Archive for November 2008

Quote of the week

According to Roberta X, this was found “sealed in a tin below a midden-pile in the ruined USian city of Trento, dating uncertain”:

Most Esteemed Diary,

At Education today in the Sharing, before we ate our beans and rice, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Dear Leader’s gift of a new puppy to his obedient daughters. The Group-Mother reminded us that it was an example of the importance of sharing (one puppy, two children) and obeying our Leaders, who are more dear to us than than parents and who are leading us to peace and prosperity. After we ate, we shared crayons and colored in pictures of puppies. I didn’t feel very hungry at all. We could drink all the water we wanted because it was special day. The Group-Mother started screaming strange things about poor starving ragged children and the National Service Helpers had to take her away. I don’t know who she was talking about. We got to go home early and Jimi said the Group-Mother was probably going to have to go to Education herself but he’s bad and doesn’t share very good. I think he was trying to be mean about my Daddy.

Before he had to go away to learn how to follow Dear Leader better, my Daddy told me about the puppies he had when he was a boy. I wish I had a puppy. Daddy said they were delicious roasted or boiled. Maybe when we all learn how to share properly, everybody will get puppies. At least once a year.

I’m getting the distinct impression that “Education” in that era is roughly comparable to “Rehabilitation” in Mike Judge’s Idiocracy.

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It’s all in the plan

Three and a half years ago, I drove the entire length of Oklahoma City’s Grand Boulevard, mostly, well, because I could. I noted at the time:

W. H. Dunn was a landscape architect in Kansas City in the early 1900s, eventually becoming the Superintendent of Parks. His duties in Kansas City, however, apparently didn’t prevent him from helping out other cities in need: in 1909, he developed the first official parks plan for Oklahoma City. One of the features in Dunn’s plan was a boulevard to encircle the city, connecting regional parks in each quadrant. Not much happened on that front until 1930, when the boulevard was incorporated into The City Plan for Oklahoma City, and the process of acquiring rights of way began.

I’d never seen it in print before, but now Blair Humphreys has a copy of the actual plan, in all its yellowing splendor, from the days when we dreamed, and dreamed big. (It took us a while to get back into the habit.)

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Jolly old ILFs

Plunger Girl follows up a smutty spam link (or spammy smut link) so you don’t have to:

In case you don’t feel like being harassed by relentless porn pages popping up again and again and again, in the most awkward moments, as a chain reaction to checking out one measly little site, I’ll condense the experience.

Your bold click will lead you into a wonderland of mature delights. You’re here, you’re in Busty Granny Land! You feel like a superstar! A young one, in comparison.

Blinking lights and cascading banners announcing “Slut Movies!” and “Fling.com” provide instant eye candy. But that eye candy doesn’t hold a candle to the flashing breastesses that go from full color to dramatic black and white, full color, black and white, full color, black and white. Tits! Art! Tits! Art!

As you force your eyes away from the display of private, yet public, genitalia, you find strange blocks of text that are as out of place as the stories in Playboy. Porn grannies. Moms having sex with kids. Granny channel hairy mature sex. Pictures of mature moms. You’re confused by the strange structure of some of these phrases, but you get the gist: sex, hair, maturity, kids.

Not that this place is entirely single-minded:

And before you attempt to close your browser for the night, you realize Busty Granny Land has produced a pop-up that defies all pop-up blockers to give you a listing of all automobile dealerships within a 200 mile radius of you.

Just in case you thought Harold and Maude needed wheels, I guess.

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Disusage note

Inasmuch as all the Movable Type entries from 9/06 through 9/08 have been imported into this WordPress install, and since most of the search engines have gotten around to getting the new stuff, I’ve deleted the MT archives from that period. My apologies if you’ve bookmarked something therein and can’t find it now.

Incidentally, this seems like a good time to praise the WebFTP client used by my host: it disposed of the entire directory at one fell swoop in less than half a minute. Had I used my usual FTP client, I’d have been at it all night.

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Jazz almost smooth

The Jazz never lose at home. (Well, hardly ever: they lost four of 41 last year at EnergySolutions Center.) Ignoring this minor detail, the Thunder came out and scored the first eight points, taking a 10-3 lead early. Utah responded by running off 21 points in a row, and by halftime they were up by a frightening 58-29.

Then it was 60-29, and suddenly Oklahoma City came to life. In the third quarter they outscored the Jazz 34-20; in the fourth, 34-26. Were there such a thing as a fifth quarter they might have won this thing. But all you get is forty-eight minutes, and when they were over the Jazz were still up, 104-97. And Utah had even more incentive than usual: coach Jerry Sloan had strung together 999 wins with the Jazz, and they really wanted to get number 1000 at home before hitting the road. Scariest of all, if you happen to be one of the 29 teams in the NBA who aren’t the Jazz, they’ve now won five straight without ace point guard Deron Williams.

In lieu of Williams, Ronnie Price and Brevin Knight ran the point and dished up 14 assists between them — the OKC total was only 15 — while Carlos Boozer was knocking down 21 points, and Mehmet Okur and Andrei Kirilenko picked up 16 each. The Jazz shot .500 and hauled in 45 rebounds, versus 36 for the Thunder.

Still, Oklahoma City had some serious offense in that second half. The Kevin Durant Show was good for 24 points and five boards; Jeff Green made three out of three treys and finished with 22; Desmond Mason, off the bench, contributed 18. The shooting percentage was 43.2, better than average this season. Russell Westbrook wasn’t a factor: he played only 17 minutes and missed 7 of 8 shots from the field, though he got four-for-four from the stripe.

