1 December 2006
Is this the future of radio?

With everybody defecting to satellite or shuffling their iPods, allegedly there's no audience left for good old FM, let alone even-older AM.

But wait:

I've been told, more than once, that the way around the copyright hassles involved with podcasts (basically, you can't play music from the big record companies — namely, most music you know — without [jumping through legal hoops] that are very much not in the lightweight-labor ad-hocky nature of what podcasters do) is to get a real (FCC licensed) radio station to play your podcast. Because they're allowed to play that music and you're not.

So, if you can get a friendly station to run your 'cast at 3am on a Sunday or whatever, you're set.


San Francisco-based KYOU ("Open Source Radio") says that's exactly what they do:

If youíve got a podcast that contains copyrighted music and a radio station decides to play it, it can be rebroadcast and, providing all DMCA rules are adhered to, it can be streamed as well. Since stations that play music pay all licensing fees (ASCAP, BMI, SESAC & SoundExchange) those fees will cover the music in the podcast.

This does not necessarily have anything to do with the fact that I finally got around to replacing my 31-year-old microphone last week.

Two roads diverged

Normally I use this space to deny responsibility for things, but I don't think I'm going to get away with it this time.

The starting point:

I envy people who journal. I've always thought it must be a splendid way of expressing and exploring one's feelings and thoughts. Blogging is related but it's not as personal. More accurately, it's personal but it's not interior or confessional. Confessional writing tends either to bore me or make me uncomfortable. I took a class once called something like 'turning the personal into stories' but the results were a lot of fairly appalling stories about rapes and cruelties that had been experienced by the participants. I have to admit that I prefer the slightly cooler atmosphere of blogging. Another important plus about blogging, for me, is that I know someone may actually read what I'm writing. (Having an audience apparently matters to me, Dr. Freud.) But there are things I'd like to write about more privately, and yet — interestingly, puzzlingly — I literally cannot write one word if I'm only writing for myself. Near-physical writer's block. A juicy conundrum, eh? Some writers, some of whom blog, don't seem to have any trouble writing very personally. I wonder if they are less fearful — and I more so — about something and, if so, what that something is. Or if the issue is something else altogether.

I make no claim to being less fearful, but I did weigh in on this matter:

There's some overlap, but over at my place, the sort-of-weekly Vent series ... is more journal-like, while the daily blog stuff is, well, bloggier.

Apparently this bifurcation of mine she deemed to be the solution; for now, from the same writer, there is The Dust-Up, which will indeed be more personal and less bloggy. And if that name sounds vaguely familiar, I suppose you can blame me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:10 AM to Blogorrhea )
Keep on scannin'

The Help America Vote Act of 2002 made some people suspicious, including me. And it didn't help when the Oklahoma State Election Board put out an RFP for a "Telecommunications-based Statewide Voting System" earlier this year.

A LiveJournal member, curious, wrote the OSEB and asked what was up, and was told:

Identical mark-sense optical scan voting devices manufactured by the Business Records Corporation (now Election Systems & Software) have been used in every precinct in the State of Oklahoma since 1992. As you know, these devices read paper ballots marked in the voter's own hand and preserve a complete and perfect paper audit trail. We do not have any plans to replace our optical scanners with direct recording electronic (touchscreen) devices, or with voting devices of any other type.

Their superior accuracy, reliability and audit capability notwithstanding, optical scan voting devices cannot be used conveniently by some persons with certain disabilities, including visual disabilities and motion impairments. For those voters, the act of hand-marking the ballot cannot be performed unaided in private. We are investigating other voting technologies to better serve those voters; however, we expect that any accommodative devices we integrate into the election system will be additions to — not replacements for — the existing optical scanners.

And that "telecommunications-based" system? Here's how it works:

At the polling place, the voter listens to an audio ballot and votes the ballot by pressing keys on a telephone keypad. The voting system then produces a marked paper ballot, which is scanned and read back to the voter, allowing the voter to confirm whether the paper ballot has been marked according to the way he or she voted. After the voter confirms that the ballot is correct, his or her vote is cast, and a paper ballot is tabulated by the same mark-sense optical scanning voting device used by all other voters statewide.

Oklahoma's telephone voting system features a fundamental and innovative improvement over direct recording electronic (touchscreen) voting systems, including even those that provide accommodative telephone keypad input devices and voter verifiable receipts. Typically, a touchscreen voting device in audio mode will read back a voter's marked ballot, but the information read back to the voter is merely that which exists in the device's memory. The readback may confirm the voter's selections, but there is no way to say that the vote eventually cast is the same as that voted by the voter or read back by the voting device. But with Oklahoma's system, it is the paper ballot generated by the system that is scanned and read back to the voter, and it is the paper ballot that is tabulated by our mark-sense optical scanners, preserving the complete and perfect paper audit trail that most Oklahoma voters seem to prefer.

I believe this calls for a "Yay us!"

(Via Batesline.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:38 AM to Soonerland )
A frank appraisal

We definitely have a wiener here: How to Calculate Pi by Throwing Frozen Hot Dogs.

Of course, if you insist on including the buns, you will be off by approximately twenty percent.

(Via Rocket Jones.)

Friday morning, 6:30 am

This can be considered the reverse-angle shot to this one from yesterday afternoon, following a night of high winds and blowing snow. Temperature was a balmy 14 degrees Fahrenheit.

More farging snow

That slight bloom in the center is an artifact from the flash. (Sunrise was around 7:20, so it was still way dark when I shot this.) Not visible, off to the right, are the redbud trees and the strings of lights hung upon them, mostly because I thought it was a bad idea to run electrical stuff when the cord and the plug are under half a foot of concentrated wetness.

The camera, incidentally, is six months old.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:11 PM to Surlywood )
It might have been

If they'd played 49 minutes, they'd have won it. Unfortunately, the game runs 48. The Hornets were down 18 halfway through the third, and responded with an actual offensive show, which no one expected in the absence of Peja and D. West and Bobby Jackson, whittling that Chicago lead away, but they never got closer than two, and the Bulls finished on top, 111-108.

Did I mention offense? Rasual Butler dropped in 33 points, a new career high, including seven 3-balls. Chris Paul got his third triple-double: 25 points, 18 assists, 11 rebounds. Marc Jackson, playing both forward and center at times, scored 15; Jannero Pargo scored 18 off the bench. But the real killer, if you ask me, was whoever spooks the guys at the charity stripe: the Bees took 40 free throws and missed 13 of them.

The Bulls weren't any better at the line, but they got even more treys: 12, five of which were hit by Andres Nocioni, who scored 31 points and pulled down 13 boards. In the Battle of the Swapped Centers, P. J. Brown outscored Tyson Chandler, 3 to 2, but Chandler ruled the backboards, hauling down 11 rebounds to Brown's three.

At least we know this team can score without the big guns. And they'll need to, since they're going back on the road for another one of those killer West Coast trips.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:45 PM to Net Proceeds )
2 December 2006
Too much shimmer on that Bimmer

Andy Dokmanovich comes up with a metaphor for recent BMW 3-series styling in a letter to Car and Driver:

Ever notice how that cute, unassuming girl next door with natural brown flowing hair, smooth clear skin, and "jeans and a T-shirt on a Saturday" look will usually tug at the heartstrings deeper and longer than the girl on stage with the multicolor striped hair, two pounds of hope-in-a-bottle on her face, über-jewelry, and razor-creased outfit with pointed-toe shoes? Besides the hint of insecurity, someone who seems to be "on" all the time with that much stimulation and business in every single nook and cranny is just too much to bear without wincing and hoping it'll just go away.

By coincidence, or maybe not, the letters page was illustrated with a lovely Bill Neale drawing of the vehicle I'd prefer to that overwrought Bimmer: an Infiniti G35 in Arrest Me Red. And apart from that color, I'm pretty sure that the aforementioned girl next door (who actually is a few blocks and half a lifetime away) would prefer it too.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:49 AM to Driver's Seat )
In with the Inn Crowd

From today's Oklahoman's Land Sales list:

OKC-Bricktown Lodging Associates LLC from Sheridan Development LLC, 308 E Sheridan Ave., $732,500.
OKC-Bricktown Lodging Associates LLC from Power Alley Parking LLC, 308 E Sheridan Ave., $558,000.

Power Alley Parking is Marsh Pittman's parking facility northeast of the Bricktown Ballpark, and Pittman and the Wisconsin-based Raymond Management Company are joining forces to develop a nine-story Hampton Inn on that block of Sheridan.

Hampton InnThe project has been on the drawing board for three years already, and is scheduled to open, says Raymond, in the summer of 2008. The inn will feature 200 guest rooms, hot Continental breakfast, complimentary wireless-high speed Internet access, business center, indoor pool and whirlpool, exercise facility and meeting space. It will not, however, have its own restaurant, which, given the vast number of eateries already in Bricktown, is no big deal. And the inn's location near the ballpark means that at least some of the rooms will have a nice view of right field. Hampton is a mid-priced Hilton brand, which means that this hotel won't likely be cannibalizing guests from Hilton's higher-zoot Skirvin, opening this spring. The picture was swiped from Raymond's Web site; I'm assuming it represents what they expect the place to look like when it's finished.

(If Richard Mize, the Oklahoman's Real Estate Editor and an occasional visitor to these pages, is wondering if anyone ever reads those little columns of raw data, the answer is Yes.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:12 PM to City Scene )
The pink torpedo, unchanged

The latest dubious dingus-embiggener to hit the mailbox is something called "Man XL," and inasmuch as I was no great shakes, so to speak, when I was forty, I have no reason to want to pay to relive those times.

Incidentally, one Dr Oz, apparently one of Oprah's posse, has recycled the old story about how losing 35 lb is the equivalent of gaining one inch. Were this at all reliable, you'd see guys lined up around the block for stomach stapling and other arguable ventures. Certainly the year I lost 30 lb (this would be 2004) didn't end with anything resembling six-sevenths of an inch of newfound wangage.

I presume, therefore, that this is an old wives' tale, which makes sense inasmuch as Oprah's audience is largely composed of old wives — and old ex-wives. I accord it the same credence I give to that business about shoe sizes, and inasmuch as I wear a size 14 double E, I consider myself in a reasonable position to render judgment thereupon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:00 PM to Scams and Spams )
Saturday spottings (I thought I thaw)

One of the unfortunate facts of life is that while snow is white, and my car is white, the combination of the two is a dingy grey, and it got more so as the day wore on. I might have attempted to clean off the windows at the gas station, but the squeegee was still frozen solid inside the little bucket o' slop they provide as a low-cost water substitute, so it's another Windex Weekend.

I wasn't too successful at dodging all the potential sources of slush, but I did manage to avoid hitting any of the fresh crop of pavement craters that have opened up this weekend, usually adjacent to previous craters which have been patched once or twice already. Most of the ones I found, to absolutely no surprise, were along NW 50th west of Pennsylvania, a stretch of road so legendarily bad that the city, which ran a small surplus this year, is actually promising to use some of the overage to fix it next year rather than wait for a city vehicle to disappear into a hole, never to be seen again.

The Del Rancho on Britton Road has closed, sort of. In fact, it's moved across the street and down a block, and it's no longer a traditional drive-in: the new facility is about the size of one of those seasonal snow-cone shops, and it has a drive-through and one curb-service space (if there are any others, I couldn't see them from the westbound lanes). Cutting expenses, I suppose. Still, better this than tampering with the Steak Sandwich Supreme; it's as sacred as the B. C. Clark jingle.

Bob Moore has relocated the Mazda dealership one very long block east to 130th and Kelley; as I passed it, I got the feeling that, given the vast sums I'd spent there, I'd financed this move myself. I'm not sure what's going to happen to the former location, though it's obviously being turned into something else; my best guess is that it's going to house Moore's Saab store, which is currently bunking with the Cadillac/Land Rover people down the block.

And around the corner from me, for a limited time only, are the remains of a snowman (he presumably looked better when he was new, but who among us didn't?) carrying a sign which reads, prophetically enough, "The End Is Near."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:43 PM to City Scene )
People for the Merkin Way

Giving no thought to mere traffic considerations, McGehee stands firm against Britney Spears' uncovered sissywhoha.

And by "against," I mean "in opposition to," not "adjoining." Just to make that clear.

(If the above link doesn't work, try this one.)

Addendum, next morning: "Britney Spears' Crotch" would make a great name for a snarly, Violent-Femmes-ish garage band, suggests Andrea Harris.

3 December 2006
He just keeps movin'

When I was ten years old, one of the most compelling records I'd ever heard jumped onto the radio and demanded my attention. Matt Lucas, a name I hadn't heard before, had taken a song I had heard before — "I'm Movin' On," by the country legend Hank Snow — and turned it into a wild rockabilly jump which, I said, many years later, "simulated the song's railroad train at least as successfully as, say, Arthur Honegger's Pacific 231."

Lucas eventually found that quote on the Web, perhaps found it amusing, and over the next couple of years, let me in on what he was up to. Most recently, it was cutting a bunch of tracks in Chicago with a solid backing band and some genuine legends, including guitarist James Burton and harpist Charlie Musselwhite. Lucas says there's enough stuff in the can for a second CD, so I figure if I want to hear it, I should encourage sales of the first, issued by Ten-O-Nine Records as Back in the Saddle Again.

Which is no problem for me, since it's a damned fine album. Starting — well, actually, finishing — with that Gene Autry chestnut, Lucas has put out a sterling example of what the pigeonholers insist on calling "roots" music, some of it country, some of it blues, some of it pop, and all of it performed with verve. Lucas is past 70 now, but he can still belt out a tune, and it's no surprise: after all, he's been doing this sort of thing for fifty years or so. Some of the delights: Lucas' own update of his 1963 hit, now called "Still Movin' On"; the bluesy take on Jimmy Reed's "Little Rain"; Burton's gritty guitar on "Little Sister," the Doc Pomus/Mort Shuman Elvis hit from way back when, and solo on Ike Turner's "Cuban Getaway"; the shuffle that turns out to be "Sheik of Araby". (Don't laugh. Even the Beatles did this one, in their audition for Decca Records before their eventual signing to EMI/Parlophone.)

I did miss hearing Matt on the drums, but he says the session engineer wasn't quite prepared for a drummer who also sings. Not to worry: Jon Hiller knows his way around this stuff. The production is clean without being sterile, and the energy never flags. Pour yourself a cold one, then pop Back in the Saddle Again into your CD player. I bet even your beer will taste better.

This is not why it's called the Netherlands

At least ten people in the Hague are recorded for posterity on the satellite photos of Google Earth either partially or entirely unclothed.

Just as a precautionary measure, I punched my own coordinates into the mapping system. Nothing to see. Fortunately.

Parasites? The Flood in Halo

Mrs. Bluebird tries to connect with her class by bringing in a subject they know, with dismaying results:

Knowing that my kids are pretty much obsessed with video games I told them that endocytosis, where a cell engulfs a large particle and brings it into the cell, is a lot like Pacman.

This leads to a conversation about how exocytosis (where the cell expells a large particle) is a lot like another character from another video game, one which I wasn't familiar with. I start asking them about this when one of my kids asks, "Don't you know anything about video games?"

The teacher admits that no, she doesn't own any of the gaming systems. The students gape open-mouthed: they'd never dreamed it was possible that anyone over the age of 10 didn't have at least a PS2.

One of my kids, Pig Pen, who is very messy but very, very bright, says, "You know, it's a good thing you and Mr. Bluebird don't have any kids, because it would be really mean to have them grow up without a video game system."

Wait until she tells them that there were times in the distant past, when dinosaurs still walked the earth, when nobody had video game systems.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:16 AM to Dyssynergy )
Returning to the fold

Seattle-based Jones Soda Co., which, like most manufacturers of soft drinks, switched from cane sugar to high-fructose corn syrup for cost reasons, will switch back to the real stuff in 2007, with the complete product line, including its non-soda drinks, reformulated (re-reformulated?) by summer.

Jones CEO Peter van Stolk, on the change:

It's better for you, it's better-tasting and, overall, it's better for the environment.

Jones Soda is a treat. It's an indulgence. If you are going to sell a treat, you should make people feel good about it. Pure cane sugar has a different taste. It's a cleaner taste, and people feel good about it. It's a little thing. But in the beverage industry, it's really challenging to do.

And you gotta believe a guy who can sell sodas in Green Bean Casserole and Turkey & Gravy flavors knows from "different taste," right?

My one regret, of course, is that Jones, all by itself, isn't big enough to persuade the government to abandon sugar-price supports.

(Via Girlhacker.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:21 PM to Worth a Fork )
Quote of the week

Britain's Channel 4 is working up a series called Virgin School, a "reality" series about a twentysomething student who attends a Dutch "sex school" and ultimately is deflowered (or whatever the term is for a guy) by a sex therapist.

TV Squad's Adam Finley wonders why they bothered:

Frankly, I've never understood why people feel they need to be taught how to have sex. It's fairly easy: stupid people have it all the time. It's a pretty basic evolutionary mechanism.

It's like driving. Fifty percent of the population is below average, but damned few of them will admit to it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:38 PM to QOTW )
4 December 2006
Strange search-engine queries (44)

Now is the time on dustbury.com when we dance through the referrer logs and laugh at some of the sillier things found therein.

Gilligan kept screwing up those rescues:  Of course. Otherwise, the series would have ended in six episodes (a three-hour tour).

Muslim names suited for virgos:  Islam rejects astrology in general, a decree from the Prophet himself — who reportedly was born on 26 April 570, making him a Taurus.

popeye's last name:  No one knows. Poopdeck Pappy said he couldn't remember it. (Rumors that it might have been "Garden" have so far been unfounded.)

bikini search engine:  You might try Booble.

baristas nude:  I think they're required to wear aprons.

i disagree with i think therefore i am:  How about "I am he as you are he as you are me and we are all together"?

what have I done wrong god:  If you have to ask, you probably already know.

is squid an aphrodisiac?  If it were, they'd charge a lot more for calamari.

how to accept a marriage proposal - not to appear overeager:  "Yes, I will" works pretty well.

What happens in men's locker rooms:  Two words: "towel snapping."

guacamole dip kraft firestone:  Yes, it does taste rather like a steel-belted radial.

Pros and cons of having a nuclear facility in palm springs:  Pro: cheap energy, limited greenhouse effect. Con: George Hamilton will drive by and wind up looking like Chris Rock.

does pepperoni contain maggots:  Not intentionally.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to You Asked For It )
Starting with 1 would simply not do

Nowadays it's all bar-coded, but in the days of wine and vinyl, records were catalogued with numbers that sometimes made sense and sometimes didn't. In fact, I once vowed that if I ever owned a record label, I would number its releases according to the Fibonacci series, a notion I abandoned when it became obvious that the second release, like the first, would be #1, and the third would perforce be #2. Besides, avoiding giving a record the number 1 was a standard practice, if only because it was a dead giveaway to the guy at the radio station who might or might not play your record that your label was brand-new and therefore the chances of your having a hit were fairly minimal.

Some curiosities I've noticed over the years:

  • Dave Marsh once noted that the Crows' 1953 R&B classic "Gee" was the second single (following Vola Watkins' "Seven Lonely Days") on George Goldner's Rama label, and indeed I've been able to find no earlier releases on the label, which had only just begun operations. "Gee" was released as Rama 5.

  • One thing Marsh was definitely wrong about was Musicor, which, he said, was started by Aaron Schroeder to release Gene Pitney's one-man demo "(I Wanna) Love My Life Away," issued as Musicor 1002. There was a 1001: the novelty record "Sick Manny's Gym," credited to "Leo DeLyon and the Musclemen." DeLyon, I'm guessing, is the same guy who did zillions of animation voiceovers.

  • According to legend, Berry Gordy started the Tamla series with 54024, in an homage of sorts to his first hit as a producer: Jackie Wilson's "Reet Petite," which was issued as Brunswick 55024. I have some doubts about this, since two different records have been reported to be Tamla 54024 — which, for Motown, wasn't that unusual an incident — and Gordy's first independent production, Marv Johnson's "Come to Me," which he licensed to United Artists, was initially pressed as Tamla 101. Further, Barrett Strong's pre-"Money" "Let's Rock" came out as Tamla 54022.

  • Some co-owned labels combined their numbers: Smash and Fontana through 1964 or so; London and Parrot around 1962-1965; all the Motown labels starting in 1982.

  • Stereo LPs presented all sorts of inventory issues. The simplest approach was taken by Capitol and RCA Victor: they changed a letter prefix. Some labels, like Elektra and Decca, prefixed a digit, usually 7. Columbia's pop series wound up as CL-[number] mono and CS-[number plus 6800] stereo. London and Liberty had entirely separate numbering sequences for mono and stereo, but eventually found it simpler to bring them into alignment. (Example: Mantovani's 1962 Moon River and Other Great Film Themes was issued on London as LL 3261/PS 249; the next Mantovani LP, Classical Encores, was LL 3269/PS 269.)

  • In 1982, the Warner-Elektra-Atlantic group began numbering their singles backwards. Fleetwood Mac's "Hold Me" was issued as Warner Bros. 29966; the next single issued from Mirage was "Gypsy," which came out as WB 29918. By mid-1985 they were down into the 28000s. The rationale for this was to make sure that when regular catalog lists came out, the newest stuff would be at the top. Really.

I, of course, have learned my lessons well. The next CD I grind out on my personal custom imprint will be 111129-2; it is the seventy-ninth disc in the sequence.

To say nothing of "cameltoe"

Isaac Schrödinger suggests that one benchmark for liberty in Islamic countries will be pornography:

Understand: when I say pornography, I'm including everything from Playboy to the most hardcore, um, stuff. Westerners might think that this definition is too broad but for many Muslims any woman without a burqa is hardcore.

Currently in almost all the Islamic lands, women have few, if any, rights. Men always come first and women come second (or sometimes not at all). Women should have the right to make their sexual or sensual choices. Pornography will thus be the ultimate expression of women's freedom in Dar al-Islam.

Of course, this doesn't mean that Muslims have to approve the whole enterprise. They also don't have to encourage their children to go into the adult entertainment industry. What it does mean is that they don't harm those who make that choice. That is the logic of liberty.

Another beneficial aspect: sexual tension among the sexes will be diminished. This will lead to a lessening of Jihad recruits. Of course, their numbers won't be fully eliminated since one can find numerous Jihadists among the sex-saturated West. But it'll certainly make an impact on those who piously dig Allah for the (imaginary) chicks.

I'm not sure I buy that last paragraph — we're awash in smut here in the Civilized World, and I fail to see any substantial lessening of sexual tension — but it's got to be awfully hard to hide the average explosive belt under a tight tank top.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:55 AM to Dyssynergy )
There's always another route

In researching the weird search-engine stuff, I go back through 3000 to 4000 visitor records, and I'm not just looking at Google and Yahoo and Ask results; I'm also looking for unexpected linkage and browser trends.

For those who may be curious, about 28 percent of visitors here use some form of Firefox, and 11 percent have upregraded Microsoft's Internet Explorer to version 7. Most of the rest are on IE 6, but two of last week's callers were on game systems: one on a Sega Dreamcast running Planetweb, and one on a Nintendo Wii using Opera.

