1 January 2008
Worst titles of 2007

Listed chronologically:

"Hoosier daddy?" (6 January)
"Dead man hawking" (16 January)
"May I have this Dansk?" (17 January)
"Just a Falcon minute" (6 February)
"Dugong show" (25 February)
"When the levy brakes" (17 March)
"Downholstery" (1 April)
"Nothing could be finer than the feeling of angina" (21 April)
"Philately will get you nowhere" (1 May)
"Bjørn under a bad sign" (6 May)
"The pained, it's plain, look vainly at the mains" (2 June)
"Hot funds in the summertime" (19 June)
"La belle dame sans culottes" (19 July)
"Jeep thrills" (29 July)
"Something Wiki this way comes" (17 August)
"Icahn has cheezburger?" (16 September)
"Tanks for the maladies" (22 October)
"N2 the mystic" (31 October)
"Got the Mercedes bends" (4 November)
"Living in debasement" (6 November)
"And just ice for all" (9 December)

(Total number of 2007 posts: 2,021. Some marginally-acceptable turns of phrase are recounted here.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:00 AM to Blogorrhea )
Reporting from Fat City

We're going on a diet, says Mayor Cornett.

Well, let's see: one million pounds divided by 540,000 people equals one pound, thirteen and a half ounces per person. I ought to be able to manage my share.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:56 AM to City Scene )
A question of Priority

Prius, the name given to Toyota's first hybrid vehicle, is supposed to be derived from Latin. Jan Freeman of The Boston Globe quoted a Toyota spokesperson as follows:

"Prius is a Latin word meaning 'to go before'," he explained. "Toyota chose this name because the Prius vehicle is the predecessor of cars to come."

Well, no:

But prius can't be a Latin infinitive; "to go before" would have to be a verb, like, say, precedere. Actually, prius is just the neuter form of prior, the comparative adjective, meaning "earlier, anterior, superior." As a noun, it would mean "earlier one" or "superior one."

And if there's one thing Toyota does well, it's neuter.

Now what's the plural form? Priuses just doesn't have that classical zing. At long last, the question is answered, once and for all:

I put the question to Harry Mount, author of the new book Carpe Diem, a paean to the joys of Latin.

"Yes, it's Priora," he told me, "because it's neuter plural. But if you cheated a bit and made the car masculine or feminine — and I do think of cars as female — then it would be Priores. And Priores has nice undertones of grandness — Virgil used it to mean 'forefathers' or 'ancestors'."

So if your hybrids are named for the dames of ancient Rome — Drusilla, Octavia, Agrippina — you're granted poetic license. Otherwise, Priora is the Latin plural you're looking for.

I expect Dr. Weevil may have something to say about that, in which case I'll ask him about Lexuses. ("Lexi"?)

(Inspired, if that's the word, by The Truth About Cars.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:34 AM to Driver's Seat )
The monthlies

People who bought Random Crap Calendars from Woot — this would include me — have received the following notification:

We know the selection of calendar subjects was exceedingly lame, as usual. That's why we dropped the c-bomb: we ain't just whistling "crappy". But to mitigate your family's crap exposure during the upcoming year, we've commissioned a series of original illustrations that will be offered for download every month.

And how does this work?

Just print out our custom-illustrated crappy image and tape or tack it over the crappy image on the calendar. Easy, right? But don't feel obliged or anything. If you prefer staring at the same image of "Motivational Zen Fairies" or "Ireland's Most Adorable Cats" for a month at a time, we certainly can't stop you. What kind of sick individuals would profit by selling people such horrible calendars — oh, right, that was us.

"Besides, one does get tired of aging flight attendants with their clothes off," he lied, possibly under the influence of a Motivational Zen Fairy.

Rub it in, rub it in

I suppose I should be surprised by this:

A drug that could do for women what Viagra has done for men is being tested at the University of Virginia. The drug is a testosterone-laden ointment called LibiGel and it's intended to boost the libido of women who have lost interest in sex. It will be prescribed at UVa in coming months to women who are suffering from hypoactive sexual desire disorder. The condition is believed to affect one-third of American women.

Three points, if points they be:

  • The call girl-turned-author in George Axelrod's novel Where Am I Now — When I Need Me? at one point turned out an essay in which "ointment" is revealed to be the dirtiest word of them all. I have no idea whether this was related to Axelrod's theory of the seven-year itch.

  • In my admittedly-limited experience, the most effective treatment for low female libido is to stop dating me. (Disclosure: Sample size is too small to be considered statistically significant.)

  • What happens if some Viagra-enhanced fellow (think Hugh M. Hefner) has an encounter with, say, a twenty-year-old blonde with a couple extra tubes of LibiGel? Will the results be measurable on the Richter scale? And in which state will the survivors be buried?

(Via Protein Wisdom.)

Update, 6:45 pm: The Fark thread on this subject notes: "Still no cure for flannel nightwear."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:50 PM to Table for One )
Obligatory predictions

The last time I did this, I didn't do so well, and I have no reason to think my crystal ball is any less murky after two years in the closet, but what the hell. That last time, I confined myself to things which seemed at least somewhat probable. This time around, not so much. And if these things don't happen, you didn't hear about them from me.

  • The Bush administration will get one last crack at the Supreme Court, and will botch the nomination.

  • The Cuban embargo will be ended, whether or not Fidel Castro survives the year.

  • Senator Clinton will remain Senator Clinton.

  • The Republicans will lose five Senate seats and seven House seats.

  • Condoleezza Rice will resign as Secretary of State by midyear.

  • The Supreme Court will rule that yes, you do have the right to bear arms, even in the District of Columbia.

  • The weather nationwide will be largely uneventful, which will be blamed on global warming.

  • In Oklahoma, the Democrats will gain one Senate seat and break the 24-24 deadlock, though the House will remain in the hands of the GOP.

  • In the hope of turning out Jim Inhofe, state Democrats will launch a "Draft Brad Henry" campaign. The Guv, smiling, will decline.

  • New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will launch his independent Presidential bid with a Super Bowl ad.

  • The SuperSonics will open the 2008-09 season in Seattle's KeyArena.

  • Katie Couric will ask to be let out of her CBS contract after the November elections.

  • KFOR-TV in Oklahoma City will begin phasing out all its 4-related imaging.

  • Another delay will be announced in the Crosstown Expressway project, and the projected cost will rise to $1.2 billion.

  • The announcement will come less than one week before the city holds a sales-tax election to finance improvements to the Ford Center.

  • Kansas and Oklahoma will discuss making their automated toll-road systems compatible with one another, but will reach no agreement.

  • A group of interrelated spam blogs will be blocked by Technorati and frozen out of Google AdSense, and the spammer will sue, citing the First Amendment and charging restraint of trade.

  • N. Z. Bear, pressed for time, will offer to sell the TTLB Ecosystem.

Conversely, if by some fluke I called more than one of these right — well, we'll worry about that later.

2 January 2008
Making cents of all this

Gawker Media's Valleywag blog has gone public with a memo from Gawker management — specifically, from Noah Robischon, who presumably sitteth at the right hand of Nick — announcing a new pay plan for the blog staff. Some of its points, I think, are worth noting by those of us who don't get paid by the pageview:

It's only on the internet that a writer's contributions can be measured. At newspapers, a reporter's reputation depends on the opinion of their editors, which can be fickle. Some people get on because they play the office politics well. Or simply because they're more aggressive in lobbying for more prominent jobs, or pay increases.

Advertising people say that the internet is special, because the audience's engagement is so much more measurable than that of newspaper readers, or television viewers. Which makes it so bizarre that most writers, on the internet as in print, are paid for the sheer brute quantity of their output.

"Don't knock sheer brute quantity," said some character who put up over two thousand posts in each of two consecutive years.

In short, we have repeated the bad habits of traditional media organizations: leaving remuneration to the arbitrary will of upper management; and, by treating words as if they were Soviet steel output targets, encouraging quantity over quality.... [W]e now really are reaching the limits of sheer volume. Readers can't take any more. And the proliferation of blogs, and social news services such as Digg, has changed the rules.

Where there was a shortage of attitude and commentary, there's now a surfeit. And what's in heavy demand, and short supply, is linkworthy material, by which I mean a secret memo, a spy photo, a chart, a well-argued rant, a list, an exclusive piece of news, a well-packaged find.

I daresay, three, maybe even four percent of my stuff thus qualifies.

To be fair, I can see Robischon's point, and it's been all too visible throughout the Denton Empire, which at times has come off as a, perhaps the, leading vendor of snark qua snark. (Major exceptions: Lifehacker, because it's firmly anchored in reality, and Fleshbot, because it's firmly anchored, um, somewhere else.) So paying these folks a flat monthly rate plus bonuses for pageviews, as the new plan ordains, actually makes a certain amount of sense.

Although there's this, from a commenter:

Gee, that's a great idea. I'm sure no one would ever once consider using zombie PCs to increase their monthly bonus.

But it was always thus: there exists no system that cannot in some way be gamed.

I just hope they're not relying solely on Sitemeter numbers to pay these folks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:11 AM to Blogorrhea )
Up from the skies

One of those stories almost too good to be true, as recounted in Wikipedia:

In the final stages of the album's production, a studio technician renamed the [Jimi Hendrix] album "Electric Landlady." The album was almost released under this title until Hendrix noticed it, which upset him considerably. Kirsty MacColl later used this alternate title for an album of her own.

I picked up Electric Landlady when it came out; it was not much of a hit — neither "Walking Down Madison" nor "My Affair," released as singles, charted in the States — but it spent a lot of time in my CD player, and still gets the occasional spin. Would I have bought it were it not for the Hendrix twist? I'm not really sure; I knew who she was, and I was familiar with Tracey Ullman's remakes of MacColl songs, but the title probably sealed the deal.

On the other hand, Kathy Shaidle would have sold me a copy of her e-book even if it hadn't been titled Acoustic Ladyland: Kathy Shaidle Unplugged. It's always fun watching the words go by when she's on a tear, and these "B-sides and rarities," as she describes them, were new to me; I wasn't reading the Toronto Star back then, and God knows I don't have any reason to read it now. She'll set you up with a sample chapter, even. The motivations here are clear:

Well, the chances of me ever publishing a "real" book again are pretty slim. E-book-ing lets me control everything and keep most of the revenue (instead of the 7% or so most "real" authors get in royalties).

Now I'll have to hunt down a copy of God Rides a Yamaha, a title worthy of a Highway Chile.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:30 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Oh, nothing, just hanging out

There's something a tad askew when somebody writes to Dear Abby with a tale like this:

Is it normal for a 16-year-old boy to walk around the house naked, in plain view of family members? No one seems to notice or care. There are no looks or comments.

In the morning he gets up around 6:45. He walks into the kitchen and fixes a bowl of cereal. Then he stands at the counter, watching the morning sports shows while eating his breakfast in the nude. There is absolutely no evidence of arousal of any kind. When the bathroom becomes available, he goes in for a shower.

I have never seen any of the other family members naked. This boy has no compunctions about being seen by his father, mother, sister or next-door neighbor. He's been nude in my presence dozens of times. I know it's common for little boys to run around without clothes on sometimes, but, Abby, he’s not a little boy anymore. — CLOTHES-MINDED IN WISCONSIN

Sounds like something's missing from the narrative, right? Right:

Lessee…I'm a sixteen year old boy who walks around the house naked. It's 6:45 and I'm lumbering around my parents' kitchen with my dongle dangling, pouring myself some cereal. Now, the bathroom is not yet available so I'm waiting around…in my birthday suit…neighbor watching me, somehow, the entire time. Actively? Passively? "There is absolutely no evidence of arousal of any kind." That's just disturbing. I can just see her removing her eye from a powerful telescope and turning to a camera, a la Marvin the Martian, and commenting "No evidence of arousal of any kind" and then plastering her face right back on the telescope again, twiddling the focus dial for a sharper view, licking her lips maybe.

You have to wonder how she defines "in her presence": although she says that she and the lad's family are "good friends" elsewhere in her letter, at no point does she mention any actual encounter other than watching him from a distance. Abby herself confounds the issue:

[Y]ou should hang curtains on your windows that face the Smiths' kitchen — and before dropping over there, call to ask whether he's presentable. If he's not, then don't go over.

I have to admit, my sympathies are with the kid, if only because (1) this is a fairly typical wardrobe for me and (2) I was coming up on sixteen when it occurred to me that pajamas were superfluous at best. (I am still so persuaded, despite the fact that it got down to about 20 degrees — call it -7 Celsius — last night.) I do a better job of keeping the shades in position, though.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:15 AM to Birthday Suitable )
Which explains their current state

Apparently the fact that CompUSA is liquidating has not motivated them to mend their ways on their deathbed. Witness the following:

I saw a pack of DVD-R blanks with a couple of different price tags on it. There was one that said $4.99, and partially on top of that, one that said $9.99. The shelf signs offered another 15% off of that.

Upon taking it to the register, I was told that it was in fact $9.99. When I inquired, I was asked how they couldn't tell if I'd applied the $4.99 sticker myself. I pointed out that it had the same item number, and was partially underneath the higher price tag.

"Oh yeah. I guess you couldn't have done that then." The girl informed me that she was unable to give me the lower, marked price.

I remarked how good a deal it was for them — do a 100% markup on the product, then offer a 15% discount. Nicely done guys.

Heck, they could double the price, then mark it off 40 percent, and make it look even better.

Then again, these are the folks who once tried to sell me a service contract on an SD card.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:35 PM to Common Cents )
Flat tires pale in comparison

I truly hope this turns out to be fiction:

OnStar: Hello, OnStar.
Customer: Hi, I have a problem.
OnStar: How can I help, sir?
Customer: I'm…umm…27, and still a virgin.
OnStar: How old are you really, sir?
Customer: Twenty-nine?
OnStar: Sir?
Customer: Thirty-six.
OnStar: [partially off mike] Holy shit!
Customer: [muffled crying]

On the upside, it certainly speaks well of OnStar's remote diagnostics.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:03 PM to Dyssynergy )
3 January 2008
The cost of ice

The City Manager's report on ice-storm response is out, and the price tag looks pretty stiff: 6649 hours of overtime by city crews and 2588 tons of salt spread.

On the question of debris removal, the two lowest bidders (around $70 a ton) have been put to work gathering up what's stacked at curbside. The city has been divided into thirty-four sectors for this purpose, and so far nine, all in the middle of town, have been assigned. How this is supposed to work:

Once an initial pass is completed through each sector the contractors will be assigned an additional sector in which to begin work. The contractors will be required to make a second pass through all of their assigned sectors no sooner than two weeks following completion of their initial pass.

So if you didn't get everything to the curb by the time the truck comes through, you've got at least 14 days to finish up.

No one seems to be speculating as to how long it will take to clean up all the debris, though I've got my money on the third of March.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 AM to City Scene )
The mark of the E

The Oklahoman ran a partial list of Oklahoma-related earmarks in that huge federal-spending bill, and as pork goes, we seem to have gotten mostly rinds. This is the one, though, that really gets me:

$500,000 for the I-40 Crosstown Expressway project.

Half a million bucks for a project that's going to cost over a billion? What is this, National See If Tom Coburn Is Sleeping Day? Five hundred Gs wouldn't build one good onramp — not that we have any real experience in this state when it comes to building good onramps.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:41 AM to Soonerland )
I want an old drug

CFI Care [not its real name], our insurance plan at 42nd and Treadmill, has been taken over by a new group of weasels, duly replacing the old group of weasels, and I am not exactly delighted to report that I will be expected to shell out a $60 copay for a drug that costs at retail — wait for it — $65.33.

Which makes me wonder how much the premiums would be if someone had had the temerity to say "Screw the drug plan, just cover the expensive stuff."

Four years from now, assuming I haven't been nickel-and-dimed to death, the drug goes off patent; an application to produce a generic formulation is already in hand at the FDA.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:22 AM to Dyssynergy )

So what did I do to deserve spam in German?

Ich Liebe dich!
Die Liebe wird gewinnen!
Ohne dich bin ich nur ein halber Mensch!

There's a lot more, and it all links back to myigla.net, owned by S-H-F E-Marketing, in a place called Shimshit, Israel. Feel free to write your own jokes; I'm sure Mr. Half A Man there won't mind.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:37 PM to Scams and Spams )
Trees saved, anyway

All that's left of the Cincinnati Post and its across-the-river sister Kentucky Post is this: kypost.com, billed as "life in the 859."

The Posts were put out to the online pasture after the Joint Operating Agreement under which the Post and the rival Enquirer expired at the end of 2007. It wasn't a surprise — Enquirer owner Gannett had advised that the JOA would not be renewed way back in 2004 — but fans of actual paper held out hope that Scripps could keep the Post going. (And Scripps is the weak sister in three other JOAs: in Birmingham, Albuquerque and Denver.)

Consultant Peter Krasilovsky assesses the prospects:

For kypost.com, it is a good idea to take advantage of existing brands and resources, possibly retaining cars.com. In particular, it can feed off of a promotional tie with WCPO-TV, which is Scripps' metro station. But its prospects, long term, probably don’t approach what a "real" newspaper brings to the table. While online versions of newspapers claim margins in 50 percent range, far higher than 18-21 percent margins of many newspapers, most of the costs of online personnel and sales aren't included in the tally (technology usually is).

I took a look at the offerings, and while the overall package is reasonably attractive, I wonder why there's no RSS feed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:02 PM to Almost Yogurt )
4 January 2008
Mass saved, anyway

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: weight is the enemy of fuel economy.

Nissan, which has no particular reason to agree with me, has apparently come to the same conclusion: the Home of the Hamburger vows to slice vehicle weight across its entire fleet. By 2015, the company says, Nissan vehicles will average 15 percent lighter than their 2005 counterparts.

