1 May 2007
The latest poop

Last fall I posted something about TerraCycle, which produces an organic fertilizer from, um, worm droppings. (Do they really drop? I mean, we're talking worms here.)

Scotts, now the manufacturer of the Miracle-Gro line of fertilizer products — they acquired it in 1995, subject to an FTC decree that they get rid of their old line — is now suing TerraCycle on two grounds. One of them seems a bit preposterous to me: the product packages, Scotts' claim to the contrary, look nothing alike, and TerraCycle's containers are almost infinitely variable anyway, inasmuch as they're actually used beverage bottles. The other may be more serious: TerraCycle is claiming results equal to or better than synthetics like, well, Miracle-Gro, and Scotts won't stand for that. (Complete complaint here: PDF, 177 pages.)

TerraCycle has set up SuedByScotts.com to tell its side of the story, and sent out PR announcements to various newsies — including the Oklahoman's Steve Lackmeyer, who put his copy out on the paper's blog, to be found by the likes of me.

(Disclosure: Earlier this year I actually bought a different Scotts product. I was not particularly impressed.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 AM to Dyssynergy )
A brunch trodden

Brandon Dutcher of the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs comes up with a story to explains Brad Henry's suddenly-busy veto pen:

For years the docs (the OSMA, Eli Reshef, and many others) have been working tirelessly for tort reform. Finally in 2007 it's within their grasp. Then a couple of weeks before a possible victory, the white coats (with honorable exceptions like baby doc Tom Coburn) spend quite a bit of energy lobbying Gov. Henry to veto a bill which would get Oklahoma taxpayers out of the abortion business. Henry does so, but in order for the veto to be upheld one Democrat state senator who had previously voted pro-life is going to have to fall on his sword. Sen. Charles Laster isn't going to do this for nothing, of course, so he tells his Shawnee buddy Brad Henry that he will flip flop only if the governor assures him that he will veto tort reform. Laster knows this would make him a hero among deep-pocketed trial lawyers, so he sacrifices the little ones and votes against the same bill he had just voted for three times. The anagram gods are watching, of course, and promptly remind us that "state Senator Charles Laster" can be anagrammed "heartless Senate tort rascal."

So it is that the docs, by choosing to spend so much capital defending that repugnant procedure that doesn't pass the dinner party test, help to guarantee that their beloved tort reform is dead on arrival on the governor's desk. Cause of death: irony.

"I'm not sure that it's true," says Dutcher, "but it's certainly plausible." Not to mention consistent with a century of wheeling and dealing.

(Via BatesLine.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:41 AM to Soonerland )
Philately will get you nowhere

Yet it persists:

One hundred and sixty-seven years ago today, the UK issued the first adhesive postage stamp, the "Penny Black".

One hundred sixty-six years and three hundred sixty-four days ago, the first philatelist stuck one in an album rather than on a letter.

Then again, any stamp you buy and don't actually use represents pure profit for the Post Office, so it's not like it's a complete waste of time.

Right up your alley

Or maybe not. Today's City Council agenda calls for spending $72 million from the 2000 General Bond Obligation Authorization, a little more than half of which will go to road projects. None of these are in my back yard, exactly, but some of these are major: $2.8 million will go to doing something about NW 164th from Western to Penn, which is spectacularly sucky. About half a million will be spent on Wilshire from Kelley to Bryant, which is slightly less so. (The complete list is here.)

And this item looked interesting:

(ABC-646) Application by Oklahoma City Redevelopment Authority for an ABC-3, Alcoholic Beverage Consumption, Club with Alcohol District overlaying the C-CBD Central Business District (pending DBD Downtown Business District), located at One Park Avenue. (Ward 7)

One Park Avenue, of course, is the Skirvin Hilton, which opened in late February. No wonder this has an Emergency declaration.

(All links are to PDF files.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:31 AM to City Scene )
Less-hysteric preservation

Also on the Council agenda today is a change to the Historic Preservation ordinance which strikes me as worthwhile: all public hearings will now be recorded on video and retained for at least 60 days; all participants giving testimony will be sworn; anything reasonably related to an individual case will be admitted as evidence; all such evidence will be made available to the Board of Adjustment in the event of an appeal. (The Board is not required to hear additional evidence at that time, but may do so at its discretion.) All such appeals will be on the record.

I expect this to pass easily: the Historic Preservation Commission, the Planning Department and the Municipal Counselor have all signed off on it, and the proposal originated with a member of the Board of Adjustment in the first place.

(All links are to PDF files.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:48 AM to City Scene )
Less cruel than anticipated

Two weeks ago:

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.

And it didn't, either; in fact, at an average 57.4 degrees, it didn't make the Bottom Ten, though it was still well short of the normal 59.7.

Still, this is yet another example of how truly screwy Oklahoma weather is, and why any prospective Worldwide Weather Czar will go quietly (one hopes) to pieces while trying to understand the local climatological models.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:22 PM to Weather or Not )
Gimme a c

Pontiac is running a four-page ad in the buff books this month, black with illumination seemingly right out of the sun's corona — Toyota never does this, and they used to sell a car called Corona — and on page two, you are asked, RANK THESE, FASTEST TO SLOWEST. The choices:

  • Porsche Boxster
  • Audi TT 2.0
  • Speed of Light
  • Pontiac Solstice GXP
  • BMW Z4

Knowing what you know about advertising, and what Scotty told you about the laws of physics, you'd probably guess that on the next two pages, the Poncho comes in second, and you would be correct. But there's this: YEAH, BUT LIGHT CAN'T CORNER.

Okay, kinda goofy. But this is the first Pontiac ad I can remember in years that, well, I can actually remember. And the first commandment of advertising, after all, is Get Their Attention.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:33 PM to Driver's Seat )
2 May 2007
Standing on the verge of not getting it on

There are dozens, hundreds, thousands of songs about winding up in the sack together. Are there any songs about not winding up in the sack together?

Well, there's at least one:


Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:31 AM to Table for One )
Oh, that wicked ink

You might be forgiven if you thought that the Oklahoma Legislature was utterly afraid of tattoo artists: while they finally got around to letting the decorators ply their trade, they also stuck them with some locational limitations. The law provides, for instance, that no tattoo parlor can be located within 1000 feet of a school, a church, or a playground, a restriction consistent with — well, nothing, really:

[B]ars which serve alcohol for on-premise consumption must only be 300 feet away from any public or private school or church. Strip clubs must be 500 feet away from playgrounds.

In February, the Association of Body Art, a tattoo trade organization (and who knew there was one of those?), filed suit against the state; yesterday, an Oklahoma County District Judge ruled that the distance regulations, and the requirement for a $100,000 bond, were unconstitutional.

I presume that neither bars nor strip clubs will have to move in the wake of this decision.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:25 AM to Soonerland )
And then, in the dead of night...

Sonics-watcher Peter Nussbaum has inevitably been watching the team's new ownership, and he says he's seen this pattern before:

I think if you checked the "Robert Irsay Guide to Moving a Franchise," you’d see that [Clay] Bennett and Co. have gone according to plan:

STEP ONE — Check
Find team to purchase. This is important.

STEP TWO — Check
Attempt to put positive spin on non-local ownership taking over a beloved local institution. Make not-so-funny jokes about the differences between your hometown and your new team's location.

STEP THREE — Check
Find some local types to put in "important" positions.

STEP FOUR — Check
Make obligatory efforts to keep team in town, keeping Commissioner and League happy, as well as intimating that you don't want to move. Be sure that the requests you make would never be accepted by local government, though; you don't want to screw up and not be able to move the team!

STEP FIVE — Check
Gut front office.

STEP SIX — Check
Start stonewalling media. Remember, no news is good news for your plan. The more you get people to hate you and your team, the easier it will be to move!

STEP SEVEN — TBD
Call Bekins.

I can find only one flaw with this premise: Bob Irsay actually called Mayflower.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:34 AM to Net Proceeds )
Delete before reading

As a proud BOFH, I see it as my bounden duty to defend our IT departments against those horrible wretched nasty creatures known as "users."

Except, of course, when we pull stunts like this:

trumwill: Over the weekend the company changed everything on the network. They sent out an email with our new network passwords.

morequen: Wait, they sent out *an* email?

morequen: with everyone's password?

trumwill: Everyone's password being the same, yes. They advised us to create a new one.

morequen: wow

trumwill: Which would be possible if we could, you know, log in to see the email. Which of course we couldn't because our passwords didn’t work.

All this needs is "Yeah, we did just upgrade Lotus Notes. How did you know?"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:03 AM to PEBKAC )
Because you can never suffer enough

At least, I think that's the idea here:

Let's see. We've got a high maintenance dog, parental health issues, one career that demands continual 10-11 hour days and another that's just barely scraping by, plus four years of college tuition glaring from the horizon like the Eye of Mordor. I wonder what we could do to ratchet up the stress level? Hmmm. . . .

I know! What if we build a big honkin' new house and try to sell the old one, tapping into the funds that might otherwise ensure that we have a long and secure retirement? Yeah, that's the ticket!

Might as well trade in the car, while we're at it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:53 PM to Dyssynergy )
241

In three Canadian provinces, you can find franchises of 241 Pizza, which opened its first location in Toronto in 1986. The name was intended to suggest, well, two for one.

The Carnival of the Vanities isn't offering a two-for-one deal. Yet. It is, however, still dishing up select bloggage from the last week, as it has for 241 weeks now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:00 PM to Blogorrhea )
Why don't you all f... fall asleep?

My generation? Maybe the one before.

(A reader recommendation. I have some, um, remarkable readers.)

3 May 2007
Initial reaction

I am not hopeful about Senator Jim Inhofe's not-necessarily-new immigration bill, partially because, well, it's Jim Inhofe's, but mostly because it's called ENFORCE: The Engaging the Nation to Fight for Our Right to Control Entry Act.

Stupid acronyms contribute to stupid governance, and this particular example is flagrantly ugly, charmlessly kludgy, insipidly, nonsensically, grotesquely stupid.

Can you Digg it?

I've pretty much stayed out of the flap over at Digg.com, where DMCA takedown notices have been thicker than London fog, mostly because I couldn't figure out a way to work "09 F9 11 20 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0" into casual conversation.

It would be different, of course, if I could sing it. Besides, Lileks has already explained the matter:

[D]igital content is the future. I make that bold prediction well aware that it's also the present. But the days of the video store are numbered — ones and zeroes, to be exact — and someday all the entertainment you buy will be digital. But you'll own nothing but a lah-sance, and those can be revoked. Imagine every book on your shelf was locked because your license to read them had expired, or the Master Controller in your Internet provider determined that you'd violated section B subsection (302) clause 09f91102, and revoked your right to access the content. Imagine all the players are coded to check whether you license is up to date, and lock out your licensed media for reasons you can't decipher. Puts a hell of a crimp in family movie night.

Who will be to blame? A sclerotic industry that couldn't figure out a way to maintain its profit levels in the new paradigm, and every dork who can't be arsed to pay for cable but downloads the shows he wants to see anyway. And for every noble dedicated anti-statist idealist who wants to protect us from the concentration of media power and content control, I swear there are ten who'd post the security door codes for a nuclear power plant if they could, shout down their critics as censors, then hold a contest to embed the codes in a LOLcats picture. Because nothing really means anything, in the end. It's just keystrokes, joysticks, pizza and wanking.

Pizza, I suspect, actually comes second.

Incidentally, one of the hex bytes in the string above is, um, wrong. No points for so noticing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:13 AM to Blogorrhea )
Even higher hybrids

Yours truly, last fall:

[Y]ou can get quite a luxe-ish Prius if the check you write is big enough, and I keep wondering when Lexus is going to get its own version in the $35-45k range.

It might look something like this:

Jemca Toyota in London has finally gone and done what dealers are wont to do: prep a car to a buyer's specific requirements. In this case, the car in question is a Prius, and while the changes are subtle, they certainly do look quite nice. The exterior is finished in Brechin Slate, a blue/silver metallic finish that's normally used on Lexus cars. Inside, the cabin is redone with hand-stitched leather. And not just the seats, mind you, from the photo in the gallery you'll see that the center armrest and door panels also get the luxe treatment. Finally, a spiffy set of multi-spoke polished steel wheels finish the look nicely. All that work drove the price tag up to £32,900, no small amount for a Prius, but for that money, the new owner has a unique car he can truly call his own.

Indeed. Of course, all that handwork keeps the price high: we're talking sixty-five grand for a Prius, fercrissake. But I still believe there's a market for a Lexusized Prius. And even if the only buyers turn out to be people who are desperate to be seen as green but who wouldn't be caught dead in a Toyota dealership, that's more than enough to turn a tidy profit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:40 AM to Driver's Seat )
Wearing a new face

NewsOK.com is now serving up its new site design, which officially is still in beta. I looked at it a couple of weeks ago, and deemed it a smidgen cleaner, though apparently one of the major goals is to make sure you see at least one 600-pixel-wide ad before you scroll. And one horrid feature has been made slightly less so: they still have the exploding Flash ads popping out of nowhere, but so far they haven't actually made it impossible to click on the menu bar, which the old interface did.

B-minus, maybe a solid B. So far.

(Update, Cuatro de Mayo: The menu bar is hosed under the area defined by the exploding Flash ad, which of late has been sold to the Oklahoma Lottery. This is not endearing.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:56 PM to City Scene )
That wristful feeling

I own three watches. The Helbros, acquired in 1966, stopped working in 1980 but still looks pretty good. (It's been to the repair shop once; a new crystal was installed some time in the middle Seventies.) At the time, the combination of penury and hardware lust led me to acquire a Casio digital watch — pace Megadodo Publications, I still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea — which is still in use today, though its band (a knockoff of the Speidel Twist-O-Flex) is seriously worn and the pins that hold it in place, well, don't.

As usual with me, Plan B took precedence over Plan A, and I purchased an Abacus "atomic" watch from Woot. It was incredibly bulky compared to my old Casio; more to the point, it had a Rolexoid bracelet that Fossil, Abacus' parent, had thoughtfully prepared for the wrist of one of the Kansas City Chiefs. I spent about an hour and a half resizing the band, mostly because I had only the vaguest comprehension of how to work the pins. I wasn't even sure that "pins" was the proper term.

A few minutes of Googlage led me to the storefront of The Watch Prince, which patiently explained that these things are properly called "spring bars." What's more, they actually offered a tool to compress the skinny little troublemakers, for a measly nine bucks. It looks vaguely dental, except for its matte black finish, which is probably useful if you have bad eyes since it contrasts with the band and the watch itself. I had to have one, even though I'd finished redoing the Abacus' band, simply because at some point in the next 40 or 50 years I may have to do this again.

While I was at the site, I picked up some spare spring bars (a stunningly-negligible dollar a pair), and just for the heck of it, dialed over to the bands and ordered a genuine Speidel Twist-O-Flex for the old Casio. The Prince, reasoning from my shopping cart that I didn't have a farging clue, threw in two sets of bars to fit the Speidel. The Casio is now back in play, the Abacus is sitting on my dresser downloading a time signal from WWVB, and I'm starting to wonder if maybe I should have the old Helbros fixed.

4 May 2007
Architectural indigest

The palatial estate at Surlywood was constructed in 1948, which may mean that I am fortunate indeed:

You have to wonder: have Americans forgotten how to build dignified houses, or are we simply not dignified people anymore? Virtually every building put up after 1950 looked terrible and many of them were rotting into the ground. Most of them are little more than elaborate packing crates with a few doo-dads screwed on — exactly the kind of buildings, by the way, that [Robert] Venturi and [Denise] Scott-Brown celebrated in their writings. They called them "decorated sheds," the vernacular expression of the mainstream American soul.

The design failures of these things might be attributed to a loss of knowledge and a lack of attention to details, but I think a deeper explanation has to do with the diminishing returns of technology. We've never had more awesome power tools for workers in the building trades. We have compound miter saws, electric spline joiners, laser-guided tape measures, and many other nifty innovations, and we've never seen, in the aggregate, worse work done by so many carpenters. For most of them, apparently, getting a plain one-by-four door-surround to meet at a 45-degree miter without a quarter-inch gap is asking too much. In other words, we now have amazing tools and no skill. What you wonder is whether the latter is a function of the former. Is the work so bad because we expect the tools to have all the skill?

Another issue is the choice of materials. As you march down the decades from the 1950s, the materials-of-choice for finishing the exterior are more and more materials not found in nature. Aluminum siding was a big favorite for a while — and you can always spot it because of the dents below the three-foot high level, where the lawnmower has shot stones at the panels for decades. After the 1980s, there is a distinct acceleration in the use of vinyl for practically everything. The vinyl clapboards, soffits, window-surrounds, et cetera, are often little more than stapled onto the house. And naturally they begin to sag and pull apart instantly. After twenty-odd years of that you end up with a house that looks like a birthday present wrapped by a five-year-old.

I think I've just been talked out of some vinyl trim.

More on the sheds, from Elaine Brownell's Master's thesis:

The problem with the decorated shed is not that it exists; the justifications for its widespread use are all too clear. The problem is that as architects have become less involved with the space, structure, and program of a building, they have focused primarily on the ornament. In our time of widespread standardization and unquestioning pragmatism, the program, siting, massing, structure, and general floor layout for a building are already decided by the time an architect is hired to finesse the details of the curtain wall. Realizing the limitations of the architect, Cesar Pelli has become a champion of the skin. Herzog and De Meuron have followed in due course. In the day of the triumph of the corporate logo, it has become all too tempting to leave one's stamp on the box, without much consideration for what happens inside it. And, as building development processes become more complex, increasingly specialized, and faster paced, architects are hard-pressed to keep up, applying their talents solely to the creation of an image, which is manifest in a thinner and thinner envelope.

I am not suggesting that the wrapper is inconsequential; it is unfortunately only too rare that the envelope of a building be truly beautiful. However, substance is more important than skin. In their 1971 treatise on "ugly and ordinary" architecture, Venturi and Scott-Brown distinguished between "urban sprawl" and the "megastructure", which they presumed to be opposites.

And now, of course, they're right on top of one another, so to speak.

Cesar Pelli, you'll remember, designed Tulsa's BOK Center. Is it all skin, no structure? Guess we'll find out soon enough.

In the meantime, when visitors ask me about the house, I will continue to explain, "It comes from the period when they'd learned how to build one-story houses with a certain degree of panache, but before they figured out how to make them all alike."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Juice box

For every Monopoly, every Scrabble, there are hundreds of board games that for whatever reason Never Quite Made It.

Just now showing up on eBay is the original (there are no copies) of Toad J. Simpson's Get Away With Murder Game. From the description thereupon:

This board game is based on the events surrounding the O.J. Simpson murder trial. All the characters have been renamed with amphibious titles. Toad J. Simpson, Katoad Kaelin, Mark Frogman, Lance Itoad, and Alan Does-Show-Warts are just a few of the characters. The object of the game is to get away with murder by being the first player to advance and leave the board by throwing a die and drawing Black Glove Cards. The rules consist of 8 pages of typed guides as to what each player does as he or she lands on a numbered space. Some of the game pieces are a 911 Hot Line Phone, Slow, White Escape Vehicle, The Murder Weapon and the Sock With Blood Spots as Court Evidence.

As part of the deal, the buyer will be assigned copyright to the concept and characters; it's the whole package. If you ever wanted to make your own game, perhaps this is your starting point, and to borrow a phrase, should the idea fly, you must bid high.

Snooze on the march

The Hilton Garden Inn hotels are pushing something called the Garden Sleep System, a sort of superbed, billed as an order of magnitude better than what one usually finds in a hotel room.

