1 January 2007
Strange search-engine queries (48)
At this rate, we'll reach 100 episodes of this little sideshow by the end of next year.
Scarlett OHara New Jersey Band: Guitar, drums and bass, but no fiddler-dee-dee.
can i sue homeowner for carbon monoxide death of my husband: Why, did she lock him in her garage or something?
"mark cuban" intj: Yeah, you gotta be an introvert in today's NBA.
shredded coal mine boners: This explains much about Big Bad John.
Does Daneel Olivaw ever have a relationship with a female robot? Not that I know of; while development of female robots took place after Susan Calvin's retirement, by then Olivaw was busy with the reinvention of himself.
does a 95 mazda 626 have clutch fluid? That depends. Does it have a clutch?
involuntary celibacy penis size: Usually not a factor.
maureen dowd curvy: Well, kind of.
god hates bloggers: Actually, God hates Blogspot, and is not all that crazy about Xanga either.
scholarships for descendants of pillsbury family? If they don't already have enough dough of their own.
How can you tell if a man is not sexually active? For one thing, his blog is updated daily.
The NAPS Project
Wake me up around the middle of September.
They spent it buying a vowel
I remember seeing the trailer for Zyzzyx Rd. online in early 2006; it didn't look all that appealing, but it stuck in the mind, which I suppose is all you can ask of a trailer, and the tagline "What happens in Vegas is buried on Zyzzyx Road" contributed to fixing that memory in place. For some reason, the spelling of the actual road, which is out somewhere in the desert on the 15 between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, was changed for the film; your guess as to why is at least as good as mine, maybe better. (Picture borrowed from Paul's Ponderings.) A lot of movies never get to a theater at all, but Zyzzyx did, and the combined star power of Tom Sizemore and the lovely Katherine Heigl brought it to a domestic gross of ... thirty dollars. (Apparently two-thirds of the take came on the opening weekend, which is not unusual for smaller pictures.) Interestingly, the film has 36 votes on the Internet Movie Database; I've got to wonder how all these people saw it, since it's apparently not on DVD.
Worst titles of 2006
"Are we not men? We are Bevo" (4 January)
(Total number of 2006 posts: 2,126. Some marginally-acceptable turns of phrase are recounted here.)
Gaming the game systems
It is no particular secret that rather a lot of people who lined up at the stores to grab the first PS3s and Wiis (somehow "Wiis" just looks funny, and throwing an apostrophe in there would make it look worse, quite apart from being wrong) did so with the express intention of immediately selling them at a profit.
But with over 90,000 auctions posted, how do you draw attention to your own? Exactly: throw in a little sex.
(Safety for work questionable; improvement in sales figures even more so.)
I do hope this doesn't set a trend
On today's to-do list, only just recently completed:
For someone as indolent as I, this is a lot of work for a day off.
2 January 2007
A pause in the disaster
I've had generally kind words for Movable Type's version 3.xx spam tools; while the nasty stuff still comes in, none of it actually gets put on the site, which is fine with me.
For the last week or so, though, there has been literally no incoming spam, not even on TrackBacks, where most of them materialize. Since it's too much to hope that the scumbuckets have mended their ways, I went looking for a more plausible explanation, and here's what I found:
Bot-net tracker group Shadowserver noticed a gigantic drop in infected systems on Christmas Day. the total number dropped from more than 500,000 to less than 400,000, or more than 20%. Another independent group confirmed a 10% drop on their numbers. What's the deal?
Well, interestingly enough, the combination of people getting newly purchased, XP Service Pack 2 PCs (or Macs), combined with machines not being turned on for the holidays and people being away from work, made the number of infected PCs decrease dramatically.
I suppose this means I should brace myself, starting about ten minutes from now, for an all-out assault on my scripts.
Update, 7:30 am: It took a whole hour for the first spam to show up.
Drive-offs? What drive-offs?
A couple of decades ago, 7-Eleven stores took it upon themselves, with a nudge from nudnik Donald Wildmon, to stop selling Playboy and its ilk. Playboy responded with a "Women of 7-Eleven" feature; I responded by taking my business elsewhere. And I am legendary for the sheer persistence of my grudges, so I wouldn't have noticed what Dave Munger noticed:
I bought a little gas at 7-11 last night. I had to go inside and pay first, which I didn't have to do there before. The lady who worked there said that it was because they were in the process of switching from Citgo gas. She'd mentioned before that they'd been having a lot of trouble with people stealing gas, but now she tells me that Citgo (a Red Venezuelan outfit) used to EAT the cost of stolen gasoline! So basically, 7-11 hadn't been bothering to stop people from stealing it.
I don't know if this extends to Oklahoma 7-Eleven stores, which are not actually owned by Southland Corporation or its Japanese parent company, but around here, just about everyone has been insistent that you pay first ever since the first glimpses of $3 gas.
If it's not risky, it's not business
[T]he two sets of Star Trek series, the original and the new, show how our society's attitudes towards risk, and people who seek risk, have changed, and not for the better. I guess the most obvious explanation for the change is the fact that the generation currently in charge of the arts, the news media, and the educational system hint, it was born after a certain war and the initials of its nickname are "BB" is growing old and sickly, so everyone has to live through their increasing fears of falling over and not being able to get up just like we had to live through everything else they felt and did. This can't be good, because after growing old there is only one experience left the one you don't live through. Then again, at least the grave is silent.
As a card-carrying member of the Vainest Generation, I have to concur. Fortunately, I didn't get much coddling early on, so it's not like me to expect any today, although my capacity for whining is at least average for my demographic cohort.
With this in mind, I'd like to borrow a hat, and then tip it to the Ethiopian army, which, in the traditional American spirit and with the assistance of some traditional Americans, fought a passel of Islamic nutjobs on a truly level playing field: if you got onto the field, you got leveled. Truly.
I bounced this idea off Trini, and she was quick to point out an application: "Set up a music server at home, and take your tunes wherever you go."
It's a little pricey $399 for the hardware, fifty bucks a month but someone who travels more than I do might find this an absolute boon.
Changes at Crossroads
Well, if Crossroads Mall can't make a go of it with ownership from California, let's give the Arkansawyers a chance:
Arkansas investors have purchased three malls, including Crossroads Mall in Oklahoma City. Midwest Mall Properties, formed by Doyle Rogers, John Flake and Sam Mathias, has also purchased Citadel Mall in Colorado Springs, Colo., and Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville, the company announced Tuesday.
The purchase price was in the $400 million range, Midwest Mall said.
Sam Mathias operates Mathias Properties in Springdale, Arkansas; John Flake heads up Flake & Kelley Real Estate Management in Little Rock; Doyle Rogers runs the Doyle Rogers Company, with offices in Little Rock and Batesville. None of these fellows are what you'd call small-timers, so I'm pretty sure they're not in over their heads.
The Macerich Company owned all three of these malls. Citadel in Colorado Springs is just under 1.1 million square feet and is anchored by Dillard's, JCPenney and Macy's. (There was a Mervyn's, which has closed.) Northwest Arkansas Mall in Fayetteville covers 820,000 square feet; its anchors are Dillard's, JCPenney and Sears. (Dillard's has two anchor spots here, suggesting that something else left.)
Last spring I suggested that Crossroads was doomed; let's hope that judgment was a trifle premature.
Update, 9 am Wednesday: Apparently, says someone who's familiar with the area, the second Dillard's at Northwest Arkansas Mall was built on; it didn't replace something else.
The Oakland booting
The Warriors came to Oklahoma City having beaten the Hornets two games out of three, and boasting one new player: guard Kelenna Azubuike, the leading scorer in the D-League so far this season, who came up from Fort Worth today to help fill out Golden State's injury-ridden roster.
The Bees ran up a 12-point lead in the first quarter; Golden State made up the difference rather quickly and then some. It was 49-45 Warriors at the half. The ever-unpopular Third-Quarter Drought left Golden State up 13 after three; the Hornets fought back in the fourth, at one point pulling to within three, but Golden State prevailed, 97-89.
Matt Barnes inflicted the most damage, scoring 29 (including 5 of 9 from beyond the arc) and hauling down 10 rebounds. One-time Hornet Baron Davis also dropped in 29. The new kid, Azubuike, got to play 16 minutes, garnering four points and three rebounds.
Both Rasual Butler and Jannero Pargo did some serious shooting, Butler scoring 30 and Pargo 24. Tyson Chandler still isn't scoring a lot, but he pulled down 15 boards. The big difference? The Hornets gave up 16 turnovers, versus only 6 for the Warriors.
The Pistons will be here Thursday, as will the TNT broadcast crew. The Hornets beat Detroit earlier in the season; I promise to be delighted should it happen again.
3 January 2007
Why everybody else's taste sucks
There are few things in life as much fun as the curt dismissal of an entire genre:
Science fiction isn't all Star Trek and spaceships but it is almost completely devoid of stylists, writers whose mastery of poetic language lends their works an enduring quality. It is really not that daring to suggest that the typical sci fi devotee is a socially awkward white male who prizes laborious detail of setting over literary quality. Hence the dominance of writers like Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert and William Gibson, in whose entire output one will find not a single stirring passage or notable use of metaphor. And yet their fans must number in the millions.
It is indeed not that daring, but that's as far as I'll go with it. I have to admire, though, the sheer pluck of someone who can read the complete oeuvre of three fairly prolific writers while presumably being bored throughout the entire exercise. (I couldn't take that much of Herbert myself.)
Of course, there's always the chance that our critic is more interested in demonstrating how superior he is to those SF partisans, inasmuch as he's read The Vicar of Wakefield, but that couldn't be it, could it?
And God forbid women should read this stuff:
My suspicions about any woman who announced a love of science fiction would be, in order:
Encountering a truly good looking woman who enthuses about this male-oriented dreary genre trash would certainly cause me to raise an eyebrow.
Is that the problem? It's "male-oriented"? Horrors! Bring on the romances!
(Via Kathy Shaidle, who presumably had her reasons.)
Buttering up the new guy
Yesterday, Ray Vaughn was sworn in for the first time as District 3 Commissioner in Oklahoma County; shortly thereafter, Brent Rinehart of District 2 nominated Vaughn to serve as chair.
"I appreciate that, but honestly, I think the citizens would continue to be served best if we just continue with the same leadership we've had," Vaughn said. "I need some time to learn this position."
Which, you can be sure, annoyed Rinehart; the "same leadership we've had," District 1's Jim Roth, has been a thorn in Rinehart's side for some time, and Vaughn has already said he will work with Roth to restore the Budget Board, which was abolished by Vaughn's predecessor, Stan Inman, and Rinehart back in 2005 in a fit of pique.
Go get 'em, Ray.
If you wish to apply to the Drug Enforcement Administration for "controlled-substance registration," and you operate a hospital, a retail pharmacy or an individual medical practice, you must fill out DEA Form 224 and submit it to DEA with the application fee (currently $551).
I have no idea what substances Kehaar has been hitting, but apparently they didn't keep him from running Carnival of the Vanities #224, the most recent incarnation of the oldest weekly blog compilation.
Old and busted: surnames
Drop the middle name, drop the last name. Just go with BARACK, like Madonna or Prince or Beck. If this "rock star" crap is going to persist for the next 23 months, might as well go all the way.
Besides, you know Hillary and Rudy will, and Mitt probably won't.
There are still places that will sell you an 800 or other toll-free number, and I have to believe that the proprietors are desperate to move these things, since the entire long-distance market is about to become obsolete, thanks to cell phones and VoIP. Besides, any time I see such a number on Caller ID, I know it's a waste of time even to pick up the phone.
So when the new industrial-strength blocking device comes in, rather than force everyone to get an ID to call me, I'm simply going to block every single toll-free number in North America, be it 800, 888, 877 or 866. The machine can handle 175 database entries; this procedure will use up only four, leaving me plenty for future use.
4 January 2007
A poultry excuse
We go to Burger King because the kids eat their chicken nuggets. The dollar menu sells them four pieces for $1. At most stores, an eight-piece order used to cost more than double that, so my wife got me in the habit of ordering two four-pieces instead of one eight-piece. Finally, most of the stores saw how silly this was repriced their eight-piece nuggets to $1.99, a one-cent saving over the dollar menu. Fine. Thanks. So today, we went to another Burger King and I just ordered two eight-pieces without looking. Turns out, they don't post the price of the eight-piece and they charge $2.29 for them. So I got two eight-pieces and got 16 pieces of fried chickenesque things for $4.58. If I had ordered four four-pieces, I would have gotten the same 16 fried chickenesque things for $4.
Which, if nothing else, lends credence to the following:
Oh, and Jeff? Wendy's nuggets are better.
(Seen by Rachel.)
The center doesn't hold
You've seen the Likert scale before: you're given a list of statements, and you're supposed to:
The scale itself isn't biased, but how it's displayed can be:
Our bias for the left-hand side of space could be distorting large-scale surveys. Past research has shown that when people are asked to bisect a horizontal line down the centre, most will cross the line too far to the left. This leftward bias is thought to stem from the right hemisphere it plays a dominant role in allocating our attention and is also responsible for processing the left-hand side of space. It may also be related to a cultural tendency to read from left to right. Now Andrea Loftus and colleagues have reported this spatial bias could be distorting survey results.
The researchers presented two groups of students with the same questionnaire statements about their experience at university (e.g. "My course has been enjoyable"), except that one group answered using a 5-item Likert scale that ranged left-to-right, from "definitely disagree" to "definitely agree", whereas the other group answered using a scale that ranged left-to-right across the page, from "definitely agree" to "definitely disagree". The positive questionnaire statements were the same as those used by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) in its survey of 250,000 students.
In the current study, the students' natural bias for the left meant those answering using the Likert scale that started on the left with "definitely agree", responded with that answer to 27 per cent more statements than did the other group of students that is, their views came out as more positive. By contrast, those students who answered using the scale that began on the left with "definitely disagree" responded more often with "mostly disagree", meaning their views came out overall as more negative.
The most expedient solution, it would seem, would be to prepare all surveys of this type with half the forms with "Strongly agree" on the left and half with "Strongly disagree" on the left. Still undetermined: whether this bias persists to the same extent with extended Likert scales, with seven or nine choices. Also still undetermined: whether my beginning the description of the scale with "Strongly disagree" instead of "Strongly agree" reflects my bias.
(Via Zack Wendling.)
Sometimes it's just that simple
Problem: wireless internet isn't working.
Diagnosis: may have something to do with the WIRELESS button in the "off" position.
Solution: depress button.
Explanation designed to burnish reputation: "there was a problem connecting to the router."
The man is obviously much kinder than I.
Quick, push the button
It's been a while since there's been a Worst Songs Ever thread, and Scott Kirwin is running one over at Dean's World with the expected results. Scott's own bêtes noires:
"You're So Vain," Carly Simon
"American Pie," Don McLean
"Feel Like Makin' Love," Bad Company
What all these have in common, most obviously, is an origin in the 1970s, which some people contend represented the absolute nadir in popular music. I'm not sure I believe that, although of the twenty songs I dislike the most, fifteen were Seventies releases.
Actually, I like "You're So Vain," though I'd like it better if it didn't turn up five times a week on the radio. Back when the charts had something to do with airplay, about 500-600 records would chart every year. A station with a Sixties-Seventies format, such as Oklahoma City's KOMA, would therefore have upwards of 10,000 songs to choose from but they play maybe a twentieth of that. Even Jack FM claims a playlist of only 1000 or so.
Feel free to contribute your own examples of songs which make you want to change the station.
At least it isn't TAKS evasion
Diane's son brings home a note from class, and it's a tad disquieting:
This semester the final exam will be particularly difficult. Unlike the previous final, I will not allow any notes, as it is your responsibility to keep up with your work, notes, and assignments. Nor will I allow any exemptions from my final exams, regardless of TAKS scores and final grades. You read it here first, folks, so do not ask! I believe that, as freshmen, it is good practice for all of you to understand the necessity of these tests, as they prepare you for the next three years of high school, and your collegiate career.
Not so awful, although that last sentence doesn't scan. (TAKS is the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills.) But then this appears:
However, being that I am entertained by competition, I am offering two classes a free 100 on the exam, one Regular class and one Pre-AP class. Here are the rules to the contest:
As I write this, the Pistons are beating the Hornets; it's 58-32 at the half. But you know, the Hornets looked really good at this morning's shootaround, and that's what counts, right?
Payback from the Pistons
You have to figure that when Rip Hamilton gets 17 points in the first quarter, the Pistons are going to dominate especially since the Hornets managed only 19 in aggregate. And then it got worse: the Bees, unable to buy a bucket, scored a meager 13 points in the second quarter, shooting an appalling 31.8 percent in the first half.
But in the third, weirdly, it was Detroit who suffered the Third-Quarter Drought, picking up only 14, and their 26-point lead dwindled to 18; it dropped to 14 early in the fourth before the Pistons started hitting on, you should pardon the expression, all cylinders, and dispatched the reeling Hornets, 92-68.
Bobby Jackson, recovering from a cracked rib and sporting a flak jacket worthy of the L.A.P.D., reported for duty, played five and a half minutes, scored 7, and then was spirited back to the locker room: apparently he hasn't recovered quite enough just yet. And Rasual Butler, after scoring three in half an hour, retired with "flu-like symptoms." Jannero Pargo scored 16 to lead the Bees, but he had to put up 24 shots to get it; the team hit only 29 of 88 from the floor, 30 percent. Tyson Chandler, meanwhile, pulled down 16 rebounds.
Oh, and Rip Hamilton? Despite exiting early with five fouls, he got 27 points. Tayshaun Prince had the night's only double-double: 15 points, 10 boards.
The Pacers are supposed to be here Saturday. Maybe they can phone it in and save the airfare.
5 January 2007
Sometimes misrendered as "farfromworkin"
"Vorführeffekt," in literal German, is "presentation effect," but it has been extended to cover a very specific situation: when the technician you've called in (probably at great expense) to solve your problem isn't able to replicate the issue with your machine.
The closest English equivalent I've seen is "serviception," which presumes a degree of hardware sentience: the machine can actually sense the presence of the technician, and will behave properly until such time as the technician departs or the machine is moved out of range.
(Via Laura Lemay.)
I'm happy just to have it defrost
Samsung is showing a refrigerator equipped with RFID. What for, you ask?
[I]t does manage to keep a close [watch] on the amount of food remaining in your refrigerated containers. Moreover, this eagle-eyed fridge will purportedly be able to send a shopping list [to] the owner's cellphone or directly to the supermarket when it detects your milk, juice, eggnog, or assortment of critical condiments are reaching dangerously low levels. As if this wasn't enough to lay down a pre-order, it will supposedly offer up recipes to users as well based on what's currently residing in your fridge.
God only knows what this will cost:
[T]here's no (presumably lofty) pricetag attached to this pipedream just yet, but it is slated to hit retail floors "around 2008 or 2009," and maybe they'll enable it to physically visit the grocery store and shop for you in the meantime.
Can it tell a good tomato from a bad one? And, perhaps just as important, will it flirt with the checkout girls?
Quote of the week
[A]t around 2 gig per movie, my iPod will hold "only" about 40 movies ... but that assumes that I don't want to carry any music or photos. Thus far, I can do without the latter, but an iPod without tunes is like a day without rutabagas, IYKWIM.
Incidentally, "a day without rutabagas" produces no Google results. Yet.