Were I cynical, I could suggest that they could pull this off simply by dropping the Brobdingnagian-sized Titan truck and its SUV spinoffs: the Infiniti QX56 in its two-wheel-drive form (add another 300 lb for 4WD) presses down upon the earth to the tune of 5700 lb, a heavy piece indeed. But if they can scrape a few pounds out of the actual passenger cars, so much the better; my current ride (a Nissan product) weighs about 13 percent more than the one it replaced (which wasn't), and I can feel the bulk on every tight curve, to say nothing of every visit to the gas station.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:57 AM to Driver's Seat )

This week Andrew Ian Dodge has thoughtfully prepared a Caucus Edition of Carnival of the Vanities. As before, it's text, no video, so no MPEG-4 compression using the H.264 standard.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:49 AM to Blogorrhea )
Quote of the week

Mark Kleiman takes two factoids about the Great White North, and finds a worthy conclusion:

  • The average Canadian walks 900 miles per year.
  • The average Canadian drinks 22 gallons of beer per year.

Canadians have a right to be proud: they're getting 41 miles to the gallon.

Which works out to better than 5.7 l/100 km.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:31 AM to QOTW )
Because Siberia was too warm

The last vestige of the Soviet empire: a bust of Lenin in the remote Antarctic.

Easy to explain, actually:

The Scientific Traverse this week made it to the Inaccessibility Pole for New Year's Day and found a one-time Soviet Union base buried under the ice.

The group's website says Soviet scientists first visited the Pole in December 1958 and built a small cabin there. After several weeks they left, putting the bust of Lenin on top of the chimney facing Moscow.

"Today the bust is clearly visible from many kilometres away, and remains as they left it on the chimney, although the cabin itself is buried under the snow," the explorers say.

With an eye toward the future, the Soviets built this weather-resistant icon out of — space-age plastic.

Lessons from the Iowa caucuses

By two guys who were half in the bag, so at least the bag's full, right?

  • Women who are old enough to get banged by Bill Clinton voted for Obama
  • If you're Born again you really do give a Huck
  • 495 people outside of San Diego are willing to vote for Duncan Hunter — even though half of them confused him with Duncan Hines
  • John Edwards is willing [to] ride the wave to the White House, even if it includes slapping Hillary's thigh
  • Romney learned the hard way not to run on good hair in a state full of farm wives that home perm
  • Ed Rollins is a very angry man
  • Hillary Clinton has a bad poker face
  • Hillary's advisors will like have a poker taken to their faces
  • If two old white pasty lefty northeastern Senators drop out of a White House race, no one cares
  • The CIA should use Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, and that old fat bald guy who looks like Gorbachev without the splotches on his head to get confessions out of terror detainees. Spending four hours with this group without liquor protection would break the will of just about anyone.

And now, off to the primaries, where New Hampshire will be taken for Granite.

If only it were the stereo

Up to now I'd been fairly impressed with GM's Chevrolet Malibu advertising, but the new print ad (with the obligatory green background) for the Malibu Hybrid is a serious misstep — to anyone who ever took a physics course, anyway.

Here's the goofy bit:

[The Malibu] has a 36-volt battery that consists of 6 modules and generates 10,000 watts of peak power.

This sounds impressive until you do the math: 10 kilowatts equals 13.4 horsepower. As hybrids go, this is pretty darn mild.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:36 PM to Driver's Seat )
5 January 2008
Bound to perplex

Sandals by ChloeThe pitch for these Chloe sandals at Intermix calls them "bondagesque," presumably a reference to the humongous buckles across the back. I dunno. And I'm still wondering why there's a two-tone heel — and why these two tones? I'd like to think these would look good on someone, but they seem awfully clunky to me, and at $645 that's a couple of bucks each and every time you clunk.

(Via Shoewawa, which is looking for people to coordinate with these shoes.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:15 AM to Rag Trade )
Beware of the Blob

By most standards, Aubrey McClendon's Chesapeake Energy expansion has been more boon than blight, but I have to wonder: where will it end? Wilshire Boulevard? The Broadway Extension? Penn Square? Saugatuck, Michigan?

A decision to possibly allow development on the Denison Dunes in Saugatuck Township has been delayed until the spring.

Oklahoma billionaire Aubrey McClendon bought the property with plans to develop it for high-end residential use. Environmentalists are battling him in an effort to preserve the land.

McClendon's development company is considering a lawsuit against the township over a zoning change that reduced the number of homes allowed on the site. The township board is considering an agreement with the developer. The settlement would, in effect, prevent a lawsuit from being filed.

Last summer, the Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance wrote McClendon and asked him to reconsider his plans, even offering to buy him out. No sale.

The township board is now waiting for McClendon to lay out his development plan in detail; it's expected by June.

(Via Seattlest.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:18 AM to Dyssynergy )
There's no place like Nome

An Alaskan legislator has prefiled a bill to move the state capital from Juneau to Anchorage. Rep. Kevin Meyer (R-Anchorage, what a shock) says that contact with the legislature is difficult for most Alaskans because there are no roads to Juneau — you can only reach the city by air or by boat — and that that the expense of traveling to the capital is considerable.

Oddly, neither Ted Stevens nor Don Young offered to build a bridge.

I recognize, though, that isolation of a legislature has its consequences, and therefore I suggest that someone introduce a bill to move the Oklahoma capital to Guymon. Or even Juneau, if there's room.

Thinking proactively

If your ZIP code is anywhere between 90001 and 96199, you might consider stocking up on HVAC thermostats right away before Big Brother gets his fat fingers on the controls.

Come to think of it, given the tendency for dumb California ideas to spread elsewhere, we might all be wise to snag a couple of the old Honeywell rounds while we still can.

(Via Darleen Click.)

Cultural icons and all

Oklahoma is planning to redesign the standard state license plate again, and the Oklahoman is running a poll featuring six of the preliminary designs. Of the versions shown in the poll, I lean toward #1, which has an asymmetrical design — something we've never had before — and a decent rendering of Allan Houser's "Sacred Rain Arrow" sculpture.

Still, given the current emphasis on our collective chunkiness as a people, I'm thinking that a more accurate plate might look something like this:

Proposed new Oklahoma plate

After all, Will Rogers never met a cherry limeade he didn't like.

Addendum: There's a discussion at the TulsaNow forum.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:13 PM to Soonerland )
How 2012 should be

Steph Mineart offers a radical redesign of the election cycle which addresses both efficiency and voter fatigue:

The U.S. would have five days of political primaries, each a week apart, starting the last week of March. The first primary day would consist of the 10 states with the smallest voting population; the rest would increase upward until the fifth week when the largest voting states would hold their primaries in the final week of April. Then there would be a month of campaigning before nominating conventions in May.

The campaigning would be compressed into a shorter cycle that would make it easier for people to follow, and something would actually HAPPEN regularly, rather than endless shots of candidates' tour buses and baby kissing. The primary wins would actually be representative of the various states and we wouldn't be unduly influenced by states that don't really affect the election cycle.

Apart from her rather cavalier dismissal of the smaller states, this makes sense to me. If nothing else, it would call a halt to ever-earlier primaries. (The New Hampshire primary in 1968 was on the second Tuesday of March, fercrissake.) Iowans will probably object, but I suspect that apart from the inevitable activist types, Hawkeyes might be faintly embarrassed by that whole caucus thing and the attention it gets.

6 January 2008
More schlock, less talk

A radio horror story that somehow made me smile:

I worked for a beautiful music station that [ranked] dead last in the market and the operators were convinced that no one listened including the advertisers. It wasn't a Bonneville or Schulke station.

We decided to prove the point by playing the same 2 half hour reel to reel tapes until someone called to complain. It went on for months and finally after 11 weeks someone called in to ask if we just played that same song yesterday. It played every hour for weeks!

(Note: Bonneville and Schulke/SRP were major syndicators of "beautiful-music" formats, which have largely fallen by the wayside these days.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:49 AM to Overmodulation )
Maybe a caucus would be better

Or at least more entertaining. I spent a good forty-five minutes assembling a ballot for the 2008 Bloggies, and I think I did a reasonable job of it, all things considered.

How it works:

From now until 10:00 PM Eastern Standard Time (GMT-5) on Friday, January 11, 2008, anyone can nominate their favorite weblogs.

That Sunday, January 13, three panels of 50 voters will receive an e-mail. It will list the weblogs that have received the most nominations in ten categories. They will have until 10:00 PM EST on Friday, January 18 to privately submit their five favorites (six for Weblog of the Year) for each category. The five (or six for Weblog of the Year) receiving the most votes will become finalists.

Finalists will be announced on the 22nd; the winners will be announced in March.

And no, I did not vote for myself: there was no category for Least Improved.

Update: An otherwise-rational man has nominated me for the Lifetime Achievement Award. Doesn't this require me to, like, achieve something?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:26 AM to Blogorrhea )
Remember that ice storm?

Sure you do. In fact, there's probably still storm debris stacked by the curb. (I did see a truck actually picking up the stuff along NW 50th east of Independence yesterday.)

This being Oklahoma, though, you shouldn't be surprised to hear that yesterday Oklahoma City basked in the warmest 5th of January on record — local records go back to 1891 — and that it will be even warmer today: the low this morning was 57, about ten degrees above a typical daytime high for this time of year, and this afternoon we'll see 75 or so. This is the sort of Epiphany I can deal with.

Oh, yes, the bottom falls out Monday night. You knew it wouldn't last.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:13 AM to Weather or Not )
Pranks a lot

When Internet Explorer 4 was launched in 1997, Chairman Bill issued the following drone:

IE4 will move more and more people to think of the Web as part of their everyday lifestyle. It will become as mundane as the car or TV culture is today.

That was for official consumption. Behind the scenes, something entirely different was going on:

At the IE 4 launch event, which was held on the waterfront in San Francisco, there were these two big plywood and fabric "E"s that were like spotlights. The folks on the IE team who were present at the event were obviously relieved, elated, and well, maybe overly dorky (me included). At the end of the night, we inquired about shipping these really cool Es back to Redmond. No-can-do. They were built in place, and are wider/taller than a truck can be. It would have to be an oversized load. Too expensive, not expense-able.

I don't remember who, but someone had the brilliant idea of "delivering" it to Netscape. Purely as a memento. Purely. We are nice guys you know.

So, after bribing a tow driver (it was a little WIDE), we had it loaded up (with the participation of two notables from Wired Magazine, who will go unnamed).

We stopped at a local Safeway on the way, and one of the participants got our Netscape buddies a card (crying baby on the cover, saying "It's so sad when..." Inside: "Bad things happen to good people." We signed it — "Love, the IE team.") and a sympathy balloon.

The record shows that Microsoft took one last shot at Netscape — in an "Easter egg" hidden in IE 5.

Now, of course, Netscape is dead and IE isn't quite the monolith Microsoft had hoped, and I have to wonder: how could people who were tacitly allowed to have fun, as the merry IE 4 pranksters were, ever go on to develop nasty stuff like Genuine Windows Advantage? Must have been a different team, I guess.

For that all-over retro look

I get a lot of search-engine traffic for "nude old farts" and variations thereof, not so much because my own flatulence is especially mature — at least, I don't think it is — but because there's a perception that people who doff their duds at vacation time tend to be people who knew Methuselah personally.

Tom Mulhall, who runs the Terra Cotta Inn, acknowledged as much last summer:

It is true many nudist clubs in the US have aging guests. Solair campground [in Connecticut] has a median age of 55. I would bet most nudist campgrounds and clubs are the same way.

I have yet to verify this empirically — and 55, for me, is less than a year away anyway — but I have reason to believe there is indeed an abundance of older folk in this, um, industry. Exhibit A: renewal notice from AANR, rendered on a dot-matrix printer. Not even in near-letter quality, for Pete's sake. And I thought I had creeping Luddite tendencies.

7 January 2008
Strange search-engine queries (101)

Your search giants, your Googles and Yahoos and such, don't really have time, or at least don't bother to make time, to go through the logs looking for sick and twisted stuff.

Me, on the other hand....

Shoplifting Policy Lowes:  They're against it.

"blade ruiner":  I suppose you'll have to go to Lowe's for a new one.

what size condom should i wear with a 5 inch penis:   I'd avoid anything with a picture of the Incredible Hulk on the box.

i used to be a tree:  And before that, a nut?

what man could do six hundred years ago in entertainment:  Well, some prince or other made some noises about partying like it's 1399.

One Ounce of Silver buys five gallons of gas:  Although you have to pay inside, as the pumps aren't calibrated to accept precious metals.

fun looks like google:  But does Google look like fun?

what's wrong with Diane Rehm why does she sound like a Hepburn:  Why would this be a problem? (Unless it's the late Canadian weightlifter Doug Hepburn.)

scuzzbuckets aforethought:  Because you don't want spontaneous scuzzbucketry.

"joe biden" flatulence:  "All right, that's it, out of the caucus. Now."

silly string breast augmentation:  I suppose it would work at first, but the stuff tends to migrate.

"ring cycle" wagner "dance mix":  The Rhinemaidens can really shake that thing.

lance cargill caught by cleaning crew:  So that's what those "100 ideas" were all about.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 AM to You Asked For It )
Privilege has its rankness

I've seen this at I See Invisible People and at The Motley Oklahoman, and I figure I'd give it a shot.

Premise: bold each of the statements that applies.

Original source: The list is based on an exercise developed by Will Barratt, Meagan Cahill, Angie Carlen, Minnette Huck, Drew Lurker, Stacy Ploskonka at Illinois State University. The exercise developers ask that if you participate in this blog game, you acknowledge their copyright.

So acknowledged. Here we go:

Father went to college
Father finished college
Mother went to college
Mother finished college
Have any relative who is an attorney, physician, or professor
Were the same or higher class than your high school teachers
Had more than 50 books in your childhood home
Had more than 500 books in your childhood home
Were read children’s books by a parent
Had lessons of any kind before you turned 18
Had more than two kinds of lessons before you turned 18
The people in the media who dress and talk like me are portrayed positively
Had a credit card with your name on it before you turned 18
Your parents (or a trust) paid for the majority of your college costs
Your parents (or a trust) paid for all of your college costs
Went to a private high school
Went to summer camp
Had a private tutor before you turned 18
Family vacations involved staying at hotels
Your clothing was all bought new before you turned 18
Your parents bought you a car that was not a hand-me-down from them
There was original art in your house when you were a child
Had a phone in your room before you turned 18
You and your family lived in a single family house
Your parent(s) owned their own house or apartment before you left home
You had your own room as a child
Participated in an SAT/ACT prep course
Had your own TV in your room in High School
Owned a mutual fund or IRA in High School or College
Flew anywhere on a commercial airline before you turned 16
Went on a cruise with your family
Went on more than one cruise with your family
Your parents took you to museums and art galleries as you grew up
You were unaware of how much heating bills were for your family

Notes: Most of my college costs were covered by a scholarship; there were five kids, so a room to one's own was something that existed only in dreams; I was the oldest, so there were no hand-me-downs available; I once calculated the volume of the oil drum out back, but I never looked into the price of filling it up.

Update, 8 pm: The estimable John Scalzi sees a problem with the methodology in use here:

[F]or probably any person, there are things on this list meant to signify privilege that don't, or are meant to exclude privilege that could be signs of substantial privilege — just ask the boarding school student driving dad's old Beemer to the vacation house by the shore while his middle-class friends are stuck in an SAT review session. For nearly all of the "privilege markers" in this exercise, one can come up with excellent reasons why they are not an issue of privilege or class at all.

Which means that for the purposes of this exercise — showing indicators of privilege and class — this list is not actually useful, and indeed counter-productive. In this exercise, it's entirely possible for someone of a lower social class to appear more "privileged" than someone who is of the "rich and snooty" class. This doesn't create awareness of privilege; it does, however, create awareness of the essential lameness of this particular exercise.

"Privilege" itself is a buzzword these days, and should be approached warily in any event. Maybe I should say simply that I was damn lucky to get what I did when I did.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:53 AM to Screaming Memes )
And now, the news for Italian plumbers

Lileks discovers news via Nintendo:

I felt a little ill upon noting the Wii News Channel. It's fast and succinct. There's no good reason to have a news feed in the Wii machine, but there's no good reason not to have one. It's a reminder that news is just a feature, not a destination or a place; it's part of the stuff that falls from the cloud.

If gaming machines have news, shouldn't newspaper websites have games? Seriously: papers run comics, so they're not above something "funny" and trivial. Why not provide addictive time-wasting flash games? They wouldn't have to be based on the news, although I suppose they could be — Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich have been buried under a ton of corn in an Iowa silo! Click the falling cobs to keep them from dying, and click on the fallen cobs to clear a path! Between levels, an ad, some headlines.

I like it, but it wouldn't fly: some nitwit would complain that his candidate is being mocked, and this will not stand.

On the other hand, Kucinich fans might find it amusing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:19 AM to Dyssynergy )
Once again, let there be crap

Contents of my most recent Bag O'Crap:

6 2Wire PC Port Phoneline 10Mbps USB Adapter [$144.00]
1 MGM Grand "EFX" Plastic Dragon w/Castle Figurine [$5.00]
1 "Flying Thing" #7 — Monstermobile [$0.49]
1 GI Joe Dog Tag/Bracelet set [$2.27]
1 Elgee Water Blaster [$0.29]
3 Faded Glory Pink Butterfly Luggage Tags [$11.64]
1 Tenba D-Series Prodigital Cable Management/Accessory Organizer Set [$19.99]

Total $183.68

Previous crap here. Other recipients have listed their, um, items at BagsOfCrap.com.

Because you can't get enough links

This place has been littered lately by nondescript TrackBacks from Thorny Path and Blog Bookmarker, which bill themselves as "social bookmarking" services: think Facebook plus StumbleUpon.

