1 March 2008
I'm trying to imagine a Laser Plow
Space is precious in Japan, which has five times the population of Texas in about half the area. It stands to reason, therefore, that if anyone built a working farm in a bank vault, it would be the Japanese:
Though walled in from sunlight, weather and geology, it's unbelievably verdant. Tomatoes, lettuce, strawberries, and other fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers and herbs, are grown in an area about 1,000 square meters. There is even a terraced rice paddy.
A thousand square meters is about the size of my yard, so this must be one heck of a bank vault. Some background:
The hi-tech vegetable patch, called Pasona O2, is located in the Otemachi Nomura Building in the Tokyo district of Otemachi, where many major corporations have their headquarters. The building, which has 27 floors above ground and five below, used to be home to Tokyo Life Insurance and Resona Bank (formerly Daiwa Bank). But these firms have left, and office space in the building is now leased to several different companies. This project was launched by the temporary staffing agency Pasona Inc. When Pasona moved its headquarters to this building, it decided to lease the second basement floor formerly the Resona Bank vault and turn it into a vegetable garden.
In the absence of sunlight, the plants are sustained by artificial light from light-emitting diodes, metal halide lamps, and high-pressure sodium vapor lamps. The temperature of the room is controlled by computer, and the vegetables are grown by a pesticide-free method in which fertilizer and carbon dioxide are delivered by spraying. Hydroponics, in which plants are grown in water and hardly any soil is used, is one of the methods of cultivation used in the facility. Technical assistance in setting up the indoor farm was provided by Professor Masamoto Takatsuji of Tokai University, who is researching such projects, which are known as "plant factories."
All this high-tech stuff, they hope, will attract young people to agriculture. Maybe it will work. I have no idea whether you can keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen the Ginza, but I have to admit, I like the idea, even if my own approach to growing stuff is decidedly low-tech.
A smaller aspect of the Big League City
[NBA players] talk about a massive spectrum of things, of course, from AAU to Zydrunas Ilgauskas. But sprinkled in there among the things players talk most frequently you hear it again and again is the Cheesecake Factory.
Nowadays, if ever someone tells me that they bumped into an NBA player out in public, I like to stop them mid-sentence and guess: "Was it at the Cheesecake Factory?" It can make you look like a freaking genius, because once in a while, you'll be right. (If that doesn't work, I ask if it was at P.F. Chang's. Those two together account for a ridiculous percentage of player sightings nationwide.)
And, well, we already have both a Cheesecake Factory and a P. F. Chang's.
Quote of the week
Sunday morning: Five people arrive at my hotel room. One to coat my fingernails with death-proof acrylic, one to sand my hooves, one to make sure I get the dress on properly, one to prep my face for the merciless HD telecast, and one to make my self-cut, home-dyed hair look pretty. At one point, they're all on me at once, assessing their respective sectors with identical furrowed brows. Then the dress comes on, and it's slit so high you can see my utilitarian flesh-colored thong. Unfortunately, this is the Oscars and not a stripper convention. (I've been to both!) The stylist's assistant begins stitching the slit while the makeup artist frantically sponges concealer onto my scraped knees and bruised calves. I am not merely flawed; I am one giant flaw that has manifested itself as an ambulatory being.
I have no doubt that other attenders and contenders have to endure much the same thing. However, I can't imagine them telling the story quite this way; surely none of the red-carpet regulars would describe a dress, even a dress from Dior fercrissake, as "the Frock of Overexposure."
Wreturn of the wrens
Originally the operation at 42nd and Treadmill consisted of half a single building, but over the years it's expanded to fill up the rest of that building plus one formerly-unrelated structure next door. (We're not recession-proof, but we're close.)
Some years back, house wrens conducting reconnaissance in the area discovered that the underside of the second building's full-width metal awning would accommodate their particular nesting style with ease, and gradually they took over the place, defending the premises with great vigor and carefully disassembling the nests before migration, lest some interlopers take over.
A few birds had been wandering in over the last couple of weeks, but yesterday they were back on site in full force. About a dozen were perched on the edge of the building like small grey gargoyles, standing watch; others were gathering straw for nest construction; still others occupied the bank of trees along where the curb would be if we had a curb, presumably to make sure no one else got the idea of settling in this zone.
This is, I assume, pretty much the inevitable result of adaptation to one's habitat: these are urban birds with attitude to match, the stereotypically-meekest dove exhibiting pigeon levels of intransigence. I've seen conflicts in my own back yard before: blue jays ruled the place for a year or two, then moved on, but paid a visit the following spring, only to be given the Evil Eye by newly-resident robins. Even the local crows, which have a considerable size advantage and a reputation for deviousness, make a point of steering clear of the wrens.
One more banana
Today's assignment: burn up a gift card at the supermarket. Difficulty: I need fruits and vegetables, which don't always come neatly prepackaged and/or prepriced.
Last time I was faced with a dilemma of this sort, I wound up sacrificing $1.60, so this time I vowed to do better, and to do the math in my head. The problem, of course, comes with the unofficial scale in the produce department, which is accurate to approximately zero significant digits.
And I did better, using up all but thirty-nine cents. It occurred to me that if I'd gotten one additional banana I might have come closer, though two might have put me over the mark. Yes, it would have been simpler to go over and pay the difference in cash, but that's not how I roll.
There's a service called Gift Card Giver which takes these unused balances and puts them to good use, but they require that you mail in the actual card, and I am for some reason disinclined to use a 41-cent stamp to send off a 39-cent gift card.
Maine, meanwhile, is considering a measure that would mandate cash refunds on balances of $5 or less. A representative of the Hannaford supermarket chain argued before the state's Judiciary committee that such a rule "would negatively affect the economics of the gift card program," which qualifies, I think, as duh-worthy.
2 March 2008
Clunky yet cute
"Don't you think the world needs more pink/orange/red shoes?" asks Phlegmfatale, and well, it's hard to make a serious judgment call from this angle (damn camera phones anyway), but the color scheme is kinda neat she also has a pair in "dove gray/periwinkle/oxblood" and the shape is playful without being completely absurd. It's Gorgeous by John Fluevog, and, well, let the wearer tell the tale:
This is another pair of 3" heels I can stand and walk comfortably in all day long. I highly recommend, if you don't mind a shoe that's a little on the clunky side. I really should pick them up in black myself, while they're still available. I keep waiting for him to do a new run of phosphorescent shoes...
The heel is a bit unconventional-looking, I suppose, but there's a lot to be said for support, and as Fluevog says, this shoe "adds a half inch to your height without looking too chunky," which is something you can't expect from the all-too-ubiquitous platform. And the idea of keeping the design fresh with limited-edition color schemes somehow appeals to my sense of continuity: after all, I once strolled into a New Balance store and requested the most current version of an existing shoe I'd gotten used to.
We come to Barry Obama, not to praise him
eBay item: "You are bidding on a framed genuine FAKE birth certificate of Barack Hussein Obama. Did I say that his middle name is Hussein? I did? Okay. Here is the fun part. Because it is apparently against the rules to use the middle name of HUSSEIN, the winning bidder will have the opportunity to choose a new middle name to replace HUSSEIN. It will be inserted in the FAKE certificate. We can begin using the name, and then we won't have to worry about being arrested by the DemocRAT PC police for using the actual real name HUSSEIN."
Top Ten likewise-unacceptable middle names for Barack [ ] Obama:
We got smarts
I admit to having had a qualm or two about the teensy smart fortwo, inasmuch as the sort of high-density traffic mazes in which they'd seem to flourish hardly exist out here on the Plains.
Now that they've arrived here, a happy owner reports:
We just took delivery today. And we are very impressed. I live in Oklahoma City and the Smart dealer is located in Tulsa, which is about 100 miles. The drive back home was perfect. The car had no problem with keeping up with traffic, which on the turnpike speeds average 75-80mph. 80mph was not an issue to keep up. When we originally test drove the car during the tour, the cars seemed a little bouncy and jerky. Our cabrio is very solid and smooth. Top up on the highway, there is very little wind noise. Top down is stupendous. And the premium sound system ROCKS!!! All in all we couldn't be happier with our purchase. And for the days driving, after taking it on a tour to friends to show off, we averaged 44 mpg. WOOHOO! One other thing to point out, the attention the car gets is insane. I felt like I was in a parade on the highway. I have never had so many people waving and smiling and pointing. Some even snapped pictures.
The automated-manual transmission, however, is not your standard slushbox by any means:
This is not a typical automatic that we are used to in the US. If you drive it like one, the shifting is sluggish. However! If, when it comes time for it to shift, let off the gas just a little and it's quite smooth. In other words, you drive it like a typical standard transmission, you just don't have a clutch to push in. My dealer instructed on this at delivery and it took a little getting used to. But after a full day of driving you don't even think about it.
Still, every car has its quirks, and this particular quirk doesn't seem severe. Traffic on the Turner does move routinely at around 80 mph posted speed limit is 75 and I figure if the sheer volume of eighteen-wheelers didn't prove intimidating, smart should have no trouble selling a bunch of these little darbs here in the Sooner State.
Don't wait to be led
Folks, we have a serious perception problem in this country. A bunch of people seem to think we have "leaders" instead of "representatives". Bosses and not employees.
Folks, we hired them. We pay them. They work for you, not the other way around. If you are sitting around and waiting for leadership from this collection of do-gooders, used car salesmen, and former Student Body Treasurers, you might as well wait for Santa while you're at it.
These are the people we hire to schlep out our legislative trash in Washington, DC because we're too busy being, you know, productive to handle scutwork like that. We've given them a metaphorical Roto-Rooter and asked them to keep the navigable waterways clear; handed them a calculator and asked them to keep an eye on the national checking account. And, like a sixteen-year-old left home with a simple list of chores who instead gets into the liquor cabinet and invites her friends over for a party, look what's happened to them.
Similarly, P. J. O'Rourke: "Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys."
Folks, if you want "Political Leaders" you're living in the wrong country; the closest provision we have for a "Political Leader" in the Constitution is the guy we hire to mind the Army & Navy and shake hands with foreigners for us. This is the country where we're supposed to be leading ourselves, not waiting for solutions to be handed down from on high. Your representatives are supposed to be representing you, hence the name. They are not the legislative equivalent of grenades, where you pull the electoral pin, lob them towards Washington, and hope they go off the way you expected.
During those days when I was expected to be able to know how to hurl those little pineapples, I learned: "Once you pull the pin, Mr Grenade is no longer your friend." As evidence of this, each and every day the Federal Register accumulates more and more shrapnel.
Of course, there are those who don't wish to lead themselves, and will wait for solutions to be handed down. A small percentage of them become clever, thereby becoming the most dangerous of creatures.
Not the sort that lures men to their deaths, but the sort that's supposed to motivate you to prevent your own. The sound came roaring in at 7:49, followed closely by the howling of gale-force winds. A tornado warning was issued for the area around State Fair Park, about three miles south of here; while no actual funnels were seen, there was enough of the telltale rotation on the radar to justify going into hiding for a few minutes. The warning has just expired for my part of town, but continues on the east side as the storm tracks eastward. We continue to get lots of wind and rain.
Update, 7 am: The office, of course, is flooded.
3 March 2008
Strange search-engine queries (109)
Ho-hum: another week, another perfunctory examination of the logs, another dozen or so goofy search strings. But you're used to it, right?
database long island women: Is this a database of women on Long Island, or a database of island women with, um, length?
yogurt psychological description: At least nobody's accusing it of being multicultural.
floor wax bob vila: Why wait until he's on the floor? Wax him now.
robot tattoo: And you said you'd never need that extra set of drill bits.
"who needs brains when I've got these": Trust funds, right?
what is the reason customer unsatisfied with PROTON: Some people just don't take a positive charge very well.
matt drudge "not on radio": And they say there's no God.
How the hell do I program this keyless entry remote for my 2003 Park Ave.? You're asking me? Do I look like I own a Buick? (Don't answer that.)
my Scion Dealer insists I am loaded: Maybe it's because you keep showing up with a keyless-entry remote for a Buick.
spirits watch us masturbate: At least they don't distract us.
how to modify 2007 honda accord driver seat to accomadate [sic] someone with long legs: Um, slide it back, maybe? Unless you're Nadja Auermann.
moist turtle's gilbert gottfried: This is the first I've heard tell of Gilbert Gottfried having any effect on amphibians.
cooked squirrel testicles: At least they aren't raw, though I can't address the question of moistness.
Cruex Jacob disease mad cow disease: Um, that's Creutzfeldt. Cruex is what you use for mad jock disease.
Guess the weight
With steak prices well into double digits, one local supermarket is fighting back with unit pricing: they have single ribeyes and New York strips, smallish ones, for a flat $5. I had them weigh one for me: just under nine ounces. This works out to around $9 a pound, which is two or three bucks cheaper than the stuff in the display case, and it's a reasonable size for a single person; the ones they usually cut on site tend to be 12-14 ounces, a bit more than I need at dinner time, and end up costing around ten dollars apiece. I'm not so adept that I can guess the weight of any given cut on the first try, but I'm not doing the strictest portion control either, so a little bit of variation either way won't bother me greatly.
There are, often as not, better deals to be had by buying the so-called Family Packs; but I have never quite warmed to the necessity of unwrapping the big package and rewrapping each individual piece separately.
VW to dial 911
German carmaker Porsche wants a majority share in Volkswagen. During an extraordinary meeting on Monday, the company's supervisory board gave the green light for the acquisition of shares. The company's chairman, Wendelin Wiedeking, has been given authority to start the steps necessary to get regulatory and antitrust approval for the share purchase. "Our aim is to create one of the strongest and most innovative automobile alliances in the world, which is able to measure up to the increased international competition," Wiedeking said.
In the past two and a half years, Porsche has gradually built up a 31-percent voting stake in VW Group, a process helped by the European Union's finding that Germany's so-called "Volkswagen Law," which prevented more than 20 percent of the company of being acquired, thereby protecting the interests of the German state of Lower Saxony, which also owned 20 percent, was inconsistent with EU rules.
There are, of course, strong historical ties. Dr Ferdinand Porsche, perhaps influenced by a design by Josef Ganz, is credited with the creation of Volkswagen's Beetle; the Porsche family still pulls the strings in Stuttgart. Wiedeking has brought billions of euros into Porsche's coffers, mostly by broadening the product line and annoying the hell out of Porsche purists.
Depending on whether you're counting revenues or employees, VW Group is between 15 and 20 times the size of Porsche, so this is a case of Jonah getting a big fish dinner. I have to wonder if maybe, somewhere down the line, Ford might be swallowed up by Mazda.
Wear your scare quotes with pride
Seen in the Border Mail by Ray Dixon, this odd little advertisement:
Mr Dixon attempts to explain:
What is a "genuine" nudist?
Someone who not only likes to parade around in the nude in front of other people, but who is also not just trying to show off his or her prowess. Think of the not so well-endowed, they MUST be genuine nudists to go around showing off what they haven't got.
What is the ad really selling?
I suspect Mr Dixon is giving us the Trans-Hemisphere Chain Pull with this latter, but I have to admit, I'm amused by the concept: wouldn't that just frost NBC's, um, bottom line?
The next non-album album
As expected, it's from Nine Inch Nails.
Ghosts I-IV, a collection of 36 instrumental tracks, is the new release from the no-longer-under-contract Trent Reznor, and he's offering it in a variety of formats:
NIN has supplied five extensive ways to get Ghosts I-IV. For free you can download the first nine tracks, known as Ghosts I. A $5 fee gets you all 36 tracks as well as a 40-page informational PDF as a digital download. A $10 two-CD set is the third option. Also available is a $75 deluxe edition package that includes the audio CDs, a data DVD, Blu-ray disc, hardcover slipcase and more. Finally, the band offers a $300 ultra package that includes everything the deluxe edition as well as four LP180 vinyl discs and two Giclee prints all signed and numbered by NIN frontman Trent Reznor. The latter two packages won't ship until May 1 and the ultra package is limited to 2500 pieces. The three CD packages also include an immediate digital download of the entire album.
The download, incidentally, comes in your choice of three flavors:
The band is also throwing in liner notes (a 40-page PDF file) plus wallpapers, icons, and similar effluvia.
I may have to grab this myself, though I'm wavering on whether I want to wait for the CDs or spend half as much on just the FLACs. (Should I need MP3s, I keep a LAME encoder handy.) If you're keeping track of Halo numbers, this is number 26.
Update: I'm ordering the CDs. Ship date is 8 April; shipping charge is $6.99.
Further update: The downloadable stuff didn't, due to a server error; I've left an email to the proprietors.
Welcome to March
And when there is March, there must be Madness, right?
Ogle Madness is our very own gimmicky spin-off of the NCAA March Madness tournament bracket. Basically, we took 65 of Oklahoma's best and brightest "celebrities," and seeded and placed them into four regions. Starting Monday, we will post match-ups and let our readers vote on which celeb they want to advance to the next round. The celeb with the most votes advances, while the loser is sent home. The tournament will continue until the championship game on April 21st, where Oklahoma's top celebrity will be crowned.
