1 August 2007
Does a picture mean a thousand hits?
Beginning last Sunday, my site traffic has dropped to almost exactly by half from where it normally is. On weekdays, I averaged until this week roughly 1,000 unique visitors a day. This week I've pulled an average of under 600. Is this because I am now running pictures of my face on the bodies of David Beckham and some anonymous barbell boy? It would be entirely logical to assume so, but in reality what has happened is that Google Images has gone through some sort of update. And in the course of said update, many of the images from this site have either been relegated to the back pages of any given image search or have disappeared from the image search altogether.
I suppose I should take the fact that I'm now revealed as being even more insignificant than previously thought as a bit of a blow, but I can't really muster the ego to work up even a minor sulk. I just don't care.
Which is, of course, the only way to view a downturn in traffic: studied disdain.
Rather a lot of Google Images searches that landed here made no sense whatever to me: they'd serve up a monthly or category archive, a couple hundred meg, maybe more, and an unrelated photograph, mostly because somewhere in those couple hundred meg are two words which the searcher put together but which I never did. If Google is restringing an algorithm to make this less likely, it's fine with me. Not that I have any desire to see Dennis' traffic diminish, mind you. (And mine hasn't dropped at all, for some inscrutable reason.)
I might also point out that if I really wanted to kill off my readership, I'd post shots of my head Photoshopped onto my own body.
The Rupert is up 12 at this hour
The Oklahoman's Don Mecoy sees some unexpected fallout from the News Corp. acquisition of Dow Jones:
The historic Dow Jones Industrial Index, which tracks stocks of 30 of the nation's largest companies, is part of the sale. Mr. Murdoch now has the option of renaming the most important, most reported stock index. How do you like the sound [of] "Fox News Industrial Average" or "MySpace Industrial Average" or even "Rupert and Wendi's Stock Index?"
I'm holding out for "America's Most Shorted" or "Can You Invest Smarter Than a 5th-Grader?" myself.
In case of any doubt
Trini got her first shipment from Woot's T-shirt operation, and it's a pretty decent piece of work, executed in 100-percent cotton by the American Apparel guys.
One thing is troubling, though: the fabric-care tag contains the ominous notation "not for use as pants."
Or you could just buy less crap
Who didn't see this coming?
A first-of-its-kind credit card has been unearthed that contributes a portion of card purchases to buy greenhouse gas emissions offsets. GE Money [has] launched the Earth Rewards Platinum MasterCard which enables cardholders to contribute a full one percent of their card net purchases to GHG emission reduction projects; or contribute one-half of one percent to reduction projects and receive one-half of one percent cash back through their monthly statements. Cardholders will be able to switch back and forth between reward programs whenever they choose, at no cost and with no loss of rewards. GE says if 100,000 cardholders spend $750 per month, the annual greenhouse gas credits retired would be the equivalent to removing more than 175,000 cars from American roads for one year.
Interest on $1000 for a year: $180.
Rewards on $1000 for a year: $10.
That smug feeling you get from your dubious environmentalism: priceless.
The Dustbury Trace Parkway
Neither Rand nor McNally will acknowledge such a thing. Just the same, those of you who followed World Tour '07 may remember that Kirk was plotting the route, day by day, on Google Maps.
It finally occurred to me to take a look at the finished product I'd seen it in its formative stages and while the link is a mouthful, the results are just fine. Thank you, sir, and remember: 2008 is not so far away.
Here in the Sub-Kreskin Zone
I pulled up at the Gazette office this afternoon to snag a copy, and parked near the door was a shiny new(ish) Vespa with, heaven help us, bumper stickers. I admit I did crack a smile at "One Less SUV." (Across the street at Iron Starr I caught sight of a pink scooter, which temporarily disrupted a substantial number of brain cells for reasons I'd just as soon not go into.)
Of course, if you hang around alt-weeklies and other places with ostensible countercultural cred, you hardly need bumper stickers to determine the Zeitgeist. To demonstrate, Stewpid reads the minds of the Whole Foods shoppers, and comes up with stuff like this:
"Where are all the hot horny hippie chicks? This place doesn't even have subs. This sucks."
"Hmm, if I frown over the label of this Ugandan wine for five whole minutes, will people stop suspecting that I am just buying it because it costs $4.99?"
"I just bought a wrap with Thai peanut sauce! I am like the most ethnic, exotic person on the entire planet!!!! I am like the Angelina of my entire subdivision! Thai sauce! I'm edgy!!!! Grrrr!!!!!!!"
Being about as edgy as the Pillsbury Doughboy, I am in no position to grumble, but just the same, I don't think we're ever going to run out of hot horny hippie chicks. Not that any of them are likely to cross my threshold.
2 August 2007
Okay, now you can mind the bollocks
When a ballsy female concertgoer reached out and grabbed Tim McGraw's nether regions Saturday at the Cajundome in Lafayette, Louisiana, his missus told the errant fan in no uncertain terms that that sort of behavior is frowned upon in them there parts (no pun intended).
"Somebody needs to teach you some class, my friend," a finger-wagging Hill told the woman. "You don't go grabbin' somebody else's, somebody's husband's [privates], you understand me? That's very disrespectful!"
Take it easy, Faith. Sit a spell. Breathe.
Woot is now shipping low-cost and/or low-mass items via SmartPost, a venture in which FedEx does the front-end work and then hands your parcel off to the Postal Service. How it's supposed to work, according to FedEx:
FedEx SmartPost offers you an efficient, value-oriented, and timely way to ship high volumes of low-weight packages to residential customers. We pick up, sort, line haul, track and deliver your packages to the post offices closest to your customers. The USPS makes the final delivery to the residence. As a result, you reduce transit time, minimize handling, and maximize postal discounts.
The T-shirt department is shipping everything SmartPost unless you ante up $5 for FedEx overnight. (If you don't, you pay zilch for shipping.) And you can be sure that not everyone is happy about this. From the Woot message board:
Woot needs to make the SmartPost logo on the main product page link to either this blog or somewhere in the FAQ about how SmartPost will take longer than normal.
Because you're never going to be able to tell from looking at the logo. (Disclosure: I have had no issues with SmartPost, though the sample size two is not statistically significant.)
Alan Sullivan says he wouldn't be surprised to see more Twin Cities bridges crumbling:
They use far too much road salt during the long Minnesota winters: it rots out the cars, and eventually even steel girders give way. It’s time for local authorities to cut back the chemicals and rely more on old-fashioned sand.
We don't have this problem in Oklahoma: we simply cheap out on the actual construction.
Meanwhile, I picked up this bulletin from a MySpace friend:
No one laugh at me any more about going over bridges and being afraid.
No giggles here.
No shift, Sherlock
William C. Montgomery, at The Truth About Cars, on the single-minded nature of Nissan's Xtronic CVT:
According to Nissan's literature, the 16-valve DOHC mill cranks out 175 hp and 180 ft.-lbs. of torque. In real life, the [Altima] Coupe's mechanical stableyard feels a good twenty horses shy of that total. Blame the Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission. While the shiftless non-cog swapper quickly and accurately finds the right gear ratio in most situations, it quickly and accurately finds the right gear ratio in most situations. In other words, the mpg bias sucks the fun right out of the system.
In defense of Nissan, they have a pretty good (if costly) continuously-variable air-conditioning compressor that is almost imperceptible in normal driving.
Talk of the townsfolk
Will there be an attempt to restore the old-and-busted Fairness Doctrine for broadcast media? Not if Air America's Thom Hartmann has anything to say about it:
The "progressive has failed" frame is simply wrong. In just three short years, our format has gone from a small handful of progressive stations to 10% of the talk radio content of this country. If I'd started a soda pop business in my garage and in three years had taken 10% of Coca-Cola's market, my picture would be on the cover of Forbes! Nobody thinks of Apple as a failure, but they only have 4.8% of the U.S. computer market, and that's taken them 20 years! What if a new music format had taken 10% of the radio market in just three years? Everybody would be talking about it, it'd be moving onto bigger and bigger sticks, and programmers would be figuring out how to clone it in every local market across the country! Conservative Talk radio didn't catch on instantly, either. We don't need no stinkin' Fairness Doctrine, and we don't need to be lectured by failing talk show hosts. We just need a few more industry pros to take seriously the very real accomplishments and the ongoing potential of this format as it matures. Add to that a few shots at bigger sticks [industry jargon for radio towers], dedicated sales forces, and decent imaging and promotion, and maybe we'll be 20% within the next three years!"
There are a couple of things askew here Apple, once upon a time, had a market share far greater than 4.8 percent, and 10 percent of the content does not necessarily equal 10 percent of the audience but otherwise Hartmann's nailed it. New formats do not flourish overnight. But should they catch on in a few major markets, others will take notice. (Jack FM was on in Canada for a year and a half before any US station picked it up.)
And the competition? There is that panoply of right-wing commentators, but perhaps the biggest threat to commercial "progressive" broadcasting is good ol' National Public Radio, a reliably left-wing bunch, firmly entrenched, pretty much ubiquitous, and known to receive actual checks from some of us center-right types. It goes without saying, though, that there are people for whom NPR is insufficiently leftish.
I can see one other possible snag: old-time radio guys, a lot of whom are still around, hear the word "progressive" and think it's the old FM album-rock format from the 1970s. Ultimately it may be necessary to coin another term. What is not necessary, of course, is any sort of government action.
3 August 2007
Surrender the plastic
If you're not keen on giving out your credit-card numbers, you can probably relate to this:
I received a free iTunes download from Ticketmaster this morning. To retrieve said download, an Apple account had to be created.
And, of course, Apple wants to know how they're going to collect from you even if they're giving you a freebie.
I used to advise people to get a card with a very low limit just for such occasions; yes, I know that you're not going to have to eat any illegal transactions, but there's a certain satisfaction in sticking it to identity thieves. At the time, I had a MasterCard with a whopping $100 limit, which I used for all manner of low-level Net transactions. Unfortunately, I was diligent in making payments, and now that card has a $12,500 limit, and I'd just as soon AverageOnlineMerchant dot com didn't have any record of it.
So I'm thinking maybe an American Express gift card, say $25 worth. (I get one of these every few months for spending some ungodly sum on my Amex.) It acts pretty much like any other American Express card, and once you get tired of it, it's easy to burn off somewhere.
The alternative you get freebies without having to sign up for anything is too remote a possibility to consider.
I do believe I've been profiled
Norman Geras' normblog profile is one of the longer-running regular features in blogdom: over the years there have been more than 200 interviews, including most of the A-list bloggers, with occasional forays into the B-list.
We won't mention how far Norm had to dip into the alphabet to come up with me, but I was happy to participate just the same, and I thank him for the opportunity.
Not what you'd call a passing grade
One of the AP pieces on the I-35W collapse in Minneapolis notes that on a scale of 1 to 100 for structural stability, the failed bridge scored a 50.
The Oklahoman reports that Oklahoma City's Crosstown Expressway rates a 49, though the state does not consider it unsafe. (The bridge was closed once, in 1989, after a crack in a support beam was discovered.)
Not that I download quacked versions
I am very much a creature of habit: I didn't overthrow WordPerfect 5.1 until the last days of Ami Pro for Windows, which I persisted in using even after Lotus bought it, changed its name to WordPro and added almost Microsoftian layers of bloat to it. I am still trying to get the hang of OpenOffice.org, and at first I thought that my objections to it were rooted in its name: products, I aver, should not be named for their URLs.
I'm as guilty of software imprinting as anyone. I was provided an evaluation copy of Visual SlickEdit, but I couldn't bring myself to try it out because I have already "imprinted" on the Visual Studio editor. I'm still learning ways to be more effective in my preferred editor; is it really worth my time to divide my effort and attempt to learn a new, unfamiliar editor that I may not even ultimately use? That's the software imprinting dilemma.
This is probably not the time to admit to ten years' experience with Outlook Express.
(Via Wheels within Wheels.)
That's how we do things in the 804
Virginia, starting this month, is collecting civil penalties in addition to fines in an obvious effort to fatten the exchequer.
The Old Grouch helpfully pointed out in comments that these applied only to Virginians.
And apparently that particular bit of discrimination was enough to get the law enabling them struck down:
In the first case of its kind, a Henrico County General District Court judge today struck down as unconstitutional the Virginia's controversial speeding ticket tax that had been in effect since July 1. Judge Archer L. Yeatts III ruled that the civil remedial fees violated the equal protection clause by applying additional, mandatory fines of up to $3000 on Virginia drivers, but not out-of-state drivers who may have committed the same driving violation.
"A 'dangerous' driver is a 'dangerous' driver, whether he or she is a life-long resident of Virginia or simply passing through on his or her way to another state or county," Judge Yeatts wrote. "The court rejects the speculations postulated by the commonwealth, and mindful of its obligation to do so, has exhausted its speculation quotient in trying to conceive of any others that would be a rational basis for the distinction between resident and non-resident 'dangerous drivers'."
Source here. For now, this applies only to Henrico County. Still to be answered: how a government can pass off a fine as a mere fee.
(Courtesy of Bitter Bitch.)
Or there's a simpler explanation
The most interesting thing about Asperger's syndrome is that its "discoverer" decided he had it and named it after himself, which he might have done even if not "suffering" from this "disorder." Maybe.
Asperger's, like too many other mental illnesses, is in effect an almost whimsical diagnosis of exclusion: If someone is really smart, arrogant beyond measure, and tends to be an asshole or otherwise impossible to converse with in a normal way, then he must have a form of autism. It's not treatable, but hey, labels are always fun and interesting.
And inevitably, there is a quick-and-dirty test online, consisting of 50 questions on a four-point scale (there is no Neutral). The cutoff point:
Scores over 32 are generally taken to indicate Asperger's Syndrome or high-functioning autism, with more than 34 an "extreme" score.
Well, isn't that special.
There is, of course, a limit to how seriously I'm going to take a mere 50-question inventory of this sort, but then I'm really smart and arrogant beyond measure.
(Via the kindly James Joyner.)
4 August 2007
Interstate of affairs
Regular readers will know that while the World Tours have a distinct air of spontaneity to them, made more so by my ongoing unwillingness to book rooms more than about 48 hours in advance, some of the behind-the-scenes details (financial arrangements, packing techniques, that sort of thing) are scienced out to the nth, or at least the eth, degree.
I have to admit, though, I never planned anything like this:
[W]hy don't I just drive across this great country of ours? Then came inspiration! It was like the stars converged over my head, giving me the opportunity to accomplish my life-long dream
yes, getting laid by a different woman in all fifty states.
Why settle for just one when America offers so much variety?!
All men have this dream, but how many of us get to achieve it? We always get bogged down with marriage and babies and cleaning out the garage!
I've never had this dream, but I presumably lack imagination. (And I definitely lack possibilities.)
Still, if he can pull this off well, if nothing else, the bloggage ought to be extraordinary.
Or as we called it, "Damn Yankees"
If you attended schools in South Carolina about the time I did, you got some serious instruction on the Civil War Between the States for Southern Independence. One project assigned to two-person teams in our history class: produce a four-page newspaper for distribution in the city of Charleston for 13 April 1861 the day after the mighty Southern cannons opened fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. It was fun, and my partner and I did A-level work (actually, if you ask me, I think it was B-level work with A-plus-level graphic design: he was good at that sort of thing), but the time we spent concentrating on minutiae from the first day was time we wouldn't have to study the sweep, the flow, the dynamics of the war.
Which today, thanks to modern technology, you can do in four minutes and twenty-four seconds:
(Via Scribal Terror.)
Technorati must be hosed
There's no other way to explain "Rank: 1," unless Dave Sifry's trying out a new Rankness Index, an unlikely possibility at best. Still, I figured I ought to preserve this for posterity, since there's no way anyone's ever going to see this again unless I get much more proficient at Photoshop. At the time, the Top 100 button did seem to work correctly. (I'm guesstimating my actual Technorati rank to be around 23,000.)
Magazine publisher LPI Media is seeking to get rid of the stuff:
We are now offering our U.S. customers the option of having your Out and Advocate subscriptions mailed with or without plastic wrap.
Please help us reduce the negative environmental impact of the plastic wrap currently mailed, and divert more magazine resources from printing/delivery to news and content development.
I hope there's some follow-up on how many subscribers actually do decide to forgo the extra plastic. And I wonder what it would take for Condé Nast to give up on it: just about everything I get from them is given the Laura Palmer treatment.
The great grocery hunt
Last week I tried out the Homeland version of The Store Formerly Known As Albertson's, and I was not particularly impressed, so this week I ventured out to a location taken over by Williams, at 7001 NW 122nd.
This one was a little harder to judge: the floor plan is totally different, so much of my evaluation time was spent in the tedious business of finding stuff. (I never did find the taco-seasoning mix. At the old store, it was located near the pasta the idea of putting it near the taco shells instead of 1.5 aisles away apparently doesn't fit into contemporary marketing strategy but no such luck here.) And the aisles were seriously cluttered: evidently I'd hit them very early in the transition and they were busy restocking stuff.
One thing Williams had in common with Homeland: they weren't going to a lot of trouble to get rid of old Albertson's house-brand products. The 1.75-quart tub of A-brand ice cream, $3.99 in its original home, was $3.69 at one store, $3.79 at the other. As clearance sales go, this does not impress. The major difference between them, though, was that despite the fact that both these stores kept most of their personnel after the change, the Williams crew has a distinct good-ol'-boy (or -girl) flavor, the same one I'd seen in their now-defunct Mayfair Market. And unlike Mayfair, the new Williams store does not seem to stock unfrosted blueberry Pop-Tarts, which I reasoned would be shelved near the 62 other flavors.
I'm inclined to give these guys another shot in a week or so, to see if they're a bit more organized, but they've got one strike against them: NW 122nd and Rockwell is a heck of a long way to go for groceries.
After a week of no rain something that hasn't happened since early March I hauled out the sprinkler for the first time this year and gave the front yard an actual watering. And, as often happens with unusual events, there was some unusual fallout.
