1 February 2008
Can you spare a dime?

The City Sentinel weekly broadsheet is adopting a time-honored method of hyping sales: they're cutting the price. Each issue at newsstands is now ten cents instead of fifty; the back page of this week's edition has a half-page ad offering a yearly subscription for $5. (Their Web site still reflects the old $25 rate.) I won't speculate as to how much it costs to produce a single issue, but it's got to be more than a dime; it costs more than that to mail it out to subscribers. But getting a few more eyeballs for the advertisers in the future might well be worth a little bit more red ink in the present.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:55 AM to City Scene )
Oh, this will end well

The blind leading the bland:

Microsoft said Friday that it would offer $44.6 billion for Yahoo, the ailing search giant. The surprise offer of $31 a share represents a 62 percent premium to Thursday's closing share price. Yahoo shareholders could elect to receive either cash or stock.

The proposed acquisition, the largest ever by Microsoft, would give some relief to Yahoo's long-suffering shareholders, who have seen the company's stock slide nearly 32 percent this year. It would also create the most formidable competitor yet for Google, the search engine giant.

I can't wait to see what sort of horrid Dr. Moreauvian hybrid emerges from the fusion of Windows Live Mail (née Hotmail) and Yahoo! Mail.

And will that perennial #3 news channel rename itself MSYNBC? (Y not?)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:14 AM to Dyssynergy )
Proof The Onion makes you cry

"Hero Firefighter Loses Lifelong Battle With Fire" was the headline on this particular faux news item, and pictured therein was Lt. Frank Castillo, 46, of the Des Moines Fire Department, who had "finally succumbed to the combustion he had so bravely battled through most of his adult life."

The Onion ran this piece in September 2006. Playing the role of Lt. Frank Castillo was Captain Rudy Lindia, a real-life firefighter from Ottawa, who, once he discovered the picture, didn't think it was all that funny:

"We feel really crummy about it and we apologize to the firefighter in question," said Chet Clem, a spokesman for the website. "But at the same time, we subscribe to a number of photo services and we have to trust that the images we buy from these photo sites are properly licensed."

The stock-photo service used by The Onion said they had proper releases for use of the picture; Capt. Lindia says that he assumed the photo was intended only for use by the city of Ottawa.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:42 AM to Say What? )
Quote of the week

Kathy Shaidle, on Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act:

Right now, it is illegal for any Canadian to "communicate ... any matter" "likely to expose a person or persons to hatred or contempt."

In other words, a Canadian can not only be punished for expressing their views (thought crime), they can be charged with possibly harming someone in the near or distant future, merely by uttering or writing forbidden combinations of words (pre-crime).

Now, if I'm gonna have to live in a science fiction novel, I at least want my flying car and robot maid!

And yes, she used "they" and "their" as singular pronouns in the second paragraph quoted. Better to face the mockery of the Grammar Police, which is generally at least somewhat good-natured, than the wrath of the perpetually-aggrieved souls who spend their days whinging to the Canadian Human Rights Commission.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:29 PM to QOTW )
Haunting the library

The name is purely a coincidence, but this actually sounds something like me:

Every day the voices add up. He has difficulty suppressing them. In the shadows, he watches people read. He hides behind a volume. But he's really watching you. He's watching you read. The store is quiet in those nooks with the soft chairs. However, Charles' mind is as loud as a train tunnel, voices boiling out of memory. He's that guy you see reading quietly in a corner. You have no idea.

Okay, maybe not quite so (potentially) sociopathic. But there's a dialogue in there somewhere — or maybe just overlapping monologues. Loud as it is, it's hard to tell.

(Found by Lynn S.)

Enjoy your petard, Senator

After all, you worked for it:

John McCain has a campaign finance problem. When his campaign was down and out, he agreed to take public funding for the primaries. Public funding comes with spending limits overall and by state. Also, a candidate who accepts funding cannot raise money from private sources. Now that it is possible he will be the nominee, McCain will want to be free of those fundraising and spending limits, but he cannot withdraw from the public system.

At least, not without a pass from the Federal Election Commission, but that isn't happening:

The FEC does not now have a quorum to meet and regulate. (The lack of a quorum was caused by Barack Obama's hold on a nominee to the FEC, but never mind).

He could always refuse public funding for the post-convention campaign:

[H]owever, he pledged to accept public funding for the general election if his opponent did so. Obama has taken a similar pledge. Also, McCain would get around some of this by using "outside groups" (527 groups and others) to fund his effort, but he has been a fierce critic of such groups and tactics.

Of course. They wouldn't play his way.

Maybe he can borrow a few bucks from his old pal Russ Feingold.

(Via Coyote Blog.)

2 February 2008
Sounds like a safe bet to me

News clipping

Originally seen observed here.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:12 AM to Say What? )
5150 or fight

I normally don't spend a lot of time here on the subject of Britney Spears, but inasmuch as a lot of other blogs do, the opportunity occasionally arises to point to something one of them said.

Herewith, some decent-quality snark found at Hecklerspray:

It's been reported that medics at the hospital have classified Britney Spears as 'GD' — or Gravely Disabled, which allows them to keep Britney against her will.

Seeing Britney Spears described as Gravely Disabled by expert professionals might look incredibly shocking, but don't worry — Gravely Disabled is actually two or three notches up from Wanting To Marry Kevin Federline, so at least we can presume that Britney Spears is on the up and up.

Twenty years ago I did my own stint in the Home for the Bewildered. If I learned anything from the experience — and who says I have? — it's that being the center of attention has more drawbacks than delights. I have sought the shadows ever since. (Yes, I'm on display here, sort of, but I have more or less effective control of the narrative, something that's seldom said of anyone regularly mentioned on TMZ.)

And when you get right down to it, if thirty years down the pike someone asks "Whatever happened to Britney Spears?" there are basically two possible answers: one involves settling down in some place like Tangipahoa Parish, and the other involves being laid to rest in some place like Forest Lawn. For some folks, it's not as easy a call as you might think.

Cross purposes

Automobile Magazine columnist Ezra Dyer has a car — a ten-year-old BMW M3 — and a spouse who deems said Bimmer unsatisfactory family transportation. What to do?

Most women secretly want to drive a monster truck, and Heather is no different. My job, then, is to consider what she wants (Grave Digger with a vanity mirror) and what I want (at the moment, the General Lee as interpreted by Chip Foose) and meet in the middle. That means a crossover.

There's only one problem. From a car guy perspective, "crossover" is the new code for "minivan." And like a minivan, nobody's buying a Toyota RAV4 because it causes a primal stirring in the loins. You buy a crossover because it's useful. It answers your needs. And I find that just so depressing.

A 32-inch TV would meet my needs, which is why I got a 50-inch. A George Foreman electric grill would meet my needs, which is why I got a bitchin' Weber. A two-blade razor would meet my needs, so naturally I use a Gillette Octo-Blade Follicle-Nuker Turbo. Excess is best, but there's no such thing as an excessive crossover. Yet.

Do women truly covet monster trucks? I remember an issue of Automobile when the staff somehow managed to get their mitts on some sort of Class 6 hauler, and the office babes were just totally "Oh. My. God." Or at least so reported the Head Babe, editor-in-chief Jean Jennings, who devoted an entire page to the impact it had on her crew. I can say only that we have some pretty heavy haulers at 42nd and Treadmill, and scant few females volunteering to drive them.

For myself, speaking as a person with a George Foreman grill, a sack of twin-blade razors and two 20-inch TVs, I suggest Mr Dyer hold out for a Mazdaspeed CX-9. You know they have to be contemplating the idea.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:33 PM to Driver's Seat )

From My Favorite Year:

Benjy Stone: I think I'm going to be unwell.

Alan Swann: Ladies are unwell, Stone. Gentlemen vomit.

More than that, deponent sprayeth not.

Avoiding contentment

Okay, "avoiding" is the wrong word. But there is one compelling reason to be apprehensive about it:

It just occurred to me why I've lost inspiration and passion for my art. It started in the mid-eighties when I started listening to all that New Age weebie-wobie crap about happiness being our birthright as human beings.

That may well be for regular people, but the Muse never kisses the completed, fulfilled artistic soul. I'm sorry, I didn't make the rules, that's just facts. No wonder the Arts are taking a beating. A recent poll conducted by the Pew Research Center shows that almost 85% of Americans believe that they are happy. And that's just sad.

I've never been able to get a Muse to return my calls, but it's always seemed to me that if everything seems to be going your way, it's at least possible that you're not actually going anywhere.

This does not mean, however, that we need to spend our lives on the bleeding edge:

I now realize that all that contentment came at a great price: my Muse no longer felt needed, so she left. I cast out a powerful force, that is, the impetus behind my art. In a word, I committed artistic suicide by eradicating melancholy from my life.

I'm not talking about clinical depression, mind you, which certainly needs to be treated. I'm talking about that bittersweet, aching sadness that demands artistic expression. If we erase that from our lives nothing needs to be expressed and we become banal, not only as individuals, but as a society. What will finally satisfy us Americans? Money? If so, how much money is enough? How many gadgets do we really need? How many pairs of shoes can we actually wear? How many TVs can we watch? How many pills can one take before one feels robbed of the fullness of life in all its grandeur and messiness?

The line between clinical depression and "bittersweet, aching sadness" is not always clearly delineated, I suspect; at various times in my life I've found myself switching sides, and I've never been particularly good at nailing down the exact crossover point. And it occurs to me that maybe I'm not supposed to.

Still, I duly pop my anti-anxiety tab every day, at least partly because I fear the consequences if I don't.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:13 PM to Almost Yogurt )
3 February 2008
A roomful of old echoes

Fillyjonk offers a D. H. Lawrence poem I hadn't seen before, and if you were expecting some sort of emotional tumult — I think perhaps I was — you're in for something of a surprise, especially if all you know of Lawrence is That Book:

[L]ike, I suspect, most Americans, I know of Lawrence mostly because of the (in)famous "Lady Chatterley's Lover" (which I have never read) which was known as a "bad" book because it contained sex scenes. (and I suspect they may be more tame than the scenes commonly available in 'strong romance' novels of today. But then again — never have read it.)

She suspects correctly. But Lawrence wasn't out to write a book about screwing. He was out to reverse what he saw as an alarming trend: an overemphasis on the mental at the expense of the physical.

Still, there's enough in the book to allow for multiple interpretations, of which perhaps the most amusing was the 1959 review by Ed Zern of Field & Stream:

Although written many years ago, Lady Chatterley's Lover has just been reissued by Grove Press, and this fictional account of the day-by-day life of an English gamekeeper is still of considerable interest to outdoor-minded readers, as it contains many passages on pheasant-raising, the apprehending of poachers, ways to control vermin, and other chores and duties of the professional gamekeeper.

Unfortunately, one is obliged to wade through many pages of extraneous material in order to discover and savor these sidelights on the management of a Midland shooting estate, and in this reviewer's opinion the book cannot take the place of J. R. Miller's Practical Gamekeeper.

Zern was kidding. I think.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:57 AM to Table for One )
This spud's for you

This year's campers at the Glastonbury Festival will be dealing with something new: biodegradable tent pegs.

Seriously. They're made from potatoes:

[E]co-friendly tent pegs ... are to be made from biodegradable potato starch. The problem with the normal metal sort is that they can injure grazing dairy cows which inhabit the field once the festival is finished. The metal pegs are "a real problem for the cows", said [organiser Michael] Eavis. The potato pegs, which organisers are buying in advance, will therefore be made compulsory for campers this year.

With around 175,000 visitors expected, that's a lot of pegs. Apparently they're already in widespread use in the turf industry, and they'll hold up for the three days of the festival, after which they'll start to break down. I have no idea if the cattle, once returned to the grounds, will actually try to eat the pegs.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:21 AM to Entirely Too Cool )
Obligatory Super Bowl reference

The forty-second Super Bowl is being held at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, and I thought back to the 1960s, when Super Bowls were no big deal, and the University of Phoenix Commuters were winning all sorts of Western Athletic Conference titles. The new stadium, built in 2003 and generally acclaimed as one of the premier sports venues worldwide, testifies to the greatness of those Phoenix teams, and ...

What? The University doesn't have any sports teams? Their name is on the building because they wrote a large check for the rights?


Never mind.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:05 PM to Say What? )
Don't buck the Huck

Michael Bates runs the numbers on Oklahoma Republicans, and concludes that if their first choice is not John McCain, regardless of their actual preference they should vote for Mike Huckabee:

If you're an Oklahoma Republican and want Mike Huckabee to have a chance at the nomination, vote for Huckabee. You won't be accidentally helping McCain.

If you're an Oklahoma Republican and want Mitt Romney to have a chance at the nomination, vote for Huckabee, even if you don't particularly like Huckabee. Huckabee has the best shot at denying McCain the delegates and the win here in Oklahoma and thus at slowing McCain's national momentum, which would give Romney the opportunity to fight on.

If you're an Oklahoma Republican and you don't like anyone left in the race — this is my category — vote for Huckabee. Denying McCain a win here helps to stop his momentum and leaves the door open for a new candidate to be chosen at the convention.

It appears that this might work in other states where Huckabee is running second to McCain, as the polls say he is in Oklahoma. And Bates offers a generalized version:

It comes down to this: If you don't want McCain to be the nominee, you need to vote for the non-McCain candidate who has the best poll numbers in your state.

Emphasis in the original. I am not a Republican, but should McCain prevail, I'll have no trouble voting against him in November.

Happy returns

I guess. In between spates of dyspepsia, or worse, I knocked out Form 1040 (and Form 511) this morning, Dawdling Tax Service having gotten itself in gear to accept new returns.

Observations on the process:

  • I made little enough to qualify for the IRS Free File program; my filing service of choice — they're quite efficient, late opening notwithstanding — charges for the state return, and apparently the OTC complains if you don't do them both at the same time.

  • The Oklahoma standard deduction — maximum $2,750 for single folk — complicates the matter, since it might still be beneficial to itemize even if your deductions don't reach the Federal standard ($5,350).

  • I am still vexed that the state, when it sends out the 1099-G for your previous year's refund (which is taxable income), includes the amount you paid for use tax.

And I really don't miss TeleFile, which I used a couple of times around the turn of the century.

4 February 2008
Strange search-engine queries (105)

Should I be designating these with Roman numerals, as though they were Super Bowls or something? Nah. Why bother? It's just a trip through the referrer logs, fercryingoutloud.

right to die libertarian:  The trick is to become libertarian before you die.

is Bono in illuminati?  Well, fnord to you too.

women who like to give blow jobs in oklahoma city:  Mayor Cornett didn't address this in the State of the City speech.

charles hill expert opinion microsoft yahoo:  It will never work.

The Upside Down Squad sex position:  I assume they're for it.

Why Is My Cat Screaming at Night?  Sex upside down, maybe?

can greyhounds benefit from viagra?  Good lord, no. They'll go after the damn cat.

my mother walks around the house naked:  It's a scheme to keep you from bringing all your little friends home.

does wearing underpants reduce penis size:  If they're too tight, maybe.

sarah jessica parker ugly hideous legs:  Believe me, I've seen worse.

will 35 inch tires hurt my gas mileage on a v10 super duty:  What gas mileage? Gas yardage, maybe.

I just can't believe how much easier it is to find pictures of nude women than it is finding women wearing clothes:  Something about supply and demand, I would think.

etiquette "skinny dip" "mother in law":  You should always let her go first.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to You Asked For It )
Rolling eggs

The definitive bubble car was the Isetta, literally "small Iso," designed by Iso SpA in the ruins of postwar Europe and built all over the Continent under license, mostly by BMW, which sold over 130,000 of them between 1955 and 1962, a few of which somehow managed to disappear into the US.

Of course, nobody would build such a teensy little vehicle today, right? Wrong:

A new range of city models is being planned by BMW, and they could be called Isetta after the famous bubble car of the Fifties.

Back in September, bosses announced plans for a fourth brand — and this is the clearest indication of what it will be.

Why? Pretty much the obvious reason:

[S]mall turbo petrol and diesel engines would be used to help keep costs down, yet provide decent performance and excellent economy and emissions. This last feature is a key reason for BMW giving the city car project the go-ahead. It needs to reduce the average CO2 outputs from its vehicles to meet new EU targets.

Perhaps amusingly, it was the money BMW made off the Isetta which enabled the company to produce larger models in the 1960s; there's a touch of irony in the prospect that once again the bubble car will be saving the Roundel's rump.

(Via AutoblogGreen.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:19 AM to Driver's Seat )
Homegrown talent

With the departure of John Q. Porter, Oklahoma City Public Schools have now gone through four superintendents in eight years, and the Oklahoman suggests looking closer to home for number five:

It isn't unusual for urban districts to seek superintendents with experience leading urban schools — with good reason, because urban districts have some unusual challenges. But Oklahoma City's recent superintendent history shows the pitfalls of going beyond state borders to find a schools chief.

For starters, transplants often aren't familiar with the state's education laws and procedures, particularly as they relate to spending.

And spending, and reimbursement for same, was a major factor in Porter's undoing.

Still, how do you find someone with big-city experience in a state with few big cities? Says the Oklahoman, look to the suburbs:

Many of the suburban districts face some of the same demographic and socioeconomic challenges as Oklahoma City.

Then again, if they're right next door, they might have a perfectly plausible reason for not wanting to take the Oklahoma City job. Stories do get around. Not that I know any of them.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:59 AM to Soonerland )
Climb every mountain

General Motors knew exactly what they were doing when they began producing the Hummer: they were creating a niche vehicle, instantly recognizable — something you can't say of too many of the General's generics — with off-road and rock-hopping capabilities as good as any you could get anywhere. So I have no trouble defending the Hummer.

Some of its owners, maybe not so much:

So I'm in the parking lot at Lowes and nitwit in the hummer is taking up far too much road space. Along comes little car with family inside, taking up the appropriate space in the road and refusing to budge. Nitwit in hummer was forced to hop the curb and of course shouted a few explicits out of the window. I followed, plenty of room since I was too driving a normal sized car.

If he'd left it at that — but no:

"Did you see that, did you see that, I had to go up on the curb to avoid that idiot, did you see where he parked?"