I suspect that this place doesn't look too swift on the Dreamcast, which presumably hasn't been updated in a while, but I'm guessing that Opera on the Wii looks pretty much like Opera on any other platform.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:46 AM to Blogorrhea , PEBKAC )
Endowment computation

Saint Kansas, commenting at The Dawn Patrol, has happened upon a quintessential rule for conducting interviews:

The more I think about this whole approach to interviews in 2006, the more clear it becomes that, throughout time, there are only two questions that cannot be asked of a man: "How much do you make a year?" and "How big is your penis?" It strictly is not done.

On the face of it, this might seem to be a taboo, and maybe it is. On the other hand, there are ways to handle such things. In the July '85 Playboy Interview, Rob Reiner came out swinging, so to speak, in the very first paragraph: "Under no circumstances will I reveal the size of my penis."

For myself, I've never been asked either, and don't expect to be — and as it happens, the answer I would give is the same for both: "I wouldn't mind a little extra."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:18 PM to Say What? )
We'll have a bonfire to celebrate

Governor Henry, noting that there was a heck of a lot of snow last week, has canceled the burn ban for the four counties where it was still in effect.

This is not to say that we're permanently off the hook:

"Oklahomans must still use common sense when they are involved with any type of outdoor burning," said Gov. Henry. "If conditions merit in the weeks and months to come, I will not hesitate to reinstate the burn ban to protect lives and property in our state."

And it's not like we're out of the drought or anything: we're still running 20-25 percent below normal on rainfall here in the middle of the state, and other areas aren't doing even that well.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:32 PM to Soonerland )
I've got to be somebody

Jacqueline Passey has disappeared from Wikipedia, and she's not exactly upset about it:

As much as I like links and free publicity and all, even I don't think that C-list internet "celebrities" are notable enough to be included in an encyclopedia.

D-listers like myself aren't likely to be included either. But after reading this, I did sit down and ponder the question: "Do I know anyone who might rate a page in Wikipedia?"

Specifying as a condition of "know" actual physical existence in the same room at the same time, I decided that there might be two.

And I was right, sort of.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:16 PM to Dyssynergy )
5 December 2006
Thank God it's fryday

Fred knows from comfort food:

In the south, whatever comfort you find in your foods, they will most certainly be fried.

The smell of hot grease alone is enough to bring down a true southerner's blood pressure a notch or two. Stick something in it while hot — anything; doesn't much matter — and you've cooked up a batch of Southern Sedative. Let's see. What might be fry-able. How 'bout pickles?

Which is, of course, true. You can fry just about anything: okra, squash, ice cream, Snickers bars.

Refried beans, I should point out, are not actually fried twice, though I really ought to try that some day. My grandmother used to dish them up with sizzling fideo and follow with pan dulce.

I don't think she ever fried a pickle, though.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 AM to Worth a Fork )
Here's your Allowance

The Allow Card is a prepaid Debit MasterCard pitched to parents of teenagers. It comes with a fistful of parental controls, of which perhaps the neatest is the ability to block out specific types of merchants. The limit, of course, is how much is loaded into the card at any given moment.

I'd probably feel better about this if the proponents weren't also suggesting it as a fundraising tool.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:01 AM to Common Cents )
Most Eccentric Rich Capitalists Enjoy Driving Expensive Sedans

Miss Cellania has a list of Automotive Acronyms, of which perhaps the best known is Ford: "Found On Road Dead." (At least, I think it's the best-known; the only time I ever actually heard it spoken was while I was trying to get an old Mercury started in the parking lot at Heritage Park and a couple of clowns in a Pontiac tossed it at me as they whizzed by at 14 mph.)

I offered my standard (okay, maybe it's automatic) rendering of "Oldsmobile" — "Old, Leisurely-Driven Sedan Made Of Buick's Inferior Leftover Equipment."

Other old favorites:

  • Acura: "Another Car Using Rice Additives"
  • Dodge: "Digs Own Damn Grave Eventually"
  • Fiat: "Fix It Again, Tony"
  • Honda: "Hugely Overpriced Non-Domestic Automobile"
  • Hyundai: "How Your Usual Nerd Drives An Import"
  • Kia: "Korea's Incompetence Amazing"
  • Mazda: "Major Asshole Zipping Down Alleyways"
  • Saab: "Shape Appears Ass-Backwards"

And it took a while, but I finally turned up one for my own car: "It Never Found Its Niche: It's Truly Inconsequential."

(A truly prodigious list can be found here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:42 AM to Driver's Seat )
When an eel bites your arm

And it causes you harm, that's a moray.

Biden gets it, maybe

Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) was speaking to the Columbia (SC) Rotary Club, and he came up with this sensible observation:

"The mid-term election may have been a rejection of the policies of this administration," Biden said. "But it was not an embrace of the Democratic program or the Democratic Party. We're in a state of flux right now and have a lot of problems that need to be resolved."

And no, I don't think he plagiarized this address, since it also contained this howler:

Delaware, he noted, was a "slave state that fought beside the North. That's only because we couldn't figure out how to get to the South. There were a couple of states in the way."

John Ray complains about said howler:

Had he been anyone but a Democrat politician, his remarks would have been condemned in the media from coast to coast.

Which may well be true, but (1) South Carolinians, having lived with the likes of Strom Thurmond, know race-baiting when they see it, and this wasn't it, and (2) the Jesse Jackson wing of the party is busy these days complaining about comedians, fercrissake.

If nothing else, this indicates that Joe Biden isn't submitting his material for vetting by the Democratic groupthink committee, which must be considered a Good Thing.

6 December 2006
The island of misfit Oklahomans

Sarah's still waiting for the Most Wonderful Day of the Year:

I tend to self-identify with those "elite snobs" much more than I self-identify with the term "hillbilly." I'm a blue state girl who happens to live in a red state. I should know better than anyone that not everyone who lives in flyover country is a rube. Furthermore, intolerant morons exist everywhere — not solely in the Bible Belt.

I've become really sensitive about the whole thing. I'm a little hurt when people speak disparagingly about this part of the country, and irritated when they use sweeping generalizations to describe its population. I almost cried when someone recently commented on my "twang" (which I didnít even know I had), and was embarrassed to speak for days afterward, for fear of sounding ignorant. I remember all the times I've gone out of my way to prove to some out-of-state friend or relative that I'm nothing like the Red State Stereotype existing in their minds. And then, like always, I become embarrassed that Iím embarrassed. I shouldn't care. I know that. But I do.

There's only one thing that can put a stereotype out of its misery: the counterexample. Nothing silences "They all do that" faster than someone who doesn't do that. We don't have a lot of blue-state girls? Be a blue-state girl. And be unapologetic about it. There's a strong populist streak here, and always has been. (Two words: "Woody Guthrie.") And if someone from distant Stuffy Heights says "You're from Oklahoma? I never would have guessed," you've done your part. Next time he'll think twice before spouting off like, um, an intolerant moron.

One more thing: don't worry about the "twang." We were not put on this earth to sound like network-news correspondents.

And now, back to your regularly-scheduled reindeer games.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Soonerland )
They didn't have to count them all

There may have been four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, but there are forty million leaves in Montclair, New Jersey.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:29 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The din of equity

As if finding the marriage of true minds hadn't already proven difficult enough, here comes another impediment:

The thirties and forties are those periods when a singleton with some extra income decides to stop waiting for Mr. / Miss / Mx. Right and buy a house. Few singles appreciate the impact on one's marriageability of already owning real estate. It might make you seem attractively stable to potential spouses ... for a while. But beware! If you fall in love with someone who owns her own home, your three-bedroom kingdom might come to seem a ball and chain rather than a comfortable retreat from the wider world.

I note here that I closed on this place the day after my 50th birthday — and that someone would have to be just this side of Beyond My Wildest Dreams to get me to give it up.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:06 AM to Table for One )
I think he looks more like Tugboat Annie

David Hasselhoff, Roger DeBris is you:

Former Baywatch star David Hasselhoff will take the role of a flamboyant director in the Las Vegas production of the hit musical The Producers.

Hasselhoff, who is six foot four, will wear a dress to play the gay director Roger DeBris, whose shows have an unbroken record as flops.

"He is perfect for Roger DeBris because he has the best legs in Hollywood," Mel Brooks said in announcing casting for the Las Vegas production [last month].

Didn't we meet him on a summer cruise?

(Via Lawren.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:45 AM to Almost Yogurt )
From the Buck Floomberg files

What's cooking chez Scott Chaffin, True American:

Me, I plan to fry my chicken in Crisco cut with lard just like my grandmother did, and I plan to butter my biscuits with butter, not fake-ass crappy margarine, just as the good Lord intended. And I'm going to cook my steaks rare and bloody in peppered olive oil, and I'll like as not continue to forge right ahead with the chopping and cooking without washing my hands in scalding soapy water after I so much as look at poultry. Nobody's died on my watch yet, nor gotten even a little bit sick, including the one who's eaten the most of my cooking since I started cooking, and that's me. If I ever do pass on as a result of what I made a decision to ingest, well, nobody gets out of here alive, and at least I'm not running around like some flaky Chicken Little, waiting for the vague, vaporous sky to fall.

(Title explained here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:46 AM to Worth a Fork )

There are appropriate outlets for the electric range and for the dryer, but otherwise, my house is not wired for 220.

Kehaar hasn't been wired for much of anything lately, but still he manages to put out the Carnival of the Vanities, now in its 220th weekly edition.

What's that? You wanted more about the number? Okay, how's this? Four consecutive prime numbers — 47, 53, 59 and 61 — add up to 220.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:20 PM to Blogorrhea )
Smile, you're on Toll Road Camera

At the beginning of this month, Texas began collecting tolls on a stretch of State Highway 121, from Carrollton to the Denton County line. And no, there aren't any tollbooths:

TxTag® stickers, the Dallas area TollTag, and the Houston area EZ TAG are accepted on the road. Toll charges are deducted automatically from your prepaid toll account when you use the road.

If you don't have a toll tag, you're still welcome to use SH121. There's no need to prepay or register. Just get on, and we'll record your license plate, match the license plate number with the state's vehicle registration file, and send you a monthly bill for your toll charges.

About time they did something useful with a traffic camera. Of course, you'll pay more without the toll tag, but this is pretty much the rule with any toll road these days.

Will we ever get something like that here? Steven Roemerman asked the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority:

I contacted Jack Damrill, public relations for OTA, and asked him if this was in the future for Oklahoma. I got the impression that they were cool on the idea, the official position seems to be "We will watch what happens in Texas."

I'm not sure why we would not want to implement video tolling. Getting rid of toll booths would eliminate the need for the employees to man the booths; it would reduce unnatural congestion points, and would make the toll roads more accessible. But if our official stance is "wait and see," I guess we will wait and see.

I guess he's right.

7 December 2006
A new incentive plan

The Oklahoman's Darnell Mayberry predicted that the Hornets would go 0-3 on this road trip; the team was not happy to hear it, and said so.

Mayberry was philosophical:

Hopefully their anger lasts through Saturday and they do prove me wrong. If so, Byron Scott needs to give me a cut of his paycheck this week.

Cut that man a check. The Bees stayed close to the Lakers throughout the first three quarters last night and then pulled away in the fourth to score a 105-89 win. Chris Paul led all scorers (yes, even Kobe) with 26; Rasual Butler and Jannero Pargo came up with timely treys and scored 22 and 21 respectively. CP3 and Desmond Mason put together double-doubles, and Tyson Chandler, as usual, led all rebounders with 12.

It is a measure of the sheer awesomeness of Kobe that in a game where he estimated he was maybe 50 percent at best — he'd sprained his ankle Monday against Indiana, but thought he was ready to play — he still pulled down 24. And Bryant had kind words for Paul: "I love his game."

Busy weekend coming: at Seattle on Friday, then Golden State on Saturday. Let's hope the Bees are still pissed at Darnell.

Update, 9:35 am: Hmmm. The Oklahoman story on the game was written by ... John Rohde?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Net Proceeds )
The handwringing on the wall

While I have been known to do unspeakable things like defend Thomas Kinkade, I'll be the first person to tell you that sometimes it's the function of art to shake you up a bit. (I attended, for instance, this exhibit, and wrote about it here.)

"Shake you up a bit," though, stops well short of what Jennifer went through:

The art was as painful to look at, a withering internal glare the artist forced mercilessly upon herself; a train wreck of pain and destruction, twisted fear and mental instability, so hideous you couldn't take your eyes off it. Even when the gawking began to wrench knots in the spot where your neck greets your shoulders; even when finally seeing it for what it was bruised your eyes. Even when you realized what you were seeing was the bottomless pit of one woman's tattered, tortured, wilted soul, the lurid, hellish evidence left smattered and splattered on the wall for public consumption. Not one thing more, and not one single thing less.

This was, I believe, the desired effect. From a promotional page for the same artist, and possibly even the same exhibit:

Using her own visual vocabulary, [the artist] orchestrates past, present and anticipated events connected to her misplaced sense of self. Utilizing paint, ink drawings, found objects and collage, [her] work references her own feelings of inferiority, abnormality, social anxiety, nervousness, and misplacement.

Jennifer recalls:

My insides twisted, my face flushed hot, my hands shook. From disgust and fear. From devastating sadness and aimless pity. From anger, directed toward an vast unknown, so vile its metallic aftertaste stung my throat.

A little of that, I submit, goes a long, long way.

The artist in question, apparently, is the visual equivalent of Jandek, a few of whose recordings I have heard over the years, despite warnings from Irwin Chusid, who says things like this about him:

[I]magine a subterranean microphone wired down to a month-old tomb, capturing the sound of maggots nibbling on a decaying corpse and the agonized howls of a departed soul desperate to escape tortuous decomposition and eternal boredom. That's Burt Bacharach compared to Jandek.

And yet Jandek has made forty-eight albums at this writing. (Corwood Industries, Jandek's record label, is normal in one respect, anyway: they started numbering with "0739".)

There is, I conclude, a market for this sort of thing. The Muses, I assume, have their off-days, or a fairly warped sense of humor — or, conceivably, all of the above.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Keister bonnet

Given the fairly-indisputable premise that there is an abundance of asshats in show business, there exists an ongoing debate over whether this is because they're just naturally attracted to showbiz, or because showbiz, owing to its nature, eventually inspires people to degrees of rectal millinery.

Those of you who got better grades than I will recognize this immediately as the old nature vs. nurture controversy, scaled up to marquee size. In the past I have remained resolutely in the center, acknowledging equal contributions of both.

Now I'm not so sure. In the mail this week was a card with a stylized photo of a blue-eyed child and the caption: "You knew early on that you weren't like everybody else."

"So did we," it continues on the inside, and then it gets right down to the real nitty-gritty:

What is it about owning an Infiniti I30 that sets you apart? Is it recognizing the high level of satisfaction that our vehicles offer? Is it the superb blend of elegance and performance? Is it the inspiration and innovation? No. It's all of these things. And now, there's even more.

Introducing a new approach to service: Welcome to the Infiniti Inner Circle.

As an Infiniti owner who understands the advantages of having your car serviced by factory-trained technicians, you've been selected to join our inner circle. The Infiniti Inner Circle is designed to remind you when your car is due for maintenance, communicate with you via your preferred means of contact, and work with you to help ensure that your I30 operates at peak performance. Most importantly, we'll give you the attention an Infiniti owner deserves.


There follows the usual stuff, a card to fill out to indicate my "preferred means of contact," and the summary: "The Infiniti Inner Circle. It's exceptional. Just like you."

And it occurred to me, after I stopped guffawing at this, that a daily dose of sucking up at this level might turn anyone into a veritable fedora of the fundament.

(Disclosure: Gwendolyn has, in fact, 92,497 miles.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:37 AM to Driver's Seat , Say What? )
Ellipsis sweet as candy

Dawn Eden talks to the Washington Times, and there are ... rather a lot of ... apparent ... gaps.

Since she isn't disowning the Times interview, I assume that the points she made were not affected by the nefarious practice of Dowdification.

When you change lanes, the baby Jesus cries

I link to this purely for its amusement value, and there's plenty of it, what with the bald assertion that there have been "460,000 Additional Motor Vehicle Fatalities Since US Supreme Court Banned School Prayer in 1963." (There's even a graph, just in case you had any doubt.)

Then again, that's a side issue: what this fellow really wants is to get people who shouldn't be driving off the roads entirely. On the face of it, this isn't a bad idea, until you look at the people he thinks shouldn't be driving:

  • Anyone who's black;
  • Anyone who's female.

Jalopnik linked to this drivel because, they said:

We ... hope 100,000 sets of Jalopnik eyeballs blow the hell out of the bandwidth on his puny, $3.99 server.

And, well, the least I can do is to help.

8 December 2006
Sticky situations

A few days back I put up a brief piece about this year's Bad Sex in Fiction award.

It occurs to me, or at least to someone, that the award might actually be superfluous, because "all sex scenes are gratuitous":

There used to be something of a point to sex scenes in novels. Back in the 18th and 19th Centuries. The average semi-literate shopkeeper, who learned everything he knew about sexuality from bawdy limericks, and could count his sexual conquests by the number of different genital rashes that appeared in a calendar month, loved to read racy novels written in French and printed on parchment soaked in vinegar to rinse off the ink from Napoleon: I'll Be Back. It was exciting, back then, to read about having sex on sheets, and to indulge the fantasy of raping the scullery maid without the "comeuppance" of being castrated by her scythe-wielding boyfriend.

By the 20th Century, most people had at least heard of sex, and fictional portrayals began to move on to exotic locales and positions, and introduced the revolutionary concept of having extramarital intercourse without a slow descent into Hell afterwards. In the last quarter-century, the average teenager's sexual experiences were beginning to outstrip the inventive capacity of wallflower future authors who were in the library salivating over the one dog-eared copy of Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn when their classmates were exploring the seductive powers of pre-mixed vodka and orange.

Now, of course, anyone with Internet access can have any sexual question answered, and any fetish satiated, in 0.13 seconds. So, the only sexual frontier left for fiction to explore is what it might be like if Galadriel, Lois Lane and Ally McBeal gang-banged Professor Snape and the fat guy from Lost.

Such a tease, that Lois.

But the real reason that they're extraneous is that they never seem to have anything new to say:

Almost all of them could be edited down to "And then they did it," without losing anything original.

Human anatomy, after all, is pretty well standardized. Once upon a time the characters were portrayed as breaking the laws of North Podunk; today they're portrayed as breaking the laws of physics.

(Which, of course, may explain why Lois Lane and Superman ... um, never mind.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Reconnecting the dots

Consumer Reports' auto-reliability ratings are known nationwide, and while some swear by them, others swear at them. (An example of the latter is here.) While their data for cars I have owned have tracked fairly well with my own experience — and yes, I do fill out the questionnaire every year — obviously anything I could report is too small a sample for any kind of meaningful statement.

I have noticed, though, that they've changed some of the methodology. Used to be, there was a definite range for each colored dot: the "white" ("average") dot meant a failure 5.0 to 9.3 percent of the time, and that was that; half-red and full-red dots were better, half-black and full-black dots were worse. To make this work, you had to compare it to their statistical Average Model, which had dots of various colors in each of the problem areas surveyed.

The new system, detailed in the 2007 Buying Guide, is on a relative scale, and all vehicles of a given model year are considered as a group before the dot is assigned. They're not giving out the actual percentage ranges anymore, and maybe that's just as well, since I never found them especially useful. They did state, however, that black dots, full or half, will not be issued unless the actual problem rate is 3 percent or higher, which seems reasonable: if the average for such-and-such a subsystem overall is 1 percent and the same subsystem on Brand X fails 2 percent of the time, you're still looking at a fairly-negligible risk, even though it's by definition worse than average.

Under the new system, Gwendolyn and her sisters draw 11 red or half-red dots, three white ones, and one of the dreaded black ones, under the heading "Ignition". (This is consistent with at least one other survey I've seen.) Still, no survey can tell you for sure the one thing you really want to know, which is "Is this going to happen to my car?"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:57 AM to Driver's Seat )
Barely passable

There's a scene in Bel Kaufman's novel Up the Down Staircase in which an obsessed teenager sends a love letter to the English teacher who is the object — the direct object, one assumes — of her fantasies. He grades it and returns it to her; despondent, she throws herself out a window.

This is not to suggest that Lindsay Lohan's New Manifesto is a plea for self-defenestration or anything like that, but Go Fug Yourself is happy to oblige, just the same.

And if nothing else, this suggests that for all the badmouthing Britney gets, she's at least a better writer than La Lohan.

With Owen Wilson as Ron the Baptist

Something I quoted from Premiere's Libby Gelman-Waxner:

The Da Vinci Code suggests that Jesus was actually married to Mary Magdalene, and that they were very happy and had a child. It's the Pretty Woman take on the New Testament, with a powerful guy falling for a hooker. This theory of course made me violently jealous of Mary Magdalene, because she could go to cocktail parties or cookouts and just casually say things like "Well, when Jesus and I were in Aruba . . ." or "Can you believe it? I had the baby two weeks ago, and I'm already back in a bikini. It's like a miracle!"

Let's face it, Jesus would have been the best husband of all time. He was gorgeous, he was incredibly compassionate, and he was a carpenter, so none of your cabinets would ever stick.

Perhaps Libby was more prescient than she thought:

From Variety, news of a new romantic comedy called Prodigal Son: "Story revolves around a workaholic single woman who is set up on a date by her mother. Her date, a handsome, kind and caring carpenter who works at Ikea, turns out to be Jesus Christ, who's returned for Armageddon and settled in contemporary Los Angeles. Deal was worth high six-figures."

Well, you have to figure that Armageddon isn't going to start in Indianapolis, but apart from that, what's wrong with this picture?

I hope Ms Gelman-Waxner collects at least a "Suggested by" credit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:00 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Let's school these phish

You know, guys, you could be a lot more successful with your phishing if you didn't come up with stilted, unintelligible crap like this:

You have been chosen by our online department to take part in our quick and easy online departament. In return we will credit $20 to your account — Just for your time! Helping us better understand how our customers feel benefits everyone. With the information collected we can decide to direct a number of changes to improve and expand our online service.

We kindly ask you to spare two minutes of your time in taking part with this unique offer!

I kindly ask you to bite me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:19 PM to Scams and Spams )
So this is Christmas

The late John Lennon occasionally seemed like a character out of Dickens, putting aside his possibly-feigned misanthropy just often enough to wish you well. Despite my own discomfort with the season, I figure I can at least act interested for the next few weeks.

One thing that helps is "White Christmas" — not the weather report, but the Irving Berlin megahit — and while it's forever associated with Bing Crosby, my own favorite version was cut by the Drifters back around 1955. It's still in print, or whatever the term is for recordings that are still available, but you don't have to hunt up an old 45 (unless you want to, in which case it's Atlantic 1048); an old friend/regular reader has kindly passed along the link to a Flash animation set to this classic R&B arrangement, and this seems like a good time to share.

On the other hand, she also sent me some fruitcake, and you're not getting any of that.

Hold on to your deposits

Just about two years ago, I made some noise about Malcolm "Yugo Your Way" Bricklin's plan to bring over Chinese cars for the North American market.

