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log entries
May 2002


 

Wednesday, 1 May 2002, 6:45 pm

Near-record heat today. Maybe they'll fix the A/C tomorrow, after the cold front comes through.

It is apparently the official policy of The Dallas Morning News that you get to link only to the front page of the site; in fact, they're threatening to sue a Webmaster in Big D for linking to individual News stories, rather than forcing his readers to navigate the News' cumbersome architecture (translation: allowing his readers to bypass the ads on the front page). It's times like this I miss the old Dallas Times Herald — papers with real competition can't afford the luxury of pulling stunts of this sort. (Muchas gracias: Cut on the Bias, via InstaPundit.)

Today in The Vent: three parts nostalgia, two parts psychobabble, and all of it kind of damp.

Thursday, 2 May 2002, 5:25 pm

Clear Channel, which has been operating KGYN (1210 kHz) in Guymon, a couple hundred miles from here, has now dropped the other shoe. Not only have they filed to move the station to Oklahoma City and jump it up from 10 kw to 50 kw, but they're planning to give their existing 1-kw fulltimer (KEBC, 1340 kHz) to the owners of KTLV (1220 kHz), a 250-watt daytimer which would then be killed off. The question still unanswered is "Will 1210 be the new home of KTOK?" The old home, at 1000 kHz with 5 kw and a directional pattern that would baffle Bucky Fuller, is almost unlistenable at night unless you happen to live along the correct vector. And if KTOK is moving to 1210, what will take its place at 1000?

Some time last year, InStyle magazine, which regular readers will recognize as one of my Guilty Pleasures, ran a feature on singer Faith Hill (no relation), and at some point during the interview she was seen "crossing her yard-long legs". For some reason, this resounds in the back of my brain a lot more intensely than if they had mentioned that she had a thirty-six-inch inseam. The relevance of this is essentially nil, except to the extent that it details the level of obsession with minutiae that characterizes Your Humble Narrator. And, come to think of it, not just minutiae.

And apparently Ernest P. Maletto has given up on me; it's been over a week since he tried to get me to download his damned screensaver. Good riddance, say I.

Friday, 3 May 2002, 6:00 pm

Klez, Klez, Klez. This little turd of a program is wasting more of my time than Survivor and Crossfire combined. I am normally not particularly belligerent, and I tend to turn away from televised scenes of violence (for instance, a combination of Survivor and Crossfire), but I wouldn't at all mind seeing the jackass who wrote this strung up by his genitalia and then released into the crater of an erupting volcano, and I'm certainly not the only one.

Last year, Hollywood's content providers ("We Own It, And We Intend To Own Your Computer") sued SonicBlue, claiming that the firm's ReplayTV 4000 device infringes their precious copyright, and what's more, the federal magistrate hearing the case has now ordered SonicBlue to detail every single instance of fast-forwarding through commercials or passing on a program through the box's Net connection to another user. SonicBlue protested that they didn't collect such data; said the magistrate, you have sixty days to come up with a system to track every last click of the remote control. Yet another example where a business model is dying and those who profit from it expect the government to save their keisters. If this actually proceeds, there's nothing to stop an egregious outdoor-advertising company from suing me for blinking while I drive past a billboard. (Muchas gracias: Richard Bennett.)

Saturday, 4 May 2002, 12:45 pm

Years accumulate, and seemingly faster than the standard rate of one per 365.24 (approximately) days. Had she lived, my grandmother on my mother's side would have celebrated her 100th birthday this week. This is startling, but not too startling; after all, she was already 50 when I was born and therefore, to me at least, she always seemed, well, sort of old. Far scarier is this: yesterday the young lady who stole my heart in high school turned forty-eight. I hate like hell to sound like a typical self-absorbed baby-boomer, but this bugs me far more than it ought, and not just because I'm (slightly) older than she is. I'm sure it has something to do with the static nature of memory, the fact that every time I close my eyes and see her face, it's the face of a fifteen-year-old girl, an image which technically no longer exists but is quite indelible just the same. This also explains why I am taken aback at the appearance of young women with a vague resemblance to her: "How dare you trespass upon my memories?" Fortunately, I usually (though not, I regret to say, always) have enough sense to say nothing, and they go on their way, properly oblivious to my existence. It is, of course, a Good Thing that I am routinely ignored by younger women, since I wouldn't have the slightest idea what to do if I weren't. (Women my age or beyond ignore me also, presumably for different reasons.)

If you wander into K mart and proffer a maxed-out MasterCard for payment, you will not be allowed to leave the store with any merchandise. This seems only sensible. Then again, K mart is broke, while 42nd and Treadmill, which goes out of its way to coddle people who can't pay for services — you might get a nastygram from the comptroller after, say, your thirtieth or fortieth offense — is somehow profitable. The invisible hand of the marketplace? The finger, certainly.

Susanna Cornett, on Derby Day bombast:

"There really is something for everyone at the Derby celebrations, and it's probably no better or worse than other festivals — the Mardi Gras in New Orleans comes immediately to mind. And I'm glad that Kentucky is associated in the minds of many with beautiful horses, great food and a fantastic world-class pageantry. But it's an overlay. It's a part of Kentucky because it evolved there, but today's Kentucky Derby is no more a Southern celebration than the Beverly Hillbillies was a documentary on Appalachia."

