1 June 2007
Support your local spammer

An old-style hangman, or a motivated citizen, can recommend the proper support.

But then, how do you know if he's local? This GeoCommons map will tell you. At least, it will tell you where he was in 2004.

(Via Rocketboom.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Scams and Spams )
That doo-doo that you do so well

And even more cosmetic crap:

While millions of women are snapping up age-defying skin creams, the latest miracle cure for a sagging face has just arrived — nightingale poo.

The bird droppings, applied in a 90-minute facial, are packed with an enzyme called guanine — an amino acid which heals the skin, experts claim.

The treatment has already been used by Japanese geishas to remove make-up and leave the skin silky smooth, while monks polish their shaved heads with the droppings.

Do me a favor: just don't call it a "fecial."

(Via Scribal Terror.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:48 AM to Rag Trade )
I think I'll use the drive-thru

Some people can pull this off, but I can't:

One of my joys in life is dining alone. I know that may seem strange to some people but it really is an activity I cherish. When our children were little and I was home with them during the week, my husband would take care of them on one or the other weekend morning so I could go to breakfast with a book or the daily newspaper. I've made note of (and usually vowed never to return to) restaurants where the host or hostess queries me with "just one?" sounding like code for "poor leper you, I guess no-one want to spend time with you." And I've made note of (and deliberately returned to) those where the hostess or host smiles and simply asks "one?" as if 1 is a quantity just like any other.

This poor leper will hide in his kitchen and dine on finger foods.

I'm not quite sure why this is true. I have less of an issue dining alone when I'm on the road, perhaps because I sense that I have no choice in the matter — but then, I sense that I have no choice in the matter even if I'm just round the corner.

Still, it has to be something of a relief when the wait staff don't immediately brand you as a pariah.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:10 PM to Table for One )
Big Blue is watching

Last summer I grumbled about the new printer's insistence on gen-you-wine IBM ribbons and how it checks a barcode on the actual ribbon spool. Eventually, of course, you get used to this sort of thing, and the fact that IBM is asking a 40-percent premium for its branded ribbons — well, they are producing about a 50-percent improvement in actual lifespan, so I'm not complaining.

Then again, I'm not Trini, who objects to this sort of thing on principle. "What would it do," she wondered, "if it misread the code?" Brandishing a Sharpie with wicked precision, she drew a few extra lines on the spool, and then reloaded the ribbon. In a flash the little LCD screen scolded her: BARCODE DAMAGED : INSTALL NEW IBM RIBBON.

At this point, you have one option only: pull a replacement ribbon from stock, chalk up another twentysomething dollars on the ledger, and resume. Interestingly, the printer reprinted, of its own electronic volition, the page on which the ribbon failure had occurred. These machines are getting too damn smart in some ways, while remaining spectacularly dumb in others. Maybe if we keep this machine for 25 years — wouldn't be the first such — we can run it for Congress: it should fit right in.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:00 PM to PEBKAC )
245

Don't you know, if you dance, you dance 'til a quarter to three, you'll knock it off about 2:45.

Daddy G isn't in attendance, but Kehaar is around somewhere, and where he is, there will be the Carnival of the Vanities #245. (He is around somewhere, right?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:51 PM to Blogorrhea )
2 June 2007
You'd think Stretcho wouldn't worry

But so much for that idea:

Ioan Gruffudd and Chris Evans competed for the biggest codpiece on the set of Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. Gruffudd admits his character Reed Richards' (Mr. Fantastic) package was too big in the last Fantastic Four movie, producers agreed it should be smaller in the upcoming sequel.

However, when the Welsh actor realized his co-star Evans was sporting a large trouser lump, he insisted his was boosted.

"It's clobberin' time," said Benjamin J. Grimm; Susan Storm opted not to be seen at this time.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:34 AM to Say What? )
The lost art of hardassery

My father would have been eighty years old today, and I'm pretty sure he would have liked to have made it that far, if only to cock a further snook at the physician who shrugged and said "We can keep him alive one more year" — back around 1999.

An ornery cuss, you might think, and you'd be right. And tasked with raising five children from the very core of boomerdom, he worked diligently at being a hardass.

Today the hardass is derided as some sort of atavistic throwback to the Cro-Magnon, superfluous in the age of Shiny Happy People — until something needs to be done in a hurry. (There are those who believe that nothing should be done in a hurry; their moral center is the United Nations, which by design is incapable of anything resembling speed.)

But let's say you're faced with something like this:

Say you had a problem with bugs in your kitchen. You had a big pile of spilled sugar in the middle of the kitchen floor, and it just kept attracting bugs. You complain to me that you've tried everything: roach motels, bait traps, hermetically sealing your house, but all to no avail since the sugar keeps attracting bugs.

I'm just going to stand there and blink in goggle-eyed amazement, wondering "Why don't you try getting rid of the sugar in the middle of the floor?"

Because that would be a hardass response, and that sort of thing is simply not done. Besides, some entities not officially classified as bugs might come along and lay claim to a few crystals here and there, and it would be so wrong to deny them. (I speak as someone who scraped a few off the side back in the day; it pretty much killed my sweet tooth.)

The essence of hardassery is that stopping the unwanted behavior comes first; if you're lucky, you might be shown the error of your ways later on, but right now you're getting a dose of aversion therapy. (If you're an errant child, said dose might be applied directly to your backside.) This is simply a recognition of the well-established principle that anyone able to feel pain is at least somewhat trainable. There's a significant the-buck-stops-here component as well, anathema to those whose modus operandi relies on appeals of unfavorable judgments.

In an era distinguished by endless wails of "You're not the boss of me!" the hardass reminds you, well, we'll just see about that. And every time we lose one, we sink a little bit farther into the muck.

The pained, it's plain, look vainly at the mains

Woe betide the Brit whose new house actually has enough power outlets. Why, he's not doing his part for the environment:

Builders are installing twice the number of plug sockets in new houses than 30 years ago, a move that brings into question the industry's commitment to zero carbon homes.

The National House Building Council has recently recommended that all new three bedroom homes to be fitted with 38 plug sockets, up from 17 in 1977.

My 60-year-old three-bedroom home has a mere twelve, including the 220 line for the range. Seventeen would be a major improvement, 38 a dream come true. Then again, I live alone:

According to a survey by energy company E.ON, 68 per cent of people feel that 38 sockets are not enough and 92 per cent of homes claim to use an average of three multi-plug extension leads each day. Children are mostly to blame, with eight out of 10 having both a television and a DVD player in their own room.

I'd love to blame the children, but I have a television, a DVD player, a clock-radio, a radio without a clock, two lamps and an electric fan in my bedroom.

Still to be answered: how installing fewer outlets is supposed to discourage people from buying electrical gizmos. Are the Power Strip Police going to come and take away your extension cords?

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:42 PM to Family Joules )
OMG and it wasn't even text

There was real live sun this afternoon, something there hasn't been a lot of lately, so I spread a blanket on the grass and did a brief Vitamin D-gathering session, the chores actually having been completed for once.

About three minutes into my semi-slumber came a cry from the north: "Oh, my God!" Sounded like a twelve-year-old. I've heard it before, but I've not been inclined to check out its origin. Still, there's something disconcerting about this sort of expostulation, even though it was fairly unlikely (though not completely impossible) that I had motivated it by my resemblance to an albino walrus.

So I had to listen to the entire conversation, which turned out to be older child threatening younger child with something along the lines of "Wait until Mom sees this mess!" Mom did eventually enter the thread, and she was not pleased. Or so it seemed; after a couple of sentences, the hitherto-unheard sound of a lawn mower next door drowned her out, and eventually I stretched, pulled a few weeds within easy reach, folded up my blanket (not especially neatly) and went back into the house to scrape up something for dinner.

Incomplete package

I probably don't watch enough DVDs to justify a subscription to Netflix, and given the dilatory nature of my viewings — well, this is the sort of thing I mean:

[T]he film did not play here in the hinterlands at all, and when the DVD was released in December, I ignored it for two months, contrived somehow to have it back-ordered for two months, and when it finally arrived this week, I stared at it for two days, almost afraid to pop the seal, lest all the connections I've made to the book all these years might be disrupted somehow by the visuals.

(Should you be curious, this is the film in question.)

But my idiosyncrasies aside, I can still understand Blythe's perspective:

I love Netflix as much as the next two million people that use it, but there was a special something about actually going to Blockbuster last night and that something was a Diet Coke and Twizzlers. Netflix can't deliver that to your door. Unless I've forgotten so sign up for some new service. Which reminds me of the doomed Kozmo.com that I experienced my summer living in NY. Man, that was great. I could order a movie, Ben and Jerry's, and Elle and it would arrive in maybe 36 minutes. Sweet.

Sweet indeed. Maybe someone will come up with good downloadable popcorn, as distinguished from that horrid toxic-waste-dump one pops into the microwave oven. (I can always pick up Twizzlers at the grocery, although my movie nosh of choice remains Raisinets.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:37 PM to Dyssynergy )
3 June 2007
How universal a remote?

From the instructions for the remote to my little LCD HDTV:

AV/Reverse — Repeated pressing of this button with [sic] switch between AV-C (Composite, yellow RCA) and AV-S (S-Video) inputs. Additionally, this button rewinds the CD, DVD or VCR when the component is activated with the remote control.

Of course, some of us prefer the luxury of a dedicated DVD rewinder.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:24 AM to Overmodulation )
Speed per dollar

As Sleds O' Fun go, it's hard to beat a Ferrari — if you can afford one, and you probably can't. I certainly can't. And you'd be forgiven for saying "Well, they ought to be wonderful, for that much money."

With thoughts like this in mind, Winding Road has come up with a new data point called the Speed per Dollar Index, and it is calculated thusly:

(Horsepower ÷ Weight) x 10,000 ÷ Price Point x 100,000 = SpD

Rationalization:

There's no doubt that the Bugatti Veyron 16/4 is a tremendous technical achievement, but as a value proposition, well, it fails miserably — a development that should come as a shock to exactly no one given its plutocratic price tag.

And the Veyron, which offers 1001 hp, weighs 4162 lb and costs $1.3 million, comes in with a Speed per Dollar index of 185 — about 1/11 that of the less-exalted Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT-8.

Winding Road concedes that this index doesn't address handling, or the lack thereof, but all else being equal, cheap speed is better than expensive speed, or at least less pricey.

For the sake of amusement, here are the indices for my last two cars, as calculated by yours truly:

Sandy (2000 Mazda 626 LX): (130/2960) x 10000 ÷ 20225 x 100000 = 2172 SpD
Gwendolyn (2000 Infiniti I30): (227/3342) x 10000 ÷ 30519 x 100000 = 2226 SpD

Which is what I'd expect: the Mazda was short on power, but weighed less and cost a lot less, so its Speed per Dollar was almost the same as the Infiniti's.

(Via Autoblog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:48 AM to Driver's Seat )
It doesn't look like an iPod

Actually, it looks more like a cheap convenience-store lighter, or maybe a cuttlefish:

Sony Walkman MP3

It is, in fact, an MP3 player in Sony's eternal (or at least endless) Walkman line, and one of these showed up Friday at slightly less expense than one might expect. (Amazon.com is selling the 1GB version for a stiff $189.95; Woot was selling it — briefly — for $39.99 plus the invariant $5 shipping. Mine is a 4GB model.) It is, though, almost exactly the size of that lighter.

How much you can cram into four gigabytes is, of course, dependent on file size. As an experiment, I sent it a few actual .wav files, and they take up every bit as much room in flash memory as they do on hard disc. They do work, though. At the present time, I have 574 tracks loaded into about two-thirds of the available space. (I tend to encode stereo tracks at variable bit rates, which can slide all the way up to 320, and mono tracks at a fixed 96.)

Two things that came out better than expected:

  • Once you figure out where it is, the FM tuner is pretty decent, and it will find presets for you. (Of course, you have to delete the ones you don't want.)

  • The player features an active noise-canceling feature: whatever background grunge it hears, it generates a negative signal to counterbalance it. I haven't tried it with the lawn mower yet, but it's pretty effective on the attic fan. (There's a cost — about 25-percent higher battery consumption — but that still leaves you with about 40 hours on a charge.)

This being a Sony, cool(ish) design is valued more greatly than workable interfaces, and Sony's SonicStage application, besides being Windows-specific, is quite a bit clunkier than, say, iTunes. Still, it transfers at close to full USB 2.0 speed, and there's a "Don't Disconnect" message on the OLED display when things are happening, which is handy if you're not paying attention, which I'm usually not.

And the sound is quite good. Two different sizes of earbuds are provided; there's an equalizer of sorts built in. I expect this will be my backup audio device on the next World Tour, feeding an FM transmitter to Gwendolyn's Bose system. But first, I have to find 300 more songs. (Piece of cake.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:30 PM to Fileophile )
When in doubt, buy 'em out

Jason Bontrager, commenting at Jane Galt's place, suggested this solution, if solution it be, to the Social Security/Medicare headaches soon to be visited upon the American taxpayer:

SS: buyout. $500K to each senior currently receiving full benefits (aged 70 and above). $450K to each senior aged 69. $400K to each senior aged 68. And so on in decreasing increments of $50K. Expensive, but it's a one-time expense and then it's just a matter of paying off the debt incurred in financing the buyout. Anyone with 10 or more years until full eligibility gets nothing, but no longer has to pay into the system and their employer's "matching contributions" go directly to the employees rather than the SSA. Everyone gets a de facto raise and employers' bottom lines are affected not at all.

Medicare: Medical Negative Income Tax and Health Savings Accounts. For any income (from all sources) less than, say, $50K/yr, citizens get $X/year (analogous to the Earned Income Tax Credit.... the less you make, the more you get, on some graduated scale) deposited directly into their HSA. Money in the HSA is available only for non-elective medical expenses and health insurance. Individuals may make their own, after-tax, contributions to the HSA as well. Heirs may cash out the HSA (and pay taxes on it) or roll it into their own HSAs and NOT pay taxes on it.

Details would have to be worked out of course, but this is a start. Make people the owners of their own healthcare expenses and let them keep more of their own money with which to prepare for their own retirements.

Not surprisingly, this package wasn't universally hailed. I tend to suspect that I won't ever draw anything from Social Security anyway, but I'm still a fair number of years away from retirement, unless the Gods of Powerball prove to be more generous than I anticipate. I will note, however, that were FICA withholding discontinued, I'd have roughly three times as much to stash into my 401(k). And if nothing else, this proposal would provide the acid test for the libertarian doctrine that the reason health care costs so damned much is simply that so much of it is paid for by government that the marketplace is severely crippled.

Yeah, I know: boring subject. Life is like that sometimes.

4 June 2007
Strange search-engine queries (70)

Once a week, we take a dip into the referrer logs — given some of the grungier material known to lurk therein, we wouldn't dare skinny-dip on the premises — and we pop out a dozen or so of the weirder requests by Googlers and Askers and other petitioners.

how many people in Chesterfield eat pizza:  All but two: one's lactose-intolerant and can't deal with the cheese, and the other cleans pizza ovens for a living and wouldn't get near the stuff.

sob ordinance southington ct:  It is time for you to stop all your sobbing, you SOB.

howard kaylan is under 6' tall:  He's a Turtle. What did you expect?

what is soap scum:  Very often on the shower curtain you will find this residue.

Stephen King writing tendencies:  This is true. He definitely has a tendency to write.

girls in bikinis knock on my door and ask for condoms:  Um, when did this become the Penthouse letters page?

Flight Attendants Have to Wear Pantyhose:  The female ones, maybe.

how to PERSUADE girlfriend Naked Photos:  Bad idea, especially if you're going to break up, which you will when she finds out you've been taking pictures on the sly.

is AARP non-partisan:  They are when they think they can get a better deal by playing both sides against the middle.

8 inch penis club:  Too short to use as a club, I think.

does burnt popcorn whiten teeth:  Perhaps on the part that doesn't break off.

drunken moose oklahoma city:  Geez, the panhandlers are getting brazen these days.

characteristics of the seven dwarfs:  Well, for one thing, they're not overly tall.

formerly fat chaz:  Let's not be jumping the gun here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:24 AM to You Asked For It )
Museum pieces, as it were

"California tumbles into the sea / That'll be the day I go back to Annandale." Steely Dan wasn't talking about this, but they could have been. The scene is Bard College, Annandale, New York:

I picked my way through the galleries at the Hessel Museum. A "video installation" by Bruce Nauman in which a man and a woman endlessly repeat a litany of nonsense, tinctured here and there with scatological phrases. Been there. Photographs (in four or five different places) by Robert Mapplethorpe of his S&M pals. Very 1980s. Histrionic photographs by Cindy Sherman of herself looking victimized. Been there, too. Nam June Paik and his video installations. Done that. A big pile of red, white, and blue lollipops dumped in the corner by … well, it doesn't much matter, does it? Any more than it matters who was responsible for the room featuring images of floating genitalia or the room with the video of ritualistic homosexual bondage. Ditto the catalogue: its assault on the English language is something you can find in scores, no, hundreds of art publications today: "For Valie Export, the female Body is covered with the stigmata of codes that shape and hamper it." Well, bully for her. "As usual with Gober, the installation is a broken allegory that both elicits and resists our interpretation; that materially nothing is quite as it seems adds to our anxious curiosity." As usual, indeed, though whether such pathetic verbiage adds to or smothers our curiosity is another matter altogether.

About as outré as I get — in several senses of the word — is Louise Nevelson, who boxed up the detritus of everyday life and repurposed it as sculpture. I think I understood some of what she was doing: certainly she provided context for her boxes, even for her non-boxes, and at no time (and I've been to two different Nevelson exhibitions, one of which was concurrent with actual study) did I feel that she had assembled a broken allegory that resisted my interpretation.

Still, if Nevelson, who has since passed from the scene, was close to the edge, where is the current state of the Art? Out trying to preempt criticism, I suspect:

[A]rt is increasingly the creature of its explication. It's not quite what Tom Wolfe predicted in The Painted Word, where in the gallery-of-the-future a postcard-sized photograph of a painting would be used to illustrate a passage of criticism blown up to the size of its inflated sense of self-worth. The difference is that the new verbiage doesn't even pretend to be art criticism. It occupies a curious no man's land between criticism, political activism, and pseudo-philosophical speculation: less an intellectual than a linguistic phenomenon, speaking more to the failure or decay of ideas than to their elaboration. Increasingly, the "art" is indistinguishable from the verbal noise that accompanies it.

While this particular phenomenon may have escaped Becker and Fagen's notice, it didn't get past Orwell:

The artist is to be exempt from the moral laws that are binding on ordinary people. Just pronounce the magic word "Art," and everything is O.K. Rotting corpses with snails crawling over them are O.K.; kicking little girls in the head is O.K.; even a film like [Buñuel's] L'Âge d'or [which shows among other things detailed shots of a woman defecating] is O.K.

There are times when I think that defecation is the whole point.

(Suggested by Mark Alger.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:04 AM to Almost Yogurt )
All the Jag could see

Volkswagen has been running this mock letter in a print ad for the Passat 2.0 Turbo:

Dear (circle one):
BMW,
Lexus,
Mercedes,
Other Owner.

I am truly sorry for what happened on the road today. I did not see you next to me at that light. If I had I would have eased off the gas a little when the light changed. I did not mean to cause you any embarrassment in front of your (circle one): Wife, Young Girlfriend, Secretary, Other. I realize you spent a great deal of money on your car and the last thing you need is some guy in a VW Passat to leave you behind like that. If I see you again on the road I will be sure to let up on the gas and let you pass me.
Sincerely,
Your Name Here

Dear YNH: You owe me no apologies. However, you owe thirty grand still on a four-cylinder car, so maybe saving a little gas might not be a bad idea after all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:19 AM to Driver's Seat )
Because the photographs never lie

Except, of course, when money is involved.

Me, I want one of those Bimmers with the removable truck bed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:25 PM to Driver's Seat )
A truly FCCed policy

News Item: A federal appeals court on Monday found that a new Federal Communications Commission policy penalizing accidentally aired expletives was invalid, saying it was "arbitrary and capricious" and might not survive First Amendment scrutiny. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not, however, outlaw the policy outright. In a 2-1 ruling, it found in favor of a Fox Television-led challenge to the policy and returned the case to the FCC to let the agency try to provide a "reasoned analysis" for its new approach to indecency and profanity. It added it was doubtful the FCC could do so.

