1 November 2007
Updated ghost/goblin count

As determined at the front door:

    2000:  0
    2001:  0
    2002:  0
    2003:  0
    2004:  0
    2005:  5
    2006:  0
    2007:  9

Let it be noted that I spent twenty minutes trying to get the porch light to stay on long enough to accommodate those nine little monsters. (It has one of those light-sensitive gizmos on it which lately hasn't been sensitive to anything at all.) Eventually it paid off; in fact, I had to kill the switch to shut it down.

I'm starting to see more kids in the neighborhood generally, which I hope is the beginning of a trend. I think we have something to offer in this corner of town: relatively-affordable housing stock in better-than-average shape for its age (sixty years), proximity to shopping, and one of the better city schools within walking distance.

Bankers' hours

In the best of all possible worlds, they'd be 24/7/365. We're not there yet by any means, but this is kind of heartening in a perverse sort of way.

Earlier this week I dropped a check payable to me in the night depository at Monolithic Bank and Trust Company (Member FDIC). Historically, I knew to expect a certain amount of hold time, and that the bank would send me a letter telling me exactly when that hold time would expire.

Which, it turns out, is the third of November. A Saturday.

They're still not accustomed to this sort of thing — if I pay most bills using their online facility on Saturday night, it will be Monday before the actual payments are posted — but this is progress, however small.

One other promising sign: If you also have one of their credit cards, you can pay the bill online up to 8 pm Eastern on the due date and it will still be on time. However, perhaps to offset this advantage, they're twiddling the due dates so they don't always fall on the same day of the month. (I've experimented with this: a bill paid at 6:55 pm Central was in fact credited the same day. Wait ten minutes, though, and you might as well wait 24 hours — or 23:50, anyway.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:53 AM to Common Cents )
So long, Vicki

There will be no 2009 Ford Crown Victoria at your local blue-oval vendor; retail sales have dwindled, and Ford will offer the car for fleet sales only after the 2008 run is complete.

Its sister under the skin, the Mercury Grand Marquis, which is produced in smaller numbers but which sells better at retail, will continue, at least for a while, along with the tarted-up Lincoln Town Car: all three vehicles are assembled at Ford's St. Thomas, Ontario plant, which is expected to remain open at least through 2010.

Disclosure: My ex drives a Grand Marquis, though not with the de Sade package.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:53 AM to Driver's Seat )
But mostly, they're friendly

The Casper Rockies, Rookie League affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, have decided that the merchandising take would be better with a more distinctive name, and will play next season as the Casper Ghosts.

Team owner Kevin Haughian says the change will help create an identity for the team beyond just being a Colorado farm club:

The Casper Rockies brand never really took off, unfortunately. If folks wanted to buy merchandise they were going to buy Colorado merchandise, not Casper. The appeal was limited to our die-hard fans in town. We think with the new name, the new look, the new logo, that it's not only going to be popular here in Casper, but nationally and internationally.

There is precedent: the former Albuquerque Dukes, taking a lead from The Simpsons, are now the Isotopes.

I'm wondering if Wendy, the Good Little Witch, will show up as a, you should pardon the expression, batgirl.

(Via McGehee.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:53 PM to Base Paths )
Time to see someone's shorts

And this is the place to see them:

It was just a short while ago it seems that we were having a great conversation about an independent short film over a cocktail. We should do it again sometime. How about next Wednesday, November 7? We should all get together at XO Lounge on the bottom floor of the Colcord Hotel at 15 N. Robinson Ave. in Oklahoma City and watch some animated shorts.

This installment of shortsSUITES will feature talented Oklahoma natives Shawn Downey and Marty Martin as the spotlighted filmmakers. The doors will open early at 8 p.m. and the shorts will start at 8:15pm. Come on out and enjoy an early evening of short films and a mid-week cocktail.

The page at the link actually says the 14th, but the email they sent out to film fiends says the 7th, which is consistent with the usual first-Wednesday schedule. Inasmuch as actual ethanol is involved, you must be at least 21.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:38 PM to City Scene )

In 1890, John Philip Sousa composed a march for the Corcoran Cadets, based in Washington, DC. The actual Cadets unit, founded in 1883, survives today as the 257th Army Band, District of Columbia Army National Guard.

This week's Carnival of the Vanities, the 257th in the series, has been designated by keeper Andrew Ian Dodge (may he live a long and happy life) as "Impending," although it's actually already up.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:36 PM to Blogorrhea )
2 November 2007
Pennies pinched while you wait

Kathleen Wilcoxson, who represents Senate District 45, is about to be term-limited out of office — 2008 is her twelfth and last year — and three Republicans are competing for her seat. (Democrats seldom even bother to file for this seat.) Mike McCarville has the numbers on their fundraising activities, and former Oklahoma City Councilman Jerry Foshee raised the most money during the reporting period ending 30 September; he's also spent the most.

Retired Army Lt. Colonel Steve Russell reported he raised $10,204 and spent $8.50, leaving him with $10,091.50 on hand.

He spent eight and a half bucks? Granted, the election is 53 weeks away, but I'm wondering whether this guy is God's Own Skinflint or just a big fan of The Producers.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:04 AM to Soonerland )
Will Saudi Arabia ever change?

Stephen Browne of Rants and Raves talks to Dr Ali Alyami, head of the Center for Democracy & Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, a US-based institution that hopes to change the rules in Riyadh.

The Center, it appears, has its work cut out for it:

"If you ask why women cannot drive in Saudi Arabia," Alyami said, "they will tell you, 'It is our religion.' But in reality it's politics and now it's becoming a big business for younger princes. If women are allowed to drive that would eliminate importations of millions of expatriate drivers who normally pay good money to middle men, princes, to get visas to work as drivers for Saudi families. The same for alcohol, the princes make money importing all the good liquor in Saudi. If it becomes legal, they would lose monopoly over the illegal trade."

And what do the Saudi royals want?

Dr Alyami said that the only agenda item the Saudi royals [have] is to stay in power, pure and simple. To that end they want to make Arabs and Muslims in general hated throughout the world. They hope that hatred will push them together and prevent their assimilation into modern, secular, tolerant society.

The Center's agenda:

Given its trenchant influence on 1.2 billion Muslims worldwide and its position in the world’s oil market, Saudi Arabia cannot be disregarded or surrendered to an absolute monarchy that encourages the oppression of women and religious minorities, and fosters domestic extremism and international terrorism. A constitutional, democratic government combined with the rule of law, is the best hope for the long term prosperity and unity of the people of Saudi Arabia. This prospect will give Saudi citizens a say in decisions that impact their daily lives and empower them to join the international community as respected equals. A democratized Saudi Arabia will no longer be an incubator for intolerance and terrorism; instead, the result will be a responsible, accountable and productive society, ruled by laws created by its members, not by leaders who invoke fear and resentment. This outcome is in the best interests of the Saudi people, the United States and all democratic societies.

So far, our politicians seem to be more or less evenly divided between "disregard" and "surrender."

Stephen Browne said he posted the interview at Rants and Raves "because there isn't a lot of interest elsewhere." Let's see if we can't stir up a little.

Chevy digs in

Back in September I called attention to a new Chevrolet Malibu ad campaign with the pithy lead "WE'RE TIRED OF BEING A FOREIGN CAR IN OUR OWN COUNTRY." The bow-tie bunch isn't giving up, either: the newest installment says "IT'S EVERYTHING YOU NEVER THOUGHT IT WOULD BE," a shot at all those folks — a group which on occasion has included me — who wouldn't be caught dead in a domestic automobile. (The 'Bu is built at the Fairfax plant in Kansas City, Kansas.)

Motor Trend, meanwhile, has declared the Malibu "the most important new Chevy sedan in decades," though what makes it important to them might sound a mite unusual:

More important than anything is what Malibu can do for the Impala. Chevy sold 290,000 front-drive Impalas and 164,000 Malibus last year. If it can reverse those numbers, there's a better business case for a RWD Impala.

I'd like to see a rear-wheel-drive Impala myself, but I can't imagine GM wanting to cannibalize its own sales. Besides, the biggest problem with a rear-drive Impala is not the Malibu, but GM's need to crank up its Corporate Average Fuel Economy numbers, which a full-sized two-ton sedan will presumably not enhance. And the Malibu can probably sell well enough on its own, given MT's declaration that it "makes segment-leader Camry and the just-launched Accord look decidedly lumpen."

If I seem to be harping on the Malibu a lot these days, it's simply because I think we're better off with an American auto industry that actually sells cars. And GM, after years of wandering in the desert, might actually be starting to find a path that leads somewhere: the General is cutting production on the hot-selling Buick Enclave in an effort to keep demand high and incentives out of the picture, a trick the imports have long known. "Nothing destroys the value of a new product faster than overproducing," says GM car czar Bob Lutz. If the Malibu is a big hit, you can probably expect more artificial scarcity.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:01 AM to Driver's Seat )
We got your neologisms right here

Mark Peters runs a blog called Wordlustitude, which he describes thusly:

This blog (recently featured in The Telegraph) is a growing dictionary of ephemeral words — also known as nonce or stunt words. All readers are strongly encouraged to use these terms in their blogs, poems, prophesies, and recipes.

Enough to get him onto the blogroll right there. Yesterday's word:

Assitudinousness, noun. A multitude of assitude heretofore unimagined by assologists, buttheads, or civilians. Related terms: crapitudinousness, funkitudinousness, skankitudinousness.

Actual citation:

"Lucky Charms, almost uniquely among cereals, possesses an irreducible assitudinousness: it will taste like that whether you immerse it in milk, water, V8, Pennzoil or Fletcher's Castoria."

Between that and Googlage, I think I've done more than my fair share of knackering the vernacular.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:27 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Note to self: avoid paperwork

In the current radio ratings, Spanish-language station KTUZ-FM dropped from a 4.2 share to a 2.4, and management says it's because of HB 1804:

Tyler Media market manager Skip Stow blamed KTUZ's decline on Oklahoma's new immigration law.

"They're scared," Stow said, referring to some listeners in the Latino community. "They don't want to fill out anything official looking."

Interestingly, Tyler has a billboard around town (I saw it along I-35 near NE 63rd) proclaiming that the local Latino market is 300,000 strong — and "we reach them all!"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:18 PM to Overmodulation )
Quote of the week

Jesse Walker, writing for Reason's Web site, on bureaucratic attempts to stifle Halloween and such:

I can appreciate their dilemma. As long as the government's schools are monopolies capable of compelling attendance, they have to respect the many worldviews of the children that attend them. In a country as diverse as this one, it isn't always obvious where the line lies between making minorities comfortable and acting like a goddamn jackass. The typical bureaucrat prefers to err on the side of jackassery.

And almost invariably does.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:22 PM to QOTW )
3 November 2007
In the zones

Oklahoma City's voluminous zoning regulations are contained in Chapter 59 of the Municipal Code, and as the city gets bigger and new classifications are introduced, Chapter 59 becomes more cumbersome and impenetrable.

So it is with something of a smile that I report that City Council is ready to throw out the entire thing and replace it with something sort of organized. On the agenda for Tuesday's Council meeting is a complete rewrite of Chapter 59, and [following link goes to PDF file] the City Manager explains why:

It was the intent of the re-write to make the ordinance more user friendly to the public and to the different professionals who rely on these regulations to conduct their business activities. Additionally, upon adoption of the new ordinance, it will be available online and will be designed to allow a user to select a section of the code from the table of contents and be linked directly to the applicable part of the code.

The present Municipal Code lookup has acceptable search, but the sheer prolixity of the Code means you're going to get all manner of unrelated stuff you didn't want. If they're breaking out Chapter 59 separately and giving it its own interface, it's bound to be at least something of an improvement.

No property will be rezoned as a result of the new ordinance, though there's one substantive change: newly-platted property falling under the classification of Planned Unit Development will require the developers to submit more specific planning details, and the city proposes to collect a $500 fee for a PUD site review. Approximately 100 such reviews per year are anticipated.

The new ordinance, if adopted, would go into effect 27 December 2007, one month after final hearing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:07 AM to City Scene )
Not exactly wing-tips

MICHAEL Panama Oxford by MIchael KorsFetiche just bought a pair of these, and I figured I'd give the rest of the resident shoe critics a chance to look them over. This oxford is called "Panama," it's by Michael Kors, and I liked the detailing on it, hinting at somewhere between the classic spectator pump and the sort of old-school wing-tip things out-of-touch shlubs like me wear to the Jersey Shore. The crinkly leather is a nice touch: makes it seem a tad less stiff without going too far into the realm of the flexy. You can't see it at this angle, but there's a little hardware logo at the top of the heel, for the benefit of those who simply have to know where these shoes came from. (I used to cringe at such things, but inasmuch as rather a lot of my shoes have large slanted Ns on them, I feel I have no right to complain.) I can't help but think this might be nicer in a slightly lower heel — say, three inches instead of four and a half — but then I'm not the target market for this shoe by any means. Zappos will sell you these in grey, chocolate or black for $132.95.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:22 AM to Rag Trade )
Blatant profiling

If your taste in fiction runs to the Utterly Implausible, you could read a sheaf of political-party platforms, or you could browse profiles at Match.com:

No matter what the boys told you down at the Auto Zone, no woman wants to see you flexing in front of your Jeep. Because we know you'll inevitably end up looking more at yourself than looking at us. And we suspect that you might watch MTV Spring Break specials well into your 50s. And not really understand why they don't give the Dateline predators a second chance.

I'm also going to give a heads up to the boys who don't seem to know that women have seen cropped photos before. See, we recognize when you cut your ex-girlfriend out of a picture, or all of the 27 pictures you used for your profile. Because women worth their salt and their Lasik know that you don't have blonde extensions on the right side of your head and that the perky breast eclipsing your arm probably doesn't belong to your mother. Unless when that photo was taken you were bagging your mom. Which she of course is hoping you were not. And are not.

There also seems to be an overabundance of guys who don't have the foggiest idea as to how one writes a paragraph about himself. In many cases, these men opt instead and not all that cleverly to pen something expressive along the lines of, "you’ll know when you meet me," or "mere English words cannot capture the essence of my innards" or "let's cut thru this and git her done." I wish Match hired reviewers that wouldn't only rule out objectionable profile content, but who would also offer suggestions to the guys who just can't pull 250 words together. For example, a self-reference of "simple" just isn't a mating selling point. Simple is great in recipes and vibrator instructions. In reference to humans, it's pretty much synonymous with having to be fed dinner through a straw or not understanding just why sisters and brothers shouldn't have children.

On the other hand, a character who describes himself with a straight face as "complex" perhaps realizes that what he meant to say was "You'll find my moods mercurial and my desires incomprehensible," and maybe even dimly suspects that this might not actually qualify as a turn-on.

I admit to being unable to write 250 words about myself — not 250 persuasive words, anyway — but for the record, I have never watched even one MTV Spring Break Special, and I am, yes, well into my 50s.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:47 PM to Table for One )
Now this is serendipity

Bill Quick's poking around in a secondhand store, and happens upon some classic furniture: a pair of side chairs in the style of Danish designer Kurt Østervig, which turn out to be actual original Østervigs.

Of course, he snapped them up; turns out he doesn't have the space for them, and so he's letting them go. If there's a lesson in this for me, it's this: brush up on those Mid-Century styles and designs, which seem so utterly compatible with my post-WWII house.

4 November 2007
Conspicuous non-consumption

A couple of years ago, I wrote up a short piece about a Zero Energy Home being built here in town, and I made this observation about the price:

[T]he target price is $199,000, which is on the high side for a 3-bedroom, 2-bath house with 1650 square feet, but the energy savings should compensate for that.

It won't happen overnight, of course: the payback period is measured in years, and anyway we have rather lower real-estate prices here than prevail in, say, the Twin Cities:

Peter Lytle has gone to extraordinary lengths to set an example. To show other people how to live in harmony with the environment and lighten their footprint on the Earth, Lytle has spent more than $1 million to buy and revamp a 1948 Minnetonka rambler as a "green" home.

By equipping it with four kinds of alternative energy and the best available insulation, windows and indoor air system, he has made it a lesson in how to operate an ordinary home with far less energy and expense.

Far less energy, no doubt. But "far less expense"? Let's ask Chad the Elder about that:

Let's see, they invested about $685K (at least) in making the home green. But remember, the water and energy bills will [be] a fraction of a traditional home. According to this Energy Analysis, the average annual energy costs for a home like this in Minnesota would be about $3200. Throw in another grand to cover water (easily) and you're at $4200. We'll bump it to $4500 just to leave a little wiggle room.

Then, just for fun let's say that this new green house completely eliminates all energy and water costs. In that case, it would only take ONE HUNDRED FIFTY-TWO YEARS for the homeowners to recoup their costs.

I believe the technical term for this is "cost-defective."

Of course, the buyer didn't do all this to save money: he did it to set an example for the rest of us poor slobs, which is far more important in the long run, right?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:57 AM to Family Joules )
He gave his life for tourism

In an effort to protect the remains, archaeologists have removed King Tutankhamun's mummy from its sarcophagus and placed it in a climate-controlled container inside Luxor's Valley of the Kings.

Tutankhamun's tomb was opened in 1922 by British explorer Howard Carter; over the next four years researchers managed to remove the golden mask fused to the king's face and separate the various treasures buried with him, and in 1926 the body, somewhat the worse for wear, was returned to the sarcophagus.

In the intervening years, increasing tourism has brought heat and humidity into the tomb, prompting the move to the new sealed box. A CT scan of the remains in 2005 suggested that the king died of complications from a broken leg. He was all of 19 years old, and had reigned for nine years.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:06 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Got the Mercedes bends

Would you believe ... M.C. Escher's car?

Which way did he go?

(Swiped from the Australian Sceptics mailing list by Zoe Brain.)

Introducing the cooler

Not being much of a gambler, I never knew someone like this even existed:

A cooler is a person so unlucky that casinos hire them to sit at a hot table and shut the other players down.