Hilton put out a press release to trumpet the results of a sleep survey they'd ordered; Christopher Elliott reads between the lines, and finds:

The Hilton data suggests guests are indifferent to hotel bedding. When picking a hotel, 41 percent said they took bedding into consideration, "but it isn't a dealbreaker." One-third of the respondents said bedding wasn’t part of their decision at all. Only 24 percent described it as an "important" part of the selection.

To be honest, I never give it much thought at all, except for the choice between Queen and King. (I stay at about a dozen different hotels each year during the World Tours.) And anyway, there are other factors besides mere bedding:

Asked about the most important part of sleep experience at a hotel, few said it had anything to do with the bed. One-third said it was having a quiet room. Another third of the respondents said it was the room temperature. Bringing up the rear were the pillows (17 percent) the sheets (9 percent) and the covers (6 percent).

Hilton also mentioned that about 20 percent of men (they give no figures for women) sleep in the buff at their facilities, which may or may not explain the concern over sheets.

(Via Upgrade: Travel Better.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:30 AM to Dyssynergy )
Ward, it's the Beaver again

Dear Mr. Cleaver:

This paragraph has absolutely nothing to do with anything. It is here merely to fill up space. Still, it is words, rather than repeated letters, since the latter might not give the proper appearance, namely, that of an actual note.

For that matter, all of this is nonsense, and the only part of this that is to be read is the last paragraph, which part is the inspired creation of the producers of this very fine series.

I hope you can find a suitable explanation for Theodore's unusual conduct.

Lorem Ipsum was not available for comment.

(Via Jason Toon.)

We've got a fuzz issue and we're gonna use it

Schick Quattro adThis is the third of four frames in an animated GIF advertising Schick's Quattro for Women razor, which I spotted today while browsing Popgadget. (That "Energizer" tag might seem odd until you remember that the battery maker acquired Schick and Wilkinson Sword in 2003.) I had to ask myself, "Self, are you that easily distracted by a nice pair of gams?" (Yes.) I suppose it's a good thing they're not taking things too seriously. To make sure they weren't, I wandered over to their Web site and found something called Quattro Lingo, which introduces some new terms into the vernacular. I was most amused by this description: when you "intentionally go without shaving before a date as a way of making yourself behave," you're said to be wearing a "chastity pelt." I have no idea what Dawn Eden thinks of this notion, though I'm sure she'd endorse behaving oneself.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:37 PM to Table for One )
Odd that these days should be adjacent

Okay, I missed this, but I don't intend to miss this.

Even though it's technically more work.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:05 PM to Birthday Suitable )
5 May 2007
This is not how they make Gatorade

If you've been on the Net for any substantial length of time, you've almost certainly seen the Joe Cartoon about the frog in the blender.

And if you haven't, well, maybe the Peruvians have:

Carmen Gonzalez plucks one of the 50 frogs from the aquarium at her bus stop restaurant, bangs it against tiles to kill it and then makes two incisions along its belly and peels off the skin as if husking corn. She's preparing frog juice, a beverage revered by some Andean cultures for having the power to cure asthma, bronchitis, sluggishness and a low sex drive. A drink of so-called "Peruvian Viagra" sells for about 90 cents.

Gonzalez adds three ladles of hot, white bean broth, two generous spoonfuls of honey, raw aloe vera plant and several tablespoons of maca — an Andean root also believed to boost stamina and sex drive — into a household blender.

Then she drops the frog in.

Now when they start offering this at Starbucks, then I'll worry.

(Via Scribal Terror.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:21 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Twisted almost out of existence

KAKE-TV in Wichita has extensive video footage of the tornado that destroyed Greensburg, Kansas late last night, and truth be told, I can't watch more than a few seconds of it: it's that horrendous.

The town of 1600 was evacuated; so far, four deaths have been reported, but not everyone has been accounted for.

Blogger Patsy Terrell writes, from about an hour away in Hutchinson:

Greensburg is about 80 miles from where I live and famous for the world's largest hand dug well, 109 feet deep and 32 feet in diameter, that served as the city's water supply until 1932. You can walk 105 steps down to the bottom and it's worth the trip.

What we hear at this point is that large parts of the town are simply gone, including everything on the west side of the main street. This includes a nice old drug store. Houses, the hospital, the school, the grocery store, the Coastal Mart, the Pizza Hut — everything is gone. Patients are being taken to Pratt, where they have only 69 beds. They just reported they now have 50 patients from Greensburg — ranging in condition from good to critical.

Here's a Google Map of the storm's approximate path, courtesy of GIS/space blogger LordKingSquirrel.

And KSHippyChick posts some lightning shots, and reminds us:

When you live in Kansas, the only question you have is — when. When will the big one hit your town? This one was not the kind I would wish to see, much less chase. I did go out along the edges to catch some lightning, but when a strike hit the ground about 200 yards from my face — I went home. I actually got lucky I didn't get hurt this time.

It's going to be a long day on the Plains.

Update, 10:30 pm: Patsy Terrell continues to follow the story:

There is a curfew in Greensburg — 8 to 8.

If you're trying to reach family, understand there is no power of any sort. Electricity has been shut down because if you turn it back on you generally have fires to deal with. Officials are keeping it off. AT&T is working to get landlines working at the command center, but there are no landlines and no cell towers left. I posted a phone number in the post below you can call about loved ones. Media are saying most people have left Greensburg now.

That phone number is 620-672-3651. The current death toll is nine.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Weather or Not )
Deux Chevaux, part deux

Citroën's 2CV was to France what the Volkswagen Beetle was to Germany or the Austin/Morris Mini was to Britain: a low-end transportation device that unexpectedly turned into an icon. Designed in the 1930s, the first production 2CVs appeared in 1948, with front-wheel drive, an air-cooled flat-2 engine delivering a modest 9 hp, and windshield wipers powered by the speedometer drive. Eventually the little twin was expanded enough to kick out 30 or so horses, which accelerated the 1100-lb 2CV, um, eventually.

The last 2CV was produced in 1990; the Beetle and the Mini were still being made, albeit in small quantities. When VW introduced the New Beetle and BMW acquired Mini and gave it a complete updating, it seemed a shame that Citroën wasn't thinking about bringing back the 2CV.

Now they are. Presumably based on Citroën's C3, the new 2CV will be pitched as a premium product, where once again it will be competing against the Mini and the New Beetle. Powerplant? Maybe a new hybrid diesel. No sense in producing a retromobile unless it's fully up to date. And don't look for it here: PSA Group, which owns Citroën (and Peugeot), doesn't have any firm plans to sell anything in the States. Yet.

(Via Autoblog Green.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:02 PM to Driver's Seat )
The whole one yard

Actually, I got rather a lot done today, terrain-wise, considering the stiff winds and all. After finishing up, I hit the shower, got dressed, and dragged myself off to the grocery store, and to prove that timing is everything, approximately two minutes after I'd left, the Yard Guys came by and punched several hundred holes in the topsoil. Just as well. And the rain started up later this afternoon, so we'll see if any additional moisture makes it down to where the roots are. They noted a heck of a lot of crabgrass; on the other hand, last time they were here, of the eleven "controllable" weeds on their list, I had five of them, so evidently four are more or less under control. And I've noticed that some of the bare spots out front, among my chief sources of despair, are indeed starting to fill in around the edges.

It dawned on me while pushing the mower that I probably overpaid for the darn thing, not so much for its Honda-sourced engine but for its front-wheel drive, which I think I've used once this year: most of the time I leave the drive disengaged and just push, even uphill. On the upside, it's still running in its fourth year, which, given the way I tend to treat mowers, is sort of remarkable. It is, however, on its second blade, and twice it's tried to throw a wheel. (The wheel is attached to the height adjustment, which in turn is bolted to the frame; this bolt doesn't like to stay as tight as I'd prefer. It's always the same wheel: left rear.) And it's taking very kindly to the three-dollar-and-odd premium gasoline it's getting, as it damned well ought to be, if you ask me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:33 PM to Surlywood )
Peter is Torked off

Former Monkee Peter Tork says the Prefab Four would be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame by now were it not for Jann Wenner:

Bitter Tork tells Newsday, "The only person ... holding a grudge is Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone. He has never written a gracious word (about us)." Tork has spoken out about the snub after watching groups like the Sex Pistols and Run-DMC, who have covered Monkees tunes, get inducted to the Hall of Fame in recent years. R.E.M. star Michael Stipe offered the guitarist some hope when he told Rolling Stone the Monkees were more important to him than the Beatles, reportedly stating he would refuse an induction if it meant getting into the Hall of Fame before Tork and co. But R.E.M. were inducted into the Cleveland museum in March (2007).

Maybe he'll have better luck with his current band.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:51 PM to Tongue and Groove )
6 May 2007
The Java jive

Clearly, it does not love me.

Last night I was going through one of my periodic bring-the-notebook-up-to-speed sessions, a process which involves, among other things, gathering all the inevitable software updates. One of these was for the Java runtime, version 6, update 1. Having had no Java-related problems, I went ahead and installed it.

As always at the end of these sessions, I checked to see if I had any disk space left, and found a lower-than-anticipated 5.6 GB left. (The drive is a 20 GB, which means of course 18.6 GB.) After cleaning out temp files and other detritus, I pulled up the Add/Remove Programs applet to see if there might be anything I wouldn't miss, and what do I see? Six previous Java runtime updates, dating back to the days of the Ink Spots, each sucking up more than 100 MB. You'd think, inasmuch as there's an automatic update function, that the installer would remove the previous version; but no. I suppose it's a good thing that all these separate versions play well together.

Anyway, armed with this knowledge, I duly trashed those six installs, which bought me back about 0.7 GB, some of which I used up on Trillian.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:26 AM to PEBKAC )
The power of a little metal strip

Some of us would consider ourselves fortunate were this to occur:

Yesterday morning, on the way to the office, I unexpectedly had a very pleasant conversation on the train. She was quite articulate, very engaging, full of wit, and — oh yeah — a knockout.

And, of course, Not Available:

And I feel like a jerk. Because I spotted her wedding ring straight away, and pretty much auto-responded to her for the whole 20 minute ride.

Yes, I went into shut-down mode because, since she was married, my interest level dropped precipitously. Knowing I didn't have a chance with her made me lose interest instantly, despite her very obvious social charms. (The idea that I would have a chance with her, despite the wedding band — and I'm not saying that that was the case — is something I'd rather not explore.)

Yeah, there are some serious Thou Shalt Nots involved, and we won't go there. But it gets more complicated:

I'd like to think that I'm not at the point where I won't bother trying to befriend a woman if the possibility of sexual gratification wasn’t high. But reflecting upon this episode, I have to conclude that this is probably where my head is at. And I'm not too thrilled about it.

Were I to adopt this as a policy, I'd never speak to women at all. This is obviously not acceptable, at least to me; the women might feel otherwise.

Once seen on a T-shirt: "Since I gave up hope, I feel much better." Purely in the romantic sense, this has worked rather well for me: I don't have to worry about jeopardizing a future relationship because, well, there isn't any future relationship to jeopardize. Thus freed from the burden of trying to avoid screwing up, I do much better, or at least less horrendously. Okay, there's no obvious payoff at the end: but I feel that I've gained something from the experience, even if it's only the satisfaction of not having bored her to tears.

As regular readers know, I am subject to deep and inexplicable crushes. I used to worry about this. Now it's more like "Enjoy it, what there is to it that can be enjoyed. Just don't be a jerk about it."

Speaking of which:

So am I being a complete jerk in not wanting to "bother" with a woman who's already attached? Brutal frankness is encouraged, and appreciated.

Complete? No. But I think you should give her a chance to respond to you in some small way. You can't assume that she's interested, or that you could persuade her to become interested; however, she's off to the daily grind just like you are, and if she comes away from that 20-minute stretch thinking that, well, at least somebody appreciates me today, perhaps you've done her a kindness, which needs no justification. And it's a fair trade, since if you're anything like me you're getting memories which will stick with you indefinitely, possibly useful as part of the evaluation should someone actually available show up.

And who knows? Four years from now, you'll meet on the D train, and her divorce will have just become final, and — no, wait, I'm getting ahead of myself here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:19 AM to Table for One )
Bjørn under a bad sign

Oklahoma doesn't have a front license plate, and some cars sold here are never equipped with a bracket for mounting a front plate — though plenty of people have those brackets installed anyway and fill the space with various pleasantries of dubious artistic merit. (Gwendolyn, originally registered in Missouri, has a bracket, upon which I have mounted a picture of a goldfinch. Imagine that.)

One plate I see on a regular basis around here is easily explained but never really defended. It's always on a Volvo, it's sized like a European plate, and it says simply: SWEDISH. Well, duh. I've more than once grumbled "No shvit, Sven" upon seeing the silly thing. And it is silly: is there anyone who doesn't know where Volvos come from? And why do you never see it on a Saab? (Okay, it makes no sense on a 9-7X, but still.)

Should I ever find myself with the keys to a Hyundai, I think I will have a KOREAN plate made up to these specs, just to gauge the reactions from passersby.

Genesis 101

Courtesy of Happy Catholic, the Top Ten ways the Bible would have been different if it had been written by college students:

10. Last Supper would have been eaten the next morning cold.

  9. The Ten Commandments are actually only five, double-spaced, and written in a large font.

  8. New edition every two years in order to limit reselling.

  7. Forbidden fruit would have been eaten because it wasn't cafeteria.

  6. Paul's letter to the Romans becomes Paul's e-mail to abuse@romans.gov.

  5. Reason Cain killed Abel: They were roommates.

  4. The place where the end of the world occurs: Finals, not Armageddon.

  3. Out go the mules, in come the mountain bikes.

  2. Reason why Moses and followers walked in desert for 40 years: They didn't want to ask directions and look like freshmen.

  1. Instead of God creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh, He would have put it off until the night before it was due and then pulled an all-nighter.

It is not true, however, that part of those forty years in the desert was spent at Burning Man.

Thank you for making this day necessary

The commencement speaker at St Louis University this spring will be Zen master Lawrence Peter "Yogi" Berra.

Of course, if people don't want to go to the commencement, you can't stop them.

(Via Fark.)

7 May 2007
Strange search-engine queries (66)

What we have here, basically, is an excuse to go back through the last week's worth of visitors (we're talking around four thousand or so), weed out the ones who got here through search engines, and them mock a dozen or so that seem mockable. It's a nasty job, but somebody's gotta do it.

floppy penis jumping jacks:  That, um, goes without saying. (Next time, go without saying it.)

does anyone know what interior home door vents are:  Nope. Nobody knows. There's been research funded by the National Science Foundation, but so far nothing.

oklahoma sheds:  On average, once a year.

"nudism" "google earth":  "Good lord, it's a satellite! Get inside and get your clothes on!"

seven of nine naked pictures:  Who has the other two?

i hate pharmacists rude overpaid customer service:  Somebody didn't get his tranqs.

why does my suburban's fuel gauge needle shake:  It's trying to keep up with the gas consumption.

are detentions on your permanent record?  The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that they be deleted after seven years.

where is Hilary Bullings?  She's taking a shower. Call back in about 45 minutes.

iq score locker number:  No correlation. Then again, I had locker #12.

when will mazda 626 transmission fail:  About 5:30. I suggest you call for a service appointment early.

six feet tall 34dd:  And I thought I was picky.

Oklahomans have good manners:  Damn right we do. Now sit down and shut up.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to You Asked For It )
Chases, and the cutting thereto

Two complaints about recent films that you may have heard, maybe even have spoken before:

  • "Everything worth seeing is already in the trailer."

  • "There's no story, it's all special effects."

Not at all intending to address these issues, Britain's Team TV has something for you called V3:

V3 was a project conceived of as a series of test Special-Effects shots to improve our capabilities and push what we could do in terms of fakery to the limit. The shots were very successful, and as they followed some form of storyline, it seemed fitting to put them together into this concept trailer.

The full version of the film and the story behind it will probably never be shown or made in its entirety, but it is enjoyable in this form nonetheless. It serves best as an example of what we can achieve on next to no budget.

In the meantime, you have 63 seconds of stuff which fits right into the mix at the multiplex. (You'll need QuickTime to watch it.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Respect my Technoratah

Or maybe not so much. This is the pitch:

On Fri. May 4th, we updated Technorati.com to include the Technorati Authority for blogs listed on the Blog page and in search results. This update changed the earlier references of "N blogs link here" and "X links from Y blogs" with the single Technorati Authority number. On the blog page, we also show the Technorati Rank.

Technorati Authority is the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. The higher the number, the more Technorati Authority the blog has.

This is simple enough, I suppose. And so is this:

Since at the lower end of the scale many blogs will have the same Technorati Authority, they will share the same Technorati Rank.

And that Rank approaches infinity (not really, but you know what I mean) because they have garnered no links. My two side blogs have earned Authority of 1 and 3, which puts them — well, nowhere special.

(Via Sophistpundit [65].)

Note: Slightly reedited to remove non sequiturs and signs of having ditched Statistics 203.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:09 AM to Blogorrhea )
No box lunch on this flight

The Transportation Security Agency apparently has no respect for the Mile-High Club:

A California man may pay with prison time for a public display of affection on a plane. Carl Persing was convicted Thursday of interfering with flight attendants and crew members after he and his girlfriend, Dawn Sewell, were seen "embracing, kissing and acting in a manner that made other passengers uncomfortable," according to a criminal complaint.

According to an FBI indictment, Persing's face was pressed to Sewell's vaginal area during the September Southwest Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Raleigh, N.C. When a flight attendant gave them a second warning, Persing reacted angrily and the couple, both in their early 40s, were arrested when the plane reached its destination. At the time, the couple's lawyer claimed that Persing had his head in Sewell's lap because he wasn't feeling well and that the flight attendant had humiliated and harassed them.

So much for "You are now free to move about the cabin." Although I have to admit the "he wasn't feeling well" excuse adds considerably to the sheer risibility of the case. (How was she feeling?)

"As a potential act of terrorism, it's being a little oversensitive," Charles Slepian, an aviation security expert at the Foreseeable Risk Analysis Center, said about Persing's case. "After all, the mile-high club has been around for at least 50 years. But flight crews are sensitive that some passengers get upset when others get cozy, and that could erupt into an altercation."

Yet another reason to drive, I'd say.

(Via The Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:07 AM to Dyssynergy )
Minnesota lice

I'd be willing to bet the Star Tribune would never have bumped Lileks off his column had he been, oh, let's say, a transsexual sportswriter.

I console myself with the thought of, say, Norm Coleman dispatched to Zimbabwe to cover Robert Mugabe — in the Strib tradition, with two coats of whitewash.

Bonus quote from Bill Peschel:

This is like taking a Kentucky Derby winner and having it pull a cart.

Incidentally, the old Star-Journal and Tribune ad Lileks is using for Bleat art this week boasts daily circulation of 400,000. Currently, the Strib claims 361,172. Somehow I don't think this is going to help.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:02 PM to Dyssynergy )
Not up to speed

A bill before the California Assembly would rewrite all those old statutes that contain the words "idiot," "imbecile" or "lunatic".

May I suggest: Decelerated-American.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:24 PM to Say What? )
The mark of excrement

I've spent rather a lot of time over the years prescribing remedies for the ever-ailing General Motors, and most of them boil down to the same thing: develop some cars that are good enough to sell without two grand of incentives sitting on the hood. One thing that's standing in the way of this goal is the fact that the General is vending vehicles under eight different brands, which can't possibly be efficient. (Toyota, on its way to ruling the world, has three.) The Timekeeper calls for euthanasia for four GM marques:

Merge Pontiac into Chevrolet. Eliminate the overlapping models and rename the remaining models with Chevrolet-appropriate names if necessary.