Top Ten talking points in the FCC's "reasoned analysis" for its new approach to indecency and profanity:

  1. We hate getting letters from that twerp Wildmon
  2. Charles Rocket had a son, didn't he?
  3. If the satellite-radio merger fails we may get Howard Stern back
  4. Suppose CBS wants to stick another camera up Katie Couric's keister?
  5. Dr. Dobson has threatened to cut off the checks
  6. George Carlin is still alive
  7. It gives us something to do while we wait for Internet radio to die
  8. Rosie's bound to find a new gig eventually
  9. We gotta find something on that pesky Jeff Jarvis
  10. Have you seen Janet Jackson lately? Whole new wardrobe

(Via that pesky Jeff Jarvis.)

Addendum: Text of the decision here. (Via Justin Levine.)

This, I suppose, was inevitable

Mickey D's

Although les chats might say it differently in France.

(From Boing Boing via Steph Mineart.)

Addendum: Over at Lynn's place, Fillyjonk suggests: "I think it would be funnier to have a sign outside of a dietician's office that says 'NO YOU CAN NOT HAS CHEEZBURGER'."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:38 PM to Say What? )
5 June 2007
I'd play "Quarter to Three" on it

You can get one heck of a house in Oklahoma City for three hundred thousand dollars.

Or this record player.

(Title sort of explained here. Via Lynn S.)

Don't I wish

As suggested by Joel at In Theory, I've been playing with AAA's Fuel Cost Calculator, into which you plug Point A, Point B, and your automotive details, and get back how much precious fuelstuffs you'll be burning and how much it will cost you to do so.

I am not quite as impressed as I might have been, because apparently the calculator assumes I'll get pre-2008 EPA highway mileage, 28 mpg, which is believable, and that I'll pay $3.049 a gallon, which isn't, unless prices take a serious tumble in the next four weeks. (Regular is edging back below $3 here, but if I'm going to get anywhere near the expected mileage, I'm going to have to be using premium, and that's a good twenty cents higher.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 AM to Driver's Seat )
A slighter shade of pail

They has a bucket.

And by "they" I mean this guy and also this guy.

And another one, and another one, now that I'm thinking about it.

Not her, though.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:52 AM to Say What? )
Is it just me?

I haven't had a TrackBack go through to a TypePad-based site in over a month. Is somebody trying to tell me something? (In this same period, some Movable Type blogs, and almost all WordPress blogs, are still accepting my pingage.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:06 AM to Blogorrhea )
Insert "dark portal" reference here

As opening sentences go, this is a grabber:

When he met me I was a Night Elf Druid and he was a Human Priest, standing outside the ruins of a temple to powerful gods.

Yes, boys and girls, it's a World of Warcraft romance, and so far it's working. There's one minor issue, though:

When people ask us how we met, we don't really know what to say. Usually we tell them vaguely that we met through mutual acquaintances, leaving out the part that our mutual friends are dwarves and elves. In order to be truthful I would have to read to them this story, and who knows what they would say?

Well, it beats telling them you were out punting gnomes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:19 PM to Table for One )
The Laugher curve

Ian Birnbaum is wondering where his comic mojo went:

For the longest time as a kid, I was known amongst my friends for being very, very funny. I was quick on the draw with an insult, comebacks would snap away like a whip, and I can joke or deadpan like a comedian. Comedy Central was my favorite channel, and Douglas Adams was my favorite author.

I've grown up a lot in ways I like. Responsibility, ambition. Spiritually, I feel closer to my center than I have in a long time, and being an adult is actually kind of fun.

But somewhere along the line, I lost the ability to write "funny". Somewhere between a needless war, a dangerously powerful president, pathetic ass-covering politicians, the mainstream adulation of Paris Hilton as a celebrity to look up to, a war in Lebanon (again), terror warning level Orange, and China becoming an economic superpower — somewhere between "I care about you but this isn't working" and "I need $100 by Tuesday or I can't pay bills," I forgot what it was like to feel a good belly-laugh. And the thought of being able to cause a good chuckle became foreign to the level of impossibility.

I think what Mr Birnbaum is discovering is that one's sense of humor migrates a bit: its center wanders about as experiences pile up, and the edges get a mite ragged here and there. Especially there [gestures].

Mark Twain figured out a long time ago that the secret source of humor is not joy, but sorrow, and the worse things get, the greater the potential for yocks. I can't imagine anyone of a jocular bent, even a comparatively gentle soul like, say, Garrison Keillor, scratching around for material today. And let's face it: were it not for pathetic ass-covering politicians, Stephen Colbert would be doing the weather in Dubuque.

The ultimate extension of this premise, of course, is so-called gallows humor. We don't execute a lot of people these days — at least, none of the ones I want — and their sentences are normally carried out behind very thick walls so it's impossible to know for sure, but I have always believed that if you don't actually go insane as your time approaches, the quality of your remarks is bound to go up sharply. And when the Nanny State finally achieves the dominance it desires and I'm sent before a firing squad for extreme disloyalty, seditious remarks and ownership of a George Foreman grill, I plan to ask the riflemen if those things have trigger locks. Because if I have to die, and I assume I do — and if I don't, I'm wasting a crapload of money on insurance — I intend to die laughing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:00 PM to Almost Yogurt )
6 June 2007
Or I could just ask directions

Infiniti I30/I35 nav systemThere's a mysterious lid atop Gwendolyn's center stack, easily openable, covering nothing of significance. The manual says it's a storage bin, and does not elaborate further, except to say that you shouldn't operate it while actually driving. What it is, of course, is the housing for the factory navigation system, which wasn't ready in time for the beginning of the 2000 model year, and I am loath to fish a nav unit out of a 2001 model and shove it into the little covered box. For one thing, it's likely to cost me a ton of money, and I'm already spending a ton of money sprucing her up for the summer and fixing everything that looks fixable. For another, these old-style nav systems run off CDs (occasionally DVDs) that are obsolete about twenty minutes after you open the package. One of those new satellite-based systems, then? Maybe. Or maybe not:

It takes carmakers time to spec, design, test, manufacture, fit, ship and sell new devices — never mind clearing the whole schmeer with legal. Portable GPS manufacturers have fewer technical hurdles and a MUCH smaller bureaucracy. In fact, products from companies like Garmin, Michelin, Maxtech and TomTom (not to mention phone and PDA-based sat-navery) are making brand new in-car systems obsolete before they’re even launched.

So imagine how far behind they'd leave a seven-year-old contraption that hides under a hatch. I think I can do without. (The photo above was swiped from Edmunds.com; it's actually a shot of the nav system from a 2001 I30.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Driver's Seat )
Hardware wants to be free, or something

If you're planning to swipe stuff from the Home Depot, you might consider visiting the Midwest City store, which recently fired four staffers for catching thieves:

A former Home Depot employee said the company fired he [sic] and three other workers because they helped police catch several suspected shoplifters in May. Midwest City police said the men helped officers catch suspected shoplifters as they tried to run from a store with lawn equipment.

An internal memo from Home Depot outlines that associates cannot accuse, detain, chase or call the police on any customer for shoplifting. However, one of the fired employees said the company is selective in enforcing that policy.

One has to assume that this is due to fear of litigation: the company presumably doesn't want to be sued by someone falsely accused. (Or, for that matter, by someone who isn't falsely accused but figures he can impress twelve people who couldn't figure out how to get out of jury duty.) The price of that fear: thieves having free run of the place, and employees catching flak for low loss-prevention scores that they're not allowed to do anything about.

And it's not like there was a whole lot of doubt in this particular case:

"We saw them with the merchandise. We saw them run out of the store. I never kept my eyes off of them. Then when we asked them for a receipt, and that's when they dropped the merchandise and they kept running. One guy still had a chainsaw while he was running, and that's when the cops tackled him."

Down the street at Circuit City a few months back, a chap was reprimanded for having the temerity to pursue a couple of urchins who were trying to make off with a brace of Xbox 360s.

Is there a solution to this? I don't know. I don't think anyone's quite ready for arming the entire store staff. On the other hand, a trail of dead shoplifters might have some small but measurable deterrent value.

Woot unto others

This situation is less hypothetical than you might think:

Let's say, hypothetically, that you and some co-workers (about 5 people, friends who you socialize with outside the office) are watching the Woot-Off. Let's say you refresh your screen, and you discover the beloved Bog of Crop. Do you:
  1. Instantly alert your co-workers, so that you all have a maximum chance at the bags, or
  2. Quietly get your order in, then alert the others.

To my knowledge, there are four wooters at 42nd and Treadmill, and two of them weren't actually monitoring the situation. The other two (in more or less adjacent offices) did in fact score Broken Ogre Combs, and they did so rather loudly, as I recall.

Every pair a paradox

Note to the mythical Average Guy: You were wondering how it is that you get by with three pairs of shoes while your girlfriend has sixty-seven and says she needs more. It's not necessarily a desire to dominate the closet in some domestic version of Risk; nor is it the elevation of the mundane to the status of an icon. (Well, it could be, if everything she has came from Payless except for those CFM pumps she saw on Zappos and bought with your credit card.)

What is closer to the mark, I believe, is that while you wear those old Chuck Taylors as close to 24/7 as possible, she goes through several different pairs, styles even, in a single day. Rachel corroborates:

I love taking off my shoes as much as I love shoes. I do it unconsciously: At home, at work, or at the movies. My feet, apparently, have a need to be free. You know how some people are always looking for their keys? Or their glasses? I'm always looking for my shoes. The first thing I do when I get home is take off my shoes and put on a pair of slippers or flip flops. (If my shoes are particularly binding, I might take them off in the car. I tend to have at least one or two pairs of shoes in my car at any given time.) Later, I'll unconsciously slip out of my flip flops, get up to perform some stupid task, notice that my feet are unshod and go into my closet for another pair. This can go on for hours until at the end of the night I look around and see that I've left a trail of shoes around the house, some of them kicked off in mid-stride as though the person wearing them had suddenly been vaporized while heading to the kitchen.

She doesn't say whether she drives barefoot — which, incidentally, is not actually illegal unless one is barefoot up to one's chin, as it were — but I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.

This is, I might add, a major reason why you need not fear the succubus: at some point she'll change shoes, and there's your opportunity to escape.

Addendum: This obsession, if obsession it be, does not affect Syaffolee.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:46 PM to Rag Trade )
That's some stick shift

This is one of the kinder things Jay Shoemaker said about a BMW 5-series sedan in The Truth About Cars:

Martians have stolen the 535i's transmission lever and left behind a replica of their sex organs. Too bad the tactile sensations produced by this flimsy plastic lever lack any hint of sensuality (extra-terrestrial or otherwise).

I'd hate to have to figure out how to turn off the traction control.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:47 PM to Driver's Seat )
7 June 2007
An increase in reel terms

The old-fashioned nonpower reel mower is making a comeback, reports Brian Sargent:

Sales of reel hand-powered lawn mowers have steadily risen during the past few years, Teri McClain said in an Associated Press story. McClain is inside sales administrator at the 112-year-old American Lawn Mower Co. in Shelbyville, Ind., which she said is the only manufacturer of reel mowers in the United States.

Exact statistics aren’t available, but McClain estimates 350,000 manual mowers are sold in the United States each year — most made by her company. That is just a fraction of the 6 million gas-powered walk-behind mowers that hit the market last year. Still, that number is about 100,000 more than were sold just five years ago and seven times as many as the estimated 50,000 a year sold in the 1980s, McClain said.

Me, I'm holding out for a hybrid. Then again, my own mower is nominally self-propelled — there's a belt to drive the front wheels — but I hardly ever use the propulsion feature: I just push. Maybe when this thing dies a horrible death....

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Family Joules )
Time to whippet out

Some worthless lump of pond scum (may he die in a chemical fire) has hijacked an informe.com forum to spam the world with drug offers, and the most annoying of them, from the standpoint of link lust, is the one that begins "can greyhounds take amoxicillin".

Since this has already been spread around a bit, I'm taking the liberty of linking to an actual abstract on the subject, with the hope that future Googlers will find it instead of his spam pages.

The abstract (which is available here) is called "Effect of feeding on plasma antibiotic concentrations in greyhounds given ampicillin and amoxycillin by mouth," by Watson, A.D., and Egerton, J.R. Regular users of PubMed may already have seen this abstract.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 AM to Scams and Spams )
Clearly the clearest clearcutting

You have to hope that these guys have done the math:

The Humane Society International is horrified by threats made by farmers in three [Australian] states to fell trees every day as a protest against climate change programs.

On Tuesday this week, World Environment Day, farmers from New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria threatened to cut down one tree on July 1, two on July 2 and so on, to protest what they call a government conspiracy.

Does this mean that on the third, they'll cut down three trees, in simple arithmetical progression — or that they will double the cutting, thereby doing four? If the latter, they'll cut down eight trees on the 4th, 16 on the 5th, and they'll have wiped out every tree in the Southern Hemisphere before Boxing Day.

(Via Tim Blair.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:07 AM to Dyssynergy )
Language mavens can't believe their I's

Not three of them in a row, anyway:

It sounds like a made-up malady like the dreaded "bonitis" from Futurama, but apparently some Wii gamers are truly suffering from a condition known as Wiiitis. The condition, which seems to be caused by overuse of Nintendo Wii, was recently described in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Dr. Julio Bonis had seen a "couch potato" patient with a sore shoulder who had recently played a great deal of Wii Tennis and described that the "variant in this patient can be labeled more specifically as Wiiitis."

Unlike the dreaded bonitis, Wiiitis is apparently non-lethal:

"The treatment consisted of ibuprofen for one week, as well as complete abstinence from playing Wii video games," the doctor wrote.

There hasn't been a game-system-related disease since a number of seizures were reported by avid players of Grand Mal Auto a few years back.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:49 PM to Say What? )
Now we'll need amplifiers

Remember that $300,000 turntable?

Here's a pair of million-dollar speakers to go with it.

Of course, if you want 5.1 surround — but never mind, let's not go there.

Your basic comedy of errors

Once upon a time I had a 1975 Toyota Celica named Dymphna, and she needed a new starter. The shop looked up the part number, and was horrified to find that there were two different starters applicable to that model year: Toyota had made a running change during that year, and the Dymmer was a June car, so she'd get the newer version. Which would be no big deal, except that the change was so late in the year that the supply of version 1.1 starters was never all that big, and in her 190,000 miles with me she chewed up three of them. I have long suspected that the fourth unit was her original starter, rebuilt.

A curious little contretemps of this sort befell Gwendolyn this week. I was having some A/C work done, and in the process of mounting the compressor the tech inadvertently bent the low-pressure hose. No big deal, they said, we'll put in a new one, no charge, but we'll have to order it from the parts depot, and in the meantime, you just keep driving that G35 we lent you. Of course, I'm fond enough of the G to make this a nonissue. The new hose came in, and it didn't fit the compressor: eventually they decided that the compressor itself was damaged. They called around to local Nissan stores and located another compressor: still mismatched. Finally Nissan/Infiniti HQ in Tennessee airlifted some parts that fit.

After I got home, I pulled up the online service material at Alldata, and the part number for the low-pressure hose is the same as the one on my invoice (no charge, as promised), but there's an intimidating notation at its side: "To 9/00." Apparently Nissan screwed around with this model all year: my car is late enough to have the side airbags, which weren't available at first, and the later instrument panel (with only one dimmer control instead of two), but too early to have the nav system.

Oh, well. Even supermodels sometimes wind up in the wrong size — briefly.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:54 PM to Driver's Seat )
8 June 2007
Quote of the week (first of two)

Yes, we have a tie again, but then it's been a couple of weeks since we had a QOTW at all.

This first one is a long one, but Will has a long title: 7th Degree Bi-Cosmic Hermeticist and First Deputy in Charge of Doctrinal Enforcement.

[I]t is the nature of the Spirit to hide in plain sight. That is, the Spirit avoids what men would find seductively intriguing. The Spirit avoids the "corridors of power."

Which I've always suspected. Not that I'm exactly enlightened or anything.

Let's face it, the Spirit has a puckish sense of humor. If in 1960 someone had told you that a music was soon coming that would capture the world's imagination and even fundamentally change the world's culture, would you guess that music would be coming out of Liverpool, England?

Astronomers say that if you want to see a star clearly with the naked eye, it's best to look a little to the side of the star. Then the star comes into clear focus. I'm not sure if this applies here, but I do think it interesting.

Here's one of my own coinage: You're more likely to find a quarter on the sidewalk by not looking for it as you are by actually looking. I think this also probably applies to finding love. In either case, anxiety will be kept to a minimum.

Now he tells me.

Quote of the week (second of two)

This is second mostly because I typed the other one in first. Here's Blythe:

Everyone worth dating is already dating someone and has since at least 2005, maybe even 2004. I don't say this to be mean, it's just fact (hey, I'm in this group too). Back in 2005, I had a boyfriend and didn't know I needed to be looking for a new one. Also, marriage is the new black. I thought the idea was to wait till you've found yourself and shit. How come everyone's scrambling to tie the knot now? Medicine keeps getting better and better. We're going to live for a long time.

Now she tells me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:03 AM to QOTW , Table for One )
Hopes dashed in an instant

Trini was in love, sort of. The ranking hoonette at the shop, she really would like to get rid of her nasty old truck and get something actually fun to drive: at the top of her list is the Spec-V variant of the SE-R version of Nissan's compact Sentra sedan.

Yesterday she stumbled upon the next best thing: it wasn't a Spec-V, but it was an SE-R, it was here in town, it was only three years old, it hadn't been driven to death, and the payments would have fit into her budget. Such a deal, I said, and she went off to make some phone calls.

The thrill was gone by the time she returned. The payments, not a problem: but her insurance would nearly double. (The premium, in fact, would be nearly $100 more than the car payment each month.) So much for budget-fitting. I've never seen a woman I wasn't actually dating so disillusioned so quickly.

Maybe I can talk her into a nice used G20: same engine, not so highly tuned, possibly less suspicious to insurance guys.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:26 AM to Driver's Seat )
It's time to play Guess the Format

The sale of ABC Radio to Citadel is scheduled to close next week, and the FCC approved the deal on condition that Citadel spin off eleven radio stations. Two of them are in this market: KKWD (Wild 104.9) and KINB (La Indomable 105.3). The stations will be transferred to something called "The Last Bastion Station Trust," headed by Elliott Evers, and Mr Evers has been given his marching orders [link goes to a Microsoft Word file] as follows:

We [the FCC] will impose a condition requiring that Citadel Broadcasting's divestiture of the 11 stations to LBST pursuant to the Trust Application occur prior to or simultaneously with the consummation of Citadel Broadcasting's transfer of control. LBST is strongly encouraged to take reasonable steps to market the stations to any "eligible entity," which often includes businesses owned by women and minorities. LBST is further encouraged to consummate the sale of all of the stations within six months of the consummation date. If LBST is unable to do so, it must provide the Commission with a copy of the confidential report referenced in Section 4(g) of the Form of Trust Agreement submitted with the Trust Application. With that condition in place, we find that the proposed merger transaction complies with the Act and the Rules and serves the public interest, convenience, and necessity.

Not incidentally, the transfer will eliminate the need for Citadel's ongoing waiver of market-concentration rules to continue to operate Chisholm Trail Broadcasting's KQOB (Bob FM 96.9) under a local-marketing agreement.

So what happens to these two smallish stations? (And now you know why the Sports Animal was moved from 104.9 to 97.9, swapping with Wild, some months back.) Nothing, at first; but sooner or later, Evers is going to have to find buyers, and those buyers may not wish to maintain the existing formats, especially since both stations fall well into the bottom half of the local ratings.

In the meantime, if you're a minority or a female (or both), you are encouraged — "strongly," yet — to put in a bid.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:46 AM to Overmodulation )
Have you seen this person?

Sya has:

Sometimes I stumble upon a blogger waxing on and on about how long he/she has been blogging and knows all the tricks in the book and is now a hardened veteran of the blogosphere. Then I check the archives and it only goes back for a couple of months.

Says this eleven-year veteran: "There's a book? With tricks?"

