Blithering logo

log entries
June 2002


 

Saturday, 1 June 2002, 8:45 am

Over the years, I have generally found it wise to pay no attention to dreams, especially my dreams; I believe their significance to be questionable and their predictive capacity to be highly overrated. Then again, this morning's nightmare (well, it was after midnight) bothered me more than usual, and two factors seemed to have contributed to it:

  1. Last week in The Vent, I made some noise about the Nanny State and the potential development of an Office of National Food Policy, administered by, for lack of a better (or funnier) term, a Cheeseburger Czar.
     
  2. At about the same time, I noticed that the public-radio program The Splendid Table no longer plugs itself in its on-air promos as a "show for people who love to eat".

With these two notions floating around in my head, it is perhaps understandable that somewhere from the dark recesses thereof emerged a story about forced vegetarianism, and not even with real vegetables: the government has developed some scuzzy paste that ranks somewhere on the flavor scale between compressed gypsum dust and Ben-Gay, and an Emeril-like chef is being ritually executed as an example to us all. Steak sandwiches in hand, we are forced to flee. Maybe I've been overdoing the cold-pizza bit this week or something.

Speaking of that crazed sinkhole that is The Vent, today's version offers five reasons (more or less) why I have become expendable.

Saturday, 1 June 2002, 3:00 pm

Why Vacations Are Essential Dept.: Steven Den Beste is prepared to argue in favor of String Bikini as Feminist Icon. Add this to the list of Things I'd Wish I'd Written.

Guardian-bashing is always popular in blogdom, but once in a while something with a smidgen of intelligence sneaks into the paper. It seems that four French Muslim organizations have united to bring charges against author Michel Houellebecq for commenting in an interview that Islam is the "most stupid of all religions." There will be an actual trial this fall; "The French justice system," says columnist Rod Biddle, "by allowing it to proceed, is playing the part of supplicant whore," and nails it with the following observation:

"Criticising the precepts of modern Islam and the resultant actions of its adherents is not racist. Philosophically, it is the precise opposite of racism. It is an intellectual position arrived at through a consideration of ideas, rather than a cruel and irrational prejudice based upon the colour of someone's skin. If you were to suggest that the Roman Catholic church had a questionable record on human rights through the ages and, while we're about it, transubstantiation seems to be pushing it a bit far, nobody would claim that you were racially abusing the Italians or the Irish and nobody would take you to court for your point of view. Unless, like Galileo, you were living in Florence in 1613."

It was actually 1614 when Father Caccini first jumped down Galileo's throat, and another eighteen years before Galileo was forced to recant by the Church, but you get the idea. And anyway, there are plenty of competitors for the title of "most stupid of all religions", some of them even more litigious.

Sunday, 2 June 2002, 12:05 am

Dear Old Dad is seventy-five today. It would be nice to see him make it to, say, 150, but right now, I'd settle for seventy-six.

I haven't mentioned Oklahoma's Congressional-redistricting brouhaha in awhile, so here's what's happened lately: The Legislature adjourned on 24 May without approving any plan to produce five Congressional districts out of the existing six, and Judge Vicki Robinson of the Oklahoma County District Court last Tuesday put her stamp of approval on the plan worked up by state Republicans and the governor's office, a scheme I thought was slightly better than either of the ones proposed by the Democrats. (You can look at all three plans here.) Two more trials, filed elsewhere in the state, are pending. Filing period for would-be candidates starts on the eighth of July, whether this business is finished or not.

If you've just arrived here from DavidMSC.com, welcome aboard, and keep in mind that Dave likely didn't actually read every last page on this site. (And if he did, he has far greater patience than anyone else I know.)

And whaddya know, technology may save the music industry's bacon after all.

Sunday, 2 June 2002, 12:10 pm

Sanitized For Your Protection Dept.: The New York State Regents exams, which high-school students must pass to get their diplomas, routinely strip literary works of references that might possibly offend anyone from anywhere on any pretext whatsoever. In a particularly blatant example, passages by Isaac Bashevis Singer (!) are edited to remove references to Jews. And students are tested, not on their knowledge of the actual work or their ability to interpret it, but on their knowledge of the expurgated versions produced by the Department of Education of the State of New York. This is heinous by any standard. Patrick Nielsen Hayden tells just how heinous:

"The educators of New York State lie to children. Then they require that children pass a test on the content of the lies. This is beyond outrageous. This is no subtle matter of teaching from old-fashioned biases, or of presenting a worldview with which some adults might disagree. This is, rather, a large department of the state government deliberately contriving and presenting lies about serious literary work. It is in its own way a kind of child abuse, not as spectacular as battering or molestation but every bit as flagrant a violation of trust. The people who do it and who defend it should be removed immediately from any position of power over children, and never allowed to work in such positions again."

"I am not a vegetarian because I love animals," explained A. Whitney Brown; "I am a vegetarian because I hate plants." If you're not fond of either, now there is vegetarian pet food. I suspect PETA doesn't endorse this stuff, mainly because in their dream world, there are no pets: animals, from elephant down to E. coli, have free run of the universe, right up until they meet a Goodyear steel-belted radial at high speed.

Sunday, 2 June 2002, 4:45 pm

One minor tweak: permalinks for Log items are now located at the date/time stamp, rather than at the end of the item.

Sunday, 2 June 2002, 9:00 pm

Dave Copeland would like to know if there's a prescribed protocol for approaching a hottie in the adjacent traffic lane. For that matter, so would I. Not that I could ever pull off such a thing, of course.

Last week, the so-called Child Internet Protection Act was deemed unconstitutional. We heard from civil libertarians, from would-be censors, from news analysts — from everyone, it seems, except librarians, who were to be barred from federal funds if they did not install filtering software. I, for myself, don't think much of filtering software, but then I'm not a librarian. Christopher Johnson, known in blogdom as the Editor of the Midwest Conservative Journal, is, and his take on the subject is well worth reading.

Monday, 3 June 2002, 6:10 pm

The generous Max Power has bestowed a permalink upon this site, which I hope I can justify in the weeks to come.

Saturday was Alanis Morissette's twenty-eighth birthday, which I did not know when I ventured into Target (all the local Venture stores having been supplanted by K marts, which are now also on the endangered list) to snag a copy of her collection Under Rug Swept. If it seems odd that I, a (1) guy (2) pushing fifty, would spend money on an 11-song tract denouncing the perfidy of men, well, apart from being a glutton for punishment, I thought "You Oughta Know", off 1995's Jagged Little Pill, would have been the greatest single of the 90s had it ever actually been released as a single, and therefore anything Alanis does is automatically of interest.

And besides, Under Rug Swept isn't a tract, nor does it, except in a few choice locations ("Narcissus" comes immediately to mind), denounce the perfidy of men. (This is not to say that it isn't slightly predictable in spots.) If there's an attitude here, it's that Relationships Are Freaking Weird, even when they are successful — and when they fail, no benchmarks exist to measure our desolation. Tell me how I can't possibly relate to that. Add to this Alanis' ongoing tendency to go for precision of term at the expense of proper prosody, another territory familiar to me, and it's no wonder I'm drawn to her discs; by any reasonable reckoning, by now we should have dated and she should have dumped me. (Not that she would have, um, ignored the ambivalence I felt.)

Okay, I'm kidding. Maybe. And there's nothing in this album that is quite as compelling as "You Oughta Know". But I expect to play it just as often, because Alanis Morissette is one of only a handful of contemporary musicians who wears her heart this close to the edge of her sleeve. It's that same mixture of openness and defiance that...wait a minute, does Alanis have a blog?

I guess not. But L. Fitzgerald Sjöberg, who presides over the mayhem that is The Brunching Shuttlecocks, does. Of course, his tastes run more to Björk.

And can I fry up that Twinkie for you?

Monday, 3 June 2002, 8:10 pm

Patrick Ruffini has an interesting hypothesis about the relationship, if any, between population growth and economic growth, and what may happen to all those countries (particularly in the European Union) whose birthrate is now substantially below replacement levels. A sampling:

"[I]t's been awfully difficult to sustain positive economic growth in nations who are experiencing real population decline, as is happening in much of Europe and Japan. While the rest of the industrialized world dwindled, the U.S. steadily added to its population and labor force, and we boomed. The Census surprised us in 2000 by showing that there were a full six million more of us than we had thought; our growth rate turned out to be 20% higher than we expected. At the same time, we pushed the envelope with GDP growth rates we never thought possible for a mature economy. Coincidence?"

Obviously this isn't the only factor involved, but Mr Ruffini makes, I think, a good case for its contribution.