Well, put that on hold for the moment: Bricklin's Visionary Vehicles and China's Chery Automobile are no longer Best Friends Forever. Instead, Bricklin will cherry-pick (sorry) a variety of Chinese manufacturers, perhaps including Chery, in search of suitable vehicles to sell over here for cheap. A Visionary spokesperson says that Bricklin will select three Chinese partners in the first quarter of 2007.

Meanwhile, Chery is talking to DaimlerChrysler about a possible small Mopar-branded car, and Shanghai Automotive, builder of the Roewe, has a tie-up with General Motors. I have to figure that one way or another, we're eventually going to get Chinese cars here, even if they're old British cars built in Oklahoma.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:47 PM to Driver's Seat )
Sonic boomed

In 1999, the then-hapless Los Angeles Clippers scored three points in the second quarter in a game against the Lakers, the second-worst quarter in the history of the NBA. Halfway through the second at Seattle, the Hornets had scored only two. The Bees recovered somewhat in the next six minutes with 13 more points, but they were down 49-33 at the half. In the third, the Sonics faltered, and the Hornets came back to within three, but a 12-point fourth quarter doesn't beat anyone: Seattle takes this one, 94-74, despite the absence of Ray Allen.

Not a whole lot good happened for the Hornets. Only two players scored in double figures: Chris Paul had 16 points, Desmond Mason 10. Tyson Chandler did rule the boards, pulling down 13 rebounds. But the real problem was turnovers: everyone who played had at least one, and the final total was a frightening 25.

As for the Sonics, they were erratic without Allen, though Chris Wilcox filled in well. The future of the franchise may seem to be in doubt, but I don't believe that it's been a factor in the team's actual play.

The rubber game of the Bees' road trip is tomorrow night at Golden State. At this point, I'm making no predictions.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:58 PM to Net Proceeds )
9 December 2006
A brace of redheads

Laney, 3 yrs 8 mosBecause everybody just loves gratuitous grandchild photos, here's a couple of them. First, Laney contemplates that mysterious girl in the mirror; next, Jackson observes from a safe distance. (Bigger versions are just a click away.) Clearly they've gotten this hair from their mom: there aren't any carrot-tops on my branch of the family tree.

Jackson, 9 mosAnd speaking of Alicia, she's been very good about delivering photos to us Distant Relatives, and this seems like as good a time to thank her. I couldn't ask for a better daughter-in-law. (After all, it takes a remarkable woman to put up with one of us Hill guys. Ask any of us.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:16 AM to Next Generation )
And I will give to you summer wine

Lee Hazlewood is dying, and that somehow seems wrong: it's like he's been here forever. Certainly that voice of his, instantly recognizable yet utterly mysterious, must have originated somewhere in the eternal. Even people who weren't Lee Hazlewood, which is to say everyone, somehow managed to sound like Lee Hazlewood when they did his songs (cf. Sanford Clark's "The Fool," penned by Hazlewood under the nom de disque "Naomi Ford").

This much you and I know: Hazlewood teamed up with Nancy Sinatra in the middle Sixties and wrote "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," a song so full of attitude not even Jessica Simpson could screw it up. The Nancy and Lee duets are legendary, especially the folk-psych "Some Velvet Morning", which continues to defy explanation — until you note that Hazlewood has a granddaughter named Phaedra. "And how she gave me life," indeed. Then again, Phaedra was born in 1998, thirty years after "Some Velvet Morning."

(Aside: One song that turns up on the soundtrack to Allison Anders' 1996 Brill Building exegesis Grace of My Heart is "Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder," a lovely duet by Tiffany Anders and Boyd Rice which evokes the dark shimmer of "Some Velvet Morning" as few other recordings have, or can.)

Hazlewood's Sixties solo albums range from collectible to just this side of the Holy Grail; some of them are finally finding their way onto CD. And his presumed last album is titled Cake or Death. Only Lee Hazlewood could capture the human condition in thirteen characters — including spaces.

(Via Donna, who once asked me if I had a copy of the Sinatra/Hazlewood duet "Sand." I did.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:00 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Tales of retail

Given my underly-generous budget and known tendencies toward parsimony, some may have wondered why I'd actually spend the long dollar to have my car serviced at the dealership, generally the most expensive option when you have a choice.

But I can't always be sure I have a choice, since I've done no survey of local independent mechanics to see which of them won't frown (or jump for joy, which is probably worse) when a seven-year-old Infiniti comes through the door. And there are distinct advantages to letting the dealer do the dirty work, not least of which is the fact that he either has the parts on hand or can get them quickly.

What's more, the timing works for me: I can drop off Gwendolyn at seven-thirty and still manage to stroll into 42nd and Treadmill before anyone notices. And the dealership has a major incentive to get the work done in a hurry, inasmuch as they've lent me a G35 in the interim and they'd like to have it back at some point. I might see things differently were the number of persons in this household greater than 1, but since I have to do all this stuff myself, I figure my time makes up for the higher number on the sales slip.

But staff expertise is worth paying for even if you don't have to pay for it. I pulled up at the New Balance store in Spring Creek Village today and requested, deadpan, a replacement for my old 587s. She didn't even bat an eye; she suggested three models which had the features of the 587, and recommended the 1122 as being the closest approximation to my out-of-date shoes. On the off-chance that this was being suggested mostly for its marginally-higher price, I pointed to one of the others, and I tried it on. Good enough, but not great. For comparison, I requested the 1122, and it was indeed closer to what I was used to. Sale made. (It is theoretically possible to order discontinued styles, but inasmuch as I take an outlier size — 14 EE — I am not hopeful about the prospects.) And while $120 is a fair chunk of change for what is, after all, a pair of running shoes fercryingoutloud, some stores charge even more than that, and I have qualms about ordering shoes online, even though NB's 14 EE is usually spot on. (Amazon.com has them for just under $100.)

Not everything went quite so well today; my favorite car wash (it's in the Village) wasn't overly busy, and I had traces of last week's snowstorm to remove, but neither of their change machines would cough up any quarters for any of the $8 worth of bills I tried. I hate when that happens.

Update, 8:30 pm: If you think Infiniti service is pricey — which, by the way, it is — try tending to a Ferrari.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:28 PM to Common Cents )
Borat was here

Obviously I can't keep track of everything that happens in this town — I have a day job and the occasional need to sleep — but I do regret missing Borat Sagdiyev's address to Oklahoma City officials.

Yes, really. Carrie Coppernoll reports:

[Sacha Baron] Cohen made a stop here in Oklahoma City under the guise of his character in 2004, and his film crew documented the entire painful display. Early that year, Borat attended, of all things, an Oklahoma City Traffic and Transportation Commission meeting. I would bet most of Oklahoma City has never attended an Oklahoma City Traffic and Transportation Commission meeting.

During a 17-minute ramble to the commission, Cohen talked about democracy, women and his love interest in one of the female commissioners. He then asked for 10 minutes of silence to remember a Soviet massacre that heíd made up. Cohen also visited the Oklahoma Republican Party Headquarters and learned how to give a speech from Gary Jones, who was then Republican Party chairman.

Sadly, none of his shenanigans were part of the movie.

What did Borat say? For the benefit of those of us in the US and A who missed it, here's a transcript of his speech before the city fathers, complete with audio — the meeting, as usual, was broadcast live over cable channel 20 — and a brief news clip (audio only) from KWTV which identified Sacha Baron Cohen in the context of Da Ali G Show.

And City Council requests that members of the general public limit their speeches to three minutes. Purely coincidental, I'm sure.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:04 PM to City Scene )
And you thought they only enriched uranium

A week ago I was grumbling about something called "Man XL", yet another Product of Infinite Bogosity which promises to expand the distance from foreskin (where present) to base. I have continued to receive occasional spams promoting this stuff, but none were noteworthy until today, when one arrived with a link to a surprising-looking URL: mullahs.net.

It is, of course, highly unlikely that anyone in the Iranian inner circle is actually running this operation, but there's something sort of poetic about the notion of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad trying to move bogus wang pills in a desperate attempt to keep the reactors running.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:20 PM to Scams and Spams )

Both the Hornets and the Warriors started the night at .500, so it probably wasn't too much of a surprise when the first half ended in a 45-45 tie.

Then Desmond Mason, who had had almost half of those points, didn't appear for the third quarter, and no one knew why. Eventually the story came out: a dental problem, presumably dating from late in the second. But by then the Warriors were on the move, and when Mason returned near the end of the third, Golden State had piled up an eleven-point lead, which would only grow in the fourth. Mason, bottled up, could manage only two more points, Byron Scott threw in the towel at the four-minute mark, and the final was an uninspiring 101-80.

The scary aspect to this was that if you factor out Mason, who hit 10 of 11 from the field, the Bees shot a miserable 34.4 percent. Despite this, Jannero Pargo managed a double-double off the bench — 15 points, 12 rebounds, and even 8 assists — and Rasual Butler picked up 13 points including three treys. But Golden State had five players in double figures, with Mickael Pietrus scoring 22 to lead the Warriors and Andris Biedrins earning the double-double.

The Hornets are now 1-2 against Golden State, with the final game coming next month. Cleveland comes to the Ford Center on Monday, and your guess is as good as mine as to how they'll contain LeBron. Two games follow in New Orleans, against the Spurs and the Mavericks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:59 PM to Net Proceeds )
10 December 2006
Browning the Grey Lady

Venezuela is raising customs taxes by 15 percent on a number of imports, including Scots whisky, razor blades, sailboats — and toilet paper.

Fausta suggests a plan which will benefit both suffering Venezuelan consumers and an ailing US newspaper:

[The New York Times] should give a small grant to the people of Venezuela so they can subscribe to the "All News That's Fit To Fabricate Print" dead-tree rag, on the condition that the money is used only to pay for the subscription. The NYT will up its paid subscriber numbers — after all, there are 26 million people in Venezuela — and the Venezuelans will save money.

And just how, precisely, will they save money?

[T]he stone-cold sober Venezuelans will let the stubble grow, sit in the dark when the power goes out, and reach for the New York Times "in the loo" when the non-essential tp runs out.

The downside? The Times, so far as I know, is not known for its absorbency.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:41 AM to Dyssynergy )
Don't shoot me, I'm only the headline writer

News Item: Liberal man sentenced to more than 20 years for kids' deaths.

You mean they're handing out sentences based on someone's political stances now? Sheesh. You'd think that —


That's not what that means at all?

Oh. Never mind.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:22 AM to Say What? )
A minor scrape

Having somewhat depleted my supply of Schick Super Twin disposable razors (as discussed here), I was forced to seek out a fresh bag, and for some reason, they were unusually hard to find at the usual supermarket. Eventually I spotted them on the very bottom shelf, almost all the way into the toothpaste section.

What's interesting here is that Schick makes an identical (except for color) ST for women, and its vertical location was near the very center. After looking over the entire razor display, I concluded that:

  1. Guys are more likely to spend too much for razors, and therefore the hyperexpensive models are given prime viewing space;
  2. I'm not too proud to shave with something pink.

Price for a bag of 10, either variety: $7.99.

Do not misunderestimate your spell-checker

LiveJournal's apparently will suggest "Vulgarians" for "Walgreens", demonstrating convincingly that somebody once shopped there.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:27 PM to Say What? )
I'll meter some day

A comment of mine on the November blizzard:

Both electric and gas meters are usually read on the 29th, so I figure I won't have to pay for compensating for the cold until early January.

Note to self: You are wrong, dekatherm-breath. The guy didn't come to read the gas meter until the 4th of December, so I got to pay for 34 days' worth of service, including those wretchedly-cold days, on this month's bill, which exceeds last December's bill by ten percent or so despite a one-third drop in the price of gas.

None of these figures, of course, will include the service charges, delivery fees, and all the other neat stuff they have to increase the take, inasmuch as they're not allowed to turn a profit on actual sales of gas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:08 PM to Family Joules )
Bring your stud finder

Burbed.com has a listing for a condo on Male Terrace in Fremont, California. That's a condo, not a condom.

Then again, I could be wrong:

Shows Well * Great Location within Complex * Near Shop School and Pubic Transit *

For someone's sake, I hope said transit isn't, um, rapid.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:15 PM to Dyssynergy )
11 December 2006
Strange search-engine queries (45)

I assure you, I wouldn't keep going to this particular well were I not absolutely certain I'd find something worth bringing up.

buy roddenberry's dill pickles:  Sandwiches. The final frontier.

novelty stores for purchasing butt plugs in oklahoma city:  Of course, "novelty stores." You think people would look for them at Best Buy?

all the things i never said:  Maybe they're on Google.

mind control tammy wynette illuminati:  Stand by your fnord.

"lou rawls" proctology:  I guess love really is a hurtin' thing.

jokes about women turning 50:  Bad idea. Trust me on this.

"involuntary celibacy" "support group":  Nice idea, but I don't think I'd go there looking for dates.

where have all the children gone:  Gone to my yard, every one. When will they ever learn?

turnstile cromulence:  Embiggens the subway ridership.

when do you change the timing belt infiniti I30:  When you feel like throwing money away, since it doesn't have one.

tampon wedding dress sheffield:  Waste not, want not.

why does the "soulmate calculator" need my cell phone number?  Read the fine print. It sends all its data via text message, which you get to pay for.

mayonnaise hair news:  You should not have mayonnaise in your hair.

do bats have hair on their wings:  I told you to keep those bats out of the mayonnaise.

why does 2005 grand prix GXP have bad front tire wear?  Front-wheel drive and 295 horsepower? What do you think?

how to make your penis taste better:  Two words: "flavored condoms."

when to leave kittens alone:  When Little Willie John tells you to.

"six toes" sexy:  I'll take your word for it, but I'll bet it's hard as heck to get her to wear sandals.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to You Asked For It )
No substitutions

Over at Mystic Chords, John Salmon links to a YouTube video of Alison Balsom performing Paganini's Caprice No. 24.

Balsom plays trumpet, not violin, so Salmon offers this caveat:

[F]or those who are pissed off when pieces are transcribed for instruments different from the ones they were originally written for, you needn't listen.

I'm sure such people exist, but I am not one of them. In fact, I've heard this Caprice on piano and guitar — here's a guitar version — and I assume I'd enjoy hearing it on any instrument with comparable range.

Then again, range (I'm guessing) may be the issue for some people, since transcriptions are often in a key different from the original. If you generally dislike transcriptions, I'd like to hear why.

Take these chains from us

I once suggested that a Banana Republic store might be a good fit for Bricktown, and people looked at me as though I were proposing to tear down the Acropolis and replace it with a Long John Silver's. "There's one in Utica Square," I argued, but nobody wanted to hear about things that worked in Tulsa; the No Chains sign is up.

And that's not necessarily a good thing, says Virginia Postrel:

Stores don't give places their character. Terrain and weather and culture do. Familiar retailers may take some of the discovery out of travel — to the consternation of journalists looking for obvious local color — but by holding some of the commercial background constant, chains make it easier to discern the real differences that define a place: the way, for instance, that people in Chandler [Arizona] come out to enjoy the summer twilight, when the sky glows purple and the dry air cools.

Besides, the idea that America was once filled with wildly varied business establishments is largely a myth. Big cities could, and still can, support more retail niches than small towns. And in a less competitive national market, there was certainly more variation in business efficiency — in prices, service, and merchandise quality. But the range of retailing ideas in any given town was rarely that great. One deli or diner or lunch counter or cafeteria was pretty much like every other one. A hardware store was a hardware store, a pharmacy a pharmacy. Before it became a ubiquitous part of urban life, Starbucks was, in most American cities, a radically new idea.

And yet we want those stores; we just don't want those names on them.

The contempt for chains represents a brand-obsessed view of place, as if store names were all that mattered to a city's character. For many critics, the name on the store really is all that matters. The planning consultant Robert Gibbs works with cities that want to revive their downtowns, and he also helps developers find space for retailers. To his frustration, he finds that many cities actually turn away national chains, preferring a moribund downtown that seems authentically local. But, he says, the same local activists who oppose chains "want specialty retail that sells exactly what the chains sell — the same price, the same fit, the same qualities, the same sizes, the same brands, even." You can show people pictures of a Pottery Barn with nothing but the name changed, he says, and they'll love the store. So downtown stores stay empty, or sell low-value tourist items like candles and kites, while the chains open on the edge of town. In the name of urbanism, officials and activists in cities like Ann Arbor and Fort Collins, Colorado, are driving business to the suburbs. "If people like shopping at the Banana Republic or the Gap, if that's your market — or Payless Shoes — why not?" says an exasperated Gibbs. "Why not sell the goods and services people want?"

The argument is always "It would put our local retailers out of business," even if we have no such local retailers.

Meanwhile, the IHOP in the middle of Bricktown flourishes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:21 AM to Soonerland )
The G. is for "Glacier"

Beauty, like every other form of currency on the planet, is unequally distributed, and being a fan of going for what you really want, and not being a fan of what passes for egalitarianism these days, I find myself sort of endorsing this manifestly unfair enterprise:

Especially in online dating's early days, "It wasn't always the most attractive people — it was the boldest, the bravest, and the most desperate," says [Jason] Pellegrino, who believes that less than 15 percent of traditional Internet daters are great lookers. "Let's face it — when you go online, you look at photos and the profiles second. I wanted to create a site for a demographic that was being overlooked on the online market."

And that demographic, he says, is comprised of the guys and girls gorgeous enough to cause whiplash.

Here's how HotEnough.org works: Potential members submit three photos, including a full-body shot. If Pellegrino and his silent business partner deem the person "hot enough," they are moved into the voting arena where the 150 current members check them out. In order to win membership, a prospective hottie needs to be rated at least an "8" on the Hot-O-Meter scale of 10 by at least 25 people.

Inasmuch as it would take plastic surgery, or metallurgy, or cosmic radiation, or something, to bring me up to a 3, I'm obviously not a candidate for this service. On the other hand, it won't have any effect on my own activities, or lack thereof — those who do qualify are not likely to have been looking my way otherwise — and I persist in believing that if you're looking for a trophy, the most logical approach is to go to, well, a trophy shop.

(Via Fark.com.)

Addendum, 12 December: Rachel notes that this isn't exactly a new concept.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:29 PM to Table for One )
The public is aghast

The last time the Environmental Protection Agency tinkered with their gas-mileage ratings, back in the 1980s, they didn't do anything about the methodology; instead, they applied a fudge factor "to account for factors not included in the tests".

Beginning in 2008, they will improve the quality of that fudge factor. From deep within the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers' new Your Mileage Will Vary site, the nature of the changes:

Currently, EPA relies on data from two laboratory tests to determine the city and highway fuel economy estimates. With new labels, fuel economy estimates will reflect vehicle-specific data from tests designed to replicate three real-world conditions that can significantly affect fuel economy: high speed/rapid acceleration driving, use of air conditioning, and cold temperature operation.

Of course, no two people drive exactly the same way, so you still may not reach the numbers on the label.

The following minor bits of historical data may be of interest:

  • Sandy: EPA 22 city, 28 highway; actual over 55k miles 23 city, 29 highway.
  • Gwendolyn: EPA 20 city, 28 highway; actual over 5k miles 21 city, 28 highway.

Of course, I drive when it's cold, with the A/C on, and with the pedal in close proximity to the metal.

Rocking Cleveland

Maybe we should just play those stronger teams; we seem to do so much better.

It was close all night: tied at the half, Hornets down only one after the third. But in the fourth, the Bees played D, and played it tenaciously; LeBron James managed no points in the quarter, and the Hornets dropped the Cavaliers, 95-89.

And get this: Byron Scott only played eight, and all three of the bench personnel scored in double figures: Jannero Pargo with 15, Marc Jackson with 14, Hilton Armstrong with 12. Chalk up another double-double for Chris Paul, who scored 30 points and served up 11 dimes; Tyson Chandler got his usual 10 rebounds and blocked four shots; Desmond Mason, who kept King James bottled up all night, got 12 points.

The Cavs played hard — four players, including James, in double digits, and Anderson Varejao bettered his career high with 17 — but tonight, it wasn't quite hard enough. And the memory of that last game with Cleveland, in which LeBron sank the game-winner in the last second, will be allowed to fade away.

The next two games are in the Big Easy: the Spurs on Thursday, the Mavericks on Saturday. After that, Florida beckons.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:28 PM to Net Proceeds )
12 December 2006
He prayed, she prayed

If there's a religious gender gap, what's behind it? Bryan Caplan takes a stab at it:

1. Men and women have different cognitive orientations — a difference that is in large part genetic. As the Myers-Briggs personality test powerfully confirms, men are more Thinking, and women are more Feeling. (Or if you prefer the Five Factor Model, men are less Agreeable).

On a deep level, then, men are more inclined to want some hard proof that religious claims are true, while women are more willing to take religious teachings on faith because they sound nice. Burn me at the stake if you must, but it's true.

2. As the great Timur Kuran persuasively argues, social pressure leads to "preference falsification." If other people hassle you for lacking piety — as they do in traditional societies — people will pretend to be pious even if they aren't. The weaker the social pressure, the more sincere people become.

In traditional societies, then, men keep their irreligion to themselves and pretend to be as religious as women. (As Kuran emphasizes, preference falsification also inhibits communication, so men who would be open to irreligious arguments are less likely to ever hear and adopt them).

As traditional mores break down, however, men feel freer to be themselves — and share their doubts with others. In contrast, since their piety was relatively sincere from the start, women don't respond much to the fall in social pressure.

I'm not inclined to go hunt down a stake and a bag of Kingsford just yet, but something about this seems a little disquieting, despite the distant echo of the ring of truth.

(Via Michael Katsimbris.)

Cars with benefits

I don't think I'm in the target market for a plug-in electric car: I can see owning one as a second vehicle for short jaunts around town, but my garage accommodates only a single car, and it's got to cover most of my conceivable needs.

That said, I think they'll sell fairly well eventually, and while I have my doubts about them, at least they're not going to kill the power grid.

They're not going to save any money, either, but that's not the issue:

The Wall Street Journal reported that these plug-ins will probably cost an extra $6,000 to $10,000 more than our current crop of non-hybrid vehicles, even when mass produced. Batteries are a big part of that premium, so advances in that technology may make the differences smaller in coming years, but as most people already realize, hybrids aren't likely to pay for themselves for at least several years of ownership. Critics often say that hybrids will never pay for themselves on reduced fuel use alone, which is usually true. What most people fail to factor into that equation, however, is that consumers often value the "greenness" of their cars above dollars and cents. The feel-good factor is a big part of the ownership experience. Just like most people don't recycle their cans, bottles and papers for the money, as much as for the notion that they are doing something positive for the planet and cleaning up after themselves.

I've always suspected that the main reason the Toyota Prius dominates hybrid sales is its unquestioned hybridness (hybridity?): there is no non-hybrid version to dilute the branding. Previously in these pages:

Toyota's genius, I think, was building the Prius on its own platform, so it couldn't be directly compared to the Corolla or the Echo/Yaris or the Camry or anything else they sell over here. Honda's Insight was similarly dissimilar, but its penalty-box-on-wheels nature probably discouraged as many buyers as its alleged 55-mpg fuel economy attracted, and the car was dropped from Honda's US line for 2007.