You'll find one in Jana DeLeon's novel Unlucky. As the author explains:

My husband and I got married in Vegas in 2000. Before we left, I studied and studied blackjack combinations, determined to beat the house. Unfortunately, I have absolutely, positively NO LUCK. In fact, my luck is so bad that when I sit down at a table, not only don't I win, everyone else starts losing too. So I came up with Mallory Devereaux, the unluckiest woman in the world, who needs to make some money fast and decides to do it by "cooling" cards at a poker tournament of criminals.

And there was additional research involved:

While writing Unlucky, I contacted several casinos, both in Louisiana and Las Vegas. None of them would confirm or deny the existence of coolers.

That figures.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:38 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Tiaraly wages

A statistic from Playboy's Raw Data (December):

Forty-eight percent of American employees say at least one of their co-workers is a "Workplace Princess" who has an excess sense of entitlement and expects special favors on the job.

Given the need for magazine lead time, I figured this had to have been out for a while, and sure enough, it has. The study was commissioned by author/career counselor Rachelle Carter (Make the Right Career Move), and here's what she found:

48% of American workers say there is a "Workplace Princess" on site.
48% of Workplace Princesses expect special favors from employers.
47% of Workplace Princesses believe they are being treated unfairly.
35% of Workplace Princesses make other people do work for them.

And just in case you were wondering:

16% of Workplace Princesses are men.

Based on my own experiences, I'd have expected a lot more than one out of six.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:00 PM to Dyssynergy )
5 November 2007
Strange search-engine queries (92)

The new Hakia service combines a search engine with social networking: you can ostensibly meet people who've searched for the things in which you're interested. This might even work, though I don't think I want to meet the people who generated the searches reported here each week.

"tall beautiful women" nude:  Not at all picky, this guy.

my boyfriends 10 inch erection hit the steering wheel:  Tell him to wear pants when he drives.

Rep. Ronald V. Dellums niggardly:  Not so, and you're a blackguard for even suggesting such a thing.

How much money is saved per family on daylight saving time?  As a general rule, not a damn cent.

walgreens 60000th store washington dc:  What'll you bet it's right across the street from a Rite-Aid?

sticky, slimy brown gel like stuff under skirt of trailer:  Uh-oh. Somebody just backed over a wino.

pantyhose fur stiletto silk transvestite fiction:  I'd say that just about covers the genre.

dating uses bases to represent relationship second base is boobs:  Of course, she could be waiting for a sacrifice fly.

why is it bad to live in a flood plain:  Hint: they're not named after Curt Flood.

spammer punishments:  Declining stocks, expensive drugs, full-priced software, and an ever-diminishing wang.

how to disown a team in the nba fantasy team at nba.com:  Sell it to Clay Bennett.

(general motors) (tampons) (sexual harrassment):  Well, then, how about a Hummer?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:15 AM to You Asked For It )
She's not an addict

She can quit any time. Maybe. Here are the approved Belhoste warnings for Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock Bundle, and for gosh sakes, take them seriously:

  • Warning: this game is extremely addictive; don't start playing if you have ANYTHING else to do for the rest of the day, week, month, year…
  • Warning: extended game play will result in sore wrists, fingers, feet, and necks.
  • Warning: playing this game with friends may result in fits of laughter (i.e. ROFLMAO).
  • Warning: 10+ hours of game play before bed WILL result in unusually strange dreams.
  • Warning: long time game play will result in seeing wavy lines and colorful dots every time you close your eyes (for at least an hour).
  • Warning: use of this product can be beneficial to your hand eye coordination.
  • Warning: extended product use may result in impromptu air guitar sessions.
  • Warning: prolonged game play may result in critiquing of radio songs for difficulty on a Guitar Hero playing scale.
  • Warning: repeated attempts to successfully complete songs will result in having the song permanently stuck in your head.

Some day, perhaps, they will come up with a "Hero" package appropriate to my talents, or the complete and utter lack thereof. (No, this isn't it.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:53 AM to PEBKAC )
An inadvertent truth

"We urge you to invest some more time researching unfit sites."

This was the entire text of a spam TrackBack received here this weekend; the proffered link points to a vendor of antiperspirants. (No, they get no link here.)

And while it's certainly fun to look at unfit sites once in a while, there are more than enough fit ones to occupy my time, thank you.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:16 AM to Blogorrhea )
Three liters, no waiting

My current ride has a 3.0-liter V6, not the biggest engine I've ever had at my disposal but certainly the most muscular: 227 ponies (6400 rpm) and 217 lb-ft of torque (4000 rpm). Still, this is last-century technology, especially compared to something like this:

The lucky dogs at MSN Cars UK got to test BMW's new 635d coupe and came away mighty impressed. The key to this car is the "d" at the end of the model number. Propulsion comes courtesy of BMW's 3.0L twin-turbo inline six cylinder diesel which is rated at 286 hp and a mighty 427 lb-ft of torque. The almost electric motor-like torque of of the diesel means that this big coupe has more usable real world performance than the high-performance M6 model. The 635d hits 62mph from a standstill in 6.3 seconds which is pretty decent for a two-ton car. More impressive is the fact that it does all this while scoring 34 mpg (US) on the EU combined cycle.

We'll be getting this engine eventually, in the 5-series sedan and the X5 sport-utility thing. With the shift (finally!) to low-sulfur fuel here in the States, I'm hoping we'll see performance-oriented diesels affordable by mere mortals before too long.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:05 PM to Driver's Seat )
The uses of history

A couple years ago, I tracked down a copy of Born Grown, a history of Oklahoma City written in the middle 1970s by Roy P. Stewart. This was the immediate post-Pei Plan era, after extensive clearing of downtown had begun but before there was any noticeable uptick in actual rebuilding. (It would be two decades more before downtown was upgraded from "dead" to "breathing.")

Brian J. Noggle has happened upon a history of Webster Groves, Missouri, from the same period, and while he's fascinated by the actual, you know, historical stuff, he has more important things in mind:

[T]he conversational tone tells you what replaced the old blacksmith shop and early businesses downtown. However, 30 years later, the Farmers Home and Trust Bank is gone as well as the IGA grocery store, and those things seem quaint now. But I didn't buy it for contemporary insight, I bought it for its discussion of the old times, and I got it. More trivia for the cranium, and things that I can tell the child as he grows up so he will think I'm very smart.

Which, after all, is the whole idea — almost:

Fooling the children, really, is the secondary use of all knowledge that comes to the fore after you've succeeded in the primary use of all knowledge, fooling women into thinking you're smart so they will mate with you. One, anyway.

I wish I'd known that thirty years ago.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:08 PM to Almost Yogurt )
How odd

The current Consumer Reports tagline is this: "Expert · Independent · Nonprofit." They've registered it as a trademark, even.

They're still dependent on one ancient piece of marketing shtick, though: the 2008 Buying Guide, should you buy it in a store, will cost you $9.99. Not ten bucks, but one cent less than ten bucks. The usual explanation for this is that people read prices from left to right (duh), and somewhere in the back of the mind, the difference between $9.99 and $10.00 looks like a whole lot more than the meager penny it is.

Yeah, we know, everybody does it. (Well, my dentist doesn't; if he presents me with a bill for $200, it's for $200 and not for $199 and change.) For a publication which ostensibly seeks to create smarter shoppers, though, this is a discouraging lapse in standards.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:12 PM to Dyssynergy )
Nothing is real

Especially not real estate these days:

A berry patch near Loganville [GA] is under contract by a local developer who wants to turn the old strawberry field into retail and office buildings.

Crown Point Properties will go before the Municipal Gwinnett County Planning Commission at 7 p.m. Tuesday to request a zoning change to build the 94,200-square-foot complex outside the city of Loganville. The 10-acre parcel is part of some popular strawberry fields. Though the land is largely rural, the current zoning would allow mobile homes on the property.

Is this proposal greeted with unanimous enthusiasm? "Let me take you down," say some folks:

On the other hand, some neighbors say they would rather see strawberry plants rising from the ground than a building. Thousands of people come to the area to pick the fruit at Washington Farms.

McGehee notes:

I looked through the entire article and didn't see any sign that the owners of Washington Farms are being forced to allow the planned development to build on their strawberry fields. In fact it sounds more like the farm's neighbors want to force the owners of Washington Farms to keep growing strawberries on their strawberry fields.

Yeah, but they're just the owners: what rights do they have, anyway? Obviously this is nothing to get hung about.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:44 PM to Dyssynergy )
6 November 2007
Living in debasement

The greenback is kinda brown these days, and while government figures go to great lengths to indicate otherwise, the real culprit is not hard to spot:

The 1964 silver dime weighed 0.1 ounce. In 1964, three of them would buy a gallon of gas anywhere in New York. What would they buy today?

Well, according to Kitco, which tracks the prices of precious metals, silver closed on Friday at $14.49 per ounce. Three silver dimes == 0.3 ounces == $4.35 worth of silver. That would buy 1.45 gallons of 2007 gasoline: 45% more than it did in 1964.

Clearly, the real price of gasoline has gone down, not up. The apparent increase in its price is really the deterioration of the dollar, which has been deliberately inflated to pay for the ever-expanding appetite of government.

Not to mention the deterioration of the dime, which is now made of some nickel/copper combination that's worth less than either alone, if only because of the expense of separating the two.

Although the W-2 for the wages of this sin can be found elsewhere in the piece:

For example, a house comparable to the one your Curmudgeon owns, which recently appraised for $400,000, on which he pays $10,000 annually in property taxes, would have cost about $30,000 [in 1964], and would have incurred property taxes of about $450 per year.

The price of this house has risen thirteenfold and change; the taxes have gone up twenty-two times.

Of course, these numbers were recorded in the Vampire State, as Akaky Bashmachkin calls it; your mileage may vary, though probably not enough to make you want to break into song.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 AM to Common Cents )
Pull me sandal straps back, Mack

FitFlopThis is the FitFlop, which is being sold (for $49.95 $49.99) as "a workout in a shoe":

"The FitFlop sandal tones your calves, thighs and glutes with a specially designed midsole that functions like a mini wobbleboard to engage your muscles as you walk."

I assume this is the sort of wobbleboard you don't quite fall off of, and not the wobbleboard you hear in all those wondrous Rolf Harris records. Still, I'd rather deal with these than with any of those horrid sandals with plastic cobblestones they try to sell as instruments of massage: I actually own a pair of such, which is the primary reason why I never buy shoes online anymore.

(Via Shoewawa. And no, I don't know why I seem to be doing so much shoeblogging lately.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:43 AM to Rag Trade )
Never give a SAGA an even break

SAGA Zone is sort of Facebook with wrinkles: it's a social-networking site where the minimum age is fifty. It's run by Britain's SAGA Group, which seems to be like AARP without all the lobbyists; I suppose this should work just fine, with the caveat that advanced age does not necessarily imply advanced maturity.

(Via Emalyse.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:54 AM to PEBKAC )
Meanwhile, Simply Red has broken up

T-Mobile and its parent Deutsche Telekom have trademarked magenta.

Riff Raff was unavailable for comment.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:11 AM to Say What? )
Pavane pour une infante défunte

Not Maurice Ravel's, though he has a small role to play in this tale of someone whose time ran out far too soon, by the inimitable Akaky Bashmachkin.

If Blogspot is acting up, you can read it here. One way or another, though, you must read it.

The eight- (or twelve)-year itch

In case you thought the issue of term limits was settled, you might want to think again:

A term-limited state senator has filed legislation that would ask voters to repeal legislative term limits that prevent Oklahoma lawmakers from serving more than 12 years in office.

Sen. Mary Easley, D-Tulsa, said legislative term limits, passed in 1990 when voters approved State Question 632, have made special interests more powerful.

"How so?" you may ask.

Easley said she believes the 12-year limit has given more power to lobbyists and large corporations and has taken the voice away from the public. Easley said it takes a while to learn the legislative process. Inexperienced lawmakers might give more weight to lobbyists' opinions than those legislators with more tenure.

Having studied (via textbook, anyway) the operations of Oklahoma government, I have to agree that it does take a while to learn the legislative process. And this is certainly true:

Voters exercise term limits every time they go to the polls, she said.

But even as Easley's SJR 35 seeks to remove term limits, SJR 33 by Randy Brogdon (R-Owasso) seeks to extend them to other state offices:

Senate Joint Resolution 33 would put a two-term limit on the governor, lieutenant governor, state auditor, attorney general, state treasurer, labor commissioner, state superintendent, insurance commissioner and corporation commissioner.

And Brogdon isn't buying Easley's bit about lobbyists:

He believes term limits actually take power away from lobbyists and big corporations.

Brogdon said lawmakers who have served for decades get too familiar with lobbyists and then attempt to do things for their friends, rather than for the public good.

I'm waiting for someone to come up with a Senate Joint Resolution calling for term limits on lobbyists.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:38 PM to Soonerland )
He's a complicated man

Bill Peschel's talkin' 'bout "Shaft":

Despite the lyrics, if there’s any justice in the world, this would be a staple of classical orchestras. I want this played at my funeral.

Damn right. Even if it's played on ukuleles.

7 November 2007
And doggone it, people like him

When Al Franken announced he was running for the Senate, the first thing I thought — apart from the visions of Stuart Smalley dancing in my head, which mercifully departed quickly — was "Geez, what would his fund-raising letters look like?"

Now I've gotten one, and, well, meh.

At least it starts out well, addressed to "Dear Person I'm Asking For Money." There are two mentions of the "Republican slime machine," which always makes me think of You Can't Do That On Television, which routinely slimed know-nothings (not to be confused with Know-Nothings). And Franken says that he is less beholden to guys with big bucks than, say, Norm Coleman: "In the third fundraising quarter, my average contribution was just $67."

And one quip near the end which speaks volumes:

We can change the balance in the Senate so that Democrats no longer have to govern by the skin of Joe Lieberman's teeth.

Biting, one might say. Not enough to suck $67 out of my wallet, though.

Bodhi by Fisher

No, not really. The Dalai Lama drove, not a GM vehicle, but a Land Rover — and if you'd lived most of your life in and around southern Asia, you probably wouldn't take a second look at a Camaro.

As it happens, you can own that very Land Rover:

This auction from the Dalai Lama Foundation includes:
  • 1966 Land Rover 88" Station Wagon (RHD)
  • 3 day Buddhism study session with the Dalai Lama in India
  • Meeting with Sharon Stone at The Missing Peace Art Exhibit show & dinner

The auction will run through the 12th of November; minimum bid is $75,000. All proceeds go directly to the Foundation.

(Via Autoblog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:52 AM to Driver's Seat )
SandRidge turns a buck

Rather a lot of them, in fact: Monday's Initial Public Offering of 28.7 million shares at $26 brought in a quick $746 million to the Oklahoma City-based energy company, and by closing Tuesday the stock was trading around 32.

SandRidge is the former Riata Energy, acquired by Tom Ward after he left Chesapeake last year. Ward, who remains the largest single shareholder in SandRidge, is now technically a billionaire. The company expects to move from its current Northwest Expressway offices to the former Kerr-McGee Tower downtown within a year or so.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:01 AM to Soonerland )
More spotted dick, please

Traditional English desserts are in serious decline, says Emalyse:

The lure of spotted dick, sticky toffee pudding, jam roly-poly and similar dinner table dessert traditions has greatly diminished in the UK with each of us statistically only likely to indulge ourselves but once a year.

Premier foods, owners of that staple accompaniment to puddings, Bird's custard, is so worried about our health conscious habits eroding their sales that they're approaching MP's in order to ask them to get hot puddings reinstated on menus in hospitals, schools, prisons and government offices.

Of course, if they're not eating their meat — but never mind, you saw that coming.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:31 PM to Worth a Fork )
The Power of Blogdom (Part 2,423)

The lovely Sarah D. Bunting of Tomato Nation, in an effort to spike contributions to Donors Choose, offered, among various incentives, this:

$40,000 for me to don a tomato costume and do a dance in Rockefeller Plaza.

Total raised: over $100,000.

As promised:

If you're thinking "Didn't Angela Chase do this at some part of her so-called life?" you are quite correct. (And Claire Danes kicked in $7500, which would be icing on the cake if you could make cake out of tomatoes, which I suppose you could but I don't even want to imagine what it might be like.)

Hey, nice shorts

I never saw any particular need to burnish my Aging Urban Hipster credentials, on the honorable basis that I don't actually have any. On the other hand, this evening found me (and a companion, you should know) at the tony XO Lounge downtown, watching this month's shortsSUITE, a collection of short films assembled by those fabulous folks who bring you the deadCENTER Film Festival every summer. In fact, one item on tonight's menu I'd actually seen at deadCENTER: Virginia Todd Burton's lyrical Alien Rose. Some of the others I remembered seeing on screening lists. The XO itself is pretty neat, a shot of modern in the basement of the post-Victorian Colcord Hotel, and the food comes from the reliable Soleil upstairs.

The real adventure, though, came at the end, when neither of us could quite figure out how to get out of the city's humongous Galleria parking garage. Apparently this late at night there's exactly one attendant, and she's about fifteen linear miles away.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:42 PM to City Scene )
8 November 2007
Side o' the road

We've all seen it: usually it's a little white cross with minimal inscription, sometimes accompanied by flowers. What it means is that somebody died there. I don't focus on them, exactly, but I have been known to mouth a few words, something along the lines of "There but for the grace of God," et cetera.

So what happens when they rebuild the road?

Many who travel [Oklahoma state highway] 199 will never forget the road's tragic history, Including Althea Raines. She says her husband built several memorials ... and Raines is wondering what will happen to them when roadwork starts.

"ODOT is going to move them over, or we are going to move them over, or are the families? What's going to happen?"

ODOT, as it happens, isn't going to move them:

Oklahoma Department of Transportation officials say they understand how much the memorials mean, but once roadwork begins, families will have to move them.

"We don't have any provisions in our statutes that allow memorials to be placed on state right of way. It's essentially one of those issues that we understand the sensitivity issue so we just overlook it."

One can always hope that the road improvements will result in fewer memorials in years to come.

