1 October 2007
Strange search-engine queries (87)
A new month, a mostly-new season, but more of the same old thing. Next person who asks the reason for my longevity, I'm going to point to this category and remind him that dead horses seldom object to the beatings.
is she into me or not: Not. If she were into you, you'd have no time for Google.
sob ordinance crown point: It is time for you to stop all of your sobbing.
dating "the women i like" "san francisco": There doesn't seem to be much point in dating women you don't like.
rush ruled under satan's hand: Or, more contemporary and just as believable: Hinder "How I Need Dorks Enjoying Recordings."
voters on hotenough.org are jealous and vote low: Because nothing induces envy like a low-resolution photograph of someone you'll never see in real life.
crossdress caught by mom: She was wondering who'd been stealing her underwear.
"are you a girl": No. And this is my own underwear, I'll have you know.
is baking soda okay to ingest for celica people: I owned a Celica for many years, but it never occurred to me to pig out on the old Arm & Hammer.
here's some naked pictures to help you masturbate: If you're really creative, you don't need pictures.
using non premium gasoline in infiniti q45: You can afford a $55,000 car, but you can't afford an extra twenty-five cents a gallon?
groin vault in terre haute: Because Hoosiers should never have to worry about going groinless.
who the hell is jacob weinstein: How the hell should I know?
how to persuade wife to get brazilian wax: You might try offering her a vacation in Brazil.
shoplifting at the Home Depot or Lowes: If you have to choose, pick the one that doesn't have your desired item on a weekly special.
what items do pawn shops pay a lot for: Things that aren't shoplifted from the Home Depot or Lowes.
Germans discover fuel economy
Consumer Reports tested a fleet of half a dozen luxoboats for the November issue, and the runaway winner in the Least Thirst derby was the Mercedes-Benz E320 BlueTec diesel, which recorded an astonishing 29 mpg, way ahead of the second-place Lexus hybrid (23). BMW held down a solid third with 22 mpg (from 300 hp!), and the E350, the gas-powered version of the same Benz, was fourth with 21. (Volvo and Infiniti brought up the rear.)
This BlueTec figure, mind you, was achieved in a car that weighs two tons (4005 lb, they say) and does zero to sixty in eight flat without any of the car-mag fast-launch techniques. (Car and Driver tested an '07 BlueTec and got it to sixty in 6.8; what's more, they reported 34 mpg.) Trini, who just got rid of a gas-guzzling truck in favor of a modest little Saturn Ion with a stick shift, gets numbers no better than this.
So the next question is: Will Benz buyers fork over the extra $1000 for a slightly-slower but way-stingier car?
Me? Only once did I ever seriously consider buying a Mercedes, and this was during my newlywed days. The Benz in question was a three-year-old 240D with four on the floor and the ubiquitous MB-Tex upholstery; it had been owned by a physician around Enid way who apparently still made house calls, or something, because he'd put 100,000 miles on it, and what's more, he'd installed an auxiliary fuel tank, so it took 45 gallons to fill the beast to the brim. The upside, of course, was the 1350 miles you could go on that single fill. On the other hand, only 65 ponies dwelt behind the three-pointed star, which meant that acceleration was theoretical at best, and if we wanted to get up one of Oklahoma's notoriously-short onramps at eight in the morning, we would have been well advised to start around six-thirty. Ultimately, we wound up buying a two-year-old Chevrolet Nova with a small-block V8, which had the further advantage of costing a few grand less; perhaps perversely, we bought it from a Chrysler-Plymouth store. (Previously mentioned, in considerably less detail, here.)
That said, would I consider the BlueTec? If my budget permitted a $55k sedan, sure. I'm not holding my breath, though.
More fireworks in Seattle
The lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of everyone who purchased season tickets between July 2006, when Clay Bennett led a group of Oklahoma City businessmen in purchasing the team, and Sept. 21 , when Bennett filed a demand for arbitration to escape the final two years of the team's KeyArena lease.
It accuses Bennett's ownership group, The Professional Basketball Club, of breach of contract, negligent misrepresentation and violation of Washington's Consumer Protection Act, according to a draft of the complaint to be filed today in King County Superior Court.
Shortly after the conclusion of the 2006/2007 basketball season all Sonics' season ticket holders were offered an "Unprecedented Commitment" should they make the decision to renew their existing season ticket package. In an enclosed letter Sonics' Chairman Clayton I. Bennett states, "At a time when we are asking for your season ticket renewal, it is of paramount importance that we establish our commitment to you, our most passionate and supportive fan." Within that same letter he makes an unequivocal guarantee of fixed ticket pricing through the 2010 NBA season. Since that time it has become obvious that the Sonics are not able to guarantee this products availability and have in fact taken direct action to deny it to their customers with recent attempts to breach their existing lease.
As stated in Mr. Bennett's letter season ticket holders are "the foundation of any franchise", as well as "the most passionate and supportive fans." That this type of deceptive solicitation may have abused their loyalty is unacceptable and should be an embarrassment to the entire National Basketball Association.
It occurs to me that this might do more damage to Bennett's position than the city's suit to enforce the KeyArena lease would.
Update, 6:45 pm: Or maybe not. Sports Illustrated columnist and sports lawyer Michael McCann sent this to Henry Abbott at TrueHoop:
This claim seems highly unlikely to succeed. For one, it hasn't been a mystery to NBA fans and one would think Sonics season-ticket holders in particular that the Sonics might be leaving Seattle. This has been speculated ever since the Bennett group purchased the team. Second, these fans paid to see the Sonics play in Seattle in the 06-07 and 07-08 NBA seasons. They either got or will get that. If they paid for a future season that never occurs, they would be entitled to a refund and incidental damages. But that's not the case here. Lastly, the Sonics have not yet moved nor even announced a move; whatever "harm" that could arise has not yet done so.
In addition, case law has not been favorable to lawsuits filed by disgruntled season-ticket holders, a topic recently examined when Billy Donovan walked away from coaching the Orlando Magic and less directly discussed in relation to Tiger Woods not appearing at the 2007 Buick Open.
Clay Bennett, so far, has given no indication that he's going to budge on his Halloween deadline.
The mark of sloganeering excellence
Daily Blog Tips has a list of forty-odd taglines you'll find at some of the bigger blogs, and some of them are quite good indeed. But you probably already know them, so here's a list of some of the ones I like you might have missed:
Unlike most of these, my own slogan does not appear on the front page, but does appear in the archives.