Sunday, 5 May 2002, 12:10 pm

Statistics from the dating service It's Just Lunch:

Average number of dates per month:
Democrats - 3.7
Republicans - 2.6
 
Average amount spent on first date:
Democrats - $32.10
Republicans - $52.35
 
Strongly prefer to date within their political party:
Democrats - 83%
Republicans - 61%

All manner of bogus conclusions can be drawn from this data, and here are mine:

(Muchas gracias: Ann Salisbury.)

I caught an ad for America Online on the Univision network last night, and while AOL went to a lot of trouble to sell itself as a viable service for Latino users, I noted with some bemusement that they mentioned (in the usual small print) that the service itself is delivered in English. I'm reasonably certain that the average Spanish-speaking viewer can probably do better in English than I can in Spanish, but still, you'd think they'd at least have gone to the trouble of coming up with a Spanish-language version of "You've Got Mail".

Sunday, 5 May 2002, 4:55 pm

If you're coming here from DavidMSC.com, welcome aboard. Dave actually lived in these parts for a few years, and he survived nicely, so there's hope for me yet.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden reports that over a thousand individuals (he didn't say "clueless twits", because, well, that's not his style, but he could have) have signed an online petition to get director Peter Jackson, or someone, to change the name of the second Lord of the Rings movie to something other than The Two Towers. All that September 11th stuff, doncha know. J. R. R. Tolkien's original book with this title came out in 1954, before the World Trade Center was a set of blueprints, let alone a pile of debris, but minor details like that are wasted on, well, clueless twits.

Monday, 6 May 2002, 5:20 pm

The Home Office is apparently taking submissions from Yale Law School. Their LawMeme site, taking the lead from Jamie Kellner, Turner Broadcasting's answer to Jack Valenti, has posted a list of the Top Ten New Copyright Crimes. What's unnerving, of course, is that they didn't have any trouble coming up with ten.

Stones the Size of Casaba Melons Dept.: The owner of a flight school in Florida is suing the Immigration and Naturalization Service, claiming the government's post-September 11th profiling of Muslim students is killing his business.

A friendly letter from GLAAD today, doing the usual fund-raising bit, and really, I have a soft spot for this bunch, given the amount of flak routinely given to kids trying to come out of the closet, but I found this one sentence to be a trifle off-putting:

"GLAAD is committed to ending homophobia and discrimination in this country by working with all forms of media to promote fair, accurate and inclusive representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans."

Well, that really should have been "transgendered," but that's not the issue. What constitutes "accurate" representation? Judging by the, um, community members I know, this is a pretty diverse bunch; they're not even a solid voting bloc these days. (Two words: "Log Cabin".) I'd settle, I think, for "non-hateful". So should GLAAD.

A/C repaired today. Elapsed time: twenty-one days and change.

Tuesday, 7 May 2002, 6:10 am

How popular is this site? "Not very" is my stock answer. Then again, if I knew how many sites Alexa has on file, I could figure out just what it means to be ranked 1,588,849th in the world. Alexa isn't saying, but Netcraft claims to have records on 38,118,962 sites, and using the apple for the numerator and the orange for the denominator, I come up with 0.04168 — in other words, the freaking 95th percentile (well, 95.832) for Web traffic. Hmmm. Maybe I should go fish that ancient Point "Top 5%" graphic out of the cache. (All figures as of last night's surfing session.)

California, apparently not satisfied with the fusing of the Stanford Indians into a single Cardinal and similar linguistic atrocities for the sake of political correctness, is now considering outlawing all team names with any discernible ethnicity whatever, even if there are no longer any representatives of the ethnic group in question. Steve Gigl, at least, saw it coming.

Tuesday, 7 May 2002, 6:20 pm

The fiercely-sensible Susanna Cornett takes aim at a latter-day Dixie-basher. As someone who was educated in Texas and then South Carolina and then Texas again, I don't cotton to this kind of stuff any more than she does, but she does a far better job of refuting it.

And another Founding Father shuffles off to Rock and Roll Heaven: Otis Blackwell, composer of "Don't Be Cruel" and "Great Balls of Fire" and a thousand other songs, died yesterday in Nashville. He was seventy years old. His songs, of course, are forever young.

Wednesday, 8 May 2002, 6:05 pm

What Ginger Stampley really thinks about a new fad in lingerie:

"Thongs are bad enough, but the v-string is ridiculous. It really merits the name 'butt-floss'. I am a firm believer in the idea that sexy underwear increases your sexiness even if nobody but you ever sees it. But that's because it gives you confidence. If your underwear is so uncomfortable that you can't walk straight, that's not confidence-inducing. Besides, walking funny reduces your sex appeal."

Then again, those of us who live with testosterone tend not to notice mere gait under those conditions. And anyway, there's a practical limit to how much visual benefit one can derive from this sort of garb. James Lileks gets to the point:

"Let us be frank about the purpose of lingerie.... It is not normal clothing. It exists for one purpose: to be, eventually, visible for a very short time. If it is visible for a very long time — and I am trying to be delicate about this — then it is not doing its job."

Today in The Vent: The San Fernando Valley wants out, and I know the feeling.

