Archive for January 2010

Worst titles of 2009

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Thoughts they cannot defend

A late lament for the top of the food chain, a place we used to embrace.

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Always Golightly

Even today, Audrey Hepburn both inspires and puzzles:

A half-century after her iconic turn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Hepburn remains an ideal of simple elegance, eminently approachable and attainable. She evokes a sensibility composed of both sophistication and innocence — a combination that’s considered practically oxymoronic in our more jaded times.

Audrey HepburnWhat I can’t figure out, though, is the desire by women to emulate the classic Audrey look, even when it’s not necessarily a natural fit. In separate instances, I’ve been told by female acquaintances (including one via tweet) that they were sold on a dress, hairstyle, etc. because it gave them that Audrey Hepburn quality. In each case, the women in question had physical features that were decidedly unlike Hepburn’s, i.e. curvy, blonde, or olive-skinned. That such a diverse representation of femininity would all aspire to be Audrey says something about the idealization at play.

Perhaps it’s not so much The Look as it is the suggestion of the lifestyle: one does not simply put on “sophistication and innocence” as though it were a costume. And said lifestyle might not be the glorified escort of Breakfast at Tiffany’s — the character in Truman Capote’s original novella was a bit more, um, streetwise — so much as the slumming Europrincess of Roman Holiday.

It didn’t hurt that Hepburn had an ongoing arrangement with Givenchy, who designed her costumes for many years. And while Givenchy didn’t invent the Little Black Dress — Coco Chanel was showing one back in the 1920s — the one he worked up for Holly Golightly proved to be iconic. How iconic, you ask? One of three copies made for the film sold at a charity auction in 2006 for £467,200, and it wasn’t even one she’d actually worn.

Then again, it could be something else entirely. Claire Goldsmith, granddaughter of eyewear designer Oliver Goldsmith, who made glasses for Hepburn, says it’s the eyes:

“…Those big, brown, warm eyes. Women relate to her because she was unthreatening, and for men she had that innocence.”

Of whom can this be said today?

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My very own blogwar

This was waiting for me today at the Backup Blog:

I hit “admin” on your shadow blog and get back to MY blog!

What kind of a stupid, malicious, psychopathic game are you up to now, and how do you think you can possibly get away with it?

You have exactly five days — because it is a weekend and a holiday — to remove every single link, every single short link, every single category, every single tag, every single possible relationship between your blogs and mine — or I will make this into the test case to end all test cases!

You don’t just commit massive click theft and stat theft under the noses of all the supposed Guardians of the Internet and get away with it!

I still cann’t [sic] comprehend how Word Press [sic] would possibly permit something like this to go on for so long — and now becoming more and more blatant.

It is completely undermining THEIR integrity and honesty, even more than it is hurting me and others like me.

Now, no more! Enough! Basta! Find other victims to screw with.

Now let’s see the sheer enormousness of the stats over there:

Stats for

Oh, yeah, I’m stealing so much traffic.

Being the gentle soul I am, I will allow myself to believe that this is the statement of someone who had not previously noted that now inserts into the Dashboard a selection of “Latest Posts” from a sampling of their zillions of users.

Besides, it’s not like she sent me something like this:

This has gone far enough!

You will immediately remove all references to me and my work from your blogsites.

You will immediately remove all references to me and my work from your archives.

And you will personally contact Google and tell them that you have NO connection to me or my work.

You will also remove all links, tags, and pingbacks of whatever sort between your blogs or other sites and mine.

If you do not do this, I will have no alternative but to make formal complaints to Google, Linked In, Word Press, and the FCC, as well as contacting my attorney.

I realize this “SEO” nonsense has gotten completely out of hand in general. But your behavior towards me is now beyond belief.

Apparently the horrid crime committed by that blogger was to cite this person as an influence.

I believe, though, that we’ve found our next Secretary of Homeland Security.

(Moral of the story: Never get into a pissing contest with a man who’s taken diuretics for a decade.)

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The great Kuga controversy

The Ford Kuga is a European cute ute that will be built in America in 2011, presumably as the replacement for the aging Escape.

Now comes word, though, that US Ford dealers don’t know from this Kuga stuff and would like to keep the Escape name and its decade or so of putative brand value. Dearborn’s One Ford strategy, though, calls for all the Blue Oval’s models to bear the same names no matter where Ford sells them.

To me, though, the decisive factor is whether there will be a Mercury version offered as well. If so, Ford’s choice is easy: keep the Escape name on the Ford, and drop the Mariner name in favor of, um, Mercury Kuga.

