1 September 2007
Didn't finish the crossword, either
A tipster tells us staffers at TV Guide have been told that there will be a mandatory 3pmET meeting today, where it will be announced that the print edition will be discontinued with the final issue being the Fall Preview. The tipster says TV Guide Channel and TVGuide.com will continue.
This makes three magazines to which I subscribe which have died this year. As always, the only question remaining is "What will they send me in its place?" Sometimes these selections are at least marginally astute: some years ago Brill's Content sold off its subscription list to Mother Jones, which I didn't mind particularly and which I still read. On the other hand, this past spring Premiere was replaced by Us Weekly, the equivalent of being forced to trade your Volvo sedan for a hat full of bus passes and a two-for-one coupon at the free clinic.
Update: Mediabistro recants, as noted in Comments.
Further update: Brian J. Noggle takes the lead in Abandoned Subscriptions.
Justin Timberlake, theologian
This banner has been flying outside Cornerstone Christian Fellowship Church in Chandler, Arizona, to promote their Greatest Sex Ever series, because, well, where else would you go for a series of lectures on sex? The Home Depot? Still, there's something disquieting about the whole thing, quite apart from the fact that it's yet another manifestation of the unfortunate fact that church marketing sucks. Maybe it's the missionary position? Or perhaps it's just the idea that someone feels it's necessary to push the envelope, as it were, to get people's attention to what are supposed to be Eternal Truths and such. More to the point, I object to the very idea of "bringing sexy back": contrary to popular belief, it never really left.
(Via Dawn Eden.)
Slower than quicksand
But just as deadly: this is what faces New Orleans, and there's a certain amount of sense, I think, in simply relocating it to higher ground.
Except that "simply" isn't going to describe the process, so far as I can tell: just picking a site will be problematic at best. And then what?
Moving the bulk of the city would be more costly, at least at this stage before sinking increases and another disaster strikes. The costs of either decision will be enormous, but relocating makes more sense and will eventually be inevitable. Whether we cut our losses now and move or wait until a super-hurricane makes a direct hit and kills hundreds of thousands of people must be carefully considered.
There are a few psychoceramics out there who wouldn't mind the loss of life so much, but they can be safely ignored.
The most cost-effective solution, perhaps, is to shrink the city down to its core:
One option would be to begin building newer, higher, stronger seawalls around the business and historic parts of the city, and declare other parts a national monument, in tribute to those who lost their lives to Katrina. The process of moving could be gradual, relocating refugees, destroyed businesses, port facilities, and other infrastructure to a new New Orleans.
I don't expect this idea to sit well with the folks who think that they ought to (1) be able to live anywhere they want and (2) be subsidized for same. While I will happily grant them (1), I suspect (2) will be a tougher sell.
They don't build 'em like that anymore
My workhorse printer, a Hewlett-Packard DeskJet 720C, got a new black cartridge today, the previous one being spent, and it occurred to me at some point during the Align Cartridges routine that gawd, this thing is old, and indeed it is: I bought it (at Office Depot, I think, for something like $180) in 1997, which makes it ten years old, an eternity by computer standards.
And no, I have no plans to replace it; it works just fine, thank you very much, and you can still get cartridges for it with no difficulty. (In fact, recently at work we added a machine based on an HP engine using the same cartridge: the 45.) Further coolness: the 45 cartridge has a window in the front so you can tell how much ink is left in it, which is slightly more reliable than the current HP practice of popping up a dialog box on screen to tell you that it's nearly empty, which in my experience it seldom is.
During these ten years, incidentally, I've gone through four DeskJets at work, following a few years with an old Epson 24-pin dot-matrix printer which is still in service in another department. By now it must be pushing fifteen. Ribbons for the Epson are not hard to get, either.
Otherwise known as the Chico Marx clause
One of the most heartwarming headlines ever: "City pays Michael Bolton not to sing".
Now if I could just persuade someone to pay me not to blog.
2 September 2007
Sony: two decades of biting bullets
Sony, of course, invented the Betamax, the original standard for home video, only to watch it die in the marketplace, outplayed by JVC's VHS. (I wrote a brief history of said death in Vent #82 back in 1997.) While Sony continued to make Beta recorders for the US market until 1993, and for the Japanese domestic market until 2002 (!), the real watershed event was the 1988 introduction of Sony's first VHS recorder, about which I said this:
[T]his particular Sony machine, which offered a weird 15-year clock, would literally time-stamp a recording: you set the timer, the program records, you rewind, and there are the recording details at the beginning, right on the tape. Great for archivists, and for practically no one else on earth. This is the sort of gee-whiz thinking at Sony that brought us simulated digital frame grabs (on a late-Eighties Beta machine I still have), a clock-radio that requires half a dozen button operations to change the alarm time (which I bought and now deeply regret), and now CDs that hijack your operating system.
The company at times seems almost Dylanesque most likely, you go your way, they'll go theirs. Yet another example of Sony gee-whiz thinking is headed for the dustbin: the ATRAC music-encoding-plus-DRM system, and the Connect music store that sold it to people with latter-day Walkman units, are history. (I have a fairly-recent Walkman, and an interface to Connect was duly provided as part of the package, but I never had occasion to use it, inasmuch as the interface would also accept ordinary MP3 and even WAV files.) Sony has unveiled new Walkman players (can we call them "Walkmen"?) that don't use ATRAC, and Connect apparently will be gone by spring.
All of this, of course, makes me wonder what sort of weird crap Sony is planning for the PlayStation 4.
A lot of us have poked fun at pop-music LP jackets over the years, most recently the esteemed Rocket Jones, and there's always been one shibboleth to sustain us: "At least they'd never do something this tacky on a classical release."
The online tool shed grows larger
We expect the county records in the state's metropolitan areas to be easily searchable online; we tend to doubt that we'll find anything in the rural areas.
Duncan-based KellPro is now offering searchable land records in twenty-seven counties at OKCountyRecords.com. In six of those counties (Carter, Craig, Delaware, Grady, Logan and Ottawa) you can also search plat maps, although apparently you will have to set up an online account contact your county clerk to view images. If you have to go poking through land records for a living (and I know some of you do), this may prove useful to you.
Enough with the synthetic compassion
Telegraph associate editor Simon Heffer is ready to cut off allowances:
Has anybody noticed that the more we spend on the underclass, the bigger it gets and the worse it behaves?
Has anyone noticed, either, that what we used to call the working class has shrunk? Not merely because, as surveys tell us, so many now think of themselves as "middle-class", but because something called the respectable working class has almost died out. What sociologists used to call the working class does not now usually work at all, but is sustained by the welfare state. Its supposed family units are not as the rest of us might define the term. It lapses routinely into criminality and lives in largely self-inflicited squalor. It has low educational attainment and is bereft of ambition. It is what we now call the underclass.
We have an underclass because we pay to have one. I do not mean that to be a glib remark, from which it could be inferred that, if we were to stop paying for one, it would magically disappear. What I mean is that 60 years of welfarism, far from raising people out of poverty and of the vices that sometimes (but not inevitably) go with it, has simply trapped them there. Welfarism has smashed the traditional, and vital, family unit. The state readily takes responsibility for families if those who should be running them decide, in part or in whole, to abdicate it. The huge outlay of money that allows this to happen is represented by politicians and not exclusively those of the Left as a great act of humanity and philanthropy. It is nothing of the sort. It is, rather, an act of sustained and chronic cruelty, and it leads to such horrors as happened in Liverpool last week.
Mr Heffer could probably repeat this column every few years with scarcely any changes, because that's what's going to happen to the policies that created the "underclass": scarcely any changes. The War on Poverty, as President Johnson called it, makes the Iraq "quagmire" look like a small patch of gravel.
Out to sea
Commercial radio is in a sadder state than I thought. One of the few things I've heard that was at all worthwhile was a program by Jim "The Critic" Voight on Charleston's WAVF ("96 Wave") on Sunday morning. The Critic's choices were interesting enough; more to the point, he was willing to defend them against potential audience complaints. Then again, this was a Sunday-morning show, and nothing in the station's regular playlist makes me think that this is anything other than a weekend anomaly, and that the station normally doesn't sound like that at all. (In their defense, it's better than anything I'm likely to hear on Oklahoma City radio.)
And now 96 Wave is history. From Lou Pickney's VarietyHits.com:
Heritage rock station 96 Wave (96.1 WAVF) in Charleston, SC abruptly dropped modern rock (and, presumably, the incumbent "Free Beer and Hot Wings" syndicated morning show) at 5:00 p.m. EDT on Friday 8/31/2007 to go Variety Hits as 96.1 Chuck FM. The station is streaming live as of this writing from the old 96 Wave website.
In its 22+ year existence, 96 Wave maintained a rock format. WAVF signed on with an Album Oriented Rock format in March 1985 as 96 Wave following a week of stunting with ocean wave sounds.
With the alternative rock format that swept the United States in the early 1990s, the station shifted from the dying AOR format to the growing alternative (also known as modern rock) format in 1993, though it kept the established 96 Wave name.
The last song played on 96 Wave prior to the flip was "My Wave" by Soundgarden. The first song played on Chuck FM was "Take This Job And Shove It" by Johnny Paycheck. According to radio-online.com, 96 Wave program director Lance Hale will remain with the new station in the same role.
What's weird about this is that Chuck FM will apparently be leaving Chucktown:
[T]he station is slated to change its city of license from Hanahan, SC [in Berkeley County just beyond North Charleston] to Forestbrook, SC and drop its massive class C signal (100,000 watts from a height of 1777') to go to a C2 status at 26,000 watts from a height of only 492', and in the process lose its coverage of Charleston (moving to cover the Myrtle Beach, SC market).
Pickney speculates that this is a temporary move while a multiplicity of stations are shuffled, and the result will be something like this:
My guess: the 96.1 Chuck FM format will end up on on 101.7 (with the WKZQ-FM [Myrtle Beach] rock format moving to 96.1 FM when the switch happens), as Apex [owner of WAVF] will get the 101.7 license and NextMedia will obtain 96.1 after the swap. It is more complex than that, but for the purpose of analyzing the move, it suffices.
Who loses in this shuffle? Bamberg's WWBD is moving from that city to the Isle of Palms, east of Charleston, about 90 miles away, but, says its owner, Bamberg/Orangeburg loses nothing in the deal:
Harold Miller, Miller Communications president and CEO, said the transition is aimed at improving the company's and other radio broadcasters' and groups' facilities and stations.
"If approved, in time Miller will reach an opportunity to dramatically improve several of its stations," Miller said. "The Bad Dog format will not leave Orangeburg. Miller Communications would be foolish to remove a format that the people have demanded be there. There are no plans to take Bad Dog out of Orangeburg."
Which suggests to me that WNKT St George, which is moving to Eastover in this deal, presumably close enough to Orangeburg, will take over the Bad Dog format. Definitely a change from Cat Country.
On the other hand, I have to agree with former WWBD owner Vic Whetstone:
"It is not my baby anymore, but it was my baby," Whetstone said. "Me and my staff, we operated a community station. We were so much a part of the community and promoting so many things. Unfortunately, this is not the way it is anymore."
As I wrote in Vent #103 in 1998:
What do Pryor, Henryetta, Okmulgee and Muskogee have in common? Yes, they're all towns in Oklahoma, but more specifically, they are towns in Oklahoma who used to have local FM service. Oh, the stations are still there, sort of. But the owners, visions of bigger bucks dancing in their heads, relocated the transmitting facilities to be closer to the Tulsa metropolitan area, where they could go after big-city audiences while still paying lip service to the communities to which they are licensed.
If anything, this process seems to have accelerated in the nine years since.
3 September 2007
Strange search-engine queries (83)
Not that I've gained any new readers lately, but if this is your first visit, what you're seeing is a compilation of some of the actual strings entered into search engines that led people to this very site, selected largely on the basis of whether I could think up some smartass remark about them.
circuit city shoplifting policy: They're against it.
sword is better than pen: More viscerally satisfying, anyway.
"Dakota Fanning" Lolita: Bad idea. Besides, who could play Quilty? Johnny Knoxville?
doo dooo dooo doo doo doo doo dooo woo: That doo woo that you do so well.
it's wrong for just one company to make the game Monopoly: Well, that's Life®.
i need someplace privately to vent for free: May I suggest Blogspot? It costs nothing, and it will be years before anybody sees anything you've written.
what happened to my lotus smartsuite: You probably upgraded to Windows XP and now it craps out every time you try to load a file.
can a foetus be invisible at 8 weeks: Well, it probably won't show from the outside.
baristas that give blowjobs: Doesn't sound like any Starbucks I've ever seen.
vintage deadly curvaceous women in undergarments: Doesn't sound like any baristas I've ever seen.
make your jeep hemi faster with pantyhose: Obviously this won't work in the Jeep Commando.
but no one will understand lyrics: Maybe if you can get the singer to enunciate a little better.
whiy is it called a porsche nine eleven illuminati: What were you expecting? A Fnord Fnocus?
Get your own getaway car
Any owner who threatens to hit the highway with his franchise is demonized. But the city he lands in usually escapes such scrutiny.
That would change if Oklahoma City bankrolls the Sonics' move. OKC is not desperate. We lived a long time without the NBA, and we could live some more the same way.
Just because Bennett and Co. are old friends worthy of trust doesn't mean they can have the city's credit card. Every owner, every sport, wants to squeeze out the best deal for his franchise. That's what owners do, shoot for the moon. Heck, that's what Bennett's doing in Seattle, asking for a $500 million arena.
Oklahoma City should do all it can to prep for an NBA team's arrival, but it should not help pack the moving vans.
Simple as that. The city can promise facility upgrades and better lease terms, but going beyond that is out of the question. Or should be. And if there's anything under the table that we don't know about, let's hope someone upends that table before Bennett's Halloween deadline.
I expect some Snickers from the gallery
Herewith, two links from Tinkerty Tonk which lead to but a single conclusion.
A New York State University team quizzed over 1,000 students, finding women place a big emphasis on kissing. They use kissing as a way of assessing the recipient as a potential partner, and later to maintain intimacy and to check the status of a relationship.
But men placed less importance on it, using it to increase the likelihood of sex, Evolutionary Psychology reported. The questionnaires revealed men were less discriminating when it came to deciding who to kiss or who to have sex with.
Couples in their 20s had their heart rates and brains monitored whilst they first melted chocolate in their mouths and then kissed. Chocolate caused a more intense and longer lasting "buzz" than kissing, and doubled volunteers' heart rates.
So if women value kissing more highly than men do, and if they value chocolate more highly than kissing face it, guys, you and I have been displaced by 3 Musketeers.
August total: $2305.10
That's an increase of $256.00 over last month, and almost double my first month's earnings. Needless to say, I'm quite pleased.
As she should be. While this won't pay all the bills, it's got to help. A lot.
Keep in mind the total above represents earnings from four blogs, so your mileage may vary. Also, as you can see, earnings from "passive revenue" sources (e.g., AdSense and AdBrite) wouldn't even pay for a matinée movie ticket. It's earnings from work (albeit something as fun as blogging).
With four blogs to maintain you can bet it means at least 5 hours of effort per day, six and sometimes seven days per week: a modest income if you look at it in dollars-per-hour, and yet I’d be spending those hours for free at the computer in all likelihood. I just no longer feel bad about it.
Even spread over 40-hour weeks, this is still a pretty decent sum.
I've never been one of those people who believes that Money Always Corrupts, and certainly I don't think it's affected VK's credibility, which remains pretty darn high. (She's got sponsored posts, and they're
A quick bright thing come to confusion
Because you can't keep a good iamb down, A Mid-Summer Night's TXT Comedy:
R not thou puck?
EARTH GIRDLED 40 MIN MAX KTHXBAI
4 September 2007
If you're gonna buy you a Mercury and cruise on down the road, you might want to do it now, while there's still time:
The writing's on the wall for Ford's pseudo luxury brand Mercury, which is now tipped to face extinction within the next couple of years. Flagging sales and no major new products in the pipeline mean Ford execs are likely to close the book on Mercury for good, and it could happen as early as 2012. Both industry experts and Mercury's own dealers are predicting the brand won't be around much longer. In fact, a recent survey of 125 dealers found that nearly four out of every five dealers were concerned that Ford is planning to dump Mercury.
How many new Mercs are in the pipeline? One: when the Ford Focus (probably still first-generation, while the EuroFocus is approaching the time for its third) gets a hybrid powerplant, there's supposed to be one for Jill Wagner to hawk.
This is somewhat distressing, not because I'm a Mercury fan I owned one, once upon a time, and it was an okay car when it wasn't chewing on its own cylinder heads but because I was sort of hoping that recasting the line as "chick cars" might bring some new owners into the fold. Apparently it didn't work: maybe women won't buy "chick cars" either.
But the death of the Big M is probably inevitable. GM and Chrysler have axed entire marques Oldsmobile and Plymouth, respectively for selling fewer than 300,000 units a year. Mercury is running around 180,000. All these years we've been told that Mercury was keeping Lincoln dealers afloat, but maybe Lincoln would do better as a standalone: flying solo certainly hasn't hurt Cadillac, and I have to wonder how many MKZ sales Lincoln loses to Mercury's much-the-same Milan selling for five grand less across the lot.
I note that there is no spoon
There is, however, a Diet Fork:
I need hardly point out that if your particular weakness is, say, nachos, this contraption will do you no good whatsoever.
Damned lies and statistics
All over blogdom, Tam's seen 'em:
I can't tell you how many times I've seen a blog that is a Large Mammal! in the Ecosystem, with a Technorati score of One Hojillion! and then I open its SiteMeter and it's getting 100 hits a day, all from random Google searches. It turns out that they're on every reciprocal blogroll known to mankind. Feh. That doesn't get you the eyeballs; good writing gets you the eyeballs.
Wait a minute. There are reciprocal blogrolls?