Funny thing about that learning curve: the more you know, the longer it gets. That light at the end of the tunnel? A tear in the fabric of space/time, caused by a MySQL error.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:33 PM to Blogorrhea )
Don't call us, we'll call you

Around 1960, PacTel installed a phone booth in the middle of the Mojave Desert, about 70 miles from Las Vegas, not particularly close to Zzyzx Road. In 1997, the booth gained a measure of Net notoriety when a Web site devoted to it sprang up. The site, and then the booth, picked up traffic; in 2000 the booth was taken down at the request of the National Park Service, citing environmental concerns stemming from that traffic. The site, however, lived on, and eventually filmmaker John Putch dropped by:

I was in Vegas — I don't know, must have been 2000, or right when the booth was removed or something — and I read an article in the Sun-Times, or whatever the Vegas paper is. It was the first I'd ever heard of it. I thought the article was really interesting. Typically, the booth is gone now, and I didn't get a chance to see it or look at it or call it or anything. So I got home and I started looking it up on the web and I found [the] site — and everybody else's, the blogs or whatever — and I just read a whole mess of shit on it. I guess what interested me were the same things that interested other people, and that was just this wonder aspect of it, that people actually connect, strangers so far away, and the best part is that you're in a weird, surreal setting, you know?

And so it came to pass that John Putch, on a budget of $38,469.49, brought forth Mojave Phone Booth, the movie, which played tonight at deadCENTER. And this is exactly the point he wanted to make: that people, strangers so far away, actually do connect in that weird, surreal setting. I've always thought that communication was far easier once you detach yourself as much as possible from the everyday, and Mojave Phone Booth is an object lesson in that detachment: the characters who would never discuss matters with the people closest to them will willingly talk to Greta, whoever she may be — altruist? therapist? the voice of God? — at the other end of the line.

The script, by Putch and Jerry Rapp, pulls off the difficult task of getting inside these characters without making them into caricatures. In the wrong hands, this could have been the sort of overwrought melodrama that gives away all its secrets in the trailer. Instead, the details accumulate, slowly but surely, the complexities unfolding, the stories unexpectedly intertwining. And this version of Las Vegas, the city these people flee to find a voice in the desert, is decidedly blue-collar and downscale: that fabled nightlife is a job, nothing more.

That reference to the budget, incidentally, isn't an apologia: it's a boast. Mojave Phone Booth is beautifully shot, its desert scenes balanced on the edge between compelling and disturbing, its Vegas scenes appropriately glitz-free. And the thread of hope which connects its characters proves, ultimately, to be far stronger than it seems.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:47 PM to Almost Yogurt )
9 June 2007
Everywhere you look there's a radius

There's only one thing that bothers me particularly about the deadCENTER Film Festival, running through this weekend in downtown Oklahoma City: it is impossible to see everything being offered and still hold down a day job — at least, a day job like mine, in which the 40-hour mark is reached on Friday morning (or in the case of this week, Thursday afternoon). That said, though, the Festival has grown considerably in its seven years, big enough to have actual staff, and the 140 or so films that are being screened across downtown — there are half a dozen different venues — will be seen by a few thousand folks who'd never get to see them otherwise, which is a Good Thing in spite of any minor inconveniences I might suffer.

I did learn in prior years that peeling off a few bucks (this year it's $8) for each and every screening is a major pain; this year I was prescient enough to snag a Screening Pass ($50) in advance. (Well, actually, I got two, inasmuch as I hate to go alone.) I might not attend as many as seven screenings this year, so this saves me no money, but the convenience is considerable, and there's always the Support Your Local [insert name of cultural organization] factor.

Last night at the Harkins, there were some, um, technical difficulties at one screening, which caused some mild tittering (and, briefly, some serious aural discomfort) among audience members. Once underway, though, there were no further glitches. And as low-level moviehouse catastrophes go, this sort of thing beats the hell out of falling ceiling tiles.

Addendum: Dwight and Sarah are trying to attend as many events as possible and are duly posting their adventures.

Sponsored by eHardly

I am shocked ... shocked! ... to find that there is deception in the online-dating market:

According to Women’s Health, online date seekers lie about their height, weight and age; the men outranking the women as liars.

After a little more poking around, I came up with this survey:

This study will be published in an upcoming Proceedings of Computer/Human Interaction (April 2007), an annual peer-reviewed journal, to be released this spring during a Computer/Human Interaction conference in San Jose, Calif.

Using a new method that measured the actual difference between profile information and reality, the study revealed that men systematically overestimated their height, while women more commonly underestimated their weight, said Jeffrey Hancock, an assistant professor of communication and the lead author on this study. "Surprisingly, age-related deception was minimal and did not differ by gender," he said.

About 52.6 percent of the men in the study lied about their height, as did 39 percent of the women. Slightly more women lied about their weight (64.1 percent) than did men (60.5 percent). When it came to age, 24.3 percent of the men were untruthful, compared with 13.1 percent of the women.

Things I wonder about:

  • It seems unlikely that a man would understate his height. But why would a woman fudge this statistic? Would a woman of six feet think she'd stand a better chance at five-ten? Does four-eleven get rounded up to five-one?

  • Apparently the likelihood of finding an accurate weight on a dating site is rather low. (I avoid the question myself by not owning a scale.)

  • Do the people who misrepresent their ages invariably do so by shaving off a few years, or are there some who might actually put on a year or two? (I'm imagining a 21-year-old who, fearful of being dismissed as immature, might choose to appear as 23 or 24. And it's probably a guy, since if he's anything like me, he'll be immature until he's 50.)

Still, these are comparatively white lies:

Any girl can overlook the fact that he lied about being a McDreamy and is instead a bald, tubby, midget man as long as he isn't kickinit with another.

I wish to state for the record that I am not a midget.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:37 AM to Table for One )
Oh, hello, Kwyjibo

So many spammers are using email addresses that look like bad Scrabble racks, it's almost news to see one that looks like a name these days.

Well, sort of a name. I got something this morning from gwendolyneroticprosopopoeia at rr.com, which, if it isn't a real address, darn well ought to be.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:05 PM to Scams and Spams )
Family entertainment

Contrary to popular belief, it ain't all Ozzie and Harriet down here:

BITCH the movie has been on the "circuit" for about half a year now, and played its fair share of festivals. Anyone who's seen the film knows, it's full of gratuitous punching, threatening gender neutrality, offensive non-colored movieness, and the sensual kissing of Mexicans. Not to mention abortion jokes. Ohhh, the abortion jokes.

Surprisingly, BITCH has played, almost exclusively, at southern US festivals and in fact, has never won a festival award that wasn't in a Red State.

And this might seem puzzling:

If these states are such ubiquitously conservative, bible-thumping theocracies, why do Southerners seem to like BITCH the movie the most? BITCH the person thinks maybe there is a higher concentration of frustrated, creative, free-thinking individuals living in the south than anyone realizes. Even Southerners.

As your basic Southern (yes, I was born near Chicago, but I grew up in South Carolina fercrissake) right-wing death beast, I am compelled to admit that I thought BITCH the movie was flat wonderful, that I laughed a whole lot, that I was sitting right across from writer/director Lilah Vandenburgh during the screening and I'm sure she caught me doing a spit take during that line about VH1's 50 Most Important Bands for Poseurs. (Vandenburgh, incidentally, despite her gentle, kindly, JCPenney Petites vibe, can almost certainly kick my ass, and I expect her to threaten to do so when she reads this.)

And as a general rule, the only people around here who have their lips pressed to Dr. Dobson's derrière are the politicians, and we have no respect for them anyway.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:49 PM to Almost Yogurt )
10 June 2007
A success out here in the Styx

Artist Sandow Birk, it seems, had stumbled across an old copy of Dante's 14th-century Divine Comedy, with illustrations by Gustave Doré. At some point Birk noted that Doré's engravings, while true to Dante's story, inevitably reflected a mid-19th-century sensibility as well, and maybe it's just possible to update the tale enough to reflect life at the beginning of the 21st. Working with writer Marcus Sanders, Birk, over a three-year period, completed the entire Comedy in three (of course) volumes, each presented as an art exhibition alongside his original drawings.

Sean Meredith knew Sandow Birk: the director had translated Birk's In Smog and Thunder, a tale of a Civil War between Northern and Southern California, into a 45-minute film back in 2003. And the Inferno, the first section of Dante's trilogy, seemed a natural. But a full-fledged CGI epic would cost zillions. Paul Zaloom, who had worked with Birk and Meredith on the Smog and Thunder project, and who knows puppets as well as anyone, suggested that the film be done in the style of Victorian "toy theatre," which would require a few hundred puppets but which could use Birk's drawings as sets.

Dante's Inferno, the film, premiered at Slamdance this past winter, and if you were wondering if the contemporary references mar the story, the answer is no: the original structure of the Inferno is not tampered with, and the punishments, updates notwithstanding, still are designed to fit the sins. And the look of it is simply marvelous: the fact that you're viewing a bunch of cardboard cutouts mounted on sticks doesn't occur to you at all after the first couple of minutes, and Birk's drawings on the big screen are, well, fiendishly clever. James Cromwell is the voice of Virgil, and he conveys wisdom, world-weariness, and occasional irritation, just as he should; Dermot Mulroney's Dante, appropriately, manages to sound simultaneously headstrong and scared spitless. It's a marvelous piece of work, gritty yet somehow uplifting; it was the last screening I caught at deadCENTER, and I can't think of a better finish to a splendid festival.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:38 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Sort of hosed

Open-toe stockingsI am a big fan of both shortish skirts and strappy sandals, as I have probably mentioned entirely too often, but I don't quite get this open-at-the-toe hosiery, despite its construction of some "revolutionary Japanese yarn" that's supposed to keep you cool, thereby eliminating the major objection to hosiery in the summertime. A commenter noted: "The end of the stocking never coincides with the shape of your shoe, so you end up looking even dorkier than before," which seems logical to me. Maybe this would make more sense if it were cut off around the ankle, if you happened to own a pair of ankle-strap shoes. Moreover, if we're to believe some of the advertising these days, there are lots of women who will willingly put a lot of leg on display, but please, please don't look at their feet; they're never, ever going to consider wearing something like this. (And a not-so-perfunctory informal survey during this weekend's wandering about between film screenings didn't turn up a single person who really ought to wear it.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:36 AM to Rag Trade )
Beater resurgent

Every month Automobile magazine reports on an auto auction, and I am somehow delighted to see some love for a car generally regarded as unlovable: at Barrett-Jackson in Palm Beach this spring, a '76 Ford Pinto (!) brought $12,650. And it wasn't a limited-edition sports model, either: it was a standard three-door hatchback (Ford preferred to call it a "coupe") with the base 2.3-liter four-banger and a three-speed automatic and barely 7000 miles on the clock. "This was one of the most talked-about cars of the entire weekend," reports Automobile's Dave Kinney; maybe they were talking about the gas tank. Then again, Pintos, being small, light rear-drivers, make pretty decent vintage racers, though I can't imagine someone turning an almost-new car into a racer when there are plenty of old boilers out there which would require little more work and cost lots less money.

Still: twelve thousand dollars. For a Ford Pinto. Adjusted for inflation, this is right about what it sold for in 1976.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:45 PM to Driver's Seat )
The customer is always ...

How you complete that sentence probably depends on whether you've worked any substantial time in retail. I haven't, so I tend to think in terms of "... drunk" or " ... retarded," based on the last few phone calls that the irritated customer-service people (our customer-service people are always irritated, and having worked the phones myself a few months, I don't blame them) told me about. Others with more experience tend to be a bit less kind in their descriptions:

I can’t even count the number of times that I have had a customer come in with the misconception that they are right about everything, even though they have never received either the formal education to back up their claim, or any information regarding their claim.

We have some of that too, though we usually don't have someone else to blame:

Just because you think that software created by Microsoft is an issue caused by the retail store, does not mean that we are responsible. If you were to read the fine print, you would understand, and therefore be educated to the fact, that in this instance Microsoft would be the one you need to contact for resolution, not the retail store.

I went looking through my own desktop box, and under Control Panel / System / General I found a Support Information box, which tells me exactly whom to call and when they're open. Perhaps other manufacturers — this box was a custom job from PC Club — aren't quite as forthcoming about their support options. On the other hand, people, I suspect, will bring stuff back to the store for any reason whatsoever, no matter whose fault it is. Your dog peed on your keyboard? Demand a replacement. (It occurs to me that someone is now going to sue a hardware manufacturer for selling components that are not urine-resistant and failing to warn in BIG RED LETTERS that one should not whiz on one's computer. My apologies to the defendant.)

It's things like this that make me appreciate Woot:

If you buy something you don't end up liking or you have what marketing people call "buyer's remorse," sell it on eBay. It's likely you'll make money doing this and save everyone a hassle. If the item doesn't work, find out what you're doing wrong. Yes, we know you think the item is bad, but it's probably your fault.

They'll take it back if it's really, truly defective, but if you're just a bonehead — well, you've given me another way to complete that sentence.

Temporary prophylaxis

Some fellator of diseased goats has set up a crapload of Yahoo! Groups for the purpose of spamming blogs with drug-sale offers; I've received rather a lot of TrackBack spam from his sorry ass. I sent a terms-of-service complaint to Yahoo! which, judging by the response, was not understood — or maybe Yahoo! doesn't consider this a TOS violation. Until such time as they excise this particular dingleberry, you might want to consider blocking as much Yahoo! Groups traffic as is technically feasible.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:19 PM to Scams and Spams )
11 June 2007
Strange search-engine queries (71)

Once a week, I pick up ye olde SiteMeter, turn it upside down, and look at what falls out. Some of it, you get to look at.

foxwoods AND prostitution:  Both can cost you a lot of money in the long run.

the three stooges msdos download:  On the other hand, Shemp used a Mac.

repressing crossdress:  First, see if your outfit needs pressing. If it's still crinkled, you may have to repress it.

"hannity in a dress":  Probably needs ironing, too.

how do you make gatorade:  Step 1: Catch a gator.

thumbs up george bush:  Another reason not to shake hands with Karl Rove.

gilligan nude fake:  You better believe it, little buddy.

horny + immature:  Been there, been that.

first dorkmobile:  The 1950 Nash Rambler.

Dick Cheney is cooler than Hunter S. Thompson:  I dunno. Dr. Thompson is dead, so he's probably not generating a whole lot of heat.

red beetles and doritos:  What, are you too cheap to buy salsa?

ten sexual turn ons for married women:  If I knew any of those I might still be married.

"Maureen Dowd" dustbury:  Suddenly I feel a cold chill.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:29 AM to You Asked For It )
The highest standards of personal conduct

Never let it be said that Hillary can't overlook a little thing like impeachment. Remember Alcee Hastings?

You know, put his girlfriend (disbarred by the Florida Supreme Court) on to the public payroll, investigated for ethics violations, disgraced former judge currently being investigated by both the Florida and Federal Elections Commissions, so guilty of extorting a $150,000 bribe that even John Conyers voted to convict and impeach him, stripping him of his spot on the Federal bench (though, to be fair, he was acquitted at his criminal trial, though he did commit perjury and manufacture evidence), Alcee Hastings?

Yeah, that guy.

Well, he's just been appointed Co-Chairman of Hillary Clinton's 2008 Presidential Campaign.

It's enough to make you want Scooter Libby on the Supreme Court.

I think that I can take it

Jimmy Webb has given, maybe, the last interview on "MacArthur Park":

In mid-1965, I was absolutely besotted with my girlfriend at the time. MacArthur Park was where we met for lunch and paddleboat rides and feeding the ducks. She worked across the street at a life insurance company. I also wrote "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" about her, but I never even got as far as Riverside. But I lost her. She married some other guy. We're still friends. Her name is Susan Ronstadt.

Any relation to Linda Ronstadt? A cousin, says Webb.

And no, he wasn't trying to be florid and metaphorical:

Those lyrics were all very real to me; there was nothing psychedelic about it to me. The cake, it was an available object. It was what I saw in the park at the birthday parties. But people have very strong reactions to the song. There's been a lot of intellectual venom.

Count me as insufficiently venomous. I've always been fond of this song, over the top as it is; when Richard Harris died in 2002, I quipped that his voice sounded like W. H. Auden's face, "like a wedding-cake left in the rain." And yes, "Weird Al" Yankovic made fun of it: still, if you listen to "Jurassic Park," you'll hear that Yankovic went to considerable effort to replicate Webb's original arrangement, even the Hal Blaine drum fill in the last verse. You don't take that kind of care with something you don't respect.

Besides, it's still better than "Seasons in the Sun."

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:15 AM to Tongue and Groove )
To everything there is a season

Attila Girl contemplates the toeless hose I brought up yesterday, and she doesn't buy the premise:

Look: stockings are one thing, and are fine between consenting adults. But panty hose of any type are not sexy. They are meant for one purpose, and one purpose only: to attenuate one's lack of tan/unevenness of skin tone.

If the environment you are going into is so casual that you can wave your bare toes around, you have no business [wearing] panty hose of any sort.

Or, if the environment requires panty hose, you shouldn't be showing off your lovely pedicure.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, I suspect, understands this premise: the wire services have carried zillions of photos of her in shortish — but not too shortish — dresses, but you never, ever see her in sandals. Nor is this a Republican phenomenon; for all I know, Nancy Pelosi may knock around in Birkenstocks at home, but in her capacity as Speaker, she's conservatively shod.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:08 PM to Rag Trade )
I don't really want to stop the show

But I thought you might like to know: not everyone thinks Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, inflicted on the world forty years ago this month, is the greatest thing since plastic waffles. I've long argued that not only is it not the Best LP Ever, it's not even the best Beatles LP ever.

This is now almost sort of quantifiable. Dave Thompson writes in Goldmine (#702, 22 June 2007):

Aliens ... have just landed, and, handing you a blank CD-R, have demanded to know what the fuss was all about. "Make us," they insist in their funny squeaky voices, "a disc containing the very best of Beatle band." How much Sgt. Pepper would you include on that?

Fact: With close to 20 officially sanctioned Beatles compilations spread out before you, just four — and that includes the historical overviews 1967-1970 and Anthology 2, and the revised Yellow Submarine soundtrack, none of which had any choice in the matter — feature Pepper tunes. That leaves one song, "She's Leaving Home," on one album, Love Songs, to convey the majesty of the "All Time Greatest Album" to anybody who simply requires an LP full of Beatles.

Even last year's Love (an album, by the way, that would have probably been a lot better if it wasn't simply an inferior rehash of the 1982 UK Top 10 hit "Beatles Movie Medley") found room for only five flakes of Pepper. By comparison, Abbey Road is covered by seven, the White Album by nine, and even the American Magical Mystery Tour LP by four.

Or, as Jim DeRogatis once said:

Sgt. Pepper's... [is] a bloated and baroque failed concept album that takes a generation of Baby Boomers back to the best shindig of their lives, a time when they were young and free and full of possibilities, yadda yadda yadda, you just had to be there. But all of that has little or nothing to do with the actual sounds on the album.

Take that, Mr. Kite.

12 June 2007
Finally, a reason to upgrade

Does Vista support the USBeer port?

PC Keg

(Swiped from Steph Waller.)

Yes, but is she hot?

Terry Teachout muses:

In America, only pretty young women become movie stars. Middle-aged male actors who are unattractive — or at least Bogart-ugly — can and do play romantic leads, but no actress who is much short of beautiful or much older than thirty has much chance of seeing her name above the title of a big-budget movie, save as part of a package deal. This harsh reality is, of course, a flagrant and fundamental contradiction of all that the members of the film industry hold most politically dear. I sometimes wonder whether one of the reasons why Hollywood is so liberal might be that its male inhabitants are secretly ashamed of the sexual double standard by which they live. They will sign any petition, contribute lavishly to any sympathetic-sounding candidate, perform any act of political penance — anything, in fact, but sleep with an ordinary-looking woman of a certain age, much less cast her as the love interest in a major motion picture.

This does not, of course, explain why Hollywood females are similarly positioned to the left, unless they've been told that's their good side. And I suspect that there are legions of Lotharios Lite who will sleep with anyone who breathes, and possibly with those who don't.

Mort Sahl anticipated this decades ago. "Liberals," he said, "feel unworthy of their possessions."

And then he added, "Conservatives feel they deserve everything they've stolen."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:46 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Trepidation alert

You'll notice that there have been no announcements regarding World Tour '07. The reason for this is twofold:

  1. In the past I have done a better job of ignoring budgetary limitations than I'm doing today, and it doesn't help that Gwendolyn's last trip to the shop cost somewhere around 55 percent of the projected cost of the tour. Yes, I have plastic to spare, but there's that little matter of paying it back.

  2. I'm still apparently a tad skittish after the abrupt ending of World Tour '06, even though it proved not to be the abrupt ending of me, as some might have expected.

Yet somehow I feel I have to go, in the manner of the kid who falls off the bicycle: if I don't do it now, or at least soon, I'll never do it again, and we can't have that, can we?

