1 October 2006
Is this a stalemate?

Whoever said this was a boring game?

The world chess championship came to a halt [Friday] when a player who had been locked out of his private bathroom after insinuations that he was cheating refused to play and forfeited the fifth game of the match.

A day after a written protest by the team of Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria about the frequent bathroom breaks of Vladimir Kramnik of Russia, the World Chess Federation, which is organizing the match, locked the private bathrooms for both players and said they must use the same bathroom for the rest of the match.

The bathrooms had been the only part of the players' private rest areas behind the stage where they are playing that was not subject to video surveillance by the match referees.

In filing the protest, Mr. Topalov implied that Mr. Kramnik might somehow be cheating when he was in the toilet. Before the protest, Mr. Kramnik led the match 3-1, with 6.5 points needed to win. The match is being played in Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, a Russian republic on the Caspian Sea.

I've heard of guys bashing the bishop in the bathroom, but they weren't playing chess.

Deadspin comments:

In summary, the most exciting thing to ever happen in chess revolves around a grown man sitting on the floor outside of his bathroom and pouting.

Geez. And I thought the most exciting thing to ever happen in chess was Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:34 AM to Dyssynergy )
The shuttlecraft is up on blocks

Gene Roddenberry's idea for Star Trek was inclusive and embracing: the Federation was open to all. (Well, except Romulans, Klingons and such, and even the Klingons came around eventually.) It seems inevitable, therefore, that at some point there must have been a redneck or two at Starfleet Academy. You'd spot him on the bridge immediately:

  • He hangs fuzzy dice over the view screen.
  • He refers to the Mutara Nebula as a "swamp."
  • He has the sensor array repaired with a bent coat hanger and aluminum foil.
  • He says "Yee-Ha!" instead of "Engage."

Just let the Borg try to assimilate that.

(Via Dr. B.)

Lots to hate

TulsaNow says the Oil Capital has enough asphalt, and has a map to prove it: for instance, Cincinnati between 10th and 13th is an almost-uninterrupted stretch of parking lots.

From the CORE proposals [link to PDF file]:

Surface parking lots have proliferated in Downtown Tulsa, eroding the urban fabric, livability, walkability, and property tax revenues, as many buildings have been demolished for surface parking. In addition, the abundance of lower-cost surface parking makes the preferred structured parking solution less viable. Despite this, the perception that "there’s nowhere to park downtown" persists.

We hear the same noises in Oklahoma City, particularly regarding Bricktown. I have never had any trouble finding a place to park downtown, even during big events like the Festival of the Arts, which draws something like 100,000 people a day, but no one believes me. More to the point, downtown activities continue to draw crowds, which should tell you that parking isn't that much of an issue at all.

A view from Indianapolis by Aaron Renn:

[P]arking at Broad Ripple and the Fashion Mall is a piece of cake compared to finding a parking spot in places like San Francisco, Chicago, or New York. In those places, there aren't even any illegal spots available. All the fire hydrants are taken. But people are willing to drive from 50 miles out in the suburbs to dine out in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood. People from Indianapolis and beyond travel to Chicago to shop Michigan Ave., dine out in Lincoln Park, or take in a touring Broadway show in the Loop, where $15 charges for parking are commonplace and on street parking is a near impossibility. New York is of course the nation's premier tourist mecca and no one even thinks about trying to park there.

The truth is, parking has virtually nothing to do with whether or not people come downtown or not. It is simply an easy scapegoat for people to whine about when answering surveys. The fact is, people who don't come downtown stay away because there is nothing there they want. Provide these people with real attractions and they will come, regardless of parking. The Circle Centre Mall and its associated upscale restaurants provide the best example of this.

It's as simple as this, says Renn:

In reality, a parking lot is a vacant lot. And a vacant lot offers no attractions that tourists or suburbanites will come to see. It offers no office space for people to work in. It offers no place for downtown residents to live.

To get people into the city center, for a few hours or for the rest of their lives, you've got to give them something they want. Oklahoma City, after years of downtown desuetude, finally has a handle on the idea that they have to offer an experience that can't be had in Edmond or Yukon or Moore. And an irreplaceable part of that experience is the connection to history that exists only in those classic buildings with their inimitable architecture. (Edmond is busily sprucing up its old downtown, precisely for this reason.)

Michael Bates has a seven-minute video put together by TulsaNow to illustrate their point. But Joni Mitchell saw this coming decades ago: before the pink hotel, the boutique, or the swinging hot spot, they put up a parking lot. Then, as now, we don't know what we've got 'til it's gone.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:25 AM to Soonerland )
A cute little booger (2)

Is there a market in the Americas for Nissan's little snotwagon? And no, that's not uncalled-for verbal abuse, either:

Giggling is under way in Mexico over whether Nissan will market its tiny three-cylinder "Moco" car in Spanish-speaking countries. The trouble is moco is Spanish for booger.

Mexico has been a market for many smaller cars, from Nissan's Tsuru, which isn't even sold in the United States, to Volkswagen's old-style bug. So, an economical car built like the Moco might make sense.

And so, an email circulating warns the Moco is coming. It advises that the Japanese company could use a translator. "This is no joke," states the e-mail, which includes a photo of a green Moco.

Green? Now that's just cruel.

I warned you about this two years ago, though I admit I didn't anticipate this:

There's also concern about a compact mini wagon which is made by Mazda and called Laputa. Of course, la puta in Spanish means "the whore."

Maybe they can sell them in Russia.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:32 PM to Driver's Seat )
This story's just six words long

Ernest Hemingway, it is said, once came up with a short story — a good one, yet — that ran all of six words: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." As nanofiction goes, if it's not the standard-bearer, it's pretty darn close: how much of a tale can you tell in half a dozen words? There's "In the beginning was the Word," same length, but not what I think of as fiction.

Caterina Fake is collecting samples from her readers. Here are some I particularly liked:

Lucky, yes, but my twin wasn't.

She loved again. I never did.

Today, I threw her toothbrush away.

They do seem to be somewhat sad, don't they?

(The best short story I ever wrote took a whole 804 words.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:46 PM to Almost Yogurt )
2 October 2006
Strange search-engine queries (35)

Which means we're approaching four hundred of these odd requests from Actual Searchers Worldwide. Perhaps they found what they wanted, or perhaps not.

difference between Traditional newspaper versus craigslist:  You can't get a puppy to go on craigslist.

100 ways to look stupid:  I claim expertise in only 70 or so.

how to empty a checking account:  Writing lots of checks has always worked for me.

gummi aprons sex:  I can't help but think this was an attempt at a Googlewhack; these three words have seemingly nothing in common.

take my yolk:  Please. (So saith Humpty Youngman.)

rejected otter pop flavors:  "Manatee" was turned down out of hand; they never could get "Beaver" to come out right.

why am i so normal:  All your perversities average out.

hate good looking men:  Perhaps there's a chance for me after all.

condom mnemonic devices:  You might try tying a knot in one end.

why do redheads have attitude?  Who's gonna tell them they can't? Not me.

on the streets of pittsburgh pennsylvania then again maybe not:  "How do you get error messages from Mapquest?"

minot state fair north dakota keith urban kicks canadians out before he sings:  Maybe they scare Nicole?

suppository ass:  You certainly wouldn't to chew one.

Whataburger Walter Cronkite:  "And that's the way I ordered it, Monday, October second, two thousand six."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 AM to You Asked For It )
See here

Vaspers the Grate takes a trip to the glorious city of Louisville, and comes up with an idea for your local Convention and Visitors Bureau:

I got to thinking about how a Visitors Bureau and Tourism Blog could work for a city and those new to the community, whether visitors or new settlers. The blog could helped visitors navigate the area, become familiar with the history and dominant industries, include a FAQ or a discussion forum. It could also be used to attract new businesses to the city.

Anecdotes could be used to add color to a city. For example, the night we left Louisville, there was going to be a concert by the Rolling Stones and Alice Cooper. The judge in the Judicial Building told us the large law firms provide an attorney and a judge "on call" for big acts, in case there's "trouble".

Once, during a John Cougar Mellencamp concert, he was the judge on call. In the middle of the concert, he was notified that he was needed. He wondered what happened. Turns out, he officiated at Mellencamp's wedding ceremony. The judge said he's probably the only judge around that officiated at a wedding in front of 49,000 people.

I dunno about the rest of you, but I travel a bit (25,000 miles this decade so far), and I'd like to know stuff like that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:26 AM to Blogorrhea )
Things I learned today (9)

Inevitably, it being still fairly early in the day, this list will include some things I actually learned yesterday, and possibly the day before that. (As George Carlin says, the day after tomorrow is the third day of the rest of your life.)

More when I feel like I need to post but don't actually have any material.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:04 AM to Blogorrhea )
It's in subsection B9 of your lease

British TV chef Jamie Oliver has been on a crusade to encourage healthier eating by children. And he's being heard: last year Her Majesty's Government agreed to put up £280 million toward the improvement of school meals.

Friday night Oliver appeared on Jonathan Ross's talk show on BBC One, and Ross suggested, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that maybe people who live in council estates ought to refrain from spawning:

"Do you think we should put something in the water supply, stop some people having children in the future?" the presenter asked chef Jamie Oliver.

After the star made the comment, Oliver asked: "What, you mean like lead?"

The BBC reported 61 complaints about the Ross remark.

This idea does not strike me as feasible. If people in council housing need lead, there's always a paint chip or two nearby, and it wouldn't achieve the desired results anyway. And I don't think it would fly Stateside, either: while the minions of the Nanny State are generally happy to impose goofy rules, most of them would consider it beyond the pale even to suggest that public-housing tenants — or, indeed, anybody — ought to screw less. Not even Bloomberg would go that far.

(Via Fark.com.)

Schwarzenegger slaps it down

The Governator issued a flurry of vetoes at the end of September, including a bill which will have to be killed in lots of other places:

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed a bill Saturday that would have given California's electoral votes in presidential elections to the winner of the national popular vote, rather than the candidate who captured the state.

The bill could have gone into effect only if states with a combined total of 270 electoral votes (the number now required to win the presidency) agreed to the same process.

Schwarzenegger said the bill sponsored by Assemblyman Tom Umberg, a Democrat, disregards the will of a majority of Californians.

Muses Laura:

I can't imagine the plan was constitutional, but who knows what the wacky 9th Circuit Court of Appeals might have done. Fortunately the Governor has spared us finding out, at least for now. Assemblyman Tom Umberg is threatening to put the measure on the ballot via the initiative process.

If he does, and if it should actually get on the ballot, I think we in the other 49 states should be allowed to vote on it. It would, after all, be consistent with Umberg's [lack of] logic.

3 October 2006
Random bytes

Computer-related stuff that's been on my mind of late:

  • Everybody should subscribe to the Daily Bitch feed, not just because it's Monty (though that's a good enough reason in itself), but because if you ever want to link to something of hers, it's a lot easier to pull the URL from your feed reader than to try to figure it out from the actual site. (And I should know.)

  • Does anyone know a reasonably-effective way to get someone who's put out X good podcast(s) to hurry up with Episode X+1 already?

  • I have this weird idea that EPROMs should not vomit up their contents just because you hit the power switch at a funny angle. Big Blue apparently disagrees.

  • Has anyone on earth ever successfully run a Lotus Notes client with 256 MB of RAM?

  • I'd still like to find a way to record CD-Rs at slower speeds than offered by my software. (Yeah, I know: get new software.)

I don't know if this will end up as another series. Yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 AM to PEBKAC )
Aw, go ahead, fence me in

Unlike some, I got the room:

Long a staple of middle-class life, the detached single-family home with a large yard is not only becoming less affordable but also harder to find. Lot sizes are decreasing, and attached houses and condominiums are gaining ground in some hot markets.

According to U.S. Census data, the median new one-family house, a category that includes attached units, was 2,227 square feet in 2005, up 40 percent from 1976. But the median lot size has fallen 12.6 percent to 8,847 square feet.

According to Oklahoma County data, the property unofficially known as Surlywood is a one-family house that covers 1,060 square feet, on a lot of 11,025 square feet.

By contemporary standards, that's a lot of lot. (It's also rather a lot to mow, but everything in life has trade-offs.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:33 AM to Surlywood )
It's right there in the penal code

The Supreme Court has declined to hear Acosta v. Texas, in which Mr Acosta sought to have overturned a Lone Star ban on the manufacture, sale and advertising of "obscene devices," otherwise known as sex toys. Counsel for Acosta had pointed out that similar laws in other states had already been declared unconstitutional.

A Texas appellate court had previously ruled that actual use of the items was not forbidden, prompting this remark from Matt Rosenberg:

[I]f making, disseminating and marketing them are illegal in Texas, what are you supposed to do? Smuggle one in across state lines in your Jimmy's glove compartment? Or maybe, men — just keep a lot of squid and sardines around.

I think I speak for rather a lot of us guys when I say "Ewwwww."

Incidentally, if you're going to smuggle these contraptions into Texas, you might want to stop at six: possession of more than half a dozen is construed as intent to promote, which is a misdemeanor.

The single largest collection of dildos in Texas, of course, is in Austin, at 11th and Congress.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:47 AM to Dyssynergy )
Accounting for tastes

Terry Teachout's Cultural Convergence Index is simple enough, yet fiendishly complex: there's no obvious, or even concealed, pattern to it. As the man himself explains:

Are there other critics whose taste is as predictable as that? Sure — bad ones. And how can you tell they're bad? Precisely because they are that predictable. Taste is not an ideology. It's a personal response to the immediate experience of art. If your responses to new or unfamiliar art are wholly predictable, it means that instead of allowing experience to reshape and refine your taste, you're forcing your perceptions into the pigeonhole of your pre-existing opinions. That's the opposite of what a good critic does.

Sometimes, we like things because, well, we like them, without regard to whether it fits into some particular school or tradition or era or whatever. The true value of the Teachout Index, I'd say, is that it reminds us of this fact without having to slap us in the face with a damp carp.

John Salmon of Mystic Chords tried his hand at the Index today, which is what prompted this post.

And if you're wondering if I were going to do this, you're about twenty-seven months behind: see Vent #397 for my own results. (I agreed with Teachout roughly half the time.)

We really didn't mean it

A soon-to-be-former Reno resident says goodbye to her old home town:

Over the years since my conception, I have watched you turn into a large homogenized blend of big-box stores and suburban neighborhoods mixed together. I have watched downtown slowly lose its "Reno" essence that I have grown to know and love, to make way for the yuppies and their grandiose condominiums.

This letter appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal last Tuesday; in the print edition, though not in the online copy, it was followed by an "Editor's Note": "Good riddance."

The next day, the inevitable apology appeared.

In days of yore, it wouldn't have been so inevitable. From yours truly, a couple of summers ago:

This reminds me of an incident twenty-odd years ago in which Car and Driver ran a column which castigated the legal profession for various offenses against motoring enthusiasts. An attorney wrote in to cancel his subscription in protest; the magazine printed his letter, along with the following response:

"Perhaps you'd be interested in subscribing to our sister publication Ambulance and Chaser."

All by itself, that was worth a three-year renewal.

(Courtesy of Romenesko, by way of Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:25 PM to Say What? )
At least they didn't call it "Scirocko"

News item: "Beginning October 3 and continuing through December 31, any customer that purchases or leases a designated Volkswagen model from the new 2007 line — including Jetta, Jetta GLI, GTI, Rabbit, New Beetle and New Beetle Convertible — will receive their own completely customized First Act GarageMaster electric guitar that will play seamlessly through the car's existing audio system. The 2006 Jetta, Jetta GLI, GTI, Rabbit, New Beetle and New Beetle Convertible will also come with a custom-made First Act GarageMaster guitar."

Buick, meanwhile, is frantically trying to find Tiger Woods and photograph him with a ukulele.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:55 PM to Driver's Seat )
4 October 2006
Taking that pink ribbon seriously

Dr. Jan signed off this post as "a 3.5 year breast cancer survivor."

In a not-necessarily-unrelated story, this is my fourth year as a donor to the Boobie-Thon. One of this year's photos reads: "3 year survivor / 34 years old." Cancer doesn't check your ID to see if you're old enough.

And just in case the presence of survivors isn't quite enough of an incentive for you, here's a more-frivolous pitch I made back in Ought-Four:

[I]n return for your donation, you're entitled to a peek at the racks of some real women (and some actual guys), as distinguished from the artificially-enhanced stuff dispensed by Big Media. A pretty nice quid for your quo, I'd say.

Besides, it's October already. The year's running out and you need one more tax deduction, right? Thought so.

Last year's donations totaled over $9000. Can they make five figures in their fifth year?

You know where to click.

Ashcroft on the whistlestop tour

Former Attorney General John Ashcroft will be in town next week: he'll be signing copies of his new book Never Again. And this book might draw rather a lot of interest locally, since one of the chapters is titled "The Botched Prosecution of Timothy McVeigh."

Nolan Clay reports in the Oklahoman:

He criticized prosecutors, writing they were overly generous to the defense in the first place. He said prosecutors agreed to provide materials not normally given to criminal defendants, causing the later confusion.

"What the law requires is plenty good in American justice," he said Monday in a phone interview from New York. "When the Justice Department goes above and beyond what the law requires, we get ourselves in trouble.... We significantly elevated the risks of disruption, which I think were unnecessary."

He also said the documents mistake [which delayed McVeigh's execution by approximately one month] was a lesson to him that the FBI needed reform.

The prosecution was not impressed:

Prosecutors scoffed at the criticism. They said they gave the defense "unprecedented discovery" because they wanted the public to be assured the government wasn't hiding anything, particularly since the case was one of the first high-profile ones after the controversial O.J. Simpson murder trial.

"It was a decision shared by every member of the prosecution team, including the attorney general at the time.... Ashcroft's view is fine for day-to-day drug buys, but this was the criminal justice system on trial," former prosecutor Larry Mackey said.

Not all of the public was so assured.

Ashcroft also noted that he was concerned about McVeigh's post-execution reputation:

He also revealed authorities feared the execution would inspire other terrorists to act on an anniversary of McVeigh's death. He wrote that the government limited McVeigh's access to the media in the months before the execution to keep him from becoming a symbol.

In that, at least, they were successful: the only mentions McVeigh gets these days are from apologists for Islam, who are anxious to point out that McVeigh, unlike ninety-nine-point-something percent of modern-day terrorists, was not in fact a Muslim.

Ashcroft will be appearing at the Wal-Mart Supercenter (!) in Edmond on Wednesday, 11 October, at noon. Note to women: you might want to be careful with the cleavage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to Soonerland )
Putting some teeth in the ordinance

Oklahoma City has adopted new animal-control laws for the first time in twenty-five years, and it's going to take a little more time to fine-tune at least one of them.

Upside: There is no presumption that, say, a dog is "dangerous" because of its breed. Downside: Who gets to define "dangerous"? So the section on "aggressive behavior" (§ 8-132) is on hold until a Council subcommittee — with input from citizens and animal-welfare groups, if Sam Bowman (Ward 2) has his way, which seems only fair — can nail down a definition that will pass muster and/or avoid litigation.

Carrie Coppernoll from the Oklahoman:

The main concern among pet owners is that dogs doing their jobs — keeping strangers out — will be punished. Some owners have dogs specifically to protect their property. I do. Burglars aren't scared of tail-wagging face lickers. However, neighbors are scared of fence-charging snarlers.

Other provisions are less controversial. The city has posted the changes [link to PDF file] to its Web site.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:19 AM to City Scene )

About half the country can dial 211 for information about social services in their area.

And if you can read this, you can easily reach Carnival of the Vanities #211, the first (and still the oldest) weekly blog compendium, anchored at Silflay Hraka, and inexplicably containing something of mine.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:11 PM to Blogorrhea )
All the young dudes carry the news

The big story around here at the moment is that "Wild Bill" Kerr of Passionate America tracked one of Mark Foley's IM "buddies" and found him working for the Ernest Istook gubernatorial campaign here in Oklahoma City. (How big? A chap from the Oklahoman called me, hoping I had Bill's phone number. I don't.)

I guess the good thing about this is that the Foley experience didn't sour the poor lad on the sport of politics.

Update, 5 October: The Oklahoman's take.

Crank it loud when I'm gone, Sean

Crank it loud when I'm gone:

The Research for the Bereavement Register poll found these to be the songs most frequently requested for funerals in Britain:
  1. Goodbye My Lover - James Blunt
  2. Angels - Robbie Williams
  3. I've Had The Time Of My Life - Jennifer Warnes and Bill Medley
  4. Wind Beneath My Wings - Bette Midler
  5. Pie Jesu - Requiem
  6. Candle In The Wind - Elton John
  7. With Or Without You - U2
  8. Tears In Heaven - Eric Clapton
  9. Every Breath You Take - The Police
  10. Unchained Melody - Righteous Brothers
  11. Danny Boy [traditional]

"Every Breath You Take"? Seriously? Has anyone ever actually listened to this song? Sting supposedly once said it was a metaphor for government surveillance, and I want dead family members watching me about as much as I want Alberto Gonzales watching me, which is to say Not Much.

Inasmuch as I am aging at an appalling rate — one whole year every twelve months or so — it's probably time for me to pick out a playlist to celebrate my own demise. I think it ought to have things like this:

  • (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - The Rolling Stones
  • Mystery Train - Elvis Presley
  • 7 Rooms of Gloom - Four Tops
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy - Alice Cooper
  • When I'm Gone - Brenda Holloway

And I'd be much obliged if someone dug up Nat "King" Cole's "That Sunday, That Summer." It bears no actual resemblance to life as I know it — but oh, how I wish it did.

5 October 2006
I shot the serifs

Death to Comic Sans, says Julie Neidlinger:

It's the beloved font of teachers and school administration officials and people who think it looks like friendly and approachable handwriting and therefore makes them giggle inside because they are printing out computed documents that look like handwriting except it DOESN'T LOOK LIKE HANDWRITING AT ALL. IT LOOKS STUPID. AND YES, I'M YELLING. Sometimes I just wish the world was all Verdana or Trebuchet, if only to avoid the "whimsy" and "fun" of Comic Sans. Or maybe even boring Garamond. Or Copperplate Gothic. Anything but Comic Sans or its inbred cousin, Andy. Just seeing Comic Sans anywhere enrages me inside. I can't even form the words to express the anger.

The worst emails I get are in Comic Sans, all caps, bold (just in case I wasn't getting the implied insult), with text-messaging abbreviations instead of real words. Size 18 font. With about three animated GIF's in the signature line. What, I wonder as I sit enraged in front of my monitor, did I ever do to deserve this kind of treatment?