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Rush to the emergency room

From January 2000:

Wednesday afternoon, I was ambling back to the office when I felt a familiar twinge in the upper torso. I cut my speed down to the bare minimum, but kept going. So did the pain. I got back to my desk and popped an aspirin, and then another. Eventually it stopped, but when it did, it was replaced by a dull numbness that kept moving up and down my right side as though it was looking for a place to park. I was on the phone to the doctor’s office, and coworkers gathered around me waiting for the show to begin.

By now I was functionally, if not literally, brain-dead, and a brace of staffers herded me into the van (does it really count as herding if there’s only one herdee?) and hauled me off to the hospital, where the first disturbing vision came right away — a sign reading “Triage”. Now I know the dictionary definition doesn’t insist upon it, but I couldn’t help imagining some ghastly post-disaster scenario where a handful of Red Cross volunteers are trying to sort out the victims with the best chance for survival. As it happens, cardiac patients get high priority in Triage, and it was less than half an hour before I found myself flat on my back in the E.R. and wired, if not for sound, certainly for telemetry.

And the next day:

Twenty-three hours after it all began, for which my insurance company should thank me but probably won’t, I was out. Not a heart problem, I was told, and further testing would take place on an outpatient basis. Just to prove a point, I spurned the proffered wheelchair and walked the half-mile to the far end of the parking lot.

It still isn’t a heart problem, apparently; I’ve only been back to the E.R. once, and that was during the Insomnia From Hell period.

Still, it was on the basis of this experience that I figured that whatever was ailing Rush Limbaugh was similarly transient and inexplicable. He’ll survive. After all, I did.

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Drugs old and new

MC Thumbtack on “If This Is It”:

I was working in the record store when this came out and I was at the time heavy into buying import singles of post punk bands and working on maintaining my edgy, yet sophisticated personality that was trying to say “Hey, I’m totally 80s without being, you know, totally 80s.” Because there were two kinds of 80s. There was the New Order 80s and there was the Huey Lewis 80s.

If ever I need to reconcile these two sets of 80s, I need only turn back partway through the 70s — to Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True, on which the backing is provided by California country-rockers Clover, whence came, yes, Huey Lewis. It’s a tenuous connection, since neither Lewis nor latter-day Clover keyboardist Hopper, who joined Lewis in the News, actually played behind Costello, but it’s enough to justify my attention to both tines of that forking decade.

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We’re presumably OK here

Way back in 1940, Oklahoma decided to specify the county of registration on the state’s license plate as part of the actual number, and the counties would be listed in order of population: Oklahoma County was 1, Tulsa County 2, and so on down to 77. It perhaps did not occur to them that these numbers might be variable, and in 1963, after a couple of Censuses had realigned them, the state switched to a two-letter county code followed by up to four digits. This would not be enough plates for the two biggest counties, and so Oklahoma County was assigned all combinations starting with X (later also Y), and Tulsa those with Z. But this wasn’t enough either, since several counties ran out anyway, including Cleveland and Tulsa, and after 1985 they gave up on the whole idea.

Until 2010, anyway. Per Senate Bill 318, passed last year, all new stickers issued henceforth, those expiring in 2011 and thereafter, will once again bear a two-letter county code. Presumably there will be different combinations for Coal, Comanche and Cotton.

This does not mean, however, that tag numbers can be duplicated from county to county, as Kansas had been doing with vanity plates.

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Quote of the week

Dan B. at Basketbawful describes a ghastly little contretemps in the Washington Wizards’ locker room:

In the most amazing yet somehow completely unsurprising story of the year so far, Gilbert Arenas and Javaris Crittenton went all Walter Sobchak on each other and drew their guns in the locker room on Christmas Eve. Nobody got shot, but even if Agent Zero had pulled the trigger, I wouldn’t have been too worried considering his shooting percentage this year is only 41%.

And Crittenton hasn’t taken a shot all year. On the court, I mean.

The incident, incidentally, is now reported to have occurred three days earlier, on the 21st of December.

Bonus WTF: In the 1990s, owner Abe Pollin officially changed the name of this team:

I won a World Championship under the name Bullets. However, too often during the mid to late ’90s, I would hear the word “bullets” associated with guns and violence instead of my basketball team. While the name was longstanding, I finally reached a point that I was simply tired of the association between the two. Then, my good friend, Prime Minister Rabin was assassinated in Israel. That was the final straw. It was time to change names.

Pollin died last November. He would probably not have been amused by this locker-room tomfoolery.

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Open, sez you

Julie R. Neidlinger contemplates OpenID:

I went to my files to see if I actually had an OpenID account, and had the fortune to personally discover one of the reasons why the concept of a universal login is the Holy Grail of the Internet: I didn’t have an OpenID account, but a MyOpenID account.

