now City Place, will be the first of the two to offer residential space; new owner Roy Oliver is keeping his major tenants — Globe Life occupies several floors, and UMB Bank is at ground level — but the 16th to 32nd floors will be divided into apartments, and the 33rd will be a single 2500-square-foot unit. As high-rises go, this is as about as high as you can get in Oklahoma City — for now, anyway.

You might be looking at this and thinking “Nineteen thirty-one? Wasn’t there, like, a depression or something going on?” Well, we’ve always been just slightly out of step with the rest of the country’s business cycle, but only slightly: in the summer of ’35, ownership of the Ramsey Tower passed to Connecticut Mutual Life Insurance Company, mortgage holder, demonstrating that we weren’t immune to downturns. And we still aren’t: Chesapeake Energy chair Aubrey McClendon got caught in margin calls this week and had to sell off the bulk of his CHK shares to raise cash. Then again, McClendon has been there before:

“[T. Boone Pickens] allowed me to invest a million dollars with him one time in the late 1990s, and within six months, he had lost 90 percent of it,” McClendon said during his speech to the Alternative Fuels & Vehicles National Conference.

The other side of that story? Lower natural-gas prices obviously aren’t helping Chesapeake, but they’ll help me keep warm this winter. Somebody wins, somebody loses. It is always thus.

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An automotive theory of convergence

If, as they say, size matters, the right size matters most.

And we’re constantly trying to approach it:

Something you notice after a while is that there is a median size to which American-market bread-and-butter cars tend to return, over and over again. The mid-50s Chevrolet was that size, which is not all that different from the size of a modern Camry or Accord.

When the Chevy bulked up in the late 50s and early 60s, Chevy reinvented the ’55 dimensions with the A-body intermediates. When even those reached gargantuan proportions in the 70s, there was the first wave of downsizing. By the 90s, the formerly downsized sedans were again reaching towards that level, and the Japanese were starting to inch their way up, as well. Models that get any bigger than that, other than luxury or ‘prestige’ cars, will eventually die off, and the cycle will start over again. It’s likely to continue for as long as there are cars.

Hmmm. Let’s measure out a ’57 Bel Air, arguably the most iconic Chevrolet sedan ever built — which used the ’55 bodyshell, albeit heavily facelifted — and see what we get:

Wheelbase: 115 inches
Track: 58 / 58.7 inches
Length: 197.5 inches
Width: 73 inches
Height: 59 inches
Curb weight: 3269 lb

Half a century later, I’m driving this:

Wheelbase: 108.3 inches
Track: 60.2 / 59.4 inches
Length: 193.7 inches
Width: 70.2 inches
Height: 56.5 inches
Curb weight: 3342 lb

Not so different, really.

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Things like this make me testy

While following up on that idiotic attempt to conjure up Sarah Palin’s SAT scores by means of Photoshop, I ran this Google search: “sat scores unimportant.”

And Google replied:

Did you mean: sat scores important

Um, no, I didn’t, but thank you for making my point: the SAT and the rival ACT are treated as damn near Divine Revelation by some people for no good reason. As a predictor of college success, the SAT’s record seems to be mixed; as a predictor of success in life generally, well, I wouldn’t trust it as far as I could throw it. (Before you ask: yes, I have my numbers, and yes, they’re supposedly impressive, and no, they’ve had no bearing on any aspect of my existence for at least thirty-five years.)

The mere fact that someone would go to the trouble of manufacturing a fake SAT score sheet, though, demonstrates quite plainly that some people never matured past high-school level in the first place.

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Outrun and outgunned

The Golden State Warriors average something like a thousand points a game, and the Thunder didn’t figure to make much of a dent in that, especially given the depletion of personnel: in addition to all the other injuries, Joe Smith was out with a broken nose and Desmond Mason came up with a sore knee. What’s more, Jeff Green sprained his ankle late in the first half. P. J. Carlesimo’s plan to keep everyone to 24 minutes a game during the preseason had to be abandoned, and the hope of coming back to the Sooner State with at least one win went with it. Final: Warriors 122, Thunder 102.

Six of the fast-moving Warriors ended up in double figures, led by Marco Belinelli, identified entirely too often by the broadcast crew as “the Italian,” with 22. Richard Hendrix turned in a double-double: 12 points, 13 rebounds. Kevin Durant landed his first D-D of the preseason, with 16 points and 14 boards; Damien Wilkins, who has been the scoring machine for OKC so far, plunked down 23 points, including three of six three-pointers; Chris Wilcox and Russell Westbrook got 15 points each. The Thunder took lots of shots that didn’t connect, ending up with 38.6 percent from the field, versus 48.5 percent for the Warriors.