All I can say is that whatever mail client I have at hand, the very first thing I look for, and toggle on if I find it, is "Read all mail in plain text," the way God and RFC 822 intended.

For the benefit of our data-entry types, I spend about twenty-five minutes a week producing card-stock signage for freshly-opened document bins, generally 8.5 by 4.625 inches. In an effort to provide some semblance of variety, I rotate seven different colors of stock, with contrasting ink colors when available, and I bring in a different font each week from the 75 or so I have available that are actually readable from across the room. (Black Chancery is out.) I think I used Comic Sans once, and nobody liked it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 AM to PEBKAC )
Message in a pothole

TRIP, The Road Information Program, has once again reported on the costs of bad roads, and they are considerable. Where are the worst?

TRIP’s study, "Rough Ride In The City: Metro Areas With the Roughest Rides and Strategies to Make Our Roads Smoother," found that the ten large urban regions (500,000+ population), with the greatest share of major roads and highways with pavements in poor condition are: San Jose — 66%, Los Angeles — 65%, San Francisco-Oakland — 58%, Kansas City — 58%, New Orleans (pre-Katrina) — 56%, San Diego — 54%, Sacramento — 50%, St. Louis — 46%, Omaha — 46% and New York City — 45%. [Link to PDF file.]

In an appendix to the report, I find that TRIP considers 19 percent of Oklahoma City-area roads to be Good, 12 percent Fair, 26 percent Mediocre, and an appalling 43 percent Poor, missing the Top Ten by only a couple of percentage points. According to TRIP, these roads cost the average local motorist $568 per year in depreciation, component wear, tire wear and poorer gas mileage. (The San Jose driver, facing roads even worse, shells out $705; the marginally-less-horrible roads in Tulsa run up a $527 tab.)

A report on the state's Interstates only, issued earlier this year, bore less bad news: the freeways aren't nearly as bad as the surface streets. On the other hand, congestion, especially in urban areas, is growing rapidly.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:05 AM to City Scene )
Quote of the week

By Tragic Christian, in a guest post at The Dawn Patrol:

I'm a man, so I'm not supposed to have an opinion about abortion. Instead, let me tell you about the wonderful morning I had yesterday, taking my 2-year-old daughter Dot to speech therapy and physical therapy. Her major interest right now is reciting the colors (which she does in English and American Sign Language, yet) and reciting the names of her boyfriends in her early start toddler class ("Edgerrrrr! Androooo!") and informing me they wear "backpacks." She waved at everyone she saw that day with a cheery "Hello!" and smiled a gap-tooth smile under her mop of red hair. They smiled and waved back. What a cutie!

Oh, sorry — she has Down Syndrome. Reboot. Let me try again:

Bringing her to term was obviously a big mistake! What a tragedy SHE is! How inconvenient for everyone involved! We can't possibly get her into advanced placement classes, or an Ivy League college! What'll we say to our neighbors? Better off just to make the "hard decision" to get rid of her. Ignore my first paragraph. Just forget I said anything...

To the above, I append this comment from Jill:

This really is a lovely post.

I think it's worth pointing out, though, that raising a child with special needs is tough (and I know, all children have special needs — but therapy multiple times a week, infant hospitalization, etc. are certainly somewhat unusual). There are many people who simply don't have the resources to deal with that, and many who, as you point out, probably feel overwhelmed at the prospect of raising a special-needs child. I think it's important to promote institutional assistance, like you have in California, for families with Downs kids or kids with other disabilities. I'm very pro-choice and believe that women should always have the option of terminating their pregnancies even if we don't like their reasons, but part of the pro-choice position is giving women as many options as possible. Support for children with disabilities is a key part of that.

What can I say? Show me a minefield, and sometimes I want to dance.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:01 AM to QOTW )
Remind me to work on my accent

I've never been to the Marshall County (Tennessee) Memorial Library, but I'm willing to bet that they've got some books on the shelves (in the 400s if they use Dewey Decimal) in rather a lot of languages besides English.

God forbid the locals should find out:

Library leaders in one Mid-State community ... heard a message loud and clear for its residents Tuesday: they don't want one penny of their tax dollars paying for books not in English.

Some residents in Lewisburg are angry with the Marshall County Memorial Library for having books in Spanish. Among them, Lewisburg resident and eighth-grade social studies teacher Robin Minor. He said if somebody comes to check out a book, that book should be in English saying, "It should not be paid for by the taxpayer’s money of Marshall County. I do think we have a lot of county commissioners that will be interested and again. If it's one penny, it's one penny too much."

Minor, who teaches at Lewisburg Middle School, along with a few other residents, spoke out at the Marshall County Memorial Library’s Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night. "I would like to see a policy that if somebody's going to donate a book to this library where English has been the dominant language since 1836, let's make those books be donated in English only.”

I am sorely tempted to go buy a non-English book and have it delivered to the library (310 Farmington Pike, Lewisburg, Tennessee 37091) just out of spite. The Annoyed Librarian might approve:

I really just don't understand this American resistance to languages other than English and the accompanying library challenges. And don't give me that argument about we're just trying to fight off the illegal immigrants, etc. That seems to be just the latest excuse to justify the notorious American ignorance of foreign languages and cultures. Being in favor of English as the official language of the United States, which in fact I am, has nothing to do with believing that English is the only language anyone should know. At least the Lewisburg librarians are fighting off the rubes.

Maybe a novel by Gabriel García Márquez. That ought to shake them up a tad.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:05 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Who will protest the protestors?

These guys at Penn:

Six students, led by Engineering junior Tal Raviv, began a ceremonious walk outside Huntsman Hall at noon and processed east toward College Green, where they chanted phrases like "No more protests!" and "Down with activism!"

Raviv said the group was a "very close-knit group of friends" trying to bring some humor to Penn's campus, which he described as "not funny enough."

Now that's what we need: student inactivism.

(Via Jonah Goldberg.)

Dispatches from the Gas Chamber

By some standards, I (or my lovely doppelgänger, about whom too much has been said already) achieved Fixture status in the local BBS scene in the middle-to-late 1980s. However, it must be said that while there were plenty of users in my chronological cohort, most of the headlines were inevitably made by, so to speak, punks half my age.

Except for Jack Flack, who was one-third my age.

Flack's memoir Commodork: Sordid Tales from a BBS Junkie, published under his ostensibly-"real" name of Rob O'Hara, is now out and about, and it's about as unfiltered a history of this era as I'm ever likely to see: yes, there were some, um, illicit activities going on, and O'Hara knows copyfests and krackage as well as anyone in this time zone. Today, of course, is (sorta) different:

I pay for the software I need, the music I listen to and the services I use. But this book isn't about now. It's about a time when pirated software ruled the land. Those with the most, newest, and best programs had the power; those who didn't groveled at their feet. It's about good friends, good times, good memories, and good warez.

And woe betide he who pronounces that last word as though it were a city in Mexico.

(Find Commodork at lulu.com. And do read this: it's an overview of that very subculture, written by Flack himself.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:21 PM to Almost Yogurt , PEBKAC )
6 October 2006
That "Core to Shore" business

This is the city's wish list for the area surrounding the new Interstate 40 alignment:

  • Ensure new developments are complementary to, not competitive with existing downtown development
  • Create a world-class boulevard
  • Create a dense, urban live-work community
  • Improve access to downtown destinations
  • Connect the Oklahoma River to downtown
  • Mitigate the impacts of the Interstate 40 realignment, focusing on improved traffic flow, neighborhood revitalization, complimentary land use and enhanced pedestrian mobility
  • Consider alternate modes of transit
  • Research and recommend financing options
  • Address issues related to services for homeless residents

A fairly tall order, but this is what the Mayor's steering committee came up with yesterday. (More detailed overview here.)

Regular readers will remember that I was not thrilled with this particular alignment of I-40, mostly because it effectively isolates Union Station from the existing multiple rail lines that could make it into an instant (well, comparatively speaking) rail-transit hub. It's probably too late to change any minds at ODOT, but the committee is at least giving lip service to "consider[ing] alternate modes of transit."

None of this is going to happen immediately; that vaunted boulevard, for instance, won't even be started until the new I-40 loop is finished, which will be late 2008 at the earliest. And the success of the plan, I suspect, will be at least partially dependent upon whether the traditional power structure insists on wielding its traditional power, or has enough sense to get out of the way.

Then again, I retain a measure of hope, if only because I was here through the Bad Old Days, and we've made rather a nice recovery since.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:14 AM to City Scene )
Snakes on a drain

Lynn is tired of those [word redacted] snakes coming up through the bathroom:

One day last week Number Two Son found a snake in the bathtub. It provided about five minutes or so of entertainment but it got away. A day or two later I found a small snake in the clothes hamper. I quickly decided that I didn't need to do laundry right that minute. Later the guys searched the hamper but didn't find anything.

This afternoon I found the same snake (or its twin) near the door to the other bathroom. Now that is simply unacceptable. I'm usually a live and let live kind of gal but a snake in my bathroom is something that I'm not willing to live with. So I ran outside and grabbed an old ax handle — a comfortingly long and hefty piece of wood — and went back and found the snake hiding behind the door a few inches from where I had first seen it. My plan was to bring my weapon straight down on the little beastie's head but he moved and I ended up smashing it right in the middle. I then scooped it up on a dustpan and carried it out to the trash outside. Yay me!

Complain? Not me. Here's why:

The little beastie has been identified. It was a young copperhead.

Sheesh. Even Kate has sworn off venom.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:02 AM to Soonerland )
Two parts sound, one part fury

Life is but a walking shadow, so what choices do we have? Steph Waller explains the options:

If all the world’s a stage, and all we are is just a bunch a poor players that fret and strut our hour upon it and then are heard no more, then the point of life would be to…
  1. fret less.
  2. strut faster.
  3. reject Shakespeare and all his footnotes.
  4. click “Next Blog.”
  5. start your own stupid blog and hope to God somebody, someday, has the good sense to start quoting you for once.
  6. find your bliss, market your bliss, die famous.

I seem to be combining both (a) and (e); other idiots tell different tales.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:14 PM to Blogorrhea )
This guy handles a mean pan

Seen on the street by Gail:

A well-known local vagrant, who looks very much like a marinated walnut, sitting on the pavement in front of Subway, where he traditionally hits people up for money, taking time out from begging to have a conversation on his cell phone about getting his hot water heater fixed.

Sounds like the troll who hangs around under the Belle Isle Bridge.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:55 PM to Wastes of Oxygen )
It's not like we're eating it

A letter in this morning's Oklahoman:

Kudzu is a vine prevalent in southern states. It's considered a pest. Why isn't more research being done to use kudzu for making ethanol? It would be a source of alternative fuel as well as help rid the woods and fields of this pest.

It's been thirty-six years since I last set foot in a chemistry lab, but it seems to me that there's no particular reason why you couldn't.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:23 PM to Family Joules )
7 October 2006
The Gas Game (finale)

Okay, we've had twelve months of this, and it cost me sixty dollars and odd.

To recap: Last October, with gas prices in flux, Oklahoma Natural Gas Company offered to sell gas to its customers for a Voluntary Fixed Price of $8.393 per dekatherm, which struck me as a fairly crummy deal, inasmuch as gas was selling in the $6.50 range at the time. So I passed, and gas promptly jumped off the farging scale, as follows:

  • November: 2.4 used at $11.044; total price $26.51; VFP price $20.14; loss of $6.37.

  • December: 4.4 used at $11.550; total price $50.82; VFP price $36.93; loss of $13.89.

  • January: 9.7 used at $12.012; total price $116.52; VFP price $81.41; loss of $35.11.

  • February: 6.4 used at $9.589; total price $61.37; VFP price $53.72; loss of $7.65.

  • March: 7.6 used at $8.455; total price $64.26; VFP price $63.79; loss of $0.47.

  • April: 4.6 used at $8.660; total price $39.83; VFP price $38.61; loss of $1.22.

  • May: 2.0 used at $8.781; total price $17.56; VFP price $16.79; loss of $0.77.

  • June: 1.2 used at $8.486; total price $10.19; VFP price $10.07; loss of $0.12.

  • July: 1.1 used at $7.520; total price $8.55; VFP price $9.53; gain of $0.98.

  • August: 1.0 used at $7.566; total price $7.82; VFP price $8.67; gain of $0.85.

  • September: 0.9 used at $7.577; total price $7.06; VFP price $7.82; gain of $0.76.

  • October: 1.1 used at $7.665; total price $8.71; VFP price $9.54; gain of $0.83.

  • Cumulative: 42.4 used at $9.887; total price $419.20; VFP price $356.43; loss of $62.77.

This year's VFP is $9.25 per dekatherm. I'm still debating whether I want to commit myself to this program or not. (Deadline is the 20th.) Clearly, if we're going to have $11 or $12 gas, I need to lock in this price. But are we going to have $11 or $12 gas? If I knew things like this, I could quit my job and live off the stock market.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:35 AM to Family Joules )
Rankerous discussion

According to this thing, I am more popular than McGehee, but not as sexy.

I need hardly point out that Jeff Goldstein beats us both.

(Via the inordinately-lovely Miss Cellania.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:00 AM to Bogus History )
Divorce changes people

Though seldom this much:

A Seminole [FL] man is fighting to stop alimony payments to his ex-wife because the woman is now a man.

Lawrence Roach says his ex-wife has had a sex change and is now living as a man with a new identity. Roach says he should be allowed to discontinue $1,200 in monthly alimony payments.

"This isn't right. It's humiliating to me and degrading," Roach said. "You know, I'm a man and I don't want to be paying alimony to a man. If you can't be married to a man legally, how can you legally pay alimony to a man?"

Like writing $14,400 worth of checks a year wasn't enough of an annoyance in itself.

I don't know Florida (or anybody's) law for certain, but I'd bet that the former Mrs Roach's transition to manhood does not invalidate the existing divorce decree. And this could open up a whole new can of worms: if Rhonda Ron [sample name used only for illustration] is still attracted to men, there won't be a remarriage (which presumably would end the alimony payments) under existing law.

The operative word here, of course, is "existing."

(Via Bitter Bitch.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:03 AM to Table for One )
Coming soon: Donner Party Trays

The government of Mongolia wants to trademark the name and image of Genghis Khan:

The parliament in Ulan Bator is debating a law that would allow the Mongolian government to license the use of his name and image.

Genghis Khan established a vast empire 700 years ago, but today his face is found on vodka bottles and the capital city has a brewery named after him.

In fact, the Ulan Bator airport is being renamed for him (as noted here during the summer). But the Mongolians (I guess we don't call them "Mongols" anymore) don't want outsiders appropriating Genghis:

"Foreigners are attempting to use the Genghis Khan name", one parliamentarian said, claiming that businesses in Russia, China and Kazakhstan were all portraying him as a native of their countries.

The law would allow the government to set fees for the use of Genghis Khan's name. It would also permit the Mongolian President to select one official portrait from the 10 in use and define which bodies could use this image.

It won't stop there, says Lemuel:

I am more interested, who and when will first try to register swastikas? Hindu, Chinese or Germans? And with Stalin Vodka already on the stands in some countries I heartily await the legal battles over who gets the protection and sole rights over the brand name and the image of Adolf Hitler. It would be an interesting reversal to see him actually being contested by both Austria and Germany.

In the best of all possible worlds, this would be the result:

"Adolf Hitler," "Nazi" and "National Socialist," or any combinations including same, are registered trademarks of Mike Godwin. All rights reserved. Use without prior permission strictly forbidden.

But I suspect Godwin probably doesn't want anything to do with this sort of thing.

Which leaves me only one question: which Third World hellhole — Iran, Cuba, or the Gaza Strip — will be the first to name a landmark for Jimmy Carter?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:48 PM to Dyssynergy )
Dates from hell

Springtime in New York: what better time for romance? It's about time, thinks Haley Walker, and you can't blame her: a few years back she and daughter Vera fled Austin, Texas and "psychotic" husband Roger, with little more than the shirts on their backs — and about six hundred pairs of designer shoes.

Haley has done fairly well for herself. Upon her arrival in the Big Apple, she waited tables at a restaurant, which turned out to be a front for a money-laundering operation for Romanian mobsters; when the ringleader was tossed into the slammer, she was the only person on staff who had any idea of how actual restaurants were supposed to work, and by default she became the manager. Now the restaurant's a success, the daughter's turned thirteen, and maybe, just maybe, it's time to dip one Jimmy Choo-clad toe into the dating pool once more.

This is the setup for Theresa Rebeck's Bad Dates, the season opener for the Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, and in true CityRep tradition, they're working without a net: Bad Dates is a 95-minute monologue, the musings of Haley Walker in her Manhattan bedroom as she reflects on the perfidy of men, the mythos of Mildred Pierce, and the value of quality footwear. And the dates? Bad, bad, and finally, at long last, worse.

The genius of this particular play, I think, is establishing Haley as an expat Texan, as fiercely independent as any native New Yorker, but maybe too wistful to immerse herself in that legendary Manhattan cynicism. It also makes an already difficult role more so, since at any given moment there are two or three or more emotions being juggled and only one person to convey them all. And in this production, that one person is Oklahoma City native Stacey Logan, who's spent enough time on the Broadway boards to know where the Southwest and the Big Apple intersect, and whose timing is Borscht Belt-perfect. Logan's Haley is utterly believable: you share her excitement when she goes out, and her disappointment when she recounts the horrible story of what happened when she did. (Pacing is critical here, but director Michael Jones maintains a steady hand.) And remember that jailed Romanian mobster? He's not going to stay in stir forever.

It's hard for me to talk about Bad Dates, simply because I've been someone's Bad Date more than once (and someone's psychotic husband once). But I laughed out loud at the funny stuff, of which there is an abundance, and I was moved by the suddenly-scary events of the second act. The crowd this afternoon was smallish — something about a football game, they tell me — but appreciative. And you've got until the 22nd to see it yourself.

8 October 2006
Audio pr0n

In the 1960s and 1970s, audio manufacturers played games with specifications, because they perceived that what hi-fi buyers of the time wanted was Really Good Numbers. Eventually the FTC stuck its beak into the proceedings and decreed a standard for power output: that "280-watt" amplifier would become "42 watts RMS per channel, all channels driven, 20-20,000 Hz, ± 2 dB, 0.5% THD, 8 ohms." As with other Federally-approved numbers — cf. "EPA city mileage" — this tells you some things and doesn't tell you others. This particular amp sits in my living room. If I fed it nothing but sine waves, I'd presumably get exactly the numbers the Feds ordered. Music, however, isn't continuous tones: it's peaks and valleys. And for very brief peaks, the box might actually deliver more than 42 watts: as much as 70, in fact. Given that this is a four-channel amplifier, you can multiply 70 x 4 and suddenly there's that "280" rating. But that rating, too, conceals a lot: mostly, that the difference between 70 watts and 42 watts is only about 1.66 dB. And none of those numbers will tell you what you really want to know, which is "How does it sound?"

Back then, there were two markets for sound equipment: hi-fi and lo-fi. Today there are three: Real Crap, Average Crap, and Hideously Expensive But Good. A catalog from a dealer catering to the latter arrived this past week, and its cover photo tells the story: a rack of gear that cost as much as my house, off to the side a tube-powered amplifier, and seated off to the right, a fashion model, presumably expensively dressed, her expression suitably dreamy. I'd hazard a guess that guys who blow $100k on audio gear probably might not date a lot, but not being a member of this class, I could be wrong, and besides, the young lady is quite lovely, which tends to mess with my capacity to rationalize.

And I have to admit, I like the idea of a $13,000 turntable. (Tonearm sold separately.) At the very least, it hews to the idea that the closer you get to Utter Perfection, which of course is denied us mere mortals, the faster the price goes up, a characteristic found in most other activities as well. Most of those dollars seem to have gone into making sure that no stray vibrations of any sort find their way to the stylus and thus into your speakers, a laudable goal. But still: thirteen thousand dollars? I paid $12,400 for a car this past summer. (Don't ask me about its alleged "200-watt" audio system.)

I must disclose here that some of the accessories in this catalog are items I actually own, and there are a couple of them I could see adding to the arsenal, had I a few zillion dollars to spare; this gizmo, for instance, actually de-warps records, assuming you haven't done something foolish like leave them in the sun. And that amplifier of mine is now thirty-one years old, ready for banishment to the dreaded Auxiliary System. I doubt, however, that I'm going to put out five or six digits for new sound equipment: contemporary CDs are mastered for Maximum Loud, and the hell with dynamic range; most of my other new acquisitions are MP3s and/or AACs, which are compressed anyway; and how much good will the finest equipment do for a scratchy old 45? (Dave Marsh once said that the sound of Gary "U.S." Bonds' "Quarter to Three" possessed "peculiar unity": "I've played it on stereo systems ranging from $49.95 to $10,000, and the equipment makes no difference.") Of course, should someone discover that high-end audio does in fact enhance one's ability to lure beautiful women in short black dresses into one's home, I'll grit my teeth and write the check.

A marked absence of safety features

Since the subject is bound to come up somewhere, here's the Official Personal Watercraft of the American Revolution. (Portrayal by professionals. Do not try this at home.)

I am advised that Lydia, the Tattooed Lady bore its insignia, or something.

Report from the front

The 5th Annual Blogger Boobie-Thon raised $9260, about twenty bucks more than last year — in two fewer days.

For some inscrutable reason, there was some backlash this year, mostly from people who (1) manifestly didn't understand the concept and/or (2) thought it was unseemly to look at someone's rack. Robyn dealt with this sort of thing with dispatch:

We have now worked countless hours and raised over $30,000 in five years. What exactly have you done ... other than type out a few snarky English phrases on a keyboard?

Cue the crickets.

See you next year.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:04 AM to Blogorrhea )
Up 'n Atom

Dynamo Dave explains how to use a feed reader, complete with Bloglines screenshots. If you've been wondering about this yourself, this is a good, nontechnical primer.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:26 PM to Blogorrhea , PEBKAC )
Fox detox

I think the last year I followed the pop charts to any great extent was 1986, after which I decided that I really didn't care anymore. And I don't think it was my age, which was thirty-three, so much as the sheer boredom that oozed out of pop radio back then. The ooze has since been supplemented by waste, sometimes toxic, which hasn't exactly encouraged me to come back to the dial; I haven't had a real Favorite Single of the Year since Alanis' "You Oughta Know", which wasn't even released as a single at first.