Thursday, 9 May 2002, 6:15 pm

As it happens, Clear Channel, the 800-lb gorilla of the airwaves, owns one local talk station and programs the other via a local-marketing agreement, so there's no chance we're going to get Bill O'Reilly's "Radio Factor" here in the Okay City. (For those just tuning in, Clear Channel owns Premiere Radio Networks, which distributes, among other things, the Rush Limbaugh program; obviously they're not going to jeopardize one of their, um, cash cows for the sake of some new guy, even one with as large a following as O'Reilly.)

The unofficial motto of the Blogosphere™ is — and if it isn't, it should be — "We can fact-check your ass." Are we headed for an era of heightened skepticism? I wasn't sure until today, when I got a letter from a young lady doing a school report of some sorts on the late Francis Albert Sinatra. At some point, her routine Googling brought her to some chattering I did about "Strangers in the Night"; she paused, read over the material, and then requested a list of my credentials: "Who is he," she asked, the "he" having reference to me, "and how is he qualified?" Take that, you armchair-reviewer wannabes!

Well, they finally filled the last unit in this building, so I can probably forget about sleeping for the next few years. And while the landlord's new push to attract military personnel must be considered a plus, there's something disheartening about being the oldest person on the block. By a factor of two, yet.

Thursday, 9 May 2002, 8:10 pm

The redoubtable Quana X. Jones, proprietor of the Eristic blog, has deemed this site linkworthy, for which we are grateful.

From Juan Gato's bucket, the modern-day anti-corporate modus operandi:

"Stigmatize the manufacturers as uncaring children poisoners. Get labels on the product. After public opinion is successfully changed, tax the hell out of the product. Fund hippie-dippie social program and lawyers fees out of taxes. Justify everything as for The Children™. Find new industry. Repeat."

Friday, 10 May 2002, 7:15 pm

For the past twenty years, my stereo headphones of choice have been Radio Shack's PRO-60. Yes, really. I don't contend that they produce the most, er, Realistic sound possible, but they're blissfully comfortable and their frequency range seems well-matched to the irregularities in my hearing. The foam padding, alas, is perishable, The Shack no longer sells this model — the current device known as PRO-60 is a VHF scanner — and I could swear that there is, or was, a Koss equivalent (probably the same phones under two labels), but I can't find it either. Recommendations will be gratefully appreciated.

This problem, at least, can be solved with relatively little effort. Most of my problems require a funeral or two.

Saturday, 11 May 2002, 10:30 am

Is this the coolest stuff or what? NASA's "Frozen Smoke" aerogel is the lightest solid on earth, and maybe even off earth. The ever-alert Steven Den Beste points out that a cubic meter of the material (about 35 cubic feet) would weigh a mere 3 kg.

The demand for snowdomes is pretty consistent, and interest in scary Biblical events is always high. Add one cup of market convergence, bake (or maybe half-bake), and what you get is the PlagueDome. The first of a planned series commemorates the Plague of Locusts (Exodus 10:14). (Coming soon: Three Days of Darkness.) I doubt they'll sell many of these in Egypt, but you can't have everything.

And still in the Realm of Cool, your favorite search engine is ramping up a fee-for-direct-questions service. Google Answers will direct your question to one of their Researchers; the fee is split between Google (25 percent) and the Researcher (75 percent). What I find most fascinating about this is that the fee (minimum $4, maximum $50, plus 50 cents for listing in the first place) is determined by the questioner: "How much is this information worth to me?" Google makes no specific recommendation, but states in the site FAQ: "Setting a price too low to compensate for the time required may result in your question not receiving an answer. The more you are willing to pay, the more likely your question is to get answered quickly." I'm pretty handy at Googling, myself, but I can think of several questions I'd love to have answered for, say, fifteen or twenty bucks a pop — it beats the hell out of clicking on the button for "Results 491 - 500 of about 468,000".

Saturday, 11 May 2002, 6:10 pm

Mickey Kaus may have been seduced by the Dark Side, but it hasn't affected his way with a phrase. Consider this High Truth:

"Most great American popular music, in a variety of genres, was made by people on drugs. (Whenever you hear a musician saying 'I'm clean now, and I'm making the best music of my life' you know their next album will be awful.)"

This is not to say, of course, that a lot of genuinely crappy music, in a variety of genres, is being made by people on drugs, but that's another story.

Saudi oil/security analyst Nawaf Obaid has written, for National Review Online of all places, a defense of the House of Saud. Quana Jones isn't buying.

Sunday, 12 May 2002, 12:15 pm

The existing European Union flag is pretty bland, and the proposed new one isn't even pretty. What to do? Laurence Simon has a better idea.

And while we're on the subject, Steven "Daddy Warblogs" Chapman has dug his way to the root of present-day European anti-Semitism:

"All European nations, I think, suffer from a burden of guilt over the Holocaust, either because they were directly implicated in it, or failed to prevent it. Today, we think 'If only the Jews could be passive victims, if only they refused to fight back against their enemies - then we could rush in and save them.' - rush in and save them the way we failed to do in the 1930s and 40s, and thereby atone for our actions (or inaction) and be released from that burden of guilt. But the Israelis, by fighting back, block the expression of that impulse; they don't need to be 'saved' by us - they are capable of saving themselves, and this frustrates us because we want so much to atone and they are preventing us from doing so."

It doesn't help, perhaps, that the United States, seemingly-perennial thorn in the European side, bears no such burden.

Closer to home, as Grand Funk used to say, I really think they hand this out to prospective tenants:

Which of the following names do you recognize?
 
