1 April 2007
If "gullible" were, in fact, in the dictionary

Woot pulled off a suitably wack little stunt today: at midnight, they had the much-desired Brisket of Cow, though priced, not at the usual $1, but at $1 million plus $1. (Screenshot here.) I went ahead and ordered the damn thing anyway, just to see what sort of excuse they'd come back with when my MasterCard was duly declined for $1,000,006 including shipping.

They came back with this:

Whoops! Lucky for you that we just ran out of room in our money vault, so we can't take your million dollars. But if you have that kind of money to throw after garbage like this, email jtoon — at — woot.com. We can work something out...

Nicely done, gentlemen.

Update, 12:35: They put the "I want one" button in Bounce Mode just before 12:30, just to add to the general level of perturbation, and some members of the community are arguing that it was, in fact, possible to buy the Blistered Old Crow, had you followed the simple instructions which were hidden in plain sight. Which, if true, makes this even better a stunt.

Are we having funds yet? (2)

We're not doing such a great job of financing teacher retirement: the state system has never been more than 60-percent funded, and is now running in the vicinity of 49 percent.

Kurt Hochenauer reports on a possible new approach to funding:

A resolution calling for a vote of Oklahomans to redirect mineral income to the state teachers’ retirement system has been passed by the House.

Under the proposal, sponsored by state Reps. Tad Jones (R-Claremore) and Joe Dorman (D-Rush Springs), voters would decide whether to amend the state’s constitution so the underfunded retirement system could benefit. Once the system was funded at 80 percent, the money would go back to the School Land Commission.

Text of the measure (Rich Text format) is here. Says Doc Hoc:

This seems like a permanent solution to the problem, though voter approval of the measure could be problematic, and the fund needs immediate new funding. Its sponsors say it would not affect overall funding for schools.

I'm sure I could vote for this measure without affecting my status as a tax-cutting right-wing meanie. And it sailed through the House, 98-3; I'd be very surprised if it died in the Senate, though the wild card here has to be Governor Henry, who's currently in "I have a veto and I'm not afraid to use it" mode.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:35 AM to Soonerland )
One name on the title

Sometimes it's the filler that packs the punch. From an unattributed blurb in this morning's Oklahoman classifieds:

Currently, single women purchase 22 percent of new homes, compared to only 9 percent by single men. They purchased 1.5 million homes in 2005, which equates to one in five sales.

This spike in homebuyers can be attributed to the greater number of single women out there who are choosing to go it along without compromising lifestyle. US Census Bureau findings report that more than half of all adult women live alone.

Well, that "half live alone" business, as it happens, is not exactly true, and "compromising lifestyle" is a phrase that simply screams "We are not serious," but just the same, single women are indeed buying more houses these days, and single men have been stuck around the 10-percent level for decades.

Another possibly-arguable set of premises from the same article, this time a list of "common trends" among these women:

  • 3 out of 4 women spend less than $200,000
  • Prefer 2 bedrooms or more
  • Are more likely to choose resales
  • Buy in city over suburban areas
  • Will not compromise on location or quality of neighborhood
  • Prefer condos or townhomes with well-run neighborhood associations
  • Desire security and/or gated access
  • Want close proximity to stores, shopping and fitness centers

Except in the condo/townhome market, just about everything is "2 bedrooms or more," and in Oklahoma City in particular, three out of four sales to everybody fall under $200,000. (January median price was $123,383, report the metro Realtors.)

I should point out here that the palatial Surlywood estate was acquired from a single woman; I suppose I should have asked her what she saw in the place. (She has since bought a larger house not too far away.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:26 AM to Common Cents )
Downholstery

Some days it seems you just can't reason with a dealership:

My 2005 TSX has only 20k miles on it, so there's still 30k miles left on the warranty. A couple of weeks ago I took her in for what I thought was some minor warranty fixes. Little did I know....

The Service Manager refused to fix the split in the [seat] stitching because he claims:

  1. that I get into the car "wrong" (whatever that means). He claims that I brush against the side-bolster of the seat, and that this is not the correct way to get into the car. I asked where in the owners manual it describes the "correct" way to get into the car to no avail.

  2. that I wear the wrong kind of pants. Yes, you read that right. The guy told me that blue jeans tend to scuff the leather, and that I might not have this problem if I wore slacks. Apparently getting into the car with Levis is not considered "normal use" under the terms of the warranty.

  3. that I should have taken it back to the dealer who sold me the car (in Sacramento, about 80 miles away). Ya, I don't get it, either. That's not what the warranty says....

I suspect the rivets in one's jeans are more hazardous to leather than mere denim itself would be, though I have no expertise in coefficients of fabric friction other than, you should pardon the expression, seat-of-the-pants estimates.

I did, however, pull out Gwendolyn's manual to see what Infiniti had to say on the subject, which turns out to be nothing: unlike Acura, Infiniti, at least in 2000, did not see fit to exclude upholstery from warranty coverage. And after 95,000 miles, including about 7,000 miles so far under my decreasingly-fat arse, Gwendolyn's leather seats are in excellent shape.

Mark Ashley, writing for Consumerist, suggests a solution: "Drive naked." Um, not on leather, Marcus; besides, there's always going to be someone who finds your lack of pants disturbing. (Solution to solution: throw a bath towel over the seat.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:02 PM to Driver's Seat )
The song of the software engineer

You know the tune:

99 little bugs in the code,
99 bugs in the code,
Fix one bug, compile it again,
100 little bugs in the code.
(go to start if bugs>0)

(Courtesy of Punctilious.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:51 PM to PEBKAC )
A Hard Day's Night of the Living Dead

It's two, two, two movies in one!

(Seen at Brad Sucks.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:23 PM to Bogus History )
2 April 2007
Strange search-engine queries (61)

If you're just tuning in — and where have you been? — this is a weekly exercise in which we look at what was sought by Googlers and Askers and Yahoos and such, and make fun of as many of their searches as possible.

clothing optional beaches in oklahoma:  Wait a minute. There are beaches in Oklahoma?

don't start sentences with it:  It just wouldn't be proper.

suppository fanfiction:  Right. Like there aren't enough assholes in real life.

hoosier daddy in donald duck voice:  Now, now, we don't talk about Unca Scrooge's trip to South Bend.

how much is my vintage McDonalds item worth?  If it's an actual sandwich, probably not much.

gorgeous person in distress:  There's about 60 percent of contemporary fiction, right there.

maureen dowd siblings:  "Are there any more like you at home?" he asked fearfully.

is infiniti i30 a chick car:  Mine isn't. In fact, it doesn't interest the chicks at all.

nudist wears pantyhose:  Must be a work day.

backplane sex:  Is this how you get motherboards?

weed whacker powered bicycle:  You might not want to ride this while wearing shorts.

average women naked photos:  On average, women won't pose for naked photos.

creep ogles tall women:  The creeps I know don't discriminate on the basis of height.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to You Asked For It )
Of Brownies and Breck girls

Present-day revisionists have managed to inculcate the notion that the post-JFK 1960s and the Nixon 1970s were all revolution, all the time, and the fact that I don't remember it that way at all doesn't count, because after all I've sold out to The Man. (Actually, I just live down the street from him.)

One thing I did remember learning during that period is that I didn't understand the female half of the species at all, a situation which has changed hardly at all in the intervening decades.

With the dubious and possibly unattainable goal of addressing both of these issues at once, I have made a small investment in research material: I bought about a hundred back issues, roughly 1964 to 1975, of American Girl, a monthly magazine published (until 1979) by the Girl Scouts of America, and I will be going through them over the next few months looking for stuff that might possibly be relevant in some small way to my 21st-century existence. And, of course, whatever I find, I will duly wedge into this little text box.

In the meantime, here's a pertinent observation by David Warren, dated yesterday:

I tell younger people sometimes that "I was there at the fall" — that I can remember a time before the Western world finished going crazy. They don't believe me. They think everyone remembers the end of his childhood that way. But no: they are wrong and I am right. The nadir was achieved around 1969, when all the gulls of the 'sixties came home to roost. On the exposed hull of the ship, as it were.

He finds evidence in his old high-school yearbooks:

[T]wo years later, and the teachers are a mess. The ties are disappearing, and some of the men are growing beards. One is actually wearing sunglasses. The younger female teachers are dressing to kill. Longhairs have started to roam the corridors; several of the kids look drugged. Group photos are chaotic, and the photographers should have been sued for half the mug shots. Hippie-dippie graphics have invaded the yearbook itself. The comments with the graduates' pictures have become dangerously risqué and smartass.

This corresponds precisely to what I remember. At the end of the earlier school year, the old principal had been fired: he was a drill sergeant (literally, ex-military). The new principal was a "reformer": a nice guy, a sensitive guy. Overnight, Ontario's Hall-Dennis Report had also swept through, with its smug title, "Living and Learning." Half the subjects had become "electives": 300 pupils in Grade IX Latin became four pupils in Grade X. The bottom had fallen out of educational standards that had already been slung very low.

All these changes happened (not quite literally) overnight. Yet within a year or two, nobody could remember that anything had ever been any different. Or rather, nobody would dare remember. For suddenly we were living in that brave new world, and anyone who doubted it was marked as irredeemably "square."

As the Beach Boys never sang, "Help me, rhombus."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:34 AM to The Way We Were )
Nature's little bastards

Been there, ran over that:

During his career, Walt [Disney] probably did more to protect animals that don't deserve protecting than anyone else in human history. Mice, whether you call them Mickey or Minnie, are not cute little adorable balls of furry fun; they are vermin. Ducks really are as vile-tempered as Donald is, so there's a little truth in advertising there, and deer are not sweet, lovable nature's children who only want to play and frolic in the forest primeval with their cute little furry friends without having to worry about people and their nasty firearms; deer are oversized rats with hooves. Deer don't want to frolic in the forest primeval; they want to eat my mother's geraniums and her shrubbery and crap all over my front yard every chance they get. So when my co-workers accused me of trying to kill Bambi the other night, my answer is a) I didn't kill the deer, b) I wasn't trying to kill a deer at all, it was an accident, and c) the little bastard had it coming.

Next time, waste 'em. Might as well get some satisfaction out of it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:12 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Vulcanize 'em

I make the turn into the onramp, and it's not ten feet before I discover that traffic isn't going anywhere, and of course there's no Plan B: I can't back up, and the ramp leads to one place only.

So I merge in at about 15 mph, and I start wondering where the hangup is. I decided it was probably two miles ahead, where a section of pavement, pounded by rain last week, finally separated itself from the roadway, leaving a crater worthy of the dark side of the moon. (Which wouldn't surprise me, since there are spots on 50th, closer to home, where telling your asphalt from a hole in the road is all too easy.) Fine, I said to nobody in particular, I'll just get off at the next mile and take the surface streets.

Then I saw the black-and-white in the median, a car with its rear in the air well off the shoulder, an 18-wheeler a couple hundred feet ahead, and I realized that there was no hazard at all: it was the phenomenon known as "rubbernecking," a bunch of people slowed to a crawl in gleeful anticipation of seeing the carnage for themselves.

And upon this discovery, I put the Venturi effect to work and shot through a narrow opening in traffic, putting this discouraging vision behind me as quickly as Gwendolyn was willing to permit.

It occurred to me shortly thereafter that if this had truly been the Venturi effect, a partial vacuum should have been created; I consoled myself with the knowledge that plenty of them already existed, between the ears of the schmucks I'd left in my wake.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:43 PM to Driver's Seat )
It's that whole fertility thing

But no pix yet, reports daughter-in-law:

Wednesday, March 28, 2007 (yes, just one day before Laney's fourth birthday) @ 3:14pm we became the proud parents of our third child. Our new little man Gunner Memphis Hill weighted in at 9lbs 6oz and is 22½ inches long. He had his first doctor visit today and is a perfect healthy little guy.

For those keeping score, this is grandchild #4. As for the name, hey, I'm just happy they didn't name him after me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:48 PM to Next Generation )
3 April 2007
The proper passenger

By now, everyone knows how to get out of a car gracefully without showing your underwear. Maybe. Used to be, the tricky part was getting into the car:

Make your entrance gracefully. The best way to make a transition from pedestrian to passenger is by putting your left foot on the floor of the car and then easing into the car in a sitting position. If it's one of the low-slung models, though, you'll need to change your approach completely. First, sit sideways on the seat with your feet outside the car and swivel forward. Let your body form a gentle "S" curve, with your legs crossed at the ankles.

At the time, there presumably weren't any high-slung models, so don't try this with a Ford F-150.

And yes, there are instructions on debarking:

When you're ready for your exit, take the most attractive way out by sliding along the seat until you can put a foot on the ground. Lower your head and slip out smoothly.

This would seem to imply a bench seat. Interestingly, the illustration accompanying this wisdom seems to be a drawing of a Jaguar E-type, in which case, um, well, you're on your own, sweetheart.

[From "Key to Car Dates" by Kitt Gerard, American Girl, August 1968.]

What's Turkish for "Woot"?

Apparently this is. (Translation: "I want one too.")

There's no real overlap here: Woot doesn't do any business in Constantinople Istanbul. (Heck, Woot doesn't do any business in Juneau.) Still, you have to wonder when the lawyers are going to show up.

Look out below

The restoration of the Underground has been completed, though there's one thing more that needs to be addressed: the Underground needs its own Web site as a promotional tool. Otherwise, it's likely to be overlooked, and not in a good way either.

Perhaps Downtown OKC, which at least has a map, can lead the way.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:26 AM to City Scene )
Put a gallon in me, Alan

Bloodwise, I am type A, and Rh-positive.

If this works out, I won't have to care anymore:

In the 1980s, a team in New York showed that an enzyme from green coffee beans could remove the B antigen from red blood cells. It proved too inefficient for practical use, but Henrik Clausen at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and colleagues have now screened bacteria and fungi for more powerful enzymes. "The diversity you get in the bacterial kingdom is much higher," Clausen explains.

The researchers homed in on two enzymes. One, from a gut bacterium called Bacteroides fragilis, removes the B antigen. The other, from Elizabethkingia meningosepticum — which causes opportunistic infections in people — targets the A antigen. The purified enzymes are highly efficient.

And, less A and B, you're left with O, the "universal donor" — provided you can get past that tricky Rh factor. Plasma, of course, is another matter.

(Seen at I See Invisible People. Title comes from this.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:06 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
Certification in PCL

By some probably-not-all-that-coincidental coincidence, the first RedHawks home game of the season is scheduled for the same night (Friday the 13th, yet) as the last Hornets home game in Oklahoma City. I have to figure that this took some doing, since the 'Hawks are on the road for their first eight — four at Memphis, four at Nashville — before coming home and playing four more against the Redbirds. I may have to stay home with a blanket over my head. On the upside, Bobby Jones is back as manager, which can't be bad.

New ticket prices, if there are new ticket prices, haven't been posted yet: last year, general admission was six bucks, field boxes ran $11, and club level was a mere $15.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:46 PM to Base Paths )
Bucks spent

Despite the return of demigod Michael Redd, Milwaukee had dropped six in a row before tonight, but the Hornets kept them under wraps during the first half, taking a 67-56 lead and giving up only one personal foul (by Desmond Mason, on Redd). What's more, Tyson Chandler had his double-double by halftime.

As everyone knows, the time to score on the Bees is during the third quarter, and the Bucks duly pulled to within six, courtesy of long-ball prowess and nine Hornet turnovers. To kill time in the fourth, Sean and Gerry tried to analyze Rasual Butler's shooting, Vaillancourt suggesting that in the absence of other explanations, Butler's streakiness could be attributed to astrological factors. Rasual promptly dropped in two consecutive treys, half of a 12-1 run for the Bees, shutting down that line of thought. And the Bees won it 119-101, their highest point production all year.

Still, Redd outscored everyone, dropping in 27 of the 46 points scored by the Bucks' starters. Lynn Greer and Ruben Patterson paced the bench with 19 and 10 respectively.

But the Hornets ruled the boards, outrebounding Milwaukee 47 to 25 — Chandler got twenty, alongside 18 points — and after that fourth-quarter spurt, they wound up with nine 3-balls, same as the Bucks, and on five fewer attempts yet. David West was deadly, hitting 8 of 11 from the floor and 8 of 8 from the line, for 24; Desmond Mason was right behind with 21. Chris Paul scored only 8, but dished up 14 assists; Butler, Jannero Pargo and Bobby Jackson were all in double figures off the bench.

Short road trip, this; the Hornets come back to the Ford tomorrow to host the Sonics. The Suns will be in town Friday.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:28 PM to Net Proceeds )
4 April 2007
Up against the Wal

I suppose, if I were absolutely, positively determined to pay the least amount of money for stuff, or at least to persuade myself that I was paying the least amount of money for stuff, I could drag myself into a Wal-Mart.

But then I might run into someone like this:

True story: Checkout lines were very long and slow, and I'm standing behind some guy and his wife. Among the items in their cart was a package of some sort of Easter candy, you know, six or eight individually wrapped chocolate whatevers. After a while, he opens the package, unwraps a candy and eats it. Several minutes later he eats another, and then another. They finally get to the checkout, and he was disappointed that the scanner charged him full price for the half-empty package of candy.

His wife proudly crowed, "See? Told'ja!"

This is one of the few times I've ever felt any empathy with Mark Morford.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:01 AM to Dyssynergy )
Karma less than instant

I was never a great Yoko Ono fan, but neither did I understand the rather shabby treatment that she got at the hands of various Beatlemaniacs for many years: yes, she was a few degrees off plumb, but so was John, and if clearly he was the greater musical talent, she made a pretty decent Muse for him, and her own musical explorations weren't the horrorfests they were made out to be. (Well, except for "Don't Worry Kyoko," which was sort of what you'd get if you'd tried to replicate Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music with actual flesh.)

Two lengthy articles about Ono showed up at my desk this week, a new interview by Tony Sclafani in Goldmine (not on their site yet), and a two-year-old (at least) piece by Joshua Rotter for MacDirectory. (Yoko, in case you were wondering, used a G4.) What these pieces have in common is the same Michael Levine photo, in which Ono appears in a dress as short as anything sold on Carnaby Street in the Sixties. I have no idea when it was taken; it was startling, and it certainly didn't reflect the classic Johnandyoko bagism shtick, but what the hell. Ono is seventy-four now; she's paid more than enough dues and should be able to do whatever she pleases.

Spending those surplice funds

Follieri Capital, which specializes in financial products for Roman Catholics, and Washington Mutual have teamed up to offer the World Missions VISA, which is being launched this week via major advertising campaigns in Catholic publications. One percent of card purchases will be donated to the Church's Society for the Propagation of the Faith, founded in 1822, which supports Catholic missionaries in 120 countries. That's the World Missions VISA. Don't leave Rome without it.

How do you do?

Shel Silverstein wrote, and Johnny Cash sang, a ballad about a boy who grew up with the name "Sue," and you'll remember that Sue grew up bitter and resentful — eventually, weapons were involved — as a result. I have no idea whether this sort of thing will happen to a girl named Metallica or a boy named Jihad, but I don't think it's really useful to have laws against such names: "Earning the lifelong resentment of their ill-named progeny should be punishment enough."