Blog Bookmarker seems to exist only to draw people into something called Hey! Nielsen, as in "Nielsen ratings," an extension of the company's research into Web 2.0, or at least 1.5. I've picked up a smidgen of traffic here and there from them, but only a smidgen; then again, most of the stuff I write is of scant interest to the sort of people Nielsen would like to research, and come to think of it, it's not impossible that this sentence could have ended quite a bit earlier. Thorny Path at least will let you look at some of the tagged items.

I had high hopes for sk*rt, a sort of Digg for dames, if you will, which hasn't taken off quite the way I'd expected despite its palpable No Boys Allowed vibe, a major selling point in some circles. Still, I've been known to hunt down stories through sk*rt, knowing that (1) I have a fair number of female readers and (2) there's a lot of stuff down that way to which I'm otherwise quite oblivious. If only one of these services should survive, this is the one I consider the keeper. Besides, they don't clutter up my database with TrackBacks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:10 PM to Blogorrhea )
8 January 2008
This meme is useless without pictures

This one sounds simple, ends up less so. The idea: create a fake band and their first album. Here's how it works:

  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random
    The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

  2. http://www.quotationspage.com/random.php3
    The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

  3. http://www.flickr.com/explore/interesting/7days/
    The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

I admit to having fudged a bit on the last item. Not wishing to step on some photographer's copyright, I took the third photo in the current list with a suitable Creative Commons license.

Anyway, here's the Wikipedia entry, here's the quote (from its own page), and this is the original photo. Behold:

Noel Park album

Not available on iTunes.

(Via Steph Mineart.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:13 AM to Screaming Memes )
Does this thing have a hand crank?

The ol' work box hadn't been that much of a sluggard up to that point. At the heart of it is an AMD Sempron 2800+, despite its name a 1.6-GHz CPU, not a speedster but not a boat anchor either. And usually it runs with some small degree of enthusiasm: for some reason it opens one database (this particular solution is based on FileMaker Pro, not that that should make a difference) substantially faster than my P4 dual-core box at home ever does.

In an effort to diagnose the problem, I first fired up Control Panel / System, with the intent of poking into Device Manager. The usual System Information stuff fell into place at subsonic speeds, and it ended with "192 MB RAM."

One ninety-two? Holy substrate, Batman, did someone steal a DIMM? This box, when I got it, had two units of memory: a 256-megger and a 512. Total 768, minus 64 for the integrated video. The only explanation: the 512 stick was stuck.

I powered down, spat in the general direction of the power switch, and restarted. BIOS screen shows 768; all is well. Until the next reboot, of course.

Under the circumstances, I did what any reasonable person would: I whined to supervisory personnel. New RAM should be arriving presently.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:19 AM to PEBKAC )
Grading on the demand curve

"We are always very disappointed if we see retailers that are pricing the Wii or any of our products above the MSRP price."

So said Reggie Fils-Aimé, Nintendo's American boss, and apparently he was sufficiently disappointed to do something about it. Kotaku reports:

On December 14th, Nintendo President Reggie Fils-Aimé held a conference call to address the growing problem of Wii shortages, detailing the company's plans to get customers matched up with systems by any means necessary. First came the raincheck system, which allowed customers a chance to pre-purchase the machine at GameStop stores across the country, with the understanding that they would be guaranteed a system by the end of January.

Then he announced that seven retail outlets — Best Buy, Target, Wal-Mart, Sears, Kmart, Toys R Us and Circuit City — would have the coveted consoles in stock that weekend, revealing that stores had been stockpiling the systems for a massive, last-minute flood.

While the rainchecks met with varying success due to limited ability, the flood of systems that weekend had a huge effect on the eBay market.

This is the sound of a bubble bursting:

On December 17th, according to my data ...11,016 Nintendo Wii consoles were sold on eBay, for an average price of $368 — the first time the price had dropped below $400 in a month.

There is, however, a practical limit to how much a manufacturer can rein in either retailers or the secondary market, as Nissan is finding out:

Nissan was considering voiding the warranty of any GT-R resold in its first 12 months on the road, but has since abandoned that idea. "We've talked about ways to stop eBay sales by restricting the transfer of the new car warranty to the next buyer for at least six months," said Eric Anderson, Nissan's North Central Region vice president. "But we gave up on that idea because it would have been unfair to the guy who found he really had to sell his car sooner."

Anderson continued by saying there is nothing Nissan can do about dealer markups — which are expected to be at least $15,000 — either. "We'll counsel dealers on why they shouldn't, but there's no way we can stop them from doing it," Anderson said.

Excluding the inevitable "destination charge," the GT-R will list for $69,850, or about the price of 280 Wiis — at MSRP, anyway.

No Storm in Oklahoma

The WNBA's Seattle Storm has been sold and will not be relocating, to Oklahoma City or anywhere else:

A local ownership group has bought the WNBA franchise from Clay Bennett and his Oklahoma City-based group, a source with knowledge of the negotiations told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on Monday night.

League president Donna Orender will be in Seattle on Tuesday for an 11 a.m. news conference, the Storm announced Monday.

Neither Orender nor Storm chief operating officer Karen Bryant could be reached for comment Monday, but the source said the new ownership group includes at least one woman.

From an AP story at the Oklahoman:

Dan Mahoney, spokesman for the organization, would only confirm Monday night that the announcement scheduled Tuesday was not related to the Storm's current search for a new head coach.

I guess I'm pleased with this, not for any personal lack of interest in the WNBA myself, but for the simple fact that numbered among my circle of online friends are some serious Storm fans in the Seattle area, and I figure they'll be delighted at the news.

And running down the blogroll, I find that I figure correctly:

We'd all miss the team, the environment, the sense of community we felt going to the games.

Now we don't have to miss it. I never thought I'd say that, but thank you, Clay Bennett. Thank you for having the sense to see that the Storm belongs in Seattle.

This is, I think, the first time anyone in Seattle has ever accused Clay Bennett of having any sense.

Update, 2 pm: The AP fills in the blanks:

A group of Seattle women, led by former Seattle Deputy Mayor Anne Levinson, is buying the WNBA Seattle Storm from the SuperSonics for $10 million. Two Microsoft Corp. executives and an entrepreneur round out the purchase group named Tuesday.

The group, calling itself Force 10 Hoops, has until the end of February to close the sale and would need approval of the WNBA board of governors for the standalone franchise.

Levinson, who led the negotiations, said the group was doing it for Storm fans and the community.

The others in Force 10 Hoops are Ginny Gilder, who owns an investment business, is president of a family philanthropy and won a silver medal at the L.A. Olympics; Lisa Brummel, senior vice president of human resources at Microsoft and a Yale softball player; and Dawn Trudeau, who heads Microsoft's database division.

Best of luck to the new owners.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:34 AM to Net Proceeds )
Max Faster

This has to be a hit:

Wouldn't it be cool if makeup worked like temporary tattoos? Just pick one that said "Evening", "First Date", "Work", "Casual"... Slap it on your face, wet the back, and peel off the paper.

It would be nice if you could remove it without taking half your face with it, too.

"Oh, you're always complaining," piped up the Invisible Girlfriend from the corner.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:44 PM to Rag Trade )
9 January 2008
Rhymes with "baloney"

I've had nothing to say about the DVD Format Wars, except that I was sort of rooting for Sony's Blu-ray to lose, because, well, it's Sony's, and God knows what sort of malfeasance they'll bake into it in the future.

This has nothing to do with DVDs, but it doesn't make me feel any better about Sony either:

Sony BMG Music Entertainment on Jan. 15 becomes the last major record company to sell downloads without copy restrictions — but only to buyers who first visit a retail store.

The No. 2 record company (after Universal Music) will sell plastic cards, called Platinum MusicPass, for individual albums for a suggested price of $12.99. Buyers enter a code from the card at new Sony BMG site MusicPass.com to download that card's album.

Think about that for a moment:

If you want to download uncrippled Sony music, you have to get in your car and drive to [the] store so you can buy a card. Then drive back home and download your music.

But the good news is that you can choose from 37 different albums!

Could this possibly be any more cumbersome? Let's not give them any ideas.

(Via Laurence Simon.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:53 AM to Fileophile )
While the writers' strike goes on

New game shows, of course! Tickle the Angry Scorpion (doesn't that sound like a band name?) might be a hit, though I've got my doubts about Do Calculus While We Poke You.

Then again, what I really want to see is Estonian Idol.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:29 AM to Almost Yogurt )
New doors closing

If for some inexplicable reason you've been wanting to cruise on down the road in a Mercury, you might want to do it now while you still can:

[Ford CEO Alan] Mulally is obviously far less beholden to Ford's old guard than the gentleman that came before him. He's been there, done that, killed the extraneous bits. And here's the truth: when Mulally finally gets around to taking a good hard look at Mercury, Mercury will be toast.

For now, Mercury is merely milquetoast. The company adds zero uniqueness to Ford's product line. Mercury has zero technology, zero differentiation, zero prestige, zero class-leading products and zero long-term priority for the Ford Motor Company. Hundreds of Mercury dealerships, thousands of Ford employees and millions of advertising dollars are wasted trying to counter a counter-clockwise death spiral. Every penny that goes into turning a struggling Ford product into an even less competitive Mercury is a penny wasted.

At a time when Ford is struggling to generate a profit anywhere within its North American product portfolio, what value can be had with Mercury? None. There is but one, obvious solution: kill the brand.

Last year 168,422 Mercury vehicles found homes, along with 131,487 Lincolns. Your local L-M dealer is going to look at these numbers and yell that Ford is taking away 56 percent of his business. If Ford does right by Lincoln, that dealer will be mollified by the fact that he's getting higher margins, even if he winds up selling fewer units. But at the moment, doing right by Lincoln takes serious money, and any serious money Ford has to spend on Lincoln is money that won't be spent on what's left of Mercury.

A solution occasionally proffered is the Saturnization of Mercury: turning it into a conduit for European imports. And Ford has some spiffy Euromodels out there: a Focus a generation ahead of ours, a compact people mover (C-MAX), and the newest Mondeo. But this has been tried before — seen any Merkurs lately? — and the exchange rate right now is ruinous. I figure the 70th Anniversary Mercury, due out in 2009, might be the marque's swan song.

I admit, though, that I, for one, will miss Jill Wagner.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:18 AM to Driver's Seat )
Overexposure to scorpions, maybe

Back in the Pleistocene era, I had one of Mattel's Intellivision consoles with the infamous disc controllers. The discs had good motion but just didn't compare to real joysticks, and in a week or so I'd scored a couple of plastic joystick tops that epoxied to the discs, killing the system's presumed resale value but adding serious win to my gameplay.

And one day, feeling full of myself, I connected the gamebox to the Betamax, fired up Activision's Pitfall!, and twisted and twirled and jumped all the way to the final screen. For a couple of years I showed the tape to anyone who was interested and rather a lot of people who weren't.

I had, of course, no idea that Pitfall Harry himself was something of a bad egg, or I would never have worked so closely with him.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:34 PM to Bogus History )
It seems almost late

Forms W-2 were distributed today at the shop, about four days later than usual, though this is easily explained by personnel changes in the Lonely Financial Zone.

Of course, other tax-related documents will show up at the last possible moment.

Fark blurb of the week

Perhaps not safe for reading out loud:

Study demonstrates that primates pay for sex. It's not like she'd suck macaque for free

If you still care after that, here's a Time article about the study.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:27 PM to QOTW )
10 January 2008

This week's Carnival of the Vanities is dubbed "Picc" by Andrew Ian Dodge; he doesn't explain the title, but I hope he's not referring to one of these, which looks sort of painful.

Oh, about the number 265? It's what they call a Smith number: the sum of its digits is equal to the sum of the digits in its prime factorization. (It's 5 x 53; 5 + 5 + 3 = 2 + 6 +5.) I threw this in just so I could mention its origin:

Smith numbers were named by Albert Wilansky of Lehigh University for his brother-in-law Harold Smith whose phone number (4937775) was the first noticed Smith number.

On a landline, anyway, Mr Smith is probably a long-distance call away, and your long-distance carrier (and inevitably, you) will be paying a PICC.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:07 AM to Blogorrhea )
A size-14 shoe drops

Maybe bigger, depending on your level of cynicism. The NBA's Hornets (remember them?) have renegotiated their lease at the New Orleans Arena, and the new expiration date is 2014, two years later than the previous lease. But now there's an early-out clause:

[The lease] allows the Hornets to opt out after next season, albeit with penalties ranging from $50 million to $100 million. The precise cost would depend on inducement reimbursements by the team to the state and a relocation fee imposed by the NBA.

The lease says the Hornets may leave only if average attendance is worse than 14,735 for the final five months of this season and next season. The benchmark is close to the team's average attendance for the three seasons before Hurricane Katrina. Such an average still would leave the Hornets in the bottom third of NBA attendance, league officials said.

Not counting last night's game with the Lakers, the Hornets are averaging 11,871, which has to be discouraging for a team that's tied with the Mavericks and half a game behind the Spurs. And here's a kick: the Bees are 9-6 at home and 14-5 on the road. (The Mavs, away from Dallas, are a ghastly 7-8.) Not that I'd suggest the Hornets would rather be somewhere else entirely; after all, they just signed an extension of their lease, right?

Update: The Bees drew 15,605 against the Lakers, who won 109-80.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:04 AM to Net Proceeds )
Quirky Italian beauties

As I've mentioned more than once — searching this site for the brand name produces thirteen mentions, in fact — during my younger days I managed to wangle some seat time in a Maserati. Despite the presence of the revered trident midgrille, it really wasn't a sports car: it had four doors, for Pietro's sake. But you couldn't tell me that while I was whipping it around Lake Hefner at, um, slightly above the posted limit.

Still, some aspects of it struck me as goofy. My ride in those days had a five-speed stick; what in the world was this hyperexpensive sled doing with a three-speed autobox? (Answer: about 100 before I looked down at the speedo on the way to the lake.) Eventually, though, I accepted this as part of the experience: la donna, she has her quirks, but she's so beautiful you don't notice.

At least, you hope you never notice something like this:

Despite its size and girth, the GT's trunk is puny; hard luck for hard case schleppers. To make matters worse, there is no spare. Since the trunk is opened via an electrically actuated lock, the battery's location in the Maser's micro-compartment seems ill-advised.

This isn't as insane as, say, front fender skirts on the postwar Nash, which made for a turning circle more appropriate to Kenworths, but it's still a strange sort of lapse, unless there's some trick trunk release somewhere.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:32 AM to Driver's Seat )
Lots and lots of new stationery

Matsushita Electric Industrial Company, founded in 1918 by Konosuke Matsushita, is about to fade into history. The huge Japanese conglomerate is taking the name of its leading brand: Panasonic Corp.

The Japanese do not undertake such changes lightly:

Speaking to reporters at a news conference to present the change, President Fumio Ohtsubo said that he had ensured the company had the backing of members of the Matsushita family still represented within the company.

The change will take place in October. Buyers of Panasonic equipment might not even notice. On the other hand, this may improve the company's Web profile, in case your ISP or your workplace filters out words like "Matsushita."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:42 AM to Dyssynergy )
Lacking bodaciousness

Tata's new Nano, argues Samir Sayed, is the first step toward truly disposable cars:

How much of a car's overall expense is due to its mechanical longevity? Remove that requirement and you're suddenly free to substitute mass produced plastic, wood and other materials for the more expensive metal bits, from engine parts to the body panels. Combine this freedom with the "stripper" mentality (how many disposable cameras have a zoom function?), and your costs, and thus price, sink.

When we get a good look at the 1-lakh car, we'll see just how much performance, safety and pollution control Tata could provide for $2500. But you can bet the car is not built for the long haul — because price is all. Ironically, even without fundamentally robust mechanicals, the 1-lakh car will probably "last" (i.e. remain in operation) a lot longer than western machines; by necessity, developing countries are endlessly innovative at repairing and recycling consumer goods. But the pattern of commoditization and [relatively] rapid disposability will be set.

One lakh, in Indian parlance, is 100,000 rupees, or around $2500 US.

The Nano seats five if they're really good friends — you have to figure they're not spending their rupees on cheeseburgers — and is motivated by a 0.6-liter inline two. (You were expecting a V?) Gas mileage is guesstimated at 54 mpg, though it's unlikely we'll ever see one of them undergoing the official EPA test.

Rival automaker Bajaj, in the meantime, has already announced a more upscale car for a whole three grand.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:42 PM to Driver's Seat )
Debris, or not debris?

That's no longer the question; the contractor hired by the city picked up the Assorted Tree Segments on my block today, a bit sooner than I'd anticipated despite my comparative proximity to the center of town. (I am, as the phrase goes, out of the loop.)

They didn't seem to leave a whole lot of crud behind, though one house was skipped entirely; I'm guessing that someone was parked in front of the curb, preventing access to the stuff.

Addendum, 8:15 pm: The CityNews flyer that accompanies the utility bill contains the following revelation:

After the debris contractors finish their rounds, bulk waste collection crews will pick up storm debris on your monthly collection days.

But not until, so don't mix your regular Big Junk with your tree limbs.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 PM to Surlywood )
11 January 2008

My original cell-phone contract didn't even mention text messages, and my old phone made the task of sending them unduly difficult, so I never got into the habit. I'd been off contract for a few years, and decided to re-up in order to snag a newer phone, and while I still have the same number of minutes and the same monthly rate, any text messages after the first fifty are billed at 15 cents each.

I didn't think much about this until I saw some Usenet item to the effect that this was the most expensive bandwidth in the solar system, and then, of course, I had to think about it.