 [   ] Bix Beiderbecke
 [   ] Benjamin Britten
 [   ] John Cale
 [   ] Ornette Coleman
 [   ] John Coltrane
 [   ] Aaron Copland
 [   ] Claude Debussy
 [   ] Nick Drake
 [   ] Keith Jarrett
 [   ] Thelonious Monk
 [   ] Darius Milhaud
 [   ] Francis Poulenc
 [   ] Django Reinhardt
 [   ] Erik Satie
 [   ] Ralph Vaughan Williams
 
Score five points for each name you recognize. If your score is greater than 0, you will not be permitted to lease an upstairs flat.

Or, I surmise, to get a job in commercial radio, but that's a topic for another time.

Monday, 13 May 2002, 6:30 pm

What's 404 times infinity? (Muchas gracias: Alice in TV Land.)

So far as I can tell, what the Supreme Court ruled was that they would rather have someone else (presumably the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals) decide whether the so-called "Child Online Protection Act" is Constitutional or not. And you can bet they aren't about to speculate as to whether it is enforceable or not. Meanwhile, you can still count on this immutable metalaw: any piece of legislation billed as a means of protecting The Children™ (thank you, Juan Gato) loses a minimum of twenty-five percent of its credibility, and if children are actually mentioned in the title, make it fifty percent.

Memo to She Who Must Not Be Named: I consider it sufficiently miraculous that you exist; it would be presumptuous to ask anything more.

Tuesday, 14 May 2002, 5:45 pm

It's been at least two years since the last reported drowning, so they're opening up the pool across the courtyard once again. Not having a suitable, um, suit, I'll probably stay away from it; I can't see spending the bucks for a new swimsuit for maybe a few minutes of dogpaddling, and they took down the brick wall years ago, making it ill-advised, or at least ill-concealed, to go in suitless.

A few hardy souls have filled in Sunday's questionnaire. High score so far is fifteen, which surprises me more than you might think.

Count/Pointer/Count Dept.: Unilever's Lever Brothers group, manufacturers of various and sundry household products, sells (even now) a soap called Lever 2000, which is billed as the appropriate soap for "all your 2000 parts". Now I am large, I contain multitudes, but I'm damned if I can count up to two thousand body parts. I thought of turning this over to the Playboy Advisor, but apparently the ever-quixotic Rich Mackin apparently has already gone in search of the definitive answer.

Wednesday, 15 May 2002, 6:00 am

For the first time in six years or so, I am out of ketchup. As Groucho might have put it, that's the most unheard-of thing I ever heard of.

Steve Gigl has some thoughts and some hard facts on what it's like to be on the bleeding edge of technology, and why the first one into the fray isn't always the one who prevails in the marketplace.

And speaking of bleeding, Pigdog Journal's Mr. Bad slices and dices those individuals who work diligently to insure that consumers of entertainment-industry product are allowed to consume only in the Approved Fashion. (Muchas gracias: Doc Searls.)

Wednesday, 15 May 2002, 6:15 pm

In his monthly newsletter, Jim Hightower is selling his book If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates with the following pitch: "Nothing says 'I love you' quite like a work of political subversion." Hmmmm.

And what the hell is this? More important, why is it on backorder?

Thursday, 16 May 2002, 6:00 pm

Sharon Sheeley has passed away. She's usually remembered as Eddie Cochran's girlfriend or Jackie DeShannon's writing partner, but before she was either of those, she was an established songwriter — she wrote "Poor Little Fool", a #1 hit for Rick Nelson in 1958, when she was only eighteen. And back in the Eighties, a bunch of us BBS freaks put together an online soap opera called Brentwood Bay, set in a small Florida Gulf Coast town dominated by a family in the news business; one of the characters I portrayed was crusading reporter (and Major Babe) Sharon Sheeley of the rival Sunova Beach Sentinel. I hope the real Sharon didn't mind.

How do you make sense of sex when you're too young to participate and too curious to, um, blow it off? J Bowen at No Watermelons Allowed tells, ever so gently, what it was like for him. Having had a childhood far more erratic than erotic — when others played doctor, I was the receptionist — I can definitely relate. Today's kids get far more information than we did, but are they truly better off for it? (Muchas gracias: Susanna Cornett.)

Latest hot air from The Vent: Beethoven need not roll over just yet.

Thursday, 16 May 2002, 9:40 pm

The Oklahoma Congressional delegation usually marches in lockstep, especially if the destination is somewhere off the cliff, and that's the case with the Army's Crusader tank-like device, which Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld considers to be an antique, and an overpriced ($11 billion) antique at that. The Sooners, of course, want this thing for its pork value — it would be assembled in the hamlet of Elgin, Oklahoma, and based at nearby Fort Sill — but no matter how it's killed, it won't ever be kosher. Senator Jim Inhofe will fight on, assuming he can keep his staff off porn sites long enough to put together a presentation.

Friday, 17 May 2002, 6:20 pm

"Don't worry about meeting deadlines. We'll work that much harder for you." This passage, I am assured, appears nowhere in our promotional material, so apparently people are picking up this notion through some sort of osmosis. It's enough to make you (or me, anyway) want to scream.