Keep in mind that my daughter came this close to being named for a Beatles song — one by McCartney, at that — and I have a grandchild named "Gunner."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:22 PM to Next Generation )
That whole industrial-revolution thing

Jacqueline Passey takes a phone call:

Customer: "Can you send me a catalog?"

JP: "I'm sorry, sir, unfortunately we don’t have a paper catalog, but all our products are listed on our website."

Customer: "Oh, I've never done that web thing before. Do you need, like, a computer with a phone line?"

Well, okay, not everyone does that web thing. We have customers at 42nd and Treadmill who don't.

(Aside: Those people, incidentally, cause us little trouble. It's the clowns who think they know what they're doing who produce ninety-point-something percent of the grief. There was a time when I would actually speak to them and attempt to help them salvage something from their wasted lives. Never again.)

We might infer from this that Ms Passey's employer deals in low-tech wares, like yarn or organic foods or something like that.

And we would be wrong.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:34 PM to PEBKAC )
These games seem to be getting longer

They were carrying out the bodies all night, or so it seemed. Tyson Chandler's turf toe reasserted itself in the first quarter, and he withdrew; Desmond Mason caught an elbow under the eyeball in the second, sending him to the bench; Chris Wilcox, whose elbow it was, discovered shortly thereafter that he was in pain; Devin Brown took a pop to the ribs in the third, but returned. And, of course, Peja Stojakovic and Ray Allen are out for the duration.

After falling behind 21-19 at the 12-minute mark, the Hornets gradually built up a lead; they were up 78-65 after the third. The Sonics promptly went on an 11-2 run to pull within four; both teams went cold, and with 80 seconds left, it was 84-82 Hornets, which means that in 10:40 the Bees scored a whole six points. In the next minute, nobody scored anything. The Sonics got the ball back with 23 seconds left, used 21 seconds to score a bucket, and suddenly it was overtime — which, of course, meant the Hornets' troubles were over, since they hadn't lost a game in overtime all season.

I kid, but not too much: there's something about those little five-minute periods that concentrates the Bees' minds in a way 12-minute quarters don't. They rolled up a 10-point lead, courtesy of seven from Bobby Jackson (out of 18); the Sonics whittled it down to five; the final difference was nine, 101-92. Maybe sometime they'll explain how the Hornets could score 17 points in five minutes after scoring six points in 12 minutes.

It was a good night for double-doubles: David West (18 points, 14 rebounds), Marc Jackson (13 points, 12 boards), and Chris Paul (11 points, 10 rebounds, and 9 assists, almost the triple) all shone. Still, none of them could touch the Sonics' Rashard Lewis, a hard man to defend, who scored 27 points and grabbed 10 boards. And the radio guys, trying to see if it would work a second time, made fun of Rasual Butler's shooting; Butler may or may not have heard them, but he scored 16 anyway.

So the Bees are now 35-40 with seven to play. (Last year they finished 38-44.) The first five playoff spots are filled: right now it's the Lakers in sixth (39-35), the Nuggets in seventh (37-36) and the Clippers in eighth (36-37). The Lakers play the Clippers later tonight; last I looked, the Warriors, in 9th (35-39), were beating the Rockets. Assuming Golden State wins, they'll remain one game in front of the Hornets, so both of them are hoping that the Battle of L.A. ends with the Lakers victorious. And, lest we forget, of those seven to play, two are against the Clippers.

Meanwhile, there's another obstacle: the Suns, who will be here Friday.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:41 PM to Net Proceeds )
5 April 2007
And here he is

Gunner, first photoFirst shot of Gunner, born on the 28th of March. Still has that rich tomato-ey glow. (Runs in the family, I think.) Personally, I think Alicia and Russ were trying to save some money on birthday parties, since Laney's the 29th of March and Gunner's the 28th. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it as long as I think I can get away with it.) Oh, and don't even think about calling him "Gunsy." (Addendum: I really think they're going to quit after three, but then I really thought they were going to quit after two, so pay no attention to me.) (Further addendum: For some reason, I decided that this picture would look better somewhere other than hung off the right edge of the page, so I moved it in. Wouldn't be the first time I made some dubious aesthetic judgment.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:51 AM to Next Generation )
Oh, thanks, Bill

So I got home, booted up the box, went outside and shoved the lawn mower around for while, came back inside, and discovered a Critical Update. Oh, joy, another one, I thought, looked it over, installed it, rebooted.

Came this:

Rthdcpl.exe - Illegal System DLL Relocation
The system DLL user32.dll was relocated in memory. The application will not run properly. The relocation occurred because the DLL C:\Windows\System32\Hhctrl.ocx occupied an address range reserved for Windows system DLLs. The vendor supplying the DLL should be contacted for a new DLL.

The .exe in question is the audio-control interface for the Realtek integrated audio, which the new Windows hotfix promptly hosed. So there was yet another download, this time manual, dammit, and on the next boot the DLLs showed up where they were supposed to be.

Still: Sheesh. It's times like I this I yearn for the gentle SYS calls on the old Commodore 64.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:00 AM to PEBKAC )
237

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters Local 237, which represents employees of the City of New York and some Long Island municipalities, is the single largest local in the Teamsters union.

By comparison, Carnival of the Vanities #237 is a tad on the small side, but sometimes it's not the size that matters.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:11 AM to Blogorrhea )
This Brent Rinehart thing

Oklahoma County District 2 Commissioner Brent Rinehart and his 2004 campaign manager, former Representative Tim Pope, were hit with felony charges this afternoon: conspiracy against the state, knowingly accepting a contribution to a political candidate through an intermediary or conduit (three charges), money-laundering (two charges) and perjury (six charges).

The conspiracy charge involves a promotional piece called the T-Bone Tribune (not to be confused with this T-Bone Tribune), which was misattributed in Ethics Commission reports to a PAC which also served as the "intermediary or conduit." The perjury charges involve underreporting of campaign contributions. (Complete court document in PDF format here; lesser charges were filed against certain of Rinehart's donors.)

The Oklahoman had been on this story for a while:

The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation began looking into Rinehart's finances after a February 2006 investigation by The Oklahoman, which found several donors who had given the maximum allowed $5,000 to Rinehart's 2004 commissioner campaign also gave money to a political action committee run by Pope.

Pope said he told Methvin he planned to use the money to pay for a mailing criticizing Rinehart's opponent. The cost of the mailing was listed on Rinehart's campaign finance reports as an in-kind donation from The Oklahoma Republican Assembly, run by Pope.

And Pope was in hot water earlier this year, having been fined $4500 for his noxious automated phone calls trying to undermine District 1 Commissioner Jim Roth, who is, shall we say, not Brent Rinehart's best friend.

Pope, at least, used to have something resembling a level head. Rinehart's, I suspect, has always been flat.

Update, 6 April: Rinehart and Pope turned themselves in this morning: bail for each was set at $24,000. They are scheduled to appear before Judge Carol Ann Hubbard on the 17th of May.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:27 PM to City Scene )
Now that's proactive

If you're traveling through the Philippines and find yourself visiting the South Cotabato Provincial Hospital in Koronadal City, you might want to curb that desire for a smoke, because the hospital staff will send you some place you might not want to go:

"The law requires us to designate a smoking area so we picked the morgue," said Dr. Edgardo Sandig, South Cotabato health officer.

Sandig said they decided to impose the rule because of the continued violation of the hospital's "no smoking" policy by visiting relatives or acquaintances of patients.

(Via Interested-Participant.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:19 PM to Almost Yogurt )
6 April 2007
The high cost of using less fuel

GM's Maximum Bob Lutz was complaining this week that the Bush administration's plan to tweak fuel-economy standards upward would ultimately raise the price of a motor vehicle by $5,000.

"This technology does not come for free," said Lutz, and of course that's true, but how much technology does come for free?

Besides, there are plenty of other upward pressures on vehicle prices: the demand for new gadgets; new safety gizmos, some useful, some perhaps less so; the rising price of raw materials; the rising price of labor.

Me, I'm not worried so much. I owned, in succession, two Mazda 626 sedans. The 2000 model weighed about 200 lb more than the 1993, had a dozen more ponies under the hood (from a mostly-identical engine), and offered about 8 cubic feet more interior room. I got 23 mpg from the '93, and 24 mpg from the '00. Small incremental improvements, while they don't necessarily make for good ad copy, really mount up after a while.

Or I could look back at my old '75 Toyota, which struggled to get 19 mpg from its 2.2-liter 96-hp four-banger (with a stick, yet), and compare it to my current car, which weighs 700 lb more, boasts 227 hp from a 3-liter V6, and gets 21 mpg. With an automatic. Not to mention vastly cleaner exhaust.

Or I could simply mention that Honda and Toyota and friends aren't grousing in public: they're simply handing out new specifications to the engineers.

Because the times demand stinky fridges

Quote of the Week contender from Pete Guthier: "You let these idiot legislators start making one thing illegal because it's connected to something else, and the next thing you know, everything is illegal."

Like, for instance, sodium bicarbonate, otherwise known as baking soda:

First, the state said you must make a special trip to the pharmacy counter to buy certain cold medicines. That was to curb production of methamphetamine.

Now, a St. Louis legislator wants you to do the same thing to buy an even more common household item — baking soda — because it's used to make crack cocaine.

Sales of cold medications containing pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed, are strictly regulated in Missouri. Customers must show a photo ID when they buy the medicine. Pharmacists must log the names and addresses of buyers, including how much they buy. People under 18 may not buy the medicines.

The sponsor of the baking soda bill, Rep. Talibdin El-Amin, D-St. Louis, said the same approach was needed for baking soda because crack cocaine is often produced by dissolving powdered cocaine in a mixture of water and baking soda.

Logically, a dihydrogen-monoxide ban should be next. There's already plenty of support for it.

(Via Bitter Bitch.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:38 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
Ruffley handled

The last few lines of Bus:

see the happy moron he doesn't give a damn I wish I was a moron my God maybe I am
you can search around the world and when you return you'll find that what you were looking for was right where you started
as soon as I get to Boston I'm taking the bus back to New York.

By Alison E. Ruffley, then thirteen, of Tenafly, New Jersey, in American Girl, May 1971. I have no idea if it was this Alison E. Ruffley, or even this one, but it's the thought that counts, right?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:48 AM to The Way We Were )
It was forty years ago today

Well, actually, it was forty years ago come June, but these things require some lead time:

To mark the 40th anniversary of The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album a clutch of modern day British groups are to record their own versions of some of the tracks recorded on the original 4 track studio equipment. The Kaiser Chiefs, James Morrison, Oasis (maybe they'll finally get round to sounding like their idols at last), The Fratellis and Travis are amongst those lined up for the venture which will be aired [on BBC Radio 2] on the actual anniversary of the release of the original album on June 1st.

(Note: The album wasn't released in the States until the second of June 1967. Incidentally, the CD version came out on 1 June 1987 worldwide.)

Me, I'm hoping for an appearance by the one and only Billy Shears.

Bench marks

So you're getting ready to play the Phoenix Suns, who have won 56 of 75 games, and you're missing your starting center, your starting point guard, and your chief cutter, all of whom were beaten up in the last game. What do you do?

The Hornets shuffled the lineup, or what was left of it: Jannero Pargo started at the point, Rasual Butler at small forward, Marc Jackson in the middle, and while they probably weren't going to win this one anyway, they actually did win three of the four quarters by two points, and if they hadn't fallen behind by 14 in the first quarter, they might have pulled it off. As it stands, though, they lost by eight, 103-95.

And all the starters finished in double figures, led by David West with 17 and Marc Jackson with 16. The Bees actually outshot the Suns from beyond the arc (7 of 17), but the Phoenix offense, paced by Leandro Barbosa with 26 including six treys — aside from Barbosa, the Suns were 2-21 shooting the 3-ball — was overpowering when it had to be. Steve Nash concentrated on support, but still got the double-double: 15 points, 12 dimes.

Tomorrow night in Minnesota, and it's not a whole lot colder there than it is here. With six games to go, the Hornets are three games out of a playoff spot: not mathematically eliminated, but not in an encouraging position either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:20 PM to Net Proceeds )
7 April 2007
Attention H-badge shoppers

I think we can retire that "Hyundai = bargain brand" business once and for all.

Consumer Reports has reports on four small SUVs in the May issue. The biggest news is that Hyundai's Santa Fe in Limited trim is now considered the second most desirable vehicle in this class: it outpoints Toyota's four-cylinder RAV4, but trails the V6 version (which apparently has never been called "RAV6"). This is a very creditable showing for the Korean marque, but here's the kicker: of the twenty small SUVs which CR has tested recently, the Hyundai had the highest price as tested: $30,745, one of only three vehicles breaking the $30k barrier. (The 16th-place Jeep Compass Sport is the cheapest, at $21,660.) Admittedly, equipment levels inevitably vary somewhat, but it wasn't that long ago that Hyundai was competing almost solely on price. Not anymore.

And if they can play alongside Toyota and Nissan, what's to stop them from playing alongside Lexus and Infiniti? Not a thing. Besides, they still have the best TV spot around.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:44 AM to Driver's Seat )
We represent the Loophole League

I don't track my FICO score too closely. I do know that it jumped a bit after I bought the house, a bit more after I no longer had a car payment to deal with, and then sagged about the time I had to start dealing with car payments again. It has never occurred to me to start taking extraordinary steps to prop it up.

Especially steps this extraordinary:

[S]ome borrowers are turning to a fast-growing business on the Internet: companies that claim to boost credit scores by transplanting the credit DNA of people with excellent payment histories into the credit files of people with sub-par histories — ostensibly without breaking any law.

The companies claim to raise FICO credit scores by 50 to 250 points or more by adding low-scoring borrowers as "authorized users" onto the credit card accounts of people with FICO scores well in excess of 700. The positive payment information from such cardholders then flows into the files of the persons with sub-par credit.

This, of course, assumes that Warren Buffett is too busy to notice Donnie Deadbeat's presence on his credit report, and maybe that's a fairly safe assumption. Usually "authorized users" tend to be family members — say, daughter away at college — but they don't have to be:

Federal law, however, does not limit the number or prescribe the type of authorized users permitted on any single account. Nor does it prohibit the rental or sale of authorized user designations. Exploiting that loophole, numerous companies have popped up on the Internet offering to buy and rent out the credit card "trade lines" or accounts of credit cardholders with high limits combined with perfect payment histories.

The idea that the not-inconsiderable sum paid by the debtor for this dubious FICO boost might be applied more usefully to reducing his debt doesn't seem to enter into the picture. And to think we were surprised by mortgage fraud.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:40 AM to Common Cents )
Queen Victoria's keyboard (2)

Keyboard mods by SteampunkYou might remember this from February, when I said something to the effect that "committed typewriter fiend Andrea Harris might want one of her own after she sees this." Well, she's seen it, and she wants it. I wonder what she'd think of RSS feeds via telegraph sounder. (Me, I want this rotary-dial GSM cell phone, just to see how T-Mobile, which is desperate to sell me some high-zoot electrotoy with a camera, an MP3 player and a medical tricorder, would react to its presence.)

Update, 8 April: Tam likes it too.

Update, 9 April: Tam's readers seem to like it too; we've picked up 440 565 hits from View from the Porch at this writing. This is more than twice as much as I've ever gotten from that other person in Knox.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:36 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
The news (re)cycle

While the Oklahoman works on rolling out NewsOK Beta, a smaller paper in the British Isles has gone for a simpler approach. The Buckinghamshire Advertiser, owned by group operator Trinity Mirror plc and selling 20,000 copies daily, has converted its Web site to a Movable Type blog, complete with RSS feeds and links for Digg, del.icio.us, and Reddit. Of course, all the traditional sections — News, Columns, Sport, and such — are rendered as MT Categories.

Peoria Pundit Billy Dennis says this is "more evidence that print is doomed":

I'm sure it's easier to use than any newspaper Web site software I've ever tried to use. And I'm sure it's less complicated than whatever it is the [Peoria] Journal Star uses. Any small newspaper in America can put something like this together — including paying someone to design their template — for several hundred dollars, not to mention the cost of Web hosting, which might cost $100 a month for a dedicated server. It does as good a job as presenting the distributing news in words and pictures as any printing press, which costs much, much more to use. And it doesn't require any trees be cut down, pulped and transported across the country in trucks or on trains.

And consider that if it costs that little for a newspaper to run, what's stopping folks — perhaps disgruntled newsies with some start-up capital perhaps — from coming along and doing the same thing and not bothering with a print edition.

I'm not entirely convinced that print is doomed: you can't line a birdcage with a Web site. Yet. And there are still people who have no particular interest in these here Intratubes. What's more — well, here's how Eyebrows McGee tells it (previous link, scroll to comments):

This might come as a shock, but we actually DON'T NEED 24 hour news. There are few things short of tornadoes I need to know about RIGHT THIS INSTANT, and they have sirens for that. (And — shock of shocks — they actually still break into broadcast network television for things that are REALLY important.) And there are a lot of people my age who are opting out of cable TV and 24-hour connectedness in favor of choosing our times and places to get data. The wired generation knows better than the Boomers how empty and repetitive 24-hour data streams can be, because we've never lived in a world without them. I was TWO when CNN joined the world. I do not remember a time before 24-hour news and I have never attended a school without a computer lab.

Small wonder, then, that I prefer my news in a single discreet chomp, well-written by competent journalists and analyzed by people who follow a story for years and know its ins and outs. I've been surrounded by the vapidity of instant-streaming news since I was an infant. I prefer something a little more substantial and a little less torrential.

By coincidence, the Oklahoman sent me a renewal form today for my print subscription.

An audience of two

A few weeks back 42nd and Treadmill hired a man, tall, lanky and youngish, to work one of the Customer Service stations, which might have been a wise decision, given the tendency of some of our more obnoxious customers to try to drive the female staff to tears or worse; I have to figure that anyone who can face down a clutch of murdering insurgents has nothing to fear from that bunch. (Surely whatever they're paying him, it isn't enough; I've answered phones there before, and it is a dispiriting experience at best.) In an effort to get an answer for one of the callers, he wandered into my den of inequity earlier this week — for some reason, they always call during break time — spotted the open MT interface, put two and 3.21 together, and asked, "You write that?" Apparently he'd discovered the site during his none-too-copious free time in the Land of Sand. I am, of course, always surprised to find that anyone reads this stuff.