Merge GMC into Buick. The two divisions complement each other nicely, with very little overlap in model range or demographics, although both marques appeal to the same income brackets. Getting GMC customers into a dealership that sells Buicks may get them to take a look at what is available and provide a bump to Buick sales.

Merge Hummer into Cadillac. Again, both brands appeal to similar demographics with no overlap in vehicle range at all. Hummer is another niche vehicle that does not need its own division within GM.

Merge Saab into Opel and continue the Opel/Saturn partnership. Since Saab is already selling vehicles based on Opel models (and built in Opel plants in Germany) this won't have much effect on the company, except for the savings in marketing and management. GM's Vauxhall division (its UK Marque), which sells rebadged Opels and Holdens, should also be closed down at the same time, resulting in even more savings.

To some extent, GM is already thinking this way: the Pontiac-Buick-GMC dealership is becoming increasingly popular. And if Americans won't embrace Buick, the Chinese have, which suggests that Pontiac is ultimately more expendable: if we're going to have low-end hot rods, they should be Chevrolets.

Losing Hummer would be a bit more problematic. The brand has two major constituencies — people who drive over rocks for the fun of it, and people who want to tell Al Gore to go pound sand — and while their overall numbers are small, their loyalty is unquestioned. Best of all, they have no unique vehicles (the short-of-milspec H1 has been put out to pasture), yet a crummy H3 commands more cash than its Chevy cousin. This could be GM's Jeep if they played their cards right. (Yeah, I know: big "if".)

A Saab/Opel merger, though, makes sense, since they're basically working the same turf. Frankly, I'd rather see someone buy Saab outright and bring it back to life, but I have no reason to think the General would consider selling it, especially since Volvo is actually making a few bucks for Ford. And the Opel connection is clearly helping Saturn, which now has a nice lineup that (mostly) doesn't cannibalize Chevy sales.

I still don't see why they need both Chevrolet and GMC trucks, though: are we supposed to believe that the bowtie boys are, um, amateur grade?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:51 PM to Driver's Seat )
8 May 2007
A poke in the eye of the beholder

The longest losing streak ever in NCAA Division I-A football is 34 games, by Northwestern University, ending in 1982.

In 1983, I started predicting the Playboy Playmate of the Year, and my losing streak is now up to twenty-four years. Any day now I should get a smirking email from Susan Lucci.

Drought nostalgia

The rain continues to fall, and one unwanted artifact from the Bad Old Days has returned with a vengeance: the outside wall of my office at 42nd and Treadmill has returned to High Porosity once more, and the floor, from the wall to about four feet in, is soaked. (Don't ask about the carpeting.) This hasn't happened in over a year, and I have to assume that whatever was done to divert the flow back then has somehow come undone in the interim.

Still, it's better than this:

Down we go

This bridge on SE 17th near Central is, shall we say, under the weather. (Photo from NewsOK.com; I'm not going out in this stuff.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:50 AM to City Scene )
The rain can drain, but mainly it's a pain

One common theme around these parts is "Timing is everything." Fred First, a man very much attuned to time — he wrote a wonderful little book called Slow Road Home: A Blue Ridge Book of Days, which I continue to recommend — might have questioned his timing this week:

Well we certainly know how to pick'em. We fly 1200 miles to an alien biome full of places to explore. And South Dakota arranges to get 10% of its annual rainfall (accompanied at various times by pea-soup fog and at all times by 30 mph winds or greater. Until the cloud cover broke (but not the wind) yesterday. (I had to check and see: SD's annual rainfall is about 17.5". Do you know what your state's yearly total is?)

Well, yes, actually I do, but I have at least journeyman weather-geek credentials. ("First on the block to own a VHF weather radio" is just one of them.) And on the next-to-last day of March we got about 10 percent of our annual allotment. (Another six percent fell yesterday morning, mostly while I was trying to sleep.)

Vaguely related to this: a sister of mine once lived in El Paso, Texas, which has a reputation for aridity. The ongoing local shtick goes something like this:

Visitor: How much rain you get here in a year's time?

Resident: Oh, 'bout 15 inches or so.

Visitor: Doesn't sound like a whole lot.

Resident: You oughta be here the day we get it.

Girlfriday has pictures (and more pictures) from South Dakota.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:24 AM to Weather or Not )
You take one down and pass it around

Beer puzzleThirty-nine bottles of beer left on this Austrian jigsaw puzzle, assuming of course you can figure out some way to take down and pass around the fortieth. This showed up today on Ben de İstiyorum.com, a storefront in Istanbul patterned (though less so lately) after Woot, for about twenty-four New Lira (about eighteen bucks US) plus shipping. I recognize maybe a third of the bottles represented; feel free to take a guess at any of them. Piatnik, formally Ferd. Piatnik & Söhne, has been making puzzles and games since 1824; they have puzzles with up to six thousand pieces, and, of all things, a deck of playing cards based on The Da Vinci Code.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:30 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
I was told there would be no math

Then again, there are times when it really helps:

The other night, a friend and I ordered a pizza at the bar. We were pretty hungry and the pizza was cheap, so we ordered a 12" round pizza for the two of us. (Pepperoni, sausage, green peppers, and onions, though the toppings are immaterial.) A little while later, the waitress came by with an 8" round pizza, explaining that another waitress had mistakenly given our pizza to someone else. She said we could have this 8" pizza now, and she'd have the cook throw another 8" pizza in the oven for us. She claimed that we'd be getting more total pieces of pizza, so this was a good deal for us.

This does not work. I ordered a small pizza once. They asked me if I'd like it cut into six slices; I requested four, inasmuch as I can't possibly eat six slices of pizza, even with immaterial toppings.

After doing some quick mental math (area of a circle = pi*radius². Two 8" pizzas = 2*pi*(4)² = 32*pi square inches, One 12" pizza = pi*(6)² = 36*pi square inches), I told her we'd be missing out on over 12 square inches of pizza, so we'd rather just have the one 12" pizza. She complied, and as a nice bonus (probably because she was impressed by my quick geometry skills), she let us have the extra 8" pizza anyways. Score one for geometry!

What we need next: Statistical analysis of what pieces you're likely to get when you order a three-piece chicken dinner.

(Via The Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:12 PM to Worth a Fork )
Sorry I missed it

Ah, the perils of lead time:

The second annual Capitol Water Appreciation Day will be held May 8, 2007, at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City.

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board will host the event, scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the Capitol's 4th floor rotunda. Water Appreciation Day will present a unique opportunity for groups to demonstrate the importance of Oklahoma's water resources and provide information on their water management, conservation, and educational programs for state legislators and other government officials.

"Organizations have hosted Agriculture Day, GIS Day, Consumer Protection Day, and various other observations at the State Capitol, so it’s only appropriate that Oklahoma has at least one day each year devoted solely to recognizing the importance [of] our water resources," says Duane Smith, OWRB Executive Director. "This unique celebration of Oklahoma's diverse water resources will not only help focus the attention of our Governor and Legislative leadership on water issues facing the state, but will also serve to recognize those who strive to protect Oklahoma's most precious natural resource."

I have to admit, I'd probably be a bit more appreciative if there didn't happen to be "diverse water resources" pooling on my office floor to a depth of 3/8 inch right about now.

(Rainfall for yesterday and today has totaled 4.27 inches; today isn't quite over yet.)

9 May 2007
By Dr. Leonardo of Rodeo Drive

So Mona Lisa goes to L.A., and — well, see for yourself.

(Via Lynn S.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Dyssynergy )
You should really just relax

One of the great tragedies of life is that Mystery Science Theater 3000 never got a chance to do Battlefield Earth.

Now they will, sort of. RiffTrax sells downloads (usually $2 to $3) of actual MST3k-style riff sessions keyed to somewhat-contemporary motion pictures, starring Michael J. Nelson (MST3k head writer and latter-day host) and usually either Bill Corbett (Crow T. "I'm different!" Robot) or Kevin Murphy (Tom Servo). Sometimes both of them. The idea: you cue up your (possibly rented) copy of the DVD, and when you hit Start, you turn to your MP3 player and fire up the RiffTrax. You can try some samples here. It's not quite the same as it ever was — no Robot Roll Call, no Commercial Sign, no "Push the button, Frank" — but if you ever wanted an MSTed version of The Matrix, The Fifth Element, or (yes!) Battlefield Earth, you're in luck.

Mitt Romney was unavailable for comment.

And if you insist on having your video and audio in the same package, behold: The Film Crew.

(Via David Darlington.)

242

Electronic Body Music, a hybrid of industrial music and electronic punk, is a term concocted by one of its leading practitioners: the Belgian group Front 242.

Exactly what genetic factors contributed to the Carnival of the Vanities, I can't say, though I can say that edition #242 is up.

Disclosure: This edition contains something of mine.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:04 AM to Blogorrhea )
So predictable, these humans

G. K. Chesterton, anticipating 2007, way back in 1920:

For the modern world will accept no dogmas upon any authority; but it will accept any dogmas on no authority. Say that a thing is so, according to the Pope or the Bible, and it will be dismissed as a superstition without examination. But preface your remark merely with "they say" or "don't you know that?" or try (and fail) to remember the name of some professor mentioned in some newspaper; and the keen rationalism of the modern mind will accept every word you say.

(Via Dawn Eden.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:32 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Why we'll never see the last round-up

WiseGeek calculates that the extra 0.9 cent tacked onto the price of a gallon of gas mounts up quickly:

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), "prime suppliers" of "motor gasoline" reported sales of 372,833.5 thousand barrels sold in February 2007. Each barrel represents 42 gallons, and to determine the value of 9/10 of a cent for each gallon, we did the following calculation: 372,834 x 1000 x 42 x .009 = $140,931,063.

I think it's interesting that they rounded up the number of barrels to the next integer, but still, we're looking at $1.7 billion or so for an entire year, just from that nine-tenths of a cent.

They took it one step further: what if the price were jacked up, not by $0.009, but by $0.0099? Another $14 million for the month, another $170 million for the year, and besides contrarian cranks like me, hardly anyone would even notice.

Personally, I get annoyed when I see prices like $2.999: it's three dollars, dammit, and you should have the stones to say so.

(Via Outside the Beltway.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 PM to Family Joules )
10 May 2007
Three peas in one's Pod

Picking three songs for a radio (or podcast) set is something of an artform, and the best such are very good indeed. (I have a few tucked away for possible future use, which, if nothing else, will appall my brother, who did actual time as a Radio Guy.)

One criterion for "best" is sheer effrontery — who in the world would have thought of that? — and accordingly, I award props to Monty for her Sammich set last weekend: two Bread tunes, with Meat Loaf in between. Delicious, in a couple of senses of the word.

New wrinkles in the nomenclature

Remember prunes? Of course you do. Except that they'd rather you called them "dried plums."

The remarkable success of this top-down attempt to force the language into another direction, whether it wants to go there or not, has inspired many. Why, it's even made it to television:

Digital rights management (DRM) is the wrong term for technology that secures programmers' content as it moves to new digital platforms, says HBO Chief Technology Officer Bob Zitter, since it emphasized restrictions instead of opportunities.

Speaking at a panel session at the NCTA show in Las Vegas Tuesday, Zitter suggested that "DCE," or Digital Consumer Enablement, would more accurately describe technology that allows consumers "to use content in ways they haven't before," such as enjoying TV shows and movies on portable video players like iPods.

"I don't want to use the term DRM any longer," said Zitter, who added that content-protection technology could enable various new applications for cable operators. One example could be "burn-to-own DVDs," where a consumer would use a set-top box with a built-in DVD burner to record a movie onto an optical disc, thus eliminating the costly current process of pressing DVDs and distributing them physically at retail. Another possibility, says Zitter, is "early window exhibition," either in the form of making a movie available through video-on-demand (VOD) the same day as the home video release or allowing home theater users to pay extra to see a high-definition version of a theatrical release in the comfort of their home.

The minor detail that none of those vaunted New Technologies actually would require DRM, of course, can be found nowhere in the wild, wonderful world of ZitterSpeak.

Still, if they can sell Simpson's Individual Water Absorb-A-Tex Stringettes — and let's face it, we could use some flood preventers here in Soonerland this week — surely they can sell Zitter's "enablement," assuming the language mavens don't hurl at the very sound of the word.

(Via The Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Fileophile , Say What? )
Quote of the week

Take your hyphen and shove it, says Marko:

There's plenty of balkanization out in the world, especially since the end of the Cold War. Every village in the former Soviet Union or Yugoslavia wants to have statehood now, and all that it does is create a multitude of warring little tribes, jealously guarding their little patches of ground against encroachment by "the others", whether those others are defined by clothing, language, face paint, diet, hygiene habits, or whatever name they choose to call their deity.

We don't need that kind of petty shit in America. It's divisive and destructive, and it does nothing but perpetuate neolithic tribal warfare. Here in the United States, most good and decent folks don't give a hoot whether their neighbor is black, white, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or Great Pumpkin worshiper, as long as he minds his own business and keeps his hands to himself. America is not a funny outfit, or a chant, or a collective of ancestors. America isn't a religion, or a skin color, or a language, or a way of cooking, and anyone who claims such a thing deserves a swift kick in the ass and a ticket to whatever homogeneous country best suits their personal desires for uniformity of pigmentation or religion or diet or what-the-fuck-ever.

(Also applauded by Tam.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:44 AM to QOTW )
To the East side

Both high schools in Norman will offer instruction in Chinese this fall, which strikes me as a fairly sensible thing to do (which Chinese? Standard Mandarin?), though I'm not quite sure I buy this rationale:

According to Dr. Jessica Stowell, associate director of the Confucius Institute at the University of Oklahoma and director of the Oklahoma Institute for Teaching East Asia, Norman will be among the 40 Oklahoma schools that will offer Chinese next school year. She said Chinese was important for the next generation of leaders in terms of economics and diplomacy.

"We must understand Chinese in order to have a level playing field in business and national security," Stowell said. "More Chinese people speak English than there are Americans. Over 400 million Chinese speak English; there are 300 million Americans. The Chinese are 1/5 of the world's population. When Americans allow others to speak English, rather than learning their language, we give away the competitive edge to those who speak our language and understand our culture."

Stowell also predicts Chinese, through the sheer volume of speakers, will become the leading language of commerce, the Internet and of the elite: "It is simply the language we need to become global citizens on a grand scale, and to reduce the trade deficit with China on a very self-serving scale."

I am, of course, in favor of being self-serving, but I don't see English being dethroned as the world's lingua franca any time soon, population figures notwithstanding.

Still, Asian influence is growing in Oklahoma. While fumbling around the Web, I turned up this application for the school-lunch program in Oklahoma City schools in Vietnamese. [Link to PDF file.] There being about ten thousand folks in town who trace their ancestry to Vietnam, this seems like a reasonable accommodation. (English Language Learner services are offered by the district in Vietnamese, Lao, and Spanish.) The state school with the widest variety of language instruction might be Booker T. Washington High in Tulsa, which offers eight languages: Chinese, Russian, French, German, Latin, Spanish, Italian and Japanese.

(Norman story via Tailgate Politics.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:54 PM to Soonerland )
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Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:34 PM to Dyssynergy )
The way they do the things they do

Usually inscrutable, it is:

Without fail, as soon as I buy a "The Best Of..." compact disc, the artist whose collection of greatest hits I've just purchased will invariably release a "The Very Best Of..."

Besides superior re-packaging, these annoying new CD's usually feature exactly the same track-list as the original, except that ten extra songs will have been included at no extra cost. Sometimes even a whole second disc will be added, often with multi-media elements and a free tee-shirt offer.

Obviously this unhappy situation is rather ironic, since logically you would assume that such an exclusive sounding item as a "The Very Best Of..." should surely contain less music than a plain old, undiscriminating "The Best Of...", not more.

Indeed. And while we're on the subject, how exactly does The Best Of differ from Greatest Hits, anyway?

As it happens, my automotive music for yesterday was a C-90 I recorded circa 1992, crammed reasonably full of Temptations tracks. This is not too difficult a task, since the Tempts charted fifty-five titles on Billboard, not counting joint efforts with other Motown acts; the hard part, of course, is cutting all that down to an hour and a half (or even less on a CD). The advantage, just as obvious, is that you get to hear them all again while you make your selections.

To see what might be considered Greatest Hits these days, I consulted iTunes, and lo and behold, the range is even narrower than I feared. (Then again, your local oldies station might play "My Girl" and "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" and "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep," maybe; forget those other 52 tracks.)

And now, needless to say, I'm going to have to work up a Temptations compilation CD, which will, I suppose, be the contents of this tape minus 12 minutes or so. Earlier in the week I was listening to a Marvin Gaye tape, which deserves similar treatment. (Perhaps to follow: Supremes and/or Four Tops packages.)

Update, 13 May: Presenting: Surrounded by Temptations.

11 May 2007
Get smart

Rather a lot of people are going to:

United Auto Group Inc., the auto retailer charged with distributing the Smart fortwo when it arrives on U.S. shores in 2008, is reporting that 12,600 people have plunked down $99 to become a Smart "Insider" and reserve a spot in line to buy DaimlerChrysler's microcar. That number of people represents about three-fourths of the 16,000 fortwos that will be sold in the car's first year on sale in the U.S., and there's enough time before then that the entire allotment could be, in a sense, "sold out" before it actually goes on sale.

(Previous discussion here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Driver's Seat )
Reads great, less suing

Interesting question from Syaffolee:

[W]ould the world be a better place if we had less lawyers and more writers?

I'm not persuaded that it would be. At the very least, we need half our lawyers to keep the other half busy. (According to the old joke, the only lawyer in a one-horse town was almost starving to death — until a second one hung out his shingle.) And do we already have enough writers? "Everywhere I go, I'm asked if the universities stifle writers," said Flannery O'Connor. "My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them."

What we do need, I think, are people skilled with the pen (or the keyboard), but who don't necessarily think of themselves as writers. (In other words, someone like me, except with talent.) One of the happier byproducts of this whole blogging thing is that people are getting the sort of drill they used to get in English comp. Over the course of twenty-two years online, my style has gone from "well-nigh unreadable" to "not especially sucky," which is more of an improvement than you'd think. I am not much of a storyteller — I'm certainly not in Sya's league — but I do have some small facility for the short, pointed sub-essay.

Then again, my eyes glazeth over within mere seconds of cracking a law book.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Cruel twists of fate

Do compact fluorescent bulbs present an unreasonable hazard? Maybe, maybe not. (I lean more toward "not," myself, but that's just me.) Still, it's not like we otherwise never have any dealings with dangerous stuff:

[B]enzene — the primary component of gasoline — is a CDC class A carcinogen, yet we are not required to wear a haz-mat suit or use a respirator when we pump gasoline into our cars. Despite its dangers, we have lived with gasoline in our everyday lives for a century. The public outcry against excessive requirements for the handling of gasoline would be enormous, so much so that such requirements would probably be pointless.

Maybe the same thing will happen with all those mercury-containing CFL's.

Actually, I wouldn't call it a "primary" component: it makes up maybe one percent of your average tankful, and the EPA proposes to reduce this by 45 percent starting in 2011. Still, gasoline is nasty stuff, quite apart from that highly-flammable vapor, and we've learned to deal with it. I have no doubt we can learn to deal with CFLs. If nothing else, they remind us that ultimately everything is a trade-off.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:12 AM to Dyssynergy )
Drain wreck

Inasmuch as it had rained ten of the last eleven days, I wasn't at all looking forward to popping open my office door this morning, and my apprehension proved to be eminently justified: the floodwaters, measured previously at a 3/8-inch depth, were now up to a full inch. Friday being my busiest day of the week, I contemplated closing the door and going back home, and let them deal with this crap. Finally I pulled out my Standard Resignation Letter, updated some of the particulars (for those poking around, it's screwyouguysimgoinghome.odt), and confronted the Prince: "If I have to swim this morning," I said, "I'll be walking this afternoon." At least one four-letter word was used: "Feds." I didn't mention that the one room in which you don't want standing water is the room in which you have six figures' worth of hardware, but it turned out I didn't have to.