I quickly looked around, hoping beyond all hope nitwit wasn't addressing me, I only wanted to run in and get some molding.

No such luck.

"Some people, I'm going to have to take my car to the garage tomorrow, the wheels are probably all out of alignment."

I snorted, I couldn't stop myself, it was an involuntary sound it just came out. It's the kind of snort one makes when they’re trying desperately not to laugh at the pure lunacy of nitwit.

"Excuse me?" said nitwit indignantly

I was forced to respond.

"Look", says me "that is not a car, you're driving a hummer. It was built to crush small villages in war-torn areas. Haven't you seen the commercials, apparently it can scale a 65% incline. I seriously doubt you knocked your wheels out of alignment and if you did, ask for a refund. If you're not aware of your vehicle's capabilities perhaps you should consider a small car and do us all a favor by allowing us to drive around parking lots without fear of you infringing on our side of the road — have a nice day."

And for the coup de grâce:

And as I turned to leave — "You probably swerve around tiny little pot holes as well don't you?"

The curtain of charity descends.

Sent forth from the Black Tower

Information isn't top-down anymore: we don't have to settle for artificial dissemination.

So I'm pleased to see that the Oklahoman is paying out Steve Lackmeyer's leash a bit, giving him his very own WordPress blog. (And if you're coming here from OKC Central, this is the story on that Minnesota Sonic Drive-In.)

Now to see if his TrackBacks work.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:20 PM to Blogorrhea )
5 February 2008
Here you come again

One of the better features in the present-day bereft-of-local-listings TV Guide is Rochell D. Thomas' column "Is It Just Me?" You'll find it around the middle of the book, and it contains a sidebar, too small a photo, and several WTF?-type questions, one of which I'm throwing open here because I'm not quite sure how to answer it myself. From the February 11-17 issue:

Are all those time-traveler issues a trip? First Journeyman warped back to his past and borrowed clothes from his old self. Now Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles has got a robot from 2007 going back to 1999 to save future rebel leader John Connor's life, then taking the 15-year-old and his mother, Sarah, eight years into the future to 2007. Having leapt into '07, they find themselves trying to stop the "rise of the machines" two years after Sarah dies of cancer and four years before a nuclear war, slated for 2011. Confusing? I think so. Either John and his mother ceased to exist from 2000 to 2006, or John's living in the same city as his 23-year-old self. And what happens if, when he's not trying to save suicidal classmates, 1999 Connor tuns into 2007 Connor? Isn't there some sci-fi law that states a person can't exist in the same place with their future (or past) self? I can't wrap my head around it.

I don't think John and Sarah winked out of existence for those six years. Further, I don't see a reason why John at 15 can't live in the same town as John at 23, provided the two Johns don't interact. But then again, I have even less of a clue about how this is supposed to work than Ms Thomas does. Suggestions are welcomed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Say What? )
Single-use shoes

Jane by David's BridalTrini's sister is getting married this summer, and as tradition presumably demands, she's dictated the outfits for the lesser members of the party. These are the shoes specified, "Jane" by David's Bridal, which comes in about eleventy-five different colors or can be dyed to match other stuff in the store. It's a pretty innocuous shoe, but Trini objected on humanitarian grounds: it would be cruel, she said, to make her wear heels, even heels this low, for any length of time, and she doesn't care a fig about any presumed advantages of the configuration. I opined that considering these shoes will likely never be worn again unless they're donated to Goodwill or something, it might not be worth the bother or expense. Bridezilla, so far, will not be moved.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:12 AM to Rag Trade )
Now that's intake timing

Eric Sauck goes to school in Ann Arbor, Michigan; he sent a letter to Automobile Magazine, which is based in Ann Arbor, and sent the same letter to Motor Trend, which is on the West Coast but which is owned by the same outfit: Source Interlink Media. (The other two major motor mags have a similar configuration: Car and Driver is in Ann Arbor, Road & Track in southern California, and both are owned by Hachette Fillipachi.)

It should be obvious here that the two editorial staffs aren't looking over each other's shoulders, and the text varies between the two magazines: Automobile's version of the letter is slightly shorter. Motor Trend gave Sauck the sort-of-coveted "Letter of the Month" award and a 30GB Zune, which they probably bought off Woot.

Oh, the letter itself? Sauck was complaining about the sudden vogue — especially in car mags — for electric parking brakes, and points out what happens when the battery goes dead:

You're locked out of your car (smart keys), you can't pop the clutch to start it (auto-clutch transmissions), you have to find the radio reset code (anti-theft audio), you have to schedule a pricey dealer visit to clear that OBD fault code, and, oh yeah, your car might roll down that hill like a two-ton bowling ball. I'll sacrifice my Big Gulp Mountain Dew any day if it means I get the reassurance of a good mechanical handbrake.

I have to admit, I admire this guy's outlook — not to mention his skill in repurposing content. If he doesn't have a blog, he should.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:00 AM to Driver's Seat )
The power to confuse

As always, okc.gov has posted the Mayor's State of the City address, but this year there's one serious flaw in the transcript: you can read his description of the Core to Shore projections for the next quarter-century or so, but you may have no idea what he's talking about because the city didn't post the video.

So get it here and start it at about "Even if you are the most dedicated downtown observer, you’re going to have a hard time orienting yourself, so I’ll try to help." The video narration isn't exactly the same as the printed transcript, but it's not so far off that you'll get hopelessly bogged down.

I have no idea whether this will also sync with Dark Side of the Moon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:15 PM to City Scene )
Meanwhile at the precinct

Things were moving along swimmingly just after 6 pm: I cast ballot #867. At that one moment — do not assume this applied all day — there were twice as many Democrats in line as there were Republicans, which I sort of expected; there were twice as many black Republicans as black Democrats, which I didn't. Things went smoothly, as they usually do at this precinct, but I was greeted at the door by a faceful of sleet, which tipped my mood from "crabby" to "irascible," and then the clusterfsck at 50th and May — there was already a road closure, but this time there were three fire engines at the intersection, and I didn't particularly feel like approaching it to find out why — moved me just about all the way to "pissed." I expect, though, that the results of the voting will not disappoint me too horribly.

Halfway home

Serious turnout, I dare say. With 55 percent of state precincts reporting, there are 220,000 votes counted on the Democratic side and over 150,000 on the Republican, which means that we've already beaten the 2004 primary total with lots of room to spare. (State record for a primary was 631,146, in 1996; we're on track to beat that handily.) Never underestimate the advantages of not having an incumbent.

Update, 9:30 pm: This was called for Clinton almost right after the polls closed; McCain has maintained about a four-percentage-point lead over Huckabee most of the evening, with Romney well back.

6 February 2008
Some time today

Visitor number 1,500,000 should drop by.

It took 99½ months to get the first half a million; 20½ to get the second; just under 23 to get the third. (I've never quite gotten back up to the heady traffic levels of 2005.) Still, the numbers I used to get in a month in 2001 (and in a year before that) are numbers I get in a week today.

Now if only I had some content for all these folks to read....

Update, 6:28 pm: Someone local, yet, off a Cox IP and running Mac OS X — and who apparently has me bookmarked. Imagine that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:01 AM to Blogorrhea )
Who's buying the Bimmers?

Apparently a very narrow demographic:

While BMW still aims for the luxury car market stratosphere (the 7-Series and Rolls, neither of which amount to much) and the lower reaches (the MINI line, which is still premium priced for what it is), the propeller badge might as well be a rifle sight. And yuppies are in the crosshairs.

No car is more identified with a particular rung of the corporate ladder than BMW. Nothing says "mover and shaker" more than an alphabet soup 3 or 5 in a reserved parking place. We're not talking about the top slot; the truly highly-placed drive something with more presence. We're looking at the upper middle execs whose cars must stand out from the "ordinary" (cynics might say "practical") machines driven by the company's lesser lights.

Overpaying is part of the cachet, "I'm going places, and I don't need to worry about what it cost." Sure, Bimmer's rep for speed and handling is a nice seasoning. But truth be told, the sort of person who regularly buys/leases a BMW probably doesn't have the time to go joyriding. The exact position of this "Bimmer spot" within the corporate hierarchy varies from country to country, but the template remains the same: Urban Professional on the Move.

Which of course lets me out, since I'm not going anywhere, in several senses of the word. And obviously not everyone sporting a roundel is yuppie scum. (I know better.)

Still, I have to wonder if there's a bubble involved, and maybe there is:

If there is a significant worldwide economic downturn, existing and potential BMW buyers may not make enough bonus — or simply feel "safe" enough — to take on a new car after three to five years. Should the corporate ax man's blade swing through the lower executive level with special violence, BMW sales will suffer widespread decapitation.

That's the problem with near luxury products. They're not expensive enough to rise about the fray, and they're not cheap enough to be seen as a necessity, or fly under the corporate accountant’s radar.

We don't have a lot of high-zoot vehicles where I work, anyway; mostly it's trucks and sport-utilities. Then again, damn few of us are overpaid. (Some of us — I have reference to, um, me — don't even come close to it.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:58 AM to Driver's Seat )
Goodbye, Rudy

Yale diplomat-in-residence Charles Hill (no relation), who served as chief foreign-policy adviser to the Giuliani campaign, says that Rudy's failure to get the message out killed his candidacy:

The candidate's focus on Florida — at the expense of campaigning in the early primaries — was a mistake, Hill said in an interview with the [Yale Daily] News on Friday. But it was also part of a larger failure on the part of Giuliani's communications staff to engage the media and, through them, the American public, Hill said.

Hill pointed to a foreign-policy speech Giuliani gave in September as emblematic of the campaign's inability to draw attention to its candidate.

"Giuliani gave a speech in London that was a very serious and impressive speech," Hill said. "It got very good press in London, and got no press here at all. Things that were done were not reported very well, and that, I think, was the fault of the communications team itself."

And the Giuliani campaign largely steered clear of the down-and-dirty stuff, which, says the man on whom nothing was lost, was also a mistake:

Hill said there were good advertisements that argued back, that Hill said seemed to him perfectly honest, but which Giuliani rejected for fear of appearing to unfairly attack his fellow Republicans.

"That approach, I think, doesn't work," Hill said. "When you're charged with something and you don't answer, then it's taken to be truth."

No secrets here: as belligerent GOP-lite guys go, I'd have much preferred Giuliani to John McCain. C'est la vie.

Have you ever seen Lorraine?

In the tradition of "There's a bathroom on the right":

(Slipped to me by regular reader "wamprat".)

7 February 2008
Eventually we'll all have this much

But for now, this is big, even for Big Blue:

The Register has unearthed a research paper that shows IBM working on a computing system capable "of hosting the entire internet as an application." This mega system relies on a re-tooled version of IBM's Blue Gene supercomputers so loved by the high performance computing crowd. IBM's researchers have proposed tweaking the Blue Gene systems to run today's most popular web applications such as Linux, Apache, MySQL and Ruby on Rails.

The complete paper [link to PDF file] contains this interesting point:

At present, almost all of the companies operating at web-scale are using clusters of commodity computers, an approach that we postulate is akin to building a power plant from a collection of portable generators. That is, commodity computers were never designed to be efficient at scale, so while each server seems like a low-price part in isolation, the cluster in aggregate is expensive to purchase, power and cool in addition to being failure-prone. Despite the inexpensive network interface cards in commodity computers, the cost to network them does not scale linearly with the number of computers. The switching infrastructure required to support large clusters of computers is not a commodity component, and the cost of high-end switches does not scale linearly with the number of ports. Because of the power and cooling properties of commodity computers many datacenter operators must leave significant floor space unused to fit within the datacenter power budget, which then requires the significant investment of building additional datacenters.

It's always more fun to have it all in one big box — until something breaks:

We are extending the existing infrastructure to allow nodes to actively react to hardware failures. Node failures are in many cases non-fatal for the application and recovery is possible. However, node failures which traditionally do not affect a node need to be handled due to the high level of integration. For example, when a node fails which acts as a forwarding node at the physical layer, a network segment may become unreachable. While we can easily deallocate the faulty node from the pool, we must ensure that all necessary nodes still provide networking functionality. Here, the reliability of a single-chip solution is very advantageous. The failure of nodes are often due to failing memory modules. However, each processor chip has 8MB of integrated eDRAM. If more than one RAM chip fails we can usually bring the node back into a state where it still acts as a router, even though normal workloads cannot be run.

Okay, maybe this will work.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to PEBKAC )
This scheme's just six words long

The Freakonomics blog is looking for a six-word motto for the United States, which prompted a longer-than-that observation from Lileks:

It was no doubt tendered in good faith, but reading the suggestions is like licking a corroded battery. The latter-day sub-Menckens will always get off the sharpest lines, of course; you can't draw a laugh with something Grandma might knit on a pillow, and drawing a laugh — or a mirthless snort of appreciation, which counts as a laugh nowadays — is the prime objective.

We are all sub-Menckens, I submit: some are just sub-er than others.

That said, I'd like to argue for the adoption of this, expanded to incorporate the standard Oedipus-via-Samuel L. Jackson adjectival twist — but that's only five words, dammit.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:04 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The next degeneration

This explains John McCain as well, or as badly, as anything else:

The classic problem with dynasticism is regression toward the mean: the formidable father has a less impressive son. Having already gone down that route with the Bushes, we're now embarking on a bizarre exercise in pseudo-dynasticism. Having witnessed the failure of the son, we're now enthroning the man who could be the failed son's crazy old coot of a favorite uncle.

Wait a minute. Bush 41 was formidable?


This week we have an After-Tsunami Tuesday edition of the Carnival of the Vanities, and I suspect we're all a bit waterlogged, or something.

"It must be raindrops," said Dee Clark, noting that "a man ain't supposed to cry," even though we're coming up on Valentine's Day and once again I have nothing to report, except to note that the saint in question was martyred, according to some sources, in 269.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:30 PM to Blogorrhea )
No supercars for you

Nissan has 1,076 US dealers, and 1,500 GT-Rs are coming here each year. This would mean that most stores might get one GT-R, maybe.

Actually, as it turns out, some stores won't get any at all:

The 1,500 annual GT-Rs allotted to the U.S. market will only be sold through GT-R-certified dealers.

Higher-volume Nissan dealers who also sell a good number of Z cars will get preference.

Certified dealers also must commit to a top dealership executive serving as the GT-R salesperson, preferably with transactions taking place privately outside of the showroom, and a service manager designated just for GT-R customers. The dealership also must have certified master technicians with special GT-R training, and invest in a specially equipped service bay.

I was loath to fill out this whole darn form just to find out if one of the city's four Nissan dealers might have made the cut, but sidestepping the official GT-R site in favor of good ol' NissanUSA.com brings up the usual dealer locator and a check box: "GT-R Dealers Only." I checked the box, and nobody was eliminated: apparently all four stores will be getting certification.

It's not like I'm going to be leaving a deposit — the GT-R will list for seventy grand, and I figure there will be enough dealer markup to push it into six figures easily — but Trini's gonna want to see one in the flesh. Or sheetmetal.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:24 PM to Driver's Seat )
8 February 2008
The pleasant harp with the psaltery

Then again, maybe not:

A local Church of Christ's decision to add musical instruments to its worship service has struck a wrong note with other church members.

"I do not believe that God is anti-instruments. The arguments that attempt to prove that He is are not persuasive to me," minister Mark Henderson said Wednesday.

Other ministers and members of Churches of Christ have denounced the recent addition of instrumental music to the worship service at Henderson's Quail Springs Church of Christ.

"There is no New Testament precedent for using instruments," Glover Shipp, author and retired Oklahoma Christian University professor, said Wednesday.

And so there isn't. There is also no New Testament precedent for air conditioning, but not a lot of churches pass it up.

Still, this is a conservative denomination, and were I a member, I might look askance at any break in tradition, however seemingly minor. However, I don't think I'd buy a page in the local newspaper to advertise my displeasure, and I definitely wouldn't be claiming something special about my own particular pulpit:

[T]he Churches of Christ, as a whole, do not recognize modern day apostolic authority because we find no authorization for such authority outside of the local congregation. Each congregation is autonomous. No congregation has authority over another. That includes authority to "mark" others with whom we disagree.

Does this portend an Anglicanesque schism? I don't think so. But it does remind me of how much authority I have in spiritual matters, which is none.

Disclosure: I was once married to a Freed-Hardeman girl, so I'm more familiar with this than you might think.

Sometimes I share

"Well, yeah, maybe you can string a couple of sentences together long enough for the snark to coalesce," I hear you say, "but how do you handle actual business correspondence?"

Generally, somewhat like this.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:08 AM to Outgoing Mail )
Citadel please note

And that goes for you too, Clear Channel. Learn from this:

When digital radio station Oneword closed last month, it seemed that things couldn't get any worse for the broadcaster. But indeed they could. Gallingly, the temporary replacement on the old Oneword channel — a 1992 recording of birdsong, played on a loop — is causing more of a stir than its predecessor ever managed, with tens of thousands of listeners flocking to it.

It's got to be better than Bob & Tom & Lex & Terry & any of those other morning-program jerkwads.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:17 AM to Overmodulation )


What is this?

A transparent acrylic chaise longue that's suspended in mid air by the applied magic of Really Big Magnets. [Hoverit] Directors Keith Dixon and Steve Wild are launching the product at the 100th Ideal Home Show in London next month with an anticipated price of £5,875.

Oh, there are casters in the base, in case you have to move it without, you know, moving it.

And if twelve thousand dollars for a frickin' chair sounds a bit excessive, remember: Really Big Magnets.

(Seen at Fark.)

From Bimmer to bummer

Earlier this week I mentioned that very few people I knew were buying BMWs, which I attributed at least partly to the fact that they're not exactly rolling in dough.

Apparently some person I don't know found that condition intolerable:

Anthony Lofink now faces up to 20 years in prison on each of three felony charges: wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He also faces a fine of up to $2.4 million when [Chief District Judge Gregory] Sleet sentences him on May 8.

In court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Douglas McCann said that between May 2005 and October 2007, Lofink used the money to lease a BMW 330i, purchase a Porsche Cayman and get $3,800 worth of cosmetic surgery.