And obviously this won't expiate my guilt for having dragged her into this, but please vote for Susanna Cornett for Sexiest Female Blogger. I have no idea what she looks like, and in all probability neither do you, but there are times when a person has to trust his gut feelings, and if you've ever seen my gut, you'd understand just how substantial they can be.

Tuesday, 4 June 2002, 3:00 pm

Robert Jensen, professor at the UT-Austin J-school (a place I learned to fear back in the Nixon era), has turned in an annoying piece for Newsday which gives some exercise to that straw man who keeps asking "Are you an American first, or are you a journalist?" The graf with the highest annoyance level is this one:

"Instead of claiming, 'America is the greatest nation on Earth,' we might say, 'I live in the United States and have deep emotional ties to its people, land and ideals, and I want to highlight the many positive things while working to change what is wrong.'"

One of the things that is wrong is that some people consider those two statements mutually exclusive. (Muchas gracias: Scutum Sobieski.)

Tuesday, 4 June 2002, 5:40 pm

Three hours before sunset, it's almost pitch-dark: Oklahoma storm season continues.

Blogs left and right (though I seem to read more of them on the right these days) are getting substantial facelifts, usually with the assistance of a small cadre of really good and presumably not really expensive professionals. I admit to having thought about it, but the sheer size of this site — it's a thousand pages, give or take a few; I'll be writing more in a week or two — makes it a daunting prospect, both from architectural and financial standpoints. Still, the newly-remodeled blogs look good, and some of them look damned good. Special props, though, to Sekimori designer Robyn's new front page for Tony Woodlief's Sand in the Gears; not only is it drop-dead gorgeous, but it's even pretty nice in (may your choice of deity forgive me) Netscape 4.x.

Last week's story about an Orange County, California church being forced to give up land it owns to make room for a shopping center is arousing a fair amount of outrage, some of which you can read at the perhaps presciently-named landmarkcase.org.

Wednesday, 5 June 2002, 5:25 pm

While the world waits to see if India and Pakistan can do a convincing impression of the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat, I have yet more musical, um, notes.

After paying a visit in the dead of night, the terrifyingly-desirable (or desirably terrifying) Last Page went all VH1 on us and tossed in some Alanis Morissette-related commentary to expand on the stuff I said day before yesterday. Example:

"I do not often subscribe to some of her theories on men, simply because a) I love men and b) I'm not that much of a Femi-Nazi. Don't get me wrong: I don't like kids, I've worked damn hard to earn my paycheck and I could probably kick your ass in a bar fight, but I love the guys."

I really don't think that Ms Morissette really hates the guys — at least, not all of them — but she can carry a grudge with the best of us.

Meanwhile, some thoughts along the lines of, but not at all the same as, Alanis' "21 Things I Want In A Lover":

"I want to be happy. And I want it on my terms. I want to come to something with someone else as a completely formed person without exterior wants or needs. I don't want a man to feel that there is something lacking in my life and, therefore, he has to fill it. I don't want to be with someone who doesn't have pictures hanging up on his walls or weird trinkets that mean something to him strewn around his apartment. I want to walk into my potential mate's apartment or house and know, immediately, what he's all about. There are houses and then there are homes. I have my own home and I want my lover to have his own home. I don't want us to try to make a home for each other. I don't have the energy to make a home for someone else. I don't want to fill a void in someone's life.
 
"I don't want someone who doesn't own a bed or who doesn't understand the subtle meaning of lighting or who thinks a futon owned by his ex-lover is okay to sleep on with his current lover, complete with the ex-lover's featherbed, or who needs a wrench to turn on the hot water in his shower or who thinks that one fork is plenty or who considers opening the shades a crime equaled to that of murdering your young or who won't spend a single moment in my apartment or my bed because it's too bright or too open or too NOT LIKE HIS BEDROOM or who doesn't seem to understand that a toothbrush placed in his bathroom doesn't mean I'm forever in his life.
 
"I want someone who's already complete."

The above from "For Identification Purposes Only", from The Redhead Papers by Erin Dailey. It's several screens long, and worth it.

On the classical side, Gregory Hlatky at A Dog's Life has some kind words for the much-maligned Sergei Rachmaninoff, who is routinely dismissed by some these days as some sort of hack romantic. Inasmuch as the first classical record I ever bought was a recording of Rachmaninoff's Second Symphony, I have always had a sort of sentimental fondness for his music, and more of his works keep showing up on my shelf. Mr Hlatky recommends, for those wishing to own all three symphonies, the early-Eighties recordings by the Concertgebouw conducted by Vladimir Ashkenazy; Decca/London subsequently boxed them together, and it's a set I have cherished ever since.

Wednesday, 5 June 2002, 9:30 pm

Sunday, this site and others reported on the discovery that the New York State Regents exams are based, not on actual literature, but on expurgated versions issued to dampen potential controversy. Richard P. Mills, commissioner of education for New York, has been hearing from irritated writers, and has decided to end the policy; students in the future will presumably be given the proper texts, and darn...uh, damn the torpedoes.

N. Z. Bear's Blogosphere Ecosystem has me ranked fairly close to the bottom of the food chain, although what I find most remarkable is that I place anywhere at all.

Thursday, 6 June 2002, 6:00 am

Governor Keating, in general, doesn't think much of Oklahoma's vocational-training system, among the finest around; he's still pushing for more of a college-preparatory curriculum in the state's high schools. Keating by nature is self-absorbed, and backs down only when his base turns on him, but the real question is not the angle at which the Governor keeps his nose in the air, but whether his proposal will actually work. The Confidence Man thinks that schemes of this type will generally fail, and in some places are already failing.

Thursday, 6 June 2002, 5:15 pm

In the midst of dissecting yet another load of Krug from Paul Krugman, Jane Galt tossed in this way-too-pertinent observation:

"[O]ne of the things that I have noticed about corporations is that despite their basic conformist impulse, they usually select different idiot philosophies around which to build their corporate culture, in the futile hope that this will confer some competitive advantage."

At 42nd and Treadmill, where management by fad is more the rule than the exception — there is no statement in any staff meeting more scary than an announcement by Walter (not his real name) that "I just picked up this new book..." — if we haven't hit any specific idiot philosophy yet, well, give us time.

Note: The preceding is hyperbole. I do not attend staff meetings, partly because invitations to same are not extended to persons below a specific level of the hierarchy, but mostly because I think that, except under circumstances I am not likely to experience any time in the foreseeable future, masturbation is best practiced solo.

Not that everything on the premises is a complete waste of time. There is, for instance, a small corps of Major Babes scattered hither and yon. The Office of Fielding Crank Calls sports two. One of them is sweet and kind, charmingly giggly, smiles at everything, and never complains. It was, of course, the other one who burst into my office this afternoon.

"No offense," she began, "but I hate men."

"None taken," I said, and pointed out that this sort of thing was actually a topic on my Web site, especially to the extent it is exemplified by the songs of Alanis Morissette.

She raised one eyebrow, dropped it, and raised the other. "I don't hate them that much."

If Alanis is trying to persuade the general public that she actually likes guys, I'm inclined to think she isn't succeeding.

Thursday, 6 June 2002, 8:10 pm

File13 would like to know my take on Governor Keating's veto of Frank Shurden's bill to permit chemical castration of sex offenders. While I have no particular fondness for sex offenders, I think Keating did the right thing. For one thing, Frank Shurden is a, you should pardon the expression, nut case; he's introduced basically the same damn bill just about every year for the past twenty. If the local prosecutorial types actually had any interest in something other than inflating their conviction rates with bogus information and filling up our bevy of private prisons, it might be a different story, but right now, I'm not inclined to give these characters any more tools to misuse.

Friday, 7 June 2002, 7:00 pm

Automotive magazines are routinely pilloried these days for such grave breaches of the peace as feature articles on sport-utility vehicles ("Isn't this supposed to be a car magazine?"), payola from advertisers ("The PDQ-10 was two-tenths of a second slower in the quarter but you ranked it first, no doubt in exchange for that two-page spread right after the letters column, didn't you?"), and, perhaps most heinous of all, testing vehicles that mere mortals couldn't possibly afford. The July issue of Automobile (no link — they're three months late on getting their Web site redone) exemplifies this latter offense with a cover story featuring five cars of varying degrees of superness (the least-expensive being a Mercedes-Benz), averaging around 489 hp, being driven in Italy fergoshsakes. How are Carl and Lenny in Springfield supposed to relate to that?