I dunno if I'm getting eyeballs, but some body parts seem to be showing up here and on the meter.
This calls for Hershey bars all around:
Okay, who's the wise guy in the back with the floss?
Obviously this isn't Sirius
Starting September 1st and continuing on Saturdays through late November, we may preempt certain news, talk, and entertainment channels so that we can air select college football games. The channels subject to preemption include Air America, The Weather Channel and America Right.
Someone obviously has made some very careful programming decisions in an attempt to be fair. Unfortunately, knowing human nature, they'll succeed only in ticking off just about everybody: liberals (Air America), conservatives (America Right), and everyone else (The Weather Channel). But you have to give 'em credit for the symmetry.
I think I'll go stuff a few more tunes onto my Walkman.
5 September 2007
The deed is done
I usually dawdle, and this year was no exception, but I did finally complete my list of nominations for the 2007 Okie Blog Awards. While my vote counts exactly the same as anyone else's, I have, I believe, one distinct advantage over everyone else: there's no way I can possibly vote for me.
You've got a few days left. Use them wisely.
Collar for today: blue
Last time we (or I, anyway) heard from Joel Kotkin, he was mocking San Francisco as being an "ephemeral city," as distinguished from one that exists in the Real World, and snickering at the ostensible "creative classes" who are supposed to be saving our cities and such.
Mr Kotkin is still unimpressed by the sort of gee-whiz stuff that goes on in the name of civic development. In this interview on Townhall.com, he hits home rather a lot:
We live in this dream world where we say, "Well, if we have a fancy stadium with sky boxes, that will keep businesses here." Well, what do you mean by businesses? Do you mean the gauleiters who represent multinational corporations, so they can hang out at a fancy football game? Or are we talking about somebody who's got 15 people working for him in a shop somewhere in the suburbs and would like to get to 30? What are his issues? Are they tax issues? Are they training issues? Are they regulatory issues? You’ve got to go ask! I don’t see anyone interested in that anymore. It’s all "What does some 23-year-old, footloose student want? Does he have enough jazz clubs to go to?" Or some footloose 50-year-old corporate henchman. "Does he have enough arts facilities?"
As a country, we're kind of delusional about our economies. I've found a few places in the country where they focus on this stuff, but I'm kind of becoming a persona non grata for raising these issues. I'm not raising them as a conservative, saying we shouldn't have taxes or shouldn't have regulations. I'm just saying, "How do you provide for a broad-based economic opportunity for your people? Isn't that what's it about?" Unfortunately, for most mayors in America, that's not what's it's about. What it's about is, "How do I keep the public employees happy? How do I keep the people at the very top of society happy? And how do I put on a good enough show so that everybody thinks I have a hip, cool city."
And contrary to popular belief, the manufacturing sector is not dead, though there are those who apparently wouldn't miss it:
This sort of gentry liberalism we have now, they don't really want any of these jobs because, you know what, there is going to be pollution from these industries.
I would argue that if something is going to be manufactured in the United States, it's going to have much less negative effect on the environment than if it's manufactured in China. It's almost like people want to shunt aside all the hard things and have the hard things done by somebody else so they can have their pristine environment. A, that has a sociological effect, since there is no upward mobility for a large portion of the population, and B, you have the stuff built in places that have much worse regulation. In California, they’ll put this regulation in and kick the guy out of California; so the guy goes to Texas, where he can pollute twice as much.
I have to tell you, almost every place I go in this country, particularly where the economy is growing, if you ask business people what is it that would really help them, they say "skills." Machinists. Welders. It's not like there's a Ph. D. shortage, generally speaking. But there is a welder shortage, there's a plumber shortage, there's a machinist shortage. But nobody wants to talk about this. Cities that have lost their industrial base don't want to talk about it, and many cities that still have it are almost ashamed of it. In one of the great historical ironies, the places where they are not ashamed of manufacturing are places like Houston and Charleston and Charlotte. But the places with the great industrial traditions, it's almost as if they are ashamed of their lineage.
God knows Oklahoma is embarrassed by the Oil Patch days; I guess it upsets Prius owners or something. Fortunately for us, we have a really good technical-training infrastructure; unfortunately for us, we won't spend the money to support more students.
Still, at least we're showing some growth these days, which means we're doing something right. I worry, though, that civic development follows John Wanamaker's rule of advertising: half the money is wasted, and we can't tell which half.
Next: verifying the wetness of water
"Just because people say they're looking for a particular set of characteristics in a mate, someone like themselves, doesn't mean that is what they'll end up choosing," Peter M. Todd, of the cognitive science program at Indiana University, Bloomington, said in a telephone interview.
And this is the study he directed:
In the study, participants were asked before the session to fill out a questionnaire about what they were looking for in a mate, listing such categories as wealth and status, family commitment, physical appearance, healthiness and attractiveness. After the session, the researchers compared what the participants said they were looking for with the people they actually chose to ask for another date.
Men's choices did not reflect their stated preferences, the researchers concluded. Instead, men appeared to base their decisions mostly on the women's physical attractiveness.
Women didn't follow their own advice either, but they weren't quite so single-minded, so to speak:
Women's actual choices, like men's, did not reflect their stated preferences, but they made more discriminating choices, the researchers found.... [W]omen were aware of the importance of their own attractiveness to men, and adjusted their expectations to select the more desirable guys.
"Women made offers to men who had overall qualities that were on a par with the women's self-rated attractiveness. They didn't greatly overshoot their attractiveness," Todd said, "because part of the goal for women is to choose men who would stay with them."
But, he added, "they didn't go lower. They knew what they could get and aimed for that level."
For me, it's a new flavor of mixed emotions: derision plus desolation. And I don't much enjoy it.
More self-hating carbon-based life forms
Something called "Environmental Defense" has issued a ukase to the effect that of the six largest motor-vehicle manufacturers in the US market, five are putting out more life-threatening carbon than they were fifteen years before, and Nissan, with a 9.5-percent increase, is the deadliest of them all.
"Market shifts to date fall far short of what would be needed to truly address global warming," wrote John DeCicco, the study's lead author. "New policies will be needed to significantly limit automobile carbon burdens."
I suggest DeCicco attack this problem at the source: by driving a Nissan vehicle (I recommend, to save precious time, the new Nissan GT-R) into the heart of the sun.
Secret Asian man
Addendum: Adam Gurri adds: "I'm already sick of them, and I don't even know who the guy is."
Have you driven a bore lately?
Jebediah Wilbury riffs on some really awful car names, starting with Ford's Edsel, which wound up with the name of Henry Ford's firstborn after thousands of possibilities, including a whole sheaf by poet Marianne Moore, were rejected. (Although I think "Mongoose Civique" would have been kinda neat.)
"Edsel" never bothered me all that much, perhaps because there weren't too many of them around: the marque was unceremoniously killed off early in its third year. Some badges, though, perplex me to this day:
Dishonorable mention: Kia cee'd (2007-?), sold only in Europe, because (1) it looks silly and (2) Hyundai sells a version as the i30, which bugs Nissanophiles.
On the other hand, a source of delight was Toyota's Cressida (1973-92), so far the only car I know of named for a woman of variable virtue. (No Boxster jokes, please.)
6 September 2007
Not a good sign
Trini was repairing a notebook yesterday, and while she was testing its Net connectivity, the browser announced that it had blocked a popup.
This would not seem particularly unusual, until you discover that she'd tested the connectivity by connecting to Google, which is not generally a place where one encounters popups to be blocked.
Of her six standard levels of curse, this one, I surmise, rated about a 2.2, where 1 is shruggable and 6 involves hurling the offending unit into the nearest wall.
What defined the late Luciano Pavarotti as a true superstar, I think, was this: he appeared in some ghastly piece of Hollywood tripe called Yes, Giorgio, playing exactly to type, and it didn't affect his reputation in the slightest.
What hurt was the diagnosis: cancer of the pancreas, which has a survival rate of somewhere around zero. He knew he was doomed, and he canceled his last tour.
Joshua Kosman fills in the details in the San Francisco Chronicle. This quote seems to sum it up:
He had the most gorgeous, supple, musical, Italianate lyric tenor of a half-century maybe a whole century," said San Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley, "as well as a delightful down-to-earth teddy-bear personality that reached out and brought millions of people closer to opera."
And now he belongs to the ages, exactly as you knew he would some day, the very first time you heard him.
Half again as caustic
The 3.0 version of Victory Soap is up and running, at least until such time as Andrea decides what to do with the 2.0 incarnation.
And a couple of Martian oxygen sensors
The Golden State sticks it to a Tar Heel, so to speak:
Estimated cost of a new catalytic converter and accompanying sensors for my 1998 Accord, including labor and tax, minus AAA discount: $902 and change.
Revised estimate after determining it needs a "California" catalytic converter, though the car was bought in Maryland and has never been west of Kansas: $1446 and change.
Still unexplained: why anyone would need a California converter (which, based on what little I know about CARB regulations, has to be essentially identical to the OEM cat) on the East Coast.
Coming soon: the iViolin
It's incredibly small, and you can hear it playing while you read this letter to Steve Jobs:
When you released the iPhone I was one of those pathetic fanboys seen in pictures around the country depicting the spell you had cast over my generation. I paid $600 for the 8 GB iPhone without complaint, just as I had for every iPod you have put out since the first generation.
My complaint is simply that you have dropped the price on the iPhone without recourse to the Apple faithful. I'm not hurting for the two hundred dollar price drop at all, let me be clear. However I cannot help but feel ripped off that in an unprecedented move as far as I can remember, you have lowered the price of a product of yours within 90 days of introducing it.
Having once spent $109.95 for an early-generation pocket calculator, no better than the ones they sell at the dollar store these days, I can say only this: BOO FRICKIN HOO.
Update, 4:15 pm: Steve Jobs hears the cry.
Still on the line
The old Wichita Aeros never made much headway in the American Association, and when they moved to Buffalo in the middle 1980s to become the Bison, a name which seems at least slightly redundant, scarcely anyone mourned. A new Texas League club, the Pilots, later the Wranglers, was assembled, but they're moving to Springdale, Arkansas for next season.
Were it up to me, and be glad it isn't, I'd christen them the Wichita Linemen.
Now with more plastic!
Oklahoma City's Solid Waste (aka "Trash") Management Division has now decided to pick up any recyclable plastic from 1 (polyethylene terephthalate) to 7 (anything not included in 1 through 6). Previously they would pick up only types 1 and 2.
About half my block sets out Little Blue, the container for recyclables, for pickup every week.
7 September 2007
I mean, really:
In July of 2007, a dozen brave 60-75 year-old men from the mountains of New Mexico stripped bare for you. Only one of them had ever been photographed nude before (and that was 40 years ago). The only excuse they had was Bill Clinton's "I did it because I could" and because it gave them a grin.
We think you'll get a grin from the pictures as well. And, we think you will be as surprised as we were at how vital, comfortable, funny and good-looking our old guys are.
I don't know if I'd borrow an excuse from Bill Clinton, but then again, it's way older than he is.
Besides, there's a cause afoot:
Disney came to town last year to shoot the blockbuster movie, Wild Hogs. By many accounts, it is a typically vapid Disney offering. The film dressed up our little town like a ten year-old girl for Sunday school. It was so doggone cute! We just HATED it. As the movie succeeded, the future dawned on many of us who gathered for drinks at the Mine Shaft, for barbecue at Len's or sat on the front porch of the Old Boarding House. We would have to deal with multitudes of tourists this summer who have never heard of the real Madrid [New Mexico] and who had come here to eat lunch at Maggie's Diner (which is only a movie set, not a restaurant). Madrid would have to either BECOME the cute little town in the movie (its black coal dirt all covered with store-bought sod) or it would have to assert to the world what it truly is. We got ready.
And, well, resistance to the Disney machine may be futile, but I ordered the calendar anyway.
Turn on me, dead man
Reportedly there's a new Osama bin Laden video due before Tuesday.
It's not you, it's me
(If you were ever dumped by an English teacher, amend to read "It's not you, it's I.")
This is apparently one of the five most tragic dumping lines, and it's certainly the one to which I can most easily relate, even though it's never actually been used on me.
The translations are interesting, though:
Number 3: We want different things right now
Translation: I want to sleep with your sister and it's just not going to happen is it?
Now that's brazen.
Supporting all that hardware
Every new car has some sort of computer, which costs a fair chunk of change. It doesn't occur to us, though, that those computers have software, and rather a lot of it:
A study conducted by Strategy Analytics found that a vehicle contains on average almost $2,000 worth of software, close to 9% of the average showroom price tag. In cutting-edge luxobarges such as the Mercedes S-Class or BMW 7-series you can expect to see a much higher cost of software (even though the cost as a percentage of the vehicle would probably be less).
Since you presumably can't get this software at retail, I'm wondering just where this price tag comes from. But there's no doubt that there's a lot of bytes at work during your daily drive.
Software, inevitably, has a downside:
Features like adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, lane departure warning and engine and gearbox management are all driven by software. Of course, the more complicated these systems get the more chance of them developing bugs, some of which could even lead to cars not being drivable.
There exists a Technical Service Bulletin pertaining to my car, which comes into play when two conditions are met: diagnostic code P0420 is set, yet there are no symptoms. Says the TSB, the first thing you do to resolve the issue is to check the version of the operating system, and upgrade to the most recent version if necessary. If not, you replace the pre-cat tube. The benefit of this approach is that it saves a ton of diagnostics, hence time and money, although it doesn't seem so if you've just written a check for tube installation. But the reason there's a TSB in the first place is to acknowledge that the operating system, at least in its prior versions, has a bug, one serious enough to trip the dreaded Malfunction Indicator Light.
The hardware involved, incidentally, costs just on the far side of $700, just for the computer itself: the dealership will transfer the operating system from their box to yours for not too small a fee, and I suppose eventually there will be third-party software to be had.
Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl caused something of a scandal upon its publication in 1962, mostly because it was understood that single girls didn't have sex, or at least weren't supposed to. As it happens, dating stuff was only a small portion of the book: a lot of the pages were devoted to career enhancement and financial advice. An example of the latter:
Wear old clothes or no clothes at home alone.
8 September 2007
Distant early warning syndrome
CA Security Suite just jumped up and warned me that my subscription was expiring and I should RENEW NOW lest I be exposed to all manner of horrid net.crud.
This didn't sound right, so I popped open their front end, and here's the expiration date: 18 February 2008.
And I have enough experience with CA to know that the earliest you should ever renew one of their products is on the day before it expires, inasmuch as they start the clock on the new subscription on the date of the new order: were I to renew in mid-January, I'd lose a month.
I abandoned these characters at work after considerable difficulty getting the site licenses renewed. (Trini gives them, I'm guessing, about a 4.9 curse.) I'll have no qualms about ditching them at home if this sort of thing keeps up.
Bars serve drinks, and drinks, sooner or later, sooner if you're taking diuretics, will demand that you excuse yourself for a few moments. Some facilities make this task simple, while others prefer to dazzle you with glitz:
If you go looking for the restrooms at Bar 89 in SoHo, instead of a private room for women and a separate one for men, you'll encounter an open area upstairs with a row of hi-tech looking stalls. Through the glass doors, you can see the toilet and sink lit up in red and blue. I observed someone going into one of them, and when they closed the door, after a second or two, the glass door became opaque and the word "occupied" lit up at the top of the door. I entered a stall, saw that I could still see the guy sitting on the sofa across from me, and assuming that I was no more invisible to him than he was to me, quickly exited. But I went back to investigate and take some photos with my cell phone camera (my Helio Ocean).
This works both ways: if I'm in a stall, I'd just as soon not be able to see anyone else, irrespective of context.
Apparently, though, this variation on the standard (not to say "American-Standard") toilet theme did the job just fine:
Just as I was thinking that I need to get out more in order to keep up with bathroom technology, I realized that everyone in the place was taling about the crazy doors it's quite a conversation piece. I never did get to the bottom of how they work; it's either the lock or some kind of motion sensor that causes the door to fog up.
Those folks who use the toilet for some purpose other than to, um, use the toilet may find this sort of thing offputting, though. Gridskipper reports, and the reports tend to run well beyond PG-13, so be warned. Me, I have a more direct concern: suppose the door gizmo freezes up and you're stuck in the stall?
Specifically, letters to the editor of the Oklahoman. First, from the 5th of September, Mark L. Johnson writes:
If Oklahoma City doesn't demolish the rundown homes and businesses west of the downtown area, the city will return to mediocrity. A glorious downtown and Bricktown won't stand on their own for the future of Oklahoma City. I propose a series of taxes to build a city worthy of all who live here. Quality, educated people will never move en masse to Oklahoma City if a beautification project doesn't take place.
We need a greenbelt to the west of downtown. Statues of famous Oklahomans would fit well into such a park, along with fountains, vendors with food carts, a large swimming pool, etc. This could be accomplished with a 2-cent sales tax over a 10-year period. This would also help with the attempts by St. Anthony Hospital to beautify the area.
Today, by Dan Baker:
Mark L. Johnson (Your Views, Sept. 5) wants a taxpayer-funded greenbelt to the west of downtown Oklahoma City. He said this could be accomplished with a 2-cent sales tax over a 10-year period. I like greenbelts as much as the next guy and I can't imagine anyone fussing about a mere 2 percent being added to everything we buy so we can have more grass to mow.
While we're at it, we might even consider adding a 25-cent sales tax for better roads and bridges. That still leaves a whopping 73 percent that can be taxed for better education, entitlement programs, crime, saving the whales you name it. I'd been wondering what I should do with all my extra money. Thanks, Mark, for this nifty idea!
For myself, I have a problem calling something a "greenbelt," or indeed any kind of belt, unless it's at least some semblance of circular; if you park some parkland west of downtown, it will indeed be green, but that doesn't make it a "greenbelt" until you wrap it around the rest of the area.