(Seen Anywhere But Here, as it were.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 AM to Soonerland )
Maybe even ten thousand words

The Professor gave it one line: "You may not know it, but your digital camera produces hidden data."

I knew some of this. When I'm running an Explorer window on my directory of digital-camera shots, the status bar dutifully reports something like this:

Dimensions: 2048 x 1360 Date Picture Taken: 7/17/07 12:04 PM Camera Model: DMC-LZ3 Type: JPEG Size: 637 KB

Until I followed this link, though, I had no idea just how much data could be read from this file. Some items of interest:

  • Lens: 6.1mm (35mm film equivalent: 38mm) (Max aperture f/2.8)
  • Exposure: Auto exposure, Program AE, 1/250 sec, f/5.6, ISO 80
  • Flash: Auto, Did not fire
  • Focus: Auto, with image stabilizer (Mode 1)

And that's just the beginning. It occurs to me that I should let you see this for yourself, so here's the photo in question. (Warning: it's huge.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to PEBKAC )
Days off? Says who?

Lileks retreats from the fray, for the briefest of intervals:

I know, I know: it seems like I just took a quasi-semi-demi vacation. But they build up behind the scenes, and they must be used, lest they be lost forever. But there's absolutely no reason I can't post just because I'm on vacation. The ethos of blogging demands it. The only good excuse for not updating your blog is a coma, and even then you should be able to communicate a post in Morse Code somehow, perhaps by altering your heart rate. Look at the monitor, doctor — he's trying to tell us something!

The guy (if guy it be, which it need not) who comes up with a front end for Movable Type that runs on an EKG gets my eternal gratitude.

Incidentally, this is the 2,695th consecutive day with some sort of post here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:12 AM to Blogorrhea )
Gently down the stream

Claim: Winamp 5.5 "claims that you can stream music to anywhere that has an Internet browser, including cell phones and gaming consoles."


[A]nticipating disappointment, I set up the server. It was a very simple install, with a basic login screen accessible from both the Winamp application and their website. I was able to set up my music folders in a matter of seconds, and was ready to attempt to connect elsewhere. The only drawback was that Winamp had to index all of my music (give or take 70 gigs). I started this at 4 pm yesterday, and as of 10:15 am this morning, I'm still missing my S-T folder.

That being a minor issue, I still went home to test this out. I turned on my Wii, launched the Opera browser, and logged into Winamp Remote. To my absolute amazement, it worked, and it worked well. You can browse your folders, play any of your playlists, skip songs, and even control the player's volume all with the Wii remote. Winamp will do a quick speed check before your music will begin, and then you're off. Out of the songs that I attempted, only one loaded slower than the playback.

The Wiimote. Is there anything it can't do?

As an actual paying customer of Winamp, I may have to get this for my home box.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:24 AM to Fileophile )
The pot is duly melted

Not a whole lot more needs to be added to this:

When El Mariachi Supermercado opens next month, it probably will be the only place in Oklahoma where one can buy pickled cactus, pick out a piñata and visit the doctor's office all in one stop.

The full-size grocery store and in-store clinic and pharmacy at 415 SW 59 will open Nov. 21. It will be the first of at least two Hispanic grocery stores owner Kun Won "Terry" Yu will open in Oklahoma City.

Well, I suppose I can add this: the second store is going in at 16th and Drexel.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:42 PM to City Scene )
Lumpier than usual

I got home from work — late again, no thanks to somebody else's malfeasance (my own malfeasance is usually quickly fixed) — and in the twilight I noticed something brown and bumpy down by the curb. A mass of unraked leaves? An item forgotten during Bulky Waste pickup? Nope: it was the metal cover to my water meter, in place but for some reason inverted, leaving the lock mechanism upright. A quick dash to a faucet revealed that no, my water hadn't been turned off. (I've never been late on a city utility bill.) And there was no indication that there had been any water-line work on the street.

Perplexed, I left a message with the city's Action Center, as this incident didn't qualify as an after-hours water emergency. No harm done, apparently, but I figure somebody ought to know about this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 PM to Surlywood )
9 November 2007
Standards of appearance

Anyone who knows me will of course wonder what the hell I am talking about, since obviously I don't have any standards of appearance, or at least any that require any effort to break.

What I mean, though, is the appearance of this Web site on your browser, as opposed to mine. (Some of you may well be opposed to mine, which is Firefox So I turned to a service called Browsershots, which will call up the front page in a selection of different browsers on different operating systems, in case I want to know how it looks in, for example, Opera 9.24 on Ubuntu 6.06. (The answer: not bad, or at least no worse than usual.) I tried thirteen different combinations, and none of them produced severe anomalies. Your mileage may vary, but since your template is probably less preposterous than mine, I'd expect Good Things.

(Suggested by the eminently-readable Belhoste.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:25 AM to PEBKAC )
Turned away

Every year around this time, it happens: traffic snarls at Northwest Distressway and Belle Isle Boulevard, and the backup quickly spreads up the offramp and onto Interstate 44 westbound. The Association of Central Oklahoma Governments conducted a study after the 2005 holiday season to see if there was anything that could be done about it, and ACOG subsequently recommended changing the phasing of traffic signals and additional lane construction.

There's not a lot of room through there for new lanes, so it's imperative to get better use out of the old ones. Next spring the city will start reshaping the intersections. For now, signage has been placed to direct drivers to Penn Square Mall or Belle Isle Station — which won't necessarily be in the same direction — and barriers will be installed to prevent right turns from the westbound Distressway to Belle Isle, a significant cause of backups. (If you're headed for Belle Isle from points east, exit Classen instead.) It will look something like this. [Warning: really huge picture.]

Background here [link goes to PDF file]. Still yet to be determined: how Penn Square will fare come the Major Holiday Crunch after giving away twenty percent of its parking space to the Elephant Bar and the Cheesecake Factory.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:01 AM to City Scene )
Unexpected tribute

This week's Ready Steady A Go Go podcast, devoted as always to the British beat, roughly 1962-1966 (same years, by coincidence, as the fabled Beatles "red album"), opened with a Tommy Quickly recording: "The Wild Side of Life," issued on Pye in 1964.

This was host Michael Lynch's nod to the late Hank Thompson, who died this week at 82, and who cut the original version of "The Wild Side of Life" way back in 1952.

I'd like to think God made one limited-edition honky-tonk angel to mark the occasion.

What's the new Mary Jane?

Isaac Mizrahi for Target Olive Mary JanesIn the process of denying an unhealthy interest in women's shoes, I happened upon this fairly nifty Mary Jane by Isaac Mizrahi for Target, a pair of which Sarah snagged a few days back. Apparently the guys in her office thought they were wonderful, which doesn't sound like any guys in my office, but then most of them are the sort who don't stare at shoes: they look you right in the C-cup every time. Me, I side with Sarah's co-workers: these are pretty spiffy. What's more, the price (thirty bucks) won't make your nose bleed, unlike some of the curious couture items I've mentioned before in this space.

As to said "unhealthy interest," I attribute it to growing up (1) short and (2) depressed: if you keep your head down all the time, sooner or later you're going to notice such things. It falls short of a fetish, however, for the simple reason that it has no role in my sex life. (Come to think of it, I have no role in my sex life.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:20 PM to Rag Trade )
Quote of the week

The source of Jay Leno's advanced environmental awareness, from the Big Dog himself:

My thing with the green situation is: Even if you don't believe in global warming, don't you want to screw the oil company or gas company or utility company?

Hey, who doesn't?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:52 PM to QOTW )
10 November 2007
Ritual accounting

The annual "Dear Taxpayer" letter from the County Treasurer has arrived, and it's always of interest, since I am in fact paying taxes (boy, am I), and there's a section that details how much of this year's property tax is going to which governmental functions.

For the curious:

  • $32.85: Oklahoma County-Wide School Levy
  • $20.55: Oklahoma City/County Health Department
  • $41.26: Metro Library System
  • $82.20: Oklahoma County government
  • $122.58: Metro Tech
  • $126.55: City of Oklahoma City
  • $450.09: Oklahoma City Public Schools

The complete list of tax rates in this county is here, and it's a long one.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:17 AM to Surlywood )
The last existential errand

It took longer, I suppose, but the transit of Saul of Tarsus, persecutor turned theologian, can be seen in the life of Norman Mailer, atheist turned, well, Mailerian. What this means, more or less:

In a new book, On God, a dialogue with one of his literary executors, Michael Lennon, he lays out his highly personal vision of what the universe's higher truths might look like, if we were in a position to know them. But his theology is not theoretical to him. After eight decades, it is what he believes to be true. He expects no adherents, and does not profess to be a prophet, but he has worked to forge his beliefs into a coherent catechism.

Mailer's deity is much like Mailer. He or she is an artist — with the stipulation that God is the greatest artist — concerned most particularly with the human soul, but with much else besides. God takes great pleasure in his creations. God is constantly experimenting, and highly fallible. God is far from all-powerful, but is learning along with us. God is in constant struggle with his own fallibility, and also with evil — with the devil — and is not certain whether good will triumph in the end. We are God's creations, but we are not at all times part of his plan — God may not even be cognizant of all that we do. And if God needs our love, the question Mailer insists has to be answered is, Why?

Like Emerson, Mailer borrows from countless other traditions, discarding their husks, or rewrites them. (Mailer allows that Jesus may very well have been the son of God, but thinks that his crucifixion and resurrection must have been a mistake and the mistake's crude fix.) In place of heaven (his hell seems like a celestial DMV), Mailer posits a system of reincarnation retooled from the Indian religions. Karmic factors certainly play a role, but God's creative interests, as well as his needs in his struggle with the devil, are more important. Not only bodies, but souls, too, can be eliminated for various reasons — sometimes they're tired, sometimes simply because they're no longer interesting to God. Evolution is God's studio. Some of his creations work, and some need improvement — Mailer believes in a highly modified version of Intelligent Design.

And one month after On God was published, Mr. Mailer was invited to — or disinvited from — the heaven whose existence he questions. Maybe. It is not for you or me to know his final destination.

But I'd like to think that he gets credit, his rejection of orthodoxy (or his concept thereof) notwithstanding, for coming up with a perspective that actually admits to the existence of evil, a notion highly unpopular with some and routinely mislocated by others.

Another coat of paint

The CrappiFlats™ in which I lived for entirely too long are being sold yet again, to yet another absentee owner. The 286-unit complex brought $4.76 million, or about $16,600 per unit, a decidedly smallish price, and here's why, according to the paper:

It was one of a three-property portfolio secured by 501(c)3 affordable-housing bonds that were foreclosed on last year. Occupancy at the time of sale was 60 percent.

Given the infrastructure over there, which is indifferent at best, and the tenant mix, which is, let us say, downscale, and not in a good way, I suggest that the community would be better served were the new owners to tear down the place and start over.

Disclosure: My use of the term "CrappiFlats™" does not take into account the fact that some of the units are not in fact flats.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:38 AM to Dyssynergy )
Reboxing Unbox

For no particular reason, I decided to take a look at Amazon's Unbox video-download service. It was not a good idea.

Issue #1: The Unbox viewer (which you must install) is basically a front-end for Windows Media Player 10 with some additional DRM; what's more, it runs on Microsoft's .NET Framework 2.0. I need hardly point out that this means it won't work on a Mac or on any Un*x derivative; on the other hand, this could be considered an advantage for those operating systems.

Issue #2: The gizmo insinuates itself into the system tray and will not leave.

Issue #3: If you do succeed in removing the gizmo from the system tray (as I did), your uninstall will collapse in a whole screenful of Fail.

I can see owning this if you have a hungry TiVo to feed, but if I'm going to wrestle with DRM, I'd just as soon it be Apple's.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:02 PM to Fileophile )
The road more traveled

Late last year I happened upon a writeup of a new film from India, and the pitch went something like this:

I See You is the film in question that has a unique storyline of a man falling in love with a woman who can be seen only by him. While Arjun plays the male lead, Vipasha is the newcomer heroine who plays a beautiful young 'n' charming lady opposite him. A feel good popcorn entertainer that is going to get a smile on your lips and an occasional tear in the eye, I See You marks the directorial debut of Vivek Agrawal.

I filed this away for future reference, and then forgot about it.

Some months later, I was talking up doomed romances at work — that is, while at work I was talking up doomed romances, not some other way around — and Trini suggested Just Like Heaven, starring long-standing crush object Reese Witherspoon. I saw it and pronounced it good; what's more, I sought out, and eventually obtained, a copy of its source material, a novel by Marc Levy called If Only It Were True. (My kind of title, you have to admit.)

Earlier today, I spotted I See You on Amazon.com (no, not one of those damn downloads), and the first of two reviewers pointed out distinct similarities between this film and Just Like Heaven.

The second reviewer was a distinctly-unhappy Marc Levy:

Vivek Agrawal has completely stole the story from [my book]. It’s really amazing that not only he stole the story, dialogues of the book (even the name of the dog in the movie is the same than in the book) and still put his name in the credit as a writer!

Levy, at least, got paid for Just Like Heaven. I have no idea if he got paid for an earlier Bollywood film based on the same story, titled Vismayathumbathu.

(Adapted from this post at a sister site.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:03 PM to Almost Yogurt )
11 November 2007
After 1804

Rep. Shane Jett (R-Tecumseh) was one of only a handful of Republican opponents to House Bill 1804, the state's attempt to curb illegal immigration — not because he's in favor of illegal immigration, exactly, but because he says he fears the economic consequences when a couple hundred thousand folks suddenly disappear into Texas or California or North Carolina.

Jett says he's working on supplemental legislation to mitigate those consequences. What he wants, apparently, is a state-operated guest-worker program that will identify migrants and then earmark the taxes paid by them to cover the cost of state services to them.

I'm not quite sure how this could be made to work in the context of HB 1804, which closes as many doors as the Legislature thought possible at the time, but it will be interesting to see what Jett comes up with next spring.

(Jett abstained from the vote on 1804, which passed the House 88-9, perhaps out of conflict-of-interest concerns: his wife, Ana Carolina, is a Brazilian immigrant.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:31 AM to Soonerland )
The making of a veteran

The last day of basic training, we were milling around the company area, waiting for the arrival of someone from Rumor Control, someone who never did arrive, so before we returned to the barracks to pack up our scant belongings, we were all at least somewhat scared. We all knew where we were heading for advanced individual training: those orders had already been handed out. But what then? The story had sprung up some time during the last week and grew stronger, if no more accurate, with every telling. The gist of it: a percentage of each BCT company had been allocated to the actual war zone in order to meet replacement levels, and the contribution from Delta company would be determined by running down the list alphabetically, starting with the As, until the quota was reached. The fact that this made no sense until we'd finished AIT, at which time we'd all be scattered across the country anyway, never occurred to us: we just wanted to know where the cutoff was, and Gonzales, perhaps understandably, was more concerned than Rupkiewicz.

I don't know how this all turned out: after AIT and a Stateside tour, I was packed off to the Middle East, which was a bit more peaceful in those days, if surprisingly chilly at times. Still, I think about those guys now and then, and we did achieve a distinction of sorts during our stint in basic: we'd apparently had nobody "recycled" — sent through the course a second time after failing the first — a highly uncommon occurrence in the spring of '72. (This belief was reinforced when I saw the steps they were willing to take to get us all through.)

We were eighteen then. I can't tell you the exact day we quit being boys and started being men, but I'm pretty sure the uniform had something to do with it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 AM to The Way We Were )
Reducing overhead

Target is determined to get your attention, even if they have to use nobody to do it:

Target adds a new dimension to fashion with the Target Model-less Fashion Show, transforming Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall into the site of the world's first virtual fashion show. State-of-the-art technology will produce High Definition holograms allowing Target clothes to strut down a virtual runway — models not included. Audiences can expect a theatrical show in which Target clothes and accessories are the stars and the laws of physics no longer apply.

Hey, don't go hating on those laws of physics. Besides, it takes some technotrickery to pull this off:

Powered by hologram innovator Musion Systems Limited, the presentation will employ an illusionary technique that uses Eyeliner™ foil to give two dimensional images the illusion of depth. The installations are recorded, played back and projected in true High Definition giving the holograms unprecedented quality and clarity.

Which, of course, disappears the moment you put it on YouTube:

Still, if nothing else, if I ever find myself with an invisible girlfriend — I should be so lucky — I now know how I want her to dress.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:50 PM to Rag Trade )
The 2009 Crescent Roller

News Item: The Malaysian carmaker Proton has announced plans to develop an "Islamic car", designed for Muslim motorists. Proton is planning on teaming up with manufacturers in Iran and Turkey to create the unique vehicle. The car could boast special features like a compass pointing to Mecca and a dedicated space to keep a copy of the Koran and a headscarf.

Top Ten Other Features of Proton's New "Islamic Car":

  1. Infidel-resistant fenders
  2. Sensor warns if car is about to enter drive-through at Taco Bell
  3. Extra-long seat belt to accommodate burqa
  4. Horn plays two bars of Scheherazade
  5. A feature patterned after OnStar calls CAIR and The New York Times in case of emergency
  6. Special Saudi model keeps women in back seat
  7. Warranted for six years/72 virgins
  8. Will not start during Ramadan
  9. Absolutely no plans for a hybrid
  10. Self-destructs upon entering Jewish neighborhoods

See your dealer today. (Suggested by LGF.)


Yet another reason to avoid flying is airport food — with one possible exception:

I usually fly through Detroit, because Northwest is cheap, and I've discovered what may be the most genius business I've ever seen: The PB&J stand at the airport.

This would be totally stupid anywhere *except* an airport terminal, because who would pay for something they can make for 30 cents at home? But think about it for a bit. When I'm in an airport, every food option looks overpriced and disgusting. I'm not usually starved, but it's my last opportunity to get some food for another 3 hours, and I'm going to take that. There are the sit-down places, which have no need to try for repeat customers. There are sub shops selling a sandwich for $8 that you KNOW you buy for 3.50 at work. There's cookies and caffeine at the coffee places, but you've been eating crap for the last 48 hours, and even cookies can get old.