SMS as implemented on GSM maxes out at 160 7-bit characters, the equivalent of 140 8-bit bytes, or 140/1024 = 0.1367 kilobytes. At fifteen cents a whack, this is $1.097 per K; multiply by 1048576 and you get the startling figure of $1.15 million per gigabyte. (By comparison, my Web host offers 5 terabytes for as low as six bucks a month.)

Trini would scoff. "Upgrade to a plan with unlimited texting," she'd say, reasonably enough, and this wouldn't cost a ton of money. But what I'm allowed is way more than I anticipate using; typically, I have four or five text messages a month. By contrast, she's using four or five an hour.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 AM to Dyssynergy )
A triumph for antidisestablishmentarianism

And how often do you get to see that?

A motion calling for the disestablishment of the Church of England appeared on the House of Commons order paper [for 10th January] — bizarrely numbered 666, the number associated with the Antichrist.

Bob Russell, Liberal Democrat MP for Colchester, one of the signatories, said: "It is incredible that a motion like this should have, by chance, acquired this significant number. This number is supposed to be the mark of the Devil. It looks as though God or the Devil have been moving in mysterious ways. What is even stranger is that this motion was tabled last night when MPs were debating blasphemy."

Karl Rove was reportedly nowhere near Parliament at the time.

(Spotted by Emalyse.)

Retrenching a bit

Oklahoma City, after expanding its list of plastics to be recycled, has pared it back a tad, and they've updated the pertinent okc.gov page accordingly. I quote from CityNews:

Some of you may be wondering why take-out containers, egg cartons, meat trays and other Styrofoam items are being left in your Little Blue recycling bins. The expanded recyclable list announced a few months ago included #1-7 plastics. However, the recycling equipment is unable to properly process some #6 plastics. You still may recycle other #6 plastics, including rigid plastic cutlery, plates and cups. Basically, if it's foamy white stuff that bends easily, it's not a recyclable even though it has a recycle symbol 6.

Meat trays I've seen tend to be foamy black or grey stuff. Then again, I prefer to pass up the prepacks in favor of something from behind the counter — which is generally wrapped in paper.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:43 AM to City Scene )
And sometimes Y

This would seem to cover most of the pertinent circumstances:

If men vote for a candidate simply because he's a man, it's because men are sexist pigs.

If women vote for a candidate simply because she's a woman, it's because men are sexist pigs.

(Via Tam.)

Twilight time

Everyone knows the big problem with solar power: it's called sunset.

Perhaps it won't remain a problem much longer:

The technology uses a special manufacturing process to stamp tiny square spirals, or "nanoantennas", of conduction metal onto a sheet of plastic and the team estimates individual nanoantennas can absorb close to 80 percent of the available energy in comparison to current commercial solar panels which usually transform less that 20 percent of the usable energy that strikes them into electricity — this is even more impressive than the 30% conversion rate offered by the recently discussed development of nano flakes.

Due to their size — each interlocking spiral nanoantenna is as wide as 1/25 the diameter of a human hair — the nanoantennas absorb energy in the infrared part of the spectrum, just outside the range of what is visible to the eye. Since the sun radiates a lot of infrared energy, some of which is soaked up by the earth and later released as radiation for hours after sunset, nanoantennas can take in energy from both sunlight and the earth's heat, with higher efficiency than conventional solar cells.

They're still a few years away, though:

While the nanoantennas are easily manufactured, the problem of creating a way to store or transmit the electricity is yet to be solved. Although infrared rays create an alternating current in the nanoantenna, the frequency of the current switches back and forth ten thousand billion times a second — much too fast for electrical appliances, which operate on currents that oscillate only 60 times a second.

If I remember my circuit theory, it's not the frequency that switches back and forth, but getting things down to 60 Hz doesn't sound like an insurmountable difficulty.

(Via AutoblogGreen.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:26 PM to Family Joules )
12 January 2008
Quote of the week

I think I've seen exactly this in the fine print:

I tried to read my policy once, only to give up in abject failure. I mean, I'm a guy who could, at one time, deliver four schools of literary criticism to one work. Classical, modern, post-modern and what I like to call "reality."

Insurance policies, though, take bullshit to a whole 'nother level.

The policy of the appurtenances thereof only will relate to the quid pro quo of the insured, unless the aforementioned debentures are accrued on a day that ends in "Y" in a year that ends in an even number that is not divisible by seven. Unless, of course, said debentures are previously approved under sections XLII, MM, S, M, L or XL by "Frank" who works in accounting and has a concealed carry permit, which kinda creeps us out, because we're good liberals and these types of things frighten us. Frank is the final arbiter of these decisions, unless he's been drinking, in which case you're pretty much screwed because he's the only one who understands this shit, and we are all scared to contradict him, if the truth be known.

I wonder if Frank was a big Mitt Romney fan.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:42 AM to QOTW )
But it says "My Documents"!

As anyone who's ever looked at the lower end of the front-page sidebar will know, I'm a major WordPad fiend, not because it's a wonderful text editor — it's okay, but nothing spellbinding, as it were — but because I've been using it so long that I've managed to pound it into some semblance of submission: ninety-something percent of the time, I can get it to do what I want with no fuss.

A couple of weeks ago, I was working up a Vent, and at some point shy of completion I decided I'd better save my work. Up popped a telltale Microsoft box to the effect that "The document is in use by another application or user and cannot be accessed." I copied out all the text to another file, canceled the save, rebooted, and later pasted it back. No problems.

A few days later, on a project at work, I got the same message. Trini wondered if maybe this was NTFS telling us that it couldn't rewrite the file because of bad disk sectors, and we cranked up a long and tedious disk diagnostic, which reported no errors. After a couple of hours, I offered a suggestion, but had no real way to test it — until last night, when it cropped up once more.

Rewind about twelve months, to the point where I installed Copernic Desktop Search, which gets used on a regular basis on both these boxes, mostly because Microsoft's own search facility, functional in Windows 98, descended to the level of farce in XP. Copernic spends a lot of time indexing your files at first; once it's done, it sneaks in under the radar to add any new ones when it sees you're not especially busy.

Reasoning that well, what the hell else could it be, I got the dialog box, canceled my save, and suspended Copernic's index function. It complained, of course; but once it had been ordered off the premises, the save worked as it was supposed to. Apparently once it's spotted a file, it puts a lock on it until it's finished updating the index — which, if your nonbusy periods fall at the wrong time, might not have taken place yet when you're ready to resave.

Mystery solved. I'd be unbelievably smug were my track record better than 1 for X, where X is a larger integer than I'd care to admit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:06 AM to PEBKAC )
Exercising restraint

The 4:24 AM version of the local Forecast Discussion:


This describes DGEX. A typical DGEX map might look something like this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:33 PM to Weather or Not )
A reason to smile

Once upon a time I zinged poor Chris Muir for some extremely-trivial pop-culture goof, and I suspect he made a solemn vow to himself never to go through that sort of thing again. Anyway, this one was perfect:

Day By Day 1-12-08

Here's the album in question:

I'll Cry if I Want To

Whole lot of tears on that record, you know?

An exceedingly-minor version increment

You may not have noticed this, but the sidebar is now two pixels wider.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:17 PM to Blogorrhea )
Bye, bye, Buzz

For the last 27 hours or so, KHBZ-FM (94.7 / The Buzz) has been playing Metallica nonstop (except for commercials) and warning of something happening Monday morning at 10 am. The rumor machine is running flat-out, and at this moment someone on Wikipedia has floated the possibility of a Spanish format — or of KTOK-FM.

I tend to doubt either of these, but then the format change I predicted for the first of the year — at KQOB-FM (96.9 / Bob FM) — didn't happen, so I figure I have no reason to think I'm actually correct.

Update, 10 am, Monday morning: Big deal. I don't remember anyone in town saying "You know, I really like the KATT. In fact, I like them so much I think every station should try to sound like the KATT."

13 January 2008
Totally new and retro

And now, another case where I knew that something existed, but had no idea what it might be called.

"It," in this case, is "machinima", a sort of squoze-down version of "machine cinema," and it's just what you think it is: computer-generated video. It's derived, though, not from the hyperexpensive 3D animation software you see at the movies, but from comparatively-simple desktop-based stuff. And there is an advantage to this: you can do the renderings in real time, rather than have to set up acres of rendering hardware and wait for them to crunch zillions of numbers. So it looks patently artificial, but it's still massive fun, and when actual artists get hold of it, the results are inspiring.

Dawn Eden put up a remarkable example of machinima, a music video set to the Crests' "The Angels Listened In," designed by Charlemange Fezza of Pew Man Fu Studios using the technology of The Sims. I was properly impressed, scanned through more than a dozen more of Charlemange's works — she has her own YouTube channel — and decided to post her take on B. J. Thomas's original, ooga-chaka-free version of "Hooked on a Feeling."

By the time she's done, she'll probably have the entire Left Banke catalog animated.

No radio, soap

I bought three presumably-fresh bars of Dial yesterday, something I hadn't done in a while, mostly because some time ago I decided I would go ahead and use up all the accumulated hotel soap from the last few World Tours, which took many days.

And I thought I had quite a bit of the stuff, but I am the rankest of amateurs compared to Elisson.

A trifle gun-shy

At about 10:15 everything went dark, or as dark as it can manage two and a half hours after sunrise, and for some reason I was spooked. I get through an ice storm of epic proportions with no more than flicker, and now, on a sunny morning, the power is down?

I did the perfunctory check of the breaker box, called OG&E, grabbed a snow shovel, and began cleaning up at curbside, mostly because it beat the hell out of just sitting there waiting for something to happen. (This is, incidentally, the best time to hobnob with the neighbors, because they're always coming outside to see if anybody else has power.)

According to SystemWatch, about 3000 people got knocked off the grid; half have been restored. I doubt that any trees were involved.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:51 AM to Surlywood )

The only clock I bother to set on the living-room entertainment gear is on the VCR/DVD recorder combo, and it's kind enough not to blink 12:00 after power outages (1:00 after power outages during DST); instead, it picks up where it left off and moves along. The clock was already two minutes behind, so the half-hour it spent without juice knocked it to 32 minutes behind. I groaned, picked up the remote for the TV — this is one of those recorders where everything is done through on-screen menus — and got: nothing.

It's not like I'd never had a battery die in a remote before, so I swapped out a pair of AAs and started over. Nothing. "Jeebus, Sony, what is it this time?" I grumbled as I dug up the TV set manual. Okay, fine: use the front-panel buttons under the drop-down panel, which conveniently were already dropped down since that's where the LaserDisc plugs in. I had a picture on channel 61 (the Hitler History Channel), but the channel number in the corner was counting down as fast as it possibly could, and none of the front-panel buttons would work except the power switch. The remote was still deader than Mike Gravel's Presidential bid.

A search for "sony wega controls unresponsive" turned up this thread:

The only control on my TV that still works is the power button. On my remote the Power button is also the only button that is operational!! I can't change channels, switch video inputs, or control volume. Behind the control panel I can get the menu to display but the arrow keys don't work....not sure what happened...thought maybe unplugging TV overnight might reset something....no luck. Just wondering if anyone has ran into a similiar problem with this.

Apparently Sony has never heard of this issue either.

I'd taken the trouble to remove all the other remotes from the area, on the off-chance that they were being read by mistake, so the only conclusion I can reach is that something fooled the infrared sensor into thinking it was getting a crapload of instructions all at once, and eventually it quit doing that.

I note for comparison that every time I've had some weird response, or lack of response, from the Vizio in the bedroom, disconnecting it from the power supply for sixty seconds has reset it without screwing with my personal settings.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:18 PM to Dyssynergy )
Just this side of sleek

Lora by BCBGirlsFetiche decided that the last pair of shoes I put up here had no redeeming social value — truth be told, I didn't think much of them myself — so this time around I decided to post some shoes she actually owns. From the BCBGirls line of BCBG Max Azria, this is "Lora," a higher-than-usual (four inches or so) Mary Jane with a squared-off toe, also available in red. (BCBG, it appears, is an abbreviation for a French idiom: bon chic, bon genre, "good style, good class." And who would know more about French idioms than a Jewish-American designer of Tunisian extraction?) I took one look at these and thought, "Dillard's, one-twenty-five." Actually, Dillard's doesn't list them among the 95 pairs of BCBGirls shoes on their Web site, but $125 seems a tad high; they can be had online from other vendors for $110 or so, and for that matter, Dillard's has all the in-store BCBGirls shoes on sale this week.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 PM to Rag Trade )
14 January 2008
Strange search-engine queries (102)

In this more-or-less weekly feature, we sort through seven days' worth of referrer logs, separate the wheat from the chaff, and publish the chaff.

hissiest uzis:  Yeah, that's the lethal aspect of the Uzi: the hiss.

I survived the 2007 Ice storm even though I lost a few limbs in Tulsa t-shirt:  Should we assume it's just a flesh wound?

Superheroines Itching:  "Sue, honey, you want me to scratch that for you?" Reed shouted from the lab.

required to wear pantyhose to church:  Try new GenuFlex™, designed specifically for kneeling.

what happens if a man falls in love with a transsexual?  If he's really in love, he probably won't even use the T-word.

family won't accept me wearing women's lingerie:  Suggestion: get your own. They hate it when you borrow things.

driving naked on leather seats:  Don't. Trust me on this.

Mother-in-law is curious about my penis size:  Let me dissuade you with two words: "divorce lawyer."

topless bimmer chicks:  Is this topless chicks in Bimmers, or chicks in topless Bimmers?

topless babes in bimmers:  Well, that answers that. [Both were received from the same IP address.]

what's the plural form of stereo:  Surround.

dog peed on dvd player:  Was it HD or Blu-ray?

What do 43 percent of women do in the driver's seat:  Demonstrate to the man in the passenger seat the art of asking directions.

sociopath, adulterer or libertine:  Great, a new reality TV show.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:52 AM to You Asked For It )
I think they should call it "Sonny"

A passel of Tufts University students have put up a blog to — well, the subtitle says it all:

A select group of America's most brilliant students who are actually getting academic credit (if not a stellar grade) for goofing off on this blog.

One post so far, from "The Minions," who advise:

Remember that one of the goals of this project will be to generate traffic from other blogs and from web surfers. Therefore, a name that attracts interest or curiosity is more advantageous than something generic.

As an example, you might find it amusing that one blog that enjoys significant traffic is called "This Blog Is Full of Crap."

I need hardly point out that Laurence Simon objects to his traffic being called "significant." Still, the name for this new enterprise is indeed critical, and to show that I have a heart, I offer an even number of half-hearted suggestions:

  • The Huffington Pissed
  • 19-Year-Old Women With Large Breasts
  • Like Glenn Reynolds, But Without Saying "Heh"
  • We Thought They Were Saying "Woo-burn"
  • Carbohydrate Wisdom
  • My36DD
  • Bin Laden, Done That
  • Duncan Hunter Read This Once
  • Panic! At The Bursar's
  • 20-Year-Old Women With Large Breasts

You're very welcome.

Update: They've tweaked a few things, including the tag line, which now contains the phrase "wait till Dad finds out", and The Minions have given way to The Perfessor.

Bank error in your favor, collect $200

That Community Chest card is slightly more likely than this email received yesterday:

The Bank of New York and the World Bank had earlier transferred fund to our Bank (Barclays PLC) last month. They disclosed that this fund was recovered as "Traced Fund" belonging to the (holder of this e-mail address) and we have been directed to contact you in this regard.

I am not in the position to disclose the amount here for security reasons. But I think you will have to make this inquiry for yourself. Please verify the amount in which you were previously expecting and reconfirm your banking coordinate as well. Send your e-mail and the copy of your International Passport to Mr. Pyle Michael Lee — director of Operation.

Unlike most phishing expeditions, this one has no obscured or dubious Web addresses, though I suspect that the email addresses for the sender and for the "director of Operation" don't go anywhere near Barclays. Bunch of wankers.

Addendum: This afternoon someone from the World Bank dropped by to see who was using their name in vain.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:29 AM to Scams and Spams )
We are completely aghast

Tesla Motors still can't sell you an actual electric car, but by gum, they've got T-shirts for sale.

As if to demonstrate that high technology doesn't come cheaply, the "Men's Zero Emissions Tee" sells for a stiff $38. Frank Williams of The Truth About Cars doesn't think it will sell:

[W]on't sell many of those since there aren't many men who don't produce emissions.

And to think people are worried about mere carbon dioxide.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:43 PM to Driver's Seat )
Now this is devotion

In a sidebar to a profile of rapper Lupe Fiasco in Entertainment Weekly (#974, 18 January), two adjacent statistics:

553,713 MySpace friends; 554,000 total album units sold.

He has 287 fans on Facebook, right?

15 January 2008
I'd add a shelf for these

I will, of course, buy anything with Writer Chick's name on it, and for that matter, here are a baker's dozen other tomes I would happily buy if someone had the temerity to write them:

  1. Lawn Care for the Lazy

  2. Historical Stock Market Prices, 2020 [2009 edition]

  3. Catch-33: The Saga of President Minderbinder

  4. The In-Sink-Erator Guide to Biodiesel

  5. Let's Move New Orleans to Minnesota!

  6. Fred Thompson's Dating Tips

  7. How Tim Blair Beat Cancer

  8. Crush That Libido Once and For All

  9. How to Be Decisive — Or Should You?

  10. Giuliani's 9/11 Handbook, Volume 12

  11. A Connecticut Yankee in King Solomon's Mines

  12. How to Get People to Pay You Not to Blog

  13. The Case for Sterilizing Britney Spears

For some reason, I couldn't add these to my Amazon Wish List.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:03 AM to Screaming Memes )
Should we open the primary?