And so it goes, exactly the way you'd think it would. Which leaves one question unanswered: why did they put "celebrities" in scare quotes?
The answer lies deep within the bracket diagram itself. [Link goes to PDF file.] There's no particular argument with TV eye candy and fantasy figure Amy McRee as the first seed in the Midwest, and she should easily dispose of #16, whoever it is who picks out Bob Mills' sweaters; but for some reason #5, yet another example of TV eye candy this one a guy has been put up against an #11 seed who not only lacks instant recognition, but who isn't even slightly presentable. I have reference to, um, me.
The other #11 seeds look like this:
East: Tall Paul
West: Grant Johnston
South: Aubrey McClendon
Things which bother me:
Things which don't bother me:
The voting for the 64th slot begins Wednesday.
4 March 2008
Promising title of the day
You gotta admit, it takes a pretty strong committee to craft a reform bill that's really, truly dank.
Legal, but who cares?
Back in the Pleistocene era, McGehee was getting a lot of traffic from people who were hoping to find raunchy pictures of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, who were then (1) underage and (2) pretty close to household words.
Now that the Dualstar Damsels are neither jailbait nor in demand, you'd think this sort of prurient interest would have died down. Hugh Marston Hefner (let's see if anyone complains about his middle name) begs to differ:
After understandably courting Lindsay Lohan to pose for Playboy following her NY Mag shoot ... the robed golden oldie has now set his sights on none other than the collective 100 pound twosome that are Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen. Having previously begged the then-plumpish-sized twins on their 18th birthday, Hef is still under the impression that "the twins are every young man's fantasy," according to a source at Ace Showbiz. Call us crazy, but last time we checked, women with the bodies of 12 year-old boys who dress like grannies ready to hop the bus to Atlantic City don't exactly set men's pants ablaze.
I know from nothing about young men's fantasies, but there are people, Hef among them, who believe with all their flinty little hearts that there is nothing sexier than twins, even if said twins look like the Smith Brothers (Trade and Mark).
Unless, of course, it's triplets.
The Birdman will fly once more
The Times-Picayune is reporting that the New Orleans Hornets are prepared to sign Chris "Birdman" Andersen, dismissed from the NBA two years ago for drug use.
Commissioner David Stern is expected to lift the ban today; if so, and Andersen passes the physical, the Bees, who have first rights to his services, will have 30 days to offer him a contract equivalent to what he was making before the suspension: $3.5 million a year, prorated for the rest of this season. If they don't, Andersen will become a free agent and can negotiate with any other team.
The Hornets can definitely use a big man the Birdman is 6-10 to spell center Tyson Chandler, so look for this deal to come down pretty quickly.
Update: It's official. If all goes well at the physical, he'll be in uniform as soon as he gets a new number: #12, which he used to wear, now belongs to Hilton Armstrong.
And now there's smishing
Or, perhaps more precisely, SMiShing, which is a phishing attempt using Short Message Service, a protocol used for text messages on cell phones. It's not new, exactly, but anything that works once will draw lots and lots of copycats once word gets around.
Fox Channel 2 in St. Louis ... reported that consumers in the St. Louis area have been receiving text messages on their cell phones that appear to be coming from Arsenal Credit Union. Instead, these messages are being sent by identity thieves. The messages ask readers to provide information about their bank account, debit card and credit card numbers, so Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon has put out a warning to consumers.
Earlier this month, the Web site of the Washington State Office of the Attorney General added information about three new identity theft scams one involving text messaging. Here's what happened: A text message in Spanish was sent to the cell phone of an elderly woman. The message provided a phone number and asked that she call them immediately, so she did. She was told she had won something and was asked for her personal information to confirm her identity. The woman's daughter was in the room and suspected foul play, so she ended the phone call.
Smishing needs to be smushed, pronto.
Getting the ball rolling, as it were
Turnout in Ye Olde Precinct looks to be pretty good for the "NBA tax" vote; I cast ballot number 558 at a quarter past five. I have no idea how the neighborhood actually voted, though the "Big League City" signs outnumber the "No Sales Tax" signs by a factor of seven to one. I think it will pass, though not overwhelmingly so.
Update, 9 pm: With about three-quarters of the precincts in, Mayor Cornett figures 60-40 is good enough to win, and maybe it is, though it still seems like jumping the gun to me. Then again, he presumably knows which precincts are still out, and I don't.
Update, 9:30 pm: Okay, he's right and I'm wrong. With everything in, though technically still unofficial, it's 62-38.
Teaching Mnemosyne to lie
Ray Davies, in his guise as a Muswell Hillbilly, came up with this gem: "Take me back to those black hills / That I have never seen."
The Kinks didn't sell a lot of records with this premise, but people have followed in Davies' footsteps just the same:
In Love and Consequences, a critically acclaimed memoir published last week, Margaret B. Jones wrote about her life as a half-white, half-Native American girl growing up in South-Central Los Angeles as a foster child among gang-bangers, running drugs for the Bloods.
The problem is that none of it is true.
Really? None of it?
Margaret B. Jones is a pseudonym for Margaret Seltzer, who is all white and grew up in the well-to-do Sherman Oaks section of Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley, with her biological family. She graduated from the Campbell Hall School, a private Episcopal day school in the North Hollywood neighborhood. She has never lived with a foster family, nor did she run drugs for any gang members. Nor did she graduate from the University of Oregon, as she had claimed.
This calls to mind Mary McCarthy's dismissal of Lillian Hellman: "Every word she writes is a lie, including a, an, and the."
Apparently Ms Seltzer was unclear on the concept:
You know, the rules of a memoir are pretty simple. If an event actually happened to you, you can use it in a memoir. If it didn't actually happen to you, you canít. Because then it's fiction, you see. Which is different from a memoir. No, really; you can look it up. I'm not sure why this has suddenly become so difficult for everyone to process.
So if I started such a thing, I'd have to leave the following out:
...my battlefield commission during my Army days; the actress (not yet a legend) who joined me for lunch one day in Hollywood and stayed for a week and a half; the work of fan fiction in which I play a minor operative of Karl Rove's; the incident that got my real-estate license suspended indefinitely; the time I caught (so to speak) a fly ball with the side of my head (only minor injuries); and, of course, meeting Morgan Fairchild.
Oh, wait. Not all of those are fake. Still, if you see something like this under the name of, oh, G. Pruitt, be suspicious.
5 March 2008
"You know, the trouble with My Little Pony is, well, she isn't slutty enough."
(Via the incensed Princess Sparkle Pony.)
Look them up in the Atlas
The Atlas Life building at 415 S. Boston in Tulsa, now an office building with 35 percent occupancy, will be transformed into a 120-room Courtyard by Marriott hotel.
Maurice Kanbar sold the 1922 building to Missouri-based SJS Hospitality for $1.7 million. The location is spiffy: between the Mid-Continent Tower and the Philtower. The conversion will cost about $15 million and should take about two years.
Always make it look official
I got yet another flyer from a mortgage company looking to drum up some refinance business, and they had this humongous data box on the side that contains "Property Value Est." and "Housing Zone." The "Value Est." is $91,683, which is $2800 more than the County Assessor came up with last year and about five grand short of this week's Zillow Zestimate. Conclusion: plausible. The "Housing Zone" is a four-digit number, which by some strange coincidence is duplicated in the address label: it's the +4 part of the nine-digit ZIP code. Conclusion: trying too hard.
Speaking of jumping the gun
Last I looked, the SuperSonics were still in Seattle, right?
So how is it that the newly-designed NBA.com sub-site for the Sonics mentions Seattle only in the title bar of your browser?
Geez, why didn't they just Photoshop out the KeyArena logo on the floor while they were at it?
Addendum: They've added a new picture to the rotation, with a fellow (appears to be Damien Wilkins) with "SEATTLE" woven into his waistband. Still, there's no other reference to the town; this could just as easily have read "CALVIN KLEIN."
Nothing died to make these shoes
Unless somebody fell into the machine where they melt down the old shoes into new material, or something like that. This is "Desire + Triton" by Melissa, and it's made from some plastic material called Melflex, which is not your grandmother's PVC by any means:
Melissa Shoes are made from MELFLEX plastic, a patented, hypo-allergenic, recyclable, and extremely flexible PVC. The shoes are totally cruelty free and devoid of animal products. The Brazilian-based company is totally rad in its recycling of 99.9% of factory water and waste, and they also go the distance by recycling overstock styles into next season's collection. Even better? Melissa Shoes employees are paid above average wages and benefits.
I suppose I could argue that 99.9 percent might be technically only partially rad, but I suspect it's far better than the industry average. And since the shoe is "extremely flexible," it's also presumably free of cruelty to your feet unlike, for instance, this atrocity. The price of $58 is also at least reasonably uncruel.
6 March 2008
How low will this cap fit?
As I've mentioned a few times already, we have a property-tax assessment cap in this state: the assessed value can go up by a maximum of 5 percent per year, regardless of actual market value, unless there is a change in ownership or a substantial change in the property itself.
Senator Jim Reynolds (R-OKC) has been pushing for a lower cap, and this is as close as he's gotten so far: the Senate, by a 25-22 vote, passed Reynolds' Senate Joint Resolution 59, which would create a ballot measure to set the cap at 3 percent.
Now I never met a tax cut I didn't like, even if it's not really a cut but a slowing of the rate of increase, but this perplexes me somewhat:
"This legislation came straight from my constituents who are begging for relief from increases in property taxes," said Reynolds. "This is an especially burdensome tax for many low-income and older people in my district and throughout Oklahoma."
Reynolds said the five percent cap on property value assessments was supposed to limit yearly increases, but it has not worked in the way property owners thought it would.
Weird. It's worked exactly the way I thought it would.
What I really want to know is this: what am I going to do with a whole two percent? On my somewhere-below-$100k house, this is about a buck ninety a month. I'm spending that much on a frickin' basketball team.
Not that I'd turn it down, but I'm wondering if maybe it might be more pertinent to Reynolds' stated position to legislate some exemptions for those who are feeling the pinch more than I am.
The March of the Carnival of the Vanities goes ever on, at least for the next few weeks or so, when presumably the April of the Carnival will begin. I'm looking forward to it, if only because of the random statistic thrown out by the National Weather Service's VHF radio service this morning: of the five months with the greatest recorded snowfall since Oklahoma City meteorological records began, three of them were March. (Thanks, guys. We're under a winter weather advisory even now.) And frankly, I'm tired of getting up every morning to freezing temperatures around 273 degrees Kelvin.
This way lies madness
Been there, done that, had the T-shirt altered:
57% of gamers had engaged in gender swapping, and it is suggested that the online female persona has a number of positive social attributes in a male-oriented environment.
I could have told you that and I'm not even a gamer.
Paging David Gates
"And Aubrey was her name,
Um, what? Not a girl, you say?
Oh. Never mind.
It is hard for me to imagine a piece of spyware or malware that puts as many spam messages on the screen, exhibits so many bad behaviors, or is so hard to remove as Norton itself. In the middle of a 30-minute task that was within 30 seconds of completion, Norton just rebooted my computer for some reason. It spams me with messages every startup, keeps adding its own toolbar to my browser, and I am having a terrible time getting it off my computer. Norton is perhaps the worst spyware I have ever had on a computer. Except maybe for the McAfee trial version on my last laptop.
To the sewers with it!
7 March 2008
Chronicles of dumpage
Five songs in succession on satellite radio:
It makes me think that someone may have just been dumped....
Wait a minute. Satellite radio lets the hosts pick their own playlists? Coolness.
More to the point, while I am insufferably pleased with myself for recognizing all five of those acts, if not necessarily all five of those songs, I really don't know how I'd run a twenty-minute set of Songs for the Dumped. (Well, I suppose I'd have to include "Song for the Dumped" by Ben Folds Five.) Being the sort who tends to turn anger inward, I'd probably opt for brooding stuff like the Frankie Valli B-side "The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine (Anymore)," which became a massive Spectoresque wail fronted by the Walker Brothers. Suggestions are welcomed, not that I expect to need them for personal use.
Quote of the week
Has anybody ever been sitting around and thought "Y'know, if only this vapid, content-free crap was more crisp and colorful, I'd totally watch it"?
Well, maybe not consciously.
Count the ponies
Unless you routinely drag race (and I'm talking, you know, all the friggin' time) what on earth do you need 700 hp for? I'm not in any way suggesting we cap output, I just want to know who's buying these beasts? And why?
You'd want to know, of course, how Mr Lieberman's ride tests out, and he tells you up front:
My car has 224 hp. I'm suddenly mature enough to not bother racing people at stop lights (especially since that CTS-V humbled me). I only use all my car's strength when I'm getting on the freeway or when I'm at a red light in the left hand lane and need to quickly get over to the right. And you know what? It's more than enough.
Given those same criteria, the vehicle I've driven which exhibited the highest degree of indifference to how hard it was being called upon to work was a 2007 G35, so I figure that 306 hp is about as much as I'd ever need.
On the other hand, Gwendolyn, with an earlier, smaller version of the same engine, is no slouch, so I am not inclined to complain about her more modest 227-hp output, especially since I can remember no instance when I've been called upon to use all of it.
Then again, 227 hp might be marginal, or worse, if you have two tons or more to haul around, and if you have a minivan or a pickup truck, you probably do.
It hurts when I do this
The proper response, of course, is "Don't do that."
It is not, however, a particularly useful response, but there it is. This morning, about two and a half hours into the workday, I picked up a box of forms, and suddenly froze in position: I could move, sort of, but I really didn't want to, because when I did, I felt waves of distress cascading across my shoulder blades.
Don't worry. Take a deep breath. So I did. And it hurt worse.
After about half an hour of wondering just what it was I'd done, I was packed off to some industrial clinic, where I was informed that it was just a strain, nothing more. They gave me a bottle of muscle relaxants, and the above advice: "Don't do that."
If there's one thing I hate, it's being reminded that I'm nowhere near as indestructible as I'd like.
8 March 2008
Down for the friction
According to Wikipedia, Oklahoma City has a population of about 540,000. So, roughly speaking, 8 percent of the citizens of Oklahoma City just stuck the other 92 percent with a tax increase. That's hardly a case of majority rule.
Well, around 25 percent of the citizens of Oklahoma City are under 18 and can't actually vote, so there's no point in blaming them.
On the other hand, the law specifies that ballots are counted only for voters who actually cast them, so if there's some Nixonian silent majority out there presumably keeping its mouth shut, you've got to wonder why they don't bother showing up at the polls, the only place their opinions actually matter. (About 30 percent of registered voters in the city turned out on the 4th, which is about twice the average for a city election.)
Counting my own ponies
As a followup to the question of "How much horsepower is too much?" I decided to sit down and determine just how much I've had over the years. Here are the numbers:
Only the first two had actual carburetors; the Mercury had something called "central fuel injection," which used one injector for the entire intake, and everything afterwards had port fuel injection. The two Mazda engines were basically identical, though the newer engine had distributorless ignition, and Mazda had moved away from hydraulic valve lifters in favor of something manually adjustable.
When I got married, my wife was driving that Toyota; we got rid of my old Nova and bought a newer one, which I didn't include here because she ended up driving it and eventually owning it. Unsurprisingly, it went unnamed. The powerplant was your basic small-block Chevy V-8, in 5.0L displacement (305), with 140 hp.
If you happened to notice that those two distinctly-different Chevrolets got the same number of horsepower, well, they didn't really: the '66 was rated by the SAE gross method, which was measured at the flywheel with nothing but the bare minimum of attachments. The newer SAE net measurement included everything you could reasonably expect to be running off the engine, including exhaust components, the alternator, and emissions gear; it was adopted in 1971. I'm guessing Susannah actually put out about 110 hp by the newer standard. (SAE recently tightened up its standards; as with the gross-to-net change, there is no specific conversion factor.)
The Democrats shake their moneymakers
[Safe for work, perhaps less so for one's digestion.]
When last we heard from Rep. Sally Kern (R-OKC), she had come up with the dubious notion of creating a State Library Material Content Advisory Board, which would be tasked with making sure our precious little snowflakes didn't have any encounters with Teh Ghey.
After that little outburst, I figured she'd fade into the shadows once more. I figured wrong. And after a couple hundred search-engine queries with her name in them, I decided to go see what she'd gotten herself into this time, and happened upon this:
Studies show, no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted for more than, you know, a few decades.... I honestly think it's the biggest threat our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam.
Really? The biggest threat? This seems a trifle, um, overstated. In this corner, we have your GLBT (add letters as needed) types. In the other corner, we have your standard Islamic terrorists. Let us contrast and compare:
Item the First: You've offended members of the group. How does the group respond?
Item the Second: The group wishes to get the attention of the American public. What action taken by them is the most visible?
Item the Third: Summarize the changes in American law desired by the group.
Bonus question: Where would you rather be on a Saturday night?
Thank you for playing.
(Via J. M. Branum.)
Update, 9 March, 2:40 pm: Fritz identifies the real threat.
How we voted
Doug Loudenback has posted the "NBA tax" election returns by precinct, so you can see how your neighbors voted on the sales-tax extension. Most notably, it wasn't a slam dunk, as it were, citywide: the measure failed to pull a majority in at least 80 precincts.