What you really want — what you'd make for yourself at home — is some little thing. A few crackers, maybe, or, or...

A peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Which is just about all they do at this one stand:

The PB&J place only makes nut butter and jelly sandwiches — peanut or cashew (!) butter, 4 or 5 jelly options, a few different breads. Marshmallow fluff, chocolate, and banana are extra. Then there were beverages (including soy and cow milk, which I consider necessary to my PB&J experience), and chips, I think. That's it.

And apparently it's called simply PB&J; it's near Gate A1 in the McNamara Terminal at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:54 PM to Worth a Fork )
12 November 2007
Strange search-engine queries (93)

Once again it's time to upend the referrer logs, shake, and see if anything amusing falls out.

minimum penis size you would marry:  Are penises allowed to marry? (Can you even have one for a roommate?)

sagittarius girl rejected marriage proposal:  Maybe she just wasn't interested in a Virgo.

bill clinton does not drink:  In his younger days, he could drink you under the table. And, as long as you're under the table....

percent of women with midget fetish:  Undoubtedly a small percentage.

chocolateless brownie recipe:  Then wash it down with a near-beer.

why are nuts so expensive:  It's a plot by Shell to control squirrels.

where are streetwalkers in Tulsa?  Have you tried, um, the street?

anti-lick brakes:  Not that rotors taste so good.

Are Crocs shoes edible:  I'd sooner eat a brake rotor.

is there an oven used to make crack cocaine:  You're looking for the Easy-Flake Oven™.

what do women think about men wearing anal plugs:  Their first thought is probably "What a bunch of assholes."

Condoleezza Rice wears pantyhose:  So?

How to approach a girl you have never met before if youre an intj:  The true INTJ spends no time wondering about such things: if she has anything to recommend her, she'll introduce herself.

"charles g. hill" french:  I don't think I've ever been frenched.

yogurt sam houston parkway:  Of course, being Texas yogurt, it contains jalapeños.

all the candidates suck:  I'm pretty sure Hillary won't.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:55 AM to You Asked For It )
But clean the locker room anyway

Five days after I patiently explained why you shouldn't start standing in line for Sonics tickets in Oklahoma City just yet, the Oklahoman's Mr. Monday provides a counterargument:

Let's try this exercise:

Mr. Monday: The Sonics are going to leave.

Leafy-Green Seattleite: Wait, but what about ...

Mr. Monday: No, really, the Sonics are going to leave and come to Oklahoma City.

Solar-powered, ex-Ralph Nader delegate: But you guys have a small TV market and poorly planned bicycle routes.

Mr. Monday: Our dudes own the team. You are making them upset.

Hybrid-driving, carpooling mountain climber: Ugh, capitalism.

Mr. Monday: Scoreboard, ya hippie.

My objections to this line of thought are twofold:

  • Actual NBA fans are somewhat less likely to conform to this particular stereotype;

  • What the hell is so "poorly planned" about our bicycle routes, other than the fact that we could use more of them?

Point, counterpoint. Cue the other shoe.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:33 AM to Net Proceeds )
Quantum sox

Featuring Planck's constant.

Actually, since there's a bar over the h, this perhaps should be read as Planck's reduced constant, also known as Dirac's constant: the difference between the two is a factor of 2π.

Not that you care as you pull on your socks, right?

(Found at Fillyjonk's.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:36 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
From the realty-based community

Prudential Alliance Realty puts out a little magazine every month called Home Scene, which I grab at the supermarket because it gives me a chance to look at some of what's out there for sale, and the price (zero) is right.

This month they have a listing for what is described as a Sensational Mammoth Home, which is probably as close as I'm ever going to see to the term "McMansion" in this publication. And it's big enough: a smidgen under 4000 square feet, on a lot that looks barely big enough to hold it.

Fannie Mae owns the Sensational Mammoth, which tells me that the first buyer was in way over his head. It's probably a good thing he was here in the Big Breezy, where it's still possible to buy something this huge for under half a million.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:03 PM to City Scene )
Not exactly Spartacus

Rosabel by CoachThis is "Rosabel," a gladiator sandal from Coach (now apparently retired for the season) that sells for around $150. I honestly don't understand the appeal of these things — they seem kind of bulky to me — though I have to admit, they look pretty nice here on Hayden Panettiere. This is apparently one of those times when I must yield to a higher authority, so Venessa Estrellado of Divavillage.com explains how to work these shoes:

Flat gladiator sandals are just as decorative as high heeled stilettos, and they offer more steady comfort. You can work the sandals as a proxy to dress shoes for an evening wardrobe; just make sure they're attire appropriate looking. [S]hift, baby doll, trapeze and a-line dresses look the best with gladiator sandals.

Possible drawback:

Gladiator sandals are harsh on the feet if you're flat footed or have super conscious of having long feet (even though we think big feet are beautiful!). If that's the case with you, try gladiator inspired heels instead. You'll have the gist of the style, but with footwear that actually works fashionably. But if you're proud of your foot size, then we urge you to sport flat gladiator sandals proudly!

I have no idea what size Hayden Panettiere (isn't this Italian for "Baker" or something?) wears, but since she's on the short side, I have to assume she's probably not being harshed by these shoes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:08 PM to Rag Trade )
13 November 2007
Dr Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

To hear my mom tell it, the only reason you could buy Dr Pepper in the Carolina Lowcountry in 1962 was because she'd spent the last half of 1961 haranguing bottlers and grocers.

And what's more, they didn't have blogs back then, so she couldn't have done something like this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:54 AM to Dyssynergy )
Wii're all out

Lileks sends a note to Nintendo:

[E]ither make lots more Wiis or shut up about them. Please. My child wants one, and it looks like there's no chance on this planet, or any parallel versions of it I might access through some sort of quantum portal, that I will get one. I could order one from one of Amazon's Preferred Hoarders, but I will be switched and hoss-whipped down Lyndale Avenue before I pay someone 200 dollars over the sticker price. At least you could rename it. It's not the Wii. It's the Themm. Wii don't have one.

"Didn't we go through this last year?" I thought, and dialed up Lileks' semi-beloved Target, where they have five pages of Wii accessories but not one actual Wii.

Anyway, if you have an extra Wii lying around, feel free to send it to James Lileks, Star Tribune, 425 Portland Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55488.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Dyssynergy )
Possibly even electrifying

Automobile this month tossed some questions at George Barris, King of Kustom Kars — the Batmobile helped assure his place in the throne room — and I wasn't quite prepared for one of the answers:

We're in the 2000s now. Are you going to stay with a '50 Mercury? Or are you going to jump into a hybrid Toyota?

Wait a minute. George Barris has jazzed up a Prius?

It's nice, but it looks like a turtle. I put eighteen-inch wheels on it instead of those little fourteens; we put a spoiler on the back. We brightened it up, gave it a free, flowing look.

And you know what? They did.

I don't know if this particular incarnation is really that much of an improvement, but I must say I like the idea.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:09 AM to Driver's Seat )
Big rigs, smaller thirst

Navistar's International division, after successful trials, is ramping up production on diesel hybrid commercial trucks. Says their press release:

The International DuraStar Hybrid diesel hybrid electric truck has the proven capability to provide dramatic fuel savings from 30-40 percent on standard in-city pickup and delivery applications. The fuel efficiency can increase to more than 60 percent in utility-type applications when the engine can be shut off, but electric power still operates the vehicle. Diesel emissions are completely eliminated when the hybrid truck operates equipment (like overhead utility booms) solely on the truck's battery power, instead of allowing the engine to idle.

The Hybrid Truck Users Forum, says Navistar, calculates that annual fuel consumption for one of these vehicles will be as much as 1000 gallons less than conventional trucks of this size class. (We're not up to 18-wheelers yet with this technology, but International is working on that too.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:27 PM to Family Joules )
The return of Samantha Stephens

I don't know whether to cry, to laugh, or to cry again: the British entertainment site Digital Spy is reporting that the 1960s American sitcom Bewitched will be "reinvented" by the BBC.

Now if you were to rank all the women who influenced my formative years, Samantha Stephens comes in somewhere among the Top Ten, and the last time this story was remade it didn't quite jell, but I definitely want to catch a glimpse of how it works out as a Britcom — though I draw the line at Rowan Atkinson as Uncle Arthur.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:37 PM to Almost Yogurt )
This is a test

Let's see here:

Excellent Source of Whole Grain & Fiber

Not bad. What's this in the fine print?

Diets rich in whole grain foods and low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Now here's an "Enlarged to Show Texture" and the infamous "Serving Suggestion." On the side in really narrow print, the actual ingredients: whole grain wheat flour, wheat flour (presumably only partial-grain), malted barley flour, salt, dried yeast ...

Oh, the hell with it. It's true. I'd rather read The McGehee Zone.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:36 PM to Blogorrhea )
14 November 2007
It's seafood, technically

I don't think I can ever criticize anyone for serving calamari (known to us non-foodie types as "squid") again after seeing this.

Perhaps surprisingly, it's not packed in a #2 can.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:53 AM to Worth a Fork )
A skyscraper, it isn't

CCTV BeijingMaybe a skysander, or God's Own Miter Box. This is what they're building in Beijing for the new headquarters of China Central Television, and while it's perhaps too much to hope that this $600-million non-box will bury once and for all the brutal barracks of socialist realism, entirely too many examples of which get built in capitalist countries, I'm just fascinated by the sheer effrontery of the shape: it's as though M. C. Escher decided he needed a parking garage.

Some particulars:

The CCTV building has a nine-storey base, three-storey basement, two leaning towers that slope at 6° in each direction, and a nine- to 13-storey "Overhang", which is suspended 36 storeys in the air. The building forms an asymmetrical arch, through which will be seen the adjacent Television Cultural Centre (TVCC). Together these two buildings will form the focal point of Beijing's new Central Business District (CBD).

And the TVCC has some perverse charms of its own:

Design for the Television Cultural Centre Hotel is to include a random stack of rooms, inspired by the form of a termite's nest.

What's really fun about this, of course, is that Beijing is riven with fault lines, so not only do these structures have to look amazing, they have to put up serious resistance to major seismic activity. Let's hope they can keep the lead paint out of them.

(Via Fraters Libertas.)

Eating escrow

One unexpected beneficiary of the housing downturn: shrinks.


In the 37 years William Horstman has been practicing in San Francisco as a therapist, he's never seen patients spend more time worrying about their home values — and their personal sense of wealth — than they do today. That includes the years after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake that devastated the housing market.

"The market has risen dramatically in the past 10 years and, in San Francisco, that remains true today. But people don't feel it," said Horstman, who estimates that 10 to 15 percent of his clients' therapy time is spent on the housing market.

What they do feel, evidently, is insecure:

Indeed, therapists and financial planners say what local homeowners are feeling is a financial insecurity that touches their work lives, their relationships and their sense of financial and personal worth.

"As your equity goes down, your psychological sense of worth can go down," said Jan Edl Stein, a marriage and family therapist who practices in San Francisco and Marin.

I assure you that I have no such feelings regarding the palatial estate at Surlywood, which is worth $89,356, up $229 from last month.

(Via Burbed.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:34 AM to Dyssynergy )
0 and whatever

John Rohde came up with this curious assertion in the Oklahoman:

With Sonics ownership and the city of Seattle in a testy lawsuit over the existing lease at KeyArena, perhaps having the league's worst team will soften Seattle's hardheaded stance against the Sonics leaving town two years early.

If the Sonics' woes continue — and there's little reason to think they won't — perhaps the dire circumstances will persuade Seattle mayor Greg Nickels to finally relent and say, "Aw, hell. Take 'em."

Oh, so that's the ticket. Losing teams deserve no loyalty, because, well, they're losers.

I can just imagine the response when, say, Sonics Central gets hold of this.

Update: It's something like this.

Further update: They've killed that particular thread. See Comments.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:41 AM to Net Proceeds )
File under "Damned if you do"

Scott Fruin at USC's Keck School of Medicine reports that a third or more of a person's daily exposure to ultra-fine diesel particulates occurs while driving to and from work:

"If you have otherwise healthy habits and don't smoke, driving to work is probably the most unhealthy part of your day. Urban dwellers with long commutes are probably getting most of their exposure [to diesel and ultra-fine particles] while driving."

Which seems a reasonable conclusion, given the massive number of big diesel trucks on the road. It's probably not quite so bad for me personally, since my commute, at around 18 minutes each way, is much shorter than the 45-minute average used to produce Dr Fruin's data. But this perplexed me:

Hard acceleration, on both surface streets and in freeway driving, produced the greatest exposure to diesel pollution.

"The extent that [diesel trucks] dominated the highest concentration conditions on freeways was unexpected," Fruin says. "Shortening your commute and spending less time in the car will significantly reduce your total body burden of harmful pollutants."

Why the heck do you think I'm doing all that hard acceleration? I'm trying to shorten my commute, fercrissake.

(Via The Truth About Cars.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:44 PM to Driver's Seat )
I guess it was nice while it lasted

You may remember this from way back in the summer of '04:

The community of Warr Acres, an enclave within Oklahoma City's northwest quadrant, has one claim to fame: its 6.5-percent sales tax rate (2 for Warr Acres, 4.5 for the state of Oklahoma), the lowest in the metro area. (Neighboring Bethany collects 8.5 percent; Oklahoma City, 8.375 percent.) Signs posted on the way out of town contain the ominous message "Warning: Higher Taxes Ahead."

Unfortunately, there may be higher taxes ahead for shoppers in Warr Acres.

And there were: in 2005, voters in Warr Acres opted to raise the two-cent city tax to three cents, bringing the total to 7.5 percent, still lower than its neighbors.

No more. Tuesday, 521 of 999 voters (population of Warr Acres is around 9500) approved an increase to four cents; the additional penny will be split between police and fire operations. The total will be 8.5 percent when the new rate goes into effect.

So now who gets to claim "Lowest Sales Tax in Metro Area"? Norman, Luther and Valley Brook are at 7.5 percent; Edmond at 7.75; Midwest City at 7.8; most everyone else is 8 and up. (Lake Aluma is officially 7.25 percent, though I don't remember seeing any actual retail there; this is the state's fourth-quarter list in PDF format.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 PM to Soonerland )
15 November 2007
The perfect quinceañera gift

What she really wants is a gift card:

Retailers are seeing an increase in the cash value of gift cards received by Hispanics.

According to Comdata® Stored Value Solutions (CSVS) fifth annual gift card survey, Hispanics received gift cards with the highest average value among ethnic groups at an average balance of $71, compared to $41 for Caucasians and $60 for African-Americans. The Hispanic total was a $33 increase over last year.

The study also revealed that 26 percent of Hispanics surveyed report giving gift cards to children as a budgeting tool or to use as an allowance.

The higher-value cards don't mean they're stinting on their own contributions, either:

Hispanics are most likely to spend more than the value on their cards, adding their own money to increase their purchasing power. 69 percent of those surveyed indicate they often or always spend more than the amount of the card, compared to 52 percent of Caucasians and 44 percent of African-Americans.

And you probably won't see any of them trying desperately to use up exactly the value of a card, either.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:54 AM to Common Cents )
To everything there is a season

And right now, it's time for a Woot-Off. Time to kiss my budget goodbye.

Conformity at its corrosive best

In middle school, says the Ranting Kid, the "drug propaganda machine" goes into overdrive:

While I know it is important to be educated about such nasty things, it is NOT necessary to be given the exact same speech about cigarettes and beer several times a month, year after year after year. It is also not necessary to teach that cigarettes and alcohol are pure evil (my homeroom teacher once threatened to give a student sessions with a counselor for saying the word "drunk"), while avoiding teaching the kiddies about such truly dangerous things as, say, crack, heroin, or meth, a drug which is actually a problem in our area.

Another problem, apparently, is having friends:

The fact that people will mutually have no interest in one another because they have never met seemed to confuse [the] lecturers. If the children had particular friends, this must mean they were inhuman and cruel to the other students that did not socialize with them, and obviously had no regard for the feelings of others — social engineering must be put into place at once. We had two or three "Bring Down The Walls" days forced upon us a year at my middle school. During this silly thing, one was ordered to sit amongst people that one did not know during lunch. (Of course, none or very few of the students complied.)

Meanwhile, the important stuff is being neglected:

A wagon box is 2 ft. deep, 10 feet long, and 3 ft. wide. How many bushels of wheat will it hold?

(If you have neither wheat nor wagon box handy, the answer is forty-eight and a fraction.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:58 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Caravans forming now

Looks like Tulsa will be getting a Whole Foods:

Land in front of CityPlex towers at 81st Street and South Lewis in Tulsa, OK will soon be home to a full shopping complex including anchor stores Whole Foods market and Barnes and Noble Bookstore according to Mike Predovic, Managing Partner of Tower Realty Group. The current area of land has been vacant except for Victory kids building which was once a walk-through Bible exhibit for Oral Roberts Ministries.

Truth be told, while I expected Tulsa to land a Whole Foods before Oklahoma City did, I wouldn't have expected it to have been at 81st and Lewis.

And from the sound of things, when we do get one, it probably won't be downtown like everyone's hoping, either.

(Via Batesline.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:20 PM to Soonerland )
Not to mention polarizing looks

Before the opening of the Los Angeles Auto Show, GM Car Czar Bob Lutz was meeting with motor-noters and bloggers and other pesky types, and he did give out with one semi-scoop: the much-anticipated Chevrolet Volt will be reshaped before production. Apparently the electric Chevy concept car has the aerodynamics of a 12-volt battery:

When they put the concept into the wind tunnel it was a huge disappointment. Lutz said they might have gotten better results if they put it in backwards.

On the other hand, if you had to drive it backwards, you'd get some hellacious battery life, just from all that regenerative braking. (Try that with your damn Prius.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:43 PM to Driver's Seat )
Meet the new paper

Pretty much the same as the old paper. The three-year-old Mid-City Advocate, as predicted here last week (not by me), has mutated into the City Sentinel. With the exception of some font changes in the headlines, it doesn't look all that different.