Cut to this afternoon, while I'm filling up my grocery basket. I have a weekly Anti-Shyness Exercise, if you will, which calls for me to strike up a conversation with at least one woman I don't know. This has generally not been difficult, but the ginormous pre-Easter crowd presented obstacles of its own. And then one thing happened which hadn't previously: the woman I don't know struck up the conversation with me. Turned out to be a reader of this very site, who recognized me from a photo I'd left over at MySpace. (Whether this is a defense of MySpace, or a major security issue, is left as an exercise for the student.) We stretched this into a discussion long enough to inculcate despair in shoppers who just wanted a loaf of bread, dammit, because I am, of course, always surprised to find that anyone reads this stuff.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:26 PM to Blogorrhea )
Thrown to the Wolves

Or so it looked early on: Minnesota shot over 60 percent in the first half to nail down a 57-51 lead. The Hornets recovered and then some in the third, outscoring the Timberwolves 29-18 and going up by five. In the fourth quarter, seemingly no one could score: through seven and a half minutes, the Bees picked up a mere six points, the Wolves only five. It was 96-94 in the last second, and the Wolves' Hail Mary shot at the buzzer fell away, leaving the Hornets with an unattractive but necessary win.

Minnesota had six players in double figures, though Kevin Garnett didn't get there until the very end. Reserve guard Rashad McCants led the Wolves with 17; the Minnesota bench was good for 45 points, and the Big Ticket had a lowish 13 points and a solid 12 rebounds. The Wolves tried 23 treys, and made 14 of them.

Chris Paul led all scorers with 18, and ten dimes to boot. Also with a double-double: Marc Jackson, with 15 points and 11 boards. (The Bees attempted thirty from beyond the arc, and connected on eight; Marcus Vinicius, who played six minutes, got one of them, his second of the season.)

Five to go, and two of them are against the eighth-place Los Angeles Clippers, who will be at the Ford Center Tuesday. (The last Oklahoma City game is Friday, against the Nuggets; the season ends with three on the road, against the Rockets, the Kings, and finally the Clippers.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:36 PM to Net Proceeds )
8 April 2007
Unequally revoked

Driving, we are always told by the state Department of Always Telling Us Things, is a privilege, not a right. I'm okay with that. But maybe it's a privilege too seldom withdrawn:

If you can't keep up with traffic, you don't deserve to drive. If you can't properly yield, you don't deserve to drive. If you try to bully your way into traffic, nearly taking the nose off of the car you cut off and the bumper of the car you get in behind, you don't deserve to drive. If you can't close the TWENTY car length gap between you and the person in front of you, but insist on driving 30 mph on the interstate because the other two lanes next to you are truly that backed up and are going that speed, you don't deserve to drive.

I think I've seen these people, and no, I wouldn't mind if their privileges were withdrawn.

This, though, seems a trifle strong:

You should have your tires shot out, causing you to spin wildly into the cement guard rails, crashing, and then having your body flung from the vehicle, thoroughly maiming you, but doing no fatal damage.

I mean, all four tires? Come on.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:51 AM to Driver's Seat )
And the rocks trembled

And out from under one particularly scuzzy rock crawled the perpetrators of a Denial of Service attack on the host's nameservers, making this site (and a few thousand others) inaccessible for about three hours this morning. (Exactly one person got through during this period, a testimonial to superior network knowledge, and yes, I know who it is, which is why I said that.)

As it happens, I didn't notice this until later, a byproduct of not being near the computer at that hour of the morning.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:20 AM to Blogorrhea , PEBKAC )
Things I learned today (11)

Some of these you may already know.

Part Twelve will appear eventually.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:11 PM to Blogorrhea )
A seriously long haul

File under "Boy, I couldn't do that": Ann Althouse drives from Austin. Texas to Madison, Wisconsin in one day.

That's 1235 miles, half again as long as my single-day record. (Albuquerque, New Mexico to Redondo Beach, California, April 1988, 806 miles by my odometer.) And I was absolutely exhausted when it was over, thirteen hours after it had started. It is worth noting that on no day during any of the World Tours did I log more than 600 miles. At my present state of (d)evolution, I figure that even if my nerves don't give out, my bladder will.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:46 PM to Driver's Seat )
Clams got sorrow

Cartoonist Johnny Hart, who created the B.C. comic strip in 1958, has died at his home in Nineveh, New York at the age of seventy-six.

Today's strip seems somehow appropriate.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:50 PM to Almost Yogurt )
9 April 2007
Strange search-engine queries (62)

There are a lot of pages under this domain — ten thousand or so — which means that there is a truly prodigious amount of search-engine traffic. Inevitably, this means that there will be some requests that come across as slightly weird. In this series, we look at those for which "slightly" may not necessarily apply.

accident in oklahoma that shut down southbound I-35:  Be more specific. We get those 24/7.

what happens to salad dressing when expired:  It's said to have "bought the ranch."

porn star with "five inch" penis:  You'd think those guys would be, um, too short.

snow white porn:  You'd think those guys would be, um, too short.

"southern california" superficial selfish:  You say that like it's a bad thing.

cheerios palmistry:  Much more difficult than doing it with Post Alpha-Bits.

omen hit deer in car:  You will soon meet a stranger who will identify himself as an insurance adjuster.

book value of 1975 AMC Pacer:  Almost certainly a paperback.

"Invisible Woman" makeup:  Nothing too obvious.

Dennis Hastert bikini wax:  This started with a thread on Democratic Underground; one poster remarked, "There are things that humans were not meant to know." I have to agree.

wives doing blowjobs:  I thought they became wives so they wouldn't have to do that.

"just friends" frustrating:  Tell me about it. Better yet, don't.

Lortons Puppy World:  What happens when Tulsa no longer has a daily newspaper.

how to cure phlegm:  Rub it with a mixture of salt, sugar, and potassium nitrate, then store it for no more than six months.

how to put tampa into the vagina with yogurt:  I expect St. Petersburg will have something to say about that.

Finally, since I'm still getting requests for shots of Nancy Pelosi's legs, here she is with President Assad of Syria:

Speaker Pelosi with Syrian President Assad

I refuse to speculate on whether she's had a bikini wax.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:40 AM to You Asked For It )
Gwendolyn goes to the clinic

Here's why:

When I turn the key, the engine makes a horrible scraping noise.
Sounds like a bad solenoid. Your starter consists of two parts, the starter motor itself and the solenoid. The starter motor is just what it sounds like, a motor big enough to spin the engine and start the whole ignition process. It works by turning a small gear quickly against a large gear on the flywheel of the engine. But that small gear isn't always engaged with the flywheel. That's where the solenoid comes in. It basically sticks out the smaller gear to engage it with the flywheel. When it starts to go out, it doesn't engage properly and makes the noise you've been hearing. And in order to protect the flywheel gear, which is much more expensive to replace, the solenoid gear is usually made of a softer metal, so it wears down. The solution is to replace the starter.

It's been doing this for about five months now; I figure I've pushed my luck as far as I dare.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:31 AM to Driver's Seat )
Follow the thread

There are, theoretically anyway, nineteen different phases of a blog discussion before it finally peters out, and Paula Scher has illustrated the path in a New York Times "Op-Art". Even reduced, this is fairly huge (100k), so it's going beneath the jump for the time being. (The individual archive, of course, doesn't have a jump.) Thanks to kottke.

Diagram of a Blog by Paula Scher

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:35 AM to Blogorrhea )
If only it were that simple

The so-called Tax Freedom Day for Oklahomans comes this Thursday, 12 April, two and a half weeks before the national average (on the 30th) and 5½ weeks before the 20th of May, when the besieged residents of Connecticut finish their obligations.

The latest ever Tax Freedom Day was the 31st of December, in the former Soviet Union.

(Noticed at The Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:37 PM to Common Cents )
Now at fewer locations

While rumors swirl about how the domestic automakers are an endangered species, their dealership networks are definitely shrinking: last year, Detroit dropped 462 dealerships, and so far this year they're down 480 more.

I suspect most of this shrinkage is in highly-competitive metropolitan areas where it's been dog-eat-dog and beyond for years. At least with GM and Chrysler, the goal seems to be consolidating as many brands as possible on the same lot: Hudiburg, which has been selling Chevrolets here since forever, added Pontiac and GMC some years back; now they've moved the Buick line, once dualed with Nissan, to that same lot. (The Nissan dealership remains on I-240.) Group 1's Smicklas Chevrolet, which absorbed the old Gandara Buick on May, has since dropped Buick altogether. Bob Moore, the last tenant of the infamous Lynn Hickey lot at I-44 and May, moved their Dodge store into their Chrysler-Jeep facility on the Northwest Distressway last year. Bob Moore also acquired the Saab franchise last year and now sells the odd Swedemobile alongside Cadillac in their humongous Broadway cluster.

The downside of multiple lines on the same lot, of course, is that it makes badge engineering distressingly apparent: when you have two or three (GM has had as many as five) variations on the same theme, people tend to snicker, especially if there's an obvious attempt to differentiate by price. This is, I'm pretty sure, why you tend not to find Lexuses at Toyota stores. On the other hand, there's not much overlap between Acura and Honda, or lately between Infiniti and Nissan.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:55 PM to Driver's Seat )
10 April 2007
Dress rehearsal

Dr. Weevil asks:

I haven't read all the coverage of the Iranian kidnapping of 15 British sailors and marines — no one could — but what I have read does not mention one interesting question: what happened to their uniforms? We know that they were sent home in ugly Iranian suits. Unless I'm missing something, it appears that their uniforms remain in Iranian hands. Or perhaps not. In January, Iraqi "insurgents" — in fact, war criminals — wearing American uniforms killed five American soldiers in Karbala (good summary here). Have the British uniforms stolen by Iran already been shipped to al Sadr's men in Basra so they can try the same thing there? Why is no one asking what happened to them?

I have no idea, but it sounds like a reasonable question to me, and maybe a wider airing will elicit an answer somewhere.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:57 AM to Dyssynergy )
Sonics buy huge tract of land

Okay, it's not that huge, and it's not technically a buy yet, but still:

The Professional Basketball Club (PBC), which owns the Seattle Sonics and Storm, and Transwestern/Harvest Lakeshore, LLC, which is a joint venture between Transwestern Investment Company and Harvest Partners, the developer of The Landing, a mixed-use retail, entertainment, and residential complex on the shores of Lake Washington, have reached an agreement in principle to assign the rights to acquire 21.2 acres of land that could become the home of a new multipurpose events center. Boeing currently owns the property, which is adjacent to the site already being developed by Harvest Partners as the first phase of The Landing. Harvest Partners has the first right of refusal to buy it.

"We have been involved in extensive recent discussions and expect to have a signed definitive agreement soon,” said Eliot Barnett, Managing Partner of Harvest Partners. “We both see excellent potential for The Landing and the new events center and believe that together they would provide even greater economic, cultural and other benefits to the City of Renton, the region and the state,” said Clay Bennett, PBC Chairman.

Representatives of Harvest Partners and PBC have been discussing how the adjacent developments would complement each other and contribute to the ongoing redevelopment of Renton. Harvest Partners is on track to see its first retail tenants open for business in October of this year and the balance of the retail following in May 2008. The first residential phase would open in 2009. In addition to Sonics and Storm basketball, the new events center would host a variety of other sports, business, entertainment and cultural activities. PBC is working with business, labor, sports fans, community leaders and others for approval of state legislation that would enable the development of the multipurpose events center, which ideally would come on line for the 2010-11 NBA season.

Which is right after the KeyArena lease expires.

There are two ways to look at this: that Clay Bennett and friends are actually serious about getting a new facility in the Seattle 'burbs, or that Clay Bennett and friends are just going through the motions so it won't look so bad when they move the Sonics out of town. At the moment, I'm more inclined to believe the former.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:26 AM to Net Proceeds )
Swinging down the lane

Ja'Rena Lunsford at the Oklahoman seemed surprised at the results of a data dump by Men's Health that gave Oklahoma City's drivers a D, ranking 74th of 100 cities. Lunsford was especially critical of the third-place ranking given the City of New York, observing:

I've only been to New York a handful of times, but that was long enough to realize that city shouldn't be getting any accolades for good driving. If I recall correctly, I had a near death experience in a cab while I was trying to get to LaGuardia International Airport.

I've driven very little in the Big Apple, but I think Lunsford is underestimating their mad driving skillz: the fact that traffic moves at all struck me, in the middle of it one day, as well-nigh miraculous.

Of course, like all drivers, I consider myself above average. (And at least I have one piece of evidence to back me up: no moving violations in the past quarter-century.)

On a possibly-related note, some months back, Car and Driver put out some research of their own, in an effort to determine which states were most driver-friendly. I duly downloaded their 800k spreadsheet worth of data, and discovered Oklahoma right near the middle: 22nd place. (Alaska, a wide-open space indeed, took first; the District of Columbia was dead last.) The Sooner State picked up points for relatively low levels of traffic and for higher-than-average speed limits, and lost points for very high truck traffic and for below-average pavement quality (which, as Tom Elmore reminds us, is a direct result of very high truck traffic). And C/D editor Csaba Csere has a very Lunsford-like response to one of his data points:

Driving is safer than it's ever been, but there are still substantial differences among the states. In Mississippi, the highway death rate was 2.28 fatalities per 100 million vehicle-miles driven. In Massachusetts, it was barely a third of that, at 0.87. I suspect this says more about the higher willingness of Massachusetts drivers to buckle up than it does about their inherent driving talent, which was not obvious when I went to college in that state three decades ago.

Boston drivers in the Men's Health report placed 34th, scoring B-minus. Last time I drove through Boston, I remember thinking I'd rather be in New York.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:10 AM to Driver's Seat )
Eat here and get gas

Well, not anymore: the gas stations along the Turner Turnpike will shut down on the 23rd, leaving the two "service plazas" with a place to eat, but no actual motor fuel.

A spokesman for the turnpike said that the station operator declined to renew the lease on the two stations.

It is possible to exit at Bristow — I've done this — and gas up, then return to the turnpike; presumably it's possible at Wellston. There is no apparent rush to sign up a new operator for the stations.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:29 PM to Soonerland )
Something here doesn't quite register

Mike Duncan
Republican National Committee
310 First Street SE
Washington, DC 20003

Dear Mr. Duncan:

Thank you for your kind letter and invitation to participate in your "GOP Census." I must point out, however, that inasmuch as I am not a registered Republican, the "Dear Fellow Republican" salutation notwithstanding, it might be inappropriate for me to respond positively at this time.

Sincerely,

CGHill

Back and forth

The first quarter was something to behold: the lead changed hands half a dozen times in those twelve minutes, and it ended with both teams shooting .500, a mere three fouls in aggregate, and the Hornets up 26-25. By comparison, the second quarter was horrific: the Clippers continued to shoot .500, while the Bees apparently had doused themselves with Rim Repellent (Reg. U.S. Pat. Off.) at some point, managing a mere 15 points and retreating to the locker room down 11.

Then the third, and Devin Brown rolled out 14 points in the first six minutes, and the Hornets outscored L.A. 29-14, taking a four-point lead going into the fourth. And with 20 seconds left, they still led, albeit only by two, and the Clippers had the ball; ten seconds and one dunk later, it was tied at 87. Jason Hart fouled Chris Paul, who sank two free throws; Eldon Brand got a last-second bucket to tie it at 89 with one second left, and overtime duly ensued. As we all know, the Hornets don't lose in overtime: Bobby Jackson dropped in two free throws with 33 seconds left to put the Bees up by seven; Corey Maggette shot a 3-pointer in response; with 11 seconds left, Chris Paul managed to miss two free throws; Jason Hart hit a bucket to pull within two; David West hit one of two from the line, Maggette got the ball — and threw it to Devin Brown. Hornets 103, Clippers 100, and the playoff race isn't quite dead yet.

Both teams, depleted by injuries, played only eight men. (Well, James Singleton officially played one second for Los Angeles.) D-West got seven of the Hornets' 14 points in the overtime, and finished with 33. Devin Brown tied his personal best with 25, and Chris Paul added 17 with 10 assists.

The Clippers, however, outrebounded the Bees, 50-42, and both Chris Kaman and Eldon Brand recorded double-doubles, Kaman with 10 points and 12 boards, Brand with 37 points and 10 boards. Corey Maggette, who hit two of the Clippers' four treys, wound up with 24.

So Golden State, which had the night off, occupies eighth place in the West at 38-40; the Clippers, 37-40, are half a game back; the Hornets, 37-41, trail the Clippers by half a game. (The Warriors, however, own the tiebreaker over the Bees.) I'm thinking we need more overtime: in games going beyond regulation this season, the Hornets are 7-0.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:02 PM to Net Proceeds )
11 April 2007
OMG UGTBK

Someone texts Rita, and then some:

I just got this interesting text message "Think of me tonight" on my phone, with a photo attached ... of a young man wearing nothing but a strategically placed towel & a smile. Which made me crack up laughing because I have no idea who this young man is, except he's someone who obviously had the wrong number.

Another reason, I suppose, to hold on to my photo-unready phone for another few years.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
Altogether now

Black's Beach, near San Diego, is perhaps the largest stretch of clothing-optional (or clothing-nonexistent) beach in the States; it is difficult to get to, but staggeringly popular. Dave Cole of the Black's Beach Bares group passed out a questionnaire to women visiting the beach last summer; the results have now been published (no illustrations, ya perv), and some of the findings caught my eye:

  • Age range: 17 to 66. (Average: 34.7.)

  • 90 of 98 respondents described their beach visit that day in positive terms.

  • One of the more common negative responses: creepy guys, possibly with cameras.

  • While most of the women were from Southern California, there were visitors from as far away as Atlanta and New York.

  • "My cell phone got drenched by the tide."

I don't know if I could do this, though this is at least partly due to the fact that it's a hard climb down to the actual beach, and I don't do climbs (in either direction) especially well.

(Via Elendil.)

And if not, Salon is hiring

Venomous Kate contemplates a career change:

I've decided that I want the weatherman's job: it's the only one I know of — besides, perhaps, being a federal judge — where one can remain gainfully employed despite getting things wrong day after day after day.

God forbid that the judicial system should have anything to say about weather.

Oh, wait....

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:20 AM to Dyssynergy )
Where's the remote sledgehammer?

Maybe it's just me, but I persist in my old-fashioned belief that when a vendor presents you with a product for testing in your work environment, it is that vendor's responsibility for providing some semblance of documentation for said product, especially if it's a product of a type you've never used before and even more especially if it has an interface somewhere between unintuitive and haphazard.

Oh, and he was late, too, but that's a different issue.

(While we're on the subject: Would it be so hard for the manufacturers to post a copy of the operator's manual on their Web site?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:22 PM to PEBKAC )
Runaway mouse!

Well, this is weird. At bootup, the cursor darts upward regardless of mouse position and keeps doing so until the Alt key is pressed. I assumed at first it was a bad mouse, but the same thing happens with both PS/2 and USB meece. Spyware scan (because I'm paranoid) produced nothing, and of course Microsloth has no new drivers for any of these critters. Any suggestions? ("Get a Mac" is already chalked on the board for Future Reference.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:43 PM to PEBKAC )
Overheard in Mayfair

The Mayfair Market still stands, for now, on the southwest corner of NW 50th and May, though its days are clearly numbered. ("We might make it to the end of the month," a checkout person told me.) Everything other than tobacco products gets discounted 20 percent at the register; the post office has closed up, and things which turn over quickly — produce, fresh meats, bakery stuff — are in short supply. They did have, I noted, one box of actual unfrosted blueberry Pop-Tarts, which I duly snapped up.