Honda will happily sell you a hybrid Civic or Accord, but apart from the smallish Hybrid badge, it's indistinguishable from its gas-powered brethren. People want to be identified with this sort of thing, and inasmuch as I have an OG&E Wind Power placard in my front window, I'm hardly in a position to make fun of them. If what you want is the cheapest possible personal transport, you ignore all of this and buy something like a Scion xB, which hauls tons (well, kilograms) of stuff, sips fuel abstemiously, and costs thousands less than a Prius, but you won't get that warm green feeling inside.

Presented by Save the Kittens

It is generally accepted that when you masturbate, God kills a kitten.

Now comes this:

Did you know that every time you "vote" for someone in the so-called Weblog Awards God kills a kitten???

Putting this all together:

  1. Jacking and/or jilling off = kitten dies.
  2. Voting in the Weblog Awards = kitten dies.
  3. Therefore voting in the Weblog Awards = jacking and/or jilling off.

Excuse me while I sponge off my mouse, so to speak.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:50 AM to Blogorrhea )
Snitches of the future

Fayetteville, Arkansas is enlisting children to look for city code violations:

An educational program to teach kids how to spot building and property code violations — complete with colorful characters such as "Willie Weeds" and "Trashy Tina" — will be in the hot little hands of local children soon, thanks to Fayetteville city officials. The program is funded by a federal Community Development Block Grant and corporate sponsors.

The centerpiece of the idea is an activity book listing "Fayetteville's Dirty Dozen." Don't expect Lee Marvin and Charles Bronson to make an appearance, though. Instead, officials expect kids to take their cues from characters like "Willie Weeds," a peace-sign-flashing, Birkenstock-wearing collector of crabgrass and other filthy foliage.

Yolanda Fields, community resources director for the city, said the activity book is intended to educate future homeowners before they develop bad habits. The other benefit, she added, is children can inform their parents.

Or, inevitably, inform on their parents.

They deny it, of course:

The books, aimed at fourth- and fifth-graders, are part of a larger effort. No, Fields said, it's not to get kids to rat out their parents for yard violations.

"It's a full-blown interactive education program," she said.

The operative term here is "blown."

Remember, children: your first duty is to the government. You are pwned from the day you are born.

Then again, this is a town that doles out specific quantities of trash bags per year, and should you need more than that, it will cost you.

(Via Hit & Run.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:23 AM to Dyssynergy )
Because you still haven't found a PS3

Try the Easy-Bake Meth Lab.

(Via Pop Culture Junk Mail.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:13 PM to Dyssynergy )
An ounce of image, etc.

Belhoste found this on craigslist:

Phone chat operators wanted. Work from the comfort and privacy of your own home. Fantasy phone line. Female sounding voices wanted for primarily male clients.

Which implies, at least to some extent, that they don't have to be actual female voices, so long as they sound female.

Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 PM to Dyssynergy )
13 December 2006
These tunes are downright Qwerty

"Hip-Hop Is Dead," says Nas, but there will always be rhythm, and for a while, anyway, there will be the Boston Typewriter Orchestra, which plays music sorta like Leroy Anderson but without all those pesky traditional musical instruments in the background.

Having paid some dues in my time as a typist and occasional 10-key operator, I can understand the urge to produce some serious syncopations from the Smith-Coronas, undulations from the Underwoods, rhythmic rolls from Remington Rands, and that's what BTO (not to be confused with other musical operations with similar initials) does. There's even a CD, The Revolution Will Be Typewritten.

Me, I learned on one of these, though I never did seem to display any real talent.

(Via Rocketboom [video clip])

Survival mechanisms

Worried that you didn't have enough to worry about? We should now start sweating public-health disasters:

Half of all U.S. states would run out of hospital beds within the first two weeks of a moderate flu pandemic and 47 states would run out if a bad one hit, according to a report issued on Tuesday.

The report from the Trust for America's Health shows the United States is still poorly prepared for a pandemic, biological attack or similar disaster, despite five years of government warnings and emphasis on the issue.

"I think the public believes that more is being done and that we are better prepared than we are," the group's executive director, Jeffrey Levi, told reporters in a telephone briefing.

Well, we are better prepared, at least in this neck of the woods. On the Trust's ten criteria, only Oklahoma got passing grades for all ten. Kansas got 9; the lowest scores were 4's and 5's.

Dr. Mike Crutcher, commissioner of the Department of Health, cautions that this year's commendable showing is but "a snapshot in time"; there is always work to be done.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:48 AM to Soonerland )

Sherlock Holmes, of course, lived at 221-B Baker Street, which logically implies the existence of a 221-A. So far as I can tell, since Holmes was upstairs, 221-A was downstairs, and I suspect this was the residence of Mrs Hudson, who was Holmes' landlady.

Carnival of the Vanities #221 is up, and Kehaar says that this week he concentrated on the "A" material.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:20 AM to Blogorrhea )
Murthafarkin' mnemonics

If you want someone to remember what you said, throw in a friggin' vulgarism or three:

Kensinger and Corkin hypothesized that emotionally negative words would be remembered better than neutral words (in general, people remember negative things better than neutral things, so the prediction wasn't that much of a stretch), and in six experiments, they confirmed this prediction. Negative words were consistently remembered better than neutral words. But in four of the experiments (3-6), another type of words was remembered better than negative words: taboo words.

Kensinger and Corkin used taboo words (words for sexual body parts and swear words), starting in Experiment 3, to test whether the memory benefit of negative emotional valence was separable from arousal. The taboo words they picked had higher emotional valences (i.e., they were less negative) than the negative words, and their valences were only slightly lower (i.e., more negative) than the neutral words. The arousal scores (how arousing they were) for taboo words were much higher than either the neutral words or the negative words (which were less arousing than the neutral words).

The lesson Kensinger and Corkin take away from this is booooooring: the effects of negative emotional valence and arousal on memory are separable. Yawn! The cool lesson is that we remember words for sexual body parts and swear words really well, and the memory benefit extends to the context in which they were presented! So, next time you're having a conversation with someone, and you really want them to remember what you're saying, use as many swear words and words for sexual body parts as you can.

(Via Steph Mineart, who says "No shit. I've said this for years.")

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:20 AM to Almost Yogurt )
I bet this guy got lots of responses

Seen on the Savannah craigslist by Just D:

I am a big jerk who is totally self absorbed. I would tell you about my job but who really cares. I would tell you about some of my previous life experiences but I think you couldn't handle most of it. I don't fit in, in any situation, and do not enjoy staying at home. I also despise going out for a "night on the town". Laughing is for losers and I see the humor in no situations. I am extremely outgoing at first but then get very shy once I get to know you.

I bring a total lack of respect into any relationship and believe that playing games and deceitful tactics are the bedrock cornerstones of any successful encounter with the opposite sex. When you find out I have been cheating on you the only comment I expect to hear is "Well Played".

I am looking for a woman without any goals in life who is not very smart and would enjoy being in a relationship that is full of lies, cheating and stealing (please bring a large bank account to the relationship or at least a home I could leverage behind your back). It would also help if you have absolutely no expectations of me. And of course hygiene is completely optional.

At this point I was thinking that maybe this was posted under this guy's email address by a former girlfriend as a minor act of vengeance, but the last paragraph doesn't fit well with that scenario:

If you "get" this profile then feel free to contact me. If the words "holler at your girl" with at least one misspelled word (i.e. holla, atcha or gurl) are anywhere in your profile, then please remove the statement before contacting me. I won't tolerate jackasses and the inclusion of this phrase ensures this is what you are.

Then again, this could be just my lack of imagination.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:16 PM to Table for One )
The Iverson chronicles

The Hornets have already indicated that they have no particular interest in soon-to-be-ex-Sixer Allen Iverson, but anything short of Isiah Thomas buying a clue is possible in the NBA, so Hoopsmack examines the ramifications of an Iverson trade from Philadelphia to any other team:

Dallas Mavericks — Mark Cuban suffers multiple strokes, but maintains his ability to jump up and down and hoot wildly.

Golden State Warriors — Golden State wins their first game with Iverson, so GM Chris Mullin immediately signs him to a 10 year, 300 million dollar contract extension, locking up Iverson well into his 40s.

Minnesota Timberwolves — The Timberwolves could sign Jesus and trade for God, and theyíd still lose in the first round of the playoffs.

San Antonio Spurs — The Spurs are not interested in Iverson, because he was born in this country.

New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets — Iverson mistakenly reports to New Orleans, where he is immediately arrested for looting after buying a new HDTV.

Prediction from this corner: A.I. winds up a Celtic.

Update, 19 December: Which was wrong. The Sixers traded A.I. and rookie forward Ivan McFarlin to Denver for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, and two first-round draft picks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:02 PM to Net Proceeds )
Next: hybrid hedge trimmers

The Environmental Protection Agency will propose a new national emissions standard for lawn and garden equipment, following approval of new California standards.

This has actually been in the works for some time, but Senator Kit Bond (R-MO) has been trying to block the move. Briggs & Stratton, the largest manufacturer of small engines for lawn equipment, has two plants in Missouri, and has said that major engine redesigns could result in the closing of those plants.

Bond finally signed off on a measure which would prohibit other states from copying the California standard, as usually permitted by the Clean Air Act, but which required the EPA to introduce a national standard, which might be weaker than California's.

The Autoextremist reports that California-bound mowers will have catalytic converters — an EPA study, demanded by Bond, determined that the smog gear introduced no additional safety risk — and that the California Air Resources Board expects the price of a push mower to rise between $37 and $52.

And, California being California, I assume they will come up with some way to appear to mitigate these costs on behalf of the undocumented workers who actually cut the grass.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:26 PM to Dyssynergy )
14 December 2006
Barking up the wrong tree

Some of this might be plausible, but I have reasons to be suspicious:

The color of a dog's fur may seem to be just a whim of nature and genetics that reveals little about the dog. But a new study claims that coat color for at least one breed, the English cocker spaniel, reflects a pooch's personality.

Prior research has suggested that fur color is also linked to behavior in labrador retrievers, while the type of fur — in this case, wiry or long — may indicate temperament in miniature dachshunds. Wiry-haired mini dachshunds are often more feisty than their mellower, long-haired cousins.

Well, duh. Anybody who knows anything about dachshunds, which these guys manifestly don't, will patiently explain that the original dachshund was the classic smooth-coated wiener dog. The wirehaired variety was developed by careful crossbreeding with terriers, particularly the Dandie Dinmont, which has the same low-slung carriage. And terriers, while they didn't invent canine attitude, act like they own the trademark. Longhaired dachs come from ancient dachshund/spaniel mixes; it's the spaniel contribution, not the coat itself, that produces their relative mellowness.

What's more, Labs don't necessarily breed true to color; it's not all that unusual to have a puppy a different color from its parents, unless both of them are yellow.

But let us continue:

The latest study, recently published in Applied Animal Behavior Science, determined that golden/red English cocker spaniels exhibit the most dominant and aggressive behavior. Black dogs in this breed were found to be the second most aggressive, while particolor (white with patches of color) were discovered to be more mild-mannered.

And all the other variations fall somewhere in between?

Helpful hint, guys: You want to perform a service to all of dogkind? Figure out a way to keep a Dalmatian from sulking.

(Via Scribal Terror.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Dyssynergy )
Old buttermilk sky

Lileks, on the Pillsbury Doughboy:

What was his goal, exactly? Perhaps he wanted to shape our conceptions of dough — not what it was, but what it could be. Perhaps — and more likely, really — he had found himself come to life, realized that a horrible life of experimentation and confinement awaited, and deftly disarmed the Meat Giants by tempting them with delicious biscuits and sugar-drenched rolls. We can only imagine him alone at night, his day's work done, trying to shape dough into the form of a companion, and breathing into its mouth. Failure; every time, failure. He wept small clear perfect tears, and they tasted like beer.)

This narrative skips over the fact that there was once a Doughgirl at his side, to greet him with a smile, to comfort him when the croissants wound up curved in the wrong direction. But she disappeared almost as quickly as she had appeared, which would no doubt explain his sorrow, his desolation. Nobody ever explained what had happened to her: had a defective can caused her to explode? Did something from the oven prove to be her undoing? Was it something as simple as a yeast infection?

To this day, no one at Pillsbury is saying.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 AM to Almost Yogurt )
No lack of interest

The Consumerist headlined this story "Chase Raises Reader's APR To 148.14%", which is not quite accurate: the effective APR for that particular month was indeed that high, because the customer did have a very small balance, which generated a suitably-small finance charge, which the bank, in accordance with its rules, rounded up to $1.00. The average daily balance was barely $8, but $1 worth of interest, expressed in yearly terms, does work out to that percentage, and by law they have to give you this number.

In fact, I once managed a monthly APR in excess of 322 percent in almost exactly the same manner.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:04 AM to Common Cents )
What the fjuck?

The townsfolk of Fjuckby, Sweden are tired of being the butt of jokes and have petitioned the country's National Heritage Board to change the town's name, preferably back to "Fjukeby," which was the usual spelling up until the 1930s or so.

Fjuckby apparently has the worst of two worlds: not only does it contain the English F-word, but it also contains the Swedish equivalent thereof.

Possible candidates for future name changes in Sweden: Anusviken, Arslet and Dicken.

(Via Fark.com.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:16 AM to Dyssynergy )
Olfactory seconds

News item: Jimmie Johnson, 2006 winner of the Nextel Cup Series and reigning champion of its premiere race, the Daytona 500, has signed on with Elizabeth Arden as national spokesperson for the Daytona 500 Fragrance for Men.

Top Ten Sports Fragrances Rejected By Elizabeth Arden Before Choosing "Daytona 500":

  1. Mark Cuban's Hissy Fit
  2. Scarlet Billows by Curt Schilling
  3. Portrait of the Artest
  4. Foul Balls
  5. Ground-Rule Doublemint
  6. Hai Sticking
  7. This Is SportsScenter
  8. Jeter After Dark
  9. Anywhere Within Six Feet of John Madden
  10. balco: the barry bonds experience

Not available at a store near you.

(Suggested by Deadspin.)

Current trends in domestic violence

When you're eight years old, you can build a fort and put a "No Gurls Aloud" sign over the entrance.

This isn't quite so impressive when you're forty-four:

A 44-year-old Elkins [AR] man was arrested Monday in connection with domestic battery and installing a booby trap in his home which shocked a woman, according to a police report.

[O]fficers found electrical fencing, used to keep livestock pinned in, installed on a bedroom doorknob which shocked the woman as she attempted to enter the room. The fencing was about 110 volts which was hooked to the doorknob by a wire hanger. The woman wasn't seriously injured from the shock but she also had a lump on her forehead.

I'm assuming this isn't the guy who wrote this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:22 PM to Wastes of Oxygen )
The electric, eclectic Turk

In 1936, Turkish nationals were directed to choose surnames, one of Atatürk's ideas. Munir, who had been an aide to Atatürk, selected the name "Ertegun," which translates roughly as "living hopefully."

When Munir Ertegun, then the Turkish ambassador to the US, died in 1944, his sons Nesuhi and Ahmet, then in their twenties (Nesuhi was about six years older) opted to remain in the States; Nesuhi and his wife stayed on the West Coast, while Ahmet went to graduate school and sold records at retail on the side.

Eventually the younger Ertegun wanted to get into the business for himself, and after a false start, he, dental student Herb Abramson, and dentist Dr Vahdi Sabit incorporated as Atlantic Records in the fall of 1947. With a strike by the musicians' union looming, the nascent label recorded dozens of sides, though nothing clicked until Stick McGhee's remake of his "Drinkin' Wine Spo-Dee-O-Dee" in the spring of 1949.

Independent labels were perpetually improvident, and Atlantic was no exception. For Big Joe Turner's 1954 recording of Jesse Stone's immortal "Shake, Rattle and Roll," there were no background singers hired; Stone, Ertegun, and newly-installed producer (and partner) Jerry Wexler sang the parts themselves.

Still, the label kept rolling on, and in 1956 Ahmet's brother Nesuhi was brought into the fold; it was Nesuhi who scouted for talent out west, and who built up Atlantic's jazz department. The next year, the Erteguns and Wexler bought out Abramson, his ex-wife Miriam, who had been the label's vice-president, and Dr Sabit. All these things cost money, and by 1958 Atlantic and its sister label Atco (née "Atlas") were just about out of it. What saved them, according to Jerry Wexler, was a pair of simultaneous hits: the Coasters' "Yakety Yak" and Bobby Darin's "Splish Splash," two records with consecutive catalog numbers and titles that sounded onomatopoeic and nothing else in common.

Then in 1967, Seven Arts, which had just acquired Warner Bros., bought out Atlantic. Sensibly, the new owners opted to leave Ertegun and Wexler alone; two years later, Kinney National, later renamed Warner Communications, bought both labels and followed with a third: Elektra. It would be more than a decade before the corporate suits started messing with the individual labels, but by then Ertegun had a bigger idea: the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which he founded in 1986 — and into which he was himself inducted as a "non-performer" the following year.

In October of 2006, Ahmet Ertegun took a spill at a Rolling Stones concert; while it looked like he would recover, he took a turn for the worse, slipped into a coma, and today he died.

I have no idea how many records I have that Ahmet Ertegun recorded, wrote, supervised, inspired, or had anything else to do with, but there's no doubt in my mind that he was one of the first great record men.

And, as it would turn out, one of the last.

San Antonio rose

And the Spurs in their might sought to smite the Hornets, jumping out to an 11-2 lead early on. The Bees, more shorthanded than usual — Tyson Chandler has something that looks like the flu — were not quite daunted, and came back to within five, but the tall Texans had an 11-point lead at the half, running it to 23 points at the end of the third, and after that it didn't matter: Spurs 103, Hornets 77.

Only two Hornets scored in double digits: Rasual Butler, who started at the two, with 17, and Desmond Mason, with 16 and 9 rebounds. Chris Paul, who played the first three quarters, scored only 6 points but served up 12 assists. Manu Ginobili led the Spurs with 24.

Perhaps more interesting than the actual game was Sean Kelley's revelation that TNT analyst Charles Barkley had lost a lot of money at an unspecified card game the night before, and kept playing until he'd won it all back. How much was a lot? "Commas were involved," said Kelley.

What this team needs now is to reclaim some of those starters from the infirmary.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:06 PM to Net Proceeds )
15 December 2006
Je suis Hayekian, tendance Salma

In the Agora's Eric Seymour, noting some slightly fleshy pop-ups (so to speak) at Reason's Web site, asks if maybe the libertarian magazine is planning a swimsuit issue.

Me, I'm not particularly interested — unless they're planning to bring back Virginia Postrel.

(Title inspired by this Scribal Terror post.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Ripping yarns

But don't call them bodice-ripping. Brenda Coulter reveals that a lot more guys are reading those love stories than you might think:

According to a 2005 study by Romance Writers of America, 22% of romance readers are male. I suspect that number may actually be quite a bit higher, because just as some women won't admit to reading romance because they fear ridicule by their peers, surely not every man will own up to reading the books. On top of that, I'm convinced that some men have read romance without realizing they were dipping into that genre. Case in point: I recently heard from a young man who found my second book on the coffee table at his mother's house. He was bored and wanted something to read. He finished the book and then wrote a very polite e-mail asking if that was a "real" romance novel and if all of the other romance novels were just like it. (Yes, I replied. And no.)

I admit to having read a few of them. (Fewer than thirty, anyway.) And I approach them just about the same way I approach science-fiction stories: I assume that I will be thrust into an environment with which I am wholly unfamiliar. The difference, of course, is that I studied science when I was younger, and mostly enjoyed it.

A reminder from Syaffolee:

Genre is nothing but an arbitrary guideline set by publishers and bookstores trying to organize their product. Look beyond the branding and read a book for the story. Don't mindlessly believe that a book is only read by some make-believe demographic because some marketing executive somewhere decides that the novel should be pitched to that make-believe demographic.

But that said, I think it will be virtually impossible to dissuade people from their genre prejudices. Unless we start a cross-genre trend! I wonder if there is more gender equity in the reader base of sci-fi romance/romantic sci-fi. . . .

Star Wars, you'll remember, was a Western.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:52 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Quote of the week

Miriam is perplexed by current trends in greeting cards:

The messages are becoming increasingly vague and noncommittal. Forget Merry Christmas — they now wish you happy holidays, joys of the season, or a very jolly time. Any day now, I expect to receive a card wishing me and mine a very successful fourth quarter.

With metered postage, no doubt.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:11 AM to QOTW )
Second-tier holiday specials

Since these won't be getting much in the way of network promotion, I figured I'd get in a plug or two here for these worthy seasonal offerings:

"The Star Wars Prequels Christmas Special, featuring Jar Jar the Red-Nosed Reindeer and How Palpatine Stole Advent"

"The Year Santa's Reindeer Took Time Off to Avenge the Death of Bambiís Mother"

"The James Bond Christmas Special, or The Little Drummer Boy with a License to Kill"

"How to Make a Nativity Scene Without Making Anybody in It Look Muslim"

As always, check your local listings.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:21 PM to Almost Yogurt )
I'm on the outside, looking in

The Tootsie Roll folks are issuing a "Limited Edition" "Inside-Outs" version of Junior Mints, perhaps inspired by the popular "Uh-Oh" variations on Nabisco's Oreo cookie. This mint has a chocolate center wrapped in some white stuff, which, says Candy Addict, tastes "somewhere between yogurt and white chocolate." Not really compelling, I suspect, except when you open up the box and people stare in disbelief.

Incidentally, of all the Bizarro World brand extensions of the Oreo, the only one that really grabs me is the chocolateless variant dubbed "Golden"; I suspect this is at least partly due to my disillusionment when Sunshine's Hydrox was discontinued a decade ago. What I really want (as does Gail) is a true inside-out Oreo, with two blobs of white stuff surrounding the standard chocolate cookie. Let's see a kid try to eat the middle of that first.

And another thing: They've been making Junior Mints since 1949. By now they should be offering some Senior Mints, shouldn't they?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:12 PM to Worth a Fork )
16 December 2006
This'll just frost some of you

One of my few instances of brand loyalty is this: I buy genuine Pop-Tarts® from Kellogg's, in blueberry. The unfrosted blueberry, which seems to be an endangered species of late.

So it does my heart good to see that some of the frosted ones are being recalled:

Kellogg Company of Battle Creek, MI is recalling a limited number of cartons of Kellogg's Pop-Tarts Frosted Blueberry toaster pastries because they may contain undeclared milk. People who have an allergy or severe sensitivity to milk, run the risk of serious or life-threatening allergic reaction if they consume this product.

The product was distributed to grocery retailers in Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia.

Turns out it's a case of mislabeling — they packaged some Hot Fudge Sundae tarts in the wrong boxes — but should just one person be persuaded to pass up that damn frosting, well, my work here is done.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:56 AM to Worth a Fork )
We want ... a shrubbery!

Steve Patterson analyzes on-street parking in St. Louis:

On-street parking does a number of things beneficial to the pedestrian — namely helping to slow traffic in the travel lanes as well as providing a big buffer between sidewalk and moving vehicles. Using the curb bump outs and other techniques it is possible to acheive a good balance in this mix.