Sunday night it’s back to the Ford, for a meeting with the Hawks, followed Monday by a visit to Indiana.

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U. S. News & World Retired

My subscription to U. S. News & World Report runs out this month, and purely by coincidence, so do they:

U. S. News & World Report, long the number three newsmagazine in the United States behind Time and Newsweek, has become the latest US media outlet to abandon print for the Web.

The move to become an Internet-focused publication was announced to U. S. News employees in a memorandum on Tuesday from management of the magazine.

Oh, there will still be the occasional print version:

The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that US News would now only publish once a month.

The Post added that the monthly print edition would also be entirely devoted to consumer guides and not news. U. S. News publishes popular annual rankings on such topics as America’s “best colleges” and “best hospitals.”

Don’t count on that monthly print edition being around long, says Magazine Death Pool:

USN&WR may as well just pull the plug on its print edition entirely because who is going to read a monthly version of the magazine? What a waste of paper and back office resources!

If I have to have a weekly newsmagazine, it’s going to be The Week, which is almost entirely composed of content gleaned from elsewhere; if nothing else, they don’t pretend to be an expert on college quality.

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Royally miffed in the Queen City

There will be no traffic-control cameras in Cincinnati, not now, and maybe not ever:

On Tuesday, voters in Cincinnati, Ohio made it clear that photo enforcement is not welcome in the city. A majority of voters approved an amendment to the city charter prohibiting local officials from ever installing either red light cameras or speed cameras. Referendum co-sponsor Josh Weitzman hopes his coalition’s victory inspires other cities. “This election is further proof that people do not want to have traffic cameras,” Weitzman told the Newspaper.com. “Politicians in cities across the country need to take note of this if they plan on getting re-elected.” Cincinnati city council members had been trying for the past four years to install the devices that promised to generate between $2m and $12m in annual revenue. Advocates were stopped in 2005 when former Mayor Charlie Luken vetoed a camera ordinance saying, “Let’s be honest with the public — we didn’t think about this until we came up with a budget problem.”

The push for red light cameras resumed at the end of that year when Mayor Mark Mallory was sworn in. A diverse group of political activists from all ends of the political spectrum banded together to form the “We Demand a Vote” coalition to stop the idea. Members include regional chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the Republican Party, the Green Party, the Libertarian Party and others. The group received more than 10k signatures on a petition to put the subject of cameras on the ballot before the devices even had a chance to issue a single ticket. Political leaders quickly backed off their support of cameras after seeing public opinion on the matter.

Text of the amendment is here. Proponents of cameras may have a difficult time trying to get around it, too:

Any ordinance enacted prior to the passage of this Amendment that contravenes any of the foregoing is void. After the enactment of this Amendment, the City shall not enact or enforce any ordinance that contravenes any of the foregoing. In the event that any provision of this Article XIV is found to be unconstitutional or impermissibly in conflict with state or federal law, only such provision found to be unconstitutional or impermissible will be stricken, and the remainder of this Article XIV will remain in full force and effect.

Nicely done.

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Onward and rightward

Sometimes the most conservative ideas come from people you’d never think of as conservative.

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Doing the slide

Once in a while, my daughter-in-law sends out a batch of pictures, some of which get reproduced here. This time around she’s prepared a slideshow, which you can see after the jump.

Read the rest of this entry »

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On the mend, maybe

I was feelin’ so bad,
I asked my family doctor just what I had.
I said, “Doctor, Mr. M.D.,
Now can you tell me, what’s ailin’ me?”

Well, actually, he’s a D.O., but he can generally tell what’s ailin’ me, and apparently he was spot-on with his diagnosis of an infection within a muscle: semi-massive doses of an antibiotic seem to have cleared up the source of the lower back pain, to the extent that I was able to do my usual grocery shopping and minor yard chores without incident today.

Side effects: Pain pills at this strength make me extremely queasy; the antibiotic in question seems to have tinted my teeth a nice autumnal orange. It appears, though, that I didn’t have one of those pesky superbugs that just laughs at treatment with antibiotics, and it probably helps that I take them as seldom as possible.

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No “down under” jokes

Australians in general seem to be more willing to doff their duds than Americans, and South Australians especially so:

The online nudity poll — run by realholidays.com.au — placed the [Northern] Territory in third position for nuding up, tied with Tasmania. South Australia — where 76 per cent of respondents said they loved going naked — came out on top, followed by Queensland.

And at the other end, so to speak?

The biggest prudes of the nation were those bunch of bureaucrats in the ACT at a mere 33 per cent, followed by rigid Victorians at just under half.

And this startled me:

The revealing poll also showed more than half of nudists across the nation were between 18-35 years, and women were more likely than men to strip down to the bare essentials.

In the US, however, it seems that they’re all guys in their late fifties.

(Disclosure: I am a guy whose late fifties will be here before I know it.)

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Chrysler and [someone], sitting in a tree

D-E-A-L-I-N-G?

South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co has had talks with Chrysler LLC owner Cerberus Capital Management about a potential acquisition of the struggling U.S. automaker’s Jeep brand and possibly other assets, people with knowledge of the talks said on Friday.

The emergence of South Korea’s largest automaker as a potential bidder for at least part of Chrysler comes on the same day General Motors Corp said it was abandoning its own pursuit of an acquisition of its cross-town rival.