I still haven't gone back to the radio, but them thar Intarwebs have made finding music a lot more interesting, and I've even got a possible Favorite Single for this year, and it hasn't even been released yet: "Rehab," a glorious Sixties-soul tune by Amy Winehouse, who wasn't even thought of in the 1960s. (She's only twenty-three.) For now, presumably until someone finds out it's there, you can see and hear it on YouTube. I give this one an easy 90; as reworked Sixties soul goes, this might be the best I've heard since Peter Gabriel's "Sledgehammer," which came out in (yes!) 1986.

9 October 2006
Strange search-engine queries (36)

Three dozen times I've gone to the well, and the bucket keeps coming back up, filled with stuff like this:

dick no dickless:  For Dick's sake, make up your mind.

socially inept men:  At least I've dropped out of the top 50 for this search.

Beyerstein could probably teach at FSU:  And give up Majikthise? I hope not.

10 inch penis posibility:  It's a stretch, but not unheard-of.

anakin skywalker sewing patterns:  "Luke, I am your seamstress."

homemade porn in bucks pennsylvania:  I know only a handful of people in Bucks, and they have better things to do at home.

vickie mcgehee:  No, I won't believe it for a moment. I won't.

low man on the totem pole mean:  I'm pretty low down. Mean, too.

100 ways to look stupid:  And we have 100 Senators. Coincidence?

mermaid copy protection:  I haven't figured out how they reproduce in the first place.

what happened to ponds vanishing creme:  It disappeared.

why dont women like pantyhose:  Try putting some on someday.

fake fur hydrocarbons:  Well, they gotta make it out of something.

when is my mazda 6 clutch worn:  Never after Labor Day, or on formal occasions.

autofellatio is considered a divine act:  If someone sees it, expect to hear "Oh, my God!"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:58 AM to You Asked For It )
Let's put this baby to the test

You do not want to watch me during a test drive. I don't think I'm particularly hard on a car, but it's going to have to be able to do some pretty weird-looking things to get me to sign the check, and this means scary roll angles, braking at odd times, and 30-mph curves at 55 or so. While I consider these things essential to determining the vehicle's suitability, I don't think the general public benefits by having to see them take place on local surface streets, and other drivers may well be put into a state of shock, which doesn't enhance anybody's safety.

The city of Naperville, Illinois now takes a step forward with its new municipal test track, intended for customers of the dozen or so local dealerships. Here's what it offers:

  • A 100-foot-long cobblestone surface to simulate driving on a brick road.
  • A 10 percent hill climb incline intended to replicate driving on a dirt road.
  • High-bank testing area with a 10 percent cross slope.
  • Rough-road testing on concrete pavement with embedded boulders.
  • Suburban driveway and curb comprised of standard concrete driveway.
  • Skid pad area consisting of asphalt pavement, irrigated so that it is constantly wet for wet braking tests.
  • Three security/Web cameras used to show activity on the track and allowing for live feeds to participating car dealers.
  • A simulated railroad crossing.

Except for maybe a high-speed straightaway, this is just about everything I'd want. Right now, the only thing locally that comes close is the franchise-mandated test course for Land Rovers behind Bob Moore's Autoplex. (I came this close to climbing it one day, mistaking one of its paths for the entrance to the Infiniti service department next door, which demonstrates further the value of getting me off the road.) I'm not saying that Oklahoma City, or its car dealers, should pony up the bucks for a replica of the Nürburgring, but there has to be something better than just flying down the Broadway Extension.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:27 AM to Driver's Seat )
It's my party and I'll buy if I want to

"Some businesses, things and people," says Miriam, "just seem to naturally belong to one political party or the other." A few of her examples:

Target, Democratic; Wal-Mart, Republican. Sears, Democratic; Macy's, Republican. Margarine, Democratic; butter, Republican. The miniskirt, Democratic; the little black dress with pearls, Republican. Tattoos, Democratic; Botox, Republican. Hot dogs, Democratic; knackwurst, Republican. Kraft cheddar cheese, Democratic; havarti cheese, Republican. Mustard, Democratic; mayonnaise, Republican.

Obviously none of this is graven in stone, and I expect protests on some of them — since when is mayonnaise Republican? — but there is some sense to it, perhaps.

My own thinking:

Democratic: Volvo, Panera Bread, TJ Maxx, Lifetime.

Republican: Buick, Burger King, JCPenney, ESPN.

Green: Segway, Whole Foods, Goodwill, C-SPAN.

Libertarians, of course, buy what they damn well please.

Pi on the head

Not the same as pie in the face. Pay attention here.

Step 1:  Select a color of yarn for each digit.

Step 2:  Ascertain the digits of pi, keeping in mind that you'll run out of yarn but you'll never run out of digits.

Step 3:  Knit.

Step 3.14159....:  Apply directly to the forehead.

Chance that I would recognize this pattern, were I to see it on the street: next to nil, since I'm not at all proficient at counting rows.

But you gotta love it: a hat with a secret message.

While the world worries

The Top Ten Good Things about the North Korean nuclear test:

  1. Keeps the DPRK from being demoted to the Axis of Feeble
  2. Japan contemplating new, improved Godzilla
  3. Pyongyang, as a member of the Nuclear Club, is now liable for back dues
  4. Opportunity to recalibrate Richter scale
  5. South Korean arms trade profitable again
  6. It will take 10 years to save up enough aluminum cans for a second test
  7. Test site may actually be warm this winter, unlike rest of country
  8. President Ahmadinejad of Iran no longer a lock for Dork of the Year
  9. Beijing now wondering why they actually backed these loons
  10. Finally got that idiot Mark Foley off the goddamn front page

(Disclosure: I have not quit my day job.)

Diffraction effects

I admit to being a sucker for off-kilter love stories — even off-kilter teenage love stories, if they're done with some degree of finesse. Laura Whitcomb's A Certain Slant of Light has so much finesse it nearly slipped away from me, but I was able to maintain some semblance of a grip right up until the only possible ending that made any sense.

"Someone was looking at me, a disturbing sensation if you're dead." And so she was, her own life having run out a century before, bound to a succession of "hosts" who are never aware of her existence, final disposition of her case evidently still pending. While looking after "her" English teacher, she's somehow seen by one of his students, and she must find out more.

He, like her, is Light, assigned to this in-between world. Yet he somehow has a body:

"How did you take Mr. Blake's body?"

"He vacated it," said James. "He left it, mind and soul, like an empty house with the door open." He seemed excited to tell me his strange adventure.

"When his spirit left his body, why didn't he die?" I wanted to know.

"His body didn't die," he said, still fascinated by his own luck. "His spirit chose to leave. It's difficult to explain. Instead of the ship going down taking the crew with it, the crew abandoned the ship, but the ship was still seaworthy." Now he looked embarrassed. Something in my expression had shamed him.

"It seems wrong," I said. "Like stealing."

"Better that I have him rather than —" An untold and eerie story flashed by behind his autumn eyes.

"Than what?"

"Well, left adrift, something evil might pirate him away."

This seemed more plausible to me than I thought it would. And eventually the want overwhelms the rules, and she finds an "empty" body of her own:

Jenny’s eyes closed and her hands folded. I decided I couldn’t wait forever. I stepped over the sleeping child and sat where Jenny was sitting. The ringing sound of crystal vibrating was all around me. I felt like I had pressed myself into cold marble. I stayed in her, and in a moment I started shaking. It was frightening, but I wouldn’t let myself run. I tried to see James in my mind’s eye, smiling at me. The ringing stopped with a popping sound. I felt like an ice sculpture starting to crack into pieces. Then it happened. I felt the shape of her, the shape of myself, inside the fingers and shoulders and knees of her. I even felt the snug shoes and the difference between her warm arms inside her sweater and her cool legs exposed to the breeze. I could feel the tickle of Jenny’s hair brushing my cheek. My hand went to my mouth when I heard myself cry out in amazement. I opened my eyes to see every face in the circle turned to me, and then the ground flew up and I was in the dark.

Two people, both long dead, now pretending to be the teenagers whose bodies they inhabit. It's not hard to see where this is going, but it's difficult not to feel something for them, so long deprived — or for the departed youngsters who had no idea what they were giving up. It's a fascinating story, more than a little bit creepy in spots, and, I'd say, worth the extra effort it demands of the "young-adult" audience to whom it's pitched. How did I wind up with this book? I wish I knew.

10 October 2006
Google arithmetic

Some things at Google just don't add up. For one thing, they're willing to pay $1.65 billion for YouTube. And this past weekend, CEO Eric Schmidt came up with this curious statistic:

We have 35 million blogs, doubling every six months. The average blog has exactly one reader: the blogger.

Based on this assertion, and given the inexplicable yet verifiable fact that I have more than one reader, I have to assume that there are some blogs out there that aren't even being read by the people who write them.

For example:

I don't read my own blog. I don't think many people who have a blog read their own. I mean — you made the posts. The comments get emailed to you. Why do you need to read it? It's not logical.

A Google search for "i don't read my own blog" garners 39 hits. I think I might have about 39 regular readers.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 AM to Blogorrhea )
Let them pay for their greed

Boy, do I know what this is like:

Today, I discovered that we had a credit card company unexpectedly and unannounced (although they claim to have sent some notification months ago) raise our APR from 11.99% to 29.99%. Thirty [CENSORED] percent!!!

That is Congressionally enabled highway robbery! Period!

The outrageously higher rate wasn't because we had missed any payments or that we had gone over our limit. It wasn't because we had a sudden change in our credit score, which has been about the same (give or take a couple of points) for the last two years. They claimed it was a decision based on an overall credit analysis. In other words, in corporate speak, they did it because they could.

Been there, done that. The bank in question used to make an easy thousand dollars a year from my card accounts. No more.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 AM to Common Cents )
Classic peg/hole mismatch

Ethnic diversity, we are told, is a Good Thing, and to some extent, I have to agree: I have no desire to live among a bunch of people who are exactly like me, assuming that there exists a bunch of people who are exactly like me, which is something I don't really want to assume.

But there's always been a serious downside to it, and now it's being quantified:

A bleak picture of the corrosive effects of ethnic diversity has been revealed in research by Harvard University's Robert Putnam, one of the world's most influential political scientists.

His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone — from their next-door neighbour to the mayor.

This is a contentious finding in the current climate of concern about the benefits of immigration. Professor Putnam told the Financial Times he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it "would have been irresponsible to publish without that".

The core message of the research was that, "in the presence of diversity, we hunker down", he said. "We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it's not just that we don't trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don't trust people who do look like us."

My vestigial leftist reflex immediately came back with "Yeah, so there are xenophobes out there. We're not like that." Which suggests further research — say, busing churchgoing NASCAR fans into Berkeley.

And Putnam isn't by any means calling for re-isolation:

Prof Putnam stressed, however, that immigration materially benefited both the "importing" and "exporting" societies, and that trends "have been socially constructed, and can be socially reconstructed".

In an oblique criticism of Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons, who revealed last week he prefers Muslim women not to wear a full veil, Prof Putnam said: "What we shouldn't do is to say that they [immigrants] should be more like us. We should construct a new us."

This strikes me as fatuous. "Us" is already under construction, and always has been; these things happen on their own, and efforts to direct the process are not guaranteed to produce the desired results, as Putnam's own research presumably shows.

Or, as Rachel says:

[I]sn't forcing majorities to cope with the whims, desires and customs of minorities also a source of friction?

Think of it as the Law of Unintended Consequences in action. Or you can just snicker at this:

Another frequently asked question is about polygamy. "We have a simple answer to this question: Islam allows its male followers to marry more than once to help maintain gender balance in society," he said.

There are, for instance, 7.8 million more women than men in the US today. "This means that if every male US citizen picks a wife, 7.8 million women will be left without marriage. These women will either have the option of getting married to an already married person or become promiscuous," said Ghazanfar.

Some choice. "Ghazanfar" is evidently Arabic for "Morton". And while we're on the subject, veils suck.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:24 AM to Dyssynergy )
Bored to the max

Motor Trend reports (via Autoblog) that Porsche's ageless boxer six is now pushing the limits of development:

A key issue with the next 911 is the iconic flat-six engine apparently can't be stretched beyond 4.0 liters, which limits the potential output, even with technologies such as direct injection. This means the car will almost certainly feature extensive use of aluminum and fast-shifting DSG transmissions to save weight and boost performance.

And the purists (some of whom work in Stuttgart) wouldn't dream of trying to squeeze the Panamera's V8 under the 911's tail.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:46 AM to Driver's Seat )
Chatty spam

Some of the comments caught in the crap-filtration system around here lately are attempting to be cordial in the process of leeching linkage. Examples:

What a cute site you have here. I can tell that you have put a lot of time and work into it. Great job!

I feel like a complete blank. That's how it is. I can't be bothered with anything recently.

I really find this site very interesting, and it gives people a pleasure time! I really appreciate the creators of this website!

My life's been basically dull these days. I haven't gotten much done these days. Today was a complete loss.

Since obviously the scum who wrote this originally can be considered a complete loss, I'm taking some pleasure time to empty out the trash.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:39 PM to Scams and Spams )
I even remember how to get there

A Louisiana Googler wanted to know if there was really such a street as "Memory Lane."

As a matter of fact, it's just down the road from me, off the 3900 block of NW 50th. (Google map here.)

If you're looking for the Heartbreak Hotel, though, it's at the end of Lonely Street, which doesn't intersect 50th at all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 PM to City Scene )
Not necessarily a sign of anything

After all, it's a preseason game, and the first preseason game at that.

Still: Hornets 84, Mavericks 81, and as we all know, the Bees never beat Dallas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:34 PM to Net Proceeds )
11 October 2006
The F-word

And here it is:

Forecast graphic

I'm just as thrilled as you think I am. Maybe even less.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:15 AM to Weather or Not )
Continuing tweakage

Inasmuch as Technorati is giving me the Claude Rains treatment of late, I've replaced their search box with one of Google's — it's in the "Usage notes" area on the frontpage sidebar — which should produce marginally more reliable results.

Actually, I'm happy with anything that produces results at all these days; just about every day, there's a half-hour (more or less) period when this site is all but inaccessible. If it happened at the same time every day, it might be a bit more understandable, but no. I assume that it's related to lingering Dreamhost issues that are being gradually addressed. On the upside, response time has improved markedly in the past sixty days, though at least some of that is due to reducing the size of my database by 95 percent, an idea for which I claim no credit.

Beware of the Blob

Remember when there was always room for this stuff?

A small pile of leftover jelly discarded beside the road after a wedding party caused a large-scale security alert in Germany with biochemical experts, firemen and police called in to investigate.

"Passers-by called police after finding a pool of a flabby red, orange and green substance on the roadside," a police spokesman in the eastern town of Halle told Reuters on Monday.

He said the newly wed groom, who was pulled out of bed at noon following a tipoff, confirmed that the jelly, known as Jell-O in the United States, was a party leftover — and agreed to clean it up.

As biohazards go, this is inarguably small-scale. Had this been spinach salad with mayonnaise, there'd be Chernobyl-level anguish.

(Via The Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:00 AM to Dyssynergy )
For all those heat-seeking misses

A chap from Edmond is, says Cosmopolitan, one of the "hottest guys in the U.S.", and he'd like your vote in their Bachelor Blowout, as it were.

Josh Walters, 23, who teaches at Summit Middle School in Edmond, represents Oklahoma in the magazine's list of 50 studmuffins, and he looks, well, like this.

And he admits to one bit of puzzlement about women:

I know women have different hormones than guys do, but their mood swings leave me puzzled. I really don't follow how they can change from happy to furious so quickly and for no obvious reason at all!

This, sir, is why you're teaching geography. Mountains and streams don't do things like that.

(Those of you who may be seeking the very antithesis of hot — oh, wait, you're already reading me.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:26 AM to Table for One )

Or, in Celsius, 100.

Why Gabriel Fahrenheit set the boiling point of water to 212 degrees is not known for certain. I've always believed that one summer day in the 1720s he went outside for a moment, then dashed back inside and sputtered: "Gott in Himmel! It must be a hundred degrees out there!" Six months later it was colder than Prussian beer; he decided that this was zero, and from those two points he constructed the entire scale.

The 212th Carnival of the Vanities is decidedly less bogus than this story, and packed full of bloggy goodness besides.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:12 PM to Blogorrhea )
Can we borrow your tones, Mr. Stentor?

Lileks explains one way to make your campaign ad more effective:

Use the same narrator who's appeared in every other campaign ad since 1978. You know, that guy. The one with the voice? Him. We all know he's the true ruler of the country, and if he gives his tacit stamp of approval, I know the candidate has the backing of the Hidden Cabal that runs the government from a mountain in Colorado. They weren't behind 9/11, but they were behind 5/30. Oh, you didn't hear about 5/30? That's how secret they are.

Of course, There Is No Cabal.

12 October 2006
Quote of the week

Terry Michael, on the question of whether House Speaker Dennis Hastert should step down:

Call me an old-fashioned little-"d" democrat, but I'm willing to leave moral and ethical judgments about an official's personal conduct to the wisdom of crowds — the electorate, in this case.

Through their democratically selected Republican representatives, let the citizenry decide whether Hastert should stay or go. In fact, I wish Mr. Foley had chosen to be judged by the people of his district in Florida, rather than hide behind a smarmy, lawyerly "I was drunk and molested" defense.

A Democrat involved in a page-related sex scandal a few decades ago, gay Congressman Gerry Studds, stood before his voters and was repeatedly returned to Congress. His straight Republican colleague, Dan Crane, who had sex with a female page, was fired immediately by those who had sent him to Washington. Gay Democratic Congressman Barney Frank and gay Republican Congressman Jim Kolbe both won approval of their constituents after they were outed while in office.

In all those cases, a crowd casting ballots probably showed more wisdom than some House "ethics" committee or "independent" counsel could ever muster.

And who's to blame for all this foofaraw, anyway?

The problem Mr. Hastert is facing is not ABC News or liberal Democrats. It's a significant number of [his] party's base voters, who appear to despise gays and lesbians, and who demand that the party accept their bias as a legitimate "religious" belief. And it's also many — I think a majority — of those pesky voters in the center, who conclude Republicans are more than a little bit intolerant and are being a tad bit hypocritical.

As a Democrat, albeit a libertarian Democrat (there are about six of us), I side with the view that men are indeed canines, but it's a lot more important for congressmen to decide whether to send 18-year-olds to their deaths in the desert than it is to monitor whether dirty old men are sending "what are you wearing" instant messages to 16-year-olds at the beginning of the sex-sophisticated 21st Century.

I'd dispute that "sex-sophistication" business — I submit that we're no closer to understanding all of its ramifications now than we were when Delilah gave Samson a buzz cut — but otherwise, I bark in general assent.

And speaking of Mr Foley, Nolan Clay of the Oklahoman said this with a straight (I think) face:

Foley, a Florida Republican, quit after ABC News confronted him about lurid messages sent over the Internet to teenage, former male pages.

"Former" male pages? What, are they female now? Or somewhere in between? If that's the case, "lurid" doesn't even begin to scratch the surface, as it were. (Daily Pundit's Bill Quick caught this.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:17 AM to QOTW )
Riding the LMTFA

I should point out that a friend of mine sent me this; despite a certain resemblance, personality-wise, I did not write it.

Question: I have a personality that irritates people. I like to keep to myself on the job, without constant interruptions. I have a strong work ethic and have held many jobs but hate playing office footsie with people I would rather not be bothered with. I have about a decade left of work life and would like a meaningful position before it's too late.

Answer: Ms. Mentor is not much given to sighing for what is not, but she wishes you had been born in the 18th century, when you might have gotten on as an ornamental hermit.

Every English grotto back then had to have one: a robed, bearded figure who now and then emerged from his hutch to amaze guests with his visionary mumblings. Of course, ornamental hermits in effect had tenure: health care, room and board, free robes. They merely had to have theatrical sense and impeccable wisdom — which, as Ms. Mentor knows, was as rare then as it is now. But if you had it, you could make a career of flaunting it.

This goes on for quite a ways, inasmuch as it deals with life in the Groves of Academe, which is similar to The Industry only in that it goes out of its way to accommodate people who in the real world would be asking you if you wanted fries with that. This is, incidentally, another way you can tell I didn't submit that question: the idea that I'd be looking for something "meaningful" for my last decade is wholly foreign to me. Not being one of the nine people on earth who have their actual Dream Jobs, what I look for is something I can put out of my mind the moment I walk out the door.

Or, better yet, the moment I walk in the door.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:33 AM to Dyssynergy )

I missed the first half of the announcement, but someone was droning on the radio this morning (right after Morning Edition; I don't think it was a national NPR spot) about how "everything we do is either health-creating —"

[pregnant pause]

"— or not."

Yeah, that ought to narrow it down.

Addendum, 13 October, 6 pm: I've identified the program; the description on screen is a little bit less terse.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:05 AM to Say What? )
The new GOP front-runner

As you all know, the lesser of two evils would still be lesser.

(Darth Rove snickers in the Eighth Circle.)

Meanwhile, I have a circle to square

Were you to make a list of Things That Just Don't Happen, I wouldn't at all be surprised if you included "insurance premium decreased," though in my three years at the palatial Surlywood estate, this actually did happen once.

Make that twice. Despite a four-percent increase in coverage (an inflation rider of some sort), insuring the little box on the curve will cost $100 less this coming year.

This being a mere eight bucks and change per month, I am going to use that sum to bump up the coverage another fourteen percent, splitting the difference between what the assessor thought the place was worth last year and what Zillow.com thought the place was worth last week (which is now a smidgen under $100k).

Taxes? I figure they'll go up $30 or so.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:10 PM to Surlywood )
God hates blogs

Especially blogs by teenagers. Here's why, from the Restored Church of God:

Here is the definition of a blog from a highly popular blog provider: "A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world. Your blog is whatever you want it to be. There are millions of them, in all shapes and sizes, and there are no real rules…blogs have…enabled millions of people to have a voice" (emphasis ours).

Ask yourself, "Do I have a tendency to want to have a voice?"

This has grown so out of control it is routine for a person to start a daily blog entry with a single word that details his or her mood. A blog entry will start: "Current mood: ____" The level of shallowness and emotional immaturity this represents is astonishing! In the grand scheme of things, why would the world at large care?

People naturally want to make a mark in this world; they want to make a difference, and many believe blogs will allow them to do this. However, most blogs, especially by teenagers, serve as nothing more than public diaries. (Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with a personal diary, as long as it is kept private.) Although certain professional weblogs can make a positive difference within some elements of society, teen blogging does not.

Current mood: chortling.