No, it's not the band
How do I know this day isn't going well? A coworker was stuck for a word, and floated a definition past me, and said word turned out to be "incubus."
I'm not sure which is worse: that she wanted to know about it, or that it was automatically assumed that I would know about it.
How do I work this?
"And you may tell yourself
This is not my one-gig drive!"
Which is by way of saying that, after some weeks lurking at Woot, I actually snagged some wootage this week: an actual two-gig drive, with a real platter and everything, that plugs into a USB port. (Here's the original sales pitch.) I suppose a flash drive might be a tad more reliable, and maybe a little faster, but this thing flat flies, and at eighteen bucks plus shipping, including a USB extension cable, it was hard to resist, especially since the alternative is to burn two or three CD-Rs every time I feel like backing up the files I'd most hate to lose. (I do have a flash drive here at the Shotgun Shack, but it's smaller. Capacity, I mean.)
These sold out in ten hours or so; I suspect a few of them will be sprinkled through future Bags O' Crap.
6 January 2007
Host with the most?
The DreamHost surfer dudes, who have hosted this place for five years now, went through considerable sorrow and pain last year, rather a lot of which was passed down to their unsuspecting customers. (One database machine I remember was thoroughly hosed, and not in a good way either.)
And their rep took a substantial hit:
Every time we had a server crash: "Overselling." A network fubar: "They’re overselling." A panel bug: "Didn’t your mama ever teach you about overselling?" A power outage? "Oh yeah, sign up for DreamHost if you happen to like a fresh bunch of OVERSELLING!!!"
Of course, the power outages didn’t help. Nor did the weird problem between our two core routers that made our entire network suck eggs for six weeks this summer.
What's an egg-sucking hosting company to do? Well, if everyone thinks they're overselling, then they'll sell (slightly) less:
Every day, starting tomorrow, the amount of starting disk and bandwidth we offer new customers (this does not affect existing customers at all!) will drop. You can see the amounts here.
Of course, once the new customers are snagged, they can benefit from the ridiculous disk and bandwidth increases that we old-timers enjoy. (My current disk limit is 333 GB; I'm allowed 3.95 TB this is not a typo of pipe per month.) And incidentally, my Web-server machine is being moved Monday night to the New and Improved Datacenter.
A wiki of our own
J. M. Branum has a new project: the Oklahoma Wiki, and it's intended to go beyond the information available at, say, Wikipedia, where, he says, "some of the more interesting topics are often not covered or are even censored by the editors."
It will be interesting to see how this develops. Right now it's kind of raw and unpolished, but that's to be expected early on.
Perusing the Land Sales page
Every Saturday, the Oklahoman runs a list of major land sales in Oklahoma County, based on the County Clerk's report, and more often than not, there's something interesting lurking in there. For instance:
JM Investors LLC from Christine Gaylord Everest, Louise Gaylord Bennett and David O. Hogan, 1506 Dorchester Drive, $1.1 million.
This is, if I remember correctly, the home of the late Edward L. Gaylord, publisher of the Oklahoman. Mrs Everest succeeded her father as chair and CEO of OPUBCO; Mrs Bennett is the corporate secretary. And speaking of Mrs Bennett:
Clayton I. and Louise G. Bennett from Eloise M. McEldowney, 6600 NW Grand Blvd., $1.8 million.
Clay Bennett heads up Dorchester Capital here in the city, and Professional Basketball Club LLC, which owns the Seattle SuperSonics of the NBA and the Seattle Storm of the WNBA. I hesitate to read too much into this, but I suspect that Mr Bennett doesn't aspire to live around the corner from Bill Gates.
Before you feel the burn
Regular readers will recall (and the rest of you can read this) that in the summer of '05 I put out the long dollar for Teac's GF-350 compact stereo system, which contained a CD recorder and a three-speed turntable. It produced decent, if not inspiring, CD versions of beloved (and merely tolerated) LPs, which at the time I attributed to the use of a ceramic phono cartridge, which can't compensate especially well for the RIAA equalization baked into the grooves: recordings were bass-shy and a bit peaky at the top end.
Fixing the EQ after the fact is not especially difficult, but I kept wondering: maybe if I bypassed Teac's own record player and used my own, I'd get better results. Today I tried exactly that, connecting my trusty Onkyo direct-drive turntable with Pickering XV-15/750E cartridge to the Teac's AUX jacks by way of a preamp from these guys. After recording six LP tracks, none newer than the early 1980s, I am persuaded that I was correct, although it's hard to tell the difference through the GF-350's own speakers, which have their own limitations.
There is one downside: when using the AUX input, the automatic track-increment gizmo does not work. This is no particular problem, since my standard practice is to rip the CDs produced on the machine on the desktop PC and twiddle the resulting .wav file as needed; I can break it up myself, or mark the track breaks when I burn a fresh CD with Nero.
Still, it's possible to eliminate one additional step: connect the output of the phono preamp to the line input of the PC's sound card. And if I could find the line input of this box's integrated audio, I would. (Actually, I know where it is, but I'm lacking in AC outlets on that side of the room, and I am loath to go buy a 20-socket power strip.)
"Why don't you pour boiling water into my eyes while you're at it?" exclaimed Sean Kelley midway through the second quarter. It was that kind of night: the game started late because the shot clocks weren't working; Jannero Pargo was sent back to the bench in favor of Devin Brown; and three Indiana starters scored 20 points or more. The Hornets' game was actually much improved from recent days, and they were in it until almost the end, but the result was more of the same: Pacers 100, Hornets 93.
Desmond Mason had a hot hand, dropping in 28 points. Five other Hornets scored in double figures, but the low double figures: Pargo had 14; Brown and Marc Jackson had 11; Rasual Butler and Tyson Chandler had 10. (Chandler picks up a double-double: he had 10 rebounds.)
The Indiana sharpshooters, though, were way sharp. Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson picked up 27 each; Jermaine O'Neal scored 22.
Byron Scott is frustrated, to be sure, but sooner or later some of the wounded will heal, won't they?
The Clippers will be here Monday.
Not that you have a choice
NewsOK.com has a poll up: "If the NBA returns to the Ford Center in 2008-09, which franchise would you prefer?"
Now we already know they won't be here in 2007-08, but given the existing situations in both Seattle and New Orleans, there isn't a great deal of reason to believe that either the Sonics or the Hornets will relocate here permanently, in 2008 or even 2009.
For what it's worth, at the time I took it, there were only seven votes in, and the Hornets were leading 5-2.
7 January 2007
Life with the new call screener
I mentioned elsewhere that I was buying one of these, and now that it's been here for 36 hours, I feel I can give it a reasonable assessment.
The actual hookup is ridiculously simple: you run the usual phone cord from the wall jack into the LINE IN jack, connect the phone to the PHONE jack, and connect the answering machine to the ANS MACH jack. It does require an available AC outlet.
The documentation, alas, is not very good. The manufacturer (I bought this from a reseller) would like you to envision this as a complete "household telephone management system," and their manual focuses on all the positive benefits of the system with various available-at-extra-cost extensions, while I suspect most buyers just want to know the quick-and-dirty negative stuff: "How do I keep this SOB from ringing my phone?"
I did note with some amusement that one number is already keyed into the memory: the manufacturer's tech-support line.
How it works, with my particular options enabled, on any given incoming call:
This is at the lowest level of screening, which I anticipate will be all I need. At the highest level of screening, only numbers that are in the database and tagged for automatic approval will be allowed to ring through. People who get threatening calls might consider the highest level. (There's one intermediate level.)
There are remotes which can be added to this contraption; it's possible to set an incoming call from, say, daughter's scruffy boyfriend, to ring only at daughter's extension. (Of course, he calls on her cell phone anyway, but such is life.)
In practice, operation is pretty seamless. If you dial an outgoing number, the machine will display it, in case you want to go ahead and enter it into the database without waiting for a call from it. (Which, incidentally, is how I set up my initial ban list.) Of the three incoming calls so far this weekend, one was a test from my cell phone, which was let through; two were from telemarketers via a wildcard match, who were sent immediately to the answering machine with no ring. The ban list contains wildcards for all four common toll-free NPAs (800, 888, 877, 866) and two numbers which annoy me on a regular basis. Hardware geeks will note that there are eight actual DIP switches on the back, for setting various arcane options. I didn't need any of them.
Verdict: Pricey, perhaps, but it sure is quiet around here.
The Grey Lady and the children
Byron (his friends call him Barney) Calame is the "public editor" of The New York Times, the second such since the position was established in 2003, and he may be the last:
"Over the next couple of months, as Barney's term enters the home stretch, I'll be taking soundings from the staff, talking it over with the masthead, and consulting with Arthur," meaning publisher Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr., wrote Bill Keller, The Times’ executive editor, in an e-mail to The Observer.
Mr. Keller wrote in his e-mail that "some of my colleagues believe the greater accessibility afforded by features like 'Talk to the Newsroom' has diminished the need for an autonomous ombudsman, or at least has opened the way for a somewhat different definition of the job."
Daniel Okrent, first Times public editor, said he "would be disappointed to see [the position] eliminated."
Mr. Okrent was a sharp critic who raised hackles and then won respect during his 18-month term. In contrast, Mr. Calame has been a bit more like that other Barney, the friendly purple dinosaur and not entirely unlike Snuffleupagus, the once-invisible creature of Sesame Street. The readers were Big Bird, and we could see and hear him but did he exist to anyone inside The Times?
To which Nyhan responds:
[T]his is a whole new style of media criticism. Coming next week: Is Maureen Dowd more like Miss Piggy or Dora the Explorer?
Short answer: yes.
Actually, I think Maureen Dowd is the secret child of Disney's Kim Possible and Ron Stoppable, and whatever Type A personality traits she may have inherited from Kim are offset by Ron's intractable B-ness. Besides, Ron is sweet and goofy, and God forbid Maureen should ever show such a side.
Running the numbers
Nielsen SoundScan has put out its annual results, and while most blog attention has been focused on the rise of downloads at the expense of actual CD sales, I'm looking at genre totals (figures presumably in thousands), which came out like this:
Alternative: 109,672, down 9.2%
Christian/Gospel: 39,715, up 1.3%
Classical: 19,447, up 22.5%
Country: 74,886, down 0.5%
Jazz: 15,720, down 8.3%
Latin: 37,774, up 5.2%
Metal: 61,557, down 4.5%
New Age: 3,412, down 22.7%
R&B: 117,005, down 18.4%
Rap: 59,534, down 20.7%
Rock: 170,726 (a)
Soundtrack: 27,177, up 18.9%
(Note: Titles may appear in more than one genre.)
(a) Rock was a new genre in 2006.
Oh, was it, now?
The big news here, if you ask me, is that classical was up a fifth, and rap was down a fifth. I raise a fifth (one drink at a time, you may be sure) in celebration of these numbers.
And here's something else heartening (figures in millions this time):
Current: 363.9, down 6.5%
Catalog: 224.2, down 2.3%
Deep Catalog: 158.2, up 0.4%
Current becomes "catalog" at 18 months: catalog becomes "deep" after 18 more (36 total). These numbers suggest a growing belief among the buying public that the newer it is, the more likely it sucks. Radio, of course, demonstrates this every day.
And Johnny Cash outsold everyone but Rascal Flatts this year, which surely proves something.
With an eye toward precision
Triticale titles a piece about beards "Gras bilong fes", a Tok Pidgin term for "beard," which I, after looking at it for a moment and recalling what little I knew about Pidgin syntactic rules, determined was "grass belong [on] face," a pretty good description when you think about it.
Curious, I poked about in the weird world of Google, and found this Pidgin translation of the Biblical prohibition of adultery:
Yu no ken duim meri bilong enaderfelo man.
It helps to say it out loud. Here's a translation site, using the presumably-preferred "Pisin" spelling for "Pidgin." (Hey, if
While I was working this up, the wheat-rye guy himself sent me this:
In one of the languages of South Africa, the word used for "cellphone" translates as "noise in pocket".
On a hunch, I tried the Latin version of Google to look up "cell phone," which did not yield up "telephonicium cellulare" as expected.
Chronically behind the Zeitgeist as I am, I'm only just now catching up to this "blog crush" business, which apparently peaked on the 15th of December, a day on which you (or I, anyway) was supposed to own up to feelings of this sort, as Neil Kramer did, and right on time, too.
Upon reflection, I think that over the years I've managed one such crush of A-level intensity, and rather a lot that fall into the high-B category. (I was once asked if a certain someone on my blogroll was there because of a particular photo that appears on her template; I pointed out that she had been added to the roll before that template went into use, but I suspect I was not believed.)
Still, "crush" is a rather open-ended term, so using as expansive a definition as I dare, let me say that there are quite a few folks whose writing style leaves me sometimes literally gaping in slack-jawed awe, and that there are some exquisitely beautiful site designs out there. It is my fervent hope for the new year (well, one of them, anyway) that these two sets continue to avoid intersecting.
8 January 2007
Strange search-engine queries (49)
Shall I do these seven times? From the looks of things, I could do them seventy times seven, in which case everything up to now is tithe.
nudism in greenland: Brrr.
nigeria builder women love scam dating "dave" Dave's not here. He's busy wiring good-faith money to Lagos.
bandwidth baby jesus We're talking more than mere terabytes here.
"is it a date or hanging out": I suggest that if it's hanging out, you probably won't get a date.
why do people zoned out? Um, they bored silly?
Nancy Pelosi leg photos: You'll remember that no one asked to see anything of Dennis Hastert's.
hummer windshield scraper: Not to be confused with sucking the chrome off a trailer hitch.
illegal olsen twins in thongs: Sorry, Chucko, the Olsen twins are legal now.
insipid GoDaddy parked page: You should see some of the ones they actually host.
heather locklear bowlegs: I think as close as she ever got was Tulsa.
insufficient bendy erect penis: Seems to me, if it's bendy, it's hardly erect.
we all realize that you are reluctant to spit the 3 day old Doritos out of your mouth and think of a decent comeback but you are starting to look a little girly. Please go purge and gargle, then come back with some better lines to defend yourself: [gulp!]
terry jacks dies: He had joy, he had fun, he had seasons in the sun, but so far as I know, he had not stopped breathing.
Harder to charter?
What's a charter school like? We have ten charter schools in the Oklahoma City district. Tulsa has three, including the Deborah Brown Community School:
The Deborah Brown Community School, Tulsa’s first charter school, provides an alternative for you and other parents who want to give their children the best possible start in school. The Deborah Brown Community School teaches the total child, focusing on high standards of academic, moral and social behavior. The school promotes self-esteem, ingenuity, creativity and self-reliance, which ultimately contribute to the betterment and uplifting of the community.
Tulsa Public Schools pays Deborah Brown's school about $850,000 a year. All three Tulsa charters outperform the district as a whole, so obviously they've got to go:
The TPS Board will consider a resolution regarding charter schools this Monday evening that will make more Tulsa charter schools impossible.
What's in that resolution? Michael Bates parses it:
And they're hoping that the law is found unconstitutional on technical grounds, since it covers only thirteen school districts. (Similar arguments were made against the law which permits municipal workers to organize, which applied only to cities 35,000 population and above; the state Supreme Court rejected them.)
As a resident of one of those thirteen districts, I'm firmly in favor of keeping, even expanding, the charters, and it's not hard to see why: if they improve the quality of education available in the district, it will make living here in the central city more appealing. Michael Bates explains:
I know many couples who started out in midtown, but as their first child approached school age, they stayed in the city of Tulsa, but moved into the Jenks or Union school district and left midtown behind. They hate to leave behind the shaded streets and the classic homes, but their children's education comes first.
And the regular schools, contrary to popular belief, benefit also:
Charter schools and more of them will keep people from moving out of the district, which means the homes are more valuable, which means higher property tax collections from homes. It also means that businesses catering to these families stay in the district, and that helps property tax collections as well. Then, too, more parents and grandparents who are happy with the school district will be more likely to help the passage of future bond issues.
The Oklahoma City charter experience has not been so unequivocally positive as Tulsa's not all OKC charters are outperforming the district but there's none of Tulsa's disdain, either.
The Tulsa school board will vote on this resolution tonight. Mark Twain is standing by with a remark about idiots, just in case.
Update: Steven Roemerman (the elder) attended the board meeting; the resolution passed 4-3.
Coming distractions, maybe
Stuff (2/07) popped this question to some guys: "What song did you lose your virginity to?" Most of the answers didn't seem that interesting, but these two did. First, Teller:
I lost my virginity to Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vocalise in a Volkswagen minibus, parked on a street near Suburban Station in downtown Philadelphia on a bitterly cold January night. I'm such a romantic.
Penn Jillette, unsurprisingly, has a vastly different tale to tell:
I am pretty sure it was "The Black Angel's Death Song" by the Velvet Underground, but if you ask her, it was probably really something by Bread.
"It don't matter to me," reply my remaining readers.
The New York Times is on its way out of the television business, having dealt its Broadcast Media Group to Oak Hill Capital Partners, a diversified investment firm with lots of holdings, none of them in broadcast. The Times retains its two New York radio stations, WQXR (classical) and WQEW (Radio Disney under a local marketing agreement).
So what happens to KFOR and KAUT, the two Oklahoma City stations that were sold? Nothing, at least at first. Oak Hill has given no indication that it plans to sell off any of the stations they're buying.
Oak Hill was founded by Fort Worth billionaire Robert Bass; among the partners are Phil Knight of Nike and Microsoft's Bill Gates.
You want finance charges with that?
Americans charged $51 billion worth of fast food last year, about 32 percent of all burgers, shakes, fries, tacos, whatever. I'd like to think most of this was done on debit cards, but somewhere out there is some shlub who's paying 19.9 percent interest on a McRib.
The Harlequin Law
Based on a theme by Mike Godwin, and in my experience at least as valid:
As any discussion about literature grows longer, the probability of a comment disparaging romance novels (especially Harlequin romances) approaches one.
By Diana Peterfreund, and first seen here. (I think "Peterfreund's Law" is probably a better name for it, but it's not for me to say.)
Well, they call it the streak
Hornets 26, Clippers 15 after the first? This was a game of streaks: the Angelenos made up nine points of that deficit in the second quarter, the rest of it early in the third, and then the Bees started scoring again, running the lead back up to 10 and then the Clippers went on a run of their own, and the third quarter ended with the Hornets up a mere 73-72.
Then that wily old veteran Sam Cassell took command from off the L.A. bench, and the Clippers would utterly dominate the fourth quarter, winning it 100-90. Cassell, who is rumored to have known Dr James Naismith personally, scored 31 of those points himself.
Apart from those last 12 minutes, the Bees played some pretty decent ball, with all five starters in double figures, Desmond Mason getting his second consecutive 28-point game, and Tyson Chandler scoring 13 and pulling 13 boards. But the less said about that fourth quarter, the better.
Gilbert Arenas and the Wizards will be here Friday, but between now and then, there's a trip to Atlanta to take on the Hawks, who, last time out, beat the Clippers by 12. I have a really bad feeling about this.
9 January 2007
I already checked the power cord
Tech support didn't take care of your problem? Send them this, says McGehee:
Thank you for your completely irrelevant suggestions, they were very amusing. Now please scroll down to the bottom of this message, read what I actually wrote, and respond to the actual problem I actually have and actually described.
I may actually have to use this.
Enough to share
Oh, George W. Bush is on the list:
[H]e showed a level of political incompetence last year that hasn't been seen since the Carter Administration and that had a lot to do with the drubbing Republicans took in 2006.