So I'm thinking in terms of a smaller jaunt — say, 2500 miles or so instead of the usual 4000-plus — over ten or eleven days instead of sixteen or seventeen. Training wheels. That sort of thing.

First actual vacation day is the 9th of July. I hope to — I had better — have something to announce by then.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:34 AM to World Tour '07 )
Let there be crap

And there was crap, and the crap was as follows:

  • Targus Travel Accessory Pouch (retail value $30.00)
  • Magnetic "Shake" Flashlight ($9.99)
  • Belkin Patriotic Mouse Pad ($1.00)
  • Logitech EasyFit Connector ($3.00)
  • Heart-shaped "Cupid" clock (2"x2") ($5.00)

And the actual retail price of this Showcase Barrel O' Crud is $48.99 $3.00.

Plus $5.00 shipping.

Did they say if it goes "Poof"?

The more I think about this, the sillier it sounds:

A Berkeley watchdog organization that tracks military spending said it uncovered a strange U.S. military proposal to create a hormone bomb that could purportedly turn enemy soldiers into homosexuals and make them more interested in sex than fighting.

Pentagon officials on Friday confirmed to CBS 5 [KPIX San Francisco] that military leaders had considered, and then subsquently rejected, building the so-called "Gay Bomb."

When I was in the Army, most of us were more interested in sex than fighting, and we weren't even gay. (Maybe a few exceptions: we didn't ask, and they didn't tell, and that was that.)

How would this, um, stuff work?

The notion was that a chemical that would probably be pleasant in the human body in low quantities could be identified, and by virtue of either breathing or having their skin exposed to this chemical, the notion was that soliders would become gay.

Geez. A Pentagon body spray. And, being from the Pentagon, it would probably be $900 an ounce.

Terry asks the right question: "Would it be detected by gaydar?"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:53 PM to Say What? )
All in good humor

News Item: An Oklahoma City ice-cream man has been charged with indecent exposure after giving a would-be customer a look at his undone zipper on the city's south side.

Top Ten Verbal Responses to Indecent Exposure by Ice-Cream Men:

  1. Hey, that ain't a Popsicle® stick!
  2. At this point, I don't care if you are happy to see me.
  3. How long before it melts?
  4. Let me guess: joint venture with Der Wienerschnitzel?
  5. Um, no thanks, no frozen yogurt.
  6. Which one's Ben and which one's Jerry?
  7. This is no way to compete with Dairy Queen.
  8. Yes, I'm sure the Health Department does require you to carry a thermometer — but not there.
  9. Froze solid, did it?
  10. So that's what they mean by "soft-serve."

May you all enjoy a month of sundaes.

13 June 2007
Personalized wring

There's a Do Not Call Registry, but you drop off after five years, and anyone with Caller ID (and rather a lot of people without it) can tell you that the Registry is more honored in the breach.

Which means a permanent solution is something like this:

First executive order to leave my desk when I become President will be specifying the death penalty without trial or appeal for telemarketing, and I'll insist on attending every execution in person so that I may get the full pleasure from listening to them screaming in pain and unholy terror as they're systematically dismembered with a rusty folding knife.

I've got a whole database to upload come Inauguration Day.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:57 AM to Dyssynergy )
Nobody's perfect

Back in 2004, I had occasion to quote Cynthia Heimel thusly:

We have no faith in ourselves. I have never met a woman, who, deep down in her core, really believes she has great legs. And if she suspects she might have great legs, then she's convinced she has a shrill voice and no neck.

Cynthia, meet Lionel Shriver:

My legs are lovely.

And not because I'm athletic. The most fetching parts of our bodies came that way in the box. I am merely fortunate. The sculptural rhythm to these narrow ankles, full calves, and slender knees is not of my making. (Since the fundamental shapes of all our bodies are neither to our credit nor our fault, it's peculiar that we ever conflate our looks and our selves.) After all, when someone else is generous and tasteful enough to give you well-proportioned wine glasses for Christmas, the appropriate response is gratitude, not arrogance. So for me to submit that I was blessed with fine stemware is not a boast. All that falls within my power is to ruin them — to drop the glasses on the floor.

Ms Shriver clearly has a neck, and her voice is in no wise shrill. Then again:

I could mock my teeth, which stain so badly after a single cup of coffee that they might have been unearthed from an archaeological dig.

(Via Jenny Davidson.)

245 revisited

From the first of June:

Don't you know, if you dance, you dance 'til a quarter to three, you'll knock it off about 2:45.

Daddy G isn't in attendance, but Kehaar is around somewhere, and where he is, there will be the Carnival of the Vanities #245. (He is around somewhere, right?)

Yes, he is.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:03 AM to Blogorrhea )
L'econobox

Let's see: Hybrids get good mileage. Diesels get good mileage. How about — a hybrid diesel?

Peugeot plans to be the first manufacturer to offer a small family car with a diesel-electric hybrid power unit. It will be a version of the new 308, revealed last week, and will be on sale before the end of the decade.

The Peugeot diesel hybrid promises to average better than 70mpg and have the lowest carbon-dioxide emissions of any car other than a pure electric. Peugeot boss Frédéric St Geours last week declined to give a price for the 308 diesel hybrid, saying "all the work going on now is to reduce the cost."

Assuming these gallons are Imperial, as you might expect from a British writeup, we're looking at 58 miles per gallon from this little Frenchmobile should it ever come to the States. Not that I expect it to: Peugeot bailed out of the US market at the beginning of the 1990s.

(Via AutoblogGreen.)

Bang the Drum all day

Kurt Hochenauer (you know him from Okie Funk) devotes his op-ed space in the Gazette this week to one of the more risible events in recent Oklahoma City history: the kerfuffle over The Tin Drum, ten years ago this month.

DocHoc recalls:

In June 1997, Bob Anderson — head of Oklahomans for Children and Families, an ultraconservative "family" organization — took the movie to local police authorities, complaining the film was obscene. The police took the movie to [Oklahoma County District Judge Richard] Freeman to get a ruling on the issue.

Directed by Volker Schlöndorff, the 1979 film depicts the life of the child Oskar, who refuses to grow up beyond the age of 3 or give up the tin drum he plays annoyingly throughout his life until he wills himself to grow. The film is based on Günter Grass' brilliant, Nobel Prize-winning novel of the same title. In the film, which criticizes Nazis, Oskar has sex with a young woman. The sex scene is a simulated, under-the-covers encounter, extremely tame by contemporary standards. The film won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film and the Cannes Film Festival Palm d'Or award.

Amazingly, Freeman met Anderson's freakish demands (who in the world would even watch the overly symbolic and subtitled movie in Oklahoma?) and ruled a section of the movie obscene. The tragic farce escalated when police officers seized copies of the film from a library, six video stores and three people, one of whom was Michael Camfield, a staff member with the local American Civil Liberties Union. Camfield later sued over the incident but lost his case.

Freeman's ruling was overturned, of course, but not before Oklahoma City became the laughingstock of the entire world as news spread. The incident became the basis for an excellent documentary, Banned in Oklahoma, which is included on The Tin Drum DVD. Directed and produced by former University of Oklahoma professor Gary D. Rhodes, it redeemed the state's reputation to some extent.

Ah, if only we'd had blogs back in 1997!

Oh, wait:

Relying on something he'd heard on "Christian talk radio" (just in case you thought there couldn't be anything worse than regular talk radio), he had one of his underlings check out the one copy of the film owned by the Metropolitan Library System in Oklahoma City, which was then duly turned over to the police. Did Mr Anderson actually watch the film? Of course not. He's not interested in anything other than his own perverted sexual obsession, his pathological need to control other people's sex lives, even fictional ones.

And storm troopers, you'll remember from history, never travel alone. Oklahoma County District Judge Richard Freeman, who has given out conflicting stories on whether he has seen the film himself, decided that the film was legally obscene, and the cops went to video stores to get the names of people who had rented the film, then to those people's homes to confiscate the tapes. If this sounds bizarre to you, well, the power structure in this part of the world has always had its head in close proximity to its colon. In 1961, steps were taken in Oklahoma City to ban Mad magazine, which resulted in an epic court battle featuring an appearance by legendary Mad publisher William M. Gaines himself. Charges from both sides were eventually dropped after Gaines and his chief adversary agreed that this teapot didn't justify the tempest.

I bring this up mostly to amplify Dr Hochenauer's last paragraph:

On the 10th anniversary of the ruling, the question remains whether future censorship fiascoes lie in waiting: Could it happen again?

Jesus, I hope not. And there exist palpable disincentives: in March 1999 City Council and DA Bob Macy wound up forking over more than half a million dollars to settle lawsuits stemming from the police seizures of the video. Some of us have long memories, and for the rest of us, there are search engines.

Useful linkage: Charles Oliver's report from Reason (October 1997). This was before the settlements, but there's still a money quote: "The courts will eventually decide if authorities there have been too zealous in their pursuit of smut, and the city's younger citizens will, like Oskar, have a chance to consider if the adults around them are mad."

Addendum, 22 June: Michael Camfield, the ACLU staffer quoted in Dr Hochenauer's piece, sent a letter to the Gazette questioning the "lost his case" bit:

At a trial in August of 1999, a federal jury awarded me $2,500 in damages due to the defendants' violation of the Video Privacy Protection Act. Unfortunately, the jury determined that the police did not violate the Fourth Amendment's prohibition against unreasonable seizures.

Split decision, maybe.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 PM to City Scene )
14 June 2007
Blight refractions

In Missouri, at least, saying it's so doesn't make it so:

The Missouri Supreme Court narrowed the bounds of eminent domain Tuesday in rejecting the Centene Plaza plan for downtown Clayton and raising the bar for taking private property.

The upscale city failed to prove that property in the 7700 block of Forsyth Boulevard was blighted, the judges ruled in a 6-1 decision favoring landowners who fought condemnation.

Under the ruling, developers who seek to use condemnation to take land from other private owners will have to give proof that the property is not only old or of obsolete design but that it impacts health and safety as well.

Brian J. Noggle approves:

This is very good news for property owners. Now they cannot be thrown out for owning uncool buildings or not producing the maximum level of revenue possible (at least, not until another court determines that "impacts health and safety" means "doesn't provide sales tax revenue that funds local EMT services").

Given lawmakers' ability to find justification for damn near anything in the Constitution's Commerce clause, I am not entirely reassured.

Plumb assignment

Evidently I'm out of the mainstream on matters like this:

I do want to point out that being known as "the chick who fixed the toilet" — no matter how heroic at the moment it might seem, and no matter how grateful your fellow students are — is not a cool thing. It certainly did not help me in the date department.

I suppose this might put off the sort of guy whose ego is fed by being "needed" for various mundane functions, but that's the best place for him: off.

To quote Robert A. Heinlein:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

You'll note that at no time does he make any gender reference.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to Table for One )
Feeling spent

The City Council has agreed on a budget of $757.8 million for 2007-08, about $1400 per resident; it's a decrease of $1.2 million from the previous fiscal year.

I was wondering how this compared with other cities, so I hit up a few Web sites. For instance: New York City spends $60 billion a year, about $7500 per resident. And I found this announcement at the City of Detroit site:

Your home could be taken from you if you have not paid your 2003 or prior years property taxes. You must act before March 31, 2007, to keep your property!

Which invites two questions:

  1. It takes Wayne County, Michigan four years to seize property for unpaid taxes?
  2. Isn't this June already?

I'm starting to feel a little better about my $1400. And anyway, no two cities provide exactly the same level of services, so comparing budgets is probably not useful in the first place.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:53 AM to City Scene )
Which one's Pink?

Why, the girl, silly:

Not so long ago, pink was a colour reserved for little girls. It was the colour of Barbie and bubblegum, of plastic tat that parents were pestered into buying, of pre-teen bedrooms and pocket-money accessories.

Then, suddenly, it was everywhere — and being targeted at grown women. Next month, for instance, sees the launch of Fly Pink, a "boutique airline designed especially for women" which plans to operate from Liverpool's John Lennon airport. The airline will offer flights to Paris for "shopping breaks" in customised pink planes, and, to complete the experience, will also provide pink champagne and complementary manicures before take-off.

Cate Sevilla objects:

Fly Pink is making massive assumptions about women, and forget that not all women like pink, or manicures, or shopping breaks in Paris. How can we expect the rest of society to stop stereotyping women if we can't even stop stereotyping ourselves?

Hey, I live in a pink house, and not one of Mellencamp's either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:29 PM to Almost Yogurt )
On the taking of exceptions

Sarah pans a film, and then feels some sort of Critic's Remorse:

I realize that my opinions are my own, and I stand by them, but I still can never quite dispel that twinge of guilt when I say something not-so-nice. At the same time, however, I strongly believe in being honest. It just kind of blows when honesty and niceness come into conflict.

A good blogger wouldn't care. A good blogger would think that his or her opinion was the right one, and everyone who disagreed could go to hell.

I, of course, disagree, so I'll go pack my Kevlar undies for the trip to the hot nether regions.

More seriously: I am never absolutely certain about whether my opinion (as distinguished from my occasional recitation of facts, another matter entirely) is "the right one"; all I can do is make the pitch and attempt to defend it. Sometimes I have been successful; sometimes I haven't made my case at all.

I am, however, quite unapologetic about whatever opinions I have, and over the years I've built up a substantial (if not entirely ironclad yet) resistance to guilt-trippers, finger-pointers, and all the other tedious hyphenates whose self-ascribed moral authority demands that I be chastised for whatever putative heresy I've espoused. And whether they go to hell or not is, frankly, a matter of no concern: so long as they're out of earshot, I see no compelling reason to inflict them on the long-suffering staff at One Brimstone Place.

Or, as I say around the office: "I may not always be right, but I am never wrong."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:30 PM to Blogorrhea )
Not that it's, like, dead or anything

Pete Vonder Haar covered the deadCENTER Film Festival for Film Threat: you'll want to read his perfectly cromulent wrap-up report.

Regarding a certain Lower Bricktown sub-landmark, Pete says:

Nothing says haute cuisine like Toby Keith. I was tempted to enter, but a little voice inside my head — faint in aspect, like a little child — said, "If you go into that place, the motor cortex of your brain and I will loosen your sphincter while you sleep. And we've got the basal ganglia on our side."

I'll, um, keep that in mind.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:41 PM to City Scene )
15 June 2007
Prolonging that new-car smell

Automobile's New York bureau chief Jamie Kitman has just acquired a brand-new 1967 Volvo 122S wagon.

Yes, really. It had never been titled — it was still on the Manufacturer's Statement of Origin — and the odometer showed a mere 80 miles.

And I have to admit, had I made this purchase, I might not have been quite this astute:

The next thing you do when you buy a forty-year-old Volvo with no miles on it is call Dan Johnson in Volvo's press department and ask if his company would like to honor the warranty, which, theoretically, hasn't begun to run, because the car had never been registered. And, being the smart PR guy, he agrees, mindful that (1) there can't be a dangerous precedent to set, as there aren't too many ancient Volvos still on their MSOs and (2) the applicable 1967 warranty — six months or 12,000 miles, whichever comes first — doesn't come close to Volvo's generous coverage package, circa 2007 — four years or 50,000 miles.

Incidentally, once Kitman registered the Volvo in New Jersey, he had to have it inspected, and inasmuch as the car was after all forty years old, there were some things that had to be replaced, like, for instance, the fuel tank. Which wasn't covered under Volvo's 1967 warranty.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:09 AM to Driver's Seat )
Quote of the week

This actually dates back to the 17th of April, but I've only just seen it. Reprinted in full for contextual reasons, and beware of expletives:

I was thinking about the shootings today — in particular, the reason why people choose to go crazy in the places they do. I understand the Columbine shootings because the kids who attended the high school directly outcast Klebold and Harris, but why colleges? The Dawson College shootings last year in Quebec performed by that stupid goth guy and this one today make me wonder why people choose colleges? People in college don't really pick on certain people, and there's no real hierarchy — there's no one specific group to blame for your anger! Not only that, but probably more importantly, it's cliché. School shootings are stupid for their own good reasons, but this idea of choosing educational institutions is getting old. Why?! Why schools? I'm not against flipping out and shooting a bunch of people, but make sure they deserve it. Why doesn't anyone go shithouse and shoot up the Westboro Baptist Church during a Sunday sermon? (Or better yet, during a protest at a gay troop's funeral.) Why not storm into a war profiteering corporation and shoot up their CEO? For the love of God, there are so many more people that deserve to be killed other than people trying to get an education. Go to Alabama and just start shooting. You'll probably hit someone that deserves it, and they'll probably have guns themselves, so you won't have [to] end up popping a cap in your own head when you're done with your rampage.

BTW, when I go on my rampage (and let's be honest, I probably will) I'm going to do it at a zoo because I want everyone to know that I'm that fucking crazy. I'm going to kill a giraffe and machete a gorilla in the throat. I'll throw myself into the eagle cage for my suicide. Because, metaphorically, it means America killed me. And you know what? I'll die fucking famous and crazy with the best Wikipedia entry ever. Because let's face it, we're all going to judge our life by the Wikipedia entry we leave behind. And I want my "Tom Goes to the Mayor" icon on my tombstone.

[The original contained a link to Westboro Baptist Church, which I refuse on general principle to acknowledge via linkage.]

I have my doubts that this fellow would actually take a machete to a gorilla — from what I've been given to understand, he cringes when he sticks a fork in a steak — but then again, I don't work for Dell. And now, neither does he:

You can read the post and understand why it raised concern, but you can also truly understand what I wrote and discern that I was speaking against violence and that I was being my strangely humorous self again. Dell HR did not see it this way, and I am now no longer employed by them. I was never given any official policies regarding blogs; all I knew was that any Dell documents marked "Confidential" and personal customer information shouldn't be spoken of outside of company facilities. Although the post was written before I was employed with Dell, that it mentioned shootings, and that I made an obviously tongue-in-cheek reference to me going on a rampage at a zoo … a zoo … where animals are kept; Dell regarded it as a threat to safety. I'm not sure what their investigation included over the past few days, but I wonder if they really have a better understanding of me because of it. Did they look at my criminal history — which only includes some speeding tickets? Possibly. Did they call any of my friends, family, or past and current co-workers? Probably not. If they had, I wouldn't be here writing this because I know my friends and co-workers know that I'm a pretty good person.

So here I am — a person who's done right his entire life. Never done drugs or been drunk because he listened to the DARE officers in grade school. A person who's made it a priority to maintain a good credit rating so he can achieve "The 'Merican Dream" and buy [a] bunch of crap for his own happiness. I try to learn everything I can about technology so I can move higher and higher up the technology career ladder. But I'm crazy in the eyes of some corporate HR people. I have a bachelor's degree in Philosophy. I spent four years of my life studying ethics and morality, yet I'm regarded as someone who might not have value for human life.

A search for "dooced by dell" produced no results.

It will soon.

Update, 10 pm: Apparently this guy's whole site has been taken down.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:47 AM to QOTW )
They don't wear sweaters, either

With apologies to both Art and Artie Barnes:

Snake heads, snake heads,
Neatly-severed snake heads,
Snake heads, snake heads,
Eat them up, yum.

Yeah.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:29 AM to Dyssynergy )
Applauding the inactivists

Sometimes doing nothing is the right thing. From last month:

As with the Stateside version, the UK's [Freedom of Information act] 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.

And what did the upper chamber do with it? Nothing:

I've never really been a fan of the House of Lords but am thankful that that second chamber has denied the passage of the bill to exempt MPs from the Freedom of Information act. The bill needed somebody to sponsor it in the Lords but by the end of yesterday's proceeding nobody had stepped forward to do so and so the bill is effectively scuppered.

And a fine bit of scupperisation it was, too.

Somewhere, William Hung is laughing

And I don't blame him:

Musician Mariah Carey has been named the worst singer of all time by British entertainment magazine The Word. The "Heartbreaker" singer was labelled a "proper tune butcher" by the anonymous writer of the piece.

The article reads, "(Carey is) clearly the worst thing to happen to popular music since (disgraced British pop mogul) Jonathan King. All technique, gallons of surgery gloop, and not an atom of soul anywhere."

Geez, and I sort of liked Jonathan King, at least before he revised "Hooked on a Feeling."

And I bet that "gloop" is more sugary than surgery.

(Via Fark.)

The nine billion names of sildenafil citrate

Actually, there are a lot more than that, and there are times when I think I've seen every last one of them in my inbox.