This was the first chance I had to look at John Lucas III, a 5’11” Oklahoma State product who played for the Rockets for two years, was waived, and didn’t get on anyone’s roster last season. A late addition to the training-camp roster, Lucas got 16 minutes to play, in which he scored six points, served up four dimes, grabbed two rebounds and executed one lovely steal. Derrick Byars checked in for 23 minutes, scoring six points on two treys. (Aside from Byars and Wilkins, the Thunder came up empty from beyond the arc; KD missed four of them all by his lonesome.)

What’s frustrating here is that the Thunder, down 15 at the half, put on an excellent run at the end of the third, pulling to within eight, and then started the final frame with three consecutive turnovers, enabling the Warriors to rebuild that lead. Maybe they were tired; the cylinder, so far as I could tell, did not shrink.

Next: the Rockets at Tulsa, which is, yes, a road game.

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More stubborn roses

Last year I came up with Rosa recalcitransia as the name for the last few buds on this particular rosebush, which continued to flourish while its cousins elsewhere in the flower bed slept. The winds are up this weekend, and I got this semi-dramatic shot from low down:

Stubborn roses

Flickr has embiggened versions.

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Candy is dandy, with some exceptions

For instance, “circus peanuts”:

Those orange, marshmallow type things that taste and feel like styrofoam soaked in Triaminic. I’m not saying there’s something wrong with you if you like them, I’m just saying, your taste buds are broken. Think of it as a handicap or disability. I bet you could get some kind of special license plate for that, too. “Oh, let him park close to the store … he likes circus peanuts.”

Incidentally, I have learned never to question Michele’s similes: they always turn out to be rooted in God’s own truth, and then I have to keep from asking “How did she find that out?”

Other sweets she reviles:

  • Mary Janes
  • Tootsie Rolls
  • Twizzlers
  • Milk Duds
  • Necco Wafers
  • Candy corn
  • Black licorice
  • Cadbury Cream Eggs

Some of these I would defend; others I wouldn’t touch with a two-foot toothbrush. Necco Wafers, I’ve found, tend to vary with the individual colors: the darker, the better. High on my Avoid List are Whoppers and other variations on the malted-milk-ball theme, which have the general mouthfeel of chocolate-coated brake dust. (Don’t even ask.)

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I believe it’s called “Sunday”

Philip Delves Broughton says in Britain’s The First Post:

One incredulous Wall Street analyst told me that there was a day last week when not a single new car was sold in the United States. The average daily sale used to be about 40,000.

Fortunately for us all, the press compensates for incredulous analysts by employing credulous journalists.

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Let me not mar that perfect dream

“A man hears what he wants to hear,” said Paul Simon, “and disregards the rest.” We have images of those we idolize, and nothing is allowed to corrupt those images:

We tend to reserve special roles for our favorite writers — sepulchral Poe; sardonic Mark Twain; sexy, world-embracing Walt Whitman — and resist evidence that contradicts our cherished images. Emily Dickinson in this constellation is forever the lovelorn spinster, pining away in her father’s mansion on Main Street in Amherst, Mass. We assume that the grand passion behind her poems (“Wild nights — Wild nights! Were I with thee”) must have had a commensurate inspiration, whether imaginary, superhuman, or divine. Evidence that Dickinson’s love life was fairly ordinary, with ordinary temptations and disappointments, doesn’t quite fit the bill. Her exile on Main Street has seemed a necessary part of the Dickinson myth, so necessary, indeed, that contrary information — which happens to have been piling up lately — has often been discounted or ignored.

For example, when Mabel Loomis Todd, the vivacious and talented wife of Amherst College astronomer David Todd, was invited to play the piano for Dickinson and her younger sister, Lavinia, in September of 1882, she received a startling warning from their sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson, next door. The Dickinson spinster sisters, Sue informed her, “have not, either of them, any idea of morality.” Sue added darkly, “I went in there one day, and in the drawing room I found Emily reclining in the arms of a man.”

We are simply not prepared for the mental image of Emily Dickinson making out; it’s as incongruous as finding Oscar Wilde carrying hod.

And there’s more to the story. Carol Damon Andrews was researching the history of the Penniman family, and happened upon the diaries of music teacher Eliza Houghton Penniman, which included this entry:

In Amherst … I had a class in music: … Emily Dickinson, daughter of lawyer Dickinson, to whom Dr. George Gould of Worcester, was engaged when in college there. Lawyer Dickinson vetoed the whole affair, the Rev. George being a POOR student then, and poor Emily’s heart was broken.