Seriously? What is the point of that? I wondered, forseeing some kind of GoDaddy-esque domain seller explosion of OpenID offerings, such as MyOpenID and OurOpenID and OpenIDs andOpenedID and IOpenedMyOwnOpenIDBusiness.

The idea of a universal login is nice for personal convenience’s sake, and also so that Tim LaHaye can have additional material for his Left Behind series. However, I’m not willing to pay $25 for the privilege, which is what OpenID asks. Using Google everything, at this point, has worked well enough for me, though I know I’ll be in a world of hurt the day Google removes the “Don’t Be Evil” mask and reveals themselves to be the sulfur-infused Internet Beelzebub that they likely are.

No one’s asked me for $25 for an OpenID account yet, but I can tell you what my Web host thinks of it with regard to WordPress installs:

As described in a blog-post, this plugin can be misused and you will be a target of CPU overuse spam. Your server will be instructed to initiate numerous (and continuous) PHP instances to pr0n/3rd-party websites, in order to extract the fake OpenID user’s name & email information, which will consume CPU minutes and slow down your website.

And spammers are at least as sulfurous as Google on the Internet Beelzebub scale.

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Scott vs. Scott

In the two-game Scott Brooks vs. Scott Skiles series, it’s a draw: the Bucks won this one at the Bradley Center, 103-97, though it took 53 minutes and a whole lot of hustle to do it. And that hustle was apparent all the way through: Milwaukee put up 99 shots during regulation, and seven more in the overtime. If they only hit 42 of them — 39.6 percent — well, they had a few other weapons going for them, including a healthy Michael Redd (27 points) and a fearsome Andrew Bogut (23 points, 15 rebounds). The Bucks collected 54 rebounds in all, including 19 off the offensive glass, which explains how they got to put up 106 shots in the first place. And they turned the ball over only nine times.

The Thunder, meanwhile, hit 36 of 84 for 42.9 percent, and Russell Westbrook had one of his best nights ever: 17 points, 13 dimes, nine rebounds, just one board short of a triple-double. Kevin Durant got his seventh consecutive 30-plus game, with 31. But nobody else in Thunder blue made it to double figures, and OKC missed eight of 31 free throws and 12 of 14 treys.

So that’s the end of the winning streak. Unfortunately, the Bulls are on one of their own, and that’s who’s next on this road trip.

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Truth in labeling?

When newspapers merge, the editorial and production facilities integrate; the masthead, maybe not so much. The poster child for this sort of thing was born in the 1970s in Boston, where the Herald Traveler, itself the product of merger, was acquired by the rival Record-American, itself the product of merger. For a brief unshining moment the surviving paper was actually called by all four names; when Rupert Murdoch bought it, he squoze the name back down to Boston Herald, the name it retains today under different ownership.

This sort of shenanigans undoubtedly influenced the guys at National Lampoon, who produced a parody Sunday newspaper for scenic Dacron, Ohio, which they called the Republican-Democrat. But as usual, life is funnier than jokes: in 1940, two Chattanooga newspapers, the News and the Free Press, merged to form the Chattanooga News-Free Press. In terms of Just Asking For It, this was right up there with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, a paper that clearly should have been perfect for this post-intelligent age.

Still, a joke this good has staying power, and the News-Free Press survived until 1999, when a merger with the rival Times gave birth to the Times Free Press, pointedly lacking the hyphen. The P-I, alas, went Internet-only in 2009.

(Suggested by Brett Oyler.)

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A whiter shade of Muppet

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How rank is it?

Google’s PageRank is as inscrutable as a person’s FICO score, and if you make your living on the Web, you’re influenced by both whether you like it or not.

This “enhancement” to PageRank may not make you like it any better:

I just came across a very unpleasing revelation to end the year however it’s just part of every blogger or webmaster’s life to be hit by Google once in a while or maybe frequently for some.

The Google pagerank of this blog has been stripped a notch and is now down to 3 from the previous 4 which isn’t giving me a totally happy face to end the year. My other friends’ blogs have also been stripped with their page ranks however I’m not going to tell who because it’s up for them to find out.

Google’s nasty caffeinated algorithm had finally taken its toll and is mercilessly affecting sites on shared hosting as they have advocated page loading speed as an added factor to rank in 2010. I’m not surprised that is this going to happen however this exaggerated move isn’t helping the web but it’s killing the content delivery networks especially blogs the benefit of ranking for highly relevant page positions that provides more quality content than static pages.

The PageRank scale runs 0 to 10, so a drop from 4 to 3 might be considered significant.