A band of youngsters, seven or eight of them, the youngest maybe nine years old, was walking up the street on this hot (high today was 95) afternoon while I was digging a few holes in the flower bed. They didn't see me, but they did see the sprinkler, and the absence of a sidewalk notwithstanding, they adjusted their path to make sure they got under at least one sweep.
As the last of them was getting a shower, I suddenly appeared from behind a shrub with a pair of hedge shears, the AK-47 of hand-operated gardening tools, and for one brief moment, there was palpable (if soggy) tension in the air as they waited for me to tell them to get off my damn lawn. I said nothing, and finally one of them yelled what could have been a "Thank you." It seemed reasonable to let it go at that.
5 August 2007
Some day all cars will do this
But for now, you've got to get the '08 Cadillac CTS:
Cadillac added a TiVo-like feature that caches a rolling hour's worth of audio from the radio or satellite radio. So if you like a song and want to hear it again, just hit the rewind button. With satellite radio music, the recorder uses the track/artist/time-of-day information to insert bookmarks at the start of each song, so you can find what you want quickly. (For AM/FM radio, the skip feature works in 30-second increments.)
It's not quite perfect yet, though:
There are a couple of gotchas: If you change from satellite to radio, or even station to station, the cache flushes. And Cadillac won't let you save favorite XM satellite songs to the hard disk the way the Pioneer Inno handheld XM receiver does. Why not? "Because they [Pioneer] are in litigation," explained engineer Charles Massoll. But bless the engineers: The feature was engineered into the audio system but not activated, so if the recording industry ever decides features are good if they get music fans to listen to more music, it's ready and waiting.
I caught the gist of this in Car and Driver's CTS preview, couldn't quite believe it, and went hunting around for corroboration. Considering the littlest Caddy (if there were a BMW 4-series, it would be just about this size) is high on my want list, I have to hope that this goes over well.
This is too good not to reprint
At the age of 53 I now given my family history have less than 40 years to live. With medical advances I might actually reach 2045. Still and all, it means I really don't have much time to get donations added to my sparse and pitiful record of $5.00 (From Lair of This Blog is Full of Crap if you were wondering).
That is the reason behind this post; I would like to see more donations come my way before my demise around the middle of this century. Five dollars, ten dollars, a thousand dollars, I don't ask for much. (Though a five thousand dollar donation would probably get the attention of Homeland Security, and I don't think anybody wants to deal with that kind of paperwork. So think kindly of Homeland Security employees and help reduce their paperwork load.)
Unlike certain parties who shall [Andrew Sullivan] remain unnamed, I will not hit you with some phony baloney immediate crisis. Instead I will use a phony baloney distant crisis. I will blog for as long as [I] can on whatever equipment I must use. Even if I'm limited to 15 minutes a day on it. All to keep posting strange, confused, confusing posts on strange, confused, confusing topics. With the occasional strange, confused, confusing post on something that actually fakes importance, pertinence, and even topicality better than my usual crap.
Donate not because it would help me upgrade my computing equipment. Donate not because it's the right thing to do. Donate not because you've got some extra cash and don't know what to do with it. Donate instead because it means you won't have that money to donate to he who shall not be [Andrew Sullivan] named. Remember, if you give it to me you won't have it to give to [Andrew Sullivan] him.
There are few things in life I appreciate more than clear-cut motivation.
Like the Mage, I am 53; unlike him, I have no expectation of lasting until 2045. (Tomorrow I expect to be read the medical equivalent of the Riot Act and put on a diet of gruel and igneous rocks. None of that sedimentary junk.) And I've never actually requested any donations. On the other hand, if you'd like to reimburse me for the five bucks I sent him, I won't even complain.
Once again I'm behind the times
I was fiddling around with my MP3 Walkman, contemplating the possibility of avoiding Sony's cumbersome SonicStage interface, when I noticed that the folder on the machine which actually contains all the music files is called OMGAUDIO.
Lame (not to be confused with LAME) as it was, I giggled a bit, and then went looking to see if these letters were supposed to stand for something and/or if Sony had synthesized a backronym. No suggestions of such, but I did happen upon these guys, who have produced what appears to be some pretty nifty stuff probably with no help from Sony.
The connections we make
"Stranger on the Shore," Mr. Acker Bilk's evocative clarinet piece that topped both British and American charts in 1962, has some truly-mournful qualities to it, but to one woman, it's the saddest song of all. It starts with a slumber party, and then:
Once the lights were out, we kept the radio on very softly while the get-together continued downstairs. I heard lots of songs on the radio that night, but for some reason "Stranger On The Shore" stuck in my brain, attaching itself to our musings on what adults did at parties and what it would be like when we grew up. We had all sorts of plans and ideas. And all of that talk was infused with the Acker Bilk music on the transistor radio.
How does so much stuff get wrapped up in an old song? Well, it does. I'm sure there's some kind of psychological, sound-memory thing firing off between my dendrites, but I can't help but think there's more to it than just some scientific explanation.
I've had the best of all possible lives (well, except for the money part). I've done things that I could've never imagined at 10 years old while listening to a scratchy-sounding transistor radio on a Friday night in the winter of 1962. I've gone way beyond the wife and school teacher I thought I was destined to be.
Still, I keenly remember the visions of what adult life would be like. And reality is so, so different. Not many Holly Golightly-black cocktail dresses and witty, intelligent adult conversations at city-fied parties. But it's more than that. There was something bigger. Some big adult secret world that I imagined as a child, only to grow up to find that world doesn't exist the way I'd dreamed it would be. I don't dwell on this stuff, believe me. Just when I hear that song.
I never went to any slumber parties, a perhaps-inevitable result of not having been born a girl, but I think I understand this. I have a similar reaction to Bert Kaempfert's "Wonderland by Night," which for me evokes a startlingly-exact mental picture. It's a Friday night, somewhere between ten and midnight, and a convertible is crossing the bridge into downtown; reflections of the streetlights play on the pavement, on the hood, on us. Her little black dress has a row of sequins, and as we pass under the lights, they glow ever so slightly, but it's nothing compared to the glow on her face as she smiles. "Now, you know we have to be back by...." She lets the sentence trail off.
"By when?" I ask.
She leans in slightly, faces me, crosses her legs. "Well, certainly before Thursday."
I was, of course, too young to imagine how this narrative might have continued. But it seemed so very real, and one day not so long ago I contrived to be crossing a bridge into a city at the moment this song came up on the stereo and I swear I could actually almost see her. (And if I've ever seen you in an LBD, trust me: it was you I almost saw.) I don't know what in Kaempfert's arrangement, or in Charly Tabor's trumpet solo, implanted these images, but they're strong enough to have persisted for more than forty years.
And yes, there is sadness:
A lost, enticing, oh-so-cool adult world dreamed up by a 10-year-old girl listening to a song on a transistor radio in the lavender bedroom of her best friends in the winter of 1962. That loss is why the song is so sad to me.
I know what she means.
(Note: I've pulled the MP3s, on the basis that you've had enough time to hear them, and besides, my bandwidth bill is big enough already.)
6 August 2007
Strange search-engine queries (79)
The referrer log is a river, endlessly flowing, bringing the details of your visits; once in a while I stick in a pan, shake it a bit, and see if I can come up with some pure comic gold, or at least some risible pyrite.
is it illegal to be in your back yard naked in phoenix: Not necessarily, but you'd better have SPF 6.0221415 × 1023.
walmart how do they get away with paying such low wages: Because you keep shopping there.
der wienerschnitzel vegan: Cognitive dissonance boiled down to three words.
clever ways to deal with a steep driveway in the winter: "Bribe your neighbor to shovel it off" seems like it might work.
girlfriend says penis taste weird: Compared to what? Arugula? Zucchini?
big hooters: The one on I-240 is 5,285 square feet.
ocelot spleen: We never get requests for proper food.
how to get infinite minutes on a motorola V170 phone: Plug the flux capacitor directly into the charging port.
INTJs don't date: Not true. They just won't date you.
what does it mean when a transmission is rebuilt: It means you get to write a very large check.
how do I undress the Feng twins: Presumably one at a time.
car is an extension of men's penis: If that were the case, you'd see bigger bumper guards.
Waiting for a US version
An online game in which players can torture and kill corrupt officials that a Chinese local government set up to teach people about the perils of graft is proving a roaring success, state media said Thursday.
"Incorruptible Fighter," developed by the government of east China's Zhejiang province, was launched just over a week ago and is already so popular that it is being redesigned to accommodate more players, the China Daily said.
The game, which lets players get ahead by killing officials by means of "weapons, magic, or torture," has been downloaded more than 100,000 times, the Southern Metropolitan Daily said.
Hey, it beats the hell out of screaming your head off at C-Span.
(Via Purple Avenger.)
Go downtown, dammit
Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor is apparently trying to drum up business for downtown eateries, reports meeciteewurkor. A staffer at St Simeon's Episcopal Home on the northside found this on the corkboard:
Mayor Kathy Taylor has asked for assistance in letting Downtown employees know that many of our Downtown restaurants are struggling, particularly the ones open at night. [List snipped.]
Until the BOK Center opens they need our help. Please send the attached list to anyone you know that visits downtown and remind them that during this construction period it would be appreciated if they would be patrons of our Downtown establishments.
I don't find this particularly troubling, but I must note that (1) the residents might not be able to patronize those fine Downtown establishments and (2) St Simeon's is up at 37th and N. Cincinnati, a good three or four miles from any of them.
C30, C60, C90, go!
Two years ago there was a fair amount of buzz over a USB-based turntable from Ion, which plugs right into the PC and lets you rip that vinyl that's been cluttering up your room. Apparently it's sold well enough to justify a spin-off product: the TAPE2USB cassette deck, with actual switching for chromium-dioxide (Type II) and metal (Type IV) tape types.
Some form of the machine has apparently been floating around the rest of the world for some time now, but this is the first I'd heard of it. It won't be a must-buy for me, though, until they add in Dolby B noise reduction, which so far I haven't seen in Audacity and which Audacity developers say would be "tricky to get ... right without straight-up copying the actual process," something they'd like to avoid for the obvious reason. However, there is apparently a Winamp plugin with a built-in Dolby B workalike, so hope is not yet entirely dashed.
We said "Meh"
I had responded to something mehworthy with "Meh" today, and it occurred to me that surely someone must have snapped up "meh" domains already. I cranked up the browser, and sure enough, meh.com, meh.net, meh.org, meh.biz and meh.info have
Any suggestions for who should get meh.gov?
Axes of Evenings
(Found at Flibbertigibbet!)
7 August 2007
According to the Daily Mail, the Labour government seeks to reduce solid waste by giving you less space to stash it:
Families will be forced to squeeze their rubbish into new extra-small wheelie bins or risk a £1,000 fine under the latest Labour plans to crack down on household waste.
A Government report calls for the nationwide introduction of 'bonsai bins', a little more than half the size of the current 240-litre models, to encourage households to separate their rubbish for recycling.
And the new guidelines warn against letting larger families keep the old big bins because other households might suffer from 'bin envy'.
People who fail to cram all their non-recyclable waste into the 140-litre European-style wheelie bins will face criminal prosecution if they leave extra rubbish on the street in bags.
Forget the arguments over the merits of recycling (The Mail piece isn't engaged in tackling the broader arguments or offering alternatives) and that the cause of household waste is overpackaging by the supermarkets, reliance of prepackaged microwave meals, the throwaway consumer culture we are all encouraged to be part of (not things that the Mail is likely to attack), this piece is a fine exercise in using FUD to whip up discontent in the readership and crowbar in a 'family under attack' subtext. It's a classic Daily Mail piece that panders to the usual fears and anxieties. The core readership must be foaming at the mouth after finishing their morning paper with sheer indignation and outrage.
FUD is, of course, a time-(dis)honored method of boosting one's commercial profile; Microsoft's Bill Gates is an acknowledged master. Still, this whole "bin envy" concept strikes me as serious projection: as Dr Freud never said, sometimes a bin is just a bin.
A second Big Blue is free. If you have more to throw away than even two Big Blues can hold, we offer extra cart service for $2.45 a cart per month.
I have two Big Blues, which hold about 240l each. In the last four years I think I've filled both in a single week twice; there have been several weeks when I didn't haul either of them out to the curb because they weren't sufficiently full to justify the effort. On the other hand, I'm not even considering calling the city and asking them to repossess one of them.
It's a whole new Lynn
Well, not entirely new: she's still at the same URL and she's still running b2, but the new, improved, arguably less dissonant title is: Violins and Starships.
Tagline: "a little bit 18th century, a little bit 24th century..."
Which, you'll note, averages out to 21st.
Gettelfinger, and odd jobs
I have no particular fondness for the United Auto Workers, though I will tell you up front that the last UAW-built car I bought a Mazda 626, assembled in Flat Rock, Michigan with about two-thirds domestic parts was the single most reliable vehicle I've ever driven: in 55,000 miles there were a total of three unscheduled repairs, and two of them (a wiper blade, to replace one bent by a vandal, and a windshield, to replace one cracked by a random rock) clearly weren't the fault of any aspect of the manufacturing process. (And the third, the adjustment knob on the driver's seat, could perhaps be attributed to the forces exerted on it by the driver's fat ass.) Pity they can't make these things deer-proof.
So I don't have a lot of sympathy for the notion that the current woes of the American auto industry are entirely the fault of the UAW and President Ron Gettelfinger and their roughly $25-an-hour price premium over the nonunion guys who work for Toyota and Hyundai and such. Yes, they're going to have to make some concessions during the current round of negotiations, but as Frank Williams writes in The Truth about Cars, "the crucial adjustments must come from management":
They can try to lay blame wherever they want, but the union didn't approve the lackluster designs that have been rolling out of Detroit for years. The union's not responsible for badge-engineered product planning. The union didn't fill the executive suites with yes men (and women) who will kiss whatever they have to kiss to keep their jobs. And the union had nothing to do with putting beancounters in charge instead of engineers.
Bottom line: labor costs have zero impact on what cars consumers decide to buy. You could argue that an extra grand here and there taken out of direct costs and plowed back into new vehicles would make The Big 2.8's vehicles more competitive. Given the failure of heavily discounted domestic product to strike back against the Toyotas of the world, you could make an equally compelling case that lowering the domestics' production costs wouldn't have any impact on the end result and, thus, U.S. consumers' choices.
The UAW could work for free and it wouldn't make any difference, if what they're building is seen as More of the Same Old Crap. There are a few folks in Detroit boardrooms who understand this. How likely is it that these are the same folks having to negotiate with the union?
The puppet considers string theory
The story of Tulsa's downtown is a story of decline, but the downtown neighborhood is still one of the most valuable in the city. Although commerce has largely fled to more lucrative locations in suburbia, magnificent old skyscrapers remain and downtown is the seat of banking, government, courts and the legal and financial community.
The city government sadly has neglected downtown for decades. Much of the work under way now would not be necessary if infrastructure had been replaced as needed through the years.
Neal uses that word "neglected." I do not believe it means what he thinks it means. Neither does Michael Bates:
For the last 50 years, city government has gone from one scheme to another to improve downtown: Urban renewal, the Inner Dispersal Loop, the Civic Center, the pedestrianized Main Mall, the Williams Center, and now the arena. Each city government-driven project has closed streets, driven out residents, brought down buildings, and generated new surface parking lots. As I've explored old news clippings, I've found that Ken Neal was a fervent advocate of most of those destructive ideas. The parts of downtown that are the healthiest and liveliest are the parts that the planners of decades past thought unworthy of their attention, like the Blue Dome District and the Brady Arts District.
Which fact should serve as an object lesson to Oklahoma City, where the urge to overregulate has never quite been entirely dampened. At least we're no longer being bowled over with wrecking balls. (If you're in the Core to Shore area, south of the old Crosstown, your mileage may will vary.)
Look for the Union Station
It's at 300 SW 7th Street, and there's a rally Saturday at
From the release (background here):
OKC Union Station's rail yard is the last grand urban yard in the West with all its original space intact. Existing rail lines sprawling all over the metro and state converge here.
Unfortunately, our Department of Transportation is determined to destroy this treasure to make way for a hyper-expensive highway we don't need.
This last paragraph may have been a misfire: rather a lot of people, including me and I'm one of them fercrissake, have no particular desire to cater to the Boomers, in aggregate a fairly-annoying lot. (Says Kim du Toit: "As an aging Boomer myself, nothing fills me with as much dread as watching my spoiled, petulant and self-absorbed generation getting older, and wailing about it.")
Still, if you're anxious to see some actual passenger rail in these parts before the next asteroid sweeps by, or even if you just think the New Crosstown is a boondoggle, come to the station at
Your major proponent: Tom Elmore, North American Transport Institute, 405.794.7163, or gtelmore at advancedtransport dot org.
Nobody nose the trouble I've seen
8 August 2007
Putting the Mo back into Mopar
News Item: Chrysler's new owner, Cerberus Capital Management, expects the carmaker to return to profitability in roughly three years' time. In a recent interview, Cerberus boss John Snow told reporters "I think you'll see that Chrysler will be in much better shape within three years. This is a plan to get it back to profitability." To ensure that it actually happens, former Home Depot chief Robert Nardelli has been appointed as the automaker's new Chairman and CEO.
Top Ten steps to be taken by new Chrysler chairman Bob Nardelli to bring the company back to prosperity:
And don't you miss rich Corinthian leather?
Interestingly, the shortest post in that group is three lines long, about the length of his longer posts these days. What can we learn from this? (I blame the news cycle.)
Weapons of mass disposal
The very beginning of Oklahoma City's Bulky Waste rules:
Bulky Waste should be placed at the curb no more than three days before your pickup date. Don't make your neighbors look at your junk!
Why would they be looking at my junk in the first place?
Anyway, if this didn't prove persuasive enough, you'll find this across the bottom of your next utility bill:
Bulky set-out more than 3 days before pick-up date may be subject to fine up to $500.
Of course, if it's really great bulky, it won't stay out there for anywhere near 72 hours.
Bumper stickers not included
Well, isn't this sweet:
Proceeds from the sale of this tag will go to
(Via Princess Sparkle Pony.)