Also mentioned: Joseph Farah of WorldNetDaily; ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert; and former Representative Katherine Harris, who ran "the worst campaign in America," which is going some considering the prodigious badness of George Allen's.
The pod bay doors open
Because Erica asked, here's a list of my podcast subscriptions:
There may be others to come, depending on whether I can squeeze a few more minutes out of the day.
(Speaking of Erica, she's gotten herself a Coastbusters T-shirt.)
Steve Lackmeyer at the Oklahoman has been catching flak because of the MTV/VH1 writeup of Flaming Lips Alley, which contained this incendiary passage:
"The 'street' was actually an alleyway, one that a reporter for OKC newspaper The Oklahoman kindly described as 'littered with open dumpsters and poorly lit at night'."
Kindly? I wasn't being kind at all. The alley may be littered with dumpsters and poorly lit, but it's also in the heart of the city's most expensive real estate. Internet chat sites for the Flaming Lips took my comment as evidence Bricktown is a seedy area, when I was only questioning whether the alley was a sufficient tribute to a Grammy-winning band that has sold millions of records and boasts a worldwide following.
Meanwhile, a fan using the nym "BlueNote83" seeks to set the record straight:
I think the impression that everyone including international media got is that the Lips got a crappy little dirt alley. Couldn't be further from the truth. When the Oklahoman reporter was writing this, he was writing to a local audience, all of whom it was safe for him to assume knew the Bricktown area quite well. By Bricktown's standards the alley IS a little scruffy, but it fronts arguably the most valuable real estate in the state of Oklahoma.
Either way, people now have an undeservedly bad impression of the honor, and of Oklahoma City, which is exactly the OPPOSITE of what was intended by the Lips, and by the people who pushed this.
He follows with a gallery of ten photos (scroll down to his next post) and this pertinent observation:
One other thing that was missed: quite a few people who got behind this had nothing personal to gain by it, and did it at some political risk. I think it's notable that this was pushed by a politically conservative Mayor and a Chamber of Commerce made up primarily of people whose politics might not match up with the Lips' on every issue. Nevertheless, they recognized the Lips are incredibly deserving of the honor, and are an asset to Oklahoma City both culturally and economically.
So before you go off ripping OKC as small-minded or ugly, you might consider these facts. Frankly, if you love the Lips, you shouldn't hate on the city that gave birth to them, and the city where they still feel the most at home.
And that goes double for those of you who live here.
Licensed under Imitative Commons
I say "cool" because "absolutely frickin' unheard-of," while more precise, grates on the ear.
10 January 2007
Take a load off Fanny
And we'll put the load right on you.
Actually, I don't expect anyone to answer any of these, but if Rachel can post this, so can I.
I swear, Carmen and the Devil must have worked this one up, side by side.
(One word changed in the original text, for reasons which I assume are obvious.)
The Feds, specifically the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, would like to crank up auto safety standards, which in and of itself is not a bad idea, though this worries me:
NHTSA acknowledged in a March 2006 report that most people are not familiar with the agency or the government's crash tests, and that NHTSA's ratings had little influence on buying decisions.
A major problem with the program is nearly all vehicles pass current tests 87 percent of 2006 vehicles received four or five stars (out of five possible) for side impact crashes, and 95 percent earned top marks for frontal crashes.
And what good can a test possibly be if there aren't enough failures? Are we worried about grade inflation, fercrissake? It's not like the Feds grade on the curve.
I admit up front that in my evaluate-and-purchase routine, which I perform as little as I possibly can, I don't pay the slightest attention to crash data, inasmuch as it is not my intention to use the item purchased to crash. (The last car in which I did crash curse you, Bambi scored four stars on the driver's side, five on the passenger's, frontally speaking, though the only reason I can tell you that is because I looked it up just now.)
This is not to say that the NHTSA is utterly devoid of good ideas: they've proposed making electronic stability control mandatory, a move which has the potential to reduce substantially the actual number of crashes. (Besides, since ESC runs off the same hardware as antilock brakes, ABS will become mandatory as well, and after living with it for half a year, I'm no longer persuaded that ABS is a crock.) This will almost certainly save more lives than trying to find new places to stuff airbags. (And besides, you already know what I think about airbags.)
There are 225 squares on a Scrabble® board.
And so far there are 225 installments of the Carnival of the Vanities; the most recent of them can be found at Silflay Hraka, and therein you'll find many articles, some at angles to one another, but always fitting into the grid.
At least one snap up
I am a firm (not to the extent of washboard abs, but work with me here) believer in the concept of Trust Your Gut: there's no reason to assume that your second or third impression is necessarily going to be any better than your first. Not everyone agrees with this premise the last time I brought it up, the voice of John Cusack (in this) was echoed back to me:
Well, I've been listening to my gut since I was 14 years old, and frankly speaking, I've come to the conclusion that my guts have **** for brains.
But then there's this:
Trusting your instincts may help you to make better decisions than thinking hard, a study suggests.
University College London found making subconscious snap decisions is more reliable in certain situations than using rational thought processes.
Now this says, very distinctly, "certain situations": it doesn't say "always." But given my particular propensities given enough time, I can talk myself out of anything that has the slightest possibility of being beneficial I think my position, if not exactly vindicated, is certainly (somewhat) justified.
(Via Ravings of a Feral Genius.)
Marquinhos goes to Tulsa
Hornets rookie forward Marcus Vinicius has been sent to the D-League's Tulsa 66ers for six games; he's expected to return on the 22nd of January. GM Jeff Bower says this was timed to give the Brazilian some extra playing experience; unspoken, but fairly obvious, is the hope that starting power forward David West will be back in the lineup soon. West, who had arthroscopic surgery on his elbow last month, is now participating in team drills, which must be considered a good sign.
Sometimes it's not pretty
The one question I had when the Atlanta game started was "Is Speedy Claxton gonna kill us?" Claxton was the Hornets' sixth man last year, and let's face it, he was never going to get a starting job with Chris Paul around, so I don't blame him for jumping to the Hawks. And with both CP3 and Bobby Jackson, this year's sixth man, out of action, Claxton might have chuckled a bit before the game.
Unfortunately for Speedy, he checked out at the half with a sprain, four points and three assists. Worse for the Hawks, Zaza Pachulia also exited halfway through. So with the walking wounded more or less balanced, it became apparent that both these teams were capable of stinking up the joint.
At which point the Hornets decided not to stink. (Sometimes it is that simple.) After a 23-23 first quarter, the Bees started hitting shots, and the Hawks stopped hitting them; the Bees led by 5 at the half, by 14 after three, eventually running the lead into the middle twenties; the final was 96-77.
Byron Scott's current scheme, of starting Devin Brown at the point and having Jannero Pargo spell him, seems to be working better than the other way around; Brown got a respectable 16 points, but Pargo exploded for 24 points, hitting 10 of 16 including four of five treys. Rasual Butler, at small forward, responded with 21. And Tyson Chandler is actually scoring these days: he got 14 tonight, his season high, and 9 boards. The Bees hit 34 of 65 for 52 percent, with 9 of 16 from beyond the arc.
The Hawks got plenty of second chances they had 13 offensive rebounds, versus a mere three for the Hornets but the ball wouldn't drop. Atlanta hit 30 of 90, 33 percent. Joe Johnson, their usual leading scorer, was held to 13; Josh Childress got 19 off the bench.
It's in and out for the next five games: Friday at the Ford against the Wizards; to Milwaukee on Saturday; back to the Big Breezy on Tuesday to host the Magic; a Friday-night trip to San Antonio, and the Lakers arrive on the 20th.
11 January 2007
Riding that bull
For a change, all my 401(k) investment options paid off decently in 2006; I wound up with an overall return of 8.84 percent. (For those appalled at how much money Goldman Sachs employees made last year, let it be said that the segment that they sub-advised I love that word earned 14.60 percent, which wasn't even the highest return I got.)
For the curious, I am hedged up to here: I'm in a traditional money-market account, a flat-rate account that rolls over every year, a stock-index fund, a large-cap blend fund, and a bond/mortgage fund. I even, yes, Lord help me, it is true, have a few shares of the people who administer all this stuff.
(Remember the generally lousy market of 2001? For the year I was down 0.79 percent. Now that's hedged.)
I have yet to compare notes with our CFO, but I've beaten him five years out of the last six, so I am hopeful. I'm not so confident, though, that I'm willing to offer investment advice, even to Mike.
Update, 9 am: The CFO beat me this year. He said he'd gone after some more aggressive investments this time around. Most everyone, he reports, did fairly well, and no one came out negative.
Morris Garages was the distributor in Oxford for Morris motorcars; despite the similarity in names, the two companies were not related. Yet.
In the 1920s, Morris Garages began tricking out sedate Morris Cowley sedans, which they vended under the name "MG Special." The name stuck, even after Morris Garages owner William Morris, later Lord Nuffield, sold out to the Morris auto company in the Thirties, and we had MGs for decades to come.
The Chinese, now proprietors of the octagon, have inexplicably decided to inform their domestic-market buyers that "MG" in fact means "Modern Gentleman", to the general dismay of people who know better. Personally, I think that if we're going to engage in this sort of nomenclatural revisionism, we should remember the last days of British Leyland's MGB, whose once-perky engine was detuned and detuned again in an effort to meet American emissions specifications, until its original 95 ponies were cut back to 63. By any reasonable standards, those machines were Mostly Gasping.
In search of brains
Night before last, I sent an email to a friend of mine who has an Earthlink account; it bounced with the following curt notice:
550 550 Dynamic/zombied/spam IPs blocked. Write firstname.lastname@example.org (in reply to MAIL FROM command)
As it happens, Earthlink is blocking mail from DreamHost mail servers, and DH hasn't been able to get the block removed. This isn't exactly earth-shaking news and I can send mail, if I have to, from Hotmail, from my cable provider, even through Earthlink itself (I have a dialup account there for backup) but I still feel just slightly insulted.
Then again, if you fuse all those complaints together, you get Dynamic Zombie Spam, which I think is a helluva good band name.
No more flags
Last year, Six Flags came this close to selling its Oklahoma City parks to local folks, but nothing came of it, and I can't say that I'm surprised to see that the two facilities were unloaded as part of a package deal today.
The buyer, a Florida real-estate trust called PARC, is getting seven parks for $312 million; PARC will then sell them to CNL Income Properties, which will then lease them back to PARC.
What effect this will have on White Water Bay or Frontier City remains to be seen, though I keep thinking "tax loss."
Triggering one's decorative instinct
Suck UK, once derided as the most overrated design team ever, is selling scads of these, in this table-vase form and a wall-mounted version, each around $65 at the current exchange rate. It's deucedly simple, too: you fill the barrel with water, then insert the stems. Even your average garden-variety hoplophobe can handle it. (Maybe.) If this isn't dangerous enough for you, they also sell coat hooks in the shape of British darts. Given my inexplicable fondness for things that aren't especially safe, I'm surprised I don't already have a brace of these; on the other hand, there's nothing inherently unsafe about these things, unless you expect to subdue an intruder with one in which case, roses are recommended, what with the sharp, pointy bits along the stems and such. (Seen at Popgadget with a better title.)
12 January 2007
A regular Captain Quirk (Part Deux)
A tag for this came in from just muttering, and while I could convincingly (I think) argue that I've already answered this one, many moons ago, I figure, how hard can it be to come up with five more Strange But True Tales?
I suspect I can come up with five more the next time this comes around.
In the 1950s, Chrysler came up with a less-than-brilliant idea: they would develop a version of their standard Dodge sedan that would, they thought, appeal to women. I once described it thusly:
The Dodge La Femme was as capable as any top-line Dodge of that era, but it was glitzed up with Detroit men's ideas of girliness, with "accessories" such as a rain hat, bag and umbrella, which stored behind the front seat. The La Femme moved a mere 2500 copies in two years, or about as many workaday Dodges as fell off the transporter on the way to the dealership.
The La Femme, however, doesn't quite meet the contemporary definition of a "chick car," which is a non-gender-specific vehicle bought predominantly by women because allegedly men won't drive it, or at least won't want to be seen in it. Associate Blowhard Donald Pittenger has an interesting piece on the subject which, like most bloviation on the subject (including this), really doesn't answer the question of how they got to be chick cars in the first place.
David W. Boles' Urban Semiotic offers a definition and ten candidates:
[W]hen we say “Chick Cars” we mean these are cars women should drive and no self-respecting man should be caught dead driving or even riding shotgun because these cars have feminine curves, engaging personalities and bleed XX chromosomes.
Never seen a Corvette or a Lamborghini do that. (Then again, apart from videotape, I've never seen a Lamborghini do anything.) One of the cars he mentions is the Nissan Maxima, presumably a blow to my self-respect, since Gwendolyn, an Infiniti I30, was the Maxima's snootier sister back in the day.
One of Mr Pittenger's commenters notes:
Ford has been trying to market the entire Mercury lineup as a "chick brand" in a possibly last-ditch attempt to keep Mercury from going the way of Oldsmobile and Plymouth. There have been quite a few Mercury ads on television in recent months, and unlike most car ads they don't feature the vehicles being driven at high speeds (hence no "Professional Driver Closed Course" disclaimers). In addition, the on-camera announcer in the Mercury ads is a woman, and she has the attractive-but-not-stunning looks that have been shown to appeal to women.
Steve Miller would be appalled:
You know that gal I love
I stole her from a friend
Fool got lucky stole her back again
Because she knowed he had a Mercury
Cruise up and down this road
Up and down this road
Well, she knowed he had a Mercury
And she cruise up and down this road
I should point out here that the women I tend to fall for generally ignore these considerations; a salon staffer performing a routine pedicure has no way of knowing that this particular right foot, strappy sandal notwithstanding, is solid lead up to about here and can punch the loud pedal with considerable vigor.
Pratfall from grace
God, as Albert Einstein noted, does not play dice with the universe, but I suspect He's not above short-sheeting some of us now and then, jokester that He is. And when I get a packet from these folks * on the first day of a three-day ice storm, I have to figure that somewhere beyond the background noise there's a celestial giggle.
Which got louder when I opened the gas bill, I suspect.
* Link may not be safe for work.
Agent Zero reports in
Gilbert Arenas and the Washington Wizards got here before the sleet, and the turnout at the game was pretty respectable for a Friday night with an ice storm going on: paid attendance was 16,899, and the radio team estimated 6500 actually showed up. The Wizards showed some ice of their own in the second quarter, going from an 8-point lead to an 8-point deficit, but they made it up quickly in the last couple of minutes, and it was tied 51-51 at the half. No Third-Quarter Drought either; the Hornets led after three, 76-73, and they made it stick with four clutch free throws in the last twenty seconds. Final: Bees 104, Wizards 97, and here's the kicker: Arenas is justly famed for his closing-moment makes. He got two tries tonight, and both times he was denied.
All five starting Hornets scored in double figures: Desmond Mason with 22, Rasual Butler with 20, Devin Brown with 19, Marc Jackson with 11, and Tyson Chandler with 10 (and ten rebounds for the double-double). Jannero Pargo added 19 from the bench. The only other Bee to see action was Linton Johnson; he scored only three, but they were timely, and he picked up three boards and two assists. The Hornets shot 54.5 percent, and hit 50 percent of their 3-balls (8 of 16).
Arenas, as usual, led all scorers (he had 23); not as usual, he hit only 5 of 19 shots, including two treys. (The Wizards were 7 of 22 from beyond the arc.) DeShawn Stevenson added 22 points.
And tonight, both teams hope their flights take off: the Bees are bound for Milwaukee, and the Wizards are heading to San Antonio.
Sing 'em, Dano
Who knew that the theme to Hawaii Five-O had lyrics?
(Well, Jalopnik, at least before I did.)
13 January 2007
At the halfway point
This year's Storm of the Century we seem to get one about every two or three years, for what it's worth has so far yielded up a smidgen of freezing rain, which was supposed to be the major threat, and a whole bunch of sleet. Precipitation for Day One was 0.28 inch of water equivalent, which is way more than one would expect for a serious ice storm; what happened, in this case, is that it got too cold for maximum freezing-rain production, and the stuff froze well before it hit the ground. The computer models, complained the National Weather Service in one of its Forecast Discussion segments, seriously underestimated the speed with which the Arctic air mass descended upon us. (I mention this because there are plenty of folks out there who have been led to believe that computer models have near-divine authority.) It's still pretty nasty out there, and the precipitation will continue for another day or so, but I'm recording this one as a bullet partially dodged: at worst, a minor flesh wound.
The combination of these factors led to a dilemma this morning. The newspaper, in its plastic bag, got to approximately its usual point this morning; however, ice on the surface caused it to slide, slide, and slide some more, down to the end of the driveway and about a foot into the street itself. No way was I going to follow it down there: even if I made it without breaking my fool neck, how was I going to climb back up?
So I got down the garden rake from its hanger on the garage wall, positioned myself just this side of the curb, and stretched. The paper wasn't frozen in place, yet, so with a few semi-deft motions, I flipped over the rake, scooped up the paper, and flung it northward toward the manhole that covers the sewer line, which is perhaps unsurprisingly not covered with ice. Mission accomplished.
As a Brilliant Solution, this does not rank with my escape from the petroleum tanker in '85, but I'll take any little victories I can get.
Bending the curve
Finally hearing Love, a reimagining, if you will, of the Beatles' recorded catalogue done originally at the behest of the Cirque du Soleil guys, reminded me that last fall I'd gotten a copy of the enormous Recording the Beatles book, and it's about time I filled you in on some of the details.
This item caught my eye at once. It's a letter from Chief Engineer Bill Livy to Studio Manager Alan Stagg relaying George Martin's misgivings about EMI's new 8-track tape recorders, dated 14 May 1968:
This machine, in common with all other 8-track machine at present available, does not include all the facilities which are present on the Magnetofon and Studer 4 track machines. Our multitrack recording technique depends largely upon these facilities, so that careful consideration should be given to the desirability of using this machine in its present condition.
The drawbacks at the present moment are:
In addition, the mixer in [Studio] No.2 will record only 4 tracks simultaneously and with normal setting-up only 4 Line Outs from the tape machine can be connected to the monitoring circuits.
In view of these points, Mr. Martin said that the facilities existing on the 4 track machines were essential and therefore he would not use the 8-track for the Beatles sessions. He would like to be informed as soon as the modifications necessary to incorporate these facilities had been carried out.
In the end, the Beatles' fascination with new technology overrode George Martin's concerns they recorded "Hey Jude" that summer at Trident Studios on eight tracks and they requested an 8-track machine from EMI for the remote recording of the Let It Be project. EMI for some reason balked, and George Harrison, who had bought an 8-track machine of his own, arranged to have it delivered to Apple HQ, though by then EMI had had a change of heart, or something. The Abbey Road sessions were all done on 8-track.
One recurring story about "Hey Jude" is that about three minutes into the track you can hear John grumbling an expletive. Malcolm Toft, Trident's house engineer, explained what happened:
Barry Sheffield engineered "Hey Jude," but I mixed it when he went on holiday. John Lennon says a very rude word about halfway through the song. At 2:59 (just after "...let her under your skin") you will hear a "whoa" from him in the background. About two seconds later you will hear "F---ing hell!" This was because when he was doing a vocal backing, Barry sent him the foldback level too loud and he threw the cans [headphones] on the ground and uttered the expletive. But because it had been bounced down with the main vocal, it could not be removed. I just managed to bring the fader down for a split second on the mix to try to lessen the effect.