Fort Hard Knox has been similarly hit:

Ft. Hard Knox’s page rank just dropped to 4/10 from 5/10 where it has been nearly two years. I think part of that has to do with the fact that we’ve been going through a little transition in the last few months, and have not been posting as much original content that other bloggers want to link to.

For my part, I’ve found that I’m pretty much incapable of guessing which posts will generate links or even comments; it’s probably a good thing that I take a relatively dim view of trying to game the system, because plainly I wouldn’t be good at it.

Which is not to say that massive link dumps like The Other McCain Full Metal Jacket Reach-Around don’t help; McCain’s sporting a highly-respectable 6 these days. Of course, he’d like another point or two — who wouldn’t? (Besides her, I mean. She has two sites, a 2 and a 3.)

As for optimizing one’s page-loading speed, I’ve done just about all that I can: unless I’ve linked to an audio/video file lately, everything originates here except the Twitwidget, the SiteMeter, and the little Green thing, which actually comes from the host anyway. (I generally avoid hotlinking other people’s graphics, preferring to store my own copy.) There’s a WordPress gizmo to tell me how much of the RAM on the shared database server is going to support this site: it runs around 25 MB of a possible 90 unless I have a bunch of runaway PHP processes going on, as I did New Year’s Eve for a couple of hours. (Weirdly, this seemed to be triggered by Google’s spider, which apparently stumbled into a trap of its own making and thrashed the server enough to cause it to have, in its own words, “gone away.”)

Still, I try not to take this stuff too seriously. I hit 6 once, dropped back to 5, and have settled there ever since. I have no idea what my credit score is, however.

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A shifty idea

My first car, manufactured a mere 44 years ago, had a two-speed automatic transmission. Eight-speed automatics are now available. What’s next? Follow the Fibonacci sequence:

“Most people remember Fibonacci numbers from 8th grade math. But in reality, they are proving to be a useful guide in figuring out how many gears to put into our next generation of transmissions,” said Elgar Loveless of Borg Warner’s Ithaca, NY facility.

According to Wikipedia, Fibonacci’s sequence of numbers is formed by starting with 1 and 0, and generating the next number by adding the two before it. Therefore, Fibonacci numbers include 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21 and 34.

So we should be expecting a 13-speed slushbox shortly.

Although it won’t be from Nissan:

Spokesman Trent Capone told MetaCars that “We already have a continuously variable transmission. That means an infinite number of gears. And you know what? Infinity is more than 8. Or 34, or whatever the hell else they come up with. Nothing is bigger than infinity. Holy crap…! We have a brand called Infiniti too. It all makes sense now.”

Curiously, no current Infiniti model is fitted with the CVT.

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Pewter science

Yet another discovery from the Map:

Erie by Romantic Soles

You’re looking at “Erie” by Romantic Soles, and this is the pitch for the line:

Young, stylish, sophisticated, comfy, and affordable. These words are not commonly used in the same sentence, let alone featured in the same shoe. Romantic Soles has turned something that people usually only dream of into a reality. Amazingly, Romantic Soles manages to provide the latest junior fashions while still offering unbeatable comfort. In today’s world, perception is king. Young people no longer have to sacrifice comfort for style. Every shoe couples a comfort-oriented sole with a fashionable upper — and a hint of sass. It is hard not to develop a romantic love affair with every single pair!

Which left me wondering: when does a woman become too old to wear something like this? Does it reek of “prom shoe”? (Would the blue and black versions carry the same baggage?)

“Erie” sells for a modest $65.

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14:59 and counting

Political tomes, says Lisa, don’t have much staying power:

Even the best written political books have the shelf life of whipcream in an 80 degree room. I know, I’ve bought hundreds right when they hit the store and were hot, read them immediately, tried to sell them back to the used bookstore within the week, only to be told that they are “past their peak of interest”.

My two-part system for avoiding this particular confrontation with an irked bookstore clerk:

  1. Place the books in a large cardboard box and set it in the far corner of the room.
  2. Move to another house.

Needless to say, I can’t pull this off very often.

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Strange search-engine queries (205)

Why, yes, I’d rather be vacationing in Hawaii, thank you, but hey, the logs wait for no one, so here we go with this week’s installment.

Lesley Gore Where is she now:  Oh, come on. You don’t own her. She’s not just one of your many toys.