A plan was hatched: we would hook up a couple of submersible pumps, one of which would empty out the room. The second would be used to drain The Swamp, a stretch of unimproved land along 42nd that presented three problems:

  • It's infested with all manner of nasty stuff;
  • It's higher ground, and gravity still works;
  • It's on the wrong side of the fence.

Still, short of moving the sun a few thousand miles closer to the earth in the hopes of drying things out, which was never seriously considered as an option, what else could we do?

This plan went through several modifications in a hurry, and strips of the by-now-ruined carpet were pulled up to reveal by-now-ruined tile which no one had seen before. (The building is about 50 years old, the firm just short of 40.) El Jefe brought in a fresh new Shop-Vac; later in the day, a dehumidifier showed up. By three o'clock, the de-carpeted floor was pretty dry, the equipment was moved away (except for the dehumidifier, which was still running last time I looked), and the sun had come out.

Of course, half an hour later, as has happened on eleven of the past twelve days, the rain started again.

Still, it was a fine effort, worthy of kudos all around, most of which I delivered in person before the downpour began.

12 May 2007
Minimum overdrive

An idea from Joe O'Rourke:

20-30 years ago, cars would shake a lot while doing 75mph, or they would feel "floaty". Chassis and suspension engineering and good quality tires have eliminated these sensations, and superior engine technology means the car doesn’t strain to hold the speed.

I think it's time for our longer highway systems, at the least to begin raising speed limits. When a supermajority of the populace does not obey the law, is that not a mandate for increasing the limit of the law?

Only if you believe speed limits have something to do with traffic flow. Mostly, speed limits have to do with revenue.

It is indeed true that cars are more capable than ever. There has not been, however, a corresponding increase in driver skill, and there are more distractions than ever.

(Aside: Now here's a brainstorm worthy of the name: a cell phone/emergency flasher interlock. You take a call while driving, and your flashers come on. This will remind you that you're driving, you nincompoop, and it will warn the rest of us to stay the hell out of your way while you're incapacitated. I ask only 15 percent of the take.)

The rational way to set speed limits is to observe the actual drivers, then set the limit at the 85th-percentile speed, whatever it may be. There are going to be some roads — rural Interstates, most likely — where 80 or 85 mph would make perfect sense. On the other hand, going faster than 60 or 65 on Oklahoma City's Crosstown Expressway can be construed as a death wish, if not for yourself, then surely for your car's suspension parts.

Which brings us back to O'Rourke:

The problem with that is that highways would need to be maintained to a level consistent with high speeds … and, at least in the northeast, no state ever maintains their roads to a level of safety consistent with modern day speed limits....

Neither does Oklahoma. On the other hand, I'd love to do the Kansas Turnpike at 90, at least as far north as Topeka. (Eastbound, where it becomes I-70, is another matter entirely.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:21 AM to Driver's Seat )
Motor-noter hardly wrote 'er

The best automotive writers combine adrenaline and grace; they can transport you to the Brickyard or the Nürburgring or wherever, and make you feel you're behind the wheel, or at least right next to behind the wheel.

There are few newspaper slots for the best automotive writers, though, which means that there's room for syndicators. The Oklahoman buys a package from Wheelbase Communications, mostly written by Malcolm Gunn. Generally, Gunn's historical stories come off better than his new-car reviews, generally because there's no sense of immediacy — the star on a Gullwing Mercedes is in no danger of tarnish — and therefore no compulsion to come up with ghastly sentences like this:

The car that singlehandedly helped revive the once-floundering Cadillac marque will arrive, redesigned, in a few months with even more ground-breaking content between its svelte skin.

Now "ground-breaking content" suggests there's a backhoe blog out there somewhere. Weirder is the description of Cadillac's revival: did the CTS pull this off "singlehandedly," or did it merely help? You can't have it both ways.

Verbiage such as this doesn't transport me to the Brickyard or the Nürburgring; it doesn't even transport me to the Cadillac dealership (which, conveniently, is next door to the Infiniti store).

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:38 AM to Driver's Seat , Say What? )
A smaller Lake

There have been times in recent history when "Ricki Lake is doing a magazine cover in a swimsuit" might have been a cause for alarm in some circles. Still, here she is on Us Weekly wearing a size four.

A couple of things perplex me about this incident. For one thing, there's the cover subheadline "It's a time of self-acceptance right now." Because, of course, you can't possibly accept yourself if you weigh 250 lb. (Disclosure: If I weighed 250 lb, the first good Oklahoma windstorm — you never have to wait very long — would pick me up and drop me somewhere in [fill in name of remote location based on wind direction]. If you don't believe me, ask McGehee.) Besides, the next Administration is busily planning the new Federal Bureau of Body Mass Index Enforcement, so we can probably assume The Artist Formerly Known As Tracy Turnblad is less fearful these days.

Then there's this, from the magazine article:

"For the longest time, when I was very heavy, I couldn't cross my legs. I couldn't physically do it. Love that I can cross my legs now."

Which, it is reputed, is actually bad for your health, though I've long suspected that one reason it fell into disfavor in some circles was its tendency to draw attention from random males of the species. Personally, I blame Sharon Stone.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:05 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Saturday spottings (limited range)

By which is meant that I didn't go much of anywhere today, but today still demands some sort of accounting, beginning at about 9:15, when I finally forced myself out of bed, mostly because I had to leave a bag of food for the postman. Local letter carriers were helping in a food drive for the Regional Food Bank; the usual person on this route comes by on Saturday between 9:30 and 10, and given the number of strays that wander about at night, I wasn't about to put it out the night before, even though very few cats carry can openers and such.

In retrospect, I probably could have waited another hour before firing up the lawn mower: there was still a noticeable quantity of dew after 10. Then again, it had been twelve days since the back yard had been mowed, and it rained eleven of those days. I pondered briefly the possibility of getting some sort of Urban Wilderness designation, then remembered that I'd probably be spending the rest of my life getting permits for this or that. And it took 65 minutes instead of the usual 40 or so, mostly because I kept sinking into the ground.

The postman did pick up the sack, and one of the things he left me was a nice little card telling me about an Alaskan cruise this summer, aboard Holland America's Amsterdam. I know from nothing about cruises, but I figured that if I wanted to go to Alaska, July was probably a good time to do it, especially in view of the fact that this cruise had been arranged by those wonderful folks at Bare Necessities. (Decision: Wait until I can talk someone into going with me. May take a while.)

I wandered over to the Post Office, where the Regional Food Bank's trailer was picking up what the carriers were dropping off. I also splurged for some of those Forever Stamps, which were more impressive-looking than I had anticipated — or maybe it was just that I liked the idea of a stamp that says USA FIRST CLASS FOREVER.

I went on to the grocery — they, too, were taking donations for the food drive — and by the time I got back home, most everyone on the street had mowed out front. In keeping with my Rule of Lawns (never have the best, or the worst, lawn on the block), I wheeled out the mower again and knocked out the front yard, which proved to be marginally drier. I believe this is only the second time I have ever done both lawns in a single day, and I'd just as soon not have to do it again.

A few days ago on this post, McGehee had said this:

[Chicken] wings are so popular when sold separately (a compelling example of marketing if ever there was one).

And sure enough, in the grocer's case, prepackaged wings were going for $1.99 a pound, thirty cents more than for thighs.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:00 PM to City Scene )
13 May 2007
Guano loco

We open with See-Dubya of JunkYardBlog quoting Dawn Eden:

As you know, being Republicans in New York City, there is the so-called counterculture — the feminists, global-warming fanatics, gay-marriage proponents, abortion activists, and so on — and then there is the real counterculture. The real counterculture are those who are working to preserve the moral values that are at the foundation of western civilization. As a longtime rebel, I was attracted to chastity because where the real counterculture lies, chastity is pretty close to ground zero.

Which drew this comment from presumed JYB reader "ck":

Now chastity may be fine for women who don't really like men. But, as a man of 53, I've never seen a man do 10 years without going absolutely batshit crazy.

Michael Bates weighed in with this response:

If someone is just gritting his teeth and forcing himself to do without what he believes he really deserves, he might very well go guano loco as ck suggests, but if he puts abstinence [in] the context of learning to love and value others for their intrinsic worth, rather than what they are worth toward the fulfillment of his appetites and ambitions, he would find himself filled with contentment instead of frustration.

This thread, of course, is of maximum interest to yours truly, being as how I am fifty-three years old, and during the last twenty years there has been only one brief entry on my, um, dance card, which mathematically guarantees a ten-year dry spell.

In other words, my mental state right about now, were I to accept ck's assertion, should be positively reeking of Chiroptera residue. It's not. In fairness, though, he's never seen me, and even if he had, he might not know that I have no particular sense of entitlement anyway.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:15 AM to Table for One )
Meanwhile O.J. looks for a real dinner

News Item: Zimbabwe has been elected to head the UN's Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) despite strong objections from Western diplomats. They had said Zimbabwe was unsuitable because of its human rights record and economic problems. It is suffering food shortages and rampant inflation. But Zimbabwe has dismissed such criticism, calling it an insult.

Columbia University announced today that Dr. Sanjaya Shekar Malakar of Seattle, Washington will be named Professor of Ethnomusicology within Columbia's Department of Music, a position originally created for the distinguished Dr. Willard Rhodes, who died in 1992. Dr. Malakar's multi-ethnic background and long record of persistence in the face of hardship should serve him well in his post at Columbia.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:59 AM to Bogus History )
The Ice Box Man knows

George Carlin turned 70 this weekend, and I suspect his influence has only grown since he was DJing for Wonderful WINO Radio forty years ago.

Way back in the early 1980s, for instance, he anticipated this:

"What do you think it is?"

"I don't know. Could be meat ... could be cake. Maybe it's ... MEATCAKE!"

(Via Fillyjonk.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:26 PM to Worth a Fork )
A land less strange

Sunset on Mars

I yield the floor to Tamara K., who says it better than I ever could:

A sunset. On Mars.

We took this picture. We did this. We did. Us humans. It's going to happen; maybe not in my lifetime, but soon. For every mouth-breathing idiot who wants to kill his neighbor because of their race, religion, or choice of dandruff shampoos, there are a dozen brilliant, dedicated people toiling away to make the future happen.

You can't stop this train.

I think she might be underestimating the number of mouth-breathing idiots, but otherwise, this is spot on.

Please return this section with payment

So I sat down this afternoon and paid all the bills that had come in since last weekend, dropped the to-be-mailed stuff in my briefcase (clearly a stretch of the term) for the morrow, filed away the copies of those bills that were paid online, and now looking over to the side of the desk, I find that my Large Stack of Paper now consists of the following:

  • One Target 10-percent discount coupon, earned as a reward for using my Red Card.

  • One window envelope which presumably belonged to one of the bills, but I can't tell which one.

I was sufficiently panicked to go pop open the case and make sure that the actual envelopes being used seemed at least somewhat appropriate. (In other words: does the return address show, and is there a stray bar code on the actual envelope that will cause it to be mailed to some place in Delaware?) I will, of course, eventually throw it away, but for at least a few more minutes, I will be wondering just where the system failed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:21 PM to Common Cents )
14 May 2007
Strange search-engine queries (67)

This is actually the 68th in the series; the very first of these compendiums was titled "Do I look like freaking Jeeves?" What's more, rather a long time passed before this became a weekly feature. Still, that first intro is worth remembering:

Today's log is even more full of questions than usual, and being the generous soul I am, I figured the least I could do is tackle some of them head-on. Every last one of these was a search-engine request that, reports SiteMeter, led to a page at this very domain.

dora the explorer smoking a weed joint:  I bet she got it from Swiper.

the pleasures of love are always in proportion to the fear:  Geez, you'd think I'd be having serious fun.

chickenshit fertilizer:  If that actually worked, Washington, D.C. would be the greenest spot on earth.

why teller wear pantyhose:  Evidently Penn is kinda kinky.

Greg Kihn sucked:  Now that's a Kihntemptible thing to say.

with a lovely naked unclothed typist (6):  And I am not known for lengthy dictation.

how to measure the iq of a human being:  Start with 100. If he at any time says "Oh, that's just the guy from the federal government, he's here to help," subtract 12.

visualizing dream girl:  I tried that, and a hand materialized from out of nowhere and slapped me silly.

King Kaufman salon transexual:  I think you've confused him with some other sportswriter.

divine sapphic lifetime hookups:  Aren't they, though?

sagittarius women give great blowjobs:  I suppose I'll have to take your word for it.

does the local option sales tax unfairly target the poor:  No more than any other sales tax.

are narcissists cruel to animals:  Only if they can find the time.

My penis aches with desire on the mountaintop of nudism:  You sure it's desire and not, say, mosquitoes?

Charles Hill arrested:  This might make sense if the next word had been "development."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to You Asked For It )
Superior Kraftsmanship

Triticale, a whole grain if ever there was one, presents the Carnival of Macaroni and Cheese.

I just love the sound of that.

The oncoming title waive

Terry Hull asks: "Do Your Headlines Draw Readers In Or Drive Them Away?"

No, really:

Many bloggers labor to write an intelligent, well-crafted article, only to top it off with an awful headline. If you wrote a book, would you spend only a few seconds developing the title? Likewise, if you have spent several minutes or more writing a good blog post, take a little extra time to give it a decent headline. A headline that says something. A headline that draws the reader in. A headline that tells your prospective visitor what your article is about and why he should take the time to read it.

Sometimes I have a title, and sometimes I have an article, and once in a very blue moon I have both at the very same time. And I don't deny that there have been times that I wrote an article only because I had a title. (I blame this on the Beatles, who, after their first album was completed, recorded LPs and singles as wholly separate units, though you'd never know it by looking at their US releases.)

Anyway, here's a list of memorable titles from last year. Decide for yourself if I'm in the wrong business.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:48 AM to Blogorrhea )
OMGDWT

Washington state, in the process of banning cell-phone use in cars without a hands-free device, has also banned text messaging while driving, imposing a fine of $101 (or, as we used to say on our old typewriters, l0l) on violators. The ban on texting goes into effect at the beginning of 2008; the hands-free law will kick in the following July.

I suppose someone has been observed Driving While Texting, but evidently my imagination is insufficient to call up an image thereof.

(Via Autoblog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:19 PM to Driver's Seat )
A million little pieces of files

The only thing close to a Metalaw of Computing I've ever come up with is "There's always a reason to put off defragmenting," and you can be sure I practice what I preach: it's been nearly thirteen months since I bought this desktop box, and I've managed to run the standard-issue Windows Defrag exactly zero times.

Until today, when I got the preposterous idea that the time I spent soaking up the sun, fixing dinner, and taking out the trash might somehow equal the time it would take to move around the 400,000 or so files on this box. And if you count washing the dishes, it did: the defrag (I have a single SATA 250GB drive, 27 percent full) took 64 minutes. Not as scary as I thought it might be. I suppose I should do this more often, but then there are a lot of things I should do more often.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 PM to PEBKAC )
15 May 2007
Bananas fostered

In their own little basket, surrounded by the ordinary 49-cents-a-pound stuff, sat a few bunches of "Organic Bananas," priced at 66 cents. They looked a little better, I thought, and I took home half a dozen of them. (I eat one a day, mostly to keep up my potassium levels without having to rely on Nasty Chemicals.) In place of the usual agribusiness sticker, these bore the mark of Garaycoa Farms, a producer in Ecuador; I'm guessing that Dole, which has an extensive organic-banana program, bought these from Garaycoa directly and shipped them Stateside.

It was worth the effort, I think; these do seem to be a smidgen more flavorful and a lot less irregular than the usual banana-republican product, and after two days in my fruit bowl, none of them have acquired the sort of leopard-like dotting I find on the cheaper stuff. I went back to the register tape, mostly to see how much this bundle weighed, and discovered that the clerk had rang it up at the 49-cent rate, saving me 40 cents and probably screwing with their automated inventory. If they have these next week, I'll get some more.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Worth a Fork )
Leaving the frying pan behind

Governor Henry has named Oklahoma County Commissioner Jim Roth to the Corporation Commission, to fill the seat being vacated by Denise Bode, and while I have no doubt Roth, a genuine penny-pinching Democrat, will do a bang-up job at the Corp Comm, I worry about what's going to happen to Oklahoma County now that there's one fewer pair of eyeballs keeping watch on Brent "I Will Not Bend" Rinehart, who I have to figure is even now trying to come up with a way to thank the Guv without actually saying anything kindly about him. Mike McCarville is reporting that Forrest Claunch, formerly Representative for House District 101, is hoping to take over District 1 when Roth leaves for the Capitol; good luck with that. (Claunch evidently needs a day job; last year he ran an unsuccessful campaign for state GOP chair.) Governor Henry will have to call a special election sometime between now and November to fill the county vacancy.

Roth will presumably have to run for the Corp Comm in his own right in 2008; it will be almost amusing to see the opposition fall all over itself trying to come up with ways Roth has allegedly been "advancing the homosexual agenda" in the context of regulating utilities and oil producers and such. Because you know they will.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 AM to Soonerland )
Not to be confused with Don Quixote

The Fugs, somehow having been signed in the late 1960s to Reprise Records, home of Frank Sinatra, disgorged a number of inexplicable bits, one of which contained the inscrutable phrase "donkey scrotum in Saran Wrap."

Said nutsack still sets the gold standard for pack-animal genitalia-related verbiage, though this comes close.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:17 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Can't even give it away

Once upon a time, Alex Massie once asserted that "Maureen Dowd really, really can't write." Since then — well, read it for yourself:

Is it unkind to suggest that were she to hand her columns, unsigned, to the editor of a minor magazine at any of the nation's lesser provincial universities they would be deemed unpublishable? One need make no great claims for oneself to suggest that the pages of the New York Times could be filled with better stuff than this.

I mean, all newspapers print loopy nonsense a lot of the time. There's too much space to fill for this not to be true. But there is loopyness that, however barkingly, is trying to make a point and there's loopyness that rambles on without ever threatening to hit upon an argument, let alone blunder into anything so recherche as an insight.

I thought that was my department. Then again, no one is charging you to read me:

Putting Dowd behind a subscription wall remains both ... a demonstration of a complete lack of business acumen and an extraordinary act of charity.

(Yeah, Snitch, I know, I know. I don't have a quota or anything, but once in a while I feel the urge, as it were.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:23 AM to Warn Mode Due )
Don't leave Azeroth without it

The legendarily-addictive World of Warcraft game universe now has its own credit card.

The WoW Visa, issued by First National Bank of Omaha, pays one-percent reward points in actual WoW game time. The usual Platinum benefits are offered as well. What I want to know is this: when is a player going to find time in Real Life™ to spend $1500 to earn a month's subscription fee?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:08 PM to Common Cents )
Not many birthdays on that suit

The American Association for Nude Recreation is cranking up its youth-outreach programs of late, perhaps because they'd like to have some members still when the old farts who pay most of the dues die off. (Dying off, incidentally, does make one's member still, but don't go there.)

Out of curiosity, I downloaded the enrollment package (as a PDF file here), and the pièce de résistance is a multi-page (okay, two) Affidavit of Good Moral Character, which details a whole bunch of Thou Shalt Nots intended to disqualify anyone who might cast dark shadows on the lifestyle. On the cleanliness scale, the proverbial hound's tooth doesn't even come close. I can't really blame them: gotta keep the pervs out, after all. But while I haven't come close to these depths of depravity — okay, once I made use of the pictures and accounts of a game without the express written consent of Major League Baseball — I'm still kind of put off by the sheer size of the list. Of course, this is just a ruse: what really puts me off is how much lower the student dues are.