"But how would eliminating parking kill the street," you ask? Simple, we do not have the density required to keep the sidewalks busy at all times. Sure, we have a number of pedestrians now that make the street look lively but take away the cars and those same number of pedestrians now looks pathetic. We'd need considerably more pedestrians on the sidewalks to make up for the loss of perceived activity contributed by the parked cars. You might argue that removing parked cars from the street would increase pedestrian traffic but such a cause-effect is only wishful thinking. Density is what increases pedestrian traffic, not the absense of parked cars. Without parked cars the street would look vacant and as it looked vacant you'd have less and less pedestrians because they would not feel as safe on the street. Eventually weíd see less stores as a result.

This made a certain amount of sense to me here in Oklahoma City, and also to Michael Bates in Tulsa. But encouraging those hateful car owners will never fly in Seattle:

To wean people from their cars, encourage new small businesses and add greenery, the Seattle City Council told businesses and developers Monday they no longer need to provide parking in some areas but must plant more shrubs.

The new rules, to take effect in January, could make parking tougher across the city.

And if shoppers decide to vote with their steering wheels and spend money in the suburbs? "Ni!"

(Via Sound Politics.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Dyssynergy )
Really stylish boat anchors

When last we heard from Mazda regarding those 4700-plus vehicles that had taken a bath in the Pacific Ocean, they had announced that they were not going to sell any of them as new.

Now they aren't going to sell any of them at all:

"After thorough testing by engineers from our American and Japanese R&D centers, we decided the most appropriate course of action — with our customers foremost in mind — was not to sell any of the 4,703 Mazdas aboard the ship," said Jim O'Sullivan, President and CEO of Mazda North American Operations, based in Irvine, Calif.

The Cougar Ace sat listing at more than 60 degrees for nearly a month after an incident at sea, before it could be towed to the Port of Portland, Ore., for repairs and to have its cargo off-loaded.

Good call, Jim. Does this also mean that we won't see any sea-washed Mazda3 or CX-7 parts in the pipeline?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:09 AM to Driver's Seat )
Ill-fitting suits

"Weird Al" Yankovic's Straight Outta Lynwood contains a track called "I'll Sue Ya," which contains lines like this:

I sued Verizon ... 'cause I get all depressed every time my cell phone is roaming
I sued Colorado ... 'cause, you know, I think it looks a little too much like Wyoming

A regular litigatin' fool, this guy. And as always, Weird Al was prescient; while the CD was still playing, I dialed over to Fark.com and found this:

Pro se litigant George Allen Ward is suing Arm & Hammer and its corporate parent, Church & Dwight, for $425 million. His theory of liability: failure to warn. The company failed to warn him that if he cooked up THEIR PRODUCT, baking soda, with cocaine, he might end up serving a 200-month prison sentence on crack cocaine charges.

Once again, Yankovic demonstrates his sure grasp of the fine points of American culture. (And you thought he was just white and nerdy.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:21 PM to Dyssynergy )
The cornerstone of holiday cuisine

Fortunately, I have a friend who has mastered this arcane art (and who reads my stuff), so I don't need another reference point, but just in case you find yourself having to do research, there's a fruitcake blog which contrasts and compares the major national brands.

While going back through the archives, I happened upon this discouraging disclosure:

The ingredients for these cakes are the poorest of any Iíve reviewed so far, with many surprising entries that lead me to believe these recipes have been touched by food technologists. The most bizarre ingredient by far: turnips. Both the butter rum and the original have turnips in them. And to think people are afraid of citron.

This is one of those times I'm inclined to turnip my nose and count my blessings.

They call it the streak

Observation from last month:

[T]he last time [the Hornets] beat the Mavericks in the regular season, the year started with a 1.

In an effort to correct this situation, Chris Paul played the whole 48 minutes tonight, the third time he's done that, but it didn't make much difference: the Bees, down horribly in the first quarter, tied it at the half, but Dallas won it 90-79, the 19th consecutive nervous breakdown the Mavs have inflicted on those lovable insects.

CP3 got some serious numbers: 30 points, 12 rebounds (even more than the returning Tyson Chandler), 8 assists. Rasual Butler knocked down 19 points; Marc Jackson got 13. But the Mavericks owned the boards, 50-38, and Dirk Nowitzki, after a cold spell in the first half, returned with a vengeance in the second, rolling up 20 points and 10 rebounds. Josh Howard added 23.

Remember when this squad was 4-0? Now they're 10-12. Some people need to get well, stat.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:28 PM to Net Proceeds )
17 December 2006
Is this the negative Googlewhack?

Doc Searls reports:

[S]earch results for my name have ranged between one and ten million. Kinda meaningless, no? Especially when I'd like to see the 745,612th result. (You can only dig a few hundred down.)

I duly cranked up a search to try to hit that, and was promptly slapped down: "Sorry, Google does not serve more than 1000 results for any query. (You asked for results starting from 745610.)" Sheesh. I mean, it's not like I hit Next 75,000 times, or stretched out "Gooooooo ... oooooooo ... oooooogle" to the width of the Jumbotron.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:41 AM to PEBKAC )
Score one for consistency

About five years ago, I took the Keirsey Temperament Sorter, which differs somewhat from the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator but which produces similar results. I fall into the INTJ group, which Keirsey calls "Masterminds."

A fellow on OkCupid wrote up his own personality test (65 questions), in which I also came up as INTJ. Instead of a "Mastermind," though, I am a "Crackpot":

People hate you.

Paris Hilton hates Nicole Richie. Lex Luther hates Superman. Garfield hates Mondays. But none [of] these even rates against the insurmountable hate people have for you.

I mean, you're pretty damn clever and you know it. You love to flaunt your potential. Heard the word "arrogant" lately? How about "jerk?" Or perhaps they only say that behind your back.

That's right. I know I can say this cause you're not going to cry. You're not exactly the most emotional person. You'd rather spend time with your theoretical questions and abstract theories than with other people.

Ever been kissed? Ever even been on a date? Trust me, your inflated ego is a complete turnoff with the opposite sex and I am telling you, you're not that great with relationships as it is. You're never going to be a dude or chick magnet, purely because you're more concerned with yourself than others. Meh. They all hate you already anyway.

How about this — "stubborn?" Hrm? Heard that lately? All those facts which don't fit your theories must just be wrong, right? I mean, really, the vast amounts of time you spend with your head in the clouds ... you're just plain strange.

I am comforted by the fact that the other 15 possibilities are described equally negatively: this is, after all, the Brutally Honest Personality Test. (The polar opposite of the INTJ, the ESFP, is described as the "Clown".) You can try it yourself if you're so inclined.

Incidentally, TheSpark.com, a site from the Pleistocene era which was run by the same guys who now operate OkCupid, had a similar test, which characterized me as the "Accountant." This was, of course, long before Time named me Person of the Year.

Time to backtrack?

I was deleting yet another piece of trackback spam last night, and I wondered, briefly, if it was even worth it to keep the darn things running.

In a couple of minutes I found this commentary from Kasia:

[I]s trackback effectively dead? Gone the way of the dodo and frames? I suppose it's time to kill it completely (at least on this blog) say a few words of gratitude for its usefulness for as long as it has lasted and thank spammers for making yet another communication tool effectively useless.

A comment from one of her readers:

Trackbacks were dead the day a spammer first heard about them, which was the day after they were first announced. It was such a ludicrously stupid idea from the start and I'm surprised it took this long for people to realize it was going to be nothing but a spam magnet, much like unmoderated posting.

This was ten months ago; it is probably prudent to assume things have not improved since then.

At any rate, only 7.2 percent of my TBs (46 of 642) since the database flush in September have turned out to be valid; the rest were junk. I'd be interested in hearing if anyone is doing better — or, God forbid, worse.

Extremely short tree

Extremely short treeYes, this is actually in my house. (The seemingly inebriated bobby to the right will, if you press a coin into his hand, give out with a verse of "The Little Drummer Boy." And also if you don't, since he's too besotted to notice.) I'm thinking maybe I might be better served with a Festivus pole next year.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:13 PM to Surlywood )
They're against us, every one

Some months back I recounted a sad story about a workhorse printer which, nearing the end of its life, had gone stark raving mad. The madness, of course, was contagious: it drove us all crazy.

So I can relate to this guy:

It seems that an HP service rep got a call from a customer who wanted a 250 foot power cord for his instrument and couldn't find a part number in the catalog. The rep called the parts department to get a part number. The parts dept. said they didn't stock a 250-ft power cord but they could get him the stuff to put one together. As an afterthought, they asked why the customer wanted a 250-ft power cord anyway. I don't know, the rep said, I'll ask him. The rep called the customer back and explained that he would have to put one together for him. OK, the customer said. Then the rep asked why he wanted a 250-ft power cord anyway. "Because I'm on the 5th floor of this university building," the customer said, "and I'm about to push this s. o. b. out the window; and I want it to still be running when it hits the ground!"

Now that's the spirit.

Once in a while, though, we can score an occasional victory against our electromechanical overlords. We are in the process of switching the corporate Web site to an open-source server — Apache — and while I run Apache here, I can't legitimately claim more than the bare minimum of expertise. At some point, it was decided that we would install some Unix variant on a PC and use it for testing purposes; after some discussion, the variant chosen was FreeBSD.

Our IT tech, charged with the care and feeding of our fleet of PCs (and the occasional Mac), duly pulled a machine from the shelf, scraped the Windows from its drive, and began running the install. While this was going on, she sought the appropriate documentation, which turned out to be available in handy PDF form. There was just one problem: said PDF ran over 900 pages. Running this off on one of the corporate lasers would take hours, and the job might well die halfway through for lack of toner. (The HP LaserJet in my shop, three weeks ago, was warning: "Less than 700 pages." This week the warning had changed to "Less than 800 pages," which was probably true, but not helpful as far as planning was concerned; I said something to the effect that "At this rate, the cartridge will have completely refilled itself by mid-January.")

So she came up with another tactic. Pointing to the big monster printer that had replaced the Machine From Hell, she said, "Is there any way we can print this document on this machine?"

I was doubtful, and indeed the first few tests were unsuccessful. Finally it dawned on us: the complicated graphics routines which we used for our regular stuff would work at cross-purposes to this task. It would, we reasoned, be possible if we could strip it back to being a purely basic machine, a mere 9-pin dot-matrix box capable of only the simplest print jobs.

So I reset all the sets, which wasn't quite as time-consuming as I had anticipated — wiping them all out was a lot easier than deleting one at a time — and we attacked the document again. This time it worked, although, inasmuch as we were working with a mere 9-pin dot-matrix box capable of only the simplest print jobs, the results fell into the general category of Not Pretty. Not that we cared. The machine chewed through 938 pages in fifty-five minutes; it took nearly that long to burst the forms and punch them for the binder. (More precisely, binders: it took three of them, each three inches thick.) One task down, a few zillion to go.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:53 PM to PEBKAC )
18 December 2006
Strange search-engine queries (46)

While we're at it, Disturbing Search Requests now has its own domain, and while they put out less stuff than I do, the stuff they do put out is, well, disturbing.

Robin Givhans is critical of pop culture:  Who the hell isn't these days?

car with transmission problems what does it mean:  Caution: severe budget damage.

Pic of real live female cherry or maidenheads:  I think we can safely assume that this character isn't ever going to see one in person.

starting sentences with WITH:  With all the words we have available to us, why start with that one?

"songs about butts":  Dial 1-900-MIXALOT, and kick them nasty thoughts.

negatives of establishing a nude beach:  That damn sand gets in everything.

why would someone want to perform an act of vengeance:  It's much more satisfying than letting them get away with it.

dale chihuly twisted dentyne:  Glass must be getting really expensive.

women wearing coolwhip bikinis:  Quick, before it melts.

turkish snow cone sex position:  Quick, before it melts.

"Classical Music for People" Who Hate Blogspot:  There's always Eine kleine Nichtgoogle.

what are the criteria to become a Playboy Playmate:  (1) Boobage; (2) over 18 years of age; (3) boobage.

ann coulter playboy:  Well, she is over 18.

parent directory heckle and jeckle:  Probably C:\TERRYTOONS.

Obtain Wolverine Urine:  Try eBay, fanboy.

Saint Theresa is known as the Saint of the virus:  Um, no. That was St Peter of Norton, martyred at the Temple of Symantec in '90.

platonic "asian guy" "get laid":  If it's really platonic, he won't.

can a large man fit comfortably in a Subaru Baja Sport:  In the seat, or in the bed?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:24 AM to You Asked For It )
No wonder Tom is tearing his hair out

Someone phished a batch of MySpace users and came away with thousands of passwords. While it can be presumed that some of those passwords were unique, rather a lot of them were not:

The top 20 passwords are (in order):
password1, abc123, myspace1, password, blink182, qwerty1, fuckyou, 123abc, baseball1, football1, 123456, soccer, monkey1, liverpool1, princess1, jordan23, slipknot1, superman1, iloveyou1 and monkey.

At least they seem to have gotten past the Susan problem. But in general, this is not heartening, unless you're a big fan of monkeys.

(Via kottke.org.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to PEBKAC )
A thoroughly-researched dorkumentary

Maybe no one else does this, but when I'm reading a book and I come across a paragraph I particularly like, I'll pause, take a breath, and then read it again out loud, just to savor the sound and revel in its resonance.

And it's been years since I did that as many times as I did in Frank Portman's King Dork, which I finally got around to reading this weekend, and which reminded me on every page how grateful I am to be thirty or forty years away from high school.

I'd be hard-pressed to name a favorite paragraph in the book, but I read this one twice:

I'm not any religion myself, but for the record, I'm pretty sure I believe in God. It's just a feeling I have. I can't prove it, but since when are you supposed to prove a feeling? God is the only situation where they expect you to do that. (Though I have to say, the universe seems so flawlessly designed to be at my expense that I doubt it could be entirely accidental.) Even if I didn't believe in God, though, I'd probably say I did just out of spite. To irritate people like my mom who think believing in God is tacky and beneath them. They're wrong about everything else; chances are they're wrong about that, too. Plus, God embarrasses people. Which I totally enjoy.

Not even Gagdad Bob could say it better, or more efficiently. I find myself now yearning for the audiobook version, and I hate audiobooks. I am forced to conclude that Frank Portman is at least as much a genius as Sam Hellerman.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:44 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Let there be jockeying for 2008

Somebody among the Democrats will face James (he's just not a Jim to me) Inhofe for that Senate seat in 2008, and so far, all we know is that it won't be Brad Henry.

The McCarville Report Web site is surveying the possibilities, and as of yesterday, the front-runners — very close together — were State Senator Jay Paul Gumm, AG Drew Edmondson, and District 1 Representative Dan Boren. Fourth was Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor.

So presumptuous, these portals

Yahoo! dished up this little piece of vexation this morning:

Adapt or die

Actually, I'm thinking more along these lines.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:32 AM to PEBKAC )
Knuckles and Nuggets and Knicks

Presumably you've already heard the story. (It's hard to conceal things that happen in Madison Square Garden, after all.)

Henry Abbott of True Hoop says it best:

What went wrong here was a series of really stupid overly aggressive mistakes on the part of players who should have known better.

This incident will probably pass without damaging the league too much, but it's not just an "oops." It's the kind of thing the league and players certainly can't afford to have happen very often. It really does hurt ticket sales, TV ratings, and the ability of most people to look up to these players.

And every now and again, after something like that, I'll hear some racist crack. Racists are always waiting for an opportunity to paint the NBA as a bunch of out-of-control black players. It kills me to have these highlights all over the TV, knowing racist idiots in sports bars somewhere are seeing them and feeling vindicated.

Amen to that. This is a case of Men Behaving Badly, period. And the Commissioner did what he had to do. (I thought of one additional penalty — requiring the Knicks and the Nuggets to use the new-soon-to-be-old ball the next time they play — but they don't meet again this season.)

As the pragmatist here, I note that the Nuggets have five games between today and their visit to the Ford Center on the 29th, which means that Denver will be without both Carmelo Anthony and J. R. Smith. (I was actually looking forward to J. R.'s first tangle with his former teammates.) The Hornets won't be playing the Knicks during the suspension period.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:00 PM to Net Proceeds )
Miami Vise-Grip

Around the beginning of the fourth quarter, Sean Kelley said that it was going to be the Chris Paul and Dwyane Wade Show thereafter, and he knew whereof he spoke. The Hornets scored a surprising 37 points in the second quarter to take a 63-54 halftime lead; a vestigial Third-Quarter Drought™ enabled the Heat to tie it up briefly; the Bees ran up a 9-point lead in the fourth, only to see Miami go up 98-97 with 50 seconds left. CP3 scored with 18 seconds left to tie it at 99; D-Wade took the inbound, held it as long as he dared, and dropped it through at 0:013, and that's where it ended: Heat 101, Hornets 99, and Wade 29, Paul 26.

The Hornets shot just under .500 from the floor, and even made half their 3-balls (7 of 14, four by Rasual Butler, who had 21 points). Good numbers for a change, but not quite as good as they needed. And only one double-double on the court: Alonzo Mourning, standing in for Shaq, who scored 11 and pulled down 10 boards.

Meanwhile, Peja Stokajovic is recovering from disc surgery yesterday; tomorrow, David West will have arthroscopic surgery on his elbow. No word on Bobby Jackson's rib.

To Mouseburg to play the Magic on Wednesday, then back to the Ford, where the Grizzlies and the Spurs will show up on consecutive nights.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:14 PM to Net Proceeds )
19 December 2006
Like you need to hear this from me

You need a blog of your own, says the current issue of US News and World Report:

In their short life span blogs have been parlayed into book deals, huge salaries, and delightful public scandals. You should expect more modest results — an estimate that the average blog has one reader is "probably generous," says Derek Gordon, a vice president at Technorati — but the 12 million Americans who blog don't seem to care. After all, says Henry Copeland of Blogads.com, "everybody's got a mother and an ex-girlfriend." And blogging has value even in a vacuum, says Steven Streight, who blogs about blogging. "I felt this new boldness," he says, something that happens "when [you] turn your computer off and go back to the offline world."

I guess I should be grateful that I have more than one reader and an occasional burst of the bold. Whether this is attributable to all this soapbox experience, I'm not entirely sure.

Blogs can give even non-writers a boost. "Say you're in the running for a job at a hedge fund, and there are three candidates, and you happen to have been writing a blog with some interesting thoughts," says Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book. "You're going to get more seriously considered."

And if your Internet presence is less than interesting? Blogs can help you there, too. "There is no way that in the next couple years people aren't going to Google you before they hire you — or invite you to a party," says Weil.

Yeah, but neither the hedge-fund managers nor the party planners will be impressed if you come across like this.

And when, exactly, is a good time to mention that your PageRank exceeds that of your employer?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:24 AM to Blogorrhea )

Flaming Lips T I remember the last time I was in Memphis, I saw exactly one sign along Elvis Presley Boulevard, and it seemed to be about three or four feet above the streetlight, presumably to discourage theft. Which is by way of saying that the Visitor Center in Oklahoma City's Bricktown — 25 South Oklahoma Avenue at Flaming Lips Alley — would like you to know that you can now get T-shirts with an illustration of the actual street sign at that intersection, perhaps in the hope that people won't steal the sign if they can get an image of it. Lead Lip Wayne Coyne, for his part, said that he'd heard some fans were already planning to snatch the sign, which surprises me hardly at all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to City Scene )
Wow, I coulda had a V8

What bugs me most about this creepy little motor vehicle is not so much that its owner feels compelled to claim all these affiliations in a venue — the American road — where no one really gives a crap, but that the vehicle itself was obviously chosen for maximum inutility: it's a Honda Insight, fercrissake, a penalty box for two, barely capable of getting out of its own way, easily overloaded with a week's worth of groceries (that tofu is dense, man), and worst of all, painted in a color seen only one other place in nature: the inside of a child's diaper. (And if your baby is producing stuff like this, you'd better have the pediatrician on speed-dial.) Honda lost zillions on every one of these they sold; mercifully, they didn't sell many.

(Via miriam's ideas.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:56 AM to Driver's Seat )
Whose space is it anyway?

Reasonable questions from Mary Stella:

So, what's the etiquette when a virtual stranger wants to be added to your Friends list? What if, like me, you don't want to spend time every day updating this list?

I have solved this problem by being Fairly Unpopular. Not an ideal solution, but it works.

And moreover:

Why doesn't MySpace have different lists for Acquaintances or People I Don't Really Know but Who are Surely Very Nice?

Maybe they're working on this for version 3. (One can only hope.)

Mary's page is here; it is much less drab than, say, mine.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:19 PM to Blogorrhea )
A reason to vote for Hillary

Political wiseguy Dick Morris says he'll leave the country if Senator Clinton is elected President.

Maybe he can borrow Alec Baldwin's vacation house.

Stone the crows

Somewhere around four-and-twenty-thousand black birds were congregating near NW 50th and May right around sunset, some on overhead wires, some clustered on the ground, and many more swooping down out of the drizzle into, if not your face, certainly your path. It wasn't exactly a scene out of Hitchcock, but it certainly looked menacing enough, and during the four minutes I was stopped at Popeye's, half a dozen of them drew a bead on Gwendolyn, who was apparently far too unblack for their liking. Shoppers weren't avoiding Walgreens or Target, but they were keeping their heads down, just in case. Call it evolution in action: these birds are not only unaffected by human encroachment, they're utterly indifferent to it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:54 PM to City Scene )
20 December 2006
Not that you'd necessarily want to do this

This little bit of advice came down through a listserv today: how to make Microsoft's Search Babe Ms. Dewey vanish before your eyes, albeit temporarily.

Wait for her to finish her spiel, go to the text box, and type lord of the rings.

It works as well for her as it does for those Hobbitual ring-wearers.

File under "Don't do that"

This goes for both the guy in the Chevy who was driving up the wrong side of the remains of the Classen Circle at a quarter to seven this morning — he didn't hit anything, far as I can tell — and the person who left the typo in the Climatological Data for Bethany/Wiley Post Airport this month, indicating we had 999 inches of snow back on the first.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:10 AM to Dyssynergy )
The Big 93 Jocks are on the move

Radio Use Only is dedicated to LP records issued by radio stations, usually a collection of whatever recent hits could be licensed, with photos of the DJs or other local angle. I actually have a couple of these, and I've got one I need to scan and write up, from right across town at WKY.

No, you can't buy any of them — at least, not from her.

We laugh at your silly suit

A 2003 Oklahoma tort-reform measure required persons filing medical-malpractice lawsuits to obtain an affidavit from an expert stating that in his opinion the case had merit. The idea, said proponents, was to discourage frivolous suits.

The state Supreme Court, by an 8-1 vote, has now stricken this particular provision, finding several things wrong with it. For one, the affidavit had to be obtained by the plaintiff at his own expense; for another, it applied only to medical negligence and not to any other form of negligence; for yet another, this:

These companies happily pay less out in tort-reform states while continuing to collect higher premiums from doctors and encouraging the public to blame the victim or attorney for bringing frivolous lawsuits.