Their Web site, on the other hand, doesn't look like anything as of this writing. I just hope that the person who thought it would be really cool for their old site to resize your browser has been thrown under the bow of the Devon Discovery.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:56 PM to City Scene )
You earned it, but it's ours anyway

The very first official act by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, in the first hour after he was sworn in, was to roll back the 300-percent increase in auto-license fees imposed by predecessor Gray Davis. The Assembly, then as now controlled by Democrats, complained that it would reduce revenues, and indeed the Governator had to come up with some emergency funds for local governments, which had been counting on those extra bucks.

"Counting on," though, is one thing: insisting that government has a right to it is something entirely different. With the Golden State's budget looking more like zinc, it's apparently time to relive those wonderful moments of 2003:

"There is an ongoing gap between state expenditures and revenues that this governor helped create by slashing vehicle license fees and refusing to balance that loss with revenue from another source," Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, D-Oakland, said in a written statement.

Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, echoed Perata's sentiment, adding that wiping out the increase in the fee has resulted in "squandering $20 billion [since 2003] so that an average car owner can pocket $200 a year."

Yeah. Who the hell are these "average car owners," that their pocketbooks should have precedence over Sacramento's?

Sometimes I miss California. This isn't one of those times.

16 November 2007
A hundred years young

And I consider myself blessed to have been here for about a third of it.

Oklahoma Centennial

You're doin' fine, Oklahoma.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to Soonerland )
Amazon dot drugs

I don't often fall asleep easily, so I keep on hand a supply of diphenhydramine hydrochloride tablets to help knock me out when necessary. The favored source for these was Albertson's, which vended a generic version under a store brand in a 100-count bottle for around $8, a better deal than the brand-name tabs (Sominex® et al.), which were usually sixteen for $3. With Albertson's now departed from this market, I'd been looking for a substitute, and store-brand tabs aren't hard to find, but they're almost always in the same configuration as the big boys: sixteen tabs in a box, which you have to punch out of the card, a packaging method second only to the plastic clamshell in terms of sheer annoyance value. (Getting title strips off CDs and DVDs comes in third, if you were wondering.)

In my usual secondary shopping mode at amazon.com — the one usually initiated by "I need something costing X to get free shipping" — I discovered that one of their Preferred Hoarders, who usually sells the sort of mysterious supplements on which the FDA has passed no judgment, also sells good old diphenhydramine HCl in a 250-count bottle. For under five bucks. I was so happy to find this I overlooked the fact that since this product is not sold directly by the Minions of Bezos I wouldn't get any break on the shipping anyway.

Note to certain cretinous goons

It's not so much that I object to fixing the problems you caused — that is, after all, part of the job description — but it's galling in the extreme to know that you won't suffer any consequences for having caused them.

Yeah, I know. Life isn't fair. Never has been, never will be. But if there's anything to this karma business, somewhere down the line you're going to be spending all your waking hours searching for Purina Weasel Chow.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:45 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
Defacing up

Atomic Trousers lists the ten "most obnoxious" bumper stickers seen in leftish Madison, Wisconsin. I'll single out one that also perturbs me:

"Live Simply So That Others May Simply Live" — The airheads with this little chestnut on their bumpers are confusing simple wordplay with incredible profundity. This bumper sticker sounds really deep until you realize that a.) it doesn't mean a damn thing and b.) the dork in your office who asks if you’re workin' hard or hardly workin' is making an equally clever play on words.

Since you asked: I have no bumper stickers, not even the AAA Plus oval they send me every year.

The small honors are the best

So I dialed over to Boondoggled, and these were waiting for me:

1st Class FriendshipColors of Friendship

I will pass the awards on to the famous Dustbury (a/k/a Charles Hill), with whom I had the pleasure of sharing an evening of rainy weather and Mexican food. I enjoy his blog very much, although it does tend to make me homesick for Oklahoma City on occasion.

We need to hang on to our good friends, no matter how far away they are.

Indeed. Which is why I'm passing this on to someone who has been far more prominent in my real life than online: Tim of Tim's Cave, whom I've known for twenty-odd years, some odder than others, who's bailed me out of a scrape or three now and again, and who gets the blame for introducing me to the modem back in the 1980s. As he is wont to say: "Life is good if you read the instruction manual." The man always was particular about documentation.

Thank you, Tim. And thank you, Deb. (And thank you all for reading this.)

A sense of the absurd

And sometimes it borders on no sense at all. This morning's Oklahoman contained images of the paper's front pages for Saturday and Sunday, the 16th and 17th of November 1907, and some of the headlines from those days would raise a 21st-century eyebrow or two. Across seven columns on the 16th, in red ink: STATEHOOD PROCLAMATION WILL BE ISSUED TODAY, followed by two columns of OKLAHOMA PASSES FROM CARPET BAG RULE INTO SISTERHOOD OF STATES. Somebody was seriously overreaching for a metaphor.

Or maybe something else. Down the first column: COMMISSION INSERTING PROBE.

None of this, however, prepares you for the Sunday edition, with a story datelined Guthrie, home of the FIRST INRUGURAL [sic] BALL, in which you learn this: WOMEN ATTEND BALL WITHOUT THEIR DICKEYS. Yeah, that sounds pretty inrugural to me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:41 PM to Soonerland )
17 November 2007

You gotta "love" this: The "Blog" of "Unnecessary" Quotation Marks.

Although I must admit that for me, anyway, the crux of the biscuit is the apostrophe.

(First link via The Trouble with Angels.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:59 AM to Blogorrhea )
Now that's a ringtone

Literally, in fact: the tone was originally produced by a bell. A church bell. Specifically, a church bell from the Catholic diocese of Linz, Austria. (Three tones are offered; I opted for the Immaculata, whose somber timbre seems somehow appropriate for someone who hates to answer the phone.)

And apparently the German word for "ringtone" is "Klingelton," which has a certain, um, resonance.

(Via Shrine of the Holy Whapping.)

How to increase blog traffic

Attila Girl queries some of the A-listers:

I did ask the Big Dawgs for advice on improving my traffic. Rusty suggested that "sometimes the shallowest posts bring in the most hits," and you could never go wrong by posting pics of girls in lingerie. Ace told me that the fastest — if not quite the classiest — way to get traffic was to blog about how hard it was to find a bra that was the right size for one's ample breasts. When I told him I was okay now that my local Nordstrom had a new buyer, he looked at me funny. After that, he spoke more slowly, and a bit more loudly. And he used shorter words.

I'm not buying either of those explanations, but I did reprint them here to see if they get me back over 600 a day.

In a related story, I've gone back and culled some of the MP3s I've posted in the last year or so, mostly because my bandwidth usage has gone up tenfold — not because of actual readers, as it happens, but as a result of people hotlinking the files for use on their own sites. (What is so common as the Tragedy of the Commons?) If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here's a bunny with a pancake on its head.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:04 AM to Blogorrhea )
Use a post-dated check to join

If the mark of really good satire is that you're not entirely sure if it is satire, then this place will probably leave a mark: the Predatory Lending Association.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:52 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
It's certainly diverse

I always found this "Celebrate Diversity" T-shirt amusing, mostly because it hews to the actual definition of the word, as distinguished from the Officially Sanctioned Version that prevails in academia and certain political circles. And besides, I like guns. As one-time Presidential candidate Patrick Layton Paulsen once pointed out, "Who knows when you're walking down the street and you'll spot a moose?"

Or perhaps a pirate, which covers 8.33 percent of this T-shirt sold by Woot for about an hour and a half this morning. This is the graphic thereupon:


It's just a matter of time before you see these symbols everywhere, so commit them to memory now.

But I was so much older then

Helen Mirren's younger than that now, according to this item from InStyle's back pages (12/07):

[W]e hail Mirren's ubiquity because it served a more triumphant purpose — a constant reminder that women can be not only gifted, witty and charming after ... say, age 52, but also ridiculously sexy.

No quarrel with any of these, though I feel compelled to point out that Dame Helen was born in 1945.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 PM to Say What? )

The sum of four consecutive prime numbers: 59 + 61 + 67 + 71. Also, the number of episodes of Carnival of the Vanities thus far; the current edition is subtitled "Still Here," while Mr Dodge posts from hospital. As always, we wish him well.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:23 PM to Blogorrhea )
18 November 2007
Minnesota gets bigger sodas

The drive-in restaurant, with carhops and everything, is generally considered to be a warm-climate phenomenon: it wouldn't seem to work quite so well in the Snow Belt. ("Put on the chains, honey, we're going out for extra-long chili cheese coneys!")

Maybe; maybe not. Sonic is coming to Savage, Minnesota:

In Savage, a Sonic is being proposed for a new retail development at the southeast corner of County Road 42 and Joppa Avenue, called River Bend Plaza. Plans show 23 canopied outdoor slots for cars.

Sonic fends off the polite Minnesota skepticism:

Not a problem, replies Christi Woodworth, Sonic's director of external communications.

"We had an opening in Columbus, Ohio, in six inches of snow. You won't find people on the patio, but they're still in drive-in stalls or the drive-through. We have cold-weather uniforms for crew members. It hasn't been an issue. We've been in icy, windy Nebraska for years. People pull in, leave the car running, and stay warm and toasty. It usually takes less than four minutes to get the food."

(Via Jalopnik.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:16 AM to Worth a Fork )
Docomunents propaganda

Adobe Acrobat 8 ad frame

Adobe has been running an animated ad for Acrobat 8 lately; I spotted it at kausfiles and captured a frame. Anyone know what a "docomunent" is? (Geez, and just when I thought I'd figured out PDFs, too.)

Update, 30 November: You think maybe this is the new term for the new PDFs with Yahoo! ad content?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:51 AM to Say What? )
The late Dr West

I'd heard that Donda West, mother of rapper Kanye West, had Oklahoma roots, but I had no idea just how deep those roots were until I read her obituary in this morning's Oklahoman, which begins this way:

Dr. Donda C. West, a resident of Playa Del Rey, California, was transitioned to her eternal reward on Saturday, November 10, 2007, at the age of 58. "Big Girl," as she was affectionately called by her father, was the 4th child born to Portwood and Lucille E. Williams on July 12, 1949. Her early education was at Culbertson and Dunbar Elementary Schools, F. D. Moon Jr. High School, and Douglass High School where she graduated in 1967. She joined 5th Street Baptist Church at age five. In 1958, under the leadership of NAACP Youth Council Leader and author Clara Luper, she, along with her brother, Portwood Jr., and others, participated in the first national sit-in demonstration to acquire public accommodations for people of color. Her father drove the first car.

(I wrote about the Katz Drug Store sit-in here.)

Dr West had a distinguished career, as educator, diplomat, and finally as entrepreneur, keeping an eye on son Kanye's business and charitable ventures; it's worth remembering that when she was a teenager, she helped change the world.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:04 AM to Soonerland )
Strictly commercial

For years (like, thirty; I started in 1972) I made mix tapes, and lots of them; when it became possible to make mix CDs, I started burning my own discs and documenting them on the Web. Of course, I wouldn't duplicate them for the general public, because (1) I have extremely weird musical tastes and (2) there are an awful lot of lawyers out there just waiting for the opportunity to jump.

Then (as in this month) came something called Mixaloo, which enables you to produce a downloadable mix from the tracks they're allowed to distribute, which others can actually buy via a Web widget. Hence, the Wendex Quality Assortment, fifteen tunes ranging from Del Shannon to the Deftones, which you could buy separately from some other download service for $14.85 or so, or which you can get complete from Mixaloo for, well, $14.85. (Assuming they operate on a licensing model similar to Apple's, I figure they're paying around $9-10 to the record labels; I get $2.05 out of what's left.) The widget, which comes in three flavors, is actually pretty slick, and it allows a 30-second sample of each track before you commit yourself. I'm looking upon this as an experiment rather than as a source of income, for reasons which should be obvious. (Downside: This uses Microsoft's Windows Media Player 9 and up, and presumably Microsoft's DRM.)

Update, 9:15 pm: To continue the experiment, I bought these eleven tracks for $10.89. The download manager (which presumes IE, dammit) can grab four tracks at once; the whole transaction took less than ten minutes. The actual tracks are DRMed WMAs encoded at 192, which sounded pretty good.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:44 PM to Fileophile )
Flattening it out

You may remember that a couple of years ago Oklahoma Natural Gas introduced something called the Voluntary Fixed-Price Plan, which would enable you to lock in the rate you paid for gas for 12 months, without regard to market fluctuations. I contemplated it and turned it down, which wound up costing me over sixty dollars during the subsequent year. The following year, the VFP price was higher, but gas prices were lower, so I figure I got it back.

OG&E has now come up with their own variation on the theme, which does both more and less. The Guaranteed Flat Bill, according to the letter they sent me, will lock in my next twelve electric bills at $70.85, regardless of actual consumption; presumably they expect me to run up $850.20 in bills next year and have sliced it twelve ways.

This is the part that gets me, though:

Your GFB offer includes a premium that protects you from unpredictable bills caused by summer's heat or winter's cold. It also protects you from increases in electric rates or fuel charges. It even includes predicted increases in your electric usage.

In other words, they're charging me more in anticipation that I'll use more. And they admit it in the next paragraph:

Your GFB monthly offer will not be more than 10 percent above your expected usage adjusted for normal weather.

It is, however, 16.7 percent above my actual bills for the last twelve months, which came to $728.52. I'm having a little trouble seeing how this is any advantage over the existing Average Monthly Billing plan.

And in the fine print in the back, it says this:

Customers who participate in the GFB rate plan are not eligible for OG&E's wind power program.

And maybe that's the whole idea: those of us who signed up for wind power, who realize a price break every time fuel costs go up, need to be pried out of that subscription and into something that won't cost them money.

Thanks, but no thanks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:03 PM to Family Joules )
19 November 2007
Strange search-engine queries (94)

For the newcomers: this is a Monday-morning gathering (usually done Sunday evening) of the oddest searches found in my referrer logs. (Sometimes they're a tad raunchier than I'd like to admit, in which case I send them here.) This being Thanksgiving week, I'd like to express my gratitude to the hundreds of people who have put together search strings worthy of this feature.

"you think, therefore i am":  Yeah, that's it. I think.

duluth women naked pictures:  Taken during the summer, I presume.

what did massachusetts look like in 1776:  Less traffic, for one thing.

shvit meaning:  Fvuck if I know.

Why aren't you using Linux:  Ask me that when they try to sell me a Vista machine.

When she's just not into you as you are to her:  I believe the technical term for that is "life."

Trans-Siberian Orchestra sucks laughable awful:  Don't hold back now. Tell us what you really think.

very hard screaming sexy metal girls:  Did any of them show up at the Trans-Siberian Orchestra concert?

what to expect when you replace your transmission:  Much smoother operation and a much thinner wallet.

bland insipid osmond:  That would be Jimmy.

where do I bury St. Theresa:  I didn't even know she was sick.

maureen wants to see big penises:  So that's what they meant by "Times Select."

post menopausal closet communist hag:  Sorry, only one Dowd joke per week.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:23 AM to You Asked For It )
I am become a punchline

How many bloggers does it take to change a light bulb?

We're about to find out. I have a small track-light array over the breakfast bar, and by "small" I mean "three lights." The middle bulb has burned out, and I haven't a clue how to replace it.

Actually, that's not entirely true. I pulled out a little wire clamp, a glass lens dropped into my hand (fortunately), and the face of the bulb was exposed. Unfortunately, the shape of the mount makes it impossible to get any grip on the darn thing. I'm assuming that some sort of tool is needed, either a suction cup or, well, something other than a suction cup.

The annoying aspect of this is that I'm going to have to acquire the tool, take it home, remove the bulb, and then go back to the store to buy a replacement. I'm not even sure what size this thing is, though it looks like a PAR20. Here's hoping I can find CFL or even LED replacements, because I don't want to do this very often.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:44 AM to Surlywood )
We used to call these "kicky"

Miu Miu Vernice Pop PumpThis is the Vernice Pop Pump by Miu Miu, not to be confused with the non-Pop Vernice, which is strictly monochrome and open at the toe. The Manolo, he explains it this way:

[B]uried beneath your professional and business-like exterior, lies the softly beating heart of the free-spirited romantic, the sort of girl who would wear these red Miu Miu Vernice Pop Pumps with Harris tweeds and the felt cloche. This look is inappropriate for your office, faintly ridiculous, and somewhat anachronistic, and yet also completely adorable, and likely to attract the admiring gaze of poetic men.

Which, of course, demands their inclusion here, even if Rachel hadn't raved about them:

Maybe it's a defect in my character.... But they speak to me. In fact, they cry out to me.

And sometimes, I suppose, you must heed the call, even if it's collect. (Saks will collect $525 on each pair.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:41 AM to Rag Trade )
Geniuses at work (2)

You may remember that this past spring, Circuit City sacked as many of its experienced employees as possible, in a desperate attempt to cut costs. It didn't work quite as well as they'd hoped, and so after an indecent interval, they're trying to lure some of them back.

I suspect this response is typical, if a tad more eloquent than usual:

As I recall, I was told that I was being excused from the company because RetailComputerStore [he's being slightly coy here, but we know who it is] could no longer afford to pay me. As you are again offering me employment, that problem has clearly been solved. Recent news from the company indicates that 65 new superstores have been opened across the country. As I know from personal experience that it requires a sum in excess of 10 million dollars to open a new location, the conclusion I draw is that RetailComputerStore is currently in possession of over 650 million dollars' worth of equity. Based upon that, here are the terms of my new employment:

1) My salary is to be $35/hour. (Note: This is 3x what I made before, and obscenely higher than their "maximum salary cap".)

2) My schedule is to be as follows: I will work on Saturdays only, in a shift that is not to exceed eight hours, including a 60-minute lunch. I am not available to work Sunday through Friday for any reason, including meetings, training sessions, in-services, or company-sponsored gatherings. (Note: This is a pure insult. Sunday is the biggest, busiest day for RCS because that's the day everyone gets their new ads in the Sunday Paper. Refusing to work that day is akin to not working Black Friday, which I've also conveniently accomplished.)