Cerberus also plans to restart talks [with] other potential partners, including Renault-Nissan, the sources added.

First, the obvious point: people with no “knowledge of the talks” wouldn’t say things like that.

Actually, Hyundai and Jeep fit together fairly well. Jeep, unlike the other Mopar brands, has a fair amount of brand equity these days, and there’s very little overlap in the product lines: the nascent Kia Borrego is probably the only model that would be rendered superfluous. (Yeah, there’s the Jeep Compass/Patriot, but they were superfluous before there was any merger talk.)

Getting hold of Chrysler’s extensive dealer network might theoretically be useful to Hyundai, which still has a reputation for fast-talking guys in plaid jackets catering to subprime customers. But the advantage goes away if they have to sell actual Chryslers as part of the deal, so I suspect that if there’s any deal here, it will be just for Jeep.

How to dispose of the rest of the company? We know that Nissan is dumping its big Titan truck after 2010, replacing it with a version of the Dodge Ram, and that Nissan will be building two small cars for Chrysler, one a Versa variant for South America and another to be sold in Chrysler’s “global markets,” such as they are. And Carlos Ghosn has long made noises about adding a US-based affiliate to the existing Nissan/Renault partnership. Nissan doesn’t need Jeep, really, since they have enough SUVs for a dwindling market; assuming Jeep goes to Hyundai, Nissan could reposition Dodge as strictly a truck brand — the Viper will be spun off to a third party, the Challenger will run its course, the rest don’t matter — and use the Chrysler channel for minivans (wouldn’t you rather have a Town & Country than a Caravan, even a Grand one?), the aforementioned Nissan-built small car, the successor to the 300 (let us pray), and the occasional revamp of a Renault Euromobile, though this latter might be tricky, since the one Renault that might sell well here, the mid-sized Laguna, could steal sales from Nissan’s Altima, built on the same platform.

A third, dimmer prospect: Volkswagen, for whom Chrysler is already building a minivan. We know VW wants to increase its market share in the States — in fact, they’re building a plant in Chattanooga to take advantage of the relatively-weak dollar. But I suspect they want to do it under their own name, not somebody else’s.

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Society is thoroughly hosed

In the process of denouncing “mantyhose,” as any rational person would, Fillyjonk lets slip a technical aspect of the, um, garment:

They really don’t cover any figure flaws. “Control top” really isn’t. It’s mainly a discomfort device aimed at preventing you from wanting to eat while you’re wearing it.

As they say in those idiotic Cox Digital ads, “What else don’t I know?”

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No hope for change

I didn’t get too emotionally invested in the design of the Oklahoma state quarter, simply because I hadn’t been particularly thrilled with any of the state quarters up to that point. In their zeal to capture the essence of a particular state, the designers invariably overlooked the need to capture the essence of the nation that issued those quarters in the first place; the coins are prosaic, parochial, and kind of, well, boring.

We can do better. And we have. Phil Patton remembers the last of the Mercury dimes:

The Mercury speaks of its power. The head leaps out, charged with energy of line, so the suggestions of the mercurial god are apt. The details are crisp; [designer Adolph A.] Weinman even lent himself a logo, in initials overlapped, Dürer-style, in a signature. If coin connoisseurs consider the Mercury dime one of the finest of all American coins, its beauty struck me as a reproach to some recent disappointing coin designs, such as many of the state quarter series or the commemorative nickels and pennies.

What makes them disappointing? Patton says it’s because they’re basically print designs, unsuccessfully translated into metal:

Many of the designs on the quarters would be fine on stamps, but are diminished in metal. There may be a lesson here. In the competitions that once yielded Weinman’s Mercury dime, sculptors brought energy to a staid design language on coins, born of simple engraving. Properly marshaled, the powers of graphic design would help — not harm — coin design. Some of the boldness of the logo and richness of type would be welcome.

If sculptors created the “golden age” of coins, it was not because they made the coins into sculpture, but because they adapted the best of their skills to the conventions and contingencies of coin making. The sculptors had to rein their art in, but they had a tradition of doing so: bas relief, the centuries-old discipline of giving depth to plaques, tombs, memorials and medals.

The new Lincoln penny, due out on Honest Abe’s 200th birthday in 2009, is a prime example: the designers worked in the most complicated detail — you can actually make out young Lincoln’s suspenders — at the expense of inspiration. This, too, would make an excellent postage stamp, but as a coin, especially a one-cent coin, it’s overkill.

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They do fly high

Neither horseshoes nor grenades are involved, so “almost” doesn’t count. The Thunder actually led this one at the half and were up seven with seven minutes left, but the wings of the 5-0 Hawks proved not to be clippable this time around: Flip Murray went on an 8-point tear, the Thunder never got back on track, and the final was Atlanta 89, Oklahoma City 85.

The Hawks’ workhorses, Al Horford and Joe Johnson, lived up to their reputations, playing more than 42 minutes each. Johnson scored 25 points to lead all scorers; Horford grabbed 12 rebounds and scored 8. Murray finished with 14.

On-again-off-again Chris Wilcox was off after five and a half minutes with a sprained knee; most of the heavy lifting in the middle fell to Joe Smith, who picked up 14 points and 9 boards. Russell Westbrook, given 25 minutes to work, wound up with 15; the Kevin Durant Show produced 20 points and four rebounds.