I'm not sure what to make of Emmy Rossum's "Slow Me Down" single, except that:
If this gets any airplay at all in OKC, I will be utterly gobsmacked.
2 October 2007
NW 50th from Pennsylvania to May, one of the more wretched stretches of pavement in this town, will be scraped off and resurfaced in 2007.
He didn't say when in 2007, but the scraping has in fact begun. In fact, the process began about a month ago, but I misread it as curb repair; now the graders are on hand and the Local Traffic Only barriers are up at both ends.
This affects my morning commute hardly at all: if I take Linn north, I hit one extra stop sign (at 48th) and cross the graded area with a major bump, but that's it. Linn south isn't really accessible from the Northwest Distressway, westbound anyway, so on the way home I take Villa and tack around Monroe School, unless I have errands to run. (I am one of those weird people who bundles all the errands into a single drive, partly to save gas, but mostly because I want to get them out of the way as quickly as possible.)
And maybe that curb work will do something to address the drainage, or lack thereof, along 50th: this year after small rains, there was enough standing water to service an entire generation of mosquitoes. Don't ask about the big rains.
A taxing question
Let's see if I have this straight. Passage of the so-called River Tax next Tuesday will provide Tulsa County with which of the following benefits?
Right now, I'm thinking C.
Surrounded by tocsins
Remember when we ignored the alarms and all this happened?
On a walk through the streets of your town, your eyes will see mainly the sooty, blackened exteriors of buildings. You will almost have to give up the pinks, the yellows, the pastels you love in fashion. Dark colors will be most practical when clothing gets so dirty so quickly. Nylons, according to current evidence, will pop.
Home furnishings and interiors will have to be painted, cleaned, washed all the time. And because of the constant cleaning and the naturally corrosive quality of dirt, things will have to be replaced more often. Think what that will do to your budget.
The crisis in nature may even creep into your personality. Some experts say that there will be general depression and melancholia in a dangerously polluted environment. Large amounts of exhaust from cars can cause drowsiness. Lethargy and sleepiness will be common. Imagine what it will be like trying to do anything, or even to think clearly, under these conditions.
From "When the cities run out of breath..." by Carol Botwin, in American Girl, October 1968. According to Botwin, failure to answer the alarm would guarantee that this lovely little dystopia would descend upon us in 1980.
I think I'd remember someone's nylons popping.
A few weeks back I made some noise about automotive longevity, noting that my current car was into six odometer digits (no decimals) and I hoped for 200k at least, which should occur some time after its twelfth birthday.
Then again, World Tours notwithstanding, I really don't drive all that much, especially compared to this guy:
There's high mileage, and then there's this. A 1995 Honda Civic is for sale in Atlanta with, count 'em, 939,899 miles. That's 200+ miles a day. Every day. Including Sundays. For 12 years. It even has a Carfax report from when the car had 907,000 miles on it. According to the seller, the car runs like new, with no leaks, no noises, no oil burning, and not even a scratch on the body. In fact, the only blemish listed is that one of the dashboard lights doesn't work, and that's only sometimes.
The car is on its ninth timing belt, ninth water pump, and fourth clutch. But the engine and transmission are original, as are the floor mats. The car even comes with records.
And apparently he changes the oil every 2500 miles. I can barely imagine three hundred-odd oil changes.
The real question, of course, is: Why sell now? He'd have a million by this time next year, and a pat on the back (at the very least) from Honda.
Once more, with feeling
I can't say it any better than this:
Six years of tradition has the blogger community sharing, and baring, their chests for the best reason they can think of fighting cancer.
That's right, the racks are back Oct. 1-8 and they're committed to raising more than $10,000 in one week by unveiling Mother Nature's greatest gifts. That's right, we're saying it, BOOBIES.
"I love the idea," says Melissa Connolly, 2007 coordinator. "If someone's going to ogle* my goods, they can at least make a donation to save boobies and lives!"
No one ever said that bloggers were afraid of expressing their opinions or sharing their ideas. Those are the very catalysts that make blogs the influential medium they are today. So when a joke between friends turned into an empowering fundraiser and awareness-raiser bloggers nationwide signed on. And they're saddling up again for another wild ride in 2007.
* Not to be confused with The Lost Ogle.
Yours truly is a Platinum Sponsor of the Boobie-Thon, and I'm happy to step up once more. (For one thing, or two, the view is better.) If this sounds like something that deserves your support, start here.
3 October 2007
Amazon dot mp3
In my ongoing effort to find more ways to clutter up my computers, I bought a couple of tracks from Amazon.com's MP3 vaults yesterday.
Anyone who sells digital music has to contend with iTunes, and Amazon offers the following advantages:
There is one downside, apart from the fact that this is still technically a public beta: if you lose a file somehow, you can't download another copy. Needless to say, they recommend you back up anything you buy.
The two tracks I bought (one by Nine Inch Nails, one by Fergie, and make of that what you will) sounded pretty decent through my iTunes work-box installation.
I have no experience with Google's Gmail; I figure I have more than enough email addresses already, and if Microsoft hadn't killed Outlook Express access to Hotmail, or whatever the hell it's called now, I'd have everything nice and neat in a single package. (Well, except for AOL, but they're fundamentally incompatible with "nice" and/or "neat" anyway.)
So for a review, I turn to Cajun Boy in the City, who reports: "it sucks." And furthermore:
seriously, it does. can someone please explain to me why my inbox is filled with, at least a dozen per day if i had to venture a guess, solicitations from attorneys representing african philanthropists wishing to endow me with their fortunes along with the standard ads whose subject lines read "GET HARD 2NITE," "add three inches of girth" and "are you lonely tonight?" meanwhile, many of the emails that are coming from actual people, people that i know personally or people that are writing to me about something regarding this blog, are getting routed to my "trash" folder? what's ever more perplexing about this is that many of the emails that are being misrouted are emails that originate from other gmail accounts!!!
Google applications tend to be either splendiferous (Maps, Earth) or execrable (Groups); hardly anyone seems to report any middle ground.
Killer heels, indeed
A current exhibition at Paris' Galerie du passage is called "Fetish", involving the photography of David Lynch and the shoe designs of Christian Louboutin.