Oh, those irresistible BMW leases. They'll get you every time.

Of course, my immediate thought is something like this: "If I had a 3-series BMW and a Porsche Cayman, why would I need plastic surgery?"

(With thanks to Fritz Schranck.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:39 PM to Dyssynergy )
But not too much protection

The Indiana State Senate is considering a bill to require notification of citizens who may be at risk due to data-security breaches, and rather a lot of industry hotshots just hate that:

The bill would require that the state attorney general act as a single point of contact for data breaches. Any company that suffered a breach impacting one or more Indiana consumers would be required to notify the AG's office. The bill would also make Indiana the only state in the country to require the attorney general to post a copy of each report to its Web site — so that consumers, members of the press, and academics would have a single place to go to in order to find out about data breaches.

Some of the arguments made against the bill were ludicrous in the extreme:

A lobbyist for Microsoft argued that phishing emails would be sent out to consumers, including a link to a real breach report on the AG's site, and then include a link to a fake website where consumers wishing to protect themselves from fraud would be tricked into inputting their personal information.

And this would differ from every other phishing attempt on the face of the earth — how, exactly?

New Hampshire is already posting breach information, and no one's using it for phishing.

Meanwhile, existing Indiana law is plainly inadequate, except where it's plainly stupid:

The law, as currently written, exempts companies from having to notify consumers if a laptop containing customer data is stolen, as long as the laptop has a login password. This is extremely problematic, as a login password does nothing to protect the data if the hard disk is taken out of the computer.

You gotta wonder if Microsoft pushed for that provision, way back when.

The Indiana House, incidentally, has already passed this measure, 94-0.

(Via Steph Mineart.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:46 PM to PEBKAC )
9 February 2008
Missing the point

Alex Patel, owner of the Quality Inn on East Reno near MLK, would like to build a small (95-room) Holiday Inn Express on the northeast corner of Main and Oklahoma, on the old Steffen's Ice Cream site in Bricktown.

I have to admire Patel's pitch:

"There is in place now the new Hampton Inn [opening later this year], the Renaissance, the Colcord, the Skirvin ... but we're trying to appeal to the group that can't afford $200 a night. We're looking at $80 to $100."

There's only one drawback that I can see:

The facade, designed by Quinn & Associates, includes brick and synthetic stucco.

Hello? This is Bricktown, folks. You don't sneak synthetic stucco into the mix. You want plasticky siding, you put it out on Memorial Road, where they don't notice that sort of thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:25 AM to City Scene )
The view from Lansdowne Street

I wasn't much of a scenester during my brief sojourn near Boston — Uncle Sam, who owned my services at the time, saw to that — and I remember this part of town mostly because it was on the edge of Fenway Park, making for a different dynamic entirely; but somehow this rings a bell:

I walked down Lansdowne Street the other day, and saw the chain link fence that surrounded what used to be Axis and Avalon. The crews haven't begun tearing the place apart, but you can tell it will only be a few days now....

My memories took me back to the late nineties, when my sister and I would dress up in our nicest cocktail dresses in our dorm room and board the T to head to Kenmore.

As I stood there in the rain I remembered my first concert at Avalon, Catherine Wheel, and I remembered seeing Our Lady Peace there. Though my memories are hazy, I think I also saw Placebo, Stabbing Westward, and Econoline Crush there at some point as well. One night, when they were sold out, I sat outside the door listening to Type O Negative. So many memories, being torn down to make way for another cookie cutter venue.

By which she means a House of Blues, which is nice enough, I suppose, but which is too common to be really special.

Sappy as it sounds, I started to cry as I realized that in truth, whether the buildings remained or not, those carefree days with childlike reckless abandon and irresponsibility are over. The buildings and clubs were just symbols of that time. They will be replaced with architecture that will become symbols for other people, and represent their youth. With any luck, they won't be torn down in their lifetime, or at least not until they move away. But for me, every time I walk through Central Square or Kenmore, or Lansdowne, I see a gaping hole where my past used to be.

Perhaps there's something in us older folks that kicks in to protect our memories. I remember lots of walking down Newbury Street. Last time I was in Boston, it occurs to me, I didn't get near the Back Bay.

Disclosure: I bought my first Catherine Wheel recording in 2007. I am nothing if not anachronistic.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:25 AM to The Way We Were )
Quote of the week

This dispatch from TJICistan is billed "wherein TJIC doesn’t understand the Progressive point of view (again)":

Apparently kids with Down's syndrome are better off with their brains sucked out and their skulls crushed than going to school and playing soccer in special leagues.

Soccer, wrestling with the family dog, and pizza dinner and movies with mom, dad, and siblings every Friday night is, I suppose "suffering", and can be avoided through just a little bit of scalpel-vacuum-and-forceps work.

Similarly here:

In related news, the saying "You're nobody until somebody loves you" looks less sappy and more horrifying.

Somehow I don't think this is what Russ Morgan had in mind. But then, who am I?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:11 PM to QOTW )
Traveler's remorse

Megan Wallent calls the front desk:

"Hi, this is Janelle, can I help you?"

"Hi Janelle, this your favorite guest from room 723. I really hate to complain so much, but, um, I was just walking down the hall and noticed that all of the smoke and heat detectors in the hall are covered up by what appears to be shower caps and tape. I'm pretty sure this isn't ok."

"Uh huh."

"Did you happen to see the news last week, where the Monte Carlo hotel in Vegas caught on fire during renovation, and they had to evacuate it?"

"No, I didn't see that."

"Janelle, I really don't want to be served crispy."

The matter was addressed quickly enough, but there's just a hint of "What were they thinking?" that isn't going away any time soon.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:02 PM to Dyssynergy )
Wind up your radios!

That's the way Dr. Demento always started his radio program back in the day, and those of us among the dementians and/or dementites might giggle a bit because — well, a wind-up radio? Who ever heard of such a thing?

Then about fifteen years ago, Trevor Baylis built a radio that winds up: by 1997 there was a commercial product that would play for an hour after thirty seconds' worth of winding. A lot simpler than hunting around for batteries, especially if the lights are out.

Cool enough, but not a patch on this:

Not content with simply being a piece of technological genius, the Eco Media Player is the very definition of convergence, playing as it does music, video and fm radio, as well as functioning as a torch, sound recorder, photo viewer, mobile phone charger, ebook viewer and data storage device. Oh, and if you want to, you can even record your old vinyl LPs onto it to truly bring your music collection into the digital age!

And yes, it winds up: it's got a fairly standard lithium-ion battery which can be charged through a USB port, but turn it over and sure enough, there's the hand crank. Player capacity is 2 GB, which can be supplemented with an SD card. It might even charge your cell phone for you.

(Via Popgadget.)

10 February 2008
With a single purpose

Advice to garage-sale types with old recordings, by Brian J. Noggle:

Jeez, you record and cassette sellers, you need to know your price point here. Individual songs are a buck on the Internet. If someone wants to buy your old record or cassette, that person probably wants one song for sure and perhaps the rest as "maybe I'll like it, too." So you need to beat that dollar price point. You cannot hope that the stuff you liked back in the day along with millions of other teenagers in your generation will somehow prove to be a "collector's item." Keep it under a buck, or you'll keep it, period.

And one other thing: if something really is a collector's item, the collector is not likely to tell you so. If you have a mint LP of, say, Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music, you're probably better off trying to move it on eBay.

Rolling up the numbers

It's taken ten months, apparently, but a thousand folks have dropped by Middledawn so far.

Inasmuch as we're not dealing with the sort of person who will run up her own meter — I think she's toggled off her own IP from the count — I propose that we run it up for her. It might even prod her into writing some more.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:04 AM to Blogorrhea )
"Playing what we want," indeed

If that particular bit of radio-format imaging struck you as just a hair authoritarian, you're ready for this: Jack FM in Russian.

Why, yes, they do stream. Here's what Sean Ross heard:

Only about four songs an hour are in English and there are definitely some '80s-sounding Russian music, but there's also a lot of traditional sounding balladry and a lot of more generic pop/rock that is hard to place in any particular decade. The English language songs I heard in my first half hour were Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" and Bryan Ferry's "Slave To Love."

The first track I recognized was Blondie's "Call Me", followed not too closely by Tina Turner's "Private Dancer." Very Jack-ish.

If you're actually in Russia, you can hear the station on 89.9 in Moscow and on 91.1 in St. Petersburg.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:18 PM to Overmodulation )
Parcels posted

An operation called Seneca Technologies wanted to put tax-assessment maps of West Virginia on the Web, interfaced through Seneca's own search schemes. They duly wrote to the state, citing the Freedom of Information Act, and were informed that if they wanted these maps, they would have to pay the same rate as anyone else: $8 per map. There were over twenty thousand maps.

Seneca filed a suit under FOIA, and won: the state, the judge ruled, could not collect the fee for a paper copy if the files requested were in digital format. Charleston duly copied all the TIF files to CDs and dispatched them to Seneca. Copying fee: twenty dollars.

Upon receipt, Seneca put the maps online and began designing the interface, whereupon Kanawha County Assessor Phyllis Gatson filed a suit asking that Seneca be forced to take down the maps.

The Public Citizen organization filed an amicus brief opposing the suit. [Link to PDF file]. The opposition is simply stated:

In this action, a government official seeks a prior restraint to enjoin defendant from exercising free speech on its web site by providing to the public truthful information obtained from public tax records, on the supposed ground that dissemination of such information violates a state regulation. However, the regulation does not support the requested injunction; if it did apply, it would be preempted by federal copyright law; and, if the Court reaches the First Amendment issue, the requested injunction would violate the First Amendment. Accordingly, the request for a preliminary injunction should be denied.

Gatson subsequently withdrew her request for a preliminary injunction against Seneca, but the suit remains active.

It could be that Gatson is simply trying to protect a source of income for the county, and it's not like she's about to be turned out of office or anything, but something about this doesn't quite pass the smell test. After reading the amicus brief, Steve F. wonders if maybe it's more than fees at issue here:

Do the politically connected have lower assessments? I'm sure the Kanawha County pooh-bahs, like all others, would like to keep this away from public scrutiny.

Which is a lot easier to do if a member of said public has to pay eight bucks for each and every map.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:32 PM to Dyssynergy )
Going to pieces over nothing

Rumors to the contrary notwithstanding, there appears to be no impending epidemic of leprosy in northwest Arkansas; there are apparently nine known cases in Springdale, among transplanted Marshall Islanders, but these folks have evidently been under observation for some time.

The head of the Springdale Chamber of Commerce tries to be reassuring:

You may be aware of a media report that is suggesting there has been an outbreak of leprosy in Springdale. This is not true. The Chamber has been in touch this morning with Gov. Mike Beebe, Congressman John Boozman, the Center for Disease Control and the Washington County Health Department. Each of these entities are fully engaged and are reporting to us that there is no "outbreak" of leprosy in Springdale or Northwest Arkansas.

Just the same, it would not be wise to let one's guard down, and damage control is going to cost, you should pardon the expression, an arm and a leg.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:33 PM to Dyssynergy )
11 February 2008
Strange search-engine queries (106)

This weekly feature sifts through the last seven days of referrer logs — pretty spiffy for a mere feature to be able to do that, eh? — and pulls out a dozen or so search strings, ranked by snark potential. Or something like that. It's getting harder to tell how this works.

Foot operated handbrake on Mercury Grand Marquis:  If it's operated by the foot, it's hardly a handbrake, is it?

schmuck von dollheads:  Originally named Peter, but he proved to be something of a putz.

"glass pains":  For example, having to replace a windshield.

st.theresa sends any flowers:  There's no record of her texting anyone.

is flatulence covered under the americans with disabilities act:  Not unless you have to do it on a ramp.

nudist beach marriage proposal:  Careful when you get down on your knees. That sand gets itchy.

Can doo gro cause hair to shed badly:  You want it should shed well?

Do Hydrocarbons burn?  I burned about six gallons in my car last week.

see fantasy nerd girls and a Britney Spears portrait made from chewed-up pastries:  When your fantasies become too specific, it's probably time to move out of your mom's basement.

cut and crown miter saw system green sucky things:  Or your dad's workshop.

nudists vote republican:  Some of them do, though they'll probably get dressed for the primaries in January and February.

what to do when your marriage falls apart because of sports:  Sell the second season ticket so it won't go in the divorce settlement.

Is Dr. Phil McGraw's Penis Uncut?  I couldn't say, but I can assure you that his testicles are in Oprah's pocket.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 AM to You Asked For It )
No, it gets all cranky

Cadillac wants to know: "When you turn your car on, does it return the favor?" Seriously. This is an actual ad.

Does anybody — anybody outside an advertising agency, anyway — refer to the process of starting a car as "turning it on"? "Go ahead and finish getting ready. I'll go out and turn the car on." I don't think even Prius owners talk like that.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:06 AM to Driver's Seat )
Not quite a slam dunk just yet

The Chamber of Commerce and the office of the Mayor are pushing hard for that penny sales tax to finance Ford Center upgrades with the arrival of the NBA in mind, and they've put out a flyer to boast of how much of an economic impact the Hornets had [link to PDF file] during their two-year tenure here.

This paragraph has drawn fire:

That level of attendance generated an estimated $33,243,908 in direct spending [one year]. The assumptions being that 20% of the attendees are from out of town and would spend $200 while the remaining 80% of the attendees are local and would spend $35 per event. Non-resident attendees would account for $528,520 per game and resident attendees would account for $369,964 per game for a total of $898,484 in direct spending for each game.

Opponents counter:

20% of the attendees ... came from outside of OKC?
They spent $200 each when the average ticket price was under $30
These numbers appear to be grossly exaggerated.

I suspect the twenty-percent bit might be a tad high, but $200 seems plausible: you try booking a hotel room within a mile of the Ford Center on game night for under $100. And if I had had to drive all the way here from Somewhere Else, I wouldn't have bought the ten-buck billets up in the stratospheric heights of Loud City. Economic projections tend to have all manner of fudge factors applied, though, so I'm not taking the Chamber's numbers as gospel.

Were the opponents actually paying attention, they'd go after Sonics management's argument that moving the team would have no economic impact on Seattle. After all, nobody ever drove all the way to Seattle from Somewhere Else and ran up $200 in expenses, right?

Just the same, whatever extra I wind up spending in sales tax — I expect the measure to pass, and I plan to vote for it — will pale in comparison to the cost of my eventual season ticket.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:49 AM to Net Proceeds )
The candidate as rock star

Doesn't really apply to Barack Obama, says Stan Geiger:

Last night, 60 Minutes profiled Obama. A point was made to mention that 650,000 donors have written checks to his campaign. The point was intended to paint Obama as the most popular American icon since Farrah's poster.

So 650,000 of 300 million — two-tenths of one percent of the population — have written Obama a check. My, my, that's quite the show of widespread love. I'll bet more people than that have sent checks to Oral freakin' Roberts.

Yeah, but did Oral freakin' Roberts ever win a Grammy Award? Barack has two.

Hey, you missed one

Oklahoma apparently is not going to tax your stimulus-package receipts:

The rebates aren't being treated as income at the federal level, which means they will not be considered income at the state level either, Paula Ross, spokeswoman for the Tax Commission, said.

So there.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:35 PM to Soonerland )
12 February 2008
Score one for the girl next door

Few things in life are quite as gratifying as discovering that most people will happily ignore the very existence of a Paris Hilton film.

Meanwhile, as America's Least Appealing Sex Symbol bombs out on the silver screen, we have a field report from the Land of the Normal:

Women who should worry about losing their looks are women who haven't bothered to develop an appealing personality. They haven't invested any effort in educating themselves and having something to say. They have no sense of humor and they're superficial. Often, they haven't managed to find a way to earn enough money to take care of themselves.

You can only get away with that when you're young and beautiful. Some men will put up with a vacuum between the ears if you offer what they consider an acceptable alternative — being hot. Once you stop being hot, you're screwed, because you’ve got nothing to counterbalance your shitty personality.

As much as I hate the stereotypes about what "all women" want, I equally hate the stereotypes about what "all men" want. The idea that every man is more interested in looks than anything else is BULLSHIT. It's simply not true. I'm a perfectly average-looking female and I've had four serious relationships, all with high-quality, good-looking men, and every one of them liked me more than they liked better-looking women who were interested in them because I'm smart and because I'm not crazy. My lack of big boobs and perfect face haven't hindered my man-catching adventures in the least, because smart men want women they can stand to be around outside of the bedroom.

There's a lot to be said for both "smart" and "not crazy."

And there's this:

I'm not that smart or that interesting, trust me, but the point is that there are tons and tons of men out there just dying to find women who stand out from the masses of insipid drama queens with princess complexes who HAVE NOTHING TO SAY.

Not to mention the occasional lunatics and child murderesses. I consider myself fortunate that despite the extremely tenuous, even haphazard, anchoring of my heart, a serious disadvantage in the fine art of self-preservation, I've managed to avoid this genre of not-entirely-stereotypical female more or less entirely.

This is normally the part of the screed where I note wearily that, as usual, I'm copying down all these ideas from someone who is of course utterly unavailable. With the feast famine of Saint Valentine at hand, I think I'll skip it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:02 AM to Table for One )
Sympathy for the announcers

Oklahoman sportswriter Berry Tramel, noting that the Dallas Cowboys remain the Dallas Cowboys despite not having played in Dallas in some time, worries about the branding of Oklahoma City's eventual NBA squad:

Oklahoma City voters will have funded two arena projects — construction of the Ford Center and its renovation — yet have an elongated city name that afflicts places like Indianapolis and Minneapolis, who combined have placed their name on exactly one major-league franchise out of seven possibilities: the Indianapolis Colts. Oklahoma City would be the only six-syllable name in major league sports.

And yet no one, except perhaps the occasional Baltimore diehard, complains about the Indianapolis Colts, who work out of a seven-syllable city. For that matter, Tramel didn't exactly fret over the nomenclature hung on the previous Ford Center tenants: the New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets. Eight, maybe nine syllables.

Still, he gets it right on the Big Question:

So would it be the Oklahoma City Sonics or the Oklahoma Sonics?

I vote for Oklahoma City. OKC voters and leaders will have made the NBA possible. Their name deserves top billing. And just to be sure, get it in writing.