Dr Gould’s name has come up before. Genevieve Taggard’s The Life and Mind of Emily Dickinson, published in 1930, advanced this theory:

Taggard discovered what she called the “purloined valentine,” sent by Dickinson in 1850, inviting a mysterious someone to “meet me at sunrise, or sunset, or the new moon.” Subsequent scholars have assumed Gould was a likely recipient but left it at that. Taggard, however, built her narrative around the youthful love affair of Emily and George, blaming the breakup of the engagement on Dickinson’s father but ascribing a different motive, one more in line with her proto-feminist approach.

It wasn’t that George was poor, Taggard maintained; it’s that Edward Dickinson wanted Emily for himself. Asking Emily to play the piano “was Edward’s way of bringing Emily back when she escaped.” When it became clear, at a graduation party in 1850, that Emily and George were in love, Edward declared “that the affair must end.” Taggard suggested that Emily and George continued to meet despite the ban, hooking up secretly in Philadelphia and New York as well as in Amherst until a final break in 1862, when George, who had trained for the ministry, married and settled in Worcester.

Taggard apparently went to a lot of trouble to document this story, and interested parties went to a lot of trouble to shoot it down:

[I]t was the popular image of shade-seeking Dickinson holed up in her father’s house that prevailed. As [Carol Damon] Andrews argues, there was a concerted effort to suppress Taggard’s findings, led by [sister-in-law] Susan Dickinson’s daughter, Martha, and Amherst College professor and biographer George F. Whicher, who announced that he intended “to terminate the persistent search for Emily’s unknown love.” Whicher attacked Taggard’s book as “untrustworthy” and suggested that its plotline was derived from the “stale formula of Hollywood romance and Greenwich Village psychology” — a sly dig at Taggard’s bohemian and socialist convictions.

This is the stuff of intrigue and drama, and Erin O’Connor suggests:

Perhaps we need a film to drive it all home. It could be called Becoming Emily, and could star Anne Hathaway.

I’d see it in a heartbeat.

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Strange search-engine queries (141)

We’ve secretly replaced the actual content of this site with a link dump from the logs, featuring the least comprehensible, or at least the most easily mocked, search strings from the last week. It ain’t Folger’s Crystals, but it will perk you up. Maybe. I think.

fattest grandmas porn:  Not available. She’s busy in the kitchen.

disadvantage of my wallet:  It’s that horrible, empty feeling.

Jim Lange, Pulitzer Prize cartoon:  I don’t think this will work for either value of “Jim Lange.”

zeitgeist addendum cubbins:  Hats. Lots of hats. Five hundred hats.

How much is an 18 ounce barrel of pork rinds?  More than you can eat in a single sitting, I hope.

how many grams of sugar would there be in $20 worth of pixy stix?  More than you can eat in a single sitting, I hope.

bounced check “strip club” tulsa:  Rather a lot of things bounce in strip clubs, or so I’ve heard.

forwarded theresa’s prayer nothing happened:  You expected something to happen from an email forward? You should be addressing this to St Jude.

6000th walgreen store new orleans:  Across from a CVS, no doubt.

despondex:  Worn by tortured souls at a gym near you.

what can brown do for you nude:  Well, Downtown Julie Brown did a Playboy pictorial (August 1988), but I’m sure she didn’t do it for me.

can you trip off drinking diphenhydramine hcl:  Benadryl, baby, Benadryl.

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Now with Remote Parental Unit

A replacement key for my car runs into three digits, because there’s an electronic chip hidden therein. A scanner on the dash looks for the chip, and if the chip isn’t found more or less where it’s supposed to be, the car won’t start.

Still, a single-function chip like that is just so last decade, compared to this:

Ford Motor will roll out a feature on many 2010 models that can limit teen drivers to 80 mph, using a computer chip in the key.

Parents also have the option of programming the teen’s key to limit the audio system’s volume, and to sound continuous alerts if the driver doesn’t wear a seat belt.

The feature, called “MyKey,” will debut on the 2010 Focus compact car.

A more elegant system, perhaps, than the parental controls used on my generation, which can be summed up as “Own vehicles so dorky that the kids won’t even want to be seen in them, let alone drive them.”

Still, I think Ford missed a good bet here. My idea of MyKey would also include a defeat switch for the audio system tone controls, making it impossible to crank up the bass to the sort of window-rattling levels that rattle your windows in the next lane over.

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Unchambered echo

When EMI got around to releasing the Beatles LP catalog on CD, they stuck pretty close to the “official” UK releases: only Magical Mystery Tour, originally an EP in England, was released with the American track listing, though the bogus-stereo tracks (except for the last half of “I Am the Walrus”) were replaced with the proper stereo mixes.