Neither side really shot that well, the Thunder edging the Hawks 39.1 to 37.2, but Atlanta was better from beyond the arc, converting seven of 17. (OKC got only two of eight.) And the Thunder had a slight edge in rebounding, 48-44. What killed them, though, was that dry spell in the fourth quarter: once Murray started knocking down the points, the Thunder managed no field goals for five whole minutes. Unanswered points are, to put it mildly, not the answer.

Now 1-5, the Thunder will wander up to Indiana tomorrow. The Pacers are a modest 2-3, but one of those two was against the Celtics.

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Strange search-engine queries (145)

If you’re new here, allow me to explain: once a week I sift through the log entries for the 3,500 or so folks who stop by, pull out the ones who arrived via search engines, and then look for the queries that qualify as, well, strange. It’s a nasty job, but somebody has to do it.

does oxygen go with gold filings:  Well, at least it doesn’t clash.

songs about tragedy(death):  Thank you for naming a specific tragedy. Otherwise we’d be here all day.

brian damage pantyhose:  Which is why Brian should buy his own damn hosiery and stay out of your drawers.

62 year olds nice legs in stockings:  You could always wait for Brian to grow up.

statements with no anti-statement philosophy:  Try this one: “For every exception, there’s a rule.”

infiniti i30 won’t accelerate beyond 30 mph:  Check to see if you’re in downtown Austin on a Friday night.

Does chaz love me:  Inasmuch as this came from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where I know no one, the answer is probably No.

wtf missile:  A highly-desired quality in ordnance. When it hits, you want them to say “WTF?”

‘don’t start sentences with having’:  Having said that, what do you propose as a substitute?

i hate flin flon:  Have you tried flan?

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The passing of Mama Afrika

“I never understood why I couldn’t come home,” she had said. “I never committed any crime.”

South African singer Miriam Makeba died following a performance in Italy last night. She was 76 and had been in failing health for some time.

In the late 1950s, Makeba, already a star in Africa, arrived in London, where she met up with Harry Belafonte, who gave her career a boost in the US. In 1960, she attempted to return to Johannesburg for the funeral of her mother, and was told that her passport had been revoked; after she testified before the United Nations about the nature of apartheid, her citizenship was summarily canceled as well. It was 1990 before she returned to South Africa, at the request of Nelson Mandela.

Few of her recordings gained traction in the States: she did an early version of Solomon Linda’s “Mbube,” which eventually mutated into “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” and she scored a pop hit with the bouncy trifle “Pata Pata” in 1967. I remember a particularly heartfelt cover of Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” circa 1969. And she went back to her Xhosa roots (on her father’s side) with the international hit “The Click Song.” In 2005 she went on her farewell tour; this weekend’s performance was a benefit for Italian writer Roberto Saviano, who has chronicled organized crime in his native Naples and has been threatened for so doing. Activist to the last, she was.

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Geniuses at work (3)

The story so far:

March ’07: Circuit City sacks its most experienced employees in an effort to save money.

November ’07: Circuit City realizes that this wasn’t such a great idea.

November ’08: Circuit City files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The only aspect of this that wasn’t predictable was the timeframe.

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Call it what you will

Better yet, don’t. That’s the whole problem:

I’m still baffled why companies insist upon naming themselves something that is meaningless to their customers, difficult to spell and hard to pronounce. Some leading offenders: Tcho, Vumber, Naymz, Technoganic, Doostang, Motiva, Ziizoo, Fragranza, and Mathnasium. Start-ups and old-school naming firms fall in love with invented names for three reasons:

  1. They sail through trademarking because they are unique;
  2. the domain names are usually available for $9.95 on Godaddy;
  3. people want the ego boost of coining a word.

Invented names are the easy way out but most invented names are forced and unnatural sounding. My #1 head-scratcher is a company called Xobni. What is Xobni and how the heck do you pronounce it? “Zob-knee” is inbox spelled backwards. Cute to the founders. Dumbfounding to customers. If you have to spell, explain or teach someone how to pronounce a name, it’s a bad name.

I was curious about Doostang, which, according to its meta information, is “An invitation only site that ensures all contacts entering the system are trusted by at least one or more members in the network.” Liz Strauss was not impressed:

The invitation … touts the core value they offer, but the rules are that you deliver your value to them before they deliver that core value to you — if they do.

But more serious is the fact that the name has been added to Urban Dictionary, and not as a term that lends itself to flattery. Citation given:

“I had to take a wicked doostang, sorry I am late.”

So far, nobody seems to be making fun of Xobni.

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Not a cone in sight

Will this replace the loudspeaker systems we know? Presenting high-fidelity nanotubes:

[R]esearchers from Tsinghua University and Beijing Normal University have demonstrated a radically simpler loudspeaker design based on nanotubes: They showed that a thin film of nanotubes can reproduce sounds over a wide frequency range — including the full human audible range — with high sound pressure level, low total harmonic distortion, and no magnets. The team created the film by drawing nanotubes from a so-called superaligned array grown on a wafer, a technique the group introduced six years ago (see also PHYSICS TODAY, October 2005, page 23). The resulting film, only tens of nanometers thick but up to 10 cm wide, is transparent and has a nearly purely resistive impedance. When electrodes are placed along its ends and an alternating current is applied, the film produces clear tones that can be as loud as a conventional speaker.

And technically, it doesn’t vibrate:

The researchers attribute the sound generation not to vibration but to a thermoacoustic effect first proposed nearly a century ago: Thanks to the nanotube film’s extremely low heat capacity per unit area, changes in the current flowing through the film are reflected in the film’s temperature, and those temperature changes excite pressure waves in the surrounding air.