It was more neatly excised on the Love remix, but then we have better tools today; I once managed to edit the click-THUMPs out of a cracked 45 to get a passable CD copy, and I'm hardly in George Martin's league.
And then there's this:
The middle section of ["The End"] ... is a patchwork of edits and duplicated measures. For instance, the backing track and "love you" vocals heard from 0:460:53, are in fact exact duplicates of those heard behind the guitar solo from 1:021:09 (though to partially hide this fact, Geoff Emerick panned the vocals Right in the newly inserted measures, panning them back Left just before the edit into the guitar solo section).
Recording the Beatles, by Kevin Ryan and Brian Kehew, is available from Curvebender Publishing. "Curve Bender," incidentally, was the nickname of the EMI RS56 Universal Tone Control, a three-band equalizer with adjustable center frequencies, gain, and width.
Contributing to the fog
Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has introduced something she calls the "Football Fairness Act of 2007", S. 249, which would grant professional football a limited exemption to the antitrust laws: just enough of one to permit NFL owners to oppose the move of one of their teams, such as the San Francisco 49ers, who by sheerest coincidence are seeking a new stadium in Santa Clara.
This, of course, assumes that NFL owners, thus empowered, would vote to block any movement by the 49ers, an assumption which I think is unwarranted. This take by SFist seems most reasonable:
[H]ere's the thing everybody seems to like this deal. The NFL does because it gives them more power. And the 49ers like it too because they have no problems calling San Francisco's bluff on this one. Probably with good reason. Since the NFL shares all their revenue, it makes sense that the NFL would let the Niners go off to Santa Clara if the Niners could bring in more money. Also, since nobody knows Bay Area geography, the rest of the NFL doesn't see much difference between the two places as it's only thirty-eight miles away. According to NFL rule, a franchise move is defined as a move of seventy-five miles. And since the 49ers would need the NFL's permission to move anyways because they want the NFL's help in building the stadium, this isn't going to change much.
In other words, Feinstein is basically, as my father used to say, "blowing off head steam."
I'm waiting to see if anyone from Washington state introduces a similar bill to insure "fairness" for basketball teams.
Update, 3:30 pm: Brian J. Noggle sees down this slippery slope.
No Bucks tonight
The Hornets-Bucks game tonight has been postponed; weather isn't bad in Milwaukee a little bit of snow but the Hornets' charter flight, which was supposed to have left last night after the Wizards game, wasn't able to take off from Will Rogers World Airport, and some time around 1:30 this afternoon they threw in the presumably-frozen towel.
The game will be made up at some date to be determined. In the meantime, the Bees will be here in iced-over Oklahoma City, waiting for the arrival of the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.
Crock the vote
Faster Than The World wants your vote for Best Fake Band. There are fifty nominees; I am surprised and delighted to see that my choice was (1) not running last and (2) had more votes than just mine.
Update, 12:50 pm: Voting will close at 3 pm Eastern on 14 January.
14 January 2007
White on white
Still a weird sight: the sky is illuminated by zillions of little ice particles, and then out of the not-blue, a lightning strike. I can't imagine ever getting used to that.
Fun for the whole dysfunctional family
Well, okay, maybe not the whole family: there's a bit or two of salty language.
DysEnchanted is a six-minute short (plus, inevitably, two minutes of credits) by Terri Edda Miller, in which various storybook heroines you know them all are at their weekly group-therapy meeting. This could have been extremely silly in the wrong hands, but Miller keeps the silliness dialed down while making the characters fit together well. I liked it well enough to hunt it down on DVD.
MLK events postponed
The one year in seven (more or less) when the holiday proclaimed for Dr King actually falls on the man's birthday, and the festivities are put off until the following weekend. Doesn't that just frost you? (Actually, if you live here, anything you've done outside since Friday morning probably frosted you.)
Anyway, if you missed out on the schedule, OK Blue Notes has the revised list, which is of course subject to change.
I'm being followed by a Jeff Bezos
You have to sing it like
Oh, I'm being followed by a Jeff Bezos,
Jeff Bezos, Jeff Bezos.
Paranoia? Nope. Just this: I added an item to my not-quite-bulging amazon.com shopping cart this morning, and now I find items I looked at during this shopping binge in the affiliates advertising on an otherwise-unrelated Web site. I don't think I've ever seen quite that precise a hit before. None of this presents any particular problem, unless Bezos goes berserk and sets up a separate Stalking Division at amazon.com, but still, it's just a little bit creepy.
Mental note: Toss cookies faster.
Update, 20 January: It's not just me.
Geek girl shoots back
One of the more exasperating aspects of contemporary culture is its occasional insistence on credentials of dubious utility. Reb offers this example:
One guy said, word for word, "If you really like Batman, name three Robins." Because hey, I'm me, I busted out Stephanie Brown, in fact, and not Tim Drake. I was then told that I’d forgotten one. ("No, you asked for three and I named three. If you wanted Tim, you should have asked who the three male Robins were.") I was asked who killed Jason Todd. I was asked to detail current storylines.
And again, keep in mind, these were questions to establish that, good god, I really was a living, breathing girl an attractive one, no less! who was into something nerdy. One of the guys responded with wonder. The other, who many women at the store have had other, far worse kinds of run ins with, was angry and condescending. (Needless to say, he was the one who hadn't even realized Stephanie was a valid answer to the Robin question.) This all went on for a good twenty minutes (until our break ended, in fact) and through the whole thing I got more flustered and more angry, though I couldn't quite put my finger on why until later.
I later pondered and realized that what pissed me off was the notion that, because I'm female, I need to prove to men that I can join their exclusive club. And once that proof is established, I'm still not really allowed into their clubhouse. In the same way that so many nerds consider jocks to be practically another species, well, women are, too. We are Other. We're confusing and mystifying. And it doesn't matter if we like the same things, if we read the same things, if we discuss the same things. 'Female' is 'Other'. But a female who is into those same things is put into yet another classification as both female and nerd (especially if you’re attractive) you're now a fetish. You're someone who can share the joy of videogames and comics and science fiction, so he doesn't have to alter his interests to impress you and on top of that, you might have sex with him. You're not just a girl, you're a dream girl.
Yea, verily. I have a slight tendency toward geekiness, a greater one toward nerdity, and I cherish the few geek/nerd girls I know, but as a general rule, I'm not about to ask one of them to prove herself, as it were: if they have the spirit, it shows easily enough. (And besides, I'm more Marvel than DC; I'd have missed the Robin question.)
My immediate reaction, I must confess, was not so measured; it was more like "So who died and left them in charge of Geek Points?" The very definition of geekitude provides that sooner or later, more likely sooner, it comes out; it's about as useful as asking nuns if they ever thought about, you know, God and stuff. And I am quite vigorously opposed to grilling a possible date, unless you plan to pop the question that very night, in which case may I suggest that maybe you're going a little too fast for your own good.
Apparently, though, Reb's experience is not universal at least, I hope it's not. For instance:
I am a fairly attractive female, I prefer sci-fi/fantasy to almost any other genre (book, tv, and movie); I loved reading the Sandman and Watchmen comics/graphic novels (not much of a comic reader anymore); I love new gadgets (and used to have a garage full of outdated computer equipment before eBay); I have worked in technology for 14+ years (sometimes being the only female in the entire department); I play video games (as a matter of fact I used to hang out in arcades to actually play the games); and I have never even once had anyone (male or female) even insinuate that I needed to prove my geek status.
Nor should she have. True geek, like other positive characteristics, will present itself on its own schedule.
15 January 2007
Strange search-engine queries (50)
As Rod Bernard used to sing, this should go on forever.
who invented foreshadowing? Somehow I knew someone was going to ask that.
resuscitate beautiful name of allah in realaudio: There are those of us who consider the very mention of RealPlayer blasphemous.
erotic flip flop photos: I remember when fetishes weren't so darn specific.
feng shui flying horse: Point his hindquarters away from your rooftop.
huge erections: I hear the Parthenon was pretty big.
lady latex burqa outfit: Wouldn't it be easier just to have yourself vulcanized?
guys reason for whistling at uncool girls: For they themselves are uncool and wish to broadcast this fact.
My Dr. won't take pain seriously heart attack: Have one in his office.
how to let go of an old love: Find a new one. (Easier said than done.)
i want to live someplace besides indiana: Have you considered Belarus? (Note: This traced back to an IP in, yes, Crown Point, Indiana.)
Another one of those sexy glass kissing Asian babes: Hot diggedy, there's more than one!
susan richards undoes her clothes: Heck, Reed could do it for her from across the room.
eharmony boring ugly women: I bet you're no prize yourself.
irritating bloggers: You wanna know what's irritating? I'm #1 for this search.
do all redheads have fiery tempers? I'm afraid to ask.
stiletto crushing, stiletto crushing, stiletto crushing... [repeat 13 times]: Will somebody please plant a heel in this guy's hand so he'll quit typing?
Why this day matters (a reprint)
Two years ago, I wrote a piece on the points where the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the history of Oklahoma City intersected. In case you missed it, I'm reprinting it here.
Nineteen fifty-four. The big story was in Washington, where the Supreme Court, to the surprise of many, had thrown out school segregation:
[I]n the field of public education, the doctrine of "separate but equal" has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal. Therefore, we hold that the plaintiffs and others similarly situated for whom the actions have been brought are, by reason of the segregation complained of, deprived of the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
This was the decision in Brown v. Board of Education, and the Board of Education in question was in Topeka, Kansas.
Farther south, down in Oklahoma City, Martin Luther King, Jr., all of twenty-five years old, was knocking on the door of the Calvary Baptist Church in Deep Deuce, hoping to fill a ministerial vacancy. They turned him down: too young, they said. So King headed east, and wound up the pastor of Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, Alabama.
The rest, as they say, is history.
Clara Luper had studied Dr. King's work in Montgomery, where a twelve-month-long boycott of the bus system brought an end to segregation in Alabama public transit. In 1957, her play Brother President, about Dr. King's work, was presented in Oklahoma City with a cast of members of the local NAACP Youth Council, to which Luper was an advisor; the following year, she was able to present the play in New York.
The tour bus had taken a northern route to the Big Apple, where the children experienced for the first time the joys of non-segregated lunch counters. They came back through the south, where Jim Crow still held sway, and they vowed to do something about it. In her book Behold the Walls, Luper remembered it this way:
I though about my father who had died in 1957 in the Veterans' Hospital and who had never been able to sit down and eat a meal in a decent restaurant. I remembered how he used to tell us that someday he would take us to dinner and to parks and zoos. And when I asked him when was someday, he would always say, "Someday will be real soon," as tears ran down his cheeks. So my answer was, "Yes, tonight is the night. History compels us to go, and let History alone be our final judge."
And so it came to pass that Clara Luper and a dozen children walked into Katz Drug Store in downtown Oklahoma City and ordered thirteen Coca-Colas, and not to go, either. White customers left. A crowd gathered, mostly hostile. Luper and company stood their ground. Epithets were hurled. Finally, still thirsty, they abandoned their quest for the day.
The next day, all the children were back, and a dozen more besides, and they had but a single thought on their minds: "Let's go back downtown." They did. And this time, they got their drinks. Shortly thereafter, Katz headquarters in Kansas City ordered that their soda fountains in all their stores would henceforth serve all customers, period. The walls were coming down.
In 1960, Dr. King returned to Oklahoma City and spoke at Calvary. Fifteen hundred turned out to hear him. There would be no turning back.
Last week in the Oklahoma Gazette, reporter Deborah Benjamin asked former state senator E. Melvin Porter, who was among those 1500, where things stood today. Said Porter:
It's a legacy of hope, of inspiration, of overcoming. We've overcome many odds. But as long as you live, there will always be obstacles.... I doubt we can ever arrive to everybody being in a perfect society. But America is a better society, and I think that white people appreciate the legacy of Dr. King now more than they did when he was actually involved.
We're not there yet by any means. But we might not have gotten this far were it not for Dr. King. And that's why this day matters, to all of us, no matter which drinking fountain we got to use back then: today, the waters run more freely than ever.
This is your brain on Romulan ale
This message is presented as a public service by the Federation Office of Intoxicant Control Policy.
[T]he act of dillydallying can be boiled down to three human traits: the person's confidence, values and impulsiveness (how susceptible he or she is to immediate delight). Like an economist might, Steel combined those elements to develop a mathematical theory that can define procrastination. His work was published this month in the journal of the American Psychological Association.
"The heart of procrastination is an adaptive natural tendency to value today much more than tomorrow," said Steel, an associate professor of industrial psychology at the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business.
Steel's formula is called the Temporal Motivation Theory, and it works like this:
It factors the person's expectancy for succeeding at a given task (E) or self-confidence; the value of completing the task (V); its immediacy or availability (Gamma); and the person's sensitivity to delay (D) to come up with the desirability of the task (Utility).
The equation reads: Utility = E x V / (Gamma) x D.
No matter how I juggle these, I can't work up any enthusiasm for going to work tomorrow.
(Note: I wrote this up days ago and only just now got around to posting it.)
Haunting my very screen
This is Caitlin Flanagan, former contributor to The New Yorker (at least, we are so assured), current contributor to The Atlantic, and author of To Hell With All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2006). She is occasionally derided by feminists, as in this Slate piece by Ann Hulbert: "The problem with ["How Serfdom Saved the Women's Movement," The Atlantic, March 2004] wasn't just that she ginned up a catfight, though she did, accusing feminists of winning freedom for well-off women at the expense of low-paid domestic workers, also women, who enabled their careers; Flanagan never paused to consider that plenty of feminists have been addressing just that issue, or that men have been arguably the biggest beneficiaries of cheap household labor, since it has let them off the hook at home." None of these things explains why her picture is here, and probably neither will this: for some inscrutable reason, every time Firefox 22.214.171.124 crashes on my home box, this same picture of her, named "write.jpg," automagically appears on my Windows desktop. I figure the image file is stuck in Firefox's clunky download manager somewhere, and I know where it came from, but it was downloaded something like two months ago. If anyone has a better explanation, I'm listening.
16 January 2007
A bit of Luhnacy
Apparently each Nintendo Wii has a sixteen-digit address, which identifies it in the sub-net, or whatever it is, through which all the Wiis (that still looks funny) are interconnected.
Kevin D. at Dean's World posted his, which was this:
4911 0300 3657 3790
I took one look at that, and said "Great Caesar's Chase, that looks like a freaking Visa card."
Well, it's not. That particular string doesn't pass the Luhn test, so it's not a valid Visa number.
Now, of course, I'm wondering if there is something non-random about these numbers. I looked around for a few minutes and eventually found a Wii number that theoretically could be a credit-card number. (MapWii.com has a bunch of people wanting to communicate.) Curiosity as distinguished from, say, cholesterol will be the death of me yet.
That name again is Mr Plow
Oklahoma City has designated Snow Routes which actually get plowed; if you venture anywhere else, you're on your own.
I live near Northwest 50th Street, which is not a Snow Route. What's more, the city, having been hit hard twice this season just over halfway through January, we've had about 75 percent of our annual winter-precipitation average is way over its snow-removal budget.
Just the same, when I pulled onto 50th this morning, the weekend's Slabs O'Sleet were piled up on the shoulder: they'd actually plowed the street, at least from Villa west. I didn't recognize it at first, simply because I'd never seen such a thing before on 50th.
To whoever it was who approved this unprecedented move, thank you.
Dead man hawking
In a world where people still see Elvis, I suppose it's inevitable that Orville Redenbacher would be doing commercials from beyond the grave, especially this year, which marks the 100th anniversary of his birth; but it's still kinda creepy, and "kinda creepy" doesn't do a thing for my appetite, you know? As Lileks says, "It's a desiccated undead zombie-mummy in a bowtie, and it will steal your soul."
At least they didn't pose him in a hot tub.
The big Rakku
Actually, it's not that big, and that's the charm of it. The Rakku Shoe Wheel is about two and a half feet (as it were) in diameter, and it stores a minimum of 20 pairs of shoes. (You might be able to get two pairs of flats into one pocket, but don't try it with heels.)
I don't see this as a solution to my shoe-storage issues, but then I'm a guy and therefore don't have that many shoes. What's more, I wear a 14, which won't fit in the pocket; the maximum size allowed is a men's 10½, which is more or less the equivalent of a women's 12½, which I've never seen on anyone outside the WNBA. I like the looks of it, though, and the price $65 doesn't look too heinous.
Thirty-six valves, no waiting
Back around 1980, faced with the possibility that V8 engines would be legislated out of existence, General Motors' Oldsmobile division started playing around with a three-liter V6 and the possibilities thereof. One idea considered was slicing it lengthwise to produce an inline-3, which wasn't exactly unprecedented: the Pontiac Tempest's four-banger in the 1960s was half of the fabled 389 V8. A V4 was also suggested. But the wackiest idea of all was the one that actually came closest to realization: a V5, one cylinder lopped off the end, displacing 2.5 liters.
Olds never built the V5, although inline fives did eventually find their way into the General's arsenal, and various Europeans have had straight fives for some time now. This left the title of most crazed engine configuration to Volkswagen, which took its narrow-angle V6, cut the center cylinders out of it, and bolted another one right behind it. Behold: the W8. VW also makes a W12 and, for use in the Bugatti Veyron, a frightful W16.
Then again, this little jewel has yet to go into production: a three-liter W9, basically a V6 with a center row of cylinders, a Swedish engineering student's master's thesis. It's designed to run on E85 or straight ethanol at a compression ratio of 12.7:1, with which it produces 526 hp at a scary 10700 rpm.
I don't know about you, but I'd love to see Nissan take a crack at one of these; after all, they already make the world's greatest V6.
Thou shalt not give offense
And lo, the Magic and the Hornets took this to heart: it was 38-33 at the half, and both teams were shooting well under 40 percent. What's more, Orlando had hit only one 3-ball out of four; the Bees put up eight and missed them all. Things picked up marginally in the third, but stayed ugly, and the Magic tied it at 75 with six seconds left as Tyson Chandler fouled out.
But if there's no offense, perhaps there can be defense: the Hornets held the Magic scoreless for 4:53 of the five minutes of overtime, winning it 84-78, their third win in a row, and how long has it been since you heard that? (Yep. Second week of November.)
Once again, Jannero Pargo demonstrated that he's way better off the bench than as a starter: he played 33 minutes anyway, and he scored 25 points, hitting 10 of 18 and 3 of 4 treys. (At one point, Pargo had 19 of the team's last 23 points.) Desmond Mason scored 21 and hauled down 9 boards, just missing a double-double; Rasual Butler got one, with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Chandler, before foul number six, scored 4, picked up 10 rebounds, and blocked three shots.
The Magic presented a relatively-balanced attack, if "attack" is the word; both Dwight Howard and Darko Milicic got double-doubles, and Darko got his off the bench.
A couple of tough games coming up: at San Antonio on Friday, and then the Lakers will be at the Ford Center on Saturday. The Hornets are now 15-22, not inspiring for a team that started 8-3, but the mere fact that they're actually winning games without most of their starters has got to be worth something, if only in terms of confidence factor.
17 January 2007
Congestion on the Chesapeake westbound
Los Angeles has the 5 and the 110; Chicago has the Dan Ryan and the Skyway; Tulsa has the Inner Dispersal Loop. Eric Seymour asks: why not sell the naming rights?