(Via Tinkerty Tonk.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:20 PM to Scams and Spams )
16 June 2007
Eight crazy facts

Venomous Kate has requested a list of eight things she doesn't know about me, which may be difficult given (1) I've posted an incredible amount of personal crap over the past eleven years and (2) she has a damnably long memory. Still, the effort must be made, so:

  1. An Army story: at my last post, the S1 officer, a sterling fellow with a tendency toward self-aggrandizement, announced that he was organizing a post bridge tournament, complete with American Contract Bridge League sanction. After too many drinks at the NCO club one night, I said something to the effect that I could beat him with an unrepentant spades player as a partner. I was duly invited to put up or shut up; my partner (that sort of spades player) and I took third place out of eight, which was not impressive, but the Colonel's team finished fifth.

  2. Only once have I ever been hit in the face with a pie — but it was a doozy.

  3. Once I hid an Easter egg too well; it surfaced in summertime, after we started a desperate search to ascertain the source of That Godawful Smell.

  4. My first car had AM radio only; I swore I would turn it into a proper rockin' machine, and bought a combination radio/cassette player, which I duly bolted into the dash, looping a metal strap around a convenient bar just this side of the cowl. It was a couple of days before I discovered that said bar was a linkage for the windshield wipers, which would no longer operate with the stereo in place. Three guesses what the weather was like that day. (I eventually found a floor mount.)

  5. Items don't come off my want list until I actually get them; one 1963 record I'd wanted for ages finally arrived in my collection in 2002.

  6. I missed one spelling word in all of grade school. ("Occurred," from which I omitted one of the Rs.)

  7. During my Hacking Old Radios period (roughly 1960-1963), I dropped a pair of scissors onto a live 110-volt line. The fireworks were spectacular, and one old Bakelite case mutated into something vaguely Daliesque.

  8. Another Army story: Few things are quite as disturbing as being assigned to an impromptu work detail after you've just washed and pressed all of your fatigues. You can't duck a GI party, though, so I requested latrine duty, and I scrubbed down those showers and troughs in my birthday suit. The corporal said he was going to write me up for being out of uniform, but the lack of repercussions suggests he didn't. Besides, the place sparkled.

Just a few pages from my unauthorized autobiography.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:31 AM to Screaming Memes )
Go, speed racer

Drivers in general have something of a tendency to overrate their abilities. (I am an exception, not because I'm all that good, but because I am hypercritical of my on-road performance.) The Wall Street Journal is reporting that as more supercars are sold, more of them end up in the hands of people who can't drive them:

Auto makers are turning out a new breed of supremely fast sports cars that sell for upwards of $250,000 and share many characteristics of purebred racecars. But as more of them hit the road, often in the hands of inexperienced drivers, a growing number are ending up wrapped around trees, smashed into guardrails or otherwise totaled in accidents.

In the past 18 months, drivers across the world have cracked up at least six rare $1 million Ferrari Enzos — only 400 of which were built. In March, a California man rammed his $300,000 Lamborghini Murciélago into five parked cars; while in England, a 39-year-old driver caused an international stir among car enthusiasts by crashing a Bugatti Veyron — an extremely rare $1.5 million turbocharged missile with a top speed of 253 miles per hour.

Not that I have any objection to flooring it, mind you. But you need to know what happens when you're not accelerating in a straight line anymore:

Driving experts say most accidents in these cars happen when drivers take turns too fast for the road conditions or start turning prematurely and then snap off the accelerator to compensate. If the car's back end starts to fishtail, many inexperienced drivers will fail to steer in the direction of the sliding tail or will overcorrect by turning too severely in that direction. Both mistakes can cause a spin. "It's a symphony of inputs and adjustments to keep the car under control," says David Champion, senior director of Consumer Reports Auto Test Division.

Most workaday vehicles won't get you into this sort of jam: for one thing, they don't go that fast, and for another, most of them tend to understeer at the limit, which scrubs off speed (and tire tread) as you fail to exceed the car's capacities. You get used to being bailed out by this, and then you start whizzing around in a car that doesn't do that, and pretty soon Dennis Haysbert is asking if you're in good hands:

According to the California Highway Patrol, the total number of accidents involving Aston Martins, Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Lotuses and Maseratis rose to 141 last year, an 81% increase from 2002, while overall crashes declined statewide during that period. Porsche, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, which sell a wider range of models, saw a 22% increase during that time frame.

I noticed this week that the rules for One Lap of America now require entrants to have completed two different high-performance driving schools, and here's why:

As the on-track speeds have increased over the years of One Lap, we need to know that all competitors have the skills to safely deal with anything that might happen on the racetracks. Two drivers schools with instruction in a racing environment is considered the absolute minimum. Most racetracks have this instruction available, many at a reasonable cost.

Even if I'd just won the lotto, I wouldn't consider buying a Ferrari unless I'd completed at least one such course. But maybe that's just me.

(Via Autoblog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:28 AM to Driver's Seat )
The visor is super

This I did not know:

The Air Force discontinued the practice of saluting while carrying articles in both hands when the dry cleaning bills for military headgear [went] through the roof. Data on the concussions sustained are inconclusive at best.

Speaking of cleaning military headgear, I could use some suggestions for reconditioning a white saucer cap, which seems to be in reasonably sound shape but which inevitably has accumulated some scuzz in the thirty-eight years since it was last regularly worn.

Shadows everywhere

I'm not much for tanning booths myself, but this I understand:

So anyway i went tanning on my lunch hour today ... trying to get some sort of color on my pasty white body. So i get back to work and think man i think i may have burned my back. Who knew that the areas you have NEVER let see the light of day would burn the worst!

Actually, I did, but you don't want to hear about how I found out.

I'm looking at my back in the mirror and notice as i bend just so ... i saw white ... well that's odd.. there should be SOME color everywhere now!!! then i raised my hands in the air ... and to my absolute HORROR ... under that little fatty area was a nice little white spot on both sides that never saw the kajilion watt bulbs.

I don't think there's a reliable recipe to make sure you brown evenly on all sides, unless you stay under the UV for hours at a time, in which case in less time than you'd think you'll wind up vaguely resembling your old high-school history teacher's cordovan-colored wing-tips, not my idea of a favorable result.

Feeling of déjà vu: priceless

A new eBay MasterCard is being issued this month, with various auction-related goodies for heavy eBay users, which I suppose, after 200-odd auctions, includes me.

In fact, I used to have an eBay MasterCard, issued by MBNA; however, eBay and MBNA fell out of love, and the program was discontinued, and MBNA wound up in the suffocating embrace of Bank of America anyway.

The new eBay MasterCard will be issued by GE Money Bank, which despite its all-American name (I mean, it's General Electric, fercrissake) is based in Switzerland. GE has a working relationship with eBay's PayPal subsidiary, providing lines of credit parallel to PayPal accounts. I have one of those, and it's extremely handy; then again, so long as I have the line of credit, I probably don't need the MasterCard.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 PM to Common Cents )
17 June 2007
Super Geniuses at work

Iran's Foreign Minister has complained about the British government's conferring of knighthood on Salman Rushdie, author of the novel The Satanic Verses and several lesser-known works, two or three of which I've actually tried to read.

Said Mohammad Ali Hosseini:

Giving a medal to someone who is among the most detested figures in the Islamic community is ... a blatant example of the anti-Islamism of senior British officials. The measure that has taken place for paying tribute to this apostate and detested figure will definitely put British statesmen and officials at odds with Islamic societies, the emotions and sentiments of which have again been provoked.

In other news, Wile E. Coyote has filed yet another complaint with the state of New Mexico, objecting to the naming of the Roadrunner as the state bird in 1949.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:38 AM to Dyssynergy )
Unplumbed depths

Last April I marveled at an item that Spam Karma 2 had snagged on one of my other sites, with an appalling karma of -1032.38. Commenters informed me that this was not so unusual; one, in fact, reported having received a score of -50482.7, fifty times as lame.

Come today, I find a new batch of scum, and most of them are in the general vicinity of -685908. (My first thought was "Geez, this isn't a score, it's a phone number." And indeed, with one additional digit, this was my phone number, circa 1979. No, you don't dial the minus sign.) Evidently SK's Retro-Spanking routine means business.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:29 AM to Scams and Spams )
And they didn't get mad either

Sara Lee's Hillshire Farm brand — their Go Meat! Web site will scandalize any visiting vegans — has introduced a line called Deli Select, basically the same thing they sell at deli counters under Sara Lee's own name, but prepackaged. And in an effort to cut down the amount of packaging, the Deli Select products come in GladWare reusable plastic containers: there's only a small bag and a paper insert to toss. Of course, you can cut this down to a small bag by having the stuff sliced on premises, assuming your store offers this sort of service, but you're looking at $6.99 a pound, and you don't get any cute plastic box. (I paid $3 for the 10-ounce Deli Select packages.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:19 PM to Worth a Fork )
Sweeping through town

Hillary Clinton's fundraiser last night in Oklahoma City brought in $282,000, substantially above the campaign's expectations: they'd hoped for $200k.

Senator Clinton's flight had been delayed because of bad weather, and no meetings with the press were scheduled.

Former Governor David Walters said he was backing Clinton "because she's not George Bush," which is not exactly a selling point, inasmuch as most of the Democrats in the race (and some of the Republicans) can make a similar claim.

Known quantities

The romance novel is the Rodney Dangerfield of literature: it gets no respect. Michael Carr suggests a reason:

I think the reason romance isn't respected as a genre is the same reason why Hostess Snacks aren't respected as desserts. They may be tasty, you may love them, may even prefer them to something like tiramisu, but they fit within a narrow band of possibilities: Twinkies, HoHos, Ding Dongs. You know what you're going to get, and if you bite into a Twinkie to discover some sort of coffee-flavored chocolate filling, you're going to say, "This is not a Twinkie."

No credit for shelf life? Twinkies seem to last forever, assuming you've forgotten where you hid the box and therefore can't actually eat them.

Admittedly, it's not a broad genre, and we like our commodities clearly delineated:

For better or worse, Harlequin et al. have put themselves in the business of turning romance into a small number of recognizable and reproducible shapes. It constrains the author but it also means that a reader knows exactly what she's getting when she picks up a novel. The publishers further refine this by coming up with narrower labels. Say, Silhouette Intimate Moments, or Harlequin Intrigue.

The thing is, romance fits so nicely into all those other genres. You can put it in science fiction, in adventure, into suspense. You can make a startling, unexpected movie, like Shakespeare in Love, that is, at its heart, a romance story. The non-Romance reading public simply would not see a connection between a movie like this and the bare-chested, bulging pants heroes in the racks of romance novels they see at the supermarket.

Truth be told, I never noticed the pants, and if I have a lick of sense, I won't in the future.

Sometimes I wonder if the romance genre would be less disrespected if its audience weren't so overwhelmingly female. (Apologies to all you big, burly Brontë fans out there.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:24 PM to Almost Yogurt )
18 June 2007
Strange search-engine queries (72)

In this weekly feature, the contents of the logs are put in a box, shaken (not stirred), then poured out onto the table, and the least-explicable search strings are placed here for your amusement.

naturist dixie chicks:  Naw. They just strip for magazine covers once in a while.

artsy fartsy gallery tampa florida:  Founded by a couple of snowbirds, Art and Florence Phartstein from Mahwah, New Jersey.

can I use summer's eve in rectal:  For all I care, you can use WD-40.

running pfs:first choice on windows XP:  I suggest you export your data to an application more recent than the French and Indian War.

nude search engines:  Far as I know, you can use any of them in the nude, though Ms Dewey might laugh at you.

is bush going to run for a third term:  He can't. Not even Karl Rove can change that.

is a 5 inch penis unattractive to women:  Why would you ask me this?

what is oklahoma's average winter temperature?  Colder than a mother-in-law's kiss.

garbage "Cherry Lips" music video invisible how:  Good old green-screen work, with a little bit of digital cleanup.

are cottonwood trees outlawed because of their annoying seeds:  This guy's obviously never seen a sweetgum.

walmart temporary job passing personality test:  Who knew there was a personality test to work at Wal-Mart?

nick coleman zorro:  This will undoubtedly surprise anyone who reads the Star Tribune.

nightingale droppings internet purchase:  They sell all kinds of crap on the Web.

hair as number one choice for mate selection:  Obviously I will die alone.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to You Asked For It )
The bird is the word

Some time during World Tour '05 I declared "Surfin' Bird" by the Trashmen to be the definitive road-trip song: "[I]t's impossible to ignore, yet you can't focus on the lyrics."

Point: Lileks made the effort:

I know it's a classic, but I can only take about 45 seconds of it. You get the point. Besides, the lyrics contain an unresolved contradiction: we are informed not only the Bird is the Word, but that everyone is aware of this fact. Then comes this: "Don't you know / about the Bird?" This would seem to indicate that knowledge of the Bird is not universal, as previously asserted. Such a peculiar lapse would make you suspect the veracity of subsequent lyrics, but of course there aren't any.

Counterpoint: Mark Richardson says:

Take "Surfin' Bird", which mashes together two songs by the far-more-respectable doo-wop group the Rivingtons. Like "Louie Louie", it's simple, loud, and sloppy. But when you add Dal Winslow's voice, just so leering, sounding for all the world like a sex fiend on drugs with his tongue hanging out, the generation gap makes more sense. I can picture the button-down authority figures listening to this song and grimly shaking their heads, imagining the bleak future fans of this music would usher in. But they didn't get it. Winslow wasn't singing about a dance craze called "The Bird", he was pointing out this thing that kids felt but couldn't articulate. "The bird" was code for a new freedom that only mid-century teenagers could understand. There was a whole world behind those two words, a world invisible to parents that would become much clearer as the decade wore on. The "bird," you know? Papa oom-mow-mow! You know what I'm saying? Sure, sure, I get it. And I do, finally: This must have driven the grown-ups crazy!

It was drummer Steve Wahrer, not guitarist Dal Winslow, who sang it, but Richardson seems to grasp this song on an elemental level: there are truths in the music that mere words cannot describe. Then again, my father, certainly no fan of that rocknroll noise, actually liked this one, which proves — well, nothing really. Still, I have to wonder what "Surfin' Bird" might be like had it been spawned, not by a Minnesota surf band rewriting a soul group, but by a sensitive singer-songwriter type.

Worst Wii games ever


http://view.break.com/312539 - Watch more free videos

Some of these are downright repwiihensible.

(Via Josh Q. Public.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:04 AM to Dyssynergy )
Your basic tiny roadster

At six feet tall and five feet wide (okay, that latter is an exaggeration), I'm not really a candidate for a Japanese home-market kei car, but some of them look awfully interesting in the context of three-buck regular.

Daihatsu, a Toyota affiliate which sold cars here only for four years, offers some weirdmobiles like the Naked, which probably wouldn't sell here just because of its name.

Then there's the Copen, which I suppose they could dub "Topless," now actually making some headway in the UK — although the usual 660-cc engine has been replaced by a 1.3-liter monster making 85 hp. Not a lot of ponies, but the Copen weighs only about 1900 lb, so there's more than adequate thrust. From a British review:

This midget sports car with electric metal folding roof and a good-size boot is a joy to drive, easy to park, cheap to buy, economical to own and as cute as they come. What's not to want?

"Cheap" is a relative term: the Copen sells for £10,995 in the UK, about $22,000 US, or close to MX-5 / Solstice / Sky territory. Still, "cute as they come" has a lot to recommend it, and maybe Toyota, which owns 51 percent or so of Daihatsu, can be persuaded to badge it as a Scion and ship a few thousand our way. I promise not to find it swishy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:45 PM to Driver's Seat )
Das Woot booted

Cyberport.24, a German Wootalike, closed up its virtual shop today after eight months and about 400,000 visitors. To their credit, they gave it a decent burial.

The Turkish delight continues.

Cayman went

She wasn't looking at me, and I was doing my best to make sure I didn't look like I was looking at her.

I'd seen the Porsche about a mile earlier, when an ambulance whipped into the "wrong" pair of lanes and the little silver coupe came to a halt with, well, Porsche-like enthusiasm. The sirens passed; the car took off.

A couple of lights later, there was a service station vending 91 octane for a few ticks below three dollars. I pulled in, and there was the Porsche, its driver resplendent in bright casuals and/or casual brightness, a source of sunshine on a mostly-overcast day. I stopped rather too far past the point where the nozzle and Gwendolyn's filler lined up neatly; I was prepared to argue, should it become necessary, that I was trying to avoid scraping the door on the monstrous concrete slab that made up the far end of the island. It would not become necessary: I had not been noticed. Taking up the squeegee, I made the rounds, and in the time it took to dispatch the dust of the day, ten or eleven gallons had passed through the hose.

I took one last look: she'd gotten back in, the boxer six started up with a satisfying tha-RUMPH, and she disappeared faster than Sue Storm on Pamprin. She'd put in 15 gallons, which meant she'd run it down pretty close to the E. Which, it occurred to me, I'd probably have done too: the fewer stops you make, the more you get to drive. I suppressed a sigh and drove on home.

19 June 2007
Hot funds in the summertime

Time was, someone collecting for a local charity had a good chance of being, well, local. Punctilious remembers:

When I used to assist our local public television station, I sat at a row of phones on camera and answered them when they rang. Each night a dozen or so volunteers from a different local organization would man the phones until the auction was over. It was all local products donated by local businesses with local volunteers answering the phones. There were a few paid staff, regular station employees, who organized and orchestrated the fund drive. But everything else was volunteer. As in free. As in none of the funds raised paid people to raise funds. The money all went to the station to continue broadcasting. (I know, but in those pre-remote days we had 4 channels and PBS had programming with some thought so we supported it. We didn't have any other choices.)

This practice hasn't entirely died out, but:

So now I get a call from some bored and androgynous sounding person half a continent away asking me for funds to support the local art museum. I wonder how much of my renewed membership fee is going to pay the monotonous Dianne from Oregon and her supervisor and her supervisor's boss and the guy who travels the country wining and dining museum curators to get their marketing business. I imagine the percentage is significantly smaller than that of the old PBS local auction days.

I wonder if maybe the sheer unpredictability of local fundraising efforts is motivating organizations to go out and seek, um, professional help. When I was in New England, back in the days when Roger Williams was a pianist, I watched the Channel 2 Auction with enthusiasm, not because I had any particular fondness for WGBH, but because the possibility for Great Weirdness was always lurking. One year (1973?) WNAC-TV, then a CBS affiliate on channel 7, offered some advertising spots to 'GBH to sell at auction: the high bidder was WKBG-TV, an independent station on channel 56. And sure enough, for the next couple of months, between CBS programs in prime time on 7, there were promos for shows on 56. I suspect the rules were changed after that.

And I also suspect that were public-radio fundraisers to start sounding more Hollywood than homespun, the pool of donors would wind up drier than Michael Feldman's sense of humor.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Follow you, follow me

Venomous Kate reports:

When the no_follow tag was first introduced to blogging platforms, I could not possibly have been happier. Then again, I was getting slammed with over 6,000 spam comments per day. Times — and spam-filtering software — have changed.

I’m now trying an experiment on EV that I’ve been using at my other, more personal blog for a bit now. I’m disabling the no_follow tag.

If your immediate reaction is "What are you, nuts?" you might want to think again. "Nofollow" is just one tool, and not a very effective one: it assumes, prima facie, that spammers are rational and will not deposit their, um, calling cards on places where their Google PageRank will not be improved. I would hate to have to defend that proposition. The current spam approach is to throw everything possible against the wall, and if something sticks, so much the better.

As an experiment, last week I stripped the nofollow tags from the current database (posts since the first week of September '06) and upgraded Autoban to the current release. Spam trackbacks, which make up 95 percent of the spam received here, have dropped off markedly. I made no announcement at the time, partially because most of the behind-the-scene tweaks I make simply aren't that interesting, but mostly because if it blew up in my face I didn't want to have to come up with a mea culpa.

This isn't the first time I've abandoned an anti-spam tool, either. By default Movable Type throws in some encoding on commenter email addresses to keep them from being harvested in bulk; I figured it might be even more effective simply to keep them off the page.

As always, this should be considered a work in progress, and things are subject to change.

Update, 20 June, 8:20 pm: Is this a movement? Charity is dropping the nofollow tag from her blog.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 AM to Blogorrhea )
Site issues

Unrelated to the previous item: some of the archive pages around here are not working correctly, Apache serving up 403 Forbidden instead of the actual pages. (Current pages seem to be okay.) I attribute this to this particular bit of malfeasance in the data center; a trouble ticket has been turned in, and I expect things will be fixed before too long.