Is it too much to hope that the CVS store being shoehorned onto this lot actually ends up looking like it belongs there? Probably.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:53 PM to City Scene )
12 April 2007
Cut and paste and paste again

Just in case you thought Ben Domenech or Kaavya Viswanathan or the CBS Evening News staff invented the concept:

Readers let us know that [a story in the March 1973 issue] was taken almost word for word from a feature that appeared in a Harvey comic book. Unfortunately, [it] isn't an isolated incident. We have an entire file of letters from girls who noticed that a contributor's "original" story was stolen from another source.

As you can tell, plagiarism is a major problem here. We're trying to stop it, but with little luck. For example, we ran an article in the August '72 issue of AG asking you to stop taking other people's works and submitting them as your own. The result: two girls got plagiarized stories printed in the January '73 and March '73 issues. We've done all that we can ... the rest is up to you!

Toni Lorenz, then a fifteen-year-old intern, wrote that for the May 1973 issue of American Girl.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 AM to The Way We Were )
At least they didn't charge extra

Best Buy is being sued by a San Gabriel Valley woman and her mother. It seems that the woman had ordered an in-home repair from Best Buy's Geek Squad unit; when the tech arrived, he was directed to the hardware, while the customer went off to take a shower. When she emerged from her ablutions, she found an unfamiliar cell phone in the bathroom, set to record video.

The woman's younger sister came up with the idea of swiping the chip from the phone. They took it to a retailer and had it installed in another phone, where they discovered the recording of the shower scene. According to the suit, the tech tried to get the chip back from her, offering discounted services as an incentive.

A couple of things bother me about this:

  1. Since when does anyone ever get any kind of service discount from Best Buy?

  2. I've been a small-g geek long enough to know that when you're working on something important, you don't get distracted by — wow, who's that?

(Via the Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
I do not think it means what you think it means

And neither did she, apparently:

Bike for sale

(Spotted at Boondoggled.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:22 AM to Dyssynergy )
Das Woot

Woot is spreading.

Earlier this month, I made note of a Turkish knockoff of America's most deranged e-commerce site. Today, Trini spotted a German variation on the theme.

Cyberport.24, unlike Woot, does two items over two days, but otherwise they're working the same turf: electronics and gadgets, probably manufacturers' overruns, at prices that simply invite disbelief. If nothing else, this proves that you can't keep a good marketing shtick down.

Five rules for a great box set

Courtesy of the Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons Enthusiasts and Historical Society of the United Kingdom:

  1. A great set should have all the hits.

  2. A great set should have value added for fans who have earlier collections.

  3. A great set should represent the full spectrum of a group's styles and the complete range of its experimentation.

  4. A great set should cover a group's entire career.

  5. A great set should have great liner notes.

Of the boxes I have, the one that hews closest to this particular line is Phil Spector's Back to Mono 1958-1969 box, issued by Abkco back in the Pleistocene era (okay, 1991) for an appalling $80 list and now widely available for about a quarter of that. (Disclosure: I paid $65 for mine.) Departures from perfection: the essays by David Hinckley and Tom Wolfe (yes!) are seriously readable, but while they capture Phil, they give the actual music semi-short shrift — and would it have been so hard to toss in just one of the infamous throwaway B-sides like "Tedesco and Pitman"?

Oh, and the sound is kinda fuzzy, and, as per the title, mono only. (Then again, Spector's bounce-and-keep-bouncing recording technique doesn't lend itself particularly well to stereo mixing, though most of the hits did appear somewhere in stereo at one time or another.) And yes, Spector made records throughout the Seventies, but they were either (1) remarkably unsuccessful for some reason or (2) done on behalf of various Beatles and therefore not available for a compilation.

Nominations for Great Box Sets will of course be happily accepted.

238

Road buffs revile Interstate 238, a two-mile stretch of freeway in the East Bay area near San Francisco, because of its nonstandard numbering: by rights, it ought to connect somewhere to Interstate 38, and there is no Interstate 38, not in California, not anywhere.

On the other hand, there's a good reason for this week's Carnival of the Vanities to be numbered 238: there have been, well, two hundred thirty-eight of them so far.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:44 PM to Blogorrhea )
13 April 2007
Because Hooters was too, um, classy

The ever-annoying Joe Francis has announced plans to open a chain of "Girls Gone Wild" theme restaurants.

A word of advice if you're calling for reservations: don't order the crabs.

(Seen at Modestly Yours.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
We got crazy flipper fingers

And oh, occasionally they didn't see us fall:

It just pains me that pinball is dead. Oh, I'll find machines here and there, but they're always damaged or dark, shrines for a cult religion. There's one at Chuck E. Cheese's — Rollercoaster Tycoon, of all things — and I've put it in its place a few times. It's the only machine in the joint that gives you a free play. Everything else expects another coin. Even if you do well, it expects another coin. At some point people were trained to expect their excellence to be repaid with nothing more than the opportunity to enter their initials.

Or, in my case, usually the rubric B F D.

Somebody else's excellence, of course, always managed to eclipse mine:

I was a good pinball player. I wasn't the best, but I was good enough. I could transfer the ball from one flipper to the next; I could wiggle a ball from the drain, nudge the table enough to move the ball from the B to the A slot, make those life-changing flipper saves that require split-second coordination. I was in the B leagues, though. I was always trying to convince the machine, which is a sign of an B-leaguer. The A-leaguers dominated the machines. [The C-leaguers begged it and fought it.]

It's been five years since last I played, and be it noted, I did score that freebie. Perhaps I should wander into Chuck E.'s myself one of these days. (What a friend we have in Cheese's, eh?)

Quote of the week

(Note: This week you get the two-for-one special.)

The problem with that Imus remark, I've suggested (for instance, here), is that it simply wasn't funny.

But at the heart of the matter may be something much worse:

[I]t isn't so much the mindless racist language that Imus used in making his "observation" that bothered me, but the reason that he considers the Rutgers women worthy of verbal denigration. In the minds of some men — men like Imus and not a few rappers — the Rutgers women committed a cardinal "sin": not being physically attractive to that man personally. And, in spite of all the personal accomplishments of such women, this makes them fair game for scorn, whether couched in racist language or not. And, for that alone, Imus deserves the shunning of the magnitude that he is receiving.

Me, I'm checking my eyeballs for planks, just in case. (Thank you, Juliette.)

Meanwhile, reporting from outside Victim Central:

If black Americans in 2007 are this delicate and overreact to the slightest insults with this much unrighteous indignation, it's pretty safe to say black people are not made the way they used to be, of stronger stuff, able to withstand truly demeaning and criminal treatment at the hands of true oppressors. It's sad to know that the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of people who faced actual oppression are so much weaker, much less discerning, and much more undignified.

And thank you, La Shawn.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:16 AM to QOTW )
Or maybe it was someone else

Lynn, on the subject of being wrong:

Almost everyone hates being wrong. Even when we have been shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that we are wrong, most of us still resist. I'm no different; I certainly hate being wrong. (Not that I'm admitting I'm ever wrong, mind you.) I have no doubt that there are situations in which even Adam Savage would hate being wrong. But his typical, genuinely happy, reaction to being wrong on Mythbusters started me thinking.

Discovering that you have been wrong means that you have learned something new, that you are a little bit less ignorant than you were before discovering that you were wrong. That's something to be happy about. Discoveries are not always pleasant, of course. Sometimes they force us to make huge, and uncomfortable, mental adjustments. That, along with the feeling of shame about being wrong, is why we hate to be wrong.

I doubt these thoughts will make being wrong any easier — for me or anyone else — but maybe it's something we should remind ourselves of on those occasions when we are forced to face up to being wrong.

Which is why I strive never to be wrong at work, and confine my questionable ideas and fuzzy thinking to this space. (Lynn, of course, is right about this. I think.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:28 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Beijing loves those controllers

If you're in China, you're under 18, and you spend more than three hours at a time gaming online, the Chinese government is about to screw with you:

Chinese gaming firms such as NetEase and Shanda Interactive Entertainment have until 15 July to install software which will halve the number of points gamers can score if they play for more than three hours. Determined gamers who play for more than five hours will get no points at all and face an on-screen warning that they are entering "unhealthy game time".

In order to verify their age, gamers will be required to register for games using their real names and identity card number.

Reportedly, 13 percent of Chinese youth under 18 are considered "addicted" to online games.

Next: Beijing tries to fix the exchange rate between the yuan and the Linden dollar.

(Via Hit & Run.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:00 PM to Dyssynergy )
And don't come back, now, y'heah?

Not that I have any particular reason to want to go to Renton, Washington, but if I had, it's gone now:

Ways and Means Chairwoman Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, said those who criticized the [Sonics' new arena] plan because it does not provide assurances that the team will not pull up stakes ten years from now are underestimating the strength of the region.

"Why would anybody leave here and go to Oklahoma City? Have you ever been to Oklahoma City? I have," Prentice said.

No more lamb fries for you, darlin'.

Last stand

The RedHawks were rained out, and I couldn't bring myself to watch the Hornets' last game in the Ford Center, knowing it was the last game in the Ford Center.

Which it almost certainly is. They jumped out to a 13-point lead after the first quarter, watched Denver's big guns narrow it to three at the half, to one with two minutes left. Finally, with half a minute to go, the Nuggets took a three-point lead, and made it stand up: final, 107-105. Unless the Warriors go totally troppo for the rest of the season, this is it.

The story wasn't just 'Melo and A.I., either; yes, they combined for 54 points, but the real killer was center Marcus Camby, who blocked nine shots while rolling up a double-double, 15 points and 11 boards. And let's not overlook guard Steve Blake, who scored ten and served up ten assists.

The Bees had plenty of attack, with 16 offensive rebounds to the Nuggets' ten, and David West came up with 31 points and 13 boards. Marc Jackson also had 13 rebounds, and 13 points to boot. But a cold spell came late in the fourth, and seemingly nothing would warm it up again.

Tomorrow, the first day of the Bataan Death March season-ending road trip, at Houston. The Rockets, who are 0-3 against the Hornets this year, will presumably be looking for payback.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:33 PM to Net Proceeds )
14 April 2007
The Grey Lady's green machine

Plug-in hybrid research continues apace, and it's reached The New York Times, which has added to its fleet a Dodge Sprinter van with an experimental powertrain using lithium-ion batteries, a small five-cylinder diesel engine for backup, and a 220-volt power cord.

A similar van has been tested in Paris by FedEx [link to PDF file] with a gasoline engine; it's been averaging 25.4 mpg, not bad at all for a delivery vehicle which travels essentially no highway miles. The batteries can run the van for up to twenty miles before the engine kicks in. There's also a bus version, which is currently under trial by the Kansas City Area Transit Authority.

The Times experiment is co-sponsored by Con Ed, the New York Power Authority, the Electric Power Research Institute and DaimlerChrysler.

Trust company

Horton Hears a Whom Department: In 1956, CBS debuted a quiz show on Tuesday nights with the provocative title Do You Trust Your Wife? If this sounds vaguely sexist, well, maybe it was: host Edgar Bergen (yes, that Edgar Bergen) presented the list of categories to the married-couple contestants, and then the husband would decide whether he or the Mrs. would take those questions. Neither the jackpot ($5200, paid in $100 installments weekly) nor the looming presence of Mortimer Snerd endeared the show to many viewers, and in the fall of 1957 ABC picked up the show, turned it into a daytimer, installed Johnny Carson (yes, that Johnny Carson) as the host, and streamlined the title to the shorter but less grammatical Who Do You Trust?

Carson (and his announcer, one Ed McMahon) departed in 1962 to take over some obscure NBC show; Woody Woodbury succeeded him, but Who Do You Trust? finally died in late 1963 and stayed dead — until now:

CBS has tapped conservative MSNBC pundit and famed bow-tie aficionado Tucker Carlson to host its game show pilot Who Do You Trust?

In the project, strangers wager how much they trust each other as they develop a relationship via gameplay. The concept is loosely based on the classic game-theory experiment "prisoner's dilemma," where players weigh cooperation vs. betrayal for differing levels of reward and punishment.

The project, executive produced by Phil Gurin (Weakest Link), is shooting this month.

I'm waiting for Bill O'Reilly's version of Truth and/or Consequences.

(Via E. M. Zanotti.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Saturday spottings (organized for once)

This is the last day of Architecture Week, as proclaimed by the Central Oklahoma chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and for the fifth consecutive year they've held a Tour of Notable Buildings or something like that. So I set out on this cold February April day to see what they had to offer. In the order visited:

1) 614 West Sheridan Avenue
This newly-remodeled building along Film Row west of downtown is the home of Raffiné Interiors and Tietsort Design. The building itself goes back to 1950; this is the first major redevelopment in the area, and it serves as showroom for both Gus Tietsort and Raffiné's Phillip Matthews, who provided enough input into the design to get credit alongside the architects themselves in the program, and, I think, deservedly so.

2) 719 North Francis Avenue
The Okasian House, as it is officially known, was designed by Brian Fitzsimmons last year to serve as home, office and workshop. It's a fascinating admixture of classic minimalism and urban industrial grit: the north entrance takes you up a few steps and onto what looks like a length of rail surrounded by old railroad ties, a couple of feet above the courtyard, which is defined by a brick wall to the west and a stand of bamboo to the north. There's also bamboo inside the house: it's used for flooring, and it looks fabulous. Fitzsimmons built much of the furniture himself, and I have no doubt he could make a living at it if this architecture thing ever dries up. The kitchen is perhaps the least-cluttered I've ever seen, despite its wealth of equipment. A shot from the southeast corner reveals a tower of brick, metal and glass:

Okasian House

I talked with TiTi Nguyen, who shares the home with Fitzsimmons, about energy consumption, and she pointed out a number of features, none of them really huge, but in aggregate making a serious dent in the utility bills. (Sample: The larger windows are on the north and east sides, where they catch more daylight; on the south and west, where heat builds up in the summer, there is a smaller glass area plus louvers to ward off the sun.) What the home seems to lack in conventionality, it makes up for in sheer function; there's even a secluded rooftop deck for watching the stars, as recommended by the Drifters.

3) 33 Northeast 7th Street
I've talked about this place before, even posted a photograph, so 33:7, as it's apparently going to be known hereafter, should be familiar to regular readers. It's a different take altogether on the industrial look: the living areas are darker-colored and seemingly warmer, while the studio in the north wing is light and airy. There's also a marked lack of clutter, though owner Jason Blankenship hinted that out in the garage — well, think Fibber McGee's closet. No one's yet built in the next block, perhaps because no one knows quite how to top this. Here's an unused shot from a previous visit:

33 NE 7th St


4) 301 Northeast 4th Street
This is the development known as Block 42, and it's still under construction: visitors were duly issued hard hats. The ground was covered in wood splinters, which, it turns out, were ground down from waste building materials; given the recent heavy rains, I was grateful not to have to trudge through the mud. Developer Grant Humphreys told me that they'd already presold half the units, though they won't be finished until October, and that he thinks that the green approach — Block 42 is seeking LEED certification for the entire project — is a major selling point. It may well be. One of the contractors told me that waste brick and such will be turned into subfill for the landscaping, which is an improvement on having it dumped somewhere else. Oh, and why "42"? I made some Douglas Adams reference, but no: on an early plat of Oklahoma City, this area is indeed described as Block 42, and the complex contains (of course) 42 units.

4) 1209 North Harvey Avenue
This 1935 building in Midtown, once a dormitory for Wesley Hospital staff, spent much of its later years boarded up: in 2006 it was subdivided and renamed Harvey Lofts. Seventeen units, 650 to 1300 square feet, were created; already twelve have been sold. One aesthetic issue with refurbishments like this is the question of how much of the original structure should be allowed to remain on display. Architect Brad Black decided to leave the original columns and the top few inches of the walls intact, a sensible and stylish approach. I suggested that I could see my daughter living in something like this; I was told that with one exception, all the buyers so far had in fact been under-30 professionals. One question asked by other folks on the tour: wouldn't it be nice to have a freight elevator to assist in the moving process? (There's a passenger elevator, but its capacity is less than half a ton.) On the other hand, most under-30 professionals I know (admittedly not a lot) tend to have relatively light furniture. Here's a drawing of an overhead view (swiped from their Web site) which, at least from ground level, looked pretty accurate:

Harvey Lofts

5) 3100 Northwest 149th Street
This 2004 office was built for Howard-Fairbairn Site Design, which specializes in landscape design, and the first thing that struck me about it was the abundance of natural light, even on an overcast afternoon. (Of course, I work in a place where windows are even rarer than brainstorms.) Even the cubicles appear pleasant — low walls, presumably low levels of claustrophobia — and there's the Best Break Room Ever, off to one side and opening to the outdoors.

6) 14900 Wilson Road
Tucked away behind a gate near 150th and Western, this 1965 beauty knocked me out before I ever got to the entrance: there's a walled garden at the front, just about the entire width of the house. And width there is in abundance; once you open that entrance, you come upon a 95-foot gallery (with a travertine floor, yet) which connects all the major rooms. Only modest concessions, mostly in lighting and such, have been made to contemporary modernity: this is pure Sixties luxe, simpler than the occasionally-overwrought Fifties but far more livable than the abominations passed off as taste in the Seventies. I swear, I dreamed about this place once, and I'd never seen it before. It's too big and too pricey for the likes of me — per Christie's Great Estates, the house and its 2.3 acres can be had for a modest $698,766 — but there's always Powerball.

7) 2532 Pembroke Terrace
George Seminoff, just out of OSU's School of Architecture, designed this house in 1957, and it's just undergone a golden-anniversary facelift. A classic ranch, roughly 2700 square feet, this house shows that Seminoff was a major Frank Lloyd Wright fan but open to a wide range of influences. The rooms aren't the least bit square: 30- and 60-degree angles are everywhere. There's what was described as the True In-Law plan: a wing with a bedroom, a bath, and an actual kitchenette (since removed). One place we dared not venture was into the library, which has cork wallpaper (!) and a leather floor (!!). Look up in the living room, and there are redwood beams; the cabinetry is ash. The walls are Venetian plaster and utterly gorgeous. And for fans of sunshine, as I am, there are new floor-to-ceiling Arcadia glass windows along the back of the house (a great view of the pool), the work of Gus Tietsort, whom you'll remember from the first stop, and now we've completed the circle.

The tour itself was self-paced; I completed it in a Gilligan-standard three hours. (Five were allowed.) The $12 fee included a $2.40 donation to Calm Waters. A good way to spend a day, I think.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:35 PM to City Scene )
The end of another streak

The Rockets hadn't beaten the Hornets since March of '06, so their 123-112 win was probably a tad more satisfying than usual. It didn't hurt that Houston shot a better-than-respectable 58 percent from the floor, or that Yao Ming dropped in 30 points, or that Rafer Alston knocked down five treys en route to a double-double (21 points, 13 assists), or that Tracy McGrady was, well, Tracy McGrady, pulling down 21 points and serving up 10 dimes.