It is now common practice to sell the naming rights for sports venues, convention centers, and other prominent buildings. Why, I wonder, aren't there any roads named by the highest bidder?
In Philadelphia, I-76 is known as the Schuylkill Expressway, I-676 is the Vine St. Expressway, and I-476 west of the city is known as the Blue Route. Other cities have similar colloquialisms for traffic arteries, while others are named in honor of civic leaders. Sports venues used to be named in the same way, but now nearly all have corporate monikers. So why not sell the naming rights for major roadways?
Would you want your company associated with the Sure-Kill? And maybe that's the whole issue:
Perhaps federal funding for highway construction and maintenance is part of the reason. But come to think of it, perhaps most corporations don't want their names associated with "traffic jam" or "20-car pileup."
Given the typically lethargic pace on I-44 either side of the Belle Isle Bridge, I bet we could sell it to La-Z-Boy.
May I have this Dansk?
Have you ever bought one of those humongous metal cans of Danish Butter Cookies? I have; I'm usually good for at least one can of Royal Dansk every year, maybe more.
And you know, it never occurred to me that these little treats actually might come from Indonesia.
Tear the ice off the sucker
Up to this point, I'd managed to fight off the annual winter blues, but today they forced their way onto the premises, and it will likely be a month before I can shoo them away.
There are a number of factors involved. The obvious one: I have a smidgen, maybe more than that, of Seasonal Affective Disorder, separate from the usual clinical depression (which has been in remission of late). It doesn't help that all the crap that fell from the sky over last weekend is still around: temperatures have remained below freezing since Friday morning, and won't recover today either. What's more, the Weather Guys insist that there's another load on the way, and I have this ridiculous idea that we ought to get rid of the stuff we have before we get more of it. Obviously this kind of thinking will never catch on.
Just as annoying is the approach of Valentine's Day, which has always had a strong emetic effect on me. (I need hardly point out that the usual trinkets and chocolates and general detritus have been in the stores since, oh, the second of January.) The Prophet, so far as I can determine, would never have endorsed such a thing, which is, to me anyway, the only appealing aspect of Islam.
So it's a funk, and not the good sort of funk. (Cue George Clinton: "We want the funk! Give up the funk!") Its ultimate severity is yet to be established, but regardless of the degree, I'm going to have to ride it out.
The late Dr. Robley Evans was the first person to come up with a defined safety limit for radiation in the human body: 0.1 microcuries (uCi) of radium-226.
Madame Curie herself, for whom the unit of measure was named, perished from excessive exposure to radiation. For those of us who labor in anonymity in blogdom, excessive exposure is hardly our problem, which is one reason why there's the Carnival of the Vanities, edition 226 of which is now available for inspection.
It pays to whine, sort of
Well, sometimes. Saturday I grumbled about the unfortunate location of the morning paper, which was about halfway into the nearest traffic lane, owing to the combination of (1) steep driveway and (2) massive area of ice.
I added a comment on Sunday to the effect that they'd gotten it north of the curb, where it was reasonably accessible.
Today's edition was smack-dab between the twin redbud trees, a good fifteen feet up from the curb. (Unfortunately, it was in an extremely slick area, but they had no way of knowing that.) Credit where credit is due, I always say.
18 January 2007
Warm words on a cold day
The only thing I've never quite understood about the Mayor's annual State of the City address is that it's given, not in a forum generally thought of as public, but in front of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. Fortunately, the city has always coughed up transcripts pretty quickly, and Mick Cornett's 2007 address, given Wednesday, was up that afternoon.
The biggest news, of course, is the possibility of MAPS 3, in the spirit of the original Metropolitan Area Projects and the ongoing MAPS for Kids remaking of local schools. The MAPS for Kids one-cent sales tax expires December 2008; any MAPS 3 projects would perforce be predicated on voters' approval of a new tax, presumably to start January 2009. Assuming it runs seven years, as did the MAPS for Kids tax, there will be, I'm guessing, around $600 million for New Stuff. (MAPS for Kids will raise about $500 million for local schools, not counting the $180 million bond issue that was floated at the beginning.)
If there is to be a MAPS 3, it will presumably be a package deal. ("It's all or none, folks," then-Mayor Ron Norick had said of the original MAPS. "It makes it easier to sell.") What's in the package? Nobody knows yet. The city has set up a Web site to take suggestions, which will be open through mid-May. I'm contemplating a wish list of my own, to be sent in for consideration.
The legendary Alpine climate
A useful bit of advice from Eric Siegmund, on how to do meaningful comparisons in West Texas:
Be sure to localize your descriptions of your products. Instead of comparing the size of Disney World to Rhode Island, the dinkiest of all the states, compare it to Brewster County, which is four times the size of RI.
Last I looked, Disney World at its peak covered 47 square miles, so:
"You could fit 110 Disney Worlds in Brewster County, Texas, and still have room for the entire city of San Antonio, and after that, you'd still have room for the entire city of San Antonio."
(Wikipedia notes that Brewster is bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.)
Sit down and have a sandwich
It is a measure of things that Jessica can describe America "Ugly Betty" Ferrara as "curvy" and then feel compelled to explain the term:
She looks tall and curvy. Which, by the way, I don't mean as a Euphemism For Fat. I hate the fact that "curvy" now means, in Secret Hollywood Patois, "tubby." For example, according to Star Magazine, Jessica Alba recently said to a journalist, "I know I'm curvy. I'm working on it." Fast-forward to Jessica Alba dropping ten pounds she didn't need to drop. CURVY IS GOOD, PEOPLE. Curvy is sexy and feminine, not Marlon-Brando-In-A-Muu Muu-Fat. Women all women: naturally very thin women, naturally not so thin women, flat-chested women, big-breasted women, ALL WOMEN have, as we learned from America's debut film, some curves of some size somewhere on their body.
I mention in passing that my best subject in secondary school was geometry.
Said debut film, incidentally, was not, in fact, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
After which he will be grilled with lemon pepper
Jeffrey Brent Goodin, phisher, has been convicted on ten counts of varying heinousness and could theoretically face up to 101 years in stir.
How he did it:
Goodin had been running a sophisticated phishing operation in which he posed as a member of AOL's billing department and tricked users into divulging their credit card information.
To run the scheme, Goodin used several compromised Earthlink accounts and set up fake Web sites that mimicked legitimate AOL pages. Like other phishers, Goodin used good old fashioned fear-mongering and official-looking threats to scare people into giving out the data.
Being a fan of good old-fashioned fear-mongering, I suggest this guy get a few minutes of waterboarding before his sentence is handed down and, purely in the interest of symmetry, a few minutes after. Pour encourager les autres, doncha know.
I used to have a shoulder
Those of you who find my attempts to deal with winter amusing (you know who you are) would have enjoyed watching me attempting to dig out something of a path between garage and street through the two and a half inches of ice that descended upon the place last weekend and refused to budge for the next three and a half days.
What's most annoying, of course, is the fact that assuming everything melts Friday, which is a lot to assume, there will be another half a foot or so of snow Saturday.
Wonder if the lawn mower can double as a snowblower? It's a mulcher, after all.
19 January 2007
Thrashing the puppy
I am convinced that Microsoft put more effort into developing that farging puppy for XP's search utility than into the utility itself. (The lovely and talented Ms Dewey offers none-too-mute testimony to this tendency of Redmond's, in case you've forgotten Microsoft Bob.) When I gave up my W98 work box for a sorta-new XP machine, I grumbled about this and sought out alternatives; eventually Trini came up with the idea of Copernic Desktop Search. I duly installed it, and in whatever spare time the machine had, Copernic indexed what seemed to be every last file on the box, and I'd moved over about 12 GB of stuff. Eventually it caught up as of this week it bothers only when it sees new or changed files and I decided it was suitable for my home box as well. The big difference: instead of 12 GB of stuff, I have about 60. The indexing, inevitably, is taking longer, despite the higher horsepower of this machine; so far 103,125 documents have been indexed, with 1,538,854 keywords. To my amazement, it's even sorting through my mail, and I have about ten years of mail accumulated. (Not counting the deleted items yet to be flushed, there's a third of a gigabyte of mail to be inspected.) I am impressed with this application: it's quick (it gets used several times a day at work, often in rapid succession); it opens a handy little search box in the XP taskbar; and it doesn't suck up every last bit of memory in the machine. Moreover, there's no animated assistant. (Yes, I know there's a Registry hack to banish the pooch; the utility itself is still seriously retarded next to Copernic, or for that matter next to the old Windows 98 search.)
Once I got out of the neighborhood this morning, the commute went at close to full speed; the hard part, of course, was getting out of the neighborhood at all, where the streets are still covered with re-refrozen ice.
This should not surprise you, says Mayor Cornett:
If people expect an extremely high level of service when it comes to snow cleanup, they've got to be kidding. That's why we've designated specific snow routes.
Said snow routes make up something like a twentieth of the 14,000 miles of roadway in the city, and it's taken the better part of a week to get them into shape. Were they to start on every residential street this morning, they'd finish in March, maybe.
The average annual snowfall in Oklahoma City is 8.1 inches. Going into this weekend's version of the White Death, we've piled up 6.9 inches, so I think it's safe to say that this winter has been snowier than average. (Worst winter ever? 1947-48, with 25.2 inches. And on the 19th of March, 1924, 11.3 inches of the stuff came down.)
Some like it not so hot
Perhaps I have some sort of weird, backwards version of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Winter is the time of year when, oddly enough, I feel honest-to-God happy. Summer is when I'm miserable. Sunlight hurts my eyes, and gives me a headache. The oppressively humid Oklahoma heat makes me tired, sluggish and downright suicidal.
On the other hand, few things compare to standing before a foggy window in my cozy house, clad in my flannel pajamas and fuzzy slippers, looking out at the sparkling wonder that is my front yard. Gone is the drab, brown grass it's hidden beneath soft, thick blankets of whiteness. I love to count the icicles hanging from the bumper of my neighbor's car. I love watching the school closings scroll across the top of my television screen, as I eagerly search for my place of employment. Will I get to go in two hours late the next day? Or even better, not at all? Even the parking lot piles of ugly, exhaust-stained ice make me smile.
I hope she's getting enough Vitamin D. And really, I don't mind cold, particularly; I just don't like certain of its traffic-impeding effects. (And we didn't have any "soft, thick blankets of whiteness" last time around: that stuff came down hard and stayed that way.)
I have not left this house since I arrived here at 2 p.m. last Friday and I am LOVING it. Even almost a week into it, I don't feel a bit of cabin fever. Should I be worried?
When you should worry is when you feel cabin fever after an hour and a half.
I take a 14. Why do you ask?
Quote of the week
Brooklyn-based "commercial semiotician" A. S. Hamrah contemplates the Payless 2.0 logo, and remembers a simpler time:
Payless was once attractive to slackers, which may be why you noticed the logo change. When I was living in Allston, Massachusetts, the Payless Shoe Source on Harvard Street was a cool place in a negative sense, which gave certain people an excuse to shop there. It was an acceptable way to buy new things for people who didn't want to be perceived as buying new things. Then the internet came along, just as the culture was becoming more grasping and whoreish and with the internet you can get whatever you want quickly. Now people will have one used item in their outfit not used but "vintage" just to show they're not lame. And that item will sometimes cost hundreds of dollars. Back in those shopping-at-Payless days, my girlfriend used to go to the AmVets or the Salvation Army ("the Sally") or the Goodwill ("the bargie," for "bargain store," pronounced "boggie" if you’re from Boston) and she and a lot of other people had their day "I go on Tuesdays." But now you can go on eBay and get exactly what you want whenever you want, instead of going once every week to a thrift store and just hoping, and the result, curiously, is that people look more the same now than ever.
High weirdness in Alamo City
I didn't understand this game at all. Halfway through the first quarter, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was tossed off the premises; the Hornets missed all the free throws generated by Popovich's technicals; the first quarter ended with San Antonio up 26-12. The Bees shot better in the second, but so did the Spurs, who took a 53-36 lead into the locker room; the Hornets actually outscored San Antonio in the third, but only by one.
The Bees made a run at it in the fourth, twice pulling within eight, but frustration was clearly setting in, and with about sixty seconds left, Desmond Mason was ejected; shortly thereafter, Chris Paul, who wasn't even playing, was thrown out. Final: Spurs 99, Hornets 86.
Still, Bobby Jackson was back he played 26 minutes and scored 14 points and starting at power forward for the first time in ages, David West picked up where he'd left off with 19 points and 11 rebounds. (Nor was D-West the only Bee with a double-double; Tyson Chandler had 11 boards and 10 points.) Jannero Pargo, who was scarcely seen until the fourth quarter, still managed to score 11.
The Spurs guards were lethal as always: Tony Parker snagged 23 points; Manu Ginobili had 19. And Tim Duncan pulled down 16 boards.
And after all that, the Hornets have to fly to snowed-in Oklahoma City to play the Lakers tomorrow night. Some weekend.
20 January 2007
What's behind Storm Number Three?
The Weather Guys are still tweaking the forecast for the rest of the day, but right now it looks like a nice frozen-daiquiri mist followed by great heaping globs of snow. In front of entirely too many people yesterday I went out on a limb (and it was cold, too) and projected 4.2 inches of frozen stuff for the period; since then, the official forecast has been revised to come closer to my numbers. Further revisions should be expected.
In the meantime, well, it's still around the freezing point, making the sixth day since the beginning of Storm Number Two, a week ago Friday, that they'd called the morning low a bit too low. Perhaps to compensate, they scraped the top off the highs; we got within spitting distance of 40 degrees once or twice, but no closer, and there's been no sunshine for nine days. (Apparently the default sky condition at NWS is "Fair"; there's a whole day's worth of "Fair" at the Wiley Post observation point that must have resulted from someone not filling in the form. The skies have been rather less blue than, say, the Danube.)
The lesson in all of this, of course, is that despite our best efforts to develop a meatier meteorology, Nature is always ready to throw us a curve, usually incompatible with the computer models. Remember that during the coming
Bring on the filters
You know, if I were going to retouch a photo of myself, I probably wouldn't spend much time on my chin.
Meanwhile in unsunny Seattle
Clay Bennett, owner of the Sonics, writes a letter to the governor saying taxpayers should contribute at least $300 million to a new arena, and it's tough to say how much the Sonic ownership can contribute. That's a little tough to rally behind. It almost seems like it's designed to fail. One other weird thing: Clay Bennett is tight with Rick Horrow, who is the consultant responsible for most of the public stadiums money in the United States. He's THE expert on this. Horrow got the deal done for the big stadium in Oklahoma City, among others. I don't know that Horrow is not involved here, but the other main consultants are listed in the letter, and there's no mention of him. It just seems ... that if Clay Bennett sincerely wanted to get this deal done in Seattle, Horrow would be the point man, right?
This passage from Bennett's letter is presumably what set off Abbott's alarm:
There are several factors that keep us from providing you an absolute number on the amount of private investment today. There is still a great deal of modeling going on about the potential financial return of the building and the benefit it will provide the team. My obligation to the Sonic ownership group is that I not enter into any transaction that does not give us at least a fair chance to earn a reasonable profit over time.
The amount of our contribution is made more complex by the financial realities of a team with a non-economic lease and poor financial performance that will likely lead to losses of $50 million or more before we can get into a new arena. The magnitude of those losses has to impact the amount we can contribute toward an arena.
And surely it does, but the phrasing, to be charitable, doesn't sell the premise. Governor Gregoire could simply fire back, "If your position is that wobbly, perhaps you should be in some other business." At the very least, she'd get cheers from the We Hate Sports contingent in Seattle proper.
Then again, Gregoire has been less than consistent in her stance on the matter. Last year she insisted that any arena proposal demanded a public vote; this week she's more amenable to cutting a deal without an election.
On the larger issue of whether stadium deals are worthwhile at all, Abbott is unequivocal:
I'm not sold on the way stadiums are financed in the U.S., but I'm also not sold on the idea that Seattle can get by just fine as the only major North American city without one. The choice isn't spend all that money now or not at all, the choice is spend all that money now or later when you then also have to lure an anchor tenant.
I'm still waiting for the Basketball Fairness Act of 2007.
Two pounds of sandyburger
Beating out analgesics, baby formula and razor blades, the item most shoplifted from American supermarkets is: meat.
And, most especially, high-priced meat:
Loss-prevention specialists note that a large number of meatlifting incidents, if not the majority, involve the pilfering of meats associated with luxury dining: rib-eyes, filet mignons, or lamb chops, among other treats. Stores have had particular problems with cuts bearing the Certified Angus Beef brand, which are often displayed near ostensibly less succulent offerings. With only enough money to purchase an ordinary chuck-eye roast, many otherwise ethical shoppers make a snap decision to lift the Angus instead. Store detectives speculate that these meatlifters feel entitled to have steak instead of hamburger on occasion, as a reward for their hard work; swiping an expensive bottle of dish soap doesn't provide the same sense of satisfaction.
Of course not. Dish soap doesn't go for ten dollars a pound.
I note that where I shop, the Angus products are not prepackaged, but are kept behind the butcher's counter; if you really don't want to pay ten bucks for the Angus T-bone, you're welcome to try to find a putatively-lesser steak on the shelf. (And it will probably cost you $9.49.) Which explains this:
Though the behind-the-counter approach for Angus beef would certainly reduce meatlifting, it would also cut down on impulse purchases. And the happy reality is that for every shopper who decides to risk jail for a rib-eye, several more simply decide to splurge and shell out the extra few bucks for a choicer steak.
The last filet mignon I bought (a little over a year ago) was an impulse purchase, and frankly, I think I can do without that particular impulse.
I wonder if this phenomenon diminishes in the summer as relative volumes of clothing diminish. In January, you're layered: you have lots of places into which you can tuck things. No such luck in July: you'll have to shove that London broil into your shorts. Of course, if you're good at it, the intelligence community (now transitioning to oxymoron status) would like to hear from you.
(Via In Theory.)
But I'll never run out of coasters
A pox on a certain retailer (I won't mention its name) for selling something labeled as "DVD+R-", and on me for being dumb enough to buy it.
Visitors from frozen Los Angeles
When the Lakers are in town, the first question anyone asks is "How was Kobe?" Kobe was fine: he scored only three points in the first quarter, all from the charity stripe, but he served up three assists and grabbed two rebounds. Those who expected Bryant to hog the spotlight would have been disappointed.
And then in the second quarter, Kobe did well, nothing much, actually, as the Hornets, down 29-25 after one, jumped out to a 59-51 lead at the half. So naturally, the third quarter began with a quick Bryant jump shot, and he wasn't going to be quiet after that, rolling up a quick 14 points and bringing the Lakers to within one, 83-82. L.A. actually led with ten minutes left, 88-87, and stayed close for a while, but the Bees poured it on in the last three minutes and dispatched the visitors, 113-103.
Kobe finished with 23, as did reserve guard Maurice Evans, and Evans took a lot fewer shots. Perhaps that explains something. And Kobe led everyone in assists, with seven.
Meanwhile, top scoring honors went to the evidently-recovered David West, who dropped in 26, swept 12 rebounds, and recorded a steal. Bobby Jackson, also back from the infirmary, scored 15. Tyson Chandler had an unexpected 17 points to go with the expected 12 boards. Rasual Butler, master of treys, got four of seven and 20 points total; his most dramatic moment was not, however, a 3-ball, but his block of a Kobe Bryant shot, which he tipped to Bobby Jackson, who tossed it back to Butler, who dropped it in, putting the Bees up by six. And the less-crummy-than-expected weather made for a full house plus, which is always a joy.