This morning, an Oklahoman editorial, noting the relative lack of candidate interest in the state's Presidential primary, hints that maybe we should:

Interest in the primary among Oklahomans isn't lacking. The Tulsa World reports a surge of voter registrations in the last two months of 2007, plus a wave of re-registration requests from independents who wish to participate in the Republican or Democratic presidential primary before, presumably, switching back to independent.

Unlike New Hampshire, whose primary allows independent participation, only those registered in a party can vote in a primary here. This is how it should be in most cases; perhaps the presidential primary should be an exception.

I haven't made up my mind about this yet. On the one hand, I hate to see the Independents and others frozen out of the process. Still, it's supposed to be an instrument for the use of the actual parties.

Any ideas?


The Texas Lottery now has a $50 scratch-off card. Who's buying the tickets? People who can afford to throw away fifty bucks? Don't bet on it:

As it turns out, the $50 game, called $130 Million Spectacular, has fared best in middle-income neighborhoods typically not considered affluent, according to six months of sales data analyzed by the Houston Chronicle.

Is anyone actually surprised by this?

While the analysis is imperfect because it does not account for people who may buy lottery tickets in a ZIP code where they don't live, and whose incomes may differ from the median there, it bolsters numerous other studies indicating that lottery games tend to be most popular among the non-affluent.

Meanwhile, Texas pols are happy:

"The $50 ticket salvaged our entire fiscal year last year," said Robert Tirloni, projects manager for the Texas Lottery Commission, bringing $137 million to state coffers since the game's debut in May and helping the commission close a $93 million gap in revenue between 2006 and 2007.

Which means there's a good chance you'll see this same sort of thing here before too long, since the Oklahoma Lottery is underachieving at the Bart Simpson level.

(Via Hit & Run.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:45 AM to TANSTAAFL )
Ninety-four point shabby

The Lost Ogle's take on the KHBZ format change:

I'd like to thank the powers-at-be at the Buzz for making a completely idiotic decision and (instead of bringing Indie Rock back to Oklahoma City radio) deciding to compete with one of Oklahoma City's (like it or not) few radio institutions, The KATT. And the reason I'd like to thank them is because I like to see incompetent people get fired, and hopefully these buffoons will get fired pretty soon.

Seriously, imagine how great it would be if instead of throwing out AC/DC, Korn and Atreyu, we were greeted by even mainstream indie rock like The Flaming Lips, The Arcade Fire, Band of Horses, or dear god, even Interpol. Imagine the "Buzz" (eh) that would have created. But no, we get to hear — as an OklahomaRock commenter perfectly labeled it — more MethRock.

(Disclosure: I actually bought a Korn track this week off iTunes.)


I regard myself as largely a defensive person, so you might think that my 401(k) investments tend toward the conservative, and indeed they do; I don't realize huge returns except in the most bullish of markets, but I seldom lose much for very long.

To keep a bustle in my hedge funds requires a little bit of work and an enormous amount of patience. Over the years I have stashed retirement cash in six different accounts, all of which are currently active and three of which are currently receiving new deposits — and none of which lost money last year, even my bond/mortgage fund. (The worst performer in the portfolio was a large-cap blend under Goldman Sachs management, which squeaked out a gain of 0.62 percent for the year despite fourth-quarter stock-market woes.)

The fund manager, hoping to whip up some anxiety, advises that I will require X dollars per month in retirement, despite the fact that I'm earning only about 0.75X while actually working. Either they're expecting some serious inflation, or they're making some dubious assumptions, and I lean toward the latter, since the figure is based on retirement at 65 and people born in 1953 can't draw full Social Security until age 66. Further, they expect my salary to go up three percent a year between now and the Distant Future, which isn't likely: my pay is limited by, among other factors, my unfortunate choice of ancestors.

In point of fact, I can't imagine retiring at all; more likely, I'll drop dead some night at the office and the proceeds will be rolled into my estate, and then rolled right back out again to pay the bills.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:17 PM to Common Cents )
16 January 2008
I fought the straw, and the straw won

J. M. Branum is conducting what he calls the Oklahoma Blog Authors Presidential Primary Straw Poll, and it's simple: you email him your top three choices in the party of your registration — he's not going to check your registration, so this is a lot more open than the real Presidential primary — and he'll total up the numbers, counting 3 points for your first choice, 2 for your second and 1 for your third.

I sent in my list last night. (If anyone is wondering, I am registered as a Democrat, and I selected accordingly.) Votes will be taken through the end of the month, and cumulative totals will be posted from time to time.

The making of a Super Bowl

Two things about Nate's chili recipe that deserve some sort of mention here:

  • No beans, though he's not doctrinaire about it, or anything really.

  • Although it calls for 8 ounces of beer, "I poured 4 ounces out of this 12-oz. bottle, because I WAS PLANNING TO DRINK THE REST."

And, oh yes: onions.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:22 AM to Worth a Fork )
From the Advice to Customers file

When your credit card fails to pass muster during an Internet purchase, "my doofus Web host inadvertently double-billed me for a year in advance" is much more plausible an explanation than "there's something in your software that makes it misread the expiration dates."

Just saying.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:26 AM to Common Cents )
No hard feelings, evidently

Maureen Dowd came down with some wretched disease while covering Dubya's Middle East jaunt, and who comes to her aid? Why, the White House, of course:

Presidential aides, including press secretary Dana Perino, made clear early on that Dowd could see Dr. Richard J. Tubb, the Air Force brigadier general who oversees the White House medical office and takes care of the president at home and abroad.

But Dowd declined. With no medication, she tried to soldier on by grabbing whatever rest she could in her hotel room — not easy to do in a trip of constant movements. By the time the presidential entourage moved to Bahrain from Kuwait on Saturday, she felt even worse. She was so sick, in fact, that she could not write her regular Sunday column.

Dowd finally decided to take up the White House on its offer.

So she gets to see Dr. Tubb, and:

Tubb gave her a few tablets of Cipro and some Pepto-Bismol and told her to check back with him the next day. She turned down Tubb's offer of an IV (so there was no chance of an "accidental" poisoning, she joked).

"He was wonderful — just really sweet," Dowd said in an interview Tuesday afternoon in the press filing center in Riyadh, where she appeared to be on the mend and said she was feeling much better.

But it wasn't over:

On Sunday, when [the] entourage flew from Bahrain to the United Arab Emirates, Dowd was supposed to be flying on the press charter, without access to Tubb. But the White House made room for her aboard Air Force One, where she visited the doctor once again in his office near the president's.

"I was thinking that if I ran into Bush, I would have to apologize for it not being a fatal disease," Dowd said. "He was very generous to share his doctor — even if he didn't know it."

Dowd said Tubb and the rest of the White House staff who helped her were "fantastic" — and nobody complained about her columns.

Good on ya, Doc. And Maureen, you get well real soon, y'hear?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:05 PM to Warn Mode Due )
No, really, never mind the bollocks

A Virginia legislator has introduced a measure to ban the display of fake human genitalia on motor vehicles:

State Del. Lionel Spruill introduced a bill Tuesday to ban displaying replicas of human genitalia on vehicles, calling it a safety issue because it could distract other drivers. Under his measure, displaying the ornamentation on a motor vehicle would be a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $250.

He said the idea came from a constituent whose young daughter spotted an example of the trail hitch adornment and asked her father to explain it.

I have no idea if this will impact the display of real human genitalia.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:13 PM to Driver's Seat )
First I look at the purse

And then, like Chaucer, I look away in dismay:

To you, my purse, and to none other wight
Complain I, for ye be my lady dear!
I am so sorrow, now that ye be light;
For certes, but ye make me heavy cheer,
Me were as leif be laid upon my bier;
For which unto your mercy thus I cry:
Be heavy again, or elles might I die!

I blame this guy, mostly because I had to buy four of these.

17 January 2008
Advancing mediocrity for five decades

I used to joke that I was a Bard with a -2 Charisma, which existence doth not inspire. Neither does this, particularly:

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Cleric (6th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength  -  11
Dexterity  -  11
Constitution  -  11
Intelligence  -  16
Wisdom  -  13
Charisma  -  9

Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Clerics act as intermediaries between the earthly and the divine (or infernal) worlds. A good cleric helps those in need, while an evil cleric seeks to spread his patron's vision of evil across the world. All clerics can heal wounds and bring people back from the brink of death, and powerful clerics can even raise the dead. Likewise, all clerics have authority over undead creatures, and they can turn away or even destroy these creatures. Clerics are trained in the use of simple weapons, and can use all forms of armor and shields without penalty, since armor does not interfere with the casting of divine spells. In addition to his normal complement of spells, every cleric chooses to focus on two of his deity's domains. These domains grants the cleric special powers, and give him access to spells that he might otherwise never learn. A cleric's Wisdom score should be high, since this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

(Found at Dodgeblogium.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Screaming Memes )
You have been warned

Though probably not like this:

Nature is unpredictable and unsafe. Mountains are dangerous. Many books have been written about these dangers, and there's no way we can list them all here. Read the books.

Nelson Rocks Preserve is covered in steep terrain with loose, slippery and unstable footing. The weather can make matters worse. Sheer drops are everywhere. You may fall, be injured or die. There are hidden holes. You could break your leg. There are wild animals, which may be vicious, poisonous or carriers of dread diseases. These include poisonous snakes and insects. Plants can be poisonous as well. We don't do anything to protect you from any of this. We do not inspect, supervise or maintain the grounds, rocks, cliffs or other features, natural or otherwise.

Real dangers are present even on trails. Trails are not sidewalks. They can be, and are, steep, slippery and dangerous. Trail features made or enhanced by humans, such as steps, walls and railings (if any) can break, collapse, or otherwise fail catastrophically at any time. We don't promise to inspect, supervise or maintain them in any way. They may be negligently constructed or repaired. They are unsafe, period. Live with it or stay away.

It gets better as you go along. I'd say something about "Life should be like this," except for the fact that, well, it is.

(Via View From The Porch.)

Now this is depressing

But not entirely unexpected, either:

Nearly a third of antidepressant drug studies are never published in the medical literature and nearly all happen to show that the drug being tested did not work, researchers reported on Wednesday.

Imagine that.

Of the 74 studies that started for the 12 antidepressants, 38 produced positive results for the drug. All but one of those studies were published. However, when it came to the 36 studies with negative or questionable results, as assessed by the FDA, only three were published and another 11 were turned around and written as if the drug had worked.

"Not only were positive results more likely to be published, but studies that were not positive, in our opinion, were often published in a way that conveyed a positive outcome," said the [research] team [led by Erick Turner of the Oregon Health & Science University].

Me, I'm looking for a time-released placebo.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:06 AM to Dyssynergy )
Here come the smarts

The smart cars, anyway:

Traffic consultant Thomas Page of Detroit ordered his Smart microcar in March, the first day they were orderable, and he was told last weekend that his red convertible is off the boat in Baltimore and ready for delivery.

According to communications director Ken Kettenbeil of Smart USA in Bloomfield Hills, 30 to 35 percent of the Smarts ordered thus far are the convertible, more formally known as the Passion Cabriolet. Its starting price is $16,590.

Sixty to 65 percent of the 30,000 preorders were for the Passion Coupe, at $13,590, with only 4 percent for the base-level Pure at $11,590.

It may be a while before I see one of these around town: there's only one dealership in the state, and it's in Tulsa. Then again, were I in the market for something small and zippy, I'd go for a Honda Fit.

(Via AutoblogGreen.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:35 PM to Driver's Seat )
An audience with but a single thought

And that thought, apparently, was "Can we see Amy McRee?"

SiteMeter trace

I have no idea whence this sudden demand arose: normally this is good for 10, maybe 15 hits a week, tops.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:26 PM to Blogorrhea )
18 January 2008
That's right, I'm sad and blue

After all, I can't do the boogaloo:

Monday night on the car radio, Dick Biondi (94.7 "classic hits and true oldies") introduced an old song he had played last week, and gotten some good feedback on, called "Gimme Dat Ding".

It's a goofy little ditty, from 1970, with a rollicking barrelhouse piano. I wonder if iTunes has it; I need to get this for our iPods.

Not in its original form, they don't, unless I misread the list entirely.

And suddenly, an image appeared in my head, of an old 45, and on the label it said "The Pipkins". The label was sort of an orangey off-white color. The writing was black. It was there, plain as day, in my brain. I don't remember if that was my record, or if I'd just seen it somewhere and remembered what it looked like, or if I totally invented it. It was just there.

Capitol, which issued this in the States (#2819), had a number of different 45 labels over the years, some of which were indeed orangey. My copy, however, has a blue label; it's one of Capitol's Star Line reissue singles, #6210, and it's backed with "Neanderthal Man" by Hotlegs, who might conceivably be described as 7.5cc.

And I ripped them both for my own iTunes installation, because they didn't have the original "Neanderthal Man" either.

Quote of the week

From Coyote Blog, regarding the ongoing WGA strike:

I was surprised to see on someone's blog that the writers' strike was still going on. I would think that the biggest danger of going on strike (beyond the lost income) would be that no one notices you are not working. This seems to be a real danger faced by the writers, and an important reason why you will never see Congress go on strike.

Actually, I can usually tell when Congress is not working: my pocketbook is noticeably fatter.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:42 AM to QOTW )
I could have told you that

Understatement of the decade:

In a study that confirms what many of us have long suspected, scientists have shown that men find long legs attractive.

Elsewhere, researchers have determined that rocks have low buoyancy, and the temperature on ski slopes tends to be low.

I do have some niggling doubts about this statement, though:

Faced with the choice of two women of the same height, but with different leg length, they will tend to plump for the one with the longer legs.

However, in the unlikely event that I am ever faced with the choice of two women of the same height — or, for that matter, two women of any height — I will observe, and report back.

(Suggested by Fits.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:02 AM to Table for One )

This week's Carnival of the Vanities, sensibly designated "mid-Jan," is the 266th in the series.

This week I think I'll give a shout-out to Pope Benedict XVI, the 266th in that series.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:59 AM to Blogorrhea )
Calling all Gwartneys

First, the picture:

Gwartney Grocery postcard

A reader in Indiana happened upon this postcard (you can see a bigger version here), noting that the store advertised on the side of this cart, Gwartney's Cash Grocery, was at "Catalpa and College St. in Capitol Hill." Inasmuch as I once churned out an excessively-inadequate history of the Capitol Hill area of Oklahoma City, she wrote me and asked if I could nail down any of the particulars.

Working with the formidable Doug Loudenback, we were able to narrow it down to a few blocks. (What was once Catalpa Street is now SW/SE 20th.) The store is gone by now, but Gwartneys remain: Kurt Gwartney, for instance, is the operations manager at KGOU radio in Norman, and Bob and Janet Gwartney raise goats in Hammon. I figure if I drop enough Gwartney names here, sooner or later I'll hear from a family member who can fill in some more of the story.

Hey, it worked for the Steansons.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:21 PM to Soonerland )
Not that we expect you to do this

Two paragraphs out of Business Week:

In a Manhattan apartment that costs $1,600 a month or more to rent, you'd be lucky to have a separate bedroom, a dishwasher, and a living room that fits a full couch.

Get a job transfer to Oklahoma City and a 1,228-square-foot three-bedroom apartment in a luxury development with its own clubhouse, hot tub, and swimming pool can be yours for only $989 a month.

There are, of course, other differences.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:22 PM to City Scene , Common Cents )
19 January 2008
Some things considered

This month, the University of Oklahoma's KGOU marks twenty-five years in Public Radio, and this story seems telling:

Ken Stern, chief executive of National Public Radio, told OU students Friday that when NPR opened its first foreign bureau in London in 1982, CBS had about two dozen.

"To tell you how things have changed," he said, "we opened our 18th in Kabul (Afghanistan) last year and CBS is down to two."

I bet CBS still has a bigger motor pool, though:

"We have a minivan in Washington and two armored cars in Baghdad," [Stern] said. "That is our fleet of vehicles."

And maybe once in a while Cory Flintoff and Diane Rehm will carpool.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:05 AM to Overmodulation )
Go with the name you know

Steve H. will not be installing OpenOffice any time soon:

I just don't need the headaches associated with being a software pioneer. I've been using Word 2000 for seven years. It does what I tell it to do. I know where the problems are. I have never had anyone complain that they couldn't open a document I created. Maybe Openoffice will work just as well; I don't care to find out. If a guy who mows lawns for a living can spend two thousand dollars on a riding mower, a writer can spend a hundred and fifty on Office, once every seven or eight years.

This I understand; I am loath to change applications. On the other hand, Lotus' WordPro, which had been my word processor of choice for years and years, is seriously out of date, and not because it lacks the latest bells and whistles; it works only sporadically on my Windows XP installations. (Curiously, 1-2-3 still seems to run just fine.)

In my experience with OpenOffice, there's been only one document it's failed to open: a fairly large (24 mb) Excel spreadsheet with 36,000 rows and columns out to D-something. Since I don't have to update this file, I installed Microsoft's Excel viewer and let it do the dirty work. And no, 1-2-3 won't touch it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:48 AM to PEBKAC )
Cited for failure to hate

Mitt Romney does the Tonight Show, and the following interchange ensued:

JAY LENO: When you were governor, did you have any interaction with either Barack or Hillary? Did you know them? Did you work with them?

MITT ROMNEY: I did not. I met the President, President Clinton, a couple of times. He's a very engaging person. I met Barack Obama. We both appeared at the Gridiron Club, where we told jokes and we had fun doing that together. He's got a lovely wife. My wife thinks she's just terrific.

JAY LENO: So you never really had any —

MITT ROMNEY: No business with those guys. More business with Ted Kennedy. You know, I ran against Ted Kennedy.

JAY LENO: Right.

MITT ROMNEY: You know, he's a hard‑working guy. He does his best. I disagree with him on virtually every issue, but we came together a couple of times, and frankly, I like Ted Kennedy.