The Bees were never really out of it, but then they were never really in it either; they'd pull to within a possession or two, and the Rockets would run up four or six quick points to put some distance between them. Still, David West had 33 points, giving him 97 in the last three games; Devin Brown was hot in the first half and scored 21; Marc Jackson was hot in the second half and scored 22; Chris Paul not only pulled the double-double (20 points, 15 assists), but he outrebounded everyone, grabbing eight boards. A decent offensive showing — 54-percent shooting — but simply not enough tonight.

Two last West Coast games, against the Kings (Monday) and the Clippers (Wednesday); if they split 1-1, the Hornets will finish 38-44, exactly where they did last season.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 PM to Net Proceeds )
15 April 2007
MSM3k

After this week's mouse incident, which seemed to have been solved by the ever-popular System Restore function — and what in the name of Douglas Engelbart did I install Tuesday, anyway? — I noticed that the Logitech optical I'd been using had suffered greatly by being dragged back and forth across my hardwoods-from-the-forest-primeval desktop, and while I had spares on hand, they had been stocked mostly by virtue of cheapness: they worked well enough, but they lacked heft.

(Aside: Geez, that was one sentence?)

So yesterday I spent a Jackson for Microsoft's Comfort Optical Mouse 3000, which comes with a CD full of toolishness. It also has one button I hadn't seen before, which brings up a magnifier window. What's more, the infamous scroll wheel not only goes up and down, but left and right. It trails the old Logitech — and, for that matter, the older MS mouse I use at work — in fluidity of motion, but it's still pretty decent, and inexplicably, it's not particularly overpriced. They, um, "recommend" you use a USB port — if you have no USB port open, they tell you "Consider purchasing a USB hub" — but they throw in a PS/2 adapter anyway.

And oh, yes, it's supposed to work with a Mac.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:26 AM to PEBKAC )
Is this just fantasy?

Apparently this is the real life, in Britain anyway:

Fairtrade ice-cream pioneers Ben & Jerry's have just brought out a new flavour, the brilliantly named Bohemian Raspberry. This mouth-watering new flavour is a vanilla based ice-cream with fudge brownie and raspberry swirls, and the name's closeness to a certain Queen song is no coincidence.

Each time you purchase a tub you'll be making a donation to the Mercury Phoenix Trust, which is dedicated to fighting AIDS worldwide.

No word on whether Bohemian Raspberry will be offered Stateside.

(Via DollyMix.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:42 AM to Worth a Fork )
Get thee to a Jaguar

I own no sport-utility vehicles, and have seldom been tempted by them. (This one came closest.) Still, I think I understand the appeal of the species, which, says a British reviewer, is otherwise inexplicable:

[I]t remains one of the greatest challenges in automotive journalism to say anything of interest about these kinds of cars. And any rational appraisal of their qualities or deficiencies is rendered redundant by the British public's apparently endless appetite for the things, regardless of their faults, which include poor handling, performance and braking; poor fuel economy; offensive girth; ugliness; and impracticality. The automotive arms race that has transformed our roads over the past 10 years suggests that many of you (although, I suspect not too many Independent readers) covet these kinds of cars and, if that is the case, I am sure you will like the [Mitsubishi] Outlander. (That's taking it as read that you are so wracked with insecurity, so emotionally stunted, that you need to have a car with quasi-military styling; and must always sit a few inches above the rest of humanity.)

I am not necessarily opposed to SUVs on environmental grounds — the Outlander manages a respectable 40.9mpg, takes up no more space on the road than a Vectra estate and chugs out less black stuff than a Zafira — it is just that, to me, they seem like a quantum step backwards in the evolution of the motor car. For almost a hundred years cars seemed to be getting lighter, handling and performing better, and using less and less petrol. Then along came the Land Rover Freelander, Toyota RAV4 and their ilk, and suddenly it was as if evolution had suffered a setback.

Poor fellow has apparently never been subjected to a Ford Expedition; if he had, he'd have invoked Dante by now, and probably more cleverly than those twits at Vanity Fair, currently having a Greener Than Thou snit on the newsstands. And he's really not so different from the American variety of motor-noter, most of whom seem to think that in the best of all possible worlds we would all be driving sports sedans. Probably 3-series Bimmers.

At least our British correspondent didn't recommend any of the hideous people movers known hereabouts as "minivans," which possess exactly the same faults as SUVs, except that no one accuses them of quasi-military styling. Indeed, no one accuses them of any styling at all.

Incidentally, that's 34 mpg for the Outlander if you measure by the smaller US gallons.

(Via Purple Avenger.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:34 PM to Driver's Seat )
Zillow fight

Arizona is trying to ban Zillow.com:

The Arizona Board of Appraisal issued two cease-and-desist letters to the company that operates the popular real estate Web site Zillow, saying it needs an appraiser license to offer its "zestimates" in Arizona.

"It is the board's feeling that (Zillow) is providing an appraisal," Deborah Pearson, the board's executive director, said Friday.

Zillow issued a statement Saturday saying it disagreed with the board's view, and pointed to an opinion issued by a national appraisers standards group that said online estimates aren't formal appraisals.

"We strongly believe that providing Zestimates in Arizona is completely legal and in fact an important public service, given that Zestimates are the result of our 'automated valuation model' and are not a formal appraisal," co-founder and company President Lloyd Frink said in the statement.

"Because a computerized algorithm could never be more accurate than a high-school dropout housewife in a gold blazer," says a Fark submitter.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:16 PM to Dyssynergy )
On the smaller side

Stephanie's buying a smart fortwo:

I've wanted one since I went to Europe in the summer of 2000 and saw them everywhere. (My friends were taking pictures of architecture and I was photographing Smart cars.) I chose the base model in yellow with black trim, and the only option for the interior color was gray. It will have a 5-speed automated manual transmission, which appears to be very much like the old VW Autostick. (I hope it will work better than the Autostick did.)

The gas mileage is estimated at 40 city/60 highway, which is not that much lower than a Prius. The Smart car costs about half as much as a Prius, and I expect it to hold its value well. I may decide to sell it in a few years and buy a Prius when I get tired of not having a back seat.

An overview from Automobile's Georg Kacher:

It rides well, it holds the road, it maneuvers as if it's controlled by a video-game joystick, and its performance is quite respectable. The U.S.-spec model we drove in Madrid is powered by a 1.0-liter three-cylinder engine that produces 70 hp and 68 lb-ft of torque. That's enough to push the 1654-pound featherweight from 0 to 60 mph in about 13 seconds and on to a governed top speed of 90 mph. Smart expects the car to earn EPA combined fuel-economy ratings of about 40 mpg.

As I've always said: weight is the enemy of fuel economy. And this isn't some little Tonka toy waiting to slide under the bumper of a Peterbilt; US smarts (presumably depending on tire size) are about 61 inches high, a good four to five inches taller than my overwrought luxoboat. On the other hand, you could fit two of them in my one-car garage without having the bumpers touch.

(Via Steph Mineart, who gets to ride in it.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 PM to Driver's Seat )
16 April 2007
Strange search-engine queries (63)

What we have here is a selection of actual search strings keyed in by actual humanoids which actually landed on this site during the past week or so. We have this because, well, it beats coming up with more actual content.

trees with spiny balls:  They're called sweetgums, and if you mess with them you'll see how tough those balls can be.

"would you switch bodies":  Yeah, like someone is gonna want mine.

Women who think they’re enjoying a purely platonic relationship with a heterosexual male are either delusional or completely unattractive:  I disagree. Then again, I have to.

prius mpg actual docile drivers:  Nobody knows for sure. You drive in a docile manner around here, you get run over, hence zero mpg.

what is the greatest achievement a woman can have:  Never having to answer questions like that.

When is the 1st anniversary of Gene Pitney's death?  Eleven days ago, or approximately 264 hours from Tulsa.

Harry Reid born in slop jar:  Not true, although it is rumored he keeps his ethics in the lid of a septic tank in Pahrump.

dirty disney crotch:  Will somebody please get some damn pants on Donald?

nude sunbathing in back yard in front of neighbors:  Two words: tall fence.

if earthworms poop does it mean that they're near death:  Only the last time.

can i wear pantyhose during an MRI?  If they're nonmetallic.

where is a great place to take a guy on his birthday in WI:  Any place that has beer and brats.

her vagina looks like a hamburger:  Whatever happened to "think outside the bun"?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to You Asked For It )
Meanwhile on the tapioca tundra

So how many monkeys, bashing away at typewriters, does it take to produce the works of Shakespeare?

A hundred years ago, French mathematician Émile Borel suggested this particular Gedankenexperiment as a means of envisioning events of close to infinite improbability. More recently, six crested macaques were locked in a cage with a keyboard and observed: they produced five pages of unreadable type and rather a lot of, um, residual waste material. A simulation begun in 2003 posited not quite infinite monkeys and not quite infinite speed; in the first year the cyberprimates coughed up a string of twenty-one characters from Love's Labour's Lost, and by now they're up to a whole line from Henry IV, Part 2. Still, I wouln't count on getting a transcript of Hamlet's soliloquy anytime soon. (Maybe if they used Dvorak keyboards?)

As for me, I'm looking for a ferret with a prehensile tail to take over my duties here, and I have a (much shorter) counterexperiment to suggest: drop all of Shakespeare's known text into a database and see if it's possible to extract the lyrics to any song by the Monkees.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Greenspeeds

Trident's Iceni coupe stands out from the bespoke supercar crowd by offering, of all things, fuel efficiency: under the Iceni's nose is GM's 6.6-liter Duramax turbodiesel. Without having to lug around a whole Silverado, the Duramax pulls the Iceni from zero to sixty, says Trident, in 3.9 seconds, about as fast as I can imagine zero to sixty. Needless to say, hooning about like that is not exactly good for the MPG numbers — "over 60 mpg at constant 55 mph" — so Trident is trying to establish some mileage credibility by dispatching an Iceni from its Norfolk HQ, across England, through the Chunnel and all the way to Monaco. The 26-gallon tank will be filled with biodiesel and sealed: the Iceni will have to make the 900-mile trip on a single tankful. That's 34.5 mpg, unheard of for a supercar; scaling back to US-sized gallons, we're still looking at around 29 mpg, about what I used to average for a road trip in a four-cylinder sedan that struggled to do zero to sixty in twelve seconds.

The Gods of Internal Combustion are undoubtedly gleeful at the news.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:51 AM to Driver's Seat )
More gratuitous grandchild photos

Jax at one

Above, Jackson contemplates his sphere of influence; below, Laney channels her inner Amazon.

Laney at four

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:19 PM to Next Generation )
Brick by brick

I've spent a fair amount of time in this space talking about the local Habitat for Humanity chapter and what it's done here in the Big Friendly. Recently I discovered that my old high school back in South Carolina is supporting the Sea Island chapter on Johns Island: there's a full-fledged student club, under the direction of Brenda Buckley-Kuhn, doing volunteer work, including the brick-and-mortar stuff, for the chapter once a month (Saturday, 8 to 4). There are about thirty members of the club, which obviously didn't exist when I was in school: Habitat was founded in 1976, long after I'd escaped into the wild. As an alumnus and occasional donor, I'm happy to see that the Auld School is still on the path of righteousness.

Battle of the also-rans

The Hornets are stuck in 10th place in the NBA's Western Conference; the Sacramento Kings are 11th. That much didn't change. And the Kings hadn't lost at home to the Hornets for ten years, but that did change. You really couldn't tell, though, which way things were going until very late: the score was tied 31-31 after the first quarter, 61-61 at the half, and the Hornets led at the end of the third, 94-93. The Kings promptly ran off seven consecutive points to start the fourth; the Bees followed with seven of their own. Things proceeded along these same lines most of the way through the quarter. At the two-minute mark, the Hornets were up five; they stretched it to seven at the buzzer, taking a 125-118 win.

With all that scoring, you shouldn't be surprised to hear that all ten starters scored in double figures; the Kings had two more in the teens, the Hornets one. David West led everyone (again), with 25; Chris Paul had 23 and 12 assists; Devin Brown and Bobby Jackson 20 points each; Rasual Butler 13; Marc Jackson 12. Hilton Armstrong scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds.

Ron Artest led the Kings with 22; Mike Bibby, who had four treys in the first quarter, ended up with 17; Francisco Garcia got 17 off the bench. Justin Williams led all rebounders with nine.

The Hornets have won 38 games, same as last year, so beating the Clippers at Staples Center Wednesday will constitute an improvement, albeit small.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:22 PM to Net Proceeds )
17 April 2007
And still there are the same two

Sometimes the other shoe drops slowly.

In September 2003, I wrote about yet another wrinkle in the weirdly-unfolding history of joint operation between the Seattle Times and the rival Seattle Post-Intelligencer: at that time, a judge blocked an attempt by the Times to in effect force foreclosure on the P-I.

Under an agreement reached Monday, the Times has agreed to refrain from invoking the Joint Operating Agreement's escape clause until at least 2016 and will pay Hearst, owner of the P-I, $24 million. In return, Hearst gives up the right to a cut of the Times' profits should the P-I go under, and gets some concessions to boost P-I circulation. The core of the JOA, in which the Times handles the business and circulation operations for both papers and gets a 60-percent cut of the post-production revenues, remains unchanged.

Currently the Times sells about 212,000 copies daily, the P-I 126,000.

(Via Sound Politics.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 AM to Dyssynergy )
It's really not easy being green

For some reason, Toyota Priuses aren't passing Georgia emissions testing.

Well, actually it's this reason:

When the Prius is set to idle at 2,500 rpm on the tester, it does what it's supposed to do. It shuts off the engine to save fuel. Georgia's pre-hybrid equipment issues a failing grade because of an incomplete test.

Instead of just acknowledging its system is outdated, Georgia still requires Prius owners to pay the $25 testing fee for an "aborted test." That allows them to get a failed certificate from the tester which car owners must take to one of five waiver centers (M-F, 8 am-4:30 pm) to be granted permission to buy a license plate.

Georgia apparently requires testing in only 13 of 159 counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry, Paulding and Rockdale. If nothing else, this would explain why there are only five waiver centers.

Reportedly, there is a special diagnostic mode in which the Prius can be tested for emissions in this manner. Did Toyota not tell anyone in Atlanta? Or did it not occur to anyone on the "Clean Air Force" to ask?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:21 AM to Driver's Seat )
Ramones leave home

Oh, I'm sorry. These aren't the Ramones. They are, however, in a home.

(Via the ever-youthful Miss Cellania.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:18 AM to Tongue and Groove )
No sacrifice too final

It is a measure of something, surely, that now that I've spent all these years in blogdom, the name "Zap Rowsdower" doesn't even elicit a perfunctory eyebrow elevation anymore.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:45 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Tine is on my side

By now, most people are familiar with the term "spork", and some of us are still silly enough to wonder how it came to be "spork" and not, say, "foon."

Now there's the "chork", which is a hybrid chopstick/fork, sort of: imagine two chopsticks joined together at the base. For those of us who can't handle the traditional chopstick worth a flip, this could prove to be a godsend — especially if they come out with a version in titanium.

Now all we need is a runcible spoon. Or spork.

(Via Popgadget.)

18 April 2007
Thou shalt not covet, etc.

What with Berry Tramel's just-slightly-hyperbolic prediction in yesterday's Oklahoman, and the introduction in that paper of a regular "Sonics update," you might think that the deal was done and the moving vans were already being loaded.

Me, I'm sticking with Henry Abbott's stance in TrueHoop:

Oklahoma City deserves praise for housing the Hornets in a time of need, and I'm sure we'll all support them if/when they get a team. But at the moment that's Seattle's team. Laying your eyes on another city's team is like laying your eyes on another man's wife. Gets people kind of cranky. Wait for the divorce, already.

I mean, we don't even have a separation agreement yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 AM to Net Proceeds )
The case for anticrastination

Who didn't see this coming?

A flood of last-minute income tax returns is swamping the computer servers of a California software company. Taxpayers filing electronically have had to wait hours for confirmation that their forms have made it to the IRS.

A spokesman for Intuit, the company that makes the popular TurboTax and ProSeries tax preparation software, says delays started early Tuesday and got worse as the midnight filing deadline approached.

Oh, and the punchline?

The company is urging users of its software to be patient and to try to get their returns done earlier next year.

As if.

(Disclosure: Your humble narrator filed in February.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Dyssynergy )
Minus five for Dr. Phil

I admit to being a couple of generations behind, college-curriculum-wise, but I honestly can't see the value of offering ten extra-credit points for watching an episode of Oprah — especially in an English class, since whatever the technical term for the touchy-feely verbiage woven into the very fabric of that program, it bears only the faintest resemblance to actual English.

Now if they assigned Futurama for physics, well, that's different.

(Prompted by a conversation with a reader: more specifically, a reader who's taking an English class.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:24 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The new Living Room Missile

It's really four chairs and a table.

(Via Lynn, who seems unimpressed.)

Addendum: Emalyse likes the idea a bit more.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:35 PM to Dyssynergy )
Stephen King must die

And Dean Koontz too, while we're at it. Anybody who can think up sick and twisted plots is obviously a potential mass murderer:

Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of [Virginia Tech's] English department, said she did not personally know the gunman. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department's director of creative writing, who had Cho in one of her classes and described him as "troubled."

"There was some concern about him," Rude said. "Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."

Oh, please. If you think you can tell from a writing sample — well, see what you make of this:

If a creative writing teacher can't tell between fact and fiction — well, never mind. Many creative writing classes I have taken were a bunch of bunk. And it should be obvious that English professors are not psychology experts.

Anyways, as a student who moonlights writing weird fiction, I resent the fact that someone is trying to pigeon-hole all writers of disturbing fiction as gun-toting depressive maniacs. It's an implication that the only acceptable writing is "happy" writing. Pfft. You might as well dose the entire populace let alone the literary critics with soma.

Now: is the writer exercising his demons, or exorcising them? If you're absolutely sure, and you're not making enough money in academia, maybe Kreskin is looking for an assistant.

Addendum, 8:30 pm: In comments, Matt Deatherage points to a relevant Oklahoma case he had extensively researched; I made reference to it here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:19 PM to Almost Yogurt )
In those Oklahoma chills where I belong

It appears we're going into a slightly-warmer-than-normal period for the next couple of weeks, and that's a good thing, not only because I'll have to write a smaller check to the gas company, but because it increases the possibility that this might not wind up as the coldest April in recorded history, at least as far back as they've recorded it here.

As it was in March, the variable that seems to matter is not how warm it gets during the day, but how cool it doesn't get at night. For today, the high was 69, which is below the average for the date, but the low was 53, which is above. The National Weather Service's definition of "average temperature" for the date is the average of the high and the low, which would be 61. If the rest of the month continues with numbers like that, the record is a cinch. If it gets warmer — well, it would have to average over 70 (for instance, low 60, high 80) for the entire period to bring the month up to seasonal norms, and that's not likely to happen.