The answer, I would argue, is that they're supposed to be motivated to drive, even if it's some disreputable middle-80s rustbucket with no more sporting credentials than Ralph Nader. One of the advantages of living here in the Big PX is that we still have a fair amount of wide-open space that (sometimes) can be traversed at wide-open throttle, and despite the best efforts of twee types who think we should be happy to ride the bus with all the other [fill in vague ethnic or socioeconomic pejorative], Americans, by and large, keep the pedal to the metal. And it actually may be, in some ways, more fun with less car; my innocuous little sedan with its modest 130 hp obviously won't flatten corners of the autostrada at triple-digit speeds, but I can run all day at six or seven-tenths without incurring the wrath of The Man. Provided I don't do anything stupid while running, that is. And many moons ago, I got enough seat time in a Maserati Quattroporte (you gotta love a language that has a word as luscious as that to mean something as mundane as "four-door") to learn a healthy measure of respect for a machine that pays you back for not paying attention by putting you into a ditch. Or worse.

And while we're on the subject of stupid, apparently the august Beijing Evening News can be gulled by sources that appear genuine.

Friday, 7 June 2002, 8:40 pm

The eminently-quotable Susanna Cornett, on the nature of that wall between church and state:

"[T]he purging of religion from public life and public spaces, as seen in efforts to remove murals or plaques or statues with religious connotations from publicly-owned properties, is a real concern. I don't think the founding fathers meant for religion to disappear from public life in a torrent of agnosticism; I think they meant for a vibrant religious community to be encouraged by the absence of governmental pressure to be one thing or another by dint of state monies being used to support it, as with the Church of England. To me, 'vibrant religious community' is a broad term that includes people who are philosophically agnostic or atheistic - after a point, those positions are religions too, with moral implications and certainly evangelistic fervor. (And every deist needs at least once to have his or her faith baptized in the fire of an intense debate with a truly committed atheist, on the same principle that pressurized water is used to find holes in pipe systems.) Removing all evidence of religiosity from our public spaces and dismissing it as unimportant in public debate is to deny our history and in a very real way disenfranchise religionists."

Historically, my main issue has always been separation of church and me, which is a tricky business out here atop one of the rivets in the Bible Belt. I do try, however, to avoid being doctrinaire about it, and I'd certainly agree that the Founders, while they had their qualms about religion, official or otherwise, had no intention of declaring the new nation either agnostic or atheistic. Yes, some people use their faith as a club, but that's not a good enough reason for marginalizing everyone who's ever said a prayer.

By no means am I immune to food fads, but somehow I have managed over the years to avoid any and all foodlike substances whose name incorporates the word "popcorn" as an adjective. Until tonight, that is, when I threw caution and dentition to the wind and picked up a carton of KFC's Popcorn Chicken. I shouldn't have bothered. This stuff is basically deep-fried ball-bearings of inconsistent size, impossible to eat with one's fingers with any degree of finesse, and seven or eight of the vaunted eleven secret herbs and spices are conspicuous by their absence. If Colonel Sanders had come up with this atrocity while he was alive, he would have been busted to first lieutenant, and deservedly so.

Saturday, 8 June 2002, 9:45 am

The Dallas Independent School District has decided to use some of the money it got to reduce class size to try to poach teachers from Oklahoma and other nearby states. I really hate to see any of our teachers leave, but they'll get paid better almost anywhere else this side of Burkina Faso, and they'll probably face less political hostility.

Some dots, I submit, defy connection. On the other hand, one Steve Lightfoot has determined, by pushing vast quantities of unrelated dots into a more or less amorphous mass, that Mark David Chapman was merely the fall guy, and John Lennon was actually killed by — Stephen King? And to think all this time we believed it was George Bush. (Hey, I report, you deride.)

This time in The Vent: Where, oh where, can my baby sister be?

Saturday, 8 June 2002, 10:15 pm

According to Eric S. Raymond, there is good porn and there is bad porn, and the vast majority is bad porn, and the reason is that the consumers actually want it that way.

Department of Wanderlust: This afternoon, feeling the need to get out and see some small segment of the world, I paid a visit to an old neighborhood.

We got married in 1978, and the need for more space intensified with the arrival of our first child, so we bought a house over by the airport for a shade over $40,000. (If this figure seems astonishingly low to you, remember: this was Oklahoma City, and this was almost a quarter-century ago.) It wasn't everything we could ask for, but it was just about everything we could possibly afford, and we set about the wild and wacky business of turning a house into a home. The marriage didn't last, and eventually we sold the house (for a shade under $60,000) and split the proceeds. I moved to a shabby flat on the east end of town; she took the kids (two by now) and moved a couple of states away. About every five years after that, I've driven down that old street — and it's really old by now and in a sad state of repair — and taken note of what's changed.

The most obvious change was the row of poles by the curb. Mailboxes. The Postal Service no longer delivers door to door on this street. (My stepmother, who knows the area, says the official explanation was the large number of dogs running loose; I tend to think it's more of a "How can we get through this neighborhood faster?" sort of deal.) Our old house, which was looking pretty grungy the last time I came through, has been spruced up with a new coat of paint, and mercifully not the hideous Bad Citrus shade we had once splashed on the trim. Other houses on the block were mostly unchanged, with a few here and there showing noticeable deterioration. I'm not aware of the current demographics of the neighborhood, though it's always been a primarily working-class area regardless of ethnicity, but really, I don't think they matter: some people can keep up a house, and some people can't. Had I bought out her share of the house when we split, I would be this close to owning the place outright, but I didn't have the wherewithal at the time. I did decide, though, that if it comes on the market again, the very least I can do is check it out. What goes around, as they say, might actually come around.

Sunday, 9 June 2002, 9:40 am

The New Zealand News offers a profile this weekend of lawyer John Banzhaf, one of the big guns in the Army of the Nanny State: "[H]his primary motivation," says the piece, "is his belief that the law can be used as an activist tool for the public good." Well, that's fine, if you can find a clearly defined "public good". Last I heard, we had a Constitution for that. And Banzhaf and his pals would be hard-pressed to find any authority in the Constitution for the destruction of the fast-food industry, so they will fall back on the same routine that they pulled on the tobacco industry, with pretty much the same arguments or lack thereof. Last I looked, 50 percent of us had a below-average lifespan; this isn't going to change no matter how many lawyers you put on the case. (Muchas gracias: Dos Okies.)

Not quite three weeks ago, I wondered: "Will BlogSpot actually start to work regularly, now that the guy who gets half its traffic has moved?" The answer, apparently, is No.

Sunday, 9 June 2002, 2:00 pm

Regular readers of this site will no doubt have noted that I have a tendency to insert, um, well, things like "um" into my text. As rhetorical devices go, it's fairly lame, but I think it's less annoying than, say, the burgeoning overuse of "scare quotes" by some of us "bloggish" types. And it does reflect the way I speak, with occasional pauses to regroup, to reword, or simply to stall for time. In this capacity, these nonwords do convey information of a sort; they're not a symptom of inarticulateness. (You want symptoms of inarticulateness, just read a few more pages on this site.)

Even if the music industry itself hasn't figured it out yet, David Bowie knows that changes are in the offing:

"I don't even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don't think it's going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way. The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it's not going to happen. I'm fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing."

Such a bashing, indeed. (Muchas gracias: Dave Copeland.)

Yet another Dave, Dave Hughes of DCRTV, the unofficial radio-TV guide for Baltimore, Washington, and points nearby, once quipped that Disney/ABC's District of Columbia talk station WMAL is actually owned by the Republican Party and is known familiarly as "WGOP". Another area station, WWTL in Walkersville, Maryland, has applied for and been granted the WGOP call. What this may ultimately mean, I do not know.

And if you want a shot at owning the bridge-command chair actually occupied by James T. Kirk on the starship Enterprise, the bidding starts at $80,000.

Monday, 10 June 2002, 6:00 pm

An engineer who goes by the pseudonym "Colt Hero" came up with this nifty idea at the message boards at CarTalk:

"ALL SENSORS should be easily replaceable by the vehicle's owner because they are potentially the vehicle's weakest link. I had a $35 Vehicle Speed Sensor go bad in [a 1997 Ford Taurus wagon] and it (ultimately) made the car undriveable — nearly stranding my wife on the Interstate. There are so many sensors in vehicles today that I think it's now justifiable for the OBD-II diagnostic codes to be displayed right on the dashboard (in 'stack' formation) — never mind the generic 'Service Engine Soon' light and these stupid scanners that have to be 'plugged in'. The owner ought to be able to get off the highway at the next exit, pop open the hood, change any sensor with a minimum of hand tools and be back on his way. To allow a $35 part to bring a $20,000 vehicle to its knees (and cost hundreds to replace thereafter), is beyond absurd."