56, 72, 24, 36, 66, 52.
Not a lottery pick, but page numbers in the Table of Contents in a widely-circulated magazine.
Surely there must be some reason for this other than sheer perversity.
The definitive word, I think
[Hank] Aaron ... said all along he had no interest in being there whenever and wherever his record was broken. He was true to his word, but he did offer a taped message of congratulations that played on the stadium's video board during a 10-minute, in-game tribute.
"It is a great accomplishment which required skill, longevity and determination," he said.
"Throughout the past century, the home run has held a special place in baseball and I have been privileged to hold this record for 33 of those years. I move over now and offer my best wishes to Barry and his family on this historic achievement. My hope today, as it was on that April evening in 1974, is that the achievement of this record will inspire others to chase their own dreams."
I like that.
(Seen at Outside the Beltway.)
9 August 2007
Phaedra calls one last time
"When you're born in Mannford, Oklahoma," Lee Hazlewood once sang, "there ain't no up in your cup; there's just down."
Hazlewood, who was diagnosed with terminal kidney cancer a couple of years ago, died Saturday in Las Vegas at 78. Inevitably folks will mention his work with Nancy Sinatra in the 1960s, which produced some remarkable singles, most amazing of which was their duet on "Some Velvet Morning," among the least explainable records of the decade. But his solo work is legendary, and to borrow a line from WFMU's Brian Turner, "Few can say they've had their songs performed by both Dean Martin ('Houston') and Einsturzende Neubauten ('Sand')."
Barton Lee Hazlewood was indeed born in Mannford, Oklahoma, in 1929; he studied medicine at SMU, served in the Army during the Korean war, and surfaced in the middle 1950s as a DJ and songwriter, scoring big with Sanford Clark's version of "The Fool" in 1956. He made solo records in the Sixties, produced by Jimmy Bowen and Billy Strange, and it was likely the Bowen connection through Reprise Records that brought Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra together. (Bowen would later produce Frank Sinatra's "That's Life.") Hazlewood reshaped her voice, pushing her into a lower register, and provided lots of songs, including the infamous "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," which stomped its way to Number One in a hurry; the story goes that Hazlewood actually thought "Boots" was more suitable for a male singer, but gave it to her anyway.
To give the man a proper sendoff, here [was] "My Autumn's Done Come," a song from The Very Special World of Lee Hazlewood (1966) which might be better known in its 2003 remake by Hooverphonic.
(Note: MP3s expire after a time.)
Time in a bottle
The following conversation took place early this morning in 42nd and Treadmill's cavernous (watch for stalactites) break room:
"There's cake, if you want any."
"Who's the unlucky person?"
As she walks away, she adds, "Forty-three." And as she's walking away, I'm trying to remember if she looked any different when she was twenty-six.
Not much, I conclude.
The Brits recoil in horror
It's called Gunt, and allegedly it's a firearm for women, in three flavors: the hot-pink Classic Gunt revolver, the Charlotte Bronson semi-automatic, and the Golden Bassey. Posted prices in the UK range from £75 to twice that.
We're not sure. Firstly, they claim to have found a "loophole" in which the guns will be available for women in the UK. Secondly, there's the matter of the name Gunt, and the fact that they have numerous quotes from celebrities. For example, Germaine Greer apparently said, "A Gunt is the most powerful weapon a girl has." And Britney Spears supposedly thinks that, "I always like the boys to know I'm packing my Gunt."
These guns aren't even available for men in the UK, according to the polite fictions imposed by the 1997 firearms bill that outlawed ownership of handguns altogether.
There is some doubt that the Gunt even exists, except as a viral. I have to concur: for one thing, I don't know any women who would be impressed by 9 millimeters. Besides, all that shiny stuff is counterproductive.
Actual case filed in the Southern District of Texas, which requires no explanation:
Leroy Greer v. 1-800-Flowers.Com Inc.
Breach of contract action in which the defendants agreed to keep the plaintiff's order of flowers for his girlfriend private, with no record of the transaction mailed to him at his home or office.
Months later, the defendants sent a thank you card to the plaintiff's home, and his wife called the defendants for proof of the purchase. The defendants faxed the plaintiff's wife proof of his order of flowers for his girlfriend, which resulted in a divorce being filed.
Note to Mr Cheatypants: Next time, you might try a different florist and pay cash.
Usually the monkey is on your back
A man has been questioned by police at LaGuardia airport in New York after smuggling a monkey onto a flight from Florida by hiding it under his hat.
Passengers spotted the animal when it climbed out and perched on the man's ponytail, Spirit Airlines spokeswoman Alison Russell told reporters. Ms Russell said the monkey a marmoset spent the remainder of the flight in the man's seat and was well-behaved.
Now it can be told
The new GM900 platform (Tahoe, Suburban, Denali, et al.) has gotten decent reviews, though sales are running a bit below expectations, perhaps due to the combination of a queasy stock market and ghastly gas prices. But whatever the problem, you can't blame it on ignoring the needs of female drivers:
When the SUVs were in development, [line manager Mary] Sipes took the future, full-line SUV team out to the proving grounds to do some vehicle testing. They expected the usual driving exercises, but she had another idea. Hint, hint: On the way she stopped at a shoe store to buy several pairs of size-12 high heels.
"A few times a year we go off site and try to have a learning exercise that is a lot of fun," said Sipes. "We took our group to the proving grounds and broke them into teams. One guy on each team had to be Mr. Mom. We dressed him in a garbage bag to simulate a tight skirt. We gave him rubber gloves with press-on nails, a purse, a baby, and a baby stroller and some chores like loading groceries."
You might think this was kind of a drag, but there was a reason for it:
With all female handicaps in place, the men were then required to go through what women do routinely every day. They had to put the baby in a car seat and buckle them in, fold up the stroller, pull up the liftgate and stow the stroller, put grocery bags in the back. They then had to walk around the vehicle and step into it not using the running board. Wearing the gloves with press on nails they had to operate the key fob, adjust the radio and then figure out what to do with their purses without breaking or losing a nail. Lost or broken fingernails or torn garbage bag skirts resulted in points against the final score.
And the production models reflected those experiences:
"As a result of our exercises, we made the liftgate easy to open and close, made the console big enough to hold a purse and put running boards on the vehicle," says Sipes.
Chief engineer Mark Cieslak, one of the, um, testers, notes:
"I took for granted that my wife had all these things to do like put our child in a child seat. It isn't that easy in pumps and a skirt."
I draw the following conclusions:
(Seen at Autoblog.)
10 August 2007
Things I learned today (12)
Keep in mind that this definition of "today" is a bit more flexible than, say, "the period since 12 midnight."
The future: lies ahead.
A procedure that takes balls
Britain's National Health Service has about a two-year waiting list for sexual-reassignment surgery, leading one person to take matters into his own hands:
He found a website which gave a step-by-step guide to the eye-watering home surgery, then waited till [his] wife ... went out before setting to work with a kitchen knife in the loo.
With the job done, he wrapped his severed appendages in a cloth and dropped them in the bin. Then he drove five miles to his local GP, explained what he'd done, and was packed off for treatment at the Stoke Mandeville Hospital, near Aylesbury.
And how did it feel?
"It was very painful, but the moment I cut them off I felt all woman. I'm the sort of guy who, when I make up my mind to do something, wants it done there and then. I didn't want to be a man any more so I decided to do it myself."
Of course, the real pain is yet to come: when they cut his salary by thirty percent.
Rail rally reminder
Citizens from around the state will be gathering this Saturday at Oklahoma City’s Union Station for what they call a rally to "Save the Rails" network that crisscross Oklahoma and provide a ready-made solution to mass transit needs for the entire region. They are inviting all concerned citizens to join them to demand better transportation choices by our politicians and business leaders.
The rally will start at 10 AM at Union Station, 300 SW 7th St (corner of S. Harvey and 7th). Confirmed speakers include State Senator Andrew Rice, Oklahoma State Representative Wallace Collins, Tom Elmore of North American Transportation Institute and Fannie Bates, candidate for Oklahoma County Commission.
And an addition:
After the rally, participants will be invited to walk to nearby Wheeler Park, which is itself set for destruction as part of the rerouting, for a BYO picnic lunch.
Note: I had previously reported the start time as 11 am. The correct start time is 10 am.
I want a new drug
And here's a whole shelf full of them, from the Physicians' Derb Reference, compiled by John Derbyshire.
Rudivir (manhattanic acid)
Description: Purgative, internal cleanser. Strengthens immune system. Though developed in the same northeastern laboratory, Rudivir is not structurally related to the rinozines (rocefelerin, patakizine, blumbergicon, etc.)
Indications and Usage: In field trials 1994-2001 Rudivir proved highly effective against bureaucratic inertia, fiscal hemorrhage, ethnotomas, and criminal pathogens.
Contraindications: Contraindicated for social conservatives, esp. gun owners.
Adverse Reactions: Occasional uncontrollable loss of temper; dose-related impairment of balance control (most commonly, of ability [to] lean right), alienation of family members.
Barax (obamalic articulate)
Description: Regulates melanin production.
Indications and Usage: Effective with patients suffering from chronic situational dermatochromal anxiety i.e. self-perception as "not black enough" when among African Americans yet "too black" when among other groups. Barax induces a "chameleon effect" increased/decreased melanin production corresponding to perceived average shade of nearby persons.
Contraindications: Barax is contraindicated in patients with non-health-threatening anxiety levels and should not be prescribed for patients with well-established perceptions of their own racial identity.
Adverse Reactions: May cause severe mood swings, from amiable passivity to sudden aggression.
See your politicial-science provider to determine if these or similar preparations are right for you. Follow label directions explicitly. If adverse reactions occur, discontinue use and seek political advice.
(Spotted at the BatesLine linkblog.)
Perhaps not approved by Sam Brownback
Quote of the week
Michael Weiss, from Slate's "Culturebox," on the dodgy subject of what to name one's blog:
I've been covering the medium for Slate for two years, and of all the questions that have come from friends, family, and e-mail strangers, the most interesting is, "What should I name my blog?" Whether you plan to write about food, your miserable day job, or a viable exit strategy for Iraq, the answer is always a negation: It's more a matter of what not to name your blog. When CNN calls to ask for your expert opinion on farm subsidies, do you really want to be known as the Intrepid Ploughman?
I have a better chance of getting to see Mary Katherine Ham's underwear drawer than I do of getting a call from CNN. Still, this could work: "Call Mr Plough, that's my name / That name again is Mr Plough."
(Low-level rant: I named this place after a piece of unreal estate, only to find that some people assume it's a personal pseudonym which would be at the very least wholly unnecessary, since my name's been on the front page since Day One.)
And I did smile at this:
Shakespeare's Sister, the blogging name of Melissa McEwan, is a tip of the beret not to Virginia Woolf but to Morrissey, which is almost a distinction without a difference.
I'll run it past the Department of Redundancy Department.
(Via Tinkerty Tonk, which is a pretty decent name even if you're not a Wodehouse fan, in which case what's wrong with you?)
11 August 2007
Now I feel better
More than once I've bought a book which turned out to be a book I'd already bought, and I hated to give it away, so well, you get the idea.
Still, sometimes there's a good reason for owning two copies of a book:
I suppose on first glance, it is sort of crazy to have two copies of Alberts. The thing is like a concrete door stopper. Not to mention, expensive. But if you're in my field, you have to invest in these kind of things. I got my first copy as an undergrad. However, when I went to grad school, they came out with the next edition which had some new stuff in it. There's always new stuff coming out in science and, well, you just have to keep up. Unlike 18th century British literature.
"Alberts" being The Molecular Biology of the Cell, by Bruce Alberts et al. It's indeed a bruiser, with a triple-digit price.
On the other hand, if there is anything new coming out in 18th-century British literature, I'd like to know about it. Even if there's no mention of mitochondria at all.
(I think I once had two copies different vintages of The Handbook of Chemistry and Physics, another massive tome that's subject to change.)
All thirteen of the cars in Minneapolis race from the Hennepin County courthouse to Wayzata to demonstrate to the county commissioners the need for better roads. Harry Wilcox arrives in Wayzata first, making the twelve-mile run in forty-two minutes.
That's right: 13 cars. They had 13 cars in Minneapolis in 1900. Doesn't it take about 42 minutes to make it to Wayzata now?
Of course, these numbers can be deceptive. In 1988, I was in the process of relocating to Los Angeles when I heard a filler piece about average traffic on L.A. freeways moving at something like 32.5 mph. When I actually got there, it was obvious what they really meant: half the time traffic was moving along at 65, and half the time it wasn't moving at all.
More trains, less traffic
This is, in fact, a slogan of Virginia's Independent Green Party, but it played well in downtown Oklahoma City this morning, as about a hundred rail buffs, progressive activists, and old-fashioned penny-pinchers the latter group includes me gathered in front of Union Station to "Save the Rails."
And it's probably a good thing that they specified "Rails," because the station itself is in no danger. Heck, it's on the National Register of Historic Places, and has been for nearly thirty years. But the New Crosstown Expressway, currently advancing beyond the drawing-board stages, was cunningly (I suspect) designed to rip out the railyard behind the station, turning it from a viable transport hub into a stately but static relic.
While it's not surprising that the left would pick up on this issue most of the support for public transportation comes from that side of the aisle there's a fiscal-conservative angle as well, and it comes at you from two directions:
I talked with J. M. Branum after the speechifying, and we took a walk to the back of the station where the passenger facilities are. They've been left to deteriorate, of course, but they're not beyond repair, and the rail lines themselves need only a freshening here and there.
And we had one actual Presidential candidate on hand: Gail Parker, who hails these days from those Independent Greens in Virginia but who spent some of her childhood here in the Sooner State, and who was well received by the crowd. (She also schlepped along a Draft Bloomberg sign, which if nothing else indicates that she's keeping the options open.) I was hoping to hear Rep. Andrew Rice, who's working up a Senate campaign against Jim Inhofe next year, but he was stuck in traffic or something. The local NBC and Fox affiliates sent cameras to cover the event; so far as I know, only Branum and I represented local blogdom, and I'm pretty sure no one expected me. Certainly Tom Elmore didn't.
As these things go, this one went pretty well; there may be more rallies in months to come as the price tag on the Crosstown continues to rise and some of its boosters start feeling the heat.
Are all the good ones taken?
Was there ever a corps of Professional Street Namers? Because boy, do we need them now:
Main Streets, Oak Streets, Elm Streets. Must've been either people with a tree fetish, or NO imagination (1st Street, 2nd Street). I totally get Broadway, but just who exactly are all the King Streets named after, anyway?? King George? King Kong? King Vitaman?? And what's the deal with Boulevard and Avenue?? A sign-maker who charged by the letter?? That would explain the names of two roads near where I live. "Upper Grassy Hill Road" and "Hoop Hole Hill Road."
Nowadays, only the purveyors of suburban sprawl get to name their new cul-de-sacs, and they've got NO imagination whatsoever! They either name the roads after their daughters, or try to sound British, like "Wintonbury Court."
The one thing you can be sure of is that King Street is not named for Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.
And dare I mention that Bismarck, North Dakota has a Boulevard Avenue?
More direct an approach
McGehee says Technorati is ignoring him, and offers a collection of random tags to get their attention, starting with "ron paul" and ending in "you tube."
Drawing on my vast (or half-vast, anyway) experience in dealing with Technorati, I suggest he add a "david sifry" tag. They'll be along in less than 24 hours.
12 August 2007
The train from Kansas City
The Save the Rails rally yesterday dealt specifically with the preservation of the Union Station railyard and the potential reinstatement of the old Interurban rail lines. This is not, however, the only passenger-rail issue facing the state, and at the rally there was a representative of the Northern Flyer Alliance, a group which seeks the expansion of Amtrak's existing Heartland Flyer, which currently runs between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, into northern Oklahoma and eastern Kansas.
In late July, the Alliance organized a meeting in Wichita with various Kansas officials and an Amtrak representative, making the pitch that the existing Flyer was worth $3.8 million a year in economic development in Oklahoma and Texas. Nothing in transportation happens overnight, and Amtrak apparently is not permitted to undertake expansion studies using federal funds, so Kansas and Oklahoma (and maybe Texas) would have to put up the dollars for a route study.
NFA's proposed route would extend the Heartland Flyer northward more or less parallel to US 77, connecting to the Southwest Chief at Newton, Kansas, and then northeastward to Kansas City. The Chief, which connects Chicago and Los Angeles, already runs between Newton and Kansas City, but in the wee hours of the morning.
Unspoken in any of this is the actual cost, and there's an addtional problem: BNSF freight services are quite busy along the existing track, meaning windows of opportunity to run a passenger train will be limited. And if there's an elephant in the room, it's Amtrak's always-tenuous financial condition. I don't consider any of these to be entirely insurmountable, though it's going to take a lot of work to pull this off.
And if you thought this should have been called "The train to Kansas City," you're obviously not a Shangri-Las fan.
It's not like they're actually listening
It's no particular secret that the main reason a firm installs a voice-response system is to reduce the number of incoming phone calls. I've suggested that we try this at 42nd and Treadmill, preferably in some language which none of our customers comprehend, such as, oh, English.
Of course, if you really, truly need to talk to the company, which does occasionally happen, this particular gatekeeper is more hellish than helpful:
Like so many companies AT&T uses voice recognition software that can only handle speech as produced by speech synthesis software. This leaves human callers getting ever more frustrated, and means the hapless human who finally picks up the call gets some rather hostile verbiage. It need not be this way.
The solution is elegantly simple:
[I]nstead of trying to answer that voice's questions as clearly as we know how, what say we try singing? It's not going to understand a damn thing we say, so sing whatever little ditty you feel like. You'll end up talking with a person anyway, and singing one of your favorite songs will make you feel better.
And if your favorite song happens to be by, say, Nine Inch Nails, you'll be in the proper frame of mind for engaging with the customer-service representative.
Who was Merv Griffin?
"I'll take Renaissance Men for a thousand, Alex."