Of all the footwear on display, the weirdest, at least in terms of lack of functionality, is this pair of heels that you literally cannot walk in: says Louboutin, "They're only made for lying on your back." Well, um, okay. If you say so. Evidently this is beyond my Kink Comprehension Level. Then again, I grew up with Catholic schoolgirls in penny loafers.
(Via Catwalk Queen.)
You never want to hear this
Trini: Is that the sensor?
Technician: Well, that's half of it.
I realize that some of you may have more important matters to deal with, but the 2007 Okie Blogger Roundup is this Saturday in Tulsa, and this is your one chance this year to see me lose at the Okie Blog Awards. (I realize that there is a statistically-significant possibility that I actually might not lose, but let's think negative, okay?)
4 October 2007
Look what we did
News Item: The American Family Association is claiming credit for declining sales at Ford Motor Company. The Tupelo, Mississippi-based group, headed by Donald Wildmon, has called several times for a boycott of Ford products, most recently in March 2006.
Top Ten other AFA accomplishments to be highlighted in upcoming press releases:
From Henry IV, Part I, Act Three:
Glendower: "I can call spirits from the vasty deep."
Hotspur: "Why so can I, or so can any man; but will they come when you do call them?"
The hyperexpensive (one million euros and then some) Bugatti Veyron 16.4, once you set it for top-speed mode (which you do before setting out on a speed run), can do, and has done, 253 miles per hour.
The Carnival of the Vanities is slower one per week these days but there have been 253 of them so far. Next year should mark #300 which is also the total planned production run for the Veyron.
Putting the No in Nokia
Total number of minutes used on my brand-new cell phone, for which I just got a Bluetooth headset yesterday: zilch.
At first, I was going to attribute this to an approach/avoidance complex, but then I realized that the truth of the matter was more like this:
I think that the telephone is the invention of Stalin and the Devil. Therefore using the phone requires deep cleansing breaths, acupuncture and a little hypnosis so that I can actually pick up the receiver. Prior to most any phone call, I write down notes on a 3x5 index card to lessen the chance of an untimely heart attack due to being unprepared for a difficult question. The ones that usually catch me off guard are the toughies, like "Is this Heather?" or "How are you?" I figure that with it being 2007 and all and with the wifi and the ability to listen to music on your telephone while wikipedia-ing 'Squeaky Fromme' means that one should be able to simply email a question. The phone doesn't need to be used in every situation, in fact, I'm pretty sure that its use can be limited to dialing 911, ordering Chinese food, and possibly can be fashioned into some sort of weapon.
I admit that I would be caught off guard if someone were to call me and ask "Is this Heather?"
Surly bonds slipped for fifty years
It's the fiftieth anniversary of Sputnik, the beginning of the Space Age as we know it. Alan Boyle's Cosmic Log has some reading material for you (hat tip: Rand Simberg), and Middledawn has some visuals appropriate to the day.
(On a possibly-related subject: What do we have to do to get In the Shadow of the Moon booked here? Do we not have enough screens for Good Luck Chuck, or what?)
Title, of course, poached from John Magee.
They, by which I mean "Gerald Ford," used to say that about Ronald Reagan back in the day, but I think this more truly represents the spirit of the color, especially since it's October and all. And I'm hoping that, given this much of an unruly mop at a mere six months, this child will end up closer to his grandma's side of the family, hair-wise, than to mine, and that he'll retain it for longer than the twenty-four years I did before things began to thin out. (Then again, I got married at twenty-four. Coincidence? I'm starting to wonder.) Full 640 x 480 dimensions here.
5 October 2007
Geez, it's warm in here
Note to self: Do not buy a programmable thermostat that has the programs already set up and running in firmware. (And if they're all like that, simplify this to "Don't buy one.")
Quote of the week
The doomsayers of my younger days turned out to be, not only feckless and insufferable, but also wrong, a situation Lileks remembers:
Having lived through the Malaise of the Seventies, when we were all resigned to a life in earth-sheltered houses, wearing sweaters made out of recycled tires, I've had it with general gloom. Half the population is always gloomy about the nation and the future sometimes because they're not getting their way, or sometimes because they're just inclined to be the local Eeyore. The good news: youth are more optimistic. The bad news: we'll grind that out of them soon enough.
Or maybe not. I'd guess that the optimistic portion of the youth don't watch much TV news. You'd be surprised how your outlook improves when you're not chewing on the pre-selected Wad of Concern doled out daily by the network news organizations.
Not that they're concerned, particularly; they're just sticking to the script.
And even more on vehicle longevity
Jalopnik has been asking its readers, "What's the oldest car you've ever owned?" This is not exactly the same as "What is the earliest model year of any car you've ever owned?", though:
Let me explain the rules for this one. If in 1965 you sold your 1964 Beetle (presumably to buy that new fangled Mustang) you only owned the VW for one year. However, if you currently own a 1964 Bug, then you own a
(Strike in original due to failure in basic arithmetic.)
I come in at 20: 1975 Toyota Celica, retained through most of 1995. There have been a couple others in the low teens. Gwendolyn, be it noted, is a mere child of seven. My daughter rates a 16 at the moment ('91 Oldsmobile Bravada). I don't remember what year my brother's Cadillac is, but I'm guessing it's somewhere around twenty years old.
This meter runs funny
Patrick Ruffini has figured out that a limitation of SiteMeter has "inflated" the daily counts at DailyKos, which obviously isn't Kos' fault and doesn't affect his King of the Hill status though, as Ruffini says, the hill isn't quite as large as it seems. (Meryl Yourish, who took issue with Ruffini's methodology early on, has since come around to partial agreement.)
What tipped Ruffini off:
First of all, I looked at the Detail view showing the last 100 visitors. Overwhelmingly it showed visitors hitting the site only once, with a visit time of zero (you need to hit a second page for it to register any time spent). Contrasted with my traffic, with an average visit length of three minutes, this seemed highly improbable.
Then it hit me: SiteMeter only accounts for the last 100 visitors individually. On a site like Daily Kos, the 100th most recent visitor could have been 15 seconds ago. If you are the 101st most recent visitor and you click on a new page, you are counted as a new unique visitor in SiteMeter's all important count. On a normal site, this wouldn't matter, since it's highly unlikely you'll stick around long enough to have 100 others show up after you. On a site with hundreds of thousands of page views a day, it's extremely likely you will.