Besides, "OKC" looks pretty good on those seemingly-endless sports tickers.

[Insert usual "The Sonics aren't here yet, don't be jumping the gun" caveat here.]

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:08 AM to Net Proceeds )

Or even R50. With the demise of the Q, Infiniti doesn't really have a flagship anymore, although the M35/M45 by all accounts is a better ride than the last Q45 was, but I find it hard to believe that Nissan is giving serious consideration to working up a GT-R variant to sell through Infiniti.

Still, Nissan design chief Shiro Nakamura told Britain's Car magazine (January):

"We have developed the platform and the transaxle powertrain — an Infiniti version is a future possibility... I have not done a study yet, but we are thinking about it."

The most logical reason for this, of course, is to improve the take: Nissan knows perfectly well that the GT-R will be priced in Upper Gougeland no matter what they tell their dealers, and at least they can ask a few grand more up front from an Infiniti store.

So: R38. Or a V8-powered R50 or R55. (Nissan is believed to be working up a 5-liter, maybe 5.5-liter, V8 for the FX, to move it a bit farther up from the new EX.) The price? Start around $80k and keep going. For this kind of money, I could — and would, if circumstances permitted — go for his-and-hers G37s, and buy lots of gas with what's left.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:27 AM to Driver's Seat )
Rancid transit

The wheels on the bus go round and round, but some folks just refuse to be mesmerized by the sight:

The signs on the sides of Madison Metro buses show people enjoying expensive warm-weather vacations, asking "What would you do with the $7k a year you could save by taking Madison Metro?" Even after therapy, I'd take that $7000 and make lease payments on a nice, roomy SUV so I won't have to park my backside in a too-narrow transit seat and travel to work in bodily contact with a stranger.

This, incidentally, is why people are clamoring for rail: for some reason it's believed to have a lower creeps and weirdos factor.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:03 PM to Dyssynergy )
Another Choo drops

Lumiere by Jimmy ChooThis is Lumiere by Jimmy Choo, a sandal more conservative than fanciful. (And JC does fanciful pretty well: to see what I mean, take a look at "Lance," worn in a Shoebunny feature by Kylie Minogue.) It's a metric shoe, 100 mm high: for you unreconstructed fans of English measurements, that's 3.9 inches or so. The cut is described as "sharp and modern," which seems fair enough, though that squared-off buckle strikes me as being something of a period piece. As with any Choos, these will cost you dearly: $585, either in this shade or in fuchsia. Inevitably, I find myself wondering what the Lumière brothers would have thought of this shoe. It certainly lets in a fair amount of light.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 PM to Rag Trade )
13 February 2008
O frabjous morning commute!

Starting Monday, the Shields Blvd. bridge between downtown and Capitol Hill will be closed for about a year as work continues, kinda sorta, on the New Crosstown Expressway.

What makes this fun, of course, is that the next bridge over, at Robinson, is also closed for the next couple of weeks.

Not that I'm in any position to sneer: the nearest bridge to me is Belle Isle, and we know how wonderful it is, especially in the winter.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:04 AM to City Scene )
I have no idea how that got there

It says here that in Pennsylvania, anyway, if you take your computer back to the store for repairs, you have no "reasonable expectation of privacy," which means that if they find you've got scads and scads of smut — well, let's not go there. You're just going to have to do a better job of concealing the evidence — or keep it on a removable drive, fercryingoutloud.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:47 AM to PEBKAC )
Doing the Full Lutz

To be able to do the Full Lutz, a patented maneuver by General Motors Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, you have to be able to shrug off what was widely reported as the largest single-quarter loss in automotive history.

Which, as Lutz says, was "a special charge in the third quarter" of 2007, and which was anticipated all the way back in November:

U.S. tax law allows a corporation that suffers net losses to carry forward the total loss balance into future years in order to use the negative numbers as offsets against future profits. The result is that future taxes are lower because the corporation is taxed only on the profits minus the forwarded loss. Meanwhile, the total losses that are carried forward are treated as assets on the balance sheet. That is where GM gets its total of $38.6 billion; it is the automaker's cumulative loss total.

The [Financial Accounting Standards Board] has decided to toughen the criteria for asset valuations on the balance sheet of corporations. Adjustments are required for assets that don't meet the tougher test by first quarter of 2008. This is a one time adjustment and it could be reduced in the future if it looks like GM will be more profitable.

Inasmuch as this explanation came from a former FASB chairman, I'm inclined to give it credence.

Meanwhile, Bob Lutz wants you to know that the General's actual retail sales — none of that fleet stuff — rose a healthy 11 percent in January:

We used to grab every sale, including daily rentals, no matter how unprofitable or ultimately deteriorating to the value of vehicle and brand. And if we wanted to go back to that, we could probably boost our share back up to 27 percent or so tomorrow.

But we're in this for the long haul now … to reestablish our brands, to boost our residuals, and to improve the value and image of our vehicles. That's why the retail sales numbers are so important, and that's why I'd like to get the word out there about them. Somebody has to.

Especially when all the chatter is about an accounting entry that sounds worse than it really is.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:16 AM to Driver's Seat )
A little DAB'll do ya

Suddenly I don't feel so bad about not spending any money on HD Radio. Look what's (not) happening in Britain:

The whispers of discontent began after Richard Wheatley, ceo of The Local Radio Company compared the DAB platform to Betamax the video format that lost out to VHS in the 80's.

This seems a curious analogy as it’s not like there's a rival digital service or that DAB is especially superior in audio when compared to existing FM services quality (despite the hype, it's often not). Mr Wheatley is correct when he mixes metaphors and says that despite a rapid original adoption rate for DAB radio purchases and falling prices of DAB sets the platform has failed to build a greater adoption and has no 'killer application' by which he means no 'must listen' digital only radio station that would help drive current non DAB radio owners to rush out and buy a DAB set.

There's certainly nothing compelling on HD. (Aside: This is another case where we're using a "standard" that isn't really standard anywhere else; HD Radio has been adopted only in the US and Brazil.)

But there are other reasons to avoid buying a DAB set:

So restrictive was the technology that the DAB platform has already decided to slowly scrap the broadcast format currently employed and migrate to a new DAB+ format which would allow a higher quality broadcast signal to fit in a much smaller slice of the bandwidth pie. This would use the AAC+ audio format which I often use to post audio files on this blog for dial-up of bandwidth restricted users. This would mean that existing DAB radio owners would need to purchase new sets or own a rare upgradeable set already.

I guess the good thing is that so few people have bought DAB sets that the idea of changing the whole platform hasn't caused wailing and gnashing of teeth and threats of litigation.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:06 PM to Overmodulation )
Tax holidays in the sun

That business about your Federal tax rebate being not taxable by the state? You might want to adjust your perspective a tad. Stan Geiger explains:

[T]here is this thing called a sales tax. So if Oklahomans do that which they are asked to do with their checks (spend them), the state damn sure will tax the rebates. The state will tax them at a rate of 4.5 percent.

If a person spends his or her rebate money in Tulsa, the state will tax it, the county will tax it, and the city will tax it. In such a scenario, a federal rebate would be taxed at a rate of 8.517 percent. And that rate far exceeds even the top marginal state income tax rate.

Now I feel better about using mine for debt reduction.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 PM to Soonerland )
14 February 2008
People who need Peep

And you need Peep whole, because you certainly won't be eating the little sugary critters if you want to enter one of these competitions:

  • St. Paul Pioneer Press: "[W]inners of our fifth annual Peeps Diorama Contest won't just get Pioneer Press swag, they'll also get Just Born booty, like membership to the Peeps Fan Club, an official Peeps T-shirt and candy."

  • Washington Post: "We want you to make a diorama of a famous occurrence or scene. It can be a historical, current or future event, or it can be a nod to pop culture. The main rule is that all the characters must be played by Peeps, those marshmallowy chicks and rabbits that start plaguing checkout lines in every grocery and convenience store this time of year."

  • Chicago Tribune: "The idea is to build a diorama with Peeps as the leading characters. (We're not being original here; we stole the idea from the Washington Post, which did it last year after stealing the idea from the St. Paul Pioneer Press.)"

Nothing like acknowledging a source, I always say.

Now for the real question: will there be an official Belhoste entry?


Andrew Ian Dodge is clearly not suffering from Obamaitis, but he's decided to hang the name on this week's Carnival of the Vanities, the 270th edition, just the same.

Speaking of Obama, should he win his party's nomination, he'll need 270 electoral votes to become President.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:19 AM to Blogorrhea )
The radio station from hell

This is the derisive term I use for my iTunes installation at work, which includes about 2500 tracks at the moment. Usually when you walk in, it will be playing something you don't like, hence the description. While inevitably the playlist reflects my highly-dubious sense of aesthetics, it certainly qualifies as eclectic: you will find therein, for instance, two actual 1910 Fruitgum Company tracks, and the entirety of Kind of Blue. I won't, however, argue that this somehow represents "the full spectrum of music," unlike a certain Kansas City radio station:

Even the most casual music fan can't fail to notice that the full spectrum of music — even if we limit ourselves to the rock and roll era; hell, even if we limit ourselves to the post-Beatles/Dylan rock era — would necessarily include not only music from the 70s, 80s, 90s and now but from at least the 60s and probably the 50s, as well.

I don't have a lot of Nineties stuff, but I'm working on it. Of course, you might not really want a "full-spectrum" station:

I'm not sure even I would really want a station to play the FULL spectrum of music, mixing in Mozart, Gregorian chants, and the Barney soundtrack along with the obvious rock staples. Maybe nobody does, really. The type of music we listen to, and the type we make it a point to let others know that we don't listen to, is one of the ways we express our identities to the world, a way we signal to others that we are this kind of person and not (horrors!) that kind. What we usually downplay as merely personal aesthetics always come with loads of political implications. We had to learn to like what we like, after all, and these self-segregating lessons naturally mirror a society already segregated by race and class.

I'm wondering where this leaves me, since those 2500 tracks contain, for instance, lots of R&B and not a whole lot of classical. Not that I have any business pretending to have either erudition or street cred. (Nor, for that matter, do I really want to segue Britten's Simple Symphony into Funkadelic's "Cosmic Slop.")

Still, I wonder what sort of radio show, or podcast, I could whip up out of that odd collection of ingredients, and whether more than one person could stand to listen to it for more than a couple of selections.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:43 AM to Overmodulation )
Geeky, but not in a good way

Girl Gamer magazineNintendo was founded in 1889, which may or may not have something to do with this British magazine of theirs, which apparently is stuck somewhere in 1959. "Learn to cook on your DS"? Well, okay, I suppose you could — you can learn just about anything not involving personal relationships with a DS — but I suspect recipe-shuffling is a low priority for any female willing to call herself a Girl Gamer. And while you can certainly order a DS Lite (smaller than the average DS) in Coral Pink, I find it hard to believe that anyone actually would. (Despite my serious lack of belief, Trini informs me that someone she knows actually has such a thing.) Bonus minus (!) points for the "Wii Will Rock You" shtick. Says the guy at VG Cats: "That's what you girls do, right? I heard they're voting now ... scandalous." Indeed.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:00 PM to Say What? )
Divisible by two

If you count the petals on a daisy, there's a good chance you'll come up with a Fibonacci number.

Me, I just get even numbers.

(Oh, there's still time — barely — to assemble a Valentine's Day Mix.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:27 PM to Table for One )
Bubble, bubble: what's the trouble?

Remember all those foreclosure stories on the news? They're always somewhere else, it seems. RealtyTrac, which monitors foreclosures nationwide, reports that the national foreclosure rate for 2007 was up 80 percent from 2006. Meanwhile:

Oklahoma City's foreclosure rate dropped 15.4 percent in 2007 even with increased filings statewide late in the year, RealtyTrac reported this week.

Tulsa's rate — the percentage of households in foreclosure — fell 3.6 percent last year compared with 2006.

Obviously we're doing something right around here. Mortgage banker Lyne Tracy explains:

She said subprime loans were made here, but not enough for problems with them to set back housing as a whole, as seems to have happened in some places.

Questionable and risky borrowing and lending didn't dominate in Oklahoma, Tracy said, because of lessons learned the hard way in the 1980s, when dicey lending and weak underwriting led to twin crashes, in energy and real estate.

Ah, the Beep Jennings era. Apparently we are capable of learning from our mistakes.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:48 PM to Soonerland )
15 February 2008
The end of the world as we know it

Well, not really. On the other hand, my budget might take a beating: yes, folks, it's another Woot-Off.

The best I can hope for is that I've already bought all this crap once before and don't have to do it again.

Evil as a career option

While evil always attracts enthusiastic amateurs, to do it right, so to speak, you really need the grounding of a proper education, to the postgraduate level if necessary. Worthy advice:

Rule 1: Have a passion for evil
So many pursue evil science for the superficial reasons: power, wealth, and infamy. But while those rewards are ignoble, to be a successful evil scientist, you have to follow your heart and find true heartlessness. Most evil graduate programs are in lonely, isolated places — old castles, uncharted islands, under water. Those near populated areas tend to attract the scorn of the local citizens and the attention of authorities. Even the most evil of graduate students can't help but feel a little bit alone and alienated. A true passion for evil will carry you through those rough spots until you can turn the tables on all those bastards who said you were mad.

And make sure that they haven't changed the definitions on you:

Rule 6: Always reevaluate your work for its evilness
This may seem simple, but what is considered evil can change over time. A horrifying Brave New World can become an enticing brave new biotech investment option on the Nasdaq. Make sure what you're doing inspires horror, not IPOs.

So much for Dr. Moreau's® Cosmetic Surgery Shacks.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:37 AM to Almost Yogurt )
The no-slot jukebox

First, you need to know both title and artist: then feed this information into Songerize, and maybe you'll get to hear the song. I say "maybe" because there is a nonzero possibility that the site won't be able to pull it up for you. On my first tries, I got two out of three: Cat Stevens' "Wild World" and Little Peggy March's "I Will Follow Him" came up, while Petula Clark's "Chariot," which is the French song from which "I Will Follow Him" was adapted, failed to appear.

How it works:

Songerize is a simplified interface for the SeeqPod.com music search engine. Think of us as SeeqPod's "I'm Feeling Lucky" button.

To see what this was about, I went to SeeqPod, ascertained that there were results for "Hole in the Earth" by the Deftones, and came back to Songerize to listen. Weirdly, I got the right song at the wrong speed: imagine an LP played at 45 rpm. I'm wondering if maybe this might have been some sort of ruse to throw off the RIAA's robot minions; I pulled the file out of cache, renamed it, and sent it to Winamp, where it played correctly.

I have a feeling I'm going to be playing with this gizmo entirely too often.

(Suggested by David.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:23 PM to Tongue and Groove )
Quote of the week

Tony Woodlief reveals the hidden contents of the Kansas Driver's Manual:

Just as the humble Disciples harvested grain on the Sabbath, there will be times that you need to avail yourself of the right lane. You will need to exit the highway. But there may be other eager travelers, just like you, wishing to gain access to the highway. People in less civilized communities might consider this a moment of friction, when a car attempting to enter the highway finds another car zipping along in the right lane, square in its path. They might demand that the entering car "yield" to the oncoming traffic.

Not in the fair state of Kansas, friend. What right, after all, does the car in the right lane have to continue at such a great rate of speed, when his poor neighbor needs to avail himself of the road as well? The wide, level plains of Kansas reflect our great democracy of citizens, in that none should be considered greater than another. Therefore, good Christian temporarily in the right lane, it is incumbent upon you to slow down, that your poorer neighbor on the entrance ramp might partake of our glorious highway, and as rapidly as possible bring himself to the speed, no greater or less, of his neighbors.

I must also include this comment by Patrice, for contrast of course:

I'm from Oklahoma City and our driving style is similar with one major exception. We don't brake for those entering the highway. The idea of the smooth highway merge is apparently missing from the collective driving consciousness here. Most drivers come to a complete stop at the end of the entrance ramp, especially during rush hour, apparently hoping (usually in vain) for a space large enough to accelerate from said dead stop into traffic flowing at around 75 mph. Those spaces are few and far between, unless, of course, a Kansan happens along who will break and allow the stopped Oklahoman the time and space to access the highway.

Gwendolyn, bless her little microfinished heart, makes her own spaces.

[Slightly edited after the fact.]

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:50 PM to QOTW )
16 February 2008
Vegas? Who needs it?

The NBA All-Star Game, says Sports by Brooks, should be permanently relocated to New Orleans:

New Orleans is the first place the NBA should consider for a permanent home for the game. You can guffaw if you want, but if you think about it for three seconds, it makes perfect sense — even if the Hornets move. The Big Easy needs the business, the NBA needs a nice PR play, and the city has a favorable demographic and facility for the game. Perfect fit.

Besides, consider the alternatives:

We've heard a lot of lip service from the NBA and NFL about helping to rebuild what was once a great American city. The NFL has fallen down on the job (if we see that Saints Visa ad one more time, we're going to spit up), but the NBA has a great opportunity to make a statement and follow through on David Stern’s never-ending rhetorical support of the town.

It's either that or "Hello, Oklahoma City 2011!" How exhilarating.

Now that's an argument I hadn't anticipated.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:11 AM to Net Proceeds )
A simple matter of control

Steve Lackmeyer reports on a smoldering Bricktown issue:

On Tuesday Oklahoma City officials met with Bricktown merchants and updated them on their desire to build a fire station at the east entrance to the entertainment district. Several Bricktown merchants are worried about the department's chosen location because they fear it will result in fire engines racing along Sheridan Avenue, endangering pedestrians on busy summer evenings.

The solution is simple: don't ever have a fire on Sheridan Avenue. Make sure that all fires are on side streets only, and require the fire engines to take the long way round.

This problem solved, City Council is now working with the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman to come up with a way to keep the rain off the Festival of the Arts in April.

Dot huh?

There used to be rules governing these things, but no more, and this is the result:

The original dots for individuals were com, net, and org, short for "commercial," "network," and "organization." It's interesting the way people's choices align with their ideology, when they are free to choose. (Yes, people do choose communism.) If you were a capitalist, you chose dot com without a qualm, even if you knew your site would never make a dime. If you were a lefty, you chose dot org, because you were not comfortable outside the collective. If you were uneasily between, but wanted to think of yourself as non-ideological, you chose dot net.