And I hope someone is planning to invite Al Gore out here this summer; it seems to be the most reliable method of beating the heat.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:08 PM to Weather or Not )
19 April 2007
Actually, I missed the game

With a 9:45 (Central) tipoff, I decided that resting these battered old bones might be of more interest than the last game of the season.

Which, of course, turns out to have been an error in judgment, since this was a close one, won by the Bees in the waning moments on a Rasual Butler three-point play, putting the Hornets up 86-83 and dealing one of two death blows to the playoff hopes of the Los Angeles Clippers. (The Golden State Warriors, who were one up on the Clips, beat Portland last night to nail down the No. 8 spot.)

And David West pulled down 32 again, the fourth time in five games he's been over 30, and the Hornets didn't miss a single free throw all night. Corey Maggette led the Clippers with 21.

So it's 39-43 for the year, not especially inspiring, but one game ahead of last year's pace. Next year in the Big Easy — well, it's anyone's guess for now, but I suspect that bigger things are coming.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to Net Proceeds )
Forever and a day

But not one day longer:

The world's oldest continuously operating family business ended its impressive run last year. Japanese temple builder Kongo Gumi, in operation under the founders' descendants since 578, succumbed to excess debt and an unfavorable business climate in 2006.

That's 578. Kongo Gumi survived for one thousand four hundred twenty-eight years, longer even than most temporary taxes.

How did they do it? Well, there's not a whole lot of volatility in the business of constructing Buddhist temples. (During WWII, the firm built coffins; subsequently, they diversified into commercial buildings.) Eventually, though, some fairly ordinary factors did them in: declining revenues and mounting debt.

There was a time when I thought E. K. Gaylord might make it to fourteen hundred or so. (He died in 1974, reportedly still at work; he was 101.)

(Turned up by Don Mecoy of The Oklahoman.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:20 AM to Common Cents )
How do you do, too?

A couple of weeks ago, I might have left the impression that a new low in baby names had been reached, what with a Swedish infant being tagged with the name "Metallica".

Veronica (a perfectly lovely name, by the way) reminds us that it could be much, much worse:

  1. If your kid isn't ever going to live on Middle Earth, then maybe, just maybe, it's really not okay to peg your child as being the progeny of total dorks for the rest of their lives. +2 to damage for anyone with a little Arwen or Samwise. This applies to all the would-be parents of Celtic royalty, Saxon bards, and assorted Druids, as well.

  2. Likewise, if there are no Jedi on your homeplanet, it's possible that you shouldn't sell your kid out to George Lucas.

  3. Aesthetically selecting a name from a culture you're not related to, immersed in, or really even vaguely acquainted with is both bad form and an excellent way to end up with a kid who's name translates to "dog food jock strap."

  4. If you've made up a name, please make sure it's decipherable. It's one thing to name your kid Shaya or Raydson. It's entirely another to name your kid Cheighye or Rhaihdghson.

  5. Despite deciding that "Danger" or "Racer" or "Steele" would make a totally rad name when you were in the 2nd grade and really thought Transformers were tubular, perhaps you should re-think those long held dreams and opt to not saddle your kid with something that makes them sound like a unpurchased five and dime action figure.

Little Eukanuba Suspensor thanks you for number three.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:32 AM to Next Generation )
That do-your-own-thing thing

"What they do with songs, you can do with clothes," said the ad:

The Cream, The Stones, The Beatles, The Others, they're all saying something. About Love. And Peace. And Happiness.

But just because you haven't got the talent to play the guitar, and sing your brains out, doesn't mean you can't say something about yourself.

Because with a Simplicity pattern you can express yourself in the way you look, either way out, or way in, or whatever.

Love, peace and happiness may be ephemeral, but "whatever" is apparently eternal.

(Found in American Girl, April 1970.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:56 AM to The Way We Were )
But do they keep warm in the fridge?

Atomic Food Containers are supposed to discourage people from stealing your lunch, what with the radioactivity symbols and the Eat and Glow legends and all. I have serious doubts, though, that these would work at 42nd and Treadmill: some of those people will eat seemingly anything, with the possible exception of ocelot spleen.

(Via Popgadget.)

We got the Beat

Patrick Nelson of Oklahoma City's Sonics Beat writes to Chris Van Dyk of Seattle's Citizens for More Important Things, because:

1.  As somebody who lives in [the] Seattle area, he could provide some valuable, local insight on the whole Seattle SuperSonics arena situation.

2.  Chris and I share the same dream! Neither of us want the public to build the Sonics an arena!

Van Dyk is, shall we say, not amused.

After that, talking to Steven Pyeatt of Save Our Sonics had to be a genuine pleasure. One quote from Pyeatt that bears repeating:

OKC will have to deal with this very same issue in the near future no matter what team they end up with. Ford Center is very similar to KeyArena and after the novelty of having a team wears off there will be a push to build a publicly funded state of the art facility so that the team can be competitive.

Of course, the Ford itself was funded by the public, as one of the original MAPS projects, so it's not like we've never seen this premise before.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:08 PM to Net Proceeds )
20 April 2007
239

If you're building a nuclear reactor — or a bomb — sooner or later you're probably going to want some plutonium, the most fissile isotope of which has an atomic weight of 239 (and a half-life of about 24,000 years).

Nobody seriously expects the Carnival of the Vanities to last that many years, but it has gotten to number 239. I think. As of this morning at 7 Central, it hadn't been posted yet.

Update: It's up.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Blogorrhea )
Quote of the week

Kathy Shaidle, in a column Our Sunday Visitor couldn't bring itself to run:

Did your children celebrate Lenin's birthday in school last week?

Don't answer "no" right away.

The first Earth Day "teach-in" was celebrated on April 22, 1970, to protest the Vietnam War, pollution, and littering — and to commemorate what would have been the 100th birthday of one of history's most notorious villains.

As the father of communism, the deaths of tens of millions of people can be laid at that Soviet dictator's doorstep. That now forgotten fact about Earth Day's origins should place your child's sudden enthusiasm for recycling, saving the panda bears and energy efficient light bulbs in a new, well, light.

Like the Marxist philosophy that inspired it, today's environmental movement has become, for its most ardent proponents, an ersatz religion. As Joseph Brean recently observed, "in its myths of the Fall and the Apocalypse, its saints and heretics, its iconography and tithing, its reliance on prophecy, even its schisms — the green movement now exhibits the same psychology of compliance as religion."

And some of the same pathologies on its fringes, I'd add.

The good thing about this, of course, is that there's a legitimate argument for Separation of Environmentalism and State.

Addendum, 21 April: If we're going to have Earth Day commentaries — and, let's face it, we are — I recommend this one.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:52 AM to QOTW )
The pea is fine, but God help the pod

Caterina Fake on maternity wear:

Someone said to me once that when you're speaking in a language that is not your native language, you lose about 50-75% of your personality. The same thing could be said for maternity clothes. Talk about drab. And since you don't really want to spend a lot of money on clothes you're only going to wear for three months, you're not only drab, you're wearing the same thing over and over again.

There are workarounds, as it were, but:

I've taken to wearing flashy necklaces to offset the sad L.L. Beanness of my new wardrobe. And then a friend nodded knowingly and said: "I had a friend who wore big, noticeable necklaces when she was pregnant. She wanted to draw attention to her new, impressive boobs." This made me rethink my necklace strategy.

I'd say something about "How bad can it be for 90 days?" but I'm almost certain someone would come back with "Try passing a soccer ball through your [fill in name of body part] and see how you like it."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:04 AM to Rag Trade )
Beware the I

Former Congressman Ernest Istook now has a blog, and I suppose the only real surprise (if surprise it be) is that it's on Blogspot.

Oh, well. The more, the merrier. And I have to give him some sort of props for this sidebar snark:

New Jersey Governor Corzine's vehicle was traveling 91 miles an hour before the accident that severely injured him. Maybe he was going after the NASCAR vote?

I always did appreciate a good non sequitur, but then I never was any good at jai alai.

(Via Mike McCarville.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:49 AM to Blogorrhea , Soonerland )
OMG WTMI

News Item: An Oklahoma City police officer accused of sending pictures of his penis from his cell phone to a female officer's cell phone has been put on administrative paid leave, a police spokesman said.

Top Ten responses to receiving a picture of an Oklahoma City policeman's penis on one's cell phone:

  1. "I'm sorry, I was expecting a private dick."
  2. [muffled giggling]
  3. "I have the right to remain silent."
  4. "I guess with that, it's not really sexual harassment, is it?"
  5. "That's no place to hang a donut."
  6. "How many banks got robbed in the last couple of minutes?"
  7. "See my answer at PointingAndLaughing.com."
  8. "You could have sent that as text and saved ten cents."
  9. [stony silence]
  10. "Obviously you're not in the Hefner Division."

(Alternate title: Cop on the Beat.)

Not so clear on the concept

McGehee gets a promo for a magazine called Bloggers and Podcasters.

No, I said a magazine. Paper. Dead trees. You know the type. Which means that any links it contains — and if it doesn't contain any links, what the hell good is it? — will have to be typed into the browser. (I think it's a safe bet they won't be using one of these contraptions.)

Six months, maybe?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:51 PM to Dyssynergy )
Bacon saved

You do not want to know how I hosed up Outlook Express. (No, it wasn't the fault of this package, except to the extent that I was attempting a manual workaround after being faced with an otherwise-unsolved issue.)

However, if you'd like to know how I fixed it, it involved two steps: copying the befouled Inbox to another folder and scraping it clean, then applying DBXtract to the residue in an attempt to retrieve messages. Got 'em all, too. I dunno if this is the best seven bucks I ever spent, but it's certainly among the most worthwhile.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:37 PM to PEBKAC )
So I thought I'd take a chance

Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) on John McCain's "Bomb Iran" shtick:

For those who weren't born, or don't remember, the Beach Boys hit song referred to by Senator John McCain in his comments ... was "Barbara Ann." It deals with a young boy enamored by a girl named Barbara Ann and his decision to ask her to dance.

For anyone, much less highly paid national political commentators, to suggest Senator McCain's comment was anything other than a play on words with no substantive meaning is truly absurd. The criticism of his comment aired by certain media outlets shows how desperate they are to attack McCain and try to discredit one of the nation's leading experts on national defense.

I would be happy to pay for any national commentator who called this either "grave" or "troubling" to download the Beach Boys album that includes the song "Barbara Ann," to his or her iPod, because they obviously need to get a sense of humor.

So I don't get thrown out of the League of Pedants, a couple of points:

  • The Beach Boys (who recorded this on Beach Boys' Party, with a non-Beach Boy — Dean Torrence of Jan and — on lead vocals) got this song from a doo-wop single by the Regents, circa 1961. The Who also cut a version, released in 1966.

  • In the wake of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980, Vince Vance and the Valiants rewrote the lyrics and issued a single called, yes, "Bomb Iran." Fred Fassert, a member of the Regents, who had written the original song, was duly credited as the composer. Mr Fassert, interestingly, comes from an Iranian-American family.

  • It is at least possible, I think, that John McCain has heard the Vince Vance version.

  • Vance also cut a "Bomb Iraq" song, set to Leiber/Stoller's "Yakety Yak." (Don't talk back.)

Okay, more than a couple. Consider it your birthday present.

(From Michael Bates' linkblog.)

21 April 2007
In lieu of getting out of Dodge

So what are the chances that the Chrysler Group might wind up owned by its employees?

Not great, but not zero either:

About 25 hourly workers calling themselves the "Employee Buyout Committee" are proposing that workers take a 70 percent stake in Chrysler with DaimlerChrysler retaining the remaining stake. Michele Mauder, who works at Chrysler's Toledo Supplier Park, where the Jeep Wrangler is built, and is a member of the committee, said the workers believe employee ownership is the best option for Chrysler's 50,000 UAW workers. "The bottom line is the corporation won't take the hit, it's the employees, the shareholders and the consumers," she said in an interview. "So we need to work as a team."

The employee buyout committee was notified by the UAW last month that its proposal is being evaluated by the union's legal department, Mauder said.

The proposal was mentioned by a shareholder at DaimlerChrysler's annual meeting April 4, and on Tuesday, Mauder received written notification from DaimlerChrysler that the proposal is being reviewed by the German automaker.

The UAW itself hasn't made any statement one way or another, though UAW President Ron Gettelfinger has said he would prefer that DaimlerChrysler hold on to the Chrysler Group.

Separate proposals by Kirk Kerkorian, who in 1995 mounted an unsuccessful bid for Chrysler and who wound up suing DCX, and by Palm Beach investor Daniel Imperato, call for dividing up at least some of Chrysler's equity among employees.

Autoblog notes:

While the employee buyout plan is a long shot, and if successful, an incredible risk for the employees, it's also inspiring that a group of workers would be the masters of their own fate. Unfortunately, it's not yet known how much the employees could offer for a 70% stake in their employer, which, in the end, is likely DaimlerChrysler's number one consideration in this sale

I think this could work, though obviously it won't be a straight cash deal: more likely, there will be a period of years during which at least part of a worker's compensation will be paid in Chrysler stock rather than in wages or in benefits. Fifty thousand Chrysler workers times $100,000 would come to $5 billion, which is a hefty proportion of the $5-7 billion rumored to be sought by DCX. (Kerkorian's bid was for $4.5 billion.)

And whether this works or not, I'd prefer it to having the company taken private and then ritually dismembered for the sake of the bottom line.

Nothing could be finer than the feeling of angina

Esquire has a list of 60 Things Worth Shortening Your Life For, and five of them are burgers:

The cheeseburger at Shady Glen Dairy Stores in Manchester, Connecticut.
Four carefully arranged pieces of cheese extending far beyond the border of the patty melt directly on the grill, creating a chewy crust that is as difficult to describe as it is to digest. $4.95.

The original DB burger at DB Bistro Moderne in New York.
A sirloin burger filled with braised short ribs, foie gras, and black truffles. $32.

Denny's Beer Barrel Belly Buster at Denny's Beer Barrel Pub in Clearfield, Pennsylvania.
The world's biggest burger: 11 pounds of beef, 22 slices of cheese, three whole tomatoes, and a jar's worth of pickles. No one person has ever finished it. $49.95. [Previously discussed here.]

The Krispy Kreme burger at the Gateway Grizzlies ballpark concession stand in St. Louis.
A bacon cheeseburger with glazed doughnuts in place of a bun. A thousand-plus calories. Minor league gimmick; major league angina. $4.50.

The deep-fried hamburger at Dyer's Burgers in Memphis.
Instead of a grill, Dyer's uses a cast-iron skillet filled with grease. Old grease. They've been using the same batch since they opened — in 1912. $3.

(Via Steph Mineart.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:29 AM to Worth a Fork )
To everything, churn, churn, churn

One of the things that drew me to this particular block of town is its asymmetry: there are 11 houses on the block, four on the north side, seven on the south.

The imbalance extends to actual home sales as well: since I arrived here in the fall of '03, there have been three sales on the south side and two on the north — but those two were on the same house, a year apart. This was the home at the east end (I'm at the west end). Both houses in between are now up for sale. I've mentioned one of them before, so it seems I should make some announcement of the other.

This FSBO is advertised as 1400 square feet (the Assessor confirms). It's actually on a similar floor plan to mine, but where I have an actual garage, they chose to build additional living space. Three bedrooms, a bath and three-quarters, CH&A, all that good stuff. It's offered as is, buyer to pay closing. Price is $87,900; the Assessor values it at just into six figures; Zillow's whatever-it-is comes to $99,471.

The weird aspect of all this, at least to me, is that once these properties are sold, I, with my 3½-year tenure, become the Old Man of the Block. The north side of it, anyway.

Update, 5:50 pm: The For Sale sign next door (not the house described today) has been replaced with a For Rent sign. Evidently they've had a change of heart or something.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:54 AM to Surlywood )
Native flora

Irises at Surlywood

Two shots from within my flower box. Above, the irises rise to meet the sun (though the stiff winds today haven't helped that much); below, one not-quite-perfect (but still pretty nice) rose, far darker than the pink ones I usually get. (The backyard rosebush produces flowers the color of ketchup, and I mean Heinz.)

Roses at Surlywood

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:12 PM to Surlywood )
Bloomberg to NYC: Pay up

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is expected to announce tomorrow a proposal for a congestion fee to be imposed on drivers who enter Manhattan south of 86th Street between 6 am and 6 pm, perhaps inspired by a similar fee imposed in London. The $8 charge is supposed to include existing bridge and tunnel tolls: presumably, they will be adjusted upward to $8 for incoming traffic. (In which case, EZ-Pass should work as a collection method.)

This will probably not go over well in Staten Island, where the New York subway system doesn't go. And taxis, I suspect, will be exempt.

(Via Autoblog.)

Addendum, 22 April: Bloomberg, on his weekly WNYC radio show, said that taxis were indeed exempt, and if you come in just to use the West Side Highway or FDR Drive (the de facto East Side Highway), so are you. This complicates the logistics a little, perhaps, but it might peeve some folks a trifle less.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:10 PM to Driver's Seat )
22 April 2007
Like hell you will

Any notion I might have had of upgrading my cell phone vanished the moment I read this:

The D. E. Shaw group, Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, Warner Music Group and prominent media and telephony angel investors have invested $7.7 million in Emotive Communications, Inc., a media technology and services provider that has developed a real-time interactive ringtone format for 3G, 4G and VoIP services.

Emotive's flagship product, the patent-pending "Push Ringer", reverses the common ringtone model. It enables a caller to push an outgoing ringtone to the receiving phone allowing the caller, not the called person, to set the tone. The chosen Ringer is transmitted to the recipient's handset and temporarily overrides the phone's pre-set ringer. The ringers can comprise audio, video, animations, avatars or flash files. Closing the loop, if the called person likes the ringtone, the service also enables him or her to instantly buy a copy of the ringtone for his or her own phone. Emotive's Push Ringer moves beyond traditional mobile personalization by both adding value to the ringtones users purchase for their own phones and providing content recommendation and impulse-purchase opportunities to the users' friends, family and coworkers.

And what's to stop some cheesy marketroid from sending out thousands of the damn things at once? The only thing worse than spam is spam you have to pay for, and air time ain't free, Bunkie.

I sincerely hope these people lose every last bit of their investment, and a few million besides, and that the next time they get ideas this stupid, they put their heads in the oven. It's a far cleaner place than where they are now.

(Via Engadget.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:37 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
Indulge yourself

Now available from Julie Neidlinger: carbon-offset offsets.

Here's how they work:

We burn our garbage out here in podunk land.

Send me $5, and we'll burn it more often. Do your part in offsetting carbon offsets, which are a sham, and enhancing the predictable warmer/colder wetter/drier milder/wilder weather that global warming is slated to bring.

Or, send me $10 and I'll just drive mindlessly up and down the road, polluting.