Will something like this replace my old KLH Thirty-Eights? I hope I’m around to find out.

(Via The Anger of Compassion.)

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Wasting no time

This new printer, which was actually bought for its scanning capabilities, managed to malfunction in its first week: it wouldn’t print any color other than cyan. (The five-color cartridge is CMYK plus some sort of clear-coat; there’s also an independent black cartridge.) Unlike the HPs I’m used to, this Kodak contraption uses a permanent printhead, and using the company’s online diagnostics yielded up the determination that the printhead was defective and that they would send me another one.

That was Thursday night. The UPS parcel was waiting for me when I got home today. They’d also thrown in a set of ink cartridges — I assume that the old ones were befouled and should not be reused — and a packet of 4×6 photo paper. The calibration process was, as always, slow, but it apparently was accurate, so I’m hoping that the problem is solved. In the meantime, kudos to Kodak for getting out the replacement parts pronto.

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Lord, Mr. Ford

That’s T. J. Ford, who almost singlehandedly put away the Thunder tonight in Indianapolis; in the last 70 seconds he scored seven points, and the Pacers won it by eight, 107-99.

This could have been won. Oklahoma City had a ten-point lead after the first quarter, running it to 15 points early in the second. But Indiana kept beavering away: they ran off a 13-0 run, and the OKC lead was cut to three at the half and to zero after three. The lead changed hands several times in the fourth, but the only one that counts, of course, is the last one.

Once again, the Thunder ruled the boards (51 rebounds versus 41), but couldn’t drop the shots when they needed to (38.7 percent versus 48.2). Kevin Durant, who scored a season-high 37 points, must have been wondering where all the help went. With Chris Wilcox out, Johan Petro and Robert Swift got swapped in at center, and they did yeoman work of clearing the backboards, but they didn’t produce a whole lot of baskets.

The Pacers’ Troy Murphy exited early with what was described as stomach flu; Jarrett Jack filled in admirably. But T. J. was seemingly unstoppable: he had 24 points, ten assists and seven boards. And Danny Granger added 20 points of his own.

What to make of this? The Thunder have clearly improved: they’re now playing 36 minutes of acceptable ball instead of 24. Unfortunately, the game still runs 48.

The Magic will be in town Wednesday; after that, it’s off to New York (Friday) and Philadelphia (Saturday).

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In case you missed it

There’s a long line, down the block along the curb, around the corner.

It’s a string of refuse carts, because Tuesday is Trash Day in my neighborhood. Little do they know that those carts won’t be picked up today.

Back in the 1960s, when screwing around with things that didn’t need screwing around with was de rigueur, the Feds came up with something called the Uniform Holiday Bill, which would guarantee (for themselves, anyway) four three-day weekends per year. One of those weekends would be around Veterans Day, which would be moved from the 11th of November to the last Monday in October. As usual with the government, this took some time to implement, and the first New Improved Veterans Day was celebrated on 25 October 1971.

Various states took exception to the very idea, and maintained the holiday as it was. Eventually Congress figured out that they’d screwed up, and restored Veterans Day to the day originally intended. President Ford signed the enabling legislation in 1975. As usual with the government, this took some time to implement, and Veterans Day was returned to the 11th of November in 1978.

Not that the Feds can leave well enough alone: a proposal floated a couple of years ago would have merged Veterans Day and Election Day into a single holiday, on the pretext of increasing voter turnout. It seems to have died, and good riddance. Frankly, I think they should move elections to the weekend and be done with it. In the meantime, Veterans Day is fine right where it is, and the city will pick up the refuse tomorrow.

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I want some of that

engrish, drink, store, anything, whatever, brunei
more the engrish!

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GOP: too big to fail?

In which case, this would presumably be the next step:

Congressional Democrats announced today that they had agreed to a bailout plan for Republicans after last week’s devastating election results. While exact details are unavailable, sources tell us that the Republicans will be given 4 seats in the Senate and 15 in the House. Nancy Pelosi said in a statement today: “We’ve established pretty clearly over the last several months that failed strategies and management should not necessarily have to result in losses in market share, particularly for well-connected Washington insiders.”

Asked for comment, Democratic strategist James Carville was giddy. “This is brilliant. It really doesn’t give up anything of substance to the Republicans. But it will sap the energy from the Republican Party for making any substantial changes, and make it more likely they will continue the failed strategies that led to this most recent loss. After their recent failures, the Republicans were on the verge of being forced to reinvent their whole organization. This bailout should reduce the likelihood of that substantially.”

When asked if bailouts of AIG, General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and Bear Stearns wouldn’t similarly reduce the urgency to change failed approaches, Carville answered “no comment.”

As will I, for now.

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Talonted indeed

O·P·I, the firm that invented nail-polish colors like “Blushingham Palace,” “Kennebunk Port” and “I’m Not Really a Waitress,” has introduced la collection de France, and March samples one of the new offerings:

I bought You Don’t Know Jacques untested because it was, on sight, the ugliest color of polish I’d ever seen. I was fascinated.

The term “mushroomy gray-brown,” in fact, came into play. But then:

You already know how this comes out, don’t you? Jacques is gorgeous. Against my ppp* skin, and with three coats, it’s a muted, slightly grayish brown cream — the color of hot cocoa with a hint of steam over it. People stopped me all week to comment on it.

* Pale Porcelain Princess. I think.