Yourish pointed out that SiteMeter doesn't actually count uniques, only page views. Ruffini looked at the page view per visitor ratio, and noted:
We now know that the only thing we can trust about the SiteMeter numbers are the page views. And from that we can arrive at a more realistic number of daily unique visitors for Daily Kos and other leading blogs.
How so? The best guide we probably have are other netroots blogs like MyDD and OpenLeft built on open community platforms. They have low enough traffic that SiteMeter's inflationary effect is minimal at best. Using Scoop (what Kos uses) and SoapBlox respectively, both have a ratio of about 1.9 page views for every visit (itself a less stringent measure than "unique visitor"). On Red State, where there is likely a little bit of this effect, it's about 1.8 to 1. On a Wordpress-style blog without diaries, the ratio averages 1.5 page views per visit.
I average a very consistent 1.4 page views per visit; this number has not varied up or down more than 0.2 in this century. (I first installed SiteMeter in 1999.) Whether this means I should take my numbers more seriously than I should some others, I don't know for sure; there's one additional variable in the mix, and that's that I'm a paid SiteMeter customer, which may or may not get me slightly greater accuracy.
A more serious deficiency, and one which I don't think can be easily addressed, is the difficulty of determining overall readership when so much of it comes from syndication feeds. During the first three days of this month, SiteMeter reported 2,040 visitors and 2,684 page views; however, according to the server log, there were 2,474 requests for the RSS and/or Atom feed. (These periods do not exactly coincide, due to time-zone differences, but are both 72 hours long.) This does not include the 1,137 requests for index.rdf, which covers RSS 0.91/1.0; in other words, while I'm getting six hundred-odd people every day to load enough of a page to trip the meter, I'm getting twice that many who don't.
I'd better stop here before it looks like I'm actually concerned about counting heads.
So much for a placid weekend
We got us a Woot-Off. (Lord have mercy on my MasterCard.)
Update, 7 pm: Well, that didn't last long. (I spent a total of $13. Fortunately, I missed the 37-inch Vizio LCD TV for $519.99.)
6 October 2007
The new Northwest Library
Our big worry down here right now is finding places for the two new branch libraries. (We have the funding: the bond issue for them, and for upgrades at three existing branches, passed in 2000.) Right now, residents of far northwest Oklahoma City have to go at least as far as The Village (Pennsylvania north of Britton Road) or Warr Acres (63rd and MacArthur) branches, or to Edmond, and things aren't much better in the southwest quadrant.
The situation out northwest is now being addressed. City Council this coming week is expected to sign off on the purchase of a four-acre tract at NW 122nd and Glenhurst, east of MacArthur, for $898,730.
The City and the Metro Library System will hold a community meeting on the 16th at Crossings Community Church, 14600 North Portland, from 7 to 9 pm. On the agenda:
Attendees at the meeting will get to hear about the library system's plans for the library and the approximate location. They will also get to participate in "vision sharing," which will allow the public to tell library officials what they would like the library to look like both the exterior and on the inside.
"This is also the time," said MLS Executive Director Donna Morris, "for residents to share their thoughts about services they would like the library to offer."
A roof that doesn't leak would be nice, I think.
This wouldn't fly in Maine either
I've had heated seats for just over a year, and the novelty has yet to wear off. But mere heat isn't a big deal these days: today's high-luxe seats are heated and cooled, a definite boon if you live in some place like Texas.
On the other hand, if you do live in some place like Texas, you presumably know better than to pull a stunt like this:
Executives of a car dealership in [Georgetown,] Texas ... issued an apology and fired a sales manager over the distribution of an e-mail advertisement sent to 1,200 customers that included a derogatory term for Hispanics.
The Mac Haik Ford Lincoln Mercury dealership ad was headlined "Tired of the Wet Backs?" It then listed promotions for vehicles with air-conditioned seats.
Don't get me wrong: I pride myself on my cultural insensitivity. (I keep my car spic and span, so to speak.) But if you're in business, it's seldom, if ever, a good idea to piss off a substantial portion of your customers especially if your joke isn't all that funny. And this one wasn't.
(Via The Truth About Cars.)
These are the songs from the MP3 shuffle meme ten days or so ago. Most of them were guessed, which I find either gratifying (I did this well) or disturbing (my tastes are too predictable).
Thanks to all who played and to those who spread it around to their own sites and thanks to Michele, from whom I swiped it.
Unofficial "awards" thread
I'll be heading up to Tulsa shortly for the Okie Blogger Round-up, at which awards will be presented. I hope to have a report from the scene shortly after [fill in name of blog operated by someone other than myself] is named Best Overall Blog. You can discuss these if you like; for that matter, you can discuss Kevin Aylward's 2007 Weblog Awards, with a spiffy, one might even say Gleesonesque, new design.
(It should be noted that there are those who question the whole idea of blog awards; I usually bring this up only in odd-numbered years, since for some inscrutable reason my name gets mentioned during those years.)
At any rate, going to Tulsa is always something of a blast, and I'll be back home tonight sometime.
With a capital T
And that stands for Tulsa, and you can decide for yourself what it rhymes with. My congratulations to the winners of the Okie Blog Awards, who this year, as I told you earlier, did not include me. (It's kind of like the Emmys: eventually you're tired of seeing the same old names.) I figure the old peer group did us proud this year. (Oh, yes, they did mention the second-place finishers in each category, which leaves me with a distinction so far unique: two seconds out of a possible two. "Twice the Number Two for the coming year," I quipped.)
Anyway, if you haven't seen the Cherry Street district in Tulsa, and I hadn't in a while, it's worth the trip: just funky enough to be interesting, not so much as to make you wonder if you left your hipster credentials in your other jeans. Hideaway Pizza, of course, is legendary. (Their wireless connection, alas, is not so wonderful if you're sitting under the big-screen TV.)
And a personal thanks to Don Danz, who took the official attendance, and who was kind enough to spring for a three-topping small for yours truly.
7 October 2007
Things I learned today (14)
Not including the fact that a really strong wind can blow a leaf right in front of the safety gizmo that keeps your garage door from closing if it thinks there's potential for crushing.
Welcome to Sunday.
The making of a giant leap
Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, on the strength of having gone to another world, got to tour this one extensively, and wherever they went, people exclaimed, not "You did it!", but "We did it!" Three guys, basically standing in for the whole world.