That said, I don't have any objections to some additional greenery west of downtown, though I'm pretty sure it can be done for less than the billion dollars Mr Johnson suggests: all the original MAPS projects, total price tag less than $400 million, were financed by a one-cent sales tax for 66 months. And more to the point, there is already development in the area: old buildings are being refurbished, new ones are going up. It's not an overnight process, but it is happening. A good start, I think, would be a new streetscaping for Classen between Reno and 13th, a rather depressing-looking zone.
On the subject of parkland in general, I think our most crying deficiency as a city in this realm is the utter lack of parks in new subdivisions: you've got winding streets and big houses, but not much else. Mayor Cornett is reportedly thinking about impact fees for new development; I suggest he push for a requirement for neighborhood parks.
As for having "more grass to mow," as Mr Baker points out: hey, at least we don't have to mow the
Such a tease
I have never quite made up my mind about toe cleavage: like its upstairs cousin, it hints at further delights, but I always wonder if maybe she's wearing the wrong size, or wrong style, shoe. This particular shoe is a design by Christian Louboutin, who usually doesn't push the envelope too much, but geez, Chris, if you'd cut this vamp any lower you'd have a sandal, fercryingoutloud. I suppose it would be fairer to see this shoe in context Shoebunny, from whom I pilfered this thumbnail (!), has more pictures and I figure that maybe the overall intent is to make legs look longer, not that Sarah Michelle Gellar, who's wearing the shoes in the picture, needs any help in that regard. Ultimately, I suppose, this is more ammunition for the folks who think toe cleavage is some sort of freak show, and I suspect you'll never get Miriam into a pair of these.
And four for the sixty-minute man
I go through AA batteries like teenagers go through refrigerators: at high speed, with little if any regard for the potential expense. It's not the only size that gets used around here within twenty feet of this desk are items that take AAAs, Cs, and the occasional 9-volt bricklet but a stack of remote controls and a digital camera guarantee that I'll run out of AAs on a regular basis.
In days of old I experimented with batteries that could be recharged, and this worked only slightly well, mostly because you paid dearly for nickel-cadmium cells which took a long time to juice up, which eventually wouldn't take even a fractional charge (the so-called "memory effect"), and which, when I eventually threw them out in frustration, contributed to environmental hazards.
Panasonic, which makes my camera, also makes a funky super-alkaline battery for it called Oxiride, which sounds like something you'd see for three payments of just $19.99 on late-night television. The camera shipped with a pair of them, and they lasted fairly well; unable to find them locally, I replaced them with your run-of-the-mill Duracells, which didn't. A guy at a big-box electronics store which shall remain anonymous suggested something that just sounded wrong: new nickel-metal hydride batteries that charge up in 15 minutes flat. I bought six of them, and a charger that holds two at a time.
The charger, incidentally, is loud: there's an internal fan that vents to the outside of the case, and it makes a fair amount of noise. It's almost loud enough, in fact, to use as a signal to tell you when it's done, if you don't happen to be in the same room when the green indicator light goes off. The first batch of AAs (it also does AAAs) I put through finished in 16:07, which is not too far off the mark; the camera accepted them with alacrity.
The rules of TANSTAAFL require me to point out that in a quarter-hour, these cells don't actually reach their maximum charge:
The Rayovac 2000 mAh cells appear to be of very good quality, testing higher than many 2100 mAh units when put through the standard Imaging Resource charging protocol. And the 15-minute Rayovac charger does indeed complete its charging cycle in 15 minutes, without detonating the batteries. The only catch is that after a 15 minute charge cycle, the cells have only reached about 85% of their maximum capacity. They do continue to drift up if left in the charger overnight, but the Rayovac charger never "tops them off" as completely as my DC trickle-charging protocol does.
I don't consider this to be too much of a drawback, since I expect the lifespan of these batteries in use to be easily two to three times that of alkalines, and while there's still some memory effect, it's not anywhere nearly as horrid as it was with Ni-Cd cells.
So color me at least slightly impressed. I'll be more so if I get the kind of battery life I'm expecting from this little investment.
9 September 2007
OMG SMF TXTSPK
This item turned up in the Playboy "Raw Data" for October, and it piqued my curiosity:
According to a survey by Samsung, 39% of single women have sent a text message that they regretted the next day, a feeling known as "text shame."
Wondering just what sort of survey this was, I revved up the search engines and came up with this:
A recent study commissioned by Samsung Telecommunications America shows that Single Mobile Females (SMFs) young single women who have cell phones are using their phones as much more than a communication device.
The SMF survey shows that women's cell phones play an important role in relationships and dating, organizing their lives and fashion.
Some of the other findings:
More than one out of three SMFs have had a friend call them to interrupt a date (34%).
40 percent of respondents have faked technical difficulties to avoid someone they were not interested in dating.
More than 10 percent of females surveyed said that the "three day rule," which is waiting to call someone until three days after a first date, only applies to calling and you can send a text message to someone before day three (13%).
12 percent of females surveyed said that they would be less likely to date someone if they had a big and bulky cell phone.
Well, that's it for me and my six-year-old Nokia. Then again:
The survey, commissioned by Samsung, was conducted by Kelton Research and included more than 500 U.S. unmarried females ages 18 to 35 who have a cell phone.
Oh. Okay. They weren't interested in me anyway.
Dating in the District
Normally I don't look to Ann Coulter for dating advice, but this bit from her column in George (4/99) struck me at an angle I know too well:
Boys in Washington don't know how to ask for a date. What they do is try to trick you into asking them for a date. They say, "I know you're really busy, so call me when you'd like to go out to dinner" or "Call me when you're back in Washington" or, my favorite, "Are we ever going to get together?" What are you supposed to say to such completely insane things? I've never figured that out, which is why these conversations tend to end in hostile silences.
"Call me when you'd like to go out for dinner" isn't asking for a date; it's asking me to ask you for a date. For male readers in Washington, asking for a date entails these indispensable components: an express request for a female's company on a particular date for a specific activity. Oh yes, and the request has to be made to the female herself.
Roughly once every two weeks, I get a woman on my answering machine asking me if I'd like to go out with some dumb-ass male friend of hers who's too afraid to call me himself. (For those outside Washington, I'm not kidding.)
This isn't a screeching, hate-filled, anti-male screed. It is a screeching, hate-filled anti-D.C. screed. There's no large sociological point about relations between the sexes here. It's Washington. I know this, because while D.C. males are on my answering machine with vague announcements that they've called, I still get messages from boys in New York saying, for example, "I have tickets for the opera next Friday. Would you like to go?"
Males in every other city know how to ask for dates. So it's not me; it's not feminism; it's not the millennium.
Hmmm. Maybe I have a future as a policy wonk.
Salon, incidentally, put out a vicious (but sporadically funny) riposte to Coulter's plaint.
(With thanks to Pagan Marbury.)
Better than it was before
With the return to television of The Bionic Woman, the question just naturally arises: "If you could have one 'bionic' body part of your choice, which part would you prefer?"
Mo Rocca asked this question on the street, and I hope to God there was a lot of footage left on the cutting floor.
(Via Uppity Rib.)
Things I learned today (13)
As always, the definition of "today" is as flexible as I need it to be.
(The preceding has been an irregularly-scheduled
10 September 2007
Strange search-engine queries (84)
Time to shake out the ol' referrer logs and see what falls out.
don't begin sentence with "it": It is simply not done.
how to pronounce nacogdoches: As Groucho once said, it rhymes with "full of roaches."
why isn't golf on KFOR in HD: Better yet, why isn't golf on the radio?
"blackmail" bra: Perhaps, if you catch the guy wearing it.
peek in his shorts: You do and he'll hit you with his bra.
pornographic zip codes: This would make more sense if it were unzip codes.
"invisible woman" nude: How would you know?
what is the chemical formula for Unobtainium: If we knew that, we could tell you how to obtain it.
innies and outies torture photos: This doesn't sound like your ordinary, garden-variety navel-gazing.
Paul McCartney's Ebony & Ivory, example of syncretism: Example of boredom, maybe.
tips on how to produce tub farts in a bubble bath: Really, does anyone need instructions for this?
The cameras were kept in the fridge
Just as we ... began eavesdropping, we were ushered to our seats. "PLEASE UNCROSS YOUR LEGS," one of the photographers bellowed when he got a gander at the narrow runway lined with women in imposing shoes. This marks the first time a fashion show began the same way as an appointment with the gynecologist.
We will not entertain the idea that this particular Hasselbladder was trying to stirrup some trouble.
Black Hawk downsized
The cell phone: the enemy of cinema, says director Ridley Scott, and not because people are texting each other during the fight scenes, either:
People sit there watching a movie on a tiny screen. You can't beat it, you've got to join it and deal with it, and also get competitive with it. We try to do films which are in support of cinema, in a large room with good sound and a big picture. I'm sure we're on a losing wicket but we're fighting technology. Whilst it is wonderful in many aspects, it also has some big negative downsides.
One of which, perhaps, is that no one is going to pay $9 for a 320 x 240 download.
On the other hand, how likely is it that iPod-sized devices will become the favored medium for watching films? Aren't the people with the portable-video boxes pretty much the same people with the monstrously-large television and/or monitor screens?
Hey, you with the garbage
You know what would be really cool?
If you actually closed the top of that goddamn truck so cardboard boxes and such wouldn't come spinning out of it every time you changed lanes.
But then, you'd be deprived of the joy of watching someone catching the edge of one of them and then schlepping it six miles down the highway, so I suppose that's not part of your plan.
Just a hint of apprehension
It's not every day I get a notice from the Postal Service that I have a certified letter waiting, especially not one from the Oklahoma Tax Commission.
But wait! This isn't for me at all: according to the notice, the letter is for someone named Sloan. I don't believe anyone named Sloan has ever lived here; certainly no one named Sloan has lived here in the last four years.
So it's a question of protocol: do I go down to the Post Office and tell them no, this isn't for me, or do I just blow it off entirely and wait for the inevitable Return to Sender? I'm leaning toward the latter, mostly because it requires the least work, but I hate to leave stuff on my plate, especially if it isn't my stuff.
Remembering Lane Bryant
Now this is fascinating: Fashion-Incubator has scans from old Lane Bryant catalogs, 40 to 50 years ago.
Which, in turn, led me to look up Lane Bryant herself, who was born Lena Himmelstein in Lithuania in 1879 and shipped off to New York in 1895, supporting herself as a seamstress. ("Bryant" was David Bryant, her first husband, whom she married in 1899 and who died shortly after the birth of their child.) Mrs Bryant continued as a dressmaker, and some time after 1904, at the request of a customer, designed a chic maternity dress with an elasticized waist and a pleated skirt, a distinct departure from traditional maternity wear, which no one would ever see because you simply didn't go out of the house while you were expecting. It was an immediate hit.
In 1909, Mrs Bryant remarried, to Albert Malsin, who took over the business end of the Lane Bryant shop while she concentrated on design. New York newspapers, however, would not accept advertising for the store, what with all those evil maternity outfits on display. Eventually one paper did agree to run an ad, and when it appeared, the store was completely sold out within twenty-four hours. A second store had been opened in 1915, in Chicago, but feeling that they could not rely on newspapers, the Malsins opened up a mail-order branch, which by 1917 was bringing in $1 million a year.
Lane Bryant Malsin was a pioneer in customer relations and corporate philanthropy. At her suggestion, Lane Bryant, Inc. worked with the Red Cross to replace any Lane Bryant customer’s wardrobe that was destroyed in a disaster. In 1947, for example, after a major explosion and fire in Texas City, Texas, the company re-outfitted 58 mail order customers whose homes were destroyed. After World War II, Lane Bryant stores became clothing donation centers to benefit displaced persons in Europe.
This, boys and girls, is how you build customer loyalty.
The catalog excerpts are also instructive, because while they did list sizes, they encouraged you to send in a total of eight different measurements, and if based on those measurements they thought you had ordered the wrong size, they sent you what they thought was the correct size instead.
Mrs Malsin died in 1951; The Limited bought the company in 1982. The original catalog still exists as Woman Within, operated by Brylane/Redcats, and the retail chain (with Web storefront) continues under Charming Shoppes ownership.
11 September 2007
Maybe it fell between the sofa cushions
There's something a trifle disquieting about this:
Cash slips through the pockets of Americans each day and by the end of the week memory fades. A new survey has found that 48% of Americans suffer from "mystery spending." The VISA USA survey found that Americans lose track on average of $2,340 annually. Nearly half of consumers say they can't account for more than one-third of their cash, spending an average of $120 in a typical week, but losing track of $45.
I am no one's idea of a great money manager, but here is every cent I spent yesterday:
Thirty-four dollars, eighty cents, nicely accounted for, and I'll get the $2 back soon enough.
VISA obviously suggests that the cure for "mystery spending" is to put small transactions onto plastic.
Out of sight (until the bill comes), out of mind, I guess.
Six years on
From my single entry for 11 September 2001:
Blessed are the doubters; though they be thought indecisive and wishy, washy even, it would never occur to them to settle a petty grudge by mass murder.
Donald Rumsfeld was saying that the Pentagon bureaucracy needed to be shaken up, but this isn't what he meant at all. So far, I've remained just as calm as can be going through the Oklahoma City bombing perhaps has taken some of the fright out of me, and gallows humor will take care of some of the rest. But somehow I can still see myself tumbling from bed at the stroke of midnight, sweating to beat the band and screaming my fear into the night sky.
I haven't had much occasion to scream since then, and whether I should credit this comparative placidity to the (perhaps inadvertent) efficiency of the government or to the fecklessness of the jihadis is a question on which I plan to spend no time. What matters is that faith has been kept; memories have been preserved; resolve, where it counts, has been maintained.
The Oklahoma Observer floats a trial balloon ("Observations", 10 September):
It's never too early to ponder the next gubernatorial race. Quick question: Can Democrats extend their grip on Oklahoma government's top job for a third term in a decidedly Red state?
Short answer: Yes, especially if the Republicans end up nominating a lightweight like, oh, say, Lance Cargill.
Unexpected answer from the Observer: Kimberly Ann Henry. Yes, really:
The First Lady never has held elective office, but knows first-hand the rigors of a statewide campaign. She's a powerful, behind-the-scenes force in her husband's administration.
As a former government, history and advanced placement teacher (eight years at Shawnee High School), she has street credibility as she advocates tirelessly for children and public education.
Further, she has charisma that would be the envy of any candidate.
I suspect her AP experience makes her overqualified to deal with the underachievers in the legislature. And there's that whole Lurleen Wallace thing: would people assume Brad was pulling the strings from behind the curtain?
There is, to my knowledge, no evidence that Kim Henry is considering any such thing. But hey, it's never too early to ponder the next gubernatorial race.
And lo, there were nominees
The list has been pruned to the best of the best (well, not completely, since I'm still in there somewhere), and here they are: the nominees for the 2007 Okie Blog Awards.
It's a good group, and it's not just the usual suspects: I spotted several new blogs in contention. Do give them a look. Voting ends on the 26th of September.
Cakes for geeks
I have, of course, no hope of finding my very own geek girl, but were there nuptials pending, I'd almost certainly endeavor to make room for spectacularly-techie confections like these on the day's agenda knowing full well that she'd come up with a better one.
(Via Syaffolee, who awards bonus points for familiarity with flow cytometry.)
News Item: Two Oklahoma City women were charged today with first-degree murder in the July 26 death of a man killed in a robbery attempt. Veronica Nicole Bruner, 19, and Trashena Loraine Rogers, 17, allegedly talked about robbing Jose Angel Ochoa before he wound up dead at the Granville Apartments, 705 N MacArthur, according to court papers.
Oklahoma City police found the 59-year-old man's body after responding to a shooting call at the apartment complex, Sgt. Cris Cunningham wrote in an affidavit. Witnesses named two women known as "Jazzy" and "Grubby" as suspects, leading investigators to identify Bruner and Rogers.
Anyone want to guess which one was "Grubby"?
Not too indifferent
Two hundred twenty ballots cast by 5:50 pm over at Precinct 453, about ten percent higher than I'd anticipated but something short of a madding crowd. I'm expecting something like 56-44, Johnson over Claunch, but I won't be too unhappy whichever way it goes.
Update: Well, whaddaya know: 54-46, Johnson over Claunch.
News from Logan County
The Logan County Report is a newsblog based, I presume, in Guthrie; their first posts went up on Sunday and they're looking for readers. And if it weren't for them, I'd have had no idea that on their ballot today was a measure to reduce the county sales tax from 1 percent to 0.75 percent, which means I probably should start paying attention to them myself.
Update: It passed by about 8 to 1.
12 September 2007
How to recognize True Love
"Do you realize this is the longest period we have been together? And we did really well; there were only maybe two times when I wanted to kill you."
Cold shower time
"Oh, yeah?" I hear you ask. "New neighbor with disdain for clothing? High-definition smut? An actual, God help us, girlfriend?"
None of the above. What I have is a massive gas leak in the back yard, and the flow has been shut off pending replacement of the line.
How massive? This past month's gas consumption was 5.6 dekatherms. That's a December kind of number. This time last year, consumption was about 1.0. If nothing else, this explains the humongous-for-summer gas bills, which I attributed to, well, all those extra showers made necessary by a plethora of yard work until I reviewed the water bills, which had not gone up despite actual sprinkler use.
So I'm out mowing the back yard, and the stuff (actually, the stuff they put in it so you can smell it) hits me square in the face. I call the gas company, and they dispatched a chap who duly traced a direct path from the meter to the house and found no trace of gas. "It wasn't along there that I smelled it," I insisted, and eventually the truth of the matter was discovered: the gas line isn't where your geometry teacher would have put it, but dog-legged like the 12th hole at Southern Hills, if nowhere near as long.
Next step: they dig up the old line, install a new one. (I have been told that the gas meter will be relocated closer to the house.) How long this will take is anybody's guess, so until then: cold showers.