Precinct 453, where I live, voted 435-247 for the measure. (And if there were 682 total votes, this means that 124 people came in after me during the last hour and three quarters.)
Interestingly, in what looks like a throwback to the old days of Oklahoma City politics, almost all the precincts north of the river approved the proposal, and almost all the precincts south of the river rejected it.
9 March 2008
Party on, kitteh
So there are lolcats in Wayne's World:
Well, blow me down
I've been spending much of this weekend reacquainting myself with an old Navy friend, as it were: Popeye the Sailor, the squinty, pugnacious seaman created by E. C. Segar for his Thimble Theatre comic strip and transformed by Max and Dave Fleischer into one of the greatest of all the theatrical-cartoon series.
Getting old Popeye cartoons was usually a pain in the neck, since neither the Fleischers nor Paramount Pictures, which distributed the series until 1941 and then took over ownership of the Fleischer animation studio, bothered to keep track of copyright matters; it was left to King Features Syndicate, for whom Segar had worked, to sort all this mess out. (Apparently the original contract called for the films to be destroyed after ten years. Didn't happen.) Eventually things were sorted out, and Time Warner, owner of Turner Entertainment, owned the theatrical shorts, and Hearst, owner of King Features, owned the made-for-TV cartoons that went into production in 1960. After negotiations that bordered on byzantine, Warner Home Video announced that they would be releasing all the cartoons, theirs and Hearst's, on DVD in chronological order.
The first set was issued last summer: four discs containing the first sixty shorts done by the Fleischers, all in B&W, plus two of the three Technicolor two-reelers. For the most part, the restoration is very good, though there are fairly obvious edits in some of the early credit sequences, presumably due to the difficulty in finding really good negatives. Still, even the worst of the lot look pretty darn good, especially considering the miserable quality of the PD collections floating around, which tend to have ratty old TV prints and bad framing. About a quarter of the shorts have commentary tracks by film historians, one of which finally explained to me how it was that King of the Mardi Gras (1935) looked so much like Coney Island.
Still, what struck me most about these cartoons is how much Popeye reminds me of, well, me: he has no particular aspirations beyond doing his duty, he has no qualms about administering a thrashing to the Bad Guy, and even in his proudest moments there's something he missed. (Case in point: You Gotta Be a Football Hero, from 1935, in which he gets past the entirety of Bluto's team and heads for the goal line, but stops at the 5, thinking he's finished.) Obviously I absorbed a lot of this stuff when I was a kid. And having done so, I felt somewhat saddened by the obligatory disclaimers at the beginning of each disc, warning of the possibility hell, it's an absolute certainty of various nowadays-deemed-offensive stereotypes, inasmuch as I didn't grow up believing any of them and I know damned few people who did. (If anyone's stereotyped in these cartoons, clearly it's the White Guy with a Short Temper, which describes me better than it does any of the Chronically Offended.)
The other cartoon series of this era which I took to heart was the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies output of Warner Bros. But to me, they were worlds apart: Bugs and Daffy gave me punchlines, but it was Popeye who actually packed the punch. Oddly, I never did care much for either carrot cake or spinach salad.
The next set is due out later this year: two DVDs wrapping up the 1930s.
Going back to Jersey
When Ford assembled its Premier Auto Group in 1999, the company built a shiny new headquarters in Irvine, California to house its high-priced brands.
But that was then. Since then, Lincoln has been de-Premiered, Aston Martin has been sold off, and Land Rover and Jaguar are about to follow. That leaves Volvo all by itself to rattle around in Orange County.
No more. Volvo, which as an independent company had its US headquarters in New Jersey, and which still maintains its service depot there, will return to the Garden State, giving Ford a chance to unload the PAG building and make some badly-needed cash.
Mazda, Ford's Asian affiliate, remains in Irvine. Then again, Mazda was never part of the Premier group.
Haven't been there, didn't do that
I have yet to spend any time in a Victoria's Secret store, and while I haven't given much thought to the reasons why, they might be something like this:
I had to go into Victoria's Secret in 1990. A girl I liked worked there in the mall. Would it have killed her to have worked in the food court instead? Then we could have gotten free pizza or something. No, I had to pick her up in Victoria's Secret. I took a female friend with me to the mall for moral support.
When my friend could not understand why I was so intimidated by that place, I told her that men should not go in there. She pointed out that lots of men go in there, but my response, which I maintain to this very day is that "Men who are in Victoria's Secret are way too happy to be in there."
I dunno. I can't imagine being delighted at the prospect.
While some men may find it erotic to have a well endowed saleswoman discussing the romantic possibilities of edible underthings, I just kept staring at my watch and wondering how long it can take to throw something in a box and buy it. As I said, I do not mind the end results at home, but I don't want to go through the process of purchasing them. If the lord wanted me to get erotic lingerie in front of the world he would not have created the internet with help from Al Gore. Besides, given what a pantywaist Gore is, I am sure he is an expert about Victoria's Secret. Tipper did say he was a great lover. He is stiff after all.
As Gore's erstwhile boss might have said, it depends on what your definition of "stiff" is.
I see three alternatives, in decreasing order of probability:
Should #3 materialize, you might want to hope that Al Gore, despite it all, might actually be right about all that "warming" stuff.
10 March 2008
Strange search-engine queries (110)
Because (1) it's fun to see what people were searching for, and (2) it's easier than providing Actual Content.
rebate check "positive id required": Yep, that's a rebate check all right. I'm positive.
hot tub filter destroyed with nair: "Get in, honey, your legs look just fine."
staffordshire bull terrier how often do i worm n flee him: Worm; then flee as quickly as you can, because they don't like worming.
terse in heaven-eric clapton Ol' Slowhand never was all that talkative.
Why should Condi Rice run for president in 2012: Because we'll be sick of whoever wins in 2008 by then.
will fda not let brokers order their pwn appraisals: It seems to me that if you're already pwned, the FDA would just as soon stay away from you.
are cab drivers exempt from child seat laws in colorado: If a cab driver is under four years old, he must use a child seat, unless he weighs over 40 lb.
opposite of "hit with a ton of bricks": Missed by an ounce of feathers?
fedex smartpost kiss my ass: It will take a few days.
what is it with marxists and condescending tone: Standard equipment.
windows restaurant in the sbc building: There's a blue screen over the salad bar.
pantyhose vs penis: A defensive struggle. Pantyhose by six.
This mouse won't rat on you
What we have here is the USB Smart Privacy Mouse, which contains a trick button to bring up the work you're supposed to be doing instead of surfing the Web. It takes a little while to set up, but once it's done, the moment the boss wanders in you can instantly switch to the Officially Approved Screen by hitting the button.
Is it worth twenty bucks to save your goldbricking hide?
General Kern fusion
Inasmuch as a quarter of my traffic these days is Sally Kern-related, here's a compilation of links to everything I've written about her.
Could she be a Greg Kihn fan? (19 June 2004)
On the King and King dustup (2 July 2005)
Restricting children's library access (16 March 2006)
About that "biggest threat" business (8 March 2008)
Which, of course, means "What would Reba wear?" "Reba," of course, is Oklahoma homegrown hottie Reba McIntire, who now has her own line of shoes which presumably represent what she would wear. She's picky, though, and not for the usual reasons: "I've had foot problems all my life," she says, "and [I] have to have certain types of shoes that are very comfortable. Heels can't be too high, and I like lots of cushioning." "Suzy," shown here, is one of eight styles which are being sold exclusively through Dillard's. The upper is a blend of leather and stretch fabric, the lining is pure sock material, and the heel is a lowish 2½ inches. Sixty-nine bucks will buy you Suzy; the priciest shoes in the line are only $79. (If you're curious about Reba's foot problems, well, she suffers from Morton's neuroma, a condition which, when it flares up, is usually dealt with by kicking off one's shoes, which unfortunately isn't always an option.)
An arrow through the head
Rep. Steve Martin (R-Bartlesville) evidently fancies himself a modern-day Robin Hood: he's introduced a measure to siphon off a portion of sales-tax collections from larger cities and redistribute it to the smaller ones.
How Martin's proposal is supposed to work:
The Oklahoma Tax Commission each month would take 1 percent of each city's sales tax collections and put it in a fund. The commission then would give each city or town an amount of money based on its population in comparison to the total population of all cities and towns that had a sales tax levy of at least 1 percent.
County levies don't count. Tulsa would have to fork over about $16 million over the next year; Oklahoma City, around $13 million.
Surprisingly, this isn't the worst idea Martin's come up with:
Martin has spent the past couple of years looking at a method in which shoppers would give their home city's tax code. But that would require businesses to install equipment and to train employees, not to mention informing shoppers how the process would work.
Even if the complicated, costly proposal could be implemented, shoppers perhaps would have to present some identification so that the correct city would be credited with the sales tax on the purchase, Martin said.
What is needed, but so far not forthcoming, is some way to make Oklahoma municipalities less dependent upon sales tax for revenue. [Link goes to Word document.] We'll have to wait for some other wild and crazy guy to solve that one.
Sprucing up the place
We're not putting in spruce, technically, but Brian Dougherty of the Oklahoma City Community Foundation dropped by our Neighborhood Association meeting tonight to hand us a check: we'd qualified for a grant from the Margaret Annis Boys Trust to help rework our little stretch of park along May Avenue. There's a fair amount of sweat equity involved, inevitably, but it helps to have the nursery bills paid before you start planting, and we picked up just over $8500 to support new trees and the watering thereof.
Here's a brief bio of our benefactor. She would have been 99 this year.
Steamroller on side streets
News Item: New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer has apologized amid allegations of involvement in a prostitution ring. The married father-of-three said he had acted in a way that violated his obligations to his family.
Top Ten Eliot Spitzer Excuses:
Addendum: David Letterman did a similar list later that night. We overlap, maybe, on one item.
11 March 2008
Great heaping googobs of fail
John Hawkins of Right Wing News dished up a list of the Top 10 reasons bloggers don't succeed. It might have carried more weight if he'd come up with a concrete, or at least non-aerosol, definition of "success," but right now, let's see how we're doing:
Certainly I've hung around long enough, and I suspect I probably post enough. My last day off was some time in the summer of 2000, so that's not an issue. On the other hand, I really don't promote this stuff, mostly because I can't think of any reason why I should: if it's any good, and once in a blue moon it is, word will get around, and if it's not any good, word will get around just as fast. Maybe faster.
Then again, unlike Mr Hawkins, I'm not trying to make a living off Web writing. I think it's marvelous that some people can; but I have no illusions that I can be one of them. Perhaps I'm just not "unique enough," whatever that's supposed to mean.
The "diabetic dress"
When you're a five-year-old diagnosed with Type 1 (formerly "juvenile") diabetes, schlepping around the little insulin pump is a decided inconvenience, as the big sister (she's 11) of one such five-year-old explains:
They have a little belt with a pack on them that you can wear with skirts and pants, but when you try and wear them with a dress it makes a bulge and it doesn't feel very comfortable and you still have to lift your dress up to give yourself insulin.
What to do? Big sister designs a dress:
It's a dress with a pocket in it that has a flap on it that you stick the tube through the flap and then you twist the tube back onto the patch and then you stick your pump in there without lifting your dress up.
Kailey Caldwell, a straight-A student from Ammon, Idaho, took this idea to the Invention Convention in Boise, where it placed third; she's thinking about applying for a patent. Sister Whitlee just loves it.
Really, hasn't everyone in retail or services, at one time or another, wanted to shoot a customer in the backside?
More all-American Bimmers
BMW will be building more vehicles in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and apparently fewer in Germany. The official reason: exchange rates, making it cheaper to build in the States than it does in der Vaterland.
Stuff like this doesn't faze me. The Mazda 626 I used to drive was the first import-branded car to qualify as a "domestic" based on parts origin, and what's more, it was actually built by UAW members in Flat Rock, Michigan. And rather a lot of Volkswagens seem to get here through Mexico.
Back to work
The shuttered General Motors Assembly plant on I-240 is about to be repurposed: Oklahoma County Commissioners plan to ask for voter approval of a bond issue to buy the plant, which will then be leased back to Tinker Air Force Base, just to its north.
The plant will cost $55 million; it will be just one of several projects on the Commissioners' shopping list, which comes to over $80 million. The bond election would be held on 13 May.
In some ways, this is a disappointment, since some of us had hoped to lure another automaker (Hyundai? Volkswagen?) to the plant; still, at least it's going to be doing something other than just sitting there. And certainly General Motors could use an extra $55 million these days.
Update, 19 March: Mike Solowiow quips at TTAC: "Let's hope for my own safety, the Ghosts of GM Past have left the building so Tinker doesn't rebuild my jet to TrailBlazer levels of quality." Solowiow, in Real Life, travels about in one of these.
No woman, no ratings
Rich Appel's Hz So Good newsletter contains the following tidbit of Scary Information:
Emmis [is] launching a third Rock FM in the Apple. I believe the last time that occurred, the third Rock FM was "The Apple." Two words here, and you faithful pains should already know what they are: Marley Curse. I'm watching this one closely, because if 'RXP fails, it will be the 4th NYC radio station in the past nine-or-so years to do so which, during its tenure, was the only NYC radio station to play Bob Marley. The Buzz played him, they're gone. Blink? Gone. Jack? Gone. I tell you, Marley is bad luck. If I were running a commercial FM, I'd ahem dread playing him. Apparently Legend was meant to be enjoyed privately. Don't ask me why.
I'm wondering if perhaps this explains the general stability of the Oklahoma City radio market: you couldn't get these guys to play a reggae record if Jamaica became the 52nd state.
12 March 2008
What are we conserving, exactly?
I've mentioned before that the palatial Surlywood estate is part of one of Oklahoma City's Urban Conservation Districts, and that while the UCD designation preceded (by a whole month) my arrival, I supported its aims. And with some folks in Tulsa completely spooked by the idea, I figure this would be a good time to explain just what those aims are.
The following was scissored out of Oklahoma City Municipal Code, ß 59-13650, paragraph 1:
The Urban Conservation Districts (UC Districts) are intended to promote the health, safety, economic, cultural, and general welfare of the public by encouraging the conservation and enhancement of the urban environment. The purposes of the UC District are:
Scary, isn't it?
Where it gets frightful, I suppose, is that bit about "desirable change," which implies that some change is not desirable, and hints that changes that are not desirable are not to be accommodated. In practice, I don't see much of that happening around here; the only time I've had to consult the UCD ordinance at all was when I was looking for a new number plate for the house, and discovered that the maximum size permissible is four square feet. (The one I got is 4x19 inches, well within the limits and easily visible from the street.)
There are restrictions, yes: you can't park on the grass, you can't have a chain-link fence I have a fairly ordinary six-foot stockade fence and perhaps most important, if you plan to tear down a house, you can't replace it with a structure three times its size.
So basically, we're conserving a look and a feel; we're trying to maintain the character of a neighborhood that doesn't quite meet the standards for "historic." (All of Oklahoma City's historic districts date to well before World War II.) Just because we paid less doesn't mean we think less of it.
It's Jenny on line two
Some people getting late night and early morning telemarketing calls in the Wilmington [Delaware] area have been doing a double take when they see the number on their caller ID: 867-5309.
Actually, what makes it heinous is not the Tommy Tutone reference, but this:
At least two other people have told the [Wilmington] News-Journal about similar calls, and others have reported the calls in online forums, with more than five dozen complaints logged Tuesday at CallerComplaints.com.
They haven't been able to call back to protest, because there is no 867-5309 in Delaware's 302 area code.
Spoofing Caller ID numbers isn't illegal yet. But if you're using a fake number to call me, I consider it prima facie evidence that you're dishonest and therefore unworthy of my business or anyone else's.
In case the name fooled you
Megan McArdle reports that Manwich sauce (!) qualifies as vegan, and it's therefore possible to make a sloppy joe without any fleshy stuff at all:
Mixed with Boca ground "meat" (textured vegetable protein), it makes a pretty good sandwich, which is nearly indistinguishable from a ground beef sloppy joe and much tastier than one made with ground turkey. I suppose it is not entirely surprising that a sauce as strongly flavored as that pretty much overrides the taste of whatever you dunk in it. Anyway, it's even faster and easier than using ground meat (you just open the pouch and heat in the microwave for a few minutes) and it's basically all protein with a tiny bit of sugar.
I am surprised to report that I am not all that surprised: I find myself remembering that for one brief, shining moment we had a more-or-less serious vegetarian working for us at the shop, and one day she brought up some truly excellent egg rolls which she insisted didn't actually contain the shrimp they seemed to contain. Inasmuch as she was hardly ever wrong about anything, I believed her. Then again, being hardly ever wrong about anything made her overqualified and then some, and she moved on rather quickly.
Makes just as much sense to me
My wife's grandfather (an Illinois farmer) once wrote me a letter suggesting, if setting our clocks forward in the summer is a good idea, then a better idea would be to set our thermometers higher in the winter. That way we'd have fewer days of freezing temperatures.
Hey, we're already turning up the thermostats, so this wouldn't be much of a change, would it?