And how dare those little...those little...non-adults have a "tendency to want to have a voice"! Who do they think they are? Us?

Oh, wait, we're not allowed either:

Should teenagers and others in the Church express themselves to the world through blogs? Because of the obvious dangers; the clear biblical principles that apply; the fact that it gives one a voice; that it is almost always idle words; that teens often do not think before they do; that it is acting out of boredom; and it is filled with appearances of evil — blogging is simply not to be done in the Church. It should be clear that it is unnecessary and in fact dangerous on many levels.

Let me emphasize that NO ONE — including adults — should have a blog or personal website (unless it is for legitimate business purposes).

My luck, that asshole Moloch will be late with the frigging checks again.

(Link and title swiped from Cruel.com.)

13 October 2006
Sole survival

Miriam is on the road, and I have to assume she's packed plenty of shoes:

[A] woman can't go anywhere without at least four pairs of shoes. Not even overnight. For a ten-day trip, you can imagine how many shoes are needed. It is a question of bringing the shoes juste for every outfit. Every outfit has its own shoe karma — the difference between dressing for success and looking like a slob is having the exactly right pair of shoes. Then you have to bring sneakers, because God forbid you actually have to walk somewhere, they are the only shoes you can actually wear without bringing tears to your eyes. And involuntary but deeply felt groans from your lips.

This caught my eye because for the World Tours I pack, yes, four pairs of shoes. These are, however, sixteen-day trips, which leads to the next question: in the unlikely event that I ever acquire a real live traveling companion of the female persuasion, will I have to get a larger vehicle just to accommodate her wardrobe needs? (I currently drive an Infiniti I30, which is considered more-or-less mid-sized.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:20 AM to Dyssynergy )
I wonder if you still remember

Someone, I forget the name, once said that the essence of rock and roll was "happy songs about sad things," and I filed that away with "jumbo shrimp" and all the other oxymoronic things I'd heard — until the day I realized that those premises weren't contradictory at all.

Exhibit A: The Moody Blues, "Your Wildest Dreams," 1986. Full of bright synth bits, decidedly upbeat, and a major downer:

It's possible that "Your Wildest Dreams" isn't really the saddest song ever written, but man. The entire song is based on him remembering, "once upon a time, once when you were mine," and he never really fills in specifics. Just that he is currently wondering where she is and wondering if she thinks about him. It's very vague and that makes it worse because that makes it universal. You can fill in the blanks any way you like. You don't know why he is wistful and wondering but when his voice cracks on the second line of the song you know you are in for a song that presses down on you.

That second line, of course, is "once when you were mine."

The answer to this, oddly, had come out seven years earlier: the Doobie Brothers' "What a Fool Believes," arguably the best thing either Michael McDonald or Kenny Loggins ever had anything to do with. And bouncy and upbeat as it is, the answer is no, she never gives him a second thought:

He came from somewhere back in her long ago
The sentimental fool don't see
Tryin' hard to recreate what had yet to be created
Once in her life
She musters a smile
For his nostalgic tale
Never coming near what he wanted to say
Only to realize it never really was

Still makes me think twice, even today.

An actual peacemonger

The Nobel Prize for Peace, in a stunning disregard of recent tradition, was awarded to deserving recipients: Grameen Bank and its founder Muhammad Yunus, pioneers in the field of micro-credit.

The Grameen ("Rural") Bank was founded in Bangladesh in 1976 with seed money of $27. Today the bank has over six million borrowers. It works like this:

The Grameen Bank is based on the voluntary formation of small groups of five people to provide mutual, morally binding group guarantees in lieu of the collateral required by conventional banks. At first only two members of a group are allowed to apply for a loan. Depending on their performance in repayment the next two borrowers can then apply and, subsequently, the fifth member as well.

The assumption is that if individual borrowers are given access to credit, they will be able to identify and engage in viable income-generating activities — simple processing such as paddy husking, lime-making, manufacturing such as pottery, weaving, and garment sewing, storage and marketing and transport services. Women were initially given equal access to the schemes, and proved not only reliable borrowers but astute enterpreneurs. As a result, they have raised their status, lessened their dependency on their husbands and improved their homes and the nutritional standards of their children. Today over 90 percent of borrowers are women.

Says Mr Yunus:

Grameen believes that the poverty is not created by the poor, it is created by the institutions and policies which surround them. In order to eliminate poverty all we need to do is to make appropriate changes in the institutions and policies, and/or create new ones. Grameen believes that charity is not an answer to poverty. It only helps poverty to continue. It creates dependency and takes away individual's initiative to break through the wall of poverty. Unleashing of energy and creativity in each human being is the answer to poverty.

Grameen brought credit to the poor, women, the illiterate, the people who pleaded that they did not know how to invest money and earn an income. Grameen created a methodology and an institution around the financial needs of the poor, and created access to credit on reasonable term enabling the poor to build on their existing skill to earn a better income in each cycle of loans.

(Previous discussion here.)

I normally don't call attention to Nobel laureates — they always get plenty of press — but in an era when you're expecting the Peace prize to go jointly to, say, Madeleine Albright and Spalding, it's a pleasure to report that the awards committee didn't screw up this time.

A brand name is born, or something

Last month, you may have read this here:

When Ford bought Land Rover from BMW in 2000, the Germans retained the rights to the unlanded "Rover" name, though Ford was offered first place in line when and if BMW decided to let it go. And BMW didn't let it go, even though the Chinese automaker SAIC subsequently bought up the remnants of Rover's actual product line.

Now Ford has exercised its option and taken over rights to the Rover badge, reportedly for a payment of £6 million.

Which leaves the Chinese with — what, exactly?

The Roewe 750E will be the SAIC version of the Rover 75, to be introduced at the Beijing Auto Show next month. "Roewe" might be a contraction of "Rong Wei," which means "glorious power" and is not, despite some snickering, a Chinese variation on "Wrong Way."

I was kind of hoping for "Lovel." (Don't ask.) And don't expect the Roewe to be sold in the States.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:24 AM to Driver's Seat )
Thirty percent off!

And I want to order these:

  • 0.7 Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • Slaughterhouse-3.5
  • The 4.9 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Catch-15.4
  • The Crying of Lot 34.3
  • Around the World in 56 Days
  • 58.8 Charing Cross Road
  • Fahrenheit 315.7
  • 1400.7: A Space Odyssey
  • 14,000 Leagues Under the Sea
  • Seven Hundred Thousand Little Pieces

(Via Gawker.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:20 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Doing the fast fade

At one point in the third quarter, the Hornets and the Magic were tied, 66-all.

The fact that Orlando won it 100-85 should tell you what happened after that.

Yes, I know: still preseason. Six more of them to come.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:35 PM to Net Proceeds )
14 October 2006
Besides, they don't respond to "Hey, you"

All my cars have had names, and I don't always find out right away what those names are; it took about nine miles to get some ID from Gwendolyn after I signed the papers. (Where it came from is here, next-to-last paragraph.)

Ford-fan forum Blue Oval News attempts to explain why some of us do this sort of thing:

Why is it that you might name your car, but you would never give a name to your TV set, refrigerator or your sofa?

The experts have some theories: Cars move making them animate objects. People think cars are alive. We personalize our cars with our stuff. Cars are a thing of pride.

"Cars are certainly more personal objects than refrigerators are, and a source of more personal pride," said Cleveland Kent Evans, Associate Professor of Psychology, Bellevue University. "Vehicles of any kind are probably also more likely to be named simply because they move in the course of their normal use, and so are more easily to think of like they were animate objects instead of inanimate ones."

True. But lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners move, and it's not generally acceptable to say, "I need to vacuum, will you get 'Sucky' out of the closet for me?"

Truth be told, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that someone had named a car "Sucky." God knows plenty of them qualify for it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:09 AM to Driver's Seat )
The case for spelling

There were a couple of grumbles (offsite) this week from commenters who thought they were being thrown back into the moderation queue, vaguely reminiscent of "What happened to my access?" complaints during the BBS era. As always, the answer is simple: when you're set up in the auto-approval gizmo, it looks for your email address thereafter, and if it recognizes you, you're in. (Email addresses are not actually posted with the comment.) If you've dyslexicated a couple of characters, or if you've moved your "nospam" insert, or if you've used some other email address altogether, the machine doesn't know you from kimthenukegod@dprk.org, and the comment goes into the box for moderation.

Possibly apropos of this, Lynn reported that someone had come to her site via a search for a video on "your tub". "So much more clever than that more famous video site," she said, and just for the heck of it, I went out to yourtub.com and found, of all things, a splog with a handful of video links. These guys are hoping to make money from people's inability to spell and/or type — all the more reason to take a little extra care and make sure they don't get it.

Fonted, dead or alive

Windows XP reports that my desktop box contains 706 fonts, a figure which is somewhat misleading, inasmuch as there are six variations on, say, Goudy Old Style, plus a Goudy Stout, so-called presumably because "Goudy Absurdly Extra Freaking Bold" would have taken up too much valuable screen area in Control Panel, and that counts for seven right there.

However many fonts I may actually have, I must admit here that I have all of the seven worst fonts known to man. I need not tell you which is the worst — everybody already knows — but some of the snarky commentary is worth quoting:

Kristen ITC fans are usually elementary school teachers, childcare professionals, and other people with kid-centric jobs. These people love to employ quotes like, "We don't stop playing because we grow old — we grow old because we stop playing," and they really like to use a font that serves as a constant reminder that THEY HAVE NOT STOPPED PLAYING, DAMMIT! DON'T YOU SEE HOW PLAYFUL THESE LETTERS LOOK? YOU ARE TALKING TO SOMEONE WHO IS YOUNG INSIDE!

Don't ask me why, but Viner Hand seems to have become the go-to font for angsty pre-teens and would-be goths. Well, I hate to be the one to break it to the Linkin Park fan contingent, but calligraphy is to angst what scones are to rave parties.

For those who asked: the logo font around here is in no danger of becoming criminally overused, since at small sizes it's darn near unreadable and at large sizes it eats up all your screen space.

(Via Swirlspice.)

Die another day

Batteries of one sort or another bedevil me, as I suspect they do all of us. (Aside to any Amish readers: No, I didn't mean to include you, and how are you reading this, anyway?) Often as not, they're not even included, which means, often as not, a second trip to the store. Before I took delivery of my car this summer, I requested (well, actually, demanded, since I had it added to the contract) that a new battery be installed, as I had no faith in the one already there.

But lesser batteries can cause grief of their own. At the suggestion of my dental hygienist a few years back, I bought a Sonicare turbocharged toothbrush, which has generally served me well, even though I couldn't figure out how the charger gizmo worked, inasmuch as it has no metal connections of any kind other than in the wall plug. (Eventually I learned that it was some form of transformer: primary winding in the base, secondary in the handle, and magnetism does the rest.) A good thing, I suppose, since you're likely to plunk it down in the base while it's dripping wet. Originally, a full charge would last a couple of weeks; now it's down to a couple of days. This is fairly typical nickel-cadmium behavior, but there's no way to replace the cells, which means that shortly this thing will become a small, irregular rolling pin. Maybe the recyclers will take it as is, so I don't have to throw it away. (Cadmium is nasty stuff.)

Replaceable cells aren't always an improvement, especially if the device has a prodigious hunger for them. I have a speakerphone on my desk. The phone line powers the speaker, but the Caller ID subsystem takes three AA cells, and it takes them about every two months. (If you fail to feed it, the machine responds by killing the contrast on the LCD screen until you can only read it while hanging from the chandelier, a problem inasmuch as I don't have a chandelier.) Perhaps newer models have lower battery drain; I have an 18-month-old Olympus digital voice recorder that's still on its original set of AAAs.

Of course, if all this stuff ran directly off the grid, God knows what would happen to my electric bill.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:52 PM to Family Joules )
The Curtis Mathes syndrome

Dave Dial, a former Oklahoman transplanted to Los Angeles forty-odd years ago, explained this to me, and it rang truer than I'd prefer to admit:

When a consumer buys a contraption that combines two or more functions, if one of them breaks down and is too expensive or inconvenient to repair, the consumer will typically continue to use the parts that still work. So we see combination telephone-answering machines where the answering machine has crapped out but the phone still works and is still in use. We see those cute little combination TV-VCRs where the VCR's mechanism has eaten one tape too many but the TV still works, to give two examples.

I based the syndrome on observing back in the 1960s that many homes had what was called a "home entertainment center": a huge, living-room-space-consuming combination television-radio-phonograph with the TV dead but the radio and phonograph still working. Besides, it was a good-looking piece of furniture. Too bad there was no money to fix the TV but enough to buy a much cheaper table model set that might even be placed directly on top of the partially-defunct home entertainment center.

Besides, a lot of those humongous consoles had old B&W sets in them; if not necessarily more cost-effective, it was a lot more appealing to buy a color set and park it on top, and if you were lucky enough to have one of the high-end consoles with a picture tube that hid behind sliding doors or louvers, no one need ever know your dark, deep secret.

Actual Curtis Mathes consoles probably suffered less from this syndrome than some other, better-known brands: the tiny Texas-based manufacturer's long-running slogan was "The most expensive television in America, and darn well worth it," and they meant it. But by the 1960s, parts were relatively cheap, and labor relatively expensive; if you were unwilling to mess around with the high-voltage innards of a television, you either wrote a large check or bought a new set. (This reality was ultimately reflected in the Curtis Mathes warranty: one year on labor, ten years on parts, still in effect when I bought one of their sets in 1981. I wrote about the experience here. That set, incidentally, was still working when I donated it to Goodwill in 2002, though the picture was a little greener than spec.)

I know the syndrome well, though. I had replaced the original factory radio in my old Toyota Celica with a radio/cassette unit. Eventually, the tape mechanism quit working, in a truly fascinating fashion: the transport had somehow locked itself into a position where it thought there was a tape already in there, which meant (1) you couldn't insert an actual tape and (2) it automatically cut off the radio. Faced with the possibility of having to crawl back under the dash and replace the factory unit, or buy a whole new stereo, I shoved a plastic dowel (actually part of an old Bic pen barrel) just far enough into the tape transport to defeat the radio-off switch, which left me with a dead tape unit but a working radio. This ad hoc fix lasted six years, two years longer than the duct-tape job on the exhaust manifold. (Don't ask.)

Conversely, I once had a fairly crummy $200 shelf-unit stereo whose turntable failed, which I replaced with a real live Dual 1215 hi-fi unit, thereby guaranteeing myself high-quality reproduction right up to the point where the signal entered the amplifier. In automotive terms, this is dropping a 351 Cleveland into a Kia Sephia.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 PM to Dyssynergy )
15 October 2006
Tell me, who are you?

For four years I've had the same Toshiba notebook: Satellite series, 1100-MHz Celeron, 256 MB RAM (upgraded to 512 this year), 20 GB drive, CD burner/DVD player. (Some of you may actually have seen it.) There's a software gizmo inside it which automatically downloads driver updates and such from Toshiba's US branch, separate from the Windows Update function that comes with Microsoft's infamous OS.

And last night it downloaded a new registration system to replace the old one. The dialog box didn't ask for any new information, except for "where purchased," but it did take me by surprise, especially since the machine is long out of warranty. Best guess: Toshiba is cleaning up its user database, and anyone who doesn't fill out the new form doesn't get any more free updates. Second-best guess: Toshiba finally got around to reading the serial number of this machine, discovered that they'd foisted it off on a reseller as a factory second — there's a tiny dent in the case and the floppy door sticks — and was shocked to find it still in service. (I paid $889 for it in 2002; list price for this model was $1295. Machines with more muscle routinely sell for half that these days.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:05 AM to PEBKAC )
Just pluck it out of the air

Michael Bates argues that the Tulsa Airport Authority should drop its $9.95-a-day fee for wireless Internet at Tulsa International, and there are good reasons to do so:

There's a practical advantage: Free wi-fi allows business travelers to stay productive during delays, which makes for less tension on the concourse when a flight is rescheduled or cancelled. It also makes it possible for travelers to investigate alternate flights, so that everyone doesn't have to wait in line to get booked onto a new flight.

Mostly, though, free wi-fi would be a way to extend hospitality. It would be a way to leave a positive final impression on visitors to our city.

Besides, it's something we don't have in Oklahoma City (though the going rate at Will Rogers is two bucks less). Still, I must ruefully concede the point of commenter RJJ, who said:

Can we really expect anyone in Oklahoma to pass up the opportunity to charge someone a toll?

Probably not. In 1955, the legislature passed a law which said that so long as any bonds were outstanding on any state turnpike, no turnpike could be turned into a free road. And inasmuch as the Turner, the prototype for all such projects, contained a provision that allowed for refinancing those bonds — well, don't hold your breath waiting for the toll plazas to go away. It is true that there ain't no such thing as a free lunch; in this state, though, you might be well advised to bring your own napkins as well.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:12 AM to Soonerland , TANSTAAFL )
Mourning Sedition

The crack young staff of The Hatemonger's Quarterly have thought about the Air America Radio bankruptcy filing, and have decided that it's the government's fault:

Well, allow us to be more specific: We believe that the publicly-funded festival of upper-middle class leftism known as National Public Radio (a.k.a. National Palestinian Radio) had more than a little to do with the Air America belly flop. So, if our rabid left-wing pals, irate over Air America's manifest failure, want to point the finger of blame at anyone, perhaps they should tilt it in the direction of Uncle Sam. Or, at least, Garrison Keillor.

If you ask us, it's a very simple matter. "Progressive" radio will inevitably have a tough time winning fans thanks to the popularity of NPR in left-liberal circles. Apparently, there are only so many tote bags you can own, only so many soporific radio personalities you can stomach.

There are a couple of obviously-pickable nits here:

Still, the Hatemongers' point seems valid: there is only so much audience for any given radio format. NPR is the 800-pound gorilla in the left-of-political-center marketplace; farther to the left, there are a handful of community stations and the Pacifica network, and that's about it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:47 AM to Overmodulation )
Somewhere Orson Welles is guffawing

Is there an inverse correlation between BMI and IQ?

A five-year study of more than 2,000 middle-aged people in France has found a possible link between weight and brain function.

Research published in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found that people with a higher Body Mass Index (BMI) scored lower on average in cognitive tests within a sample.

The research led by Dr Maxime Cournot, of Toulouse University Hospital in France, used 2,223 healthy people aged 32 to 62 who sat four cognitive tests including word learning in 1996 and again in 2001.

Results from a word memory test showed that people with a BMI of 20 — considered to be a healthy level — remembered an average of nine out of 16 words. Meanwhile, people with a BMI of 30 — inside the obese range — remembered an average of just seven out of 16 words.

In other news, Nicole Richie will be receiving her doctorate this spring.

This phenomenon has been called by some the "Homer Simpson Effect," to which R. Alex Whitlock replies, "Homer Simpson effect? They're getting a crayon lodged in their brain?!"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:42 PM to Dyssynergy )
So that's why it wouldn't work

First clue: the mouse was missing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:23 PM to PEBKAC )
And away it goes (2)

Last year, stewardesses stripped for a calendar to protest the increasing uncertainty of ostensibly-guaranteed pensions.

They're doing it again:

We decided to produce the 2007 "More Stewardesses Stripped" calendar because the pension default problem is escalating. We hope our message continues to create national awareness, not only to the pension debacle, but also to the pay cuts, layoffs and loss of medical benefits.

Why are workers forced to take cuts in salary and give concessions while top management gives themselves raises, bonuses and secures their own personal pension funds?

I'm not entirely sure that taking your clothes off for a calendar is exactly the way to do this — it may raise something other than "awareness," if you get my drift — but I bought last year's version, and I intend to get this year's as well. For purely political reasons, of course.

Oh, and last year they said that "one of us is a grandmother." This year it's three of them.

16 October 2006
Strange search-engine queries (37)

Nope, we're not out of 'em yet.

sexy bitches of oklahoma looking for men:  Should I be worried?

keyboard not found:  Imagine F1 to continue.

dating hypercritical women:  Don't worry. It doesn't last long.

when i think about you i ... myself:  As well you should.

good old one on one sex:  I'm #1 for this? Sheesh.

do affairs turn into marriage:  Usually a second one, for your soon-to-be-former spouse.

are 2003 mazdas discontinued:  They sell 2007 Mazdas now.

average women frolicking nude:  Where on earth is this the average?

bob stoops hates puppies:  Unless he can find one that can fill in at running back.

how can i set my empathy and my sympathy:  I set mine to zero.

Hedgerow advantage:  Sometimes there are bustles in them. (Don't be alarmed.)

Democrats for Mary Fallin:  Surely there must be one or two.

there is no rule number 7:  There is no rule 6. (Rule 7: No pooftahs.)

hedge clippers on scrotum:  It's the new Black & Decker Home Vasectomy Kit. (Extended warranty not available.)

how to scare a woman:  Give her my phone number.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:21 AM to You Asked For It )
Choose your experts carefully

Inasmuch as I am unfamiliar with the inner workings of Nissan's motor vehicles — more precisely, more unfamiliar with them than I was with the Mazdas I'd driven for the preceding eight years — I have referred any issues I have had with Gwendolyn (okay, one) to the local Infiniti dealership, which presumably knows its way around these byzantine devices.

Similarly, from now on, any issues I have with Technorati will be taken to Sean Gleeson, who apparently has Dave Sifry's number. (No, not his phone number. Get real.)

GAO complains about plastic

The Government Accountability Office, after a fifteen-month study, has concluded that credit-card disclosure statements don't actually disclose very well:

Disclosure material explaining fees that is provided by the largest issuers of credit cards has "various weaknesses that reduced consumers' ability to use and understand" it, the report said. It found that the disclosures are written in language that is hard to understand, bury important information in text, fail to put related material together and use small typefaces.

Some fees, such as a $5-to-$15 charge to pay a credit-card bill by phone, are often not disclosed, according to the report.

It recommended that the Federal Reserve should revise rules on credit-card disclosures to require that they more clearly emphasize penalty fees and rates and what triggers them.

Especially since they're going up all the time: 20 percent of cards issued by the Big Six issuers are now at interest rates of 20 percent or more, with the majority of those cards over 30 percent, and 35 percent of accounts incurred at least one late fee last year.