The city tightens its belt slightly
The General Obligation Bond issue, which will be voted on in December, got a smidgen thinner at yesterday's Council meeting: Council voted to refurbish the old police headquarters rather than build a new one, saving about $8.3 million from the projected $760 million.
The vote was 6-3, which was also the vote (different three) to set the millage at the rate for the existing 2000 G.O. bonds, rather than raise it a couple of mills and pay the bonds off faster. (Me, I'd have bitten the bullet, which would have cost me somewhere between $15 and $20 a year.)
Now for some extended memory
If you vaguely remember that phrase, be grateful you don't have to mess with it anymore and shed a tear for us Geeks of Yesteryear:
I'm completely lost when it comes to upgrades anymore. I used to actually read the gaming magazines and stay on top of what was cool. Now I know that my GeForce 4 Mx440 is old and busted, and I haven't even got a clue what the new hotness is. I feel like an auto mechanic who knows how to set points and synchronize SU carburettors; that's about how useful being able to write a good autoexec.bat file or set up a 10BASE2 network is these days. Four years of not paying attention, and I might as well have dropped out of computing back in the days of the Mattel Aquarius.
I console myself with the thought that even today, some fundamental operations at my workplace depend on a handful of .bat files ginned up by yours truly.
(My GeForce is a 6600; just as old, no less busted. It does, however, run through PCI Express.)
A ripping yarn
Actually, I'm not so sure I want to be there: the very mention of the topic tends to induce involuntary nerve activity of a sort I do not particularly enjoy. But in the end, so to speak, morbid curiosity won out, and I found this quote from "San Francisco skincare and waxing goddess" Marilyn Jaeger, to this effect:
If you want to sell the house, you’ve got to mow the lawn.
[Insert joke about evicting tenants here.]
Terry saw the piece on Digg, and posed this question:
If Digg comments are any indication, there are a lot more men big on the idea than there are women willing to rip it out. I wonder what the reaction would be if the situation were reversed?
Honestly, I don't know. I wince at the thought. But I'll tell you what: you get a guy persuaded that the procedure will guarantee him more, um, attention paid to this region, and he'll be down there with a frickin' belt sander.
Next: the Nursing Motherboard
There's something fundamentally wrong with a mouse shaped like a cat, especially this cat. Quite apart from the species mismatch, the ergonomics of this thing don't make sense: the scroll wheel and the buttons are located in the bow, which means that there's a good chance your hand is hanging off the edge. Still, you and I both know people who will rush right out and buy this thing for $7.98, and at no point in the proceedings will they evaluate its capabilities as a pointing device.
13 September 2007
The Internet Movie Database counts the votes from its users to determine the Top 250 movies (and the Bottom 100, but that's another matter entirely.)
Yes, you've seen this sort of shtick before, and yes, it's exactly what you think it is: the announcement for the oft-delayed Carnival of the Vanities #250, the last Carnival to be hosted at Silflay Hraka and the first in a couple of months. Next week Andrew Ian Dodge takes over, and I should have something for 251 by then.
Perry presses ahead
Russell M. Perry's radio empire has expanded into Georgia: the Oklahoma City-based broadcaster has acquired five stations in the Augusta, Georgia area from Radio One.
True to form, Perry is going with what's worked for him in Oklahoma:
"Augusta [is] the second-largest city in the state of Georgia with a population that is about 40 to 45 percent African-Americans, and the stations I bought are gospel, hip-hip and R&B. We will change one of them to country and western."
Perry's six-station Duncan/Lawton cluster runs six different formats, including country station KKEN.
Apparently Perry won't be able to use the "Blazin' Hip-Hop and R&B" imaging from KVSP Anadarko/Oklahoma City in Georgia: Clear Channel is already using it on their urban-formatted outlet.
Radio One, which has had a rough year, owns 55 stations in 18 cities plus Giant magazine; Perry is paying them $3.1 million for the Augusta cluster.
No taste for accounting
Normally I don't pay any attention at all to the sort of spam that promises me sexual delights, but one caught my eye this week, mostly for the following declaration:
Less than 29% of all women can achieve a climax by having intercourse alone.
How do they do when they're having it with someone?
A low response rate
Back in the spring, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) complained to the Detroit Economic Club that the Motor City's major economic powers, the makers of automobiles, were collectively dragging their feet on fuel-economy standards, "spending millions to prevent the very reforms that could've saved their industry." Shortly thereafter, it was discovered that sitting in the Senator's driveway was a gleefully-thirsty Chrysler 300C, and yeah, it's got a Hemi. Obama, redfaced, as it were, went out and bought a Ford Escape hybrid.
Personally, I think the Senator got a bad rap: at least he has some semblance of automotive taste. (I wouldn't cut him this slack were he tooling around in something with no discernible merit.) But this incident gave Frank Williams of The Truth About Cars an idea: he would write each member of the Senate and ask, "What's in your garage?"
The results, I have no doubt, would have been entertaining, but Mr Williams got exactly one reply to his query. The lone response was from Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), who begged off on security grounds:
I am flattered that you have chosen to include me in your article on the personal transportation choices of national leaders. However, because of my public status, I am unable to answer personal questions such as these.
At least he responded, which is more than the 98 others Craig Thomas (R-WY) had just passed away bothered to do. And while I can sort of see the security issue here, I figure, you've seen one [fill in make and model of luxobarge], you've probably seen them all.
This is not promising
Wednesday went by with no change in the level of gaslessness around here. The way things are set up in this state, before you go digging around utilities, you Call Okie and get all the lines marked off, which makes sense. Today the sewer line was marked; presumably the water and gas lines will be marked tomorrow. (I talked to a Call Okie rep; he said they have generally 48 hours from the initial dispatch to get everything in place, but it's possible that things might hang until Monday.)
So I still have no idea when the gas will be back on, and ONG's customer-service interface
She's so good with her stiletto
Since writing the book How to Walk in High Heels, I have felt duty bound to practise what I preach. In my six-inch stilettos I keep my head held high and my eye on the goal. They are my shot of confidence and secret weapon against any rivals.
Well, of course they're a weapon. They'd better be. Because you certainly aren't going to run away from anyone in those six-inch heels.
There is a downside to living half a foot closer to the clouds, though:
It's true that as a heels devotee, plasters, pedicures, paracetamol and taxis have become an integral part of life. I also have to admit that cobblestones have become the bane of my life. But then, what work of art was achieved without pain, tears and the occasional blister?
I suggest that if you're going to think of yourself as a work of art, you should probably take better care of your canvas.
Then again, I suspect my viewpoint lies along a different axis than hers:
At a recent in-store evening at Browns, beautiful actress Rachel Weisz was wearing such incredible YSL high black patent heels that I didn't notice anything above her ankles.
If I get to the point that I don't notice anything above Rachel Weisz' ankles, either I've been affected by a combination of pesticides and radiation or I've been epoxied to the floor.
14 September 2007
Michael Wolff thinks I'm old
He wasn't thinking of me personally, of course, but apparently anyone who values news qua news is damned near antediluvian:
[M]ost of the people I know who are interested in news, rather than, say, social networking, or solitary blogging, who believe news media might thrive, online or in more classic forms, are old.
Barry Diller, the former Hollywood kingpin, who has remade himself as an Internet titan, has talked about his desire to start a new news thing online (indeed, I briefly try to convince him he should help start mine). But is his interest in news the result, I wonder, of his Internet acumen, or just an older mogul's hobby, similar to the interest of his friend the mogul David Geffen in buying the Los Angeles Times? Diller is 65. Geffen is 64. Rupert Murdoch may have paid billions for Dow Jones and The Wall Street Journal, but he is 76.
Arianna Huffington, the gadfly and publicity hound, has, at 57, actually succeeded in starting her own online newspaper, the Huffington Post, a kind of left-wing broadsheet competing with the right-wing tabloid Drudge Report (Drudge himself must be getting on in years). Then there is Jeff Jarvis, one of the original bloggers. He is an implacable believer in all things Internet, but, at 53, also no spring chicken.
Drudge is reported to be forty, which qualifies him for poulet du printemps, at least compared to this bunch.
I note here that I am older than Jarvis, who has been 53 for all of two days at this writing.
And after three pages, Wolff eventually gets around to making his point, which is this:
My civics-class generation continues to put high value on public life: the president, the Congress, the courts. But increasingly these dysfunctional bureaucracies are of interest only to strangely fixated people. Politics itself is, more and more, a kind of obsession. (Indeed, people who do want news are people who seem dysfunctional themselves obsessed, narrow-focused, militant, A.D.D.) Whereas a new generation, through the magic of the Internet, dispenses with this old idea of the commonweal and converts its private life into its public one.
In my capacity as someone who once sat through a civics class, I must demur: politics, at least to me, is less an obsession than a form of entertainment. And it's not just the cynicism talking, either; having rejected out of hand the notion that "the personal is political" and the inversion thereof, I find that I get the same buzz watching the candidates that I get watching dinner theatre, train wrecks (cf. Spears, Britney Jean), and other decidedly low-tech amusements.
Michael Wolff, incidentally, is two months older than I am, and gets far more traffic at Newser, which name proves he's around my age: he didn't spell it "Newsr."
Quote of the week
Back in the day when I was in school, you weren't taught about sexuality and multiculturism, you were taught math, English, history and economics. You were expected to use your brain and be aware of the fact that there were actually other people in the world who also had opinions. And said opinions were expected to make sense by using facts and critical thinking. Can you say "debate club"? You were expected to actually earn your grades through study, hard work and turning in legible papers, reports and passing tests. You weren't graded on a curve you were graded on what you got right and what you got wrong.
Seems like these days you don't need facts, the ability to think or even a valid argument of any kind. Having an opinion is more than enough. And since we've leveled the playing field, we are supposed to be willing to listen to anybody about anything, lest we show our racist, bigoted or intolerant selves. Hey, just because [someone] is a convicted serial killer and rapist doesn't mean he doesn't have a right to an opinion. Charles Manson is just a grossly misunderstood guy. Saddam wasn't hurting us, why did we hurt him? That five-year-old who kissed the little girl in the playground awaits trial for sexual harrassment. If he's lucky, he'll get counseling and some mind altering drugs that will set him straight.
Meat is bad. Soybeans are good. Man is evil. Animals should be able to vote. Society's right to survive must take a back seat to a rare and nearly extinct weed. Smoking causes cancer and should be outlawed. Marijuana should be legalized. Republicans who are gay must resign. But they must also embrace gayness because they are homophobic.
These are all products of the assclowns well maybe not soybeans but I've seen some studies….
Actually, I haven't seen any concerted efforts to extend the franchise to the animal kingdom, though I'm pretty sure that anyone who supports this notion will also insist that animals should not be expected to carry any form of ID. (Leave your rabies tag at home when you go to the polls, Bowser.)
And don't worry about smoking being outlawed completely: your government desperately needs that tax revenue.
Now here's some ballot access
Every state, local, and congressional election in Louisiana is decided by what's called an open primary. The rules are that all candidates for a single office, regardless of party, appear on the same ballot on Election Day, and all voters (again regardless of party) can vote for any one of them. If no candidate wins 50 percent of the vote, a runoff between the top two vote-getters takes place a month later. It's completely possible for the open primary to produce a runoff between two Democrats or between two Republicans.
Which no doubt explains why there are thirteen candidates for Governor: five Democrats, a Republican, a Libertarian, four listed as "No Party" and two as "Other."
And running for State Senator District 6 is Louisiana's answer to Virginia "Blue Jeans" Jenner, ophthalmologist Monica L. Monica, last seen (by me, anyway) running for the 1st Congressional District seat now occupied by David Vitter, who says that the only place you can get a bad meal in New Orleans is at her house, which strikes me as an odd but effective form of branding.
"Voting is hard," complains Dr Lawrence. I don't think he'd like it any better were it Oklahoma easy.
So that's how I got up to a 2
Now, I'm a pretty busy person. But I found myself drawn to Hot or Not in the same horrible way people slow down to inspect highway accidents. Specifically, I felt a compulsion to rate people who were somewhat less attractive and give them a perfect "10." I just felt so bad for them; I pictured how they would log on with great hope and anticipation, only to read that their hotness rating was a mere "2.3." So I figured I would do my small part to increase their scores.
Do you think I did the wrong thing? I still feel a bit guilty about it thus my very public confession. Was I corrupting a finely-tuned, scientific system, or actually making it a little more accurate by mixing in a little empathy?
It's hard to imagine how Hot or Not could be any less accurate: even if the photos aren't tweaked and twiddled, they don't necessarily reflect what a person actually looks like, as anyone who's ever been to the DMV should know. That said, though, I think giving someone false hope is somewhat unkind, even in the absence of malice, though "false hope" may be stretching it a bit, inasmuch as a 10 in the midst of two dozen 2s will raise the average only to 2.3.
Then again, if your entire sense of self-worth is based on ratings of this sort, your sense of hotness is old and busted.
Because who wants old gas?
The rest of the striping was done today, so now the palatial Surlywood estate is festooned with multicolored flags: green for the sewer line, blue for the water line, yellow for the gas line. (There are eight colors in all, but the rest don't apply here: both electric and cable lines are overhead.)
Still no word on when they're going to dig up the yard, but at least now they know where they're going to dig up the yard.
I own three pairs of shoes: black dress shoes I wear to weddings, funerals and occasionally to work; one pair of brown Converse and one pair of black Converse, which I wear daily.
This is all I wear when I'm not at work and some days, like today, I even wear them to work. I'm not a shoe person. I'm like the opposite of Imelda Marcos. I live in Converse. It's what I've always worn and wearing them makes me feel comfortable and confident and bouncy, all those things your favorite shampoo or dew-scented tampon is supposed to do for you. Or the way grandma's pasta or a bowl of Haagen Daaz makes you feel. Some people have comfort food, I have comfort footwear.
This is not by any means some kind of moral position, you should know:
I'm not trying to disparage you women who love your expensive shoes and handbags; it's just not for me and spending that kind of money on accessories is not something I can understand, perhaps because I've been poor and my mind is regulated to think frugally when spending money. It's why I haven't bought a Wii yet, even though I crave one. It's why I'm right now wearing a sweatshirt I bought four years ago and why we don't have a flat screen tv. I can't bring myself to think outside the poor box.
Still, these are the Chuck Taylor facts:
I have a feeling that even if I were rich and could afford a walk in closet full of shoes, it would be filled with 100 different styles of Converse.
Disclosure: I own eight pairs of shoes, half of them by New Balance.
15 September 2007
What's its basis? Gold, silver, petroleum, T-bills? Nope. It's the humble cuss jar:
A few years ago the spuds started to learn some 'special' words. In order to curtail this inappropriate communication we started charging them a quarter for each offense. As their pocket change dwindled and the quarter jar filled they started to get the hang of it. After a time, a simple reprimand of 'quarter' was all it took to get them to straighten up and fly right.
Lately they have taken to shorthand. When they wish to be inappropriate they just say things like 'you quarter' or 'quarter, quarter, quarter!' One truly irate spud yelled 'a buck fifty' the other day. I guess it is better than the alternative.
The March of Dimes was never like this.
Getting groped by geezers
Not something you'd look forward to, perhaps, but apparently it's for the good of the species:
It turns out that older men chasing younger women contributes to human longevity and the survival of the species, according to new findings by researchers at Stanford and the University of California-Santa Barbara.
Evolutionary theory says that individuals should die of old age when their reproductive lives are complete, generally by age 55 in humans, according to demographer Cedric Puleston, a doctoral candidate in biological sciences at Stanford. But the fatherhood of a small number of older men is enough to postpone the date with death because natural selection fights life-shortening mutations until the species is finished reproducing.
Unless the date with death is speeded up because the old fart, trying to keep up with the young lady's activity level, finds himself in the middle of a myocardial infarction.
Still, if he survives:
In the paper, the researchers analyzed "a general two-sex model to show that selection favors survival for as long as men reproduce." The scientists presented a "range of data showing that males much older than 50 years have substantial realized fertility through matings with younger females, a pattern that was likely typical among early humans." As a result, Puleston said, older male fertility helps to select against damaging cell mutations in humans who have passed the age of female menopause, consequently eliminating the "wall of death."
A word to the wise young woman should be sufficient: if he starts quoting Darwinian theory on the first date, run like hell.
Wait a minute, I know her
It's not every day I pop open the mailbox and see someone I know looking back at me from a magazine cover.
Well, not smiling at me, exactly. But this year she received the Society's Outline of Sanity Award, certainly worth highlighting on the cover. (She's posted a color version of the photo at her own site.)
Oh, if you'd like to hear her talk at the Conference it's titled The Girl Who Was Thirsty, which will surely evoke a grin among Chesterton fans it's available on CD from the Society for eight bucks plus shipping.
Closing the sneaker gap
After a couple of shoe-oriented rants, it's time for some hard data, and Marginal Revolution's Alex Tabarrok is right on schedule:
Several years ago Bill Cosby chided poor blacks for spending their limited incomes on high-priced shoes and other items of conspicuous consumption instead of investing in education. Cosby was widely criticized but I went to the numbers, specifically Table 2100 of the Consumer Expenditure Survey and found the following for 2003:
Average income of whites and other races: $53,292.
Expenditures on footwear by whites and other races: $274.
Obviously white folks aren't shouldering (so to speak) their share of the burden. New Balance, here I come.
(Via Kathy Shaidle.)
Nice of the police to notice
Courtesy of Kim du Toit, a sign posted at British petrol stations which threatens dire consequences to anyone driving off without paying for his tankful. And I do mean dire: the next step beyond this is, oh, a sternly-worded letter from Council explaining that you know, this is a criminal act, almost on par with owning a gun-like object, and we can't have that sort of thing, can we? Obviously Her Majesty's Government has learned a great deal from the United Nations, for whom sternly-worded letters are only one step away from that which international lawbreakers fear the most: an actual General Assembly meeting.