While I worry about costs as much as the next guy, I won't miss this piece of misguided law: its underlying assumption, that all suits are frivolous until proven otherwise, is both insupportable and insulting.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:33 AM to Soonerland )
Frank moves forward

So far, the possibility of a Frank Keating Presidential bid hasn't drawn much attention, though Sean Gleeson seems pleased with the prospect.

A former aide to Keating, from his gubernatorial days, sent this to the National Review folks:

I can assure you that he has one fundamental and very vital thing in common with Ronald Reagan: He gets the big picture and thinks in broad themes. He also has the same endearing quality RR had, a willingness to listen to his staff and a natural geniality that goes far in an age of contentious politics. Actually, he is the truest Reaganite to be mentioned in connection with the 08 race so far, with the possible exception of Newt, given his extensive service in the Reagan administration and his consistency on key issues like tax cuts to drive economic growth and the conservative social agenda. He's very close to Jack Kemp (he was his deputy at HUD) with similar gravitas on the key issues. Plus, he made a lot of friends in the ranks of Catholic lay people in chairing the sexual abuse panel, from which he wisely walked away when he saw that too many in the church's upper reaches were simply not taking the mess seriously enough. He has what Rudy brings to the table — experience in leading the way through the aftermath of a brutal terrorist attack. Finally, his wife is major league FLOTUS material. He may or may not go, but if he does, don't be surprised to see him do very well in early debates.

Keating is in South Carolina today, testing the waters.

And another one gone

Once again I tap Lileks for my opening:

Got an email today from a photo editor at the Fargo Forum; they wanted a copy of a picture I had on the old Fargo site. Nixon at the Public Library. I said Iíd try to find it. Incurious me, I didn't ask why — but tonight while googling for Fargo blogs I discovered the reason. The old library is closing. The old library will suffer the Ball and the Claw, and a new one will rise on the spot. Presumably they're getting the books out first. Itís a good idea, I suppose — the old library (built in 1967) was a perfect expression of library design at the time, and that's the problem. It had two wings of equal size — kids and adults — and this, as you might imagine, put a crimp on the grown-up collection. The building was two stories tall, but the rooms had only one floor, with a mysterious librarians-only mezzanine connecting the wings. (Mortals were not allowed up there.) The previous library was a cramped drafty Carnegie joint with clanking registers and creaky floors, and I'm sure they wanted the latest modern design for intellectual contemplation. White walls, stark black chunky letters, stainless steel fixtures — I tell you, it was like a lab from "The Andromeda Strain," and I loved it. All libraries are embassies, and this one represented a logical place ruled by benevolent rationality. All hail Dewey and his blessed decimals.

The shock of recognition hit me toward the end of the paragraph, for the most obvious of reasons: I've been there. I spent half a week in North Dakota during World Tour '04, and at least an hour of that time I spent combing through the Fargo Library, because it was there and because it looked interesting. I had, of course, no idea that it was Marked for Death.

The current Fargo library will close its doors for the last time Saturday. The city is spending serious money on Books 'N Stuff; a new storefront branch opened this past summer on the city's north side, and the storefront branch on the south side will be replaced by a new facility next year. As for the downtown library, it will be given a shot of explosives and will be replaced by something different. Maybe better, though Lileks isn't sure:

The new one, I expect, will be Fun and Engaging and a Vital Part of the Community, and Iím certain books will always be involved. But Iíll miss [the old one].

We did okay here in Oklahoma City when we replaced our old Stern Institutional Facility with this neat place. And now I have an excuse to go back to North Dakota some day.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:41 AM to Almost Yogurt )
And so it was that later

Last year, original Procol Harum organist Matthew Fisher filed suit for a share of the royalties for the 1967 Procol hit "A Whiter Shade of Pale," arguing that he had developed the tune's distinctive organ line and was entitled to be listed as one of the composers, alongside Gary Brooker and lyricist Keith Reid.

A British court has now found in favor of Fisher, and awarded him a 40-percent share of the take, which is less than Fisher had asked for, but consistent with the judge's finding that his "contribution to the overall work was on any view substantial but not, in my judgment, as substantial as that of Mr. Brooker."

Brooker, who will appeal, called the decision "a darker shade of black," and announced: "It is effectively open season on the songwriter."

Fisher, who left Procol after their third album, A Salty Dog, will not be awarded back royalties from any time before the actual filing of the suit in May 2005.

Been there, in fact still there

Salon Books turns up this personal ad from the London Review of Books:

Shy, ugly man, fond of extended periods of self-pity, middle-aged, flatulent and overweight, seeks the impossible. Box no. 8623.

I should point out here that I'm not all that shy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:19 PM to Table for One )
Worst. Start. Ever.

The Hornets missed their first fourteen shots at Orlando tonight. Chris Paul sank a jumper with 2:42 left in the first quarter to break that string, but the quarter ended 26-13, nothing to brag about.

Then Something Happened, and I'm not sure what: at the half it was tied at 41. But here's a possible clue: the starters got 19 of those points, and the bench got 22. The Bees even gained in the third, taking a 68-64 lead. Then the Magic remembered that they had the second-best record in the East and put together a 17-3 run, ultimately winning it 86-83.

Upside: Rasual Butler still can shoot — he sank all four treys he attempted and wound up with 15 points; Jannero Pargo and Marc Jackson picked up 27 points from off the bench; Chris Paul scored 19; Tyson Chandler got 12 boards.

Downside: That 0-14 run at the beginning, and a 15-point fourth quarter; the Hornets missed four free throws in that quarter, which would have been enough to win.

For Orlando, Grant Hill, 34 years old, scored 21 points to lead everyone. Dwight Howard got a double-double: 16 points, 13 rebounds. I didn't watch the TV broadcast, but judging by the radio report, this one wasn't too pretty.

Two games at the Ford this week: Memphis on Friday, San Antonio on Saturday. The Griz might be beatable; the Spurs, well ....

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:48 PM to Net Proceeds )
Shake it up, baby

I didn't notice it, but Monty did, and she lives over there: there was an earthquake in eastern Oklahoma County about an hour ago.

It was a large boom followed by a small ground tremor, and an estimated 2.5 on the Richter scale, said the Oklahoma Geological Survey. What was the boom? They haven't said yet.

Yes, we do have such things:

Nothing that will make a Californian shudder, but the state is riddled with fault lines, and seismic disturbances are even harder to predict than the weather.

Personally, I can think of better ways to have my world rocked.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:46 PM to City Scene )
21 December 2006
Like I could stop at ten

Craig Ceely has tagged me with this "10 Things I Love About America" meme. (Memes, incidentally, don't make the list.) But since I'm in a weird mood anyway, let's see what I can come up with:

  1. The Dakotas, and all those other states with small populations and wide-open spaces. Some people are bored to death by them, but not I.

  2. The Second Amendment, which makes the others more than just empty words.

  3. Spectacularly-unhealthy regional cuisine. Reason enough for a road trip. If you're headed here, stop by Del Rancho for a Steak Sandwich Supreme.

  4. The fact that the high school I attended has an entry in Wikipedia.

  5. New Balance shoes. Even if fewer of them are made Stateside these days, they're still my brand of choice.

  6. The fact that people will line up the night before for something absurd like attending a movie premiere or buying a game console, stirring testimony to the joy of having nothing better to do.

  7. National Public Radio, less for its politics than for its sheer ubiquity: I don't have to lug dozens of CDs with me, and yet I can still avoid the screaming that comes with every car-dealership radio ad.

  8. Two-lane blacktop, especially if it's none too straight.

  9. Neither New York nor Washington is big enough to dominate the nation's culture.

  10. We don't do apologies. The "world community" wants our attention? Fine. Let them catch up to where we are, and we'll see if we have time.

  11. The Dairy Queen dipped cone, especially on a summer day in a small town.

  12. Better Mexican food than in rather a lot of Mexico.

I could go on, and maybe one of these days I will.

(Feel free to pick up on this if you like; it's not my style to tag other folks.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:01 AM to Screaming Memes )

There exists a certain demographic for whom these digits mean, not one-third of the Beast, not the largest winning margin ever in a college football game, but a classroom in Walt Whitman High School in Los Angeles where, if you were lucky, you got to see someone like this.

And for the rest of humanity, there is Carnival of the Vanities #222, Silflay Hraka's gift to blogdom, possibly its regift as well, and open for your inspection anytime.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to Blogorrhea )
Hold on, they're coming

Stax Records.

Just saying the name takes you back to Memphis, with Booker T., and Otis, and Sam and Dave, and Isaac, and — well, yeah, there were issues.

Shortly after the death of Otis Redding, Stax's distribution deal with Atlantic came up for renewal, but there was a snag: the previous distribution deal was truly heinous, in that Atlantic wound up owning the entire Stax catalog up to that point. Rather than re-sign, Stax allowed itself to be acquired by the Gulf+Western conglomerate. This was the spring of 1968, and after a slow couple of years, original owner Jim Stewart and peripatetic label exec Al Bell bought Stax back and began producing serious hits again.

In 1972, Bell negotiated a distribution deal with Clive Davis of CBS and bought out Jim Stewart. Shortly thereafter, anomalies were found in the distribution chain, Davis was sacked by CBS, and by 1975 Stax was having trouble meeting payroll. The next chapter was Chapter 7: the remains of the label were sold off to Saul Zaentz' Fantasy label in 1976.

And that's where things stood for the next thirty years. Stax catalog product was still to be had, from Atlantic or Fantasy, but the old studio in Memphis was torn down in 1989, and no new recordings were coming out.

Then in 2004, the jazz label Concord Music bought out Fantasy and with it, Stax; Concord is now ready to relaunch Stax as a working R&B label. Among the first signings for the new Stax were soul singer Angie Stone, who will contribute to the first release, a tribute to Maurice White, and the legendary Isaac Hayes, one of the mainstays of the early-Seventies Stax. A 50th-anniversary box set is promised, so get your MasterCards ready.

Meanwhile, Greenland needs refrigerators

The store is called "Under the Sun," and it stocks clothing and accessories for nudists.

Um, say what?

Its inventory includes sarongs, linen blouses, minidresses that could double as tank tops. Nothing you couldnít shake off pretty easily.

[Renee] Christian, herself a nudist, markets the boutique largely through word of mouth.

"Actually, nudists love clothes," she said. "We just like the option of not wearing them."

And besides, if you don't wear them, you can't wear them out.

Which calls to mind the old joke in the naturist camp, when the beautiful young lady walks by and a couple of fellows, mindful of proper etiquette, make a point of not gawking at her.

Then one of them stage-whispers: "Wow. Can you imagine her in, like, a tight sweater?"

(Suggested by Fark.com.)

Long-term relationship, in about an hour

Prompted by this Kathy Shaidle post, I read this Kathy Shaidle poem, and quoted this much of it at the office:

and Tracey said Besides, men are just like contact lenses
cause men can be hard
and men can be soft
but mostly they can just get lost

"And you can throw them away in two weeks," came the response.

Well, yes, I did laugh. (My apologies to the poet.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:28 PM to Table for One )
Adam never had 'em

According to the old saw, if you care anything about either sausage or politics, you should not watch them being made.

And having survived a stint at Mickey D's back when the Big Mac was a novelty, I can tell you that you probably don't want to know what's in a McRib, either.

(Via Scribal Terror.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:33 PM to Worth a Fork )
22 December 2006
Hideous automotive excrescences

Autoblog's Dan Roth has a list of Things Which Must Die next year, and some of them make sense to me:

Big cars that were once small: The Civic was once a small car, now it's almost as big as Accords once were. The Nissan Versa and Dodge Caliber are similarly not-too-small cars being marketed on the pretense of being compact. The Fit is a step in the right direction, and we realize that all the required safety gear makes light cars largely a thing of the past, but the efficiency-lovers among us can't square the fact that these cars were once small and efficient, and now they're larger and less efficient.

I wince a bit as I type this, since I'm now driving the biggest damn car I've ever had in my life (this critter was an inch or two longer, but weighed about 300 lb less), but it still makes me jump to see, as I did last week, an 80s Nissan (maybe even Datsun) Maxima that would fit in the shadow of today's Sentra. In my Celica days, I coveted Toyota's Cressida, not only because there weren't a lot of cars named after Trojan women with round heels, but because it seemed like such a grandly spacious car by comparison. This year's Corollas (two price classes down) dwarf it.

Split decision on this one:

Auto-magic everything: Auto-dimming rearview mirrors never fail to blind the crap out of me. The auto climate-control tends to blow cold air on my feet when I wanted it to stay warm till I decide. Rain-sensing wipers? Come ON! All of this automation adds up to eventual failure points. Not only that, they remove the driver from the act of driving. If you don't want to be bothered to turn on the windshield wipers, perhaps you should telecommute.

I've never had any issue with the auto-dim on the mirror, but I admit I have had trouble adjusting to Gwendolyn's set-it-and-forget-it climate control, especially with Nissan's decree that no air will be sent to the floor vents until the temp gauge creeps up to the middle of the C. No rain-sensing wipers, though.

And thumbs down on this:

Manu-matics: What useless pieces of crap. The only thing worse than an automatic with a "manual gate" is a poorly programmed automatic. A lot of times, you get a twofer with trannies like this — they're never in the right gear and constantly second guessing you, and the manual modes are dopey, slow and worthless. Maybe this is the easy way to make people feel like they can "drive real good." We'd rather have three pedals and a stick connected to something.

I admit to having driven only one manumatic — the 5-speed in the previous-generation Infiniti G35 — and it's indeed slower at shifting than a true stick, but it's quicker than waiting for the throttle-position sensor to inform the slushbox that your right foot has indeed moved, and assuming that my knees aren't going to get much better in my declining years, I'd just as soon have this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 AM to Driver's Seat )
Lights! Camera! Something!

Seen at Surlywood while the sun tucked itself into a cloud: two Glee-Girls (not even slightly to be confused with Glea-Girls), yours truly, and a Big Swirling Ball of Light.

Sean Gleeson documents the scene. (And his lovely wife Phoebe can make a darn nice sugar cookie.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:20 AM to Surlywood )
Traditions mostly honored

"The Old Songs" begins this way: "O, you may moan with plaintive tone / Your gormless modern tune / But I will roar along the shore / Beneath a blood-red moon."

Having tried for many years to maintain my supply of gorm, I figured I couldn't pass up the Pratie Heads' reunion CD Rag Faire (Skylark SKY 3002), and it might well be due to this bit from a newspaper clipping reproduced on their Web site:

One thing [Jane] Peppler and [Bob] Vasile shared was a disdain for self-conscious "authenticity." When you're playing music 300 years old, Peppler once pointed out, there's no way to tell if you're authentic or not, anyway.

That darned old oral tradition, always shifting things ever so slightly with each repetition; and it's not like you're going to find original performances on some long-buried YeTube clip. And I say this as someone who once bought a bunch of Mozart keyboard pieces played on an oldfangled fortepiano.

Rag Faire is almost named for one of the tracks on the disc. ("The Rag Fair was like a flea market, and took place in the Jewish quarter in 18th century London. We had to put an "e" on Rag Faire for Googling purposes.") Not to worry: it's a silent "e." And more to the point, this is an hour's worth of rollicking good fun, and if it doesn't sound like it was frozen in amber in 1706, it doesn't sound like much of anything else you're likely to hear this year. Minimalistic yet ornate, simple yet devilishly complex, these are songs that, as they used to say of a good breakfast, stick to your ribs. Try to play them early in the morning — and then try to get them out of your head the rest of the day.

Kindness when you least expect it

Trini just burst in and offered me a Cookie of Death.

I am beginning to think I am the only person left who isn't allergic to peanuts. [Pause for Snickers.] Of course, this may be due to the fact that I used to go through Peter Pan Crunchy the way NASCAR drivers go through tires. (Never did like Skippy all that much — kinda soapy mouthfeel — and Jif was always too proprietary.)

Good cookie, by the way, and hey, it helps keep Trini alive.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:17 AM to Worth a Fork )
What can Devin Brown do for you?

The injury-plagued Hornets are about to find out: they've filled the 15th spot on the roster with guard Devin Brown, who was waived by the Golden State Warriors back in October.

Brown, who hasn't played this year, has four years of league experience; before that, he was the all-time leading scorer at Texas-San Antonio.

Meanwhile, we mourn the loss of Brittanie Montgomery, a member of the Honeybees dance team, who was killed in an auto accident last night.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:11 PM to Net Proceeds )
Quote of the week

Jonny Lieberman at The Truth About Cars, on the misbegotten '07 Chrysler Sebring:

The handling puts the abyss in abysmal. Thereís so much torque steer that itís a constant battle just to keep the car pointed in a straight line. Even a minor stab at the go-pedal triggers the tillerís disapproval. Turns are just plain awful. Moving left and right is a multi-step affair. First, turn the wheel. Second, wait for the vehicle to fully lurch over onto one of the front springs. Finally, sit in terror as the weight is unloaded and the car leans all the way back in the other direction, maybe (or maybe not) aiming where you pointed it.

Improbably enough, the ride is even worse. With the Sebring's short wheelbase and lousy suspension, bumps aren't just felt, but profoundly understood. A choppy stretch of pavement can induce sensory hallucination; I swear a tiny man with a jackhammer was attacking my kidneys. And the pizza box thick (and flat) seats lend no support whatsoever. I will testify under oath that the engineers responsible have never driven a car in their lives.

Surely no one asked Dr. Z for this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:15 PM to QOTW )
Grizzly business

The big news here was supposed to have been the return of Pau Gasol, and indeed he rolled up 15 points in the first half, though the Hornets squeaked out a 45-40 lead. In the third, though, the Grizzlies found another weapon: the 3-ball, which they wielded with wild abandon, outscoring the Bees 30-20 in the quarter. With barely a minute left, it was tied; Tyson Chandler, who had wangled 17 rebounds, fouled out; Marc Jackson got a clutch rebound, Chris Paul dropped it through at the 0:06 mark, but Gasol answered at 0:009, and lo, there was a 90-90 tie and overtime.

And then Gasol, having amassed 28 points, left the floor halfway through the overtime and clambered into his warmups — the Grizzlies, inexplicably, decided to pull him lest he reinjure himself — and the Hornets finished them off, 100-97.

The new kid got some minutes: Devin Brown missed four shots, but did snag a rebound. And six Hornets scored in double figures, with three double-doubles in the mix: Marc Jackson, off the bench, got 19 points (a season high) and 10 rebounds; Desmond Mason had 17 and 12 boards; Chris Paul scored 15 and dropped 12 dimes. Hilton Armstrong, starting at power forward, had a good night with 14 points.

But what gave the Hornets fits were all those Memphis 3-balls — ten of 'em, four by Mike Miller. The Grizzlies were also way better at the charity stripe, missing only four of them. (The Bees bobbled nine.)

With San Antonio losing to Houston tonight, the Spurs should be in a foul mood tomorrow.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:50 PM to Net Proceeds )
23 December 2006
It is, after all, that time of year

About three hundred radio stations nationwide have adopted temporary Christmas-music formats, and it's really not hard to understand why: it's different from the Same Old Stuff they put out 11/12ths of the time, and the playlists don't seem quite so restricted. Everybody and his elf has put out some sort of Christmas record — the Beatles recorded special seasonal stuff for their fan club — and while the hardy perennials still command their share of airplay, there's something new every year. Some acts seem to aim directly at the Christmas market. (I am, in fact, typing this while listening to the first Trans-Siberian Orchestra disc, Christmas Eve & Other Stories; thank you, Aero.)

That said, though, can we issue a fatwa against José Feliciano's "Feliz Navidad"? I don't object at all to Spanish-language Christmas songs, but why is it always this one? Whoever is running the database for these things — oh, come now, everyone knows that computers program radio these days — needs to do some homework in the off-season.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:49 AM to Tongue and Groove )
End of the line?

Forty years ago, Oklahoma City had about 300,000 people and twenty-three cafeterias.

Today, there are 530,000 of us, and now, with the Luby's chain concentrating on Texas (though their Village location is still open for now) and Furr's rebranding as "family dining," we're down to one traditional cafeteria. (That would be the Boulevard in Midtown.)

In this morning's Oklahoman, in addition to the report of the last days of the Queen Ann, Steve Lackmeyer has an overview of Oklahoma City's days as Cafeteria Capital of the World. What's most interesting, I think, is how all of those local cafeterias were essentially descended from one: the Anna Maude, opened in the late 1920s in the Perrine Building (later Cravens, now Robinson Renaissance) downtown by Anna Maude Smith, who previously had been running food service for the downtown YWCA. Contemporary reports say that friends tried to dissuade her, and you have to wonder if maybe it was her idea to put her own name on the business that scared them off — or maybe it was the fact that she'd chosen to locate in the Perrine's basement. Not to worry: the Anna Maude was a success, and yes, there was an entry directly from Robinson Avenue, below street level.

The Queen Ann, incidentally, was named for Anna Maude Smith, and had been started by her nephew Bob Smith, who had been a partner in the original Anna Maude cafeteria. John Schroer, Jr. was the last owner of the Queen Ann, and his nephew Harrison still owns the Boulevard.

Charles Dodson, who once had a couple of cafeterias of his own, commented:

It's gone the way of the typewriter and drive-in movie theater. It's just a different time now.

We still have a drive-in (the Winchester, on Western north of I-240), and I still own a typewriter. I guess this tells me where to have lunch.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:16 PM to City Scene , Worth a Fork )
606 and all that

While laughing my way through another screenful of Iowahawk satire, I found myself pondering this Tale of True-ish History, not least because I was born not so far away from Chicago, geographically and chronologically. And being the geek I am, I naturally zeroed in on the least-compelling aspect of it:

[T]he best back story of all belongs to the 606 Club at 606 S. Wabash. By all accounts this discreet gentleman's club — which started as a Prohibition-era speakeasy — was the swankiest joint in town, with the prettiest girls, and catered to a clientele of the rich and powerful. Among them was a young Chicago magazine publisher named Hugh Hefner, who used the 606 as a model for the new "Playboy Club" he would open on the Northside in 1960.

The 606 was also a nexus for Chicago's powerful political machine. Its owner, Louis W. Nathan, was Democratic precinct captain for the city's First Ward and was a ninja in the ancient Chicago art of vote manufacturing. In fact, he was convicted of election fraud in 1956 for his part in a 1954 vote-rigging scheme. The conviction cost him his job as precinct captain, but not his liquor license; and the 606 continued to be a popular destination for locals and visitors alike. According to legend, the 606 Club is the site where Nathan, Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley, and a Massachusetts senator named Jack Kennedy first worked out a plan to deliver enough Chicago "votes" for Kennedy to take the 1960 presidential election.

The kicker: according to the same legend, when the first US postal zip codes were being assigned in the early days of the Kennedy administration, both Kennedy and Daley insisted on the strangely out-of-sequence "606" prefix for all Chicago zip codes, as an eternal tribute and inside joke.

Snopes hasn't addressed this, so I decided to look at the map, which looks something like this:

USA Zip Code regions

A quick glance indicates that this distribution isn't quite as weird as it sounds: if heading west from 4 to 6 is offputting, clearly heading west from 3 to 7 should be more so, and no one seems concerned about that. If the 3000 potential Illinois Zips were reassigned to the 5 range, you'd have to pull 3000 out of the rest of the region somehow, and the only way to do that and still maintain the appearance of continuity is to reassign Montana and the Dakotas to the 6 range. (Of course, Montana looks like it should be an 8 no matter what, but that's another issue.)