Okay, maybe if you run down the usual list of Renaissance Men, you probably won't run into Merv Griffin. But Merv, who died this week at 82, had as diverse a life as exists in a Beverly Hills ZIP code, and probably more fun than most of his contemporaries.
Really. In a career that spanned more than half a century, Merv Griffin wore the following hats:
See? Fun. What's more, he was named "Merv," a name with verve, even if it had been shortened from "Mervyn." You just had to like this guy.
(Via Lorie Byrd, who did.)
Meanwhile, ODOT stares at the floor
News Item: Oklahoma bridges are in the spotlight again, but the state's Transportation Department has a plan to fix or replace nearly 800 of them in the next eight years if revenue comes in as projected.
An ambitious schedule, perhaps, but not one that will impress the Canadians, who managed to replace a bridge in seventeen hours:
In a feat of engineering never before performed in Canada known as "rapid replacement technology", the east- and westbound Island Park Drive bridges were loaded onto giant transporters Saturday night and moved to make way for two new ones.
Of course, this doesn't include the time for construction of the individual modules, but it's still pretty impressive, and these pictures from Diana are just this side of inspirational.
And the punchline: the completion in seventeen hours was two hours late.
Somehow this just seems wrong
Yet here it is. Compare and contrast with this: "The High Priestess represents wisdom, or an interest in knowledge, intuition and education. She is the feminine consciousness the virgin goddess, the moon daughter. She challenges you to find what is hidden below the surface of a situation and remember the possibilities you hold inside. It signifies a time to uncover secrets in life because something in the unconscious is waiting to come out. Be guided by intuition and inspiration. She is a bridge to higher plane. Passive and receptive, she guards the gate of the unconscious and connects you to dreams, psychic powers, lunar cycles, and female mysteries. She is a subtle but powerful connection with the collective unconscious or world soul. Sometimes the High Priestess represents an enlightened and chaste woman. She can also represent a mysterious woman, a femme fatale, sexual and charismatic without emotional involvement. She also represents feminine principles and grace. She also can be a signal for the need for solitude, seclusion and meditation as well as wisdom and education." Maybe we should just turn it upside down.
13 August 2007
Strange search-engine queries (80)
In case you just wandered in here from Lower Slobbovia we're higher, though not tremendously so once a week I shake out the contents of the referrer logs and assemble a compilation of search strings chosen for their sheer weirdness. The figure above in parentheses indicates that I've done this a few times before.
it ain't gonna suck itself: Too bad. I'd love to see that on video.
"second life" male bushy pubic hair: Because it's so hard to grow in real life.
steven tyler airbrushed paintings: Didn't help. Still looks like Steven Tyler.
naked montanans: You just want to see somebody's Butte.
erotic chrome female robots: That will be $2000 extra.
jello in loincloth: No wonder Tarzan looks so glum these days.
men invented pantyhose make them wear it: I don't think this is quite the sort of precedent you want to establish.
nudism in greenland: See? There's an upside to global warming.
worm poop x-games: Now that's "extreme."
naked women in new jersey married looking to get laid: So far as I know, there are no naked women in New Jersey.
john edwards 5000 square foot home: Home? That's the garage.
nude sunbath fence next door peek: You do and I'll poke your eye out.
treating coprophagia with flintstones vitamins: "Here, honey, try some of these. They taste like crap."
Rhymes with "slithy tove"
News item: Karl Rove, the political adviser who masterminded President George W. Bush's two winning presidential campaigns, is resigning, the White House confirmed Monday. In an interview published this morning in The Wall Street Journal, Rove said, "I just think it's time."
Top Ten items on Karl Rove's agenda once he leaves the White House:
Never mind the barracks
They do not, of course, address the disadvantages:
The family above us allows their children to do who knows what at all hours of the night (it sounds like they are attempting to juggle bowling balls while jumping on their bed and screaming) and the only way to get them to quiet down is to call security. At one point we thought that the mother was intervening, to which I would have applauded her, but it only made the problem worse.
I learned today just how devious these undisciplined children really are. We started having sewer issues last night which caused the hall bathroom, hallway carpet, and the kitchen to flood. (Can we say disgusting?) Maintenance came out last night, and checked the line. No problem found. Same issue happened this afternoon. Come to find out, some little brat has been shoving plastic cups, paper towels, and all sorts of various garbage items down the sewer drain located in the breezeway.
Which is why no one lives on my urban land but me, dammit.
Do they have Baptists in Minnesota?
There must be some explanation for this question:
I have some rare whiskey that's 45 years old. How can I get rid of it?
I don't think of myself as particularly creative, but I'm pretty sure I could dispose of the stuff in a non-wasteful manner.
As for the religious stereotype in the title, well, we have a saying down here: if you can find four Baptists together, you can usually find a fifth.
The measure of a woman
Ramón Salazar's 20 Centimeters, just to balance all its plot complications, assumes the frenetic pace of those people spinning plates on the tops of poles on the Ed Sullivan Show to the accompaniment of the Sabre Dance from Khachaturian's Gayane. Certainly Salazar has loaded plenty on his plate: Marieta (Mónica Cervera) is a hooker and a pre-op M2F transsexual and a narcoleptic. What's more, every time she nods off she has fantasies somewhere on the continuum between high-budget music videos and low-budget Hollywood musicals, and, oh, did I mention she lives with a dwarf who wants to learn the cello? You'd expect this to have a high WTF quotient, and of course it does, but it's just insane enough to work.
Not as angry as Hedwig and the Angry Inch and a lot more European than Transamerica, 20 Centimeters fits into no particular niche: it's a romantic comedy, maybe, but it's also rather gritty in a dreamlike sort of way, as though Scorsese had been working for the old Arthur Freed unit at MGM, and there's far more in the way of punchlines than I expected. The musical numbers are somewhere between wacky and wondrous, and my old rule of thumb really drippy love songs work better in Spanish than in English is seriously put to the test, especially when one Spanish-language number drifts imperceptibly into "I Only Want to Be With You." The only real misfire is the finale, which is set up beautifully but which is choreographed to too earnest a version of Queen's "I Want to Break Free," and while Cervera is game, she succeeds mostly in reminding us how much we miss Freddie Mercury.
The title? Well, Marieta is every inch a woman, except for, um, eight inches. (Do the math.) As a motion-picture epic, it ranks somewhere below, say, Fellini's 8½; as the answer to the question "What would you get if Pedro Almodóvar decided to remake Grease?" it's very good indeed.
(Disclosure: Reviewed from DVD purchased by me.)
14 August 2007
Today at the polls
The primary election for Oklahoma County District 1 Commissioner is today. Five Democrats and two Republicans go in; one of each comes out. (There will be no runoff: the highest number of votes gets the nod.)
Also: Del City is looking to renew a 1.5-cent sales tax for five years; in Yukon. voters will be asked to approve a modification to a bond program; Forest Park is holding a franchise election for OG&E service.
The polls are open from 7 am to 7 pm.
Because it's so hard to get pizza here
Marco's Pizza, founded in Toledo, OH 29 years ago and home of the Ah! Thentic Italian Pizza, announced plans to open 38 stores in Oklahoma including 21 in Oklahoma City and 17 in the Tulsa area. Jack Butorac, Jr., president of Marco's Franchising, LLC, a franchise development veteran, announced the agreement with MG Pizza Ventures based [in Oklahoma City].
The first unit, which will represent the 9th state for Marco's, is expected to open October 2007.
"Ah! Thentic"? Oh, geez.
Are the stars out tonight?
I don't know if it's cloudy or bright, because so-called "light pollution" from millions of urban light sources make it difficult to see much of anything in the sky.
Streetlights make up around 38 percent of those sources, so any serious attempt to reduce light pollution must include streetlights. You don't want them too bright, for obvious reasons; you don't want them too dim, lest you provide opportunities for the sort of people who use darkness to cover their misdeeds. The Civil Twilight Collective proposes an elegantly-simple solution:
What if streetlights could respond to ambient moonlight, dimming and brightening each month as the moon cycles through its phases? On clear nights when the moon is full, streetlights might even turn off completely. The scheme, which they call "lunar-resonant streetlights," could save as much as 80-90 percent of the energy used in streetlighting while bringing back the experience of moonlight and stargazing to urban areas.
And come to think of it, the aforementioned evildoers don't really need darkness:
[I]ronically, studies have shown no link between outdoor lighting intensity and crime or accident rates. What's more dangerous, [Civil Twilight's Anton] Willis says, is the drastic variation in light levels within an urban area. As you drive, for example, from a well-lit major thoroughfare to a darkened residential street, your eye does not have time to adjust, and your vision is impaired. Moonlight is much more even, he explains, and that makes it more effective for human vision. By filling in only what light is needed, lunar-resonant streetlights would help restore this evenness and actually improve nighttime visibility.
And this evenly-lit utopia won't cost all that much, either:
Most of the necessary parts are available off the shelf. The standard cobra-head streetlights that we see on most American streets use a sodium-vapor bulb hooked to a photosensitive cell. The cell detects when the ambient light drops below a certain level (i.e. at sunset), and turns on the bulb. At sunrise the sensor perceives the increased light level and shuts the bulb off. The new sensor Civil Twilight has conceived would still respond to light levels but would be much more sensitive enough to respond to light from the moon. Because sodium bulbs are not dimmable, Civil Twilight's project would replace them with a cluster of white LEDs, which are also more efficient and require less maintenance.
The hard part, of course, will be selling it to cities and counties.
Shady Pines, Ma
Only in L.A.: an art show where the centerpiece is a painting of a topless Bea Arthur. [Not safe for ... um, anywhere, really.]
"Back in St Olaf you'd never see anything like this unless you happened to catch your blouse on a pitchfork," said Rose.
Turnout may be described as "light"
In fact, it might almost be described as "weightless." At 5:15 I checked in at my local precinct, and the line was nonexistent; the precinct staffers gave me that "Thank God someone showed up" look I've seen entirely too many times before and the 116th ballot of the day.
There are those who say that low turnout means disgruntled voters, and surely some of them are I've been short on grunt for some time now but I prefer to think that in the main, instead of disgruntled, we are simply smug and complacent.
Update, 9:15 pm: It's Willa Johnson (D) versus Forrest Claunch (R). There were 5,996 Democrats and 2,067 Republicans. Assuming District 1 has one-third of the county population, there being three districts, this means a shade over 8,000 voters out of 230,000 residents.
The Keds are alright
This, however, is a tad weird: a patent-leather sneaker by Michael Kors.
What's next? Chuck Taylors being upgraded to "Charles"?
15 August 2007
From the "As if" files
Something called Cavalry Portfolio Services, a collection agency with delusions of grandeur, left a message on my machine today for somebody who isn't here and never has been: I assume they saw a similar name in the phone book and decided that yes, this is the woman we're looking for.
And their pitch was one I hadn't heard before: "If you are not [debtor's name] you must hang up." Pause. "By continuing to listen to this call you acknowledge that you are in fact [debtor's name]."
On the off-chance that they might Google themselves:
Dear Cavalry: By reading this article you acknowledge that (1) you are complete and utter tools and (2) you are expected to remit one thousand dollars ($1,000) by cashier's check or money order to me at my address, in partial compensation for wasting my time and for assuming that your feeble excuse for skip tracing somehow equates to actual identification.
I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV, and it's been almost a month since the last time I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express, but I believe this is every bit as enforceable as the crap they put out over the phone.
Something beyond "vibrate"
Nokia is warning that about 46 million batteries used in their mobile devices may contain a defect which causes them to short-circuit in the charging phase, causing overheating or worse. The affected batteries are type BL-5C, manufactured by Matsushita (Panasonic) between December 2005 and August 2006.
There are many suppliers of BL-5C batteries, says Nokia, so you'll have to give them the serial number to be sure if it's one of the affected units. (I have a Nokia phone which does not use the BL-5C.) This sort of thing does not make me feel better about upcoming battery-operated cars like Chevy's Volt.
Does a blog promote personal growth?
Wearing your heart on your sleeve is difficult enough; letting the whole world look at it takes serious guts.
Once in a while, I cruise through the archives, and it's not too uncommon an occurrence for me to find a piece that makes me want to dope-slap myself and say "What were you thinking?" (There are well over ten thousand pages here: they can't all be gems.) Still, one doesn't develop a stride without a fair number of missteps along the way, and if I have any regrets, they're overridden by the desire to keep an accurate, give or take a whole lot of subjectivity, record of Life As I Know It.
Which brings up the question in the title: does a blog promote personal growth? Heather B., who's just wrapped up two years, would probably say Yes:
I'm proud of what I've done in this space. It's not perfection and I've never wanted it to be some spotless recollection of my first years out of college. I wanted it to be honest, thoughtful and most of all truthful. I have no regrets and no parts over the past two years that I wish I could erase. I've been myself and now can look back and see growth and appreciate the bullshit and the nights out and the days of depression in the dark. I can see it, look back on it and move forward. The fact that I have other people to share it with who can appreciate this "stupid little project" is the strawberry icing on my chocolate cake.
Enjoy your dessert. You've earned it.
An alarming innovation
All this needs is a voice box to yell "Get your ass out of bed!" (Evidently a Turkish product; seen first here. The new Turkish lira [YTL] is worth about 75 cents US.) Click here to increase size of butt.
Addendum: Oh, all right. Be that way. Click here to decrease size of butt.
Stirring your qwerty
Miss Cellania pointed me (she'd do the same for you) to something called Typewriter Erotica, which notes (if you read the text instead of look at the pictures): "Secretaries have fed the imagination since the first one entered the office in the 1880s."
Typewriters, of course, are so 20th century. Despite this, I still own one, and maybe so do you. I have to wonder, though, if this particular fantasy remains viable. It was certainly alive in the 1950s, when David Janssen starred as Richard Diamond, Private Detective, a standard-issue noirish hunk with a secretary you never saw except for her legs. Come to think of it, I don't remember if she even had a typewriter, though surely she must have, and given the fact that in early episodes those legs belonged to no less than Mary Tyler Moore, I doubt I'd have paid much attention to a nearby Underwood.
I think the last time I got anywhere near hot and bothered over an administrative type at this level was 1988, while I was putting in an application at something called the Fashion Channel, a cable outfit based in Los Angeles. I attribute this condition as much to being recently divorced as to the, um, appearance of the young lady in question. (The following year the Fashion Channel was acquired by, and merged into, QVC; I never actually worked for them.) I'd like to think I'm older and wiser now, and "older," at least, is indisputable.
That's right, she's getting some new tires, specifically a set of these. What I wanted was a set of these I'd bought a set for Sandy, my Mazda, about six thousand miles before The Incident, and I was favorably impressed but apparently they're on the way out, and the Tire Rack, my dealer of choice, no longer had them in Gwendolyn's size (215/55R16). The tires were ordered yesterday morning, and about ten hours later came the shipping confirmation: they'll come from a warehouse in Shreveport, and will be delivered to A to Z Tire near 10th and May, where the installation will take place.
One rueful note from that last tire buy, twenty-two months ago:
I shouldn't have to do this again for at least four years.
The best-laid plans of mice and men are oft upset by deer.
Incidentally, Dunlop's list price for this tire in that size is $135.95. Tire Rack sold me four of them for $380 plus shipping. Not bad for a tire with an actual V rating.
16 August 2007
With which you can buy Hello Kitty stuff
It's the official Hello Kitty Platinum Visa.
This will have to do, as Popgadget says, "until Hello Kitty takes the final step toward total world domination and starts printing her own currency."
Battle of the Blogger Body Parts
John Hawkins of Right Wing News has put out his regular list of Favorite 40 Bloggers, and it's about what you'd expect, given Hawkins' conservative bent and eye for the ladies/drooling fanboy tendencies [choose one]. The American Princess finished five spots above Atlas Shrugs, about which the Princess herself comments:
We think that this is clear and convincing proof that all those bikini shots people keep asking us for will not increase traffic one iota, because it means you can still get beat by a pair of legs and a cynical bent.
I await with (barely) bated breath a comment from Dennis the Peasant.
Addendum, Saturday: The Princess on television!
A chapter in the forthcoming Household Credit Usage: Personal Debt and Mortgages suggests that buyers of American cars are more likely to default on auto loans than are import buyers.
Loans secured for European cars and Japanese cars are 50 percent and 56 percent, respectively, less likely to default than loans on American cars.
The authors looked at the performance of 6,996 auto loans from January 1998 to March 2003. In addition to the probability of default being higher for American cars, their results show that loans on European cars are the least likely to be prepaid, followed by loans for Japanese makes.
The authors suggest that, just as insurance companies base rates on the make and model of the car being insured, banks should consider dropping their "house rates" for auto loans and adjust interest rates according the type of car being financed.
That scream you heard is Bob Nardelli trying to move 100 days' worth of Jeep Commanders.
For the life of me, I can't imagine why there would be such a difference between domestic and import buyers, though the research offers some hints:
The second of these points seems the most salient, since not only is there greater loan exposure, but the domestics tend to depreciate faster. Still, the default rate isn't extraordinarily high: 4.7 percent for the domestics, say the authors. Perhaps a factor is the remarkably high level of incentives Detroit offers to move the iron off the dealers' lots, which might encourage people to buy costlier vehicles than they can actually afford. But this isn't entirely a domestic phenomenon, either: Mitsubishi took a half-billion-dollar bath on an attempt to build market share by aggressively courting subprime borrowers.
So this is interesting, I suppose, but I await further data. In the meantime, if anyone's interested, the last time I bought a car (June '06) I put down 44 percent of the purchase price. It was, however, a Japanese car.
Squirrels of the Borg
They always were a trifle indiscriminate about the species they assimilated, and this is the unfortunate result.
Clutch your nuts and fear for your life.
At some point during my misspent youth, or perhaps slightly thereafter, some enterprising firm got the idea to market a rubber-band pistol under the "Rubando Pistola" name. Neither the name nor the weapon lasted very long, perhaps because it's no trick to make a rubber-band gun of your very own.
And you should probably do it now before Michael Bloomberg decides that they're a threat to the City of New York and, by extension, to the rest of the country.