Meanwhile, back in the States, we're looking at a system that keeps you from removing the hose until you've paid up.
Where socialism actually works
Right here in the U. S. of A., in a place called the National Football League:
First of all, the league has a unique revenue sharing arrangement. Revenues from the ticket sales to the games are split equally between all 32 teams. Additionally, the NFL makes most of its money not from people attending the games, but from television. The NFL has a multibillion dollar television contract, and that is also split equally between all 32 teams.
The ramifications of this revenue sharing is that small market franchises such as the Green Bay Packers can compete with large market franchises such as the New York Giants.
This is not to say that every owner winds up with the same bottom-line numbers, but there exists enough parity to keep most of the teams competitive while insuring that everyone doesn't finish 8-8 every year.
And there's this:
Each team is allowed to spend the exact same amount on players. There is a minimum that must be spent, since some owners would prefer to field losing teams in order to line their pockets. The minimum forces them to try and compete. The maximum forces teams to make hard choices. Individual players can still earn astronomical salaries, but at the expense of their teammates. The term "capanomics" refers to teams that try to temporarily circumvent the cap using creative accounting methods, but when that credit card bill comes due, teams have a fire sale known as "salary cap hell."
The NBA has its own salary cap, though it seems to be honored largely in the breach: the Knicks spend more than twice as much on players as do the Bobcats, and are duly penalized for it. Major League Baseball, of course, has neither of these rules.
Still, if you're a confirmed socialist, you probably ought not to hope for the rest of the world to look like the NFL someday. It's a deliberately small operation thirty-two teams, fewer than 1700 players and at bottom, it's still intended to turn a profit, preferably a huge profit.
16 September 2007
Let the sun shine in
Author Mary Stella is going solar:
I'm installing a solar power system, complete with battery backup. Even though it won't be enough to supply allll of my power needs, that abundant Florida sunshine is going to produce a lot of kilowatts and greatly reduce the amount of energy I draw from the local power company.
We've also designed the system to include an automatic switchover to the battery banks. If the regular power goes out certain key things some lights, the fridge, a few fans and the aquarium will always be able to run. This will be an enormous help if we suffer power outages after storms. No need for a generator!
This will cost a ton of money, at least at first:
I'm not going to act like this is a cheap undertaking. It isn't, and even with monthly energy savings, it will be a lonnnggg time before the system pays for itself. I'm happy, however, that I qualify for a Florida state rebate and a federal tax credit this year.
The Florida rebate is $4 per watt of installed capacity, maximum of $20,000; there's a flat $500 for solar water-heating systems. The Feds offer a credit of 30 percent of the system cost, maximum $2000.
What's worth noting here, I think, is that she sees this, not as quick relief to massive energy bills, but as a long-term plan to minimize both her expense and her environmental impact, both of which should be considered Good Things.
No, it's not an iPhone
I've mentioned elsewhere that my cell phone is six years old, which is true. And while my wireless needs are modest, the old device is getting cranky: more than once I've pocketed the little candy bar and gone off to run errands, only to discover when I got home that at some point it had simply powered itself off.
So I ordered one of these, which is hardly a high-end device but which should meet most of my requirements (including roaming into 850 MHz areas, impossible for the old phone) fairly easily. And yes, I did sign up for a two-year contract, but it's the same set of terms I've been on for the last four, so there should be no particular surprises, and in exchange for this lien on my soul, they let me have the phone for next to nothing plus shipping.
I suppose I'll have to go get a Bluetooth headset now.
Icahn has cheezburger?
Well, maybe not that specifically, but investor/corporate raider (depends on your point of view, I guess) Carl Icahn has a finger or two in literally dozens of financial pies. (Warning: The interactive graph, says the little popup box, works in Internet Explorer only.)
One company controlled by Icahn these days is ImClone Systems, which developed the anti-cancer drug Erbitux. A couple years before Icahn's takeover, ImClone had been embroiled in an insider-trading scandal, the very one which got Martha Stewart sent to Club Fed.
Disclosure: You'd never have read this, had this title not occurred to me.
Yeah, you too, Land Rover
Jeep's new slogan "Have fun out there" is innocuous enough, unless you're a member of the Mothers Anti-Fun International Association, in which case you quit reading this a couple of dozen words ago. But Jeep's not above getting in your face either, as witness a current print ad which says "They invented 'SUV' because they can't call them Jeep," which goes like this:
Jeep is a registered trademark. Good thing. No telling what kind of jacked-up station wagons they'd be trying to pass off as Jeep vehicles otherwise. Because sometime around the mid-80s, a craze took off. The era of the SUV was born. Fact is, we had them beat by a few decades. As soon as the mighty little Jeep vehicle came back from World War II, people discovered how much fun a utility vehicle could be.
There's a splendid little TV spot that illustrates the History of Fun and Jeep's role therein. And here's the kicker from the magazine ad:
When heading straight out into the unknown, it's good to know you're going there in a vehicle that's been heading down that muddy road from the beginning. That's Jeep 4X4. And that's a heritage no "SUV" can ever stake claim to.
Unfortunately for Jeep, neither can its price-leader Compass, a rebadged Dodge Caliber that is utterly lacking in Jeep DNA. I can appreciate the desire to expand the brand, but if that's a Jeep, then so is a Toyota Matrix.
17 September 2007
Strange search-engine queries (85)
Some people come to this site because they darn well want to, and we thank them for their patronage. But just as many wind up here because they keyed something into a search box somewhere, and we thank them for providing us with a seemingly-endless supply of grist for this particular weekly mill.
frolicking in women's clothes: I see this all the time, usually performed by women.
uses of transmission coolers: 1. Cooling transmissions.
abstinence unattractive anyway: If you think about it, this could be a three-word short story, though it screams out for a verb of some sort.
transmission jerks mazda 626 1994: I know a guy with a Mazda 626 and the transmission jerks charged him pretty close to $1,994.
discreet redheads in denton texas: I know nothing about redheads, so I wouldn't dare speculate as to their level of discretion.
weightwatchers points for salty iguana: Probably the same as for ordinary iguana, unless you're on a low-sodium diet.
pig vagina yogurt: Wouldn't you rather have some nice salty iguana?
what is an anal attentive asshole: Believe me, if you'd ever dated one, you'd know.
stridex pants: I assume these prevent acne of the ass and promote anal attentiveness.
mercedes excrescences: Have you seen an R-Class lately?
meredith vieira doesn't wear underwear: Willard Scott would be rolling over in his grave if he were actually, you know, dead.
ana patricia candiani legs: I bet Telemundo makes her wear underwear.
what happens when you meet a soulmate: Nothing, because it's always somebody else's.
genitally modified french fries: I'll thank you to keep that thing out of my lunch.
Let there be juice
About noon yesterday, the lights started going off in some parts of town; by mid-afternoon OG&E was reporting about 19,000 customers with power outages. Their System Watch graph indicates that most of them were back on by 1 am.
Meanwhile, there is still no gas at the palatial Surlywood estate, a situation OG&E has nothing whatever to do with, but I seldom miss an opportunity to complain.
It dances when you won't
At first, I thought it might be something like this:
The principle of generating small amounts of finite improbability by simply hooking the logic circuits of a Bambleweeny 57 sub-meson brain to an atomic vector plotter suspended in a strong Brownian motion producer (say a nice hot cup of tea) were of course well understood, and such generators were often used to break the ice at parties by making all the molecules in the hostess's under-garments simultaneously leap one foot to the left, in accordance with the theory of indeterminacy. Many respectable physicists said that they weren't going to stand for this sort of thing, partly because it was a debasement of science, but mostly because they didn't get invited to those sort of parties.
But sub-meson brains are still in short supply these days, so if you want some imputed clothing movement, you must take other steps. As an example, Calle Rosenqvist's "Beat Dress":
The dress I sew is sewn in 4 layers of cloth. Underneath it all is a very simple jersey-dress design. On that dress there are 10 detachable patches, all equipped with 10 LEDs each (a total of 100 LEDs). From each of these patches there is a wire attached to a battery, which is hidden in a pocket on the very front of the dress. Not only the battery is hidden in this pocket but also a microphone and a small equalizer connected to a small microcomputer (called Arduino). On top on all this there is a nylon cloth and also two layers of see through cloth that helps to spread the light from the LEDs to larger clusters.
Once the microphone picks up sound, things happen:
When music or any sound is detected by the microphone it is being led to the equalizer connected to the computer. If there is a base sound the computer transmits a signal to the battery to send pulses of electricity out to the LEDs in the dress. This obviously lightens the LEDs up. Then in a second or so they softly go of again. So when listening to music the LEDs are pulsing to the rhythm of the music. There is also a small lever attached to the microphone, making it possible to adapt to the loudness of sounds around you. This makes the dress work both where there are low volumes like being at home listening to music or out clubbing where the music is very loud.
And it's a good way to become the center of attention without the nuisance of lingerie migration.
(Via Shiny Shiny.)
Not adjusted for inflation
"Oh, look, Archie," said Edith Bunker. "Chanel No. 5. That's their highest number!"
Which wasn't quite true: you could buy No. 19 back in 1971, a year before that particular episode of All in the Family aired, and being the tedious little snot I was at the time, I pointed this out just about every time it was rerun.
I did not, however, know that just this year Chanel introduced No. 18:
No. 18 is an homage to Chanel jewelry (and, to me, a jewel among the new releases). The first Fine Jewelry collection, Bijous de Diamant, which consisted of platinum and diamond pieces, was launched by Mlle Chanel in 1932. In 1997, a worldwide flagship fine jewelry boutique was opened by the company on 18 Place Vendôme in Paris. It was the boutique that inspired Jacques Polge to create No. 18.
I know the fans of ambrette seed are legion, but I am not one of them. I appreciate its pickled-musk smell in theory, but in practice … no. It's not an offensive or unattractive smell by any means (and who am I to judge, given some of the nasty things I wear?) But I defer any further comment on No. 18 on the grounds that it's not going to appeal to me no matter how well done it is.
On the other hand, this sort of comment does make me curious, though not curious enough to spend $175 for 200 ml. (This is about half the price of HP DeskJet ink, which doesn't smell good at all.)
The return of the Birdman?
Teams looking for a veteran midseason pickup at an attractive price could do a lot worse than former Nuggets/Hornets forward Chris Andersen, a.k.a. The Birdman. That's when Anderson's two-year suspension for violating the league's drug policy expires. Andersen has been working out in Las Vegas getting ready to resume his career, and it's anticipated that the Hornets, who last held his rights, will not reinstate his contract (3½ years left on a four-year, $14 million deal), which will make Andersen a free agent. "He's exceeded expectations in every area," reports Andersen's agent, Steve Heumann. "We're moving forward to the first applicable moment to apply for reinstatement." Andersen turned 29 in July and has several years of NBA experience under his belt. He would be the first player to come back from a drug suspension and actually play in the NBA.
Last I looked, the Hornets were two players over the roster limit and will have to deal or waive at least two of their three remaining free agents before the season begins. A lot can happen, though, between now and January.
We interrupt the usual tirades
So I can go take a freaking shower.
18 September 2007
The Lost Ogle has been running, ten at a time, their Top 100 Oklahoma Embarrassments, which I mention here because (1) it's pretty darn funny in spots and (2) they were kind enough to leave me out of it.
You might disagree as to the exact placement of some of them I know I do but if you really, truly need a list of That Which Is Cringeworthy, and some night after not enough beers you will, the research is already done for you.
Top Ten other changes you could expect if the mothers ruled the world:
Nard collectors will be in your neighborhood this week.
Growin' up too fast
The basic idea of this show is to take a bunch of kids aged from 8 to 15, put them in a ghost town and see if they can create a community. I suppose on the face of it, it sounds kind of cool and innovative and all that stuff that television execs get worked up about. But to me, it sounds a little sad. Kids are supposed to be kids. This is their time to learn, have fun, have adventures, be care-free and just live hopefully fully employing their amazing imaginations and creating some precious memories for when they are old farts like the rest of us.
Cut to this story from six summers ago:
She might have been ten, she might have been twelve; it would never have occurred to me to ask. And she'd chosen the middle swing from the row of three, because there was much more room to swing, not only to and fro and up and down, but also side to side. I smiled at her as I stumbled down the hill towards the "cluster boxes" that the Postal Service finds so endearing and the postal patrons find so annoying.
"Whatever happened to my youthful exuberance?" I muttered to no one in particular while I pulled bill after bill out of its dingy receptacle. I mean, I don't have the urge to clamber onto a swing and get myself airborne or anything; the cruelty of gravity is something I'd just as soon not face. But here she was, a pretty girl on her way to becoming a beautiful woman, seemingly paying no attention whatsoever to the unending pressures from a culture she barely knows. "Grow up! Find romance! Spend money!" Who needs this sort of foolishness? Let her fly while she can, and let her grow up when she's ready.
By the time I'd started back up the hill, she'd moved to the far side of the playground, perhaps because she thought there would be fewer creepy old guys with twisted grins passing by. The twenty-first century refuses to be ignored, even by twelve-year-old girls. Even if they're ten.
And John Edwards missed this?
Nebraska State Senator Ernie Chambers (D-Omaha) is suing God over, um, acts of God:
Chambers filed a lawsuit against God in Douglas County Court Friday afternoon, KPTM Fox 42 reported.
The suit asks for a "permanent injunction ordering Defendant to cease certain harmful activities and the making of terroristic threats."
The lawsuit identifies the plaintiff as, "the duly elected and serving State Senator from the 11th Legislative District in Omaha, Nebraska."
Chambers also cites that the "defendant directly and proximately has caused, inter alia, fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornados, pestilential plagues…"
It's not like God has deep pockets or anything. Rather, Chambers (last seen here) is trying to establish precedent:
[H]is lawsuit is in response to bills brought forth by other state senators to try and stop lawsuits from being filed.
"The Constitution requires that the courthouse doors be open, so you cannot prohibit the filing of suits," Chambers says. "Anyone can sue anyone they choose, even God."
Chambers bases his ability to sue God, as, "that defendant, being omnipresent, is personally present in Douglas County."
Well, if it's possible to sue Satan, I suppose it's possible to sue God, though I suspect the Senator may have difficulty serving process.
(Via Kathy Shaidle.)
The beginning of fall, says the calendar, is less than a week away, and I've lived here long enough to know that the first freeze will be well before the end of fall.
But just the same, staring at me from the west end of the flower box:
(Larger version is a click away.) I've been a little more diligent than usual in keeping the bushes trimmed back, and maybe this is the payoff.
This thread is useless without pictures
Fabian Basabe interviews Ann Coulter, and let's face it, this isn't going to be some hard-hitting political commentary. Sample:
Basabe: We have both had our troubles with The New York Observer. They called you "the Republican Michael Moore," and "Rush Limbaugh in a miniskirt." Don't you think your legs are much better than Rush or Moore's?
Coulter: Don't knock Rush Limbaugh's legs they're better than Hillary's.
I'll, um, take her word for it.
What's weird about that is that the Observer, according to Basabe, felt the need to compare Coulter to a couple of fairly hefty guys, and if there's one thing Coulter isn't, it's bulky.
Well, that and the fact that the photo accompanying the article didn't show any legs at all, Coulter's or anyone else's.
19 September 2007
Why it's so hot these days
You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.
The question, of course, is whether simply talking like a pirate is enough to bring down the temperature.
(Via Dr. B.)
We got your imports right here, pal
According to J. D. Power, 54 percent of car buyers aren't considering any Detroit-branded products at all: they're lost to the imports.
I wondered if this sounded like me, and I put together a list of vehicles (1) I wouldn't mind driving that (2) don't cost upwards of forty grand.
Three domestics made my list: Cadillac's CTS, if I go easy on the options; Mercury's Milan, which just looks better than its Ford Fusion sibling, and what's more, it's not as pricey as the Lincoln whatever-it's-called-this-week; and, should I decide I need to haul around a lot more people, the Buick Enclave. In fact, if they made a five-passenger version of the Enclave, which is arguably the niftiest-looking crossover, I'd be more interested, but GM has decided, reasonably enough I suppose, that small Buicks are a contradiction in terms.
And there are only three imports on that list, two from Infiniti: the G35, which I've driven and enjoyed, and the EX35, which is my idea of a small semi-ute. Alternatively, there's the Volvo C30, which might be the least-expensive of all these buggies, and which is so cute you want to tickle it under its front air dam.
Of course, given my budget, I'll probably end up with a six-year-old [insert name of vehicle at least as improbable as the one I drive now].
Warming to the occasion
Am I Green? Well, I don't really like cars too much. The rest? Meh. (Meh is a new word I learned recently.) We've had global warming since the first day after the ice age ended.
I suspect it started a little earlier than that say, halfway through the ice age. (Otherwise, you know, we might never have come out of it.)
Then again, as we all know, I like cars too much.
Is the PlayStation marked for death?
Sony Corp. shares have fallen 26% since hitting a year-to-date high in late May, as investors have become wary of the company's inward-looking business stance, The Nikkei Financial Daily reported in its Wednesday edition.
Sony's stock ended lower Tuesday, with reports that it plans to sell a cutting-edge chipmaking facility to Toshiba Corp. as early as next spring failing to impress investors.
According to news reports, Sony plans to sell manufacturing lines that make the Cell processor to Toshiba for slightly less than Y100 billion. The move follows Sony's announcement last year that it intends to reduce spending on the next-generation chip to succeed the Cell, which is used in Sony Computer Entertainment Inc.'s PlayStation 3 video game console. Under a strategy of selectively consolidating its semiconductor operations, Sony plans to beef up its image sensor business while jettisoning the Cell.
Which may (or, theoretically, may not) boil down to this:
[T]he biggest nugget of information to take away from this post is that Sony is now reducing its spending on the "next generation chip that will succeed the Cell," presumably for PlayStation 4. With the added competition that Sony now has in Microsoft and Nintendo, the last thing in world Sony would want to do is be technologically behind its competitors on the next hardware cycle unless [they're] planning to bow out of the hardware race.