3) I am to be exempt from any corporate-decreed wastes of my time. This includes, but is not limited to: PCP, morning meetings, and visits from upper management. I alone will evaluate what does and does not apply. (Note: Yes, I want it official that I wouldn't be required to give a damn.)

PCP is not the drug, I assume, but some organizational bushwah intended to look like management has a clue.

Please note that none of the above terms is in any way negotiable, and I will be requiring written acceptance of them before my employment can be renewed. If you can find a manager of any RetailComputerStore superstore able to meet these terms, please have them give me a call. (Note: Their letter ended by telling me to take my invitation to any manager. I'm turning it back on them, and challenging them to find someone willing to come to me.)

And you have to admit, this is vastly more fun than a perfunctory "Bite me."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:24 PM to Dyssynergy )
He can has cheezburger

After all, he has crowbar.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:52 PM to Wastes of Oxygen )
Fast 'n' bulbous

I betook myself this evening to a store specializing in light bulbs, and got to enjoy the ineffable delight of sounding like a complete idiot as I described the track-light situation that has befallen me. The proprietor listened patiently, and then came up with this: "The easiest thing would be to bring in the entire fixture, and we'll swap the bulb. Just disconnect it from the track."

He saw my "You can do that?" look, realized he was dealing with a person of limited technical prowess — I can build a PC, fercrissake, but don't ask me to change the spark plugs in a sideways V-6 — then pulled a track unit out of a box and demonstrated the technique. "Most people have to see it done before they can do it themselves, and all the instructions in the world won't make any difference."

I asked about the possibility of Technological Improvements, and he was doubtful: "Not over where you eat dinner, unless you don't want to look at your plate." Given the quality of my cooking — but never mind. Right now, I have to go knock a fixture off the track.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:20 PM to Surlywood )
Didn't help her gas mileage either

And I was thinking leather seating, in and of itself, was sufficient to discourage driving around without clothing.

On the upside, at least no one complained about the state of her underwear after the accident, which should please moms everywhere.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:43 PM to Birthday Suitable )
20 November 2007
The Portuguese demand a recount

"How do I love thee?" saith Bill unto Hillary. "Let me count the ways."

(Via Fausta's blog.)

Greyed out

"Black Friday"? Meh:

While there is a major focus on retail shopping data for "Black Friday" (November 23rd) and "Cyber Monday" (November 26th), the peak holiday shopping day will likely be Saturday December 22nd. Based on historical shopping patterns, the week of December 17-23 will produce the highest level of holiday sales. Furthermore, the holiday shopping period has been expanding as many consumers and retailers shift to the holiday mode shortly after Halloween rather than after Thanksgiving. Payment card usage from prior years indicates that "Black Friday" and "Cyber Monday" do not even rank among the top five busiest holiday shopping days.

Where would we be without the last minute?

Then again, there was an actual backup on the Distressway westbound yesterday afternoon: apparently not everyone is hip to the new barrier-enforced traffic pattern. Somebody is trying to get the jump on things.

Update, 3:30 pm: Head Farker Drew Curtis explains how it works:

Almost every product with a huge markdown on Black Friday falls into two categories:
  1. Items for which the manufacturer has paid a big premium to the retailer to be the first thing the store's media liaison mentions when media comes calling for quotes about the sales, or

  2. Crap.

These two categories, of course, need not be mutually exclusive.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:08 AM to Common Cents )
Persistence of yearning

I am on record as being fond of Gabriel García Márquez' Love in the Time of Cholera, which means I might want to avoid the motion picture thereof:

Most readers of the novel will notice the marked differences in tone between the film and book. Gone are the subtle undercurrents of biting wit, and in their place is a campy humor that only the cigar and scenery-chomping [John] Leguizamo [as Lorenzo Daza, Fermina's father] appears to recognize. The rest of the actors portray their characters in a wholly serious manner, which in all fairness is probably what the screenplay tells them to do. In the case of Dr Urbino, his character is entirely misdrawn. Instead of the restrained and dignified bore of a doctor found in the book, Benjamin Bratt appears as a smooth, charming man whose confidence lies not only in his medical profession but also in the bedroom. On his wedding night, Urbino tells an apprehensive Fermina that he will give her, "a lesson in love." The line comes straight from the book, but it just sounds so fucking sleazy in the campy context of the film, though the added dose of humor does manage to keep the audience awake. This humor is contrasted with a cringeworthy tagline that asks, "How long would you wait for love?" The disharmonious blend of serious, campy, and melodramatic angst creates an unsettling mood resembling that of Univision’s long-running variety show, "Sábado Gigante."

I have just had an unsettling vision of Don Francisco as Dr Urbino.

And of course, that's the point. Dr Urbino is supposed to be square to the point of tesseractuality; were he a real person with genuine affection for his bride, Florentino would be left with no reason to continue to obsess over her — no good reason, anyway.

"The heart's memory," said García Márquez, "eliminates the bad and magnifies the good." I'd worry about a film that did the exact opposite.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:29 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Looking out for No. 2

This holiday season, give the gift of low-velocity lead:

Two men tried to kidnap [a] girl near Tucker [GA] Middle School Monday night, police said.

The 14-year-old was on her way home from dance practice when a black van pulled up, and the men tried to grab her, police said, adding that the girl got away when she stabbed one of the men in the arm with a pencil.

As the phrase goes, that's gonna leave a mark.

(Via Fark.)

Back on track, as it were

There was a record called "Making Love Out of Nothing At All," which, if mentioned in passing, sounds like the sort of thing you'd get if you got Air Supply to do a Jim Steinman song. And indeed, that's what it was. The closest blogospheric equivalent, I submit, is getting three posts out of changing a light bulb, fercryingoutloud. (1; 2.)

So I presented the entire fixture, detached from the track, to the guy at The Light Bulb Store. (That's the name of the place. Truth in advertising.) He looked at it for a moment, reduced it to its component parts in a second or two, and produced from behind the counter a suitable replacement bulb. I stared, dumbfounded, and not just because "This little thing is fifty watts?"

I bought two spares.

At home, though, I managed to regain a sliver of my self-respect. At the end of dinner, the little wire bail that holds the lens in place suddenly didn't: the lens dropped onto a potholder (good fortune, that), but the bail was nowhere to be found. I briefly entertained the idea of returning to the store, remembered that it closed at five-thirty, and finally reshaped a paper clip (alleged "jumbo" size) into a replacement bail, which wasn't all that much more unsightly than the ones on the other two lamps. At least I'd contributed something to the proceedings besides cash and time.

This wasn't the only bit of weird electrickery I've been going through, but that's another post.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:31 PM to Surlywood )
21 November 2007
A milestone, though not so grim

The database that runs this place crashed in September 2006; no posts were lost, but I thought it better (and a better use of my time) to start over with a new directory structure than to try to wedge everything back into a structure which had already crapped out on me once.

The item linked above is the first post in the new database; this is the 2500th.

(For completists, there were 7,196 posts in the old database; there exist about 800 posts in the old manual system, used here before August 2002, so we're comfortably, if that's the word, over ten thousand.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:00 AM to Blogorrhea )
A process poorly handled

An English government body evidently didn't do its homework before naming a new road, and this is the result:

Residents of an English village are campaigning to change the name of a new road that translates into "Masturbation Meadow".

Residents of Morda, on the Welsh border, say the Gaelic street name of "Cae Onan" is an embarrassing mistake, the Daily News reports. Cae is Welsh for meadow or field, but Onan has no Welsh translation other than the Biblical figure killed by God for "spilling his seed" instead of impregnating his late brother's wife. That led to the word "onanism", an old term for masturbation.

I demur. What better place for seed than a meadow or field?

A petitioner thinks she knows what they really meant:

[She] believes council planners meant to call the road "Cae Onnen" which translates as "Ash Meadow".

But her belief finds no purchase at Council:

Paul Shevlin, from the local Council, said there were no plans to change the name as it was "not something that would be generally picked up on".

Typical government jerk-off.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:13 AM to Say What? )
Assault with battery

The palatial estate at Surlywood was purchased just about four years ago from a very lovely woman who wouldn't budge an inch on the price. She'd bought it only a couple years before, and in one of her first official acts, decreed the installation of a security system. It remained behind when she left; I signed up for the same monitoring service, and they sent a minion out to give me a perfunctory explanation of the control panel and to change the codes to something other than what she'd had.

Friday afternoon, I was greeted by the usual robot noises, but this set was timed differently. I punched in the Shut Up Already sequence, and discovered, between the usual AC and READY indicators, the scary-looking word BAT. A quick look at whatever documentation I could scrounge up, and I was ready to call the service.

"If I'm reading this right," I said, "the backup battery, the one that takes over when the power goes off, is in its death throes."

"That's what it is. Looks like it's about, oh, six years old. About time for it to go."

"What should I do?"

"We can send you out a replacement. Very easy to install. Twenty-five dollars, no charge for shipping and handling. Should be there in five to seven business days. In the meantime, the system will still work on AC."

"Good enough," I said, and put it out of my mind — until about 2:20 am, when the off-tempo robot noises returned. I silenced them and went back to bed.

Over the next few days, the infernal beepage returned at random intervals. I called the service. "They do that. About every four to six hours there's a self-test to make sure everything's working. When something's not working, well, you just heard it."

With the four fingers I wasn't already using on that hand, I counted up five to seven business days. Thanksgiving obviously doesn't count; does the day after?

So I popped open the cabinet, to the extent that "popped open" applies to a metal box that's sealed with Phillips screws, and found the offending component. Looked just like a Sears DieHard sent through the debigulator: same lead-acid chemistry, same 12 volts, though obviously not up to the task of starting a car. I grat my teeth and betook myself to Batteries Plus, where they had a whole shelf of the little bastiges.

Twenty-four ninety-nine. The robots are silent. And when the dawdling courier finally drops that surprisingly-heavy package at my door, I'll have a backup backup battery.

(No, I didn't post about this earlier, for the simple reason that it struck me as a Bad Idea to let on that my security system had acquired a temporary weakness until such time as it could be repaired.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:14 AM to Surlywood )
A studly innovation indeed

Driving at night is nerve-wracking, at least for me: you can glue extra lights to every single vehicle in the country and you'd still have to deal with the fact that you can't see a damn thing until it's almost too late.

The British are trying to buy some time:

The British have shed some light on night driving with the invention of the Astucia SolarLite flush road stud. The stud emits LED light, which is powered by small solar panels. The new stud tech is present on 120 British roads, and night-time accidents are down a dramatic 70% since the devices were installed. Amazingly, the SolarLite road stud gives drivers 900 meters of visibility, which increases reaction times to over 30 seconds. Reaction time with standard reflector studs is just 3.2 seconds.

I'd question the use of the term "reaction time" here, since it's usually applied to how fast the driver actually reacts, not to how much time he has before he reacts, but this is a minor point.

There are further advantages. From the British press release:

Research carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory also shows that when the smart studs are used, drivers also significantly less likely to cross the white line in the centre of a road or move out of lane on a dual carriageway. They also brake earlier and more consistently.

The greater number of visual references also means that drivers tend not to speed into the corners. In addition, the flush fitting studs are also safer for cyclist and motorcyclists. All make their contribution to added driving safety.

And the cost?

The latest Astucia stud reduces casualties on the road and has a projected life of eight to ten years, compared with just one to two years for a conventional retro-reflective stud. Over its lifespan an Astucia "smart" stud will therefore cost no more than a traditional cat's eye. The units' efficiency can also allow a reduction in the use of energy- and maintenance-intensive, carbon-inefficient, streetlights. In comparison with the cost and trauma of a fatal road accident of course, the price of any road stud fades into insignificance.

Keep the snowplows (where applicable) from ripping them to shreds, and you've got a pretty persuasive package here.

Finding the lost train of thought

Ray Wylie Hubbard, who's due in here Friday night (9 pm at The Blue Door, with Jubal Lee Young), explains to the Gazette how it is that he never comes down with writer's block:

"I just lower my standards a little, and then get some sleep."

This works surprisingly well in blogdom, I've noticed.

22 November 2007
And they swam and they swam

All over the damn place, in fact, but the fish couldn't get away from the sodium hypochlorite solution, and they perished, all 200 of them.

This happened in July at a pond at The Lakes at Traditions, west of Santa Fe on NW 150th. The city was repairing a water line in the area, and the bleach-y stuff managed to escape from another section of the line and eventually into the pond.

The Department of Environmental Quality investigated; in September, they issued a violation notice. The city will agree to a consent order [link goes to PDF file] and will pay a penalty of $20,000, half for the unauthorized discharge, half for failing to report it in a timely manner. This works out to about $100 per dead fish.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:44 AM to City Scene )
One at a time

Quick, now: How many record albums (or the CD, or whatever, equivalent) do you have that have no filler tracks whatsoever? One, maybe two? Yeah, they got seven singles off Thriller, out of a possible nine, but has anyone played, say, "Baby Be Mine" lately?

Jermaine Dupri would question your judgment if you hadn't:

Every album is created for you to hear the next song, especially on rap albums. Rappers make intros on their records for a reason — they want you to listen it to set the mood and get ready for that second song.

I'm not saying that music can't ever be sold as singles. Not every album is equal and consumers are always going to try to cherry pick the songs they like. But that doesn't mean the people who [are] investing their time, money and sweat into a record shouldn't have the right to decide how it's gonna be sold, whether that's in single units or as a whole. My book, Young, Rich and Dangerous: The Making of a Music Mogul, came out in hardcover last month, but Simon & Schuster doesn't let the book stores tear it up and sell it chapter by chapter. A record is no different.

Remember, children: start at the beginning and work your way to the end, just as Jermaine Dupri intends. And he's quite serious:

Apple, why are you helping the consumer destroy our canvas? We don't tell you to break up your computers into bits and pieces and sell off each thing. When you go to the Apple store you may only need one thing, but you have to buy all their plug ins and stuff. You have to buy their whole package, even if you don't necessarily want it, or your equipment won't work. We're just saying, if you have the audacity to sell your products like that, don't treat our products as something less than yours.

Suggestions to Mr Dupri:

  1. Release albums with one track. There is precedent: Tubular Bells, Thick as a Brick. (Yes, there's the inevitable division into Parts I and II, but this was made necessary by the limited playing time of the LP record.)

  2. If you don't want the iTunes Store selling your stuff, don't license it to them. Simple as that.

Me, I take my lead from the late James "Shep" Sheppard, who put together a seamless set of songs telling a single story: the love affair from start to finish. What's more, he did it before Pet Sounds. And here's the kicker: he did it on singles, more than a dozen 45s, starting with the Heartbeats' "Crazy for You" (1955), passing through "A Thousand Miles Away" (1956) and its presumed sequel "Daddy's Home" by Shep and the Limelites (1961), culminating in "I'm All Alone" (1962). None of them made much chart noise except "Daddy's Home," which made Number Two, and it took six years to get them all into circulation, but it's at least as compelling a story as anything you're likely to hear from the likes of Jermaine Dupri. And you can get most of them at the iTunes Store — one at a time, if you wish.

(Suggested by the singular La Shawn Barber.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:53 AM to Tongue and Groove )
An application of push technology

It may be that some retailers aren't going to make a buck off Black Friday, but the Oklahoman intends to try its best: this morning's paper, maybe 40 pages of something resembling news and about six pounds of advertising supplements (did you know Kohl's opens tomorrow at 4 am?), bears a cover price of $1.50, triple the usual for a day that isn't Sunday.

For some reason I feel like I should go plant a tree.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:12 AM to Soonerland )
Two of us, riding nowhere

The question of "When is it a date?" having already been settled, the next item for discussion is "How do you know if you're officially a couple?" Trish offers guidelines:

I think I'm dating someone. I'm not really sure, because I was a bit drunk when we had the conversation, but I'm pretty sure this is the case. Something about planning a golf outing with a couple we were boozing with, and when he heard of it, he just looked at me and said "So we're a couple then?" And I retorted with something like "Well, when you take me to a wedding and I have to meet your mom (granted, while downing multiple glasses of wine while at the reception), it's safe to say we'll probably go out again."

This may sound a trifle vague, but it pretty much has to: you have Couples, which are obvious, and you have Non-Couples, which are also obvious, but there's no distinct line of demarcation between the two groups.

There are external forces acting on the participants, of course:

I've known him for a year or so, so there's bound to be some level of familarity there. We have some mutual friends, so it's not that big of a stretch for me to hang out with his friends. And I actually entered the circle quite innocently, and managed to not make out with any of his friends before we started talking/dating/whatever.

So: moving, if not exactly hurtling, toward Coupledom. By nature, I am suspicious when these things happen too quickly. (Not that they happen to me, but that's another matter, irrespective of speed.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:48 PM to Table for One )
Un paso a la vez

One regular advertiser on Spanish-language TV in the US is "Inglés sin Barreras" — "English without Barriers" — a home-study course. Most of their ads are fairly dry and institutional, though they're not above doing something funny. The potential market for this course is no doubt immense: nobody knows for sure how big, but I have to figure that time spent earning a living cuts into the time available for learning a second language.

One of the Mexican-owned TV networks with a US presence, Azteca América, is taking steps to tap into this market: beginning in January, AZA's affiliate stations will carry a Sunday-morning English class, supported by advertising. One hundred twenty half-hour classes are planned, produced by the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The pitch, as with the home-study course, is simple: speaking English will help open doors.

AZA's Oklahoma City affiliate is KOHC, channel 38, which, like most low-powered television stations, is not carried on local cable.

(Via Joanne Jacobs.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:53 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Beddian theory

No more than once in a lifetime, you get a Beddian year, named for the late New York firefighter Bobby Beddia. As defined by Beddia, and refined by mathematician Barry Cipra, it's the year in which your age matches the last two digits of the year you were born. If you were born in 1950, it was 2000, the year you turned 50. (If you were born in 1984, you won't see yours until 2068.)