17 August 2007
Where we were
Actually, we weren't anywhere; Ye Olde Webbe Hoste went troppo this morning about four.
Things might be working now.
Quote of the week
Fallen Sparrow addresses a letter to a "new friend" who broke into his apartment:
Judging by the fact that you failed to recognize the value of certain items prominently displayed and left unmolested, I learned several things about you: you are amateurish or perhaps simply unintelligent; you were in a hurry and therefore, probably desperate; you are not afraid of heights, as I am, for you went down a fire escape from the seventh floor; you are stunningly unobservant: directly beneath the computer you stole, one could not fail to see two illuminated books: the Pentateuch (a book in which it is famously written, "Thou shalt not steal") and the Gospels and Acts (in which it was written, "Then [the criminal] said, 'Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.' / He replied to him, 'Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise'."); I would not be surprised to find out that we are similarly afflicted: I imagine that you have gotten a little fix at my expense. If that is so, may it be your last, and I mean it in all sincerity; I was once in the grips of addiction and suffered strenuously and manfully. In my freedom, I desire the same freedom for others; were you to come to me and say, "Teach me a way out," I would gladly invite you in, friend, and tell you how I was shown the way.
As the phrase goes, Read The Whole Thing.
Something Wiki this way comes
What do you want your fake Wiki entry to encompass?
At the very least, it should include my battlefield commission during my Army days; the actress (not yet a legend) who joined me for lunch one day in Hollywood and stayed for a week and a half; the work of fan fiction in which I play a minor operative of Karl Rove's; the incident that got my real-estate license suspended indefinitely; the time I caught (so to speak) a fly ball with the side of my head (only minor injuries); and, of course, meeting Morgan Fairchild.
Not all of these, incidentally, are false.
Mugabe likes his job
[Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party] is deliberately launching yet another political party against which it will have to fight in the elections.
To be strictly accurate, this is a resurrection rather than a birth. The Zimbabwe People's Party (ZPP) was initially formed in 2000, but has been lying dormant since then. Now it has money coming directly from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO).
And now, with former CIO heavyweight Justin Chiota at its head, it is campaigning vigorously for members, and ultimately for votes.
Which would theoretically make it harder for Zanu-PF to win seats in Parliament, except for this minor detail:
The aim of the ZPP is to confuse the voter, to split the vote, to complicate the ballot papers, to diffuse the inevitably strong opposition to the Mugabe regime.
Come election time, voters will choose ZPP as a protest vote against Zanu-PF, little realising this means the main opposition parties will lose votes. If by chance a ZPP candidate wins, he will sit solidly alongside Zanu-PF in parliament.
So the ZPP is Aquafina to Robert Mugabe's Pepsi. Downright ingenious, if I say so myself. The only way Mugabe loses this election is if he hires Bob Shrum.
In other news, the Mojave is arid
A new perspective from the Empire State [last paragraph]:
Half the nation's families earn below the median family income of about $56,000.
Remarkably, it was also true fifty years ago, when the median family income was only $4,966 (about $30,000 today).
(Via Fark, where the Obvious tag is shining brightly.)
British workers, according to one study, are suffering "e-mail stress" due to the volume of messages.
I feel for them. I swear at the little voice that tells me there's mail. (It's her voice.) But I swear much more vividly when the frigging phone rings.
18 August 2007
And to all a good nitrogen
The new tires were installed yesterday, and to demonstrate to the shop that I wasn't a complete idiot, I came up with the recommended pressure 33 psi front, 30 rear without reference to the usual decal in the door, which for some reason isn't in Gwendolyn's door at all, but under the console lid. I was, however, unable to supply the torque for the lug nuts (85 ft/lb), and then the next question floored me: "Would you like these tires filled with nitrogen?"
Say what? Is there a Clean Air Alert today or something? "What's the advantage?"
Some of these points were raised.
And inasmuch as I'd gone through an entire World Tour with a slow leak, which, once repaired, leaked faster, the pitch about better pressure retention proved persuasive.
It's not like they're having liquid nitrogen piped in from the Space Station at three hundred below or anything: apparently there are new gizmos which can separate the components of your garden-variety compressed air. And in reviewing the literature, I decided that it's not that nitrogen itself is so wonderful; it's that the oxygen (twenty percent or so of said air) is a pain in the belt.
Besides, Click and Clack make fun of the whole idea, so I figure the least I can do is give it a spin, as it were. And no, it doesn't void the warranty.
As for the tires themselves, which for all I know could be filled up with vaporware and old campaign promises, well, it's hard to make much of a judgment call after 25 miles, but they're definitely less squirrelly than the BFGs they replaced. The noise seemed a bit high on some of Oklahoma City's last-century asphalt, but they were weirdly quiet going over the Crosstown. The most obvious characteristic, though, is that rubbery smell that managed to fill up my garage in mere seconds and which I expect to linger for some time.
Speaking of oxidation
Military aviation nerds are probably chuckling by now, and we should let the rest of y'all in on the joke. The Tu-95 is a bomber that was state of the art at the time of its first flight, in 1952. An aircraft that makes the equally geriatric B-52 look sleek and modern by comparison, the Tu-95 Bear hasn't been a viable strategic threat since before JFK took office. The Tu-160 Blackjack, on the other hand, is state of the art circa 1970. Designed to fly really high and really fast, the "B-1ski" was a white elephant even before the end of the Cold War, since Surface-to-Air missiles fly higher and faster.
This does not, of course, guarantee that there won't be bigger and badder bombers to come, but it's not like Putin can put a fleet of modern planes on his Soviet Express card ("leaves home without you!") these days.
If your package is coming from this firm, you probably should fake an illness and stay home:
Whoever came up with the asinine idea to deliver packages to residential addresses only from Monday to Friday, 8 AM to 5 PM, should be shot with fifty water guns and shipped to Timbuktu in a refrigerated tanker. With no extra change of dry pants.
During the period specified, I might be at home for a total of seven minutes, max.
Who puts the "cur" in "courier"? She doesn't say, except that it "sounds like an internet speed." Damned hard luck if you don't know your broadband options.
The instant-karma machine
Clearly, if we, as Democrats, want to make life more fair and equitable for the great mass of our fellow Americans, which, as Democrats, surely we must, then we must reform the current unfair system of apportioning karma in this country. Relying on the free market and the occasional bodhisattva is no longer enough; the government must step in and regulate the market. Government regulation of karma and reincarnation assures, at long last, the equitable treatment everyone deserves. The bodhisattvas will, at last, be able to move into the eternal bliss of Nirvana that their good actions have earned for them, which has the added benefit of removing them from the scene in such a way that they will not be around to demand the accumulated Social Security checks the government owes them for all of their past lives.
You should probably not expect universal acceptance of this idea, at least at first:
There will be, no doubt about it, the usual carping from the Republicans, who will blather on about the free market and individual responsibility for their own karma and how Democrats are once again instituting another big expensive government bureaucracy without any idea of how the government intends to pay for it beyond jacking everyone's taxes through the roof, but this, frankly, is just the sort of thing you can expect from a party dedicated to perpetuating societal inequities from one life to the next.
And it goes without saying that if you don't support this idea, a subsequent Administration will see to it that you come back as a hedgehog with chronic urinary-tract infections.
Just back from Neverland
Peter Pan peanut butter is back in stock today, at least at the one store I checked, and while there's a big NEW on the label, it's pretty much the same old stuff. Then again, it's the same old stuff I liked, so I did buy a jar.
It wasn't exactly flying off the shelves, either, which points up this issue:
[ConAgra] has to find ways to reassure customers that Peter Pan is safe without reminding them why the brand hasn't been available since February, said DePaul University marketing professor Joe Marconi, author of Crisis Marketing: When Bad Things Happen to Good Companies.
"The best strategy to take would be to focus on their plans for the future," Marconi said.
The model for regaining a lost market is Johnson & Johnson's handling of the poisoned-Tylenol scare twenty-five years ago. It will be harder for ConAgra, I think, since (1) there have been lots of lethal-foodstuffs stories of late and (2) unlike the case of the Tylenol capsules, which were tampered with by persons unknown, ConAgra is clearly to blame for lax procedures at the plant. (The new spread is temporarily being produced at a new facility while the old one is refurbished.)
Perhaps they should mention that it's not made in China.
It's an honor just to be nominated
That's the mantra, anyway, and I'll be poking around the local galaxy o'blogs in the next couple of weeks looking for some fresh faces for the 2007 Okie Blog Awards, on the reasonable basis that everyone's seen enough of me already.
The best thing that could happen, I think, is if every Okie blogger, as defined by the rules, goes into a posting frenzy, thereby giving the voters (the same Okie bloggers, after all) more material to work with in the process of determining the most deserving.
Oy, it's so humid
There's been enough stormage today to keep the temperature at an un-August-like seventy-five, so when I got back from an impromptu shopping trip this evening and noticed that traces of dinner lingered in the kitchen atmosphere mostly not-so-great BBQ sauce I popped open a bunch of windows and cranked up the attic fan.
Not such a brilliant idea. The indoor temperature didn't budge, but all the moisture from outside (well, a lot of it) got sucked into the house: in ten minutes the relative humidity, according to my cute little wall-mounted readout device, had risen from a modest 50 percent to nearly 80.
I shut the windows and restarted the A/C. There are some things up with which I will not put.
19 August 2007
This is a nifty little animation (done with 3D Studio MAX) to promote the new 360° at Founders Tower, a total reimaging, if you will, of the original Sixties phallic symbol off Northwest Distressway and May.
(First noted here.)
Sure looks like a hurricane
Weather guys: "It's official. Tropical depression."
Erin: "Oh, yeah? I'll show you."
And we are indeed being shown. The first wave, as it were, brought about three-quarters of an inch of rain, but that was trivial. Right now the "eye," and it certainly acts like one, is over the western edge of the city, moving at a snail's pace: 10 mph. Which means that we're in for a few more hours of this, "this" being 40-mph winds, rains somewhere between torrential and Biblical, and cars floating downstream. (Most of El Reno seems to be cut off by high water.)
Through 6 am we've had about three inches of rain over and above that first wave; if we get by with only six or eight for this storm, we'll have dodged something of a bullet. (The rainfall record for the 19th of August is a feeble 0.87 inch, so it's gone; the record for any day in August is 3.17 inches, which we are exceeding even as I type.)
Meanwhile, Lake Superior continues to fall. Not that I'd want them to get tropical depressions or anything, but geez.
Update, 9:50 am: The eye has passed and the rain has tapered off: 4.5 inches or so have fallen at the airport since the storms began yesterday; Tinker AFB reports around five inches. As the eye came through, the barometer dropped markedly and the winds picked up: 60-mph readings were not uncommon. Lots of road closings were announced, the nearest being 50th and the Lake Hefner Parkway; since this is fairly high ground, I'm guessing it was due to a downed pole or something rather than to high water. The only power interruption I saw came at 7:34, with a brief roll of God's Own Tympani; it lasted only long enough to screw up the clock on the microwave.
Around the yard, there are piles of leaves and occasional bits of tree branch, and there's the usual backwash into the garage, but otherwise I've found no problems: the winds peaked here in the 40s, less of a threat to that which is vertical. NOAA Weather Radio, for the moment, is doing a loop of flood warnings, of which we have a bunch. The "do not drive into flooded areas" message, of late, has contained the following notice: "Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles, including sport-utility vehicles and pickup trucks." I assume this is aimed at the idiots who think hey, I've got a four-by-four, what can possibly go wrong?
Headline in the Business section of the Oklahoman this morning: "Ad men take boomers back to the 60s."
Would it be too much to ask that some of them be left there?
Honoring an online tradition
Venomous Kate would like to know: What are you wearing?
Feel free to fill her in on the details of your current wardrobe. It's got to be more interesting than mine.
Something bass-ackwards about this
Lots of stuff going on this morning, but the power stayed on.
Until about 3:50 this afternoon, when everything was nice and quiet outside, and suddenly the whole neighborhood (including a traffic light) goes dark.
Anyway, I have relocated for the evening to a hotel on the Northwest Distressway, on the basis that the last time this happened, it was next morning before power was restored.
And a brief bleg: I had to pop the emergency cable on my garage-door opener to get my car out. How the heck do I reattach the darn thing?
20 August 2007
Strange search-engine queries (81)
I never quite seem to run out of these, and apparently the demand hasn't run out either, so:
human flesh forks: You'll also need spoons for the brains.
all girls legs in 1969: Forget about it. It's thoughts of that sort which caused me to drop from fourth in my class to seventh.
should one tip sonic drive-in servers: If you can do so without getting your drink spilled.
"air bags" boobs: No real resemblance, unless you have a bra that looks like a steering wheel.
yellow spidery things in room: Maybe it's, um, yellow spiders.
rub little white girls on the ass: A good way to get a little white hand across your face.
eharmony "unattractive women": Realistically, what are your chances of finding a supermodel on a dating site?
bob looks lilke it's going to need a beefy: What, did he find a supermodel on a dating site or something?
tired sexy girls less than 18 years: If they're that young, they shouldn't be tired.
what type of person normally buys a 2007 Lexus RX 350? The type of person who wants a Toyota Highlander but wouldn't be caught dead in a Toyota dealership.
Nichols Hills panhandler: Has neatly-printed sign that says GOD BLESS YOU. HAVE YOU GOT ANY GREY POUPON?
is it ok to just walk away from an argument? Um, did you say something?
Priorities, man, priorities
Meanwhile in Germany, where at least they have electrical power:
Eleven people were injured when they fell off the back of a truck during the shooting of Tom Cruise's latest film [Valkyrie] in Berlin, police said on Monday.
Down in the fourth paragraph they get to what's really important:
"We have no findings to suggest anyone famous was involved in the accident," said a police spokesman.
Oh. Well. Carry on, then. Nothing to see here.
After all, it relies on wizards
"Pay no attention to that man behind the Blue Screen of Death!"
The Win2K splash screen came up, and the little blue progress bar made it about 2/3rds of the way across the screen then silence. For a long, long time. After 10 minutes, I pushed the button, and tried again, hoping that we could just ignore that little faux pas, just pretend it never happened. But no, the computer stopped and sat there, sphinx-like, at the same point.
Now I remembered the other main thing I hated about Windows; its smug, superior attitude vis-a-vis the person sitting at the keyboard. With a UNIXy box, there would have probably been a screenful of text, some last dying cries for help sent out by the kernel as it vainly attempted to cope with some hardware or software malfunction, cries that would at least lend a bit of diagnostic help but here, in Windowsland, nothing. It is not for you to know why I cannot boot, stupid little end-user! It is enough for you to know that I shall not.
This is undoubtedly how they came up with "Recovery Console" as the name for a subsystem that doesn't actually recover anything.
The conversion of the Smug Easterner
Okay, she's not all that smug, really, but still:
I will admit to being a liberal, pretentious east coaster who would cannot comprehend that there are places in this country without a proper H&M or IKEA at least within spitting distance; thus my ambivalence towards Oklahoma. Of course I know it’s there, but no one actually lived there and no one goes there and is there anything there?
It would never occur to us to spit on IKEA. At least, I don't think it would.
So imagine my normally tame and non-sporadic self up and cashed in a rapid reward award for a flight to Oklahoma City. I seriously felt like I was having an outer-body experience as I completed my transaction because how the hell was I to explain my sudden interest in the pan handle state and James Inhofe?
Not to worry. Very few of us actually in Oklahoma have that much interest in James Inhofe, except to this extent: "His term ends when?"
I just did this dreamy sigh because there’s such a soft spot in my heart now for Oklahoma. Of course it has its faults, but those faults are negated by its good qualities such as Sonic and Super Target and my ability to have a nice quiet weekend with one of my favorite people in the world, where we did nothing but run errands and I napped and drank more than my share of wine.
Like I've always said, it's the people who make this place.
Well, that and the cherry limeade.
We mean business
Syaffolee found this in downtown Spokane, but I suspect they have affiliates and subsidiaries and whatever pretty much everywhere:
Reminds me of that America's Worst Apple Pie place up in Pennsylvania.
And not all that effed up, either.
Power was apparently restored at 7:30 this morning, though I'd already left for work and wouldn't have noticed it. I did try calling the house, and the machine picked up, but I vaguely recall that there's a battery backup for it. Also still running: alarm clock. Both TV sets retained all their settings; the VCR lost its time but nothing else. The cordless phone and the clocks in the kitchen appliances (range, microwave) were hors de combat.
On the matter of the garage door: I did manage to get the door and the opener reunited, and it felt so good until I noticed that I'd knocked a wheel off the track. Having already bruised a thumb today, I wasn't going to arm-wrestle the thing back into position, so I called in an Expert, on the honorable basis that I should have called him a few months ago for routine maintenance anyway and it was therefore overdue and paying him after-hours charges would serve as a reminder in the future. (Tip of the beak to our man from Aaron's Garage Door Company, who not only got here fifteen minutes before the time promised, but who adjusted most of the noises out of the mechanism in the process.)
I figured the freezer stuff was okay. I pitched the following items from the fridge:
Fortunately, trash pickup is tomorrow morning.
21 August 2007
The lone casualty
There's one more chapter in the story of the Grating Blackout of 2007, and it began last night around dinnertime when I counted the bars on the cell phone, found them insufficient, and went looking for the charging device, which was not in its usual place.
This being the very same charger I'd used last night at the hotel, I retraced my unpacking steps, but found nothing. In desperation, I called the hotel. "Yes, housekeeping has turned one in," said the desk clerk, and I offered a description. No match. Oh, well.
"You'd be surprised how often this happens," said the clerk. "We have a whole boxful of chargers; bring your phone up and let's see if we can find one that works."
He wasn't kidding. There were literally dozens of phone chargers in the box, each sealed in a tiny Ziploc bag. I spotted one that looked like it might work, he found an outlet behind the counter, and "We have a winner."
To the lovely lady behind me at the counter: Yes, I am always this dorky.
Is you is or is you isn't a Tucker?