If you ask me, Ken Layne is on to something here:

"[M]ost print journalists have a hard time standing up for anything beyond America Is Wrong. It's guilt. They're lefties with money. So they're right there with the Country Club Republicans on money issues, but they'll always bitch about the evil of America. It's an easy way to deal with the guilt. It costs them nothing."

All thunderstorms should be at one in the morning. Except under the most unlikely circumstances, I won't have to drive through it, and there's at least a reasonable chance that I will be able to sleep through it. (Do I ask too much? Don't answer that.)

Saturday, 18 May 2002, 11:00 am

I don't know which is worse: the shrieks from Democrats to the effect that "Bush knew and did nothing", or a couple of the Bushniks' attempts to put the real blame on Clintonoids past. Probably hundreds, maybe thousands, of tips, clues, vague hints, red herrings, and other assorted items fitting the broad category of "intelligence" were processed during the period ending 10 September; picking exactly the right one in advance is, I contend, far beyond the capacity of any of our armchair quarterbacks. Brendan O'Neill, no friend of Dubya's, says the President is nonetheless getting a bum rap from conspiracy theorists and other dubious types. Of course, delivering bum raps is what conspiracy theorists et al. do best.

New addition to the blogroll: Jeff Sackmann's The Confidence Man, which will be focusing, he says, on education and social issues. He's off to a great start.

I'm not quite sure how to respond to this. I suppose I should be relieved to discover that I am not in fact the poster boy for fumbling ineptitude, as I have always suspected, but I'd hate to think that we're all maxing out the Klutz-O-Meter.

"All great movies," declares Donna, "have a dwarf." I do hope that the makers of Dude, Where's My Car? 2 keep this in mind.

Saturday, 18 May 2002, 7:30 pm

Alexa has revised its rating system — among other things, it no longer breaks out subdomains from the host domain, and multiple repetitive hits are now boiled down to one — and dustbury.com has now placed at number 597,909 out of However Many. ("Yep, sonny boy, we all knew some day you'd make the top six hundred thousand at something.")

In case you missed it, here it is again: Any form of copy protection can, and will, be broken. And I meant it.

And now we've lost Roger Kaputnik: Dave Berg, proprietor of "The Lighter Side Of...." for Mad all these years, has died at the age of eighty-one.

Sunday, 19 May 2002, 11:30 am

The world may be a big blue marble to the kids, but to Cynthia Plaster Caster and her associates, it was something closer to a hairy pink ball. And now that Cynthia has a Web site, a question arises, so to speak: Is her Sixties and Seventies work subject to present-day celebrity identity-protection laws? Would she have to get permission from, say, the Hendrix estate to put Jimi's dollydagger on display?

"Couple in the next room bound to win a prize," Paul Simon's Lincoln Duncan observed wearily; "they've been going at it all night long." Apartment ceilings being every bit as porous as hotel walls, I found the same observation coming to me this morning about a quarter to four. Were I both reasonable and charitable, I would find some small joy in the fact that the youngsters are still doing what comes naturally and all must be right with the world. Being neither of those things, I muttered incoherently for a couple of minutes, and then sank into the Slough of Despond, brought low by the weight of the inadequately-suppressed realization that no such activity will ever again take place on my side of the divide. It's possible to sleep in the Slough, but the management disavows any responsibility for your nightmares.

Sunday, 19 May 2002, 5:30 pm

A fair amount of useful information was proffered in response to my headphone dilemma; in fact, the ever-helpful Nova H. turned up an actual pair of Radio Shack's Nova(!)-series phones of similar vintage, complete with unidentifiable accessories (to other gear, probably) and handy carrying case. And buried somewhere in twenty years' worth of retail detritus, the Shack seems to have actual part numbers, not only for replacement earpieces, but also for the glue to attach same.

Despite all this, I found myself wandering through an Ultimate Electronics store — if your idea of nirvana involves video screens stacked twelve feet high in a 270-degree arc, you may appreciate the claim of "Ultimate" — and shortly after wandered out again, this time with a pair of Sennheiser's HD 497 phones, which sound pretty darn good and weigh about as much as my hair.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of those pesky non-governmental parasites on the Nanny State, has issued a warning about pizza. I suspect that if anyone ever discovers a link between vegetarianism and, say, brain-tumor development, there will be next to no press coverage at all. Having already had dinner, I'm not going to call Papa John's and order my usual eight-slice small pie (three for breakfast the next day), but I will direct you to the thoughts of Gregory Hlatky, to whom I am indebted for this story, and who piles on the toppings like a good American should.

Aside to Susanna Cornett: I know you're busy, but you're way overdue for a Saturday Ramble.

Monday, 20 May 2002, 6:45 pm

There has been a lot of flapdoodle over the woman who took a part-time job stripping to pay for her daughter's education at a Christian school, and being suspicious of faith-based enterprises in general, I'd almost reflexively side with the aggrieved parent once the child was expelled — how is it any of the church's business? It's not, of course, but wait: didn't she sign a contract to follow church teachings so long as the kid is enrolled? Well, yes, she did. And that's how it became the church's business. One must always read the fine print, even when dealing with the putative minions of God.

President Bush preached to a choir of unreconstructed Batistaphiles today about the need to keep the pressure on Castro, which is all very well and good, I suppose — the irrepressible William Quick certainly thinks so — though I'm inclined to think that it would carry far more moral weight if he were to extend the same conditions to other members of the Axis of Not So Damn Wonderful, such as, well, how about Saudi Arabia? Not a chance, you say? You're probably right.