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Dust to be bitten

Back in the 1980s, computer magazines were huge: 500, 600 pages some months. (In 1983, one issue of PC Magazine ran over 800 pages, prompting its keepers to switch to a biweekly publication schedule, which was maintained through 2007.) Not any more: the current (December ’08) issue of PC World is a meager 148 pages.

And they’re about to get meager-er, I suspect. Two PC World columnists announced their impending departure in that issue: Dan Tynan of “Gadget Freak” and Stephen Manes of “Full Disclosure.” The loss of Manes in particular, a mainstay (sorry) of the magazine for the last 13 years, makes me wonder if maybe the print version is doomed.

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Card sharps

Megan McArdle gets some easy plastic and fronts several theories:

1) The credit card market is contracting unevenly.

This seems plausible enough: scarcely any markets change en masse at precisely the same speed. To support this premise: a bank that is apparently doing well these days bounced me $14k additional credit this fall, while a bank that otherwise specializes in less-than-prime customers, from whom I have an affinity card, dinged me for two percentage points on my APR more or less simultaneously.

2) The credit card market isn’t contracting. So far their models are actually working, and their business model remains more reliable than other industries.

I have my doubts about this. Several card issuers have actively sought to unload certain of their customers, or at least sell them off to someone else.

3) The credit card market needs to take on new customers because people are frantically paying down their high-interest credit cards.

I might buy into this. The aforementioned bank that’s doing well made a serious, almost desperate, pitch for balance transfers from my higher-balance cards, figuring that I’d jump at the chance to get rid of a couple thousand bucks or so at a double-digit APR. Which I would.

4) The credit card market needs to take on new customers because they’re on the verge of going bust.

Certainly their revenues from merchant fees will suffer if the merchants aren’t selling anything.

5) Alex Tabarrok is right and the credit crunch is underwhelming.

I’m not one to bet against Alex Tabarrok, generally, but I’m seeing plenty of whelm to go around.

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SoSA

No, not Sammy. This is a portmanteau concoction meaning “South of St. Anthony,” and while it may sound silly, it’s not really any sillier than “Cottage District,” which is Oklahoma City’s shorthand for this section of MidTown. (Legally, it’s the Northwest Addition to Oklahoma City, a description used by no one but title-insurance folks.)

Right now, SoSA is an area of vacant lots, 1910 architecture, and a smattering of 21st-century contemporaries, all more or less jumbled together. It’s what you might call a hodgepodge, not that there’s anything wrong with that:

The City is currently developing the design guidelines for the Midtown Cottage District (SoSA). Take a look at the area surrounding the intersection of NW 7th & Francis to see what’s already been done. It’s become an architect’s playground … there are currently three architect-occupied dwellings within a 1-block radius, and at least two more are being designed right now. The styles range from historic renovation to contemporary, to an innovative fusion of both. It’s really cool. These types of houses couldn’t be built in Mesta Park or Rose Creek … But what about SoSA? Will the new guidelines turn SoSA into another homogenized neighborhood? Do we want to be assured of lockstep conformity to a Kinkadian vision of “neighborhood,” or would we rather be surprised and impressed by the next new building?

Actually, I wouldn’t object to a bit of Kinkaidery here and there, but I don’t want it to be the defining image of the district. As I posted there as a comment:

I live in one of those districts with fairly strict requirements; I’m thinking that it wouldn’t hurt this town, and might help it, to try a little experiment with Almost Anything Goes. I’ve visited the Okasian House — it was on the 2007 Architecture Tour — and I’d love to see other contemporary homes cheek by jowl with Craftsman houses, just for sheer jaw-dropping variety.

And if someone wants to do a new version of, say, a Wright Prairie House, that’s also fine with me.

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Collagen dropout

“No more plastic surgery? Well, I’ll show you.” And she did, too:

A Korean woman addicted to plastic surgery has been left unrecognisable after her obsession led her to inject cooking oil into her face.

Hang Mioku, now 48, had her first plastic surgery procedure when she was 28; hooked from the beginning she moved to Japan where she had further operations — mostly to her face. Following operation after operation, her face was eventually left enlarged and disfigured, but she would still look at herself in the mirror and think she was beautiful.

Eventually the surgeons she visited refused to carry out any more work on her and one suggested that her obsession could be a sign of a psychological disorder.

And so she entered therapy. It didn’t last. Besides, this was easier:

Amazingly, she found a doctor who was willing to give her silicone injects and, what’s more, he then gave her a syringe and silicone of her own so she could self-inject.

When her supply of silicone ran out Hang resorted to injecting cooking oil into her face. Her face became so grotesquely large that she was called “standing fan’ by children in her neighbourhood — due to her large face and small body.

Now the bad news: there are pictures.

(Via DollyMix.)

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Containment field

Peek-A-Boob Strips (I only have to type it once, thank heaven) are transparent double-stick strips that perform the following tasks:

Eliminate that gap between buttons on your favorite shirts, hide bra straps, hold up strapless tops, secure revealing necklines, or just a quick fix for a hemline.

Not inconsiderable virtues, those. The little pink tin comes with 30 such strips for $8.89; once you’ve used them up, the manufacturer will happily refill your tin with 60 for the same price. And besides, duct tape is just unsightly.

(Field trial at TheDailyStyleScout.com.)

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The future of marketing

A future of marketing, anyway:

We are a group of first year full time MBA students in UC Irvine doing a big marketing project on Hello Kitty and we really need a big favor from you — if possible, to complete this 5 min survey and also to post this survey on your blog or ask your friends to help out as well. We need data that can exclude demographic limitations so we need people from all over the world to do this and we are looking for more than 2000 participants. Please use your charm and also your passion for kitty to help us on this survey!