For some reason, this got Michelle Malkin's Hanes in a wad:

"Like" is not a word a conservative should use when referring to the Senate’s biggest windbag, eco-hypocrite, shamnesty supporter, race demagogue, and conservative judicial nominee slimer.

Methinks the lady doth protest too much. This is the Tonight Show, after all: some sort of camaraderie, even if forced, is the order of the day. Save the mud for Olbermann or O'Reilly.

Except that there isn't any mud to be saved. I have no reason to think Romney was being insincere. I have friends at least as far left as Ted Kennedy, and I don't feel compelled to burnish whatever conservative bona fides I may have by bashing them.

Besides, this was the next bit of the conversation:

JAY LENO: Who do you think has a bigger head, you or Ted Kennedy?


MITT ROMNEY: Oh, boy, it's a competition. All three of us could join. Do you know that?

Maybe it was the talk of big heads that motivated Malkin to make herself look small.

Free from gushing entrails

I somehow doubt it would go over at a proper Burns supper, but what the hell: vegetarian haggis.

(Suggested by this Toronto Star piece. No sheep were harmed in the construction of this recipe. Warning: contains peanuts.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:03 PM to Worth a Fork )
The barter of Seville

David Seville, that is.

It seems that in 1968, Ross Bagdasarian, who had created the David Seville persona for his own recordings in 1956 and kept it when he came up with the Chipmunks, sold the rights to the Chipmunks catalog — one hundred twelve recorded tracks — to Liberty Records for a flat fee, whereupon he retired and became a vintner. Capitol Records, which now owns the Liberty label, has had no qualms about exploiting the little rodents, and Bagdasarian Productions, now administered by Ross Bagdasarian, Jr., understood that the rights to the recordings had been sold. In fact, Ross Jr., circa 1996, sold the characters themselves to Universal Pictures, which produced a bunch of direct-to-video stuff; four years later, he sued Universal for breach of contract and got the characters back.

Now it turns out that the deal with Liberty included only the rights to sell the original recordings at retail, not to license them to other media. Ross Jr. didn't know this; apparently he didn't discover the actual contract until last fall. And Bagdasarian Productions is now suing Capitol, claiming breach of contract. (Here's a copy of the complaint in PDF format.)

As David Seville himself once noted, "Oo ee, oo ah ah, ting tang, walla walla bing bang."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:41 PM to Almost Yogurt )
20 January 2008
Just in case

"Trust but verify," Ronald Reagan used to say, and this makes every bit as much sense online as it did up where the ICBMs didn't fly. Bill Wyman, who to my knowledge does not play bass, understands the concept inasmuch as it applies to Google:

Google has access to all my mail and my calendar, but I don't worry about it — and not because I trust the company, because I don't.

But all my mail is backed up in Eudora (because Gmail makes it easy to do that), and my contacts are backed up, as well, as a CSV file (because Gmail makes it easy to do that). The company by design included those features, which is to say it included the power to drop it in a heartbeat.

I think that's Sergey Brin and Larry Page's genius; building a company not on trust, but on an intrinsic ongoing power-sharing arrangement between company and customer. Where companies like Verizon or Microsoft spend millions devising proprietary fillips in their operations to hook and retain customers in myriad and annoying ways, Google in many aspects of its business does the opposite; it spends just a little bit more money making it easy for me to leave it.

Now if they could just get more of a handle on that "Don't be evil" business, they might really have something.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:14 AM to PEBKAC )
Hello, Brownie

She might have been seven, maybe eight; she couldn't have been much more than that. She could, however, reach the doorbell, and I popped the door open to hear: "Would you like to buy some Girl Scout Cookies?"

My weakness is exposed! I thought as I unfolded the order form. Good that they got it all on to one sheet; not so good that much of it requires better eyes than mine to read. And there's a place to put your email address, which struck me as odd. Three lines had been filled in, and all of them had apparently been filled in by the same person. This could mean only one of one thing: family members had started her off, but this was her first Real Live Sale to a stranger.

I remembered back to 1970, when a brace of Juniors showed up at our dorm, order forms in hand. I always wondered if someone had told them, "You know, those college students will buy almost anything edible." We certainly would; I think we bought something like seventy-two boxes. And I'd be surprised if there were any left twenty-four hours after the delivery. (I bought one box, finished off half that evening, the rest for, um, breakfast.)

Dad arrived from the curb, wondering if maybe there was an issue. Nope: just had to scrape up $7 without having to break a twenty. Wound up with a five and two $1 coins. And as she turned away — "Thank you so much" — she broke into the biggest grin. This isn't so horrible, I could imagine her thinking.

Farging speed demon

Well, this is fun. For the first time in I don't know how long, I've actually gotten all my tax documentation together by the 20th of January; I've done the preliminary guesstimate, and I'm ready to hit up my regular e-filer.

My regular e-filer, however, is not ready; they won't be opening up until tomorrow, and the sign-in form has been disabled for now.

Sheesh. Then again, it's a holiday (bless you, Dr King), so they'll probably do some serious business. Me, I get to work about nine hours and then trundle off to the dentist. And won't he be surprised: for the first time in I don't know how long, I have actual dental insurance to cover some as-yet-undetermined fraction of the price.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:12 PM to Common Cents )
Temporary cheesehead

"Take the Dow and the 2500 points," says the Oklahoman's Don Mecoy:

There is a strong correlation between the Super Bowl champion and the annual performance of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the oldest, most prestigious stock index. When a team that was an original member of the American Football League wins the big game, the Dow slumps. When a member of the original National Football League wins, the Dow surges. It works about 80 percent of the time, a success rate the envy of any stock picker. Most recently, it worked last year when the Indianapolis Colts, an original NFL franchise, took the championship and the Dow gained 6.4 percent.

A lot of which vanished in the last couple of months, but still:

So if you're not already swayed by the Patriots' cheating, slovenly, Machiavellian despot of a coach, their cheating (girlfriend, not football) quarterback or their cheating (drug policy violation) defensive back, then just vote your pocketbook. (And their uniforms are ugly.)

Back the Pack. Your portfolio will thank you.

I should point out that Mecoy posted this on Thursday, which means that he was expecting New England and Green Bay to win their respective conferences. So far, he's one for two: the Pats did win today. As of this writing, the Giants have pulled ahead of the Packers.

Update, 9:15 pm: And it's the Giants and the Pats in the Super Bowl. Last time these two met was the 29th of December; New England won it, 38-35. I'm still not calling a broker.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 PM to Dyssynergy )
21 January 2008
Strange search-engine queries (103)

Believe it or not, there were some people last week who were not looking for pictures of some local news babe. Not that this is so much of an improvement.

twenty-four hour sucking rapture blondie:  I guess the Man from Mars gave up guitars.

wilsonian viagra:  It's a new pill design. Instead of an oval shape, it has fourteen points.

6 Piece Pie Slicer Shreveport Louisiana:  I'm impressed. Usually, when you make a slice, you end up with two pieces at best.

nude babes in microskirts:  For them to be really nude, you've got to get down to the nanoskirt, maybe even the femtoskirt, level.

university of tulsa TA assholes:  This is not, incidentally, the origin of the term "Rock you like a Hurricane."

"women sleep in the buff":  Some of them, or so I've heard, anyway.

unblack wallpaper:  Should be easier to find than actual black wallpaper.

turnip flavoured condoms:  This being a British search, I'm tempted to ask if spotted dick is involved.

texting while driving, car accident involving geo and 18 wheeler, man cut in half:  And what's worse, they charged him for two separate messages.

does the lovely miss britney spears like doing enemas?  'Tis better to give than to receive, I should think.

prairie state semen cheerios:  Still sounds better than Froot Loops.

feed the children Paul Bouchereau:  They haven't finished their cereal yet.

how to kill time for 5 hours:  Knock out a month's worth of these compilations.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:26 AM to You Asked For It )
Who needs Super Tuesday, anyway?

It's going to be Obama over McCain, says Doctor Horsefeathers, and here's what you have to look forward to:

[G]et ready for a torrent of politically correct cant, and the replacement of neo-conservative utopianism by liberal utopianism. The neo-conservative faith in Democracy for all, with its accompanying fantastical belief that everyone craves freedom, will be replaced by the Liberal utopianism that believes all conflicts can be resolved using words and therapeutic empathy. When Islamic barbarism strikes again, we'll deploy cadres of psychotherapists and lawyers to help the aggrieved Jihadis, driven to despair by the unfair distribution of wealth and power. Remember this, however, it might have been worse; it might have been President Hillary.

Admittedly, he said this two and a half weeks ago, but I suspect he may be right.

Now arriving: the Birdman

Two years ago this week, Hornets power forward Chris "Birdman" Andersen was tossed out of the NBA after testing positive for an unspecified drug. (Wikipedia says it was meth.) This weekend he'll be eligible to apply for reinstatement, a process which has no known time frame, since it's never been done before.

The Hornets will have first rights to the Birdman, but it's unlikely they'll pick him up; I'm guessing that they'd have to reinstate his old contract, which paid him $3.5 million a year over four years, and the Bees presently aren't in need of a power forward, especially one which will cut into salary-cap space. If they don't sign him, he becomes a free agent. My best bet is on Andersen being signed to a couple of 10-day contracts to see if he's back in shape, and if he passes muster, playing out the rest of the season at something close to the veteran's minimum (about $895,000 a year for a five-year man). I note that NBA.com hasn't deleted his stats page.

Update, 26 January: Okay, it's been done once.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:30 AM to Net Proceeds )
And lo, the eyes glazeth over

I realize that it's of dire importance to the Gods of All Media that we be fed every last scrap of election information, be it of marginal relevance or of no relevance at all — stuff that is actually relevant either doesn't lend itself to the format or contradicts the narrative they're trying to sell — but I'm paying as little attention to it as possible.

SeeDubya knows the feeling:

I'm very interested in the candidates themselves, their personalities, their policies, and especially their principles and character. But I'll confess right now, at the risk of being disbarred from political blogging, that amateur — even professional — electoral gamesmanship bores the hell out of me. (You know when the last time I went to Real Clear Politics was? The 2006 election.) There's a surfeit of internet quarterbacks out there trying to call the plays. I think it's like modeling global warming; there's eight million known variables out there and an unknown number of Rumsfeldian unknown unknowns on top of that. What's that, you say Farkins County, Delaware hasn't budgeted for road salt, making it difficult for senior citizens waiting for the sleet to melt to get down Farm-to-Market Road 47 and vote for McCain and still make it to the early bird special at the Golden Corral, so they'll stay home watching the History Channel and it's probably going to break for Huckabee? Well, doodley doodle doo.

I'm at the point where I want to tell the lot of them to do what the government itself ought to be doing, which is to get the hell off my lawn.

Not that anyone was asking

I've stayed at a lot of places on the World Tours, but never, not once, at a Travelodge.

Might be why I'm still alive.

Maybe John Edwards should sue

CNN screenshotRavenwood found this at CNN; since then, they've changed the photo and added a couple of words to the text, but the thrust of the article remains the same. The idea that any of these women might have other ideas apparently never occurred to anyone.

Continuing from the article:

No other voting bloc in the country faces this choice.

Democratic analyst Jehmu Greene says, "We've all wanted the day to come where there was a black person in the White House, where there was going to be a woman in the White House. I don't think we imagined it would be having to decide one or the other."

Almost makes you wonder whatever happened to Carol Moseley Braun.

Or, for that matter, Condoleezza Rice. Of course, she's not a Democrat.

Addendum: This made it to Fark with a DUMBASS tag.

22 January 2008
Are cheap shoes dead?

At least one British observer seems to think so:

[A]nalysts believe women have wised up to the fact that cheap shoes are uncomfortable, unbalanced and liable to disintegrate in the first drop of rain. So though they may buy fewer pairs, in future they are likely to save up for more expensive shoes.

Footwear was worth £4.5bn to retailers last year, the report from Mintel revealed. Its latest study suggests that shopping habits have already begun to change, with a move away from quantity towards quality. One-third of women said that they now pay more for shoes, either for better quality or a particular brand. And just as many women — 8 per cent of those polled — are prepared to splash out on designer shoes as the proportion buying cheap footwear.

Oddly enough, I've addressed this issue myself:

The $19.99 pair of shoes, therefore, is an essential ingredient in the wardrobe. However, if you buy these things on a regular basis, you know there are hidden costs beyond twenty dollars and change. There is no real social stigma attached to them except in the snootiest circles, yet somehow you feel as though you have done a disservice to your feet. And three months later, when the shoes seem to be disintegrating with every step, you know it.

Still, I'm not at the point where I can shrug off a price point like this.

(Via Shoewawa.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to Rag Trade )
Includes cholesterol for extra lethality

Seldom do I treat myself to a fried egg, and when I do I'm not quite sure I want one in the shape of a gun, though the mere fact that some people would be utterly appalled by the whole idea strikes me as a major selling point.

"Scrambled? Hell, field-strip 'em!"

(Via Popgadget.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:02 AM to Worth a Fork )
Cry wolf, and let slip the dogs of news

After all, it's always bad news:

While looking through some old papers I was reading about the recession fears of 1948. There were ads in the paper telling people not to turn the thermostat up in January because there wasn't enough heating oil. There was also a steel crisis, which worried analysts. Imagine anyone worrying about a steel crisis today. In any case, The Republic struggled through and came out the other side. Now? We're not even in a recession, but you'd think the morning sun was about to be blotted out by the rain of money managers hurling themselves out windows. Of course the news is bad. The news is always bad. Even the good news is bad, eventually. If they cured cancer tomorrow it would take a day before analysts worried about the impact on Medicare, what with people living so damned long and all.

This is the inevitable result of decades of "We gotta do something." If the government insists on a "stimulus" package, I recommend this: peel off several billion dollars and give it to the purveyors of news, on the condition that they go away for the next decade. The effect on the national psyche, and by extension on its wallet, will be remarkably beneficial — and without remarks, even.

Ur atenshun plz

Well, this seems innocuous enough:

Visual attention mechanisms are known to select information to process based on current goals, personal relevance, and lower-level features. Here we present evidence that human visual attention also includes a high-level category-specialized system that monitors animals in an ongoing manner. Exposed to alternations between complex natural scenes and duplicates with a single change (a change-detection paradigm), subjects are substantially faster and more accurate at detecting changes in animals relative to changes in all tested categories of inanimate objects, even vehicles, which they have been trained for years to monitor for sudden life-or-death changes in trajectory.

And that "single change" might be something as simple as a caption in Impact font:

If you're distracted by lolcats at work all day, new evidence from evolutionary biology suggests it's not your fault. Human visual attention evolved thousands of years ago to track the movements of animals, and even today people are far more distracted by images involving changes in animals than they are by images of inert Mac laptops or moving cars. This research, conducted by psychologists at Yale, goes a long way towards explaining the bizarrely mesmerizing effect of lolcats.

What's great about this research is that it inadvertently targeted exactly what's happening in lolcat images: the animal has been changed from being just a regular cute kitty, to being a cute kitty with special attributes created by the caption. So a lolcat is an animal image with "a single change."

It can even be a negative change: consider all the "invisible" images, or the walrus without his bukkit.

Evaluator cat is impressed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:42 PM to Almost Yogurt )

Sunday I complained that my online tax service wasn't going to be up until Monday.

And by "Monday," they apparently meant Wednesday. Once again: sheesh.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:14 PM to Dyssynergy )
23 January 2008
Brown and serve

I own a perfectly ordinary toaster from Montgomery Ward, which should give you an idea of just how old it is. If I remember correctly, I bought it in 1982; Wikipedia says that the Wards logo it bears was dropped after 1982, which means I might actually be remembering correctly.

So I've had this one toaster for a quarter of a century. If you know me, you know that this isn't exactly a startling revelation: I tend to take the term "durable goods" seriously. To get me to give it up, you'd have to come up with something like this:

Transparent toaster

It's not ready for prime time just yet, though:

This idea is based on a transparent heating glass technology. Although the glass does not currently get hot enough to toast bread, the vendor explained with some R&D this application may be possible. The concept was developed by the Inventables Concept Studio.

Someday maybe I'll get to drop an unfrosted blueberry Pop-Tart in between the panes, during the times when I'm not watching this Origami DVD Player.

(From Ananova via Popgadget.)

De re coquinaria

I have no experience with puppies in liquid form, and I don't particularly want to acquire such; but I can't imagine that a bottle of Setterade™ could be much worse than this:

[I]t occurred to me that I might be able to raise some much-needed funds, find something to write about, and gratify my more sadistic readers, all at the same time. I therefore undertake the following promises:

1. For a PayPal contribution of only $20, I will buy and eat an entire one-pound package of Neese's Liver Pudding, finishing it off in no more than a week, will post pictures of the stuff in the package, in the frying pan, and on the plate, and will write about its taste, texture, and any other characteristics worth noting on both of my weblogs.

Neese's swears that it neither looks like liver nor tastes like pudding, which isn't quite as reassuring as I might have hoped. Still, the "1." above implies further integers, of which the scariest might be 4:

Finally, for $200 I will purchase a package of 'pork uteri' at the Asian grocery, cook them using an authentic ancient Roman recipe from Apicius, eat them, and provide pictures and a review, as before. Sows' wombs were a Roman delicacy, as admired as lobster or Porterhouse steak today, but I've never tried them and am torn between intellectual curiosity and visceral disgust.

At least it's not home-cooked ox penis.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:13 AM to Worth a Fork )
Not just tooth rot

Evidently you can't keep a good cartel down:

For decades American sugar producers have prospered from a government-guaranteed price. To keep this from bankrupting Uncle Sam, Washington has controlled supplies with import quotas and allotments to growers. This has kept U.S. prices two to three times higher than the world price and sent thousands of jobs overseas, while a political cartel of Senators from the South (cane) and Midwest (beet) has beaten back every attempt at reform.