Which I suppose explains much about me, since I operate four domains, two .com — this one and another oneone .net and one .org.

(I have a fifth domain, currently parked. It's a .com.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:07 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Blatant Schmappery

Schmap offers "dynamic travel guides," either on the Web or through a desktop application. (The latter is handy if you're on the road, away from Net access.) I installed the Oklahoma City package, which was about 4 MB, plus an extra package of photos. The guide has some seriously neat stuff in it: suggested tours, nightlife, submaps of specific areas of town, and breakdowns of restaurants by ethnicity. I can see getting some mileage out of this on future tours. The Web version is similar.

As you might expect, there are minor inconsistencies here and there, but this is probably unavoidable; however, I seem to have contributed to one of them. Under Souvenirs and Local Goods there is an entry for the Route 66 store in 50 Penn Place. The store is described well enough:

Looking for unusual gifts? You'll find them here. Everything from cards, clothing, jewelry, souvenirs and handmade items has to do with Route 66 (but not necessarily with the Route 66 insignia) in this little 50 Penn shop. Some consider Route 66 "the road of life." That attitude is prevalent throughout and no more so than in the recycled road-items such as the picture frames made from old radiators. This store's eclectic collection is definitely worth browsing.

It's also illustrated with a series of photos of Route 66 scenes, one of which is a big sign that says "Route 66 Park." As it happens, Route 66 Park is not actually on Route 66, nor does this sign actually point to the Route 66 store. Since I took the original picture — yes, they asked, and yes, I said they could use it — I feel a certain, albeit small, responsibility for any confusion which may ensue.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 5:31 PM to Dyssynergy )
Phaux phish

So I opened up an email which claimed to be from my bank, telling me I need to change my user ID, and after going through it with the proverbial fine-toothed comb, I determined that it actually was from my bank, telling me I need to change my user ID. I duly logged on through the regular channel, rather than using any links in the mail itself, and sure enough, they want a more-complex logon to suit their New and Improved Security Measures. Sixteen characters apparently qualified as "not enough." I cut it back to twelve and threw in some heavy shift-key action; they didn't complain, so I assume this was adequate.

Shakespeare, of course, anticipated identity theft:

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

Well, okay, he might be enriched a little bit, but not as much as he'd like.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:29 PM to Common Cents )
17 February 2008
Oh, for peat's sake

Yesterday Fillyjonk dropped a term I wasn't familiar with, and of course I kicked into search mode, simply because I hate finding even the slightest crimp in my comprehension, and besides there was nothing about it in Technorati and I like to keep them busy.

Herewith, therefore, a brief bit about paludification:

Development and expansion of peatlands occur via two distinct processes: lake-filling and paludification. Lake-filling occurs in small lakes with minimal wave action, where gradual peat accumulation results in the development of a peat mat that can fill the basin or occur as a floating mat or grounded mat. Succession in lake-filled peatlands typically proceeds from lake to marsh to fen to bog to poor conifer swamp. Paludification is the blanketing of terrestrial systems (often forests) by the overgrowth of peatland vegetation. Paludified peatlands typically develop on flat areas (typically lakeplain) where peat builds vertically and spreads horizontally. The lateral expansion of peatland into forested systems can result in an increase in the water table and acidity and subsequent decreases in soil temperatures, nutrient availability, decomposition rates, canopy cover, growth rates, and seedling establishment. Paludification also results in a shift in species composition, with swamp conifers, especially black spruce, becoming more prevalent. For both lake-filling and paludification, peat accumulates above the water table, isolating the peatland from groundwater influence.

(From a Michigan State University article on poor conifer swamps. There are also, it seems, rich conifer swamps. Life is for learning.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:43 AM to Say What? )
Sand, meet line

Meat Loaf, in the words of Jim Steinman: "I'd do anything for love / But I won't do that." At no point does Mr Loaf specify exactly what "that" is, perhaps a wise move in an era where some people consider the definition of "is" to be in doubt, although the answer is there if you pay attention.

Closer to home, while I am willing to take positive steps toward securing my computer installation, I won't do this:

Continuous Protection provided by CA will keep your computer protected from the latest internet threats by automatically renewing your subscription at the then current renewal price (plus applicable tax). When you buy the download version of this product using your credit card, your subscription will automatically renew each year. CA will notify you by email each year prior to the expiration of your current subscription. Do nothing, and the then current subscription renewal price (plus applicable tax) will automatically be charged to your credit card, and you authorize Digital River, CA's e-commerce partner, to use the contact and billing information you provided for your purchase today to charge each renewal. If you do not want your subscription automatically renewed, you may discontinue Continuous Protection at any time. Your order confirmation email includes instructions above for how to cancel Continuous Protection.

Inasmuch as computer-security packages tend to wear out their welcome rather quickly — especially given the level of mission creep that pervades the industry — no way in hell am I going to let them keep renewing this thing year after year without input from me.

To make matters worse, this is an opt-out sort of thing: if you don't want it, you have to fill in a Web form with all your purchase data and the twenty-character license code. I understand that this is part of their business model; however, I am in no way obligated to help them with their customer-retention goals. I am cheesed enough that they start issuing twice-daily (more if you reboot during the day) warnings thirty days in advance of license expiration, presumably to make one more amenable to the dubious charms of automatic renewal. I'm not buying. As Meat Loaf once said, "It's defective; you can shove it."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:45 AM to PEBKAC )
Forest fires are not an option

The Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission is contemplating allowing limited hunting of black bear in southeast Oklahoma; a bill has been introduced into the House to permit the Department of Wildlife Conservation to sell licenses.

This is not going to happen right away, apparently: quite apart from the time it takes to get the legislation passed, there's an ongoing study of the bear population, which is estimated to be somewhere between 200 and 300.

Research shows the bears are growing in population by about 11 to 12 percent each year, said [Department assistant director Richard Hatcher]. "If we harvest 10 percent per year, it would curtail the growth, but it would not cause a decline," he said.

If the population turns out to be around 200, only twenty bears could be taken by hunters, who would have to check in daily to keep the count updated.

The measure has already passed the House Environment and Wildlife subcommittee. The Humane Society of the United States, pleased by the suspension of bear hunting in New Jersey, did apparently send a representative to testify against the Oklahoma bill. Richard Hatcher says that bear-baiting and similarly-nasty methods would not be allowed during an Oklahoma bear hunt.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:16 PM to Soonerland )
Mahdi all the time

What the Islamists need, suggests Dr Weevil, is a dash of Apocalypse Now:

Barack Obama's weirdly Messianic campaign could conceivably turn out to be useful in the War on Terror. Why not start a rumor that he's the Twelfth Imam? That should freak out Ahmadinejad and his millennarian terrorist buddies. How better to be a 'Hidden' Imam than to arrange to be born in Hawaii, insist that you are not a Muslim, and run for presidency of the Great Satan? An imam can't get much more hidden than that.

I'm doing my part. And besides, the rumors are already being denied, which further advances the meme.

The drug is in the mail

Last month I complained that CFI Care (not its real initials) was pushing one of my maintenance medications into a higher tier, effectively doubling my out-of-pocket expense for it even as it approaches the end of its patent and the retail price drops. (When I started taking this stuff, it was $105 or so for a 30-day supply, of which I paid $30; now it's $65 and I pay $60.)

Their mail-order pharmacy charges $150 for three months' worth, a marginal but measurable improvement over $180, so I had the doctor write up a 90-day order, which I sent to their minions along with their downloadable order form, which contains the following instruction:

Your medication will be delivered to you within 7 to 11 days after you mail your order.

Eleven days after mailing would have been yesterday.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:43 PM to Dyssynergy )
18 February 2008
Strange search-engine queries (107)

Another week, another batch of High Weirdness plucked out of the referrer logs. I don't know which is more alarming: the fact that people actually look for this stuff, or the fact that I've gotten readers from it.

Avoidance in a new relationship:  Isn't it just possible that avoidance is why you no longer have the old relationship?

what do transmission problems sound like:  Open your wallet. Empty it. Listen, and remember.

signs of major transmission problems:  Does your mechanic have a daughter starting college?

Star wars fucking piece of crap trash can yogurt:  Ah, the long-lost Episode VII.

dikembe mutombo tapes penis to leg:  Yeah, but it's his penis, so no big deal.

why is it hard to predict swaths of freezing rain:  (1) Freezing rain requires a specific combination of warm air aloft and a cold layer of air underneath, plus a storm system to induce precipitation. (2) Only a fool takes computer models as gospel truth.

what does driving an infinity [sic] i30 say about the person:  That he probably spent more than he would have for a Nissan Maxima.

what person buys a 7 series bmw, what it says about you:  You can probably afford three Nissan Maximas.

outdoor research trance down sweater hips vs waist sizing:  I can feel the trance coming on and we're not even outdoors yet.

and the rain came in kathy montgomery, dustbury 2.75 million:  Evidently the writers' strike really is over.

town of dustbury:  Somewhere over the rainbow, yet still south of Kansas.

chaz's famous boobs:  Note to self: Get bulkier T-shirts.

According to legend, if on Valentine's Day a goldfinch flies over a girl's head, what does it mean?  Probably nothing. I know lots of girls who read this very page, which features a goldfinch, and it's never over their heads.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:54 AM to You Asked For It )
Where did we park the planetarium?

Rolls-Royce is not about to tell you the price of the new Phantom Coupé, though it's surely higher than the base Phantom sedan's $340,000. (Can a car that costs this much truly be called "base"?) It might even exceed the price of the convertible Drophead Coupé, which runs a piddling $412,000. Still, they'll sell every last one of them in a heartbeat, and two words explain why: "starlight headliner."

Which means this:

Boulevard lighting creates a gentle luminescence, an effect that can be heightened by the optional, full-length starlight headlining, which incorporates hundreds of tiny fibre optics to give the impression of a star-filled night sky. Adjustable to provide a quiet glow or ample light to read by, this beautiful lighting is complemented by discreet directional reading lights in the C-pillars.

It's like having the top down, except, well, it isn't.

Rolls-Royce Phantom Coupe Starlight Headliner

(Click here to embiggen.)

I'm waiting for some enterprising soul to come up with a motorized platform for all these optics, so that they actually move in some pattern resembling the actual night sky. (And, of course, for some other enterprising soul to buy me one of these cars, and to expand my garage so that it will fit inside.)

Let's not rush things

In Britain, elapsed time between first meeting and marriage proposal is two years, eleven months, eight days.

This period presumably includes "six months ... staring at women in a slack-jawed trance of frustrated desire."

What's more, once that's done, the trip down the aisle is still two years, three months and twenty days away.

Which means you've got a five-year-plus window of opportunity to come to your senses, guys.

(Via Fark.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 11:06 AM to Table for One )
Good morning, Madam President

Sarah is wondering if there will ever be a female President.

Short answer: Yes.

Longer answer: But maybe not in 2009, which is not really what she wanted to hear:

Of course, no one is saying that you should select a less qualified candidate over a more qualified one simply because of gender. But as I told my friend — I don't hold out a lot of hope for a "good" President, so if the choice is between Mediocre Candidate #1 (who is male) and Mediocre Candidate #2 (who is female), why can't we choose the female candidate?

For "no one" read "nobody who matters, anyway." And of course whoever survives the Battle of the Mediocrities gets to face Mediocre Candidate #3 in the fall.

But then there's this issue:

I've heard a lot of people say that their problem with Hillary Clinton isn't that she's a woman, it's because she's Hillary Clinton. Maybe that's true, but I wonder if there just wouldn't be some other excuse if another woman was running. I wouldn't know, it's not like I have a basis for comparison or anything.

For the purpose of argument, we will stipulate that Hillary Clinton is a biological female. That out of the way, it must be said that the Senator has some serious negatives: El Rushbo is supposed to have said that she screeches like an ex-wife, a noise which not only annoys once-divorced Joe Sixpack but also isn't necessarily endearing to the present Mrs Sixpack, who is inclined to say things like "For someone who's supposed to be over her, you certainly talk about her a lot." I'd be hard-pressed to find any female officeholder who draws this much vitriol, even Sarah's examples:

Where are the female leaders who don't elicit such a visceral reaction from a sizable segment of the population? Condi Rice? Plenty of people can't stand her. Nancy Pelosi? Yeah, right. People hate her as much as they hate Hillary. There are other female Congresspeople, and even one or two female governors, but I suspect that if they had the visibility of Rice or Pelosi, the reaction to them would probably be depressingly similar.

The thing is, though, distaste for Pelosi or Rice tends to be on policy grounds. The Speaker catches flak from the right for being yet another hack Democratic liberal; the Cindy Sheehan contingent dislikes her for being insufficiently devoted to the task of disemboweling Dubya. Dr Rice is attacked from the left for her seemingly-slavish devotion to the President; she's criticized from the right by the folks who think we should be waterboarding the UN Security Council. Neither of them, however, seems to draw the sort of hatred which one could legitimately call "visceral." And frankly, I'd vote for either of them for President in preference to any of the Three Mediocrities, supra.

In the meantime, I plan to sit back and watch the ceremonial rotting of the fruits of identity politics, convinced that eventually we will elect a woman to the highest office in the land, not so much because she's a woman but because she'll be so much better than any of the other candidates that time around. Given the sheer awfulness of some of the men we've seen, it's just a matter of time.

Addendum: Francis W. Porretto concurs with that last paragraph, but:

Hard to argue with that. However, your Curmudgeon will note that the president is Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the United States. We haven't yet had a female chief of service, much less a female Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, nor a female Secretary or Undersecretary of Defense. The electorate will have to be mighty impressed with a female candidate for the presidency to elect her into supreme authority over all the above.

Britain's "Iron Lady," Margaret Thatcher, faced a piercing test of her suitability as Prime Minister when the Argentinean junta decided to invade the Falkland Islands. She passed with flying colors. But we would have to expect our enemies — and don't kid yourself; we've still got plenty of them — to mount tests at least as trying upon the resolve and political courage of a female president. Consider how many of our enemies are overwhelmingly the devotees of a hyper-masculine, hyper-patriarchal creed and culture.

If Mrs. William Clinton should secure the Democrats' nomination and win in November, whether by fair means or foul, she'll face a test of her willingness to use military means in defense of American lives, American property, or an American ally within three months of her inauguration. Remember that you read it here first.

Not at all an implausible scenario. On the upside, should she pass the test, think of the delicious dénouement: all those testosterone-ridden, socially-retarded yobs bested by a woman? You gotta love it just for the annoyance value.

Speaking of waterboarding

Craig wants to know:

When you envision a Muslim getting waterboarded, does it feel better or worse when you mentally replace him with a Medical Insurance Company employee?

I dunno. I've always envisioned breaking them on a wheel. The insurance guys, I mean.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:30 PM to Almost Yogurt )
19 February 2008
In other news, scissors cut paper

I get the Oklahoman on a plan called "Weekend Plus," which means they throw it to me on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and (so I don't miss the supermarket ads) Wednesday. I seldom see the Monday paper, but Weekend Plus includes Monday holidays for some inscrutable reason, so yesterday I got a paper.

There are two special sections on Monday: the self-explanatory "Sports Monday" and something called "you!" I don't think they mean me. Certainly I don't need to be told this:

Like Brad Paisley's hit country song "Online,” where a nerd on the Internet morphs into a much cooler, taller dude with six-pack abs, many people misrepresent themselves in online dating services.

First off, I object to the characterization of said individual as a "nerd." Merely being a "sci-fi fanatic" and "mildly asthmatic" does not equate to nerdhood: if anything, it speaks of dorkularity far more than nerdity or even geekitude.

More to the point, is anyone likely to suffer Captain Renault-level shock at this revelation?

My own Theory of Commerce is based on the warranty offered in a 1971 catalog (titled Facts about Moose Sex) by the Wretched Mess News of West Yellowstone, Montana, which reads as follows:

We promise nothing in here is any worse than we say it is. So what we stand behind is everything we peddle (watch for us). So if you shuck out your hard-earned money for anything that displeasures you well by George you just send it back within 10 days. And what we will refund is your money in full. Even though it will pain us greatly. Yes.

Try that at the so-called "Best Buy."

Speaking of the Wretched Mess News, they apparently sent a reporter to the Great Chili Confrontation described by H. Allen Smith: this guy.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:54 AM to Table for One )
I have never had problems like this

On the other hand, I get no attention from places like Digg, either.

(Via Sophistpundit.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:19 AM to PEBKAC )
Standards aren't what they used to be

"I am a professional proofreader," she insisted.

There are twenty digits associated with a credit card: sixteen in the number (unless it's American Express), four in the expiration date. Of these twenty, she managed to screw up nine.

And of course she claimed it was our fault because, after all, she is a professional proofreader.

A pox on her. Not a big pox: small will do nicely.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:31 AM to Wastes of Oxygen )
Four letters, starts with F

We're referring, of course, to Ford.

Which, says Daniel Howes of the Detroit News, has an effing problem:

By that I mean the ingrained reflex to bestow new models with names beginning with the letter "F" — Fusion, Flex and now Fiesta, the global subcompact that would have been just fine, thank you, beginning life as Verve and signaling to the world that the One Ford of CEO Alan Mulally is becoming a new Ford.

But, no. It's back to the future — again — with a name that has three decades of brand recognition in Europe but hasn't been seen in the U.S. market since the early days of the first Reagan administration, roughly the last time subcompacts had much market cred.

Which really isn't an issue, since the hardest of hard-core Blue Oval buffs have said for years that European Fords were a couple of orders of magnitude better than domestic Fords, Mustangs perhaps excepted. (Then again, "Mustang" doesn't start with an F.)