Now that's mission creep
The only Italian I understand is "Monica Bellucci," and that not particularly well, so I'm not going to attempt to decipher this very-1996-looking page from L'Osservatore Romano, but I will point you toward what appears to be a Vatican attempt to expand the existing list of sins:
Fresh off the red telephone with Providence, a senior member of the Vatican is upgrading a handful of lesser celestial bugaboos into what now will effectively destroy the grace of God within the heart of the sinner.
The Vatican's newspaper L'Osservatore Romano interviewed senior cleric Gianfranco Girotti, head of the Apostolic Penitentiary (basically, the bureau of sin and absolution), who listed drug trafficking, pollution, social injustice and genetic manipulation as the new bleeding edge of mortal sins.
"If yesterday, sin had a rather individualistic dimension, today it has a weight, a resonance, that's especially social, rather than individual," the Associated Press translates from Girotti.
Um, no, it doesn't. Gail explains, under a better title than mine:
The man is a theological idiot, and I sincerely hope Benedict smacks him down very smartly. The idea that sin is no longer an "individual" matter but a "social" one undermines the entire foundation of the Christian concept of salvation, namely the uniqueness of each immortal soul and its absolute primacy in all moral considerations. He's one step away from utilitarianism, and that's a slippery theological slope.
I believe the rule here is "Do whatever steps you want if / You have cleared them with the Pontiff." Somehow I have my doubts that Girotti has Benedict's blessing on this matter.
13 March 2008
Aren't you glad they use dial?
Actually, no, I'm not.
Yesterday's item about telemarketers contained, in the quoted material, a mention of a Web site called CallerComplaints.com, with which I was otherwise not familiar. The operator of the site, noticing the reference, suggested that I might want to take a look at what's there, and so I did.
There is, of course, a database of numbers, broken down by area code including nonexistent area codes, under "Spoofed," which is nice and a handful of articles about the scuzzbuckets who keep calling you. Perhaps the most interesting deals with how toll-free numbers are assigned (it's not pretty) and how to complain to the assigners.
But what I really wanted to mention is the motivation, from their About Us page. Yes, they're building a database, but there's another purpose:
Public Humiliation. Sure, this may not stop the calls right away... but you'll probably feel better after you vent. ;) Plus, once a company "Googles" their name and sees hundreds of complaints come up... they'll think twice about calling you again!
I'm not so sure about that thinking twice, after all, requires thinking once to begin with but I'm definitely in favor of public humiliation.
The soothsayer warned Caesar, "Beware the Ides of March," but Andrew Ian Dodge has no fear: he's posted a Carnival of the Vanities to the Ides, and hang the consequences, a spirit worthy of the revered Scotsman Robert Roy MacGregor, usually known simply as "Rob Roy." who passed from the scene 274 years ago.
This should end early
The Lost Ogle's ongoing whatever-it-is continues, and today it's the Midwest Region, Lower Bracket, in which yours truly (#11 seed) is being thoroughly trounced by a Broadcast Face (#5). I am, of course, appalled that I got any votes at all, but apparently my equilibrium is more easily upset these days. Perhaps I need to get out more.
Voting in this bracket continues through midnight CDT, after which I won't have to worry about it again. (Bless you, O God of Single Elimination.)
Something about this just tickles me no end: a Honda Insight with its hybrid stuff replaced by the K20A mill from a Civic Type-R.
Really. It looks like it just bolted in. With at least 200 hp and a six-speed manual, it's, if not wicked fast, at least capable of some speedy peccadillos, and it's still getting 45-50 mpg.
And that may be the whole point of this exercise:
While automakers spend billions in a technological arms race to develop ever more complex drivetrains, these guys have proven that simple, small, aerodynamically efficient cars can be fun, fast and frugal. Who knew?
Everybody except Congress, I suspect.
Bears breathe a little easier
[Rep. Joe] Dorman's bill would have created a new licensing procedure within the Department of Wildlife Conservation for hunting black bears. Conservation officials have said the bears' numbers have rebounded in southeastern Oklahoma and that they are becoming a nuisance in some areas. But Dorman said re-examination of the black-bear population indicates that there are too few in the state to sustain an annual hunt.
Fair enough. At least they looked at the numbers, as promised.
Being for the benefit of Mr Wenner
You'll occasionally hear the term "critical darling" applied to a performer who gets rave reviews yet no attention from the audience as a whole. This is, suggests Mark Edwards in the Sunday Times, due to a basic difference in philosophy:
[I]n the unlikely event that someone, one day, bets you a large amount of money that you won't be able to identify which person in a crowd of strangers is a music journalist without asking them directly what they do for a living here's how you win the bet. Go up to each person in turn and ask them to name their favourite Beatles track. The music journalist is the one who chooses "Tomorrow Never Knows."
You can be sure of two things. First, nobody who doesn't listen to music for a living will choose the final track on Revolver. An early pop gem such as "I Wanna Hold Your Hand," perhaps, or a psychedelic masterpiece such as "Strawberry Fields Forever," or a late-period sing-along such as "Hey Jude," but not "Tomorrow Never Knows." Second, the music critic has to say "Tomorrow Never Knows." It's the law. If they choose "Penny Lane" or "Let It Be," they'll be drummed out of the union.
There follows a list of critically-adored albums which the public shuns, and then a list of big hits which the critics abhor. In defense of the public taste, I insist that when Genesis titled an album We Can't Dance, they were merely being truthful.
Add to "to-do" list: Ask Dawn Eden about her favorite Beatles song.
14 March 2008
Way back in 2004, before the Hornets left Charlotte never mind that unfortunate business that temporarily drove them out of New Orleans researchers conducted a study of NBA viability in several cities, some with teams, some without. Ted Strueli of the Journal Record picked up on it, with the observation: "They didnít give Oklahoma City much of a shot at success."
Indeed they didn't. The Big Breezy, said the researchers, might draw an average of 11,400 or so, producing revenue on the wrong side of $35 million a year.
It was at that point that Doug Loudenback started laughing. For one thing, the Hornets, during their two-year tenure here, averaged close to 18,000. What's more, a good basketball town like, say, Seattle, they said might average over 19,700 per game. Inasmuch as KeyArena holds 17,098 bodies, this would be a trifle difficult. No wonder Sonics owner Clay Bennett was screaming for a new arena.
Furthermore, a potential Memphis team the Grizzlies had not yet arrived from Vancouver would, say the researchers, seriously outdraw the Dallas Mavericks, which didn't even come close to happening. And inasmuch as both the Clippers and the Lakers are based at Los Angeles' Staples Center, the report projects identical attendance and revenues for the two teams. Given the sheer number of variables involved ... but never mind, you get the idea. As Yogi Berra never said, "Prediction is hard, especially about the future." (Robert Storm Petersen apparently did.)
Can you change a five?
Obviously we can, but Sean Hackbarth doesn't like the new fin:
Our currency continues to get uglier and uglier. The new and "improved" five dollar bill is now in circulation. "Enhanced security features" fail to give the bill any elegance.
The same is true of any US airport, I submit.
But I can appreciate this after-the-fact comment:
I'm even opposed to the sans-serif font used on that purple "5." A serif font gives the bill more dignity and seriousness. If I want fun money Iíll go to Toys R Us.
(Via Little Miss Attila.)
Candida: we could make it together
Some fungi who plasters worthless TrackBacks all over blogdom dropped in here yesterday with a link reading as follows: "Sex during diflucan."
As the phrase goes, I do not think that word means what he thinks it means. And if it does, well, the further from here, girl, the better.
Probably the single biggest reason for WP's success is the one-click install and one-click upgrade offered by Dreamhost and other web host companies. I can literally setup a WP blog for anyone in less than 3 minutes. Most of that time is post-install customization, as well. The plugin ecosystem is far more vibrant on the WP side than MT, and the proliferation of styles and themes means that the end user need only choose from a bounty of available options if they don't want to tinker on their own but tinkering is also very, very easy since the various files can be edited directly from within the online administration pages.
And re-tinkering is very, very common; I've set up three WP blogs, two for myself, one for somebody else, using exactly that DH one-click install, and about every other version, something they've done breaks all the customization I've done and I have to redo, or at least recopy, a fistful of templates. Meanwhile, what you see here is basically a slightly-souped-up Movable Type 2.21 template that has worked through all of my 3.x installs, though the powers that be Six Apart are careful to note that comment popups are "deprecated," the current euphemism for "We don't support that anymore." I can't prove it, but I suspect this was motivated by the ongoing penchant for popup blockers.
Still, I have a certain fondness for WordPress, and indeed I once recommended to management down at the shop that (1) they should start up a corporate blog and (2) they should run it on WP. After the "ZOMG PHP!" grousing subsided, the proposal was tabled, and the table was then folded up into a FedEx box and shipped to Lower Elbonia.
Are you a good lease or a bad lease?
Seattle SuperSonics owner Clay Bennett and NBA Commissioner David Stern are in apparent agreement over what constitutes a bad lease, and if you ask either of them, they'll point in the general direction of KeyArena. Inevitably, you have to wonder: what would they consider a good lease?
The Letter of Intent sent by Bennett to Mayor Cornett [link goes to PDF file] gives a hint. The Sonics are looking for a 15-year lease, to begin "no sooner than the 2008-09 NBA season and no later than the 2010-11 NBA season." I doubt seriously that it will begin as soon as this fall, but we shall see. The lease would be extensible in 3-year increments up to an additional 15 years.
The Sonics will pay rent of $40,000 per game, 70 percent of which is identified as "game-day expenses" based upon an expected performance standard, and all of which is subject to CPI adjustments after years 5 and 10. For a 41-game season, this comes to $1.64 million; exhibitions and playoff games are extra. In addition, the team will pay $100,000 a year for rent on the practice facility and will assume responsibility for routine maintenance, repairs, utilities and insurance on that facility.
The city will be expected to renegotiate the naming rights for the Ford Center with the team and the Oklahoma Ford Dealers. The team will pay the city the amount of the current agreement $409,000 a year and will receive the proceeds from any new agreement, less any expenses incurred by the city in changing signage and stationery and such.
And in a move I didn't expect, but perhaps could have predicted, the team and the city will attempt to wangle state incentives under the Quality Jobs Act.
There's a lot more, but all of it is subject to negotiation before the signatures are affixed. City Manager Jim Couch, at least, thinks it's a fair deal. No word yet from David Stern.
15 March 2008
Aim high, as it were
Briefly, we flash back to 2001:
Everybody plays the fool sometimes, as Cuba Gooding, Sr. used to say, but it was Woody Allen who played the Fool in Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex, and who, faced with a directive from his father's ghost to seek sexual favors from Her Majesty the Queen, sputtered, "I can't screw above my station!"
While I've always believed in this sort of conjugal caste system, not everyone is prepared to accept things as they are. A long-running advertisement from the Rosetta Stone language-instruction service contains a photo of a young fellow and the following description: "He was a hardworking farm boy. She was an Italian supermodel. He knew he would have just one chance to impress her." (You can see it here.)
Rosetta Stone's chosen audience for this advertisement starts at proudly middlebrow and heads upward from there. Does this sort of pitch work down in beer-commercial land? From Maxim this month:
Your girlfriend is highly educated, well-traveled, and values good taste; you once vomited on the teacup ride during a class trip to Disney World. To distract her from your woeful lack of refinement, buy her something that would look equally at home on the desk of a college professor or a comic book supervillain: a classic black globe.
Both these pitches, unfortunately, have essentially the same thinking behind them: you can somehow buy your way into her heart. But if you take the language instruction, you'll stand a better chance of being able to comprehend Donizetti; if you buy the globe, well, at least you'll be able to point to Greenland.
Why the mortgage industry is in trouble
Two words: dubious math.
I am advised by the folks who hold my note yes, George Kaiser, I'm looking at you that my "account has gone through an escrow analysis cycle" and their projected expenditures for the upcoming twelve months will deplete the funds in escrow by a total of eight cents. To compensate for this deficiency, they are raising my monthly payment by $1.80.
In actuality, I think they've slightly underestimated my property taxes for the year, so I'm not going to send off one of my famed Letters of Protest. Still, there remains annoyance at slightly above vestigial levels, due to the fact that they're getting 0.3x, where x equals the actual principal-plus-interest payment, to screw around with for several months before they actually cut checks to the county and the insurance agent.
Unless you're Hawkshaw Hawkins, you probably don't want an LCD display in the rear backlight with your phone number on it, unless you're stuck in traffic and you're really desperate for attention.
Then again, if you are Hawkshaw Hawkins, you've been dead for forty-five years. (Hawkins, Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas, on the way back to Nashville from Kansas City, were killed in a plane crash near Camden, Tennessee in March 1963; Hawkins got his only #1 country hit it just missed the bottom of the pop chart with a song about that very telephone number, released shortly after his death.)
The big house
Every Saturday, the real-estate section in the Oklahoman has a list of building permits issued in Oklahoma City, and usually I give it only a perfunctory glance. But once in a while there's something startling in there, and today I managed to stare in disbelief for a couple of moments.
At the very top of the list was a permit issued to Prestige Custom Homes to build a residence at 15532 Laguna Drive. Estimated cost was listed as $1,800,000. No other residences in the list (conveniently ordered by decreasing cost) were even a third as much.
Now you don't see a lot of homes at this price point around here a check at Realtor.com of houses in 73013 (far north OKC and south side of Edmond) turned up only four houses over $1.5 million. None of them were in Esperanza, a gated subdivision around NW 157th and May, so I'm guessing this must be one of the new "estate" lots therein, which are described as follows:
The Estate lots are entered from our grand boulevard off May Avenue through their own private gates. A quiet cul-de-sac street serves only these ten lots, which range in size from three-quarters acre to one and one-half acres. These estates are nestled on and off the water on the northern shore of the lake. Owners of these beautiful, larger home-sites will enjoy lake privileges. Your children and grandchildren will treasure the time spent fishing with you in our bass-stocked lake. Our estates will offer you the peace and serenity of country living, while being surprisingly "hidden" at one of the most convenient locations in Northwest Oklahoma City.
Their "grand boulevard," not to be confused with Grand Boulevard, is called "Via Esperanza," in case you were worried about the possibility that pretentiousness might be entering a period of short supply.
Still, you have to figure that if there weren't buyers, nobody would be building these things, and hey, we're due for an influx of allegedly-overpaid athletes any day now.
16 March 2008
The new GM vapor-control system
Rocking-up at the Oklahoma City International (?) Auto Show, I asked a GM spokesperson about the upcoming electric gas plug-in Chevrolet Volt. "We have been instructed to not discuss the Volt too much, but to steer people interested in it to the newly released hybrids because we want them to focus on those released products, and not on the concept that might not make it to production soon."
"Pay no attention to the car behind the curtain!"
The so-called "two-mode" hybrid in the Tahoe might be a game-changer getting 20 mpg out of a big, hulking truck has to be considered a major improvement but a lot of people, even in Oklahoma, are looking for something other than big, hulking trucks, and GM's other hybrids come up short on performance and panache.
The Volt is supposedly going to be available in 2010.
Bring two pieces of ID
One of the functions of our State Treasurer is described by current officeholder Scott Meacham thusly:
Oklahoma businesses bring unclaimed cash, rebates, paychecks, royalties, stock[s] and bonds to my office and it's my job to return the money to the owners and heirs.
To this end, there's a Web search form; in addition, at regular intervals the Treasurer puts out a newspaper supplement listing the names of owners, which is now up to 128 pages.
I usually give this document a perfunctory glance at best: I check to see if there's anything for me, which there never is, and maybe flip a couple of pages to see if anything jumps out at me. Today's edition, for instance, had four items for the long-since-superseded Boatmen's Bank downtown. I'm not quite sure how these would be claimed. There's something for Michael Bates, though not this Michael Bates. However, I'd definitely like to be around if Jack Mehoff (reported to be at 708 NE 31st, Oklahoma City) shows up.
A shoe called Wanda
The Manolo has given his endorsement to these shoes, which he describes as "the high heels that are both comfortable and stylish for the daytime wearing," not an inconsiderable set of virtues. You're looking at the Wanda Air Sling by Cole Haan in Ivory Patent it also comes in black which incorporates Nike Air technology right inside that three-inch heel, presumably providing some serious cushion. (No licensing issue: Nike, Inc. has owned Cole Haan for the last twenty years.) In specifying "daytime wearing," the Manolo hints that these really aren't shoes for a night on the town, and I'm inclined to agree; however, they look fairly comfy, they're nicely lined, and while they're inevitably pricey Zappos sells them for $279, and apparently they haven't shown up at Bluefly yet they don't look like they'll go out of style in the next fifteen minutes either. Crish Zaragoza of Fashion Juice
Things I learned today (17)
Yes, it's a fresh link dump with a stale old name. What of it?
(As always, the definition of "today" is somewhat less than strict.)
Quote of the week
A funny thing happens when you suggest that homeschooling might actually produce superior results, reports Dan Paden:
Usually, the conversation starts out with the other person convinced that I have not a clue about the history, purpose, and results of government education, and that I quite possibly haven't got the brains to understand the subject. I am hopelessly ignorant not to know that government schools are what made this country great and terribly foolish or stupid to think that just about any parent who cares to try can do a better and cheaper job of educating their child than government.