That remembrance by Collins, I think, is one of the most haunting aspects of David Sington's glorious documentary In the Shadow of the Moon, in which ten of the surviving Apollo astronauts tell, in their own words accompanied by newly-restored archival footage, the stories we thought we'd heard before.
Oh, we know the outline: JFK, anxious to beat the Russkies, vows to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, and Neil Armstrong takes that first small step in the summer of '69. But the process of getting from the Point A of a Presidential speech to the Point B of Tranquility Base created some seriously scary moments, the sort that prove the wisdom of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who once observed that the hero is no braver than the rest of us but he's braver five minutes longer. We see this, for instance, when Apollo 11's computer system gives out with the pre-Microsoft equivalent of the Blue Screen of Death literally right before the actual lunar landing. Rebooting, needless to say, is out of the question. Lesser folks those of us lacking the Right Stuff, as it were might have panicked. Turns out that it's a pipe issue: too much data for too little processor. But Armstrong, seasoned pilot that he is, is prepared to fly the lander by the seat of his pants if he has to, and computer be damned. (The damned computer eventually catches up with the datastream.)
You don't hear from Armstrong in person in this film: he's always maintained that his first-man-on-the-moon status was purely a matter of chance, that any of the other members of the Apollo team could have done it just as well. You keep wondering when they're going to bring him on camera, but they never do. Roger Ebert told this story: "Gene Siskel sat next to him on an airplane once, and thought to himself, 'Here is a man who is very weary of being asked what it was like to walk on the moon.' So they talked about other things." I am delighted to note that Buzz Aldrin, the number-two man on the moon, has his own number-one distinction, which I won't spoil for you here.
The isolation of space is almost a character in its own right, and Collins, left in orbit while Aldrin and Armstrong explored the lunar surface, acknowledges it as a continuing presence, but one that never got to him. It's not lonely, exactly even in space, Houston's still in your ear, and besides, you've got things to do but it does seem to have a humbling effect.
What the Apollo astronauts had in common was simply this: they had always wanted to fly, and they got to fly to a destination no one else had ever seen. (And, it must be noted, that no one has seen since.) They're in their seventies now, but you can still see their faces light up as they tell their stories. More than anything else I saw during the 100 minutes of In the Shadow of the Moon, that illumination brings an enlightenment of its own: how it is that men (and women) have always looked up to, looked up through, the sky.
Then as now, the heavens beckon. It's time, once again, we answered.
Into the Circle
What do we have to do to get In the Shadow of the Moon booked here? Do we not have enough screens for Good Luck Chuck, or what?
And indeed there was no exhibition scheduled anywhere in metro Oklahoma City, a situation not entirely unfamiliar to those of us at this end of the Turner. So inasmuch as I had already driven to Tulsa, and having satisfied myself that yesterday's awards had fallen favorably, I took the advice of a reader and headed for the Circle Cinema, the one theater in the state which did book the film.
The Circle, north of 1st on Lewis, was built in the 1920s as part of Tulsa's first suburban shopping center, Whittier Square. It's a small place, the antithesis of the contemporary multiplex, though eventually it will have three screens. The Circle is owned by a nonprofit foundation which has several community-outreach programs in addition to the regularly-scheduled screenings. The closest equivalent in Oklahoma City might be the film program at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, which works similar cinematic turf, but which operates only four days a week. And the Circle, at least, has popcorn.
Apparently the Circle is Tulsa's last remaining pre-1960 moviehouse. (We have a few in OKC, though they're not being used for movies: the Plaza is now part of the Lyric Theatre complex, and the Tower is being converted to offices, retail, and maybe a music venue. The Centre, of course, was redeveloped as the Museum of Art.) It's gratifying to see it serving its original purpose, to a small but no doubt intensely-loyal audience; we could definitely use something like this down around my neck of the woods. And at least some Tulsans assumed that we already did: upon leaving last night, I made some noise about the long drive back to Oklahoma City, and people were shocked that In the Shadow of the Moon, which was drawing fairly well they sold probably 60 of the 105 seats for the 7-pm showing, and people were arriving for the show at nine wasn't going to be seen at all in the capital. "They needed the screens for Good Luck Chuck," I grumbled, getting double duty out of a single snark.
How I killed a USB drive
Actually, I don't know how I killed it, but it's definitely dead. (This is not one of those no-moving-parts "drives" that uses flash memory; this is a real spinning drive, albeit teensy.) [Warning: linked site may emit horrid noises.]
Maybe I just had too much activity going at once. I was processing a stack of forty, fifty MP3 files, which I was going to copy to another machine not on my network, and both the application and the Explorer window crapped out on me, more or less simultaneously. The application is intact, but the drive is now considered to be diskless: it's recognized as a drive, but any attempt to use a disk utility is met with "No disk in drive J:" and/or "Please insert disk into drive J:", neither of which is exactly practicable.
I dashed off a tech-support request, which I expect will be answered, if it's answered at all, with "Bury it, deep."
The path of Righteousness
The AP has a nice catch-up story about Bill Medley, the taller half of the Righteous Brothers, who at sixty-seven is still out there singing their hits. This bit caught me by surprise, though:
Their signature song, "You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling," is listed by BMI as the most played in the history of American radio.
Medley still performs it every night, along with their other monster hit, "Unchained Melody."
"I have to do 'em," he says, laughing. "Or I wouldn't make it out of town alive."
No doubt. What's weird, of course, is that you can't hear Medley sing at all on the record of "Unchained Melody," issued as Philles 129 (and a B-side at that, the A-side being "Hung On You"); it's pretty much all Bobby Hatfield, who died in 2003. Stories persist that Medley produced "Unchained Melody," since it was a B-side and therefore beneath Phil Spector's dignity; I wish they'd asked Medley about that.
8 October 2007
Strange search-engine queries (88)
Well, let's see what the Googlers and the Askers and all those other Yahoos out there have wrought this week:
how to kill an hour: Go back through about 4000 referrer-log entries and hope you find something funny.
High Heel Shoes: Does it affect female personality? I think you can safely assume that it does once she starts saying something to the effect that "These effing shoes are killing me."
"maureen dowd" lesbian: You mean men really aren't necessary?