As for 606 in Chicago specifically, the numbers there follow a standard USPS pattern: lower numbers in the 'burbs, the higher ones in the city. (Atlanta, for instance, is 303xx; it's surrounded by 300 through 302.) 600 and 601 are to the north; 604 and 605 are to the south. (602 and 603 are Aurora and Oak Park respectively.) New York and Los Angeles don't follow this rule, but this is because their specific post offices cover only a small part of their cities; mail from the San Fernando Valley is postmarked Van Nuys. If they really did rig this setup, they certainly made it look ordinary.

A really rigged deal: In Canada, Santa Claus has his own postal code — H0H 0H0.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:05 PM to Dyssynergy )
It's all in the game

Earlier this month I mentioned that someone had reached this site from a browser on Nintendo's Wii, which probably impressed me more than it did you.

Is it possible to blog from the Wii? Apparently so:

This is really fun. I'm blogging to you now from the new browser channel for the Nintendo Wii (powered by Opera). The typing interface isn't as bad as you might think, but it definitely isn't something I'm likely to do again. You point and click with the wiimote on a visual keyboard, and the software suggests words as cell phones do.

> Just noticed that it also offers another visual interface that mimics the layout of a phone keypad. (I used that in this paragraph, the keyboard in the last.)

I probably shouldn't try this; I have enough trouble with real keys.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:02 PM to Blogorrhea , PEBKAC )
Ow! Was that a Spur?

Rather a lot of them, actually; San Antonio shot an amazing/appalling 62.9 percent from the floor and dispatched the Hornets, 112-77, though the Bees actually outrebounded the Spurs, 40-32.

It didn't start out badly — the Hornets were up 12-9 four and a half minutes in — but it was all San Antonio the rest of the quarter, ending with the Spurs up 30-20. The Bees rattled off eight consecutive points to start the second, and were down only 12 at the half, but that was it; after 28 points in the second quarter, they would manage only 29 in the third and fourth, including a final 3:45 with no points at all.

A couple of bright spots: the Hornets made all their free throws (a lowish 10; only one Spur got as many as three personal fouls) and half their trey attempts. But field-goal shooting was a meager 31 of 82 for 37.8 percent. And the number that really seems to sum up this game: only 11 assists in all, versus 32 for the Spurs.

Rain or shine, though, Chris Paul gets his points: he got 20 to lead all scorers. Rasual Butler is still shooting well: he made 6 of 8, including two 3-balls. Tyson Chandler hauled down 9 boards, more than anyone else. But there were too many missed shots. (Devin Brown got his first points of the season, on 1-of-7 shooting and 2-of-2 at the line.)

The Mavericks had the night off, so San Antonio takes over the top spot in the conference at 21-7. The Grizzlies, mired in the Southwest cellar, lost again (by the same 100-97 score as last night, this time to Utah), which means the Hornets will remain six games ahead of them.

It's another run to the West Coast next week, to meet the Sonics (Tuesday) and the Blazers (Wednesday). The Nuggets, without J. R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony but with Allen Iverson, will be at the Ford next Friday.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:52 PM to Net Proceeds )
24 December 2006
Where the sun shines brighter

"The other man's grass," observed Petula Clark, "is always greener," and one verse of that song has been haunting me of late:

Many times, it seems to me
There's someone else I'd rather be
Living in a world of make-believe
To stay in bed 'til nearly three
With nothing there to worry me
Would seem to be the life I might achieve

I don't see myself achieving this, exactly — for one, rather a lot of the accessible worlds of make-believe have been consolidated as the "reality-based community" — but as an experiment, I did try staying in bed 'til nearly three.

As you can see from the time-stamp, it didn't work.

There's always one song that gets you

Artie Wayne has been in the music biz for close to 50 years, mostly as a producer and A&R guy, though he wrote a few tunes along the way: he's responsible for Joey Powers' 1963 hit "Midnight Mary," and he and Ben Raleigh wrote "4,003,221 Tears from Now," an Australian hit for Judy Stone that somehow found its way to my listening post.

In 1995, Wayne was ill, and wound up in USC Medical Center:

It's a policy of most hospitals to send as many patients home for the holidays to be with their family and friends. Soon, I was the only one left in the ward, since I had nowhere else to go. One lonely night, as I sat feeling sorry for myself, I heard a group down the hall, singing Christmas carols. I followed the voices to the the children's ward ... where I heard the joyous sounds of "Jingle Bells". It was the Salvation Army, passing out toys and candy, and singing to the kids, who were confined to their beds. I joined in on "Silent Night", "Jingle Bell Rock", and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer", but when they started singing "White Christmas"Ö tears started running down my face, and I had to sit in another room to compose myself. This song, written by Irving Berlin, always brings back memories of family and friends in a snow covered New York City Ö flooding me with emotions.

Sometimes, though, it takes some serious emotions to recalibrate one's songwriting chops. Wayne dashed off a lyric that night; years later, he found the words, showed them to long-time friend Toni Wine, and this was the result: "I Lose It When I Hear 'White Christmas'."

Extra Muse points: Toni Wine's piano used to be Irving Berlin's piano.

And if there's one song that always gets you, now's the time to admit it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:20 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Plant your bulbs today

Very large tree
This picture was received with "WOW" in the filename, and it might well be justified: this tree is around 80 feet tall, reportedly, and at least three-quarters of it is covered in lights. If you'd like to see it in person, so to speak, it's near NW 19th and Land, which would be three blocks west of May.

I am so jealous

Not because of the threat, but because of the action taken:

Due to an increased network threat condition, the Defense Department is blocking all HTML-based e-mail messages and has banned the use of Outlook Web Access e-mail applications, according to a spokesman for the Joint Task Force for Global Network Operations.

An internal message available on the Internet from the Defense Security Service (DSS) states that JTF-GNO raised the network threat condition from Information Condition 5, which indicates normal operating conditions, to Infocon 4 "in the face of continuing and sophisticated threats" against Defense Department networks.

The JTF-GNO mandated use of plain text e-mail because HTML messages pose a threat to DOD because HTML text can be infected with spyware and, in some cases, executable code that could enable intruders to gain access to DOD networks, the JTF-GNO spokesman said.

If we blocked all HTML mail at 42nd and Treadmill, we could get through a day's worth of customer communications in twelve minutes flat.

Suggestion to sysadmin: Set up an autoresponder to catch this stuff and dispatch a nastygram to the sender.

Chance that this will actually happen: Slightly lower than the chance that the next number that shows up on my Caller ID will be Eva Longoria's.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:25 PM to PEBKAC )
25 December 2006
Strange search-engine queries (47)

Whatever these folks were following, it wasn't a Star in the East.

what becomes of the broken hearted AND Bose:  Love songs played at high decibel level so you'll never know they're crying.

How does transmission problem sounds:  Grindingly expensive.

you look like a freaking gopher:  You're not so damn cute yourself.

is 1994 toyota celica GT suitable for girl drivers:  What sort of car, precisely, is not "suitable for girl drivers"?

deer hits on Vibe auto 10000 damage, will it be totaled:  My car got totaled for a mere $6000 damage.

spanking + rectal thermometer:  Just what we needed: twice the pain in the ass.

what to do after miniscus surgery:  Lying in bed and popping pain pills sounds good to me.

the japanese import cars on earth:  And export them to every planet this side of Uranus.

"men don't like me":  Aw, shaddup, Maureen.

want to know about cocaine laced with lye:  When the cops come knocking, you'll be able to flush it and be assured that it won't get stuck in the drain.

an overly robust geezer:  I think Strom Thurmond has given up dating.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:34 AM to You Asked For It )
He's not too fancy, but his line is pretty clean

The hardest-working man in show business has gone to his eternal rest: James Brown died this morning of pneumonia at Atlanta's Emory Crawford Long Hospital. He was 73.

Legend has it that King Records owner Syd Nathan, hearing Brown and his Famous Flames working up "Please, Please, Please" back in 1956, demanded that the tape recorder be stopped, then informed producer Ralph Bass that the song was a bunch of crap. Only he didn't say bunch. Or crap.

Bass finished up the record anyway; Nathan reportedly fired him for insubordination. Brown and his managers eventually persuaded Nathan to issue the track, though it came out on the subsidiary Federal label (as #12258) rather than on King. "Please, Please, Please" eventually moved about a million copies and even hovered just under the bottom of the pop chart; Bass got an apology from Nathan and his job back, though three years later he left King to work for the Chess brothers in Chicago.

The relationship between Brown and Nathan would always be prickly. Brown's live shows were legendary, and he wanted to put out an album recorded at one of those shows. Nathan had never heard of such a thing, didn't see any money in it, and turned him down. Brown kept asking; Nathan kept refusing. Finally, in 1962, Nathan relented to this extent: he would put out the LP if Brown paid for the recording expenses. Brown anted up $5700 and cut an October live show from the Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Nathan didn't like it; it was finally released in January 1963, and promptly sold in seven figures, hitting #2 on Billboard's album chart.

I have to believe that had Syd Nathan stuck to his guns, the album would still have eventually come out. Two years earlier, Nathan had balked at recording Brown's new backup group; shortly thereafter, down in Miami, Henry Stone cut a track with Brown called "(Do The) Mashed Potatoes." Stone decided that maybe it was not a good idea to risk the wrath of Syd Nathan, and scraped Brown's one-line-per-verse vocal off the tape, replacing it with the voice of Miami DJ Carleton "King" Coleman. The single, released on Stone's Dade label, was issued as by Nat Kendrick and the Swans, Kendrick being Brown's drummer at the time; Atlantic picked it up for national distribution, and while "Mashed Potatoes" sold rather modestly, it kicked off a brief dance craze.

So James Brown wasn't averse to doing things out of Syd Nathan's earshot. Arguing that King owned his contract only for vocal performances, he cut an instrumental called "Out of Sight" in 1964 for Mercury's Smash label, which made the pop Top 20; Nathan took him to court. In early 1965, matters were settled, mostly in Brown's favor; he would get his own publishing company, a higher royalty rate, and almost complete artistic control over his recordings.

Brown's first recording under the new contract was "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," which topped the soul chart and made Top Ten pop despite sounding like nothing anyone had ever heard before. Dave Marsh described it this way:

With the possible exception of Little Richard, no one has ever made a rock or rhythm and blues record this extreme. At a time when Motown had made comparatively ornate records seem the wave of the future, Brown posited the most radical alternative: a record so totally immersed in rhythm that you barely noticed ornamentation at all. No record before "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" sounded anything like it. No record since — certainly no dance record — has been unmarked by it.

Which is almost hyperbolic enough to be true.

In 1968, Syd Nathan died. Nashville's Starday Records took over ownership of King; both labels were sold to LIN Broadcasting, which in 1971 sold James Brown's contract to Polydor. King's last pop hit for Polydor ("Body Heat") came in 1977; he scored in 1986 with "Living in America," a song written for Rocky IV, but by then the students had overtaken the master.

A couple of years ago, I was musing on the trend away from "pretty" pop voices, and here's one of the voices setting that trend:

James Brown's "Prisoner of Love" [was] recorded in 1963, a song previously associated with ultra-smooth crooners like Billy Eckstine and Perry Como. The Godfather of Soul couldn't croon if his life depended on it, so he got the song across the only way he could: by scraping away pop boilerplate and replacing it with his own desperate screams. This wasn't the first time Brown had attempted a pop standard — two years earlier he'd given a similar treatment to "Bewildered," another song from the Eckstine repertoire — but "Prisoner" did well enough on the pop charts (#18 in Billboard) to suggest to Brown that he was on the right track. Not that you could have persuaded him otherwise.

And that, when you get right down to it, was what made James Brown the James Brown of his time: a willingness, maybe even a compulsion, to experiment, and hang the consequences. It's hard to imagine how anyone could possibly fill his shoes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:30 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Where have all the records gone?

A lot of them went to these guys:

While literally billions of LPs still exist in the world, most are slated to become garbage before too long. Vinylux products take advantage of these obsolete piles of records and give new life to this neglected, but not forgotten, material. Over the past 4 years, we have recycled about 200,000 records — about 50,000 pounds of vinyl and cardboard.

I, of course, disagree as to the matter of their obsolescence, but they do make some neat trinkets, some of which found their way to my tree.

The following 45-rpm Holiday Ornaments were received:

  • Julius LaRosa, "Domani (Tomorrow)" b/w "Mama Rosa", Cadence 1265, 1955
  • Johnny Rivers, "Summer Rain" b/w "Memory of the Coming Good", Imperial 66267, 1967
  • Amii Stewart, "Knock on Wood" b/w "When You Are Beautiful", Ariola 7736, 1979

Incidentally, only one of these (the Julius LaRosa) was pressed on actual vinyl; the other two were pressed on styrene.

Also arriving, a set of LP Coasters, as follows:

  • The Mills Brothers, Yellow Bird, Dot DLP 25338, 1960
  • Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney, That Travelin' Two-Beat, Capitol T 2300, 1965
  • David Frye, Radio Free Nixon, Elektra EKS 74085, 1971
  • Various, History of British Rock, Sire SAS 3702, 1974
  • John Travolta, Travolta Fever, Midsong International MTF 001, 1978
  • Terry Garthwaite, Hand in Glove, Fantasy F 9564, 1978

Only the Bing/Rosemary disc is mono; the British Rock album was a two-disc set in automatic sequence, and the present specimen is Sides 1 and 4. (The other disc would have been Sides 2 and 3.) The John Travolta album is a compilation of two earlier LPs, John Travolta and Can't Let You Go, which made #18 in Jimmy Guterman and Owen O'Donnell's infamous book The Fifty Worst Rock-And-Roll Albums of All Time, which I quote herewith:

What matters is that this record comes with a large poster of the idol, suitable for framing. We wonder how many young girls bought the package, threw away the records, and pulled out their thumbtacks.

I am compelled to point out that #19 in said book was Days of Future Passed.

And while I could mourn the destruction of perfectly good vinyl, I suspect it wasn't all that good. From the manufacturer's FAQ:

Most of the records we get are scratched, warped, or otherwise played out. When we do get good ones, they go onto our turntable.

(Thanks, Wampy. These are Seriously Neat.)

Good things come to those who wait

But sometimes the Bandolier of Carrots is sold out:

[T]his morning, for about ten minutes, Woot had 3000 bags of "Random Stuff" (stuff is not their word but I don't like their word) for sale. One dollar, plus five dollars shipping. The wooters were there, 1:00 am. By 1:14 it was sold out, they were devastated (except for the lucky 3,000).

There was also this timely advice (de-expurgated by me) to those wooted out:

  1. Thou shalt expect nothing beyond one bag of some kind and your chosen quantity of crappy items (which should be THREE).

  2. Thou shalt not whine and complain when some people's crap turns out to be nicer than yours.

  3. Thou shalt take a moment to consider whether you might be better off just not buying this crap.

  4. Thou shalt not order just one crap and blame it on anything but your own inattention.

  5. To paraphrase Stephen Stills, shalt thou not get the crap you want, want the crap you get.

Words, albeit stuffy crappy words, to live by.

26 December 2006
Things I can only imagine

Do you know what would be incredibly freaking cool? A sink stopper for a garbage disposer with a grab handle on either side, so that it could be easily retrieved in circumstances like, oh, being knocked into position upside down as the water starts flowing into the sink and simultaneously the telephone rings.

Okay, so I'm easily pleased. Deal with it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Dyssynergy )
No, those aren't moving vans you saw

The official position around here ("here" being "within 20 feet of my desk") is that the Sonics aren't going anywhere in the near future and definitely aren't coming here ("here" being "Oklahoma City") this fall..

And Joel Litvin, president of NBA league and basketball operations, says so himself:

Although Hornets owner George Shinn and NBA commissioner David Stern have both vowed to return the Hornets to New Orleans following the 2006-07 season, the Seattle Sonics have widely been assumed to relocate here in the event that the franchise's new Oklahoma-based ownership group is not successful in acquiring a new arena.

Litvin, however, said that won't be the case.

"It will be without a team after this season,Ē Litvin said of Oklahoma City. "But it's got to be a natural next spot in the event of expansion or relocation. We're not currently planning to expand further, and we hope not to have teams relocating, so we can't offer any promises.

"But we can say that the city has very quickly moved to the top of the list of cities that are out there without an NBA team, but one that we all know can support a team, which they've done for two years in a very extraordinary way.Ē

A lot can happen between now and, say, 2010, when the Sonics' infamous KeyArena lease runs out, or 2012, when the Hornets' less-infamous New Orleans Arena lease runs out.

And nobody, so far as I can tell, is making noises about expansion, which we should assume is off the table. (Any expansion would likely be to 32 teams, which suggests one in the West — presumably Oklahoma City — and one in the East. The most plausible alternative would be to add two Western teams and shift one existing team to the East, but who would get moved? Minnesota? Memphis? New Orleans, fercryingoutloud?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:08 AM to Net Proceeds )
Little diamonds are forever

We've taken this person's concept of love and replaced it with Stendhal's Crystals. Let's see what happens:

My understanding of what he wrote is that he believes that lovers become convinced of the perfection of their beloved, relate every perfection they encounter to their beloved, and that deepening of love is dependent upon fears: First of the beloved not returning their love and then of them not loving them any more. It seems, that in his view a person will not fall in love without these fears and finally that, if the person falls in love, the loss of fear will kill passion but allow for confidence.

I find this to be interesting in many ways; First, I wonder if it is true that one must have fear in order to love. Having never been "in love" I find it difficult to say if this seems likely, but I like to think that falling in love would have more to do with something deeper, more 'real,' than fear of loss.

I don't think that fear is the single prerequisite, necessarily, but I do believe that all the emotions should be in at least working condition for love to have any functionality; otherwise it's just whistling into the wind. Stendhal, at least, was cognizant of the fact that the emotions tend to travel as a pack: "The pleasures of love," he wrote, "are always in proportion to our fears."

But the path of crystallization deals initially with the process of perception: as minor, even major, imperfections become irrelevant to the lover, the desire for reciprocation increases. Fear first manifests itself when one's feelings are not returned; when fear and hope are intermixed, the romantic attraction is intensified. And the fear doesn't always go away when the feelings are returned: this is where thoughts of abandonment kick in.

Maybe I'm paying more attention to this stuff these days because one of my fears — perhaps the only one that matters in the long run — has to do with getting out of here alive, which of course none of us ever do, at least not in a sense that we understand. Stendhal anticipated this too:

A dayfly is born at nine in the morning, during the long summer days, to die at five in the evening; how could it understand the word "night"? Give it five hours more; it will see and understand what night is. Likewise, I shall die at twenty-three. Give me five more years of life, to live with Mme. de Rènal ....

I didn't die at twenty-three, obviously, but I have this sinking feeling that I won't find someone until the day after I discover I've come down with something terminal.

And that's the thing about crystals: incredibly beautiful they may be, but inevitably they have an edge.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:31 AM to Table for One )
The Top 250 in Hell

Radio is ruled these days by research, and research indicates that this batch of craptacular tune-like objects scored highest among microcephalics surveyed listeners this past year.

In other words, if you own a station and you have one of these formats, you are expected to set those specific tracks at the very heart of your rotation, because the hope of hearing them is what keeps the audience from pushing the Scan button during your string of twelve consecutive spots at 44 minutes after the hour.

Aside to Apple: This list, all by itself, should sell a few thousand iPods to an audience increasingly gruntled by these discs.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:21 PM to Overmodulation )
Misunderestimating the price

A gentleman from New York disbelieved the Car and Driver preliminary price quote for the Mazdaspeed 3, and wrote them (February '07) to say so:

George W. Bush will start speaking in complete sentences before I find a Mazdaspeed 3 for under $23,000.

Is our dealers dealing?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:39 PM to Driver's Seat )
The love you take

"It's okay to let go."

You wouldn't think five words would require a lot of rehearsal. I kept saying them, and saying them, and saying them, and never once did I sound like I knew what I was talking about.

The night nurse let me in and directed me to the sign-in sheets. Even the ones with a lot of names on them seemed awfully empty.

He was sleeping, or trying to; the machine was running full tilt trying to keep up with the demand for oxygen by two long-since-worn-out lungs. And he was small, barely the size of a ten-year-old boy, hardly the Superman who loomed over us when I was a ten-year-old boy. The cycle, I thought, is nearly complete; were there a scepter, it would now pass to me. And, dear Lord, what would I ever want with a scepter?

I thought of his wife. She is my age: fifty-three. She has spent half of those years, half of her life, at his side. She has been preparing for this moment for many months now. Her voice is soft, measured, deliberate. Are there screams inside of her, waiting to take her by surprise, to knock her down while she tries to stand? I do not know. It is not for me to ask.

I couldn't bring myself to wake him: what if the sudden appearance of a large, dark figure in the room beside him should be the last thing he would ever see? No. Better this way. Let him rest. He's fought more battles than any of us ever dreamed of, in this, his eightieth year; better that he should just slip away, away from this world, into the peace that lies beyond. I bowed my head, then looked off into the distance for a moment.

"It's okay to let go," I said, and I realized that I wasn't saying it to him at all.

Part crash, part burn

"If you were wondering if it could get worse," said Sean Kelley, "it has."

Indeed. With 1:18 left in the first quarter, Chris Paul came down hard on his right ankle, and had to be carried to the bench. The Hornets, who had been up by ten earlier, finished the quarter one point ahead of the Sonics, and inevitably things got, as Sean says, worse.

At the half, Seattle had a smallish lead — 49-47 — the Bees tied it at 72-72 in the third. But the Sonics started hitting treys and the Hornets started missing free throws, and Seattle came away with a 102-94 win.

Byron Scott played only seven tonight, which made for some interesting point totals. Tyson Chandler pulled 11 rebounds and scored 14 points; Jannero Pargo, who started at the two, got 23 points; Desmond Mason had 21. Devin Brown, finding himself with more minutes than he had anticipated, scored 16 and swept 9 boards.

The Sonics had three players over 20: Luke Ridnour with 27, Chris Wilcox with 22, Ray Allen with 21.

It's a back-to-back, with a trip to Portland tomorrow. The first x-rays on CP3 indicate no broken bones; maybe he'll be back for the Nuggets game.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:18 PM to Net Proceeds )
Good night, Jerry

I'll remember you as a man who stepped up to fill some pretty big shoes after some pretty bad steps.

27 December 2006
Are you on the list?

What does de-linking mean to you? Veronica wants to know:

I suppose the real question is "what's represented by de-linking?"

If linking is a personal statement of endorsement, is de-linking condemnation? If links are like currency, does this work sort of like a boycott?

Are you de-linking because you donít like "the product," or are you de-linking because you don't like the practices behind "the product?"

Obviously I can't speak for anyone else, but I'm not too comfortable with the idea that a link inevitably represents an endorsement. My own blogroll is headed "Blogs I read when I can," and that means pretty much what it says it does: I read these on a semi-regular basis, and therefore they get linkage. Mostly, it's a convenience for me, with all those links in one marginally-handy location. If I've dropped you off the roll, it's simply that I don't read you anymore. I make no announcements of same; I simply redo the list. There are a few people whom I read who have yet to be added, but their time will come.