It doesn't take long to poke this idea full of holes. It is really rather like shooting fish in a barrel. We talk a little about the history of education and literacy in this country, and we talk about the results we achieve at home. And we talk about the actual, normal, and ongoing results of government education.
Then the tune changes! At that point, it's, "Well, Dan, I can see how homeschooling could work for you, but you're obviously much more intelligent and informed than most people. Most people couldn't do that."
Thus, in ten minutes or less, I go from being an uninformed cretin who cannot possibly know what I am talking about to being so astronomically intelligent that my personal experience is totally irrelevant to most people.
It's kind of a rush, let me tell you. I encourage you to try it.
Should I mention here that 50 percent of us are above-average in intelligence? No?
17 March 2008
Strange search-engine queries (111)
About one-third of the traffic to this site, excluding feeds, comes from search engines, and you wouldn't believe some of the stuff that people are searching for. Then again, maybe you would, which is why we do this on a regular basis.
febreze sniffing in teenagers: You wouldn't want them sniffing something that smelled bad, would you?
girls smothered in yogurt: Not on my diet, I suspect.
so attractive, but no one wants: Sounds like me, except for the "attractive" part.
"supermom tights": Oh, yeah, like she has time to put them on.
A woman at the age of 49yrs old educated and independent. What are the chances of meeting a nice guy? Not too bad. Is she wearing her supermom tights?
nudist roommate sacramento: Well, at least it's some place warm. Sometimes.
coolwhip bikinis: Not recommended for actual swimming.
when did mercury marquis start to get 27 or 28 miles per gallon: When you turned off the air conditioner and headed downhill.
eliot spitzer penis size: You're reading too much into that "Client 9" business.
Fake Invisible Girl Naked Pictures: Look almost identical to real invisible girl naked pictures. Imagine that.
legitimate money making programs that guarantee $500,000 to $1,000,000 in 2 to 3 months: Maybe, but you have to start with $2,000,000 to $3,000,000.
Sally Kern sucks: I suspect she considers it against her religion.
Buckets of fail
It's got to be a bad night when you score 116 points and still lose by 52.
(Side note: The Nuggets, who won that game, are 40-26 and a game and a half out of the 8th playoff spot in the West. Meanwhile in the East, New Jersey holds on to the 8th spot with a record of 28-38. What can we learn from this?)
The letter killeth, and the spirit doesn't help too damn much either:
A few weeks ago I was traveling and was at the airport really early. I had forgotten to remove the toothpaste from my stuff, and I was flagged for extra screening because they saw it on X-ray (I remember the good old days when they were X-raying for guns and stuff rather than toothpaste, but I digress).
The screener pulled it out and said sorry, this is more than three ounces. So, as an engineer with no sense of self-preservation, I asked, "Weight or volume?" The screener asked what I meant. I said that an "ounce" is a unit of both weight and volume, which did he mean? (The TSA site is no help, it just says ounces). He said "volume." Still being stupid, I said "but the 3.5oz on that toothpaste is weight you can tell by the 'net Wt.'' in front of it and the number in grams behind it. He looked at it for a minute, and then gives me an answer right out of Spinal Tap: "But it's over 3 ounces" [but this one goes to 11].
I am told by an airline exec that the policy was originally volume, but after many complaints, the government realized that an ounce was also a unit of weight and they have informally changed the policy to "3 ounces weight or volume" but they never really communicated this change fully because it's too, you know, embarrassing that they operated so long not knowing the difference.
Well, I certainly feel safer. Don't you?
Oh, those wicked subsidies
The District [of Columbia] has negotiated a $40 million deal with National Public Radio to keep the company's headquarters in the city, granting tax abatements over the next two decades and edging out a bid by downtown Silver Spring.
Imagine that: cities competing against one another. Whoever heard of such a thing?
Forty years after taking root in Washington, NPR will build a 10-story headquarters at 1111 N. Capitol St. NE., Mayor Adrian M. Fenty said [Wednesday]. The site, a warehouse of the former Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Co., will feature a 60,000-square-foot newsroom in the up-and-coming NoMA community, the neighborhood north of Massachusetts Avenue near Union Station....
Neil O. Albert, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said that NPR will not pay property taxes on the building for 20 years, saving $40 million. The city has agreed not to raise property taxes by more than 3 percent on the station's Massachusetts Avenue building for two decades, or until NPR sells it.
Now that's what I call a sweet deal. And you know, there's something sort of comforting in the notion that soft-spoken NPR has some hard-nosed negotiators; it's almost as if they operate in the Real World or something.
(Via Fraters Libertas.)
I'm not quite sure what to make of this:
Shiro Nakamura likes to think that designing cars is like making music.
That I can comprehend, I think. But then:
At Nissan, which also makes premium vehicles under the Infiniti brand, his gig involves a range of music, he says.
"Luxury cars are like classical music: you have to respect certain rules otherwise they will not be accepted," Nakamura says. "The Nissan brand is more like jazz, pop or rock: you can ignore the rules."
Now I'm curious. Nissan sells one vehicle in this country with both nameplates: the monstrous Nissan Armada SUV, based on the Titan pickup, is dressed up with $10,000 worth of glitz and sold at Infiniti stores as the QX56. Which rule was respected, and which rule ignored?
Incidentally, my own Infiniti, an I30, is a derivative of Nissan's Maxima. If it's a classical piece, it's Rachmaninoff's Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini: neither the sheer number of variations, nor the admitted ingenuity thereof, will change the fact that the theme itself came from somewhere else.
(Via The Truth About Cars.)
18 March 2008
We will, we will, fix it
"In mid-March, we will release Windows Vista SP1 to Windows Update and the download center on microsoft.com. Customers who visit Windows Update can choose to install Service Pack 1. Any system that Windows Update determines has a driver known to not upgrade successfully will not be offered SP1."
Sensible of them. But how long will this happy situation last?
The company said that starting in "mid-April," it will start to push SP1 automatically to those Vista customers using the operating system's built-in automatic update option.
Now what are the odds that any particular driver issue will be resolved within those thirty days?
Raising a low bar
Last year, AT&T, as successor to Cingular, quietly abandoned its claim of "fewest dropped calls" and apparently with good reason:
This evening, I have had 7 calls fade out to nothing, 6 call failed errors when retrying the party I was talking to, 1 text message tell me the system is busy, try again later, and 6 disconnects when trying to talk to AT&T tech support. All of this, and I still had full signal on my phone, even 3G at times (which is difficult to maintain in my domicile). The calls that were successful all lasted under 10 minutes.
"More bars in more places," they say. Well, you can have bars out the wazoo, but what's the point if you can't do anything with them?
(Anyone attempting to suggest that "wazoo" is a simplification of "VZW" will be summarily ignored.)
Render unto César
Who knew? Wikipedia has a List of places named after César Chávez.
We can get ready to add one more: today the Oklahoma City Metropolitan Area Public Schools Trust will approve forking over $65k for the last bit of property for the new César Chávez Elementary School on SE Grand west of Lindsay.
At one time there was an Alternative Middle School named for Chávez, over in the Riverside area, but it's apparently been closed; the Latino Community Development Agency now occupies the address.
I am not a prude
Or maybe I am, at least in some sense. I do wonder, though, exactly when "prude" became a term of opprobrium:
My last post on this blog discussed the on-line news and culture magazine, slate.com, and one piece published there where the writer declares that she is not a prude after admitting to being disturbed by an overly sexualized movie advertisement.
I could not help but post another "I am not a prude" citing on slate.com. In a recent piece published about the governor of New York being caught in a prostitution ring, the writer discusses the history of prostitution and the law. After listing the arguments that support the illegality of prostitution, she writes, "You don't have to be a moralist or a prude to buy the argument for banning prostitution."
Which syntax, at least to me anyway, suggests that "moralist" and "prude" are discrete, if not necessarily discreet, characterizations.
My trusty Webster's New Collegiate (8th edition) defines "prude" as "a person who is excessively or priggishly attentive to propriety or decorum," which doesn't seem too obsolete a definition, and traces it to the French prude-femme, "good woman." Hmmm....
Is it a coincidence that both [Slate] writers are women? Are women more afraid of being viewed as prudes than men?
That I couldn't tell you.
Indistinguishable from a magician
From the 1998 EGOgram:
If I could be granted three wishes, they would be:
1) Peace in Sri Lanka and the whole world, if that's not asking too much;
2) The first commercial prototypes of the clean, virtually infinite energy devices which will end the fossil fuel age;
3) Proof of life elsewhere preferably intelligent, though I'd settle for anything that can put a couple of cells together.
There are indications that the first may be in sight and I've been expecting number 2 "real soon now" for the past five years. As for the third well, your guess is as good as mine.
The words of Arthur C. Clarke, who died today at the age of 90.
19 March 2008
Portrait of a dilemma
The landscape is littered with the souls of those who have faced this question:
Why can't we have documents formatted for the computer screen?
Blogger, for instance, does a nice job of formatting a page to fit the width of the screen, but it does nothing about the height. Of course, screen widths come in a variety of sizes, so something that will fit completely on one screen is going to be too tall or long for a narrower screen. Still, I would like to see some attempt made to deal with this. Pictures get cut in the middle. You have to scroll down some variable amount to be able to see the whole picture. You shouldn't have to do this. There is a reason God (or IBM) made the Page-Down key: that is so you can move to the next screen of data as efficiently as possible.
Our Department of Document Production, or whatever they're called this week, used to have vertically-oriented monitors that displayed a full page at once, but these seem to have gone out of style. A 24-inch screen can probably siamese a pair of A4-size documents at once, but if you want something closer to 8½ x 11 or, God forbid, legal size you might be better off rotating both display and screen 90 degrees.
If we had to deal with an Organization of Paper Exporting Countries that could jack up the price at will, we'd probably see movement toward standardizing documents at sizes that fit nicely on computer screens. (And we'd also have mass suicide where I work, but that's another story.)
Did this man spam you?
The owner and operator of an Internet pharmacy that was closed down by authorities was raking in more than $24,000 a day, according to a Delaware County, Okla., arrest affidavit.
Norman Edward Enyart Jr., 60, of Grove, Okla., was operating four Internet sites for his illegal pharmacy, known as the Grand Lake Pharmacy or the Grove Pharmacy, according to an arrest affidavit signed by Mike Eason, investigator for District Attorney Eddie Wyant.
And like the pharmacy, Enyart seems to have two names; he's Norman Edward, or he's J. R. (What, you thought people's initials had to reflect their actual names?)
Delaware County moved in on Leap Year Day:
[The] Delaware County Drug Task Force raided two residences belonging to J. R. and Randy Enyart and two storage units. Authorities seized 2,000 Soma pills, other pills, marijuana, prescriptions, prescription orders, computers, 25 to 30 guns, computers, $17,000 in cash and more than 50,000 untaxed cigarettes.
Eason said the estimated value of the items seized is around $300,000.
Were I as cynical as I like to think I am, I'd suspect that the real motivation here was to make sure nobody bought those 2500-odd packs of smokes, each of which would normally carry a tax of $1.03.
Meanwhile, Enyart is free on $46,250 bail. That's a lot of Soma.
For which I will gladly pay you Tuesday
McDaniel said he sent letters to about 60 companies running 156 payday lending outlets in Arkansas, telling them to cease and desist their practices.
The attorney general said he made the demand on the basis of two recent opinions from the state Supreme Court finding the high interest rates payday lenders' charge on short-term loans "unconscionable" and deceptive trade practices prohibited by the Arkansas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
This could be arguable. On the one hand, Arkansas' usury law limits interest rates to 17 percent. But the 1999 act that first allowed check-cashing centers states that their charges for holding a post-dated check does not qualify as interest. In January, the Court ruled that the state's check-cashing act does not confer "blanket protection" on lenders.
One trick of the trade: partnering with out-of-state banks [link goes to PDF file] which are allowed to charge more than the Arkansas rate if their home state permits.
AG McDaniel says he requested written responses from the lenders no later than the 4th of April.
Hope for the older generation
There but for the grace of God, yadda, yadda, yadda:
Today another wonderful technological advancement by the parental units has occurred: my father actually responded to a text message! I am not sure that this achievement will be as understood or appreciated by my readers as it should be, so I will explain my excitement at this. I once sent my father a text message on his phone (because he has been paying for a text messaging package on that phone for some time now) and it went unnoticed for almost six months. The only reason he noticed it was because he accidentally replied to it with a blank message. I know it was a reply because I was using the same cell phone that I had been using when I sent the message and it was lined up right below the one previous message I had sent to him months earlier. So, I called him to ask what he had meant to send in the text message and after I had explained text messaging to him explained that he had replied to one that I had sent him a very long time ago, he said he didn't know that I had sent him one and he didn't know that he had sent one OR more importantly how to repeat the procedure to try again.
Been there, failed to reply to that. I remember coming to the conclusion that predictive-text entry was simply beyond my comprehension, and dropped the issue on poor Trini, who was actually able to explain things in a more efficient manner than the Nokia manual, which appeared to have been translated from Finnish to English by a native speaker of Urdu.
But last night I sent him a text message while talking to him from my iPhone. He was able to see that he had a message while I was available and we chatted about it a bit, but I didn't try explaining the process of how to go about sending text messaging (I have found it works best to just take these things one step at a time). But today, my father replied to the text message I had sent him yesterday (while on the phone with him)!! Not only that he was able to then respond to my quick text response to him. We had a text conversation it was amazing!
This is not, incidentally, the situation described by Mark Twain: "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." On the other hand, I seldom pass up an opportunity to work in a Mark Twain quote, no matter how inappropriate. And besides, Twain, I believe, would have figured out text messages; heck, he poured money into an automated printing-press gizmo, and God knows he'd have no issues with contemporary txtspk.
Fark blurb of the week
(Linked to this.)
20 March 2008
Strangeness in your smile
Yeah, this is contrived, and yeah, this is standard-issue illusion stuff. I don't care. It's a great premise, and, as the Great Carsoni used to say, you buy the premise, you buy the bit.
Recoiling in horror
Spring may indeed be sprung, but I much prefer the traditional signs (birds, crocuses, whatever) to what I actually got this morning, which was the infamous Service Engine Soon light.
Weirdly, my gas mileage has been up lately, so I'm guessing this has something to do with fuel delivery. Unfortunately, I won't know until I can get the code(s) pulled.
Donuts on your lawn
There were four-cylinder Camaros before: in 1982, the third-generation GM pony car debuted with, if you weren't careful, Pontiac's low-suds Iron Duke engine with a single fuel injector and a measly 90 hp. As equipped, it would have been hard-pressed to outrun my seven-year-old Toyota Celica.
Now Bob Lutz is suggesting that there will again be Camaros with four-bangers though nothing like the lowly Duke. The engine under consideration, complete with turbocharger, has already done yeoman duty in the Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky twins, plus a couple of GM front-drivers; it should be good for 260 hp, which should propel the 3000-lb (preliminary estimate) coupe more than adequately.
Then again, drivers itching for a bitchin' Camaro are going to demand more than "more than adequately," and they won't give a bent pushrod about GM's need to meet escalating CAFE standards. Let's just hope the curb weight turns out to be somewhere within a couple of bowling balls of that 3000-lb target, otherwise things are going to get seriously ugly.
This is a call to all, I think
No argument from me: "[R]egardless of who gets the Democratic nod, the party will be left with an abundance of disenchanted votes that could be up for grabs by an Independent candidate."
Still: Dave Grohl for President?
"Every night when I'm on tour, I bring my message to thousands and thousands of people. There's 10 thousand people that woke up this morning and felt like America is the right place to be because at our show last night they were spilling beer all over themselves and tongue kissing for two hours. What other candidate can do that? With all due respect to Obama, Hillary, Huckabee and all the others, they've got nothing on me."
And let's face it, you're not gonna see that after a McCain rally.
(Via E. M. Zanotti.)
This week's Carnival of the Vanities has been dubbed the "tardy edition" by Andrew Ian Dodge, though it didn't seem all that late to me. Dodge blames a "heavy chemo day," the sort of thing that can slow down the best of us. Before it happens to me, I'm hoping we get some sort of Restorer of the World, a title bestowed by the Roman Senate on Emperor Aurelian after he reunited breakaway empires under Roman control, shortly before his death in 275.
At least he wasn't barefoot
The really shocking thing, when you get right down to it, was that it happened in Wisconsin in March:
Eighteen-year old John Greeley was challenged to run across the frozen Silver Lake, completely naked, for $300.
He made it, too: in ten minutes, wearing nothing but socks. Unfortunately:
A Kenosha County Sheriff's Deputy just happened to see the whole thing from a boat launch on the lakefront.
"I was met by four police cars and six police officers, and I got a $750 citation," Greeley said.
Geez. Where was the SWAT team? This is at least as heinous as littering in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
There is family precedent:
His dad and uncle made the same streaking bet at the same lake 20 years ago, but they didn't get caught.