I am way short on charm, but I pay attention to Hello Kitty, so I did the survey. It’s fairly quick. The guy from whom I got the link, on the other hand, would probably have preferred that I hadn’t:

Something tells me these students have already lined up plum job positions at the corporate headquarters of the evil feline or are trying to weasel their way in by kissing some you know what. Seriously, if you were a student and could pick any marketing theme project to conduct, why on earth would you pick Hello Kitty?

Because Hello Kitty is a legitimate phenomenon, the first true Officially Licensed Blank Slate, receptor for all of our fantasies (well, not all of our fantasies, I suppose) in a single expressionless face: she makes Barack Obama look like David farging Mamet. This is no small accomplishment, even allowing for the fact that there are some people who will buy anything; it takes an evil genius to pull it off.

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And get some extra napkins

Arianne Cohen gets an invitation to one of those New York nude dinner parties:

I was petrified. I am an enthusiast of other naked activities — skinny dipping, showers, sex. But unlike dinner, those all start with ‘s.’ This seems important. Also, they all involve doing something. A lengthy swimming career taught me that many people are attractive naked not because of their bodies’ particulars, but because of the way those bodies move. It’s why the prettiest people are not always the most sought after. Movement is important. When stationary, my lower body looks like a bean bag chair.

But I wondered. Nudity is something I can deal with. Perhaps I am a closet nudist. Perhaps nudism is my new untapped outlet, ready to occupy the empty space in my life between knitting and Netflix.

Actually, well, um, never mind. I’m not going there.

She did, however, accept the invitation:

Through three courses of Indian food, I found that my need to check out men’s packages had passed in its entirety, and that skin is just another set of clothes. People carry themselves differently when naked; it’s more authentic. You can read who people are at a glance. I imagined the heavily makeup’ed fashionistas of my Upper East Side neighborhood melting down under these conditions, their coiffed facades broken, their personalities unable to function in the harsh light of reality.

Still, I don’t think she’s going to make a habit of these events: “Never was I so excited to see my bra.” File under Been There, Done That, and I’d bet her next meal en déshabillé will be solo in front of a DVD from Netflix.

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An ounce of image

Worth at least a pound of performance anyday. Ken Elias finds this telling quote in GM’s quarterly SEC filing:

“In connection with their year-end audit of our annual financial statements, our independent auditors assess whether a statement should be included in their audit report related to the existence of substantial doubt related to our ability to continue as a going concern. If the report on our audited financial statements included such a statement, we would not be in compliance with the covenants in certain significant credit agreements, including our $4.5 billion secured revolving credit facility and $1.5 billion U.S. term loan, both of which would be callable by the lenders. Additionally, we have other significant obligations that include cross-default provisions that could be triggered by a failure to comply with those credit agreements. We would need to seek a waiver from the lenders for any covenant breaches or cross defaults, or arrange for substitute financing. There is no assurance that we could cure a default, secure a waiver or arrange substitute financing in such circumstances or that we would not incur significant costs in doing so.”

Factor out some of the legalese, and you’re looking at a statement of abject fear: if the auditors say Boo, GM is utterly screwed. Still, this is consistent with other GM statements over the past year, in which the blame for their sad state is placed on the UAW, on the ongoing “financial crisis,” on the price of gasoline, on anything and anyone other than the nitwits in the RenCen who drove the company into the ground and who are now desperately trying to save their phoney-baloney jobs. There’s a case to be made for bailing out Detroit, maybe, but things are never going to improve with these guys around.

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Indistinguishable from technology

Orlando 109, Oklahoma City 92, and it wasn’t as close as it sounds: the Magic jumped out to a 37-19 lead after the first quarter, and were up 71-42 at the half. Exacerbating matters: the Kevin Durant Show was cancelled due to a sprained ankle.

It may not have made any difference. Dwight Howard put together a triple-double: 30 points, 19 rebounds, 10 blocked shots. And all five Magic starters made double figures, Jameer Nelson wangling a double-double: 17 points, 10 boards. Perhaps even more important, Orlando turned the ball over only eight times, versus 13 for OKC.

Still, the Thunder matched the Magic in rebounds (50 each) and outshot them from the foul line. But the field goals still aren’t falling: 37.4 percent. With Durant sidelined, Jeff Green started at the two and Desmond Mason at the three; Green turned in 25 points, a season high, and took down ten rebounds for the double-double, and Mason scored 12. We also got to see more of Robert Smith Swift, who’s apparently been to the barber shop, and in garbage time at the end Mo Sene, Steven Hill and Kyle Weaver all got a few minutes. (Sene got one point at the charity stripe; Hill and Weaver each hit a bucket for two; Sene and Hill split five rebounds between them.)

There’s a back-to-back this weekend on the road: Friday at New York, Saturday at Philadelphia. Neither the Sixers nor the Knicks figure to be gimmes.

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Detached or something

I saw this at Nina’s and for some reason thought I had to try it for myself. Here’s the premise:

The scale you completed is the Experiences in Close Relationships Scale, created by Brennan, Clark, and Shaver (1998). The scale is a measure of an individual’s “attachment style” in romantic relationships. It yields scores on two dimensions of attachment that together explain a lot of the variability in how people relate to their romantic partners. The first dimension is called attachment-related Anxiety and it represents the extent to which an individual is secure vs. insecure about whether his/her partner will be available and responsive to his/her needs. A high score on attachment anxiety suggests that a person is afraid of rejection and abandonment. The second dimension is called attachment-related Avoidance and it represents the extent to which an individual is uncomfortable being close to others vs. secure and comfortable with depending on others. A high score on avoidance suggests that a person likes to keep his/her distance in romantic relationships and strongly dislikes depending on a romantic partner.