“wake a sleeping student”:  Tell him there’s a pop quiz. That will usually get his attention.

hubby saw wife on cam:  And a double overhead cam at that.

don’t piss off the pillsbury dough boy cheezburger:  I can haz cressunt rollz?

item you can bury to have an immense value:  Just about any current cap-and-trade proposal will be much better buried.

myrna loy’s unfortunate legs:  What’s unfortunate is how little we got to see them.

who was alive in the year 0:  Nobody you’d know, I suspect.

people you never thought you’d see naked:  Nobody you’d know, I suspect.

what type of exercise can a male to female crossdresser do to get a smaller waist:  Just pulling up stockings will work those abs.

“grit eating scum”:  Most of the scum I know won’t touch grit, as an entree anyway.

what’s a spendophobia:  A rare condition, to which government office-holders are largely immune.

Obligatory Rule 34 item: has shirley jones ever posed topless?

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Suckage observed

We could call it Grisham’s Law: bad fiction tends to crowd out good fiction. LeeAnn checks out part of the crowd:

[T]he new offerings were, for the larger part, dumb. Written downward. Short words, formulaic plots, bad pen names…

At some point the whole vampire theme took off like a silver bullet, to mix my horror mythologies. Some of the authors were/are quite good… Charlaine Harris (the True Blood series), Laurel Hamilton (until she gave up plot for softcore porn), Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (the elegant Saint-Germain), Anne Rice (the original). But the bloodgates opened and everyone wanted to jump on the gore train, and so it became a standardized thing — hot, martial-arts-trained woman hunts vampires, werewolves, demons, Democrats, falls for one despite her better judgment and let the softcore sex scene unfold like bad origami. And some of the names are so Goth stripper they can’t be taken seriously…

It’s worth noting here that Lilith Saintcrow, not actually a Goth stripper, has turned out a couple of titles as “Anna Beguine,” and that one Saintcrow heroine (sort of) is named Jill Kismet, which for sheer WTFness is right up there with Jessica Swanlake and Tyrone Slothrop in Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow.

In any given literary, or sub-literary, genre, the percentage of Good Stuff is, per Sturgeon, around ten; fervid promotion by the Hype Machine won’t change that, but it will draw your attention to the other ninety, much to your dismay. And sooner or later, the next Next Big Thing will be cluttering up the shelves.

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Flavor spikes

I’ve never had so much as a smidgen of durian, despite Anthony Burgess’ lyrical description: “like eating sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory.” Add to that the fruit’s reputed rancid-gym-sock bouquet, and you will not be surprised to hear that I have not been champing at the bit for actual durian-flavored candy:

It was all white, no different colored center. Biting into it, it was a little tangy like a yogurt chew. But then the real durian flavor. It’s a mix of strawberry and mirepoix. The onion notes weren’t completely revolting, it was like eating ice cream that had been stored in a smelly freezer … just off and not something that you’d think flavor-ologists would slave over and present to their bosses as something that should be placed in production.

I just hope the Altoids guys don’t read this and decide they need a Curiously Odoriferous Mint.

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Extremely well played

I happened upon this particular piece of bogus history from Dr. Boli’s Encyclopedia of Misinformation, and was going to turn it to my own advantage, but the good Doctor was way ahead of me. The paragraph in question:

All other Russian names that begin with the letter Ч are transliterated with a Ch in English, but Tchaikovsky’s name is transliterated with a Tch. The anomaly is due to the acrimony of Tchaikovsky’s enemies in the English-speaking music press, who wished to make sure that Tchaikovsky’s name would always appear last in alphabetical lists of Russian composers.

Which to a shtick-ridden hack like me, of course, suggested the following riposte: “[fill in name of suitable Russian composer] was not available for comment.”

It then became simply a matter of finding a “suitable Russian composer.” But after an extended period of cogitation, contemplation, and URL-juggling, I came up with only one name — Alexander Tcherepnin — and his name is so close to Tchaikovsky’s that the entire joke comes undone.

For a moment, I even considered the possibility that Dr. Boli was right; that’s how frustrated I was.

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Fortitude adjustment

One of these days I want to find out just what it is Scott Brooks is telling the Thunder at halftime. The Bulls led by as many as 12 in the first half and took a five-point lead into the locker room; twelve minutes later they were down 13 and wondering what the hell happened. It wasn’t a thing of beauty, exactly — the Thunder committed twenty turnovers — but what mattered was the final, which was Oklahoma City 98, Chicago 85, the Atmospheric Phenomena’s 19th win in 34 tries.

Then again, the Bulls put together some good numbers: they led the battle for the boards, 52-48, including an amazing 25 offensive rebounds, and all five starters landed in double figures. Both Joakim Noah and Luol Deng checked in with double-doubles; Derrick Rose led the Bulls with 19 points. What Chicago didn’t get was a lot of field goals for all those offensive boards: they shot only 35.4 percent, putting up 99 shots, including nine treys, of which only three made.