There were 51 Tucker automobiles produced, and number forty-six sold on eBay for a tad over 200 large.
If this seems cheap to you, there's a reason for it: while the body is the original, the guts have been replaced with Ford stuff. The donor car was a mid-Sixties Mercury wagon. Which means that while Tucker #46 is something less than what it was, it's about two decades more contemporary, what with the presence of power steering and an automatic transmission and air conditioning, for Preston's sake. (Original Tuckers were fitted with a four-speed manual.)
I'm not quite sure what I think about this. Certainly you can't waltz into an AutoZone and expect to get proper Tucker parts. Car and Driver used to espouse the notion of preserving one's lovely Jaguar by replacing its dead engine with a small-block Chevy V8, which is about the same level of heresy. Still, the high bidder presumably knows what he's getting for his $202,700; it's not like the seller was hiding anything.
Tax that moose behind the tree
Odd that these should show up the same day. First, Lileks, listening to the Michael Medved show:
[A] caller was hammering the host's doubts about light rail. "When the progressives take over, and have the courage to be progressives," the caller said, "we're going to tax the hell out of you, because your selfish single-occupancy vehicles are KILLING THE EARTH." As it happened, I was driving a single-occupancy vehicle, KILLING THE EARTH, I suppose. (The only EARTH KILLING I could see along the lush green parkway was the orange marks on the trees, indicating they had been infected with fungus or beetles.)
I have to ask: what do these people want me to do? How do they expect me to adjust? I telecommute a lot; I have put but 8000 miles on my vehicle in 15 months. Without the ability to use my car to take my child from Point A to Point K I wouldn't be able to do what I need to do. But the hell should be taxed out of me, because I am KILLING THE EARTH one of the more persuasive and rational justifications for steep tax increases, I grant.
The research web site www.forskning.no has calculated that the annual gas emissions from a moose are equal to those from an individual's 36 flights between Oslo and Trondheim.
A grown moose will burp and pass so much methane gas in the course of a year that it amounts to 2,100 kilos of carbon dioxide emissions.
Newspaper VG reported that a motorist would have to drive 13,000 kilometers in a car to emit the same.
Which is about 8,000 miles.
I conclude that we don't need to tax the hell out of Lileks: we need to tax the hell out of moose.
Way before Ugly Betty
The Human Marvels has a brief article (with picture) about Mary Ann Bevans, billed during her carnival-attraction days as the Homeliest Woman in the World. Mrs Bevans, born in 1874, exhibited symptoms similar to acromegaly; widowed at forty with four children, she turned to the carnival circuit to earn a living.
If you haven't looked at the picture yet and you're expecting to see something out of a Basil Wolverton nightmare, you may be surprised to see that while she's definitely not cute, Mrs Bevans is hardly horrifying. Certainly Mr Bevans wasn't scared off. Come to think of it, Cleopatra wasn't exactly a looker, either.
The designated-Visa rule
News Item: Bank of America has become the first "Official Bank of the NFL" in the U.S. and has introduced the "NFL Checking" program that includes "Check Cards" and checks designed specifically for the pro football fan.
Well, okay. Pardon me while I stifle a yawn.
What I'd really like to see is for a bank to strike a deal with half of a sports league. Forget the minor details about how none of the major leagues would actually countenance such a thing, or how banks, once they get to a certain size, have a tendency to take their customer base for granted. I want to see, for example, an Official Bank of the National League, and an Official Bank of the American League, and I want to see them going head-to-head in their advertising throughout the baseball season, especially during All-Star Week and the World Series.
Hey, it's less contrived than the Bud Bowl.
A model of consistency
The old database (may it rest in peace) had sixteen thousand comments, yes, but they were distributed over seven thousand entries. In April 2004 I noted that I was getting just under two comments per post; the record for any single post is twenty-nine, which occurred here. I attribute the success of this particular post to the comparatively-unusual (for me, anyway) subject matter: the company of babes.
The average in the new database, which opened up on the sixth of this month, remains about two and a half comments per post.
Today, we're still on that new database, and the 2000th entry thereupon is imminent. There have been, as of this writing, 5,001 comments. The average remains about two and a half comments per post.
22 August 2007
If you want to eschew smoking and fast food, exercise, and otherwise lead the disciplined life that will allow you that extra six years of geriatry, so that you may live as long as the average Andorran, that's your prerogative. Some of the rest of us may choose to live it up a little, even if that means we spend six fewer months in the nursing home before kicking off. Of course, you could also get struck and killed by the organic food truck in the parking lot of Whole Foods.
Not likely. We don't have a Whole Foods. Yet.
There are plenty of folks who will tell you that engaging in activity A, on average, will reduce your lifespan (call it B) by some number C. What they don't mention is that neither you nor they can balance the equation without foreknowledge of the value of B.
I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them.
I have "risk factors." So does everyone else. I can take indeed, I have taken some steps to mitigate them. But they're never going to go away completely, and as I get older, inevitably I will develop more of them. I wrote this ten years ago:
Popular psychology insists that men of A Certain Age are driven to go forth and seek out, in Tom T. Hall's words, "faster horses, younger women, older whiskey, and more money." I can't see myself doing any of these things, but then I can't be sure if my life is half over, or two-thirds, or ninety-five percent. Somewhere out there is a bullet or a bacterium or a Buick with my name on it, and its scheduling is unclear, to say the least.
But I'm not going to hide in my room and hope it goes away because it won't.
Why, yes, I think I will have fries with that.
Meanwhile in Buffalo
You mean, like on Star Trek?
Assume the position
And not necessarily the one you applied for, either:
According to Symantec Corp. security analyst Amado Hidalgo, a new Trojan horse called Infostealer.Monstres by Symantec has stolen more than 1.6 million records belonging to several hundred thousand people from Monster Worldwide Inc.'s job search service. That data is then used to target the Monster.com users with credible phishing mail that plants more malware on their machines.
Wonderful. (Incidentally, someone at Computerworld needs to read this stuff better: someone might read that "Infostealer.Monstres by Symantec" business and think that it's some new Norton product.)
The upshot, of course:
If you've used Monster recently, check out the article. If you haven't, always remember your information is susceptible to being stolen. If any email you receive from a job search site asks you to download software so you can access something you may want to get in touch with their tech support first and let them know what's happening.
Assuming, of course, the "tech support" link doesn't go to an Elbonian teenager with mud on his shoes and a chip on his shoulder.
The tibiazation of television news
In olden days a glimpse of a newsreader's stocking was looked on as something shocking. But now, it seems, almost anything goes at least as far as Emily Maitlis is concerned.
The glamorous presenter decided to liven up proceedings during a televised trailer for the BBC's 10pm news. Perched casually on the edge of her circular desk, her stilettos dangling above the studio floor, the 36-year-old blonde swung one toned leg over the other.
Although she was wearing a relatively demure navy skirt-suit, Miss Maitlis's flash of shapely calf caused a stir among more conservative viewers who saw the 9pm trailer on Monday.
Which, if nothing else, demonstrates that England is way behind on this cultural phenomenon: here in the States, we're already in the Post-Couric Era. And considering what can be seen on a regular basis on our Spanish-language channels, I suspect the Brits doth protest too much. (Personal favorite: Ana Patricia Candiani on Telemundo.)
Rep. Paul Wesselhoft (R-Moore) really, truly wants to send you to jail for yakking on your cell phone while you drive.
This strikes me as a trifle draconian: simply shooting out the offender's tires should be sufficient, I think, but nobody asked me. More amusing is the MidCity Advocate's headline on the story:
Wesselhöft: Keep both hands on the wheel
I know not whence cometh the umlaut, but all of a sudden, Wesselhoft um, Wesselhöft looks less like a governmental busybody and more like a Serious Thinker. Or the leader of a death-metal band, whichever is less plausible.
Come to think of it, this might be a way for a lightweight like Dävid Dänk to acquire some gravitas.
23 August 2007
Don't get me wrong: irreconcilable differences do exist. But this strikes me as a tad extreme:
A Saudi man divorced his wife because she gave a plate of spaghetti to their neighbor.
According to a local newspaper report the husband found out his wife dared to give away food to a non-family member when the neighbor came to return the plate. Angry about the gross infraction of house rules, the man took the plate and reportedly broke it over his wife's head. After assaulting his wife with a piece of flatware, the husband declared an end to their 8-year marriage. A Madinah court recently finalized the divorce.
Geez. It's a good thing she didn't ask for a Wii.
Tell me this isn't a football score
Rangers 30, Orioles 3. Two things I feel compelled to note:
And I appreciate Rangers manager Ron Washington's explanation for how it happened:
"Tonight there were some balls thrown across the plate and we put them in play."
Says it all.
Where's my electrical tape?
Nissan will be adding a fuel-economy gauge to all its US models over the next couple of model years.
[O]ne of the fifty bazillion display settings has caused an annoying MPG meter to be parked right in the center of the gauge cluster, a big red bar graph that spends a lot of time at 0 mpg, mostly because traffic isn't moving at that exact moment. I suppose this is intended to make people aware of their fuel consumption, but believe me, every time I fill a gas tank (fifteen times this month), I am acutely aware of how much I'm using. This might be more useful were it set for something other than instantaneous fuel economy, which, after all, is rather transient. (It's maybe 6 mpg during half-throttle acceleration in first gear, but this condition seldom lasts more than a couple of seconds, inasmuch as the car can reach 60 mph in less than six seconds, during which time it's upshifted to second.)
In a vehicle designed for maximum fuel economy as the primary goal your Priuses (I refuse to say "Prii") and such this sort of gizmo might be fun to play with. (And with the engine stopped at traffic lights, you're dividing by zero, so MPG is undefined at that point: it should be literally off the scale.) In a sports sedan, it's just one more distraction.
But Nissan really believes in these things:
Based on Nissan's trials, drivers have tended to improve their eco-driving habits over time, prompted by the real-time fuel-efficiency readings. Driving improvements also included smoother acceleration and braking, which potentially could lead to an average 10% improvement in fuel-efficiency.
Inasmuch as I'm beating the original EPA mileage estimates for my car by a smidgen and the revised 2008 estimates by a hell of a lot I think my "eco-driving" habits are just fine, thank you very much.
I can has Scripture?
I think I liked it better in the original Klingon:
For some reason, Firefox's ostensible spellchecker is choking on some of the Klingon text, but on none of the Lolcat text. What can we learn from this?
(Note: Firefox's ostensible spellchecker is also choking on the word "spellchecker.")
News Item: The NBA fined SuperSonics co-owner Aubrey McClendon $250,000 two weeks after he said his group didn't buy the team to keep it in Seattle. League spokesman Mark Broussard confirmed the penalty Thursday, but said he did not immediately know the reason the fine was imposed. The comments of McClendon, an Oklahoma City energy tycoon, were at odds with commissioner David Stern's stated hope of keeping the Sonics in the city they've called home for all 40 years of their existence.
Top Ten ways Aubrey McClendon will raise the money to pay the NBA fine:
Seattle may hang the guy in effigy if they can find enough hemp rope.
Up to date with the oldest profession
I have to admit, this pitch is unique:
The Aphrodite Project Team is pleased to announce the launch of Platforms, a new line of footwear specifically designed for sex work. Platforms are both an homage to Aphrodite and her prostitute-priestesses as well as a practical tool for the contemporary sex worker. With Platforms, we have created a seamlessly integrated system of shoes and online services. Our shoes use the latest technology to bring sex workers on par with other public workers, whose lives are valued highly because they work in dangerous professions that serve the needs of the community.
Platforms contain integrated audio and video (for getting attention, I suppose), a GPS system, an alarm system, and hidden compartments for stashing cash and condoms and such. What I don't want to know is what happens when she steps in a puddle.
24 August 2007
Another meaningless milestone
How meaningless is it? It came to me at the very end of the day while I was scratching around for a topic.
Anyway, yesterday marked the completion of five years of Movable Type deployment at this site and the beginning of the sixth, following a very long period (six years, four and a half months) during which I coded almost everything by hand.
This was the first actual post, though there were some entries from the old system which I imported by hand, mostly to fill up the front page; they were duly given earlier timestamps.
Worst week ever?
Last week this site and a few thousand others were down late Thursday into Friday, and the story from the Web host is fraught with pain and sorrow:
You see, every hour we have a little script that runs that purges old dead entries from our active nameserver database. Really, it isn't the end of the world for us to keep that old stale stuff around, but in the name of being good dns citizens, I guess it'd been decided a while ago to remove them quickly.
Which isn't a problem so long as everything else is working properly. When it isn't:
Well, everything was not working pretty well on Thursday. Because of the network weirdness, the connection to the hosting database apparently didn’t work, leaving [a variable] blank.
And, due to the excellent error handling and sanity checking of that script, it did not die at that point, or even so much as raise an eyebrow as it happily decided to delete every single domain in our dns database.
Now, for bad or good, it didn't just hose the whole table at once. Instead, it just deleted one database after another, in order ... which turned out to be a rather slow process on a busy dns database. In fact, 22 hours later when we finally found it STILL RUNNING (normally it finishes in under a minute since there's nothing to delete) it had only deleted a third of the domains in the table ... about 300,000. Hooray!
It actually would have been a lot better if it'd just hosed everything at once. It would have been much easier to detect, and rectify, immediately.
There's a corollary to Murphy's Law which covers this: "If several things that could have gone wrong have not gone wrong, it would have been ultimately beneficial for them to have gone wrong."
[W]e've now set all our internal scripts to just DIE MISERABLY if they ever get any kind of un-good data from an sql query.
Even if they die happily, so long as they die, right?
Been here, seen that
I haven't had a lot of kind words for the redesign of NewsOK.com, but one new wrinkle is sorta neat: if you click on an item in two of the three leftmost columns (Breaking and Forums but not Events) and later come back to the front page, there will be a check mark by the item you read, a useful commodity for those of us who see the title and think "Did I already read that?"
I still wonder if things are going to be redone yet again when KWTV pulls out of the joint venture.
Pennsylvania Turnpike: the sequel
If you need to get across Pennsylvania, one of those states that's a lot wider than it looks, you either take the twisty Pennsylvania Turnpike and peel off twenty bucks or so in tolls, or you take I-80 and yawn most of the way.
If the Keystone State has its way, you'll get to pay for the privilege of yawning:
Motorists traveling across the state of Pennsylvania on Interstate 80 could pay a $25 tax by the year 2010. The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission on Friday asked the US Department of Transportation for approval to turn the free and paid-for interstate highway into a toll road for the purpose of raising money for mass transit and other public spending projects. This would be the first conversion of a free interstate into a toll road since the interstate highway system was developed fifty years ago.
"The tolling program would generate revenues allowing a dramatic increase in capital investment along I-80, with an additional $1 billion being spent over the next decade, above and beyond PennDOT's historic 'baseline' funding levels," the tolling application stated.
The US House has already voted to prohibit this action. Said Rep. Phil English (R-PA):
"We are not going to stand by while Harrisburg raids western Pennsylvania travelers and picks truckers' pockets to prop up Philadelphia's mass transit system."
The Senate has yet to have its say. You can read the state's application to USDOT here (PDF file).
Somewhere between cruel and unusual
Where it falls well, you decide:
Sk0t [Scott McCausland], an ex-administrator of the EliteTorrents BitTorrent tracker is to have his internet connection forcibly monitored by the US Government. If that wasn’t bad enough, the monitoring software is Windows based which means he is being forced to ditch Linux or face being barred from the internet.
Now, being kept off the Net is one thing, but being forced to use Windows? Isn't there something in the Bill of Rights about that?
Cayenne Turbo? Not yours
Hilary Duff has been banned from buying her dream car a Porsche Cayenne Turbo because she is such a bad driver.
The Lizzie McGuire actress had special driving lessons on MTV show Punk'd, but she was still given the warning by her business manager.
She admitted: "The car I want is a Porsche Cayenne Turbo. But my business manager doesn't want me to buy it he says that I'm a terrible driver and don't need that kind of car."
How terrible is she?
"The other day I had a little accident because I was driving while I was on the phone."
Get this girl into a Volvo, stat.
A balance of wonks
The proprietors of Wonkosphere have indexed about a thousand blogs so far, and three-fifths of them, including this one, are listed as "conservative." This seems a trifle high to me, and here they try to explain:
Of these, the third is probably closest to the mark: it took me all of three seconds to find a local blog on the left that deals with issues more than with candidates.
And if you're just estimating buzz, as Wonkosphere seeks to do, a nasty comment about Hillary Clinton on a right-wing blog counts exactly the same as a favorable comment on a left-wing blog which perhaps explains why Senator Clinton is way ahead in their buzz standings. (And this post should only add to her lead.)
Still: Patrick Ruffini among the liberals? I think they're paying too much attention to his tag cloud.
25 August 2007
You and your damn dubs
My first car, inexplicably, had 14-inch wheels up front and 15-inchers in the back. Subsequent vehicles had the same size at each end, 13s on the Toyota, 14s on the first Mazda, 15s on the Mercury and the second Mazda, and now 16s on the Infiniti.
Which means that most likely I wouldn't have heard about this myself:
I just talked to a friend of mine that bought a new truck, and he got an extra little surprise when he went and purchased his tag ... I had to call the tag office and verify it because I wasn't sure that I heard him right.
Evidently, they are now charging an extra tax on wheels larger than 17.5" in diameter. $2.50 per wheel up to 19.5 inches and $3.50 per wheel over 19.5 inches.
The lady on the phone said that this started around July or so.
The value of any vehicle, for purposes of the excise tax levied by Section 2103 of this title, shall be the actual sales price of such a vehicle before any discounts or credits are given for a trade-in. However, the value of the vehicle prior to the subtraction of such discounts or credits for a trade-in shall be required to be within twenty percent (20%) of the average retail price value of such vehicle as listed in the automotive reference material prescribed by the Oklahoma Tax Commission. The actual sales price of the vehicle, which total shall be the basis of the motor vehicle excise tax, as well as the number of tires on the vehicle and the tire rim diameters, shall be entered on the bill of sale furnished by the seller to the purchaser, or on such other form as may be prescribed by the Tax Commission.