The firms covered by the report are Citibank, Chase, Bank of America/MBNA (now merged), Capital One and Discover.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:23 AM to Common Cents )
Some seriously dubious joints

Not the kind you go to for a spot of ale, either. Tam explains:

[I]t's only 40 degrees outside by the thermometer, and as I wander upstairs for another Sierra (I'd have a Snake Dog, but Kroger closed tonight at 10PM; I guess when they say "Open 24 Hours", they don't mean "...in a row,") my right shin, held together with a steel rod, screws, and (for all I know) duct tape, twinges painfully in the cold. As I reach for the doorknob, my right thumb, broken once in a sportbike wreck and battered by decades of recoil, stiffens and then lets go with an audible *pop!* My left ankle, buttressed by screws of its own, grinds in sympathy. If I'd known I was going to live this long....

Now I know why folks complain about the changing of the seasons, and why our primitive ancestors would give a person's age, not in years, but as "She's survived X winters." Anybody can survive a summer.

The rain started here Saturday night, and might let up by tomorrow; I have the general feeling that I'm going to dissolve right onto the sidewalk and they're going to have to bring a 55-gallon drum of Dawn for Dishes to scrape me away. I certainly won't be able to walk my way out of it — not with these knees.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:28 AM to Dyssynergy )
Elviramental concerns

Allison Glock goes costume-shopping and is dismayed at what she finds:

Since when did Halloween costumes become marital aids? The hobo has turned into the Hillbilly Honey. The traditional vampire is now the Mistress of Darkness. I have nothing against playing erotic dress-up, or even mass-market fetishism. I'd just prefer it didn’t converge with a family holiday (and wasn't sold next to the dryer sheets). If you want to play cheerleader at home, go team. But trick-or-treating with your children in anything featuring latex and cleavage seems like a little too much trick.

And really, wasn't Halloween the one day modern women could relax about looking hot? What if I just want to be a mummy sans yummy?

I noticed that on the outside of every package was a photo of a woman modeling not only the costume, but teetering heels and bras of the push-up variety. The First Lady costume was not, as one might expect, a red business suit, but a pink crepe mini-dress. At least it had the matching pillbox hat. The angel was dubbed "heaven's hottie." Even the witch had a slit up her tattered skirt.

I suspect, however, that part of her annoyance lies elsewhere:

I casually searched for the male equivalent of the Stewardess. Perhaps a Hot Fireman costume? Or maybe Handyman? But there was no Pool Boy. No Sexy C.E.O. There were, in fact, very few men's costumes at all. A gorilla. A generic monster. A handful of serial killers.

"Sure, degrade men as well. That's the ticket," sniffs Mona Charen.

Still, whatever the grownups must endure on the last night of October pales in comparison to the truly crappy stuff inflicted on the kids.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:07 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Bring out the trebuchets

OMG it's a font war

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:11 PM to Blogorrhea )
One last bit of exFoleyation

This editorial in The Week baffles me:

Of all the lessons being drawn from the Mark Foley scandal, the most laughable is that this is what happens when you put gay men in Congress. "Whether we admit it or not," said columnist Pat Buchanan this week, "many male homosexuals have a thing for teenage boys." I'd restate that sentence a bit more broadly. Whether we admit it or not, many men have a thing for teenagers — and they no longer feel very guilty about it. Let us not forget that when she was the same age as Foley's page friends, Britney Spears was our culture's biggest sex symbol. Of the dozens of sex scandals in Washington's recent past, 98 percent have involved straight men and much younger women. So if we really want a Congress free of scandal and drooling predators, it's not gay men we should purge from politics. We should stop electing men.

Because women, of course, would never stoop so low.

Honest intentions

And besides, when's the last time you saw an image map that looked like this?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:14 PM to Blogorrhea )
17 October 2006

Two weeks ago I had an unscheduled trip to the dentist, the result of not looking too closely at what might be lurking in the bottom of that bowl of trail mix. (Whatever it was, it was petrified, and for all I know might have come from the Oregon Trail.) There was much discussion when I arrived, mostly over whether my insurance would cover the repairs. I pointed out that this would not be an issue, inasmuch as I didn't have any.

"Now here's a man who knows how to count," said the dentist.

And I suppose I do. I get three cleanings and one set of X-rays a year, at a cost of somewhere around $350. Dental insurance worthy of the name would cost me rather more than thirty bucks a month, and it wouldn't cover all of that stuff in full. Admittedly, I don't have teenagers in need of orthodontia, and the damage repaired that day didn't require crowns and such, but in the absence of some major catastrophe — and now you know why I'm getting three cleanings and one set of X-rays a year — I don't really see the need for buying dental insurance, unless I can find something that covers only major treatments, which presumably wouldn't cost so much.

I thought about that while reading this piece by Arnold Kling:

I think that the most important point about health insurance in the United States is that it is not really insurance. [Mark] Thoma says [in this article], "In general, insurance gives us financial protection from unexpected events — a tree falls on our house, we have a car accident, we become unemployed, we become sick and need health care, and so on."

But what we call health insurance covers things like new eyeglasses, which is not a rare, catastrophic event. It seems to me that the big market failure in health insurance is that it exists to protect health care suppliers from having to bill patients directly rather than to protect consumers from catastrophic loss. That is, the failure is not in the way risks are managed by insurance companies, but in the very structure of what we call health insurance.

Before we leap to having single-payer health insurance, we ought to change health insurance to something that looks like insurance, not like a scheme to insulate individual consumers from all health expenses.

James Joyner took on this premise and drew some interesting comments:

Just Me:
[Health] insurance has taken on what is the equivalent of auto insurance covering oil changes, tire rotations and spark plug changes. All of those services are relatively cheap compared to fixing a fixing the body from an accident, but everyone needs oil changes, tire rotations and new spark plugs — not everyone has an accident. I haven’t had a car accident in almost 20 years, my auto insurance likes me, but I have 2-3 oil changes and tire rotations a year.

Steve Verdon:
Mark Thoma’s example using a tree falling on one’s house is an excellent example. It is a rare event and it is generally expensive. Hence, it is possible to come up with an insurance policy that people might find reasonable. But having a homeowners policy that covers light bulb changing, broken windows, and a clogged sink is another matter altogether.

For the record, my scheduled medical expenses each year (unscheduled ones are, not surprisingly, harder to forecast) run about $2200 a year; actual copayments are around $600. I couldn't tell you how much my actual health coverage costs, though I suspect it's around $3500 a year; I can't help but wonder how much it would be if I were to pick up that $1600 (the difference between the copays and the actual price of the services and prescriptions) myself.

I don't see, though, any great demand to switch to health care that covers only the hyperexpensive stuff, no matter how little it might cost in comparison, and until there's a demand, I have no reason to expect there to be much of a supply.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:21 AM to Dyssynergy )
More than size matters

Mary Stella's thinking cap obviously fits well:

I'm not saying that this will earn you anywhere near what the creators of YouTube raked in from Google, but I think it's an idea that could catch on and revolutionize clothing shopping on the Internet.

We need a program that will work with a company's website and a web cam to visually scan consumers top to bottom, front, back and both sides. That information will then be processed by the software so that the clothing companies know the exact size of each garment to fit and flatter each individual consumer.

Better yet, let's add a feature so that a picture pops up of the customer wearing the garments instead of the models. Ohhh, that would multiply sales 100 times!

Simply brilliant, right? Remember, I said it here first, so I deserve a cut of anything you make once you develop the software and sell the service to companies. We'll both be blissfully happy with the profits, I'm sure.

I like. It might be easier, if more cumbersome, to tie this to newer, presumably higher-tech cams, which you could borrow from the store or purchase outright. (If this is as big a hit as I think it would be, the price would come down rather quickly.) This might simplify the software development, and as a fringe benefit, given the sheer sophistication of the cam, you'd hear from some disgruntled fanboys: "You built a tricorder, and you're using it to order clothing?"

Which, if you think about it, is almost enough justification in itself.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:08 AM to Rag Trade )
Uncle Sam wants Linden Dollars

It was just a matter of time:

Users of online worlds such as Second Life and World of Warcraft transact millions of dollars worth of virtual goods and services every day, and these virtual economies are beginning to draw the attention of real-world authorities.

"Right now we're at the preliminary stages of looking at the issue and what kind of public policy questions virtual economies raise — taxes, barter exchanges, property and wealth," said Dan Miller, senior economist for the Joint Economic Committee of the U.S. Congress.

"You could argue that to a certain degree the law has fallen (behind) because you can have a virtual asset and virtual capital gains, but there's no mechanism by which you're taxed on this stuff," he told Reuters in a telephone interview.

You can almost hear the sorrow in his voice. "There's gotta be some way we can pry some revenue out of these people."

Historically, what the taxman wants, the taxman eventually gets, and Brian J. Noggle warns:

[Y]ou better start saving up, because the IRS is going to find out you bought Illinois Avenue in 1982 without paying sales tax and is going to want interest and penalties.

And arguing that you landed on Luxury Tax two rolls later won't save you, either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:22 AM to Common Cents )
In case it matters

This man was not named after me.

Or, for that matter, I after him. It's just a sweet family story intended to inspire greatness.

Scaring up something to do

A Web directory: routine.

A Web directory that lists local Halloween events: useful, at least this time of year.

A Web directory that lists local Halloween events and is called GooGhoul: why didn't I think of that?

(Yes, I suppose they are baiting the lawyers. What of it?)

The break-in period

Gerry V., during the fourth quarter, recounted a conversation he'd had earlier with Coach Byron Scott:

V.:  See that? The rookie [apparently Marcus Vinicius Vieria de Souza] is putting mayonnaise on pizza.

Scott:  Oh, that's never going to work on this team.

Oh, by the way, there was a basketball game of sorts. Heat 109, Hornets 105.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:01 PM to Net Proceeds )
18 October 2006
Well, shoot

I have received the official state endorsement list from the National Rifle Association. Then again, I'm a member; you can see the same list here.


  • When two candidates get the same legislative rating from the organization, they tend to endorse the incumbent: Brad Henry over Ernest Istook (governor), Cliff Branan over Pat Potts (Senate 40), Drew Edmondson over James Dunn (AG). But "tend to" doesn't mean "always"; they made no endorsement for lieutenant governor. (All these folks, including Jari Askins and Todd Hiett, got A's from NRA.) And in House 44, incumbent Bill Nations (B-plus) was preferred over challenger Gary Caissie (A).

  • For some inscrutable reason, they list Mary Fallin's opponent for the 5th District as "Mike Erickson," who is running for the 5th District in Oregon.

  • Only two candidates rate an actual F from the organization: Cory Spocogee (House 69) and Dana Orwig (House 87). Since both are political neophytes, I have to assume that their questionnaire responses were deemed unsatisfactory. (There are rather a lot of question marks, which presumably go to candidates who don't respond.) Still, this is inconsistent with their definition of an F: "True enemy of gun owners’ rights. A vehement anti-gun candidate who always opposes gun owners’ rights and/or actively leads anti-gun legislative efforts, or sponsors anti-gun legislation." A check of their Web sites reveals that neither of them mentions guns as an issue at all, so "actively" seems at best premature.

If nothing else, this little exposition explains why I'd make a truly lousy single-issue voter.

Arch commentary

Costa Tsiokos remembers a discussion with a fellow with an obsession:

Not just any female feet would do for this guy — they had to be the right shape (not too big, not too small, well-defined), right skin tone (tanned, but not too tanned), right toe structure (length of individual digits had to match up a certain way), and of course, the perfect nail polish (bubble-gum pink). It struck me that the quest for the ideal feet is as much the obsession for these types as is the (improbable) discovery.

I'm as detail-obsessive as the next guy, but there is such a thing as being a trifle too picky (he said as he mourned the official end of the Sandal Season).

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:39 AM to Table for One )
We are large, we contain multitudes

As I've noted before, I have a fairly common name. Based on its frequency, I guesstimated there might be as many as 8000 of us; I was apparently just a tad high.

LogoThere are:
people with my name
in the U.S.A.

How many have your name?

(Via Swirlspice. As I could have told you, she's unique.)

Downsizing wards

In 1890, Oklahoma City was set up with four wards; in 1966, following a spate of annexations, the city was redivided into eight wards.

Last month I mentioned that there was some discussion about expanding the City Council further, and noted that there had been talk as early as 1990 in support of a twelve-ward system. At the time, I had my doubts:

[D]o we need twelve wards? Will Council Member So-and-so be "more accessible" if he has 45,000 constituents instead of 67,500? And how much gerrymandering can we expect if new lines are to be drawn?

My thinking, in order: not necessarily; not necessarily; probably a hell of a lot.

At this week's Council meeting, Pete White (Ward 4) said he'd like to see a ten-ward system in place before the next batch of city elections in 2007. Mayor Cornett was doubtful: "In general, I don't like to create more government."

One of White's arguments was that there is insufficient minority representation:

"I think the council doesn't look like the city," White said. "We have a pretty diverse population in Oklahoma City and one black person on the council."

This is, I think, a dubious premise at best. More to the point, owing to the demographics of the city — as is the case in most cities, minorities are not evenly distributed — it won't change much by adding two wards unless they go out of their way to create bizarre-looking districts that violate the City Charter.

The wards shall be as compact in form as possible and ward lines shall not set up artificial corridors which in effect separate voters from the ward to which they most naturally belong. [Charter, 2 April 1957, amended 18 March 1975.]

In 1992, the redistricting mandated by the 1990 Census drew some public discussion along the lines described by Councilman White; city attorneys pointed out that the Voting Rights Act did not actually require proportional representation. (42 USC §1973, paragraph B specifies that "nothing in this section establishes a right to have members of a protected class elected in numbers equal to their proportion in the population.") The city's analysis, including both that 1992 discussion and the results of a 2006 survey conducted at White's request, is here. [Link to PDF file.]

Councilman White's other primary motivation is simply that Ward 4, which occupies the southeastern part of the city, much of which is rural, is just too darn big. Wards 1, 3 and 7 are similarly huge. The problem, of course, is that cutting the population of those wards by twenty percent won't reduce their size by twenty percent. If we're going to expand the Council, we will get closer to the desired results if we go for twelve seats rather than ten. I think Pete White knows this, but figures he stands a better chance of selling a ten-ward Council.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:52 AM to City Scene )

Downtown Los Angeles, of course.

When I ventured out there in the late 80s, 213 was everywhere in the basin; you had 818 up in the Valley, and all that stuff to the east was 714. Now there are more area codes than you can shake a stick at, depending of course on the stick.

Not changing so much is the Carnival of the Vanities, which is back at Silflay Hraka for edition #213, a couple dozen items of choice bloggage for your delectation.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:13 PM to Blogorrhea )
Don't even think about short-sheeting them

Too tall for the usual hotel bedding? The Colcord will be offering this:

With several NBA teams signing contracts for players to stay at the Colcord after playing the Hornets, many of the hotel’s California King-sized beds were custom designed by Certa to be 15 inches longer to accommodate for extra tall guests.

And if that's not enough for you:

The "rock star" suite, located on the top floor, can be reserved for $1200 a night and boasts the city’s best view of Myriad Gardens.

(Noted by Hornets247.com.)

Prepare to be moved

Jennifer calls these, in aggregate, A Story from a Life, and they may be the finest posts you'll see all month.

Possibly even all year.

And you should read them in order: Part One; Part Two; Part Three.

You've wasted enough time here today. Go and read.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:36 PM to Blogorrhea )
19 October 2006
19th nervous breakdown

Reprinted from three years ago:

On 19 October 2000, I bought a car.

It appears, as of 19 October 2003, that I've bought a house.

God only knows what's going to happen on 19 October 2006. And so far, He isn't saying.

At the moment, I have a truly wretched cold; unless it's actually going to kill me, which I rather doubt, it appears I can turn off the Anticipation module.

Paging Philip Nolan

If this catches on — well, read it yourself:

Dear Senator Sarbanes,
As a native Marylander and excellent customer of the Internal Revenue Service, I am writing to ask for your assistance. I have contacted the Department of Homeland Security in an effort to determine the process for becoming an illegal alien and they referred me to you.

My primary reason for wishing to change my status from U.S. Citizen to illegal alien stem from the bill which was recently passed by the Senate and for which you voted. If my understanding of this bill's provisions is accurate, as an illegal alien who has been in the United States for five years, all I need to do to become a citizen is to pay a $2,000 fine and income taxes for three of the last five years. I know a good deal when I see one and I am anxious to get the process started before everyone figures it out.

Simply put, those of us who have been here legally have had to pay taxes every year so I'm excited about the prospect of avoiding two years of taxes in return for paying a $2,000 fine. Is there any way that I can apply to be illegal retroactively? This would yield an excellent result for me and my family because we paid heavy taxes in 2004 and 2005.

(Note: Not this Philip Nolan. Via Tinkerty Tonk.)

The line forms on the right

Earlier this week (in Vent #505) I came out in favor of all four state questions on this year's ballot, though I was least enthusiastic about SQ 725, which allows the state's Rainy Day Fund to be tapped to rescue failing manufacturing plants.

What I said was something like this:

The State Chamber and other chambers of commerce are pushing hard for 725; I might vote for it anyway, simply because we've already lost entirely too many manufacturing jobs. In a gesture toward sensibility, the Rainy Day Fund cannot be tapped for this purpose unless there's at least $80 million on hand. Consider this a Yes, but I've got my fingers crossed.

Not the most enthusiastic of endorsements, but there it is.

Mike has no such reservations. He doesn't like it at all:

Obviously, the idea is to make it easier to distribute state funds for use as corporate welfare. This proposal makes things a little too easy, in my opinion. If our elected leaders feel providing a special business incentive is in the state’s best interest, let them hash it out among themselves in legislative session. Isn’t that what they’re for?

Considering the Governor and the leaders of both houses have to sign off on any such incentives, I don't think there's too much danger of rushing into these things.

On the other hand, this is indisputably true:

And of course there will never be a shortage of "at-risk manufacturers", especially when state coffers are over-flowing.

Which is, of course, a disadvantage of any government program that writes checks: people will queue up to get it whether they need it or not.

And if SQ 725 turns out to be more boondoggle than boon, well, Mike told you (and me) so.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:05 AM to Soonerland )
Quote of the week

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on the possibility of the Democrats retaking the Senate:

I think I'd just commit suicide.

If you can drum up enough press coverage, John, you might be able to pass it off as martyrdom.

(From a Wonkette link dump.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:38 AM to QOTW )
Not yours

The BMW Limited Edition Individual M6 Convertible, offered in Neiman Marcus' Christmas catalog this year in an edition of fifty, has sold out in, we are told, one minute and 32 seconds, or about 21 iterations of zero to sixty (at 4.5 seconds per).

The powerplant is a five-liter V10. Don't ask about gas mileage.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:54 PM to Driver's Seat )
Moderate puzzlement

When Caller ID is showing 999-999-9999, you have to figure that it's nothing you particularly want to hear: obviously someone is masking a number.

But they left a message, to the extent that the little digital annoyance filter permits this sort of thing (you've got 30 seconds, make it snappy), and they identified themselves as the OCPD, with a missing-person report "in your area."

After the description, they reported where he was last seen, and I recognized the address immediately: I'd been there myself for rehab. And not detox or anything like that: we're talking physical therapy here.

I've got to assume, based on my own experience, that he couldn't have gotten too far.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:23 PM to Say What? )
They call it a "shootout"

And it would help immensely if the Bees could, you know, shoot. (Actually, they didn't shoot that badly, but they fouled a lot: three of them fouled out, something I've never seen before.)

Anyway, this is sort of a tournament: Hornets/Warriors, followed by Clippers/Lakers. Tomorrow night, the Bees will play whoever loses that second game, having dropped the first one, 112-103.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:38 PM to Net Proceeds )
20 October 2006
And the wheel turns anew

McGehee's had it:

I’m in no mood for this. I’m getting no help from pMachine nor from Verve, and so far the only commenters who have even noticed anything is up are the ones named in the original content of this post. They’re not the ones I need to hear from if I’m going to prevent a recurrence of this issue. As little feedback as I’ve been getting these last few months, allowing comments seems to have become superfluous anyway, but that also suggests this blog is superfluous.

Actually, I think he pulled more comments than I did, but admittedly this isn't saying a great deal.

Meanwhile, Diane is experimenting with Movable Type:

Please bear with me while I get acclimated. Who knows — I might be back to [WordPress] tomorrow if I can't get everything I want figured out....

My own near-blog-death experience comes to mind about now.

But only briefly, because I don't want to think about that any longer than I have to.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:19 AM to Blogorrhea )
Things I've posted elsewhere

I suppose I could crosspost from those other sites, but this way I spike their stats just a hair. (Not that anybody reads them anyway.)

On that sorta-functional invisibility cloak: I want one.

And this is the neatest CD-R idea I've seen all year.

It's stamp-lickin' good

KFC thinks its founder ought to be on a postage stamp:

Starting today, chicken lovers nationwide can visit www.KFC.com to sign an online petition asking the U.S.P.S. to honor Colonel Sanders, an American entrepreneurial icon, with his own stamp.

"The Colonel's entrepreneurial spirit and hospitable nature made him an American legend," said James O'Reilly, interim Chief Marketing Officer for KFC. "We believe that a postage stamp in his honor would be a fitting tribute to his memory."

Colonel Sanders recently was named one of America's two favorite advertising icons for 2006 and inducted into Madison Avenue's Advertising Walk of Fame. He is the first real person ever to receive this designation.

Younger folks may be forgiven if they look at the cartoon portrayal of the Colonel in recent TV spots and sniff, "Real person? Yeah, right." But Harland Sanders was very real, and by all accounts extra crispy: after selling off his company, he complained that the post-Sanders mashed potatoes and gravy were "wallpaper paste" covered with "sludge", prompting the new owners to sue him for maligning the product. Of course, I have always believed that biting the hand that feeds you is one of the four basic food groups.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:05 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Bush's third term

Not gonna happen, you say? This guy thinks otherwise:

Amendment XXII is quite clear. It applies only to "elected" presidents or to presidents that are serving out a term to which someone else has been "elected". The 2001-2005 presidential term was filled by a court appointed official and therefore exempt from this Amendment.

Sure, there will be objections and legal challenges from the party of whiners. They will probably fight it all the way thru the court systems. However, I think we all know who the Supremes sing back-up for.

According to Berry Gordy, it was Diana Ross. (And if she runs as a Democrat against John McCain, I'll vote for her.)

Seriously, this has about as much chance of standing up as Christopher Reeve, and he's dead. (In case John Edwards is reading.)