Is Today Dinamic Range Overloading Older Audio Equipment: What dynamic range? Everything these days is compressed to within an inch of its life.
intj rationalization people hate you: Maybe, but if you're really an INTJ you don't give a damn.
should you be naked when you masturbate: Maybe, but if you're really an INTJ you don't give a damn.
Carnation Instant Bitch: Breakfast of champions.
how i find sluts in karachi pakistan: Pretty much the same way you'd find sluts anywhere else, I imagine.
autozone diagnostic codes believable: The codes, certainly. The interpretation, not so certainly.
What happened to PFS First Choice software: Eventually, it was no longer the first choice.
philosophers who advocate non-competitiveness in education & sport: The technical term is "losers."
kwyjibo online dating: You mean someone might actually want a big, dumb, balding North American ape with no chin and a short temper?
how does home depot find shoplifters: Usually surly and uncooperative.
is it ok to use an expired enema kit: It might be, but keep in mind that this answer is entirely suppository.
Because there's so much at stake
And no, it doesn't suck.
Those crapulous Sixties
Using that good old 20/20 hindsight, I've come around to the idea that their effect was more baleful than beneficial, and Lileks zooms in on one particularly noxious manifestation thereof:
This is what annoys me to no end about the 60s, to cram it all into a tidy convenient decade; the overculture and the underculture ganged up on the great Middle, for different reasons but with equal gusto. The Middle was Crass, in the eyes of the overculture; Phony, in the eyes of the underculture. Now here we are a half-century later, and people will build websites detailing the few remaining examples of postwar roadside architecture, documenting the survivors, eulogizing their demise.
I spent enough time on Route 66 this weekend to appreciate this phenomenon. But here's the punchline:
No one organizes a petition to save a building the underculture built, because they didn't build anything.
And they're certainly not going to start now, unless you count the palatial Washington home of the Department of Health Enforcement and Energy Rationing. Or was that the other way around?
Whatever the traffic will bear
I'm contemplating offering £4.50 a tad over nine bucks to download Radiohead's new album In Rainbows, and after all, the price is up to me.
Rationale: I'm not exactly a major fan, but I think I want to show support for this decidedly-unusual marketing technique.
What would you do?
Careful with that axe, Nancy
I wish I could tell you that a fresh, new ombudsman waits in the wings, eager to advocate for you in the newsroom and fill this column space each Sunday with constructive criticism or explanations of the editors' decisions. That healthy openness has been this newspaper's hallmark of ethical self-policing for more than 35 years.
But that is not what is happening. The position as it has been known all those years is ending, a victim of staff downsizing. In announcing her decision, Editor Nancy Barnes used more delicate language, saying it was being left "open" and holding out the prospect that a part-time version might be considered in the future.
In a final act as your reader's representative, I feel compelled to say this is a lousy decision that does not serve readers or the quality of journalism in this newspaper. Even if a part-time version of this very full-time job is attempted, it would have to leave out some core functions that defined this job as an ombudsman rather than something else.
Shorter Star Tribune: Yakety yak, don't talk back.
I found this, of all places, at Pop Culture Junk Mail, where Gael notes:
Oh, come on! This is 10 times as necessary a role as another Burnsville reporter, especially in this era where our nation is so angrily split that half the Strib readers believe the paper is in thrall to the Democrats, and the other half believe the Republicans and big advertisers control the copy. Bad decision.
I don't expect him to issue a statement, but I'd love to hear Lileks' take on this. (Almost certainly he doesn't want the job.)
And the mere fact that I'm mentioning this here reflects the new reality of these here Intertubular things: were it not for the Net, the Strib would be just a little provincial paper with an overlay of Minnesota Nice and no one this side of Jim Romenesko would give a flying fish about their ombudsman being sacked.
9 October 2007
The day of reckoning is at hand
About thirty counties will have some sort of election today, and the one getting the most attention is Tulsa's so-called River Tax, which won't actually tax the river. I think. With all the misinformation floating around, it's hard to be sure.
Speaking of floating, the Oklahoma City Public Schools hope to float a bond issue of just under a quarter of a billion dollars, over and beyond the MAPS for Kids collections. It's been some time since anything of this sort hit the ballot, and I'm inclined to vote for it, because the district has worked steadily to improve itself in the last decade or so, and because the OCMAPS Trust, which oversees MAPS for Kids, will also oversee the bond projects. The lack of pie-in-the-sky promises in the pitch is also encouraging: this is a realistic package to meet ongoing capital needs for the district. Even the Oklahoman, not exactly the district's best friend forever, is endorsing the bond issue.
They don't give up
These examples of Rosa recalcitransia are even now blooming in my flower box, one-quarter of the way through October fercrissake, and less than two weeks after one of the neighborhood kids got the best of the bunch. There has been rain, though not a lot, and I haven't watered them otherwise, feeling that geez, guys, it's time to hibernate, isn't it? And it's just this one bush: the others, while they continue to stretch their stems, aren't putting forth any new buds. (Click here or on the photo to embiggen.) This not-having-a-girlfriend business may backfire on me yet.
Teacher, teacher, I declare
The first time I see a Che t-shirt at this school, I will be hauling the wearer to the office. I'm sick to death of murderer-worship. It would be no different than if someone wore a Bundy or Gacy shirt.
Suggestion: 500-word essay on "Why it is important to honor the memory of a disreputable thug."
An American evolution
When I was knee-high to a Renault Dauphine, there was a lot of talk in automotive advertising about the "low-priced three." Perennial number three Plymouth was taken out behind the barn and shot at the turn of the century, and judging from the Malibu ad I saw in the November Automobile, Chevrolet doesn't want to be a member of this club any more:
Chevy is now the world's fastest-growing nameplate, with a third of its sales outside the United States. At home, Chevy sells more cars and trucks costing over $35,000 than anybody.
Inasmuch as I can't imagine any way to worry the sticker on an Impala all the way up to $35k, I have to assume that this means a whole bunch of Silverados and Suburbans, interrupted by the occasional Corvette. And thirty-five K is a serious price point: this is where Infiniti starts, where BMW's 1-series is expected to land, where Accord and Camry so far fear to tread. Not that GM expects to get this kind of money for a mid-sized sedan that isn't a Cadillac, of course:
The new Malibu demonstrates similar creativity and passion. Only Chevrolet would think of selling a $35,000 car for significantly less.
Cross-shop the Malibu and the Avalon? What color is the sky in this brave new world of Chevrolet?