Trivial, perhaps, but interesting. As Cipra says:

What's sort of great about it is that it will happen to everybody if you live long enough. If you were born in 2000, it happens instantaneously. The people who were born at the end of the century have to take care of themselves.

Indeed. My grandson Nick, born in 1999, doesn't get a Beddian year until 2098, while I've already had mine.

(Via Jason Kottke, whose Beddian year is 2046.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:15 PM to Entirely Too Cool )
23 November 2007
The carat/stick approach

If you're a single woman with the intention of not remaining so, I urge you to consider the construction of one of these:

The Engagement Ring Dossier (the ERD) is literally a dossier, created by your lady, filled with all the relevant information that a man needs to know when purchasing an engagement ring. It can include all manner of materials; in addition to basics like ring size and preferred diamond cut, it can include pictures, diagrams, drawings, locations of preferred jewelers, do's and don'ts, top ten lists, etc. Nothing must be considered understood, and every last detail should be covered (for example, do not assume, ladies, that your man is not going to somehow sneak a Philadelphia Eagles logo on the underside of the ring band). The ERD is supposed to be a self-contained unit, something a man with an IQ of 80 and the refinement of a bag of rusted springs can receive, digest, and take into a jewelry store to sit down with the jeweler to figure out the ideal ring.

The creator of this concept says that the guy should encourage his intended to produce this thing well in advance, so that when the time comes, he'll have the necessary information at hand and can pop the question with maximum dramatic, or at least gemological, impact. I'd go beyond that: I think she should make one of these anyway, whether she has anyone in mind or not, and if things get to the point where it becomes a possibility, she should "accidentally" leave it out where he can discover it.

There is a downside to this approach, which may be summed up thusly: "Do you really want to marry some guy who goes through the stuff you accidentally leave out?" But if said guy quails at the thought of ring-shopping (as I do, not that there's any possibility that I'd need to be doing any), and you'd just as soon not get something that looks like it was recommended in a Dave Barry column, this may be a viable solution.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:03 AM to Table for One )
Strong to the Finnish

The Brits talk about "northern soul," and you can't get much more northern than this: a soul band from Finland, fronted by a singer born in Brooklyn.

Nicole Willis and the Soul Investigators. I kept looking around for indications that this was some lost 1970 Motown track, but no: 2005, Helsinki. It's going to take me a long time to get tired of this one.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:27 AM to Tongue and Groove )
Quote of the week

Joseph Hertzlinger, in a comment to this Coyote Blog post:

There are two schools of land-use planning: "reduce sprawl" and "reduce congestion." In practice, those turn into "stop building in low-density areas" and "stop building in high-density areas," respectively.

Sometimes the two sides compromise on stopping all construction. The resulting housing shortage is blamed on greedy landlords and is used as an excuse for more regulations.

In the worst case, rent control. At least Section 8 goes through the motions of paying attention to market values.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:01 PM to QOTW )
This would seem to settle the matter

The answer, it appears, is Yes.

And no Charmin, either

In other news, the Pope is Catholic.

(Via Erudite Redneck.)

Nor any drop to drink

We are much mocked (usually by Tulsans) for converting the glorified drainage ditch that was the North Canadian into some semblance of an actual river, but it makes a certain amount of sense, since (1) said ditch was a bitch to mow and (2) things actually happen there now.

It helps that we generally don't run horribly short of water in these parts: last year was unusually dry, but still we recorded about 26 inches of rainfall. (This year we've had more than twice that.) I mean, it's not like we're in the middle of a freaking desert or anything:

The city of Phoenix in Arizona sits in the middle of a desert that for the past 11 years has been suffering a punishing drought. Temperatures in the city rose above 43C (110F) for a record 30 days this year and water levels in the rivers that supply its 1.5 million people with drinking water are at near-record lows.

A perfect spot then to build what is described as a "year-round watersports paradise", in which visitors will be able to revel in whatever watery pastime takes their fancy.

The businessmen behind Waveyard say they plan to recreate the seascape of Indonesia or Hawaii in an area that has just eight inches of rainfall a year. They have earmarked a site about 15 miles outside Phoenix on 125 acres of land that normally supports nothing but saguaro cacti and creosote bushes and that is 200 miles from the nearest beach.

This seems ever-so-slightly insane, even in the face of bland reassurances:

Rita Maguire, a water expert who has advised Waveyard on water supplies for the development, told Associated Press that she had come round to the idea. "Initially, the reaction is: 'Oh my. Is this an appropriate use of water in a desert'? But recreation is a very important part of a community."

She added that the project would not use more water than a golf course, which sounds reassuring, until you learn that the Arizonan desert is already pockmarked with 402 golf courses.

In which case, a 403rd should hardly make a difference, you'd think. Still, I'm uneasy about this sort of thing, if only because the population of Maricopa County, now over three million, is expected to close in on five million by 2025 or shortly thereafter, and it's not like there's going to be a sudden upsurge in water availability between now and then. Then again, I could be wrong.

(Via Fred First.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:15 PM to Dyssynergy )

Give a listen to the singing group Two Five Nine, and then betake yourself to Dodgeblogium, for the 259th edition of Carnival of the Vanities, subtitled "Turkey."

McGehee once predicted there would someday be a post here titled "260", which may well happen next week.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:13 PM to Blogorrhea )
24 November 2007
The tax man backeth off

New York Governor Eliot Spitzer has temporarily abandoned a scheme to charge sales tax on online retail transactions by New York customers, which the New York Sun dubbed the "Amazon Tax"; one Republican senator, questioning the timing, called it the "Grinch Tax."

The speedy turnabout suggests that the headline-hungry Spitzer, at bottom, might still be in possession of a clue or two. I can't say the same for his budget director, though. Paul Francis, trying to explain why the move was so not a tax increase, came up with this:

I don't regard it as a tax increase. It's only a tax increase to the person who is paying it.

Emphasis added. And that stuff that makes the clouds move around? It's not actually air until you breathe it.

For the curious: Oklahoma has a "use tax" which applies to online purchases; however, the storefronts don't have to collect it on behalf of the state. (You're supposed to pay it yourself on Form 511.) This is marginally less heinous, because, unlike the Spitzer plan, it imposes no additional burden on retailers.

(Via Kirsten Mortensen.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:26 AM to Say What? )
Further flattening it out

Last week, I described OG&E's Guaranteed Flat Bill, and decided it wasn't for me.

Apparently these things are catching on all over the place, because someone took one to economist Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution, and he wasn't impressed either:

If you draw a standard and supply diagram, you can see that fluctuating prices (with a constant mean) increase expected consumer surplus but decrease expected producer surplus. For instance as a buyer you'd rather have a price of 50 half of the time and a price of 200 the other half of the time, rather than 125 all the time; the opposite is true for the seller. That is one reason why the utility may prefer a lock-in.

There is also a "only the stupidest consumers will respond" effect. It costs the utility very little to make an offer favorable to themselves but unfavorable to the consumers. It's worth doing even if only a few people accept. Given that utilities are regulated monopolies, you should expect conflict of interest to be high and thus decline most of their offers.

I sent the offer to the shredder yesterday, which should qualify as a decline.

I don't know if OG&E is hoping we're dumb. The first year Oklahoma Natural Gas offered a flat gas rate, I turned it down and paid semi-dearly for so doing, which suggests that perhaps ONG had some motivation other than soaking the customers. But Cowen's general advice makes sense:

The most general response is simply that you should insure only against catastrophic events, and yes that sometimes includes your wife getting mad because you didn't buy a product warranty on your latest purchase of toothpicks.

What, have they started selling toothpicks at Best Buy?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:30 AM to Family Joules )
That whole Adam and Steve thing

Finally, some arguments against gay marriage that actually mean something, from T Town Tommy:

1) Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

6) Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn't be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren't full yet, and the world needs more children.

9) Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That's why we as a society expressly forbid single parents to raise children.

You might infer from the numbers that there are more, and you would be correct.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:27 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Weirdness, thy name is CBS

It is now alleged that there exist "intimate" photographs of CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric, and that the person who has them wants to be paid off:

The latest issue of our favorite tabloid, the National Enquirer, has a story claiming that there are ... cringe-worthy photos possibly coming. 50 year-old gummy-grinning newscaster Katie Couric is being blackmailed for $1 million over photos that her 33 year-old boytoy, Brooks Perlin, left at a party. Katie's camp claims they’re just friendly vacation snaps, but why would someone try to extort a million bucks out of Katie for some tame personal pictures?

Two observations:

  1. Haven't we already seen more of Katie than we wanted to?

  2. We never had this kind of problem with Dan Rather. (Of course, if we had, the photos would presumably have been exposed as fakes.)

I just hope to God if there's anything at all, it's just still photos; I'm not even slightly prepared for video.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:27 PM to Dyssynergy )
Grease is the word

Two factoids: San Francisco has some 1500 diesel-powered vehicles in the city fleet; San Francisco spends some $3.5 million a year cleaning up the dumping of waste cooking oil, usually from the city's own sewer system.

So this makes sense: the city will pick up the grease from your eatery, no charge, and have it converted to biodiesel, thereby addressing two issues at once.

Which leads to this question: what about commercial grease-pickup firms? Apparently the competition for grease in the Bay Area has been so fierce that most of the firms who used to charge for picking it up no longer do so. A representative for San Francisco's Public Utility Commission says that while any restaurant can sign up for SFGreasecycle, priority will be given to those not currently using a commercial service — which presumably are the ones most likely to be dumping it into the sewers. Next question: will the demand reach a point where restaurants will actually be able to sell the stuff?

(From Biodiesel Blog via Autoblog Green.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:40 PM to Family Joules )
25 November 2007
Off to the Betty Crocker Clinic

Been there, attacked that with a spoon:

As a member of the mental health profession, I probably shouldn't be telling you this, but the truth is that therapy can cost upward of $140 an hour, but the supermarket sells cans of frosting for just $1.99. Not that I don't believe in the powers of psychotherapy, but if you really need to talk, then splurge on 2 cans of frosting and invite a friend to share.

Carbs? What carbs? This is no time to bring up carbs.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:27 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Even cheaper

I signed up with this particular Web host on the last day of 2001. They offered four plans, from dirt-cheap to downright pricey; I took one in between, and that's been the deal ever since.

Until someone came up with "Why are we offering four different plans, anyway?"

And so it came to pass that there would be one plan, with a la carte options as desired, and the price of that plan is a tad more than their previous bottom-feeder offering — but about half the price of the mid-line package I used to get. And now there are discounts for prepaying by the year, which I've always done anyway.

Bottom line: the price of operating this place has dropped by about $100 a year, despite the fact that owing to some dubious hotlinkage I've chewed up about 60 GB of bandwidth this month. (Usually it's around 3 or 4.) My disk quota seems to have dropped a bit, but I'm nowhere near the 600 GB I'm allowed, so I'm not sweating it.

Now if I can just remember when I have to renew all these domains, I'll actually have matters under control. Sort of.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:01 AM to Blogorrhea )
Propping the door open

This afternoon being taken up with, um, other issues, I'm declaring an open thread. The usual rules apply. (If you're not familiar with the usual rules, you'll figure them out soon enough.) I'd especially like to hear from someone who can explain what the heck is wrong with Site Meter this morning.

Management in heavy rotation

I am not what you'd call a fan of media consolidation, generally, but Matt Welch has a serious point here:

The amount of real news we get is increasing exponentially, in spite of (and not because of) the FCC and its unjustifiable ownership restrictions. Also, how in God's name does having the Tribune Co. own the L.A. Times and KTLA "limit" the amount of real net news? Seriously, how? Spell it out. Because I've lived with both companies my whole life, and worked for one for nearly two years, and if there was more than one drop of "synergy" between the two properties I sure as hell haven't seen it. Nor do I even understand how such a limitation would work in theory. What, so, the newspaper and the teevee station would have the same editorial line? The front page would look like the first three minutes of the News at Ten? Newspaper grunts would start wearing hair helmets, getting eye-tucks and pairing off in May-September female-male couplets?

The only thing that preventing newspaper companies from owning television stations does, is artificially limit the number of potential buyers of media companies. How this is supposed to increase the amount of "real news" we get is beyond me.

And this occurred to me: at various times in its existence, the channel 4 facility in Oklahoma City has been under the command of The Oklahoman, The Detroit News, and The New York Times. In fact, the Michiganders acquired the station because the FCC was in the mood to break up local newspaper/television combinations, and the federal stick was supplemented with a carrot: tax breaks to those who break up the set. So Opubco shipped the channel 4 license to Detroit in early 1976. It's since changed hands several times, most recently this year, when The New York Times Company decided to get out of the TV business. Can anyone — anyone too young to remember 3-D Danny, anyway — tell the difference among any of the station's incarnations?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:05 PM to Dyssynergy )
26 November 2007
A dab of Armor All behind the mirrors

This guy shouldn't be allowed in a parking lot:

Wong was observed checking out three BMW vehicles on display at the BMW display at the Home and Garden Show on March 22. Then, he was seen sitting on the roof of a 2007 BMW 328i sedan, valued at $50,000.

Shortly after that, Wong had dropped his sweat pants to his ankles and was spotted masturbating while sitting with his legs dangling over the driver's door window. Security eventually detained Wong until police showed up and a clean-up crew had to wash down the BMW.

Apparently it's not just Bimmers, either:

[A psychiatrist] said Wong reported he also gets aroused by certain cars, including a 1967 Camaro and a 1955 Chevy Bel Air, and blames the owners for buying the cars because it tempts him to "pleasure" himself.

Court heard Wong was also arrested May 24 for jumping on a 2005 Mini Cooper outside the downtown Boston Pizza, dropping his pants and proceeding to "tuck, rub and bounce his naked genitalia" on the hood of the car. He also admitted climbing onto the roof of a 1991 Buick Century parked at the rear of a south-side home, taking off his clothes and masturbating on June 12.

A '91 Buick? This guy is hard-core and then some. They're going to have to chain him to an AMC Gremlin, drive him halfway up the Dempster Highway, and leave him there.

(Via The Poor Farm.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:00 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
A stitch in future time

And Captain Picard said, "Make it sew":


This is belOga, a new sewing-machine design by Kristine Brückner that's still in the concept stage — meaning you can't buy one of these just yet. The neatest twist is the display screen, which not only substitutes for control buttons and such but which gives you a readout of the actual shape of the stitch, a useful commodity if you go for the sort of fancy stitching that used to require swapping out cams. (The second-neatest twist is its semi-autothreading: drop in the spool and belOga will feed the thread all the way to the needle, leaving you only the task of connecting thread to eye.)

God only knows what one of these would sell for, but having thirty years ago written a $1500 check for a loaded-to-the-gunwales Bernina, I suspect that it would be well into four figures.

(Via Popgadget.)

Choosy treehuggers choose plastic

Or so it seems:

Last year, 28.6 million real Christmas trees were sold in the United States at an average price of $40.50, according to the National Christmas Tree Association. Americans also bought 9.3 million fake trees at an average price of $68.

Well, of course. Real trees don't have any resale value, except perhaps to someone with a woodburning stove.

(Via Bitter Bitch.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:03 AM to Common Cents )
So buy the farging book

William F. Buckley, Jr. tells it this way:

Halfway through my time as chairman [of the Yale Daily News] we published a letter from Professor Norman Holmes Pearson protesting my editorials and instructing us to cancel his subscription. When, ten years later, a subscriber to National Review wrote to say the same thing, I published the letter with the editorial note, "Cancel your own goddam subscription." I have to admit it, the license to make such responses brings absolute joy to an editor's heart, but of course publishers don't like it. For understandable reasons.

Apparently it didn't faze Basic Books, which has now issued a Buckley collection called Cancel Your Own Goddam Subscription: Notes and Asides from the National Review, and I'm tempted to get it just to compare its tone with that of today's rather bloodless NR.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:24 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Strange search-engine queries (95)

For the last few Mondays, we've been looking to see what sort of search strings brought people to this site, and once in a while there's something worth snarking about. The following will illustrate what we mean.

where is marilyn monroe's ghost?  Doing The Crucible in summer stock.

low skill/low wage, kmart:  The customers, or the staff?

"seven of nine" naked:  Wow. Resistance really is futile.

"super attractive" shy intimidating:  If you're intimidating enough, no one need ever know you're shy.

Warner Bros record label, how are they running it?  Like most labels, into the ground.

my car wont pass smog because of the obdii connection system:  Guess what? It won't pass if you take it off, either.

sharon resultan sperm:  This is not why Jim Cantore's always on the road, is it?

"maureen dowd" "big feet":  Let's just say she has some awfully big shoes to fill.

grape nuts beer:  "Where are you most likely to find barley around the house?"

"Weird Al" Yankovic is a strict vegan and forbids Dasani water:  Also Grape-Nuts and beer.

I want to see women put mayonnaise in hair:  No, you don't. Trust me on this.

streaming video porn muslim:  You'd be better off watching women putting mayonnaise in their hair.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:56 PM to You Asked For It )
27 November 2007
SiteMeter explains

Well, sort of:

It seems that on Friday November 24th, "Black Friday" (known as such because it's the busiest shopping day of the year) a handful of SiteMeter servers failed, including the one that hosts www.sitemeter.com. From what we've heard, the internet had more traffic on this day than ever in its history. We also understand that many sites and server farms became over stressed under the load. At this time we're only able to speculate but it may be that a handful of our sites succumbed to the same fate.

We're slowly bringing the downed servers back online but in some cases we're unable to retrieve data lost during the outage. If your stats are hosted on s21, s24, or s25 you will most likely be missing data from approximately Friday Nov 23rd to Monday Nov 26th.

Actually, it's not the busiest shopping day of the year (nor was it the 24th, come to think of it), and I don't believe in that Cyber Monday stuff either, so they're really going to have to do better than that.