Alpha, beta, and so on

Enough, says Capella:

Of course there are people who prioritize status and people who prioritize looks and people who prioritize every other thing you could possibly prioritize, but that doesn't mean the world is inherently divided into strata based on those things. There isn't some final, overarching ranking of how worthy each of us is, and there's no such thing as the "top 25%" or the "bottom 10%" of either men or women. There are just people, a lot of them, and they are all fallible, and what they want is sometimes confusing and sometimes misguided and very often not what they have. The women who look for money and status and the men who search for the prettiest girl — we can call them shallow, and we won't be wrong, but maybe we can also recognize that something in them is deeply not present or wounded if that's the closest they can come to understanding what might make them happen. Judging them and deciding they're lower on some alternate scale of worth is no better than the Alpha/Beta ranking, and it just adds weight to it.

Then again:

Just because most people, both men and women, are unaware of the mechanics of status hierarchies doesn't mean that they don't exist. "Associative mating" is as established a concept in sociology as one could be. Everyone does it, which is why it's extremely rare to see a wealthy man with a plain wife or, as Illka has said, supermodels with homeless midgets. The fact that men and women both engage in associative mating does "mean the world is inherently divided into strata"; laws that govern the world of human beings don't have quite the status of physical laws, but the phenomenon exists every bit as much as say, the fact that Irish Catholics drink more than Baptists or the Protestant ethic is involved with the spirit of capitalism. Wishing that they would go away won't make them do so.

I have often said that if I were any shallower, I would be bas-relief.

I insist, however, that the search for the Sort of Ideal Someone, despite being inestimably more difficult, must take precedence over the search for Anyone Out There, and the suggestion that perhaps my criteria are insufficiently broad, so to speak, annoys me greatly. It's not an itch I seek to scratch; it's a void I seek to fill. Different dynamics (and physics) entirely. Apply whatever Greek letter you like, though I'm partial to σ: it's a very strong bond.

(Thanks to Russell Wardlow.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:44 PM to Table for One )
Things turn nasty

I missed this in this morning's Oklahoman, probably because I didn't actually read it until I got home from work, about twelve hours after it arrived.


The race for Oklahoma City-based House District 87 has taken a negative turn.

Last week, residents in the district received a flier on their door calling on Rep. Trebor Worthen to return money from U.S. Rep. Ernest Istook's First Freedom Fund. The Fund donated $29,000 to charity earlier this year to account for money donated to the fund from disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his clients.

The flier, paid for by a group called Citizens for Corrupt-Free Government, called on Worthen to return what it called "dirty Washington, D.C. money."

Worthen's Democratic opponent, Dana Orwig, said she was not responsible for the flier distribution.

I think it's a safe bet that Orwig indeed had nothing to do with this; I got my first flier from the mysterious "Citizens" last year, and apparently they're selective and/or haphazard about their distribution, since I got the flier with the Abramoff story a month ago.

Then there's this:

Orwig also called on Worthen to "stop spreading lies" about her wanting to legalize marijuana in his campaign mailings. The issue was raised in a candidate survey earlier this year by the Libertarian Party of Oklahoma, which asked whether the candidate supports patients' rights to use medical marijuana with a doctor's prescription.

Orwig said yes, but says the question did not address legalization specifically.

Right on schedule. This is just about the point in 2004 when Worthen dropped a reference to an endorsement of opponent John Morgan by GayOKC.com into his flood of mailings. I suspected at the time (since I know John Morgan; he's a neighbor) that they weren't so much pro-Morgan as anti-Worthen, but there are still pockets of this district where a little gay-bashing scores political points.

(If you're looking for reasons to vote for Orwig, Kurt Hochenauer lays out the case in her favor.)

And shot down again

The Lakers lost in the first round of the Shootout to the Clippers; they took it out on the Hornets in the losers' bracket, 113-106. So far in four exhibitions, the Bees have shown occasional offense and sporadic defense; if this team has any playoff aspirations, it's going to have to tighten up at both ends. The talent, I think, is there.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:59 PM to Net Proceeds )
21 October 2006
See you at the polls

Around Spokane, and some other locations in Washington state, they've gone to balloting by mail, and, says Terry, it's just not the same:

I received my ballot in the mail and filled it out sitting at the table. My power of anonymity is gone as I sign the envelope to mail it in. The post office could discard my plainly marked envelope. Should an unethical official wish, they could know how I voted. They could choose not to count my vote at all and I’d have no way of knowing.

As I put a stamp on the envelope and put it in the mailbox, I felt a little melancholy. This doesn't seem like progress to me. I used to feel important in the election process; now I'm just another little cog in a machine that would easily roll on without me. Sadder still is the idea that my 2 youngest children will never know the feeling of power I did in casting [my] first vote. They won't get that tangible statement of signing it at the table and feeding their ballot into the machine themselves. Voting now may have no more significance that filling out a product survey.

This may be cheaper and more efficient but we've given up a lot for those small gains. Voting is now an impersonal enterprise rather than the community experience it once was. I don’t think the "progress" was worth it.

If turnout happens to go up, they'll claim that it was so worth it.

And there's one further objection to the concept, noted by Stefan Sharkansky:

If a voter mismarks her ballot at a polling place, the tabulator can give the voter instant feedback that there was an error and the voter can correct it. With vote-by-mail, the voter receives no feedback and no opportunity to correct any mistakes.

Yeah, I could vote absentee and save myself a trip to church. (Yes, children, my polling place is in a House of Worship. The ACLU presumably knows about it.) But geez, it's not like the country is asking me to do a whole heck of a lot else — other than fork over several thousand bucks in taxes every year, of course.

Accord in the sky

I have always had a high regard for Honda's cars. Despite this, I've never owned one, and have gotten very little seat time in any of them; it's simply that their priorities and mine have never precisely meshed at the point of purchase. (I was considering a used Acura TL during this year's whirlwind auto-shopping extravaganza, which ended with the acquisition of a not-too-dissimilar Infiniti.)

Back in July, Honda announced that they would be selling aircraft, and on the 17th of this month they started taking orders for the HondaJet, for delivery in three or four years. Autoblog reports they've already sold 100:

"We are extremely pleased with the early customer response to HondaJet. In addition to the strong demand we have experienced from individuals, we are negotiating with a number of fleet customers as well," said Michimasa Fujino, president & CEO of Honda Aircraft Co., Inc. "Due to this overwhelming response, we are now considering an increase in our production plan to meet the needs of our customers."

The HondaJet will be built in the US, at a location to be determined; Honda Aircraft is based in Greensboro, North Carolina. Some of the features:

The HondaJet uses a bunch of revolutionary new technologies, including the over-the-wing engine mount (OTWEM) configuration that allows increased room in the cabin and cargo hold, while reducing aerodynamic drag increasing performance and fuel efficiency. HondaJet should be good for a cruising speed of 420 knots with a range of up to 1180 nautical miles, all while returning 30-35 percent better fuel economy versus other jets of comparable performance.

The HondaJet sells for $3.65 million; originally, they'd planned to build 70 a year.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:11 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
Because all the cool kids are doing it

I am neither cool nor kid, but what the hell:


If nothing else, this proves (as though proof were needed) that I have no shame.

Rout 101

It doesn't look good for the Republicans, says Chad the Elder:

... I happened to be seated next to a high ranking GOP campaign operative and he told me that the party's internal polling shows that the outlook for the election is even worse than is being presented in the media. In fact, he said as it stands now Republicans are trailing in all 435 House races, the 33 Senate seats up for grabs, and the 36 statehouses at stake. He said that at this point the most the party can realistically hope for is to hold on to the Coeur d'Alene dogcatcher's seat, although even that is up for grabs. He also urged Republican voters to not only stay home on November 7th, but to slit their wrists in a warm bath to avoid the inevitable agony.

This, I surmise, is something of an exaggeration. For one thing, Coeur d'Alene dogcatcher isn't an elective position.

Missing a couple of posts

No, not here. I mean that apparently I haven't kept up with the Zeitgeist worth a darn.

Lisa Schwarzbaum's review of Marie Antoinette (in Entertainment Weekly) contains this curious sentence:

This yummy-looking, artfully personal historical fantasia, borne on currents of melancholy and languor and rocking out to a divine soundtrack of 1980s New Romantic pop music (plenty of the Cure, Bow Wow Wow, and Adam Ant), is the work of a mature filmmaker who has identified and developed a new cinematic vocabulary to describe a new breed of post-post-post-feminist woman.

Emphasis added. Now what the heck does that phrase mean? I'll grant that Sofia Coppola is a filmmaker, and that she's matured, and I don't doubt her capacity to create a "new cinematic vocabulary," but I'm not quite sure where the transition from post-feminism to post-post-feminism occurred, or if it has anything to do with so-called "third-wave" feminism. If I've counted this up correctly, Coppola, says Schwarzbaum, seems to be ushering in the fourth (maybe the fifth) wave.

Not that there's anything wrong with that, particularly, though when I think of cultural harbingers, Kirsten Dunst in a big wig isn't the first image that comes to mind.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:07 PM to Almost Yogurt )
22 October 2006
Forget sticks and stones

Only words matter today, apparently:

Friday night, Steve Lyons makes an ill-advised joke in good fun with his broadcast partner, and gets fired. Saturday, Miami players use their cleats and helmets as weapons, and get only a one-game suspension.

Call me kooky, but shouldn’t we have a little more tolerance for words and ideas and jokes, and little less for assault and battery with a deadly weapon?

Not on your life. Flesh wounds eventually heal. But cruel words cut straight to the heart, where they fester for all eternity.

At least, that's what we're told to believe, usually by the same people who quote Matthew 7:1 and manage to miss the rest of the chapter.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:56 AM to Dyssynergy )
The great mayonnaise plot

You don't think so? Look what's happened to its primary rival:

Lately ... you may have noticed if you're a Miracle Whip person, that your sandwiches don't quite taste the same, and your coleslaw doesn't hold up overnight.

That's because the old standby you used and loved for decades is no longer the same product. They've changed the recipe! If you look on the label, you see the first ingredient is now water, not soybean oil as in the past. Since products (at least in the US) are labeled with ingredients in order of the amount, that means there is now more water than anything else.

This is problematic, because like a lot of other people, I like to make the potato salad or coleslaw the day before, to let the flavors mingle. Only now I can't, because it turns into a watery mess and tastes like I forgot the dressing!

"From Hellmann's heart I stab at thee," declaims the West Coast man from Best Foods.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:31 AM to Worth a Fork )
Just try and find us now

Tomorrow, WWLS-FM, the FM side of the Sports Animal, will move to 97.9, displacing KKWD, the erstwhile Wild 97.9, which will set up shop at the vacated 104.9 spot.

Precisely why this is being done is unclear to me: both of these are 6-kw facilities with essentially identical coverage areas. KKWD is promoting the arrival of HD Radio at the new frequency, which is all very well and good, since according to Ibiquity, the 104.9 spot is already set up for HD. But this invites the question: why couldn't Citadel add HD Radio at 97.9?

The answer, I'm guessing, has to do with adjacent-channel interference. Apparently the digital component of an HD Radio signal, while fitting within the assigned spectrum space, can leak over a channel (or two) in lower-quality receivers, which is most of them.

But I have other reservations about this entire digital-ish radio scheme. Robert Conrad heads up WCLV in Cleveland (coincidentally, at 104.9), and he's not thrilled with it at all:

The initial appeal to the consumer was to be improved quality of sound. But, frankly, the difference between a high quality analog signal, such as WCLV's classical music programming, and the HD signal is minimal. And with highly processed rock programming, you can't tell any difference.

So what will be the appeal of HD? The answer is the additional programming channels on the HD2 and HD3 channels. However, there is a serious flaw. We were told back in the beginning that the HD coverage would be equal to the analog signal. Unfortunately, the industry is now finding out this is not the case, that the HD coverage is considerably less, something like 60% of the analog coverage. We've also found that even in a strong HD signal area, a dipole antenna is required.

We were also told that the HD would lessen interference with adjacent channel signals. That also appears not to be the case.

This is really very discouraging and is leading us to wonder why we should bother to promote HD. To do so will only disappoint, and, perhaps, antagonize a significant segment of the audience who finds that the system doesn't deliver.

No Oklahoma City station is using the HD2/HD3 channels for alternate programming, so far as I know. (Clear Channel's Tulsa FMs are.)

And if you thought HD in radio meant the same thing as HD in television, think again:

"Quite honestly, it doesn't stand for anything," said Peter Ferrera, president and CEO of the HD Digital Radio Alliance. "The concept was somewhat of a steal from HD television, where viewers know it means better quality."

I will, of course, keep one preset for the Sports Animal: on AM, at 640.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:12 PM to Overmodulation )
Does not affect the ozone layer

Or so I assume. In Japan, you can buy spray cans of oxygen, in case you can't find any of the stuff in the actual air. This might have been a big hit in Los Angeles in the Fifties, when the air had this vaguely meringue-like texture; I'm not sure how well it would go over today, though if you turned it loose at 42nd and Treadmill, they'd use it to blow cookie crumbs out of their keyboards.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:19 PM to Dyssynergy )
Even more at steak

It appears the ol' American Express card is due for quite a workout:

A new dish is appearing on menus across the nation. Restaurateurs say they have little choice other than offer it, though it horrifies many customers.

That item is the $40 entree.

Until recently, such prices were the stuff of four-star, white-tablecloth meals, the kind that ended with a diamond ring on the petit four tray. But now entrees over $40 can be found in restaurants that are merely upscale, where diners wear jeans and tote children.

Yes, even in Oklahoma City. I checked a few menus this weekend, and while $30-35 is more common, there are entrees at or above the $40 level. The industrial-strength delicacies, of course, run much more. (Lobster tail, of late, is around $75.)

Not that there's going to be any real backlash:

[W]hat makes the rise of the $40 entree so significant is not just the price creep, it's the sophisticated calculation behind it. A new breed of menu "engineers" have proved that highly priced entrees increase revenue even if no one orders them. A $43 entree makes a $36 one look like a deal.

"Just putting one high price on the menu will take your average check up," said Gregg Rapp, one such consultant. "My mom taught me to never order the most expensive thing on the menu, but you'll order the second."

Of course, you're paying for expertise and atmosphere; I can grill up a sixteen-ounce ribeye for $11 and eat it at the breakfast bar, or I can go someplace nice and pay three or four times as much. As a practical matter, though, I'm not going to worry until the Wendy's Classic Double hits $5.

(Via Population Statistic.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:42 PM to Worth a Fork )
And then there were five

Five losses in six preseason games, that is: in an exhibition in Reno, the Kings put the hurt on the Hornets, 117-93, as once again the Bees showed sporadic signs of brilliance but couldn't put together one whole quarter.

One more to go, and again it's against the Kings — in Sacramento on Tuesday. Season opener is on the first of November in Boston.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:34 PM to Net Proceeds )
23 October 2006
Strange search-engine queries (38)

"The beat goes on," said Sonny, and occasionally Cher. But Google has replaced the teenybopper as our newborn king, ah-hah.

paid $400 to have saturn speedometer reset and it stopped:  I suspect this might be illegal, even if there is no intent to defraud. (I am not, however, a lawyer.)

naked argentinian woman tierra del fuego:  Well, more likely there than in, say, Estonia.

lack of teen modesty in the bathroom:  You kidding? Usually they keep the door locked.

superheroines with great legs:  I always assumed that was a given.

chaste tree hiding marijuana:  Mine are trying to hide the gas meter.

linkin park formerly known as zero:  You mean they're not now?

Crabgrass with burrs:  Just in case you thought crabgrass by itself wasn't annoying enough.

bikini wax outlawed in switzerland:  Oh, joy, razor Bern again.

"tent in his pants":  Probably just a pup tent.

beetle on yogurt:  I think I'd throw it away on general principle.

Vinton Shellsburg football sucks:  Well, they are 3-5 (and 2-4 in the district), as of this week.

cop in tim hortons:  In a donut shop? You gotta be kidding.

how men should reject marriage proposals:  As quickly as possible.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:20 AM to You Asked For It )
So it's come to this

"Senator, did you or did you not burn ants with a magnifying glass on your mom's porch?"

Addendum: "And have you ever done anything which would motivate someone to recreate you as an action figure?" (Hat tip: Thad.)

Suddenly Bob and Clippy look sane

News item: Microsoft's forthcoming digital music player, dubbed Zune, may make some Hebrew speakers gasp. The name for the device — which will take on the Apple iPod when released later this year — sounds like a vulgarity, specifically the "f" word, in Hebrew.

Big deal. Among the acolytes of Apple, the very word "Microsoft" itself is a vulgarity.

If Zune, or whatever they end up calling it, handles DRM the way Windows Media Player 11 does — which, apparently, it does — the only reason I'd have for buying one would be to drop-kick it over the back fence, and frankly, I have enough discarded hardware waiting in the Reboot queue.

(Via miriam's ideas.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:22 AM to PEBKAC , Say What? )
Dream big

I can relate to this guy more than you'd think:

Lyndonville resident Blaire Wolston was determined to get his dream car, a 1997 Lincoln Town Car with a presidential roof, but he knew such vehicles were hard to come by in the area.

Wolston is only twenty-two, which means when he was born, the average Town Car owner of today had already gone through a mid-life crisis or two. But he's not the only comparative youngster ever to lust after a Lincoln; a guy in my high school (I think he was one year ahead of me) owned a '63 Continental, and actually gave me a ride in it once.

Besides, it's not just mere personal preference:

Wolston said he used to own a Geo Metro, which was a mistake that lasted a very short while.

"I am not a small man," he said, "and I'm driving around in this little clown car designed for runway models. I looked like an insane person ... duct tape everywhere ... when it rained I was instantly soaked ... it had gone on long enough."

I don't know any runway models who own Metros — well, actually, I don't know any runway models at all — but really small cars make me claustrophobic, if I can climb into them at all, which often I can't. One of Gwendolyn's selling points was spaciousness. (It's also, yes, a drawback. I was getting ready to leave the supermarket yesterday when an extended 35-mph burst of wind left me with a dilemma: there's only one door detent between fully closed and fully open, and once I actually got seated, the door would invariably have blown fully open and out of reach. It took about a minute and a half for the wind to die down enough to leave the door at the halfway point.)

I'm not quite sure I buy this, though:

"Another good point," he said, "is older individuals, senior citizens, they've had their whole lives to own and buy cars and see which ones are the best and they choose this one. It's a time tested tradition for them to want a car like this. Why not learn from their innate wisdom?"

I'm approaching this age bracket, but it's never occurred to me to want a Town Car. I've spent some time with its not-exactly-smaller sisters, the Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis, and they always made me feel like a very small child being dragged around in a very large wagon, even from the driver's seat. Besides, the mid-20th-century garage at Surlywood barely has room for Gwendolyn; the Town Car is six inches wider and 25 inches longer. I suppose it would reduce the possibility of problems with the garage door, since there's no way it would ever close again, but that's the only advantage.

(Seen at Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:22 AM to Driver's Seat )
Please let me wonder

The lovely and talented Dawn Eden dropped this bombshell on me today:

Via my friend Michael Lynch (nanker.podomatic.com):

Put your Robin Ward "Wonderful Summer" 45 on your turntable — I know you have one — but set the speed to 33 rpm and put the needle down.

You will hear the voice of Brian Wilson.

It is really unbelievable. The whole arrangement sounds like The Beach Boys Today!

I looked askance at this, but duly fished the 45 out of the shelf and moved the speed lever over, and by gum, it's true: I'm half-tempted to pass this off to someone as a Pet Sounds outtake.

If you're looking askance at this, here's the last half of the song, picking up at the bridge.

And here's the kicker: Ward (real name Jackie; "Robin" was her daughter's name) was obviously too old to be singing about teenage romance, so the producers (Perry Botkin, Jr. and Gil Garfield, who also wrote it) sped up the tape and released the faster version, going for a "younger" sound. Obviously they didn't speed it up to the extent that I slowed it down, but stuff like this really makes you wonder, and if this disc didn't say "9-63" right there on the label — a lot of Dot 45s include the release date in small print — well, let's not go there.

Thank you, Michael, and thank you, Dawn.

Addendum: "Wonderful Summer" at the correct speed, while it lasts, at YouTube.

What's eating you?

Well, nothing's eating my house, anyway: today was the annual Termite Inspection, and once again there were no traces of the ravenous little so-and-sos. (I would much rather write them a small check once a year than a huge one every once in a while.)

I note in passing that this is the second time this month I expected a job to go to a semi-grizzled guy not unlike myself which was actually filled by an efficient young woman. If this be a trend, I approve. (I don't expect one to displace me permanently until I retire / drop dead / face the firing squad [choose one], whenever that may be.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:51 PM to Surlywood )
24 October 2006
Now this is scary

The Dutch Foreign Minister came to Washington yesterday, and it turns out he's really a Bot.

Didn't faze the Secretary of State, apparently.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:22 AM to Say What? )

In ad-ese, that technically means "We're not any worse than those other guys."

Which means it's not the same as "second to none":

I heard this phrase on the radio again today, and its earnest presenter assured me that a local grocery store's pharmacy offered customer service that is second to none.

Oh, really, I thought; so the customer service presented by the cut-rate employees of the discount chain are actually not as good as when the store offers no customer service at all? I mean, that's what none is; it's the lack of the very thing offered, and when you say you're second to none, that doesn't mean that you're first; it means that you're lower than nothing at all.

Keep that in mind next time you hear a drug commercial that says "No medicine works harder."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:04 AM to Say What? )
My shadow weighs 42 pounds

Andrea Harris, on the Chubbening of America:

I've been thinking lately, though, of the strangeness of how there seems to be so many more fat people, people who are really, really fat, around than there were when I was a kid. I am sure that the food of past decades was even fattier and greasier and calorie-laden than it is in these days of low-carb this and diet that, but people seem to just be growing wider and wider. I thought humanity was supposed to grow taller as we ate better, not fatter. But I don't see any more seven-footers around than I ever did. Maybe it's a gravity thing and all these fat people would really be eight feet tall if it weren't for the pull of the earth.

We are become our own cities: we grow outward rather than upward. I see more seven-footers than I used to, but this is because we now have an NBA team on loan. (And actually, Tyson Chandler is the only one who checks in at 84 inches or above.)

Maybe it's just that people who once never dared venture out of the house, for fear of public mockery, have grown a spine. Not that I'd want to look for it, particularly.

But then:

Or another, more horrid thought has been occurring to me lately ... maybe we are being fattened up for something.

Think about it. The environmental movement and all those other leftist movements have been getting very odd lately. Then there are all those "animal rights" and meat-is-murder proponents. A vegetarian diet is necessarily high-carb, which we are told causes more people to become fat. Has anyone gotten close enough to Al Gore to see if that's really a mask concealing a ravenous alien visage of meat- and bone-crunching mandibles? All I know is, I am going to keep on eating meat, so as to at least render my fatty flesh unpleasant tasting to any cannibal looking for a sweet ruminant human on which to feast.