Update, 10:55: Things seem to be working properly again.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:22 AM to Blogorrhea )
High weirdness at WKY

I'm getting a fair amount of traffic looking for information on the WKY countdown, which isn't really referenced here.

I found this tidbit at Wikipedia:

WKY has broadcast a computerized countdown as a lead-in to its impending format change. The countdown was originally calibrated to introduce the new format as of 9:00 a.m. CDT on Monday, June 18, 2007. However, the countdown has since been re-calibrated to end on 9:00 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, June 20, 2007. The countdown consists of the words "T-minus _____ days, _____ hours, _____ minutes, _____ seconds, and counting," and followed every fourth iteration by some trivial comment, such as "How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?" Other trivial comments typically consist of movie quotes or popular song lyrics.

Station representatives have declined to comment on the future format of the radio station.

Nothing too weird, but then this follows:

Meanwhile, this countdown has caused a small hysteria in Lawton, OK some 90 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. Rumors abound, speculating that the person responsible for the countdown is in Lawton and means to harm either the city of Lawton or Lauren Nelson who makes her home there. Some have reported the FBI are in town searching for the radio station's base, also presumed to be in Lawton.

Chain, meet puller.

Update, 3:40 pm: Received via email forward:

you may want to turn your radio onto 930 WKY AM. there is a guy that is counting down to a point which will end at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning. he's been doing this non-stop for at least 24 hours. obviously, he's hacked into the radio station, and the FBI (fat boys institute) has been trying to find him since friday. he throws in a one-liner every 30 seconds or so. wierd!

Chain successfully pulled. (We've had pirates before, and they were nabbed a lot quicker.)

Update, 9 am, 20 June: Dead silence for about fifteen seconds, and then "Nothing bad is going to happen" from Mayor Cornett. What we have here is a non-Sports Animal sports station.

Whoop-de-freaking-doo.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:33 AM to Overmodulation )
Expect a good work ethic

You think the Hornets had buzz? Meet the new insects on the block: the NBA D-League team in Fort Wayne, Indiana will be called the "Mad Ants."

The name, of course, is actually a nod to Fort Wayne namesake "Mad" Anthony Wayne, but I just love the sound of it; it's at least as much fun as the Toledo Mud Hens, and, well, there's no mud involved. ("Mud Ants"? Perish the thought.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:28 PM to Net Proceeds )
More instant flats

About a month ago I made some mention of CAMiLEON Heels, which can be an inch and a half high or three and a quarter, depending on how you set them.

Sheila Driving HeelNow comes a driving shoe for women, based on the same idea if not precisely the same technology. Devised on behalf of Sheilas' Wheels, an insurance company in the UK targeting female drivers — they offer, for instance, handbag coverage up to £300 as part of Comprehensive — the Sheila Driving Heel is switchable between heel and flat with the touch of a button. It's being touted, of course, as a safety measure: "It’s astonishing," says Sheilas spokesperson Jacky Brown, "that so many women are putting themselves, their passengers and other drivers at risk by wearing the wrong shoe or no shoe at all whilst behind the wheel. Stilettos, sling-backs and strappy sandals aren’t the sensible choice when it comes to controlling a car." And while driving with no shoes is permissible Stateside and in parts of the UK, for some reason it's illegal in Scotland.

I must admit here that I can't see where this mysterious button is located, and neither can the writer for Autoblog, who also complains that "we waited almost a week for them to send us a pic of the shoes," which pic I have duly appropriated and slightly cropped.

You know it don't come easy

Were Nick Denton a Brit, he'd still never have come up with anything as relentlessly snarky as hecklerspray, from whom I am compelled to reprint this commentary on the pending availability of downloadable Ringo Starr tracks:

Finally our lives will be complete. Every day since MP3s were invented we've howled in agony because we haven't had the chance to pay 79p to hear Ringo Starr masterpieces like Coochy Coochy, Snookeroo and Gypsies In Flight. But now the wait is finally over — Ringo Starr has agreed to a deal putting his 1970s hit albums Ringo and Beaucoups Of Blues, along with a new Best Of compilation album, online across all digital music platforms. Rumours that this deal is worth in excess of £3.50, half a packet of Fruitella and several colourful ribbons are yet to be confirmed, but sound a little far-fetched at the moment.

It's taken members of The Beatles an awful long time, but they're all slowly coming round to the idea of their music being sold on digital formats. John Lennon is already slightly digital and Paul McCartney has recently gone digital as part of his campaign to be everywhere we look all the effing time, from every single branch of Starbucks to those annoying iTunes adverts where he dicks around playing the mandolin like an annoyingly smug pixie. George Harrison, we don't know about. He isn't answering his telephone.

Oh, and the Starr deal includes ringtones:

And at least one of those Ringo Starr ringtones had better be "(It's All Da-Da-Down To) Goodnight Vienna," because frankly not enough people smack us in the mouth when our phones go off in public.

Where's Pete Best, anyway?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:00 PM to Fileophile )
20 June 2007
Supermarket swept

It's time to look for a new grocery store.

Albertson's, my store of choice for the last five or six years, is selling out all its Oklahoma locations, and the one I've been patronizing will be replaced by (gag) a Homeland store.

By no stretch of the imagination can this be considered a Good Thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:07 AM to City Scene )
Based on performance

This time last year, there was some noise being made about a possible GM-Nissan tie-up, although the prospect was viewed skeptically, and nothing ever came of it.

If you'd argued that Nissan, a corporate sister to Renault of France, and General Motors were fundamentally incompatible with one another, you'd probably have won on this point:

Nissan has said its senior management will not be paid bonuses this year after the carmaker suffered its first fall in profits in seven years.

Chief executive Carlos Ghosn told shareholders at a meeting in Tokyo that senior executives "took responsibility" for its disappointing performance.

Nissan has trailed rivals Toyota and Honda, and shareholders expressed concerns about future product quality.

But Mr Ghosn said that this year would see improvements in the business. "We are taking our responsibility seriously," he said of the management's decision to forego their bonuses.

This sort of talk is almost unheard of in Detroit.

(Disclosure: I drive a Nissan-built vehicle.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:08 AM to Dyssynergy )
I'm always Jason, rainbows

Hello Kitty as Jason Voorhees

(Seen at Hello Kitty Hell.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:35 AM to Dyssynergy )
The editorial Wii

The Midlife Sorority Girls decide to invest in, among other things, Nintendo.

Lou Dobbs, meanwhile, is doubling his dose of Advil.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:24 PM to Common Cents )
Greening the Hummer

Is such a thing even possible? AutoblogGreen considers:

Toward the end of this decade GM will be adding some new engine options to the H2 and H3 that will help a bit, but until these vehicles are completely redesigned on lighter platforms, it probably won't be enough to turn most people around. GM will be adding flex-fuel capability to the H2 in 2009 with the H3 getting it in 2010, but why isn't it there now? The newly announced 4.5L diesel will also go into the H2 at the same time. If the H2 does continue into the future, and that is by no means a given at this point, it may inherit the two-mode hybrid system coming later this year starting on the Tahoe/Yukon.

Most likely the only way that Hummer will be transformed from an environmental pariah to at least respectable would be to follow Jeep's lead and come out with smaller lighter vehicles like the Compass and Patriot. However, Compass sales haven't been anything to write home about so far and there is no guarantee that something similar to the Compass would have any appeal at all as a Hummer. GM's best bet might be to just let the H2 and H3 live out their lifespan and then let the brand die.

A Compass-sized H4 might be salable, if it retains the rock-hopping abilities of the rest of the line — exasperating as they may be on the highway, the H2 and H3 are better-than-respectable performers offroad — and if they spend a few bucks on keeping the mass down to a bearable level. (Land Rover's teensy LR2 still weighs over two tons.) Still, you have to figure that the major reason Hummer sales are on the wane is the sheer thirst of the beast, and the new diesel will help matters somewhat. (And why didn't GM bolt flex-fuel capabilities into these Panzerwagens for '08?)

I don't see GM giving up on the brand: in its role as the Anti-Prius, Hummer has a very distinct market niche. But it's not going to garner any residual sales from outside that niche until they teach it to drink less.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:49 PM to Driver's Seat )
246

In 1968, Ferrari decided to produce some cars less pricey than their twelve-cylinder wonders. The new line was dubbed Dino, after Enzo's son, the designer of the V6 engine most of them would use. The second batch of Dinos, with a 2.4-liter six, was duly designated "246"; despite its lack of the prancing-horse insignia, the 246 was the first Ferrari to sell in really high numbers — that is, if you consider a production figure less than four thousand to be "really high."

Two weeks ago, I'd have accused you of being really high if you told me that the Carnival of the Vanities would be back. And I'd have to eat those words, because edition #246 is now open for your inspection.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:38 PM to Blogorrhea )
21 June 2007
The shortest night of the year

This solstice we have here wears many summery hats, one of which bears the name "All-Couples Day." Lindsay Goodier explains:

Never fear, single people: this is not the day of year where you must find a date to go to Red Lobster or you'll be publicly shunned. Rather, it is ritualistically the day where young, unmarried women can find their true life-mates.

According to tradition, if a young woman fasted on June 21 and set out a table at midnight with a clean cloth, bread, cheese and ale and waited with her door open, the man she was to marry, or at least his spirit, would enter and feast with her.

Hey, it's cheaper than eHarmony. Success rate?

I'm not getting my hopes up or leaving my door wide open.

In my circle, you can get shunned for going to Red Lobster at all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 AM to Table for One )
Fraud before you even answer

About damn time, too:

Using fake caller IDs to defraud or cause harm to people would be illegal under a bill the House passed by voice vote Tuesday.

The measure is aimed at the practice of "spoofing," where scammers falsify the name and phone number appearing on caller ID. A scammer, for example, might trick a person into thinking he is getting a call from a bank with the intention of obtaining personal information such as Social Security or credit card numbers.

"This is another example of technology being misused by the unscrupulous to scam the unsuspecting," said Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., sponsor of the measure.

Thank you, Congressman Engel. And to you bastards calling from the obviously-fraudulent "407-019-6400," a number which cannot legitimately exist: FOAD.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to Dyssynergy )
While you're at it, get off my lawn

All right, kiddies, you're outta here:

What's My Blog Rated? From Mingle2 - Online Dating

Mingle2 - Online Dating

They go on to say that this rating is based on finding five mentions of "hell," four of "crap," and two F-bombs.

I may try this again later in the week after one of said F-bombs has aged off the front page.

(Via Terry, who is PG. Her blog, I mean.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:47 AM to Blogorrhea )
Fishing in the company pond

This is a bad idea for several reasons, and this radio spot doesn't help:

[C]onsider this commercial that has been playing on a local radio station during the lunch programming. It consists entirely of a woman telling how wonderful this new "male enhancement" drug is. (I forget which one.) The main selling point, which is repeated several times, is that the drug takes effect in 3-5 seconds.

3-5 seconds!!!!

Come on! How is this not trying to coerce the businessman on lunch to purchase this drug? It's almost as if in the background they are whispering "3-5 seconds. Think about it. That good-looking secretary can be in and out in a short amount of time. No one would know. You'd still have most of your lunch to look nonchalant. Trust us. 3-5 seconds...."

I admit up front that there is a small number of, um, desirables on the premises, but as I said before, fishing in the company pond is a bad idea, and I assure you, were I to do this, I would look plenty chalant.

And another thing: where are the female enhancement drugs? (Beer doesn't count.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:55 PM to Table for One )
I want you to want this

Dave Syverson, representing the 34th District in the Illinois Senate, has introduced a resolution proclaiming the first of April to be Cheap Trick Day in the state.

Seriously. Cheap Trick was formed in Rockford, which is in Syverson's district. And apparently there's some support for the idea:

Guitarist Rick Nielsen got a warm welcome when he visited the state Senate Tuesday. He told lawmakers that the band's achievements include not being convicted of a felony within the past ten years.

Let's hope the House is equally impressed.

(Via Fark.)

Third time's the warm

Matt has issued the decree:

Well. It's hot out. Not really sweltering mind you, but hot in a it's over 80 and kinda sticky and not really comfortable with all those clothes on kind of way. So, in light of that (and a nice lady in Delaware keeps sending me emails saying "Matt! It's time to get nekkid again!"), I hereby declare Friday to be the Third International Blog Nekkid Day!

One of these years they're going to hold this on my day off. I hope. In the meantime, here are my previous participation posts, neither of which was written at work, if you know what I mean.

(Disclosure: I did actually buy a webcam this year. I am not hooking it up. I have some standards.)

22 June 2007
I've heard better ideas

La Shawn Barber eviscerates that mostly-silly study which calls for Serious Action to counteract all those awful right-wing radio shows that I make a point of not listening to. (She's posted a PDF copy of it here.) For the most part, I agree with her conclusions: the left is trying to gain by governmental means what it likely could never obtain in an actual free marketplace.

But this invites the question: is broadcast radio truly a free marketplace? Certainly the FCC won't stop you from putting up a station of your own — provided there's an open allocation, which there probably isn't. (You might be able to wangle an LPFM license, maybe; I can't, at least from where I live, as there are no open channels.)

In 1996, Section 202 of the Telecommunications Act established a sliding scale for how many stations an individual entity could operate in a given market: in the largest markets, up to eight stations can be under common ownership. We've had eleven years of this now, and can anyone actually say that radio is better today? It certainly isn't more profitable: Clear Channel, arguably the Wal-Mart of the industry, went private last year and sold off 30 percent of its stations after a succession of bad quarters. Disney unloaded ABC Radio onto Citadel, who had to unload 11 stations to comply with the Feds. CBS sold ten stations last year. None of this feverish station-trading changed the general sound of things very much.

That said, though, I have a philosophical bias in favor of more players rather than fewer, and the two think tanks who produced that study proposed a change in the cap laws which I don't think would be particularly unreasonable. They recommend a 5-percent cap nationwide — no single entity can own or control more than 5 percent of the total number of AM and FM stations (do LPFMs and translators count?) — and a reduced cap in individual markets: four in the largest (45 stations and up), three in the next group (30-44), then two, finally one in stations with 14 stations or fewer. Actually counting the stations might prove problematic: Radio-Locator.com lists 47 in and around Oklahoma City, but some of them are clearly duplicates (for instance, KGOU/KROU, or KQCV-FM and its two translators, or the Sports Animal AM/FM pair). I'm thinking we'd fall into the 30-44 group, in which case the local cap would be three. Almost a dozen stations would be up for grabs. There is of course no guarantee that things would suck less; theoretically, they could get worse. But I'm old enough to remember the old 7-7-7 rule: until 1985, you could own a total of 14 radio stations — seven AM, seven FM — and seven TV stations, no more than five of which could be on the VHF band. Now maybe that's too few for contemporary conditions; but until I see some evidence that ownership of truly huge segments of spectrum actually produces some benefits other than dubious economies of scale, I'm going to continue to believe that the way it was is better than the way it is.

Update, 2 pm: As of yesterday (when I wrote this piece) there is something called the Local Community Radio Act of 2007, which would loosen some of the restrictions on LPFM. Jesse Walker has the story.

First thou loadest the blog software

Then thou must count to three. Three shall be the number of the sentences and the number of the sentences shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither shalt thou count two, excepting that thou then proceedeth to three.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:30 AM to Blogorrhea )
Bytes, black and shiny

I am pretty much an old hand at ripping vinyl to whatever digital format I happen to need at the moment, but I'm not so smug about it that I can't appreciate this:

I'm sometimes hesitant to buy an album I might really, really love, because I'm then prohibited from listening to it on my iPod, in my car — anywhere that isn't on my living room floor in front of the turntable.

Fortunately, some bands are one step ahead of me. The other night, Dwight and I picked up a Bright Eyes album at Guestroom Records and were pleased to discover a little sticker informing us that with our vinyl purchase, we would receive a code enabling us to download the album for free, as well. I noticed a similar sticker on other albums, including one by Arcade Fire.

Remind me not to tell you about the time I tried to compress a 45.

Unless (1) I win the Powerball and (2) the science of longevity advances spectacularly in the next few years, I won't live long enough to rip all my vinyl, which means that most of it still gets played in the canonical fashion. This is less bothersome than you might think.

Wanette Wagoner-Bowlegs says hello

When TNT announced that they were doing a drama series set in Oklahoma City with a protagonist named Grace Anadarko, I feared for the worst, even though it stars Holly Hunter and I will watch Holly Hunter reading the classifieds in preference to a lot of other stuff, including a lot of other stuff on TNT.

Well, they've since hung an H on Grace's last name, making it look even sillier without reducing the sensation that they just pulled the name out of Google, and that's not even the half of it:

The one thing that gives me hope is the names of the characters:
    Grace Hanadarko
    Butch Stillwater
    Rhetta Rodriguez-Ardmore
    Ham Tipton
    Lonnie Purcell

You get the point. This appears to be the laziest group of writers in the history of Hollywood. They can’t even come up with original names for the characters, so they just named them after towns in the state. And while this helps explain the ridiculous generalizations and furthers my fears that the show will be absolutely terrible, it also gives me hope that it will be canceled and forgotten very quickly.

At least they didn't have a Panhandle prostitute named, um, Betty Lou Hooker.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:03 PM to Soonerland )
Quote of the week

Alex Dykes at The Truth About Cars tells a Saab story:

Fire up the engine and the SportCombi reveals its heart and soul. Unfortunately, it's the heart and soul of a squirrel with pneumonia.

Hmmm. I've driven cars like that — but not for long.

Provided you don't mind listening to an automotive impression of a cement mixer churning a bag of bolts or wrestling with torque steer for 7.4 seconds, she'll sprint from zero to 60mph handily.

Faster than anything I've owned, anyway. "Cement mixer?" Put-tee, put-tee.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:03 PM to Driver's Seat , QOTW )
23 June 2007
A dip in the Slough of Despond

While no one would accuse me of being chipper — unless they expected me to chew up some wood or something — the general tone around here is decidedly more positive than it was six or eight years ago when I was wondering if maybe things wouldn't improve until I got around to not being around. (Vent #172, which begins "This is a suicide note" and then goes through several paragraphs explaining why technically it isn't, is a case in point.)

Still, every once in a while something pops into my head to remind me of the Bad Old Days, usually during sleeping hours, where the dream mechanism doesn't feel compelled to go easy on my sensibilities. This morning, after waking up at six, noting the presence of a newspaper and going out to fetch it, then returning to bed for another couple of hours, I got to "enjoy" a pair of scary scenes played out just above the pillows. (Two of them, anyway: at some point I apparently pitched the third across the room.)

In the first act, after a bogus "tour" that resembled outtakes from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, I have somehow been locked up in some sort of "medical" facility for wayward children, and the sadist dietitian on staff has contrived to make sure everyone gets something unpalatable. For me, there was this amalgam of rice cakes and spackle, with things that looked like vegetables but weren't, and vast quantities of mayonnaise, a true implementation of O'Brien's Room 101 Diet.

I don't know how that story ended because a second one followed quickly on its heels. In this one I am researching some arcane tax question, and I duly presented my findings to the couple who had requested my help. The presentation took place at a firing range, where they and several friends were gearing up to blow away a few targets. Informed that I might want to stand back a few feet for the duration, I heard myself saying: "Don't worry. If you shoot me, I'll be much happier." Evidently at the subconscious level I operate on a frequency somewhere between Beck ("I'm a loser, baby, why don't you kill me?") and Daffy Duck ("I demand that you shoot me now!")

Supposedly I have enough sense to avoid reading too much into dreamstuff. On the other hand, I do remember muttering this last week:

Look at the fricking West Coast. They can't get rain to save their lives and we're up to here in the stuff. I have to wonder if maybe God hasn't outsourced the prayer-answering function to some place that doesn't speak English. Or, in the case of California, Spanish either.

Weather-related stress. Yeah. That's the ticket.

Where the boys are

According to this map unearthed by Will Truman, they're on the West Coast waiting.

Distribution of singles

Meanwhile, all the girls are accumulating east of the Mississippi: in the New York metro, there's a "plurality" (which sounds better than "surplus") of women to the tune of almost 200,000. (I expect CT to come back with "Yeah? Where?")

The big blue blotches in southern California and in Texas can probably be explained by an influx of Migrants Without Papers, though this doesn't explain San Antonio. And analysis of the female distribution might be more difficult; I mean, East Coast girls are hip — I really dig those styles they wear — but there remains the question of whether it's really a surplus of women or a dearth of men. (Feel free to stand this premise on its head with regard to Phoenix and L.A.)