Oh, and my stats are on s21; there's a gap between 11:29 am Saturday and 5:24 pm Monday (all times Eastern), except for one visit somehow recorded on Sunday around noon. Go figure.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to PEBKAC )
Trent seeking

Trent Lott is stepping down from the Senate because, says E. M. Zanotti, he needs the bucks:

Not only is he not that wealthy (comparatively) his house was all but destroyed in Katrina and despite Bush's assurances to the opposite, no governmental help has come specifically marching to his door. He needs the eight hundred or so thousand per year he can make lobbying those he knew who still cling to the hope that for slightly less pay they can continue to stuff their districts with post offices, museum and trout-painted airplanes. The difference being that when you work in Congress, you have to take your payment in the form of free trips, free meals, free cigars and those nifty pens with the drug names on them that are unbelievably ergonomic; when you work outside of it, all of that value comes in the form of a paycheck. Trent needs the cash, not the trips, and since next year that line of work will be cut off (per lobbying reforms instituted post-Abramoff), he needs to get out while the getting's good.

I don't think this makes much of a case for a Congressional raise, though.

And given the possibility that next year for the Republicans will make 2006 look like a minor inconvenience, it's probably not a bad time to be a former Senator. Or, for that matter, a former Representative; Dennis Hastert turned in his resignation yesterday.

Drain in vain

Apparently Tulsa has raised its residential stormwater rate, thereby raising an eyebrow at Stan Geiger's place:

[W]hatever you call it, what residents are coughing up to the Stormwater Management bureaucracy has been increased to $4.79 a month.

As I recall, that fee began at $2 a month in 1987. So in 20 years, it has gone up about 140 percent. I wonder how many Tulsa citizens haven't seen their pay go up 140 percent in 20 years. Quite a few, I'd say.

Tulsa city government explains what it's about:

Residential customers are charged $4.63 [I guess they haven't changed their Web site yet] per month to pay for operations and maintenance of more than 85 detention ponds, plus other stormwater facilities operated and maintained by the Public Works Department. Seventy percent of the money raised by the fee goes toward operations and maintenance of stormwater detention facilities, stream channels, pumping stations, culverts, ditches and other drainage facilities. The rest of the money goes toward small capital projects, utility billing, planning and design services, indirect costs, franchise fee and administration. In addition, the City's stormwater detention facilities provide residents with: open green space for playgrounds, soccer fields and trails; wetlands and ponds that serve as wildlife habitat; flood-resistant commercial and residential development; and safer streets due to drainage improvements.

Here in Oklahoma City, we pay a $4.00 "drainage fee," but it's apparently something entirely different:

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now enforces strict storm water drainage regulations. The monthly Stormwater Drainage Utility Fee pays for work we must do to meet these new EPA drainage standards and requirements. The regulations are the result of a federal mandate to clean up pollution from storm water which drains into rivers, lakes and streams.

Washington did not provide any money to pay for meeting the requirements. Every large city in the United States must spend local money — millions of dollars — to avoid crippling fines.

If Tulsa is subject to this same mandate, it might be in their best interest to tell the people who pay the utility bills that some of that stormwater money is being spent on environmental compliance — if in fact it is.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:10 AM to Soonerland )
Insistence of revision

Google apparently really, really wants more of your personal data:

Blogspot comment window section

This is one of the more recent incarnations of the Blogspot comment window. You'll note that "Sign in with your Google Account" is about twice as big as it used to be (and still is, on some earlier templates).

I do in fact have a Google account. However, I can think of no good reason to use it for leaving blog comments: by now they have enough of my personal information to be able to proofread my autobiography. I am reasonably certain that if I tick the "Other" box they can connect the dots should they so desire, but it's one extra step for them, and I'm a firm believer in making them take that step.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:08 PM to PEBKAC )
DRM a little DRM

Google reports about three hundred results for "windows media player 11 sucks", and this level of anguish seems typical:

The current version, 11, eliminates some of the usability options that make it possible for a tinkerer like me to ensure that the information associated with a given music track — things like "artist," "album," "title"... — are accurate. And when Media Player 11 screws up any of that information, not even reverting to Media Player 10 can fix things. In fact, I have not found any way that I can permanently and irrevocably eliminate WMP11's screwed-up accessory info about some of my tracks; not even changing them in the properties of the .mp3 file itself seems sufficient to persuade WMP, regardless of version, that Brooks & Dunn's "Boot Scootin' Boogie" isn't really Merle Haggard’s "Misery and Gin."

I'm guessing he reverted all the way back to 6.4:

So, I've fired Windows Media Player and am using what looks for all the world like a slight retooling and user-interface-updating of the media player that used to come with Windows 3.1 — lighter, quicker, less kludgy, and without the Media Library feature that was giving me all that trouble. It means if I want to play tracks in sequence I have to set up a playlist and open that in the program instead of any one track, but I remember how to do that.

I still have version 10; I have been refusing all proffered updates, just in case they try to slip 11 to me.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:24 PM to PEBKAC )
28 November 2007
Where the dollars are

It wasn't that long ago when you couldn't even have branch banks in Oklahoma, the sort of policy which discouraged out-of-state banks from competing — which, I have to assume, was the whole idea. Now that this rule and some others have been scrapped, you might wonder if the Big Boys from the Coast have taken over.

Don Mecoy reports in the Oklahoman that no, they haven't:

Oklahoma and its largest metropolitan areas are highly competitive banking markets, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. statistics show. Oklahoma had the fifth-lowest concentration in its banking market in 2004, the FDIC said.

The state's largest bank, Bank of Oklahoma, controls just more than 11 percent of deposits, and the five biggest institutions manage about one-third of all deposits. By contrast, the five largest banks in Texas hold more than half of all deposits. In Arizona, the three largest banks control nearly two-thirds of state deposits.

Things I noticed:

  • We still prefer our homegrown banks. The top three — BOk, MidFirst and BancFirst — are all based in Oklahoma. And the out-of-state bank with the greatest market penetration is Arvest, right next door in Arkansas.

  • None of the aforementioned Big Boys from the Coast has scored 5 percent of the market; Bank of America comes closest, at 4.59 percent.

  • If you were wondering if everything's going to BOk, well, they've got a long way to go before they become the 800-lb gorilla of the state.

One of the Big Boys bought out my bank, and I haven't moved. Yet.

Not including heels

At least once a week someone wanders in here trying to find out how tall Ann Coulter is. I've never had the opportunity to find out for myself, obviously; Andrea Harris, having spotted her in a bookstore, reported that Ms C isn't all that tall.

The police department of Palm Beach, however, has now assured us that she's five-ten and 115 lb, which supports my thesis that she might benefit from a visit to Krispy Kreme. (If she's in the area, I'll buy.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:39 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The grim spectre of overtime

Britain's Trade Unions Council is disturbed to find people are working longer hours these days:

More than one in eight people now work more than 48 hours a week, rising to one in six in London, the TUC said.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the "disturbing" findings suggest there is "undoubted abuse of the law" by some employers.

Mr Barber would undoubtedly be appalled at my schedule, which averages right around 48 hours a week. A chap from Wirral, quoted in the BBC piece, says it's not just a job, it's indenture:

If you are working more than 48 hours in a five day week it means that you have approximately five hours a day awake out of work (not including time to travel to/from work.) That's not work but a form of slavery.

Slaves get weekends off? Cool.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:11 AM to TANSTAAFL )
How to threaten a book

Dorothy Parker once characterized a book as "not to be tossed lightly aside, but to be hurled with great force." I've read a few like that. But it takes a truly craptacular tome to be worthy of this torment:

"I will rip your pages out of your spine. One by one. I'm sure you will make some very delightful tearing noises."

Good gods, that's heinous. Al sounded appalled.

Septimus blanched at the sorcerer's remark.

"And then," Blackthorne continued in a lascivious tone, "I'm going to soak you in a nice vintage liqueur and slowly burn each page with one of those branding irons master chefs use to caramelize crème brûlée."

I get the impression that S. Y. Affolee, who created this scene for her 2007 NaNoWriMo work, Vellum and Green Vitriol, has read more of said craptacular tomes than anyone should have to — and this is payback well deserved. Certainly the tormentor seems to be enjoying himself.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:03 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Baby, you're out of time

A Centennial Clock with four faces runs upward of $20,000. The operative term here is runs: every week I go by the clock at the gateway to Crown Heights at 36th and Shartel — usually, it's to snag a copy of the Gazette — and I can't remember the last time when the clock was actually right. Who's in charge of resetting these gizmos, anyway?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:36 PM to City Scene )
29 November 2007

The Carnival of the Vanities is sore this week, though not as sore as I'd be if I had to make the payments on this house on 260th Street in Covington, Washington. (And actually, I'm kind of shocked that they'd slap a house this size on a lot of less than 5000 square feet; the whole parcel would fit in my back yard.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:57 AM to Blogorrhea )
Just don't pour it on me

Reports of the death of Robert Cade, inventor of Gatorade, have been all over blogdom already, but this is too good to pass up. First, an observation by Kathy Shaidle:

Thank God he worked for Florida and not UC Santa Cruz, or we'd all be drinking BananaSlugHelper.

David Janes sent this rejoinder:

You mean it's a good thing that he worked for University of Florida (football team: the Gators) than for Florida State (football team: the Seminoles) because then it would have to be called Seminolefluid.

Oh, come now.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:48 AM to Say What? )
Zero-click ordering

If this ever comes out, the speed with which I will order it will induce blindness, so do not look directly at my mouse.

I admit it: I watched a lot of Nickelodeon in those days. Besides Roundhouse, I was a major fan of Clarissa Explains It All and The Secret World of Alex Mack. What can I say?

This post, incidentally, could be the poster child for thought drift. It's here because La Shawn Barber put up a video of gospel singer Crystal Lewis, who, I remembered, was a regular during the first season of Roundhouse; this led to "Whatever happened to [fill in name of lesser-known cast member]?" which sent me here, which in turn led to Amazon.com, in the hope that the 52 episodes might have shown up on DVD.

They haven't. Yet.

Whenever my life gets me so down I know I can go down
To where the music and the fun never end.
As long as the music keeps playing, you know what I'm saying.
I know that I can find a friend down at the Roundhouse.

Yep. Still occupying memory cells.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
De minimis non curat lex

Not a good defense for an exhibitionist:

A man convicted of being a serial flasher told a court he could not be guilty as his genitals were too small.

Michael Carney, 41, claimed he was too embarrassed about the size of his manhood to expose himself to women and showed the court photographs as proof. But the jury at Teesside Crown Court convicted the father-of-two, of Stockton, Teesside of seven counts of outraging public decency.

Mr Carney, says the article, is a "quality inspector for a plastics firm," which makes me wonder why he didn't cobble up a prosthesis in his spare time.

Sentencing will be next year: in the meantime, kindly neighbors will no doubt forward him spam offering herbal embiggeners and such.

(Via Fark.)

Assault with battery (the sequel)

Remember this?

"We can send you out a replacement. Very easy to install. Twenty-five dollars, no charge for shipping and handling. Should be there in five to seven business days. In the meantime, the system will still work on AC."

And on the seventh day it showed up. Technically. (Order placed on 16th, which was a Friday evening; figure 19, 20, 21, skip two days for Thanksgiving, 26, 27, 28, 29.) I should point out, though, that if I'd waited for it, I'd have gone quite mad by now for lack of sleep. And now that I don't really need it, I'm tempted to offer it to a neighbor at a discount.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:44 PM to Surlywood )
Ready forum

The Media Gatekeepers have evidently decided that what we want — no, what we need — are irregular spurts of mass debating, interrupted at intervals by planted questions and by narcissists with video equipment. The inevitable result: candidates end up as commodities, and the "national dialogue" is exposed as several thousand monologues. If I never see another "debate" again, it will be too soon.

I'd watch this, though:

For the future, I’d like to propose what I call the Algonquin Round Table Debate. No moderator, no stopwatches, no buzzers or red lights, no YouTube, and, please, no Anderson Cooper or Chris Matthews. Instead, put all the candidates around a big table, ply them with first-rate food and liquor, and just let them talk and argue with one another until — or beyond — last call. Now that, for Democrats or Republicans, would be an event worth watching.

Over a period of years, it might even improve the quality of candidates, though I'm not getting my hopes up.

30 November 2007
Hence the name "Fargo"

The Truth About Cars takes note of a marketing opportunity:

North Dakota, you see, is the only state in which Kia doesn't have a single dealership. North Dakota is also missing Lexus, Infiniti, Acura, BMW, Isuzu (no love lost over that, either), Volvo, Saab, Jaguar, or Hummer.

Then again, North Dakota has only about 640,000 people, and they're spread out far and wide, so this is no surprise. But:

For those who are in the market for such vehicles, they're in some luck: the largest city in the Peace Garden State is Fargo, which sits right on the Minnesota border (where you can get your hands on anything). But hey, it means there are plenty of opportunities for you to get rich by owning your own car dealership. Where else could a BMW dealership claim an entire state as its sales territory?

Wyoming, for one, though Wyoming has even fewer people than North Dakota.

And while Fargo is indeed adjacent to Minnesota, it's not like you're going to find Lexi and Bimmers right across the Red River: you're going to have to head for the Twin Cities, a good 200-mile run. (We will entertain no remarks about getting Hummers in Moorhead.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:04 AM to Driver's Seat )
Preparing a four-character response

I work in an IBM shop running RPG code; to me it's either numeric or it's alphanumeric. (Don't bring up packed decimals and such. I'm trying to make a point here.) So I'd probably have the same issues as Coyote did:

A web site on which I was registering said "Your password must be alpha-numeric and a minimum of 6 characters." I had an argument about this language with the customer service agent, but I may be wrong. I would interpret this as meaning that all the characters in the password must be from the alpha-numeric set, as opposed to, say, symbol characters. Therefore "asdfasdf", "12345678", and "asdf1234" would all meet the stated test. The customer service agent said that I was totally wrong, and went so far as to inform me their web designer has a PhD in English. Her contention was that alpha-numeric clearly means "must contain both a minimum of one alphabetical character and at least one numeric character." In my example above, only "asdf1234" would therefore qualify.

If nothing else, this should establish, once and for all, the value of a PhD in English.

Our merchant bank demands eight characters at a minimum, of which only six can be good ol' letters, and at least one of them, though not all of them, must be in uppercase; in addition, you must have a digit and a punctuation mark of some sort. Perhaps remarkably, it helps to be semi-fluent in 1337-speak.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:31 AM to PEBKAC )
Slurp your way to svelteness

This morning Lileks made brief mention of Metrecal, a 1960s diet "food" in a metal can with a pull tab. It was available, he said, in five "mostly indistinguishable flavors":

One suspects the difference rested entirely in the amount of industrial thickener added to the product.

Well, that and a dash of what is delicately called "artificial flavor". I remember downing a can of this in Vaguely Vanilla, and wondering if maybe they'd finally come out with Kaopectate for Kids.

Time explains its origins, circa 1960:

Metrecal is a new trick coaxed out of an old product. The man who turned the trick: President Daniel Mead Johnson, 46, grandson of Founder Edward Mead Johnson. D. Mead joined the company in 1936 as a New York salesman, in 1949 became vice president of sales and, in effect, chief executive. Concerned that the company was almost exclusively identified with baby needs, he set up a research department (1960 budget: $3,500,000) to develop a diverse line of Mead Johnson products.

One of the department's first finds was an invalid's food called Sustagen. A mix of skim-milk powder, soybean flour, corn oil, minerals and vitamins, Sustagen was designed for hospital patients unable to eat solid foods. It worked so well at giving patients the illusion of having eaten a solid meal and killing off between-meal hunger pangs that last year Mead Johnson decided to call it Metrecal and put it out as a weight-reducing food. The chief change was to recommend a limit of 900 calories (i.e., one 8-oz. can, dry weight) of Metrecal a day.

Kind of makes you wonder whether there's a connection between Slim-Fast and Ensure.

The late Allan Sherman, though, got the last word, set to a possibly-recognizable tune:

Oh, I diet all day and I diet all night
It's enough to drive me bats
Got no gravy or potatoes
'Cause the whole refrigerator's
Full of polyunsaturated fats.

Fare thee well, Metrecal,
And the others of that ilk;
Let the diet start tomorrow,
For today I'll drown my sorrow
In a double malted milk.

Make that two.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:29 AM to Worth a Fork )
Without rage or ruin

You gotta love John Fogerty. We've misunderstood "Bad Moon Rising" for years, and this week he actually sang it the way we heard it:

Fogerty had a little fun with the song when he got to the chorus: "Don't go around tonight / Well, it's bound to take your life / There's a bad moon on the rise." Apparently a lot of people hear that last line as "There's a bathroom on the right."

So Fogerty sang it that way Wednesday night, even pointing off to the right during his performance at the Chicago Theatre, WLS-AM Chicago, reported.

'Scuse me while I kiss this guy.

Hail Mary, full of bytes

About half a billion of them, in fact.

(Via Daily Pundit.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:22 PM to PEBKAC )
In remembrance

Helen Troy, former publisher of The Oklahoma Observer and beloved spouse of Forrest J. "Frosty" Troy, longtime Observer editor, has died at entirely too young an age. (Some of us hoped she'd go on forever.) The Troys sold the Observer to Arnold and Beverly Hamilton earlier this year, making it possible for Helen to retire; Arnold Hamilton, reports Mike McCarville, said today that Helen had been in "excellent health" and that her death was totally unexpected.

For you out-of-staters: the Observer, once a Catholic publication, was acquired by the Troys in 1970. Frosty had been covering the Capitol for the Tulsa Tribune, and briefly served as editor of the Oklahoma Journal. Duties at the Observer were divided: Helen was publishing, Frosty was editorial, and that's the way they ran it for all those year. The little semi-monthly never made that much money — Frosty's career as a public speaker took up the slack in the Troy family budget — but its influence was far greater than its circulation (around 7000) might suggest: just about everyone who's anyone in Oklahoma politics read it, whether they liked its politics (progressive but not free-spending) or not. (I'm up for renewal in April.)

For reference: this thread at Democrats of Oklahoma, where Helen's death was first reported.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:43 PM to Soonerland )
The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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