Tuesday, 21 May 2002, 6:10 pm

Is it just possible that the U.S. Copyright Office is growing weary of being put into the position of having to defend the indefensible? Chalk one up for the good guys, for once.

But just the one. Feebs within the Department of Transportation have decided that armed marshals on every fourth or fifth flight are sufficient firepower to discourage hijackers. If I'm ever held up while leaving work late one night, I'm sure the perp will stipulate that the weapons I have at home are sufficient to discourage him.

The question facing the whole of blogdom is this: Will BlogSpot actually start to work regularly, now that the guy who gets half its traffic has moved?

And finally, this item from Cosmiverse Science News: "Having an unhappy marriage can increase the size of your heart — literally." I tell you, the Tin Man was better off rusting in the meadow.

Wednesday, 22 May 2002, 6:30 pm

About time somebody had some kind words for the Sacajawea dollar. It amazes me that people actually prefer folded, spindled and mutilated banknotes to these crisp little golden wafers. And, amazingly for 42nd and Treadmill, our vending machines actually can handle them properly. Probably the only pieces of really up-to-date machinery we have in the whole place, and of course they don't actually belong to us.

Dubya is in Berlin today. Don't expect him to come up with any rhetorical flourishes on par with JFK's stentorian (if unidiomatic) "Ich bin ein Berliner" or Ronald Reagan's no-words-minced "Mr Gorbachev, tear down that wall!" On the other hand, this is the man who won over the cynical Vladimir Putin; I'm sure he can hold his own in the midst of a bunch of hostile European Union types.

On this date in nineteen noneofyourbusiness, in a small town in Texas, was born the one woman who thought it might be worth the effort to take a chance on me. Turned out she was wrong. I do hope she's happier now; being six hours away from me probably helps.

Thursday, 23 May 2002, 5:00 pm

The Powers That Be in San Francisco are considering raising the toll for vehicles crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, and this time they're contemplating charging pedestrians and bicyclists too.

Then again, you might not want to walk across the darn thing at all. Eternal Word Television Network, the Catholic cable channel, is reporting that members of Crossroads, an American Life League affiliate, were busted on the Golden Gate this week for wearing T-shirts bearing an anti-abortion message. This is utterly amazing: you can't wear a T with a slogan while crossing the bridge? Does the First Amendment not apply over water? I seldom feel any common ground with the American Life League, but I hope they sue San Francisco's politically-correct tail off for this one. On this same story, DailyPundit William Quick opined: "Betcha if the shirts had said, 'Israel out of West Bank,' nobody would have said a word."

Monday I threw in some gratuitous commentary about the part-time stripper with a daughter about to be expelled from a Christian school. Apparently she's found a new job, as part of one of those morning-zoo teams at a Sacramento radio station. In terms of Doing Good For Humanity, this strikes me as a couple of notches below stripping; I have no idea how the school will respond to this, but I will be very disappointed if said response boils down to "At least she isn't baring her breasts."

Friday, 24 May 2002, 5:15 pm

The local weather forecast comes out between four and five in the morning, generally, and as a result, I have developed the habit of stirring from my fitful slumber just enough to be able to slap the VHF weather radio on its power switch and waking to the vaguely-Schwarzeneggeresque synthevoice reading off the latest data. Of course, at 5:50 am, any semblance of being awake is purely coincidental and not at all intended, so when the litany of current regional weather ended with "Denver reported snow and fog with a temperature of 32," I wasn't quite sure I'd heard what I'd just heard. I waited four minutes (time enough to force myself to a vertical position and do a fairly inept job of making the bed), and there it was again. And the Rockies are in town, yet. Surely it will clear off in time for the first pitch against the Giants tonight.

And speaking of Colorado, this time in Kremmling (I dunno; I've never Kremmled), West Grand High graduate Jay Yust, just like he promised his mom when he started first grade, has never missed even one day of school. Mom, for her part, promised the kid twelve years ago that if he pulled it off, the motor vehicle of his dreams would be his. She probably didn't anticipate he'd be dreaming of a Dodge Viper.

In the latest exciting episode of The Vent: Yes, I do want fries with that, dammit.

Saturday, 25 May 2002, 11:50 am

Donald Rumsfeld says that there are no plans to launch an invasion of Iraq. Of course, he also says that it would be "dumb" to announce such plans in advance, if there were any such plans, which of course there are not.

From CriticalMAS, how Napster could have been saved:

"Instead of blocking files, Napster should have only blocked file quality. Don't allow users [the] ability to download CD-quality (192+ kbps) or even FM quality sound (96-120 kbps) files. Instead restrict them to at most AM radio quality files (56 kbps). This allows those sharing files a grainy version of the song. In other words, a legitimate preview not a free replacement of the real thing. Anyone that likes the song won't be satisified with a AM quality version of the tune. They will go out and purchase the CD. The user wins, the artist wins, the record label wins, and Napster wins."

I like the idea, though there are some of us out here who search, not for MP3s of stuff that's in the stores, but MP3s of stuff that for some reason or other is not available through normal retail channels.