For once, Kevin Durant got to watch someone else get game-high honors, and that someone else was Russell Westbrook, who dropped in 29 points. Kid Delicious had 25; James Harden’s shot returned from the Twilight Zone (13 points, including three of five faraways). The OKC bench beat the Bulls bench, 25-12.

There follows a nice, leisurely — in the sense that it’s spread over eight days, anyway — four-game home stand: the Hornets (Wednesday), followed by the Pacers, the Knicks and the Spurs. I would advise not taking any of them lightly.

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O pioneer!

Brad Graham, proprietor of the Bradlands, a site I’ve had bookmarked seemingly since forever, is gone far too soon at forty-one.

He’d be memorable if all he’d done was come up with the term “Must See HTTP://,” but he was eminently quotable just about all the time. For instance, as quoted here seven years ago:

If I had responded to all of the spam e-mail I received in the past two weeks, I would have 350,000 free business cards, 250 miniature radio-controlled toy cars, and would have netted approximately $7.4 billion from assisting various deposed heads of state in securing their rightful fortunes.

Also, my penis would be 56 inches long and I would have seen more than a lifetime’s worth of vaginas and boobies.

There’s a remembrance thread at MeFi.

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I think my warranty is up

A distinction with a difference, by Steph Waller:

My personal philosophy is that I am the driver of my body-vehicle, not the vehicle itself. That’s what has made aging easier for me than it was before I really grasped that idea. Like a car, my body ages, but I, the driver inside, am the same age I ever was — I am ageless. My dreams brought this home to me this morning because in my dreams I am never any younger or older than about 30. That means something to me and, as I step into the final phase of my time on this planet, it’s a comfort.

I hadn’t thought about this before, but my own dream experience is similar: unless it’s spelled out early on that it’s the childhood version of me, there’s no real indication of my age in any of my dreams. Certainly the infirmities of age don’t play any role therein.

As for driver vs. vehicle, this sounds something like C. S. Lewis: “You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” And there are worse things in life than sounding something like C. S. Lewis, whether or not you subscribe to Lewis’ particular faith.

You should read the whole piece; there’s much in it about the place dreams occupy in our lives, and why they’re there in the first place.

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Finicky buyer

When I went househunting back in 2003, I had a few specific criteria in mind:

I don’t, of course, need 1500 square feet. My current Meager Hovel is about two-thirds that size, and it’s all I can do to keep up with the cleaning, though I can always blame it on work hours, which are either long or longer. What I really want is a ceiling that vibrates only when the Air Force passes overhead, and a place to park my car that’s defined by something more than a couple of yellow lines. And apparently I’m willing to pay dearly for these amenities.

It would not have occurred to me to ask The Expert, several years my senior and seemingly more than a couple of clicks toward the Prim side of the continuum, to limit the search to places which afford enough privacy for me to go about without bothering to get dressed.

Which is not to say that such a thing has never been done before:

I asked my Realtor about this issue, explaining what it was all about. Here is her response:

“This is not as strange as you think! If they let me know a little more about what they are looking for — like bedrooms, price, etc — I don’t really care what they garden in — I can send them listings and when they find one they might want to see, I would get as much info as I could with maps and such they could peruse before they committed to a showing. Could even get a map so they see exactly where the neighbors are in relation to the property. You might be surprised to know all the strange requests I have had. The requests did not make anyone less special as individuls. You gotta like them as they are or you miss a lot of life!

“They don’t need to know anything about what I know of their lifestyles if they would feel uncomfortable with that, however, it helps to know as much as you can about a client so you can help them find what they are looking for. And if they would rather not work with me, just let them know if they explain they want a great deal of privacy to a realtor, that would be sufficient, but tell them to ask for maps and a lot of info before they go on showings.”

There have been, of course, and probably still are, agents who specialized in this sort of thing.

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Automatic choke

It’s like road rage, except at the keyboard, says Amba:

A desktop is a minivan or SUV, a laptop a sedan or coupe, an iPhone or BlackBerry a sports car. The screen is the windshield. The keyboard is the gearshift and steering wheel. The engine is your brain. Slow-loading sites are traffic jams or stoplights. Don’t you curse and swear at the keyboard or keypad just the way you do behind the wheel? The only difference is, you can’t see the competing drivers and you don’t have a horn. Maybe computers should come with horns for the self-expression of frustration, which is how drivers use them 90% of the time anyway.

At the moment, I’d settle for a better windshield washer.