Emphasis as in the original. However, this isn't supposed to take effect until November, and it presumably affects the excise tax, which is a one-shot, rather than one's annual tag fee. Of course, the fellow with the new truck would have had to pay both of them at initial registration.
Yet another downtown incentive
Tuesday, City Council is expected to approve a new Downtown Parking Incentive Program, an effort to lure businesses to the Central Business District. Under the terms of the program, "qualifying entities" will be able to get reimbursement for the cost of parking in City garages.
To qualify, a firm must either move into the CBD or expand existing operations there, and must pay its employees an average annual salary at least 120 percent of the county average (currently $36,176).
This isn't a permanent incentive there's a 12-month limit but given the price of downtown parking, it might be worth it.
The evil that blogs do
While it is true that few standards apply to what's posted on blogs, one can only hope that a basic rule of fairness applies. Unfortunately, some bloggers don't agree and we find some outrageous (offered without a single fact) allegations bandied about, with reckless disregard for reputations, and many of the allegations come from posters who hide behind screen names. Other blogs so obviously pursue vendettas against individuals that their entire credibility is open to question.
Which, I guess, makes it like Real Life, writ or typed small.
The Gadfly hasn't named any such blogs, though he notes that "there are a couple we now have listed [in the blogroll] that are so reckless in the posts they allow that we're inclined to unlink them." I am not inclined to speculate as to which ones he means.
Sorry, I'm waiting for "Gigadik"
Email to this domain must pass through three filters: one at the server level, one at the client level, and one which analyzes the contents of the inbox and quarantines that which it deems unworthy. The most obvious spam is caught in the first pass, and once in a while I go through there to see what sort of horrid monstrosities might have fallen into the trap.
Of course, anything containing the word "shaft" is automatically suspect unless it's from Isaac Hayes; dingus-embiggeners are still a major draw in Spamland. This week I got a pitch for something with the implausible name of "Megadik." (Robin Wauters of MarketingBlog.eu is willing to show you his. His copy of the spam, I mean.)
Actually, I don't see this as a viable product name, since it's so easily used as a pejorative during fits of pique. Example: "This wouldn't have happened if you didn't act like a megadik in front of everyone."
Poppin' off at Pops
Not the Sodium Shoppe, but the tourist attraction in Arcadia that isn't the Round Barn. I dropped by this afternoon, and was informed that there was a two-hour wait to get into the actual building. For the benefit of those who just wanted a quickie lunch, they'd put up a tent on the western edge of the property, and they were serving up franks and burgers and a limited supply of sodas (Pepsi products, generally) which you could get more or less instantaneously.
So I still haven't actually been in the place. And if this pattern holds up, it may be years before I do. On the upside, Arcadia, which imposes a 4-percent sales tax (over and above the statewide 4.5 percent), is going to be flush with cash for once.
26 August 2007
The great channel shuffle
I've been reading over the FCC's "final" DTV assignments, for use in the brave new post-analog world of television beginning in February 2009, which were issued earlier this month, and in Oklahoma, at least, there are few surprises. The following channels are assigned to Oklahoma City: 7, 9, 13, 15, 24, 27, 33, 40, 50 and 51. Shawnee gets channel 29, Norman channel 46. (The Norman station, KOCM, has no digital signal presently; it will begin digital broadcasts on the day of the Big Switch.)
One thing that strikes me as odd is the assignment of both channels 8 and 10 to Tulsa. KTUL, analog channel 8, currently broadcasts in digital on channel 10; I suppose they're keeping 8 open in case there is an issue with KOED, the Tulsa OETA station, which is going back to channel 11. OETA had apparently requested an increase in antenna height for KOED, which the FCC said would increase potential interference to KTUL on channel 10.
There will be no low-band VHF stations (channels 2 through 6) in Oklahoma after the transition, and very few nationwide. One reason, perhaps, is the possibility of interference caused by household electrical equipment, making reception on those channels more problematic. What's more, contemporary antennas (remember those?) tend to work better on high-band VHF (7 through 13) and UHF (14-up) channels.
The effect this will have on cable channel assignments is unclear, at least to me, but then digital reception over cable baffles me anyway. OETA runs four digital channels in the city, at 14.1, 14.2, 14.3 and 14.4; on Cox Digital Cable they're on 111, 112, 113 and 114. If you don't have digital cable, as I don't, but you do have a QAM tuner, as I do, you'll find them at 110-111, 102-112, 105-113 and 105-114. (OETA HD, which apparently is available on cable more often than it is over the air, shows up here at 106-713.) Life would be simpler, I suppose, with an actual set-top box, but I resist that sort of thing.
I bet this doesn't end well
The US has run afoul of the World Trade Organization, and the consequences may be direr than we think:
The tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua has taken the U.S. to court in the WTO over the U.S. prohibition of gambling on internet casinos hosted in Antigua. And Antigua has won its case! The WTO ruled that U.S. policies were discriminatory since the country does permit other forms of gambling online, such as "the purchase of lottery tickets, participation in Web-based pro sports fantasy leagues and off-track wagering on horse racing." Now the U.S. either has to rewrite its rules in a way that would de-legalize these forms of gambling as well, or offer compensation to Antigua.
The problem for Washington is twofold:
Complying with the WTO ruling ... would require Congress and the Bush administration either to reverse course and permit Americans to place bets online legally with offshore casinos or, equally unlikely, impose an across-the-board ban on all forms of Internet gambling including the online purchase of lottery tickets, participation in Web-based pro sports fantasy leagues and off-track wagering on horse racing.
But not complying with the decision presents big problems of its own for Washington. That’s because Mr. [Mark E.] Mendel [representing Antigua], who is claiming $3.4 billion in damages on behalf of Antigua, has asked the trade organization to grant a rare form of compensation if the American government refuses to accept the ruling: permission for Antiguans to violate intellectual property laws by allowing them to distribute copies of American music, movie and software products, among others.
The US is trying to say that it can allow all sorts of gambling services within its borders, based on state and local law, but can forbid foreign providers of gambling services. Which suggests that "free trade" somehow does not apply when it comes to gaming services.
Which is fine, so long as the treaty sets aside gaming services as outside the scope of the treaty. But if it doesn't, the US is in violation.
From that Times article:
The WTO allowed that Washington probably had not intended to include online gambling when it agreed to the inclusion of "recreational services" and other similar language in agreements reached during the early 1990s, when the WTO was first established. But the organization says it has no choice but to enforce the plain language of the pacts.
Which presumably lays the fault at the feet of the US trade representatives at the time. Ultimately, I have to agree with Dani Rodrik on this one:
When the system serves to enforce new restrictions on domestic policy autonomy that would be wildly unpopular at home, it is time to rethink the system. My solution would be to redress the balance by restoring the residual rights to the domestic polity, but to do so under multilaterally designed and monitored institutional safeguards (to minimize risks of protectionist capture).
Rodrik's paper How to save globalization from its cheerleaders [PDF file] makes this suggestion:
A broadened safeguard agreement call it an agreement on social and developmental safeguards would enable countries to opt out from their international obligations under specified circumstances. The process for obtaining such an exemption would be a domestic one, as in the case of AD and safeguards currently, but it would be subject to multilateral review to ensure procedural requirements are met. Any interested party would be allowed to seek an exemption or opt-out. One requirement would be for the plaintiff to make a compelling case that the international economic transactions in question are in conflict with a widely shared social or developmental norm at home. For example, an NGO may try to make the case that goods imported using child labor violate domestic views about what is an acceptable economic transaction. Or a consumer body may want to ban imports of certain goods from a country because of safety concerns.
The trick, of course, is trying to push for this enhancement to WTO rules without having it look like the US is trying to buy its way out of the proceedings.
(Via Dave Schuler.)
You might as well sell that Pacer now
While the eyes may be considered the window to someone's soul, a person's car may very well be a window into the heart. "Many people rely on their date's choice of clothing as the primary indicator of personality, but their date's car may be an even bigger indicator of who they really are especially in the love department," says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., the host of Detroit's popular Love Doctor live television and radio programs.
Dr. Orbuch has interpretations for owners of SUVs, wagons, Jeeps, family sedans and luxoboats. Inasmuch as what I drive falls somewhere between the latter two types, I reprint them both here. First, the sensible sedan:
The car: A Honda Accord or other sensible sedan
What the car says about its owner: Someone who drives this practical vehicle is most likely educated and intelligent, Dr. Orbuch says. "This driver probably likes discussing politics and is very well-read and mature," she explains. "People who drive these kinds of cars don't take big risks in life, but hey, that mentality has served them well up to now!" What you may find pleasantly surprising is that the driver probably has a lot of savings socked away. "This kind of person has invested his or her money well and may very well be enjoying a cushy lifestyle, but is just smart enough to know that a car is a horrible investment," she explains. Ultimately, he or she cares about value, not flash.
What the car says about its owner's love style: Its owner will most enjoy someone who likes to converse about life, Dr. Orbuch suggests. "He or she thinks that support, friendship, and honesty are essential to a good healthy relationship," she says. Additionally, he or she probably doesn't mind spending a lot of money on a mate "especially when it comes to travel, fabulous hotels, and great restaurants," she says. The thinking is: "I save when I can to splurge when I want."
By contrast, the Bimmerphile is less of a sure thing:
The car: A BMW or other luxury sedan
What the car says about its owner: Owners of these types of cars think the BMW 7 Series believe that they’ve made their money, darn it, and they’ve got the right to spend, flaunt it and enjoy it. "They might be a bit annoying in the boasting department, but they are successful people who have earned some bragging rights," says Dr. Orbuch.
What the car says about its owner's love style: Dr. Orbuch says these people tend to be slightly insecure when it comes to relationships. "They are usually nervous about making big mistakes in the love department," she explains. It's important for them to feel successful in all aspects of their lives. While these drivers don't mind someone who is impressed by their money, Dr. Orbuch says that they really do hope to meet someone who will like them for who they are. "The perfect mate for this kind of person is someone who is self-sufficient but genuinely happy to dote on a partner," she says.
The idea that someone might look at BMW's "Ultimate Driving Machine" slogan and focus on "driving" rather than on "ultimate" seems not to have occurred to Dr. Orbuch.
I'm not quite sure how well I fit into a melding of these two types. Certainly I repel golddiggers, for the most obvious of reasons, and my level of insecurity borders on legendary; but being sensible and mature is hardly my long suit.
Should I feel deprived?
After all, I've never heard Gershwin with bongos.
"I got rhythm," indeed.
I mention this here in case anyone should think I had something to do with that, which I didn't.
27 August 2007
Strange search-engine queries (82)
Four thousand people a week (more or less) visit this site, and at least a third of them come here, not because they think I'm so by-gosh wonderful, but because they're looking for something very specific. And if they're looking for something that's both very specific and very weird, it ends up here.
ayn rand doofus: But a fiercely-independent doofus.
amish built mobile homes in springfield missouri: Mobile barns, maybe.
Are wood floors supposed to creak? If they don't, I start to suspect laminate. crazy wife girlwatching: If your wife catches you girlwatching, she might well go crazy. funtionally illiterate survey: See "self-fulfilling prophecy." what homeowners need to know about live in boyfriends: They're never around when you need the lawn mowed. psychedelic underpants: Wasn't that an LP by the Blues Magoos? * What is the most overrated virtue: Sympathy, especially when it's used to justify political schemes. What is a reasonable amount of time to wait to have sex again with your husband after you find out he has been cheating on you for 7 yrs? How about "never"? Is "never" good for you? cuddle a vulture: When you get done, I have a sloth that needs speeding up. i checked someone else's "voice mail" at work: Which is how you got tagged with the term "snoop." insane furniture building directions: Take the second light after you pass the vacant lot where the old church used to be, and then keep going until you think you've gone too far, then hang a left.
Are wood floors supposed to creak? If they don't, I start to suspect laminate.
crazy wife girlwatching: If your wife catches you girlwatching, she might well go crazy.
funtionally illiterate survey: See "self-fulfilling prophecy."
what homeowners need to know about live in boyfriends: They're never around when you need the lawn mowed.
psychedelic underpants: Wasn't that an LP by the Blues Magoos? *
What is the most overrated virtue: Sympathy, especially when it's used to justify political schemes.
What is a reasonable amount of time to wait to have sex again with your husband after you find out he has been cheating on you for 7 yrs? How about "never"? Is "never" good for you?
cuddle a vulture: When you get done, I have a sloth that needs speeding up.
i checked someone else's "voice mail" at work: Which is how you got tagged with the term "snoop."
insane furniture building directions: Take the second light after you pass the vacant lot where the old church used to be, and then keep going until you think you've gone too far, then hang a left.
I have to admit, it's getting meta
Getting so much meta all the time, in fact. A couple of days ago I linked to a column at The McCarville Report which complained about an occasional tendency toward things like character assassination among bloggers.
That column is now drawing a thread, so I figure I'd bring it up again. Mike Donovan weighs in:
The anonymous blogging and the (sometimes) callous disregard for truth, hiding behind phony names, etc. is a terrible introduction into our political and cultural life in the 21st century. I highly recommend Andrew Keen's new book, The Cult of the Amateur, which focuses on this problem. Some see no problem, they see "citizen journalism," and such. However, Keen's analysis is that TRUTH is the loser and the whole thing has the potential to be disastrous for our democracy.
Novelist and occasional dustbury.com reader Bill Peschel scoffs:
Stuff and nonsense. Anonymous blogging has played a role in the republic since the Federalist Papers (which, as you should know, was anonymously sourced).
Can anyone show any damage by an unsourced, false allegation on the Internet in the past five years? Meanwhile, we have regular "sources say" stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times that have crippled our ability to fight, such as our various intelligence programs and our attempts to halt the funding to terrorist groups.
To which Mr Donovan replied:
You don't get it, Bill. The Internet has changed everything when it comes to journalism. The decline of the newspaper, at the expense of the Wild Wild Web, is a real danger.
Which would be true, except for the minor detail that the decline of the newspaper started long before the Web. Circulation figures haven't kept up with population growth for at least a quarter of a century. Moreover, most markets don't have competing full-service dailies anymore, which means that many surviving papers have basically been handed their market on a silver platter and still aren't growing their base.
Perhaps the Great Metropolitan Newspaper would be less hobbled if, oh, it quit shooting itself in the foot on a regular basis. The "citizen journalist" (note the scare quotes) is only a threat to the ostensible professional who isn't doing his job, or who sees that job as something Much More Important than merely reporting the news.
Obligatory Michael Vick reference
When something unexpected turns up, the trick in the punditry game is to figure out how quickly to fit the square peg into the round hole of your regular tropes the bridge collapse in Minneapolis happened because of Bush's illegal oil war, etc. Dr Michael Eric Dyson, "The Hip-Hop Intellectual", offered a magnificent demonstration of this skill when he was interviewed by our pal Michelle Malkin on Fox last night. It hadn't previously occurred to me that there was a "race card" angle on the Michael Vick dog thing, but Dr Dyson asserted that there are cultural factors we're missing when it comes to considering dog fighting in the African-American community and threw in that many whites treat dogs better than they treat blacks. And then, as proof of this thesis, he offered: "Lassie was on the air for 20 years but Nat 'King' Cole was canceled after six months."
Actually, in today's Hierarchy of Aggrieved Groups, transgender trumps ethnic, so put your race card back in your pocket, Doc.
This is not too awful, and I'm pretty sure there's a hard cap on upload speed: 600 kb/s. I've had FTP stuff float up at 599.8, but that's as high as it ever got.
There's a higher tier of service, but inasmuch as right now this is faster than I can get at work (we have a T1), I'm not going to complain.
Put away the cake decorations
My daughter advises that this is the last birthday she plans to celebrate, and that in future years she will celebrate the anniversary of this birthday.
Under the circumstances, I don't blame her.
Thought for a summer's eve
[N]ot only do you wake up free of fear (finding incurable trouser rash can ruin your life), but you also weed out all the douchebags in the process.
Not inconsiderable virtues, those, given the frightful number of Massengill rejects out there.
28 August 2007
It's a jungle out there
I mowed the back yard Wednesday night, and yesterday afternoon it was already about twenty percent beyond Easy Cutting Height, which is defined as "tall enough to require me to run the electric mower at less than my preferred pace."
If we get the promised rain this week, I may have to spend Saturday or Sunday doing it again. Sheesh. Isn't August the time an Oklahoma lawn is supposed to give up for the year?
Watch out for floating porch debris
Home sales are off again, and the doomsayers are growing ever more florid in their descriptions:
"Forget 'location, location, location.' The most important factor in today's real estate market is 'supply, supply, supply'," said Mike Larson, a real estate analyst with independent research firm Weiss Research.
"We are literally swimming in an ocean of homes for sale. In fact, at 4.59 million units, we have the most raw inventory for sale in history," he said.
Not to worry. The US covers 3.54 million square miles, which means that in every ten-square-mile tract there are, on average, only thirteen houses floating around, meaning that you probably don't have to worry about running into one during your morning
Still, I'm disappointed that they didn't have any video of people swimming in that sea of "raw inventory."
A home for Chopping Guy
Andrea Harris has given up on the Sunshine State and is actually considering moving to some place like, well, Oklahoma City.
What I am looking for: cheap rent in decent neighborhoods (ie, a low homeboy/crackhead/hooker to normal working person ratio); a job market that isn't all retail/resort/hospital focused (like Florida's); a halfway decent public transportation system (though I plan to have a car by then, I'd still like to be able to count on alternatives); a few nice parks/walking areas. An area of cute shops and nice (cheap) cafés would be a plus, though I don't need it (and my finances certainly don't).
What I don't care about: nightlife my clubbing days are over; "activities" which usually mean theme parks and golf; weather the climate of most of the continental US sucks most of the year, I am resigned to that all the places with really nice weather are too expensive to live in; "diversity" I live in Diversity Central, so I know what that's really like. Most urban centers are by their nature "diverse" anyway.