I don't remember anyone complaining when Toyota mailed us all those C-cars: Corona, Corolla, Celica, Cressida, Camry. Still, "Flex" is a dumb name for a sport-utility vehicle, since any utility it has would be diminished by any significant flexing. Not even funkmasters, a class not generally known for their vehicular suss, are likely to go for that sort of thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:07 PM to Driver's Seat )
Things are tough all over

This was the banner ad at National Review Online's The Corner a couple of minutes ago:


It's since been replaced, but I have to wonder what got pulled — or what didn't get placed at all.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:24 PM to PEBKAC )
A negative case for Obama

From the point of view of the world's tallest female econoblogger:

[H]ow can I support the man? Well, I wouldn't, if there were better alternatives. But my choices are Hillary Clinton and John McCain, whose goals may be slightly more moderate, but whose instincts are for regulating the hell out of any market outcome they don't like. McCain is not a classical liberal; he's the product of an intensely hierarchical honor culture that he seems to think would substantially improve the rest of us if we adopted more of its values. I have no shortage of respect for the military, and their willingness to place their own lives between the rest of us and war's desolation. But that doesn't mean I think America would be a better place if we had a more martial state. His record bespeaks little respect for spontaneous order and individual freedom. What free-market instincts he evinces seem to have come as part of the conservative ideas combo-pack he bought because it was cheaper than buying the parts individually — all he really wanted was the national greatness and the moderately conservative social structure.

But what about taxes?

As libertarians go, I'm not a tax nut; I think deadweight loss is relatively low, and taxation is among the least intrusive actions the state can take. I'm far more concerned about regulation. The economic cost tends to be higher; it lacks the natural limits imposed by citizen resistance; and it doesn't so extensively accustom the citizenry to taking orders from the state. I have the terrible feeling that for both Hillary and McCain, that last is a feature of regulation, not a bug.

With regard to taxation being "among the least intrusive" actions, I demur: demanding payment more or less at gunpoint is always intrusive, and seriously so. On the other hand, regulation might well be worse, not only because it drives up costs for consumers but because it inevitably results in the system being gamed by those being regulated. (Corporate types embrace the regulations just as soon as they figure out how to turn a profit off them, which never takes long.)

Where, then, does this leave Pope Barack I? He enjoys the considerable advantage of not being either McCain or Clinton, which all by itself may be enough to put him over the top.

20 February 2008
Where are my drugs?

Evidently "7 to 11 days" really means "some time within three weeks."

The alleged ship date was the 18th, which was 10 days after receipt — but "after receipt" wasn't the criterion they gave on the order form. And the 18th was a Federal holiday, which means that if they actually did drop the package off at the Post Office, it sat there for a while.

This could only be worse if I had to order these directly from the government.

Update: Arrived on the 23rd.

But we're really expensive!

Last fall I found this curious statement in a Chevrolet advertisement:

Chevy is now the world's fastest-growing nameplate, with a third of its sales outside the United States. At home, Chevy sells more cars and trucks costing over $35,000 than anybody.

At the time, it seemed to me that this wasn't exactly a selling point.

Evidently the bow-tie boys are still flogging this factoid:

"With the largest dealer network in the United States, Chevy is the leader in full-size trucks and the leader in sales of vehicles priced $35,000 and above. Chevrolet delivers more-than-expected value in every vehicle category, offering cars and trucks priced from $9,995 to $83,175."

Huh? Why's the Bow Tie brand — GM's supposed entry-level, value-oriented division — bragging that they sell the most vehicles in the "$35k and above" category? With the median new car price hovering around $27K, that's a whole lot of high-priced rides the "value division" is selling. Yes, much of what Chevy sells at the $35k and up price point are trucks and SUVs. But the fact that the spinmeisters view Chevy's $73k price span as a virtue reveals the depths of GM's non-existent branding strategy.

If it's non-existent, how much depth can it have?

More to the point, what are they thinking? And will they update this dubious statistic when the Corvette ZR1 shows up with six digits before the decimal on the Monroney sticker?

Either you're the value brand or you're a full-spectrum brand. Period. Ask Volkswagen how it felt to sell in the $70-80k range — or, more precisely, not sell in the $70-80k range.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 AM to Driver's Seat )
Hello, dummy

Proof positive that wealth and wisdom are only tangentially related:

Warren Buffett says he's addicted to bridge. To emphasize just how much, he told CBS News, "You know, if I'm playing bridge and a naked woman walks by, I don't ever see her."

I've played plenty of bridge in my day, and at no point in no hand, even the one where the only way to make the slam was for the singleton queen of trumps to be on my right, was this ever the case.

I am, however, amenable to taking part in a test. Be warned: I have been known to open one no trump with only 15 points.

(Via Fark.)

They have schools for this

In Soviet Russia capitalist Singapore, fish eat you:

Experience a unique and revitalizing therapy, complete with a foot massage at Fish Reflexology, Underwater World. With soft lightings, calming sonance of a river stream and feet relaxed in a warm pool, witness a school of Turkish spa fish swim up and gently nibble on your feet. These adorable little fish consume only the dead skin areas, revealing your smoother and healthier skin — the perfect way to exfoliate and pamper your feet.

I presume other therapies are available as well. "Good morning, Mr Leech, have you had a busy day?"

(Via Popgadget.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:41 PM to Almost Yogurt )
This calls for a subsidy

Correlation, of course, does not prove causation. Just the same:

So I moved, and Fidel Castro slunk off under a porch somewhere to die. Maybe rather than unloading the truck I should move again and see what happens to Kim Jong Il....

If we kept her on the road for thirty days or so, we could replace a lot of world "leaders" at one swell foop.

21 February 2008
Future fabrics

The old pecking order for fabric, says Lisa Armstrong in Harper's Bazaar (March), is being upset by "moral considerations":

Materials that used to be considered down-market — polyester, for instance — are gaining kudos because they usually don't require dry cleaning (an environmental offender) and, coincidentally, pack like a dream. The ever-pragmatic Alber Elbaz, patron saint of modern elegance, has begun using — shock, horror — polyester at Lanvin because, he claims (not without some irony, as he's lined it with silk organza), it's cheaper than cotton, once the proletarian of all fabrics. Environmentally, polyester may well be cheaper than cotton, which, unless it's grown organically, consumes more than its share of pesticides. For similar reasons, jute, which grows in warm, rainy climates, has acquired a kind of utility chic, along with hemp. When I recently met Lauren Bush, she was wearing a cute little puff-sleeved hemp blouse that she'd made herself the night before and that had the sheen of silk, without the conscience-pricking burden of silkworm cruelty. Now, that's modern.

But the real winner in this particular derby is bamboo:

[It] can grow more than three feet a day, making it about as sustainable as something about to be culled gets, and it produces a lustrous textile that's soft, takes brilliantly to dyes, and is eminently breathable.

Still, there's more to green fashion than the seemingly-obligatory air of smugness:

According to Jo Paoletti, an American Studies professor at the University of Maryland, "In the future, smart clothing that monitors and adjusts to body temperature may help us reduce our need for air-conditioning and heating." That means fashion that is truly seasonless. Which means you may never need to buy anything ever again. But when did need ever come into it?

Me, I'm waiting to see if anyone wears white after Labor Day.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:55 AM to Rag Trade )
Duel on the Broadway Extension

The attitude of some people is "As a matter of fact, I do own this damn road." Brad Neese has an unfortunate encounter with one of them:

She sped up, caught up to me and started riding my rear bumper, at times less than half a car length behind me — and at 60mph, that's pretty darn close. She was flashing her lights at me, gesturing wildly through her front windshield (which included many fervent displays of her middle digit) and weaving wildly behind me. As we started approaching slowing traffic, I made my second mistake: I tapped my brakes, hoping she would clue in to the fact that she needed to back off or we would be involved in a fender bender before we knew it. That sent her over the edge.

As we hit the congestion and were then moving at less than half of our original speed and still slowing down, she moved over to the lane to the right of me and slowly passed me. Her gesturing became more crazed and emphatic (which I didn't think could possibly be more demonstrative than her earlier antics — but was). She didn’t speed on, which she could have since she was in such a damn hurry. No, instead, she wanted me to know how wrong I was and how pissed she was. She did her best to match my speed, but was driving just ahead of me so that her rear bumper was about even with my front bumper. Realizing that she was going to try to cut in front of me to slam on her brakes, I kept a very close distance between me and the vehicle in front of me. She kept weaving across the center line between the lanes like she was going to either hit me or force her way in so that I would slam into her when she hit her brakes.

He got a picture of one of her gestures: the classic digitus impudicus. It's a shame he couldn't have snapped the tag on her Civic, so we'd have some way to identify the miserable trollop and steer clear of her until such time as either (1) she learns how to drive or (2) she's compressed into an oblate spheroid as she slams into a Jersey barrier during one of her hissy fits.

Fence? What fence?

Of all the immigration proposals out there, this is definitely one of them:

We stop guarding the US/Mexican border immediately. Any Mexican who wants to come to America may do so, no questions asked. If the number of Mexicans living in the US exceeds the number living in Mexico, then we get Mexico.

Effectively, the Mexican people will have voted with their feet, deciding they want to be Americans, not Mexicans. As we are a country that believes in majority rule, if most of them want it, we give it to all of them. Boom, instant citizenship for everybody, and land annexation for us. At which point they start earning minimum wage and paying taxes. And we get their cacti, tequila factories, and offshore oil fields.

The population of Mexico is upward of a hundred million, so it's going to take a whole lot of movement to achieve this particular, um, equilibrium. The hard part, of course, will be replacing their inept, bloated and corrupt government with our inept, bloated and corrupt government.

Still, it has potential as a Gedankenexperiment:

I'm actually more curious about what would happen (the chaos that would ensue) if we tried to implement this than I am interested in solving the issue.

My own "solution," which involves creating a wormhole at the Rio Grande that would instantaneously transport the undocumented to some random spot in the Southern Hemisphere, is perhaps less problematic, if most assuredly harder to implement.

For all sad words of tongue or pen

The saddest are these: "It might have been."


I've heard stories like this from people before. Guys that see a woman in the vegetable aisle at Shaw's that steal their heart, women engaged in a chance passing in the hallway or on the street. Eyes meet and the soundtrack starts, but instead of Reese Witherspoon and (I am so not aware of pop culture these days, please insert name of heartthrob guy from the movies or TV here) falling madly in love and living happily ever after both people walk on and the chance to fall into the "perfect love" becomes a fleeting memory of what might have been.

I wonder why we never approach "that person." On one hand I think it may have something to do with the "might have been" aspect of the whole scenario. The person you pass takes on an almost mystical quality of perfection. They were made to fit with you and your personality, every aspect of them hand picked to complement you. They never grow old, or wake up in the morning looking like crap, or have bad habits that annoy you, or are ridiculously stupid. They are whatever you want them to be. Perhaps they are better off that way. Better being imaginary, fantasy. On the other I think we are too scared of rejection. The fear that when you approach someone that you thought you made this cosmic connection with would look at you like you're nuts is probably crippling.

I'm getting to the point where I avoid eye contact altogether, just to make sure I don't find myself in one of these scenarios. (Axiom One: "The woman of my dreams does not exist, and if she did, what would she want with the likes of me?")

Still, the fantasy factory grinds out these tales on a regular basis, and few of us are entirely immune to their pull. What's more, they last so long:

[A]lmost 8 years later, I now have a memory that I had forgotten once upon a time. I have a 22 year old man (in my memory I'm 22 too, so it's not weird that way) who lives in my memory as "that guy on the T", the one that could have been, but it was just as well that he never was.

The last time I rode the T, I was twenty. Then as now, Boston could boast a bumper crop of beauties; even then I tried to look away, frustrated that I lacked the nerve to proceed, ashamed that I'd even thought of such a thing, forced to buy the silence of my conscience by arguing that well, it's not like they were paying any attention to me.

Shortly thereafter, I was packed off to a NATO facility in the Middle East to join 497 other guys and two actual women. The odds, I reckoned, were just about the same.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 2:38 PM to Table for One )
And even more R38

Earlier I alluded to the possibility that Nissan might produce a variant of the GT-R supercar to sell at Infiniti dealers.

Jonny Lieberman suggests how this might work:

They could stretch it and bolt on two extra doors, but it would cost about $5,000 more than the existing GT-R coupe. C'est rien: a small price to pay for the knowledge that my Infiniti can whip the snot out of your IS-F, M3, RS-Whatever, etc.

I broached the idea of a four-door GT-R to Trini, who was horrified at the prospect: everybody would be wanting a ride, and, well, you get a car like this, you're entitled to a certain amount of selectivity.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:12 PM to Driver's Seat )
Defining scum

At the start of the 2007 legislative session, Rep. Rebecca Hamilton (D-OKC) introduced a measure to increase the penalties for battering pregnant women; to give you an idea of what she thought of the batterers, she dubbed it the "Scum of the Earth bill." It got through committee with a Do Pass recommendation, but no farther; she refiled it for the 2008 session.

Hamilton explained the measure last year:

"I am proud Oklahoma law allows us to prosecute the scum who kill pregnant women or their unborn children," Hamilton said. "But I am very frustrated that we haven't taken the next step. We need to target these men early enough to save the lives of pregnant women and their babies."

I have no particular problem with this bill, which passed the House on a 95-0 vote today, but I must point out that there's plenty of scum out there, not all of it connected to incidents of domestic violence — which means that next time we have an anti-scum bill, we'll have to be more specific than just "scum of the earth."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:10 PM to Soonerland )
22 February 2008
Who named this shoe?

ChastityThis low-priced pump, or, as the Brits say, "court shoe," is inexplicably named "Chastity," and it comes in fuchsia (pictured) and bronze. Maybe it's the relatively modest (7.5 cm, just under three inches) heel that inspired the nomenclature, but the upper seems awfully, um, shiny to me, which for some reason seems to suggest something else entirely. Shoewawa approves, but also questions the name: "In fabulous, disco-esque glitter, these ... heels are certainly incongruous with the visions of convents and nuns' habits that 'Chastity' implies." I wouldn't go that far with the analogy, necessarily, but I'm willing to bet that Dawn Eden wouldn't wear these, even at a measly twenty quid. Besides, they're just too pointy: they might be useful for trapping insects in a corner, maybe, but they look like you had to lop off a toe or two to make them fit, in the manner of some of Cinderella's more pathetic relatives, and what's more, you elongate a shoe much beyond this, um, point, and suddenly it's transmogrified from beaux arts to Bozo.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:58 AM to Rag Trade )
I want my discs, dammit

Just about anything musical is downloadable in some form or fashion, but Trini would rather have the CD. Not only is it better quality than your garden-variety MP3, generally compressed to within an inch of its life, but it's tangible in a way a mere computer file will never be.

DVDs are compressed too, but they have the same advantage over Web movies, and what's more, they lack this significant disadvantage of downloads:

Suppose you typically do not start a movie until 7:30 p.m., after dinner and the homework have been put away. If you do not have time to finish the movie in one sitting, you cannot resume at 7:30 tomorrow night; at that point, the download will have self-destructed.

This, at least, could be fixed:

What would the studios lose by offering a 27-hour rental period? Or three days, or even a week? Nothing. In fact, they'd attract millions more customers. (At the very least, instead of just deleting itself, the movie should say: "Would you like another 24-hour period for an additional $1?")

But that would make too much sense.

(Via Hitsville.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:06 AM to Fileophile )
Mother Moloch needs our help

Mark Peters identifies "BeelzeHillary" as "along with Beelzebama and McSatan, one of the lucky devils left in the race to be the next hellspawn-in-chief." (Citation here.)

Now if you're persuaded that there isn't a dime's worth of difference between the two Democrats, it perhaps won't bother you that both of them got the same linguistic treatment here. (Truth be told, McSatan doesn't seem to venture more than a quarter away these days.) But "Beelzebama" has the advantage of sounding almost apt, hence funny, which "BeelzeHillary" does not. I'm soliciting ideas for a suitable alternative term for the Senator from New York.

The blessing of the beer

Right out of the Rituale Romanum, via Niall Mor:

Bene+dic, Domine, creaturam istam cerevisae, quam ex adipe frumenti producere dignatus es: ut sit remedium salutare humano generi: et praesta per invocationem nominis tui sancti, ut, quicumque ex ea biberint, sanitatem corporis, et animae tutelam percipiant. Per Christum Dominum nostrum. Amen.

The embedded +, of course, represents the Sign of the Cross. Translation:

Bless, O Lord, this creature beer, that Thou hast been pleased to bring forth from the sweetness of the grain: that it might be a salutary remedy for the human race: and grant by the invocation of Thy holy name, that, whosoever drinks of it may obtain health of body and a sure safeguard for the soul. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Notice the resemblance between the Latin "cerevisa" and the Spanish "cerveza." Also note that this is not the traditional Lager Prayer.

I admit, though, either seems to border on overkill if what you're serving is [fill in name of horrid swill that barely deserves to be called beer].

Second-generation jackalope retainer

Megan Wallent and family have been vacationing in France, and in their hotel bathroom they found this, um, piece of equipment:


I have no idea what this contraption might be. She says that it looks like the vertical arm should pivot downward through an arc of however many degrees, but it doesn't actually move. As close as I ever came to a French rest room was a tuvalet in Istanbul's (not Constantinople's) Atatürk International Airport, then known as Yeşilköy Airport, which had signage in Turkish and French, and my French at the time was less pathetic than my Turkish; apart from the fact that I remember nothing about it, I can't really offer any suggestions. One commenter at Megan's site reckoned that it might be a support for wheelchair users to facilitate movement off and on the pot, as it were; this seems at least plausible, anyway.


This week's Carnival of the Vanities was dubbed "in the end," not because it's coming to an end, but because it finally showed up after all. (We hope Mr Dodge is feeling better.) It also had nothing to do with the departure of Fidel Castro, although 271, as it happens, is a Cuban prime.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:20 PM to Blogorrhea )
23 February 2008
Quote of the week

So we have all these half-assed, even quarter-assed, candidates for the highest office in the land, and we wonder: how in the hell did this happen? The answer, my friend, is looking back at you from the mirror:

The underlying problem was identified centuries ago at the Constitutional Convention.

The problem was and is democracy. The theory of democracy holds that the cumulative opinions of the whole populace will produce a synergy little short of magic, with a legitimacy only a deeply vetted consensus can claim. It's useful to remember that alchemy was a contemporary notion. In practice, the informed can be thought of as a negligible contamination of the uninformed, and the uninformed are probably outnumbered by the misinformed and the disinterested, if taken together.