Damn right. The Feds will no doubt turn a blind eye to this kind of logic for the sake of their precious emissions controls, but I can see no justification for leaving the motoring public at the mercy of minor electronic components.

Another case of Thou Shalt Not Deep-Link, but this one has an additional complication: money. The association of Danish newspaper publishers, who brought the suit against Nicolai Lassen's Newsbooster service, doesn't object to Lassen's links per se, but they would like, at the very least, a cut of the Newsbooster subscription fee.

And this has been one of those entirely-too-damn-frequent days where there's only one question: "Do I deserve this?" If I don't, clearly I'm being royally screwed; if I do, I fail to see the point in prolonging the agony.

Monday, 10 June 2002, 9:50 pm

It occurs to me that there is — maybe — an upside to profiling beyond the obvious security angle.

Maybe, just maybe, someone who got fingerprinted on the way into JFK will, when he gets home, spread the word: "You know, this wouldn't be happening if we didn't have this [fill in designation of crazed Islamofascist regime] in power still."

Not likely, you say? Perhaps so. And one person may not matter so much. But multiply him by dozens, or hundreds, or thousands, and suddenly the replacement of said crazed Islamofascist regime doesn't look like such an uphill battle anymore.

It's not by any means the most effective way to win hearts and minds. But a little intimidation in the right place goes a long way.

Tuesday, 11 June 2002, 5:15 pm

The scarily-brilliant-at-times Eric S. Raymond has put out a list of ten reasons why he refuses to align with the liberals, and ten more why he refuses to align with the conservatives. I'm basically on the same page, or one like it, for nineteen of his twenty points, though I tend to think Ronald Reagan's vision-to-dementia ratio was rather better than Mr Raymond contends.

The National Resources Defense Council, in a current fundraising letter, sends out something called a "Declaration of Energy Independence", which I am encouraged to sign and return along with a suitable contribution. And some of the principles contained therein do make sense: the notion "[t]hat our nation's excessive dependence on Persian Gulf oil gives unstable and undemocratic governments undue influence over our foreign policy" is fairly inarguable. On the other hand, the laws of both physics and markets ensure that their goal of 40 mpg for new vehicles by 2012 — and 55 mpg by 2020 — will remain out of reach.

Could José "Abdullah al-Muhajir" Badilla, known at this desk as "Ol' Dirty Bombster", have had something to do with the 1995 bombing of Oklahoma City? Bryan Preston at JunkYardBlog sees a possible connection, and offers links to others. (One nit to pick: If Badilla is now 31, he would have been 24, not 26, when the Murrah Building came down.) If there's something to all of this, it may be time to check those fan blades for high-velocity fecal contamination.

Wednesday, 12 June 2002, 5:10 pm

Not that I'm enthusiastic about it or anything, but we scored our first triple-digit heat index today, the combination of a 90-degree temperature and an appalling 75-degree dew point. At this level, the soles of your shoes (not just your feet) sweat.

The Federal Communications Commission is evidently not happy with the (lack of) progress of digital television, and issued a bulletin this week ordering a number of stations to get with it already: they have until the first of December to go on the air, or else. Three stations in my neck of the woods are involved: Trinity Broadcasting's KTBO (rather a lot of Trinity stations are laggards, it appears), and Sinclair's KOKH (affiliated with Fox) and KOCB (affiliated with The WB). The only digital signal currently available in central Oklahoma comes from KFOR (affiliated with NBC).

Further comment from me would be superfluous: The following item is reprinted verbatim from Max Power's The Sound and Fury. It pretty much had to be.

JUDEAN PEOPLE'S FRONT DEPT. Yesterday, the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Washington Legal Foundation v. Legal Foundation of Washington.

Tim Blair wonders why leftists are comparatively lousy drivers, and auto racers tend to be right-wing. I suspect it's simply that the left includes a substantial number of self-described "green" types who, like Al Gore, would dearly love to see the internal-combustion engine supplanted by something — anything — else. Given this intense dislike for the tool, it's no wonder they seldom learn how to operate it correctly. As for racers, well, racing is a risky business, and the left goes out of its way to avoid anything it sees as risky, and to harangue you and me into doing the same.

Wednesday, 12 June 2002, 7:15 pm

Respect For Your Elders Dept.: The lead story this week at the Web site of The Onion is "Body Of Missing Mad Magazine Reporter Found In Blecchistan", a goofy homage (I think) to The House That Gaines Built. The late Phil Fonebone, whose body turned up near the town of Potrzebie, had been tracking down members of the secretive al-Jaffi network. There are comments from managing editor Roger Kaputnik. There's even a fold-in. If you grew up on this furshlugginer stuff, as I did, you'll crack a smile or two.

Meanwhile, at Autoextremist.com, Peter M. DiLorenzo disposes of the questionable "near-luxury" concept once and for all:

"Question: How many X-Types will be sold before people don't consider Jaguar to be all that special anymore?
 
"Answer: They've already reached that point."

And Steve Gigl sort of endorses the plan to rebuild the World Trade Center bigger and better than ever, but there's this one little thing that bothers him.

Thursday, 13 June 2002, 4:30 pm

If if gets hot enough and sticky enough — and believe me, in Oklahoma it will — surcease comes with a boom and a bang and lights all over the sky and winds that will set off every low-buck car alarm for twenty-five miles. And so it did last night, along with an inch and a half of rain that we'll wish for in August.

Fort Worth's Gilbert Central Corporation will undertake to rebuild the Interstate 40 bridge near Webbers Falls that was hit by a barge on 26 May. Fourteen people were killed when the roadway dropped into the Arkansas River. Gilbert says that by working two 12-hour shifts, they can finish the job, not in the projected six months, but in less than 60 days; the contract with the state calls for fifty-seven days, and a $6000 bonus for every hour by which they beat it. (And yes, there's a $6000 penalty for every hour they're late.)

A few extra quatloos can't hurt: Starting 20 July, the Sci-Fi Channel will unleash 13 episodes of "William Shatner's Full Moon Fright Night". [Insert hairpiece joke here.]

Let us welcome Susanna Cornett to her new bloghome at bias.blogfodder.net, but let us not greet her with a basket of cukes.

Dan Hartung is concerned about the widespread misuse of the term "permalink". (Do I plead guilty here, or just slink off into the distance?)

And should a high-school senior be disqualified from serving as president of the student body because of some minor infraction like, um, armed robbery? I'm not at all sure I'd want to make this call.

Thursday, 13 June 2002, 7:10 pm

Christopher Johnson, on why he's moving the Midwest Conservative Journal:

"Tripod is a wonderful host as long as you're not popular. If you are, it will cost you."

"Would you do me egg, rice and Spam without the Spam, then?" Don't cause a fuss, dear, but you should know better than to ask for special orders from McDonald's.

For those of you who can't get enough of public buildings with names bought by the private sector, Jason Kottke presents The 2003 NATO Phonetic Alphabet, Sponsored by Some of Your Favorite Products and Services.

Friday, 14 June 2002, 12:45 pm

You, too, can have a blog! The Brunching Shuttlecocks show you how.

Friday, 14 June 2002, 5:30 pm

My news server is down, and while more than a few people who have sampled Usenet recently might consider this a positive boon, I'm definitely annoyed. Not that this is substantially different from my usual mood, mind you.

The File13 report on InstaPundit:

"Let's take a look at Glenn 'InstantMan' Reynolds. Focus your eyes on that name... and see where the word man weighs heavy on the eye. Yup. He's a man. Human. Just like you, me, and unlike this plate full of cottage cheese I'm trying not to think about having to eat. The man is trying to teach a bunch of embryonic lawyers not to turn into rapacious, greedy ambulance-chaser parasites. I think it's such a tremendous labor to attempt such a thing that Hercules himself would rather have done his twelve odd-jobs than try to prevent classrooms full of proto-JDs into becoming packs of predatory shyster-bots. (Hercules got a neat lion-skin toga out of the deal, too... Reynolds probably just gets a flimsy black robe and mortarboard to wear at Commencements, right?)
 
"But wait... all changes! Flash! Bang! He drinks from the Fountain of Big, and all heck breaks loose. The links start to build, fibrous sticky hyperlink tendrils catching him as he thrashes about, and he finds himself near the center... trapped... ensnared! Through his blogapotheosis, he's now got a column or two to write. There may be the intern, but you can't delegate your family to be looked after, nor should you. There's a life to lead outside of the templates, so really, get over it. I'm surprised he has time to read and link and put his two cents in when he can."