The secret, I suspect, died with Dr Atkins. And really, I don't know any fat vegetarians, carbs notwithstanding. Perhaps not even they could stand to eat that many greens.

If you ask me, the entire philosophy of the animal-rights movement boils down (45 minutes at high heat, add many grains of salt) to "Animals, unlike men, do not wage war," granting the critters the sort of moral standing they would never bestow upon humans — except, of course, themselves. It is, of course, possible, even desirable, to extend kindness to animals, though we should never delude ourselves that we and they can live in perfect harmony so long as no one ever goes to Burger King. And rapidly moving up my Fondest Dreams chart is a vision of Peter Singer being eaten by shrews.

The idea of leftist groups getting odd, of course, is about as remarkable as the idea of Seattle getting rain.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:08 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Paint your car for $50

Who needs Earl Scheib? All it takes is Rustoleum, a roller, a couple of brushes for the tricky stuff, and this guy's amazing nerve.

I would not recommend that you try this on your fading Lamborghini, but I have to admit, the results aren't half bad.

(Via the Consumerist.)

What just happened here?

"Um, I don't know. I guess I just lost my head."

Which, of course, is inadvisable, not to mention not particularly safe for work.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:25 PM to Table for One )
The enlightened consumer

In the summertime I said something about the new Enlightenment Visa Card, which Neilochka dismisses thusly:

Is collecting 154,000 Reward Points for a Thai Yoga Massage at a fancy resort really that much better than American Airlines Frequent Flier Miles?

As a person who doesn't fly frequently, but occasionally carries a balance, I'd say: "Depends on the interest."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:25 PM to Common Cents )
Snakes on a backplane

SsssssssAnd I thought I was having problems. (From PCNews.ro via Scribal Terror.)

Then again, maybe he'd have been happier here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:47 PM to PEBKAC )
The Sonics officially change hands

Brian Robinson's take in Hoopsworld:

A casual Sonics fan may not be aware of, or simply may not care about the massive cloud of uncertainty that has surrounded this team since the sale announcement on July 18. While trying to portray the appearance of business as normal the Sonics have been operating in an ownership limbo and void of direction that has been extremely difficult for them to deal with on an administrative level. While fans have focused on the new ownership group’s Oklahoma roots the team has seen an added workload preparing for what amounts to a very large and complex corporate transaction. As part of the ownership approval process finances have needed to be audited, procedures documented, and all types of details formalized. This has occurred at a time when the team rightly should be focusing on the upcoming season.

I have come to really understand that the Sonics under [Howard] Schultz were a bare-bones operation. While often criticized for being cheap in regards to basketball personnel the truly frugal side of the franchise is obvious on the operational side of things. Individual members of the Sonics staff, players, media, and many other related parties have all relayed to me stories of the organization simply being understaffed to provide some of the key services and marketing that other NBA franchises offer as standard. The existing staff appears to be extremely competent and dedicated but working with limited resources that hurt greatly effect their performance.

It's still not known whether the Clay Bennett group will replace the lot, integrate its own people, or stick with the existing crew, but morale seems to be up:

For the most part the Sonics seem to be anticipating increased budgets and resources and expect this move to be a great positive for them. Bennett has promised in general terms to run a first class franchise and the staff is chomping at the bit to hold him to that promise. Changes will likely take some time to be apparent to the outside world but hopefully will have an internal affect almost immediately. Very soon some basic questions about the new ownership group will be answered.

Of course, the most basic question is still up in the air, and will remain there for a while, but I'm hoping that Bennett and company keep in mind the fact that what they bought is a Seattle operation, and that hauling it halfway across the country should be the last resort, not one of the first ones.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:45 PM to Net Proceeds )
25 October 2006
Can I get a "Duh"?

It's nice to know Alfred Kinsey's work goes on, despite his being dead and all:

Researchers at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction at Indiana University say most men are always thinking of sex.

A study released Tuesday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists found 54 percent of men and 19 percent of women admit they think about sex every day — or several times a day — in a society where they are bombarded with subconscious erotic images.

I rather suspect that if we were not "bombarded with subconscious erotic images," and if all the men looked like Abe Vigoda and all the women looked like, well, Abe Vigoda, the percentages wouldn't change in the slightest.

(Via someone who looks like McGehee.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:22 AM to Table for One )
Okay, fun's over

The Hornets were maddeningly inconsistent through their first six preseason games, at least partly due to the fact that you never saw the starting five on the court all at once. Last night in Sacramento started out just as weirdly despite the presence of all the starters, but down 79-70 with five minutes left, the Bees put together a 14-2 run to stun the Kings, 84-81. Still, if they'd been able to do that for the first three quarters, they'd never have been down nine with five minutes left.

So a lot of questions remain unanswered. One thing is for sure, though: if this team is going to win the 45 or 50 games it's going to take to make it into the playoffs, they're going to have to be really good for more than five minutes a game.

Regular season starts next week in Boston.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 AM to Net Proceeds )
Byers remorse

Eastbound on Reno on the way out of Bricktown, you encounter a light. To the north — left — is Lincoln; to the south — right — is Byers. If you're like me, you've come up to that light and thought, "Didn't I just pass Byers a block ago?"

You did, of course. City Council has finally decided that this is completely farging insane, and that southbound loop of Byers (which, once it approaches the Rotary Playground around SE 11th, becomes Central Avenue anyway) will be renamed South Lincoln Boulevard once they can scrape up some money for signage.

One bête noire down, one to go. (The other? Kelley north of I-44, where westbound 69th is actually a block or so south of eastbound 68th.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:38 AM to City Scene )
One scent per copy

Danielle Steel now has her own signature fragrance, called, sanely enough, "Danielle," which will be marketed by Elizabeth Arden through the usual outlets.

The Internet Writing Journal blog thinks this is a great idea, and that other writers should do likewise: "It" by Stephen King, say, or Neil Gaiman's "Shadow."

I anxiously await two Dr. Seuss scents — "Green Eggs" and "Ham" — and shudder at the thought of what they might come up with for Gabriel García Márquez: "Solitude"? "Time of Cholera"?

(Via Brenda Coulter at Romancing the Blog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:34 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Coming soon: Windows 1984

"Forbidding Vistas," says Wendy Seltzer as she decodes the next Windows End-User Licensing Agreement:

It is unlikely that a home user looking for a computer operating system has any of these "features" of the Vista EULA in mind:
  1. Self-limiting software
  2. Vanishing functionality through invalidation
  3. Removal of media capabilities
  4. Problem-solving prohibited
  5. Limited mobility
  6. One transfer only
       and a bonus,
  7. Restrictions on your rights to use MPEG-4 video

Number 4 perplexes me greatly: "You may not work around any technical limitations in the software," it says. The proper response to that, of course, is "Wanna bet?"

Users never asked for these impossible limitations. Microsoft decided unilaterally to add them, claiming it could abrogate personal ownership, fair use, and first sale rights because "The software is licensed, not sold." If Microsoft faced real market competition on the home desktop, users could vote with their wallets.

On the other hand, those Macs look better every day. Even Trini, our IT tech, who knows Windows backwards and forwards — backwards works better, she'll tell you — is contemplating going Apple.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 PM to PEBKAC )
26 October 2006
Calling all Pod People

David Berlind has found an iPod, and would like to return it to its owner:

The owner of this iPod has been taking very good care of it by keeping it in a case. My guesses are that the owner lives in the New England area and flew on United Airlines on or about October 9th or 10th. The reason I haven't posted this notice until today is that I had to wait to get a hold of a charger to charge it up in hopes of finding some clue as to who the owner is. Sadly, the owner did not elect to have any contact information engraved on the back of the device. Also, I don't know much about iPods, but it seems as though there should be an easy way to load it with the owner's contact information and have it "boot" to that screen. I searched high and low through the device and about the only clue I could find was the text "De Monstrow."

If this sounds like your machine gone astray, write to david.berlind at cnet.com. Apparently Apple Customer Care hasn't been a whole lot of help — then again, how much private information would you want Apple to be giving out, anyway?

(Via Michael Katsimbris.)


The number of the Department of Defense form officially titled "Report of Separation," the DD 214 is issued to every member of the Armed Services upon release from active duty. As a personnel-management type in the Army, I was expected to type my own, which was duly signed by the crusty warrant officer (it occurs to me that one is never considered for a warrant without at least one layer of crust) in charge of my work unit. (He also made me type my submission for an ARCOM, which was faintly embarrassing, especially in view of the fact that I actually got it.)

Not at all embarrassing is the 214th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, which somehow Kehaar managed to compile in the few hours between being on vacation and, well, now.

And I do wish trackbacks to Silflay Hraka were working: they always come back 403 Throttled, which usually means I'm running afoul of the MaxPings setting over there.

(Addendum: I stand corrected. This one took.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:36 AM to Blogorrhea )
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone

But this will help:

The Suntracker One is an intriguing upgrade on the conventional skylight. Consisting of a 4'x4' acrylic dome, the Suntracker uses three heliostatic mirrors that track the sun and reflect its light down into the building. A prismatic diffusion lens then spreads out the light through interior spaces. The reflective surfaces within the dome are run by a small solar-powered motor. Every ten minutes, the mirrors move to keep up with the sun as it moves across the sky, maximizing natural light in Winter months when days are shorter and the sun's path is closer to the horizon.

This would be nice on days like today when your Florida room looks more like Labrador.

(Aside: I know, I know, I know.)

Checksum? He doesn't even type 'em

I did not realize this, and it may be old news by now, but what the heck:

I just saw a scene with The Terminator's computer-generated vision overlays, and was reminded that the things that look like columnnar text are actually assembly-language program listings for the Apple II from Nibble Magazine. If I hadn't given away all of my Apple magazines when I gave away my Apple, I could probably even identify the program.

Now if I could just figure out what it is they're running at the end of Rocketboom.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:41 AM to PEBKAC )
Properly centered

The way to get America's attention, says Tam, is to invoke the sacred Middle Class:

The reason for this is because in America, we're all middle class. Really. Don't believe me? Go ask any American whether he'd consider himself "Poor" or "Rich" or what, and I guarantee you that unless he's currently sitting in a cardboard box over a sidewalk grate or on the deck of a 125' yacht anchored off Cabo San Lucas, he'll say "Neither, really. I reckon I'm just middle class." This is maybe the only nation on the planet where the guy in the $500,000 house with a new Benz in the driveway and the single mom making $8/hr at the Food Lion and living in a single wide will both sigh and turn up the volume to listen in when the TV announcer says "A new threat to the Middle Class!", thinking he's talking to them.

I suppose I should look for where I stand. The Bureau of the Census has Median Household Income tables only up to 2003; I'm above the state level for '03, but below the national. (I'm waiting for the Democrats to announce a platform plank which calls for all 50 states to be above the national median. The GOP, for its part, will simply tell me that it's my own damn fault I'm not rich.)

So who is the true middle class? Tam says:

... those folks schlepping their way through the 40-hour grind in cubicleville to keep up with payments on their '02 Camry.

My car is older, and my grind longer, but otherwise that pretty much sounds like me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:51 PM to Dyssynergy )
Life after iPod

Poppy Mom loves her iPod, up to a point:

I love that I have the ability to carry 8794 songs in my pocket at all times. Actually, I can carry more than that; that just happens to be the number of songs on my iPod. I love that, when my plane hit turbulence on Thursday night, I could immediately zip to whatever song I wanted to be the last song I heard during my mortal existence. Funny that the song that was playing suited me just fine.

But (isn't there always a "but"?):

[W]hile the iPod is a wonderful, perfect little chunk of technolgical glory, it does have its problems, and not just technical ones. It's changing the way we listen to music, and I'm not 100% crazy about this.

All my life, I've found ways to keep up with my perpetual music jones. Now that the most perfect device for music transporation is in my possession, I've got some problems.

I miss hanging around with my friends, waiting for that perfect song to come on the radio or MTV. I've become spoiled, and just like any other spoiling scenario, the wealth of goods in my possession sometimes leaves a bit of a hole in my soul.

I haven't made a mix CD in well over six months. In other words, I haven't made a mix CD in the time since I bought my iPod. Mixes used to be one of my great creative outlets, and I've let it go. Why spend a few hours making a mix when I can just put it on Shuffle and let the machine do it for me?

I've also gotten woefully behind on discovering new music. Why go to the effort of getting to know a new song, new album, new artist when I can listen to Yankee Hotel Foxtrot for the fifth time this week?

I'm still doing mixes, but I can see the rest of this somewhere in my own future. After all, the turntable is in a different room from the computer, and it's not like I can just click on a vinyl LP and expect a favored track to start.

Perhaps I should consider this a warning?

27 October 2006
Quote of the week

Credited here to "an obviously not very sciency vice-rector of Napier University at today's Professorial Lecture":

Not all chemicals are bad. For example, if we didn't have oxygen and hydrogen, we wouldn't have water, and water is an essential component of beer.

Kind of Dave Barry-esque, I think.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:16 AM to QOTW )
A bath accessory you can bond with

It's a shower curtain displaying the Periodic Table of the Elements, and not only will it enlighten you while you lather, rinse and repeat — assuming you can read backwards or had the temerity to mount it in reverse — it will keep water from splashing onto the fluorine.

(Sorry about that. I do tend to boron and on. And my apologies if you prefer to wash your hair in the zinc.)

(Xenon Popgadget, which is not responsible for this content; they just lead me to the source.)

Webb sight

Try as I may, I can't get worked up over James Webb's fictional sex scenes. George Allen's people, who apparently didn't have to try, came up with this:

Webb’s novels disturbingly and consistently — indeed, almost uniformly — portray women as servile, subordinate, inept, incompetent, promiscuous, perverted, or some combination of these. In novel after novel, Webb assigns his female characters base, negative characteristics. In thousands of pages of fiction penned by Webb, there are few if any strong, admirable women or positive female role models.

Why does Jim Webb refuse to portray women in a respectful, positive light, whether in his non-fiction concerning their role in the military, or in his provocative novels? How can women trust him to represent their views in the Senate when chauvinistic attitudes and sexually exploitive references run throughout his fiction and non-fiction writings?

Inasmuch as no one is actually talking about Webb's non-fiction, the Allen campaign apparently threw that in as part of the standard late-October kitchen-sink approach. As for the fiction, it can be dismissed simply because it's fiction. The idea that responsible people just don't think things like this is a crock: every last one of us has a Dark Side, a repository for the things that cross our minds no matter how much they may conflict with what we've been taught or with what we profess. (Good old Original Sin. Where would we be without it?)

Based on what I've read — and I can't think of any good reason to spend money on the actual books — if I'm going to fault Jim Webb for anything, it's for being an uninteresting, repetitive writer. The idea that this disqualifies him for the Senate is ludicrous: if anything, it suggests that he'd fit right in with the rest of the microcephalics. The fact that George Allen would come up with an attack this absurd, however, demonstrates that he is no less qualified. In a world where karma was both perfect and timely, both these guys would lose and we'd end up with Meryl Yourish in the Senate. Poor Virginia. The Birthplace of Presidents seems to be turning into a breeding ground for schmucks.

That's right, they're bilingual

Seen (presumably) in North Vancouver, British Columbia:

Bilingual sign
(Via boinky.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:22 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Maybe you wear them inside out

Are you ready for size -2? No, that's not a typo:

[T]here are some people for whom size 0 is too big, and it's not just those banned runway models and Rachel Zoe's clients. For these people, designers like Nicole Miller will introduce negative sizes (that's not what they're really called, but what is smaller than 0?!?!) that have waistlines the circumference of "a soccer ball."

An official match ball is 68-70 cm around: 27 to 28 inches. This is a size 6, maybe an 8. A size 0 woman measures something like 31-23-33, so a -2 would have about a 22-inch waistline. This is below volleyball size.

(Geometric digression: A standard 45-rpm record is 7 inches in diameter, just under 22 inches in circumference. If you need to imagine a minus-two woman, pick up a 45 and hold it by the edges.)

I was tempted to attribute this phenomenon to "vanity sizing," but according to Kathleen Fasanella, it doesn't really exist:

[G]iven manufacturers are sized differently, [and] so are labels within a given design house. The reason is simple. Ralph Lauren produces a range of products across different labels that appeal to different types of consumers. The products that are intended for the vanity market — those who buy a tee-shirt at resort for example — are sized very differently from their core designer customer. The customer with more discretionary income is thinner than the former so if it were true that Ralph Lauren (for example; I have no bone to pick with him) sized for vanity then Ralph's core customer wouldn't be able to find a size to fit them. And you know that's not true.

This is not to say that vanity doesn't play a role. Just ask Dave Barry:

Here's how you could get rich: Start a women's clothing store called ''SIZE 2,'' in which all garments, including those that were originally intended to be restaurant awnings, had labels with the words ''SIZE 2.'' I bet you'd sell clothes like crazy.

Your zeroes and minus-twos? Why, yes, they will have fries with that.

(Via Neil Kramer, who has more Infiniti than I do.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:13 PM to Rag Trade )
And then there were fourteen

The Hornets have pared their roster by two: guards Scooter McFadgon and Luis Flores, both free agents invited to the Bees' training camp, have been waived. Both got some play time, and I got to marvel at the pronunciation of "McFadgon." (Pretend there's no G.)

Meanwhile, backup center Marc Jackson is still out with a strained hamstring and will miss the season opener at Boston. So far this year, Jackson has logged zero minutes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:17 PM to Net Proceeds )
28 October 2006
Slices of life

The premise, from Robert B. Parker:

You know those newspaper columns where the guy has a deadline, and nothing to say, so he does a "Thoughts While Shaving" Column.

This caught the eye of Mary Stella:

Guys, when you're standing in the bathroom wearing a towel around your waist and foamy cream on your jaw and cheeks, do you really think random thoughts worth mentioning to anyone else?


The possibility fascinates me, probably because, when I'm in the shower shaving my legs, my deepest thought is, "If I wasn't near-sighted, I could see what I'm doing". This is followed immediately by, "Don't cut yourself".

Even when I'm out of the shower and can put in my contacts or wear my glasses, there's something about the lighting that isn't quite good enough. I end up checking my thoroughness by feel. Unfortunately, I often later find that I wasn't all that thorough. Usually when I'm already at work, sitting outside in full daylight at lunch and look down to find that blatantly unshaven patch.

Deep thoughts while shaving must be a guy thing.

Well, not this guy; my major goal is, indeed, Not Cutting Myself, and yes, I use one of the razors that reputedly make it difficult to do so, and yes, I use some aerosol emollient which could dissolve the weld on the muffler of a '67 Buick, which should provide as much protection as I could possibly need, but having had some unpleasant experiences thirty-some-odd years ago — I managed to draw blood with an electric, which is a trick — I stand there under the lights and watch every stroke as carefully as these not-especially-good eyes permit.

And no towel: I go from sink to shower, not the other way around. One of the mysteries of life, I suppose.

What's your Southern sign?

Bound to be one of these:

OKRA (Dec 22 - Jan 20) Are tough on the outside but tender on the inside. Okras have tremendous influence. An older Okra can look back over his life and see the seeds of his influence everywhere. You can do something good each day if you try. You go well with most anyone.

CHITLIN (Jan 21 - Feb 19) Chitlins come from humble backgrounds. A Chitlin, however, will make something of himself if he is motivated and has lots of seasoning. In dealing with Chitlins, be careful, they may surprise you. They can erupt like Vesuvius. Chitlins are best with a Moon Pie but Catfish or Okra are O.K. too.

BOLL WEEVIL (Feb 20 - March 20) You have an overwhelming curiosity. You're unsatisfied with the surface of things, and you feel the need to bore deep into the interior of everything. Needless to say, you are very intense and driven as if you had some inner hunger. You love to stay busy and tend to work too much. Nobody in their right mind is going to marry you, so don't worry about it.

MOON PIE (March 21 - April 20) You're the type that spends a lot of time on the front porch. A cinch to recognize the physical appearance of Moon Pies. Big and round are the key words here. You should marry anybody who you can get remotely interested in the idea. A Chitlin would be a good mate but it's not going to be easy. You always have a big smile and are happy. This might be the year to think about aerobics. Maybe not.

POSSUM (April 21 - May 21) When confronted with life's difficulties, possums have a marked tendency to withdraw and develop a don't-bother-me-about-it attitude. Sometimes you become so withdrawn, people actually think you're dead. This strategy is probably not psychologically healthy but seems to work for you. You are a rare breed. Most folks love to watch you work and play. You are a night person and mind your own business. You should definitely marry a Armadillo.

CRAWFISH (May 22 - June 21) Crawfish is a water sign. If you work in an office, you're hanging around the water cooler. Crawfish prefer the beach to the mountains, the pool to the golf course, and the bathtub to the living room. You tend not to be particularly attractive physically but have a good heart.

COLLARDS (June 22 - July 23) Collards have a genius for communication. They love to get in the melting pot of life and share their essence with the essence of those around them. Collards make good social workers, psychologists, and baseball managers. As far as your personal life goes, if you are Collards, stay away from Crawfish. It just won't work. Save yourself a lot of heartache.

CATFISH (July 24 - Aug 23) Catfish are traditionalists in matters of the heart, alt hough one's whiskers may cause problems for loved ones. You Catfish are never easy people to understand. You run fast. You work and play hard. Even though you prefer the muddy bottoms to the clear surface of life, you are liked by most. Above all else, Catfish should stay away from Moon Pies.

GRITS (Aug 24 - Sept 23) Your highest aim is to be with others like yourself. You like to huddle together with a big crowd of other Grits. You love to travel though, so maybe you should think about joining a club. Where do you like to go? Anywhere they have cheese, gravy, bacon, butter, or eggs and a good time. If you can go somewhere where they have all these things, that serves you well. You are pure in heart.

BOILED PEANUTS (Sept 24 - Oct 23) You have a passionate desire to help your fellow man. Unfortunately, those who know you best, your friends and loved ones, may find that your personality is much too salty, and their criticism will affect you deeply because you are really much softer than you appear. You should go right ahead and marry anybody you want to because in a certain way, yours is a charmed life. On the road of life, you can be sure that people will always pull over and stop for you.

BUTTER BEAN (Oct 24 - Nov 22) Always invite a Butter Bean to a party because Butter Beans get along well with everybody. You, as a Butter Bean, should be proud. You've grown on the vine of life, and you feel at home no matter what the setting. You can sit next to anybody. However, you, too, shouldn't have anything to do with Moon Pies.