Sony may be looking to pull a Sega and go multi-platform software only.
A spokesman for Nintendo said simply: "Wii!"
To most women, a writer is a self-absorbed misfit with poor personal hygiene and lamentable earning potential we're only a whisker above drummers in the future husband-material stakes.
I'd wonder if this might be why my son switched to guitar, but he's already married.
And I wonder if maybe for those six days without a proper shower, I might have been a real writer.
Two days ahead of the trend
In The Lost Ogle's Top 100 Oklahoma Embarrassments, Hinder placed #4, just below Jim Inhofe. Says the Ogle:
Okay. We know everyone has their own unique taste in music. For the most part, we respect that. But if you're over the age of 21 and enjoy the "music" of Hinder, you need to see a therapist. And be sure to take your Axe Body Spray and Aeropostale shirt with you, too.
That was Monday. Today the Oklahoma Gazette's cover story is Hating Hinder: "Why do so many locals loathe the band?" In the story, it is revealed that there exists a MySpace group called "Citizens Against Hinder!!!", with, yes, three exclamation points.
I know, there's lead time and all, but still advantage: Ogle.
20 September 2007
Your wish is my command, bro
Ten people who need tasering more than Andrew Meyer did, in no particular order:
Readers will no doubt nominate candidates on their own.
We put the "Box" in Home Box Office
No, you can't have HBO on analog cable. Not yours:
Tonight, [Cox Cable] began running a crawl saying that now it is Sept. 30 when they will exile HBO exclusively to their overpriced digital gated community. They even repeated their threats again about "avoiding" this by getting digital cable, though they managed to misspell avoid as "advoid" in the crawl. The situation remains the same for me and my family: I don't like cable boxes, our living room TV setup isn't convenient for a box and, most importantly, we like to have HBO in other rooms in the house (such as my bedroom), but of course that would require more boxes (and more costs).
So, Cox will be losing $16 a month from me starting next month. Here's hoping I'm not the only one who shows them what a money-losing proposition their decision is.
Well, don't count on me: I wasn't giving them the $16 to begin with, and this won't make it any more likely that I will.
Robots? We got some
I, for one, welcome our new robot tourists:
Oklahoma City was announced as a regional site for the 2008 FIRST Robotics competition during a ceremony [yesterday] at Southeast High School.
The FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) competition challenges high school students to design and build a robot. They compete in high-intensity events that measure the effectiveness of robots.
Oklahoma City's regional will be March 20-22 at the Cox Convention Center. More than 40 teams are expected to compete.
The FIRST Robotics Competition challenges teams of young people and their mentors to solve a common problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard "kit of parts" and a common set of rules. Teams build robots from the parts and enter them in competitions designed by Dean Kamen, Dr. Woodie Flowers, and a committee of engineers and other professionals.
Burns Hargis headed up the committee that landed the regional competition, and he sees two advantages to having it here:
One is it demonstrates to the nation that Oklahoma is serious about science and technology training. The second is that it enables us to have many more teams involved because they avoid the very substantial cost of traveling to regionals in Denver or Houston or Kansas City.
The national competition will be held in Atlanta in April.
Get your sharia preview here
[W]hat does this mean for the guest? no smoking, no drinking alcohol, vegetarian food only and wonderfully, in a semi-tropical country, no centralized air-conditioning, which apparently spreads dust, someone forgot to tell them it also stops you being stewed alive.
This trip to the burqa-clad lap of luxury will cost you only $125 a night, which strikes me as a tad high for the services offered. Not that I'm any kind of expert on hotels, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express this summer.
The smallest number that can be written as the sum of three cubes in two ways is 251. (For the curious, it's either 1^3 + 5^3 + 5^3 or 2^3 + 3^3 + 6^3.) What's more, it's prime.
Speaking of prime, the 251st edition of Carnival of the Vanities, now with the miracle ingredient Dodgeblogium, is available for your inspection, and we tip the ol' fedora to Andrew Ian Dodge for taking over the first (and still the oldest!) blog carnival.
The carburetor kid
Apparently, even when I'm up to date, I'm behind.
I'd mentioned that I'd ordered a new cell phone, and I figured the upgrade process, this being a GSM phone, would be simple: remove SIM card from old phone, insert into new phone, bingo.
Well, no. Actually, the new phone did read the old SIM card it picked up my PIN and my phone book right away but it had no idea where they came from, because it kept flashing "SIM card not installed." I got the T-Folks on the land line, and eventually we came to a conclusion: this vintage-2001 SIM card, dating from the VoiceStream days, is so old that new T-Phones don't acknowledge it as one of their own.
So they called the T-Store in Penn Square and had them set me up a new SIM card; I then had to get the old phone back into working condition just long enough to copy over some of the phone book. So much for "simple."
21 September 2007
Quote of the week
Jon Canter interviews old friend Hugh Laurie (House) for TV Guide, and this exchange takes place:
As far as I can tell, this huge success hasn't changed you at all. So what was the point? Why go through all that if it isn't going to change you?
The only reason it hasn't changed me is that I was already a superficial, grasping egotist with an appetite for guns, cocaine and bondage when I came out here. The experience might easily have changed a nicer man.
He should have fit right in, except for that "gun" thing: it makes Hollywood types soil themselves.
Six billionaires, no waiting
To make the Forbes 400, you have to be worth $1.3 billion or so, and half a dozen Oklahomans (up two from last year) qualify.
In addition to the usual suspects George Kaiser, Aubrey McClendon, Tom Ward and David Green this year's list includes Harold Hamm, of Enid's Continental Resources, and Lynn Schusterman, widow of Charles Schusterman, founder of Samson Investment Company, Tulsa. Kaiser, as usual, is at the top: he's listed at $11 billion, twenty-sixth among the 400.
For the benefit of visitors from Seattle: Clayton Bennett, of Dorchester Capital and the Professional Basketball Club, did not make the list.
Grant Humphreys, developer of the Block 42 project on the city's east side (I dropped by during construction this spring), has proposed a land trust for an undeveloped parcel near NW 4th and Shartel currently owned by the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority.
The trust, which would be organized under IRS section 501(c)(4), would be empowered to redirect revenues into the project itself to keep the prices down:
It would allow us to provide quality housing for young college grads who want to move into downtown but might exceed the income requirements of low-income housing.
And who probably can't afford the pricey Block 42. But, says Humphreys, for a community to be sustainable, you need to have all demographic levels represented.
OCURA head JoeVan Bullard says Humphreys is one of three developers who has expressed interest in the 4th and Shartel site. I don't know what Bullard thinks about this idea, but I like it fine.
Dave's not here (yet)
If you're looking for Dave, look toward the United Kingdom:
TV channel UKTV G2, which shows cult comedy and game shows aimed at young men, is to be rebranded Dave.
UKTV says the new name is based on the idea that "everyone knows a bloke called Dave".
The head of Dave, Steven North, said: "Changing the channel name to Dave enables us to create a strong and noisy personality for the channel that immediately aligns us with our core 16-34 male audience."
Which, I suppose, explains Spike TV in the States, and suggests a few other changes:
Feel free to add to this list.
Where the GSM roam
After a discouraging word or two from me about questionable cell coverage in the South, an apologetic T-Mobile will peel off $2.4 billion to acquire GSM carrier SunCom and insure that I don't have any further connectivity difficulties in the Carolinas or eastern Tennessee.
The transaction will close in early 2008; it will give T-Mobile a presence in, they say, 98 of the top 100 markets.
22 September 2007
Dot your Ts, cross your eyes
An item from next week's City Council agenda:
Allocation of $105,000 from the 2000 General Obligation Bond Authorization Proposition No. 1 Streets, Bond Project No. A.351, Grace Avenue from SW 50th Street to SW 54th Street, be declared impossible to construct and said funds be made available for reallocation.
A similar (but more expensive: $1 million) issue exists for drainage improvements at NW 51st and Land Avenue, not far from my own legendary digs, and suddenly I understood the problem: this intersection does not exist. On the standard city grid, Land falls between Drexel and Independence (3200 block West), but on either side of 50th, you have Hamilton Drive instead. Turns out that the drainage project was for SW 51st and Land, and improvements on Grace Avenue will be between NE 50th and 54th, in the Green Pastures area. (There's a Grace Drive on the southside.)
So basically this is the legal housekeeping to fix a couple of typos. No harm done, particularly, but it does remind us (or me, anyway) that preview is your friend.
Beyond R and D
I wasn't expecting to see this today:
Oklahomans for Ballot Access Reform (OBAR) has the noble goal of making it easier for candidates to win a place on the ballot when they don't have "Republican" or "Democrat" beside their name.
This is, after all, the Oklahoman's editorial page. I might have anticipated "curious" or "implausible" or even "quixotic," but "noble"?
And I think they might even be serious:
Changing the law would acquire approval by the people of a referendum that OBAR hopes to get on the 2008 ballot. Of course, the Legislature consisting of only Republicans and Democrats could call an election and spare OBAR the expense of circulating an initiative petition.
Wouldn't that be nice? But don't hold your breath.
And while the paper's enthusiasm for the prospect does seem a bit limited, you'd have never heard this kind of talk from Gaylord, père or fils:
We urge Oklahomans interested in freeing up state election restrictions to consider supporting OBAR. The people deserve a chance to vote on this issue and perhaps give politics as usual a run for its money.
Me, I've been harping on this issue for years.
Please delete me, let me go
One of the Blogger sites I occasionally read (but had not blogrolled) presented me with an odd phenomenon yesterday: the page loads normally, then everything after the first post title is replaced with spam. Poking around for an explanation, I first stumbled across this:
Check out how a widget has spammed a blog
On this page about Factor Programming http://psalm35.blogspot.com/
It has a script in its footer: <script src=http://www.oedemera.com/blogger_navbar/navbar_012.php>
This is beyond sick.
And it's beyond most of the widgets I've seen, admittedly a small sample. Another explanation from another blog:
I suspect that what happened was this:
1 - 962 [a Hong Kong blogger] decided to stop blogging.
2 - He deleted his blog, freeing up the URL.
3 - Some spider or robot discovered this and claimed the URL, associating it with a different Google account.
So 962 would not be able to access the settings for that blog.
His only recourse is to report this to Blogger, that his blog has now become a splog (spam blog) and hope that an actual human being reads his message and takes some action.
Finally, a use for that FLAG BLOG button.
Oedemera, incidentally, is a genus of beetle. All spammers, I think, should name themselves for crawling insects.
Welcome to Stepford, Florida
Welcome to The Villages, FL, the perfect town. The buildings are perfect. Downtown has lots of shops and restaurants. The town square was decorated in red, white and blue bunting in honor of the presidential candidate visiting. A "weathered" building near the water added to the authentic atmosphere of a quaint, safe town.
Neighborhoods with gleaming sidewalks and manicured lawns and almost identical houses each with a screened or columned porch completed the picture of utopia. The surrounding retail and chain restaurants all perfectly fit in with the schemes of either a Spanish mission or a southern lake community.
And you never have to yell at those damn kids to get off your lawn, either:
[B]y law, since they've incorporated, the city has to allow at least 38 percent of its inhabitants to be 50 years and younger. We didn't see any of those people during our visit. Though, the high school was equally as manicured and perfect as the surrounding neighborhoods.
But something's churning beneath the surface:
STDs are rampant in Utopia. More alcohol is consumed in The Villages than most college campuses. It's no wonder that at 2 p.m. in the afternoon, a nice silver-haired granny was downing liquor shots at the bar of the restaurant where we ate a late lunch.
The "Bait Shacks" around the town square look quaint. On closer inspection, we found out they were actually bars. Four of them, each at the corner of the town square. I guess when you're 55+, you don't want to walk far for a drink.
You'll note that we haven't even discussed humidity yet.
Maybe I tend to romanticize urban grit, but I am deeply suspicious of any community that seeks actively to suppress it.
Saturday spottings (let there be style)
The Oak Park addition to Oklahoma City, more or less 6th to 8th, Lincoln to Kelley, has been around for awhile; the older homes in the area date to the 1920s. In recent years, Oak Park was also the location of the infamous Bradford Commons apartments, which have since been scraped away. You can't get to it from Lincoln both 5th and 6th dead-end before they ever reach Lincoln but if you've driven northbound on Lincoln in the past couple of years you've probably seen this:
This is 614 NE 6th Street, built in 2005 and, to me at least, somewhat reminiscent of Stage Center, which was being constructed (and hotly debated) when I was the new kid on an OKC city block. Think modular: each section has its own distinct purpose. It's up for sale at this writing, and here's some of the pitch:
The location allows the owner to enjoy the expansive landscaping and urban feel of Presbyterian and the OU Medical Corridor, while the surrounding commercial structures allow for the rhythmic architecture of the home. This great site location also allows the home owner amazing surreal views of the downtown OKC skyline.
If you're down in the yard, as I was, you get some very real, if not so amazing, views of the Presbyterian Research Park. And to your east are some of those aforementioned older homes.
Still, I admit to being swept up in the sheer effrontery of the place: there's a lot to be said for having the most distinctive house on the block. And there are genuine selling points:
Modern design aspects incorporated aesthetics that are pleasing to the eye with some real visual punch. Block glass in the garage arranged in a design gives I-235 North travelers an artistic show of lights from the freeway. The backlit wall glows at nighttime, but remains nice and cool during the day due to the use of concrete and stucco. Urban living with a double car garage and storage is almost unheard of. The simple symmetry of the home runs true throughout. A solid rectangular stucco wall slices across the entire expanse of the home. Rectangular shapes and thickness of materials are also uniform throughout the home. A "floating" l-shaped glossy black staircase and few walls keep the home open and airy. Rectangular bronzed steel windows placed higher up on many of the exterior walls allow billows of light to stream in at any hour of the day. The dramatic elevation very carefully frames the sky with the windows which is most apparent in the upstairs master bedroom where one really does get the feeling they're sleeping in a tree house. All the windows are casement allowing you to open up and enjoy cool north/south breezes.
I think what I like about this general sort of design is that it's unabashedly utilitarian without even the slightest nod to the Socialist Realism sort of stuff that got passed off as urban architecture a generation or two ago, the interchangeable proletarian barracks that were functional only because they wouldn't dare be anything else. It's probably not "beautiful" in the traditional sense, but it certainly draws the eye. (For comparison, you might want to see what I said about 715 North Francis and 33 NE 7th.)
I was squiring an author around town a couple of years ago, and part of the trip went up Classen, past the missile gantry of The Classen (at 22nd), the Golden Dome (at 23rd), and the Ginormous Milk Bottle (at 24th). She gave me a look which translated into "What sort of creatures are you, anyway?" Obviously, we're the sort that like cool stuff, which makes sense considering that we started out in 1889 huddled together in a bunch of tents; and after a couple of decades of blanded-out suburban châteaux, I'm positively delighted with the idea that we're building cool stuff again.
23 September 2007
Not a word from Ashley, either
Blogdom has been much amused by the fourteen-page spread in Harper's Bazaar (October) in which Mary-Kate Olsen dresses up with Lauren Hutton and declaims, "I run around my house naked with heels all the time."
I have no doubt that she does why would anyone make up something like that? but I suspect that the running is at a pretty slow pace, what with the heels and all. Anyway, this is the full context:
Newly obsessed with Victoria Beckham, she notes she watched Beckham's Coming to America documentary. "She's running around in a bikini and heels, and I'm like, Oh, my God, I do that too!" How positively Grey Gardens. "I run around my house naked with heels all the time. It's so funny. All my friends will tell you that I love running around in kimonos and jewelry or naked with jewelry."
I am the last person in the world to discourage young women from taking their clothes off, or not putting them on in the first place, but it seems obvious to me that her focal point is the jewelry, and you could probably get her into a Brooks Brothers tailored suit if you told her there would be bling involved.
Or not, in which case you have something like this.
The quiet man
"Do not the most moving moments of our lives find us without words?"
Marcel Marceau, whose lithe gestures and pliant facial expressions revived the art of mime and brought poetry to silence, died Saturday in Paris, French media reported. Former assistant Emmanuel Vacca announced the death on France-Info radio, but gave no details about the cause. (AP link here.)
Wizbang's Jay Tea is observing a moment of silence.
Careful where you put that squirrel
I'm sure somebody thinks this 10k gold rodent makes a really cool pendant. (I'm equally sure she doesn't.) The piece is part of the fall 2007 collection of Simon Cardwell's "Cheeky Monkey" label, and it can be had in sterling silver for about half the $500 price of the gold version. Incidentally, both pieces are recycled: the metals were presumably melted down from earlier jewelry and reused. This particular squirrel is the Eurasian Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), listed as "threatened" by the IUCN: apparently grey squirrels are crowding it out of its habitat. And it's probably better to commemorate the species by wearing its image than by wearing an actual example thereof; the squirrels I see on a regular basis would not take kindly to having lengths of metal tubing routed through their pert little tails.
Getting one's cover letter read
I hate to say so, but sometimes you need to embellish the truth just a little:
I am writing to let you know of my interest in the Performance Management Analyst position you have posted on Monster.com.
My background is diverse and includes all of the skills and qualities you have listed in the posting. I have a great deal of experience working with and analyzing data, am an expert level user of most MS Office products including Excel and Access, and am also omniscient which comes in extremely handy for long and short term projects that require multi-tasking.
Most recently I have been working as a Software Trainer and Management Consultant in the veterinary industry. My outgoing personality, solid knowledge of small businesses, computers, and relational databases and the fact that I have the ability to know everything and be everywhere at once have been the key to my success in this position. I have a knack for problem solving, excellent communications skills and a magic cape that enables me to not only fly but also become invisible at will.