A subgroup of the misinformed gets its misinformation from Big Media, and thinks itself informed as a result. I propose we designate them "disinformed."

(From the Woodpile Report, suggested by Francis W. Porretto.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:59 AM to QOTW )
The tipping point approacheth

I have so far managed to resist the blandishments of the Nintendo Wii.

Repeat: so far.

But now there's this:

File this one under "didn't see that coming," but it looks like Nintendo's planning to add Commodore 64 titles to the Wii's Virtual Console library.

Virtual price tag:

Games will reportedly cost 500 Wii points, with the first two already confirmed as Uridium and International Karate.

I think I'm just going to pretend I didn't see this.

Every year it gets tougher

The award of this year's Bookseller/Diagram Prize is fast approaching, and once again, it's going to be a tricky call. The prize goes to the book with the "oddest" title, though oddity, like so many other characteristics, is in the eye of the beholder, usually right next to a beam.

This year's finalists:

  • I Was Tortured By the Pygmy Love Queen, by Jasper McCutcheon
  • How to Write a How to Write Book, by Brian Piddock
  • Are Women Human? And Other International Dialogues, by Catharine A. McKinnon
  • Cheese Problems Solved, P. L. H. McSweeney, ed.
  • If You Want Closure in Your Relationship, Start With Your Legs, by Big Boom [pseud.]
  • People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond: From King Canute to Dr Feelgood, by Dee Gordon

You may cast a vote for your preference at theBookseller.com. I'm leaning toward People who Mattered in Southend and Beyond, though I admit to be wavering a bit: sometimes you feel like Canute, sometimes you don't.

Last year's winner: The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification, by Julian Montague.

(Courtesy of Emalyse.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:30 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Prolonged stimulation

Not that I'm going to turn down a check for $600, but there might just be a better way, says Dalton Conley:

What if instead of giving rebates we helped create an investor society by seeding universal investment accounts? This would not only pump cash into the economy, through the slightly more indirect route of investment, it would also help us correct some of the near-fatal flaws in our long-term economic landscape.

The recent slowdown in gross domestic product growth is only a symptom of recession, not the cause. While there are many things to blame for the current crisis — most notably the subprime mortgage mess — one factor that has received little attention is America's low savings rate. In 2005, net private savings in the United States were negative. In other words, we were spending money that we didn't have, chipping away at our national wealth.

How this might work:

The simplest approach would be to seed universal mutual fund accounts for low-income Americans. The best way to do this would be through a so-called refundable tax credit deposited directly into a special investment account for each taxpayer. In future years, the government could contribute an additional 50 cents for every dollar the taxpayer deposited into this account. Think of it as a universal 401(k), but one that could be used not only for retirement but also for things like a down payment on a house, college expenses or unexpected health costs.

Such investment incentives would do more than just help stimulate business growth by providing new capital. They would fundamentally change taxpayers' lives. Some research suggests that asset-holders behave more responsibly and are more civic-minded than those without wealth. After all, they have a stake in the future of the economy and their community.

I suggest the following refinement: if you overpaid your Federal taxes for the year, as I did, by $400 or so, allow the option of having the refund plus any governmental matching funds, or any portion thereof, deposited to this investment account.

If this sounds like a variation on a theme by Hillary Clinton, it's certainly on a smaller scale: Dr Conley is not proposing a full-fledged (or even semi-fledged) retirement system, but a simple savings vehicle which can, but need not, be used for retirement income. But both these plans acknowledge the same fact: we've gotten out of the habit of saving money.

(Via Jeff Shaw.)

Which blew the game wide open

HeatherRadish can probably beat me at Scrabble:

In the third game, I played against an older and elegantly dressed woman. About ¾ through, I had ?AEILOT (the ? is a blank tile) and all I could see was ELATION, but there was no place on the board to hook it in. But there was an F with a lot of spaces behind it, and FELLATIO got 61 points. My opponent challenged, since she was unfamiliar with the word, so we got the tournament director, who is the friend I'm staying with, who insists he's never met me before as he looks it up in the official word list (and of course, the commotion draws attention from people nearby who have finished up their games).

The word is on the list, of course — all the dirty words are allowed in tournaments. And you can hook an N onto the end.

And she did display the proper attitude:

I'm so embarrassed. But hey, 61 points.

Exactly. Although I shudder to think what would have happened had the premium squares been distributed slightly differently and the play had scored sixty-nine points.

24 February 2008
Cabs forward

The City of New York is looking ahead to new and improved taxicabs:

The Taxi of Tomorrow project is a unique opportunity to explore upgrades to the existing NYC taxi fleet by learning about possibilities for a more appropriate vehicle that reflects the needs of its diverse stakeholders — passengers, drivers, owners and NYC residents.

The desiderata for the new vehicle:

  • meets highest safety standards
  • superior passenger experience
  • superior driver comfort and amenities
  • appropriate purchase price and on-going maintenance and repair costs
  • smaller environmental footprint (lower emissions and improved fuel economy)
  • smaller physical footprint (with more useable interior room)
  • universal accessibility for all users with a goal of meeting ADA guidelines, (wheelchair accessible), and
  • iconic design that will identify the new taxi with New York City

It's a tall order, to be sure. And the new cabs will almost certainly not be cheap. Then again, a single NYC taxi medallion will set you back over $400,000 [link goes to PDF file] all by itself, so the cost of the actual taxi is pretty much incidental.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:18 AM to Driver's Seat )
Shattering the stereotype

Or maybe not. Here's Spungen:

Just for a moment, flush the Internet, television, and movies out of your head. Now, think about the IT guy in your office. Is he hideously unattractive? Pathetically unathletic? Completely unpersonable?

I'm going to bet no. I'm going to bet he's OK-looking. He's young(ish). He's probably funny. He has to have some charm, because he's got to deal with a lot of people and their problems. He's got a wife or a girlfriend. He dresses casual-hipsterish. He may have tattoos. He may even bike to work, because he doesn't have to dress up. He's the iconoclast in the office, because he doesn't have to conform to the same rules.

Inasmuch as the IT person in my office is — well, you can see where this is going already.

First paragraph: Strike "hideously," but leave the rest.

Second paragraph: Not OK-looking, unless your vision is as poor as mine; not young(ish); marginally amusing; utterly devoid of charm; neither wife nor girlfriend to report; casual but not hipsterish; not about to bike ten and a half miles to work; good at smashing the occasional icon.

And there's this:

I know there are plenty of men working in technology who have very poor people skills. I see them on the Internet. But actual IT guys are a different story. I think they're undeserving of the underdog sympathy the Internet has lavished upon them.

I must have been in the wrong line during this outpouring of sympathy.

Fortunately for the office, there's a second half to this department, the half that actually fixes things when they break, and she's much more appealing. Neither one of us has a tattoo, though.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 9:42 AM to Table for One )
Constriction ahead

Bill Cosby's childhood bed, he tells us, was surrounded by invisible snakes, whose purpose was to make sure the poor kid didn't climb out of bed at night. Inchoate as they were, they apparently did the job; few creatures on God's green earth induce quite as much fear as snakes, whether they're in your neighbor's woodpile, on a plane, or on the front page of the Oklahoman.

And apparently that newspaper story was calculated to scare, suggests Alan Mutter, since there's nothing else to it:

I did have an interesting conversation with zoologist Gordon Rodda of the U.S. Geographic Survey, one of the scientists whose research formed the basis for the story. Here is what he said:

"The USGS undertook a study of what climates in the United States theoretically could support the spread of a growing population of non-indigenous Burmese pythons that have taken up residence in the Florida Everglades. The areas warm and humid enough to support the non-poisonous constrictors could include Oklahoma, depending on how global warming shakes out over the next 100 years.

"But, if the implication in the newspaper story is that it is going to happen next Thursday, that's irresponsible," said Gordon. “It is a very dramatic way they portrayed it."

Not to fault reporter Josh Rabe, who didn't sex up the story in the slightest; it was an editorial decision to set it on the front page, above the fold, five columns wide, with a headline somewhere between misleading and malicious. The only angle they missed, it appears, was the urgency of warding off a python invasion in the vicinity of the Ford Center, lest we lose our one and only chance at a resident NBA team.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 12:48 PM to City Scene )
Backstage at the Grendel Opry

Ken Tucker reviews the Director's Cut DVD of Beowulf in Entertainment Weekly (#980, 2/29/08), and finds himself lecturing a filmmaker:

[Director Robert] Zemeckis says in a making-of that this film has "nothing to do with the Beowulf you were forced to read in junior high — it's all about eating, drinking, killing, and fornicating." To which I can only respond, Oh, you poor deluded baby boomer: Bob, do you think young people in 2008 have an Old English epic poem on the syllabus? American literacy is lucky if junior high schoolers get a stray Hemingway short story into their diet of crappy young-adult novels.

Zemeckis is fifty-five, which is close to my age. I read Beowulf in eighth grade. To my knowledge, neither of my children have seen it. The poem, I mean.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 4:16 PM to Almost Yogurt )
Fight for your right to stay home

I once got an award from an employer for not missing any work in five years. How times have changed:

Coast Mountain Bus Company has lost a human-rights complaint brought by employees who say they were discriminated against for missing too much work because they were chronically sick, disabled or injured.

The [British Columbia] Human Rights Tribunal ruling called it discriminatory to place workers with high rates of absenteeism into Coast Mountain's so-called "attendance management program."

The ruling [link goes to PDF file] is here. Ezra Levant reads the ruling so you don't have to:

With some of the worse offenders — see paragraph 189 for the woman who missed 118 days of work or paragraph 237 for the employee who missed 98% of work days — the bus company tried such brutal tactics as asking meekly for a doctor's note.

The bus company was fined for such inhumanity.

And paragraph 712 completes the farce:

With respect to those individuals who have been placed at Level 3 of the AMP since six months prior to the filing of the complaint, I order that CMBC pay the following in respect of injury to dignity feelings, and self-respect.

Got that, folks? Hurt feelings are actionable. So here's the answer to my chronic datelessness: move to Canada. If she turns me down, I can sue.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:22 PM to TANSTAAFL )
Democrats erase red ink

The AP is reporting that the state Democratic Party, mired in debt in recent years, is now back in the black:

"We are now debt-free," state Democratic Party chairman Ivan Holmes said at the party's annual convention in Oklahoma City.

Holmes said the party climbed out of debt by adding about 90 new members to its "Rooster Club," signifying a donation of $1,000 apiece. That club had 17 or 18 members last year, but now has 109, Holmes said.

Three years ago, the party was nearly half a million dollars in the hole; in addition to finding new donors, they've cut expenses markedly, and to help matters, Holmes is drawing no salary.

Perhaps surprisingly, no mention of this has been made yet on the party's Web site or blog.

25 February 2008
Strange search-engine queries (108)

Some people have this site bookmarked. Some people take the feed. And some people stumble in here because they were searching for something inexplicable. This feature is dedicated to that third group, who makes it all possible.

santa feeding animals ephemera:  This might explain the lack of competitiveness at this year's Reindeer Games.

is she just not interested?  Not in the least.

"as the new york times goes, so goes":  "John McCain," often as not.

word meaning codger:  "John McCain," often as not.

hotest chicks on Earth naked and you can see boobs and private on their body and does't block them:  And I thought I was picky.

windshield damage variations wealthy vs. poor:  I imagine the poor tend to have greater damage, because they can't always afford to fix stone chips immediately, thereby running the risk of a full-fledged crack.

unreasonable superior, snow ice storms, can't drive to work:  On the other hand, they have just as good a chance of winding up in a ditch as you do.

"what do women think" erections in office:  They think you're a boor for bringing it up.

girls who like wearing pantyhose and revving engines:  You can be absolutely certain they keep their distance from the exhaust manifold.

idildo:   Migod, Steve Jobs thinks of everything.

marxism and laughter on the 23rd floor:  Neil Simon was a big Marx fan. Especially Chico.

when i go into full erection my penis bends in some points easley:  And other points not so easley, I surmise.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:01 AM to You Asked For It )
Step up to - huh?

Where's the heel?I know several women who for various reasons won't, or can't, wear heels, and this is not the answer. I mean, it looks like a moderately-competent Photoshop effort instead of a real shoe, but no: it's a platform with no actual heel, designed by Antonio Berardi, and priced to sell at a mere £1800.

The official explanation:

"The shoe has a bigger platform sole which stretches back further than normal and gives support under the arch of the foot. When walking though, you have to put your toe rather than your heel down first and you cannot wear them for very long. They are not dangerous because you would have to lean quite far back before you fell over."

I have to agree: you cannot wear them for very long. Then again, I don't think you could wear them for very long even if they had an actual heel: with the thicker platform, you'd be 5½ inches off the ground.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:05 AM to Rag Trade )
A model of restraint

The Ford Center schedule for this fall is coming together, and there's one word conspicuous by its absence: "Sonics." General manager Gary Desjardins explains:

"We don't know what's going to happen. We still have to conduct business. If the Sonics come, certainly we'll end up having to make some changes. But right now we still have an obligation to book the building and schedule events."

And the primary tenant, in the absence of the NBA, is the CHL's Oklahoma City Blazers, although the Blazers' lease specifies that any NBA team gets first crack at any particular date.

Mayor Cornett isn't worried:

"Are we going to be able to host 41 NBA games on a fairly short notice? Yes. Absolutely. There shouldn't be any conflict between the NBA and the Blazers. Hockey and basketball teams coexist all over."

On balance, this seems to be the proper stance: there's no guarantee that the Sonics will be here at all, let alone for the fall of '08, so it's business as usual until we hear otherwise.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:42 AM to City Scene , Net Proceeds )
So that's how it works

Mike McCarville is following this Tulsa World story:

Legislation to close a loophole in state law that allows some elected officials to retire with pensions bigger than the salaries they earned on the job has survived two committee hearings. But it is still questionable that a bill to abolish the loophole will become law this session, since numerous attempts in previous years have failed.

Republican lawmakers are trying to get the enhanced pension benefits abolished.

This is the, you should pardon the expression, money quote:

Lobbyist Dave Herbert, former state senator who represents county officers at the State Capitol, said it is only right that they get the enhanced benefits. "You suffered through a crappy old government job so you could have a decent pension when you retired," he said.

Ah, now we see the motivation inherent in the system.

Disclosure: I think I used to be in Herbert's Senate district, back in the days of the CrappiFlat™.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 1:54 PM to Soonerland )
How cool they are

James Lileks has unearthed something called the Minnesota Weather Laughing Towel, a mid-twentieth-century Chamber of Commerce project which was intended, one supposes, to make people feel better about the sub-arctic climate in and around the Twin Cities.

Minnesota Laughing Towel

(Click here to embiggen.) I reply to the "Remember 1936?" bit as follows: "Remember 1911? In Oklahoma City on November 11, it was 83° above. On November 11, it was 17° above." Not so extreme, but only eight or nine hours apart.

Oh, and 1936? We had three consecutive days of 110° and over: the 10th, 11th and 12th of August.

I'll concede the "beautiful girls," though. Yowzah.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:37 PM to Weather or Not )
26 February 2008
Tuesday is trash day

And I decided to blow it off, as it were. For one thing, Big Blue is only one-third full. For another, the winds howled last night until late — the Will Rogers station reported gusts over 50 mph — and a trash bin upended is way low on the list of things I need. Besides, putting it out this morning would have required me to roll out of bed before 6 am, which is a violation of all that is holy. (The truck usually arrives around 6:10, even on Tuesdays following Monday holidays.)

There's always next week. I don't generate so much waste that I need to have it hauled off every seven days without fail.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:59 AM to Surlywood )
Tending to the Fortress of Solitude

This is the sound of "not gonna happen":

Being in the never, ever mode the other night at dinner, I found myself confessing to my children that I most likely won't remarry. My son repeated my words back to me and seemed perplexed and consumed in thought over such a thing. I told him that perhaps I would change my mind, however after living so long alone, I delight in my privacy, revel in the quiet, the permission to do whatever, whenever and to leave my shoes all strewn about.

I know this feeling well, or at least better than I probably ought to admit. Which is why I can understand what's next:

Alone time and quiet ranks so high on my scale, that the only way I would think of trading it for a relationship would be stumbling upon that guy whose compatibility ranking knocks me right out of my shoes.

Otherwise, why bother?

There's just one problem: how will she be knocked right out of her shoes if said shoes are all strewn about?

And is knocking one's socks off considered sufficient?

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:04 AM to Table for One )
Don't get cwt

Franz Kafka's Garage (back page of Car and Driver) fields a tricky question:

If a half-ton pickup neither weighs, carries, nor tows a half-ton, what exactly makes it a half-ton pickup?

Their response:

That's kind of like asking why you're reading the April issue of Car and Driver in March — we're not entirely sure. Sometime, long ago, half-ton pickups could haul half a ton, and magazines came out during the month written on the cover. The pressures of competition resulted in earlier newsstand dates and more capable pickups.

Inasmuch as I was reading the April issue of Car and Driver in February, I suspect Kafka's gotten himself out of sync again.

And it gives me an opportunity to bring up once again the old Mad publishing schedule — last detailed five years ago — which flew in the face of everything everybody claimed to know about periodicals.

Today Mad comes out once a month, but you know founder William M. Gaines would never have countenanced such a thing. Comics in general tended to be pulled before their issue date, and Mad indeed had begun its existence as a comic, but Gaines viewed by-the-book scheduling, insisted upon by the Postal Service if you expected to keep your second-class mailing permit, as he did everything else: something to be avoided if possible, and if not, to be screwed around with. In the Gaines era, Mad, officially, was published "monthly except February, May, August and November"; after Gaines' death, but before switching to mere "monthly," the statement was amended to "monthly except bi-monthly for January/February, March/April, July/August and October/November." Both of these phrases neatly obscured the truth of the matter: a new issue of Mad appeared every forty-five days, a period for which there is no standardized description. What's more, despite Kafka's raving above, Mad went to a lot of trouble to make sure that no issue was ever on sale during its official month of issue.