Some listeners Stateside noticed that the early albums were nothing like what they’d grown up with, which suggested to Capitol that there might be a market for a CD release of the US albums, which were wildly different from the UK versions, and not just in track listings: rather a lot of the songs received heavy post-production work at Capitol, which often included the creation of bogus stereo (so-called “duophonic”) out of mono masters and/or the application of heavy echo.

Beatles expert Bruce Spizer has noted:

While some critics give the impression that all of the four Capitol stereo albums are full of duophonic echo-drenched mixes, this is clearly not the case. Capitol only made duophonic mixes for the seven songs that had no stereo masters at the time the albums were compiled. Most of these songs, especially “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “She Loves You” and “I’ll Get You,” are effective simulated stereo mixes. However, the duophonic mixes for “I Feel Fine” and “She’s A Woman” are truly horrendous.

The stereo versions of those last two eventually showed up on EMI’s Past Masters Volume One CD, one of two discs collecting all the non-LP sides. They’re clean and dry, especially “She’s a Woman,” which is almost devoid of reverb.

And after hearing that flat recording in the car a couple of times, I came up with the rather dumb idea of trying to restore that reverb without losing the stereo image, not so much because I loved the version on Beatles ’65 — although I did — but because I had an exaggerated sense of my own capabilities in this realm. The first few attempts were horrid: the maracas wound up smeared and McCartney’s Little Richard-esque vocal got all phasey. Eventually I hit on the idea of applying some simulated plate reverb to the left channel (guitar lick) only, with damping substantially reduced from the software default. I’m still not entirely happy with it, and I can’t make a perfect A/B comparison because my copy of Beatles ’65 is mono, but I suppose I’ll get over it. (About half a minute can be had here for now.)

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It’s almost recursive

Jessika gets a Nigerian spam which warns about, of all things, Nigerian spam:

FROM DAN EGBUNA
OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENCY FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA
Aso Rock villa, Asokoro District, Abuja

CONFIDENTIAL DIPLOMATIC IMMUNITY PAYMENT

ATTENTION BENEFICIARY

Based on our investigation department, we wish to warn you against some Miscreants, Hoodlums and touts who go about scamming innocent people by claiming to be who they are not and thereby tarnishing the image of this wonderful country.

I am Lt General Dan Egbuna (Rtd), National Security Adviser to the new Nigerian President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. I am delighted to inform you that the contract panel, which just concluded its sitting in Abuja just released your name amongst contractors to benefit from the Diplomatic Immunity Payment. This Panel was primarily delegated to investigate manipulated contract claims, contracts and over-invoiced payment as the effect has eaten deep into the economy of our dear country.

However, we wish to bring to your notice that your contract profile is still reflecting in our central computer as unpaid contractor while auditing was going on. Your contract file was forwarded to my office by the auditors as unclaimed fund, we wish to use this medium to inform you that for the time being Federal Government of Nigeria have stopped further payment through bank to bank transfer due to contractors numerous petitions to United Nations against Nigeria on wrong payment and diversion of contract funds to different accounts.

I believe this calls for a “Yeah, right,” right back atcha, Lt General Dan Egbuna (Rtd). That suffix, I assume, is supposed to mean “Retired,” but it could just as easily be, um, something else.

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You could have had a V-8

Back before I was allowed on the road, and way before we had hypermilers, there was something called the Mobil Economy Run, overseen by the oil company formerly known as Standard of New York. The objective was to get the best possible gas mileage over the distance assigned, and the United States Auto Club undertook the task of making sure there were no shenanigans.

The Run was discontinued after 1968, but fuel-mileage events are very much au courant these days. In Britain, what is now the Fleetworld/ALD Automotive MPG Marathon started up in 2000, with a premise that’s straight out of contemporary hypermiling:

One element of the MPG Marathon challenges drivers to improve upon the published “combined cycle” fuel consumption figures for their vehicles. The leaders in last year’s event achieved significant gains, with the winners — Sue and Joanne Cooke driving a 230bhp Mazda3 MPS — clocked up the 329.7-mile route from Basingstoke to Torquay and back on just 7.61 gallons of petrol, achieving 43.34 miles per gallon. This represented an improvement of 48.95% on the car’s [European] combined figure of 29.1 mpg.

The MPS is the car we know as the Mazdaspeed 3, a wonderfully-overpowered little beastie disguised as an econobox. And these results support a long-standing belief of mine: the optional Big Engine, if it’s not working too hard, will deliver mileage comparable to, and maybe even better than, the numbers you’d get from the standard Small Engine working its little heart out.