The reason why we are interested in romantic attachment is because several recent studies show a connection between moral values and attachment, as well as between political ideology and attachment. These studies however have produced conflicting results, and we hope to shed some light on the controversy.

The graph below shows your scores on attachment avoidance and attachment anxiety as they compare to those of the average liberal and the average conservative who have taken this survey on our website. Scores range from 1 to 7 and higher numbers indicate more attachment avoidance and anxiety. Your score is shown in green. The score of the average Liberal survey respondent is shown in blue and that of the average Conservative respondent is in red.

The difference in scores between Liberals and Conservatives, judging by the table, is fairly insignificant, though there are rather a lot more Liberal respondents, which I suspect is due to a greater fondness on the left for filing out surveys of this type. At any rate, I’m quite a bit more anxious than either.


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In your face

I work the day shift, and my workplace is east of my home. In the morning it’s no big deal, since I’m usually at work by sunrise or before, but in the afternoon, especially this time of year, I’ve got to face the sun head-on. And it’s worse now, since the Classen exit from I-44 is under reconstruction, meaning I have to get off at Northwest Distressway, which means a trip up into the sky along the hated Belle Isle Bridge.

So this has a certain resonance with me:

Sunvisors in cars work well when the sun is the right position relative to the car, but that is only about half the time. The other half of time when a sunvisor is needed they work poorly, if they work at all. What we need is one long sunvisor that is mounted on a central pivot that can be swung around through a complete circle so that it can provide shade in any direction. Likewise one should be able to extend it so it comes down farther, or retract it so that it does not obscure as much of the window.

Gwendolyn’s visors are extensible, but not very much so, and they’re mounted in the usual positions, so there’s no great improvement to be had by stretching them out.

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308

“CoTV number … er?” asks Andrew Ian Dodge in connection with the 308th edition of the Carnival of the Vanities, which is my cue to throw in some gratuitous business about “308,” which in Ferrari parlance is, or was, a 3.0-liter V8, apparently without upsetting Peugeot.

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Make mine Baltic Dry

Something I hadn’t noticed: The Baltic Dry Index has fallen 98% over two months. (Actually, if this chart is to be believed, it’s only 88 percent, and it’s taken three months.)

Why this matters:

The BDI is a good leading indicator for economic growth and production. After all, it doesn’t deal with container ships carrying finished goods. It deals with the precursors to production: bulk carriers carrying building materials, cement, grain, coal, and iron. Unlike stock and bond markets, the BDI “is totally devoid of speculative content,” says Howard Simons, an economist and columnist at TheStreet.com. People don’t book freighters unless they have cargo to move.

Because the supply of cargo ships is generally both tight and inelastic — it takes two years to build a new ship, and ships are too expensive to take out of circulation the way airlines park unneeded jets in the Arizona desert — marginal increases in demand can push the index higher quickly. And significant increases in demand can push the index sharply higher.

So what can we assume when the index has dropped 88 percent? Something like this:

When the BDI increases, dry bulk shippers win. The increase in the index directly increases their margins and revenues.

When the BDI decreases, every other consumer/producer in the global value chain wins. Since the BDI measures procurement costs, when these costs go down, producers benefit from increased margins, and consumers benefit from lower prices for finished products.

Provided, of course, that producers are actually finishing products. These days it might simply be that no one has anything to ship.

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Print is dead

Melody Wells writes the obituary:

People enjoyed watching Britney Spears slowly kill herself over and over and over again for a while. But when our country enters the Depression 2.0, people will actually start to crave real news again.

At that point, all the media agencies will be suffering from a dearth of cash, as well as talent. They will have laid off all of the intelligent, thoughtful, analytical reporters in exchange for cheap college grads ready and willing to give up their personal lives for a byline, but with nothing of value to offer an organization. You won’t be able to adequately report on anything of substance.

“Substance” is open to discussion, but “adequately” seems inarguable: the trend is to shorter, snappier pieces which may or may not actually cover the matter in question but which fit better in the smaller news hole in The Daily Machine.

This is why readers have been slowly leaving print for the past 10 years or more! But big media companies don’t get it. Their relentless pursuit of the bottom-of-the-barrel readership (opportunistic, as it is) has alienated the only dedicated loyal readers they had.

Media bias, as so incessantly decried by the dextrosphere, is merely a segment of that pursuit, the segment that says “We must become relevant!” It stops there, though: they don’t ask “To whom must we become relevant?” They’re using the term in its old Sixties-buzzword sense, inclusive to the point of indiscriminate, and utterly meaningless to anyone who survived that era with his sense of propriety intact.

We’re rapidly entering a period in which the 4th Estate will cease to exist. Everyone’s blaming the Internet. But it’s not their fault. Instead, newspapers and magazines attempted to compete with the internet, entering a race with bloggers which by definition could not be won except by giving up their self-worth. They stopped breaking news. They stopped caring about expertise. They underestimated their consumers.

And that is why print is dead.

Ms Wells is presently accepting a buyout from Time Inc.; I suspect she’ll land on her feet.

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