I'm surprised I have time, and my two cents' worth is worth a heck of a lot less than the Professor's. Lately, it's arguably worth less than File13's.

On a topic that might even be related, albeit vaguely, someone meeting the above description of "shyster-bot" once took exception to an article in Car and Driver which he interpreted as less than complimentary to his chosen profession, and demanded that his subscription be cancelled. The editorial response:

"Perhaps you'd be interested in subscribing to our sister publication Ambulance and Chaser."

Geez, I wish I could write like that.

Friday, 14 June 2002, 8:20 pm

Did we really need this? Now there's a worm that hides inside JPEG images. Actually, it's only half a worm: an executable is still required to bring about the infection. But once the system (running Windows, natch) is infected, the JPEG, when decompressed for viewing, displays the usual corrupted-file message and delivers a payload to the executable. I'm surprised Apple doesn't use stuff like this as a selling point for Macintosh.

Friday, 14 June 2002, 10:00 pm

A chap at Slashdot is persuaded that the preceding item (about the JPEG worm) is a crock of crap. I'm not Mr Goodtech — I don't even play him on TV — but I have managed eleven years on this platform with no infections, so if I err on the side of caution, I tend to think it's a Good Thing.

The next step, I guess, is to wait for the definitive word from Rob Rosenberger.

Saturday, 15 June 2002, 9:30 am

You Had To Be There Dept.: Gerard Barkats got this fabulous time-lapse photograph of the partial solar eclipse from this week, from a truly excellent vantage point.

Saturday, 15 June 2002, 10:15 am

The music industry, reports Jay Zilber, is "hard-wired for extinction". While other vendors of popular culture recognize that the very word "popular" implies some kind of shared experience, record companies are in serious denial:

"Only the recording industry is determined to prevent its fans from having any fun whatsoever. Only the recording industry demands that its fans queue up in rigid, single-file formations in front of Wal-mart to buy their CDs, take them home to enjoy them privately -- on one sole sanctioned device -- never to share their experience with someone else. Only the recording industry seems determined to reinvent popular culture altogther, no longer to be a collective experience, but one of solitude."

I'm old enough to remember when even big labels made an effort to bring us good stuff outside retail channels. But it's not enough to be profitable anymore; it is now necessary to show constantly-increasing profits, lest Wall Street turn up its nose and walk away. So all other considerations — development of new artists, ventures into areas other than existing marketing categories, improvements to the physical product, you name it — are shunted to the side and everyone must focus on bringing in the maximum number of dollars, and if you, Ms Consumer, didn't contribute enough of those dollars, it's your fault the stock price went down.

Any organization with sight this short deserves to die. And none of that "death with dignity" stuff, either.

Saturday, 15 June 2002, 5:00 pm

So I was reading over N. Z. Bear's notion that a whole lot of new blogs would be good for us, and I pondered the possibilities, and suddenly I had a Vent on my hands. (Executive summary: He's right — mostly.)

I must point out, however, that I really don't have time to read the sixty or seventy blogs I read now. (Not all of them are listed on the blogroll to the right, largely because I am hypersensitive to the charge of link-whoring.) Give me sixty or seventy thousand, and I'm doomed.

Old friend and occasional object of lust Nova H. sent along the following piece, which had been forwarded to her in email:

Over two hundred years ago, our forefathers wrote a document that changed the course of world history. "We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Consitiution for the United States of America."
 
Education is our best way to continue to fulfill the hopes, desires and goals laid out by our forefathers. Children in the United States have a Constitutional right to a free, quality education. American children, regardless of gender are taught to read, write and solve a variety of mathematical problems.
 
In many countries, females are only second-class citizens, only schooled until they are old enough to marry and bear children, leaving the majority of their education to the older female members of the family. In America, females are encouraged not only to finish high school but to go to college and graduate school. Females are told that whatever goals they want to reach, they can achieve. Here, females are prompted, not only to be the best they can be, but challenged to go farther than they dare dream.
 
In this day and age, it is not uncommon to find females in occupations that were traditionally male-dominated fields. There are female astronauts, fighter pilots, Supreme Court Justices, and race car drivers. This is accomplished through education. Females raised in the United States are more goal oriented, driven, and passionate about their futures. This country has instilled in females a sense of pride, dedication, and hope not offered [in] many other nations. In this endowment of spirit, we continue to strive to form the perfect union as set forth by our forefathers. We can decipher the vision our forefathers had, and set our sights to further their mission. Education is the measuring stick by which we ascertain how far we have come and how far we still have to go.
 
The greatest asset this country has to offer is education. It is only through education we can continue to make this nation a beacon to the world. By continuing the path stretched out before us; paved by the countless others who proceeded us; our country will remain the greatest nation the history of the world has ever known. Through the continuation of our educational programs, we pay homage to our forefathers and their wisdom.

Okay, it's a little stilted, and some of it is fairly arguable — and the paragraphing is my own, because the usual characters denoting forwarded email got in the way of a straight transcription — but what she (and I) want to know is: Where did this passage come from? A commencement speech? A magazine article? If you've seen this before and you know the source, please advise.

Sunday, 16 June 2002, 9:30 am

Opinions are often compared to a specific negatively-viewed part of the anatomy, possessed by all. The Lord in His wisdom, the old folks used to say, handed them out one to a person, and could therefore not be held responsible for any surplus that may result. This is not to say that imbalance in this regard is a Bad Thing; in fact, I was rather delighted to see the Last Page tearing John Walker Lindh a new one.

It occurs to me that this is the second time I have described a Page piece as having this particular sphincter-ripping quality. In my defense, I must insist that there is a great deal to be said in favor of consistency.

Sunday, 16 June 2002, 10:00 am

Unrepentant second-generation Ford guy Mike Hendrix explains how he got that way, how he got his hands on an only-slightly-corroded '56 Fairlane, and what happened when he met The Nomad. "Every time I start it up," he says, "my heart thumps just a little bit faster." It's the sort of only-in-America car-culture story that will be utterly lost on those poor souls who think we somehow insult the Goddess by not riding the bus.

Sunday, 16 June 2002, 1:45 pm

Bryan Preston's JunkYardBlog has a pointer to the official Taliban Web site, where he turned up some interesting linkage.

For myself, I was amused to see copyright dates in both Western and Islamic calendars. It's 1432, so it will be many, many generations before the Taliban, purists that they are, have to face Y2k issues.

Or maybe they're not so pure. The following line is right near the top of the index page:

<META NAME="GENERATOR" Content="Microsoft Visual Studio 6.0">

It would appear that not all American tools used by the Taliban are carbon-based life forms.

You think maybe they pirated it?

Monday, 17 June 2002, 5:55 am

And another urban myth bites the dust. Apparently Pierre Omidyar did not, in fact, start eBay as a means by which his girlfriend could supplement her collection of Pez dispensers after all. (Muchas gracias: Jim Romenesko's Media News.)

Add another name to the Off Blogspot And Loving It crowd: Scutum Sobieski has relocated his Regurga-Blog, the firemaidens at Sekimori have redecorated the premises, and the results are now known as Horologium. Time you took a look at it.

Monday, 17 June 2002, 4:30 pm

Yeah, I know. Tweaking is in the blood, I think.

It is the considered opinion of File13 that Islam, as a religion, as a philosophy, as a way of life, is devoid of humor, and therefore its practitioners can let off steam only if they "explode in fanatical violence".

This is an astounding statement. Could it possibly be true? Let's see:

Q. How many Palestinians does it take to screw in a light bulb?
 
A. Allah be praised, we continue the struggle against the infidels, so that some day there will be a Palestinian socket.

You know, he may be onto something after all.

Tuesday, 18 June 2002, 4:30 pm

Everybody reads James Lileks (you don't? what's wrong with you?), so it's usually unnecessary to quote from his legendary Bleats. But this passage brought a definite grin to your humble blogger's face:

"Some people think 'Green Onions' when they think of Booker T and the MG's. Or vice versa. 'Green Onions' is for driving 20 MPH through a neighborhood where you want everyone to notice how bad you are. But you want absolute cruising cool? 'Time is Tight.' It's for driving 35 MPH and hitting every light and noticing how fine everything looks at 2 PM on a hot summer afternoon. Hello Spanish grocery store. Hello Thai take-out. Hello Rib Shack. Hello Porky's Drive-in, hello guys on the corner, hello America. Play this song in a Tibetan monastery, and heads will bob and smiles spread. It's the sound of the universal yeahhhh. We're good at that."