Oh, and where did I find out about this? On a MySpace bulletin. (I don't know if AANR has a presence on Facebook, but if they do, you can pretty much write your own joke.)

Addendum: Tom Mulhall of Palm Springs' Terra Cotta Inn weighs in:

In my opinion, they do many things that prevent them from getting younger members. One of the biggest turn offs is you have to join the club. People these days are not joiners of clubs.

If nudist campgrounds want to attract more members, they need to change their ways and adapt their marketing and operations. Also show younger members in advertising. If you only have 60 and 70 year old people in your ads, that is the age group you will attract.

That's got to be true.

16 May 2007
Word to your mother

And she won't like it either, if Dean Esmay is correct:

Microsoft Word is the most evil piece of word processing software in the history of the known universe.

My very first evil piece of word-processing software was SpeedScript for the Commodore 64, and yes, I typed it in from a magazine. (At least you don't have to do that with Word. Yet.) It worked better than it deserved to, but when I moved up to the C-128 I snagged a copy of PaperClip, which became my word processor of choice right up until I noticed that the 128 would actually sort of run CP/M.

Shortly thereafter, I got a native CP/M machine — a gently-used Osborne 1 with the entire software bundle still intact, including, yes, WordStar. In the 1990s, when I was finally driven to DOS, I picked up a DOS version of WordStar (3.3, I think; it definitely wasn't the WS2000 version), decided I didn't like it, and wound up with WordPerfect 5.1, which I stayed with through most of the decade, finally jumping to Ami Pro when I moved into a Windows 95 environment some time just before the release of Windows 98.

Lotus bought out Ami, changed it to WordPro, and added the obligatory bloatware features needed to stay even with Microsoft; I installed the whole Lotus SmartSuite. (I still use 1-2-3. Go figure.) And I stayed with it until newer hardware and changes to Windows XP made WordPro somewhat less reliable, at least on my work box; I've started switching over to OpenOffice.org. Be it noted that 42nd and Treadmill was willing to allow me a Microsoft Office license; I turned it down.

So I'm probably not the ideal person to cast aspersions on Word, although I've spent enough time with it to appreciate some of its strengths and deplore some of its irritations. Its greatest strength, perhaps, is its sheer ubiquity: everybody has it, or knows where to find it on short notice. And I have to wonder if part of my distaste for the program is actually distaste for that goddamn animated paper clip.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 AM to PEBKAC )
That's it, turn in your keyboard

Drive-By DownloadDidier Stevens set up this little blurb in Google Adwords, just to prove a point, and the point seems to be that there are a lot of idiots out there: over four hundred people actually clicked on it. No, he didn't actually serve them any malware or anything, in the manner of a true drive-by download; he simply wanted to see if people would bite. (Oh, and 98 percent of the, um, victims were running Windows.)

Stevens paid a mere $23 for the ad campaign: around six cents a clickthrough. The amusement value is, of course, priceless.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:16 AM to PEBKAC )
What happened to that little red Celica?

Is there such a thing as undercompensation?

The women I know all point at men driving Hummers and sports cars and say that he is obviously "overcompensating." I usually come right back and ask, "Then how come when you see me pull up in my Toyota Echo no one ever says, 'He must be hung like a horse'?"

Title reference: I used to own one of these: a '75, in GT trim. Finally retired her in '95.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:02 AM to Driver's Seat )
It helps if they aren't working for scale

Grrl Genius Cathryn Michon points out this curious fact about fish:

There's hope for the less-than-perfect male — if you're a swordtail fish, that is. As the size and age of female swordtail fish increases, so does the preference for males with asymmetrical markings, according to a new Ohio University study.

Molly Morris, associate professor of biological sciences, found that older female swordtails spent more time with asymmetrically striped males than symmetrical males when offered a choice.

The new study provides evidence that visual cues are not the only thing driving mate selection, however. The findings also suggest that "females may not have the same mating preferences throughout their lives," Morris said.

My experience with fish consists mostly of throwing back the little ones (hardly ever caught any big ones) and the occasional trip to Captain D's, so I won't take exception to these findings, but I suspect they differ from humans in this regard: women, almost unanimously, demand men with a "sense of humor," which undoubtedly explains all the girlfriends Gilbert Gottfried has stolen away from Eric Bana.

But the Grrl Genius demurs:

If a female human has learned ANYTHING AT ALL FROM HER HORRIBLE MISTAKES, her mating preferences are not the same throughout her life.

The article goes on to say that the older (smarter, more accomplished, sexier than ever!) female fish prefer the asymmetrically marked fish because, basically, it means these fish fellas have been kicked around a bit, and have survived.

In other words, the older females are no longer looking for guy fish who are, metaphorically speaking, wet around the ears.

Do we need schooling or something?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:41 PM to Table for One )
Welcome to Viurnoleif

Or maybe it's something else entirely. It's hard to tell just where these letters are supposed to go:

Stedman Whitwell, 19th-century social reformer and architect of Robert Owen’s failed Utopian city at New Harmony, was deeply troubled by the willy-nilly way that cities and towns were named in America, and proposed a more "rational" system of geographical nomenclature, which would have renamed Washington as Feili Neivul, Philadelphia as Outeon Eveldo, and Pittsburgh as Otfu Veitoup.

Would Philadelphians be known as Eveldoers? Never mind. From New Harmony Movement by George B. Lockwood:

Whitwell noted some of the incongruities in American nomenclature, and deplored the repetition which was producing Washingtons and Springfields in every State in the Union. He proposed to give each locality a distinctive name by expressing in a compound word the latitude and longitude of the place, thus enabling one to locate any community geographically when the name was once known. Letters were proposed as substitutes for the numerals used in expressing latitude and longitude.

Latitude gives you the vowels, longitude the consonants. It's not entirely clear how these are supposed to be hooked together, but one thing's for sure: there wouldn't be any more Springfields. Not even a Shelbyville. It's not much worse than, say, Mark Twain's Simplified SpellingLa on, Makduf, and damd be he hoo furst krys hold, enuf! — but you'll never hear me singing "It's up to you, Otke Notive" either.

I figure it's just a matter of time before someone puts up a Whitwell Place Name Generator: you plug in your coordinates and it spits back a utopian tongue-twister.

17 May 2007
Remember when they just ate homework?

Cam Edwards explains a relatively low volume of bloggage as follows:

The damn dog ate my laptop power cord.

Is there no solution? I mean, they have software to get your damn cat off the computer now.

Which may or may not work:

obligatory lolcat

(For those of you who simply cannot believe that I would resort to a lolcat, well, it's time to start believing.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:08 AM to Blogorrhea )
Nothing more need be said

From Hospital Chart Bloopers, through many twisty passages and ultimately through Scribal Terror:

Rectal examination revealed a normal size thyroid.

We have vendors like that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:52 AM to Say What? )
I'm hoping McGehee can read it

Liesweiter is a German blog which seems to be written in Morse code.

Except for the embedded YouTubes, of course.

(Via Lynn.)

Addendum: On the other hand, who needs him?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:56 AM to Blogorrhea )
A bit of TBAGing

Not so long ago, The Truth About Cars polled its readers to determine the Ten Worst Automobiles Today, and most of the winners indeed exhibited high levels of suckage. But there's such a thing as Accentuating the Positive, and so TTAC is now taking votes for the Ten Best Automobiles Going. I wish that I'd driven more of the nominees, but the opportunities for seat time don't often present themselves. (Yes, I've driven a Maserati Quattroporte, but not one of the current models, and after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I struck it from my ballot.)

Things I noticed:

  • No Toyotas or Scions or Lexuses (Lexi?) to be seen.

  • Both Boxster and Cayman?

  • One actual diesel car, though being a Mercedes-Benz, it's not designed for maximum miserliness.

  • Both North American and European Accords (the latter being an Acura TSX) make the list.

They're taking votes until midnight (Eastern) Saturday. Do vote, if only to counterbalance my choices.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:04 PM to Driver's Seat )
Rest in piece

John Cage's infamous 4'33", in full orchestration and five-part harmony.

(Previous discussion here and here.)

18 May 2007
Post-divorce jewelry

It may be a while before Chrysler, sprung from bondage, gets its mojo back, but at least they have their logo again: the Pentastar is apparently coming back.

There is historical precedent for this, too: Ford's blue oval with the name in script was considered old hat after WWII and eventually dropped from the vehicles altogether, only to be reinstated in 1976.

The Pentastar was apparenly the one good idea of Chrysler chair Lynn Townsend, who moved to install it on everything Chrysler-related circa 1963. In the 1990s, Dodge got a Ram badge, and the Pentastar appeared less often; after the Germans took over, it was suppressed, allegedly because it conflicted with the Mercedes-Benz star. (So much for that "merger of equals," huh?) There is, however, no plan to bring back Plymouth.

(Via Autoblog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:06 AM to Driver's Seat )
None of which explains Heathers

The Baby Name Wizard has been around a while, but now it's been Java-ed into something called NameVoyager, which will tell you just how popular that name was here in the States during any particular decade, including all of the 20th century and the very end of the 19th.

In the 1890s, for instance, "Charles" was the fifth most popular name given to boys. (My maternal grandfather, born in 1899, was one of them.) It dropped off markedly after World War I, recovered a bit, but is still sliding: in 2006 it was number 60.

My daughter is named Rebecca, a name which was nearing its peak when she was born in 1978, getting as high as 13th; it's since dropped off dramatically, down to 96th in 2006. My son is named Russell, a name which peaked in the 1910s at 51st and has since slid out of the top 400.

Perhaps the sharpest spike was Jennifer: 206th in the 1940s, first in the 1970s, and now out of the top 50. And one odd thing I stumbled upon: names starting with F have almost died out, with the exception of Faith and Frank — and Francisco.

(Via Laura Lemay, who says she's using it to come up with names for fictional characters.)

243

Three to the fifth power. And speaking of power, it would have taken a Higher Power to rejuvenate The CW's series 7th Heaven, which, after being canceled and then resurrected, expired after its 243rd episode.

Not expired — yet — is the Carnival of the Vanities, which also has had 243 episodes and one brush with death.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:28 AM to Blogorrhea )
Amex to get involved, sort of

American Express has come up with something called The Members Project. For the next month, Amex cardmembers will be asked to suggest charity projects; in July, the top 50 suggestions will be posted, and a vote will be taken. For each accountholder who registers for the Project, Amex will donate $1 to the chosen charity, up to a maximum of $5 million. As of last night, two days into the program, over 200 suggestions had been received.

From their announcement email:

Will you send meningitis vaccines to Africa? Rebuild a school in New Orleans? Or support small organic farmers? The possibilities are endless. The decision is yours.

I will definitely register, putting another buck in the kitty: however, I have no idea where I would like to see it spent. Yet.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:36 PM to Common Cents )
But all the candidates suck

Not like this, they don't.

(Via Eric Scheie.)

The name is Bond. Jane Bond.

British intelligence is looking for female operatives, and not everyone thinks this is a wonderful idea. Ben Macintyre in The Times:

A female officer must have all the qualities of her male counterpart — courage, ingenuity, resourcefulness — but she must also deal with the fact that in most non-Western countries she will be a woman working in a man's world. In many parts of the world a woman, especially a good-looking one, attracts attention — the last thing a spy wants. In Muslim countries this attention may be openly hostile if she is unaccompanied, and there may be other practical problems: for instance, if she is sent to Saudi Arabia, she will not be allowed to drive a car. There are also the risks of being mugged or worse, and sadly spies are not allowed to carry guns as often as the movies lead us to believe.

Still, she may have advantages. Annalisa Barbieri in The First Post:

I can say that intelligence work is, in a way, an ideal job for women. They are naturally very good at it. Spies need to multi-task, be many things at different times to different people, be good listeners. And have a great ability to recall information. (Try this: ask a man what someone said on the phone, then ask a woman, the difference in response length will be at least 1,000 words.) Also, women are cunning. So spying's not difficult — or at least, I didn't find it so.

I did some time in US military intelligence, thirty-odd years ago. If we had female operatives, I wasn't aware of them. (So maybe they are that good.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:14 PM to Almost Yogurt )
19 May 2007
When in doubt, take it out

A couple of months ago, to illustrate some vague point about the value of Condensed Versions, I produced a two-minute edit of Iron Butterfly's "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida".

There is, to be sure, a tradition of abbreviation, and WFMU honors this tradition with something called the Sixty Second Song Remix Contest. The premise was disarmingly simple: "compress a 'known' song to 60 seconds or less." Forty finalists have been selected from over 400 submissions, and your vote is solicited. I liked rather a lot of these, including, yes, a version of "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida" — in 32 seconds.

Would you, could you, under oath?

In 2001, Portland playwright Charles Augustus Steen III filed suit against the estate of Theodor Seuss Geisel, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss, charging that Daisy-Head Mayzie, based on a manuscript found by Audrey Geisel in her husband's papers after his death and subsequently published as a new Dr. Seuss book, was in fact based on Steen's copyrighted-but-yet-unpublished book The Pains of Being Pure at Heart. The case was dismissed on a technicality — Steen missed a filing date for some papers — but it wasn't over.

Steen's next step was a play with the incendiary title The Tragical History of Audrey Geisel or How the Grinch Plagiarized My Goddamn Children's Story, a copy of which was emailed to the Geisel estate's lawyers, accompanied with a drawing by Steen of several Seuss characters enjoying some, um, amok time. (The Grinch seems happy, and when's the last time you saw the Cat out of his Hat?) Somewhere along the way, Steen asked for $2.5 million ("after taxes") from the estate; he was charged with extortion, and drew three years' probation and a series of anger-management classes.

Out of probation, his record expunged, Steen's still out there; Tragical History was presented at Portland's Someday Lounge earlier this month, and he's posted his take on the case on his MySpace page. The Oregonian has posted a summary of the situation.

(Via Bill Peschel.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:28 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Boys keep out

Cootie checkers will be installed on the 19th floor:

No men allowed. That will be the rule on the the entire 19th floor of a new J.W. Marriott hotel being built in Grand Rapids, Mich. A lounge at the hotel also will be reserved for women only when the hotel opens in September.

Spokeswoman Andrea Groom said more than half of all business travelers are women. She told The Grand Rapids Press that they want be able to relax over a drink without getting hit on by guys.

The women-only rooms will have distaff-specific amenities such as special hair dryers, bath products, jewelry holders and chenille throws. But the businesswomen will have to pay for the privilege. Rooms on the women-only floor will be about $30 more than the usual rate.

Which, being a J. W. Marriott, is considerable: expect to pay $250 a night.

I can hear the shouts of "Sexist!" already, with hints that this is some sort of leftist plot. I have my doubts, if only because the hotel is owned by Alticor, the parent company of Amway, which is not exactly known for its slavish adherence to political correctness.

More to the point, $220ish is a bit above my usual room budget.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:25 PM to Table for One )
A situation not unknown in the States

As of 2005, the United Kingdom has a Freedom of Information act similar to the American FOIA passed in 1966 and modified extensively since then. As with the Stateside version, the UK's FOI has a number of exemptions, including the sort of things one might expect to be protected under the Official Secrets Act.

And Parliament itself is about to be exempted from FOI rules: incoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown says he will not block a bill granting the exemption to MPs. The Commons has already voted to send the measure on to the House of Lords.

David Maclean, a sponsor of the bill, explained why the exemption for Parliament was necessary: "To give an absolute guarantee that the correspondence of Members of Parliament, on behalf of our constituents and others, to a public authority remains confidential."

Opponent Norman Baker counters: "It is an effrontery for the House of Commons to make the deeply hypocritical move of exempting itself from a law that applies to every other public body in the country."

Oh, in case you were wondering, Congress is exempt from FOIA.

(Via Stuffem.)

I've told you a million times not to exaggerate

The National Weather Service's local forecast page normally features nine graphics this size to illustrate five days' (almost) worth of forecast, and most of them seem to illustrate the conditions well enough. (The one for freezing rain, sleet and stuff is a nasty-looking icicle, seemingly almost big enough to use as a murder weapon.) But this one? I mean, really, does that look like sprinkles to you? This is more like Noah than NOAA.

Saturday spottings (discontinuity)

Once again, Beverly Bryant has an interesting cover story in the Oklahoman's real-estate section, and once again, I go check it out. Here's the premise:

Las Rosas is breathing life into a part of the inner city that has struggled for years. Long-neglected, overgrown property near SE 25 and Lindsay is now a housing addition that is adding to the sense of renewed vitality just southeast of downtown Oklahoma City. There were no sewers, water lines, roads or streetlights in the 50-acre parcel across the street south of Schilling Park and Wheeler Elementary School when the project was conceived.

As it happens, I'd mentioned Las Rosas in Vent #518, back in January:

[I]t's reportedly quite nice, especially considering where it's located, but not everyone is in a position to buy a new home for even as little as $100,000. I'm starting to think that the city should buy up a bunch of fairly dilapidated structures, such as the ones that were presumably bulldozed to make room for Las Rosas, and sell them off for next to nothing to people who are willing to fix them up and live in them. There's plenty of housing stock in this town, and some of it is even affordable; we'll do our lower-income households far more good by giving them a chance to own something than by issuing them a stack of Section 8 vouchers.

What was bulldozed for Las Rosas, in fact, was a refinery: no residential units had ever been developed on that tract. (That'll teach me to presume.) Aside from that, we're talking serious contrast here. To the left, something "fairly dilapidated" with a For Sale sign out front; to the right, a new home in Las Rosas. Distance between the two: about 2000 feet, and an eternity.

Two homes

By the current standards of Oklahoma City development, the Las Rosas home is "affordable"; at $140k, it's a good $40-$60k below a typical new home in the city. On the other hand, if you can afford it, you can afford three of those things on the left.

I like the idea of building in areas that most people wouldn't give a second thought to, especially if they're fairly convenient (downtown is a straight two-mile shot up Shields) and if there's a serious effort being made to tap an underserved market (as you might infer from the name, Las Rosas is largely being pitched to Latinos). But my larger point remains: ultimately, fixing up the best of the left-behind homes may be a better deal in the long run. And no, the loss of that refinery had nothing to do with the fact that I had to pay $3.469 a gallon last night, my first forty-dollar tankful ever; it's been closed a long time.

Of course, that was for premium, as Gwendolyn's high-powered (for 2000, anyway) engine demands. Still, there are plenty of cars out there with even more horsepower, and I find it somewhat baffling that people will pay for it and then not use it. Coming up the Lake Hefner Parkway this afternoon, I was not exactly zipping along at slightly below the speed limit when I spotted a very long line of cars starting down the onramp from the Northwest Distressway. My first instinct, of course, was to get the hell out of the way, but wait just a moment here: shadowing my every move in the center lane was a spiffy new Lincoln MKZ, 265 ponies under its shiny nose, poking along just fast enough to keep me from easing in front of it in time to avoid causing grief for the first of the onramp arrivals. I didn't have time to perform my usual perfunctory check to see if the driver was in fact awake and not on the phone; instead, I blipped Gwendolyn up to 5500 rpm (from 2500, including a 4-2 downshift) and pulled in front of the hot-rod Lincoln just in time for folks to merge. No harm done, but would it have killed the guy to speed up enough to open up a hole? You'd almost think he'd just been handed a ticket two miles back.