Still, give the bow-tie boys credit for sheer, unadulterated guts: this is right up there with Lee Iacocca's half-sneered "If you can find a better car, buy it." The General, at least judging by its advertising, is getting downright ebullient. For instance: complaints about crummy-looking interiors have bedeviled Detroit for ages, so GM these days is showing actual interiors. In detail, yet. "Look upon our dashboards, ye Mighty, and despair!" If you go for the full-Lutz er, full LTZ you're looking at twenty-seven or so.
And from this vantage point, the new 'Bu has several things to recommend it: it's not as soporific as the Camry, not as facially challenged as the Fusion, not as wonky as the Sebring/Avenger twins. This suggests a specific niche: the Anti-Accord. With Honda emphasizing Blackberry-style utility this year, Chevy might want to twist the fun controls up to ten. Maybe eleven.
There appears to be turnout
At a quarter to six, my precinct had recorded 279 voters for the OCPS school-bond issue, which, owing to the way the laws are written, wound up as four separate issues on the ballot. This is about half again what I'd expected, although we're still a long way from long lines at the polls. Traffic was hopelessly snarled, though this was due more to the reconstruction of 50th Street than to any likely electoral urgency.
Update, 9:20 pm: All four measures passed, by considerable margins:
And really, turnout of a shade over 14,000 isn't too shabby in a district with fewer than 40,000 students. (More detail on the individual propositions, should you so desire.)
New millages are due out this month, but the number for OCPS is not expected to vary much from the current 57.07. (Property taxes in Oklahoma County include separate millages for the county itself, for individual municipalities, for the pertinent school district, and the vocational school and/or junior-college district.)
10 October 2007
A genuine Donnapalooza
Last night The Donnas played at World Cafe Live. I almost called up Rob to see if he wanted to meet me there but I was dressed in my business best and had nothing else to wear. The Donnas would definitely have made fun of me upon my entrance to the concert hall, just as they poke fun at my name every day of their existence. I really don't understand why they chose Donna and not Angie or Sheila or Tanya? Certainly there are worse names out there.
Top Ten names rejected by the band before settling on "The Donnas":
Oh, and Sheila called to thank me for not mentioning her.
Proponents of the new Tulsa river tax, which was rejected yesterday 52 percent to 48, might learn something from Oklahoma City's school bond issues, which passed with percentages in the 70s: if you're going to pitch something as For The Children, you might want to assure that there's some actual benefit to children other than vague pieties about "making the world a better place" and other things generally beyond the scope of county government.
I decided to vote NO for the older generation. Although I don't necessarily act it at times, I'm a bona fide member of the older Tulsan voter brigade. The group that has to pay the sales taxes for the groceries you kiddo's eat and the property taxes that keep a roof over your head.
I still fail to understand why this was considered a county project when only a single municipality would benefit. (There was some loose talk about a riverfront for Broken Arrow, despite the fact that nothing in the measure actually said such a thing.) Perhaps Tulsa city government should have undertaken the project on their own but then that would have required them to pay for it on their own, rather than hit up the suburbs for part of the bill. (Reminder: Oklahoma City's original MAPS package was financed by a city, not a county, sales tax. Further reminder: Oklahoma County's sales-tax rate is 0. Zero. Bupkis.)
As for The Children, they'll get over it.
Paul can has epifunny?
Note: In 6, "kitah" is evidently a variant spelling of "kitteh."
Think outside the bunk
Another day, another complaint from a plundered culture:
It sounds like a fast-food grudge match: Taco Bell is taking on the homeland of its namesake by reopening for the first time in 15 years in Mexico.
Defenders of Mexican culture see the chain's re-entry as a crowning insult to a society already overrun by U.S. chains from Starbucks and Subway to KFC.
"It's like bringing ice to the Arctic," complained pop culture historian Carlos Monsivais.
Come on, Sr. Monsivais. Polar bears like ice. It keeps their Coca-Cola cool.
Besides, anyone who's ever actually eaten there knows that Taco Bell these days is about as Mexican as lutefisk. (Not to mention Taco Ockerse, a Dutchman born in Indonesia who works in Germany.) But I'll concede the defenders' point about how Mexicans despise the trappings of American culture, since obviously no Mexicans ever come here.
(Via The Local Malcontent.)
The newest wrinkle
It's been literally years since I saw an Oklahoma Gazette that didn't have at least one advertisement for cosmetic surgery: they don't outnumber the restaurant ads yet but I figure it's just a matter of time.
What I hadn't seen before, though, was actual pricing in those ads. One surgeon is offering something called "Augtoberfest," and a special: get your consultation by the end of the month and have the procedure before the first of December, and your new boobage is only $3700 (I assume per pair).
Turn the page, and there's a whole list of "introductory prices" by another clinic. Rack jobbers they're not: they specialize in skin care, and they have package deals for procedures that require repeat performances say, laser hair removal, which is $400 a treatment or six for $2200 if you're having it done to your legs, and rather a lot less if you're tending to smaller areas.
I probably didn't need to see this at dinnertime, but given the asymmetrical nature of medical information, the fact that they're actually quoting prices is surely a Good Thing for the comparison shopper, and who among us can afford not to be?
11 October 2007
It's only natural
The gas bill has come in, and it's slightly less than half the size of the September bill; twiddling the figures, I've guesstimated that 100 cubic feet of natural gas escaped from my back yard every 24 hours for most of the summer. The greenhouse effect is probably minimal, but come first snow I'm probably going to complain that it wasn't minimal enough.
And I have to figure that since methane is lighter than air, it rose rather quickly; certainly it didn't hang around long enough to kill my lawn.
While it's still legal: the Food Pentagram.
Created by, and swiped from, Michele.
Much more in hardcover
Over at Amazon, you can apparently buy the entire Penguin Classics library for $7,989.50, which, it turns out, is a savings of exactly $5,326.34 (40%).
Imagine that for a moment, if you will: this is a collection of exactly 1,082 books that let's be generous and say you actually WILL read one of them a week for 1,082 weeks would take you damn near 21 years to read.
At the time I checked the link, there were only two sets left, and I'm assuming Brian J. Noggle will snag one of them. And yes, shipping is free.
The official state sports car
Kentucky State Representative C. B. Embry (R-Morgantown) has proposed naming the Chevrolet Corvette the Official Sports Car of the Bluegrass State.