To borrow a phrase from Dave Marsh, if this tune comes on the radio while you're driving anywhere in the nation, you'll be sorry when it ends, if only because you'll slow down.

Tuesday, 18 June 2002, 6:50 pm

Every year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation puts out a list of 11 "Most Endangered" Historic Places, and this time around, one of them is in my neck of the woods.

In 1958, the Citizens State Bank of Oklahoma City moved into their new facility on Classen Boulevard, just south of Northwest 23rd Street. No one had ever seen anything quite like it: it was an example of the geodesic dome conceived by R. Buckminster Fuller, over six hundred diamond-shaped gold-anodized aluminum panels fitted together into the top third of a sphere, atop a circle of brickwork ten feet tall. (Previous geodesic domes had been flush with the ground.) Architect Robert B. Roloff, familiar with Oklahoma's occasionally-bizarre weather, contended that the structure could withstand straight-line winds exceeding 100 mph, and indeed it has. The dome was quickly adopted as the symbol of Citizens, used in all its promotional material — think "a hive for busy bees" — but when the bank was acquired by the larger Liberty National Bank in the Eighties, the dome became just another branch, a situation that continued when Liberty itself was swallowed up by Bank One.

Currently, Bank One would like to raze the building and put up a small drive-through facility, with the rest of the property being devoted to retail space — in this case, Walgreen's, which has been expanding furiously in the area of late. Most area preservationist types are, of course, up in arms. (Much of the national press coverage has mentioned historic Route 66, though I should point out that if you're traveling 66 as presently signed, you'll miss the dome by a mile and a half.)

The really wacky aspect of this is that a mere two miles east, the state government is busily constructing a dome on top of the Capitol building, to be completed this fall. It's a damned shame they can't fit Bucky's beehive up there.

Tuesday, 18 June 2002, 8:00 pm

I've generally thought of myself as essentially a political moderate: "more libertarian than authoritarian, but skewing left on occasion." How far left I skew seems to depend on the context. By the standards of Oklahoma, I'm a flaming godless Commie. Your average resident of the People's Republic of Berkeley, I suspect, would consider me to be one with the Neanderthals, except slightly more upright, possibly with undragged, undamaged knuckles. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between, and to get a better grip on exactly where, I took, yes, another quiz.

The results: On their 40-point scale, where Jesse Jackson and Ronald Reagan are rather arbitrarily defined as the extremes, I slide in with a 26, just a shade to the right of George Herbert Walker Bush. On this basis, I skew left only if you consider the likes of Jack Kemp to be centrist. (Jack Kemp? Well, this test is a relic of 1994.) Maybe it all depends on how the questions are asked. (Muchas gracias: Susanna Cornett, whose score of 29 I promise not to mention.)

Wednesday, 19 June 2002, 9:50 am

Last night I made some gratuitous reference to the "People's Republic of Berkeley", which might suggest to the suggestible that the place is loaded with Maoists and other unseemly types. This is probably an oversimplification: even the late John Lennon was aware that carrying pictures of Chairman Mao "ain't gonna make it with anyone anyhow." Still, you have to wonder about a town that can seriously entertain a motion to ban all coffee unless its source is certified to be politically correct.

Wednesday, 19 June 2002, 4:30 pm

It's official: as of next week, Southwest Airlines will start enforcing its previously-dormant policy of requiring the purchase of two seats for anyone they think cannot fit comfortably in one. This would undoubtedly affect the likes of me, were I doing any flying these days, and while I can see their point — there's only so much room in a row of seats in a 737, and the aisles are narrow enough already — this looks like an invitation to a lawsuit. Now if I were calling the shots at Southwest instead of good ol' Herb, I think I would have foregone the extra fare — and charged a $20 fee for use of the seatbelt extender.

On a perhaps happier note, here, courtesy of Zenflea, are the Top 12 suggested names for Ernest and Julio Gallo's new line of wines to be sold at Wal-Mart:

12. Château Traileur Doublewide
11. White Trashfindel
10. Big Red Gulp
  9. Grape Expectations
  8. Domaine Wal-Mart "Merde du Pays"
  7. NASCARbernet
  6. Chef Boyardeaux
  5. Peanut Noir
  4. Château des Moines
  3. I Can't Believe It's Not Vinegar!
  2. World Championship Wriesling
  1. Nasti Spumante

And to think we used to say such unkind things about Ripple.

Thursday, 20 June 2002, 7:00 am

Mike Lynch reviews the phenomenon that was Jesse Ventura, governor of Minnesota, and quotes the state's Libertarian Party chair as saying, "Usually when politicians get in office they build something or enact a policy that becomes their legacy. But Jesse hasn't really been a proactive governor. Hes been more of a reactive governor, saying no."

"That alone," responds Lynch, "makes him better than most."

Thursday, 20 June 2002, 7:30 am

There used to be a deodorant ad with the tag "Never let them see you sweat". At the time, I thought, "Fat chance in this town." Now, at least, I have support for my scorn: the manufacturers of Old Spice have announced their list of Sweatiest Cities in America, and Oklahoma City, a few miles to my west, checks in at Number 11. Yet another reason to get out of town in July.

Thursday, 20 June 2002, 12:30 pm

How quickly they fade: If you point your browser to www.talibanonline.net, as mentioned here on Sunday, you will get a simple notice to the effect that "This site has been suspended." Bandwidth overuse? Who knows?

Thursday, 20 June 2002, 6:55 pm

Why do you think they call them "heavenly" bodies? Cindy Crawford says she might like to take a week-long trip into space. (Muchas gracias: Juan Gato.)

Actually, I should encourage all the women I know to sign up for space flight. No doubt most of them will greatly enjoy the opportunity for adventure; I am quite certain that many have dreamed of just such a thing. A few will see it as a chance to slip their surly bond to whomever, and start over as a solo act. And I have to wonder: what's a few hundred million miles to someone who's already forever out of reach?

Friday, 21 June 2002, 4:35 pm

Welcome to summer. Please have exact change.

Susan Pickering, executive director of the International Webcasters Association, on the new and substantially unimproved royalty rates:

"The result of the rates announced...will result in an Internet broadcasting industry which is dominated by big media companies, and it may well become nothing more than a mirror image of terrestrial broadcasting. The public is not served by limited choices of Internet outlets."

Since when is the music industry about serving the public? I did like the reference, though, to "terrestrial" broadcasting: it sounds so, um, earthbound.

And oh, since you asked: yes, I would recognize a Palestinian state. I prefer plasma, but gas will suffice.

Friday, 21 June 2002, 9:00 pm

What's this? Arafat ready to accept the same damn plan he rejected a year and a half ago? This can be only one of one thing: a man desperate to save his ass at any cost.

The most sensible response I've seen to this news has come from Stephen "VodkaPundit" Green, who saith:

"Right now, Arafat's position should be 'Please let some of us live in our homes conditionally for a while, and we promise for ever and ever not to even think about giving you a hangnail.'"

Meanwhile, Ariel Sharon snickers...and waits.

Saturday, 22 June 2002, 9:20 am

Our man sampling Beers Across America says "Teeth about shook out of my skull in OK City," which is a painfully-accurate assessment of the state of the roads around here. Surface streets range from indifferent to hideous, and the freeways feel (and sometimes look) like they were assembled from giant-sized concrete Legos. I doubt PBR's route took him across the Belle Isle Bridge where I-44 turns southward, but if it did, he'd be writing about emergency dentists this week.

Saturday, 22 June 2002, 3:15 pm

Lynn at Poet and Peasant describes the antagonists in the Great Grammar War:

"The grammar snobs believe that everyone with less than perfect grammar (by their standards) is a slob bent on bringing about the destruction of the English language, while the slobs believe that anyone who dares to suggest that punctuation and a passing familiarity with the correct spelling of common everyday words might make what they write more readable is a snob and a fascist."

I'm not quite sure where I fall on this continuum. Certainly I'm in no position to say that the preposition is something I would never, ever end a sentence with. And I have relatively few qualms about splitting an infinitive to more efficiently make a point. But which is the greater sin: knowing the rules and choosing to break them on occasion, or not knowing the rules at all? Greater minds than mine must resolve this question, and I must accept their judgment; sometimes that's just the way the Jell-O judicates.

Sunday, 23 June 2002, 9:15 am

There comes a point in the life of every Webmaster when s/he wonders out loud, "Why am I doing this?" In my case, it was about the third day this site was up. And while it has been relatively well-received during the four years of its existence, by which is meant that no one has sent me any live explosives just yet, the possibility of stagnation constantly lurks and occasionally even looms.