And it was Dad who put young John up to the run and who wound up writing the check for the balance of the fine.
(Seen here; header graphic might qualify as NSFW.)
Fairly regular behavior
Let's see if I have this straight. They pulled a gun on you and forced you to pump overpriced gasoline into your cars?
Then what's the problem, exactly?
(Via Tamara K.)
21 March 2008
What has fashion ever done for you?
Me, particularly? Not much, since I am (1) a guy (2) without an enormous amount of disposable income. On the other hand, it makes damnably good blogfodder at times.
For instance, I bring you the results of a survey by British retailer Debenhams, which names the push-up bra as the Greatest Fashion Invention Ever. Elsewhere in the Top 20, stilettos claimed the #4 spot, just ahead of the Little Black Dress. I note with no particular dismay that Rudi Gernreich's attempt at a topless swimsuit did not chart.
(Via Dan Collins.)
Looks like I picked the wrong week to learn the words to "O Fortuna" from Orff's Carmina Burana.
(From I'm Learning to Share! Depending on entirely too many variables, you may find this slightly, or not so slightly, out of sync.)
Scratch the whole idea
TracFone, a provider of prepaid cell-phone service, sends out regular promotional offers to their customers, and yesterday's card offered the usual one-year / 400-minute package, but with "Lucky Bonus Minutes!" Just scratch off the lucky cloverleaf if this was supposed to be timed to arrive for St Patrick's Day, someone dropped the ball somewhere and see how much your bonus is.
Or don't scratch it off at all, and just read the fine print:
200 BONUS MINUTES will be awarded upon the addition of a 1 Year card using promotional code 52057 by March 31, 2008.
In case you missed that promotional code, it's also on the other side of the card, in much larger print: "Please use promotional code 52057 when adding your 1 Year card to receive your Bonus Minutes."
It's not a bad deal for a low-volume user I've had twelve-month periods when I didn't use up 600 minutes, and postpaid service costs rather more than $100 a year but I'm still flabbergasted by the fact that I actually scraped off all that silvery lint, just to be sure.
Sometimes it only takes one word
A friend of mine brings in this photo of her cat in mid-misadventure, and more or less simultaneously we say the same thing:
That about covers it, I should think.
Addendum: If you like this photo, click on it and vote at ICHC.com; maybe we can get it to the front page.
Don't count on these
The Bureau of the Census was hoping to go "virtually paperless" in 2010, but it's not gonna happen:
This month, the Government Accountability Office reported [link goes to PDF file] that the bureau's plan to use handheld computers for much of the 2010 census is in trouble. The GAO noted cost overruns and project management issues that it has pointed out for years.
But the big problem is a single device: the custom handheld designed to be used by 525,000 "enumerators" temporarily hired to track down the estimated 100 million Americans who won't return their census forms.
Geez. What sort of gizmo is this?
The device, made by HTC Corp., is 6 in. long and weighs most of a pound. It contains a GPS locator, maps, Wi-Fi, a cellular device to transmit encrypted census data, an iPhone-size touch screen, a fingerprint sensor for security and an extra-large battery to run it all.
In short, it's big, heavy and stuffed with gadgetry not exactly what you'd choose for the retirees who will make up the majority of those half-million enumerators.
Yes, but did it actually work?
Data uploaded too slowly. Too-big data files wouldn't upload at all. The handheld's security software locked users out for 15 minutes when their fingerprints weren't recognized. Some users quit during the test last year too complicated, they said. Pretty much all the testers had trouble making the devices work.
I think we can take that as a "No."
So what's the backup plan? Apparently it's a strange and wondrous substance called "paper." To quote Director Steve Murdock [link goes to PDF file]:
[G]iven various issues related to handhelds, we would simultaneously evaluate the feasibility of a paper-based back-up plan for nonresponse follow-up should the next FDCA [Field Data Collection Automation Program] dress rehearsal not succeed.
Let's see if we have numbers by the 2012 election.
22 March 2008
Quote of the week
It has been exceedingly difficult to discuss race in this nation for about 30 years, because anytime anyone white or black has tried to make a serious point, the word "racist!" is immediately flung out; lasting and damaging labels are instantly attached to people, and so everyone just shuts down. People guard their words and swallow provocative debating points even if their aim is to generate a real, open and honest forum of ideas because no one wants to be called a racist. This happened to Bill Clinton and to Bill Cosby; it happened to Rush Limbaugh and Geraldine Ferraro, and driving today I heard the word spat out at Sean Hannity. It happened to me, actually, last week, when I was called a "racist" on another blog for writing this; I was also deemed "hypersensitive" about being called a racist.
To which I replied, "I don't think youíd like it."
But see, I didn't think anything I wrote was "racist." I simply made the mistake of trying to discuss race at all.
"Black" America is forced to live a psychic duality, but in a way, "white" America is, too. We are supposed to apparently somehow split our brains, into never even noticing that there are racial differences between us, unless we're working in praise of those differences. So, there are no differences between us ... but we celebrate the differences ... but there are none, and if you think there are, you're a racist. Now celebrate!
Does that make sense? No wonder the national psyche is so battered. No wonder Obama is having difficulty straddling this chasm, despite his long legs. No wonder issues of race are distracting us from a much larger issue, which is whether he is competent to be our president and CIC.
Short answer: We could do worse.
Last week marked James Lileks' return to actual newsprint, and, says Saint Paul, this event didn't sit well with everyone:
The media liberals in town, who are accustomed to having a monopoly for their opinions appearing in the local press, are predictably getting the shakes over what this may mean. Lileks has always been a tough case for them to handle. He's clearly more talented than they are and he's an apostate to the dominant media culture. So a mix of condescension and grave foreboding usually accompanies reviews of his work.
I'd be tempted to dismiss this as the usual sniping across the aisle except that I went to read the online version of that first column, which to maximize advertising potential had been spread over two pages, and the second page had been hijacked by this:
Last week there was a comment spam on various blogs, the comment contains a link which redirects the user to a fake/scare scan page of the infamous XP AntiSpyware / XP AntiVirus rogue security applications.
Which makes me wonder if some Star Tribune reader, upset that the paper was giving space to One Of Them, planted this thing as a comment in the hopes of killing Lileks' pageviews.
I left a note to the newspaper explaining what happened on my visit to the page, not including that particular bit of speculation.
It's all Flin Flon to me
Unity Mitford, fourth of the six Mitford sisters, was born in London but apparently conceived in a small Ontario town called Swastika. Her fondness for Adolf Hitler was legendary, and at nineteen she traveled to Nuremburg, met the Führer of her dreams, and became a member of his entourage. It is true that when Britain declared war on Germany in 1939, she shot herself in the head, though not efficiently (she survived with brain damage for more than eight years); however, this isn't:
There is a legend Unity Mitford suggested to Hitler that he adopt the swastika as the Nazi symbol due to the place of her birthplace but this is wholly unsupported.
In fact, German nationalists had been using the swastika before Hitler; some participants in the 1920 Kapp Putsch wore the symbol.
If only Unity had been conceived elsewhere in Canada and proposed the Nazis adopt the symbol of Medicine Hat, Alberta or Malignant Cove, Nova Scotia or even Dildo, Newfoundland, the history of the world might have been very different.
If not necessarily funnier.
Let's see you rip this
Elvis Costello's album Momofuku, due out next month, will not be available on Compact Disc; you want it, you wait for it to show up at your favorite download store or you buy the vinyl LP.
Of course, if you do buy the vinyl LP (it's on the Lost Highway label), you get a code for a free downloadable version.
Waking up is hard to do
I have no idea what that little origami-snowflake toy is properly called; when I was growing up it was a "cootie-catcher," and after flexing it enough times, you'd pop it open, unfold a section of it, and somehow your fortune would be told.
So when the girl opens up the device in the early moments of Richard Linklater's Waking Life, I had to keep watching no matter how much I might have been put off by the premise. What it says is "Dream is destiny," and while I've always distrusted dreams my dreams, anyway I felt I could trust Linklater, if only because he'd given us Before Sunrise, a romance I dearly loved because, unlike the case with almost every other such story, I could identify with either lead.
Linklater didn't let me down. The structure is something like what I remembered from Slacker, with seemingly-random people coming by, speaking their piece, and then dissolving into the next scene. But the look is wholly different: the thirty or so scenes were shot in live action and then turned into animation, sometimes impressionistic, sometimes sort of realistic, sometimes hyper-unrealistic. If this seems a hodgepodge, well, so do my dreams, and dreams are at the very heart of Waking Life.
About ten minutes in, I was prepared to dismiss the whole thing: "Eye candy," I thought, "to compensate for the preposterousness of the words." But that, too, is characteristic of dreams: whether you can learn anything from them is independent of whether you can make sense of the narrative. "There's no story," asserts one character, a novelist. "Just people, gestures, moments, bits of rapture, fleeting emotions. In short, the greatest story ever told." Nothing at all in there about continuity.
So slowly, surely, I was drawn in, marveling at the look of the thing while trying to keep its seemingly-contradictory premises from overwriting my own programming. And I decided that Linklater wasn't trying to sell me a packaged philosophy: he did, after all, throw in an almost-perfectly serious scene in which a film class on Kurosawa is conducted by a monkey. If there is a philosophy, it's that of the salad bar: there are plenty of things you'll like, but if you go for all of them, you'll quickly discover that there's too much on your plate. You can call it a "neo-human evolutionary cycle" if you'd rather; for a moment I saw myself as Horatio, being informed by Hamlet that there are more things in heaven or earth than I'd suspected. And the ending, well, isn't.
Perhaps Waking Life was intended to recapitulate, then extend, Descartes: "I dream, therefore I am." Dreams and reality might even be somehow interchangeable. We already know that some of our "objective" measurements are affected by our perspectives: accelerate yourself towards the speed of light, and keep one eye on your watch, if you can. Was Linklater trying to anticipate what might be beyond Einstein? I don't know. I do know this, though: in 2001, when it was released, I couldn't have sat through Waking Life. My mindset of the moment wasn't prepared to accept anything that didn't fit into the structures I'd built for myself; I'd have dismissed it out of hand as Slacker Goes to Grad School. Today, it seems more like an artifact of a life I didn't know I'd had. Maybe it really was all just a dream.
(Review copy lent me by a friend thank you, Aero.)
23 March 2008
Perhaps they could race MGs there
A group of investors represented by Jerry Kobyluk, announced today that they plan to build a 100,000 seat Dome Stadium which will cost 1.2 Billion dollars, in one of three possible locations in the central Oklahoma vicinity.
The Dome Stadium will be the largest of it's kind in North America. It will have a natural grass retractable field on a Hitachi track system that can be removed in forty-five minutes or replaced in the same amount of time. "The retractable roof is three and a half acres in size," Kobyluk said.
The construction phase will create forty-five hundred jobs for Oklahomans, and take thirty-nine months until completion. The multipurpose facility offers an endless amount of opportunities for football, soccer, basketball, boxing, rodeos, concerts, etc. The facility will have 158 corporate suites and over 1 million feet of convention space.
"The benefits from this massive project will create tax revenues for schools, roads, and other infrastructure and will be an enormous economic boost for the entire State of Oklahoma," Kobyluk said.
First note: Stacy Swan, from whose Journal Record story I snagged this, didn't clean up any of the text in the original press release, and neither did I. If you feel [sic] from time to time, I understand.
Second note: Yeah, right.
Maybe it's just that Mr Kobyluk would like to be remembered for something other than, well, this:
Jacqueline Morrow Lewis Ledgerwood ... filed in July to become a Democratic candidate for the United States Senate, hoping to unseat Senator Don Nickles (R-Okla.), the three-term incumbent. To borrow a line from an earlier, more famous, candidate, if nominated she will not run, and if elected she will not serve. The reason for this is simple: she's dead.
Ms Ledgerwood, it seems, died soon after filing for the office, but not soon enough to meet the deadline for having her name removed from the ballot. So in the Democratic primary on the 25th of August, her name appeared alongside the names of three other wannabes. A chap named Don Carroll garnered about 46 percent of the votes, not enough for a majority, so the top two candidates will face each other in a runoff on the 15th of September Mr Carroll and the late Ms Ledgerwood, who bagged about 21 percent. Jerry Kobyluk, who finished third, complained loudly and bitterly, but the secretary of the state Election Board would not be moved.
Nickles, incidentally, was re-elected, to what would turn out to be his last term in the Senate.
Apparently there's another press release coming:
From what I could ascertain, it's going to be somewhere between more sketchy information and the huge, official announcement that it's actually going to be built and that it will feature unicorn rides for all the little elf children.
I have it on good authority that the Invisible Pink Unicorn wouldn't be seen in such a place.
(Via The Lost Ogle.)
As long as we're shoveling
Last week, Trini warned me to watch out for the next iTunes update, inasmuch as it would be carrying Safari with it. I said I didn't have any particular problem with Safari, but I thought this was a genuinely lousy way to build market share: those who would try it and like it would likely be outnumbered by those who resent the intrusion.
Updates shouldn't be bundled with completely new software. If they want to ethically push their browser, after the quicktime update they should have had a message "safari internet browser is now available for windows, would you like to download and install it". It just isn't right! Apple banked on people not paying attention since the check is already in there, and I fell right into the trap.
I continue to believe that "options" of this sort should have three buttons in the dialog box: YES, NO and HELL NO. This last would properly be interpreted as "Don't you dare try to foist this thing off on me again."
Safari users, at last count, make up 5.1 percent of dustbury.com visitors.
How generous of them
Today's spam is from "Kauri Cowart," who's faking an email address from a Utah wilderness-protection group to point me to an IP in Gwinnett County, Georgia where I can allegedly purchase something called "Prolonged Activity" "helping geezers score since 1999."
I'm not sure which is more annoying: being called a geezer, or the suggestion that I need help scoring. (The fact that the proffered URL didn't work at all didn't annoy me in the least.)
Icing on the agenda
The Corporation Commission is taking a survey of folks who made it through the December 2007 ice storm, and basically, what they want to know is how much expense you incurred during power outages, and how much you'd be willing to kick in toward the seriously-expensive process of moving power lines underground.
Commissioner Jeff Cloud had said in December that the Corp Comm would be undertaking a study along these, um, lines, noting ruefully that we'd "had two storms of the century already this calendar year."
The survey asks only for your ZIP code, not your name or address.
Holey socks, Batman!
Fashion, like magic, relies on misdirection and illusion: if there's something in the outfit you'd just as soon they didn't see, you carefully rearrange things to draw attention to something else entirely. So far, this is the only justification I've been able to come up with for these Cut-Out Contrast Socks by Emilio Cavallini, which are nominally black but which have a very obvious hole, outlined in white in case you thought the hole wasn't obvious enough. In the illustration they seem to be compensating for nondescript shoes, but, the eccentricities of lad mags notwithstanding, I was under the impression that socks with heels were pretty much a dead issue by 1990. These cost £6, around twelve bucks, so it's not like they're using less fabric and passing the savings on to you.
"It's a bold bold choice for a bold bold girl," says Shoewawa. Preferably a bold bold girl who will remember what she bought, so when she finds these in the bottom of the laundry basket she won't panic and toss them into the dustbin with all the other socks with holes.
24 March 2008
Strange search-engine queries (112)
Not a bug, but an actual feature: a sampling of the wackier search strings that have led folks to this very site during the past week, and by extension evidence that the End of the World is Nigh.
irritation & solenoids: "Name two things commonly found in a transmission shop."
how to dress for the patent office: Wear something no one has ever seen before.
nude pictures of jim cantore: Let's hope there's not a snowstorm going on.
sharon resultan nude fakes: Perhaps you should ask Jim Cantore.
tomtom Navigations system Rodney Dangerfield voices: "Hey, whaddaya turning here for? I told you this wasn't the right exit. I don't get no respect at all."
Does Anyone Go Nude in Arkansas? In the Natural State? You must be kidding.
will my girlfriend leave me after seeing big penises at a nude beach: I checked, and this query did not come from Arkansas.
why the mortgage industry: You got enough cash to buy a house?
lost virginity in 4th grade: Yeah, but you were sixteen years old, Jethro.
was faith hill on the beverly hillbillies: No. However, Sarah Silverman did do a Star Trek: Voyager.
The generic limerick
There once was an X from place B,
Curses, FOIAed again
"Abolish the Freedom of Information Act," says Jeff Jarvis, and not because he wants government secrecy upheld. Quite the opposite, in fact:
Turn it inside-out. Why should we be asking for information about and from our government? The government should have to ask to keep things from us. Government information every act of government on our behalf should be free by default. We must insist on an aggressive ethic of openness. The exceptions should be rare: the personal business of citizens, national security, ongoing criminal investigations and court cases (while they are ongoing), and little else.
I wonder what Jarvis would think about the new Oklahoma rules, which require redaction of Social Security numbers, birth dates, full addresses, account numbers and other personal data from court filings available online.
In the meantime, I suspect that this "aggressive" openness is a long way off, not only because bureaucrats like to protect their turf, but because many existing Federal databases weren't designed to work well with each other, let alone with public interfaces.