Your advertisement piqued my interest as my ideal career path will incorporate my unique combination of analytical skills, people skills and dark magic. In fact I could easily be described as an "outgoing analytic". I hope, for your sake and for the sake of your children, when you read this along with my resume that you will be interested in talking to me in person about the opportunities you have available and how I can be an asset to your organization. Otherwise the angels will weep for you.
I admit I have a problem with that magic cape: as I understand them, they can provide flight or invisibility, but I've never seen one perform both functions. (Even cooler would be if you had access to both functions simultaneously, but I suspect this will not be possible until the general availability of Cape 3.0 functionality.)
The omniscience, however, is probably the greater asset, since she'll know to send this only to people who will hire her.
So you see a chance, and you post
Over at Romancing the Blog there's a thread on whether an adventure (which a romance certainly is) works better in first person or in third, and there's no overwhelming consensus either way, though most participants seem to have a distinct preference.
Among the comments:
Trisha: What I like about first person is that it seems to allow for more flawed characters. Because you’re in the narrator’s head, you can get more insight into their actions, so what may seem TSTL* or just annoying in a third person narrative becomes more understandable.
Chessie: Really good third person has a depth to the POV where there is very little difference between first and third. Limited third also has their intimate thoughts, their intimate observations, and should reflect their voice as a character. And when the character is off on their assumptions about another character, you know it.
Gabriele: I only notice POV when it’s done badly. If done well, I can immerse myself in the world of a book no matter whether it’s told in first, third, alternating, multiple, or omniscient POV, and present or past tense. You could make me read a book in second person future if you’d manage to rip it off.
I've read one book in second person present, Jay McInerney's Bright Lights, Big City, which opens this way:
You are not the kind of guy who would be at a place like this at this time of the morning. But here you are, and you cannot say that the terrain is entirely unfamiliar, although the details are fuzzy. You are at a nightclub talking to a girl with a shaved head. The club is either Heartbreak or the Lizard lounge. All might come clear if you could just slip into the bathroom and do a little more Bolivian Marching Powder.
I always thought the finest Marching Powder was Peruvian, but McInerney wasn't talking about me. I found this device off-putting for a couple of pages, but eventually I picked up the groove. Which tells me that I don't really have a preference for any particular POV, as long as it's done with finesse.
* "TSTL" = "Too Stupid to Live," which describes entirely too many characters, and not just fictional ones.
24 September 2007
Strange search-engine queries (86)
Once a week, I take out my fine-toothed comb, which hasn't been useful on my actual hair for a couple of decades now, and I go through the referrer logs, looking for the sort of search string out of which I can wring a few cheap laffs. You'd be surprised, or appalled, at how well this works.
are m&m made from beetles: Not the green ones.
pantyhose smoke meth crossdress dad: What is this, the proposal for a new "reality" TV series?
skirt "without showing your underwear": Do not think you can escape this requirement by not wearing underwear.
condoleezza rice - short skirts: Well, not so short that you can see her underwear.
will a woman uncross her legs for you to take a peek and then recross them? Most women: probably not. Condi: definitely not.
constipation atomic cocktail: Some people have neither patience nor Dulcolax.
8 inch boyfriend: Really? How big's his wang?
welding smoke can affect on penis: I believe one should always wear pants while welding.
McDonalds lawsuit over chicken bones in mcnuggets: Wouldn't this imply the presence of actual chicken?
oprah "cookies tossed": While she can afford to outsource it, generally Oprah prefers to toss her own cookies.
"former social security recipient": New euphemism for "deceased."
do check cashing places check for high school education: For customers, or for staff?
dustbury system: Find a piece of shtick and work it a minimum of eighty-six times.
Seeing things a little differently
Old chat friend Donnali she once described herself as "halfway between Marilyn Monroe and Broom Hilda," which certainly paints a picture came through the city this year and took some serious shots of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and some Route 66 scenes. (See also her Flickr pages, which contain over 3000 photos.)
Why supermodels always look peevish
If you believe this, they aren't getting any:
Dr. Sarah Brewer, a sexual health doctor, reports that size zero models have very little if any sex drive. She claims that the bodies of very thin females goes into protective mode by diminishing sex drive and hence the prevention of pregnancy. As models lose weight, Dr. Brewer said that "As soon as body weight plummets below a critical point, the womb shrinks, menstruation stops and your level of sexual interest, fantasy and enjoyment falls." This is most likely to happen to females who lose weight by not eating. Dr. Brewer said this was "nature's way of making sure you don't get pregnant when you don’t have the resources." She said that this might explain the "glum stares" of models on the catwalk.
Asked about this, Nicole Richie, size 0, due date 30 December, said, "Are you going to finish that sandwich?"
Thunder Road II
News Item: The Tennessee Department of Revenue said Friday that it will begin conducting surveillance of state-line tobacco retailers in other states. In July, Tennessee’s cigarette tax went from 20 cents per pack to 62 cents per pack, an incentive for many Tennessee residents to cross the state line to buy cigarettes at stores in neighboring states.
"Let me tell the story, with or without jokes,
Now is anyone, with the possible exception of the Tennessee Department of Revenue, at all surprised that people will go out of state to avoid paying a tax they think is too high?
[D]oes the tax increase cover the operating expenses of the new geheimes staatspolizei they'll need to stake out every cross-border convenience store and supermarket?
I suspect that when revenues fall short of projections, they'll, um, make the adjustments they deem appropriate.
(Submitted to the Beltway Traffic Jam.)
The eagle and the phish
They're not even trying anymore, I think. Today's spam is fudged to appear to come from service at IRS.gov, and it says:
After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $209.30.
You are wrong, involuntary-conversion breath, but no matter. The proffered link to "access the form for your tax refund" is http://184.108.40.206/IRS.gov/ which, I need hardly point out, does not go to the
Note: For security reasons, we will record your ip-address, the date and time. Deliberate wrong inputs are criminally pursued and indicated.
Indicate this, pal. Oh, and at the end:
© Copyright 2007, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A.
Shouldn't be too hard to write off this intellectual property.
25 September 2007
One girl's life
When I was a kid, I wasn't exactly glued to the phonograph, but I never got too far away from it either. In 1965 (not quite twelve) I'd started buying those magical little plastic wafers, and while the newest stuff was always to be found at the Big Stores, there was much joy to be had browsing through the obscurities, not least because they were often cheaper. One common discount-store practice was to bundle three singles, carefully placing one I might actually have heard of on the outside of the package, and letting the lot go for a buck. I picked up lots of old Motown map-label singles that way.
Spiegel, the Chicago mail-order house, offered record players in several price ranges, and during this period they offered bundles of 45s for cheap; I remember snagging a pack of twenty-five, complete with incredibly-shoddy cardboard carrying case, for something like $4.99. To my despair, there were only twenty-four different titles in the pack: for some reason, they'd thrown in two copies of Wand 171, Nella Dodds' "Finders Keepers, Losers Weepers" b/w "A Girl's Life," one of which I bestowed upon my sister.
I knew Wand, vaguely: they were a corporate cousin to Scepter, and the Kingsmen had wound up there. The Dodds record sounded nothing like the Kingsmen, though: this was soulful stuff, somewhere between girl groups and Motown, and it stuck in my head for several decades despite the fact that I'd never heard it on the radio.
Once Al Gore got around to inventing the Internet, I went hunting down other Dodds sides, which turned out to be not so easy a task: she'd become a favorite of the Northern Soul fans in England, and the six singles she'd cut for Wand were commanding big bucks in the collectors' market. I wished I'd held on to that second copy of "Finders," which, it turned out, was her second single: the first had been a cover of the Supremes' "Come See About Me," an album track (from Where Did Our Love Go) that hadn't been scheduled for a single release on its own. "Come See About Me" got airplay on the East Coast, and eventually word of it got back to Berry Gordy, Jr., who wasn't going to stand for this sort of thing and put out the Supremes' version in a hurry, despite the fact that "Baby Love" had been released just last month and was still making chart noise. Diana and company got their third consecutive Number One; poor Nella was cut off at the knees.
I covered a lot of this territory in my Single File review of "Finders Keepers", but I'm mentioning it here because at long last, the wizards at England's Ace Records have gone through the Scepter/Wand vault and reissued on CD all six of Nella's singles, both A and B sides, plus three previously unreleased tracks. As usual with Ace, the documentation is superb, and from it I learned not only what she looked like (rrowr) but that I shouldn't even be looking (when she cut those first sides she was not yet fifteen years old). And you may have seen her anyway: she has a Bacon number of 2.
Concentric circles, a single drain
We've seen a number of comments coming in regarding this situation, and we appreciate the interest and opinions that you, our readers, have about this matter. But as I am sure that you can appreciate, these are sensitive times involving sensitive negotiations; a public blog is not the appropriate place for us to be commenting about them, nor do we think it's constructive to entertain a discussion of labor issues here.
This afternoon, we issued a statement regarding the UAW's decision; to this point, that is our only statement on the topic. Any future comments we have will be issued via press statement, and not here on FastLane.
Me, I'm inclined to agree with Robert Farago:
After more than a week of overtime negotiations, the UAW is on strike at General Motors. For those who think this action signals the beginning of the end for The General: yes and no. On the yes side, the strike will highlight the original sins that led both sides to this point. The executive greed and mismanagement. The union intransigence and denial. The strike will alert the dim-witted media that the Emperor hasn’t been wearing any clothes for decades, ding GM's rep, and make it even more difficult for the carmaker to sell cars. On the no side, GM will settle. A compromise will be reached. The same players will resume the game, poorer but no wiser.
It might be interesting to see if the Presidential candidates issue statements on this matter. Or it might not; if GM and the UAW are still stuck in this endless pas de deux after a month or so, the only thing anyone's going to want to read is Chapter 11. Or 7, even.
The best of both worlds
The SuperSonics want an arbitrator to say it's OK to leave Seattle. Seattle is suing the Sonics to make them honor their lease. Oklahoma State football coach Mike Gundy went loopy Saturday night about a Saturday morning column in The Oklahoman. That's why Sonics owner (and Oklahoma City businessman) Clay Bennett needs to put Gundy on retainer as his spokesman.
It might sound something like this:
"I'm going to talk about this lawsuit, right here. If anybody hasn't read this, I don't read it; it was brought to me by a lawyer a guy who knows stuff about laws. Let me tell you why I want to talk about this lawsuit. A whole bunch of it is inaccurate and had to be written by a lawyer who doesn't own a basketball team. It's fiction.
"When you have a basketball team someday, you'll understand how it feels. When you go to the country club to play golf and someone makes fun of you because your basketball team isn't making enough money?! Or someone says you're bad at business?! And you come home crying to your accountant?!
"THAT'S WHY I DON'T READ LAWSUITS! Because they're GARBAGE! And the lawyer who wrote it is GARBAGE! Attacking an owner for wanting to move his team. You people make me sick. I'm done."
The quality of discourse and of Clay Bennett's PR would take a giant leap upward.
And share alike
I don't know if you believe in a higher power or not; I do, and I think that often helps me put my tiny little frustrations into perspective. I'd love to say I'm the kind of person who wakes up every morning and gives thanks; I'm not. Usually I wake up and wish I was filthy, rotten rich so I could sleep in until 10 and play Super Metroid until 3, then write for five hours and drink myself to sleep. That's not my life, and it probably never will be; but I'm grateful that I have as much as I do, including if I lay off iTunes and Threadless enough money to give at least something to those who have literally nothing.
Hmmm. Last weekend I slept in until 10 and um, never mind.
And I suspect I'm mutating into the kind of person who wakes up every morning and gives thanks, mostly out of delight that I made it through another night. Being this old has that effect, especially if you can't imagine being this old, as I can't.
It would have been a good time to crank up the Beethoven, too, since I can't remember ever seeing a Lotus Elise here in the Big Breezy, until this afternoon, ten past six, under the Belle Isle Bridge, waiting politely with the rest of us for the lights to change.
All sorts of thoughts went through my head, but the one that stuck was "Geez, and it's rained all day, and he's had to keep the top up. How awful."
And where does one go to test-drive Loti, anyway? Dallas? (Answer: yes.)
26 September 2007
The din of iBiquity
The Oklahoman's Jim Stafford wonders if maybe the time has come for HD Radio:
In Oklahoma, there are 23 stations broadcasting 38 HD radio channels with six more coming soon. And the iBiquity Digital Corp., the developer of digital HD Radio technology, recently said that the 1,500th HD Radio station has gone on the air: Clear Channel’s rock station WROV-FM 96.3 in Roanoke, Va.
Maybe HD radio has finally reached the tipping point.
Maybe so. I haven't found any compelling reason to try it out. (Here's a list of what's out there; a perfunctory glance at the listings suggests that Tulsa stations have embraced the possibilities more than Oklahoma City stations have, which doesn't surprise me; Tulsa, as a radio market, has always struck me as slightly less hidebound than Oklahoma City.) If you've played with HD Radio, I'd be interested to hear what you think about it.
Well, that was quick
The strike against General Motors by the United Auto Workers has ended with a tentative settlement, terms of which are not immediately available but which likely include the creation of a trust fund to support health-care costs for retirees.
As is the usual practice, UAW workers at Chrysler and Ford have been working under their old contracts; expect those contracts to be replaced by new ones with similar provisions.
Most line workers at GM will be back on the job this afternoon.
Words to live by
This is another of those MP3 shuffle memes, but it's from Michele, so you know it's extraordinary:
Put your MP3 player on shuffle, write down the first lines of the first twenty-five songs that come up, and then have people guess which songs they are.
Conditions: This is the player in question; it contains 776 songs, mostly Sixties/Seventies stuff, with a smattering of Eighties. I have altered the premise slightly, in that if the title is given away in the first two lines, I provide the next two lines.
Any transcription errors are, of course, my fault.
Unlike most magazines that are signing off forever, Stuff actually bannered it on the cover: OUR LAST ISSUE! Then again, they knew about it way in advance. Here's the opening of the Editor's Letter:
After eight years outside the mother ship, Stuff is returning from whence [sic] it came and will henceforth be a part of the Maxim nation as a special section inside America's favorite men's magazine. Long ago we were born from the loins of Maxim as a gear section and spun out into this crazy world, where we rocketed to success as the No. 2 men's lifestyle magazine in the country. Well, like an old cowboy, we've defeated all of our foes, and now it's time to hang up our spurs and hit the hot tub. Lord knows we deserve it!
For those wondering why I know this: Back in the spring of '05, they started sending me Stuff for no reason I could determine; I hadn't actually ordered it or anything, nor was it a substitute for something else that had been put out of its misery. They continued to send it for two whole years; on the basis that well, I was at least looking at the pictures, I sent in a one-year renewal, which, apparently, will now be fulfilled with Maxim. And I suppose that it's in some way useful for me to know what (and whom) guys one-third my age lust after.
Hip to be squared
"Geez, how can I possibly top that?" was the way I responded to this:
The clue for 111 Across in [the] Boston Globe Sunday magazine crossword puzzle was "Generic Proposal." The answer (spoiler alert, for those still working on it!) was "Will you marry me?"
Most puzzle devotees no doubt just moved on to the next clue when they solved that one. But for Aric Egmont of Cambridge, those 14 letters on the grid were the actual proposal he'd been plotting for months to his girlfriend, Jennie Bass.
Egmont, 29, who works in the communications department at Fidelity Investments, contacted the magazine this summer to ask if the people who create the puzzles would be willing to write a special one for him. Sunday mornings for he and Bass, he said, have always included tackling the Globe magazine crossword, a tradition that started early in their relationship.
And better yet is 115 Down: "Hoped-for answer to 111 Across." Three letters.
In the unlikely event that I ever find myself in a position to do this sort of thing, well, I've got my work cut out for me.
(Via On the Other Foot.)
27 September 2007
A Pigman of one's imagination
Bereft of context, the name "Pigman" doesn't mean anything in particular; I see it and I conjure up a vision of someone like Python's Mr. Creosote, with a name like J. Featherstonehaugh (probably pronounced something like "Fanshaw") Pigman.
The main character in The Infidel, the upcoming graphic novel by the ex-Muslim Bosch Fawstin, is another ex-Muslim cartoonist. The one who is a character in the book creates "Pigman," a ruthless counter-jihad superhero, as a response to 9/11. His creating the Pigman comic book brings him face to face with the enemy: his born-again Muslim brother, who has become a jihadist.
It will be a while until all the chapters are released, but I suspect it ends with our bacon being saved.
Disclosure: Mr Fawstin wrote me to tell me about the project; no other consideration was involved.
Gerard Van der Leun speculates along lines I'd just as soon not think about:
To think, to really think, that Hillary has the only set of C-in-C brass balls among the Democrats may, in fact, turn out to be true. Yet one must always remember that for a Democrat, at this stage of their shady game, to claim to have balls of any metallic substance is an easy gambit. Teflon testicles are today's standard issue for the Crats. I'll admit that measured against someone like John Edwards the impression that Hillary possesses a penis may well have some truth to it, but it still will not likely measure much above two inches. Not nearly enough to get her the Boudica bump she needs.
Of course, there's always Photoshop:
Prasutagus was not available for comment.
In case leggings weren't bad enough
At least, someone hopes they are:
[A] provocative new leather accessory that goes over one's shoes with a bendable internal wire structure: The Spat changes the look of a shoe and recreates a contemporary leg line allowing the wearer to morph the shape of The Spat into innumerable desired forms from a soft deconstructed crumple to a rigid fold. Now a unisex accessory, The Spat was originally the de rigueur accoutrement of many a dapper gent, including the likes of Fred Astaire.
Remind me to shine up my walking stick.
Let's have some profit with honor
Saturn's "Rethink American" campaign has its good points, though there's the question of how "American" Saturn's product line, much of which is based on vehicles from GM's European outpost Opel, really is: the new Astra is built alongside its Opel cousin in Belgium, fercrissake.