We do well on the "cheap rent" side of the equation, although our crackheads are supplemented by methheads, which represent no improvement. Our mass transit is somewhere between barely adequate and barely inadequate, perhaps a tad short of "decent," although she'll have her own wheels by the time she gets here. Good walking areas are, well, area-dependent: there are parts of town where this might be inadvisable, but this is true of most cities of any size.
Also on her shortlist: the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex and Greater St. Louis.
Somewhere near Riverside
At the suggestion of Jeff Shaw, I took a look at NoTulsaRiverTax.com, a site which seeks to rally opposition to the proposed 0.4-percent Tulsa County sales tax to finance development of the Arkansas River.
The most pertinent question, I think, is this one: "Is it truly fair to tax the whole county for a massive project that only benefits a few communities?" If I lived in, say, Owasso, I might be asking that myself. On the other hand, it's not like the 'burbs never benefit from anything that happens in Tulsa, and certainly the local homebuilders' association, "dominated by developers based in Owasso and Broken Arrow", isn't at all averse to throwing around its weight downtown.
Still, it's worth remembering that when Oklahoma City put out its humongous MAPS wish list, the 1-percent sales tax was imposed only in the city; Edmond and Bethany and Midwest City were not expected to kick in.
Regarding the site in general, I hate to sound like a Firefox fanboy, but the curt "Links may not work in Mozilla Firefox browser" is an admission of ineptitude. (As is, for that matter, exporting anything from Word into Mickeysoft's shabby excuse for markup language in the first place.) The left-side menu doesn't even appear in Firefox. Nothing like alienating a quarter to a third of your prospective audience right off the bat, guys.
Fetch ... the Comfy Chair!
Been there, even sat there, says Mark Steyn:
The jacket of Poems From Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak shows a photograph by Paul J. Richards of Agence France-Presse: a close-up of the shackles that chain a man's ankles to the floor while he's being interrogated. But what rang a bell with me was the strip of carpet you can glimpse just above it. I visited Gitmo last fall for Ramadan, as it happens and, among other highlights, got to visit the interrogation room. The detainees are questioned while seated on a La-Z-Boy recliner or a sofa blue plush with gold piping. I found this a sufficiently novel form of torture upholstery to ask the guard if he'd mind snapping a picture of me in the jihadist La-Z-Boy. It's sitting in a file at the Pentagon somewhere. But no doubt in 20 years' time I'll be running for public office and my opponent's oppo-research team will use it for an attack ad claiming I was a top al-Qaeda operative at the turn of the century.
And just in case you were curious:
I mention the La-Z-Boy recliner not to make a political argument so much as an artistic one. Presumably when Paul J. Richards snapped his pic for Agence France-Presse, either the La-Z-Boy or the sofa was in the frame. But the Iowa University Press chose to crop the furniture out of the cover shot. Why? You can figure they'd have left it in if there'd been a rickety wooden chair under a bare lightbulb swinging on a frayed cord. But a book with a La-Z-Boy on the front doesn't exactly shriek "Death camp!"
And let's face it, there are a lot of folks who'd feel awfully hurt if they didn't get to shriek "Death camp!"
(Via Kathy Shaidle.)
The wearing of valve caps is prohibited
Tire production has stopped, but the Bridgestone Firestone name will live on in western Oklahoma City after the company donated 60 acres of land Monday for a new elementary school and a nature reserve.
The school, to be called Bridgestone Firestone Elementary, is scheduled to open by 2010, said [Western Heights] district Superintendent Joe Kitchens. It will teach pre-kindergarten through fifth grade.
29 August 2007
On the cool side of tepid
The lovely Megan McArdle says I'm not as hot as I think I am.
Not me specifically, I hasten to add; most of us are actually like this, though we don't realize it. The explanation:
When we look at ourselves in the mirror, in any given session we tend to anchor on the time slice image that makes us look our best. That, we decide, is the "real" us.
Photographs, however, are a random sample of the various arrangements of light, angle, and facial expression that we can be found in. The median photograph of you is probably the best approximation of your physical attractiveness. But that wars with your self image, which is anchored on other, better combinations.
I don't photograph well at all ask the Department of Public Safety but every day I pass by a full-length mirror, and seldom am I enthralled at what I see therein.
Not that anyone will echo these sentiments back to me:
You're also biased by the fact that no one ever tells you you're ugly. It's not merely that people inflate what they tell you (they almost certainly do); it's also that people who think you're ugly tend to drop out of the sample. They may not cultivate an acquaintance with you, and those that do will probably not spontaneously let you know that they find you kind of repulsive. You're stuck in a web of cognitive biases and a positive feedback loop.
There have been people who told me I was ugly, but it was generally in the context of "and your mama dresses you funny," which tends to dilute the pejorative, if only because it's an established fact that if anyone dresses me funny, c'est moi.
But just when I was starting to feel better, in comes this volley:
[T]he best gauge of how attractive you are: how attractive are the hottest people who want to go out with you? They're probably only slightly more attractive than you are.
And, well, how should I evaluate an empty set?
Fortunately, the pipes are already clean
Snagged from The Oklahoman's Notes from the Newsroom:
An unusual project earlier this year at the Children’s Hospital at OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City has produced a Guinness World Record.
On Valentine's Day in February, volunteers from the hospital, community, and the Jimmy Everest Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders in Children who had made a pipe-cleaner chain with individual links in the form of hearts encircled the hospital on NE 13. In fact, the pipe-cleaner "Chain of Love" surrounded the hospital three times, with enough left over to encircle the building at least three more times. So the official Guinness World Record for the longest chain of pipe cleaners now is at 10,459 feet, or nearly 2 miles and the Guinness record is in Oklahoma City. Hospital leaders recently were notified of the official record.
Ten thousand four hundred fifty-nine feet, by coincidence, is how far you'll walk to your parking space anywhere in the Oklahoma Health Center complex.
You may never need toothpaste again if this catches on:
[T]he Soladey Ionic Toothbrush, from Japan, could provide a solution. Invented by Dr. Yoshinori Nakagawa, this light activated toothbrush contains a titanium ionic conducting rod, which runs through the replaceable bristle head and into the handle. Apparently, the light activated rod, when exposed to any source of light, converts the light into negatively charged ions, which are released into the mouth, blending with saliva to attract positive hydrogen ions from the acid in the dental plaque on your teeth. This acid is then neutralised and plaque is disintegrated. Toothpaste is not necessary because your saliva is the active ingredient. The head is replaceable, so the toothbrush and rod can last you a lifetime (if you look after it properly).
Disclosure: I am a bit leery of anything in which saliva is the active ingredient.
Cruising is about to become insufferable
The Horntones FX-550 System is the first mobile audio system that supplements the sound of a vehicle's horn function by sounding any MP3 audio clip. The FX-550 introduces a new dimension to the automotive customization aftermarket.
According to Horntones President Mike Kosco, "The brain-seed for this invention occurred at a coffee shop back in the summer of 2005, when a group of teenagers were heckling me about the Incredible Hulk that is airbrushed on the hood of my H1 Hummer. I thought to myself ... I wish I had a button I could push that would make my car growl!" Kosco continues, "Well, the Hummer now growls and makes hundreds of other sounds too, from simple voice clips to entire theme songs."
And who better to translate America's musical tastes into traffic noises than a fellow who has the Incredible Hulk airbrushed onto the hood of a Hummer H1?
As they say at Fark, "This should end well."
Memo to someone who should go away
So you carefully divided your order into two different segments and proffered a different credit card for each, reasoning that you were close to being maxed out, but you could still slide this in under the wire.
What are you going to do now that both your cards were declined?
(This isn't exactly the most unheard-of thing I ever heard of, but people who pull stunts like this should be sent to Gitmo and stuffed under the sofa.)
The Department of No Surprises reports in
The cover story in the October Consumer Reports is MAKE YOUR CAR LAST 200,000 MILES, a worthy goal indeed. I got just under 195,000 miles out of a Toyota Celica back in the Pleistocene era, and had it not lost half of its steering gear in a supermarket parking lot one day, two hundred K would have been a snap. A subsequent owner did get it over the mark, and it might have gone much farther had it not been T-boned in a hit-and-run one sorrowful evening in Cleveland County. That old 20R engine was somewhere between bulletproof and grenade-resistant.
Gwendolyn has about 98,200 to go, and she's in better shape now than the Toyota was at that point, so unless I am completely overcome by vehicular lust or another damned Representative of Random Fauna springs out of nowhere into her path she should make it easily. (My standards of maintenance have advanced over the years, roughly commensurate with my ability to pay for it.)
Not incidentally, this practice is one reason why the CAFE standard doesn't work so well: if you never trade, you never get one of those more abstemious vehicles the Congress keeps insisting be built.
Meanwhile, guess what CR thinks is the appropriate vehicle to illustrate this cover? Hint: it's not a Jaguar.
30 August 2007
Dentists and such take note
And it's really not fair for you to subject us to a station that plays nothing but sappy love songs all day long. There's only so much Michael Bolton one can take before a "workplace incident" occurs. And every time they play "Sometimes When We Touch" I have the sudden urge to strap on a pair of roller skates and wait for someone to ask me to skate the "couples only" song.
Look around the office. Some of us like me are wearing these new fangled things called headphones. They are this great invention that allows you to listen to Journey's "Open Arms" in your own little headspace, where no one else has to hear it. I don't subject you to my repeated playings of HellYeah's "You Wouldn't Know," do I? No. So don't subject all of us to "Butterfly Kisses." Unless you have a desire to see yourself bleeding on the 5:00 news.
Still, I applaud on general principle anything that reduces the incidence of Michael Bolton. If it can be done with Elton John, fine; if it takes the Dead Milkmen, so be it.
Attention diverted for the duration (3)
Good grief, it looks like we've got ourselves a Woot-Off.
Will I get a battered old colander? Stay tuned.
Less is mower
I don't mind saying that the single biggest drawback to having an electric lawn mower is schlepping around a hundred feet of extension cord. (I have shorter cords, but they won't reach the farthest points no matter what clever geometry I invoke.) I have yet to run over the wire, which surprises me somewhat, but I figure there's an incident just waiting to happen the moment my attention flags, which it does rather a lot when mowing.
Still, for the same kind of money, I could have a a mostly-inadequate cordless substitute:
Operated by a single re-chargeable 12v battery, just one charge will enable it to cut a lawn area of up to 2000 square feet.
My front yard alone is bigger than 2000 square feet; my back yard is more than 5000.
Precision ground 30cm wide rotary-cut blade trims short or longer grass with ease(adjustable for height from 15-47mm).
Topping out at just below two inches isn't too bad, though the Yard Experts insist I cut to a 2.5-inch height, and once in a while I actually do.
And I suspect that were I to cut it as close as 15 mm, the poor little beast would be constantly bogging down. (My corded mower doesn't even like that height.)
On the plus side of the ledger, this thing weighs only 13 kg, the near side of 30 lb, about half what I push around these days, and about a third the bulk of my old gas-powered mower. I'm guessing that the limiting factor is the battery pack, and that increasing range will inevitably increase its size and weight.
I note that Amazon.com, where I bought my electric, offers a cordless model closer to my needs, but at a substantially higher price (albeit with free shipping for the moment). And it weighs in at upwards of 80 lb, more of a handful than I think I'd like.
The last summer drive
Not surprisingly, it will cost you:
[Gas prices] throughout the Plains and much of the Midwest are far above the national average. Industry analysts blame the higher prices in the region on a series of refinery outages, a Coffeyville, Kan., refinery that flooded earlier this summer, a large refinery outage in Illinois and the fire at the Wynnewood [OK] refinery in late spring.
All of which is true. But try this scenario on for size: let's say, just for the sake of argument, that the NIMBY issues could be resolved, that the Sierra Club were to issue a statement calling for more refineries, that various regulatory obstacles were temporarily (or even permanently) displaced. Do you think we'd actually get a sudden upsurge in refinery construction?
I'm thinking we wouldn't, for the simple reason that it would require some major capital investments, and oil companies, all else being equal, prefer to avoid major capital investments, lest the always-volatile oil market take a downward turn. And given the margins on gasoline production, which aren't exactly prodigious, they'd just as soon not bet the farm. Instead, they do things like buy back their own stock.
None of this, of course, is unexpected. And we all know what happens to companies with excess capacity: look at the US auto industry, which has been busy shuttering plants left and right. The "Something Must Be Done" crowd won't be happy about it, but I've lived through both of the energy "crises," and I'd rather have high prices and decent, if tight, supplies, than not-quite-so-high prices and hardly any supplies at all.
The wish list of Dr Moreau
Or something like that. I looked up a small freezer on Amazon.com, and they recommended as an additional purchase well, see for yourself:
Click to embiggen. Just what are they trying to say?
No-longer-Young Rascal Gene Cornish talked to his old hometown newspaper this week, and he touches on one issue that's always nagged at me:
The [Rascals'] first four albums are being released with both stereo and mono versions on each CD, so audiophiles can compare and argue. "The mono mix is so far superior to the stereo mix," Cornish insists. "Stereo was in its infancy back then. No one knew how to mike anything."
I don't know if I'd call it "infancy" or not stereo recordings started to appear in quantity around 1958, a good eight years before Gene and the boys got their first big hits but I suspect he's right about no one knowing how to mike things. The Rascals did enough of their own production to earn label credit, alongside Atlantic stalwarts Tom Dowd and Arif Mardin, but this was still the era of the 45, and the mono single mix was the one that counted. "Good Lovin'," the band's second single and first Number One, sounds particularly heinous in stereo. While the instrumental mix isn't too awful for a period piece, Felix Cavaliere's lead vocal is panned back and forth between the channels: the opening "One, two, three!" ping-pongs back and forth, and in the second verse, the voice changes sides in the middle of a syllable. Ask me my opinion, my opinion will be: get the reissues with the mono mixes or see if you can find an original 45.
One other cool thing about the Rascals, now that I'm thinking about them: their publishing company was called "Slacsar," which is "Rascals" spelled backwards, the sort of thing you didn't see too often. (Eric Burdon's second group of Animals had a publishing unit called "Slamina.") And I never have decided which Rascals track was my favorite: it's either "You Better Run," a stomper with a growling Gene Cornish guitar riff, or "How Can I Be Sure," an atypical Eddie Brigati lead in waltz time, of all things.
31 August 2007
Do Time Lords have rollover minutes?
I have never quite grasped the notion of a "phone charm," but these are kind of charming: a miniaturized Dalek and a classic TARDIS from the days of Doctor Who. What would be really cool, of course, would be if you could store the entire phone inside the TARDIS.
Pay at the pump
The Germans build a lot of high-end automobiles. (They also build some bottom-feeders, but those don't get sent over here.) There is, therefore, a chance that they might chafe a bit under a European Union proposal to ban fast cars.
The burning of every liter of gasoline emits 2.32 kilos (about 5.1 pounds) of the presumed greenhouse gas CO2. The person using that liter should be charged accordingly. Benefits would accrue to anyone who may have a high-performance car in his garage but who uses his bicycle to go to the bakery or post office. The full-throttle fraternity pays extra, but anyone who drives reasonably and economically saves. This also could promote the purchase of second and third cars. Go shopping in the city in your Mini; go on vacation with the family in your 5 series or S class.
The advantage of this approach is that it makes a certain amount of sense even for us fans of carbon dioxide. (I polished off a bit more than a pint of Dr Pepper today.) And the funds thus raised could conceivably be used for
Just a gut feeling
McGehee shut down comments last night to avert the "risk [of] having this site hijacked overnight by trolls," the result of his having deleted a comment from someone wishing to promote the campaign of a Presidential candidate.
McGehee doesn't name the candidate in question, but I suspect his name rhymes with "Don Gall."
Actually, if he'd been more alert, he'd have been less of a doofus. Grrl Genius Cathryn Michon explains:
There's been a man going around L.A., telling people he's my boyfriend, but he’s not. He's not funny or charming or sweet. He isn't a brilliantly talented writer, in fact, he can't even spell.
Can't be me. I'm not going around L.A. these days, and I can spell.
Who is this knucklehead?
He's a guy who reached into the mailbox of our apartment building, stole a piece of mail with a check in it, printed up some checks, copied Bruce's signature and took every last dime out of the bank account, despite misspelling the name of Bruce's company.
But that's not what makes him a maroon. This is:
He's an idiot, this guy, because he showed I.D. with his actual name and his actual address on it and so the police dropped by a few days ago and arrested him.
Sheesh. Remember when criminals used to have standards?
Why are my flakes so soggy?
Why do we put milk in cereal? Why not other liquids, like water, orange juice, or V8? (Apart from the obvious, that V8 in Lucky Charms would taste like ass.) I tried to Google this but searching for "Why do we put milk in cereal?" came up with a gazillion hits on a gazillion irrelevant things.
Lucky Charms, almost uniquely among cereals, possesses an irreducible assitudinousness: it will taste like that whether you immerse it in milk, water, V8, Pennzoil or Fletcher's Castoria.
Still, the larger question bears investigation. I suspect that the practice was an invention of the cereal companies themselves, who, having noticed that their products had all the nutritional value and not quite all the flavor of drywall, decided to pitch the idea of a Complete Breakfast, which includes their product, a splash of milk, and maybe half a banana. It would be harder to make this case if people were in the habit of mixing their cereal with Tanqueray or Pabst.
Keep in mind, these are the folks who came up with a product called Grape-Nuts, which contains neither grape nor nuts.
Quote of the week
The old grandmas had it right: men will not buy milk they can get for free. And they won't even use that money they saved to buy their orgies with one-legged, HIV-positive dwarf tranny hookers, and meth; they'll put the all-night crotch party on your credit card and use the saved cash to buy a new Cadillac Escalade. My fellow females, men will never be honest again until we tell them "no" and keep on telling them. What's the worst that can happen? Men will all catch AIDS from crippled dwarf tranny hookers and die? Not all of them will. True the ones left will probably be Christians but I think we ladies can put up with that slight flaw.
To this I can add only that the women I know have no trouble telling me "no." (Like I'd actually ask for that.)
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