"I firmly believe," says Eve Kayden, "that you cannot possibly be ready for sex until you've already had sex at least once. There is simply no preparing for the emotional effects it will have on you." Catch-22 lives. (These days, I suspect, it's more like "Catch-14".) But she's right: nothing you've read, nothing you've been taught, nothing you've picked up in the schoolyard gives you even the slightest clue as to what it's all about. For all the good it did, or didn't, they might as well have been trying to teach you the Hokey Pokey. In my younger days, when I still had glimmerings of hope, I once asked someone, "Can we go on our second date first? It would save a whole lot of emotional turmoil." As it turned out, we went on neither first nor second dates, but apparently I was thinking along these same lines.

Saturday, 25 May 2002, 4:15 pm

Depending on who's doing the estimates, the so-called Nigerian Scam ranks among the top five Nigerian industries, and when you do this much business, you tend to want to diversify, which probably explains this email I got today from someone representing herself to be the widow of slain Congolese leader Laurent Kabila. The fun begins in the second paragraph:

"Having sourced your address from one of the directories kept in the family library, I have no doubt of your capability and competence to assist me in receiving into your custody (for safety purpose) the sum of US$38 million (Thirty Eight Million Dollars) left behind by the late President Kabila for the upkeep of my self and the children before his untimely demise."

Having never heard from the late President Kabila before, I have to wonder what he was doing with my email address. Maybe he was buying a Mazda? Whatever his motives, apparently Kabila was foresighted enough to set up a proxy to handle his business affairs somewhere far away from the embattled city of Kinshasha — somewhere like, you guessed it, Nigeria. What's the urgent need?

"Following the proxy's disclosure, it became imperative that I move the money urgently into the oversea account of a foreigner due to the matrimonial rift between my self and the mother of his eldest son Joseph Kabila the new incumbent head of state who might in the event of discovery of the money confiscate it."

I'm a little hazy on the concept of "new incumbent", but okay, I've heard worse.

"[I]t is my candid wish and request for you to liaise with the proxy. Anthony Williamson Esq., to facilitate the immediate evacuation of the said sum to an account you will recommend to him as the proxy has every detail. I have absolute confidence on him. I expect you to be honest, trust worthy and kind enough to reply to this clarion call in order to save us from a helpless future. I implore you to reach the proxy. Anthony Williamson ESQ of e-mail: anwilli@email.com."

If you'd like to write Mrs Kabila on your own dime, she's supposedly at <mymail202@yahoo.com>. Let me know if she responds.

Sunday, 26 May 2002, 10:45 am

Well, isn't this fun: This morning, about an hour after sunrise, a barge took out a 400-foot section of bridge on Interstate 40 in eastern Oklahoma, between Webbers Falls and Sallisaw, throwing more than a dozen vehicles (including some big trucks) into the Arkansas River. I-40 being the major east-west route through Oklahoma, this is going to play hell with traffic through the holiday period.

Then again, many of us who live near Oklahoma City figure that the elevated portion of I-40 that runs just south of downtown could fall at any moment, even without "assistance" from a barge. And for the sake of nitpicking — this is a blog, after all — it's "Muskogee County". With a K. Both CNN and the Associated Press (as reproduced at The Nando Times) got it wrong, and the AP wire insists that the accident took place "in the southwest part of the state", which is about 135 degrees off. (Update, 5:15 pm: Current AP stories have the location corrected.)

Sunday, 26 May 2002, 5:20 pm

It looks like the bridge over the Arkansas will be out at least through the summer, and perhaps longer. The eventual death toll could be as high as eleven. Rescue operations are continuing, though the major problem right now is stabilizing what's left of the bridge before more of it falls into the river.

Not that I had anything to do with it, but Susanna Cornett has another fine Saturday Ramble — well, apart from the minor details that (1) it wasn't posted on a Saturday and (2) it doesn't ramble in the least.

And rumblings from the left to the contrary, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, despite being the power behind The Washington Times, apparently doesn't get to pull the editorial strings, or so says editor-in-chief Wesley Pruden:

"We have never been asked to print a single line of type at the direction of Rev. Moon or the owners, and there is no prospect that we ever will."

He didn't mention ever being asked to pull anything, but I haven't heard anything to suggest that he had.

Monday, 27 May 2002, 9:45 am

Once you own a car, you're probably never going to ride the bus again. This seems obvious to you and me, but it annoys the planned-community types whose idea of utopia includes visions of dozens of happy commuters sealed into a noisy metal tube and taken to where they're supposed to go. (Side trips? Not in the plan.) I might have thought that Australia, at least, was relatively immune to this sort of thinking, but I was wrong. (Muchas gracias: Tim Blair.)

Upstream from the collapsed-bridge site, the Army Corps of Engineers is shutting off dams left and right, hoping to reduce waterflow by 80 percent or so, which should make life much easier for the rescue teams. Right now, they're sticking with an estimate of 12 for total deaths, plus three horses who were being transported in a trailer. The blogger formerly known as Sgt. Stryker, who was driving through the area when the bridge went down, has posted reports from near the scene.

And finally, Jeff Goldstein at Protein Wisdom answers a personal ad from a neo-Nazi woman. No, really.

Monday, 27 May 2002, 4:15 pm

Jay Zilber says that getting "back to normal" after the WTC attacks is a Bad Idea:

"[H]istorically, 'normal' amounts to simply hoping for the best. Normal is buying another lottery ticket tomorrow, as if something different will happen next time. Normal is an undiminished belief in the power of junk science, superstition and prayer. Normal is burying our heads in the sand and trusting that some entity larger than ourselves will handle the hard work, so that we can just get back to living our normal little lives again. Normal is insane."