Even if I hadn’t thought so before, though, I’d certainly think so now:

An educated approach to driving can bring huge benefits to owners of all types of car, proving that you don’t necessarily need a fuel-sipping supermini to cut your motoring costs.

And to illustrate the point, the legendary Corvette was crowned the overall winner in the annual Fleetworld/ALD Automotive MPG Marathon, recording a record 61.26 per cent improvement over the official combined figure in the two-day, 411-mile economy driving event.

Driven by Press Association journalist Richard Hammond, the Corvette Z06 achieved a combined mpg figure of 30.96 mpg over the challenging route, proving that even a 198-mph supercar can achieve fuel economy similar to that of a modern family hatchback if driven with a sensible approach to road and traffic conditions.

You gotta love it: a 505-horsepower economy car. This being a UK event, the gallons are Imperial, so the comparable US figure would be 25.8 mpg — which is about what I got with 227 hp on a trip through Texas. Then again, it was June and I had the A/C cranked up to meat-locker levels.

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We hoped it would BOk

The Thunder and the Rockets fought to a 23-23 draw in the first quarter; Houston picked up a six-point lead in the second; OKC whittled it down to two after three; it was tied at 93 with 3:30 left.

Then with 57 seconds left, Kevin Durant put the Thunder out front 103-102, dropped to the floor with what seemed to be a twisted ankle, got back up slowly, and went back to work as though nothing had happened. He tossed in free throws, blocked a sure Rocket basket, and just for the hell of it, got the last rebound with three seconds left. Oklahoma City 110, Houston 104, the very first W for the Expansion Team That Wasn’t.

Okay, Tracy McGrady was out, there wasn’t a whole lot of Yao and not a lot more of Ron Artest. Didn’t matter: in the first quarter the Thunder shot right over Yao, which isn’t so easy to do, Artest wasn’t a factor late, and OKC has lots of injuries already.

Give KD 26 points, including 20 during the fourth frame. Nick Collison knocked down 21; Desmond Mason, Johan Petro and Chris Wilcox were all in double figures. (Wilcox was on fire; he pulled down 14 rebounds to go with 13 points.) The BOk Center scoring system was hosed, so these numbers are subject to change once the official box score comes out.

Tomorrow: the Clippers come to the Ford Center.

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On a losing streak

Rich Appel tosses this out in the current Hz So Good newsletter:

July ’65 was when the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” — a song about a man doing manly things, a song whose appeal was decidedly male — was #1, and went on to be, arguably, radio’s #1 song for that entire year.

My theory? That was the last time testosterone tipped the scales at contemporary radio. The following year, the ultra-macho “Ballad of the Green Berets” racked up impressive 45 sales, but radio’s biggest hits were decidedly for the girls: the Association’s “Cherish,” Sinatra’s “Strangers in the Night,” the Righteous Brothers’ “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration.” The next seven years brought us #1s-for-the-year by Lulu, the Beatles (“Hey Jude”), the 5th Dimension, Simon & Garfunkel, 3 Dog Night, Roberta Flack and Tony Orlando & Dawn. See what I mean?

Was “Satisfaction” the last 45 lots of teen boys could proudly buy before the album age began and 45s became uncool?

Gawd, I hope not, if only because it was the first 45 I ever bought, and I wasn’t even a teen yet. (I turned twelve that year.)

But a larger question now gnaws at me: while I don’t doubt that boys’ and girls’ tastes in Top 40 didn’t exactly coincide in those days, does it make any difference? I remember taking the school bus fifteen or twenty miles each way, and we’d kill time with our own no-budget Motown Revue. (I did a pretty mean Diana Ross back then.)

And the last time I bought a current hit on 45 was … 1987. Same year I bought my first CD player, now that I think about it.

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Branding irony

Microsoft’s Mike Nash makes the announcement:

[A]s you probably know, since we began development of the next version of the Windows client operating system we have been referring to it by a codename, “Windows 7.” But now is a good time to announce that we’ve decided to officially call the next version of Windows, “Windows 7.”

The discussion over this matter, of course, was furious. The Top Ten rejected names for Windows 7:

  1. Windows 6.66
  2. Not Vista
  3. DOS 8.0
  4. [deleted pending issuance of Service Pack]
  5. Windows 08SE
  6. Ocelot
  7. “Who cares, Apple’s gonna make fun of it anyway”
  8. Really Not Vista
  9. ActiveVex
  10. Windows XP Service Pack 4

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