And what's the deal with Tulsa?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Table for One )
Full of sheetmetal

The Senate has approved jacking up the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards to 35 mpg by 2020. While I have no objections whatsoever to fuel efficiency, this is a fairly dumb idea: getting any meaningful reductions in energy use is entirely dependent on selling new cars and/or trucks, and the major gains, if any, appear at the far end of the timeframe. It would have been more honest, if less politically palatable, to increase fuel taxes: this way everyone, not just the buyer of a new vehicle, gets to participate in this questionable enterprise.

If we must legislate automotive specs, why not legislate mass? It's a lot harder to fudge — all you need is a scale — and automakers (not just American automakers, either) keep shoveling out these bloatmobiles.

Paul Niedermeyer got one of the first Jeep Cherokees:

At 3100 lbs, the Cherokee was a featherweight by today's bloated standards. [A 4,225-lb Jeep Liberty? Don't try to tell me that air bags weigh half a ton.] Foreshadowing the current trend, the Cherokee was a unibody SUV, and a tough one at that. With solid axles and a Quadra-Link suspension up front, it could hop boulders with genuine élan.

Thirty-one hundred pounds. That's about 250 lb lighter than my high-side-of-mid-sized sedan, which isn't at all qualified to go rock-hopping. Jeep's current Grand Cherokee weighs 4700 lb. With the demise (in the US market, anyway) of Mazda's MPV, there isn't a minivan under two tons. Compact pickups, with the exception of Ford's dated Ranger, now routinely hit 3500 lb and up; their big brothers start at 5000 lb.

Where is all this farging bulk coming from? Convenience features? How much does a nav system weigh, anyway? The 2000 Nissan Maxima (Gwendolyn's sister) weighed about 3200 lb; the '07 model comes in closer to 3600, and it's scarcely grown an inch.

Forget CAFE, I say; let there be Corporate Average Curb Weight, and crank the spec downward until 2020.

(And do not try to ply me with stories of how we need 1000 lb of ballast to get good crash-test ratings. You're talking to someone who hit a thousand-pound critter at 65 mph in a 2900-lb sedan, got no airbag deployment, and walked away without so much as a hangnail.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:47 AM to Driver's Seat )
Depth of Field

That's the title of the cover story in the July/August Oklahoma Today, which offers the editors' selection of the 46 (think about it) "top images" in the state's history. Inevitably, the set begins with a Land Run: the September 1893 opening of the Cherokee Strip, shot on behalf of (but not actually by) photographer William S. Prettyman. There's a shot of the first OU football team, in 1896, which set some sort of record for futility: they didn't score so much as a first down all season. There's Jim Thorpe doing the high jump, the Wild Mary Sudik going ballistic, inevitable Dust Bowl scenes, the sit-in at Katz Drug in 1958, and tornadoes all over the place. Stuff like this makes me wish I actually knew how to take pictures, and makes me grateful that there are people who do.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:02 PM to Soonerland )
Now don't think I'm a nut

Donna proposes a new automotive accessory:

Right near the radio, there should be a device that has 3 buttons. Hitting the first button would play the Judas Priest song, "Breakin' the Law." This comes in handy when you knowingly go through a stale yellow light. I typically sing the song out loud, except I think it would be cool to press a button and have it play. BREAKIN' THE LAW, BREAKIN' THE LAW!!! The next button would play, "Take this job and shove it! I ain't workin' here no more!” You might hit this button as you pull out of your parking space to head home from work or when someone you love asks, "How was your day?" The final button would play Steve Martin’s song, "King Tut." No reason other than it's funny and always makes me smile.

Gimme a fourth button marked "Missile Launcher," with suitable lights and sound effects, and I'm in.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:19 PM to Driver's Seat )
24 June 2007
Only sixteen

Telephone numbers are now more or less portable: you can change service providers and (most of the time) still keep your old number.

Credit cards haven't reached this stage yet, but MasterCard is heading in that direction:

MasterCard has announced the launch of MasterCard Product Graduation in the United States — a new program that enables cardholders to keep the same account number when switching between various card programs offered by an issuer, thereby avoiding the need for the cardholder to update recurring payment accounts, etc.

MasterCard calls Product Graduation a "patent-pending solution that offers more flexibility for cardholders, merchants, and the customer financial institutions that manage accounts. Retaining account numbers will allow cardholders to maintain their recurring bill payments, online shopping profiles, and other automatic payment relationships, providing uninterrupted service for both the consumer and merchant. With this solution, fewer payments will be disrupted when a cardholder switches to a new card program."

Which would be useful if Issuing Bank and Trust Company (Member FDIC) decided to upgrade you to a better card — or, perish the thought, downgrade you to a worse one.

For myself, I don't see this as a major advantage — only twice in my life has a MasterCard issuer chosen to assign me a new number, and once this was because the issuer sold out the entire portfolio to another bank — but it's a step in the right direction, even though true portability is still quite a ways off:

The program does not support a cardholder moving an account between card issuers and keeping the same account number.

Now that would be awesome, not to mention awesomely difficult to implement.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:59 AM to Common Cents )
Oh, by the way, I take these drugs

I've previously mentioned the Albertson's selloff; I hadn't mentioned that I've had my prescriptions filled at their Sav-on Pharmacy for the past three or four years. Now comes this disturbing possibilty:

I remember when the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) passed in 2003. My pharmacist gave me a written copy of the pharmacy's privacy policy, and the store put a tape line 10 feet back from the cash register so that those behind me in the queue couldn't listen in on my discussions while I picked up my meds. The changes lulled me into thinking my pharmacy records were private. I was wrong. A loophole in the federal law allows my pharmacy to treat my records as a business asset and sell them, including my drug history, insurance information, address, phone number, and social security number, without my knowledge or consent.

It's happened before:

Randee Lonergan filled prescriptions at the same pharmacy for years. But a month ago, she was shocked to find the pharmacy closed — and all her family's medical records sold to a nearby Target store in Levittown [New York].

Shockingly, her information was sold legally, due to a loophole in medical privacy law that allows pharmacies to "auction off" years of customer records — including prescriptions, information about medical conditions, social security numbers and insurance records — "to the highest bidder," Senator Charles Schumer said Monday.

"I'm outraged," said Lonergan, 34. "I felt that my right to privacy and my right to choose had been taken away from me." Not only were her records sold, so were her husband's and 8-year-old daughter's.

What's Senator Schumer doing about it?

The senator is calling on the federal Health and Human Services secretary, Michael Leavitt, to immediately change the law to require pharmacies to notify patients before selling or transferring their records and allowing patients to opt out.

This might carry some more weight if Schumer were to introduce a bill to modify HIPAA to require this change, but at least someone is aware of the situation.

Update, 27 June: Francis W. Porretto demurs:

Traditionally, the rule has been that, with certain exceptions made for "peeping Toms," what you learn is yours to do with as you please, provided you've violated no confidentiality agreement and no one's property rights in doing so. There's no question that this rule allows businesses to amass large databases of personal information about private citizens, simply by keeping records of their purchases. There's no question that this permits those businesses to trade and merge their databases to mutual commercial advantage, often to the discomfort of the persons whose data is in them. There's no question that, owing to the all-but-complete transition of our society to an information economy, in which money itself has become a stream of bits flowing across the ubiquitous wires, the hazards attending uncontrolled proliferation of personal data are greater than ever. But is the law, in any shape, the proper instrument with which to address these concerns?

There are those who say privacy no longer exists, and in some sense they are correct. Then again, presenting me with a fait accompli of this sort is no way to gain my support.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:12 AM to Dyssynergy )
From the "If Only" files

Mary Stella, who's written some fiction of her own, tosses out a zinger of a question:

Of all the fictional characters you've ever read, is there one that you truly wish was real just for one night because you think he or she is that hot and you want to have your way with them?

For some reason, I keep seeing Kugelmass sporking about with Emma Bovary in the back of my mind, and the image immediately short-circuits the evaluation process.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:17 PM to Almost Yogurt )
You put that crap in your car?

Putting the "bio" in "biofuels," the Mexican livestock industry and the University of Georgia:

The University of Georgia and Mexico's livestock industry have formed a new research partnership to share expertise in generating fuels from waste materials. Funded by the United States Agency for International Development, the partnership will initiate training, internships and exchanges between UGA and a wide array of academics and professionals in Mexico.

"Under this research partnership, students will come here to gain insights and training in engineering technology connected to managing and converting waste to energy in the livestock sector," said [UGA Professor of Engineering K. C.] Das. "I am excited about it — the project will support education of graduate and undergraduate students at UGA and training of research and outreach faculty in Mexico and at our institution," he said.

For the last hundred years or so, we've been running out of oil: here, at least, is a commodity which is not likely to be in short supply any time soon.

(Via AutoblogGreen.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:38 PM to Family Joules )
Bone thrown

This is England, land of presumed mismatches:

I don't know if you've noticed, but recently I've been seeing a lot of attractive, successful women out on the town, holding coquettishly onto the arm of some absolute minger. I'm not just talking short and round, I'm talking mirror-crackingly, baby-screaming sort of ugly. The question is always asked: "Why is she with him?" And I have to say the jury is still out on that one.

Even juries have limits to what they're willing to examine, I suppose.

Perhaps it's that we are lacking in men; all the good ones are taken and all the bad ones don't want to be tied down, and an ugly man is the safe bet. There are down sides to this, though, as one friend I have who chose the safe option is forever bemoaning her boyfriend's physical appearance. "He's lovely and we get on great," she says, "But there's just no phwoar ... and I miss that".

Nice to know that there exists a capacity for the superficial on the other side of the aisle.

Beauty, after all, is a currency, a medium of exchange. If your assets are in some other coin, you're still in the marketplace, though window-shoppers may pass you by. (And there are those of us for whom the Book of Love stopped at Chapter 7.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:26 PM to Table for One )
25 June 2007
Strange search-engine queries (73)

The editor, said Adlai Stevenson, is the person who separates the wheat from the chaff — and then prints the chaff. One might say, therefore, that this is the only section of the site that is truly edited.

organized people are just too lazy to look for things:  Which, you have to admit, is a powerful argument for getting organized.

antique decorated crock:  Barbara Walters is getting a wardrobe upgrade?

finger of fudge:  Because even Keebler elves need prostate exams.

value of pawn items:  About a third of what the guy pawning it hoped he'd get.

john: chronic stoner emo ranger:  Because Lebowski was, like, too animated.

song "Driving in Massachusetts":  I assume this is not Suzi Quatro's "48 Crash."

weird jobs measuring mens penises:  Have you looked on Monster?

codger, geezer, duffer, coot:  A lost John le Carré novel, I assume.

benjamin franklin's reasons for dating older women:  Well, inasmuch as he was born in 1706, he's over 300 now. What chance does he have with a 22-year-old?

correlation of fart velocity and sphincter diameter:  This assumes some familiarity with Bernoulli's principle; I assume we're dealing with compressible flow.

refloration surgery:  Not covered by insurance.

can I see a eight inch penis:  Sure. It's the four-inchers you have trouble seeing.

wixom ford plant turned into six flags:  No shortage of bumper cars.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 AM to You Asked For It )
Optimus Prime had the Mocha Valencia

Starbucks apparently doesn't care what your name is, so long as it fits on the cup.

Now with extra waste

In recent months, I've been buying bulk tomatoes with vine segments still attached: yes, it does inflate the price, since I'm paying for the green bits that otherwise get thrown out, and at full tomato rates even, but for some reason they taste like actual tomatoes, which is something I can seldom say of the big, shiny, hard-as-billiard-balls spheres they sell as "slicers" these days.

Recently I noticed what I thought was an anomaly: pre-packaged tomatoes with vine segments still attached. The vendor is EuroFresh Farms, which despite its name (a tribute to their Dutch ancestors, they say) is located in northern Arizona. The price was right — $2.50 or so for a pound and a quarter — so I snapped up a box. They're actually quite good, and while I was concerned that smushing 10 of them into a rectangular enclosure might be bad for their tensile strength, no bruises or other defects were to be found. No pesticide residues, either. That's a lot of vine, though. I wonder what would happen if I just pitched it into the flower bed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:19 AM to Worth a Fork )
Reader demographics

I figure this guy's analysis is as good as any:

As for why anyone reads my blog, it is probably due to the fabulous baking recipes I post, or my deeply held opinions on the Letterman vs Leno debate. I am phenomenally insightful, and my brilliance has gotten people worldwide to say "This guy gets it. Now I can rearrange my stock portfolio, separate my laundry properly, get the jokes on Seinfeld, and understand why trying to teach a pig to sing wastes my time and annoys the pig."

My brilliance has gotten people worldwide to say "Um, who?"

Still, there's always an Ulterior Motive:

I would rather be sleeping next to two republican Jewish brunettes right now, one on each side. That has nothing to do with this topic, but my entire blog is a ploy to find a woman who can tolerate my inanity on a long term basis.

Hmmm. Maybe I should link to this guy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:35 AM to Blogorrhea )
At least "Boston" isn't in dispute

If you like your controversies durable and tasty, well, this was in the Oklahoman's food section over the weekend. The subject is Boston Cream Pie:

This dessert is not really a pie but is traditionally called pie. If anyone researches this recipe that is basically a two-layer cake with a thick custard filling and a chocolate glaze topping, please let us know why it's called pie.

I had no idea the debate was so heated (350-375, depending on recipe).

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:38 PM to Worth a Fork )
Remembering the 12th of June

Not because I think nostalgia needs acceleration, or anything like that: it's simply that the 12th of June was the last day there was no rain recorded in Oklahoma City.

Boy, could we use some of that dryness now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:40 PM to Weather or Not )
Wonderfully bland

There is one upside to the endless rains: the reservoirs are decently stocked, which means more of the Good Stuff. Have a sip:

A neutral water that tastes of nothing won the "best of the best" award on Monday at an annual competition to find North America's finest drinking water.

The winner, Oklahoma City, outranked 10 other finalists in the contest, which was held on the sidelines of the American Water Works Association conference in Toronto.

I'd like to think it's our experience with 3.2 beer, a beverage of comparable flavor, that makes this possible, but no:

A beaming Harold Ceifert, executive director for Oklahoma City Water and Wastewater Utilities Southwest Section, said "love and care" were the key to the city's victory.

"We operate two water treatment plants and it's a continuous competition between operators at both plants to produce the best tasting water they can," he said.

I'll raise a glass to that, just as soon as I get to the kitchen.

And do have a drink in St. Louis, voted the best tap water by the US Conference of Mayors, whose annual meeting, incidentally, will be held in Oklahoma City in 2010.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:35 PM to City Scene )
26 June 2007
The stuff my dreams are made of

You'll note I ducked my own question about fictional characters I might fancy in more than a literary way, so to speak, and there was a very good reason for that: she was just seventeen, you know what I mean. And the way she looked was largely irrelevant; I think I identified with her too much to want to, um, despoil her.

That said, here's Alex Roumbas of Dollymix on I Capture the Castle:

Although it was One Hundred and One Dalmatians that was to finally cement Dodie Smith's international fame, her lesser known story of a family living a peculiar existence in 30s rural England has become a respected classic in its own right. Authors and readers have long loved the tale of seventeen-year-old Cassandra Mortmain and her disparate family members scraping by in a half-ruined castle until the owners, a returning American family, bring upheaval and emotional turmoil in their wake.

What makes the book so readable — and so loved — is the distinctly English outlook and the thoroughly human protagonist. Cassandra is a particularly brilliant example of a character who is sympathetic and likable but also fallible and imperfect; she is not at all the usual love story moppet or damsel in distress.

It has always seemed to me that the romantic and the mundane travel paths mostly parallel, intersecting at infrequent intervals, both ultimately revealing themselves to be ruts in which one might be stuck. Cassandra would have understood.

There are moments that I think anyone who has ever been young and in love will identify with. Refusing to let herself imagine things and then giving into the fantasies for the pragmatic reason that "it will never happen now", talking to herself through the character she applies to her dressmaker's dummy and gossipping with her sister in the dwindling candlelight are all realistic, funny moments. She has her moments of mortification and embarrassment, but this is no Bridget Jones's Diary; it has far more heart than that.

Perhaps it was a matter of timing: I stumbled across this book while I was turning fifteen, an age where all of this has the seriousness of life or death. But the story has stayed with me, perhaps sustained me, for decades. And if it seems to me that "it will never happen now," that proves only that Cassandra Mortmain set the bar very high indeed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:53 AM to Table for One )
You load 16 tons

And what do you get? Maybe enough energy to run Vista in this PC modified to look like an old coal furnace.

I note in passing that there is no actual heating system in my office: the computer hardware itself keeps the temperature at sorta-bearable levels in the winter. Maybe if we borrowed this mod, we'd get fewer questions from people who can't find the switch for the heater.

(Via Fark.)

In case you forgot your church key

Bevy is a clear plastic case for your (second generation) iPod Shuffle, incorporating a keychain ring, a tie for the earbuds — and a bottle opener.

The Liquor Snob explains:

Progress marches on, and as people get more technologically savvy they will always come up with new ways to open a beer.

Yea, verily.

(Seen at Popgadget.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:32 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
What's more, Gnat's away at camp

So Lileks cranks up the score from Disney's Fantasia, and this occurs to him:

I wonder if I'm one of 16 people who can't hear "Dance of the Hours" without anticipating the timpani thump they added to highlight the dropped hippo. If you know what I mean.

I do know what he means. In the original (and very noisy) recording of "Wild Thing" by the Troggs, there's a break after Reg Presley croons "You move me," and right before the band comes crashing back in, there's a very audible board click. You get used to that click. Many years later, there was an otherwise-forgettable CD compilation of songs from this period which was distinguished only by the fact that they'd edited out that piece of studio noise. So proud of themselves, they must have been. I can't hear it without wondering where the hell is the click?

On the other hand, the 16 people who anticipate the timpani thump probably outnumber the folks who can hear "Dance of the Hours" without once thinking "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah." As Mr. Sherman says, camp is very entertaining.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:03 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Not that they'd let you haggle

Bendeistiyorum.com, which vends products in Turkey much the way Woot does in (48 of) the States, put up Nintendo Wiis for sale at a way-stiff price of 699.99 YTL (around $530). No one nibbled, and if I'm reading this thread correctly, at least a couple of regulars complained about the price.

Now I don't have the slightest idea how tight Wii supplies are in this part of the world, but I'd be willing to bet that the standard American practice of paying way over list price just to make sure you get something isn't going to fly with the Turks. Not these Turks, anyway.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:15 PM to Common Cents )
Completely full of citrus

I wore an orange T-shirt to work today. (No, that's not all I wore. Don't be a wise guy.) This, in itself, is nothing too unusual: this particular tee is in my regular rotation, and probably gets worn three, maybe four times a month. And inasmuch as it is in my regular rotation, I didn't think twice about it when I pulled it out of the closet this morning.

It was a few hours later when I remembered the errand I'd scheduled for after work: buying Gwendolyn's 2008 tag, and renewing my driver's license. The license didn't expire until July, but I figured a single stone would be sufficient for both birds, inasmuch as trips to the tag agency, even a good tag agency — and the one I go to is fairly decent — tend to leave me drained, both emotionally and financially.

And then I had to ask myself: "Do I really want to carry around for the next four years a photograph of me in an orange T-shirt?"

So I went home and put on a green polo shirt, which goes better with my particular smirk. And inasmuch as the young woman in line in front of me admitted to a height of five foot three when I would have sworn she was at least five-six, I had them shave two inches off my height, which evidently isn't what it used to be.

27 June 2007
I blame socialized medicine

In Britain, the Tooth Fairy has to fork over twenty million pounds a year:

Research by savings experts at The Children's Mutual show tooth fairy inflation has leapt 500 per cent in 25 years, while the cost of living has gone up just 150 per cent over the same period.

The average lost tooth is worth £1.05 to kids today, compared to 17p when their parents were young.

The American Dental Figure of Arguable Gender, by comparison, has to shell out only $1.71 per tooth, a mere 86p.

(Via Dollymix.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Dyssynergy )
Yippie-ki-yay, maudlin faker

Alleged News Item: Controversial documentary filmmaker Michael Moore is accusing Apple Inc. and AT&T of using the iPhone to distract attention from his new movie Sicko, which opens in US theaters on the same day the hyped phone goes on sale. "This is an appalling display of greed and jealousy," said Moore after a recent screening of his new movie. "Apple and AT&T obviously don’t care about fixing America's healthcare system. They only care about how many iPhones they’re going to sell."