On the other hand, Kafka's next stupid question drew an answer almost snappy enough for Al Jaffee:

My mom's car is breaking down, it has no air conditioning, and my sister wrote on the ceiling and tore on it, too. What does she do?

Kafka's advice:

First off, no more wearing pants in the car. That should fix the air-conditioning problem. It will also help your mother feel liberated and free-spirited, which should take her mind off the damage to the ceiling. A lack of pants could prove troublesome in the event of a roadside breakdown, though, so for a long-term solution, she should probably pay for the needed repairs or buy a more reliable car.

Emphasis added, mostly because my spouse at the time once attempted to make that selfsame point to me.

Let's not assume anything just yet

They said it, not me

Whoever's in charge of headlines probably should have read this a second time.

(Clipped from statesman.com. Via Jason Toon.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:06 PM to Say What? )
Generosity unbounded

Ron Littlefield, mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, has issued the following proclamation:

WHEREAS, it has come to pass that the heavens are shut up and a drought of Biblical proportions has been visited upon the Southern United States, and

WHEREAS, the parched and dry conditions have weighed heavily upon the State of Georgia and sorely afflicted those who inhabit the Great City of Atlanta, and

WHEREAS, the leaders of Georgia have assembled like the Children of Israel in the desert, grumbled among themselves and have begun to cast longing eyes toward the north, coveting their neighbor's assets, and

WHEREAS, the lack of water has led some misguided souls to seek more potent refreshment or for other reasons has resulted in irrational and outrageous actions seeking to move a long established and peaceful boundary, and

WHEREAS, it is deemed better to light a candle than curse the darkness, and better to offer a cool, wet kiss of friendship rather than face a hot and angry legislator gone mad from thirst, and

WHEREAS, it is feared that if today they come for our river, tomorrow they might come for our Jack Daniel's or George Dickel,

NOW THEREFORE, In the interest of brotherly love, peace, friendship, mutual prosperity, citywide self promotion, political grandstanding and all that,

I, Ron Littlefield, Mayor of the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee,

Do hereby Proclaim that Wednesday, February 27, 2008 shall be known as

"Give Our Georgia Friends a Drink Day"

To show he's serious, Mayor Littlefield is dispatching a truckload of bottled water to Atlanta.

I can't wait to see what McGehee thinks of this.

We get results, maybe

From about a year and a half ago:

[Y]ou can get quite a luxe-ish Prius if the check you write is big enough, and I keep wondering when Lexus is going to get its own version in the $35-45k range.

A few custom jobs have trickled out, but finally Toyota is taking my advice, kinda sorta:

Toyota will present two dedicated hybrid models at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit: one a Toyota and the other a Lexus.

It's no surprise the Toyota will be the Mark III Prius. It's the Lexus that will be the shocker: a lifestyle wagonlike vehicle based on the Prius platform and drivetrain.

If these come in at the right price — like I said, $35-45k — they'll sell like (whole-grain) hotcakes. Count on it.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:21 PM to Driver's Seat )
27 February 2008
Initiative noted

A scary quote, to be sure:

"My older daughter is getting married," he told me. "So she's making sure to have her wedding before we go to trial, so I can walk her down the aisle."

That's Paul Jacob, whom you may remember from such classics as "No, Really, We Expect Everyone Who Circulates a Petition to Actually Live Here." He's speaking to Attila Girl, and you really should, as the phrase goes, Read The Whole Thing.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 6:54 AM to Blogorrhea )
Never mind the waterboard

I'll talk, I'll talk.

Just don't play these anymore.


Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 AM to Dyssynergy )
Turn up the heat on those frogs

It's the Pre-Gouge, says the Fat Guy:

Today, I drove to Victoria, TX for a day-long meeting. When I left home at 7:30 am, all the way down the gas prices were 2.99 per gallon for your basic unleaded. On the way back, at 4 pm, the gas prices were 3.09 for your basic unleaded.

Now, what could have possibly happened in that intervening 8 hours? Terrorist attack? Death of a major global leader? Steve Jobs announced his retirement from Apple? Well, sorry but pretty much nothing happened.

A lot of market activity for nothing happening. But then, there are bigger deals to come:

You can read all the chicken entrails you want in the producer price level, of all goods all across America, going up 1%, and there's no way in hell that the Smiley [Texas] Valero gets 3% more per gallon of unleaded the same damn day.

No, that's what's called "softening up the dummies" for the big jump come Spring Break.

I note with no small amount of dismay that the Valero at 63rd and Kelley is now asking $3.14 for your basic unleaded.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:13 AM to Family Joules )
Once in a lifetime, I hope

Cue Talking Heads: "You may ask yourself / How do I work this?"

When I bought this shotgun shack house, it had already been fitted with a middle-of-the-line security system with battery backup and a remote transmitter which was set up to trip or reset the alarm as needed, or to open or close the garage door.

Last month the remote quit working. Assuming it was a battery issue, I betook myself to Batteries Plus, which in a couple of seconds came up with what looked like a sawed-off AA that somehow was rated at 12 volts. I squeezed it into the none-too-capacious space provided, and ... nothing.

In a rare display of prescience, I had located and downloaded copies of the appropriate manuals some days before, so I knew the procedure for setting the communication protocols. It didn't make any difference, though; the remote refused to talk.

After some further Net work, I found a place that actually sold these things, for twenty-five bucks a pop, and snagged a pair. And the first one actually responded to the correct commands, if you reversed the button order from what was specified in the manual. I read over the stuff again, looked at the schematics, read it again, and decided that the manual was actually wrong, based on the following premises:

  • The reversed button order corresponds to what you would expect if you were keying the commands on the wall panel;

  • If the remote processor, which is separate from the main unit, had been hooked up backwards, the wall panel wouldn't have been able to initiate the add-remote function at all.

The second one? It's still in the box. I don't feel like pressing my luck. (Same as it ever was.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:04 PM to Surlywood )
Microsoft is re-fined

Windows Server 2008 was supposed to have launched today, but right now Microsoft's off to the ATM:

The European Commission has added another €899 million ($1.35 billion) to the fine Microsoft must pay for failing to comply with the [EC's] original anti-trust ruling in 2004. The fine covers the period from the 2004 decision to 22 October 2007. The decision found that Microsoft was charging competitors too much for interoperability information for its servers.

How much were they charging, anyway?

Microsoft reduced its royalty claims for licensees from 3.87 per cent to 0.7 per cent in May 2007 following European Commission objections. This was finally reduced to 0.4 per cent in October 2007.

This fine, added to the original fine of €497 million, brings the total to €1.35 billion: a shade over two billion dollars.

The complete EC press release is here.

Trini has some sort of MS certification — "Troubleshooting Vista Without Nuclear Weapons" or something — so I asked her what Microsoft should do. "Develop a drain cleaner," she said. "They're going to need it themselves soon enough."

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:40 PM to PEBKAC )
28 February 2008
Inveighing he did go

I couldn't possibly have read everything written yesterday about William F. Buckley, Jr., who passed away at his Connecticut home at the age of 82, but I'm glad I happened upon this piece by Rick Perlstein, which deserves to be read in its entirety, but from which I excerpt a few paragraphs anyway:

I first met Bill in 1997. When I contacted his assistant to ask for an interview for a book I was writing about Barry Goldwater, Buckley was immediately accommodating, though I had very little public reputation at the time. He was, simply, generous with people who cared to learn about conservatism. I sat with him for a good half hour in National Review's offices on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, and he answered every damned question I asked, in searching detail, and then answered a few I hadn't even asked. He also opened his papers to me at Yale University without hesitation. Would that all conservatives honored these ideals of intellectual transparency.

The Goldwater book is Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001).

When [the book] came out, he was generous in his praise of it — again, acknowledging all the while that we were ideological adversaries.

First came a very nice column. He called me "an ardent enthusiast for the America Left." Damn straight. Then he sought out my friendship. "I reproach myself" — I'll never forget that impeccable Buckleyite locution — for not reading the book earlier, he wrote in a personal letter. What a deeply sensitive, humane thing to say to a 31-year-old first-time author: an apology for not affording him his immediate attention.

The passage from my book he reproduced quoted a "liberal" reporter on Goldwater: "How could such a nice guy think that way?"

Why did I love WFB? Because he never would have asked such a silly question. The game of politics is to win over American institutions to our way of seeing things using whatever coalition, necessarily temporary, that we can muster to win our majority, however contingent — and if we lose, and we are again in the minority, live to fight another day, even ruthlessly, while respecting our adversaries' legitimacy to govern in the meantime, while never pulling back in offering our strong opinions about their failures, in the meantime. This was Buckleyism — even more so than any particular doctrines about "conservatism."

Nice people, friends, can disagree about the most fundamental questions about the organization of society. And there's nothing wrong with that. We must not fantasize about destroying our political adversaries, nor fantasize about magically converting them. We must honor that some humans are conservative and some humans are liberal, and that it will always be thus.

And some of us will be all over the political map, and quite unapologetic about it. There's room for us all. Mr Buckley knew that; Mr Perlstein knows that; I suspect it's occurred to you more than once.

Is it March yet?

I seldom have anything nice to say about February, given its position near the end of winter when you're pretty much fricking sick of the cold, the necessity of having to think about its pronunciation — there's an R in there you're not allowed to elide for some reason — and the fact that right in the middle of it is Unattached People Just Might As Well Kill Themselves Day (thanks to Fillyjonk for the nomenclature).

So I appreciated this so much more:

Everyone had that kid in high school. You know, the one that was teased for being geeky and really short. Of course he eventually grows up and his formerly geeky ways manifest into some sort of genius. And now he's a millionaire and ready to hand out personalized cans of whoop ass to those who teased him mercilessly for being short. He shows up each year for impromptu reunions, still short but now with his very own yacht and super enhanced ass-kicking mechanism.

February is like that kid. Always and forever short but now prepared to wreak havoc on every poor soul who once uttered how useless and possibly annoying the entire month seems to be. February obviously didn't stop to think that maybe people have been mean to it because it goes around being all violent and kicking people in the head once a year.

It is apparently not true, as we were once told, that February achieved its one distinction — shortness — due to the egos of a pair of Caesars who wanted their months, dammit, to have a full 31 days. My own thinking is that all the other months should have 32 days, 31 being a difficult number to work with, and eleven times thirty-two being 352, this would cut February down to a mere two weeks or less, a boon to everyone with the possible exception of the guy who has to sell ad space in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 8:00 AM to Almost Yogurt )
Rhymes with "flake-o"

Because Tamara K. says it so much better:

On this date in 1993, the BATF raided the facilities of a fringe religious group outside of Waco, Texas on the suspicion that some of the 150 firearms on the premises might fire more than one round with a single action of the trigger without having first paid the appropriate $200/gun federal tax.

(As a PS: Only 150 guns and 8,000 rounds of ammo? I thought those folks were supposed to have an arsenal or something.)

Not what you'd call one of our finest hours, and worse, it reputedly provided motivation for malingerers.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:26 AM to Dyssynergy )
Best historical marker ever

And the most advanced, too:

Hogflume memorial

(From Gareth J. M. Saunders by way of Miss Cellania.)

Twisting in the wind

Denmark's Vestas Wind Systems is the world's largest manufacturer of wind turbines, and while competition is increasing, so is their business:

Despite the Feb. 27 [stock] slump, Vestas shares are up 90% over the past 12 months due to growing demand for wind energy that could drive 20% annual growth for the industry from now until 2020.

Which, one hopes, will bring them enough money to figure out what induced the brake failure that caused this 60-meter turbine in Aarhus to disintegrate. [Link includes video.]

(Hat tip: Mel.)

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:09 PM to Dyssynergy )
A trifle less serenity

After five years of coaxing Zoom-Zoom out of a willing but underpowered Mazda, I found the switch to a more placid sedan a bit off-putting at first; when a car doesn't break a sweat, so to speak, you start wondering if maybe it's a bit lazier than you'd hoped.

The answer, in Gwendolyn's case, is no. As received in the summer of '06, she was fast enough, if not overwhelmingly so, and the 350 lb of extra weight, compared to her predecessor, didn't seem to put her at a disadvantage. Still, the Mazda handled a bit more crisply, despite a slightly more jittery ride.

Things wear out, though, and last fall I spent medium bucks for Dunlop high-performance tires, mostly because they'd worked so well on the Mazda. The SP Sport A2 Plus was apparently being phased out, so I bought the newer SP Sport Signatures; they were gratifyingly grippy, but the ride was rocky, and after a couple of rebalancings and such we arrived at the heart of the matter: the old dampers just didn't damp all that well anymore.

A set of fresh factory struts, installed by fresh factory-trained techs, would run close to two thousand dollars. This struck me as excessive, and eventually I addressed myself to Monroe, which sells zillions of aftermarket shocks, and who, I discovered, had come up with the struts for the contemporary Nissan Altima, suggesting to me that they might have some idea about how to hold up the corners of other Nissan products. Of their three lines, only the topmost, the Sensa-Trac, is offered for the Maxima and its Infiniti sister; it's nearly as pricey as the factory strut, but can be installed by mere mortals.

The first few days were alarming: "My God," I said in my best David Byrne voice, "what have I done?" Every imperfection in the road — and if you've ever driven in Oklahoma, you know to expect one about every three inches or so — seemed to be coming up through Gwendolyn's leather-covered steering wheel.

But then it dawned on me: when she'd first arrived, I'd thought her steering was a trifle numb. Now I'm getting actual road feel. The interaction of the Dunlops (which are V-rated and presumably have stiffer sidewalls than their H-rated brandmates) and the new struts (which, at the very least, recover faster than the old ones) has sharpened her responses considerably, with perhaps a slight sacrifice in ride. The tires tend to nibble around the bumps, the sort of thing that makes you wonder if maybe the front end is shot; yet she tracks perfectly straight, even on horrid examples of highway like I-35 through the near-northeast part of town, even on those ghastly mornings when it's been raining and the temperature is stuck at 29 or so. And there's less body roll: taking the 44 East-to-35 South ramp at my usual 60 mph no longer shoves me toward the door.

No, she's still not a sports car. But I no longer have any justification for coveting the pricier Touring version: it probably doesn't get around any better, and for some reason (bigger wheels?) its turning circle is four or five feet wider.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 7:46 PM to Driver's Seat )
29 February 2008
Let us now praise Ferdinand J. Smith

And let us also say thank you to HBO, for actually uploading a decent copy of this legendary promotional bumper, with music by Mr Smith, to YouTube.

How legendary, you ask? I used to set the VCR one minute early, just to make sure I didn't miss this bit. There were times when it was better than the movie which followed.

For more information about HBO, log onto HBO.com. (Hey, fair's fair.)

That Tottenham sound

DC6, actuallyIt took long enough, but the Dave Clark Five are finally being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — though poor Mike Smith, DC5 vocalist and keyboard player, won't make it to the ceremony: yesterday he died at a hospital outside London. He was 64 and had been in poor health for some time; a fall in 2003 had left him partially paralyzed. (Before that, he had kept up his performing schedule; Dawn Eden reports from onstage.)

The Five were perhaps the most serious rivals to the Beatles during the early days of the British Invasion; they appeared 18 times on The Ed Sullivan Show, and famously got about the States in a plane of their own — though not this one, which I worked into the cover art for a DC5 compilation I made for home and road use. Dave Clark was the drummer, and he contributed some major thump to the recordings, but the true heart of the DC5 sound was Mike Smith's voice, supplemented occasionally by his Vox Continental organ. There was an effort to promote the Five as having a Tottenham sound, as distinguished from Merseybeat up in Liverpool, but not a whole lot came of it. Besides, DC5 singles were easily recognizable anyway: they were quick — only one of their big hits, a 1967 cover of "You've Got What It Takes," grazed the three-minute mark — and they were punchy. (Sample for a limited time only: "Try Too Hard", from 1966, on which Smith sings and plays a simple but memorable piano bit. It runs a whole 2:08.) "The music was fun," said Smith in a 1988 interview. "It had no message. It was just supposed to be about fun and good times." And good times they were.


This being the 29th of February, a date you don't see that often, Andrew Ian Dodge has chosen to designate this week's Carnival of the Vanities as "COTV Leap Year," which seems only fair, although I must point out that he actually posted it on the 28th.

My first Leap Year was 1956, and I don't remember if we celebrated it at all. In my current frame of mind, which doesn't have much kindly to say about February, the hardest I'm likely to party is to treat myself to some fast food, utterly ridden with calories. In the expectation thereof, here's a list of the 272 worst.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 10:49 AM to Blogorrhea )
We got our own ghetto

Megan McArdle poses a conundrum:

Suddenly it occurred to me to wonder why clothing for ... er ... the larger man ... is almost always found bundled into "Big and Tall" stores. My father, who is quite slender, doesn't need extra accommodation around the waist; he just needs clothes that are long enough to cover his endless inseam. I wouldn't think there would be much overlap between the customer base.

The even deeper puzzle is why this is only true of men's clothing. The only women's clothes I can think of that are sold jointly to tall women and plus-size women are pantyhose (and I wish they weren't, as I need stockings that are longer, not wider).

Actually, this particular bit of collective ghettoization benefits me, due to my peculiar configuration: included in my 1.83-meter height (five foot twelve, as Tam would say) is a whole lot of torso and not a great deal of leg, so I go for the Tall shirts and merely Big pants. My inseam, God help me, is a meager twenty-eight inches, probably a foot shorter than McArdle's, and she's only two inches taller than I am. Then again, I have almost enough of a waistline to get on the waiting list for acceptance as a Minor Planet. (All right, who's the wise guy who called me an asteroid?) Between Casual Male XL and the King-Size catalog, I can pretty much cover everything that needs to be covered, as it were.

Permalink to this item ( posted at 3:21 PM to Rag Trade )
Oh, hi, Brad

That was Brad Henry on the phone just now, telling me how important to the state it was for the city to land this NBA team.

Well, actually, he didn't tell me, precisely: his prerecorded voice played into my answering machine. To the Governor's credit, he kept his message to a brisk 28 seconds, insuring he'd get through the whole spiel before the machine rang off. To his discredit, whoever sent this for him did so through a number not identifiable by Caller ID, which I consider a breach of protocol.

The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

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