I'm tempted to send her something like $8.75, just to see what happens.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:10 AM to Family Joules )
I hear one of the Twins was an only child

Oh, woe is San Diego:

It's the only team in major league baseball — the only team in any of North America's four major professional sports — with a Hispanic surname.

At a time when baseball celebrates itself as a model of ethnic diversity and internationalism — more than 30 percent of major leaguers are Hispanic, including many of its superstars — the Padres' 25-man roster includes only two Latino players.

You think that's a shame? Not one of the San Francisco Giants is over six-foot-five. Talk about unrepresentative.

(Via John Rosenberg.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:00 AM to Base Paths )
Now they tell us

Robert Burns warned us about the best-laid plans of mice and men. Now just imagine what happens when the plans aren't quite so well-laid:

I-40, after it is demolished and rebuilt a mile south in 2012, was originally to be more than 20 feet below ground level so it wouldn't obstruct the view or be an unwanted barrier between north and south downtown.

State Transportation Department engineers recently learned the ground isn't strong enough to hold the new road if it is built more than 6 feet below ground level.

You've done a heckuva job, guys. And while we're at it: remember when this project was supposed to be finished in 2008? What's this "2012" business? A bad idea four years delayed is a bad idea made more expensive.

Sheesh. I'm ready to turn the whole project over to Halliburton. At least when they screw up, it isn't buried on page 10A.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:11 PM to City Scene )
Kurt Vonnegut: still dead

But not too dead to sit for an interview.

(Surprise guest: Kilgore Trout.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:44 PM to Almost Yogurt )
"We'll show you everything"

Local car-dealer ads tend to be annoying, and that's if you're lucky. If you're not so lucky, you get pitchmen in whom you'd like to stick a pitchfork.

I don't watch much Boston TV these days, being as how I'm halfway across the continent and all, but if these spots are actually running — well, ten points out of ten for style, anyway.

23 April 2007
Strange search-engine queries (64)

Will they still read these, will they still need these, now there's sixty-four? We shall see.

definition of mixed emotions?  Your tobacco and petroleum investments are producing higher ROI than your "socially-responsible" investments.

Trust vs. Betrayal:  Betrayal ultimately won on appeal.

"clothing optional" at "dude ranch":  And you should see some of those dudes.

create a monthly grid report of all occurrences in excel:  I used to think that God ran the universe this way, until I realized that God would never use Microsoft Office.

what is an employee rights if she doesn't want to smoke a resident at a nursing home facility:  Most residents of nursing homes, I suspect, object to being smoked.

why are beagles so dumb sometimes:  They're specialists. If they're not hunting, they're wondering what they're supposed to be doing.

elmer fudd with a toothache:  "Ooh, you cwazy wabbit, you've ovewwidden all my pweventative dentistwy!"

stuff you put on the penis to make it taste better for oral sex:  See below.

can you use cool whip for oral sex:  See above.

what eats hornets:  Mavericks.

"shopping in the nude":  You might not want to stand in front of the frozen-food cabinets for too long.

feng shui flying horses:  Rear end facing away from my house.

lindsay beyerstein gets on my nerves:  You're taking this blogging stuff much too seriously.

do vegans eat animal crackers:  Well, not oyster crackers.

"color of the rectum":  Wait a while and it will be brown.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to You Asked For It )
Is this a record?

I cranked up the A/C yesterday around 7 pm, not so much because it was necessary (it was still only 77 degrees in the house, about the same outside, and I was, um, equipped for maximum cool) but because I wanted to make sure that the apparatus was working correctly before the Real Heat™ kicks in later this spring.

At some point thereafter it occurred to me that this might be the latest First Air Conditioning event ever; it's not something I take note of every year, but here are a handful of prior-year references:

6 April 2001: Sixty hours ago, I reported to one of the landlord's minions that the air conditioning in my hovel was out of, um, condition. I repeated the report to the actual property manager thirty hours later; she had not heard about the initial report. Since it's not likely that this problem is going to be addressed over the weekend, I'm looking at a minimum five-day outage.

17 April 2002: One of the sure signs that it's getting warmer around here is the failure of my air-conditioning system, which was dead on Sunday, reported to the landlord on Monday morning, and which will be fixed, they tell me, sometime Friday, after the next cold front comes in.

13 March 2003: I celebrated the event by verifying that my air conditioner wasn't working — something one must do yearly, after all — and pulling Silvetti's dance number "Spring Rain" off the shelf where it's sat for the last twelve months or so. You know there's been a shift of some sort when I start playing the disco stuff again.

Be it noted that all of these events precede the November 2003 acquisition of the palatial Surlywood estate, whose current A/C system was installed circa 1997, and which was last serviced in July 2006.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:26 AM to Surlywood )
How about just a little Hummer?

Hummer will build a smaller-than-H3 model for the 2010 model year, to be called (natch) the H4:

Hummer general manager Martin Walsh revealed that the H4 will be twinned with an upcoming compact General Motors platform, although he stopped short of saying which one it would be. "It will be another GM platform that will allow us to build a smaller vehicle," he says.

And, presumably, to offer non-Hummer variants under Chevrolet and/or GMC badges.

Will this Hummbaby sell? Walsh thinks so:

In the United States alone, Mr Walsh believes that a smaller vehicle line-up could add between 30,000 and 40,000 sales to the 70,000-odd units (split between 56,000 H3s and 14,000 H2s) Hummer shifted in 2006.

Brand DNA, of course, is vital, and since Hummers do basically two things well — tackle serious off-road challenges, and annoy your neighbor with his-and-her Priuses — the H4 will have a tough row to hoe.

(Via Autoblog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:35 AM to Driver's Seat )
Listen closely and you can hear Snickers

Is nothing sacred?

Currently, there are laws mandating that products marketed as "chocolate" must contain a certain percentage of cocoa butter by weight. However, the FDA is reviewing a "citizens petition" to allow chocolate manufacturers to substitute vegetable fats or oils for the cocoa butter. Who are these citizens? [An L.A. Times columnist] reports that they belong to the Chocolate Manufacturers Assn., the Grocery Manufacturers Assn., the Snack Food Assn. and the National Cattlemen's Beef Assn.

One could argue, I suppose, that the FDA shouldn't be issuing its own definitions for products, but since they are, and since it's pretty likely that those definitions were influenced by the various manufacturers in the first place, can there possibly be any explanation for changing this definition, other than the desire by those manufacturers to charge the same amount for an inferior product?

One suggestion:

[H]ave such chocolates labeled "American Chocolate." Like "American Cheese", the name will be synonymous with something that's low-quality and bad-tasting. The FDA can then decide whether they want to debase the "American brand" by going through with this.

There's one possible hangup here: there are plenty of steps below "American Cheese," as Kraft well knows, having taken most of them.

24 April 2007
Beef: it's what's for decoration

Rocket Jones backs away from the meat counter:

The newest fad at the supermarket is "All Angus Beef". That's right, if you eat those inferior breeds of cow, you aren't getting "All Angus Beef", and that is supposed to make you feel uncomfortable in some vague way.

And if that doesn't make you feel uncomfortable, this will. With apologies to the late Roger Miller:

Here I sit, full, gettin' ideas
Ain't nothin' but a fool to eat like this
T-bone steak, great entree
Sucker cost me almost two days' pay

Angus, dang us,
They oughta take a rope and hang us
Ten ninety-nine a pound —
Lordy, what a fool they found

Just sittin' round grillin' on a Saturday,
Six, eight burgers, maybe four filet,
Total bill was like half the rent
I mean thirty-eight dollars and forty-seven cent

So Angus, dang us,
They oughta take a rope and hang us
Ten ninety-nine a pound —
Lordy, what a fool they found

(Disclosure: Actually written after dinner last night.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Worth a Fork )
In the spirit of true empiricism

Dear Sheryl:

Nope. Not even with two-ply.

At least you can't say I didn't try.

Offhandedly,
CGHill

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Outgoing Mail )
Return of the Treelet Report

Sapling?  I dunno.  I've never sappled.The sweetgum tree-to-be in the back yard of the palatial Surlywood estate, rising from the remains of a tree that blew over in one of those legendary Oklahoma storms, survived the winter quite nicely, thank you very much, and while it hasn't added a whole lot of height, it's built up quite an infrastructure in its eleven months of life; certainly it's doing better than the grass that has still failed to grow back in the area directly beneath its predecessor. (Said predecessor was more or less centered in that ungrassed circle, the base of its trunk taking up approximately three-quarters of the area.) Unofficially, it's a shade (sorry) over twenty-seven inches tall, which means it's growing slower than bamboo but faster than the national debt. The tree obviously is a long way from being mature, but then again, people have said that about me, and I've been around for a whole lot longer than eleven months. Regular readers will remember that I took the loss very badly when it happened — residual treehugger instincts, I suppose — so I consider the rebirth, as it were, something to celebrate in a small way, especially since my new mowing regime puts the blades well above those damned spiky balls emitted by that second sweetgum five feet to the east.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:28 AM to Surlywood )
Unobtainium still on back order

There's no way to reword this without snark:

Kryptonite, which robbed Superman of his powers, is no longer the stuff of comic books and films. A mineral found by geologists in Serbia shares virtually the same chemical composition as the fictional kryptonite from outer space, used by the superhero's nemesis Lex Luthor to weaken him in the film Superman Returns.

"We will have to be careful with it — we wouldn't want to deprive Earth of its most famous superhero!" said Dr Chris Stanley, a mineralogist at London's Natural History Museum. Stanley, who revealed the identity of the mysterious new mineral, discovered the match after searching the Internet for its chemical formula — sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide.

Asked to comment, Daily Planet reporter C. Kent turned visibly pale and headed in the general direction of the men's room.

(Seen at Fark.)

Update, 1 pm: Okay, it isn't green, but it can be red, sort of: "It will react to ultraviolet light by fluorescing a pinkish-orange," says Dr Stanley.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:15 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
Still haven't sold any Ottomans

Bendeistiyorum.com, a Wootalike based in Turkey that I mentioned about three weeks ago, has redone its front page to look less like a blatant copy of Woot, though the functionality remains much as it was.

What caused this sudden change of interface? That's nobody's business but the Turks'.

(Alternate title: Im in ur market sector steelin ur look.)

Oh, Denise, ooby-doo

The Tailgate Politics take on Denise Bode's replacement on the Corp Comm declares Pete Regan the favorite, and I think he'd fill the slot nicely; he's always struck me as a genuinely positive sort of person, and he does his homework, an essential for a would-be regulator.

There's also a hint that Oklahoma County Commissioner Jim Roth might be under consideration:

I think he meets all of the things I think [Governor] Henry is looking for — young, bright, articulate, quick to learn, and most importantly won't run against Henry in something down the road.

I have my doubts. Roth is indeed all of those things, but I can't see him departing county government without some assurance that the place won't be turned over to the likes of Brent Rinehart, and Rinehart isn't about to leave on his own.

As for Ms Bode, I wish her well in the private sector. It will be strange, though, not seeing her name on any more ballots.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:57 PM to Soonerland )
25 April 2007
They should get it back threefold

I run a couple of WordPress blogs on the side, and both of them are using the Spam Karma 2 plugin to ward off the sort of garbage that besets all of us with our own soapboxes. Each comment or ping is assigned a Karma value based upon its discernible characteristics. I pulled one spam to look at the calculation, and here's how it went:

0.5: Comment has no URL in content (but one author URL)
-7: Trackback Source Site [URL redacted]​ does not contain Blog URL domain (wendex.net).
-6: Entry posted 1 year, 7 months ago. 0 comments in the past 15 days. Current Karma: -6.

This spam was therefore valued at Karma -12.5, well below the threshold of acceptability.

It appears, though, that this is comparatively mild: this week I received a ping with the startling Karma of -1032.38. This is some seriously bad stuff, made more so by dint of sheer repetitiveness. (Apparently the SOB, or his legions of zombiebots, sent a metric crapload of these in rapid succession.) Has anyone ever gotten one worse? Surely I can't be the recordholder.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 AM to Scams and Spams )
Another reason to read the fine print

I didn't have much use for 2.4-GHz cordless phones, especially since I'd just replaced all mine with 5.8-GHz cordless phones, so I didn't read to the bottom of this Woot product description:

The sun fought the clouds that morning over the little green house in the Carolina hills. While the human inhabitants fussed about getting ready for work, the household’s three cats lounged around the living room. And as cats will do, they gossiped. Mercilessly.

Which, if you're familiar with Woot, is not especially unusual for a product description: getting to the point is only occasionally necessary.

But somewhere in the midst of all that feline gossip:

"Velcro, where's the romance in your soul? Termite, have you noticed the way they check Woot together every morning? Like, today, they probably don't need that Uniden 2.4GHz Cordless Phone With 4 Handsets & Digital Answering Machine — not even with features like intercom, call transfer, two-way Directlink mode, baby monitoring, and speakerphone. They don't look at Woot because they need a digital answering machine or Caller ID with 100-number memory. No, for them, sharing the Woot experience is just one more way they express their love. And the couple that Woots together stays together."

Just then, the cats heard the humans speaking, and:

"Termite, you speak a little human," Onyx said. "What did Logan say? Was I wrong — are they breaking up?"

"No, no," the gray-and-white cat replied, his cynicism melting. "You were right. He said 'Beth, will you marry me?'"

Even this particular scenario isn't too far out for Woot, but this time there was method to their madness. All is explained in the newsletter:

Love was in the air last Friday as Logan Buell of Black Mountain, NC proposed to his girlfriend Bethany Rice in the most romantic way known to man: through a Woot product description! Our staff worked with him to nestle the big question in the writeup for some cordless phones. After he and Bethany checked Woot together like they do every morning, Logan presented the ring in a refashioned Woot box for maximum matrimonial style. We wish those kids nothing but the best! Get your hankie ready and read the whole heart-tugging story.

Oh, and she said yes.

Way greener than Annie Green Springs

What, pray tell, is a "biodynamic wine"?

The grape growers don't use chemical pesticides, fertilizer or weed killers and to maintain their certification all interventions in the vineyard must be traceable.

Most of this seems quite reasonable, though I draw the line at "An astronomical calendar is used to determine auspicious, planting, cultivating and harvesting times," which strikes me as a tad, um, unscientific. Still, if the products are good, I don't much care if they're harvested by bisexual Slovak dwarves under the full moon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:14 AM to Almost Yogurt )
CFL scoreboard

I made some noises last spring about trying out compact-fluorescent bulbs, and in the interim I've installed six of them: two in the bedroom (one in each lamp), two in the kitchen (over the sink), and two in the garage. I don't know how well they perform under really adverse conditions, such as below-freezing conditions, since this isn't, God willing, going to happen in the house, and the garage has never gotten below about 34 degrees no matter how cold it was outside, but there have been no failures so far, and as I noted in February, after mounting the last pair, my primary motivation is "the desire to avoid changing bulbs so damned often." Since lifespan is not always consistent on these things, at least not yet, I figure I'm either not working them too hard or I'm having better luck than some folks.

The hail, you say?

Swiped from the Oklahoman's newsblog, the official National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hail Diameter Size Descriptors:

¼ inch = pea
½ = small marble
¾ = penny
7/8 = nickel
1 = quarter
1¼ = half-dollar
1½ = walnut
1¾ = golf ball
2 = hen egg
2½ = tennis ball
2¾ = baseball
3 = teacup
4 = grapefruit
4½ = softball

Anything bigger than that — well, don't be standing outside when it comes down.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:27 PM to Weather or Not )
26 April 2007
It's a beautiful blog in the neighborhood

Outside.in has sifted through Technorati and come up with a list of the Ten Bloggiest Neighborhoods, at the top of which is Brooklyn's Clinton Hill, home of Brownstoner.com.

If there's a competition for the other end of the spectrum, I'm in.

(Via Erica, who improves a neighborhood just by being there.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to Blogorrhea )
Help me — rhombus

There's an unwritten law somewhere which says that at least twice a year every magazine aimed at adolescent girls must print a variation of this:

I am a square. I get good grades, know how to cook and sew, wear long skirts, and do as the teachers tell me. I have only one real friend. The others won't associate with a square because they would be teased. What should I do?

The answer is usually something like this:

Try to develop a new image without sacrificing your assets. There's nothing square about getting good grades or cooking and sewing. Actually, it's quite cool. Having one good friend is a very good beginning. You may add one or two more as soon as you begin to dress in a more youthful way. It wouldn't be a good idea to defy your teachers — but be on your guard against being too much of a goody-goody.

(From "What's On Your Mind," American Girl, March 1972. The young polygon is now forty-eight years old. Is she still a square?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:16 AM to The Way We Were )
Attention diverted for the duration (2)

Evidently I was prescient. Last night I wrote up the checks for the mortgage and the car payment; today there's a Woot-Off.

The happiness of pursuit

Or a grim satisfaction, anyway. Nina starts her tale at 36th and Walker:

A woman comes up from behind me, veers to the right and swipes my car. She then turns south on Walker, not to pull over mind you, but to run. Baby, the chase was on! I stayed right on her ass while calling the police. She turned west on Hill and lets out a man on the corner and took off again. Let's just say, I was a wee bit angry! Suddenly she turns north on Shartel and finally pulls over. Get this, her excuse was her accelerator was stuck and she couldn't stop. She held on to that story the entire time, even when reminded of letting out a passenger. Meanwhile passenger #2 disappeared with a bag before the police arrived. Did I mention she and her cohorts were quite skanky in attire and had the bodies of meth addicts?

Ah, yes, the classic 98-pound tweakling. And subsequently, jailarity ensued:

Thankfully, Meth Girl got to go to jail today. She's the second person I've contributed to incarceration destiny. Oh what a grand feeling! Not quite as grand as putting the child molester away for life, but damn near close.

When the grandchildren ask the difference between a Citizen and a mere Resident, I plan to give them this link.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:57 PM to City Scene )
240

The Interstate loop around Oklahoma City's south side, running about sixteen miles between I-44 and I-40. Actually, 240 isn't much of a loop: for most of its distance it's pretty straight.

We can trace back the history of the Carnival of the Vanities for 240 weeks, and for the most part it's a pretty straight path.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:48 PM to Blogorrhea )
I assume Lowrider wasn't available

Postcard received:

The April 2007 Issue was the last issue published of Premiere Magazine. We are pleased to inform you that you will receive Us Weekly for the remaining portion of your subscription.

This is like losing Daniel Patrick Moynihan and gaining [fill in any current Senator from New York State].

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:47 PM to Say What? )
27 April 2007
The years of living dangerously

Due out next week in the States is the British bestseller The Dangerous Book for Boys, by Conn and Hal Iggulden, and, well, there's a lot to be said for a bit of applied peril:

The Dangerous Book is a childhood how-to guide that covers everything from paper airplanes to go-carts, skipping stones to skinning a rabbit. It spent months on British best-seller lists, has sold more than half a million copies and took the book of the year prize at last month's British Book Awards.

The book will be published in the United States May 1, allowing American boys — but not their sisters — to learn how to play marbles, make invisible ink, send Morse code and build a tree fort.