As for people who de-link me, well, it's their list, right?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Blogorrhea )
We don't need no stinkin' bundle

Hmmm. I was installing QuickTime on a new box this morning, and apparently — as of 7.1.3, anyway — Apple no longer requires you to download iTunes to obtain QuickTime.

It wasn't a big deal, unless you were on a dialup and had to get those extra 20 megabytes or so, and I'd never had any trouble removing iTunes from a box where only QT was desired, but at least Apple seems to be paying attention to our cries in the wilderness.

(This was for a work box. At home I run both iTunes and — dare I say it? — QuickTime Pro.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:24 AM to Fileophile , PEBKAC )
Carrying Cash

Johnny Cash, that is, and his picture is on the Johnny Cash MasterCard, issued by Monterey County Bank.

And best of all, it's a Debit MasterCard, so your spending is limited to, um, Cash on hand.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:42 AM to Common Cents )
And the Lord said, "Now"

Nothing further need be said.

Later: Well, there's this:

In Loving Memory Of
Ged "Chief" F. Hill

June 2, 1927
Stillmore, Georgia

December 27, 2006
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Place of Rest
Resthaven Memory Gardens
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Arrangements by
Advantage Funeral & Cremation Services
Branstetter Chapel

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." — Revelations 21:3-4

28 December 2006
I thank you all

And from a mast taller than the tallest ships, the Chief thanks you all.

We now return to our regularly-scheduled programming.

Seriously trailing

The Hornets are now missing three starters and the sixth man. Given this fact, you might think that even a sad-sack squad like Portland could dispatch the Bees forthwith. Allow me to correct part of this: the Trail Blazers, who won five straight earlier this month, aren't especially sad.

Jannero Pargo started at point, with Rasual Butler moving to small forward. But while the Hornets did generate occasional offense, they never managed to get past an early Portland lead, and a late rally didn't make up for another recurrence of the Third-Quarter Drought™, as the Blazers won it, 100-85.

Scoring? We got some: Pargo, Butler and Desmond Mason each dropped in 16 points; Devin Brown had 13 with two more treys. But with 60-odd points per night stuck in the locker room — well, you get the idea. And as is his wont, Zack Randolph blitzed the Bees, scoring 26 and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Our favorite insects will be back at the Ford on Friday, when Allen Iverson and the Nuggets come to town. (Sounds like a Southern show band, doesn't it?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:12 AM to Net Proceeds )
How wrong are these numbers?

A survey by British Telecom, who evidently had nothing better to do, reveals that nearly half of all Britons talk on the phone while unclothed: 40 percent of men and 57 percent of women.

Whether the release of this information has anything to do with BT's manifest desire to sell more videophones, I do not know.

(Via Fark.com.)

Emergency Java installation

I don't think of myself as being a caffeine freak, but in this regard I am obviously delusional in the extreme, given my consumption levels of iced tea and soda. The latter, perhaps, motivated a friend to send me a sampling of the wackier Jones Soda flavors, which fortunately don't contain any caffeine.

Despite my own limited interest in drinks based on ground-up beans, I have a certain sympathy for the deprived coffee drinker:

The evening required a side trip to locate somewhere to obtain drinkable coffee. This, in the past, has been a feat of skill. It is not even something that you can ask the locals about as the majority of them do not drink coffee — so they MAY be able to point you in the direction of somewhere that has coffee, but they cannot tell you whether it is palatable.

Tibet? Nope. Utah.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:38 AM to Worth a Fork )
Robin Hood: Cheesehead in Tights

Persons of a libertarian stripe tend to define taxation as "legalized theft," a description that hasn't exactly caught on nationwide.

When the politicians start looking for methods of theft other than taxation, though, it's time to worry:

[Wisconsin State] Rep. Fred Kessler (D-Milwaukee) said today that the value of unused gift cards should go to the state treasury — not to the merchant — and that change will be part of a bill he'll introduce in the legislative session starting in January.

Kessler said millions of dollars a year go unused by gift card recipients, and retailers are allowed to book the unused values after the cards expire. He cited figures from Consumer Reports showing that 19% of all gift cards are not used because they are lost or expired.

Kessler called that a "windfall," which he said could be used to support schools, health care or roads. Under his bill, after a one-year expiration date on all cards, 80% of the value of unused cards would go to the state treasury. Merchants could keep 20% of the value of an unused card to pay for processing, Kessler said.

"I'd rather have people spend the money and use the gift card, but if they aren't, I'd rather the state get the money," Kessler said.

Um, Fred? This is theft. Period. And spare me the flapdoodle about schools, health care and/or roads: your moral compass doesn't have enough direction to lead your ass out of a paper bag.

(Via Hit & Run.)

Taking it on the chin

One of these days, I'm going to have to figure out which came first: the five-bladed Gillette Fusion razor, or the three-bladed (or so it appears, judging by the grille) Ford Fusion sedan.

Last month, McGehee reported getting one of these in the mail. The Gillette, I mean, not the Ford. At the time, I proclaimed my loyalty to a lower-tech scraping device, which probably has nothing to do with the arrival of a Fusion at my door today. The Gillette, I mean, not the Ford.

At first glance, I don't see the appeal: this thing looks like something you'd use to disassemble constant-velocity joints, and industrial-strength auto-service tools are generally something I'd like to keep at a safe distance from my face. They did throw in a bribe — $4 in store coupons — but of course, as McGehee has already noted, "Gillette is giving this shaver away because they hope to make the real money selling ... the blades." I thought of offering this to a woman with gorgeous legs, but it occurred to me that she might think that I thought that she needed it, which would be counterproductive in the extreme.

But then there's the question of washability, in which case the Fusion rules. The Ford, I mean, not the Gillette.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:32 PM to Dyssynergy )
29 December 2006
Je m'amuse

I found this on a sidebar of a blog written in French. [I am linking to the About page; other pages may be either somewhat or extremely NSFW.]

For some reason, we receive more and more visits from people around the world. Seems the internet DOES work.

Although our pics are easy to understand, the alien-like langage used in our texts can be difficult to get.

Should you need help, just try: www.google.com/translate_t

Results are not always accurate, but are always funny. :)

C'est un petit monde après tous.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 AM to Blogorrhea )
Today's graven images use TrueType

You've heard the joke before:

A group of computer geniuses get together to build the world's largest, most powerful thinking machine. They program it with the latest heuristic software so it can learn, then feed into it the total sum of mankind's knowledge from every source-historical, scientific, technical, literary, mythical, religious, occult. Then, at the great unveiling, the group leader feeds the computer its first question: "Is there a God?"

"There is now," the computer replies.

Who knew?

(Besides Samantha Burns, I mean.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:01 AM to PEBKAC )
Don't just stand there

Has the Secretary of State done enough? Perhaps not:

Addendum: For the curious, where this song came from.

(Via Princess Sparkle Pony.)

Yeah, but how did it taste?

The first clue came when the birthday cake proved unusually hard to cut:

"No — look for yourself," said Jim Kavalaris, motioning for his mother to come closer and see what he meant. "It's not REAL."


What it was, was Styrofoam:

Beneath the edible icing, the cake, bought at Sam's Club at Eastwood Towne Center [Lansing, MI], was pure Styrofoam.

Sam's Club manager Jeff Hartsaw theorized that an employee must have mistakenly picked up a Styrofoam display cake coated with white frosting, thought it was real and added the finishing touches ordered by Kavalaris' mother.

And Sam's made good: they made up a new cake, a real one this time, refunded the price of the foam cake, and gave the Kavalaris family a $100 gift card.

(Via The Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:45 AM to Dyssynergy )

A long, long time ago, part of my job description included schlepping around an M16A1 rifle, which was an upgraded derivative of the old Armalite AR-15, for which (you knew this was coming) the .223 Remington cartridge was developed.

I mention this because Carnival of the Vanities #223 shot right past me this week. Better late than never, I suppose.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:04 PM to Blogorrhea )
We shall not be moved

Today I begin my sixth year at DreamHost, and while there have been some uneasy moments now and then, there were more of them then than now. I'm paid up for the next 12 months, so I rather expect I'm not going anywhere.

(This is, incidentally, the third time I've used this title, though you may not remember the first or the second. Normally I avoid that sort of thing, but since these are archives, and old archives at that, I figure no one really gives a flying fish.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:36 PM to Blogorrhea )
Depletion allowance

There had been some concern that the Nuggets wouldn't make it out of Denver, what with the snowstorm and all, and indeed they didn't hit Oklahoma City until around 4 am. And apparently it wasn't all of them, either; only eight players hit the Ford Center. Then again, one of those eight was Allen Iverson, and Iverson can play 30, 40, 50 minutes without so much as breaking a sweat. (Twice in his career he's played 54 minutes.) So I wouldn't characterize the Nuggets as shorthanded.

The Hornets, on the other hand, were missing three starters and their primary reserve, and Jannero Pargo, starting in place of the out-for-four-weeks Chris Paul, managed to pick up his third foul barely two minutes into the second quarter.

Still, for all the vacancies, there was a heck of a lot of scoring, at least early on: at the half, the Nuggets led 59-55. Both teams exhibited a touch of Third-Quarter Drought— but the Bees had slightly less of it, outscoring Denver 17-16.

And then the Hornets' frustration boiled over, or something. At 6:36 left, the score was tied at 83-all; for the remainder of the game, the Nuggets would score only two field goals and two free throws, and the Bees won it going away, 99-89.

As it turned out, only eight Hornets would play tonight; six scored in double figures, with Tyson Chandler getting 10 points to go with 9 rebounds. Rasual Butler and Devin Brown led the charge with 20 and 19; lightly-used rookie forward Marcus Vinicius scored 4, his career high, in six minutes. For once, the Bees were fair at the line, hitting 18 of 23.

As for Iverson, he played 45 minutes, scoring a below-par 21; diminutive teammate Earl Boykins, reported at five-foot-five, led all scorers with 26.

And the Ford Center crowd, reported as about 180 over capacity, were loving it. Whether this provides a boost for the Hornets, who play at Dallas tomorrow, remains to be seen.

Addendum, next morning: Iverson takes the blame: "I stunk it up."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:22 PM to Net Proceeds )
30 December 2006
As I take a swig of drain cleaner

Trini and I were talking allergies the other day, and she's got a bunch of them: peanuts, some soaps, inadequate operating-system documentation. To my knowledge, I'm not allergic to anything at all, and I attributed this bit of good fortune, mostly tongue-in-cheek, to an unscheduled visit to the middle of a Texas cesspool in the early 1960s. "If that didn't kill me," I quipped, "what can?"

Maybe I wasn't kidding:

It was a much more savage and lawless time on the playground in those days, and one wonders if our modern predilection for defeating Darwin won't have repercussions on the vitality of the race down the road. In these depressing times I've seen people want to go to emergency rooms for "injuries" that wouldn't have rated a Time Out from a pine cone war when I was a kid. I remember one neighborhood kid who stopped a BB during a territorial dispute back in the day ... and Bobby cowboyed up and drove on, and the BB gun war was forgotten, and we spent the rest of the afternoon on the same team, clearing the swamp of Orcs (or Germans or Indians or Klingons or whatever was infesting it that week). For all I know, Bobby's still carrying that BB around in his arm.

Not today, though; today we sap and impurify kids' precious bodily fluids by swaddling them in bubble wrap from their first breath 'til the age of majority, when we then expect them to vote responsibly and make wise financial decisions. We need to stop. We need to weed out the slow and the stupid again. We need to let Darwin back into the home. Take the covers off your outlets. Store your dangerous household chemicals in the middle of the living room floor. Keep a pet Bengal tiger.

I don't know if I'd go that far — surely the Murphy's Oil Soap can't be good for the tiger — but as P. J. O'Rourke noted, pain is the body's way of showing us we're boneheads, and if you don't learn that early, you will surely learn it late, when it hurts a heck of a lot more.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:16 AM to Dyssynergy )
The wheels begin to turn

Dillard's has sold its former store in Midwest City to Midland Capital LLC for $900k, according to the Oklahoman's weekly sales list, which may mean nothing at all — or it may mean the beginning of the next phase for the struggling Heritage Park Mall, where Dillard's was one of the original 3.5 anchors. (Service Merchandise and Montgomery Ward are long gone; Dillard's closed early this year.) The Wards store was sold earlier; Sears remains at the east end of the mall.

I'd probably feel better about this complex if it hadn't resorted to a giveaway server for its Web site.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:20 AM to City Scene )
Who the **** are you?

The new AT&T, like the old AT&T, is woefully behind the times. After the seventh call in twenty-four hours from 866-801-8623 (whoever you are, go perform an unnatural act with a diseased goat, and don't call me back to tell me you've completed the task), I went looking for blocking services, and this is what they came up with:

Call Blocker is a service that prevents up to ten pre-selected local numbers from ringing through to your phone.

Hello? "Local numbers" aren't the issue here. I want a blocking service that can reject any number I can see in Caller ID, plus all "Out Of Area" numbers, and I'm willing to pay more than the $3 a month they're asking for their existing service. (The Privacy Manager service, which costs $4, will take care of the numbers with no Caller ID tags, but does nothing to callers who have a number listed, even if it's bogus.)

I suppose what I want is a passworded phone: you dial in, you're asked for a PIN or something, and if I've assigned you one, you get through; otherwise, you get dead air. But I'll happily accept a dumber system that simply blocks 8XX toll-free numbers.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:00 PM to Dyssynergy )
Kelp is on the way

Lindsay Beyerstein features some stuff that I'm sure is considered yummy in some parts of the world, but which is not getting near my fridge under any circumstances. Among the offerings: chocolate-covered seaweed and chocolate-covered kimchi.

Not even Ms Beyerstein's mad photographic skillz can make this look appetizing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:06 PM to Worth a Fork )
Dispatch from the Disinformation Highway

Kissing cousin to "fake but accurate" is "correct but meaningless," and here's a splendid example of the latter, courtesy of CNN:

A giant ice shelf the size of 11,000 football fields has snapped free from Canada's Arctic, scientists said.

The mass of ice broke clear 16 months ago from the coast of Ellesmere Island, about 800 kilometers (497 miles) south of the North Pole, but no one was present to see it in Canada's remote north.

The problem with this is that the comparison gives you no useful information:

Since when did football fields become a unit of measure like feet or yards? Usually when you talk about something being as big as a football field, you do it so the reader can visualize the size comparison. But who can really visualize 11,000 football fields, as opposed to 5,000 football fields. Would they say 20,000 football fields for an ice sheet twice the size of this one? And are the football fields end-to-end or just clumped together?

And are they American football fields, or, since this happened in Canadian waters, Canadian football fields?

Farther down in the CNN article we find this:

The Ayles Ice Shelf, roughly 66 square kilometers (41 square miles) in area, was one of six major ice shelves remaining in Canada's Arctic.

Now we're getting somewhere. How about "a giant ice shelf roughly the size of Evansville, Indiana"?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:04 PM to Dyssynergy )
Saturday spottings (respotted)

Beverly Bryant gets the cover story in the Oklahoman's Real Estate Magazine on Saturday, and today she hit an area I've talked about before: south of NW 10th near Blackwelder, legally the Neas Addition to Oklahoma City, which I described as "a relatively nice, if obviously not at all upscale, neighborhood." "Nice," of course, is in the eye of the beholder, but I saw this area as slowly improving. The new streetscaping along 10th, a gesture made by the city to discourage St Anthony Hospital from fleeing to the suburbs, helps somewhat, but it does nothing for the side streets, which are WWI-era narrow and often clogged.

Today's story reports that Neighborhood Housing Services, an Oklahoma City nonprofit, is focusing on 7th Street; they've built three homes in the 1300 block, between Ellison and Douglas, to sell for $85,000. This is a bit high for the area — there are lots of $55k, even $45k houses nearby — but it's only about half the usual price for new homes in central Oklahoma, and a check of some properties within a block or two suggests that prices in this area are rising a little faster than average.

The floorplan is a fairly simple one, with three bedrooms and two baths and a one-car garage: living space is about 1160 square feet. And we can expect more of these, says NHS's David Ash:

For 2007, NW 7 is our main target. We will be going down the street to find dilapidated houses and empty lots where we can build new houses. We want to revitalize NW 7.

I drove down 7th from Ellison to Virginia, and I counted about half a dozen potential locations — which, of course, depends on one's definition of "dilapidated." ("Empty," I figure, isn't open to debate.)

I have to applaud this sort of thing on general principle, since I have long been persuaded that the best way to maintain a neighborhood is to maximize the number of homeowners therein, and not everybody can afford the mythical "average" home: the local median home price in the third quarter was just under $120,000. (This is, I must point out, pricier than any house on my block, assuming the real-estate firm that bought the house across the street from me doesn't perform some massive upgrades before reselling. Of course, if they're just going to use it as a rental — but let's not go there.) Perhaps it will never be beautiful in the old Neas Addition, but it's worth the effort to keep it livable.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:47 PM to City Scene )
Twenty in a row

Standard operating procedure for the Dallas Mavericks is to blow the other team out of the arena in the first quarter and then hold serve the rest of the way. And that's the way it started tonight, with the Mavs jumping out to a 12-point lead. But the Hornets fought back with a 12-4 run to pull within four, and actually took the lead briefly, so Dallas had to blow them out of the arena in the second quarter, and the dreaded Third-Quarter Drought™, which was actually no worse than the second-quarter drought, pretty much finished the Bees, as the Mavs had done in their previous 19 regular-season meetings. The final was 94-80.

Upside: Marc Jackson scores 22 points, including 10 of 10 from the charity stripe; Devin Brown gets 10 points and 10 rebounds; the Hornets actually out-rebounded Dallas, 43-37.

Downside: Fifteen turnovers, only one blocked shot.

And Dallas was, well, Dallas, and they acted like it. Jason Terry led all scorers with 25; Dirk Nowitzki had an off night and still got 17.

The Hornets are now 12-18. The January schedule is marginally less arduous, but the infirmary has yet to return any of the wounded Bees to action.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 PM to Net Proceeds )
31 December 2006
Quote of the week

Dennis Miller, ranting on Fox News:

You know, I'm pretty sure the phrase "Life's too short" doesn't exist in Islam.

(Source in WMV format.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:13 AM to QOTW )
Doing a 360

Bob Moore got the local Saturn franchise early, and set up Saturn of Oklahoma City at the far north end of the Moore Autoplex, at 13020 North Broadway.

Ford used to sell cars here at retail; they bought up the local dealerships and replaced them with company stores. The local Mazda franchise wound up at the downtown Auto Collection, which is where I bought Sandy back in 2000.

Then Ford decided that maybe they didn't want to be in the retail business after all, and broke up the Collection. Bob Howard, recently acquired by Group 1 of Houston, got the Ford and Lincoln-Mercury stores downtown, but it was Bob Moore who ended up with Mazda, which they moved to 13020, moving the Saturn dealership to the southside.

In the fall of 2006, the Mazda store was relocated a block east, to 13045 North Kelley, leaving 13020 open once more. It's now been filled: Moore is moving Saturn of Edmond there, which means that technically, it's no longer in Edmond. I have to wonder if maybe they kept the Saturn signage in the back of the building, just in case this Mazda thing didn't work out.

Not cubic

But Zirconia, just the same:

Zirconia based coating from Zircotec in the UK will help your vehicle be more durable and powerful. The Zircotec ceramic coating was developed for the nuclear industry and has been proven in automotive applications by several Formula 1 teams. The purpose of the coating is to increase engine efficiency, improve aesthetics and improve thermal management. Older cars don't have the ability to manage the heat generated by their powertrain as effectively as more modern designs. There are also those pesky laws of thermodynamics and physics — a turbocharger housing is going to get bloody hot, no matter what. With a cherry red turbo snail, you'd best make sure anything that can burn or melt is well insulated. Coating parts like exhaust manifolds will improve engine efficiency by keeping the ambient temperature of the engine bay down, a by-product of which is lower intake plumbing temperatures.

And even the most modern designs still produce massive quantities of waste heat. How well does this magic spritz work?

The Zircotec coating is so good at providing a thermal barrier that a motorcycle racing team discovered they could remove exhaust pipes without gloves, while the gases coursing through the pipes were, uh, piping hot.

Now that's impressive. How did these guys get this good? I pulled up their FAQ and found this:

Zircotec now owned by Accentus plc is the new trading name for the surface engineering team divested from the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority in 1996. We have expertise in a range of coating applications and specialise in thermal spraying of metals and ceramics for orthopaedics, telecommunications, autosport and specialist engineering applications.

The UK used to get about a quarter of its energy from nuclear power; today it's less than 20 percent and dropping.

I think you'd call this pre-pre-primary

OK Blue Notes is polling state Democrats on their Presidential preference for 2008. At this writing, Wesley Clark (!) has the lead; John Edwards and Barack Obama follow; the rest (including my own current choice, which is subject to change) are way back. Unlike most of the online polls I've seen, this one can apparently take write-ins.

Year-end clearance

During the 1990s, and for a couple of years thereafter, I was anxious, perturbed, and generally disagreeable, and what's worse, I was unable to capitalize on those characteristics. The turmoil began subsiding around 2003, and by 2005, I was teetering on the brink of complacency.

Then 2006 threw me a couple of curve balls. The hardest one to face, of course, was the death of my father during the last week of the year. It's not like it was a surprise or anything, as I wrote on his 79th birthday:

I'm screwy enough to believe at some way-below-consciousness level that the longer he goes on, the longer I go on. (Which obviously can't be true, since only three of the five children survive, but this is not the sort of notion that is affected by mere facts.)

Still: just one more year. Just one. And after that, let's hope for one more, and pray that we're not pressing our luck.

I had no idea, of course, that a mere ten days after I wrote that, the Grim Reaper was preparing to call on me. I remember getting out of the remains of my car, shrugging, and hopping onto the cell phone; at no point that day did it occur to me that had one or two variables gone a couple of percentage points in another direction, I'd have been just as dead as that doe two lanes over.

One of the good ol' boys who stopped to offer a helping hand that day told me this: "If it's not your time, it doesn't matter what you do. And if it is your time, it doesn't matter what you do."

During a bout of pneumonia three years ago, I had come up with this bit of quasi-wisdom: "The number of times you cheat Death equals the number of times you cross his path — minus one."

If nothing else, I now understand our daredevils a little better: they're running up the score on that old scythe-wielding SOB while they still can. Dear Old Dad fought him off for the better part of a decade; I've had three run-ins with him myself. (If you're keeping score, the previous encounters were in 1960 and 1985; there was a short-lived surrender plan for 1988, which did not come to fruition.)

And being 3-0 so far doesn't give me license to act like a complete and utter fool, but it does provide a sense of perspective: if the big catastrophes haven't done me in, what can the minor trials and tribulations of life possibly do to me?

So here's to 2007. I hope I don't have to face the sort of things I did in 2006; but if I do, I'm (almost) ready.

Last entry for the 31st of December

According to Steven William Rimmer, this was Tax Freedom Day in the old Soviet Union.

The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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