But it took Chevrolet to put some attitude to this premise. A six-pager (folds down to two) in the car mags this month says flatly, "WE'RE TIRED OF BEING A FOREIGN CAR IN OUR OWN COUNTRY." The car in question is Chevy's '08 Malibu, which looks pretty spiffy and so far seems to get competitive numbers. It would be unkind to mention that the 'Bu, like Saturn's Aura, is one of GM's Epsilon cars, meaning that GM Europe (Opel, again!) is responsible for the platform, but I suspect that most people shopping in this segment are looking for Camry alternatives (if not actual Camrys), and they may not care where those alternatives come from so long as they look good and hold up well. The bow-tie boys have the first half of that premise taken care of, anyway; we'll have to wait and see about the second.
In 1972 the British came up with a prototype High-Speed Train, which was formally classified as a Diesel Electric Multiple Unit and assigned Rail Class 252.
On schedule: Carnival of the Vanities #252, just arrived at Dodgeblogium. I note that Mr Dodge, in his capacity as Carnival keeper, does not number the individual episodes; however, unless he requests otherwise, I plan to continue to keep the count going.
Down to size
Traditionally, weekends are made for yard work, but there's a lot to be said for getting it done during the work week, especially if you have attacks of Major Laziness come Saturday, as I generally do. And I've discovered that unless the workday has been unusually heinous, I can get home from the salt mine and go full tilt, or at least ¾ tilt, for about an hour before either the brain or the body tries to shut down on me.
So today I decided to attack the shrubs up front, while they're still worthy of the name "shrub." (The yaupon that sits in front of my bedroom window is probably past this status: it's now over ten feet tall.) Normally I prefer to do this in February or March, but the growth this year has been explosive fifty inches of rainfall will do that and I didn't take off so much that they'll suffer in the winter. And instead of bringing out the electricals, I did the reshaping by hand, which didn't take that much longer.
During the cleanup stage, a neighborhood kid, maybe six or seven, appeared in the driveway, as he's done before, looking for odd jobs to help fill his pockets. (Been there, done that.) I didn't have much left for him to do, and didn't have much to pay him with anyway. While I was trying to turn him away, he caught sight of the stubborn roses, now numbering in the teens, and expressed what sounded like delight, what with actual flowers still to be seen in this neck of the woods this late in the year. I said, half in jest, "You want some?"
So I brought out some suitable tools, and he made off with not quite a dozen of my finest pinks, which I suggested he might offer to his girlfriend. Actually, I suspect he's going to present them to his mom, about 1.5 seconds after she asks "And just where have you been?"
28 September 2007
Quote of the week
Love, I've often argued, is located at the corner of Fantastic and Mundane, and the Observant Bystander clearly knows the territory:
"Good morning", the moon said today. His full, round face was a soft, welcoming lemony color. "Would you like to dance?" he asked.
"But I'm late for work", I explained, starting the car preoccupied with adjusting radio and temperature dials, situating my bags and coffee cup.
"It's alright," he said. "We’ll dance while you drive."
And we did. We faced each other and danced a graceful minuet during my short drive west. My hands on the wheel, as if on his shoulders, I swayed right as he swayed left. We came back again to center and repeated our step with the opposite side. As my car dipped down a hill, my full-faced partner dipped with me until we briefly lost sight of each other, then met again on the ascent, his position slightly lower in the sky than just a little while before.
For a few short minutes we danced gracefully and beautifully until I reached my day's destination.
Putting the car into park and cutting the lights, I looked up to thank my partner. His face, reflecting the not yet risen sun, had reddened slightly. "Oh, mon amoureux de lune!" I exclaimed.
He was blushing.
I hope you're smiling.
A fine mat finish
News Item: Toyota Motor Co. will recall 55,000 floor mats due to complaints of unintended acceleration caused by the mats sticking underneath the accelerator pedal, federal safety officials and the automaker said Wednesday. [T]he recall involves 30,500 mats for the [2007 Lexus] ES 350 and 24,500 mats for the 2007 and 2008 Toyota Camry. Owners will be told of the recall in October, and offered replacement mats in November.
I told an ES 350 owner about this, and he gave me the sort of look he'd have given me if I'd said I had a trunkful of moon rocks.
That said, I must point out here that my ex-wife once was given a failing notice on a state auto inspection because her non-factory seat covers could theoretically interfere with the free movement of the seat belts, so it's not like this is the most unheard-of thing you ever heard of.
Big meter, keep on turnin'
Attila Girl gets a twentyfold traffic spike and tries to explain why:
I considered the possibility that the quality of my blogging had improved 20 times over the past week or so. Then I thought perhaps it was my reward for living such an exemplary life.
And after weighing other possibilities, she reaches a conclusion:
Then it occurred to me that this was simply the sort of thing that happened naturally to beautiful, brainy, successful babes whom all men and most women, let's face it desire/worship, and I went with that.
Any of these might well explain my failure to improve on last year's numbers.
A roof over your head
BusinessWeek reports on a Coldwell Banker survey of the most and least affordable homes in each state, complete with slideshow. Methodology:
The Coldwell Banker HPCI survey evaluates average selling prices in 317 U.S. markets for single-family houses of approximately 2,220 square feet with four bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, a family room, and a two-car garage. The cumulative average sales price of these subject homes is $422,343 (higher than the National Association of Realtors' median home price of $218,200 for all existing homes sold in the U.S.).
You can theoretically buy this imaginary house in Tulsa for a mere $153,750, putting T-Town among the ten most affordable markets. If you want it in Oklahoma City, though, you'll have to cough up an extra $40k. (Exactly. The OKC figure is $193,750.)
Some states with small areas and/or populations Delaware, Rhode Island, Wyoming have only one market in the survey; otherwise, the state with the least variance seems to be Idaho, where the difference between Coeur d'Alene and Boise is a mere thirty bucks.
Not even a service pack can save you
Trini didn't write this, but I'd bet she'd agree with it every bit as much as I do:
I was unfortunate enough to be given a laptop this morning featuring Windows Vista I was supposed to configure it, thus allowing the damn thing to connect to our school wireless network. I hope I never get to see Vista again in my life.
OMFG!!!!!!! yes it needs all those exclamation marks. What happened to network neighborhood, right click, properties insert ip manually?
That sort of made sense, and we can't have that.
2 hours of my life I'll never get back I put the laptop back in the box lest I toss me and it out the window. Pure aggravation! WTF was MS thinking?
They were thinking, "We need to soak the users for a few more dollars while we still can."
Update, 11 October: Further thoughts from Lynne.
29 September 2007
Sorting the dead-tree detritus
I mentioned earlier that three magazines to which I subscribe would die in 2007, and then had to backpedal, inasmuch as one of them did not in fact die, or at least hasn't yet. Among still-extant mags I no longer get are Harper's Magazine, which is just too saturated in Bush Derangement Syndrome to be readable anymore, and Us Weekly, which was sent me as a replacement for the late, lamented Premiere, which I might have found useful were I more interested in celebrities in unfortunate outfits and Heather and Jessica do it better anyway.
Stuff, as noted, will give way to Maxim. I am considering dropping US News and World Report, which of late has been more listmonger than actual news magazine; I am definitely dropping the online mag Salon. I spend more time with The Week than either, and I figure, if either US News or Salon has anything of interest, it will show up seven days later in The Week. Besides, I like the idea of a news magazine owned by, well, the guy who owns Maxim.
With two houses vacant, I now represent 11 percent of the block, but I suspect I get about twenty percent of the mail, so I figure the postman, at least, will be happy to see me cut back.
Lynn gets hooked up to broadband, and it's not all that broad:
I think WildBlue's so-called Fair Access Policy is going to be a problem for us. At this point we are not close to our Usage Threshold but it's going up shockingly fast and at this rate it looks like we will exceed our limit before the end of our first 30 days.
To make matters worse, Number Two Son, who almost never used the Internet before, has decided that he must get into World of Warcraft. The "Upload" threshold is even more distressing. Why? Is just posting on this weblog making it go up that fast? I haven't even uploaded any pictures since we got Wild Blue.
I don't know which package she ordered, but they're all capped fairly low: the Pro Pak, which has the highest limits, permits a maximum download of 17000 MB and upload of 5000 MB over a thirty-day period.
Which leads me to wonder: have I had days when I pulled down 566 MB (17000/30) of stuff? Or, more likely, have I had days when I did not pull down 566 MB of stuff? If I remember correctly, my own ISP has a 60-GB cap per month, which leaves me 2 GB per day; I don't think I've ever hit that, except maybe that one time I tried to download Windows XP Service Pack 2. Certainly they've never sent me any warnings.
Then again, I'm typing this while updating OpenOffice.org to version 2.3, a 109-MB download.
That Bud's for you
There is only one major issue on which I stand completely alone, reviled by all. And it's this: Budweiser (by which I mean the real Budweiser, the beer which has been sold under that brand by Anheuser-Busch since 1876) is really quite a good beer.
And it's even defensible in Soonerland's benighted 3.2 form:
When I was a kid, we lived in Oklahoma for a couple of years, which was at the time one of the states where the brewers sold beer that was 3.2% alcohol in order to comply with local regulations. My mum and dad therefore reasoned that it was a suitable beverage for ten-year-olds to have with Sunday lunch. [Actually this was something of a miscalculation on their part. In one of those irritating measurement discrepancies which occasionally bring down satellites, Oklahoma’s regulations define alcoholic strength by weight, rather than by volume under the European standard.]
A lot of anti-Bud sentiment is perhaps sheer snobbery:
People seem to lose all rationality when dealing with things like beer. Football clubs are a bit similar all sorts of idiotic and dishonest business practices are tolerated there, and people like Simon Jordan who try to insist that people honour contracts, tell the truth and don't self-deal in business transactions get disciplinary hearings and dark mutterings that they are "not football people". Meanwhile, it seems pretty clear to me that if Robert Mugabe were to buy West Ham tomorrow and promise to spend £100m on players, he'd be described as "a slightly controversial figure, but beloved in East London" by the end of the week. One good thing about countries like America where everyone with an income greater than a subsistence farmer but less than a Russian oligarch calls themselves "middle class" is that they don't have this phenomenon of sensible middle class people doing silly things in order to pretend to be working class.
I've always suspected Mugabe was smuggling Coors out of Colorado and using it to bulk up Zimbabwe's water supply: like Brawndo, but without the electrolytes.
It's a long piece, so read it with a brewski by your side.
I now appreciate The The
The band !!! (yes, that's its name) is appearing in Dallas next week, which prompted the Dallas Observer's Jonanna Widner to issue a guide to choosing a non-sucky band name (unlike, say, some of these). Some of the rules to be followed:
Use your umlauts sparingly. Thïs döës nöt löök cööl.
Anything with the word "whiskey" in it is guaranteed to blow. You do this and you're destined to the Tuesday night opening slot at Checker's Pool Hall and Sunday night blues jams.
If your band name can be identified by an acronym consisting of its first letters, a la QOTSA (Queens of the Stone Age), it's too long.
This last rule goes back at least as far as, oh, NKOTB.
Voice of the (former) beehive
A local real-estate company puts out a monthly throwaway which shows up at the supermarket, and I grab one every now and then to see what's happening. The cover shows a "Stately Stonemill Estate," and here's the proffered description:
This classic five bedroom home in Stonemill was designed and built for the very discriminating home owner. The outdoor living space is complete with pool, waterfall, spa, firepit, and an outdoor kitchen. This home makes entertaining dreams come true!
Inside you will find a fully equipped theater room, a true 5 bedroom floor plan with a nanny's area if needed. Oakdale Schools K-8.
This NBA Hornet family is sad to be saying goodbye to this fabulous nest!
Wait a minute. Hornet family? The agent's two-page spread features three commendations, two from Chesapeake executives and one from Hornets coach Byron Scott and his wife Anita. Could this have been Byron Scott's Oklahoma home?
After exercising a bit of Search Fu, I arrived at the truth of the matter: yes, it was. Here's the house, and the Assessor confirms the ownership. (And 73131, incidentally, is an Oklahoma City, not an Edmond, ZIP code.) I suppose it would be bad form to hold this place open for the next NBA coach to live here.
Somewhat lower on the food chain, the house across the street from me has been blessed with a ten-grand price cut, to $119,500. The new flyer says "To fully appreciate this home, you must see the inside," which seems fair, since the outside is neat and clean but doesn't scream "Buy me!" Up the street, another house has remained unsold for five months at $87,900. I can't help but think they'll budge eventually: this market is not in the sort of dire straits you see on the national news, but it's not exactly flourishing either.
30 September 2007
Sugar pie, honey bunch
Unfortunately, I'm not supposed to help myself the way I used to. And this requires some mental reorganization: to me, "carbs" have always been those finicky devices that sit on top of the engine intake and mix air and fuel in some crude approximation of the proper stoichiometric ratio. But that's ancient history, and indeed my last four cars have had fuel injection though the '84 Mercury had a rather half-assed approach, sticking a single injector in an otherwise-unchanged throttle body so now I have to think of "carbs" in terms of not screwing with my blood-sugar levels.
Among things I hadn't noticed before was Braum's line of "CarbWatch" ice cream, which apparently has been out for three or four years. I bought a half-gallon of the chocolate-chip variety, which contains the Splenda brand of pseudosucrose, and it is indeed pretty much indistinguishable from the regular (labeled "Premium") product, though the nutrition label specifies a mere 2 g of sugars per serving instead of 15. (There's a whole 14 g of "sugar alcohol," reflecting the product's Splendaciousness, though I am given to understand that this stuff isn't actually digested but is sent directly down the, um, tubes.)
Still, it's good stuff, so long as I don't tilt any farther towards intolerance of lactose.
By comparison, Alberto Gonzales was a wuss
AT&T may immediately terminate or suspend all or a portion of your Service, any Member ID, electronic mail address, IP address, Universal Resource Locator or domain name used by you, without notice, for conduct that AT&T believes (a) violates the Acceptable Use Policy; (b) constitutes a violation of any law, regulation or tariff (including, without limitation, copyright and intellectual property laws) or a violation of these TOS, or any applicable policies or guidelines, or (c) tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T, or its parents, affiliates and subsidiaries. Termination or suspension by AT&T of Service also constitutes termination or suspension (as applicable) of your license to use any Software. AT&T may also terminate or suspend your Service if you provide false or inaccurate information that is required for the provision of Service or is necessary to allow AT&T to bill you for Service.
Inasmuch as this very policy "tends to damage the name or reputation of AT&T," I believe that in the interest of consistency which is, after all, very important when it comes to establishing legal precedent AT&T should take immediate steps to terminate or suspend its Service.
Lily Tomlin was not available for comment.
Mike at Okiedoke inadvertently precipitated a brouhaha with this observation:
Dart: To Frosty Troy of The Oklahoma Observer for his support of Oklahoma voters having only two parties on the ballot. Frosty says a third candidate might screw up a close race between a Democrat and a Republican. Yeah, that would be terrible. And imagine what might happen if neither a Democrat or Republican was elected; I like to.
Tater, unfortunately, damages his case by raising the spectre of "fusion," the process by which candidates in some states can run on multiple party tickets, and quotes Dan Cantor at TPM Cafe, who sees it as a useful tool for Democrats, which indeed it could be. However, inasmuch as nowhere in the Oklahoma petition is there any reference to fusion or any language which would expedite it, Tater is showing us, you should pardon the expression, a red herring.
And just for historical perspective: the Republicans were originally a third party, ascending to the Big Two in the wake of the dissolution of the Whigs. (If they play their cards right, they could be just as dead as the Whigs.)
In the meantime, I will continue to believe that we'd be better off if we had actual Greens and Libertarians and such on the state ballot, and if they "screw up a close race" well, isn't that just too damn bad? No party, major, minor or minuscule, has any business thinking it's entitled to an office.
Revenge of the nerds
From the Department of Bad Ideas, Pacific Northwest division, comes this stinker:
Most of you are aware that over the summer a PR class conducted a study on the [Washington State U. Linux Users Group]. They felt, and I'm sure many of you agree, that the group could use an improved image. We've also been asked by the CS department to try and increase our female membership in the hopes that this will translate into increased female enrollment in the department.
The PR group offered a suggestion for that. They think that we should hold a social with a sorority.
Not that you'd expect anything better from PR types. But it gets worse:
We're going to host a nerd auction. You can buy a nerd and he'll fix your computer, help you with stats homework, or if you're really adventurous, take you to dinner!
The problem is that we're all still nerds. Let's face it, guys. If anyone's going to bid on us, we'll need some spicing up. And who better to help with that than sorority girls who like nothing better than a makeover?
Leave no stereotype unused, I always say. And there's this:
[A] lot of people are mistaking this as a feeble attempt to "get nerds laid by sorority members." Although I can't speak for the motivations of the individuals on the block, as far as the organization of the event, this couldn't be further from the truth. Think about it. We are nerds. We know how to calculate return on investment.
I've done some accounting in my day, and I can't figure out how to make this add up. Neither can Terry, apparently:
If not to "get nerds laid," then what is the purpose of spending "thousands of dollars" for this event? The idea that this man auction is going to bring women into the CS programs is offensive on a couple of levels. If the men get cleaned up and made over by sorority women, other women will change their career path to be close to them? Buy a man to take care of your computer? Any geek woman who might be interested in majoring in CS is probably fixing her own, thank you very much. Switch majors or join a club because of a dinner date? Get real. And finally, if women aren't in the CS program, it's not because they are unaware of it.
I'm a little more forgiving, but only a little. The auction, in and of itself, seems fairly innocuous; it's the idea that it's going to be an Agent of Incredible Change that is ludicrous. Terry again:
If they really want to help women explore a career in science, this isn't the way to go about it. If they want to use sorority members to up their own status and maybe attain the dream of dating one, they need to be honest about that, if only to themselves. A hallmark of true geekdom is self-awareness. Maybe that's the difference between geeks and nerds.
Not to mention dorks.
Click the Permalink on an individual entry to read comments and TrackBacks if any.