The one difference here is that you can seldom determine why it is these flipping Web sites are coming up so slowly, whereas finding the culprit for any given traffic jam is simply a matter of catching up to the front of the line. And if he’s been flattened like Wile E. Coyote after a plunge off the edge of the cliff, it seems churlish to yell at him: he’s suffering enough, I figure.

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A million words

Not to be confused with a thousand pictures, this is the answer I give, usually qualified with “somewhere around,” when someone asks how much stuff is on this here Web site. (And actually, there probably are a thousand pictures; just pulling the graphics directory via FTP accounts for nearly 100k of bandwidth.)

Eventually it occurred to me to install a WordPress gizmo that will count the words in the current database: this includes all the posts since the second week of September 2006, plus my share of the comments. Up through post #9666, says said gizmo, I have put up … 2,277,421 words. This does not include any of the Vents or any of the material that’s outside WordPress.

Incidentally, post #9666 is the 6,966th post in that series. The reason for this is simple: at one point, WordPress decided to start keeping every single version of every single post, each of which gets its own ID number. By the time I figured that out and put a stop to it, I’d burned through about 2700 extra database entries, most of which have now been ruthlessly excised.

Even more incidentally, the Movable Type archives, which end right before WordPress kicks in, end with post #7209; if I remember correctly, I wasted 19 entry numbers during those four years, so there were actually 7,190 posts. I suspect that there are at least a million words in that archive also.

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Papa Willie

Willie Mitchell, your all-purpose Memphis music guy for over half a century, has died at the age of 81. He’s probably best known for his work with Al Green during the early 1970s, while he was running Hi Records. Over at Single File, I’ve put up a piece about the record that introduced me to Mitchell back in 1964: the stomping instrumental “20-75.”

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Heck of a name, Mickey

“Awkward” seems fair enough:

The WaPo news section reports … that since the Underpants Bomber, Michael Chertoff has been repeatedly telling the media and anyone who will listen that we need to buy lots of full-body scanners for airports, without mentioning his own financial interest — one of the Chertoff Group’s clients is Rapiscan Systems. (I assume the first syllable of Rapiscan is pronounced with a soft a as in rapid, not a hard a as in rape. If I were planning to sell scanners that pictured people naked, I’d have put some more thought into that name.)

Back in Elizabethan times when I went to school, these were “short” and “long” vowels respectively, rather than “soft” and “hard,” but none of these adjectives make me feel any better about scanners that picture people naked.

(Via Fritinancy.)

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He probably thinks this post is about him

According to the new biography Star: How Warren Beatty Seduced America, by Peter Biskind, the Actor Formerly Known As Bulworth has bedded, in succession, 12,775 women, “a figure that does not include daytime quickies, drive-bys, casual gropings, stolen kisses and so on.”

This figure apparently is open to debate; it seems rather high to me, though anything with two digits seems rather high to me.

I do hope he’s had his shots, or whatever one takes these days.

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Theories that hold water

David Brooks wants you to know that he’s a member of the Educated Class, which, according to Purple Avenger, means he’s not entirely useless:

The “educated class” is useful because they provide job security for plumbers. They’re all too stupid to change a leaky flapper valve themselves. Thousands of plumbers would be out of jobs were it not for the “educated class”.

Before you ask: yes, I can change a flapper valve.

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From the strong side

It’s Gabrielle Reece’s 40th birthday, and I dare say, neither volleyball nor motherhood has wrecked her physique.

Gabrielle Reece, 2007

Here she is on the orange carpet at the 42nd Annual Academy of Country Music Awards in May 2007. Her second child was born on New Year’s Day in 2008, so she was ever-so-slightly pregnant in this shot.

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Perp talk

The Oklahoma City Police Department is now posting the official Jail Blotter on a daily basis; the most recent 30 days are available, in PDF format. Not searchable, but at least decently readable.

This is in compliance with 51 O.S. 24A.8. Incidentally, the date of birth is included for each person named in the blotter, although, as Dr Joey Senat notes:

Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County officials have recently refused to disclose the birth dates of their government employees, claiming it would be an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

So long as those employees stay out of jail, I guess.

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We got stung

November 2008. The Hornets trounce the Thunder, 105-80; P. J. Carlesimo is relieved of his coaching duties before the plane leaves for the next game — against the Hornets, this time in New Orleans. We lost that one, too, and we haven’t beaten the Bees since, although this one was wickedly close: 97-92, in a game that was in doubt until the last few seconds, in which the Thunder, down three, failed to get off a good shot, and James Posey finished the job with two free throws.