ARMADILLO (Nov 23 - Dec 21) You have a tendency to develop a tough exterior, but you are actually quite gentle and kind inside. A good evening for you? Old friends, a fire, some roots, fruit, worms, and insects. You are a throwback. You're not concerned with today's fashions and trends. You're not concerned with anything about today. You're almost prehistoric in your interests and behavior patterns. You probably want to marry another Armadillo, but a Possum is another somewhat kinky mating possibility.

(Found at Meep's; Meep notes, "Astrology is going to be just as apt when using Southern icons, Greek symbols, or Chinese interpretation of animals." Disclosure: I am an Armadillo, once wed to a Crawfish. Coming out of our shells was not a strong point.)

Older and floppier

Budgets being what they are, 42nd and Treadmill isn't exactly replete with the latest hardware: while some of our stuff is fairly current (by which we mean "still supported"), some of it is downright ancient.

There's one old printer we're keeping alive for another year, just for routine green-bar reports. We still have a service contract on it, and when it began acting up this summer, we duly sent for a tech. To our surprise, he brought, in addition to replacements for the failed parts, a copy of the latest version of the machine's operating code — on a 720k floppy, dated 1995, sealed in one of those static-free bags presumably for the last eleven years. "In case you needed a backup," he said. Sensible enough. The actual code we've been using is from 1994, and as it happens, I did have a backup copy of it: on the only other 720k floppy any of us have seen in years. (The printer has its own floppy drive, wherein the original disk resides. Or maybe it's the backup; I don't remember for sure.)

So I can relate to this:

Normally a media sensing floppy drive is a good thing ... except for when you've got old 720K original distribution diskettes you want to make copies of so the originals can be tucked away safely somewhere and the copies used instead.

Finding a new 720K floppy diskette these days is near impossible, so one is forced to try this ploy using obtainable 1.44M diskettes. OK, so I put some tape over the hole in the 1.44M diskettes and got them to format as 720K. Problem solved.

But not immediately, apparently:

But still, if I tell the format utility to format a diskette as 720K, damnit, I want it to try, not just quit and refuse to do it. At least ask me if I want to give it a whirl.

For the hell of it, I looked on eBay for 720k drives. Going price was $135. Geez. I should have kept the 8-inchers out of our old System/36.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:01 PM to PEBKAC )
The dawn of the Anti-Jeeves

Earlier this year, Ask.com gave Jeeves his walking papers. It's a shame, really; nobody on your screen ever did a better job of representing the True and Faithful Servant, and you always heard "Very good, sir. Will there be anything else?" in the back of your mind as you scrolled down the first page of search results. That was the essence of Jeeves: quiet, polite, unassuming.

And I suspect that were Jeeves to see this, ice would form on his upper slopes. Needless to say, it's a Microsoft product.

(Via Samantha Burns.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:42 PM to PEBKAC )
The truest dillhole of all

Once in a while I pick up a search-engine query asking the meaning of "dillhole".

Now I know. I was unloading groceries at the checkout stand, and a jar of pickles (dill chips for burgers, specifically) fractured into just enough pieces (two) to cause a hemorrhage of green all over the place. I picked up the jar, inverted it — the break was along the bottom ridge — pointed to the break, and asked, "Now is this a dillhole or what?"

I suppose you had to be there. (Actually, they didn't think it was all that funny either.)

A rack and a hard place

I've never played tournament Scrabble, and I'm starting to think that it's a good thing that I haven't: here's a chap who scored 830 points in a single game, including a single play for 365. What's more, his opponent scored a not-even-slightly-shabby 490. And by the reckoning of tournament experts, these guys really aren't that good.

For the record, my high game is 515, in which I had a 203-point play. I'm sure at least some of you can beat that.

(Via Vincent Ferrari, who probably can.)


I don't watch too much TV — practically none this time of year, what with the deluge of noxious political spots — so I probably won't be an early HDTV adopter.

And if I were going to be, Matt Deatherage would have talked me out of it:

I've had HDTV capabilities for two years now, and I don't advise anyone here to make the investment in it yet.

Why? Because the local stations and providers screw it up all the time (and yes, Mike, I almost literally mean that).

All five major networks broadcast in HDTV in Oklahoma City, but honest to God, they just don't take it very seriously, and there are strong indications that the management of most of these stations just doesn't give a damn. Cox OKC's digital cable refuses to carry either the Fox or ABC local HD affiliates (KOKH-DT for Fox, KOCO-DT for ABC) because the station owners (Sinclair Broadcasting and Hearst/Argyle of Ohio/Oklahoma, respectively) demand extra payments to carry their digital stations and Cox refuses to pay it. DirecTV will start carrying them in MPEG-4 by the end of the year (so you can only get them with DirecTV's own HD receivers and recorders, not the TiVo one), but like all HD over satellite, it will be far, far more compressed than the picture over the air — and will cost you more money.

Cox dropped KOCO-DT on October 1 after the previous contract expired, which meant Cox customers did not get the OU-Texas game in HD unless they had an over-the-air (OTA) antenna. The very next day, on Sunday, KOCO decided it needed to do "some work" on its digital transmitter — so it went dark for two days. It is unimaginable that a commercial network TV affiliate would take its signal off the air for two days, but that's just what they did for the digital signal — if you didn't have analog OTA capabilities (and I don't), ABC was just gone for two days.

Not one of the OKC stations has spent the money on the technology necessary to superimpose graphics over an HD signal, nor can they even record or rebroadcast HD signals. If they don't pass along the network HD feed as it's being broadcast nationally, it won't be in HD here. KFOR-DT can't show Jeopardy in HD, just as KOCO-DT can't show Wheel of Fortune in HD, even though both shows are broadcast that way as of this season.

And it goes on and on. Color me unsold on the concept for now.

(A plug here for HDTV in Oklahoma, which covers issues of this sort, and to which Mr Deatherage is a contributor.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:00 PM to Overmodulation )
29 October 2006
A man needs a maid

But this might be overdoing it a bit:

A former London magistrate spent more than $618,000 paying a woman to clean his house in the nude.

Michael Lee, 59, paid up to $494 an hour for the call girl to dust and vacuum wearing nothing but rubber gloves.

He enjoyed watching her as she polished his dining table, ironed his clothes, washed the dishes and made the bed at his home in Lancashire.

But the obsession drained his bank account and he began stealing money from the firm of which he was financial director. After siphoning off $405,000 to pay his cleaner, his conscience got the better of him and he handed himself in to police.

What's worse, apparently the young lady, whatever her visual appeal, was not the most efficient housekeeper:

The maid's quality of service was called into question by a neighbour: "If that guy spent $618,000 on a cleaner, he should ask for his money back because she obviously didn't have her mind on the cleaning aspect of her work. His place was absolutely filthy."

(Mental note: Revise Standard Book of Fantasies, Vol. XVI.)

Time spent changing time

VCR: 0. (It's automatic.)
PCs: 0. (Ditto. Expect all these to fail next year when the DST schedule changes.)
Garage clock: 5 seconds.
Cell-phone clock: 6 seconds.
Living-room clock: 7 seconds.
Range-top clock: 8 seconds.
Alarm clock: 14 seconds.
Microwave-oven clock: 17 seconds.
Wrist watch: 26 seconds.
Automobile clock: 5 minutes, 45 seconds. (That's one seriously-stiff adjustment knob.)

Still unchanged: answering machine, fax machine.

Mi casserole es su casserole

Hot DishSo I catch sight of this book cover — the book itself is out in November — and my second thought (my first thought, inevitably, is "Hmmm, nice legs") is "What are the chances that this author has Minnesota roots?" The answer, as it turns out, is 100 percent, though there's still one nagging question: Does the spelling of "hot dish" as two words, something one simply does not do in Minnesota, have any particular significance, or is this just some New York publishing weasel's misapplication of the term? (Yeah, I know: buy the darn book.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:10 PM to Almost Yogurt )
We pick 'em: 2006 edition

5th Congressional District

In years past, this was an easy choice: pick whoever wasn't Ernest Istook. This election, however, presents a dilemma: what with Congressional Republicans being generally feckless and Congressional Democrats being generally insane, the choice isn't exactly obvious. Mary Fallin's positions are closer to my own, but the GOP, bedeviled by voter revolt elsewhere, can't possibly pump enough money into this race to buy her a clue, and besides, I'm tired of this being written off as a safe-Republican seat, so I'm giving the nod to Dr. Hunter. He won't win, of course, but he's bound to do better than the sacrificial lambs the Democrats have sent up in years past, and perhaps he'll blaze a trail for whoever faces Fallin in 2008 — assuming she hasn't messed up by then, which is a lot to assume. (Yes, there's an independent in this race, one Matthew Horton Woodson; the mere fact that he's pushing the Loose Change crockumentary takes him out of consideration.)


Applying the "whoever isn't Ernest Istook" rule, supra, I find myself backing Brad Henry. I am, admittedly, not crazy about the Bradster, but he's an effective advocate for the Goldilocks principle: nothing too hot, nothing too cold. Besides, a Henry victory will free up Istook to take the position he really wants: on Washington's K Street, as a sort of Abramoff Lite — minus indictments, I presume. It's a win/win all around.

Lieutenant Governor

Jari Askins gets the nod over Todd Hiett for two reasons: (1) she's an old-school Democrat with a fair amount of accumulated smarts and (2) she's not Todd Hiett, whose Johnny-One-Note calls for tax cuts started to wear thin after we actually got some tax cuts, and who, I expect, would take credit for the sunrise if he thought he could get away with it. I still haven't come up with a good reason to support E. Z. Million, though Tom Elmore has.

Corporation Commission

Bob Anthony has been on the Commission since 1989, and were it possible to keep him there until 2089, it would be just fine with me. The Corp Comm has always been a hotbed of temptation; Bob Anthony has always been the man who resists. Michael Bates has background.


Scott Meacham took over when Robert Butkin retired; for the most part, he's followed Butkin's protocols, which were good ones. I like Howard Barnett, but he seems to think that the powers of the office should be enlarged — he's assailed Meacham for being a "part-time" Treasurer — and well, I'd rather that be left up to the electorate than to one fellow with ambition.

Superintendent of Public Instruction

This one I'm staying out of. I've seen quite enough of Sandy Garrett; on the other hand, Bill Crozier's prating about "bulletproof" textbooks makes him look like a complete and utter boob.

Commissioner of Labor

Last time out, I complained that Brenda Reneau always "rubbed me the wrong way," but didn't see any reason to prefer opponent Lloyd Fields. Reneau has been less of a disappointment than I expected, though, and in this slot, that might be good enough, especially since she's facing the same opponent.

Attorney General

Count me as a Drew Edmondson fan. The power structure is vaguely distrustful of him, which is always a good thing, and James Dunn hasn't made much of a case for himself.

Insurance Commissioner

Governor Henry appointed Kim Holland to succeed the ousted Carroll Fisher, and she did a pretty fair job of cleaning up the mess Fisher left behind. Of late she's been the target of some fairly nasty advertising, largely financed from out of state, which suggests to me that "pretty fair" might actually be an understatement: apparently she's ticked off some fat cats, which, to me, is another point in her favor.

State Auditor and Inspector

A rematch of 2002: Jeff McMahan and Gary Jones. McMahan won that one, and I'd just as soon he won this one too.

District Attorney

Wes Lane, I think, is following in the path of Bob Macy: he's starting to believe his own BS. For any politician, this is the beginning of the end. Better to retire him now, while he can still make something resembling a dignified exit. I'm not wild about David Prater, but he's still sane.

Senate District 40/House District 87

I have grouped these two together because they both have Republican incumbents who haven't annoyed me greatly, and because their Democratic challengers are making similar pitches. I've decided that Pat Potts' wealth of nonprofit experience is probably better left there, and will vote to keep Cliff Branan in the Senate; on the other hand, sensing that Trebor Worthen might be seeing himself as the second coming of Todd Hiett, an uncomfortable vision at best, I'm going with challenger Dana Orwig for the House.

County Assessor

Leonard Sullivan seems to have found his niche; an indifferent legislator, he's been a pretty decent assessor, and I see no reason to give him the boot.

County Commissioner, District 1

Despite the best (worst?) efforts of the other two Commissioners, Jim Roth has worked diligently to tend to the county's business without spending us into oblivion or getting embroiled in foolish side issues. With one of the two twits defeated in August, Roth's job will no doubt get easier; as far as I'm concerned, he's earned as many terms as we can give him.

I of course reserve the right to change my mind during the next nine days, but I don't really expect to have to do so.

30 October 2006
Strange search-engine queries (39)

Migod, this shtick has gone on almost as long as Jack Benny. Of course, I wouldn't say that if he had his writers here.

helen parr nude:  Elastigirl? You wish.

should capricorns befriend geminis:  If you can be sure you're not getting the Evil Twin.

Evil Yogurt Underpants:  This must be Captain Underpants' Evil Twin. (Is he a Gemini?)

nerve witch runs along the outside of tongue:  As spells go, that's actually pretty impressive.

pictures of a drunken bear being shot:  It is highly unsporting to blast them while they're sozzled.

welding fish:  I once welded a perch fillet to an aluminum pan. Don't ask.

Name eastern city with scary name that gets lots of snow in winter:  As an old man with deficient libido, I reply "Lackawanna."

i30 replace analog clock:  Did you screw it up trying to set it back one hour?

"pretty feet" craigslist:  Far as I know, you can advertise for anything on there.

Walgreens Coprophagia Treatment:  I've waited in line there long enough to wish coprophagia on the entire staff.

judges ruling for strip club lewdness in tx:  Which is odd, since usually they rule against lewdness.

"my husband" "nine inch penis":  And yet you find time to type.

sherri have sex with chaz?  I don't know anyone named Sherri.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 AM to You Asked For It )
What a lovely neighborhood

And Her Majesty's Government plans to make bloody sure it costs you:

Families who live in desirable areas face massive increases in their council tax bills under plans being drawn up by Labour, it was revealed. Homeowners in affluent neighbourhoods with good schools, low crime rates and clean streets could be charged thousands of pounds extra than those in more run down places.

And how will they do this? By computer, of course:

The software, which will be used in the forthcoming revaluation of all 21 million homes in England, contains astonishingly detailed data on the number of households, even those who have pets, wear contact lenses or are vegetarian.

It allows inspectors to put a precise value on each home, based not only by its size and features, but its location.

The move is a further blow to homeowners who are facing the prospect of being fined for refusing to let council tax inspectors come into their homes to photograph any improvements.

Campaigners have warned that bills could rise by as much as four times in areas which are deemed 'desirable' — sending some bills spiralling from £1,000 to £4,000.

Under the current tax system, which dates back to 1993, the council tax, as it's called, has eight brackets or "bands": the highest band, H, is for structures valued (in 1991, the standardized base) at more than £320,000. Each governing council levies at its own rate, but the bands are consistent throughout England; Wales and Scotland have slightly different bands.

It should be noted that in 1991, when the bands were set, the average English home sold for £73,000; it's now over £180,000.

And there's this:

Sir Sandy Bruce Lockhart, the chairman of the Local Government Association, said [last year] that wholesale reform was needed of how local government was funded. Council tax was flawed and revaluation would only add to the problem, he said. "It cannot be sensible to base a property tax on house prices in 1991 but we do not believe that people should be penalised because their homes have increased in value during the past decade."

A few local notes:

  • Leonard Sullivan, assessor for Oklahoma County, says that by the end of this year every single piece of real property in the county will have been visually inspected by his office. So far as I can tell, they were here in 2003, slightly before I moved in; state law requires a reinspection every four years.

  • Taxes on the palatial Surlywood estate for this year come to $824 (£443).

  • Online records go back only to 1993, at which time the tax was $253 (£133).

  • During those years, assessed value (11 percent of market value) increased from $3702 to $8508, subject to a cap law in some of those years.

Much as I feel for the Brits, or indeed any overtaxed folks, they're apparently not getting hit with anything we haven't seen Stateside.

But now this is interesting:

The Tories warned that if it was introduced in England, average bills would soar by £436 a year, with middle-class households in the South and South East worst hit.

Several councils would see average annual bills rise by more than £1,000. In many Labour heartlands, by contrast, average bills would fall, because house price rises have been less dramatic since the last national revaluation.

Make of that what you will.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 AM to Dyssynergy )
Too smart a dog

They told me when I was younger I might be "too smart for my own damn good." Being unable to extrapolate from my own experience — I'm hardly an unbiased observer — I've never been quite able to explain what that means.

Until perhaps now. Buddy is a Border Collie, as dogs go incredibly bright, but there's a downside:

Buddy is 6 years old, and sadly, thinks he has Alzheimer's. Yes, I realize that the last half of that sentence is totally insane, so let me try and explain.

Buddy's previous owner actually had Alzheimer's. And since her house was the only reality he ever had, his example of behavior was to be completely surprised and amazed at every event. Since he is a Border Collie (the smartest of the dog breeds) Buddy started to believe that this reaction was the way everyone reacted to everything. And so Buddy began to "learn" Alzheimer's.

Buddy's behavior is to be constantly surprised by every single event. Every time you take him out of a crate — fear and amazement. Every time he goes outside — fear and amazement. Every time he steps on his own leash — absolute fear and amazement. And he does all of these things several times a day. And he is still terrified and surprised when they happen — every single time.

Dogs, of course, don't actually get Alzheimer's. But if we've learned anything about incredible simulations, they can be just as scary as the real thing. Maybe more so.

The latter half of my life has been spent unlearning fears, one at a time. I still have entirely too many of them to go.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:03 AM to Dyssynergy )
String theory in practice

No Silly StringJust a reminder that Silly String is banned in the following locations:

  • Hollywood, California, midnight tonight through noon Wednesday.
  • Southington, Connecticut, presumably until hell freezes over.
(Hollywood sign — no, not the Hollywood sign — poached from Defamer.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:11 PM to Say What? )
Ceci n'est pas un virus

I mean, it says so right in the name: it's NotAVirus.

Trini has been decontaminating one of the desktops (no, not mine) where this virus despoiler of Excel spreadsheets was found running rampant. I'm hoping she told the user something like "Oh, by the way, you have worms."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:35 PM to PEBKAC )
Stuff received (first of a series)

In these last days before the election, I'm going to list all the political mailings and such that come to my door. (Phone polling and politicking will be mentioned only if they leave a message on my machine; I refuse to answer the phone for the next week.)

Today's batch:

  • Cliff Branan sent out two copies (clean up your mailing list, guys) of an imitation four-page newspaper called "Conservative Capitol Report", including a spiel about education, a list of donors, a letter from Mrs Branan, and a collection of quotes.

  • Leonard Sullivan's flyer today contains the interesting claim: "The only qualified person in the race!" Sullivan also takes a shot at the two County Commissioners who voted to disband the Budget Board back in 2005, one of whom is now out of office.

  • The reclusive "Citizens Against Corruption" have a new anti-Trebor Worthen flyer, claiming he's declared "War on the Middle Class" and citing his votes on five bills. The most interesting might be HB 3040, which, say the Citizens, "protect[s] organizations that physically or sexually abuse children with developmental disabilities." More precisely, it would bar punitive damages in suits against 501(c)(3) organizations that work with such children. I interpret this as another shot across the trial lawyers' bow.

I figure there's a lot more yet to come, so watch this space in the evenings.

31 October 2006
Three up and three down

Sometimes I find myself, much as I hate to admit it, thinking things like this:

So.. my mom is getting married to a awesome guy she met on a dating site ... my brother met his wife on a dating site ... how come nothing cool like that is happening for me? I swear, I'm about ready to give up. Everyone I met either is a horny immature idiot, or lives 300000000 miles away from me.

I'm putting my money on "horny immature idiot," if only because they exist in substantial quantities.

On the other hand, were it possible to live three hundred million miles away, I'd bet Andrea has already done the research on what it's like.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:18 AM to Table for One )
I think he's just needling us

This is the last day of the state's tattoo ban — as of tomorrow, practitioners can operate legally within the state, subject to (as always) state regulations.

Not everyone is happy about it. Rep. John Wright (R-Broken Arrow) says it's bad for the state's economy:

Our society as a whole still does not view tattoos in a favorable light. Many CEOs do not wish to have people working on their front lines who are overtly calling attention to themselves. Because of that, it [the legalization of tattooing] is somewhat going to have a diminishing effect on economic opportunities.

Indeed. Remember when Ken Lay chewed out Jeff Skilling for that "Born to Steal" scroll on his upper arm?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:41 AM to Soonerland )
Minor policy change

One of the advantages of MT 3.2 and above — I run 3.21 here — is the superior collection of spam tools: not one actual spam has gotten onto the site (though plenty have piled up in the Junk folders) since the database change in September.

In response to this, I have decided to keep comments and TrackBacks open for a minimum of thirty days, effective immediately. (The previous standard was one to two weeks.) I've closed off September items today; I expect to close the October entries around the 30th of November.

I don't expect this should cause any issues for anyone, but if it's a problem for you, let me know.

005, maybe

Dame Judi Dench assures us that Daniel Craig, the new James Bond, is ... oh, hell, just read it:

The British actress caught a glimpse of the hunky actor's impressive appendage as he was getting dressed in his trailer which was situated opposite her own.

Dench, who plays secret service boss M in the new movie [Casino Royale], told Britain's Daily Star newspaper: "It's an absolute monster! Maybe I shouldn't have said that. How uncouth of me!"

This seems rather unlike Dench, whose couth is unquestioned; according to Defamer, it's also rather unlike Craig.

For my part, I remain neither shaken nor stirred.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:03 AM to Dyssynergy )
Mr Otis regrets

Donna proposes the following minor change for elevators:

Elevators should be equipped with a carpet that is emblazoned with circles showing where riders should stand. The circles can even have numbers in the middle of them showing where the first person should stand and the second, third, and so forth. This will make it easier for everyone because there will be no question as to where riders should stand AND it will stop all the Japanese people from crowding into the elevator even after it has been sufficiently filled to capacity.

It might be more comprehensible than "Maximum capacity X lbs.", where you just know that guy over in the corner all by himself weighs X-50.

Baby strollers and such, though, will complicate matters.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:00 PM to Dyssynergy )
Stuff received (Tuesday)

Two cards received today, both on behalf of Trebor Worthen, one mailed by his campaign committee (to someone who hasn't lived here in years), and one from the NRA, which has given him their endorsement. (I expected the latter, since I am a member.)

The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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