Yeah, right. Does it come with its own "No Girls Allowed" signage? Then again, the wearers of short skirts get short shrift in the Dangerous Book anyway:

Girls are discussed, in a single chapter, as something akin to another species: "They think and act rather differently to you, but without them, life would be one long football locker room. Treat them with respect."

At the very least, don't skin them like a rabbit. And anyway, turnabout is fair play:

[L]et the boys have their books. You see, there's a book coming out just for girls, soon. It's called The Great Big Glorious Book for Girls, for women "who dream of making elderflower cordial and need reminding of how to play cat's cradle."

Meanwhile, next week I face the hitherto-unprecedented (for me, anyway) task of trying to talk a woman into installing a sound card for me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Almost Yogurt )
No "graveyard smash" jokes

Bobby "Boris" Pickett, whose "Monster Mash" was one of the very few records ever to make the Top Ten in two different decades, died Wednesday night in a VA hospital in Los Angeles at the age of 69.

The Mash, dashed off by Pickett with the able assistance of Leonard Capizzi, one of his buddies in the vocal group the Cordials, was supplemented by wonderfully low-tech sound effects: the opening of the coffin is actually a nail being claw-hammered out of a 2x4, and that bubbly stuff is water being blown through a soda straw. Released in August of 1962, it peaked at #1 right before Halloween, knocking out the 4 Seasons' "Sherry." Producer Gary Paxton put together a whole album on his Garpax label, from which "Monsters' Holiday" was rush-released right before Christmas, topping out at #30. Pickett was capable of non-Karloff sounds, and his next single was a version of the standard "Graduation Day," which stalled near the bottom of the chart. In 1970, signed to RCA Victor, he had no new hits, but Nipper reissued "Monster Mash," which did manage to chart, and in 1973 London Records revived the original Garpax album, this time on the Parrot label (XPAS 71063), complete with original liner notes. As you might expect, they reissued the "Monster Mash" 45, which crept into the Top Ten, albeit in the spring.

And Pickett did manage one non-Monster hit of sorts: his 1975 collaboration with Peter Ferrara, "Stardrek," poking fun at another cultural institution, was a staple of the Dr. Demento Show for many years. ("Into the elevator, Mr. Schlock! Let's beam down to the planet's surface so I can find an alien to fall in love with before the program is over!" orders Captain Jerk.) Ferrara and Pickett did one more item of note, a version of "Respect" sung by the Godfather. Still, the Monster Mash was never far away, and in 2004 Pickett reworked it into the environmental anthem "Monster Slash".

TheMonsterMash.com vends Pickett material and memorabilia, should you want to crank up the ol' Transylvania Twist.

The Vegas suggestion yet

Lest you think the Sonics are inevitably bound for Oklahoma City, Clay Bennett hinted otherwise at a meeting of the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau board. To wit:

"What I heard him say was that if he ended up having to move the team, Vegas would likely be a more attractive market than Oklahoma City," said Steve Leahy, chief executive of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, who attended the convention bureau meeting.

Seattle City Councilwoman Jan Drago, who was also there, said "it was about money — they can't make a return on their investment in Oklahoma ... he really expected to end up in Vegas."

There are two possible problems with a Las Vegas move:

  1. The Thomas and Mack Center, the presumed game venue, holds a comfortable 18,776 for basketball, but it dates back to 1983, positively paleolithic in NBA terms. (They get no link: their Web site is a godawful aggregation of Flash-based conniption fits.)

  2. Commissioner Stern still isn't comfortable having a team in a place where there is gambling going on.

Still, this serves as a warning shot across the bow of those who insisted that the Oklahoma move was, you should pardon the expression, a slam-dunk.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:39 AM to Net Proceeds )
Pinker and prouder than previous

I'm downright awash in roses this spring for some reason; there's a fourth rosebush in Ye Olde Flower Box hiding among the irises, and it's producing nice pink blooms. This isn't one of them; it's from the plant just to the north, where it was easier to get a shot, but the general appearance is about the same.

Pink rose, not Nick Lowe's

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:41 PM to Surlywood )
Otherwise not known as the Red Period

David Pryce-Jones recalls a darker side of Pablo Picasso:

Pablo Picasso, it is generally appreciated outside museum circles, was an old fraud in matters of art, and a monster in all other spheres. Painting was to him primarily successful commerce. He behaved despicably to other people, especially women unfortunate enough to be his lovers. In politics, he was always on the make, backing whatever he thought was the winner. Guernica, his famous picture done during the Spanish civil war, was an exercise in being fashionably on the anti-Nazi side. But when the Germans occupied Paris in 1940, Picasso stayed, and his studio became a resort where German officers were welcome, especially when they bought his pictures. One such was Ernst Jünger, the cold-hearted but brilliant writer then on the German staff, and Picasso one day said to him that the two of them could bring about peace in twenty-four hours. Picasso was an outright collaborator, and after the war the Communist Party blackmailed him on that account. The Party threatened to expose him unless he made amends by marching at the head of the mass demonstration in Paris on May 1, 1945. Marching next to him was the singer Maurice Chevalier who similarly needed an alibi for his collaboration with the Germans. "One goes to the Communist Party as one goes to a spring of water," was how Picasso lied his way out of it at the time.

On the other hand, he was never called an asshole.

(Via Lastango.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:52 PM to Almost Yogurt )
In defense of John McCain

He's apparently willing to share a burger with Maureen Dowd.

(Via In Theory.)

28 April 2007
A sign that you're working too hard

You leave an hour (well, 50 minutes) early one day for a dental appointment, and you still end up with 51.5 hours on the clock.

For the next two months it's only going to get worse, and then I'm going to have to leave town, just to put some distance between myself and the office.

And with your third hand you open the door

The One-Handed Balancing Serving TrayNot anymore. The One-Handed Balancing Serving Tray is just like it sounds: a tray that you can schlep around with one hand. It holds up to 11 lb, and the surface is rubberized so things won't go flying around way down there. And the handle folds flat for storage, because otherwise this handy item would be a pain in the neck to put away. As with anything both cool and useful, it's kinda pricey, but life is like that sometimes most of the time. (Via Popgadget.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:25 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
Brought to you by Posting Module BFD-2

Steph Waller asks:

Why do most small appliances, electric shavers for instance, get tagged with names like Titan-ZX5 or Zicron-Z14? Why the X and Z? Why not Titan-CF2 or Zicron-HD7? Do the letters at the end of the alphabet denote more power or quality?

Were I a marketroid, I would reason (and I use the term loosely) something like this:

"Let's see. Vowels are weaker than consonants, especially U and I. Wait a minute, that didn't sound right. Anyway, no vowels. F is out for obvious reasons. Now look at Preparation H. Knowing it exists, would you willingly try Preparations A through G? I don't think so. You want the latest and the greatest, and that means Z, or at least X."

And marketroids get good money to come up with this stuff, and also to come up with its polar opposite. Infiniti paid a consultant 75 large for this advice:

"We wanted to express the idea that [Infiniti] was a philosophically different kind of car," [Ira] Bachrach [of NameLab] explains. Proclaiming E, S, Z or X to be yesterday's news, Bachrach recommended that the company adopt different letters for its model identifiers. "I told them to use letters that weren't conventional," he says, "that were, in fact, aggressively unconventional."

Bachrach decided he was sweet on "q" and "j." "Utterly unused letters," he says. "Aggressively novel letters which didn't necessarily parse to luxury and performance. These were marketing guys with courage."

One model became the Infiniti J30, another the Q45. "I know it doesn't sound like much," Bachrach admits. "But I'm prouder of that than anything I've ever done in the model business. It was a marvelously condensed way to convey something that would have taken millions of dollars in advertising to convey."

The Q45, which was finally dropped last year, was always referred to fondly as "the Q"; Infiniti still has tendencies to refer to "the G" and "the M," which latter caused them some legal grief.

And "J" actually has some history of its own: it denoted Duesenberg's top model, which was also available with a supercharger as the SJ.

Aside: Why is it that your ostensible "premium" automobiles (like my Infiniti I30, which even has a vowel fercrissake) always go for alphanumerics, while the brands sold to regular folk who might wear tennis shoes have real live names? For a while, Acura was bucking this trend, with Legend and Integra, but subsequent models went back to alphabet soup, with one exception. ("Vigor"? Please.) Not that the names were always swell, of course. General Motors, for the longest time, issued vehicles named for places where you would never, ever actually see those vehicles: Seville, Monte Carlo, Malibu. (Gimme a Hyundai Tucson any day.)

Still, at least as far as Infiniti goes, Steph's question — "Do the letters at the end of the alphabet denote more power or quality?" — is answered with a Yes. The car hierarchy, bottom to top, is G, I, J, M, Q. (Only G and M are currently in production.) The FX and QX SUVs will shortly be joined by an EX at the low(ish) end.

And just to make things interesting, Lexus' new high-performance variants will bear the letter F.

Beyond "let's blame Microsoft"

In Vent #529, I posed this question:

If your machine has been hijacked and turned into a zombie, are you responsible?

Adam Gurri seems to think so:

Honestly, I think the internet has been around for long enough now that people ought to know better. I say that if you're cruising around with an unpatched IE, you almost deserve to get a virus.

Normally I am not keen on blaming the victim, but geez, it's not like Microsoft works diligently to keep you from getting patches and updates: if anything, they're hyperproactive about shoveling out the replacement bits.

So fix your damn browser. Or get a better one.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:51 PM to PEBKAC )
Enzo it goes

For June, Car and Driver tested a Ferrari 599GTB Fiorano, and while it's every bit as wonderful as the top-end Ferrari is supposed to be, it's priced "where luxury flirts with insanity." And that's if you're lucky:

While returning the 599 to a Los Angeles dealer — the car's short front overhang is a blessing on driveway ramps — we overheard a salesman quote a half-million dollar price to a couple of customers. There were no gasps, just nods, the complacent look of lambs in an abbatoir.

Slaughterhouse-500k! The base price of the 599, says C/D, is $273,845, not including destination charge and dealer prep ($1900) and US gas-guzzler tax ($4500). It goes without saying that if you can afford this car, you can afford its 10-mpg fuel habit. (EPA ratings are 11/15.) Their test car had $41,661 worth of options, bringing the total to $321,956. But the law of supply and demand being what it is, those poor (yeah, right) folks in L.A. are going to have to write a check for half a million to bring it home, and it's not like I'm going to shed any tears for them. Besides, the price of the carbon-ceramic brakes alone ($18,550) would buy a respectable econobox and gas it up for a couple of months.

Still, just once ... no, never mind. I know what would happen. I once got to pilot a Maserati around town, and while I never actually pinned the speedometer, there were a couple of moments of twice the speed limit, and this is frowned on within the city limits. And tickets were a lot cheaper back then.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:07 PM to Driver's Seat )
29 April 2007
A green card, as it were

The new Barclaycard "Breathe" is going after the environmentalist market in a big way:

Barclaycard Breathe is the only UK credit card to donate 50% of profit after tax to support carbon reduction projects in the UK and abroad. The card will be launched in Summer 2007 and we commit to donating at least £1million per year.

All donations will be sent to our independent environmental partner — an organisation which guarantees to meet the new UK Government standards for carbon offsetting. It is responsible for ensuring the money is placed into reputable projects that help tackle global warming.

Customers can take advantage of low interest rates on public transport (rail and bus tickets) as well as selected environmentally friendly products and services.

Given Barclays existing record of greening, I think this might be more than just marketing mumbo-jumbo, though their acquisition of subprime lending operations does give me pause.

Barclays will not offer Breathe in the States, at least at first; however, their recent acquisition of Juniper Bank gives them a toehold in the US credit-card market, and they may well opt to offer a similar package at a later date.

(Via Hippyshopper.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:25 AM to Common Cents )
Maybe someone did eat his shorts

Jack Valenti is dead, so it's pointless to ask him now, but I suspect it was pointless to ask him before, given the general inconsistency in US motion-picture ratings. (It's not that I have a problem with the concept: as Quentin Tarantino once noted, "The alternative would be every jerkwater county in America having their own obscenity laws," and nobody except a handful of jerks actually wants that.)

Still, what's the deal? Female nudity is more or less routine these days at any level above PG, but let a guy take his junk out of the box, even for a couple of frames, and suddenly it's an instant R — unless it's Bart Simpson:

According to Newsweek, which got a sneak peek at The Simpsons Movie, "little Bart flashes his little part to the entire world" while skateboarding sans clothing on a dare from dad Homer.

Fritz the Cat was unavailable for comment.

(Link and title swiped from Fark.)

I'd watch this if I had the time

24 SECONDS
A NEW TELEVISION SERIES WITH A CLIFFHANGER EVERY SECOND!


FIRST EPISODE

MAN: (Bursts into the President's office at the White House)
Mr President! THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO EXPLODE!

PRESIDENT:
No!

ROLL CREDITS.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:19 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Looking at Us

The dreaded first issue of Us has arrived, and it's just as breezily content-free as you can possibly imagine.

Possible redeeming features:

  • Evidence that Jennifer Lopez looks better now than she did ten years (and three half a dozen versions of Photoshop) ago;

  • Attempt (in a Tom 'n' Katie article) to explain the theology, such as it is, of Scientology;

  • This Fashion Police comment about a weirdly-dotted outfit worn by Kelly Osbourne: "Cruella De Vil: The Sock Hop Years."

Not much fun otherwise, but it's not like I was expecting much.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:22 PM to Dyssynergy )
Roam on the range

After six years of just enough usage to justify having gotten the thing in the first place, I'm actually considering updating my Dawn of Time cell phone, mostly because there's a World Tour coming up, and there are some things I'd like to have that I don't have now.

Okay, one thing: my current candy bar is a single-band GSM phone, good only for the 1900-MHz band. That's good for T-Mobile, who runs an entire 1900-MHz network with decent coverage, made more so by roaming deals with other 1900-MHz providers. But there's rather a lot of countryside where no one has built out 1900 MHz, and where GSM exists there, it's on the 850-MHz band. T-Mobile will happily let you roam onto 850 MHz, but you have to have a phone that supports it, and I don't.

The kicker, of course, is if I request a new phone, I'll be tied to a new contract at a substantially higher rate. Which makes me wonder if, since all GSM phones are based on a SIM card, I can buy an unlocked dual-band phone from somewhere (eBay, Woot, wherever) and simply move my SIM. I've heard conflicting stories on this, so pointers to useful information would be gratefully appreciated.

30 April 2007
Strange search-engine queries (65)

This has turned into a regular Monday-morning feature, mostly because it saves me the trouble of thinking up an article on Monday morning, a time when my brain has the general consistency (in several senses of the word) of tapioca. Briefly, these are actual search strings, culled from my referrer logs, which brought people to this site and very likely didn't give them what they were looking for.

you do too:  No I don't.

i found a snake in my bathroom:  Make sure it doesn't use more than one square of toilet paper.

Meredith Vieira prom dress topless:  How likely is it that Meredith Vieira, who is my age, is going to the prom at all?

cows effete and impudent snobs:  Thank you, Spiro T. Angus.

hotsex moves salma hayek:  To what?

Claims Adjuster Nude photos:  I suspect that if we all had nude photos, a lot of claims would have to be adjusted.

trophy dog resin:  Because ordinary dog resin is just so ... so ordinary.

why cats on woot:  It's either that or pages and pages of "DO NOT WANT".

kitten dies everytime someone masturbates:  Impossible. If it were true, cats would have been on the endangered list for decades now.

Death Of Diabetic Cats:  I blame Cute Overload.

droll, very droll:  Actually, I just wanted to mention that I'm #2 for this.

how to lube a rubik's cube with condom lube:  You are taking this game much too seriously.

the smallest number of people in a room where the probability of two of them having the same birthday is at least 50%:  Perhaps surprisingly, twenty-three.

true romance those aren't my clothes:  Uh-oh. I smell triangle.

naked topless koreans:  If they're naked, wouldn't they be topless by default?

jean luc picard driving a cadillac:  Until he saw Riker in a 5-series Bimmer.

nude vacations in connecticut:  In the summertime, one hopes.

what should a taurus girl do if a gemini guy isn't replying to her text messages:  Resign herself to life as a Virgo?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 AM to You Asked For It )
On the bleating edge

In a comment to this piece, Mister Snitch suggests that I'm something of a trend-sniffer, perhaps even ahead of the curve.

More or less simultaneously, the InstantMan gets a letter from a reader:

The prospect of making fuel from waste biomass inspires reader Brian Cubbison to utter a single magic word: "Kudzu."

Watch out, Saudis!

Now set the Wayback Machine to the first week of October 2006:

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

I was in fact quoting from a letter to the editor of the Oklahoman, but still, you heard it here first, or at least less late.

Let it be said that I have stood on the shoulders of, if not giants, certainly some rather tallish types.

The first true computer mouse

It's made from an actual mouse.

(Warning: Possibly not safe for stomachs. Via Gizmodo.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:20 AM to PEBKAC )
Texas is not to be messed with

The fewer terrorists, the better, I always say:

A 27-year-old Austin man was arrested on Friday and charged with placing an unexploded bomb containing some 2,000 nails outside an abortion clinic in the state's capital.

The explosive device also included a propane tank and a mechanism "akin to a rocket," Austin Police Commander David Carter said. The device was discovered on Wednesday in the parking lot of the Austin Women's Health Center, police said.

The Texas Joint Terrorism Task Force — made up of federal, state and local law enforcement authorities — arrested Paul Ross Evans, who authorities said was on parole for an unspecified crime. Evans was charged with violating federal laws banning the manufacture of explosives and interfering with access to an abortion clinic. He appeared before a federal magistrate, and was being held without bail. No further arrests were anticipated in the case. "The threat is over," Carter said.

Well, this threat, anyway.

(Via Lindsay Beyerstein.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:09 AM to Dyssynergy )
Grab life by the thorns

I'd mentioned before that there was a rosebush in the back yard. I gave it no attention for two and a half years; last fall I trimmed it back to about 54 inches in height and reshaped it somewhat. (Its width is ultimately limited by the evergreen right next to it.) This is what I got for my trouble:

Backyard rosebush

This compensates for the blah year I'm having on the iris front.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:16 PM to Surlywood )
A dash of humility

And they work for the government, yet. Here's a shortly-after-noon Forecast Discussion from the local National Weather Service office:

Persistence of the previous forecast along with 12Z model consensus will be the primary tools aiding this forecast. But given the unusually moist environment along with low [convective inhibition] and a small upper low influencing the region through midweek ... forecaster confidence is below normal.

(Original in all caps due to TTY distribution.)

Of course, this is a difficult area to predict anyway, except during midsummer. (Sunny. Hot. High 99. Low 76. Rinse once every two weeks. Repeat.) And we're kicking into May, traditionally the wettest month of the year, already up 4 inches over climatological projections.

Besides, it's not like they never had to eat their words before.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:10 PM to Weather or Not )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

Click the Permalink on an individual entry to read comments and TrackBacks if any.