However, as of this month sugar imports can now enter the U.S. from Mexico, and so the sugar lobby is once again calling on Congress to fix prices and gouge consumers. Both the House and Senate farm bills contain provisions that Mexican sugar imports be purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and then sold to ethanol producers while taxpayers eat the difference.

And how much is that difference?

"We're going to be buying it at 21 cents [per pound] and probably selling it at six cents," acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner told Dow Jones Newswires last week. "And that will be a direct cost to taxpayers to subsidize this creation of ethanol all for the purpose of trying to ensure that we don't have competition in the sugar market in this country."

(Via Sophistpundit.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:13 AM to Dyssynergy )
I find their lack of licensing disturbing

You have to wonder what George Lucas must be thinking right about now:

Two Star Wars-loving brothers planning a Jedi church hope it will be much nearer than a galaxy far, far away.

Barney and Daniel Jones want fellow devotees to be able to join them close to their home on Anglesey. Barney, 26 — or Master Jonba Hehol — and Daniel, 21 — Master Morda Hehol — head the UK Church of the Jedi, in honour of the film's good knights.

They say their services will include sermons on "the Force," light sabre training, and meditation techniques.

For this to work, contact with the likes of Jar Jar Binks must be strictly forbidden.

(From TheForce.net via Fark.)

What's the warranty on a freezer?

Yale first-year law student Aaron Zelinsky has perhaps a better idea than anything you might have seen in the Mitchell Report, but it takes a long time to play out:

[N]one of Mitchell's recommendations address the serious problem that some performance enhancing substances, such as human growth hormone, are difficult to detect, particularly with testing restrictions enforced by the players' union. Even with more frequent testing (and more widespread postering), players will still have a strong incentive to use these undetectable drugs. Otherwise clean players will also be hard pressed to refrain from undetectable substances because of the competitive disadvantage to staying clean.

I propose a three-part solution to this problem. First, an independent lab should store blood and urine samples from all major league players annually and test these samples (using the latest detection techniques) at 10-, 20- and 30-year intervals following each player's retirement. Second, all players should be paid over a 30-year period. Third, if any player's blood tests positive for performance enhancing drugs, that player will forfeit his remaining salary and pension and will be banned from baseball for life. In order to insert such a "bad boy" clause into pensions, Congress will need to exempt Major League Baseball from certain parts of the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, but such exemption should be easy to obtain in the current environment. Baseball already enjoys congressionally recognized exemptions from certain antitrust provisions; ERISA could be similarly adapted.

I doubt you could get the 30-year salary provision approved, but I like the idea of keeping the samples on ice in case better diagnostics become available.

Steven D. Leavitt notes in the Freakonomics blog:

The state-of-the-art in performance enhancement is the best set of techniques that cannot be detected using current technology. So, by definition, the most sophisticated dopers will evade detection, unless they are unlucky or make a mistake.

The threat of future improvements in testing technology is the most potent weapon available in this fight, because the user can never know for certain that the doping he does today won’t be simple to detect a decade from now.

If baseball is serious about leveling the playing field, so to speak, they're going to have to do something drastic; something drastic that might actually work is certainly to be preferred.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:28 PM to Almost Yogurt )
24 January 2008
In other words, give us 50 cents

AT&T announces that they will occasionally siphon another half a buck fom me:

Effective March 12, 2008 the Carrier Cost Recovery Fee rate will increase from $0.99 to $1.49 per month in which you have state-to-state and/or international charges on your AT&T Long Distance Telephone Account. This fee helps recover costs associated with providing state-to-state and international long distance service including expense for national regulatory fees and programs, and connection and account servicing charges.

This fee is not a tax or charge imposed or required by any government entity.

Of course, we have plenty of those too.

At the top of this is a block reading "To view your Terms & Conditions for AT&T Long Distance, access www.att.com/public_affairs or call 1 888 225-8530 to have a copy mailed." This URL is, to be charitable, misleading; there's nothing within two screens of there that even comes close. Fortunately, there are search engines for this sort of thing, so if you really want to read about the CCRF, here's the official version, and here's what it actually means.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:07 AM to Common Cents )
This used to be my playground

Well, not literally mine, but still: remember when the legs were the last things to go?

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:32 AM to Dyssynergy )
Cooling system

I might not have noticed this except for the fact that I used to have one of these contraptions:

Two southern artists who plan to freeze a Chevy Nova in front of the library at Michigan Tech started pouring the ice base on Tuesday.

Sue Wrbican from George Madison University and Mary Carothers from the University of Louisville say the Nova was one of the last cars built in the late '70s, before fuel efficiency was considered.

The shop class from Hancock High School built a form they'll pour water into, forming a giant ice cube around the car.

I retain a certain fondness for those old Novas; my very first car (Susannah) was a '66, and shortly after I got married, my wife deemed it unsuitable for family transportation, whereupon we acquired a '76, which became the official mom-mobile, while I inherited her '75 Toyota. Curiously, the V8-powered (305, not the 350) Nova with a three-speed automatic and the four-cylinder Celica with a five-speed stick got the same indifferent gas mileage: about 17 mpg. More curiously, when she was driving the Celica, she got 15 mpg. And she drove it as though she had an egg under the gas pedal — "You should always shift before 3000," she said — while I whaled the living whee out of it. Perhaps her style was more suited to the Chevrolet. (Just recently she traded in a Mercury Grand Marquis, though I don't recall what she bought to replace it.) This guy, at least, appreciates them.

The artists are blogging the project. It should be noted that this is not one of those "Ewww, cars are bad!" exhibitions one tends to expect these days.

(Via Autoblog.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:31 AM to Driver's Seat )

This week's Carnival of the Vanities is dubbed "Primary," presumably in reference to the ongoing American political shindig. As usual, it's infused with all manner of bloggy delights.

Speaking of infusion, the line of 267 Infusions — that's the brand, not the number of varieties — combines fruit flavors with premium spirits, and believe me, a premium spirit or three would be most welcomed in this day and age.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:17 PM to Blogorrhea )
Now sing from your diaphragm

I suppose one could adjust to getting email from one's automobile, but I draw the line at getting email from one's body parts:

Planned Parenthood recently sent an e-mail campaign out recently with the attention-grabbing subject line: "I [heart] my cervix."

Opening the e-mail revealed an equally grabbing piece of [excuse the pun] body copy pretending to be the woman's cervix communicating with her.

Rocky Rococo was not available for comment.

(Via Dawn Eden.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:04 PM to Say What? )
Still a tad short of appetizing

The beverage formerly known as Bib-Label Lithiated Lemon-Lime Soda at one point had a memorable slogan: YOU LIKE IT ... IT LIKES YOU. [Linked item is a tad risqué.]

I mention this because, well, it was either that or Yakov Smirnoff in reverse: "In America, you eat tapeworm!"

(Via Belhoste.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:12 PM to Worth a Fork )
25 January 2008
Manolos on the edge

What we have here is a pair of classic Manolo Blahnik pumps, apparently deployed without a whole lot of concern for their longevity.

Condi wears Manolos

Courtesy of Princess Sparkle Pony, this is the original caption to that wire-service photo:

Picture shows the shoes of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice as she crosses her legs following her key-note speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss Alpine resort town of Davos January 23, 2008. Rice offered Iran normal ties if it drops nuclear plans. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth (SWITZERLAND)

Now I always thought she was partial to Ferragamo. Not that I pay the slightest bit of attention to the Secretary's legs, of course.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:57 AM to Rag Trade )
A whole bunch spoiled

Eighteen records ascended to Number One on Billboard's Hot 100 chart in 1971, and I acknowledged their worthiness by buying sixteen of them. Here's one I didn't:

And then we have "One Bad Apple" by The Osmonds.

Gawd, what a piece of crap this thing is. The tune is lame, the production values and "musicianship" are even worse, and the singing is, well, not so great. They're trying so hard to "out-Jackson" the Jackson 5, you can just feel it coming through the radio. And it just ain't workin'.

It sounds like some high school project by a bunch of nerdy kids who learned three chords in one major scale on a $99 electronic keyboard. After spending 10 minutes writing a melody. And improvising the words. And trying to sing like somebody else. But sounding worse.

Other than that, though, it rocks!

Oh, the other one I didn't buy? Thirteen-year-old Donny Osmond's take on the Goffin/King jailbait anthem "Go Away Little Girl," in which you have to assume he's shooing away some smitten fourth-grader. I don't revile everything in the Osmonds oeuvre — "Sweet and Innocent," another Donny solo, while every bit as unconvincing for the same reason, eventually grew on me — but you have to figure that this act couldn't possibly have come to flower in any other year but 1971, where the first new Number One was "Knock Three Times" and the last was "Brand New Key."

Misleading inbox residue

NewsMax sent me an item this morning with this headline: "Will Pelosi Kill Bill to Stop Illegal Immigration?"

You know, I always figured that if anyone was actually going to kill Bill, it would be Hillary — or maybe Beatrix Kiddo. Either way, the effect on immigration seems unclear.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:55 AM to Scams and Spams )
Quote of the week

Dr Helen answers a letter from someone whose dance card is empty, and draws this sort-of-mournful comment:

As yet another old virgin, I already know the problem isn't that women don't want to have sex, it's that they don't want to have sex with someone as ugly as me. Why would they, when there are a million George Clooney clones out there who will bang even the ugliest girl on request, or even the hint of a request? Those of us who didn't win the genetic cleft-chin lottery are thus left with no dates besides our right hands.

Experience has taught me the reason women tend to freak out over things like pornography is because they project onto men the same "trade-up-until-I-get-the-hottest-guy" attitude they themselves have, and can't comprehend that even the fattest and ugliest real-life girl is better to most guys than the sexiest porn star that only interacts with you through the TV screen.

Two points:

  • Some of us are left-handed.

  • I don't know very many women who seek to trade up until they get the "hottest guy," but then again, it could be argued that I don't know very many women, period.

And I figure that yes, I've lost out on some dates by dint of being unsightly; but I've probably lost out on just as many for being bitter, nasty, recalcitrant and otherwise obnoxious.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:03 PM to QOTW , Table for One )
It was too much to hope for

The Federal Communications Commission has given its blessing [link goes to PDF file] to the sale of Clear Channel's radio stations to private-equity firms, provided they spin off at least 48 stations in 42 markets. As with the ABC/Citadel merger, the licenses for the stations to be sold will be assigned to a trust — in this case, the Aloha Station Trust LLC — pending disposal.

The first thing I did, of course, was to see if any Oklahoma radio stations will be sold as a result of the FCC action. The answer is no. (The list begins on page 41 of that PDF file linked above.)

However, another condition for the sale is the closing of a separate deal for Clear Channel's television stations, which include KOKI-TV and KMYT-TV in Tulsa.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:56 PM to Overmodulation )
26 January 2008
A better stimulus package?

It will never fly — people who've never saved a dime wouldn't get a cent — but I like the sound of it. As posted by John Ellis:

It's the brainchild of one Leonard Yablon, my neighbor and friend and the former CFO of Forbes. And it goes like this:
  1. Allow individual 401K withdrawals of $12,000 for the next 100 days.
  2. Individual withdrawals up to $12,000 will be tax free.
  3. The result should be an immediate infusion of $120-180 billion into the economy.
  4. Which should stabilize the markets.

Before you ask: yes, I could do that. I'm loath to screw with retirement income, generally, but I figure the bulk of it is going to end up in my estate anyway.

Mickey Kaus calls it "exceptionally Republican ... but exceptionally fast."

Is our children gradualating?

"Oh, my, yes," says Fayetteville, Arkansas:

Graduation requirements for seniors at Fayetteville High School are changing this year in an attempt, at least in part, to curb dropouts. Effective with the Class of 2008, seniors no longer have to have a 2.0 grade-point average to graduate.

The Fayetteville School Board unanimously approved the revision Thursday.

Some of the thinking behind the decision:

Principal Jim Price said 18 students did not graduate last May because of the requirement, which seems to affect students in alternative programs more than other students. Some students in the alternative programs are there for credit recovery, but even then may find it mathematically impossible to raise a low grade-point to a 2.0, Price said.

"Fayetteville is known for its academic standards, but [we] need to be conscious of the dropout rate. We concur this is a good move and should have been considered years ago," Superintendent Bobby New said in support of removing the grade-point average.

Let's see if I have this right: let the standards slide a bit, and voilà! the dropout numbers look better.

Of course, the school board has bigger fish to fry at the moment: they're mulling an offer for the high-school campus itself. I don't think the dropout rate will affect the selling price, but you never know these days.

(Spotted by The Local Malcontent.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:17 AM to Dyssynergy )
Off the front page

Those of you with incredibly long memories will recall that there's been non-blog stuff going on at this site since its first few pages went up in the spring of '96; most of it is covered in the front-page sidebar under the title "Vital features." I spent much of today sprucing up one of those features.

"Single File" is identified as a "not-quite-random assortment of not-quite-forgotten songs," stuff I picked out of the archives for no discernible reason other than the fact that I could come up with a paragraph about it. It occurred to me last night that no matter how well I describe a record, it's no substitute for actually hearing it, and not wishing to have rabid record-industry lawyers beating down the door, I decided I would add to each of the entries — there are somewhere around forty — a thirty-second sound sample. (They're in MP3 format with a 128 bit rate: nothing special.) If I learned anything from the experience, it's that not every record suggests an obvious half-minute excerpt, which you'd think would have been perfectly clear to me after a certain amount of ringtone experience.

Anyway, I got all those in place, and even wrote up a new item for the list: "Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl" by the Barbarians.

The Birdman watch begins

As noted here previously, Chris "Birdman" Andersen will apply for reinstatement after spending two years under NBA suspension for drug use. The process is still a bit murky:

Sources have told ESPN.com that the "wheels are already in motion" for Andersen to attempt a comeback, a somewhat arduous process that will begin with him filling out a multi-page application for reinstatement and sending it, along with dozens of pages of supporting documentation, to the league office in New York via overnight mail.

Andersen must then schedule a meeting with members of both the commissioner's office and the players' union, and the consent of both organizations is needed for Andersen to be reinstated. Andersen has no right to appeal if his reinstatement application is rejected.

There is no language in the collective bargaining agreement specifying any kind of a timetable for the reinstatement process, so it could be only a matter of days — or it could take several weeks — for Andersen to get a definitive answer.

I had suggested that the New Orleans Hornets, who have first rights to Andersen's services, might pass him up, but maybe not:

New Orleans has won 14 of 16 games to move atop the Western Conference, and it would stand to reason that they'd be interested in re-signing Andersen prior to the playoffs, adding an energy player to a front line with suspect depth behind starting big men Tyson Chandler and David West. The Hornets are nearly $5 million below the league's luxury tax threshold.

They'd have to pay him a prorated percentage of his original salary, which was around $3.5 million a year. And perhaps more to the point, they have 14 players on the roster, which means there's room for one more.

And apparently I missed another point:

An NBA spokesman said Andersen would be the first player since Roy Tarpley, who was banned from the NBA in 1995, to formally apply for reinstatement.

Tarpley's application was denied and he sued the NBA last September in federal court in Houston claiming the league violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by refusing to reinstate him.

There's a difference, though: Tarpley was suspended, subsequently reinstated, and then permanently banned after a second offense.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:33 PM to Net Proceeds )
27 January 2008
Taking the Cure81

I'm not quite sure how to explain it when it happens, as inevitably it must happen to me eventually, to some bored intake person at the E.R.


"It's like passing a ham through my left ventricle."

Of course, if she comes back with "Not a canned ham, I hope," I'll probably laugh myself right into a myocardial infarction.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:57 AM to Dyssynergy )
To ward off that L. Ron hubbub

Clayton Jones proposes a new statute:

I've been playing around for a long while with an idea, what to do about Scientology, and especially what to do about the kind of crap it tries pulling in courts to prevent its exposure, and I've come to the conclusion, just a small tweak to Federal law would put a really big dent in it, which tweak would be, that no person or organization claiming exemption from the operation of any Federal law (income tax, e.g.) on religious grounds would be permitted to hold or claim, directly or indirectly, any copyright, patent, trademark, or trade secret. Either you're a religion, or you're a business; you cannot be both.

It occurs to me that if we had reasonable copyright laws — which would require, among other things, getting rid of the DMCA, a task at least as difficult as dislodging Xenu — we wouldn't have to care about how the Thetans operate.

Besides, I'd expect even some of your non-insane religions to object to this proposal, and I have some serious qualms about the whole idea of empowering a government body to declare who is and who isn't a religion. (I won't mention any names, but its initials are I.R.S.)

Still, I admit to a certain amount of nostalgia for the time when Tom Cruise was just an actor with very white teeth.

Happy birthday, dear wingers

How shall we celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy? Suggestions in Comments, please.

If only it made its own gravy

Og suggests Purina® Bachelor Chow:

Each ingredient in Bachelor Chow is selected for its role in delivering the 39 key nutrients men require, which will aid them in their pursuit of women, beer, and the perfect sound system for their Camaro. The excellent balance in Purina Bachelor Chow provides men the nutrition they need to be their best.

I note for reference that the Guaranteed Analysis covers eight components, three of which are described as "crude." Yep.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:18 PM to Worth a Fork )
Shucks and the city

Sarah Jessica Parker from here downDawn Eden, at the beginning of Chapter 10 of her best-seller The Thrill of the Chaste, quotes this noted shoe authority regarding Sex and the City:

[T]he former HBO series did have some impact on popular culture, to the extent that it's had some small but measurable effect on women's shoes, pushing them a notch or two in the direction of sheer frivolity.