Elsewhere: once Famous Footwear's store-closing sale is done, the only retailer remaining west of center court in Heritage Park Mall is EyeMasters. Everything else is gone. There's still activity along the north-south axis there: both jewelers are open, as is the salon; the game shop had Wiis in stock; El Chico is still serving. But hang a left at the ATM, and you enter the Dead Zone. And there was a weird little contretemps in the parking lot: a couple of folks were busy sticking handbills under people's wipers, and a young lady, cell-phone glued to her ear, approached the area where I was parking. Then from out of nowhere appeared a Security Dude, a sort of seven-eighths-scale Fred Thompson, complete with sequoia-sized cigar, who gave the girl the Evil Eye. She quickly changed direction. When I returned to my car 40 minutes later: no handbill. I suppose I should have swiped one to see what it was about.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:39 PM to City Scene )
20 May 2007
Close to Katie

An ad from Portland craigslist, placed by Katie:

I have a wonderful guy friend who is a great guy! I have a boyfriend already and I have been platonic friends with this great guy for 4 years. All my female friends are married and I'd like to set him up with a nice woman. He knows all about this ad. He is kind, attractive, with blond hair and blue eyes. He is honest, reliable, has a college degree and works for a good company. He likes movies, hiking, dining out, golf and good conversation. He is smart, funny and a good conversationalist. He is a family man and likes children. I trust him fully. He is not a player. He's the type of guy who really cares. Last year when I broke up with my fiance all my friends were tired of hearing me complain about my broken heart, but not this guy. He would seriously listen to me and try to cheer me up. My married girlfriends all think he is quite a catch and would date them if they were single.

Cue Mike Clifford, "Close to Cathy," United Artists 489, 1962:

I'm so close to Cathy
I know just what she's dreamin' of
She always calls me up to tell me
Every time she falls in love

Oh, I'm so close to Cathy
I know her every tender sigh
She loves to cry upon my shoulder
Always for some other guy

Oh, why can't she see
The one true, lasting love in her life should be me?

Irony Bonus: Mike Clifford is still singing today — with someone else's wife.

(Via Anwyn, who says: "'I've got five bucks says this guy was waiting around for this girl." Make it ten.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:05 AM to Table for One )
The original: not still the greatest

A couple of months ago, the Onion's A.V. Club put together a list of fourteen remakes that surpassed the originals, some of which I actually agree with. (There's no reason for anyone, even Dylan, to do "All Along the Watchtower" anymore; in fact, in the 1980s, Dylan had reportedly worked parts of Hendrix' rearrangement into his own live show.) In response, In Theory questions one on the list and two others not mentioned.

Which, of course, leaves an opening for me.

  • Run-D.M.C., "Walk This Way"
    In the Aerosmith original, Steven Tyler's cadence had much in common with hip-hop delivery; converting the tune to a rap was easy enough, but the stroke of genius was inviting Tyler (and Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry) to appear on the new version. The resulting hybrid was surprisingly close to its ancestor, with just as much energy and perhaps even more attitude.

  • Santana, "Black Magic Woman"
    Peter Green's original for Fleetwood Mac is a decent British blues, but nothing to write home about. In Carlos Santana's hands, it becomes vaguely mysterious, as though the magic itself had been invoked; on the Abraxas album, it merges seamlessly into a version of Gabor Szabo's jazz-guitar classic "Gypsy Queen," otherworldly in its own right.

  • The Isley Brothers, "That Lady"
    Originally, this was called "Who's That Lady," a title which makes more sense, and the Isleys themselves recorded it in 1964, a fairly ordinary soul song with none of the enthusiasm they brought to it nine years later, and also without cousin Ernie's wailing guitar, the real star of their 1973 remake.

  • The Rolling Stones, "Time Is On My Side"
    Purloined from the Irma Thomas songbook, as Irma herself will remind you at the drop of a hat. Irma's a better singer than Mick Jagger, but her recording was filled up with soul boilerplate and bored-sounding strings, perhaps because it was intended as a B-side which would probably be ignored. (And jazz trombonist Kai Winding had actually cut an instrumental version before Thomas, anyway.) The Stones did it twice, once leading off with an organ passage (on the US 45), once with a guitar lick (elsewhere), and both versions are packed with the energy Thomas expended on her A-side, since forgotten.

  • Pearl Jam, "Last Kiss"
    Wayne Cochran's 1962 original is more creepy than evocative; the monster hit by J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers in 1964 turns up the earnestness but sounds more lovelorn than heartbroken. (You figure J. Frank would sound the same if he'd merely been dumped.) A Canadian band named Wednesday charted with a bland cover in the Seventies. But it took Eddie Vedder to give this song the sort of emotional coloration it seems to demand: he sounds simultaneously desolate and determined.

I could go on, and perhaps eventually I will. After all, I will always need material.

Simultaneously clean and dirty

As much rain as we've had lately, I haven't been sending Gwendolyn to the wash rack; in fact, the only time she's had an official bath this year was the last time she was at the dealership, getting her starter replaced. I don't know who does their wash work, but I'd bet he doesn't look like this:

A nude car wash offering an X-rated sideshow and topless cleaning in Australia’s tropical Queensland state has been given the all-clear after police and officials said they were powerless to scrub it.

The Bubbles 'n' Babes car wash in Brisbane prompted a flood of complaints with a topless car wash for $45 and a nude car wash with X-rated lap-dance service for $82.

On the other hand, the dealership gives me the wash for free, which perhaps compensates for the lack of sexual frissons.

(Via Autoblog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:20 PM to Driver's Seat )
Instant flats

Well, sort of:

CAMiLEON Heels have a patented adjustable-height technology that's incorporated into the heel of every shoe. Design features of the heel and the overall shoe maximize ease of transition from high-to-low heel positions without removing the shoe from your foot, removing any parts or use of any special tools. You can transition from high-to-low positions within seconds, as often as desired.

The high heel is 3¼ inches; in the lower position, the heel is 1½ inches. And the tucked-away portion is inconspicuous except to someone viewing from underneath, something you'd presumably discourage anyway. Here's how it's done.

The line is carried in a few Northeastern stores and at Zappos.com; you can also buy directly from the manufacturer. They're pricey — $300 or so — but think of it as getting two pair for the price (and in the space) of one.

21 May 2007
Strange search-engine queries (68)

As you might expect, most people use search engines to find useful information. Then there were these folks.

Where did Ann Coulter go to high school?  New Canaan (CT) High School, where she developed methods of getting the Debate Club to cry.

st. peter knows everything search engine:  It's true. However, it takes a whole lifetime to learn how to log in.

nudism etiquette and farting:  Similar to that for clothed individuals, though the one-cheek sneak is more difficult.

ask Jeeves where are pictures of naked fairies:  Jeeves stays out of this, ever since he saw Henry Wooster mooning over Tinkerbell.

what was formerly known as the end of the world?  The cancellation of The Ed Sullivan Show, in 1971.

Corvette Chastity, Prototype:  This is the model whose top doesn't go down.

pornok:  A logical extension of the NewsOK brand, but one not likely to occur to Opubco.

what can you buy a nudist for her birthday:  Jewelry. You know she'll wear that.

pave the ocean:  What, don't we have enough potholes already?

why does a dirty jockstrap smell good:  This is evidently some definition of "good" we didn't cover in English class.

chlamydia wax bikini:  I submit that if you have chlamydia, you have more immediate needs than a bikini wax.

is it illegal to bury a cat in florida:  If it's not actually dead, yes.

horizontal "parallel universe" "match.com":  Is this the one where I actually get dates?

mayonnaise in engine:  Definitely a reason to change the oil.

likelihood girlfriend 8 inch penis:  Obviously I can't speak for everyone, but I've never had a girlfriend who had an eight-inch penis, or indeed any penis at all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:16 AM to You Asked For It )
All the comforts of gnome

The business plan looks like this:

  1. Produce underpants that protect against cell-phone radiation.
  2. ????
  3. Profit!

It seems hardly sporting to point out that:

  1. Weren't cell phones supposed to cause brain damage?
  2. These are being marketed only to men.

(Via Engadget.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:12 AM to Dyssynergy )
The Hermits' Association will come to order

So Brad walks down to the beach early one morning, and comes back to witness this spectacle:

[O]n the way back, I saw a guy wearing a vest that said "Lone Wolf Motorcycle Club" ... I was reminded of the scene from Grosse Pointe Blank, where Dan Aykroyd's character is trying to get John Cusack's character to join his assassination "union". Cusack explains that he's not interested in joining a club, what with wearing all black; trying to craft the "lone wolf" persona.

Who came up with this name? Were they thinking?! I could see something like "Wolf Pack", but not "Lone Wolf"… Lone wolves ride alone; joining a club kinda defeats the purpose.

I am disinclined by nature (and by fondness for various internal organs) to mock bikers. But then there's this:

Lone Wolf Biker — Someone who lives the Bike Lifestyle but chooses not to ride with a club.

I detect a hint of Marxism, of the Groucho variety: "I refuse to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:02 AM to Say What? )
Alternative: SOL-123

Courtesy of Acme LabsMike's contemplating getting this vanity tag if it "isn't already taken." He's out of luck; it's not taken, actually, but it's an eight-letter word, and the state limits you to seven characters. [Link to PDF file.] He also quotes a newly-arrived fellow whose plate arrived in two months, which is about two months faster than the state claims it can stamp 'em out. And in point of fact, I don't have a state-issued vanity tag, though since Oklahoma doesn't have a front plate to mess with, I filled up the available space with a bird picture. (Plate graphic courtesy of Acme Labs.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:14 PM to Soonerland )
That Norfolk sound

There are a handful of record producers whose work you can identify from the first few notes, who simply don't sound like everyone else: Sam Phillips, almost certainly; Creed Taylor, pretty consistently; Phil Spector, absolutely.

And then there's Frank Guida, who died this weekend in Virginia Beach at the age of 84, after having made some of the most distinctive sounds ever to grunge up your radio. Some of us budding Snooty Audiophiles, back around the time they started trying to sell quadraphonics, got the notion that Guida simply was in over his head, that had he had better equipment or greater skill his records wouldn't sound so much like they were recorded during a kegger in a pup tent.

How wrong we were. In the 1980s, Steve Hoffman assembled a Gary "U.S." Bonds compilation for MCA, and with decades of accumulated muck cleared away, we could hear the real muck Guida was producing. The focal point was "Quarter to Three," arguably the noisiest recording ever to top Billboard's Hot 100. Rock critic Dave Marsh had focused on its "peculiar unity," claiming: "I've played it on stereo systems ranging from $49.95 to $10,000, and the equipment makes no difference." But even in "Quarter to Three" you can hear what Guida was up to: he doubled the bass drum to maximize the bottom, and he ran his tape deck into the red, even into the infrared. ("It sounds like it was recorded in a toilet," complained one distributor.)

Does this make Frank Guida the American Joe Meek? Probably not. Meek's life had its tragic aspects; Guida, not particularly drama-oriented, kept promoting Tidewater talent well into the 1980s, and however much he may have messed with his master tapes, he kept them in tip-top shape. The memories, of course, need no such maintenance.

(Note: MP3s disappear eventually.)

It helps to plan ahead

Embattled Attorney General Alberto Gonzales apparently has a fallback position: in the National Basketball Association.

In the absence of a better explanation:

For some reason, typing the domain www.albertogonzales.com into your browser's address line takes web-surfers to the online home of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers. A quick online search shows that the Attorney General's name is registered to InterCosmos Media Group of New Orleans, and was registered on Feb. 3, 2005, just as Gonzales was up for Senate confirmation. An attempt to reach InterCosmos for an explanation was unsuccessful.

OregonLive Blazers blogger Casey Holdahl speculates: "My guess is that Alberto can really stroke the three."

(Via TrueHoop.)

22 May 2007
Drowning in the pitch

The perennially-inspiring Rachel Lucas puts up a personal ad, and the results are not pretty:

Of the roughly 400 "contacts" I got in the first month, I immediately deleted 95% of them with a cringe on my face because their profiles were just so apocalyptically BAD, but that made me feel kinda mean (really — only a little), and I thought to myself, Self, maybe you can HELP these poor bastards. So, this is for any single guys who are trying to meet women who are both sane and intelligent....

I should point out here that I know rather a lot of women who are both sane and intelligent. I know this because they won't go out with me.

Okay, enough of the self-defecating humor. What Rachel has come up with is a list of twenty ways "not to sound like a total dillwad on the personals," and apparently avoiding clichés like the plague is a priority:

[D]o yourself a huge favor and don't say that you "enjoy life." Because, again, NO SHIT. We are all going to go ahead and assume you do, in fact, enjoy life, even if you don't point out such. You may as well tell us that you are glad you can breathe and you don't want to die.

Long walks on the beach, I infer, are something to avoid mentioning.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:57 AM to Table for One )
Not a small-block Ford

I sent up a ping for that last post, and back came this cryptic reply:

Ping 'http://www.rachellucas.com/cgi-bin/mt/mt-tb.cgi/7' failed: HTTP error: 302 Found

After all, what could be more erroneous than actually finding something?

The official definition:

The requested resource resides temporarily under a different URI. Since the redirection might be altered on occasion, the client SHOULD continue to use the Request-URI for future requests. This response is only cacheable if indicated by a Cache-Control or Expires header field.

The temporary URI SHOULD be given by the Location field in the response. Unless the request method was HEAD, the entity of the response SHOULD contain a short hypertext note with a hyperlink to the new URI(s).

If the 302 status code is received in response to a request other than GET or HEAD, the user agent MUST NOT automatically redirect the request unless it can be confirmed by the user, since this might change the conditions under which the request was issued.

And, well, I'd rather see a 302 Found than a 403 Throttled. (Like someone would have the temerity to throttle Rachel Lucas.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:07 AM to PEBKAC )
Talkin' bout degeneration

Time for a pain pill:

I'm watching Metal Mania on VH1 Classic.

If your formative years were in the 80's, you realize how jarring the aforementioned premise is. That is, metal and VH1 being mentioned in the same breath without derisive laughter.

To make matters worse they ran a commercial about treatment for rheumatoid arthritis.

As Pete Townshend never said, "Hope I die before I get incontinent."

Are we downtown yet?

One of the trickier aspects of planning downtown Oklahoma City, apparently, was that no one was entirely sure what "downtown" really meant: the middle was pretty obvious, but where does it end?

A quarter-century ago, Neal Horton, now acknowledged as the Father of Bricktown, projected that downtown would eventually span 13th to the river and Western to Lincoln. Now the Planning Department, the Chamber of Commerce and Downtown OKC Inc. have defined downtown according to Horton's boundaries, with one exception: they're bumping out the eastern edge to Lottie, so as to take in the entire Oklahoma Health Center.

Then again, it's not like this is really startling news: the Downtown Strategic Action Plan, approved in 2003, covers 13th to the new I-40 alignment and Western to Lincoln, and that "Core to Shore" business from last year extends the focus down to the river's edge.

Still, at least there's a working definition now, and it's as important for what it excludes as for what it includes: residents of Heritage Hills, for instance, really don't seem to live "downtown" in any sense of the word.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:20 PM to City Scene )
Whither thou goest ... oh, never mind

Michelle Obama is stepping back from her position at the University of Chicago Hospitals to help support her husband's Presidential campaign, and that's so wrong, says Debra Dickerson:

Any day now, Michelle Obama's handlers will have her glued into one of those Sunday-go-to-meeting Baptist grandma crown hats while smiling vapidly for hours at a time. When, of course, she's not staring moonstruck, à la Nancy Reagan, at her moon doggie god-husband who's not one bit smarter than she is.

My heart breaks for her just thinking about it. Being president will be hard. So will being first lady for the brilliant Michelle — imagine, having to begin all your sentences with "My husband and I..."

Obviously she needs to dump Moon Doggie while the dumping is good, because, after all, she's going to get second billing. A true tragedy of our times. Damn that patriarchy, anyway:

I'm not blaming her. Few could stand up to the pressure she's facing, especially from blacks, to sacrifice herself on the altar of her husband's ambition. He could be the first black president, you know! Also, she must be beside herself trying to hold things together for her daughters. I'm blaming the world and every man, woman, child and border collie in it who helps send the message that women's lives must be subordinate to everyone else's.

Yep. Dump him. There's no other way.

After all:

"You know, I'm not that into labels.... So probably, if you laid out a feminist agenda, I would probably agree with a large portion of it," she said. "I wouldn't identify as a feminist just like I probably wouldn't identify as a liberal or a progressive."

How difficult it must be for someone so whip smart and so famously blunt, according to insiders, to have to mouth these political pieties.

And how horrible it must be to refuse to accept a label in an era desperate for litmus tests.

Mark Nicodemo observes:

Men used to oppress women. Now feminists oppress women. We've come a long way, baby.

Oppression? Maybe. One person believing so strongly in the bill of goods she's been sold that she's compelled to defend it even when one of its inherent contradictions is staring her in the face? Definitely.

A jackboot with a stylish 3½-inch heel is a jackboot still.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:30 PM to Table for One )
23 May 2007
Catching a break this summer

Once a year, OG&E, like other electric utilities, prepares a Fuel Procurement Report for the Corporation Commission. (There's also a monthly report that goes to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.) This year, due to "more favorable natural gas market conditions," OG&E expects about a 19-percent drop in typical residential electric bills during the summer. A customer who uses 1450 kWh in a month will pay $125.50 for service plus fuel adjustments this year, versus $149.43 for the same month in 2006. (The most I used last year in one month was 1297 kWh.)

Wind-power customers, according to OG&E's standard calculator, will fork over an additional $2.11. And incidentally, if you aren't already buying off the wind farm, you can no longer subscribe to the service: OG&E is persuaded that they've reached critical mass, or something, and therefore no longer needs to sell the package, though existing customers will continue to receive the deals they were promised and everyone will pay about 11 cents a month toward the cost of the Centennial Wind Farm near Fort Supply, which opened in April.

And if I'm going to save around twenty bucks a month — hey, that's half a tank of gas.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 AM to Family Joules )
The grizzly consequences

Actually, it probably wasn't a grizzly, but how often do you get to see this? Four men have pleaded guilty in federal court to a misdemeanor charge of interstate transportation of a bear.

And a dead bear at that: evidently the guys were engaging in some bear-baiting at the Upper Kiamichi Wilderness Area in the Ouachita National Forest, managed to snag one bear, and dragged the carcass into Arkansas.

It should be noted that last year, Governor Henry signed a bill providing for an actual season for hunting of black bear in Oklahoma, pending a study of the bear population; but the bear-baiters in Kiamichi did their kill before the enabling legislation. They were fined, but drew no jail time.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 AM to Soonerland )
And the yards went on forever

Your lawn? "An irrational consumer preference," says Zack Wendling:

There's no reason why we must demand sterile subdivisions with high-maintenance vegetation surrounding our homes. They only exist because we lack imagination and worry about resale value (or selling the thing in the first place if we are the developer). Hopefully, a greater awareness of the high costs of lawns (in terms of construction, maintenance, aesthetics, and ecology) and the low benefits (in terms of use and status) can change that.

Believe me, I know the costs. It's about a buck and a half worth of gas every week, plus $300-500 a year for the weed-control regimen, plus a whole lot of time, plus whatever I spent on the tools of the trade. And I do as little maintenance as I can get away with, if only to avoid the appearance of suburban sterility.

And while my front yard is mostly for show — which is a tragedy, because it doesn't look so wonderful — the back yard does get used, for sunning and (gag) occasional exercise.

Still, I have a thousand-square-foot house sitting on a quarter-acre-plus lot. I do not envision ever having the same thousand-square-foot house sitting on a quarter-acre-plus parking lot: to me, that's low status.

Serious cat: "Do not want"

The bloggage I've been reading lately seems to be about 60 percent political yammering and 40 percent lolcats. Inevitably, of course, someone would come up with a premise that is Two! Two! Two memes in one!