This was the first paragraph of the first actual blog entry on this site, two years ago today. (There had been regular postings before this, but none resembling a daily basis, and certainly none on the front page.) I haven't kept count — obviously this is an argument for Movable Type — but there have been somewhere around a thousand individual entries so far, around a million bytes of bloggage. By the standards of the A-list, or even the B-list, this isn't a whole lot, but then again, I'm surprised I'm still doing this two years later.

And during those two years, I also turned out ninety-six Vents, the most recent of which looks suspiciously like the beginning of a twelve-step program for the hopelessly ept.

Sunday, 23 June 2002, 4:10 pm

At some point this afternoon, visitor number 150,000 will arrive and, I think it's safe to predict, will immediately go back to Googling.

This is, as previously mentioned, the second anniversary of the dustbury.com blog. One does not get through two years of blogging without persistence, determination, and yes, perhaps even prayer. What would I like to see for Year Three?

For those who drop in once a year, thanks for coming, and we'll see you next summer.

Monday, 24 June 2002, 5:00 pm

First off, thanks to Eric Olsen, Uno of Tres Producers, for his kind words regarding this site's Tradition of Existence. (I couldn't have said it better myself, though in a couple of years I probably will claim that I had.)

The Revelations Will Not Be Televised Dept.: Laurence "File 13" Simon evaluates the spectre of Apocalypse Now, as seen through the inevitable AOL Time Warnings, and finds it sick, sick, sick.

Monday, 24 June 2002, 9:30 pm

Can something be done about Robert Mugabe? Nearly 3000 farmers are being uprooted by Zimbabwe's Land Requisition Act, even as the country's food production falls to below subsistence levels. Of course, it's not his fault; the President-For-Whenever says that it's all because of the drought. And heaven forbid we should actually criticize the man.

Tuesday, 25 June 2002, 7:00 am

The latest Bush speech has had a mixed reaction in blogdom. Christopher Johnson is not impressed:

"While the declaration that Arafat needs to go is encouraging, this speech, for the most part, is brimming with platitudes and bereft of practicality."

One item that particularly irks Mr Johnson is the suggestion that the reconstituted and de-Yassered Palestinians somehow can comprise a "responsible...partner" in the peace process. As if.

"Attention hens! This is Fox. He'll be your new guard."

For myself, I found the speech just as platitudinous as did Mr Johnson; then again, I have been known to find platitudes, in the appropriate circumstances, not only defensible but darn near essential. Still, if there's a policy here, it has more holes than the Albert Hall.

Tuesday, 25 June 2002, 10:30 am

Farging Ingrate Dept.: There are, I realize, many places in this country that don't have a radio station playing classical music all day and all night. And there is little doubt in my mind that having such a station available here contributes greatly to the quality of life. But is it absolutely necessary to compress all the dynamic range out of the music?

I'm serious. This morning they started in on Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra (conducted by Karajan, but not the same recording that was used in 2001: A Space Odyssey). When the piece begins, before the three trumpet notes that open the first fanfare, there is about ten seconds' worth of a very low bass note from the organ. At least, that's what I hear when I play this piece at home. On the radio, I hear the organ, but it's awash in hiss; what's worse, the hiss drops away as the trumpets sound, to return as they decay. Surely a radio station with 100,000 watts ERP doesn't need to squeeze its signal to within an inch of its life. Our little 4-kw NPR-cum-jazz outlet, with maybe a sixth the coverage area, doesn't do that.

Tuesday, 25 June 2002, 6:15 pm

And nobody noticed, until Juan Gato obligingly pointed it out:

"The judge in Zacarias Moussaoui's case is a woman. That's gotta burn his biscuits no end."

Wednesday, 26 June 2002, 9:25 am

Last night, John "Akatsukami" Braue observed that "Any health care system has to contend with the reality that sometimes all you can do is not enough," and came up with a model for government-sponsored health care that faces this fact and others. Braue's "Medaccount" would cover any medical procedure that existed in 1965 (by no coincidence, the year Medicare was established) and any prescription drug that is off patent, thereby keeping costs under control. Beyond this, patients are free to seek whatever private coverage they desire and can afford. But that's the limit of it:

"If Medaccount doesn't cover some medication or procedure, and you can't afford through non-governmental means -- well, T.S., Eliot, you're gonna die. Is this callous? Why yes, it is -- but the alternative is to have patients and their families suck up the entire GDP to extend somebody's existence for six months."

Braue insists that this is merely a "starting point for discussion", but this program strikes me as eminently sensible. Even if there were some nebulous Constitutional right to health care at government expense, a proposition I would hate to have to defend, it's impossible to argue that said health care must necessarily include the latest, greatest, most expensive treatments available.

Wednesday, 26 June 2002, 5:55 pm

Few terms are more subjective than "classic album": you get three people together, you'll get a list of dozens, and few of them will be unanimous choices. And the serious record collector (which means, roughly, anyone more concerned about their musical shelf-esteem than I) will have all the recordings he deems "classic", or will be able to explain why he doesn't.

Which suggests that I'm not all that serious, because I've never been able to explain to anyone's satisfaction, mine included, why I never spent the bucks for James Brown's 1962 Live at the Apollo, one of the defining moments of rhythm and blues. (Well, early on, it was because it was a two-LP set and my allowance wouldn't stretch that far, but this became a nonissue after high school.) Forty years later, I still have no excuse, though I was prescient enough to slap it up on my Amazon.com wish list, where fellow blogger DavidMSC found it and decided that I'd done without long enough.

Thanks, Dave. You are truly a prince among men. And I will very likely owe you for something else, too, but that will come later.

Wednesday, 26 June 2002, 7:25 pm

What legal precedents will be set by the 9th District Court of Appeals' ruling that the Pledge of Allegiance is unconstitutional? Tony Woodlief has already figured it out.

Thursday, 27 June 2002, 7:45 am

Hmmm. Tapped, the blog of The American Prospect, is seeking like-minded (and otherwise) readers to fact-check Ann Coulter's ass. What's more, today there is a Salon feature on "Conservative Fembots", and guess who's the primary target?

Now personally, I don't have much use for Ann Coulter — to me, she's simply the flip side of Katie Couric, albeit with nicer legs — but geez, guys, if you really want to punish the poor girl for shooting off her mouth, try fixing her up with Alan Colmes.

Thursday, 27 June 2002, 4:40 pm

There is, of course, outrage over this Pledge of Allegiance stuff: dammit, we're Americans, we take our meaningless gestures seriously! But a spot-check of several blogs shows at least as many shrugs as shouts. A not-necessarily-representative sampling:

"Seems the guy who started it all is going to 'press on' with other suits. His intention, apparently, is to expunge all mention of 'god' from all facets of public life, so that his daughter, apparently a sensitive tyke, won't be 'hurt' by having to encounter such naughty notions as 'god.' His next task, once he is done with this one, will be to get the moon down from the sky so he can have it put in a ring for his precious little girl."

Andrea Harris, Ye Olde Blogge

"I firmly recall being outraged - outraged! - that my money had 'In God We Trust' printed on it (almost assuredly the next thing to go if the Supremes uphold this opinion). I was about 12 then. Which is kinda my point: This is the sort of thing that ruffles the feathers of the immature. Part of being a grownup is, I believe, a certain degree of acceptance of the fact that you just aren't going to like everything that happens around you."

C. D. (The Dodd) Harris IV, Ipse Dixit

"In the attempt not to offend a very small minority, a very large majority is indeed offended."

Brent, commenting on the above

"[W]e love to argue for the sake of arguing, and, more often than not, we a) don't know what we're arguing about, and b) would change our collective mind about a subject faster than I can turn out an evening's worth of clean laundry....[P]ledging allegiance to a piece of material, and worse yet, really MEANING it, makes about as much sense as REQUIRING our children to say it. I'm just waiting for the U.S. Mint to start sweating now."

Vickie C., commenting at DavidMSC.com

"[Y]ou have to wonder at the sort of person who would pursue this in court, up to the Supreme Court presumably, just to make a point. I mean, is Michael Newdow so thin-skinned that he can't just teach his kids not to say 'under God'? That's what I do, and I haven't spontaneously combusted hearing other people say 'God'.

Dave Tepper, Wake Me Up on Judgment Day

"I certainly think that it's legally (and morally) fine to have the reference in there. But without it, I think the pledge has a better rhythmic value... all the better to drum into the minds of schoolchildren."