The city is ready to sell the first batch of 2007 General Obligation Bonds, approved in December by voters, and I found myself wondering just how much interest they expected to pay on these notes, since the package approved by voters set an upper limit of 10 percent, which seems awfully high for municipal bonds.
This memo from Finance [link goes to PDF file] answers that question. Over 20 years, the payback for $7 million in bonds is projected to be $11.3 million. If I've done the math correctly, this is right around 5 percent, which is consistent with the current market.
(Standard & Poor's upgraded the city's bond rating to AA+ in the spring of 2006, after a couple of decades at the AA level.)
From the "How dare you" files
The owner of a Tulsa convenience store today pleaded no contest to three misdemeanor violations of the Oklahoma Emergency Price Stabilization Act during the December ice storm.
Mohammed Mannan, owner of the M&F Mart north of 31st on Memorial, was given a six-month deferred sentence, was fined $1500 plus court costs, and will have to pay refunds to customers who can prove their purchases.
A. No person for the duration of a declaration of emergency by the Governor of this state or by the President of the United States and for thirty (30) days thereafter shall sell, rent, or lease, or offer to sell, rent, or lease, for delivery in the emergency area, any goods, services, dwelling units, or storage space in the emergency area at a rate or price which is more than ten percent (10%) above the rate or price charged by the person for the same or similar goods, services, dwelling units, or storage spaces immediately prior to the declaration of emergency unless the increase in the rate or price is attributable only to factors unrelated to the emergency and does not include any increase in profit to the seller or owner.
Mr Mannan was charged with boosting his price for unleaded regular gasoline from $2.69 to $3.29, a 22-percent hike. Presumably there would have been no complaints had he simply closed up shop for the duration and sold no gas at all.
25 March 2008
We demand our smarts
Last time we looked at the lower-case smart car, we heard from a happy Oklahoma owner, and speculated that smart might be able to sell "a bunch" of their not-quite-microcars in the Sooner State.
US distributor Roger Penske is now reporting that sales are strong nationwide:
Penske told Automotive News that he thinks that, on top of the 25,000 Smarts he's getting from Europe this year, he could "easily" sell 15,000 more. The trouble is that the Smart factory simply can't produce more than they currently are, so those 15,000 extra sales will either be delayed or lost to other brands. Penske said he's waiting to hear from Mercedes about possibly making more Smarts for the U.S.
What would you cross-shop with a smart, anyway? Prius? Honda Fit?
The big question for Penske, and ultimately for Daimler, is whether the little car can establish a permanent niche in the North American market, or if it turns out to be just another flavor of the month. For the moment, I'm betting Penske's right, and he'll move every one of these that rolls off the boat.
A serious rival for Comic Sans
I finally found out the name of an annoying font: Scriptina. I see this thing everywhere and I hate it. Probably as much as Comic Sans. Scriptina screams ultra feminine chic that overshoots its goal for runway and lands into a warehouse filled with expired Valentine candy. It almost makes one want to take multiple shots of indecipherable grunge fonts to wipe it from the brain.
To test this, here's some text in Scriptina and some different text in FT Nihilist Philosophy:
I think she's made her case.
How the game is played
Michael Bates is justifiably incensed at what he calls "Sonics madness," and wants to know what happened to all the fiscally-responsible Republicans in this state.
My guess is, they're queuing up for free tickets. The idea of state incentives was mentioned in the letter of intent Sonics ownership sent to Oklahoma City, though I really didn't expect them to be quite so blatant.
While libertarians rightly bemoan the notion of forcing taxpayers to subsidize wealthy team owners, they should understand that the market works both ways. If sports leagues have the leverage to demand public financing of stadia as a precondition for moving a franchise to a city, they would be foolish not to use it.
Luring a professional sports team is difficult and generally not economically smart. It is rather galling that the vast majority of a town's residents who will never attend a game are forced to pay for the privilege of added traffic congestion. Nonetheless, there are plenty of cities out there begging for a team. Public subsidies for arenas are the cost of playing.
I suppose this makes me a financial relativist; the best I can hope for, therefore, is to become a financial relativist with season tickets.
Never mind the ballots
Zimbabwe's main opposition party has accused the government of printing millions of surplus ballot papers for the presidential and legislative polls.
The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says leaked documents show nine million papers have been ordered for the country's 5.9 million voters.
Vote fraud? In Zimbabwe? Not a chance. It's just that with inflation running around 66,000 percent, you get in the habit of printing really large quantities of paper documents.
(Via The Munchkin Wrangler.)
Gwendolyn's lack of thirst was diagnosed as ignition problems (P1320, for you fans of OBD II codes); the fix was to replace the spark plugs (which I was going to do anyway) and the ignition coils. Unfortunately, there are six of each, and, this being a sideways V6, you can bet that three of them are a wicked sumbitch to change out. Each coil is around a hundred bucks, and the standard plugs are tipped with rare and precious Unobtainium, so this is a serious hit to the wallet; on the other hand, I'll have no problem blowing off the plug service at 120k, since it's only 14k away. I am still somewhat perplexed by the notion that using less fuel last tank was 23.2 mpg, about 10 percent better than seasonal around-town norms somehow constitutes a "malfunction," but it does change the emissions pattern, and inasmuch as the new ozone rules are likely to mandate closer inspection of vehicle emissions, I've got to implement the fix.
For the day, they handed me the keys to an FX35, a sort-of-SUV built up on Nissan's FM platform. Curiously, its dynamics, over my usual Bad Road course, were almost identical to what I experience in my own car, which took some doing considering that this particular FX, a 2005 model, was rear-wheel drive (an AWD version is also available) and Gwendolyn is a front-driver. Truth be told, I'd rather have the smaller EX, if only because it's not so tall as the FX. Not that I'm inclined to go car-shopping after paying the repair bill, of course.
26 March 2008
But I don't have my wallet handy
After four years of processing subscription payments for Going Natural magazine, PayPal has abruptly cancelled service to its publisher, the Federation of Canadian Naturists (FCN). Attempts to get an explanation as to how the magazine violates PayPal's "acceptable use" policy have been met with generic e-mails from faceless and implacable customer-service personnel.
Those e-mails falsely claim the magazine is pornographic, and sells "sexually oriented goods or services involving minors" or "services for which the purpose is to facilitate meetings for sexually oriented activities."
I've seen only one issue of Going Natural, but I can't imagine anyone thinking it was "sexually oriented": yes, there's the occasional photo of someone without clothing, but it's about as much of a turn-on as US News and World Report. And there aren't any college ratings either.
The FCN says it's contemplating a lawsuit. [Insert "suit" joke here.]
We both know what's been going on
So saith Rick Astley, on the phenomenon of "Rickrolling".
You wouldn't get this from any other guy.
Hugs, not thugs
Here's a fact: A vast swath of America thinks the NBA is a haven for thugs. A lot of people see black skin, jewelry, rap music, and tattoos and think of gun play and drug trades. Of course, the NBA's police blotter has been no worse than those for the other two major sports. And it isn't like the NFL doesn't have black people, or baseball players don't get tattoos. But the 'thug' label continues to stick to the NBA in a way it doesn't to any other league.
I blame Latrell Sprewell.
Actually, I don't; there are plenty of hotheads shooting hoops, not all of whom have tried to choke P. J. Carlesimo (who, incidentally, is presently the coach of The Team Currently Known As The Seattle SuperSonics). But "hothead" does not equal "thug," and in the hopes of clearing this matter up, Ziller calls upon one man who could "help save the NBA": Barack Obama.
Here's why: After Obama's speech last Tuesday, Americans experienced one of those rare-as-Clippers-in-the-playoffs moments to discuss race issues in the media, at the water cooler, around the dinner table with something approaching civility. Sports fans haven't dealt with the issue in a big way since Jackie Robinson and Texas Western. Things have changed since the '60s, obviously. But racism is still around us. Heck, look at last year's Jazz-Warriors series.
Not that we should expect miracles:
This isn't to say the country's racial divide will be bridged in the next four (or eight) years under a President Obama, or that Commissioner Stern's work on this issue will ever be done. But talking about it and making people think about it, you could say, is half the battle. It's easy for someone to look at Caron Butler's tattoos or Chris Wilcox's hair and typecast. In a postracial America (or something close), that stereotypical standby is less of a presence, and some semblance of respect already given to shortstops and quarterbacks might [be] offered to two-guards.
As a citizen, I suppose a potential boost for the NBA's image is not a reason to vote for a candidate. But as a fan, I know who and what I'm rooting for: that someday, maybe the casual sports fan every sports fan will look at David Eckstein and Allen Iverson and see the same thing: players.
I am not quite so sanguine about Obama's true commitment to a "postracial" America, but to the extent that he's jump-started the dialogue and it seems fairly clear to me that, intentionally or not, he has done so he's made a genuine contribution to life in these United States, even if he doesn't survive the bloodletting at the Democratic National Convention. Whether that constitutes an actual reason to vote for the guy is left as an exercise for the student.
Not that you'd notice
The text size for non-blockquoted material in the content column not in the sidebar has been boosted ever so slightly. (Stuff in blockquotes was left alone, for the sake of greater differentiation.)
Also, the dark red background is no darker, and no redder, but a bit wider: it's now 1680 pixels. Those of you who have screens 2000 pixels wide well, you're lucky.
It never hurts to ask
While setting up for Gwendolyn's spa day yesterday, the service manager flipped through rather a lot of screens to see what sort of past issues might be contributing to her woes, and each one was tagged with a mileage reading, from 103,799 all the way back to I stared in disbelief 5.
"How hard would it be to get a copy of all that?" I said.
He pushed a couple of buttons, and after a minute or two of laser whirr, he handed me a sheaf of paper.
Obviously it won't include things that were done outside the Nissan/Infiniti system, but there is stuff here worth knowing. For instance:
14967: "Wood trim is coming unglued on dash lower edge on curves."
23849: "At times when starting cold prior to warming up idle will drop very low when put into gear then come back up." [For a fix, they reprogrammed the computer.]
62982: "Test drive reveals front brake rotors warped (pads ok at 50%)." and "Inspection reveals rear brake pads worn over 90% and rotors warped." [In the 43,000 miles since then, both sets of pads have been replaced and the rear rotors turned.]
I knew all this kind of stuff from my previous car, of course, because I bought it new. This one I didn't. (And given the depreciation curves that prevail, my next one may have, um, prior service also.)
27 March 2008
I can has carbonation?
Come to think of it, I've never seen Ceiling Cat with a Pepsi.
(Via My So-Called Blog.)
This week's Carnival of the Vanities is titled "BTCC is back." What is BTCC? Andrew Ian Dodge explains:
[It's] the British Touring Car Championship. Proper saloon car door to door racing without F1s ponces.
The tradition of the British gentleman, obviously something to be preserved. We haven't seen anything else like that in automobiles since the Japanese domestic market abandoned the "gentlemen's agreement" that limited advertised horsepower to 276.
Down the tubes
Those who would bash Seattle for indifference to its soon-to-be-former NBA team, I submit, are missing the point: the Emerald City has other priorities.
Like, for instance, automated public toilets:
The large, self-cleaning lavatories went into service in 2004 three years after the City Council used a rare show of force to authorize the program as an alternative to less attractive portable toilets.
Since then, the five stalls have cost taxpayers about $4.3 million. The money came from a tax on wastewater rates that cost the average single family household about $2.59 per year on an annual sewer bill of $465.
So how are these $800,000 thrones working out?
A recently completed report [by Seattle Public Utilities] found the unattended toilets have been well used both as they were intended, and as a refuge for drug use and dealing, booze drinking and prostitution. Some homeless people now avoid the toilets because of the social problems they attract, the report found. Meanwhile, there's been a steady increase in how much human waste crews clean each day in downtown alleys and walkways.
Which, if nothing else, proves that just because someone might be homeless doesn't mean that he's a fool.
On Monday, Seattle Public Utilities recommended the city cancel its contract for the facilities early next year. In the meantime, officials hope to find other ways to help tourists, residents and the public find access to other safe, clean restroom facilities.
Good luck with that.
(Via Sound Politics.)
Speaking of toilets
This Wasup concept is a combo of a washing machine and a toilet, reusing the water that cleans the clothes in the washer to flush the toilet. It's a smart idea, as no one cares what's in the water they're about to pee into. It therefore conserves lots of water that would normally just be flushed away.
It's also smart in that it saves space for apartment dwellers, sticking the washing machine above the toilet and saving the floor space that the appliance usually takes up. Of course, you'd worry about dropping your clean clothes in the toilet, but as long as you're careful and coordinated this looks like a pretty great idea that I could see many people wanting.
You have to figure that anyone who goes for this is probably not going to ask plaintively "But where do I put the dryer?"
A plan in abeyance
News Item: The head of the top U.S. phone company AT&T Inc. said on Wednesday it was having trouble finding enough skilled workers to fill all the 5,000 customer service jobs it promised to return to the United States from India. "We're having trouble finding the numbers that we need with the skills that are required to do these jobs," AT&T Chief Executive Randall Stephenson told a business group in San Antonio.
Memo to Mr Stephenson: I've been in an AT&T customer service job. You couldn't pay me enough to take another one; in fact, I took a pay cut to get out of the one I was in.
(Seen at the Consumerist.)
The thick end of the wedge
What you're looking at is "Hali" by Report, a vaguely retro-looking wedge which, at least in this shade there are four available looks like the wearer has been busy kicking daisies. (Given my luck with daisies, I'd kick 'em too.) The upper is real leather, the sole is something else entirely, and the heel is a modest two inches. Zappos sells these for $84.
Erin at A Dress A Day bought them in black, and wound up returning them: "I wanted them to work, badly, but they were too narrow across the ball of the foot, and the last thing you want in a low-cut shoe is overflow." Indeed. And she had one further objection: "Also, I don't like peep-toes where you only see one toe; it feels too 'my talon, let me show you it,' to me." Which leaves "Hali" with one discernible redeeming social value: it's not a Croc.
28 March 2008
On the rocks
Some Michigan transportation officials, their budgets squeezed, shrunk, and then squeezed some more, have noted with sorrow that today you can't tell their asphalt from a hole in the road, and have come up with a brand-new, really old approach: forget the pavement, bring on the gravel. It's already happening in some parts of the Mitten:
Workers [in Kent County] recently pulverized portions of four roads. They'll remain as gravel for a few months despite traffic volumes of 5,000 to 10,000 vehicles per day, said Jerry Byrne, director of maintenance for the Kent County Road Commission.
"It's safer," he said, "and it's a better ride."
And after all, what choice do they have?
[T]he state Department of Transportation estimates it needs to come up with an extra $320 million a year just to maintain state-managed roads, and many county-level officials around the state have noted that a number of their roads simply go unrepaired.
I don't know how well this would work in Oklahoma, but I can think of several roads to which I'd like to take a very large sledgehammer, just out of spite.
Open to manipulation
Adobe has introduced something called Photoshop Express, a Web-based application which, at its heart, is apparently a stripped-down version of Photoshop Elements which, at its heart, is a stripped-down version of Photoshop.
I was surprised to hear about this (reader tips are always appreciated), but I probably shouldn't have been:
Adobe says providing Photoshop Express for free is part marketing and part a strategy to create up-sell opportunities. It hopes some customers will move from it to boxed software like its $99 Photoshop Elements or to a subscription-based version of Express that's in the works.
Ron Glaz, a research analyst at IDC, says the move was necessary for Adobe to keep pace. Users are less likely to switch to a software they aren't familiar with, he said.
"They have a whole market that they are missing out on, and they need to make sure that the market is aware there is a Photoshop solution for them. As that market grows and becomes more sophisticated, hopefully it will generate money," Glaz said.
I haven't decided whether to mess with this or not. I purchased Photoshop Elements a while back, and I get plenty of use out of it, but the Express version might be useful on the road, where I don't have Elements handy. (No way am I going to install Elements on a notebook that maxes out at 512 mb of RAM.) My real fear, of course, is not so much that Photoshop Express is still technically a beta, but that it will wind up with Adobe Reader-like speed: even now I can hear the giggles from the glaciers.
"Sometimes they say shoot. But they can't kid me, man." George Carlin
(Via the angelic Tamara K.)
Quote of the week
Can I just reiterate how completely insane it is that an attempt to prevent Americans from consuming Bolivian Marching Powder has now become the single largest determinant of our foreign policy in Latin America and much of the Caribbean? It's as if we were boycotting Cuba in an effort to crack down on diabetes.
[Insert "Cane mutiny" joke here]
Natural mail enhancement
[Rep. Darrell] Issa [R-CA] stated unequivocally that [White House CIO Theresa] Paytonís testimony confirmed that the missing communications were not the result of deliberate malfeasance by the White House or negligence by the administration's technology staff, but simply a computer glitch that ensued when the White House wanted to phase out an archaic email program.
In an exchange with Payton, Issa characterized Lotus Notes as "wagon-wheel" technology.
"I wouldn't want to do business with somebody still using Lotus Notes or still using wooden wagon wheels," Issa responded. "If I understand correctly, though, certainly I checked with the House of Representatives, we can no longer support it for members who want to stay on it."