The premise seems at least reasonable, since the Corvette is built in semi-picturesque Bowling Green, Kentucky, and while other vehicles are built in the state, no one will ever accuse, say, the Toyota Camry, built in Georgetown, of being sporty.
Oklahoma doesn't have an official sports car, and with the state's one auto assembly plant mothballed and plans to build MGs in Ardmore on hold, we may not get one in which case, please allow me to nominate the true sporting vehicle of Soonerland: a Ford F-150 pickup with worn shocks.
Dead heat on the Diversity Train
The school where Ms. Cornelius teaches has been exhorted to improve the achievement of minority students, and this was the beginning of the exhortation:
First we listened to outside people read us really bad poetry. We listened to painfully clichéd free verse with no internal meter, imagery, or intellectual or emotional heft beyond bathos (which can be fun to those who are looking for it) about sad-eyed puppies left out in thunderstorms and birdies with broken wings and acrostics spelling out "I CAN" down the left-hand margin. And then there's that R. Kelly song don't make me relive that. Those of us with a brain were then treated to these presenters then providing literary analysis of this treacle, too, since it was obviously so very deep that we just didn't get it on our own.
R. Kelly needs to be understood by educators the way Jeffrey Dahmer needs to be understood by pastry chefs.
But the worst was yet to come:
Now, we are told that we should stop trying to impose "white" middle class values upon our students that's the problem, yeah.
Ah, now we see the racism inherent in the system, and as usual, it's on the part of the haranguers, not the haranguees. Minority students should never, ever be asked to sacrifice their cultural imperatives for the sake of such bourgeois notions as "getting good grades" or "learning to think for oneself"; that's just so injurious to their self-esteem.
You want to improve the achievement of minority students? Get them the hell away from people who think understanding R. Kelly is somehow important.
12 October 2007
Quote of the week
Doc Searls riffs on the same Vanity Fair piece by Michael Wolff I mentioned last month, the one about the imminent Death of News. But Searls, more thoughtful than I, comes up with a worthy metaphor:
Everything we invent is just a prototype for the next mistake. And that's okay. The best we can do is leave the world a little better than we found it. All of us found it full of information only other people know. My youngest kid, at age two or less, grabbed me by the finger one day and pulled me outside. "Papa," he said, "show me something". Translated to the adult: "I've been here about six hundred days or so. You've been here forever. You know what all this stuff is. I don't. Fill me in."
News is how we fill each other in. The need for that will never go away.
I'm not canceling my subscription just yet.
Life after Red Rock
The idea here was simple enough: the state's three major electric providers would pool their resources and build a $1.75-billion plant near Red Rock, a plant big enough to produce 950 megawatts of power, running off comparatively-cheap coal. The plan drew fire almost immediately, not only from coal opponents, but from the likes of Aubrey McClendon at Chesapeake, who complained that it's an Oklahoma plant and ought to be using Oklahoma's gas supplies. (No points for guessing where Chesapeake makes its money.) The Corporation Commission took a dim view of the plant from day one, and yesterday officially denied preapproval, meaning the utilities could not begin recovering costs before the plant was actually built.
According to Assistant AG Bill Humes, the utilities really didn't make their case:
They said the Red Rock plant was the least expensive alternative, but they could never conclusively prove that. There was a great deal of testimony to the contrary. The sad fact is they never presented to the commission the cost of a second alternative.
Or, for that matter, a first alternative.
The vote was 2-1, with Bob Anthony declining to sign the denial but issuing a separate opinion only partly supporting the Red Rock plant. Anthony noted that OG&E would need 300 megawatts of new capacity in the next five years, which is going to have to come from somewhere: the wind farm is up to speed but produces a maximum of 170 MW. PSO, in the same period, will have to come up with 450 MW.
Me, I can't help but wonder if maybe they underestimated the cost of cleaning up after coal: you can't just point the smokestacks upward and hope nothing happens.
I mowed the back yard last night; I hope this is the last time I have to do it this year, inasmuch as it's October and all.
The County Assessor's Web site lists nine comps for my house, based on the following criteria:
Sales are pulled over a 3 year period from current date: Compared by Built As and sorted by Sale Date, +/- 5 years of subject year built, +/- 20% sqft of subject, and Quality Rating.
I'm surprised they came up with as many as nine. All these are within two or three blocks, built in '47 or '48 as "Ranch 1 Story," and run 950 to 1220 square feet. The price range, however, is considerable: at the low end, $60.84 per square foot (readers in New York may pause here to reposition their jaws), rising to $85.55 at the top. My place comes in at $83.85, which would be good for second place had the last sale been within three years.
Incidentally, the new property-tax rates are due out Real Soon Now. If they don't go up, I'm facing a bill of $872 or so. If they go up to the level that prevailed in 2002, the highest on record in this particular district yes, Virginia, the tax rates do occasionally trend downward I'm looking at $900. Of course, Escrow T. Robot will take care of the check-writing detail and tweak the monthly payment as needed next spring.
I still have roses. I've decided to leave them there and see how long it takes for them to drop off.
Now that's an upgrade
I asked Trini about Lenovo desktops we all know about their ThinkPads and she pointed me to this product listing. The lowest of the low is a mere $399 and runs off an Intel Celeron processor; the OS is Windows Vista Home Basic.
For an extra $50, they'll give you, instead of the Celeron, a real Pentium Dual-Core. And you get Windows XP Professional, rather than any flavor of Vista.
"Of course. It's a better operating system," said Trini.
She'd probably say it to Steve Ballmer, too.
The number 254 looms large in the memory of anyone who hacked (in the canonical sense) the Commodore 64: it represents the number of bytes in a 1541-formatted floppy-disk sector. Why 254? Well, the sectors did contain two additional bytes, but they pointed to the location of the next sector used by that particular file, the sort of semi-elegance you might be able to appreciate if you've ever hosed up a FAT16 system, which I have. Steve Punter's file-transfer protocol, designed specifically for the 64 and its kin, sent blocks of 254 bytes.
This week, Andrew Ian Dodge describes the Carnival of the Vanities, the 254th edition, as "tardy", and blames it on Maine, where things just sort of saunter by. Kind of like a C-64 download at 300 baud, in fact.
If you can't wait that long, here's a blog called Nad Shot.
13 October 2007