Perhaps I spoke too soon, or maybe I have trouble counting notches, because Sarah Jessica Parker, during a New York shoot for the film version of Sex and the City, was spotted wearing these extremely strange boots, possibly clogs with a pituitary problem, footwear for which no one apparently has a kind word. (And no one seems to be able to identify them, either; not even Shoewawa's famed Ugly Shoes list turned up a reference, and I paged through literally scores of boots at Zappos. The things I go through for you people.) Admittedly, it's hard to disagree with Jess Cartner-Morley's assessment of the genre:

[E]very piece I read raving about ankle boots ended with a caveat along the lines of "ankle boots look brilliant on us beautiful people, because they contrast so winningly with our adorable, pipe-cleaner legs, but they look freaking hideous on disgusting size 12 weirdos who need liposuction".

SJP might actually qualify on the "pipe-cleaner legs" bit, and normally I'd forgive her this sort of lapse in judgment — by my reckoning, she's still got some goodwill left over from L.A. Story — but you should see the dress she was wearing at the time: it's like Björk after a transporter accident.

Oh, I must retract: somebody has kind words for these boots. At the Sun, Bizarre columnist (now that's a title) Gordon Smart says:

The Biz secretary told me: "If a fella buys me those shoes I'll marry him no matter who he is."

I despair.

In the absence of information to the contrary, I blame Patricia Field.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:42 PM to Rag Trade )
28 January 2008
Strange search-engine queries (104)

The MetaCrawler search engine has a function called SearchSpy, which gives you a sampling of recent search queries they've handled, which you can inspect as they scroll by. Not being as technically advanced as MetaCrawler, I just scroll through the local log myself once a week, and toss up anything I find snarkworthy.

"well hung" minimum penis:  These terms would seem to be mutually contradictory.

what will i look like with a 34 dd chest:  Just like you do now, with the occasional grimace due to back pain.

street cred stylish yet unique and also fuck cheap citroens:  You're not going to get all that out of an reengineered Peugeot platform.

cheap, cheap, cheap, Liability auto insurance clunkers:  Have you tried the stylish yet unique Citroëns?

harlequin ichthyosis teenager:  "Geez, that's a lot of scales. How did you get them to line up?"

do pharmacies knowingly give out placebos:  If they're written on the prescription, you betcha.

pantyhose optional beaches:  What the hell kind of beach needs pantyhose at all?

man yogurt dick grin mullet:  One of these things is, um, not like the others.

does benjamin franklin have a nine inch penis:  Not lately he doesn't.

jessica simpson in various degrees of undress:  Insufficient data. Please specify degrees of variation.

"invisible girl" striptease:  Just be careful where you stash those $20 bills.

prostate milk docile penis sperm man:  I see Marvel has finally gotten around to doing that Dr. Phil comic book.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 AM to You Asked For It )
Direct marketing with heft

Local tree services, in the wake of the December ice storm, are doing land-office business these days. (In fact, just about everyone is doing land-office business these days, with the exception of actual land offices. Go figure.) The competition is fierce, and how do you get noticed?

One operation took this approach: they wrapped one of their business cards around a rock of appropriate size, dropped both into a small Ziploc bag, and lobbed the bag into neighborhood yards. You can't miss it: the card is blue, which makes for easy contrast against dormant vegetation. And it was very close to where they generally throw my newspaper, which suggests that they went to considerable effort to make sure it was within my line of sight when I stumbled out the door to bring in the news, or at least as much effort as was consistent with not actually getting out of the vehicle on the way down the street.

This is the first time I've seen this particular promotional, um, pitch. I suspect, though, it's been around for a while and I just never happened to be on the receiving end.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Common Cents )
Thou shalt not speed

Britton Road through the Village is posted 35 mph, and there's a sign below it: RADAR CONTROLLED.

I saw that this weekend, and I remembered a time from my younger, dumber days, when I actually believed that somewhere along the road was a guy with a big control panel, and if you were going too fast he'd pull back on a slider and suddenly you weren't going too fast anymore.

For some reason, there are Brits who think this is a great idea.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:02 AM to Driver's Seat )
Terror on Lincoln Avenue

Which isn't as good a title as the real one: The University of Illinois -vs- A Mummy.

This is obscure enough to have eluded the Internet Movie Database, but it still looks like it might be fun, though I don't know if I'd drive all the way to Urbana to save ten bucks in shipping. (And dammit, I was in Urbana on the evening of the 19th of July, which just proves that I'm out of sync with the Zeitgeist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:07 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Reversion therapy

Trini was waxing lyrical about the sheer horribleness of Windows Vista and how we needed to avoid installing any machines that came with it. "Do we have any such machines?" I asked. Well, no, we don't, but if we did, we'd want to roll them back to XP, she said.

Of course, we'd have to tell the users, so, inspired by this bit of Photochoppery, we produced this:

No longer with Windows Vista

We ran off a page full of stickers, so we're ready for the onslaught.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:17 PM to PEBKAC )
29 January 2008
Richard Stallman wants a girlfriend

Yes, really.

I did like the "reputedly intelligent" bit enough to file it away for future misappropriation reference.

And I admit, I started out this piece wanting to mock the poor soul, but the guy is legitimately interesting and doesn't look any worse than most of your code gurus; I hope something works out for him.

(Via Popgadget.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to Table for One )

Eric Siegmund seems startled that some overwrought Brit paid the equivalent of $875,000 for a license plate, and notes that the plate cost substantially more than the car to which it is being affixed.

This might be impressive had not a chap in Abu Dhabi once peeled off $6.8 million for a plate, and besides, I can go down Treadmill Avenue any day of the week and find half a dozen cars whose value is less that that of their license plates, and for two or three of them most of that value is in the form of gasoline.

What's more, I've been to Delaware.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:34 AM to Dyssynergy )
The Giants will be so disappointed

After all, it's a foregone conclusion, at least according to the Boston Globe.

(In case it mysteriously disappears, here's a screenshot.)

Addendum: I have no idea who actually wrote this, but I'll bet it's not John Scalvi.

Update, Sunday: Nyah.

Update, Monday: "Okay, so I ordered a copy," says the Instant Man, and "I notice they seem to have updated the cover art since last night, though!"

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:19 AM to Say What? )
Pass the Tang

I've got to wash down some of these brand-spanking-new Space Food Sticks.

That's right, kids, they're back, so you can keep your crunchy granola sweets and such.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:21 PM to Worth a Fork )
Saves fuel, too

An east German travel agent is selling nude air travel packages:

"In the former East Germany, naturist holidays were a much-loved way of spending the best weeks of the year," said the founder of OssiUrlaub.de, Enrico Hess. "We want to make that freedom possible above the clouds too."

The inaugural flight will travel from Erfurt to Usedom, an island in the Baltic Sea between Germany and Poland. The fare is high (€499) and the seating is limited (50). It's probably cold, too.

Then again, I've been pushing for such things for years now.

FTC exercises undue kindness

The case went like this:

The Federal Trade Commission today announced a complaint and proposed consent decree settling charges that a California-based "voice broadcaster" made over 46 million unlawful telemarketing calls. The proposed court order permanently bars the defendants from violating the FTC's Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR) and requires them to pay $180,000 in civil penalties.

According to the complaint filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ), since October 1, 2003, Voice-Mail Broadcasting Corporation (VMBC) and its owner, Jesse Crowe, have used automated dialers to "blast" consumers with prerecorded telemarketing pitches. The calls pitched products from debt-consolidation services to mortgage brokerage services and other retail and financial services. When VMBC's telemarketing calls were answered by consumers rather than answering machines or voicemail systems, VMBC either immediately hung up, leaving consumers with "dead air," or played a prerecorded message. Such calls violate the TSR, which limits telemarketers' use of prerecorded messages by requiring that calls answered by a person be connected to a sales representative within two seconds. The FTC's complaint alleges that VMBC, under the direction of its owner, made more than 46 million calls that violated the TSR.

The penalty is at least marginally stiff:

The proposed consent decree imposes a civil penalty of $3 million against VMBC and its owner, of which all but $180,000 will be suspended based on the defendants' inability to pay. However, VMBC and its owner will become liable for the full amount if the court finds they misrepresented their financial condition.

I think it's a safe bet that he's hiding it somewhere, so the FTC made a good call with that last clause. However, I was really hoping for something that (1) puts the guy under some form of house arrest and (2) rings his telephone every 45 seconds, twenty-four hours a day, three hundred sixty-four days a year. (Give him Christmas off.) This kind of treatment would surely impel him to mend his ways far more effectively than merely draining his bank account would.

(Via Consumerist.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:28 PM to Scams and Spams )
Blew on blew

Winds today were ferocious — Will Rogers Airport reported sustained winds in the 40s for a few hours, and gusts well into the 50-mph range — so I was a tad apprehensive on the way home, quite apart from the discomfort that comes from being blown across the freeway. (One unfortunate fact of automotive existence: cars that don't complain when you have them change direction suddenly also don't complain when the wind has them change direction suddenly.) At the very least, I expected some broken limbs.

And I found one, presumably off the mulberry tree adjacent to the driveway. Nothing else seemed to have been affected, until I ventured out the back door and discovered one of my trash bins on its side. It was empty, which simplified the task of upending it, but the angle at which it lay suggested that the wind had spun it at least 135 degrees before gravity kicked in.

I should note that its resting place was only a couple of paces from where an old sweetgum tree blew down in 2006. Evidently this is the locus of wind activity at the palatial Surlywood estate.

30 January 2008
Heinous sins of suburbia

And the worst of these is — well, what would you call this? Contrary aesthetics?

I got a call from the Community Association yesterday at work. The man apologized for calling me at work but said it was an emergency. "You have a political lawn sign in your yard and that is a direct offense of our regulations… you must take it down — IMMEDIATELY!"

"That’s fine, I'll take it down; but tell me, who turned me in?"

"Numerous people called."

"How many?" I asked.


"Who were they, I want names."

"I cannot give you names."



"Pretty please! I just wanna know who I shouldn't bother baking cookies for this Christmas."



Somebody calls me at work with this sort of "emergency," he's gonna wish he'd passed a ham through his left ventricle.

(Yeah, I know, I've invoked this comparison before. Doesn't make it any less valid.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:56 AM to Dyssynergy )
Difficulty class, indeed

Crochet d20

Okay, you try crocheting an icosahedron.

(Via Finestkind Clinic.)

Left behind

"A pox on you and your Grand Old Party," says Tam:

And before you even think about puffing up and sputtering something about "Are you just going to give Hillary the White House?" just put a sock in it, because it wasn't me, brother. It was all you idiots who put candidates out there that got tied up in pointless jackassery like rearranging the 'gay marriage' and 'flag burning' and 'stem cell' deck chairs after the USS Conservative had already hit the iceberg. Your typical Republican these days is worried more about what's printed on the money than where it comes from or what it gets spent on.

As the next-to-last right-of-center Democrat, I know exactly this feeling; I went through it myself, albeit backwards and in lower heels. And with both parties having abandoned any semblance of principle in favor of something called "electability," I figure they're probably not anxious to hear from me at the polls either.

Next: Charlie Rose gets killer abs

A lot of us live by the old rule "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Much to our dismay, though, the Human Condition incorporates a tendency to tweak, and while PBS ain't exactly Tool Time, they're just as guilty:

Masterpiece Theatre. Oh, sorry, it's Masterpiece now, isn't it? What — the second word was too much to handle? We live in such an impatient blog-ridden society that no one can manage to wait around for a two-word title? Wait, I know — it was the use of "Theatre" and not the Jane Austen, Elizabeth Gaskell, and E.M. Forster that made the series seem too intellectual for all those PBS-watching theatre-phobes. Like Masterpiece alone is so much better. It's just hanging out there all cold and unfinished. "Masterpiece" what? Society? Barbecue Sauce?

And it's not just the nomenclature, either:

And what is up with that new intro? Instead of a wending trip through library piles of gold-stamped, leather-bound books, you're giving me animation? A Reading Rainbow-esque book flipping leaves so bizarrely long and pliable they look like Kleenex? Growing up, I didn't WANT an animated book; I WANTED gold-stamped, leather-bound books! You made me want them! You made me read them!

And excuse me, please, but where are the Pallisers, the Bellamys, and the Poldarks? Because you've gotten rid of their familiar family portraits. I suppose you shoved them where you shoved Alistair Cooke and Russell Baker's leather chair and fireplace. Criminy, don't even get me started on the loss of the music that everyone knew as "The Masterpiece Theatre Song" but no one really knew as Mouret's "Rondeau" until they thought about choosing it as their wedding march.

In terms of sheer infidelity to one's purpose, this ranks with NPR's repeated offenses against Morning Edition, first turning B. J. Leiderman's theme music into gormless "smooth jazz," then sending Bob Edwards into radio limbo in favor of Whoever The Hell They Are, and now a desperate attempt to lure young folk. It's things like this which cause my checkbook to lock shut.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:43 PM to Almost Yogurt )
To the back of the room with you

With Lance Cargill departing his post as Speaker of the Oklahoma House, lots of words flew up and around, but this comment by Rep. Gary Banz (R-Midwest City) seemed especially pertinent:

"For the most part, stuff that's been in the media with regard to Ethics Commission stuff and political kinds of things, most people kind of take that with a grain of salt. When it was taxes, it immediately connects with the people at an emotional level where they live."

Especially, you know, since we have to pay taxes on where we live.

Oh, well. It's not like we've never found feet of clay underneath a Golden Boy before. And as Michael Bates notes:

While many in the House Republican caucus have long had the desire to oust Cargill, it took a tax violation, just as it did with Al Capone, to force him out.

And now he's just one of a hundred and one, biding his time until term limits kick in — unless the voters decide to kick him out.

31 January 2008
Low compatibility

Speaking of making the punishment fit the crime, whoever designed this site should be required to view it in Firefox for two hours a day.

It looks okay in IE 6, though there's a suspicious-looking Javascript component billed as "IEscroll.htm" that apparently utterly flummoxes Mozilla. Let me know if you can get it to work in a non-Microsoft browser, wouldja please?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:54 AM to PEBKAC )
You've seen your last Isuzu

A flashback to the fall of 2004:

Japan's oldest maker of motor vehicles — they built their first car in 1916 — has fallen on hard times in the US. For 2005, the model line has been cut from three trucks to one, and that one, the Ascender, is not a compelling buy, inasmuch as General Motors, which owns 12 percent of Isuzu, sells basically the same truck at Chevy, GMC, Buick and (with a heavy dose of artificial Swedener) Saab dealerships.

Still, I'm not ready to count them out yet. Isuzu still sells well outside the US, and in 1999 GM owned forty-nine percent of the company; three years later Isuzu managed to buy back most of the General's equity, and they plan to repurchase the rest and go it alone after the 2006 model year. They might even sell cars again here, something they haven't done since 1994.

In fact, GM gave them two more vehicles to sell, but still, it's not gonna happen:

Isuzu Motors, which helped popularize SUVs in the 1980s, said Wednesday that it will exit the U.S. consumer market on Jan. 31, 2009. The Japanese company blamed the move on General Motors ceasing production for Isuzu of the Ascender sport-utility vehicle and I-290 and I-370 pickups.

Ascender is a rebadged Chevrolet TrailBlazer, which GM is expected to discontinue. The I-series pickups are versions of the Chevy Colorado small pickup. "It has always been our intention to remain in the U.S. market," Terry Maloney, COO of Isuzu Motors America, said in a statement. "However, we were unable to secure any commercially viable replacements for these vehicles."

I was sort of hoping that Toyota, which owns 5.9 percent of Isuzu these days, might offer them a Daihatsu or two, but apparently that line is reserved for Scion these days.

We have been unable to verify the rumor that erstwhile company spokesperson Joe Isuzu has been hired as a consultant to the Clinton campaign.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:50 AM to Driver's Seat )

This week's Carnival of the Vanities is dubbed "into Feb.", which makes sense for a compilation created at the very end of January.

Inasmuch as the Carnival is always presented in text form, this seems like a good time to honor Giambattista Bodoni, creator of the typeface that bears his name, who was born in February 1740 — 268 years ago.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:49 AM to Blogorrhea )
Hence, "program from hell"

Who knew? Apparently Satan uses TurboTax:

I have no idea whether he files on time; inasmuch as he's not an Oklahoma public official, I assume he does.

We're just holding it for safekeeping

Rep. Ken Luttrell (D-Ponca City) has come up with a measure to require mortgage holders to pay interest on escrow accounts.

Mike McCarville's précis:

House Bill 2594, by Luttrell, would require lenders to pay a portion of the interest earnings to the consumer whose money is funding the account. Under the bill, each lender holding funds in an escrow account would be required to pay the borrower dividends or interest at least once per quarter, calculated at a rate equal to at least 50 percent of the one-year Treasury Note rate or "rate of a comparable instrument." The lender could not deduct any charge for service from the interest or dividend payment. At least once a year, lenders would be required to provide mortgagors a financial statement showing the interest credited on the escrow account.

Immediate thought: How would they calculate the interest? Average daily balance? I know that my escrow account is fairly meager this time of year, grows substantially through the spring and summer, and is depleted in the autumn as the insurance and tax bills fall due.

So I went to look at the bill itself [link goes to RTF file] and found that yeah, that's pretty much what they have in mind:

The interest shall be computed on the daily balances in the account from the date of receipt to the date of disbursement and shall be credited to the account as of the last business day of each quarter of a calendar or fiscal year. If the account is closed or discontinued before the last business day of a quarter of a calendar or fiscal year, interest shall be computed and credited as of the day the account is closed or discontinued.

I won't make a ton of money off this deal should it pass — seldom does my escrow account exceed $2000 — but I like the idea. Now I'm waiting for someone to complain that this will make mortgages harder to obtain, and that (you knew this was coming) women and minorities will be hardest hit.

The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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