On the road now: Philadelphia on Tuesday, Toronto on Wednesday, and then the Kings in New Orleans.
21 January 2007
They're all wet
Sex and snow, it is said, have the following in common: you never know how long it's going to last, or how many inches you're going to get. (I mention this because Sarah feels like she's been screwed, so to speak.)
The National Weather Service put out this graphic (click to embiggen):
Time to wipe down the old crystal ball it got pretty well soaked in all that rain yesterday and start again.
Leftovers from the Hodge Podge Lodge
For about five years, I used the cheapest possible toothpaste with my hyperexpensive toothbrush, for reasons I haven't quite fathomed. Last year the dentist informed me that there were some issues with various brands, including the one I was using; I switched over to a store-brand knockoff of Sensodyne, which is ostensibly kinder to the teeth. And while I don't believe there's any connection the most likely explanation is the deterioration of an existing filling from somewhere back in the last century last checkup yielded up one cavity, and I switched again, this time to a Crestalike. (Which reminds me of a piece Lileks once did about the rumors that Procter and Gamble were in thrall to Satan, in which he pointed out that their signature dental product would have to be the Anti-Crest.)
I have no exterior mailbox per se at Surlywood; instead, the mail is dropped through a slot in the garage door and is caught in a basket hanging on the inside of the door. Usually. Entirely too often, when the door is opened, something that hasn't dropped fully into the basket finds itself at exactly the right angle to fall upon the garage floor, where there's a reasonable chance it will be run over as I drive up with my 215-width tires.
My usual pasta sauce is Prego Traditional, into which I'm likely to toss a few things of my own, notably basil.
(Hmmm. She was right: these are not stirring blog topics. Except maybe the sauce, which has to be stirred regularly.)
Adventures in iTunes (5)
For the first time I actually ran afoul of Apple's DRM, and it was at least partly my own fault. I used to have iTunes purchases billed to my AOL account; when AOL reformulated itself into a more-or-less free service, I moved things to my own Apple account. After backing up the Purchased files today, things I had purchased under the AOL account would no longer work without jumping through an authorization hoop or three. At one point, none of my purchases were authorized on any computer.) It took rather a lot of dialog boxes to fix this up. Curiously, at no time did iTunes ever suggest that I had two machines (of the allotted five) running any of these files.
This experience, I suspect, is typical of DRM in general: you don't notice it until the exact point at which it gets in your way.
Are we there yet?
[A]s a father of four, I think that Nancy Pelosi's having had five children in six years is the perfect training to be Speaker of the House. As any parent of multiple small children will tell you, the most difficult part of parenting is getting all the kids to shut up long enough to let anybody else talk. And what is banging the gavel in the House of Representatives if not just such an exercise in parenting writ large, with 435 self-regarding children, all screaming for attention in the back seat?
Getting your children to behave like mini-Robert C. Byrds is impressive though they may sue you for it in later life.
What I'm waiting for, I guess, is a sub rosa video (which inevitably ends up on YouTube) in which the Speaker, thinking herself off-mike, complains that some Representative or other is acting like an effing baby. She will catch hell for it, of course, but she will almost certainly have been correct in her judgment.
Of course, the warranty is up
Conventional wisdom, accompanied by a lot of yammering, holds that domestic automobiles are unreliable. Some of them, including one once owned by me, certainly qualify as such.
Specs on the 1903 Ford Model A: 72-inch wheelbase, weight 1250 lb, inline-2 engine with 8 hp, 3-speed transmission. List price $750, though the optional back seat would add $100. Top speed somewhere between 30 and 45 mph. And instead of air bags, you have actual air.
Rewiring the AMT machine
The new AMT should be set at 15% of adjusted gross income but any payments toward any FICA or Medicare taxes would be credited against the income tax payable under the alternative.
This approach would make sure that the higher income folks now subject to AMT would still pay a significant amount of tax. At the lower end of the potential AMT spectrum, however, there would be an increasing likelihood that those folks wouldn't "qualify" for AMT treatment. It also has the added benefit of protecting more of the self-employed from the alleged ravages of the AMT, since they already directly pay a greater percentage of income in Social Security/Medicare taxes.
I don't meet the AMT threshold, but I did the math for myself, and assuming the standard deduction, which seems reasonable since AMT disallows most deductions anyway, I come up with a tax bite $1850 lower under the Schranck plan. I am, however, itemizing deductions this year, so the actual theoretical benefit would be lower, assuming the existence of such a thing as an "actual theoretical benefit." Further, I expect that were this approach adopted, there would be some tweaking to make it "revenue-neutral." As Mr Schranck notes:
[T]hose now seeking AMT reform haven't openly addressed exactly where the Feds will replace the billions of tax revenues lost, if the AMT as we now know it was to be simply repealed. Somewhere in the current AMT chatter there needs to be some discussion about whether the Feds will forego all that money, and if not, who among us will be asked to make up most if not all of the difference.
And that's quite a difference: the AMT will bring in something like $65 billion this coming year.
22 January 2007
Strange search-engine queries (51)
If you're just now tuning in, this is a weekly compendium of the least-explicable search strings that landed people somewhere on this site, chosen for maximum inappropriateness and/or ease of coming back with a smartass remark.
what NBA team was named after the pants worn by dutch settlers immigrants to US in 1600's: I think we can safely assume it's not the Nets.
is it legal to telemarket accident victims in Tn: Just distasteful and obnoxious.
who is the oldest woman to ever pose for a mens magazine: I saw Mona Lisa in Esquire once, but I think that was a reprint.
"how to be dumped": Curiously, or maybe not so curiously, I am #2 for this search.
is it common for guys to be curious about pantyhose and wear them: Yes, and No, in that order.
how to be cold and calculating: I checked this IP, and it did not come from the office of a New York Senator.
NUDE PETER NOONE: I'm Henry the chilled, I am.
Pictures of Disneys Kim Possible having sex: So long as she works for Disney, she doesn't do that sort of thing.
gordy's headache powder: You mean "Goody's." Berry Gordy prided himself on giving headaches.
lonely celibate suicide loveless "get laid": One of these things is not like the others.
is there any side effect of rearing cats at home (please answer yes or no): Yes. People who keep cats also tend to have litter boxes. People who have litter boxes and who do not have cats should be avoided.
taping mustard packet on back during MRI: Wouldn't it be cheaper just to buy your own microwave oven?
nancy pelosi bikini pictures: Trade you for one of Condi Rice in Daisy Dukes.
Duluth Nudist Resort: Are they even open in January?
is mooning someone on private property considered indecent exposure: You might try that at the Duluth nudist resort, if they're open in January.
what is something 327 feet tall: Bill O'Reilly standing on his ego.
Pre-inked for your convenience
The following thoughts hit me more or less simultaneously with the arrival of the Feist YellowBook on my porch:
So I was curious to see what, if any, listings there might be in this January book. And there are plenty: two and two-thirds pages of display ads, and thirty-three individual listings.
There are also, I must mention, three tattoo-removal listings; one firm has listings under both.
The British grin and bear
I once wrote up a frighteningly-detailed history of Whistling Jack Smith, who recorded the ineffable "I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman" back in 1967. There wasn't an actual Smith, of course, but it was necessary to put one on tour to support the record, and this is how he looked.
Songs she blings to me
There's just this one little nagging detail: you'd think you'd get more than 1 GB storage for twenty thousand dollars.
The longer we wait, diverse it gets
Democrats are busy congratulating one another on their inclusiveness because a transnational, a woman, a proletarian trial lawyer, and a part-Hispanic are running for their nomination. Meanwhile Republicans can at least celebrate their ecumenism, even if the candidates are all white men. Primary voters can choose between a Mormon, an Episcopalian, a born Catholic, and a fervent Catholic convert. The latter is Sam Brownback, who could split the party in his bid for fundamentalist votes.
Wait a minute. Sam Brownback is white? How are the Democrats supposed to complain about his putative hatred of brown people when his very name exudes brownness?
And they're not all niche candidates, but they have niches to fit:
Long shot Tommy Thompson may yet join the race. He's a natural Republican counterpart to Bill Richardson: both of them have the demeanor of meddlesome aunts. Mormon Romney tries for the benevolent older brother; Obama, the winsome younger brother; McCain the crotchety but lovable grandfather. It's one big happy family of candidates. Hillary Clinton? Well, every post-modern family needs a wicked stepmother.
This is right up there with my semi-classic description of Joe Lieberman as "a common scold, occasionally rising to the level of uncommon scold." And I actually voted for the guy, too. Perhaps this suggests something for 2008.
A grain of truth
Cheri Alexander, head of Travelites, with an observation I can certainly understand:
Although I love the ocean, I do not like sand.
(Heard on Barecast #16.)
23 January 2007
The beat of a different DRM
I grumbled a bit about the Digital Rights Management system built into iTunes a few days ago, but I noted that this was the first time that I'd even actually noticed the darn stuff.
Which seems to mesh with this:
Apple is selling DRM content because it provides a superior experience at a reasonable premium. People are cheap, but not infinitely cheap. Yes, Apple will lose the hard core misers, but those sort of people will never spend much money on anything, no matter how compelling. The key insight of Apple is that it doesn't make sense to compromise your overall product experience to chase after that sort, as you'll never get serious cash flow out of them. Instead, Apple seems to have optimized for the average person, who will pay a decent premium for content if that premium guarantees ease of use and quality. This is the root of iTunes' success. Everything is the same affordable price, the system as a whole (iTunes + iPod) just works, and the quality is top notch. Most people would rather spend the 99˘ and be done with it than spend a hour or two searching, downloading, and testing for quality.
Needless to say, this particular approach isn't being considered over in Zunetown:
In contrast, Microsoft and its backing content providers are acting more like misers, valuing the prevention of theft more than the increasing of sales. Better to prevent one act of piracy than sell a dozen tracks. That's just not a model that will provide long term success in an information society.
This may reflect the thinking of Bill Gates, who was griping about software piracy pretty much from Day One. (Can you say "Windows Genuine Advantage"? Without laughing, I mean.)
Stop, look, but don't listen
Apparently I'm going to be dragged into New(er) Technology whether I like it or not.
My last VHS machine (Panasonic, 2000) has now decided that it's too good to bother with mere sound, which made last night's episode of Heroes even less comprehensible than usual.
Then again, I could always hook up one of the Betamaxes, although it would cost me rather a lot of channels they can't tune, ancient as they are.
Last week I threw in some remark about the Luhn test, an algorithm used to determine the validity of most credit-card numbers, including all the ones you're likely to see. Today it's big news at Consumerist, so I figure it's time to fill in the gaps in the proferred knowledge.
First thing you need to know is that, for Visa/MasterCard anyway, the first six digits describe a specific issuer. (Major banks have more than one six-digit sequence associated with their operations. Many Bank of America Visa cards start with 4356xx. Mine, um, doesn't.) The string ends with a checksum; everything in between is an account number. This is, incidentally, how you can get a new card from the same bank and most of the digits are the same.
Incidentally, there was a time when Visa numbers in the 45xx and 49xx ranges seemed to be reserved for non-US accounts. This is no longer the case.
And MasterCard issues no 50xx cards, which perplexes some of our customers who heard somewhere that anything starting with a 5 is a MasterCard. (51xx through 55xx only, folks.) I have a Sears card that starts with 50xx; it's not usable as a MasterCard. Sears does have a MasterCard, but it's not in the 50xx sequence.
One last tidbit: Most bank cards have a three-digit verification code (CVV) on the back, printed on the signature strip. American Express uses a four-digit code on the front, except for gift cards.
A woofer in tweeter's clothing
[O]nce upon a time a man was judged by the sheer bulk of his speakers you'd walk into a single guy's apartment and find these giant wood-and-fabric monoliths. Tombstones by Dior. The guys who had these fancy systems usually had exquisitely hip tastes (Steely Dan! Weather Report!), but sometimes they were just headbangers who wanted brute force. These were also known as the guys who lived upstairs. The ones who'd start the REO Speedwagon the moment they got up which, thankfully, was usually around one PM. I'm sure lots of people still have speakers the size of Sub Zero industrial refrigerators, but I'd prefer to trade size for that incremental fraction of audio fidelity.
This is, of course, why God, or Henry Kloss, or somebody around that level invented subwoofers. Unfortunately, you're advised to put them on the floor, and that advice also applies to the guys who lived upstairs with the REO Speedwagon box set. (Yes, I know, I don't have any upstairs anymore. However, I will keep on hating them.)
I still have a brace of wood-and-fabric monoliths (stereolith?), but they're more the size of a microwave oven rotated 90 degrees. They are, however, in your face, if only because they're mounted at eye level, unless you're an NBA player other than Earl Boykins.
(Title swiped from this.)
A great instrumental by Alvin Cash and the Registers, and a reasonable description of this game, in which the 76ers danced all over the visiting (and cold-shooting) Hornets, 102-96, a score which is a tad deceptive: the Bees trailed 54-40 at the half and fell behind by as many as twenty before putting together a late rally and pulling within four.
Did the Hornets underestimate the post-Iverson Sixers? Maybe. One thing is for sure: there were long stretches when they couldn't buy a bucket, and even with the flurry of activity in the fourth quarter (which the Bees won 31-26) they shot only 43 percent. Meanwhile, four Philly starters scored in double figures, and Andre Miller snagged a double-double: 17 points, 11 assists. But the real killer was reserve forward Kyle Korver, who led all scorers with 25.
Devin Brown had a good night at the point, scoring 24; David West had 23 and added 11 boards. Rasual Butler didn't score much seven points but he blocked four shots. The Bees' bench, though, managed only 16 points total.
So this road trip starts out on a duff note, and there's no time to dwell on it: it's off to Toronto tomorrow.
24 January 2007
Devon backs off
Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy is selling off all of its West African operations, about four percent of its proved reserves. The properties are located in Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Côte d'Ivoire. Whatever Devon gets for the sale, they say, will be used to pay off commercial paper and repurchase company stock.
Motivations, according to the press release:
For "lower overall portfolio risk" I read "no more having to deal with the president of Equatorial Guinea," who is a bad egg of Mugabean magnitude.
Blue headstone of death
In this culture of instant information, some Microsoft Corp. researchers are pursuing a radical notion the concept of saving messages for delivery in decades, centuries or more.
The project, dubbed "immortal computing," would let people store digital information in physical artifacts and other forms to be preserved and revealed to future generations, and maybe even to future civilizations.
After all, when looking that far in the future, you never know who the end users might be.
[T]his is a Microsoft Research project. Sometimes those turn into products, or contribute to them, and sometimes they don't. The researchers declined to say if they have a working prototype.
My guess is they're still trying to figure out some way to cram DRM into it. After all, Disney has to be able to sue you if you use your Donald Duck voice in a deathbed video.
(Via Tech Digest.)
I go to the dentist for three cleanings a year: this is a smidgen more than the usual recommendation, but given the generally uninspiring condition of the infrastructure it's a toss-up as to which is receding faster, my hairline or my gums I consider it necessary, and I would continue to consider it necessary even if said dentist did not employ a hygienist of considerable charm and only-slightly-muted hotness.
It would, of course, never occur to me to make a move: she's spoken for. And I don't even live in Washington state:
Under Washington Administrative Code 246-16-020, your dental hygienist and your optician are "health care providers." This means that, under Washington Administrative Code 246-16-100, they "shall not engage, or attempt to engage, in sexual misconduct with a current patient." Sexual misconduct "includes but is not limited to" sex, kissing, "hugging . . . of a romantic . . . nature," "suggesting or discussing the possibility of a dating, sexual or romantic relationship after the professional relationship ends," "terminating a professional relationship for the purpose of dating or pursuing a romantic or sexual relationship," or "making statements regarding the patient['s] . . . body, appearance, sexual history, or sexual orientation other than for legitimate health care purposes," among many other things.
Hmmm. I probably wouldn't even be allowed to post this from Washington.
And yes, I understand why they have rules like this:
Of course medical relationships offer room for various kinds of abuses. In some situations, it may be proper to interfere with people's right to marry, and their sexual and romantic autonomy, in order to prevent those abuses. We can talk about relationships between psychotherapists and clients (or ex-clients), or relationships between doctors and current patients, or other circumstances in which the risk of subtle coercion or unprofessional behavior is especially high (which is to say materially higher than the risk of subtle coercion and other harms in any sexual relationship).
But the Washington rules not only throw out the bathwater, they require you to abort the baby.
Programming, pasta and present
We've got tons of spaghetti code around 42nd and Treadmill, good enough a reason to post this set of guidelines from Purple Avenger:
How does one tell a good design from a bad? It's not always apparent. If you can add new features a year later without whining about how crappy the code is, you probably have design that isn't horrible. If the code base can survive for 5 years or so, and still be readily maintainable, it was probably a good design to begin with. If the code can transition to different platforms without major rewrites all over the place, it's probably not too bad.
And, contrariwise, there's this:
I suppose good designs are as Rehnquist said, kinda like porn hard to quantify, but you know them when you see them. The real test is in their durability over the years. If the maintenance programmers are always whining about crap and wanting to rewrite stuff, you probably don't have a good design. In fact you may not even have an actual design, rather just a collection of code blobs stitched together with bubble gum and bailing wire.
Actually, that was Mr. Justice Stewart, but no matter. Right now we have to go scrape some gum off the Web apps, and pouring ragù over it won't help.
A late-1980s NBC television series starring Marla Gibbs, set in an apartment building in Washington, DC; also, the number of episodes of Carnival of the Vanities, the first (and still the oldest) weekly blog compendium, brought to you by Silflay Hraka. (The number of episodes of 227, incidentally, is 116.)
Not just for squares
My experience with quilting totals one hand-decorated (and appliqued) square donated for a Good Cause many moons ago, so this statistic jumped out at me:
The "dedicated quilter," according to a 2006 Quilter's Newsletter Magazine survey, has more than $3,000 worth of fabric in her "stash" and $6,500 worth of quilting tools and supplies, including an average of 2.6 computerized sewing machines costing from $2,500 to $6,000.
And I bet that six-tenths of a machine is a pain to keep running, too.
This bit of news comes from Kathryn Jenson White in a two-page feature on quilting in this week's Oklahoma Gazette, along with the revelation that quilting is a $3.3-billion industry in the States, and that there are at least thirty active quilt guilds in Oklahoma.
Nor is it an old-lady pastime:
"We've seen a growth in younger quilters," says Oklahoma Quiltworks owner Barbara Stanfield, who employs 26 women part-time in addition to many teachers for the large number of classes the shop offers. "We have many now in their 20s to 40s. Some want to do something meaningful, to make something for future generations, but many women make quilts just for the love of it. They don't necessarily know what they're going to do with them."
While looking for stuff on guys who quilt, I found this:
African-American males ... are actively involved in the tradition of quilting. In 1996, the University of Maryland hosted "Made by Men: African American Traditional Quilts," featuring historic and contemporary quilts crafted by African-American men from across the U.S., including work by [Raymond] Dobard.
Some of this I'd learned in school and forgotten; much more of it I never knew at all. All the more reason to pass it on, I think.