It didn’t matter that OKC outrebounded New Orleans, 44-35, or that they held Chris Paul to 14 points; CP3 ably distributed the ball, logging 13 assists, and all five Hornets starters finished in double figures, David West getting a team-high 19 and Peja Stojakovic hitting four of ten treys. (Peja didn’t even try from inside the arc.) What undid the Thunder, ultimately, was bad fourth-quarter shooting: three of 14, for a whole 11 points. Jeff Green, at least, was back in good form, picking up 20 points, and trusty Kevin Durant dropped in 27.

On the upside, hey, it’s the Hornets, and I suspect most of us still have a soft spot for the Bees, Berry Tramel notwithstanding. And we get two more shots at them this season.

The Pacers will be here Saturday, the second game of the homestand.

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Although traffic seems unaffected

There are four million fewer motor vehicles on American roads than there were this time last year:

The United States scrapped 14 million autos while buying only 10 million last year, shrinking the country’s car and light duty truck fleet to 246 million from a record high of 250 million, according to the report to be released on Wednesday by nonprofit group the Earth Policy Institute.

About 700,000 vehicles were scrapped through the government’s Cash for Clunkers program, though there was no effect on the total number of cars in the fleet because each one was replaced by a newer model.

EPI, of course, is hailing this as The Dawn of a New Age:

The United States, the world’s biggest petroleum user, “is entering a new era, evolving from a car-dominated transport system to one that is much more diversified,” said Lester Brown, the president of the EPI.

Well, more diversified, anyway. And with sales not expected to rebound much in 2010, we might be able to see a repeat of this post in early 2011.

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Celsius 233

There’s bookburning in Britain, but not for the reason you might think:

Volunteers have reported that “a large number” of elderly customers are snapping up hardbacks as cheap fuel for their fires and stoves.

Temperatures this week are forecast to plummet as low as -13°C in the Scottish Highlands, with the mercury falling to -6°C in London, -5°C in Birmingham and -7°C in Manchester as one of the coldest winters in years continues to bite.

Workers at one charity shop in Swansea, in south Wales, described how the most vulnerable shoppers were seeking out thick books such as encyclopaedias for a few pence because they were cheaper than coal.

It occurs to me — it’s certainly occurred to Bill Quick — that this would be an ideal time for Al Gore to donate several zillion copies of Earth in the Balance
during this Time of Crisis.

Temperatures in Oklahoma City this week are forecast to drop as low as -14°C.

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Once again, life imitates me

This 2003 piece on “titanium” credit cards was titled “Make mine zinc.”

American Express would like to make yours zinc Zync:

The basic card costs $25 each year and includes participation in the Amex Membership Rewards points program, though it does require you to pay off your balance every month. You can choose from among four “packs” that yield extra goodies. The Go pack, for instance, costs another $20 annually and doubles the points you earn on airfare. The Social pack has the same price and doubles points for restaurant, concert and theater purchases.

The company plans to introduce more packs soon and perhaps tweak the existing ones, depending on the feedback it’s soliciting in an online community called the “Zync Tank.”

Of course, Zync isn’t designed for me, and I already have an American Express card anyway; it’s intended for that particular subset of twentysomethings who still think semi-clever respellings are kewl.

Still: you heard it here first.

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The Democrats’ secret weapon?

To hear Jenn tell it, it’s the head of the Republican National Committee:

With [Byron] Dorgan retiring and [Arlen] Specter in trouble the balance of power in the Senate is ready to shift, but I am sure Michael Steele will find a way to throw it away.

Brittany Cohan is no more impressed:

Michael Steele’s silence on the race in Massachusetts and his inability to follow through on the very topic of his own book is louder than his constant media presence these days.

I’m starting to think the GOP could be better run by this Michael Steele.

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A civil dung

Roberta X reports:

I didn’t mention the other part of the rumor about certain possible allegations made by the presumed Editor of a supposed local newspaper to a State Legislator: said Editor has accused the NRA of putting a flaming bag of dog poo on his porch.

Then again, the Fourth Estate should respect the turd:

If you are the Editor of a major bigtime newspaper and you are doing your job properly, you ought to be finding a bag of flaming dog excrement or something similar on your doorstep at least once a week.

Gads. Mencken lived in vain.

Actually, he lived in Baltimore.

(Yes, it’s a Firesign rewrite. Let them plant a sackful of feces flambé on the premises.)

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Andrew Ian Dodge has given us a Newly Minted Carnival of the Vanities, the 359th of the series.

For some reason, this makes me think of Junius Bassius, prefect of the city of Rome, who converted to Christianity very late in life — on his deathbed, some say. The inscriptions on his newly-minted sarcophagus were clear about the conversion, perhaps less so about the actual date, though we do know he died in 359.

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