Exhibit A:

I has a budget

(Via Swirlspice.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:43 AM to Blogorrhea )
The great Northwest revival

Portland and Seattle will pick one-two in the NBA draft, and this could mean big things down the road:

Take a second to realize that [the Sonics] probably added seven nationally televised games to their schedule. Realize that on opening night the probably national doubleheader will be Detroit/San Antonio and Portland/Seattle. Realize that for the next 15 years there will be a rivalry and competition between Seattle and Portland that will be followed nationally. As much I hate Portland it is a truly great thing that they got the other top pick. We have a NW Revival in the NBA and it warms the soul.

And if it energizes the fan base, so much the better. A serious regional rivalry is good for everyone.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:12 PM to Net Proceeds )
Not to be confused with Hilda Doolittle

Much to my amazement, I now have HD. Sort of.

Monday I ordered this little LCD HDTV set for not a whole lot of money, and it arrived today in entirely too pretty a box.

In fact, that may be the whole issue with this set: it's too pretty. Functionality is there, mostly, but you have to look for it, and my capacity for finding such seems to be on the wane of late.

For instance: this set seemed perfect, at a mere 15 lb, for the articulated arm that sticks out of the bedroom wall to accommodate a television set. And indeed the arm isn't strained in the least. On the downside, the set is too narrow to take full advantage of the supports provided, and there is one noticeable form of strain: eyestrain, since I apparently can't see up that high anymore without craning my neck, which would cause yet another noticeable form of strain.

So it sits on the dresser, atop a DVD player. Noticeable good things:

  • This being a factory refurb, there might be some concern over bad pixels. I didn't see any.

  • The picture was nearly perfect as shipped; I didn't make any of my usual video tweaks.

  • Distinctly better tuner than my Sony Wega.

Noticeable bad things:

  • The program guide is utterly useless, since it's dependent on having the correct time, and there's apparently no way to set the time manually: you have to rely on PBS's time signal, which OETA doesn't deign to transmit. (I never could get the Sony to pick up the time, either.)

  • Actually, that's about it.

And yes, this was bought from Woot, which sold over a thousand of them in nine and a half hours, most of which were dark.

24 May 2007
Charybdis, meet Scylla

So which mysterious monolithic corporation will be first to own you: Google or Microsoft?

Or should we wait for a third shoe to drop?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to Dyssynergy )
The cross-country smile

We acknowledge gratefully the addition of this little site to Citizen of the Month's Blog Crush of the Day list. Actually, I thought this place was more like Orange Crush — or was that Agent Orange? And how come they never had any other flavors, like, say, Agent Grape? Or Diet Agent Root Beer? Now that's a defoliant I can get into.

What? Oh, sorry. Anyway, thanks to Neilochka for the nod, and we now return you to your regular, or at least evenly spaced (out), commentary.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:27 AM to Blogorrhea )
Get your tickets now!

The National Motorists Association, just in time for Memorial Day, has issued its list of the Top Ten speed traps in the US. If you're going through any of these areas, you might want to keep a closer watch on the speedometer — and on the rear-view mirror:

  1. Detroit, Michigan suburbs
  2. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  3. Houston, Texas
  4. Orlando, Florida
  5. Nashville, Tennessee
  6. Ann Arbor, Michigan
  7. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  8. Washington, D.C.
  9. Denver, Colorado
  10. Virginia Beach, Virginia

Statistics are based on the contributions of individual users to the NMA's SpeedTrap Exchange.

The original Autoextremist, Peter M. DeLorenzo, looks at the very top of that list and notes:

The whole state is filled with radar-totin' revenue generators who are on monthly ticket quotas, so beware. Especially if you're driving through Birmingham, MI.

It does seem a bit scary that two of the Top Ten are in Michigan.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:47 AM to Driver's Seat )
Redefining "off the rack"

It seems they're using an entirely different rack: the medieval torture device. Rachel Lucas explains:

[W]hat kind of freaks do jeans-makers think we are? I'm serious. What's the average height of American women? I just Googled it, and according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the average American woman is 5' 3.7". Okay. I'm exactly 5'4" and I already told you my weight. ["Less than 120."] Hence I think it's safe to say I'm within the range of normal, on the puny side. And yet, 99% of the jeans that "fit" me extend beyond my toes. I mean, really — is your average size-sixer REALLY almost six feet tall?

A commenter of the male persuasion attempts to explain:

Girl, those jeans are long because you're supposed [to] wear them with 4-inch stilettos. Don't ask why a man knows this. ;o)

Is that all there is to it, or is something more going on?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:52 AM to Rag Trade )
244

In 244, Marcus Julius Philippus, familiarly known as Philip the Arab, became Emperor of Rome after the suspicious death of Gordian III.

Maybe it's just me, but I think Philip is a great name for an Arab, though we'll probably not see another one. We will, however, see another Carnival of the Vanities, having gotten through the 244th edition without any suspicious deaths.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:44 PM to Blogorrhea )
We can always use more ZIP

The news that two more ZIP codes will be assigned to the Edmond area got me wondering if we're maxed out yet. The answer is no, but in the entire 730xx range, there remain only nine unused codes: 35, 37, 46, 60, 76, 81, 87, 88 and 91. (This, of course, assumes that the mailing software used at 42nd and Treadmill is actually up to date: if I remember correctly, last time we installed an update was the weekend before the recent rate change, which took place on the 14th.)

And 73060 has been used before: it was originally assigned to Moore, which was subsequently assigned 73160 instead.

Numbers in the 731xx range are served by the Oklahoma City post office; they've got fewer than twenty left. (One of the unused numbers, 73161, was once in use in eastern Oklahoma County; its area was eventually combined with 73141.)

Originally, 732xx and 733xx (and 742xx) were reserved for future expansion, though the Internal Revenue Service has commandeered 73301 for itself. The others remain in the pool, though I wouldn't be surprised if the 742 range, at least, were reassigned to Texas, the way an unused range in Mississippi (398) got reassigned to southwest Georgia.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:00 PM to Soonerland )
25 May 2007
Welcome to Woodcrest

Where is Woodcrest, you ask? In the planning stages, according to this legal notice in the Guthrie News-Leader:

NOTICE OF INTENTION TO APPLY FOR INCORPORATION OF TOWN OF WOODCREST, OKLAHOMA
TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC
Certain Petitioners intend to apply for incorporation of a town under the name of Woodcrest, Oklahoma. A copy of the survey, plat and census thereof may be examined by those having an interest in the application at the home of Roy Dodson, 1850 East Lakewood Drive, Guthrie, Oklahoma, which is located within the area to be incorporated.
Roy Dodson, Petitioner

The petition, by law, must be presented to the County Commissioners, in this case Logan County. I made a perfunctory check of the map, and Mr Dodson's home, at least, is more than three miles from any incorporated area; I think it's probably safe to assume that the boundaries of the proposed town do not encroach on Guthrie or on Edmond. (Guthrie lies west of Interstate 35; Woodcrest is east of I-35.) It's also not within five miles of any section of Oklahoma City. There exists a Woodcrest Volunteer Fire Department.

The name has obviously been there for years; where it comes from, I'm not entirely sure, though there's a Woodcrest Tavern at Charter Oak Road and Midwest Boulevard, about a mile from the Dodson house, and a Woodcrest Baptist Church, about a mile to the east. And what's an Oklahoma town without a tavern and a Baptist church?

(Found here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 AM to Soonerland )
This is not the Z Visa you're looking for

The Federal Reserve Board has proposed changes to Regulation Z, the current version of the Truth-in-Lending Act, which will raise the bar for credit-card disclosures. Says the Fed:

Disclosures accompanying credit card applications and solicitations would highlight fees and the reasons penalty rates might be applied, such as for paying late. Creditors would be required to summarize key terms at account opening and when terms are changed. Periodic statements would break out costs for interest and fees. Two alternatives are proposed regarding the "effective" or "historical" annual percentage rate disclosed on periodic statements. The proposal would also expand the circumstances under which consumers receive written notice of changes in the terms applicable to their accounts, including requiring an advance notice before a penalty is required, and increase the amount of time these notices must be sent before the change becomes effective.

I can certainly applaud these measures, and apparently so can the banking industry:

"We strongly agree that improved disclosures empower consumers to make better choices in our competitive marketplace," said Edward Yingling, head of the American Bankers Association, a lobbying group that represents the biggest credit-card issuers.

Since it's unlikely that this accord developed as a result of Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke's irresistible charisma, the temptation is irresistible to sniff around for another reason, and Carey Greenberg-Berger of Consumerist seems to have picked up a scent:

The creditors will gladly accept the Fed's proposal if it will help them brand legislation introduced by Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) as unnecessary.

And what is Levin calling for? Stuff like this:

[I]f the creditor increases the periodic interest rate applicable to an extension of credit under the account, such increased rate shall apply only to extensions of credit made on and after the date of such increase under the account, and any extension of credit under such account made before the date of such increase shall continue to incur interest at the rate that was in effect on the date prior to the date of the increase.

If you were paying 16 percent on your balance and they jack it up to 21 percent, the jacking would be limited to new charges: you would still pay the 16 percent on the old stuff. Of course, they apply payments first to lower-interest balances, and if anything is left it's applied to higher-interest balances. But Levin addresses that too:

Upon receipt of a payment from a cardholder, the card issuer shall —
  1. apply the payment first to the card balance bearing the highest rate of interest, and then to each successive balance bearing the next highest rate of interest, until the payment is exhausted; and
  2. after complying with paragraph (1), apply the payment in the most effective way to minimize the imposition of any finance charge to the account.

And there's more. No wonder the banks are flocking to embrace the new Regulation Z: they're hoping that the general public will accept the new Fed rules as sufficient regulation and will show no interest in Levin's bill.

All the more reason to mention it here, I think.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:22 AM to Common Cents )
Before you take the pledge

My idea of immigration reform is at least as vague as that being passed around the Congress these days, and I don't think Mike will blame me:

We can't just adopt a conservative or liberal viewpoint, because there isn't one. Some conservatives can't get enough illegal immigrants, some want to cleanse the nation of them. Liberals are also divided. Adding to the confusion is that much of the rhetoric spouted from both sides is ambiguous.

Of course, some of it isn't. Still, I'm happy to present Mike's three-part plan, on the basis that anything that is guaranteed to annoy both La Raza and Michelle Malkin can't be all bad. It goes like this:

First, we should secure the borders and enforce the law.

Second, increase the number of legal immigrants allowed to enter the country, adjusted to reflect the economic capacity of the nation at the time.

Third, institute mandatory civil service for everyone.

To expand on that third item:

In order to get the benefits of being an American citizen, each person would be required to serve their country in some fashion. This might include working in a hospital, a park, a prison, a school, a library, a charity, etc. And of course, military service would count too.

More "jobs Americans won't do"?

When completed, a person, and any of their dependents too young, or otherwise unable to complete their service, would be eligible to receive the many benefits of American citizenship.

There is one distinct advantage to this approach: we get to find out who really wants to be here, and who would be content with occasional guest-worker status.

And it beats the heck out of my Grand Scheme, which basically involves annexing the whole of Mexico and replacing its venal and incompetent government with our venal and incompetent government.

Triskaidekadraftaphobia

The Hornets drew #13 in the NBA draft lottery, which prompted this observation from Ron Hitley:

So we got the expected 13th pick. Last time the Hornets selected at that spot we ended up with a guy called Kobe Bryant. For a minute.

It's true. Kobe, however, saw his future in L.A., and Lakers GM Jerry West gave starting center Vlade Divac to the Bees to get him.

Divac, incidentally, played two years as a Hornet, and averaged around 11 points and 8 rebounds over 145 games (in which he started 121). And P. J. Brown, who should know, says that Divac was one of the best actors ever on the court: he could flop with the best.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:07 PM to Net Proceeds )
Haus of the rising spam

A few days ago, Wizbang's Kevin Aylward reported that one of the sites used by Movable Type's SpamLookup toolset was no longer accepting queries due to high server loads. I duly popped open my own installation and removed the site from my configuration.

At the time, Six Apart, developers of Movable Type, had made no formal announcement. Shortly after the Wizbang report, Six Apart issued this advice:

Recently, an IP blacklist service known as Blitzed ceased its operations. Movable Type’s SpamLookup plugin uses this service to process incoming comments and TrackBacks to determine if they are spam or not. With Blitzed shut down, a lot of you might be experiencing delays when publishing your readers’ comments.

Though we’re sorry to see Blitzed go (and thank the team for their efforts), the good news is that a free replacement is available. The Spamhaus Project has been in operation for over 9 years and has a long track record of providing excellent protection against known spammers. In addition to their technology that they allow people to use for free, Spamhaus works with Law Enforcement and cyber-crimes teams worldwide, helping them not only to block these miscreants, but also to bring them to justice.

I have no doubt that they do Good Things at Spamhaus; nevertheless, today they reported that two of my commenters were on their blacklist. Presuming that those IPs once belonged to some miscreants, I have to wonder just how up-to-date their database is. I don't, however, have to use it, and as of two minutes from now I'm not.

Marginally-amusing addendum: I sent a TrackBack to Six Apart for this item: it came back 403 Throttled.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 PM to Blogorrhea )
26 May 2007
Mere gazing is insufficient

Fashion plate and part-time metaphysician Jessica Simpson has affixed her name to a fragrance for one's navel.

Immediate reaction: Shouldn't there be different applicators for innies and outies?

And what's to stop her from marketing, say, strawberry-flavored toe jam?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:27 AM to Rag Trade )
The actual positioning is critical

Buying gifts for that Special Someone is fraught with anxiety. (Well, not for me, since I don't have one, but work with me here.) You want that gift to say something, and you hope that it's not misinterpreted.

In the event that I ever feel compelled to say "I love you, but you totally scare me sometimes," I figure that this is the way to say it:

razor blade necklace

Sterling silver, handcrafted in Brooklyn, New York. Price $110, plus the willingness to, um, live on the edge.

(Via Popgadget.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:04 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Microsoft covers its behind

Microsoft has missed more shipping dates than Nicole Richie has missed cheeseburgers, so this particular delay wouldn't be especially interesting were it not for its cheeky nature:

In an e-mail statement sent to Next-Gen, Microsoft said, "It has come to our attention that an unfortunate, obscure content error which includes partial nudity was included in our initial production of Halo 2 for Windows Vista. As such, we have updated the initial game packaging at retailers with a label, so customers are aware before purchasing the game."

How obscure? It's not actually in the game itself, but in a map editor application. Should you screw up your edit in such a way as to produce an ".ass error," whatever that is, you are virtually mooned.

Me, I always assumed that ".ass" would make a better top-level domain than filetype extension, but then I don't work for Microsoft.

(Via Elendil.)

No, I mean the other one

Around the end of 1968, there was a breezy little Latin number on the radio called "Lo Mucho Que Te Quiero," billed to "René and René," who turned out to be René Ornelas and René Herrera, who failed to get much more traction on the pop charts — "Lo Mucho" peaked at #14 — but who are justly revered in Tejano music circles. I was fifteen then, and more or less pre-hormonal, so the fact that these were two guys with the same first name never struck me as having any potential repercussions: I mean, it's not like they were dating or anything.

That, though, was then. This is now:

I sometimes think my life emulates a badly made Farrelly Brothers comedy and no, I don't masturbate a lot. I am actually the result of a same-sex, same-name relationship. My name is Renee and my girlfriend's name is also Renee.

I think the whole same-name relationship phenomena occurs much more frequently in same-sex couples (for obvious reasons) than in heterosexual ones, although I have yet to meet another couple who shares the same name like we do.

Rather a lot of names that used to be given to boys (Beverly, Leslie, Terry) are now seen more often on girls, but it seems to me (and I pay way too much attention to this sort of thing) that once a name catches on for girls, it drifts off the radar for boys. (Sir Carol Reed might be inclined to disagree, but he was unavailable for comment, having died in 1976.)

So this particular phenomenon is indeed more likely to occur among gay couples than among straight ones, but I can't imagine it being that rare, and indeed Renee drew rather a lot of comments from others in a similar position, including one of my regular reads, Steph Mineart, who said:

My girlfriend and I are both named Stephanie, and we have the same middle name, Ann, as well. We met at game night, and hit it off because we always ended up on the same team together — the "Steph Team" which has now extended beyond game night and into the rest of our lives.

To make it even more strange, my girlfriend's mother is also gay, and her partner shares her name also — they are both "Judith Ann." They go by Judy and Judith, and we go by Steph and Stephanie. But it's still confusing, because my extended family prefers my childhood "Stephanie," and her friends have always called her "Steph."

Our families have tried Stephanie 1 and 2, but my family calls me 1 and her 2, while hers calls her 1 and me 2, so that doesn't sort it out.

And there's this:

And if we ever get married? Well, neither of us could adopt the other's last name without literally becoming the same person.

I think the worst part of all is that horrible 1960's song by Left Banke "Just Walk Away Renee" which somehow seems to come to everyone's mind when they hear our name. It's bad enough we have the same name, but you're not making it any better when you and 6 of your friends chime in to a round of this overly annoying song (I might be biased, but still).

Just another one of those things that we straight folk can never imagine, I suppose. (Although I really love "Walk Away Renee," though I suspect I'd love it less were I named Renee and had it sung to me every other day for most of my life.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:00 PM to Almost Yogurt )
27 May 2007
Poll-axed

Last year, Xrlq posed a rhetorical question:

Is there any [poll] question so wacky that one-third of the population will not answer it in the affirmative?

I commented on that here, and was reminded of it again this weekend while reading this:

[N]ow we hear that 13% of Muslims support suicide bombings under some circumstances. Scary, eh?

Really? Why? There is no context here. Do we have a corresponding figure for non-Muslims? Maybe we do — if so the linked post would have been a good place to present it.

Are there lunatic Muslims? Sure, just read the papers. But again, they're human beings too, and if the same poll were performed on non-Muslims the numbers might not be much different, because there are plenty of wackos to go around among the rest of us too.

So the 13% number is misleading without having a corresponding number for non-Muslims.

I could point out here that non-Muslims don't do a whole lot of suicide bombings, generally, but the poll in question wasn't aimed at, um, "likely bombers."

And there are people in this country who will defend something almost as indefensible: the designated hitter.

Shticks of one

And half a dozen of the other. Julian Sanchez explains the dynamic:

[I]n addition to the phrases at large in the written culture of the society, there are individual prose-crutches particular writers tend to fall back on again and again. One has to be careful here, because you don't want to lump ordinary elements of someone's personal style and authorial voice into this category — those are good things to have — but rather focus on those little tics that breed laziness by substituting for words or constructions that might be fresher or more apt for the particular piece.

I am nothing if not back-falling, so I went back through about 300 posts and turned up the following rhetorical devices that might be past their sell-by date:

  • Stale phrases like "past their sell-by date."
  • "Presumably." I must be majorly presumptuous.
  • Starting an article with "So I was..." It's at least as artificial as "Two hunters and Helen Keller walk into a bar," and probably not as amusing.
  • "For those keeping score." I used to keep baseball scores while watching the Game of the Week; I suspect this pastime is as dead as poodle skirts.
  • "You might infer from this," followed closely by either "But you would be wrong" or "And you would be correct."
  • "File under..." in lieu of an actual topic sentence.
  • "Maybe it's just me," although "Maybe it's just I" would sound even worse.
  • "As regular readers may recall," usually as a device to avoid having to look up a link in the archives.
  • The blatant Farkism "[fill in name of noted person] was not available for comment."
  • [fill in something here] in general.

Fortunately, no one is likely to accuse me of either "personal style" or "authorial voice."