Maple Leaf ragged
After losing to the not-so-lowly Sixers last night, the Hornets had something to prove to the even-less-lowly Raptors in Toronto, jumping out to a nine-point lead after the first quarter. The Raptors whittled away at the lead, and tied it in the third; the Bees ran off a 10-0 run at the beginning of the fourth, then went cold, and the Raptors came back. Tyson Chandler (8 points, 5 boards) fouled out with two and a half minutes left; Toronto came back to tie it in the last minute, and won it 90-88.
The absence of T. J. Ford didn't faze the Raptors: Chris Bosh dropped in 35 points, far and away the leading scorer for the night, and Toronto turned the ball over only six times, versus thirteen times for the Hornets.
Rasual Butler was hitting tonight, scoring 19 and blocking three shots; Bobby Jackson scored 17 off the bench; steady Devin Brown had 15. David West departed in the first quarter to have his ankle taped, but returned; he wound up with 9 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bees will play host to the Kings in New Orleans Friday; Saturday, the Jazz will visit the Ford Center. And that Bucks game which was postponed due to nasty weather will be played in Milwaukee on the 3rd of April.
25 January 2007
Beats flipping a coin
Should the 2008 Presidential election come down between Rice and Clinton (and I don't think it will) how long do you think it will be before someone notes, "Men will vote for the woman they want to have sex with most"? Someone will say it. You know it.
I don't think I've ever made an election choice based on this criterion, but on the off-chance that there might be some guys who do, I think I'll start talking up Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
Keeping up with the cool kids
The thirst for fame is based on an unquenchable need for admiration. This thirst drives many people to Hollywood, in search of the love they so desperately crave. This adulation, however is never enough. Meanwhile it is this same need that drives all people to become liberals. When one becomes a liberal, he or she pretends to advocate tolerance, equality and peace, but hilariously, they're doing so for purely selfish reasons. It's the human equivalent of a puppy dog's face: an evolutionary tool designed to enhance survival, reproductive value and status.
In short, liberalism is based on one central desire: to look cool in front of others in order to get love. Preaching tolerance makes you look cooler than saying something like, "please lower my taxes." This is why the only true form of rebellion left on this planet is conservatism. Conservatism, by rejecting the trademark forms of romantic rebellion (anarchy, activism, nipple rings) turns out to be far more subversive than anything on the planet. The conservative, every day, knows that he or she says things that aren't considered cool among the media elite. Yet the conservative still comes out and says it. This is why Dick Cheney is closer to the Hell's Angels than Hunter S. Thompson ever could be. And why Jon Stewart is about as daring as a diaper filled with Nilla Wafers.
There are, I should point out, anarchists who might almost qualify under the contemporary definition of "conservative": they're generally somewhere around the far edge of libertarianism. And I am not persuaded that every single person on the left is either (1) faking it or (2) covered by two coats of Sherwin-Williams Insincerity Enamel (Pat. Pending); I've met enough counterexamples over the years. Then again, I have never felt the overweening need to present myself as a Kind and Caring Person, and I have this weird idea that results are more important than process cf. the ostensible War on Poverty, which costs at least as much as we spend perforating insurgents and has gone on for quite a bit longer without even the faintest suggestion of success. Or, for that matter, of an exit strategy.
Of course, I have no sense of entitlement:
On a more metaphysical (or, at least, less mercenary) level, I don't automatically assume that I have X coming to me by dint of Y; it has always seemed to me that my only legitimate and unassailable birthright is death. And this, I suspect, is not a commonly-held belief; on the contrary, the world seems to be largely filled with people who think that on the basis of some Y or other, they deserve all the X they can get.
Not that many of them are prepared to explain Y.
(Via Cold Fury.)
And never park facing the wind
Somebody spammed a Usenet group with this, and I excerpt it here in the interest of [fill in excuse other than "nothing else to post"].
While selecting the type of car comes easily to most people, making a decision on the color of a car can be a stumbling block. Some people simply go with their favorite color, while others mull over color choices by considering factors such as climate, type of vehicle use, or the most practical choice, going with what is least likely to show dirt. But what if even that fails? Then try feng shui. Yes, feng shui, the Chinese guide used for arranging homes and offices, can also be used for selecting colors based on an individual's own personal feng shui.
According to personal feng shui, each person has an individual feng shui number that is based on gender and date of birth. This number, also called a "kua" number is associated with a color. By selecting the correct color for an individual's particular feng shui number, the driver will experience better luck overall because the color is harmonized with that individual.
Use personal feng shui to select a "success" color, which can be helpful when buying that luxury sedan. More into soccer practice than boardrooms? Choose a "family" color. Both colors are determined by the driver's kua number.
Um, okay. What's my number?
Take the year of birth, i.e., 1971
Add the last two years together (7+1=8)
For men, subtract the number from 10 (10-8+2); 2 is the kua number
For women, add 5 to the number (5+8=13; 1+3= 4); 4 is the kua number
For years such as 1982 which have a double digit, be sure to reduce to one number: 8+2=10 (1+0=1)
So I get a 2, which means:
Money/Success Colors: Yellow, Brown, Beige
Family Colors: Silver, Gold, White, Pearl
Hmmm. Gwendolyn, they tell me, is "Aspen White Pearl."
Although it looks like a phish
It's called StolenIDSearch, and all you have to do is give them your Social Security number.
Head Consumerist Ben Popken gave them a number, with the following result:
For cheap kicks, we entered our SSN. TrustedID [the site operator] said it hadn't been stolen ... yet. They were then happy to offer for sale their services in monitoring our identity for possible theft.
No points for style. Were I going to steal SSNs, I'd put up the form with "Is your Social Security number stolen?" Then, on receipt of input: "It is now!"
I'm not, however, inclined to give stuff away even to legit operators. Says Popken:
The only way to protect yourself from identity theft is to not give it out to people who don't need or whom you don't trust ... like internet startups.
Alternatively, you can give them Richard Milhous Nixon's.
Trini was working up a flowchart called "Printer Functions," and sent it over to a LaserJet for printing in landscape mode. The obligatory cover sheet, in portrait, failed to capture the entire document title, which was rendered as "Printer Fu."
The Master: "Close your eyes. What do you hear?"
Young One: "I hear the furnace, I hear footsteps."
The Master: "Do you hear your own PC?"
Young One: "No."
The Master: "Do you hear the error that the printer is about to produce?"
Young One [looking over and seeing the paper skew]: "Old man, how is it that you hear these things?"
The Master: "Young one, how is it that you do not?"
The Young One is strong, however, and she will endure.
Didn't even mention the chocolate
These have been out at least a year in some markets, though apparently they're new here, and the checkout person at the supermarket didn't recognize them either: 100% Whole Grain Chips Ahoy! by Nabisco.
There was only one package on the shelf, alongside all the other Chips Ahoy! variants, and all of them were marked down forty-five cents a package, so I decided to give it a try. It's definitely different the texture is decidedly grainier but fairly decent overall, with a vaguely oatmeal-like mouthfeel. No way, though, am I going to try to pass these off as some sort of health food.
True auto eroticism
About thirty years ago, Dr. Demento associate Damaskas Hollodan unleashed a catchy little ditty called "Making Love in a Subaru," which contained the following bit of useful advice:
And now let us lie between the sheets
And thank heaven for reclining bucket seats
Don't touch that for goodness sake
You'll release the parking brake
We'll both start to roll down the street
Yipes! I've never had any seat time in a Subaru there are stories I could tell you about a Toyota Celica, not that I would but I suspect this information has been largely superseded by Carma Sutra, the first (I suppose) vehicular sex manual.
I have, of course, no idea how much activity is going on today behind closed car doors, but I suspect that none of it is quite as convenient as it was in the '51 Nash.
26 January 2007
"Don't ask me to find the topic sentence in a paragraph containing two or more sentences," says novelist Brenda Coulter, and she means it:
I have long been baffled by paragraphs. When I first started writing, I assumed my editors would correct my improper paragraph breaks, consolidating some paragraphs and dividing others as necessary. But they've never done that, and I mean never, which leads me to conclude (1) that I am accidentally getting it right, or (2) that proper paragraphing isn't an exact science, or (3) that the whole paragraph thing isn't nearly as important as my teachers wanted me to believe.
I'm thinking a mixture of (1) and (2), inasmuch as Mrs Muckenfuss (may she rest in peace) would taunt me from the Grammar Netherworld for suggesting anything like (3).
Of course, one can always avoid Topic Sentences by doing single-sentence paragraphs, but this is a technique used mostly by untalented hacks.
Then again, they're officially part-time
House Joint Resolution 1007, by Rep. Jason Murphey (R-Guthrie) would lay the groundwork for a State Question which, if approved by voters, would eliminate the Board on Legislative Compensation [link goes to Rich Text Format document] and fix the pay of state legislators, currently $38,400 per year, at:
Oklahoma’s Annual State Per Capita Personal Income as determined by the United States Census Bureau of Economic Analysis or the successor body of the same.
According to the McCarville Report, this figure currently stands at $29,808.
Text of the proposed State Question:
This measure amends the State Constitution. It amends the section that sets pay for members of the Legislature. It does away with the Board that sets pay for Legislators. It provides a way for salaries to be set. The pay would be equal to Oklahoma's Annual State Per Capita Personal Income. This is determined by the federal Census Bureau. Other benefits, such as health insurance, retirement, travel, per diem and additional pay for Legislative leaders would have to go to a vote of the people. Oklahoma voters would have to vote to allow changes in these benefits.
What you think of this might depend on whether you think state legislators are overpaid. (I'm of two minds here: some of them earn every dime, some of them I'd pay to stay home.) But the idea of indexing their pay to everybody else's has a certain visceral appeal.
Some have a Dow jones
Brian J. Noggle isn't a day-trader, so he's got a good reason for tuning the silly thing out:
"The stock market is down at this hour..." the deep FM voice narrates. Quite frankly, the day traders who inflated the stock market bubble at the end of the last century didn't rely on radio to make decisions. The Internet allows people to check the instant progress of their individual portfolios. The day traders who are still trading, instead of flipping burgers or bagging groceries, have access to mystical Level-2 quotes, which are somehow better than simple quotes everyone can get on Yahoo! So FM Man is talking to himself, and me, alone in my truck at a stoplight.
And who cares, really?
The guy on the radio says the market's down? SELL SELL SELL!
Of course, those who sell on whatever macroeconomic metrics arrive from political, pop cultural, or sociological sources don't consider the nature of their individual investments. They lose sight of the long-term prospects of the companies of which they have become a part and in whose long-term direction they, as investors, can exert some small amount of control. Instead, they try to be the head cows in the stampede into or out of a bull run on Wall Street or Main Street, or wherever investors huddle. These short-sighted investors react to the lemming clarion call of astrological percentages and to the deep, comforting voice on our radios that makes it into a daily catechism.
Makes as much sense as anything else you can cram into a five-minute newscast interrupted by two commercials.
I don't even like Real Audio
The Department of Homeland Security isn't the only source of bad government ideas, but they come up with some doozies, and one of the more egregious examples is the "Real ID" card, which, they insist, isn't really a national ID card. Oh, it's a card, it contains ID, and it's national, but somehow it's still not really a national ID card.
And it may not even be national, if Maine gets its way:
Maine lawmakers on Thursday became the first in the nation to demand repeal of a federal law tightening identification requirements for drivers' licenses, a post-September 11 security measure that states say will cost them billions of dollars to administer.
Maine lawmakers passed a resolution urging repeal of the Real ID Act, which would create a national digital identification system by 2008. The lawmakers said it would cost Maine about $185 million, fail to boost security and put people at greater risk of identity theft.
One could argue, I suppose, that the Feds already have pretty much all this data, but I fail to see the advantage of making it available in a single handy package especially if, as rumored, they're going to outsource the database work.
My Me Meme
Yes, buoys and gulls, it's time for another one.
1. My: You’ve heard the saying "I’d give my right arm for…". So, what would you give your right arm for?
A really good prosthetic that could hurl a fastball at 96 mph.
More seriously, I'd want a worldwide moratorium on stupidity, though this would probably leave me out of work and without any political identification in which case, the ability to hurl a fastball at 96 mph would become useful.
2. Me: What’s one word that describes how you want people to see you?
"Distinct." I have no particular desire to be noticed, but I really hate being Part of the Crowd.
3. Meme: If you could be any blogger, which blogger would you be… and why?
I thought about this for a while, and my first thought was Lileks, since I quote him at greater length than anyone this side of Lawn Guyland, but depriving Gnat of her proper papa struck me as a horrible thing to do, so I gave up the idea. After further consideration, I came up with E. M. Zanotti, for the following reasons:
The boots, incidentally, are not a factor.
Beware the 14th of February
"Not tonight, darling, I have a haddock."
Icing the Kings
New Orleans is a place where unusual things happen, and one of them was the first half of the third quarter against the Sacramento Kings: the Hornets were showing distressing signs of the Third-Quarter Drought, but the Kings scored nothing in the first six minutes. The crowd was quiet "They must be giving out free Ambien," cracked Gerry V but things would get better. The Bees, down 50-46 at the half, were up 67-60 after three. Sacramento would come back in the fourth, far enough to grab a brief lead, but the Hornets got it done, 88-84.
Desmond Mason gets the Hero cap for the night: not only did he lead all scorers with 24 points, not to mention pulling down eight boards, but he kept Ron Artest bottled up for most of the night. (The Ronster managed only nine points, though he did get 12 rebounds.) Tyson Chandler scared up another double-double, 13 points and 12 boards. Bobby Jackson got 15 off the bench; Devin Brown got his usual 14. And I must mention Linton Johnson, who in twenty minutes scored six points and pulled off three steals.
The Sacramento guards were good for 42 points 21 each for Mike Bibby and Kevin Martin and reserve forward John Salmons dropped in 14, including 10 of 10 free throws.
The Jazz come to Oklahoma City tomorrow night. Fasten your seat belts.
27 January 2007
It doesn't Hoyt your Schermerhorn
Available soon from City Hall: an official New York condom in a jazzy wrapper, perhaps one printed with a colorful subway map or some other city theme.
New York City hands out 1.5 million free condoms a month in ordinary wrappers, and health officials figure people would be more likely to actually use them if the packaging were more distinctive.
"Brands work, and people use branded items more than they use non-branded items, whether it's a cola or a medicine, even," Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden said.
I do believe Dr Frieden is on to something here, although I'm having difficulty coming up with suitable design elements.
Maybe H. Allen Smith's birthday lei, which was quite possibly unique:
First, one of them went to a drugstore and got two dozen articles which are normally bought only by men white articles, each with a sort of blossomy sheen. This commodity was then taken to Auntie Sophia, who operated one of the flower stands along Kalakaua near the Royal. My friends approached her and told her they were a special kind of flower grown only in the mainland and she told them to shuddup dirty face she know whaddem is. They offered her handsome sums of money if she would create a lei alternating frangipani blossoms with the commodities.
And, of course, that's it. They're the new New York City flower. They could call them, oh, how about Bloombergs?
(Via I See Invisible People.)
Molly Ivins: still not dead
Breast cancer, nasty stuff that it is, has rounded up its forces for one more surge at the expense of Texas journalist Molly Ivins, who's back in the hospital again.
This is the third recurrence of the disease for the 62-year-old Ivins, who suggested the "Still Not Dead" title to Editor and Publisher last year. Brother Andy says she's "tough as a metal boot," and I hope she has the strength to kick her way out of this.
(Via Lindsay Beyerstein.)
Twenty-four hundred strings
Up until about News of the World or so, Queen albums boasted "No Synths," a tribute to the ability of instruments we know to produce sounds we don't. With this thought in mind, and at Lynn's suggestion, I sought out the first movement of Rhys Chatham's A Crimson Grail (for 400 Electric Guitars), and it's quite stunning without being particularly guitar-like: reviewer Stephen V. Funk compares it to, among other things, an adagio by Anton Bruckner. Slow but never standing still, Grail at least this first movement is exactly what you, or I anyway, would want from a minimalist composition: it synchronizes itself with your very synapses, its motions become your motions. (This is a well-documented ability of the electric guitar, shown to considerable advantage in, for instance, the much-recorded "Shakin' All Over": "quivers down my backbone," indeed.) Composers have been working with massed strings for ages, but seldom these particular strings: the orchestral textures (for indeed they are) are simply gorgeous, sometimes horn-like, occasionally pipe-organ complex, once or twice bordering on actual vocalise. If you've listened to minimalists before and thought the stuff just went on and on and on, Grail might just disabuse you of that notion: the first movement runs about twenty minutes, but seems like eight or nine. I'm going to have to track down the rest of this piece.
Stop all that Jazz
The Hornets weren't supposed to beat the Jazz: Utah was 29-15 and owned a five-game lead over the Nuggets in the Northwest. But the Bees came out buzzing, scoring first and winning the first quarter 27-18. By comparison, the second was sleepy; it was Hornets 41, Jazz 34 at the half. For once, it was the visitors who suffered the Third-Quarter Drought, with Jazz coach Jerry Sloan drawing a technical. But Utah simply couldn't put points on the board: they'd averaged over 100 for the whole season, but never once tonight did they get the lead, and the Hornets pocketed a big win, 94-83, acknowledged by the Ford Center crowd with a standing ovation in the final seconds.
Well, okay, Deron Williams could put points on the board: his 27 took game-high honors. And rookie forward Paul Millsap put together a double-double, with 15 points and 17 rebounds. But the Jazz shot only 37.5 percent for the night, and hit only one of 14 treys. Would things have been different if Carlos Boozer had made it through the game without screwing up his knee? Maybe.
The Hornets' bench put up 35 points, 21 of which came from Bobby Jackson, including three treys (out of three) and eight free throws (out of eight). Desmond Mason dropped in 20; David West, who had an off-night last night, was back in double figures with 11. And Tyson Chandler had 15 of the Hornets' 40 boards and blocked seven shots.
Monday and Wednesday, we'll see the 'Blazers and the 76ers. We owe them both.
28 January 2007
"Negroes in the News"
That's the title of a radio program developed by Abram Ross in 1948, and it's mentioned in a retrospective of black radio in Oklahoma in this morning's Oklahoman, compiled by Oklahoma Historical Society columnist Max Nichols. One of the more disheartening aspects of it all was the fact that there was this tremendous music scene in Deep Deuce in the 1920s and 1930s that wasn't even slightly reflected by Oklahoma City radio. (Current OKC bands will sigh and go "So what else is new?)
In the late 1940s, things started to change, albeit slowly. Black churches got their services on the air; station KBYE, founded in 1946, began adding programs aimed at the African-American audience. The legendary Ben Tipton, later a fixture at KOCO-TV and eventually an Oklahoma City Councilman just in case you thought Mick Cornett did it first was arguably the first black radio star in these parts. (Tipton's last radio gig, if I remember correctly, was at the much-missed KAEZ, a black-owned station that broadcast from on top of a hill at 23rd and Coltrane.) KBYE, which later added an FM service, sustained its audience into the 1970s, the AM side concentrating on gospel, the FM on popular soul music. The go-to guy in "urban" radio these days, of course, is Russell M. Perry, publisher of the Black Chronicle, who started with one AM daytimer and now owns fourteen stations, including KRMP/KVSP in Oklahoma City.
All this is to herald an Historical Society production, scheduled for the 10th of February, titled "History of African Americans in Oklahoma Radio Broadcasting."
Real wrath-of-God type stuff
ECTO 1 is for sale.
Before you ask: it won't fit in my garage.