And Steven Milloy would like you to know that the reports of pizza's lethality have been greatly exaggerated, and that those issuing the reports have a long history of high bogosity. Make mine sausage and pepperoni.

Tuesday, 28 May 2002, 5:30 pm

Rainy days and Mondays almost always get me down, even if the Monday in question is actually a Tuesday. We have had rain 18 days this month out of 28, and yet we're running at about half the usual pace for precipitation. (Yeah, I know, it all fell on those poor folks on I-40.) We're not in a drought or anything, but this is the time of year when the reservoirs are supposed to get full before the summer heat comes in and turns everything into a second-degree burn, and I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of summer heat this year. Another reason to hit the road, I guess.

The new InstaPundit logo looks more like Radio-Keith-Orpheum than like radiant Keith Olbermann, and I suppose that's a good thing.

Wednesday, 29 May 2002, 5:10 pm

Persons of a naturist stripe (well, actually, if they do it often enough, they have no stripes) occasionally mock more prudish folk for being "clothing-compulsive". In the past, I have assumed that this fairly-mild rebuke was delivered with tongue firmly in cheek, and no, not that cheek. Sheesh. But now I'm beginning to wonder.

Copied verbatim from Zenflea, because, well, just because:

"Tonight I saw a homeless man at an ATM machine. Wonder where he get his statements sent."

About five weeks ago, I predicted (in her comment area) that Jane Galt's Live from the WTC would roll past me in Total Counted Visits within six weeks. For once, I was correct, but this time I wasn't surprised: who would have thought it possible to enclose "vivacious" and "economic theory" in the same blog? I've always considered myself slightly above average in terms of economic awareness — which means very little, really, since an appalling number of people my age know nothing about the marketplace except that Desmond has a barrow there — but I've learned a great deal from her site, and I'm happy to give it a plug here.

Thursday, 30 May 2002, 5:55 am

Things I Didn't Notice Dept.: The conjoining of The Daily Oklahoman and KWTV has resulted in all sorts of pseudo-synergies, one of which is a weather column in the Oklahoman by KWTV Weather Deity Gary England. Recently said columns have been citing sources, and it turns out it's because either England or his handlers at the Black Tower were cribbing material off science Web sites. This phenomenon was covered to some extent by the weekly Oklahoma Gazette, but since usually the only things worth reading in the Gaz are the live-music listings and Life in Hell, I managed to miss the entire affair.

Way back in December, I posted this:

"This summer, a couple of German wisenheimers put out a CD called Dis*ka Presents C 2064, a collection of tunes cobbled up from the sounds produced by the SID chip in the old Commodore 64 and the sound chip in the just-as-old 8-bit Atari computers. (I guess this redefines 'techno'.) It's great fun to hear these old noises again, but there are a few tracks I simply can't identify, and the gold-on-light-grey printing on the CD label (there is no jewel-box insert) is unreadable at most any angle, at least for my ancient eyeballs. CDDB just laughs at it, as does whatever the hell database Windows Media Player is using, and there was no track listing at the record label's Web site, either. If you're familiar with this disc, I'd be much obliged if you could identify tracks 7 through 11, 14 and 15."

As Alanis might have said, I considered this pretty much under rug swept, but yesterday evening a kindly soul named Croc O'Dile (well, okay) actually came up with titles for those tracks. I am, indeed, much obliged to Mr O'Dile, and I continue to recommend this disk as a party record, if any of your friends actually played with these ancient computing devices and will admit to it at this late date.

Jeff Jarvis, on what John Ashcroft and Robert Mueller are lacking:

"They both should take lessons from Donald Rumsfeld. Granted, Rummy didn't get bin Laden or Mullah Omar but he bleeds confidence. These guys ooze insecurity. Not what we need right now."

Thursday, 30 May 2002, 5:45 pm

Scenes from the World Trade Center are seared into the memory by now, so I thought it would be easier to pass up the TV coverage of the WTC ceremony this morning and listen to the radio version instead. I was wrong.

What's wrong with this picture? Three years ago, Cottonwood Christian Center bought eighteen acres of vacant land in Cypress, California, with the intention of using the tract for new and improved facilities. This week, the city of Cypress, exercising its power of eminent domain, ordered the church to sell the land so it can be used for a shopping center, anchored by a Costco. Is Cypress that desperate for sales-tax revenue? And it's not like Cypress residents have been cut off from warehouse prices all these years; there are at least half a dozen Costco locations in Orange County already. The church will seek an injunction against the city's order. Let's hope they get it.

Friday, 31 May 2002, 5:30 pm

My brother used to gripe about the ubiquity of "Frontage Road", something you see alongside damned near every mile of urban freeway in the country. I never could explain this to him, but fortunately, James Lileks knows the story:

"Francois Frontage (1734-1802), French-Canadian explorer, also known as 'Le Peu Incroyable' for his fabulous body odor. He could defoliate tall trees if the breeze was right; merely waving his shirt at a bison would cause the beast to convulse. He was commanded by his fellows to walk at least 20 feet away from the main body of explorers -- and that's why the side roads that parallel main roads are named after him to this day."

Works for me.

 


 | Copyright © 2002 by Charles G. Hill