(Via Jane Galt, who has a list of her own.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:00 AM to Blogorrhea )
Hope we die before you get old?

If you're sick about hearing about the Baby Boomers — if indeed the very mention of them drives you up the farging wall — well, at least you can watch them die, and you don't even have to go to Reno to shoot them.

(Via Kathy Shaidle.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:42 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Aerodynamic efficiency

Despite a setback here and there, we are assured that they're still going to assemble MGs just outside Ardmore.

And given the Oklahoma wind, we can only hope that those MGs are capable of this:

(Seen here first.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:43 PM to Driver's Seat )
Way back there in 16:9

On Wednesday I took delivery of a new television set, and few things in life make as little sense together as "20-inch" and "widescreen." Nonetheless, this is an HD-capable box with an ATSC tuner, and I was able to stare in mesmerized disbelief at the 1080i (1920 x 1080 pixels) broadcasts on CBS, NBC and OETA.

It is a measure of potential obsessiveness, I think, that I put in a bid on eBay this morning for another LaserDisc player, despite the fact that I have a working LD machine already, and a slightly newer one at that. (Then again, this model plays both sides of the disc without having to get up and turn it over, which appeals to my inner sybarite.) I was ultimately outbid, which is perhaps just as well, inasmuch as I couldn't really connect it up properly: my DVD player is connected up via S-Video and while there's a composite input to spare, there's no extra audio input to be had. I suppose I could avoid this by buying a new DVD player with HDMI — I thought the one I had was so equipped, and subsequently discovered the HDMI-like jack to be something else entirely — but I tend to be distrustful of any technology which is enthusiastically endorsed by content providers on general principle.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:37 PM to Overmodulation )
28 May 2007
Strange search-engine queries (69)

We will avoid the obvious jokes this week because, as Bartholomew J. Simpson might have said, they both suck and blow.

"mary katherine ham" boyfriend:  A lucky fellow indeed.

(When do Indy 500 drivers relieve themselves):  About forty seconds after the last lap.

vasectomy dementia:  So far I'm 1 for 2.

"electric meter" slow pseg:  On the other hand, who the hell wants a fast electric meter?

4 inch penis celibate:  And this surprises you why?

prius and "poor handling" and "high speed":  Not to worry. Nobody gets high speed out of a Prius.

"shopping in the nude":  Discourages pickpockets, anyway.

what does transmission failure sound like:  Often as not, like two thousand dollars.

how to successfully hide male genitalia {mtch=100}:  I recommend keeping it inside female genitalia whenever possible.

Converting Olds Alero to a greener car:  Have you tried Earl Scheib?

invisible girl levis:  "No, honey, those don't make you look fat."

everything that you can see, feel, and touch is called what?  Taxable.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:11 AM to You Asked For It )
On this Memorial Day

Last respects

(American soldiers burying their dead, Bois de Consenvoye, France, 8 November 1918. Via Susanna Cornett.)

Altogether = ooky

There seem to be two issues plaguing Brattleboro, Vermont these days: an influx of people without clothing, and the difficulty of getting bicyclists and motorists to coexist.

In a letter to the editor of the Brattleboro Reformer, local resident Cindy Coble presents a two-pronged solution:

After a long, confusing night of drinking scotch and determined to try and solve the constant problems in our town of both public nudity and cyclist vs. motorist, God gave me an epiphinette.

The nudists must be encouraged to ride bikes instead of lounging around downtown where everyone can see their ooky nether regions, thereby speeding up the sighting of personal parts for those who are squeamish.

Also, cyclists, and you know who you are, show off that toned body! Riding naked may be uncomfortable at first, but will surely command the motorists' attention. There, I did it. Man, does my brain hurt.

I guess the really surprising thing here is that someone from Vermont admits to drinking Scotch.

You're on your own finding film

Actually, these contraptions don't take film, but polished silver plates. Either way, they won't have 'em at Walgreens.

But oh, the camera:

One of the world's oldest cameras has sold to an anonymous bidder at auction for almost 600,000 euros.

The daguerreotype camera, made by French firm Susse Frères no later than 1839, was found in a German attic and sold at a Vienna auction house.

Bids came from around the world for the daguerreotype, said by an expert to be the only remaining Susse Frères model. [T]he discovery ... in a Munich loft where it had lain undisturbed since 1940, prompted a frenzy of interest.

I don't expect this museum piece to be put to work any time soon, but there are people working with daguerreotype even today, and the process remains as it was in the 1830s.

(Via photographer Lindsay Beyerstein.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:34 PM to Entirely Too Cool )
Major tunage

Rob's DJing a wedding reception for an old friend, and he takes this task very seriously indeed:

For starters, I’ve downloaded somewhere around 9,000 songs over the past 48 hours. At 4 minutes per song that's 36,000 minutes/600 hours/25 DAYS worth of music. From those I'll be picking the best of the best, listening to each one that I select (to make sure it's not screwed up or mislabeled) and then placing them in a queue. These songs are in addition to the ones I already have in my personal collection — all my old 80's, party, and dance CDs that I've ripped to MP3 over the years. I've also been searching the web for lists of "popular wedding reception songs", ensuring that I have all of those songs on hand as well. While mathematically the vast majority of the songs I have pulled will not make it into the four-hour-long playlist, I will have all of them with me just in case someone requests one of them. Andy and Lea like 80's music, dance music, and country music, so I am creating a playlist that contains an equal number of songs from all three of these genres, but with extra songs on hand I can change the playlist on the fly (thanks to the software I'm using) depending on the mood of the crowd and the party.

Impressive indeed, though the part that really amazes me is the downloading of 9000 songs in two days. That's a little over three per minute. I should have such bandwidth. (And I probably could if I weren't such a skinflint.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:31 PM to Fileophile )
29 May 2007
This side of the Sound

A girl is moved to write about her hometown:

Seattle is a trail of small footprints on a grey, deserted beach ... fallen, rotted logs on wet sand ... the harsh cries of sea birds gliding on currents of sea air. Ice water flowing over skin, gritty and oozing between toes, and wind slapping you is Seattle.

Seattle is a grey, tangled tree covered with fresh green leaves, the sweet smell of newly cut grass, rich, soft dirt that crumbles in your hand and spills through tightly-clenched fingers, a drop of water trembling on a flower petal.

Seattle has the scent of burning wood, the mingled sound of cars and voices, the taste of raindrops on your tongue, the sight of battered houses with staring, broken windows.

Seattle is rain running over faces and soaking through shoes as you run down a deserted road, walking through an overgrown field singing elf songs, sitting under a tree eating green apples, or rolling down a steep, grassy hill.

It goes on for a couple more paragraphs: just from the sound of it I am persuaded that Shelley Brittingham, who wrote this when she was 16, did all these things and more.

(Found in American Girl, July 1970.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 AM to The Way We Were )
All that vulgar crap

The Web site of the Independent Film Channel is presenting this month The 31 Best Movie Moments in Bad Words: A Celebration of Cinematic Swearing. Each day there's a foul-mouthed clip from a motion picture. Some of them are obvious — you know what they're going to include from The Big Lebowski — and some of them are less so. The best part, though, is called "Try This At Home," in which ordinary non-Screen Actors Guild civilians take on the same lines and demonstrate that Samuel L. Jackson, for one, is nowhere near being replaced.

As IFC says:

Here at IFC, we believe you should speak your mind — even if what you've got to say is something that would have your mother washing your mouth out with soap.

This month, they'll go through a couple of bath-size bars.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:35 AM to Almost Yogurt )
No, we aren't there yet, shut up

Spoiled brats? Blame car seats:

[C]hildren are treated like little maharajahs, complete with servants (their parents or caretakers) toting a palatial burden of food, extra clothing, and an entire Toys 'R' Us-worth of games, dolls, and the like everywhere they go. Not to mention the elaborate transportation systems the little tykes get, some of which have so many accouterments that you could use them to fly cargo to the moon.

I think the whole thing started with car seats. Car seats are a laudable invention, but as with everything in American life no one was content with making just the car a baby-safe environment, and no one was content with mere safety being the consideration either. Now kids don't have to spend one amusement-free minute in their lives; their every waking moment they are reassured that the entire world exists to indulge them. This can't be good for them or the nation.

Abridged: "When I was your age, we had to ride in the truck bed, and we liked it."

Still, the presumption exists that if we don't keep their little minds occupied, God knows what they'll get into. The fact that kids are supposed to get into things — that's how they learn things, fercryingoutloud — never enters the calculation. I am quite certain that nothing can teach a child to stay away from a hot stove quite as efficiently as a first-degree burn.

The upside of all this, of course, is that sooner or later the child will complain about having to be buckled into that damn seat; you then explain that it's a government mandate, and suddenly you've planted a seed. "Life is full of doing things you don't want to do, and this is a major reason why." If you chafe under the Nanny State at six, you'll really hate it at twenty-six.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:28 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The women of their dreams

In three minutes or less.

(Via Scribal Terror.)

A matter of aesthetics, at least

Note to self: You might want to see if there's a neighborhood newsletter to distribute before shucking your work clothes.

I'm just saying.

I'd like the disco lemonade, please

Sarah drops in at a Russell Stover store, and what's the background music? Marcy Playground's "Sex and Candy."

Okay, that's funny. But I'll tell you what: if I go to Braum's and find them playing Kelis' "Milkshake" on the P.A., I'm going somewhere else for my burger.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:19 PM to City Scene )
30 May 2007
No more pencils, and so forth

My youngest will turn 26 in a month or so, which means that I'm missing out on this phenomenon:

The problem with schools these days is that they don't spend enough time making children hate school for the right reasons. Perfectly healthy-minded children have hated school for as long as the institution has been around, but they hated it because they were challenged, they were held accountable, and the teachers made them work, they used to actually make kids learn things they didn't want to learn. We didn't like it as kids, but as adults of course we are thankful for it.

Did someone say "parental involvement"?

Back in the old days the only time my parents ever even so much as set foot in our school building was to pick us up if we had thrown up in math class, or to go to a Christmas program. Other than that they knew by the fact that we came home every afternoon with homework that we sat down and did on our OWN with very little prompting that all was well. They knew their children could read a newspaper, and even add 161 plus 39. We had books to read, we read them. We had work to do, we did it, and we were lazy little shits too, but we knew if we did not do it, we might fail, and that was the worst nightmare we had.

"Don't you know how much damage you're doing to your child's self-esteem?"

No one under the age of 70 needs self-esteem. It does teenagers no good — every high school is Lord of the Flies writ large and illegibly — and once they've achieved adulthood it's more trouble to maintain than it's worth. Besides, the little shits can't add.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Preview of coming distractions

It's another Woot-Off, so some of the time I might otherwise be spending coming up with stuff for this page will be devoted to pressing F5 for the next item. You have been warned.

Insert "sinking" metaphor here

Professor Gary Roberts of Tulane University, arguably the nation's most prominent specialist in sports law, is getting ready to leave New Orleans, and, he says, the Big Easy's two major-league sports teams will eventually be doing likewise:

New Orleans is a much smaller and much poorer city than it was before the storm, and it was a marginal market before the storm. The reality is that unless New Orleans pulls off an absolute miracle and comes back a richer, stronger city than before, the Saints and Hornets will eventually leave. I can't imagine the Hornets being here five years from now. The Saints could last a little longer because the economics of pro football give them more of a cushion, and this is football country.

How long is "a little longer"?

The fact that [Saints owner] Tom Benson has finally backed out and allowed competent people to run the team means that they'll probably have a better product on the field than before, and that may well prolong the period of time they can survive here. Because of that, there will be more enthusiasm for them and more willingness on the part of fans to buy tickets and to obtain sponsors. But at the end of the day, the way things are going in pro sports I just can't see New Orleans being a major league city 15 or 20 years from now. The NFL can last longer here than the NBA, and there are more places that the Hornets can go than the Saints can go. You have to have an $800 million facility to justify relocating. In basketball, there's a facility in Oklahoma City and several other places waiting for a team. The Hornets could easily move. This is not a basketball city for the most part, and it's not a rich city.

Absolute miracles are not unheard of, even in sports (cf. the 1969 Mets), but that's seldom the way to bet.

Still, you can be absolutely certain that if the Hornets end up in Oklahoma City, there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth and charges of skulduggery and a predictable piece of performance art by the professional race pimps who will charge that it's all a matter of melanin. Expect the same, minus one or two decibels, should they move to Las Vegas or Kansas City or really anywhere else.

That said, I don't think the Saints are going anywhere: the town has gotten behind the team even when it was at its suckiest, and they have a long way to fall to reach those depths again.

(Via Chris Lawrence, who will be teaching at Tulane this fall.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:02 AM to Net Proceeds )
The pot says the kettle is contaminated

News Item: Groupe Danone said Wednesday that Chinese officials had seized about 118 tons of its Evian mineral water on the ground that it breached local safety rules. The water, which arrived in China in February, failed quality inspections by Shanghai customs officials for having excessive amounts of bacteria.

Suggestion to Danone: Re-label it as dog food and see what happens.

(Via Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:03 AM to Dyssynergy )
Everything in balance, sort of

Matters of size, and other matters:

While perusing the shelves, I noted that the children's sizes were considerably cheaper than the adult sizes. Upon further inspection, I picked out a youth size large and hold it up to my chest and note that "Hey! This expensive piece of cotton that must be fresh from the gin, actually might fit me." And lo, it did fit in a way that doesn't show off a muffin top or compress my two boobs into a uniboob. I was pleased. Not only because I wear a youth size large, as I already do some shopping in the junior's section, but also because I pulled the proverbial wool over the eyes of the Black Dog establishment and saved myself a whopping $4.50; which I then used to purchase my third clam plate. The latter was to celebrate that I could eat three clam plates in 72 hours and still fit into child size clothing.

I'm not exactly what one would call fat or obese, unless this was the seventh grade again, and then I'd be called far worse. But I'm not exactly a size 2 or a size 8 for that matter. As far as I'm concerned, I can easily run a 5K and slip into a dress from Anthropologie or Forever 21, so really, why worry? Especially since the Great Ephedra Disaster of 2005, I'm perfectly content in eating and working out and keeping the two at some sort of equilibrium so that I don't feel like I might be in desperate need of stomach stapling each and every time I have a filet o fish.

This is so sensible it's almost scary. I fear, though, that she would object strenuously were she to find out that someone had described her as "sensible."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:05 PM to Rag Trade )
Mozilla gets anal

Firefox was antsy (not to be confused with ANSI) to install version 2.0.0.4, so I decided to let it, and a box announced icily that the current Java install was unacceptable and would be disabled. Would I like to let Firefox look for a new plugin? I would, I said, and in entirely too close to no time I was informed that there wasn't one to be had.

Would it have been so difficult to mention this before the install?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:50 PM to PEBKAC )
31 May 2007
DRM beat?

Apple's iTunes Plus has arrived, and with it the usual 40 MB software download. Things were extremely hectic in the iTunes Store last night, which I find heartening: the idea that people will pay a smidgen (okay, 30 percent, but still) more for proper downloads without all that DRM crap has always seemed at least somewhat plausible to me, and I'd like to think that there were lots of like-minded individuals queued up to try it out. I was amused to see an offer to upgrade any titles I'd already bought to the Plus version; I'll probably take 'em up on it this weekend. (I mean, what's sixty cents? You can barely get penny candy for 60 cents these days.)

I also plan to buy some tracks with which I am overly familiar, just for comparison purposes. (I mean, I don't need any more Pink Floyd or Sinatra.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to Fileophile )
Don't even mention soap scum

Sharon says this is the worst Family Feud question ever, and indeed, it does seem a tad perverse: "Name a reason you think making love in the bathtub might not be so romantic."

Top five answers, with her annotations:

  1. Too small (not sure if this means the man, the woman, or the tub)
  2. Splashes/messy (must have been women saying this since men never care about messes)
  3. Water gets cold (how long are you taking?!)
  4. Might slip (that's why you have those little rubber mats in the tub!)
  5. Might drown (Good grief, how deep IS your tub?!)

"Faucet sticking into backside" apparently did not get the two votes required for listing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:39 AM to Table for One )
Esteem cleaned

Just yesterday morning they let me know you were gone ... um, wait, wrong brain thread.

[whir r r r]

Just yesterday morning I said this:

No one under the age of 70 needs self-esteem. It does teenagers no good — every high school is Lord of the Flies writ large and illegibly — and once they've achieved adulthood it's more trouble to maintain than it's worth.

The esteemed Tamara K. has been thinking along similar lines:

I am absolutely sick and tired of the very phrase "Self Esteem"; embodying as it does the concept that one should have warm fuzzy feelings about one's self for no adequately explained reason whatsoever, as though by simply existing, one was doing something inherently good rather than merely converting oxygen into greenhouse gas. With "Self Esteem" came the notion that we were to go to any extent to avoid things that may damage it in our little tricycle motors, even if it meant dumbing down grades and no longer keeping score at kiddie sporting events. All this seems to ensure is that we're producing whiners who will expect the real world to be as careful of their self esteem as the artificial environment of William Golding Memorial Elementary School was, and who will proceed to vote for anyone who promises to make it that way.

But she takes it a bit further than I did:

Whatever happened to self respect? The idea that one should have some sort of internal code and judge one's self based on how well one lives up to it? Or would that reveal that so many people are worth very little esteem at all?

Incidentally, there exists in my hometown a firm called Esteem Cleaners, not far from the palatial Surlywood estate.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:20 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Carbs return to the engine bay

No, no, not those carbs. These carbs:

University and government researchers are investigating whether a blend of starch, enzymes and water could produce hydrogen fuel for future cars.

While hydrogen can be converted into electricity by a fuel cell to drive a car engine, the search continues for a way to release hydrogen on-demand and at a rate sufficient to power a vehicle fuel cell. The research team claims to have found an "organic" answer that mixes starch (derived from biomass) with water. A blend of organic enzymes was added to release hydrogen from water when a driver of a future hydrogen-powered car steps on the accelerator.

Powered by macaroni and cheese! I like the idea. But what's the range?

[T]he researchers claim the requisite 300-mile range consumers expect from gasoline-powered vehicles would require just a 12-gallon tank. A full tank would hold about 60 pounds of starch — the equivalent of about nine pounds of hydrogen. About six pounds of starch produces roughly the same energy as about one gallon of gasoline.

And one gallon of gas weighs about six and a quarter pounds, making this something of a wash, mass-wise.

Of course, if they could harness the borborygmi produced as a result of the consumption of Tex-Mex, we could probably cut our oil imports down to a couple of spoonfuls, though I suspect the Organization of Pepto-Bismol Exporting Countries might have something to say about that.

(Via Autoblog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:57 PM to Driver's Seat )
Tagging along

Apple, as mentioned earlier today, is rolling out iTunes Plus, which vends DRM-free music at a 30-percent price premium.

I can't say that I'm surprised by this:

[S]ongs sold without DRM still have a user's full name and account e-mail embedded in them, which means that dropping that new DRM-free song on your favorite P2P network could come back to bite you.

We started examining the files this morning and noticed our names and e-mail addresses in the files, and we've found corroboration of the find at TUAW, as well. But there's more to the story: Apple embeds your account information in all songs sold on the store, not just DRM-free songs. Previously it wasn't much of a big deal, since no one could imagine users sharing encrypted, DRMed content. But now that DRM-free music from Apple is on the loose, the hidden data is more significant since it could theoretically be used to trace shared tunes back to the original owner. It must also be kept in mind that this kind of information could be spoofed.

Not being in the habit of spreading around these things — I've never so much as looked at a torrent, unless it was one of the canonical types, with rain and everything — I'm not going to have my BVDs transformed topologically by this revelation. As always, your mileage may vary.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:03 PM to Fileophile )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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