Asked why he chose to attack Steve Jobs of Apple rather than, for instance, Bruce Willis of Live Free or Die Hard, opening at the same time, Moore replied, "What, are you nuts? John McClane would beat the living shit out of me and I'm fresh out of airline tickets to Cuba."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:38 AM to Bogus History )
Fame and other vapors

If Andy Warhol were still around, he'd probably say something to the effect that in the future, everyone will have a Wikipedia entry for fifteen minutes.

And then, of course, it will be deleted.

Jane Galt wonders:

I've been deleted from Wikipedia for not being famous enough.

It's not a devastating blow or anything, but why does Wikipedia care how famous you are? Are they worried the volumes won't fit in people's basements?

Jane is certainly more notable than I, but who isn't? (Let's not always see the same hands.)

There are about half a dozen people in Wikipedia with some version of my name, which surprises me not in the least. I suppose, were I to take this personally, I could add myself to the disambiguation page and hope that no one ever gets around to deleting me — I've written stuff for Wikipedia before and know the drill — but what would be the point? I'm about as famous as I'm ever going to get, which is not very; in fact, I suspect I've probably stretched Warhol's standard, if not his patience, to the limit already.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:50 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The clues of the phisherman

Now this is hilarious. The phish was typical — "We detected irregular activity on your Bank of America Check Card" — but the bogus link to B of A was this:

http://adsl-69-216-37-241.dsl.klmzmi.ameritech.net/redirect.html

You know, if you're gonna steal stuff, Mr. Kalamazoo Phisher Guy, you probably ought not to telegraph where it's going.

This IP, incidentally, falls in a range belonging to these guys.

You're welcome.

Addendum: I toyed with the idea of reporting this to AT&T, whose DSL line this is, but the ignorant douchenozzles make it impossible to do anything on their Web site without jumping through their intake hoops. Repeat: AT&T = ignorant douchenozzles. Remember it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:16 AM to Scams and Spams )
Hot dog, grub cakes again!

What with twenty-nine inches of rain so far this year (more than all of last year), I figure if there's anything living under my yard, it's got to be mildew. But no, say the Lawn Guys, it's grubs, and they can leave horrible-looking burned spots on the areas that aren't presently completely and utterly drenched.

So I put in for a de-grubbing, which sounds like even less fun than I think it is. Let's hope they're heavy on the 30-weight.

(Because you're thinking it already: "Don't eat with your hands, son. Use your entrenching tool.")

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:58 PM to Surlywood )
The real Magic Lasso

Says here at Absolutely Bananas that you definitely need to know how to Photoshop your head onto someone else's body, and it makes sense to me:

Dear Marsha,

Sadly I will not be able to attend the ... high school reunion due to pressing concerns brought on by my vast wealth and prestige. However, I am attaching a recent self portrait so that you know what I look like these days. Feel free to print out several poster-sized copies to hang around the reunion.

If I ever want to send something to one of mine — next one is the 40th — I will definitely want to render myself from the chin down as vaguely Schwarzeneggerdly.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:45 PM to Almost Yogurt )
28 June 2007
And more thoughts on fame

Steph Waller notes:

I don't keep a blog to harvest hit counts. I keep a blog to communicate. And is a large readership really all that important? I'd rather have a small readership of people who actually like to read my stuff than a huge one of people who are just trying to drive up their blog traffic. That just seems like so much mutual stroking off. All of this has made me wonder lately if blogging isn't simply a way of nabbing a little attention. Back when I was young and chasing down the fame demon (or he was chasing me), I wasn't really after the money, attention, or groupies. I just didn't want to be obscure. I wanted to make a mark, let people know that I existed. Now that I can blog, post pictures and promote my projects, that hunger has subsided considerably.

I have to admit, one of the most reliable means of getting me to look at someone's site — not that getting me to look at someone's site is exactly a big deal — is for that someone to show up in comments. They don't have to be comments here, necessarily: they just have to be at a place where they'll cross my path.

I still leave a few calling cards here and there, and I always leave my URL, but I don't expect traffic from so doing: I'm just taking part in the conversation, to the extent that I can. (I mean, I have 150 blogs on the roll, and a day job. The two do not coexist particularly well.)

As for "grabbing a little attention," I was always able to do that: it was getting more than a little that proved difficult. Eventually I figured out that the top of a small mound of dirt was a more hospitable place than the third sub-basement of the Parthenon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 AM to Blogorrhea )
Okay, maybe you're not an addict

The AMA reserves the right to decide if maybe that's a lie, though:

The American Medical Association on Wednesday backed off calling excessive video-game playing a formal psychiatric addiction, saying instead that more research is needed.

A report prepared for the AMA's annual policy meeting had sought to strongly encourage that video-game addiction be included in a widely used diagnostic manual of psychiatric illnesses.

AMA delegates instead adopted a watered-down measure declaring that while overuse of video games and online games can be a problem for children and adults, calling it a formal addiction would be premature.

Nintendo is reportedly working on a new Wiimote that simulates backpedaling.

And what of the "victims"?

Despite a lack of scientific proof, Jacob Schulist, 14, of Hales Corners, Wis., says he's certain he was addicted to video games — and that the AMA's vote was misguided. Until about two months ago, when he discovered a support group called On-Line Gamers Anonymous, Jacob said he played online fantasy video games for 10 hours straight some days. He said his habit got so severe that he quit spending time with family and friends.

And who better to judge an addiction than a 14-year-old?

Says Lileks:

News flash! Teen boy avoids family for computer games! While we're glad the kid found help, you have to be amused by the name of the organization: On-Line Gamers Anonymous. Not to dismiss their good works and good intentions, but which online gamer isn't anonymous? Unless your given name actually is DragonKilr0492 Ninth Level Wizard of Mordor Peterson.

"My friends call me Deek," says Peterson.

I expect at least one person will be amused by all this posturing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:38 AM to Dyssynergy )
247

In 1933, Boeing began production of a twin-engine passenger aircraft which, in an emergency, could fly on a single engine. Only seventy-five Boeing 247s were built.

There's no emergency at the Carnival of the Vanities: Issue #247 is up and available for your pre-flight inspection.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:34 AM to Blogorrhea )
Bartholomew J. Simpson and I

The Northern Gleaner offers a test (by Dr Ken Christian) to see if you're an underachiever. I admit I didn't try very hard, but I've italicized the statements which best describe me:

  1. Taking shortcuts and doing the minimum possible even with important matters.
  2. Spending more time getting ready to work, getting out of work, or getting others to do it, than working.
  3. Inconsistent, insufficient effort.
  4. A lack of real engagement even in your most important life activities and relationships.
  5. Ambivalence in making decisions.
  6. Planning, scheming, and talking about things but not following through on them.
  7. Difficulties organizing work and organizing your life in general.
  8. Difficulties reaching distant goals due to a lack of appropriate planning and persistence.
  9. Repeated initial excitement for new ventures, followed by disappointment when the new wears off.
  10. False starts and frequent changes in direction and goals due to boredom, and a preference to start something new.
  11. Failure to complete important projects, whether pleasant or unpleasant.
  12. A tendency to quit things just as you begin to achieve success doing them.
  13. Procrastination.
  14. A history of being involved with relationships, jobs, or other situations that demand less than your true capabilities and therefore provide less than full satisfaction.
  15. Gravitating toward non-traditional occupations in order to avoid traditional structured work schedules or the demands of bosses or supervisors.
  16. A history of being stuck in situations that you thought would be temporary.
  17. Self-doubt and low or varying self-esteem.
  18. Fears that you will not be able to live up to your own expectations or those of others.
  19. Recurrent fears of that you are faking it or are a fraud and about to be found out.
  20. A paralyzing fear of striving for what you really want because you do not want to be disappointed or fail.
  21. Unrealistic notions of what is actually required for success.
  22. A history of keeping your options open by postponing serious commitments.
  23. Difficulties in appropriately balancing risks and opportunities with an habitual tendency to take unnecessary risks, or to play it too safe, or to alternate between the two strategies.
  24. Blaming failures on "bad luck" or other people instead of accepting personal responsibility for them.
  25. A feeling that you are socially inadequate and younger than your age and that you have fallen behind your peers in reaching important milestones.
  26. A feeling that time is running out and you haven't gotten started.
  27. Periods of depression.

Notes and/or excuses:

  1. Not that I have the time for this anymore.
  2. My expectations of myself are cunningly designed to make sure no one can possibly live up to them.
  3. All together now: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"
  4. I can think of no time in the last 41 years during which I felt in sync with my putative peers, with the possible exception of my days in the military, when I had, um, more immediate issues.
  5. There are fewer of these than before, though I have not ascertained whether this is due to a "healthier" mental state or simply giving less of a damn.

(Via the accomplished Julie R. Neidlinger.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:26 PM to Screaming Memes )
Still more thoughts on fame

I've mentioned this before, but I've always considered it an object lesson in humility: when David Letterman departed NBC's Late Night for CBS, Conan O'Brien, then a writer/producer for The Simpsons, was tapped to take his place. The general response was "Conan who?" and at a press conference to introduce the new kid, someone asked what NBC was thinking, hiring a relative unknown for a cash cow like Late Night.

O'Brien bristled: "Sir, I am not a relative unknown. I am a complete unknown."

Those of us huddled around the edge of obscurity can appreciate this sort of thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:33 PM to Blogorrhea )
29 June 2007
Lamentations MMVII
  1. There was in the land of Sooners a man, and that man was upright and noble, though more the former than the latter, and on the sixteenth day of rain he called unto the Lord and said: "O Lord, when wilt thou banish the raging flood-waters?"

  2. And the Lord heard and replied unto the man, "Didst thou not complain that thine own field last year had thirsted and died?"

  3. The man bowed his head in shame, for he knew that the Lord spake the truth, and then he said in a low voice: "In this, as in all things, thy will be done."

  4. And the Lord said, "This is the plan; thou hast chosen wisely in choosing not to mess with it. However, the promise that was made to Noah back in the day is equally made unto his descendants."

  5. The man cast his eyes heavenward, and said, "I shall await thy celestial display. For the morrow, what are we, thy humble servants, to do?"

  6. And the Lord said, "Seek ye the counsel of him who cometh from the tribe of England, for he shall keep thee advised."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Weather or Not )
Clean sweep, as it were

Found in the AANR Bulletin:

For the second year in a row, Bare Spirits joined the Polk County (OR) Adopt-A-Road program. During a one-year commitment, participants keep their section of road cleared of roadside litter. The Operations Division of the Public Works Department posts a sign identifying the responsible group at both ends of the roadway. What a great way to show community spirit.

And before you ask, that was all they were showing:

The Bare Spirits did not show their "Bare" spirit during the actual cleanup.

There is much to be said for not scandalizing one's neighbors, after all.

Opening volley

Received: the first piece of political advertising in the race to replace District 1 County Commissioner Jim Roth, who has been appointed to the Corporation Commission.

Debbie Blackburn, for twelve years a state representative (District 88), is one of five Democrats seeking the seat; she sent out modest cards announcing a fundraiser ($100 a plate) in July.

The McCarville Report advises:

On the Democratic side, my money's on Councilwoman [Ward 6] Ann Simank and former State Rep. Debbie Blackburn. Should be a real shootout. And remember: It's a winner-take-the-nomination primary. There is no runoff.

Said primary is on the 14th of August, followed by the general election on 11 September. In the meantime, Linda Simpson, who was Roth's chief deputy, serves as interim commissioner.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:38 AM to City Scene )
Dampnation

If you were wondering just how wet it is out here, consider this factoid:

The Canadian River passes just north of the town of Alex. Flood stage is 15 feet; in the past century or so the river has occasionally crested as high as 21 feet.

This morning it hit more than 37 feet.

It won't stay that high forever, of course, but conditions have gone from irritating to intolerable.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:06 PM to Weather or Not )
Quote of the week

That dud car bomb in London? A sign of something worrisome, says Purple Avenger, but perhaps not the something you expect:

I have a real problem with this bomb not going off. Being an engineer, I favor things that work. Ineptly designed and constructed bombs are embarrassing. They demonstrate a lack of seriousness and poor craftsmanship that seems to be pandemic in the world today. Non-functioning bombs are a sort of "canary in the coal mine" indicator for general societal dysfunction.

When we were younger, we didn't have Mercedes-Benz automobiles to waste. We had beaters, even sub-beaters, and we liked 'em:

Walk into any Home Depot and observe the customers for a while and what I'm saying will become readily apparent. The majority, unless they are tradesmen, don't have the slightest clue. It's really a wonder that they managed to drive their cars to get there.

50 years ago this wasn't the case. The males in our society were expected to demonstrate a certain level of mechanical competence. People changed their own oil in their cars. Having to take a car to some mechanic to have a busted fan belt replaced would have been considered embarrassing in most social circles. Decades ago, at an early age, our males were constantly exposed to information and experiences that built a modest level of competence even among those who would eventually become white collar office workers.

To a large degree this is gone today. To a large degree, society is indeed choosing to suppress this competence in our youth. How many towns have laws now that prohibit you from keeping a "junk car" around? Most of them. Junk cars, aside from being junk, were/are wonderful mechanical training grounds for youth. People don't need 10 of them, but one isn't necessarily a bad thing.

We will disregard, for the moment, the government's role in making simple mechanical vehicles obsolete in the name of fuel economy, safety, or whatever. Not that fuel economy or safety are bad things, exactly, but there's a price to be paid for them.

I could change the fan belt on my Celica, and did. (And I carried a spare, in case I had to again.) My Infiniti has lotsa belts, none of which drive the fan, and none of which I can even reach without disassembling rather a lot of the engine.

Addendum, 2 July: A point is being missed, says Dr B:

Strategy Page notes that the "A TEAM" is dead or in Gitmo, so you are left with wannabees who don't hold jobs, study religion rather than mess around with cars in their back yards or fix machinery.

Which is, of course, another reason why they would lose, and lose big, were it not for the desperate attempts by self-hating Westerners to assist them.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 PM to QOTW )
30 June 2007
Failure to launch

Judging by the local freeway traffic, no one pays attention to anything I say on the subject. Maybe they'll listen to someone else saying it:

You simply cannot safely merge onto a highway when you are moving at half the speed of the cars on the highway. Period. Full stop. End of story.

The entire point of on-ramps and merge lanes is to allow you the possibility to get up to the same speed as the highway you are about to be launching your car onto — that you do not take advantage of that opportunity is indicative of a remarkable lack of self-awareness, an even stronger lack of situational awareness, and an amazing amount of purebred stupidity. There is absolutely nothing worse than being stuck behind some dumbass in an econobox doing 40 trying to merge onto a highway where the speed limit is 65, and traffic is moving at 80. That is, there is nothing worse than that except actually being on that highway as the dumbass in the econobox just lurches out into your lane doing 40, and make absolutely no attempt to get up to a rational speed.

Around these parts, it might be an econobox — or it might be a Buick. Not that Buicks are incapable of coming up an onramp at a reasonable speed, but Buicks in this neck of the woods tend to be driven by people whose average age is Deceased, with exactly the consequences you'd expect.

And on my commute particularly, the vehicle to avoid is a wan Dodge minivan driven by Nurse Ratched at a constant 52 mph in either of two 60 zones. I have memorized her plate, and work diligently to stay away from her.

In the meantime, I must echo these sentiments:

People, your cars were given engines for a reason. If your vehicle is physically incapable of accelerating fast enough to get onto a highway from an onramp, get it looked at, or get a new car. Barring that, take your driver's license (assuming you even have one) out of your wallet, take a pair of scissors, and slice it into very fine strips. Once completed, take a phillips-head screwdriver, go out to your car, and puncture each of your four tires.

And the spare.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:36 AM to Driver's Seat )
How to kill a couple of hours

This was David's idea:

Because You Care: the 25 songs in my iTunes that have the longest running time. After you look at my 25, you should post your 25 longest songs.

I balked at that, largely because I use iTunes only for, well, iTunes purchases and for podcasts, and I've bought only 33 songs.

Still, if Tahoe Burns can do it, so can I:

iTunes list

Note that three of these are actually videos.

I'll see what I can do for my much-larger collection of MP3s, which I generally play in Winamp.

Mower-icide

It wasn't deliberate, exactly, but the result was the same.

There was a period of about four hours today when it actually wasn't raining, so I figured I'd see if I could tame the jungle that had been growing in the front yard for the better part of two weeks. The mower complained; I pressed ahead. Finally, after finishing about ¾ of the job, I looked down and noticed a nasty hemorrhage spreading across the deck.

This is not the first time I've seen oil out of place on this mower: lately every few minutes or so a smidgen of it would blow out the exhaust, which tells me that (1) the valve guides are probably shot and (2) it would cost more than this thing is worth to fix it.

So if you were wondering what I'm doing for the Fourth of July, wonder no more.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:03 PM to Surlywood )
Somebody wants Moore

Someone landed here today looking for a place in Oklahoma where Michael Moore's Sicko is playing. And so far as I can tell, there's exactly one: AMC's Southroads 20, at 41st and Yale in Tulsa.

I don't know if it's showing in Cuba.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:42 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Jobs action

Brian buys an iPhone, and encounters more than just fellow shoppers:

Because of traffic, the original AT&T store I planned to visit got bumped for a less obscure one. I got there right about 4:30 and had the fortune to get in line next to two very sweet women: one a college-aged fashionista who was moving to Mexico, the other a middle-aged, gadget-obsessed mother of three children and two large and two small dogs. About 50 people were in line at the time the store opened. They started letting folks in promptly at 6:00 PM. First a group of about ten, then a new person for each one that exited the store. Several television stations were there covering the event, as well as some "leafletting" Communications Workers of America representatives.

He didn't say what the CWA action was about, but I poked around for a minute or so and eventually happened upon this story from Middletown, Connecticut:

As they waited in line on Main Street Friday afternoon, hopeful buyers of the new iPhone were left to ponder the presence of a 15-foot-high inflatable rat. And not just any 15-foot-high inflatable rat, but one occupying its own parking space.

The rat symbolizes corporate greed, according to more than half-a-dozen officials and members of the Communications Workers of America. The CWA members were mounting an informational picket line outside the AT&T store at Court and Main streets.

The unionists are members of Local 1298 of the CWA, which represents AT&T store employees. William Horobin, a vice-president of the local, said their complaint was indirectly tied to the introduction of the new phone. "We have nothing against the phone" or against Apple, its manufacturer, Horobin explained. "Our argument is the way AT&T is treating its employees," Horobin said. "AT&T is 'The Rat'."

Meet the new monolith, same as the old monolith.

The issue involves what the union says is a policy change introduced just before the turn of the year that reduces employees' commissions. "What they did was to cut the amount of the commission, so that you have to sell more to make the same amount of money," Horobin explained. "Our thing is to let people know that AT&T is not a friendly employer," he said. "The new AT&T is not the old AT&T."

"There is no new thing under the sun." — Ecclesiastes 1:9

Similar picketing, said the CWA official, took place "across the country."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:51 PM to Dyssynergy )
Mean streets

Oh, sorry, I meant "average roads."

The Reason Foundation, a libertarian think tank, has issued its 16th Annual Report on the Performance of State Highway Systems (1984–2005). (If that sounds like more than 16 years to you, you're not alone.) Here's what they had to say about Oklahoma:

In 2005, Oklahoma reported 13,389 miles of highway under the state control. The state ranked 24th in the overall performance rankings in 2005, as compared to 31st in 2000. Oklahoma's best ratings were for capital/bridge disbursements per mile of responsibility (11th), receipts per mile of responsibility (14th), total disbursements per mile of responsibility (15th), urban interstate congestion (15th), rural primary pavement narrow (15th) and maintenance disbursements per mile of responsibility (17th). Its lowest ratings were for urban interstate condition (46th), deficient bridges (42nd), rural primary pavement condition (38th) and fatality rate (33rd). Oklahoma's worse-than-average system performance is offset by its relatively low unit costs.

Although I'd hate to have to extend this you-get-what-you-pay-for premise to, say, the New Crosstown, which promises to deliver anything but.

According to the Reason numbers, 14.11 percent of our urban Interstate is rated Poor, a bit more than twice the national mean. This implies that more than 85 percent is not rated Poor, which makes me wonder just how bad a road has to get to be tagged as Poor.

The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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