Right in the shorts
Karl Mechem's The Journal of Short Film is a quarterly DVD (ten bucks, $36 a year) that features worthy short films you probably won't see otherwise. This year there's a roadshow of sorts, and Mechem himself was on hand at OKCMOA's Noble Theater to introduce two collections of shorts featured in the Journal; I caught the second one today.
Steven Bognar's Gravel is a stunningly beautiful, if rambling, tale of a social worker who's fallen for an ex-con who used to be one of her clients, and her better-grounded teenaged daughter. It goes nowhere in particular but is seriously involving just the same.
Brian Liloia's ¡Sí, Se Puede! looks at two Mexican brothers who have left their homeland and their families behind to seek work in the States, and argues, with varying degrees of subtlety, the case for open borders: certainly you wouldn't want to see these two fellows, who want only to work and help their familes, sent home.
Chel White's Dirt is a fast and funny tale, part Jean Cocteau, part Joe Frank, about a man who grew up eating the very substance of the earth and now is become his own self-contained biosystem. (The Joe Frank-like voiceover is supplied by, yes, Joe Frank.)
Peter Sillen's Grand Luncheonette deplores the Disneyfication of Times Square and, by extension, the world by looking at a decidedly non-chain hot-dog stand which had survived for nearly six decades but which was finally put to death by the ostensible "upgrade" of the neighborhood.
Deron Albright's The Legend of Black Tom is the only-slightly-fictionalized story of Tom Molineaux, a slave in early-19th-century America who wins his freedom as a bare-knuckle boxer and who is brought to England to take on the champ. Said champ successfully defends his title, but apparently the fix was in from the very first round. Albright shot this one in live-action and then composited it into what he calls "a woodcut with a watercolor wash," giving it the look of charcoal animation. The voiceover, in verse, is every bit as compelling as the visuals.
Josh Hyde's Chiclé is a tale of two Peruvian brothers, the younger struggling to stay on the path of righteousness, the older seemingly already lost. Pablo, who earns a few soles for the family by selling chewing gum (hence the title) on the streets, gives up his stake for the next day to help a lost American girl, language differences notwithstanding; he does not know that his brother has already complicated matters.
Finally, Borja Cobeaga's Éramos Pocos, which is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Film-Live Action, posits a quandary for a man and his son: what will they do, now that the woman of the house has gone? The answer: retrieve her mother from the retirement home. Easy enough maybe. A splendid example of comic timing.
The folks behind the deadCENTER Film Festival helped bring this series to town, perhaps reasoning that getting more people interested in short films will bring more people to their June event. Good call, say I.
One lump or two?
The other day I was feeding the baby and talking to her absent mindedly while the oldest ate some fruit next to her at the table. I said something like "she gets to try oatmeal soon." My oldest looked up. "I like oatmeal."
Yeah right ... Sure ya do ... That's why everytime I make it I end up throwing it out. "You do?" I said.
"Yeah. I like it, but I don't like it or that other stuff when it has vitamins in it or it's just bumpy and stuff," she added.
Vitamins? Is this just a general objection to Things Potentially Healthful, or do we have a case where something has been sneaked into the child's bowl the way you'd sneak something into the dog's dish?
On the other hand, "bumpy and stuff" doesn't sound especially appealing, whether it be oatmeal, "that other stuff," or anything in between, assuming there is anything in between.
29 January 2007
Strange search-engine queries (52)
The idea here is to pore over the referrer logs, look at what came in from the search-engines, and then answer it here, although seldom in the way the searcher intended. And yes, we've done this 51 times before.
Ted Turner's quote when looking at an Egyptian woman's breasts: I can only hope it wasn't "Hey, nice Tuts."
208,000 folks get this everyday: "What is 'sick of The View'?"
how do i get 100,000 people to give me $5 each: Send each of them $20.
britney spears showing flesh: When isn't Britney Spears showing flesh?
what happens if i overstate the amount on my 1099-g: You overpay your taxes, which is always a thrill.
rebecca the girl that came out in ass parade: Or was it stuck out?
bush third term: Bite your tongue.
deer don't hit me: Lucky you. Or is this a prayer?
rules for being president: Anything goes, except hummers.
what brand of cars do democrats drive? Anything goes, except Hummers.
why do people leave christmas lights on after christmas: It's too damn cold to go outside and take them down.
what 39 percent of women want for their birthday: Not to have to count it.
Robert J. Clark shooting "Robert J. Clark": You keep out of this. He doesn't have to shoot you now.
where is the undo key: Right next to the "any" key.
can you buy oscar meyer bologna in England? Until the Muslims take over completely.
dustbury hottie: Not.
Couched in tradition
Last time I bought furniture, I took my daughter with me, which is not quite the same dynamic as you would expect from a pair of spousal units, but this still sounds familiar:
Ed and I realized that before we could argue about whether we could afford the sofa, we needed to spend some time arguing about how big it should be and where it was going to go. Ed wanted to line the sofa up alongside an armchair against one wall. This is a distinctly male school of thought as regards living room décor: All large seating items are to be placed against a wall, facing the television. This way, if the lights go out while you are returning from the refrigerator, you need only place one hand upon a wall and begin walking. Eventually you'll hit a place to sit down and nap until the power is back on and the TV is working again.
I suppose I missed about half of the training: the chair against the wall does not face the television, and the sofa (actually it's an overgrown loveseat, and isn't that ironic? "No" ed.) does face the television but is not against the wall.
The Carlton papers
We've now gotten to the point where seemingly everyone on earth is Google-able, and we don't think anything of it until we discover someone who isn't and that goes double if it seems like that someone really ought to be. This past weekend's project was the transfer from LP to CD of an album by Betty Carlton. And who exactly is Betty Carlton? Here's what the liner notes said:
Betty Carlton, Oklahoma's Poet, was born in Ada, Oklahoma and attended East Central University. She is widely known throughout the Southwest for her prize-winning poetry. Her latest award was a national contest in which her entry, "Gramarye," won first place in [a] field of over 5,000 entries.
She has been nominated for the Poet Laureateship of the State of Oklahoma.
She is the first woman ever to teach in an all-male prison in the Oklahoma Correctional System. Her successful creative writing class has opened doors for other women to teach in all-male prisons in the stste.
She is a legal expert on drugs and does extensive rehabilitative work with women alcoholics and drug addicts.
Her poetry ranges from street poetry to mysticism, making it possible for any audience to identify with and enthusiastically welcome her performances.
She is a member of the Oklahoma Poetry Society, the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, and is listed in the International Who's Who in Poetry in London, England.
The album, titled Moxie, was cut in 1976 for the Val-West label in Albuquerque. (The illustration above is the Star of Ishtar by Shirley White, which serves as cover art.) I couldn't tell you how many copies were pressed a hundred, maybe? but apparently only two are known to survive, and one of them was brought to me for transfer. "Gramarye," one assumes, is her Greatest Hit these days, we spell the word "Grimoire" and it leans hard against the "mysticism" edge of her range; rather than transcribe it here, I'll let you hear it for yourself.
And maybe, just maybe, someone will remember, and will fill in some of the blanks.
Forget that "weaker sex" stuff
Nice guys finish ... um, less dramatically:
When an orgasm has been achieved through sex, you can measure theta waves. These are also said to cause the "running high" feeling of euphoria experienced sometimes by marathon runners. If theta waves are taken as a criterion, the entire brain emits theta waves when women reach an orgasm that are close on 10 times stronger than when men climax. So, if theta waves are an indication of an orgasm's strength, then women experience an orgasm that is physically impossible for men to go through. Putting it a little crudely, if the intensity of a woman's orgasm was played through a man's brain, there's a danger that the shock to his system would kill him. That risk makes it impossible to experiment on a man at the moment. And men can never become women.
And if they could, they'd probably complain about their salaries being cut.
So go get in line already
News item: Microsoft's long-awaited Vista operating system will become widely available to consumers tonight and the world will be watching to see how well it sells. Vista, the latest version of Windows, officially hits shelves at 12:01 Tuesday morning.
Top Ten Essential Features of Windows Vista:
Bring lots of money.
The 82-game NBA schedule provides that you play teams in the other conference twice and teams in your conference four times except for the ones that you play three times, just to confuse everyone. The TrailBlazers beat the Hornets twice in Portland; the Bees got only one shot at them at home. So it was important to make this one count, and they did. The Blazers stayed close through most of the game, and took the lead briefly in the third quarter, but the Hornets took it to them in the fourth, winning 103-91.
Once again, Byron Scott played only nine: eight of them scored, and six of them, including all five starters, scored in double figures. David West led with 21; Desmond Mason and Jannero Pargo had 16 each Pargo, off the bench, scored 12 in a row in the fourth quarter Rasual Butler got 15; Tyson Chandler had 14 points and 16 rebounds. Devin Brown scored 12, his 13th game in a row in double figures. (In 19 games since becoming a Hornet, only four times has Brown scored less than 10.)
Containing Zack Randolph was a priority, and it didn't work especially well: he had 20 points and 13 rebounds. Portland's Wunderkind Brandon Roy was hot, scoring 19. And the Blazers hit ten treys in 25 tries, versus 5 of 10 for the Hornets.
One noticeable trend: the Hornets' free-throw shooting, once horrible plug-ugly, is now up to mediocre. Tonight it wasn't bad at all: 22 of 27. Even Tyson Chandler, traditionally the worst from the line, got two of three.
Will Chris Paul be back soon? The talk is maybe Friday against Minnesota, possibly even Wednesday against the Sixers. Add a guy like that to a team that's 7-3 over the last ten and ... but I'm getting ahead of myself.
30 January 2007
The raising of the wrist
It was revealed by [Al] Gore only recently that Bill Clinton does not drink. This is troubling to me as it means he was stone sober when he hit on Paula Jones.
So in summary, here are the leaders who do not drink: Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden, all al-Qaida leaders, Hitler, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter.
By contrast, here are leaders known to drink: Winston Churchill, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Jeb Bush and Jesus.
It's not quite so, you should pardon the expression, cut and dried. (And Nixon might have been hoisting a few in the Oval Office after all.) Still, I drank enough in my younger days to make me ever-so-slightly suspicious of teetotalers in positions of power, despite the fact that I hardly ever touch the stuff myself anymore. So if Hillary comes to town, consider this an offer to buy her a beer.
(Via Hit & Run.)
To preserve order
It would be kind of useful if weblogs could get together on a single standard for the meaning of "previous" and "next" in links between pages, and better still if webloggers would just stop using those words. On any given weblog, the "next" entry or page might be the next oldest one or the next newest: as things stand right now, you're pretty much taking a 50/50 chance when you click, and if you're reading many pages within a single site, you can end up going around in frustrating circles. What would be wrong with just using "older"/"newer" or "earlier"/"later"? Tell me Jakob Nielsen has already toasted about ten thousand people to a crisp over this.
A fair criticism, though I'm pretty sure my own usage of the terms is beyond reproach: you see it here only on individual archive pages, and "Next" in this context always means "the item posted after this one." If I used continuous paging, it might be different.
Since you asked: yes, there are instances, though not on this site, where I use continuous paging. At this place, "Previous entries" does in fact mean "older entries," and "Next entries" describes the newer ones. On the other hand, over here, the descriptors are "OLDER POSTS" and "NEWER POSTS." Call it product differentiation. (Actually, call it "too lazy to rewrite the template.")
Imagine the markup
I spotted a T-shirt at school bearing this inscription, but I don't think it quite means what some people assume it means.
I take it that it's supposed to mean "end hate." But when you use a tag like </i>, you don't mean "end italics" in the sense "abandon italics forever." You mean "I've been using italics for a bit, I'm stopping for a while now, but I'll get back to using it later."
Substitute "hate" for "i," and you'll get my drift. I bet the guy has a <hate> T-shirt in his closet that he was wearing three days before; he's hated all the stuff between then and the </hate> shirt; and he'll be wearing the <hate> shirt next time he's got some hating to do. Plus he certainly wouldn't just wear the </hate> shirt without having worn <hate> before, and on the same page that would be syntactically non-compliant.
Not that compliance, with syntax or with anything that smacks of "rules," is valued highly among T-shirt sloganeers.
Anyway, </i> is deprecated these days: the purveyors of Official Standards prefer </em>. So at some point they really do expect us to "abandon italics forever." And if that shirt doesn't validate, well, neither do I.
Drinking the Woot beer
Earlier this year I decided it might be useful to keep an eye on Woot, and today it was more so: they held one of their not-exactly-regularly-scheduled Woot-Offs, in which the wootage comes at you fast and furious. It's entirely too easy to get caught up in the rhythm, but so far (I repeat: so far) I have been able to act with a modicum of restraint.
Woots so far: this clock-radio, to replace an overly-complicated Sony Dream Machine, and this digital tape measure, to supplement one of those traditional springy-metal coils. Both these items, incidentally, sold out in less than three minutes.
No Bucket of Chicken, though.
A tricorder, it isn't
These folks dropped a brochure at my door this evening, and I admit, were I trying to quit smoking which I'm not, since I didn't ever start I would never have thought of using a laser, unless it was to hand it to a friend and say "Here, zap me every time you see me light up."
Apparently that's not how they do it:
The light energy of the laser is absorbed by skin and cells by stimulation of acupuncture points. It stimulates your nerve endings to produce endorphins. Endorphins are produced normally by your body and are nature’s own mood lifter and anesthetic. The protocol is currently studying the production of endorphins to help alleviate the physical cravings & withdrawal symptoms normally associated with quitting smoking.
In other words, this is still "investigational." The obvious disadvantage: it's not covered by insurance, so you'll have to pay up front. The obvious advantage: it's not covered by insurance, so if it actually works, the price may start dropping. (You'll remember that this is what happened with laser eye surgery.)
So: does it actually work? I have no idea. I have no experience with the more traditional form of acupuncture, which involves a lot of sharp, pointy objects. There are, to be sure, skeptics. Meanwhile, the Laserians (to give them a name) are, they say, conducting a clinical trial to see if this also works for weight loss, which ought to be interesting.
31 January 2007
Reno Avenue um, Johnny Bench Drive separates Lower Bricktown, a wholly-separate development, from Bricktown proper. Inevitably, the two sections find themselves in competition; however, Lower Bricktown has taken the lead in Web presence, although someone needs to update the events calendar, stat. Check out the official Lower Bricktown Animation: it strikes a nice balance between low-key and high-energy, and someone had the temerity to drop an Audi R8 into the scene appropriately, since much of the new Lower Bricktown development will arrive about the same time as the R8, which is late 2007-early 2008.
It should be noted here that some of our urban purists object to Lower Bricktown for being insufficiently, well, urban, what with a Bass Pro Shop and something with Toby Keith's name on it, fercrissake: visions of mobile homes evidently are dancing in their heads. I'm inclined to be a touch more forgiving, if only because the fevered rush that led to the founding of this city in 1889 practically defines "haphazard," and I'm keen on tradition, especially when it annoys people.
Whereas losses are presumably encouraged
Is Bratislava positioning itself to become Berkeley East? Get a whiff of this:
Prime Minister Robert Fico said during a meeting with President Ivan Gašparovič on January 19 that health care insurance companies should not be allowed to make a profit, and that he would like to see all the money raised from health insurance go back into the health care system.
However, if parliament approves such a change to the law on health insurance, private insurers are likely to file suits against the state, the Sme daily reported on January 20.
In Fico's opinion, 4 percent of collected insurance payments would suffice to cover health insurers’ operating costs, while the rest could be re-invested into the system.
"We reject the fact that somebody collects health insurance from people, and takes part of it as profit," said Fico, a former communist.
Slovak health insurers do not charge premiums as regular insurance companies but receive payments from the payroll tax on wages. Thus price competition is not possible. But this does not mean that there is no place for competition at all. Prohibiting insurance companies from making profits will discourage private investors from doing business. This means less competition, which subsequently leads to lower quality of services which is currently the most important issue over which the insurers are competing. In the worst case we will end up with one single state-owned insurance company, working at high levels of inefficiency. And, by the way, this is the scenario favoured both by the PM and the Health Minister. It should not be surprising to see these politicians advocate such policies, because it will be them who will capture and redistribute the rents thusly created.
Insurance companies are hardly benevolent; then again, neither are politicians. In the best of all possible worlds, neither would be allowed anywhere near anyone's health care.
How do you get to Carnegie?
In Oklahoma City, it's "hang a left on McGee."
Two years ago, the city was unable to get a satisfactory bid for the vacant Downtown Library at 131 Dean A. McGee: they were hoping for $950,000.
With the property still in inventory, City Council voted this week to accept an offer of $775,000 for the building, which will be converted into condominiums upstairs and retail at ground level with parking in between.
Carnegie Centre is the new name for the building; Carnegie Centre LLC is the new owner; the prime mover is Norman Realtor Judy Hatfield. Why "Carnegie"? Because this was the site of the original Carnegie Library, built at the turn of the century the 20th century, of course. (The 21st-century library is here.) No target date has been set for the opening.
A blow to the unreality-based community
The word from eBay is that auctions for World of Warcraft virtual items will no longer be permitted, although similarly-intangible Second Life creations will continue to be welcomed. Spokesperson Hani Durzy explains:
Right now, Second Life is not considered a game so we are not applying the restriction to it.
"I see," said the blind avatar.
Practice makes, um, practice
I had bloodwork done today, which is about as much of a thrill as you think it is, but there was a new angle this time: breaking in the new kid.
A fourth-year medical student was assisting at the doctor's office today, and one of the things he was doing was the Industrial-Strength Intake Interview that is usually inflicted on new patients. An interesting fellow, this: a Pakistani with an Irish name. (Okay, not really. His given name is "Shamas," which almost rhymes with "pajamas," but most people, he said, seem to render it with a long A in the first syllable. I suppose he told me this to preempt the inevitable joke, which I wasn't actually planning to make.) He was satisfyingly thorough and just short of obsequious, which I suspect many people will find matches their idea of Good Bedside Manner. And while I technically didn't need this sort of interview my file folder is now over an inch thick there wasn't a bevy of new patients lined up, and I figured it wouldn't kill me to answer a fistful of questions, especially since I already had a bandage over my fist. (They've learned that my hand is a less-inefficient source of blood than my arm.)
Anyway, Dr Shamas, if you stumble across this, good work.
Double your anticlimax
As expected (and as demanded by Commissioner David Stern), the Hornets officially informed the city of Oklahoma City today that they will not be needing the Ford Center next season, thank you very much. It's not exactly news, but it's definitely official.
Also transitioning into reality was the rumor that Chris Paul would return to the starting lineup tonight against Philadelphia. He probably shouldn't have bothered: the Hornets started out slow and stayed there, falling behind 14 at the half, dropping as far back as twenty. A late rally fell short, and the Sixers once again had the Bees' number, winning 89-78.
You could call it your dinner with Andre. Andre Iguodala led all scorers with 22, Andre Miller had 14, and between the two of them they dished up 13 assists. The Sixers dominated the boards, 58-40: Samuel Dalembert had 15, and Steven Hunter and Joe Smith both recorded double-doubles.
Meanwhile, the CP3 Express stalled with nine points. Leading the Hornets was, yes, Devin Brown, who got 17; Desmond Mason dropped in 15; yet another spiffy Tyson Chandler night (10 points, 15 boards). But the big difference was at the foul line, where the Bees hit only five of eight while the Sixers sank 24 of 31.
The Timberwolves come to the Ford Friday, and I suspect they won't mind the weather. There follows a three-day road trip, to Houston, Sacramento and Denver.
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