The Kos diarist (markthshark) comments:
Now, for middle-aged computer geeks, comparing Lotus Notes to "wagon wheel" technology is analogous to comparing a brand spanking new Dell XPS 630 Desktop to a 1970's era Commodore PET (Personal Electronic Transactor).
The excuse is laughable. (to be kind)
I'll grant him that the excuse is indeed laughable, but as a middle-aged computer geek who is forced to use Lotus Notes at work, I can assure you, I'd much rather deal with wagon wheels: at least you can see them move once in a while.
29 March 2008
If not killing time, at least wounding it
Since we haven't had one in a while, I'm declaring a More-Or-Less Open Thread. Try not to go too berserk, okay?
Alternatively, he and her
It takes, I think, a certain amount of cheek to designate something which may or may not have a follow-up "Volume One," and the concept is perhaps more honored in the breach. The first Smothers Brothers best-of compilation was called Golden Hits Vol. 2: not only was there no Volume 1, but everything in Vol. 2 was newly recorded versions of previously-issued material. The Traveling Wilburys issued two albums, Volume 1 and Volume 3. Even Mad magazine got into the act: the first issue (October/November 1952) was of course Volume 1, Number 1; more than 400 issues later, Mad has yet to reach Volume 2.
Which brings us to She & Him, whose first album on Merge Records is called Volume One. And the group name makes more musical than grammatical sense: She (Zooey Deschanel) is out front, but the backgrounds (and occasional background vocals) come from Him (M. Ward). I was woefully unprepared for this set, since I had barely heard of Ward, and my one exposure to Deschanel, her portrayal of Trillian in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, had left me with one of those annoying fanboy crushes. Based on Volume One, that crush isn't going away any time soon.
Deschanel wrote most of these songs, and they fit into a mostly-forgotten segment of the pop spectrum: wedged between Shelby Flint and Norma Tanega. ("Black Hole," to me, sounds like a long-lost sequel to "Walkin' My Cat Named Dog"; here's a live version from SXSW 2008, with Ward on guitar.) Not to say that they're all of a piece, either: Deschanel does girl-group fluff ("I Was Made for You") and country yearns ("Got Me") equally well. Ward's backgrounds, augmented with outside drums and pedal steel, are spare and satisfying. There are three covers: the Beatles' "I Should Have Known Better," given a Judy Collins-ish folkie-yet-arty treatment; Smokey Robinson's "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," with both voices harmonizing over a single guitar; and the spiritual "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," which brings things to a gentle close. Not one track over four minutes, and not one wasted moment.
Technical note: While CDs are available, I bought Volume One as a download from Amazon.com ($8.99). Unlike previous Amazon downloads, which were at a fixed 256-kbps bitrate, these tracks are all variable-rate, floating up to 320 at times.
Small and flat and light and lovely
The next-to-next-to-last item on this week's Woot-Off was a Logitech Brazilian Office Internet Keyboard, which sold for the princely sum of 19 cents. (This being Woot, of course, there's the usual $5 shipping charge.) The obvious question for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere is "What's the difference from a 'regular' by which we mean 'our' keyboard?"
So, this keyboard only has keys along a narrow strip in the center, right?
Actually, this is the layout I will encounter. (I bought three, which I plan to merge into the corporate keyboard stock just to see if anyone notices. Seldom do I get to pull a prank that costs as little as $5.57.)
Saturday spottings (fields of clover)
I mean, it's everywhere: purple molehill majesties, strutting their stuff before the serious greening starts in. After a year and a half of obsessive (and none too inexpensive) weed treatments, I managed not to have any of it this year, although the clover might be preferable to the occasional bare spots.
Seen at 38th and May: an actual lemonade stand, manned by a couple of kids, with adults watching from the wings. I caught a glimpse of it only in passing, but I'm guessing it was some sort of charity fundraiser, perhaps sponsored by the state Baptists, who own the building on that corner.
I'm trying to get a fix on one aspect of grocery-shopper behavior. For most things, I go to the Crest store at 23rd and Meridian; some items it doesn't carry I find at the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market at 23rd and Pennsylvania. These stores are about three miles apart, and their demographics are roughly similar, with the Wal-Mart having a few more Asians, the Crest a few more Latinos. Ethnicity, however, likely doesn't explain this: at Crest, just about every last shopping cart is returned to the racks in the parking lot, while at Wal-Mart about a third of them are strewn about the lot, seemingly randomly. For now, I'm thinking that it's simply a matter of staff attention: I almost always see someone rounding up the baskets at Crest, and if I see him, someone else does too, and maybe that someone else is thus motivated to leave his cart in the proper place to be picked up. I seldom see anyone policing up the Wal-Mart lot. If you have a better explanation, I'd like to hear it.
Note to Casual Male XL: You cater to, well, XL guys. Is it really wise to push the racks so close together that we can't get between them without knocking something off a hanger?
Hummer H2 and H3 models have largely supplanted the original H1 bruiser, which is no longer being sold at retail. Still, almost 12,000 H1s were built, and one of them today turned up at Circuit City, its driver deftly managing to squeeze its 86.5-inch width into a suddenly-undersized parking space while I watched from the next row. (My own car, which strikes me occasionally as Too Darn Big, is a mere 70.2 inches across.) Nicely done, although the image of a Disneyfied dancing elephant stayed with me all the way across the Northwest Distressway.
Not a sixty-minute man
Besides, it's frickin' dark outside.
30 March 2008
Not what she meant by "falling"
Way back around 1970, banker Jack Conn commissioned a "kinetic" sculpture from artist Lin Emery, which would be the centerpiece of the plaza surrounding the new Fidelity Bank tower at Robinson and Robert S. Kerr. The piece, named "Falling Water," was dedicated on 28 January 1972, complete with a title in Cherokee and an explanation in English: "CLUSTER SHAPE INSPIRED BY OKLAHOMA'S STATE FLOWER, THE MISTLETOE; SWOOPING / FORKED FORMS DERIVED FROM STATE BIRD, THE SCISSOR-TAIL FLYCATCHER."
Fidelity Bank fell on hard times in the 1980s oil-patch bust; Tulsa's Bank of Oklahoma moved in. The physical plant at what is now BOK Plaza has not weathered well:
Anyone passing by can spot the problems crumbling brick pavers, overgrown planters and a plaza that is rarely used by the public. Also noticeable "Falling Water," an outdoor water mobile sculpture commissioned by Conn hasn't had water falling or any other movement in years.
The new owners of the tower, BOKP Investors, have vowed to improve the place:
Bank of Oklahoma, which leases 40 percent of the tower, was eager to see some changes in the tower's upkeep and it would only commit to a longer stay if some significant changes were made.
"The plaza is in disrepair," [co-managing partner William] Mee said. "So we agreed to renovate the plaza a $3 million upgrade. And we're excited about it it will be a nice addition."
It doesn't help that there's a big glass box across the street Leadership Square which reflects summer heat back into the plaza.
Fixing the sculpture may be tricky. Artist Stan Carroll will be asked to consult on the matter. I'm hoping it can be saved.
The ever-popular Fake URL trick
My daughter used to own a Toyota Matrix, and I remember it as being just this side of somnolent, despite her best efforts. (She obviously inherited the old man's leadfoot tendencies.) For 2009, Toyota has, um, reloaded the Matrix, including reinstating the all-wheel-drive option, and they're trying to sell it as some sort of excitemobile. A print ad in the current Car and Driver shows an '09 Matrix in some electric-tangerine color, and in the same shade, there's a URL: web-physicians.net/hyperventilation.
Which actually works, although eventually, inevitably, you'll end up here. Still, I'm amused at the premise, and at the idea that the Matrix, which is for all intents and purposes a Corolla with a hatchback, is somehow connected to one's "dark side." Maybe Toyota's trying to atone for screwing up the Scion xB.
Addendum: It's crazier than I thought. I found a display ad on Technorati for something called "Parents Against Reprehensible Metal Music," which turns out to lead yet again to Toyota's Matrix site.
Further addendum: It's crazier than I thought it was when I thought it was crazier than I thought. Just ask Mr. Raccoon.
The A list
Sure, we like to entertain and be funny, but we also like to educate. We want our readers to know things that no other site's readers know. We want them to be able to show their superiority in mixed company. We want them to be able to astound the fairer sex. We want them to be brilliant! With that in mind, we embarked on an in-depth study of how you can pretty much guarantee that should you be faced with a situation where you are asked to enter into a date with someone you have never met (aka The Blind Date), you can rest assured that there is one way to know that the girl you are being presented with is attractive.
And how does that work, exactly?
After exhaustive research and hours of poring over, uh, data, we have come to the undeniable conclusion that if a woman's first name ends in the letter "A" she is more than likely to have a very hot body. Also of note, there is a proliferation of sports WAGs and athletes included in our research, leading us to a secondary conclusion that not only will your girl be hot if her first name ends in "A", there is also a high likelihood of her being quite athletic (noted with an A), or at least having a passing interest in sports (noted with a W) win-win! Hey, you can't argue with science.
There follows a list of women whose given names end in A, tagged A or W when necessary.
Maybe it's just me, or it's just a lamentable lack of beer, but I didn't find this argument particularly persuasive. And come to think of it, neither would Andrea Dworkin.
Somewhere a podiatrist is sobbing
The big problem with Venomous Kate's new walking shoes presents itself halfway through a walking session:
[B]y the time I'm midway through my walk, I can't feel the outside edges of my left foot aside from my pinkie toe which has felt, frankly, like someone was twisting it off. Slowly. And since I've been overcompensating for that pain, by the end of my walk my right ankle has felt like I've been on ice skates for hours.
I have a newfound respect for hockey players. Some of them, anyway. What was she to do?
This morning, I decided that foot pain or no foot pain, one of the best things I could do for my feet would be to reduce some of the poundage they have to carry around every day. So I got up, shrugged on my sweats and shoved my feet into shoes.
Or, rather, I tried to. Right about the time I was shoving my sore left foot into its shoe a Lego tumbled out.
And to think I have the temerity to complain about the occasional influx of gravel. Sheesh. I can only imagine the flow of invective that ensued.
Bump, with or without grind
Every March, TRIP puts out a Survey of Horrible American Roads, and every March, our two biggest cities rank high in horribleness. Appendix A to the current Urban Roads Report [link goes to PDF file] rates 41 percent of Oklahoma City roads as Poor, 28 percent as Mediocre, 11 percent as Fair and 20 percent as Good. (Anyone know any Good roads around the metro?) Comparable figures for Tulsa: 40 / 37 / 7 / 16.
Also every March, someone from the state legislature brings up this survey and vows to Do Something About It, whether his proposed solution will actually solve anything or not. This year it's Rep. Mike Thompson (R-OKC), whose House Bill 3342 would require that auto tag fees be dedicated to road maintenance. "As many as 81 percent of Oklahomans support this proposal in some polls," says Thompson. Heck, I'd support it if I thought it would actually improve the roads. In practice, though, what it will do is provide a few more dollars for the same old contractor hacks who built these things to wear out as quickly as possible in the first place.
Meanwhile, the motor-fuel taxes are still applied with a certain perversity: the state gas tax is 17 cents a gallon, while diesel fuel is taxed at 14 cents, presumably a sop to the trucking industry. Never mind that one single eighteen-wheeler can inflict more pavement damage than a thousand cars. ("Yeah, but they only get 7 mpg so they buy more fuel," if taken to its logical conclusion, requires that the state discourage any and all fuel-economy efforts lest receipts decline, so don't even think of going there.) Tom Elmore once proposed a "weight-distance fee" for trucks in lieu of the diesel tax; it looks interesting, but I'd like to see some numbers.
The San Francisco Bay area is even worse off, roadwise, than we are. Can they turn this into a selling point? Let's see:
Why is this good news for the Bay Area that we [have] the worst roads in the nation?
Because it makes us special! And it ensures that only good people with new cars can live here.
You see, by having poor roads, people constantly need to repair or buy new cars. This is good because it helps keep the poor people out (you know, people making less than $100k I don't even know who does that!) and it ensure that the cars on the road are constantly new. As a result, people are encouraged to buy nice new cars like S-classes, Maybachs, Lexus SUVs etc making the community nicer in general. It helps us stay true to our heritage of bling and money. Isn't chasing status what Silicon Valley was always about?
I wield pretty good snark myself sometimes, but I don't think I could sell that premise here.
31 March 2008
Strange search-engine queries (113)
For the uninitiated, this is, or has grown to be anyway, a weekly feature in which we look at the thousand or so search-engine hits that have come in during the past seven days, and reprint the goofiest one percent thereof. It is surprisingly popular, for reasons I'd just as soon not know.
Foriners getting married in denmark: Because the laws in Forin are so restrictive, of course.
penis 26 inchers mpg: Well, you certainly wouldn't want them in QuickTime.
what is the opposite of nondescript:
downsides of physical attractiveness: People who lack it tend to fall in love with you.
how to play "i love rock and roll" on your cell phone keypad: You're asking me? Yeah, me?
why democrats are jackasses: It's a trademark. Similarly, Republicans are pachyderms.
"invisible girlfriend" "pantyhose": Now there's a visual, so to speak.
Condoleezza Rice showing off her boobs: That's no way to talk about State Department career diplomats.
corporate org charts iq: Everywhere I've worked there's been an inverse correlation.
gilbert gottfried things to say when you can't achieve an erection: Just thinking of Gilbert Gottfried is probably enough to kill the mood.
I do not want to do anything to screw it up with ursula: When you reach the heat of passion? Don't mention Gilbert Gottfried.
antidisestablishmentarianism scuzzbuckets: Whoever was trying for the Googlewhack, my congratulations.
You don't mean that
The male brain, it seems, is hopeless at picking up "come-on" signals, according to a report to be published next month. This leaves men impervious to the seduction techniques of the opposite sex.
Well, it's always seemed that way to me, anyway.
A study by scientists at Indiana University tested 280 undergraduates of both genders on their ability to spot social signals. They were shown photographs of women and asked to categorise them as friendly, sexually interested, sad or rejecting.
The male students were far less accurate than the females at interpreting the body language, and were particularly baffled by the difference between flirty and friendly gestures.
A British author notes:
Best-selling author Kathy Lette said the research proved that women are far more fluent in body language.
"It is really confusing for women," she said. "The average bloke either doesn't realise that we fancy him until we are giving birth to his children in the labour ward; or he presumes all women fancy him all the time."
On the other hand, we below-average blokes don't worry about such things: we assume we will be spurned, and we go back to work.
Use only as directed
George Carlin doesn't think much of package directions:
"Did you ever notice that printed right on the cookie box it says, 'Open here.' Well, what did they think I was gonna do? Move to Hong Kong?"
Carlin probably never got a Hot Apple Pie from Mickey D's, about which Brian J. Noggle thinks plenty:
I am not a dumb man; I understand that opening the box on one side would violate the instructions, because that would open the box in such a fashion that I was not opening the box properly. That is, if I were to open the box on the right side of the box, the box would be open by the time I got to the instruction on the left side; therefore, I would not correctly open the box on the left side, as the box would already be open.
No, verily, I could infer without any further written instruction that, to satisfy this short end user license on the box and to not violate the warranty of my apple pie, I must open both sides of the box simultaneously; that is, I would open both flaps marked Open here at once so that I would not merely break down an already open box by one of the motions. Fortunately, it was a small box, and I could break the structural integrity of the box on each side with only one hand, and it was thus that I enjoyed my nice cold apple pie knowing that I had correctly interpreted the directions and acted according to the box designers written and explicit intent.
Last time I picked up one of these, by the time I got it home the proximity of one sort-of-greasy somewhat-warm thing to another sort-of-greasy somewhat-warm thing had made the entire question of "structural integrity" more or less moot.
Am I blue?
Um, no, not exactly.
(Oh, you want to know what was next? "That's the Way I Like It" by K.C. and the Sunshine Band. Uh-huh, uh-huh. And that first link might not pass muster at work.)
Once upon a time I made reference to "really insubstantial shoes", and I was probably thinking about something like this at the time. It's "Krinkle" by Via Spiga, in a color called "Taupe Land Snake." Really. There's also a "Copper Land Snake," which sounds even more menacing. As strappy sandals go, these are up there with the strappiest. The upper is embossed leather; the heel (3½ inches) has a metallic appearance. Sara at heelcandy.com gives it thumbs up:
With the absence of an ankle strap even ladies with shorter legs can pull these off! I really like the simple crossing of the straps and the contrasting dull gold and silver. And the heel is definitely going to get some looks (all good of course) with its reflective surface.
The shoe weighs a whole six ounces; Zappos sells the pair for $189, which works out to $252 a pound. Lack of substance doesn't come cheaply.
The taxman cometh once more
County tax assessments are out, and I can use this paragraph all over again, almost:
Under the 5-percent cap law, the assessed value can go up by a maximum of 5 percent per year, regardless of actual market value, unless there is a change in ownership or a substantial change in the property itself. And the market value, they estimate, has risen
Still, this beats the hell out of all those the declining values they keep whining about on the news.
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