Ben Domenech, Ben Domenech Online

Friday, 28 June 2002, 7:30 am

Mostly overlooked in the Cleveland "Yay! We got vouchers!" decision is the question of whether private schools really want to take taxpayer dollars, what with all those strings attached and all. (Somewhere in dim and perhaps imprecise memory, I see the irritable headmistress of a Southern preparatory school, explaining that she'd refused a check from the state because to accept it would mean having to accept those horrid individuals whose general description started with N. Then again, this was the middle Sixties; not even the Catholic schools had desegregated yet.) On the other hand, there really shouldn't have been any First Amendment issues with the way Cleveland had set up its voucher plan; the fact that none of the suburban public schools chose to play along does not at all imply that the students were forced into religious schools. Mike Lynch at Reason says that there shouldn't have been any First Amendment issues anyway:

"Few worry that the state is supporting religion when a college kid spends a Pell Grant at Georgetown or Notre Dame. And government granted child-care vouchers are spent at religiously run daycare centers and preschools with nary a second thought."

On balance, this is a Good Thing. Expect some people to complain that America's public schools will never be the same in the wake of this decision, and that, too, is a Good Thing.

And really, I had no idea I was going to provoke a veritable BlogWar with my goofy little reference to Ann Coulter's legs and their putative superiority, in the purely visual sense, to Katie Couric's. A number of people have felt compelled to point out that Ann comes across as basically a right-wing Calista Flockhart, and that may be so, but it's not my job to tell her to do more carbohydrate loading — or, for that matter, to tell Katie to quit being so damn chirpy.

Friday, 28 June 2002, 5:10 pm

That unreconstructed Moral Majoritarian Cal Thomas has apparently decided that he's falling behind in the Asinine Statements Sweepstakes, and contributes the following commentary on the Pledge of Allegiance dust-up:

"On the eve of our great national birthday party and in the aftermath of Sept. 11, when millions of us turned to God and prayed for forgiveness of individual and corporate sins and asked for His protection against future attacks, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has inflicted on this nation what many will conclude is a greater injury than that caused by the terrorists."

"Greater than that caused by the terrorists"? Truly a pronouncement worthy of an A.S.S. (Muchas gracias: Christopher Johnson, whose Midwest Conservative Journal helpfully points out to the Calster some real injuries.)

Friday, 28 June 2002, 8:50 pm

How to handle the classic 419/Nigerian Scam? Someone who is not actually David Lee Roth has an idea. Several, in fact. (Should the link fail, it's mirrored here.)

Saturday, 29 June 2002, 11:30 am

I slept late this morning, but not late enough.

It all started when I thought it might be a neat idea to work a comments system into the blog, especially since no one ever bothers to use the message board I put up a year and a half ago, and geez, if I can handle a couple of cgi scripts, surely I can manage some catcalls and brickbats from without.

What I discovered, of course, is that the vast majority of comments systems are (1) hosted offsite, which means that they're vulnerable to all manner of outages you can't predict, and (2) designed for integration into an existing content-management system such as Blogger. The first objection is relatively trivial, but the second one concerned me, since this whole site is hand-coded. "Content-management system"? I defy anyone to find any system or any management here, let alone any content.

It was at 9 pm last night, shortly after my last posting here, that I downloaded Movable Type 2.21. Shortly before midnight, I actually had it working; even my MySQL stuff on the server was behaving properly. But the combination of fatigue and fear had gotten to me, and I left MT alone for the night.

It was when I fired MT up this morning that it occurred to me: "Holy mother of Perl, this is a hell of a lot of stuff." I'm not about to go back and convert two years' worth of bloggage to MT just for the sake of maintaining continuity in the archives. I'm still fuzzy on these templates of theirs; I mean, just how much am I allowed to futz with these things before I cause the whole system to come crashing around my ankles? And the real question, I suppose, is this: "Do I really want to change the way I do everything around here just so I can have people making wiseass remarks on my site, precisely the way I do on their sites?"

Somewhere, I'm sure, they've worked this into the current version of the Hypocritic Oath. In the meantime, consider this a solicitation for feedback, either in email or the aforementioned unused message board.

Saturday, 29 June 2002, 11:50 am

For those who really, really wanted to know: Captain Kirk's bridge chair, as mentioned three weeks ago in this space, sold for $265,000, which is presumably a whole bunch of quatloos.

Saturday, 29 June 2002, 2:00 pm

According to Tim Blair's formula, I have a BCSI of 12.7. (Three significant digits, I think, should be enough.) Expect this number to decline somewhat throughout next month.

>Comment by DavidMSC:
Way to go, Charles! Glad to see comments. Now I can ask the question: what the heck is the "BCSI?" I looked on Blair's page, but found no reference.

>Comment by Chaz:
Blog-Car Success Index. This must be some Blogger quirk with archiving; if you go straight to Blair's main blog page, it's the first item (as of the time of this posting).

Saturday, 29 June 2002, 6:15 pm

Notes from the 19th Century: Archaeologists in western Nevada have found, among the ruins of a black-owned saloon, shards of a Tabasco bottle dating to approximately 1870. The reconstructed bottle is the oldest known; the McIlhenny Company, which produces Tabasco, was founded in 1868.

Notes from the 21st Century: A bill introduced by Representative Howard Berman (D-Warner Bros.) would legalize computer vandalism by the entertainment industry as an anti-piracy measure. In a related story, remnants of the al-Qaeda terrorist network are reportedly planning to incorporate themselves as a record company.

Saturday, 29 June 2002, 8:45 pm

Apparently there is a demand for commenting on this site; I began installing links for same, courtesy of those wonderful folks at Enetation, and someone had put up a comment before I got all the links in place. I think that settles that.

If this works out, I may not even bother with Movable Type for this blog. Not to put the knock on MT or anything: it's a wonderful piece of work, and if I can install it, it's obviously not beyond the capacity of mere mortals. But I like the way this site runs, and adding on the comments will be a lot less of a change than switching everything in the blog to MT. Ideas from the field are welcomed, as always.

>Comment by fredf:
Howdy! Stumbled here via Susanna C link, and any log that has a goldfinch for a mascot can't be all bad! I've snooped around your site, opened your medicine cabinet and sock drawer... interesting place.
Have a good week in OK.

>Comment by Chaz:
Geez. Some of that stuff even I wouldn't look at. :)
Thanks, Fred.

Sunday, 30 June 2002, 12:45 pm

If you look up from your Web surfing and mutter "I really hate Arial," the next person over is going to ask "What do you have against Sharon?" (Unless you hang with, say, members of mailing lists for obscure music, in which case the next person over is going to ask "What do you have against Dean Friedman?")

My answer, in both cases, has to be "Not a darn thing," since I'm actually talking about Arial the font, found on seemingly every Windows computer in the world with TrueType support, a knockoff of Helvetica done apparently to avoid paying license fees to Helvetica's developer. (Oddly enough, this wasn't Microsoft's doing, at least at first.) The sheer ubiquity of Arial means it's going to show up on a lot of Web sites, including occasional appearances on this one; Helvetica, at least on PC video, doesn't look quite so clear. (The opposite is true in hard copy.) Mark Simonson covered this whole semi-sordid story quite a while back, and if you've ever been curious about why you have the fonts you have, you might find The Scourge of Arial interesting.

(I'd read this before, but had forgotten about it; muchas gracias to Jeffrey Zeldman.)

>Comment by DavidMSC:
Hey - at least it's better than Times New Roman, the absolute *ugliest* font in existence!

>Comment by Chaz:
The original Print Shop had some of the most hideous fonts ever to fry an eyeball.

Sunday, 30 June 2002, 4:45 pm

So You'd Like to Be a Spammer: Something styling itself "TEC2000 List Services", claiming to be at some AOL address (which 203.47.198.13 isn't), dumped a load on SBC Yahoo! Dial customers offering the following pitch:

"We have been in the bulk emailing business since May 1997 and have learned the ins and outs of the bulk mailing industry. Your website and email address will never be in harms way of anti-spammers and flames. We set-up your text or html ad in our state of the art mailing application, use our addresses to collect your leads then forward all of your leads to you!! You're ISP, email address and any other form of Internet contact info will never be at risk!"

This is followed by an email address at Excite (which 203.47.198.13 also isn't) and a phone number in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. I'm tempted to call the guy for his 40th birthday (which, in case anyone asks, is Thursday) and tell him he's won a free ticket to his choice of email blacklist, but I suspect he's heard this before.

 


 | Copyright © 2002 by Charles G. Hill